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Posts published in February 2010

Death by Black Hole.

As you might know, this site posts to Facebook every time I write something. Fun. Anyway, a friend of mine Matt left this comment:

Hey bro if you go past the event horizon you are fucked, whether by gravity or your inside-out crew — doesn’t matter.

That reminded me of this amazing video that describes what it would be like to be killed by a black hole. Enjoy. Science is awesome.

Even The New Yorker has hit on the fire.

Sometimes the internet is a marvelous thing. What we were discovering just weeks ago has since completely blown up and spread virally. I’m, of course, talking about Die Antwoord, South Africa’s finest art. And even the stodgiest of the old guard, The New Yorker, has hit on their magnificence. Check it.

If authenticity is a vampire threatening to suck the fun out of pop music, the South African band Die Antwoord (“The Answer,” in Afrikaans) is a fistful of garlic. Go to the band’s well-designed Web site and you will find a goofy, vibrant ball of confusion. Die Antwoord was founded by a South African music-biz veteran named Waddy Jones (Ninja, here) who celebrates zef, which translates roughly as “common” or “redneck,” but which Jones claims is a synonym for “the ultimate style.” This dicey language game will be refereed by South Africans; everyone else can unravel the band’s musical preference for the nineties. (Vanilla Ice and Technotronic come to mind.) The band is better at generating questions than answers. What’s with the post-Keith Haring illustrations? Why does the band member Yo-landi Vi$$er look like both a model and a normal teen-ager? Is Die Antwoord a celebration or a sendup? Get ready for a fight about the legitimacy of the group and, hopefully, for an influx of more South African pop culture.

What’s next? The Wall Street journal reviewing The Behemoth’s next record? A four page article on Detroit Ghettotech in the Conservative Chronicle? An editorial in The Economist on the best places in Brooklyn to drink on a Saturday afternoon? Will the wonders never cease?!

Check the original here.

Thanks for the heads-up, Sarah!

Fuck you, Event Horizon.

I first saw Event Horizon theatrically way back in the late 90s (remember those?). I was with some friends, probably Deegan, and I remember walking out after the film thinking that it was the biggest piece of shit I’d ever endured. But time eases such pains and since 1997 I’ve heard from someone whose opinion I trusted that it’s actually an all right film. I thought that perhaps I’d judged the film too harshly. Perhaps I had missed the obvious brilliance within the film. Perhaps some of the subtext had flown right over my 15 year old head.

I threw the film onto my Netflix queue and it arrived yesterday in the mail. After doing the dishes while listening to Hall & Oates and making myself a sensible dinner, I sat down to give Event Horizon a second shot. I am nothing if not a giving man. I placed the blu-ray disc into the PS3 and waited for my mind to be blown.

Well, if you have taken anything from the title of this post, my mind was not blown. I mean, the movie blew, but my mind remained entirely unblown. Event Horizon has to be one of the most formulaic pieces of crap I’ve ever had the extreme misfortune of forcing upon myself. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me ruin it for you.

It’s the future! People live in space! A few years ago the government sent a super secret spaceship to the far reaches of outer space and it disappeared! Zip forward to now, which is still the future, and a small, rag tag group of ethnically-diverse soldiers are on a spaceship going to investigate a distress beacon on the far side of the solar system! A scientist rides along with them! Uh-oh! After they get out of hypersleep or whatever they call it, the scientist tells them, in a feat of unrivaled expository pseudo-science, that the distress beacon belongs to the Event Horizon! The ship was a super secret experiment in faster-than-light travel and on its first trip out, it disappeared! What happened to it?! The rescue crew boards the ship and all sorts of really spooky things start to happen! Hallucinations! The lights flash on and off! Bloooooooodddddd! Soon after boarding things start going to hell—literally! Turns out when the ship’s experimental drive punctured the fabric of the universe it went to hell and came back alive and evil! Really! That’s the actual plot point! The original crew is all dead! Scary! The scientist along for the ride who, coincidentally built the fancy engine thing, gets pulled into the evil will of the ship and then starts to sabotage their efforts to escape! Oooooh! Then the captain and the scientist have a stand off and the scientist gets sucked into space! But the ship brings him back to life! Convenient! Then they have another stand off and end up traveling through the darkness dimension but we never find out what happens to them! The end! It actually says “the end”!

I think I can sum up the whole film and my feelings about it with one photo and a related caption.

Oh no! Your eyes! What happened?! Oh, you saw Event Horizon? I understand.

Indulging in every stupid horror cliche, Event Horizon is so mired in banality that I couldn’t even see through to the positives that it does have. It’s a well designed film, to be sure, but that’s not enough for me to get past just how fucking awful the script is. Every single word made me cringe. And I LOVE bad science fiction. It’s great. But this is bad science fiction trying to be GOOD science fiction and GOOD horror and it just doesn’t have the chops to do either. It just plain sucks. Every time there was a dramatic pause before one of the characters revealed something…. dramatic, I wanted to punch the TV in the face. I wanted to fly to England, grab Paul W. S. Anderson, and punch him in the face over and over and over. And then I want to punch him in the face for the Resident Evil films, for Mortal Kombat, and for the rest of his fucking trash body of work. It’s like he’s taking other, better films, distilling them to their common beats, making those beats dumber, and then making the movie over again ineptly. Just terrible.

Do yourself and favor and never see this movie. I’d ask for my two hours back, but I’d only waste them.

Pulp, and why have I never, until yesterday, seen a music video by them?

I’ve been listening to Pulp for, oh, about a million years. The This Is Hardcore/Different Class duo were some of my most listened-to records between ’98 and ’00. It was a period where heavy metal music was stagnating under the ridiculous weight of Nü-metal and I started to explore lighter music. I got way into the pop and other rock coming out of the British Isles, bands like Blur, Supergrass, Pulp, Gomez, Radiohead. These guys and girls were carrying the torch of classic British pop rock music in the vein of The Kinks or The Zombies or any number of other bands. They were writing catchy as hell tunes with a light-hearted sensibility that nevertheless held a tiny shade of darkness below all the major chords and joyful harmonies.

No band exemplified that light/dark condition like Pulp did on 1996’s Different Class. The record features a bunch of upbeat poppy tracks propelled by Cocker’s sharp, biting lyrics. The songs are filled longing and remorse and shame expressed with witty jabs, all bouncing along to a brisk, danceable beat.

Then they released This Is Hardcore in 1998 which is Different Class’s sleazier, darker, less poppy older brother. Lacking the supreme dancey-ness of its predecessor, it’s also a whole lot darker. No, that’s not exactly right. The darkness is a lot more apparent.

Neither record is better than the other. They’ve been in heavy rotation in my listening habits for a long time and I’m still not sick of them. What I think I really love is that the songs are like Jarvis Cocker having a conversation with the listener, like he’s telling us a story. He allows his thoughts to linger and spread and chooses the right word even if he doesn’t rhyme.

I could write a whole bunch of other stuff here, but I won’t. Just listen to the music.

Ok. So, I’m a fan. Doy. You would think that I would have seen all their music videos, right? Me too. But until yesterday I hadn’t seen a single one. What the hell is that about? At the very least, I guess it’s because when I became a fan of Pulp there was no place like YouTube to see all their videos. It was an age when MTV no longer played videos and there was no good way for me to see the videos a medium-sized British band were making.

Well, now I’ve got YouTube, so I can watch whatever I want! I present to you, dear reader, every decent Pulp video I can find.


Guy kicked off plane for stinkin’ like hell.

With all this talk of Kevin Smith being kicked off airplanes for being a portly fuck, it’s easy to get all pissed about the airlines being total dicks or whatever. But what about when the airline actually has a legitimate reason for kicking some bastards off the flight? I’m not talking about perceived threats to your safety in the air or some other terrorism bullshit, either. I’m referring to good old fashioned offensive sons of bitches trying to make your flight hell.

For example, one Canadian Airline kicked off a guy for smelling like crap. I think my favorite little tidbit of info from the article was this.

Another passenger described the smell as “brutal.”

Brutal? HAHAHAH. I’ve experienced some brutal stinks on the subway so I can only imagine how bad this guy must have stunk. Like what the fucking fuck, guy? Are you serious? Take a fucking shower.

Andy Richter has written one of the saddest jokes I’ve ever read.

And here it is.

A salesman is sitting in the reception area of a big corporation, waiting to give a presentation to some of the people there. He is kept waiting almost 40 minutes beyond the time of his appointment, and then he’s finally ushered into a conference room. He goes in, and sitting around a big table are two Jews, an African-American woman, and a gay guy of Chinese descent. The salesman goes into his pitch, for software or a phone system or something, and it’s pretty evident a couple minutes into it that these four people couldn’t care less, especially the younger Jew, who keeps checking his BlackBerry. But he plows through the presentation anyway, and when he finishes, everybody shakes his hand and thanks him. He goes out to his car and starts to drive home. On the road, his cell phone rings and he answers it. It’s his wife, and she asks him to pick up a couple of groceries on his way home. He says OK. She says, are you OK? And he says, yeah, I’m fine. She says OK. He hangs up, and this commercial for anti-itch powder comes on the radio, and it’s got all these country-sounding old people giving testimonials about how this powder completely improved the quality of their lives. And the salesman starts crying. Big choked sobs. He shades his eyes with his left hand so that the other drivers can’t see that he’s crying and says, “And I don’t even fucking care about this shit!”

Seriously, this really gets me for some reason. It comes from “Jokes” by Andy Richter on McSweeney’s. Check out the rest of them. His other 4 jokes in the article are similarly awkward and deliberately not jokey, but this salesman one is just miserable and makes me sad, not because it’s badly written, but because I feel for the pathetic salesman. Just horrible.

Funny how such a small bit of text can be so affective.

Thanks, Andy Richter. Real cool.

An Analysis of 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories.

Now that February is clipping along rapidly, my application to Hunter is finished and submitted, and I have had a moment to think about the results of last year’s theme, the time has arrived to discuss 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. I know that you were all super excited for yet another text-heavy Black Laser posting in which I muse about things that matter to me but probably don’t matter to you. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

In case you missed it, here is my original statement of intent for 2009.

2009 was wildly successful for my photo work. Not only did I hit 5017 out of 5000 photos, but I really do think that my photos got noticeably better over the course of the year. I’ve throw together a gallery of some of my favorites from the last year. There’s no rhyme or reason for the selections; I just went through 2009 and picked a bunch I liked. They are arranged in chronological order, oldest first.

[flickrset id=”72157623234441883″ thumbnail=”square” overlay=”true” size=”large”]

I took a lot of good photos and a handful of great ones. I feel much more confident with my tools than I did before. I learned and experimented and limited myself. Tremendous success. We’ll see how many photos I take this year. I’ve hardly touched my camera since the year began because I was working so hard on my graduate school application, but that will soon change. Making photos is fun and rewarding, even if I don’t make a damned dollar doing it.

Here are all the galleries I’ve posted on this site. Anything tagged “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” is, obviously, part of this theme.

The results of my writing last year are much less clear. In one quantitative manner, it was only a partial success with only 38 of 50 short stories being written. Even once I lowered my goals in terms of word count, I was unable to get as much done as I had strived for. There is no excuse really. I missed the mark and that’s it. It’s disappointing too, because once I really got down to it, I was able to crank out piece after piece. Between the middle of November and the end of the year I wrote 36 of my 38 short stories. If you do the math, that works out to an average of 6 stories a week for 6 weeks. Not bad at all.

And that’s the rub. More importantly than whether or not I met the quota I set for myself in December of 2008, in terms of my skills as a writer, I think that 2009 was a complete success. Writing as often and as much as I did undoubtedly helped my writing. “Duh,” you say, but it’s true. I believe that whipping through those short stories made me a stronger writer. It’s one thing to know that practice makes you better at things, but it’s entirely different to have experienced it. I am sure that the writing I did last year contributed directly to the quality of my creative submission to Hunter this year, which is quite clearly superior to the work I submitted last year. And that is awesome.

I’m still not that great with writing about myself, though.

Check out all posts with the tag “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” to see the work I did.

This year I’ve already written 1 of my assigned 12 Finished Short Stories. I’ve not yet done any real work on the music videos, but it is only February and there is time. I hope to continue the roll I started in November when I decided that all the worrying I was doing about the quality of my work was preventing me from doing any at all (stupid). I’ve got more writing to do and photos to make. It feels great to make something out of nothing, and I hope all you lovely readers of my tiny speck on the face of the Interwebs will continue to read and look. And if you don’t, at the very least, I enjoy it all and that’s really what matters.