Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I Turn Most of My Bank Account Into Wax




Like all the other contributors to this site I am a huge nerd about a lot of things, not the least of which is music. Over the past months this aspect of my nerdiness has only become more intense as I have gotten in listening to music on vinyl thanks to a turntable and speakers my dad gave to me. Now almost every time I go into New York (or anywhere else for that matter) a search of the area for record stores becomes part of the agenda. While this has proven to be a clear and present danger to my bank account, it's been a lot of fun as well. While it's not for everyone, this post is another list (because lists are fun and easy to write, especially when they are in no particular order), this time of reasons to get into vinyl.


1. It Actually Gets You To Listen to the Album

Some say that the album is an outdated way to get music out to people and that now that we have shifted as listeners from albums to songs, artists shouldn’t waste their time with albums considering people only listen to select songs for the most part anyway. Artists nowadays may not always be trying to make a coherent statement with albums but it does still happen sometimes. One of the top albums from last year (it won a Grammy which we all know are very important), Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” actually had consistent themes that dealt with well, growing up in the suburbs.

Even if an album doesn’t have an underlying theme, message, or whatever it’s nice to sometimes get out of the habit of just listening to certain songs over and over or shuffling all/some of your music. This is coming from someone who is as guilty of this as anyone. Hell, I’ll even sometimes go back to an earlier part in a song while listening to it just to hear it again. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the last 1:30 or so of Handsome Furs’s “Memories of the Future” this year, I just know it’s a lot and I’m going to add to that total right now.


2. The Record Store Experience

Nobody loves the fact that you can type the name of whatever artist and album + mediafire and have said album playing in your iTunes within fifteen minutes more than me. But it has removed the record store from the music acquisition process (I’d say buying process but...come on...). I never felt this way about CD’s but I find the act of going into a record store or fair and flipping through rows and rows of vinyl very enjoyable. It’s even better when you come across something you’ve been searching for a while. Just a few weeks ago I found a copy of Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Harlem Square Club” album that I’ve been looking for. It was awesome.

"I want that purple stuff"


3. You Actually Appreciate The Album Art and Liner Notes

Let’s face it, the mp3 age has essentially killed album art as we know it. When iPods first hit the scene they didn’t even have color displays so much as display the album cover. Now that people have iPhones and iPod Touches you can sort of appreciate album art but it’s not the same at all, which is too bad because a lot of album art is very cool and/or interesting. Until last week I never really knew what was going on in the cover to Animal Collective’s album “Feels”, it just looked like the vomit of someone who had some bad Chipotle. Turns out it’s kids with some animals, most of which have weird purple stuff oozing from their orifices. How about that?

4. Buying The Albums Supports The Artists

This is an obvious one but for someone like me who listens to a lot of music it’s nice to have a way to support the bands I listen to outside of buying tickets to their shows. I often made the argument that despite the fact that I don’t purchase music, I myself am good for the music business since I go to a decent amount of concerts and like to introduce/suggest new bands for my friends. Buying records is a more tangible of supports the bands I love and that makes me feel like slightly less of a pirating piece of shit.

5. The Sound Quality Is Better

I’m not going to get into the science behind it but music just sounds better on vinyl. Speaking solely from a visceral perspective I find music to sound, for lack of a better word, warmer when I listen to it on vinyl. The sound almost surrounds and envelops you in a way. You also hear things that you just wouldn’t pick up on when listening to an mp3 no matter how nice a pair of headphones you have.

6. You Get The mp3’s Anyway

Nowadays pretty much all new releases on vinyl will come with a download code for high quality mp3’s of the album so not only do you still get something to put on your iPod, it’s most likely better quality than the mp3’s you’d download from iTunes, Amazon, or wherever you acquire music.

7. Elitism!

Getting into vinyl means you now get to look down upon other people who exclusively listen to mp3’s or just stream music from YouTube or Spotify and who doesn’t like looking down on other people? I’m pretty sure it’s one of the core tenements the Internet is based on. Kids these days are really missing out by not listening to the latest Ke$ha album this way, when played on vinyl you can almost smell the whiskey and cigarettes on her breath.

8. The Colors

East Coast Bias (you know, from www.ecbias.com) co-host “The Butcher” aka Meola often cites the “colors” as one of the reasons he enjoys watching NFL teams square off every Sunday. You may think that sounds like he’s on drugs but colors are cool and so is colored vinyl. It’s even cooler when it’s a limited edition release type deal so you not only get a nice looking LP, you get a collector’s album that you might be able to sell for an unreasonable amount of money down the road. I love listening to Deerhunter’s “Halcylon Digest” LP not only because it’s a fantastic album, but its white vinyl also looks sweet when it spins on my turntable.

9. Vinyl Appreciates Value In A Way Mp3’s Can’t

If you didn't already know you probably won't be surprised that there is a huge vinyl collecting scene. As a result, a lot of records become more valuable over time for a variety of reasons. I'm sure none of this comes as a shock to you but the point is there will never be a limited edition or rare mp3. That's not the case with records, to the point of frustration sometimes. If I wanted to acquire either of the first two Modest Mouse albums ("This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" and "The Lonesome Crowded West") I am looking at paying at least $200 and more likely $300. I think it's safe to say there will be an mp3, or album of mp3's approaching that cost. Yeah it sucks if you’re me and you want those albums, but those who got in on the ground floor are pretty lucky so good for them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nine Easy Ways To Fill That Breaking Bad-Sized Void In Your Heart

Sometimes I gamble. Most of the time it’s only for money and occasionally it’s for something non-monetary. On especially rare occasions I gamble on both, particularly when I’m feeling great about the Giants after a rousing win against the Pats and a seemingly winnable game against the 49er’s next on the docket. This is what happened last week when I wagered, in addition to $100, me having to write for this site multiple times this week if the Giants lost and Emerson having to produce an episode of my podcast East Coast Bias (check us out at www.ecbias.com, we’ve been hemorrhaging listeners so now is your time to get on the bandwagon before everyone else!) if the alternative happened. So you’re stuck with me for a few days this week. I’d make a self-deprecating joke about this but I read this site regularly and know it’s been a week and a half since anything was posted. I may not have the best self-esteem but I’ve got enough to know I’m better than nothing, maybe even dirt, but not that fancy store-bought dirt (got to get that first Simpsons reference out of the way).

So I’m going to try and stick with topics that can be classified as nerdy and I know at least a little about. I’d also like to help better your lives and I know that if you’re a Breaking Bad fan like myself, Sunday nights have not been the same for the past month since the latest season ended. Sure, you could watch The Walking Dead but let’s face it, zombies aren’t nearly enough to make up for a show riddled with plot holes, stilted dialogue, and thinly drawn unlikable characters.

You may not be aware that Breaking Bad’s creator and show runner Vince Gilligan got his first big break working on The X-Files initially as a writer and eventually a producer as well. His work on The X-Files often shines through in Breaking Bad not only in the dark themes both shows touch on but the type of gallows humor they often employ to lighten the mood. Gilligan also clearly respects the “teaser”, or “cold open” segment of a show where it opens with a scene (or scenes) before the title as Breaking Bad has consistently done a phenomenal job of drawing the viewer in within it’s first couple minutes very much like The X-Files was so good at doing back in the day. So for your Sunday Evening viewing pleasure I have composed a list of Vince Gilligan's best writing contributions to The X-Files.

A couple things before we get into the list:

-All of these episodes are available on Netflix Instant Play

-There are essentially two types of X-Files episodes, the “mytharc” or “mythology” ones where the show addresses the ongoing conspiracy/aliens/etc. and “standalone” or “monster of the week” episodes where they tell a self-contained story. I’m only telling you this so you know what I’m talking about when I use those last two terms.

Pusher

Season 3 - Episode 17

Gilligan’s first episode as a staff writer (he was a freelancer when he wrote the second season episode “Soft Light” which featured one Tony Shaloub) introduced Robert Modell, a serial killer who can convince his victims to do what he says. “Pusher” is as highly regarded as the best X-Files episodes and features the rare case of a villian in a standalone episode who would later make another appearance on the show (Season 5 episode “Kitsunegari”).

Paper Hearts

Season 4 - Episode 10

A long time plotline on The X-Files was Mulder’s search for his sister Samantha, who was supposedly abducted by aliens in front of his eyes when they were children. The show revisited this thread countless times to varying results but none may have been better than this Season 4 episode where a serial killer Mulder helped apprehend in the past resurfaces claiming that he was responsible for more victims, with Mulder’s sister among them. The always creepy Tom Noonan (you might best remember him from Louie as the doctor who gives an extremely graphic description of the crucifixion) guest stars as the killer, John Lee Roche.

Small Potatoes

Season 4 - Episode 20

Probably the only other person who deserves consideration for best X-Files writer is Darin Morgan. He was the first person to try to do funny episodes and penned what many consider to be the best episode in the show’s history, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (in which Peter Boyle plays an old man who can see how people will die) in addition to “Humbug” (circus freaks) and “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”, which de-constructs the entire show better (and funnier) than any blogger could. It also features Alex Trebek and former Governor of Minnesota Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Men In Black, I highly recommend it.

After winning an Emmy for “Bruckman” and being responsible for some of the best episodes of the show’s third season, Morgan left the show for a brief stay with creator Chris Carter’s other series Millenium, and eventually stopped writing altogether until somewhat recently. Morgan did return to The X-Files one last time in this episode where he plays Eddie Van Blundht, a schlubby janitor at a fertility clinic who can shapeshift and impersonate those around him. I won’t get into plot specifics but eventually he uses his ability to impersonate Mulder and seduce Scully, sort of giving many long time fans what they always wanted. This episode is Gilligan’s first attempt at humor and he does not disappoint, giving the man who injected much needed levity into the show in the first place a chance to show he can bring it in the acting department as well.

(Note: Morgan also played the very memorable “Flukeman” in the Season 2 episode “The Host”. This role did not give Morgan much of a chance to prove his humor chops)

Bad Blood

Season 5 - Episode 12

Vampires are the monster of the week in what is essentially The X-Files meets Rashomon. In this fan favorite, Mulder and Scully give differing accounts of what happened when they investigate a death by exsanguination in Texas. Notable guest stars are abound as Luke Wilson plays the town sheriff and the fat ginger from The Sandlot and The Big Green shows up as a pizza delivery boy with OCD. If for some reason you are actually choosing to watch these episodes but you are not a regular X-Files viewer I recommend checking out a few other episodes beforehand if only to get a feel for the Mulder/Scully dynamic that Gilligan does a great job of sending up here.

Drive

Season 6 - Episode 2

If you’re truly in need of some sort of Breaking Bad fix this one is probably the way to go as Walter White himself Bryan Cranston plays Patrick Crump a “seemingly deranged” man (according to the IMDB description) who forces Mulder to drive west at high speeds, claiming that he only has so long to live and will die otherwise. So not only do you get Cranston playing a deranged man with a death sentence, he rocks a mustache giving his performance a Season 1-era Walter White touch.

Monday

Season 6 - Episode 14

If “Bad Blood” was The X-Files meets Rashomon, “Monday” is The X Files meets Groundhog Day as Mulder is forced to relive the same Monday over and over again until he can stop a bank robbery from going wrong and resulting in a bomb killing everyone in the building. Not much else to add about this one except that it’s a solid entry from what is my opinion a very underrated season. It also features a fantastic call-back to the waterbed that Michael McKean’s character acquires for Mulder in Dreamland 1 & 2.

Hungry

Season 7 - Episode 3

Rob Roberts is a man who is addicted to eating human brains. Before you get the wrong idea this is by no means an X-Files take on zombies...thankfully. This episode is noteworthy in that it’s the only one where the story is told from the point of the view of the show’s monster of the week.

X-Cops

Season 7 - Episode 12

I remember hearing that The X-Files was going to do a crossover episode with Cops and not understanding how it would work at all, much less be a decent episode. Not only was the end result a very funny X-Files episode, it’s simply a strong episode in general with a concept that would probably have worked well if it were just a normal episode of the show. The fact that we get to hear Mulder unintentionally and unironically repeat a generic meathead cop’s “this is why they pay us the bucks” line is only icing on the cake. An extremely underrated episode from late in the show’s run, this one also comes highly recommended.

Roadrunners

Season 8 - Episode 4

Sidenote: Don’t you hate it when you read lists on the Internet and the writer squeezes in an episode that doesn’t necessarily fit the criteria because he wants to make a point or write about it anyway.

There a probably a couple episodes that could take this one’s place on this list (“Folie a Deux” and “Unusual Suspects come to mind) but I wanted to include one after David Duchovny was no longer on the show fulltime which brings us to “Roadrunners”. Scully goes off to investigate a murder in Utah without letting Mulder’s replacement, Agent Dogget (aka Robert Patrick aka the T-1000!!!) know and ends up in over her head with some weird townsfolk. This episode left a strong impression on me for two reasons, it’s kind of gross (if you watch you’ll see what I mean) and it marked the first time I started coming around to Dogget’s character. I also vividly remember my dad making a joke when this episode first aired about (SPOILER jump to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know) Scully no longer needing Mulder anymore after Dogget saves her in the end. My mom, who was not nearly as big a fan of the show as my dad did not appreciate this.

Yep, I used to spend my Sunday nights in high school watching The X-Files with my parents. I was about 16 at the time, lay off.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dissecting the Plausibility of a Zombie Apocalypse

Hey guys! We're back from our unintentional two week hiatus! Aren't you excited? I know I am. Today I'm going to be talking about the remarkable implausibility of a zombie apocalypse. And I'm not talking about the presence of zombies. Assuming THAT were possible, I still have serious issues with things like The Walking Dead, or Zombieland. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy both of those things (despite the continued impressive stupidity of TWD, expertly chronicled by Gabe at Videogum - a must read for any TWD fan). My problem with these shows and movies is the spread of the zombie epidemic. All of America gets overrun by slow-moving, essentially brainless undead people? I don't fucking think so.
You know what would defeat these guys?
THIS.
That's right, a muthafuckin' TANK, bitches. And it doesn't stop there. Soldiers in Kevlar. Snipers. Helicopters. MISSILES. We spend trillions of dollars on our military. They could handle an invasion of slow-moving targets that don't understand the concept of taking cover. Even if it spread fast, I am confident we would be able to contain it. When discussing this with resident zombie expert Emerson, he brought up a couple of counterpoints. Let's dissect them one at a time.

People would be hesitant to simply kill other people - especially loved ones - even if they were zombies. This is an interesting point, one TWD addresses, though I'm not sure I agree. While the concept of shooting a friend or loved one in the head is indeed a difficult one with which to come to grips, I think that once ZOMBIES start happening, convention goes out the window. I don't own a gun, but if I did, and out of nowhere my roommate starting legitimately trying to eat my brains, I'd like to think I would have it in me to cap his ass. I know he'd shoot me. And deep down, that's comforting. Fully accepting the reality that a zombie outbreak is upon us is the most difficult part, but once we get there, I have no doubt that we would be able to make the tough decisions regarding the destruction of our infected brethren. Which brings me to Emerson's next point...

Congress would be reluctant to nuke large infected areas because there would still be some uninfected people there. Bull. Fucking. Shit. Congress has been royally shafting most of America for years already over lower taxes for rich people. Do you really think they would hesitate to nuke an overrun Dallas simply because there might still be a few thousand survivors left? Not a chance. Sorry Texas. You had a good run. But if turning you into a (more) barren wasteland is what it takes to save the country, well, we're down to 49 states. If you are betting on politicians to start getting moral once zombies show up, you're going to lose that bet.

It spread due to multiple simultaneous outbreaks throughout the land. Well, this is never specified, but it certainly makes things trickier. There is no way in hell the military would not be able to handle a singular outbreak, even if it were quite large. But hundreds, even thousands of simultaneous outbreaks in different parts of the country? That would cloud things. This, however, strikes me as impossible, even from a zombie apocalypse standpoint. It always seems to start with one pissed off monkey, or one crazy corpse, or something like that. How could a spontaneous zombie outbreak occur all over? Too many people eating the McRib? Well maybe, with those ingredients. Yikes. But even then, not buying it. People have been eating the McRib for years, and no zombies. And even if it did occur that way, they would never infiltrate military bases, or houses with, you know, WALLS. These zombies can barely get up steps. Critical thinking is not a strong suit. Even if multiple outbreaks did occur at once, and it spread fast, and it affected a LOT of people, tanks, guns and missiles would eventually win.

While I don't have much faith in our government, especially when it comes to how they deploy the military, if zombies started springing up, I think they would get the job done. Let's just hope it never comes to that.