Dream Residue…

Some scientists are beginning to believe that our Universe (more acurately known as “the observable universe” cuz it’s all we can see) is more complex than just some ever-expanding system of stars, planets, and galaxies.  It is believed that our observable universe may be part of a “multiverse”, a system of possibly infinite numbers of different pocket universes or realities.  The clip below explains a bit.

If the idea that there are many, many branches of existence out there is correct, it’s probable that anything that you could possibly imagine happening has or will happen.  That got me thinking.  One idea I love, unproven though it may be, is that a different version of you and I exists in every single branch of the universe.  And the alternate “yous” or “Is” have probably lived out every single possible storyline you or I could live out.  I heard a quote that said essentially that our lives, regardless of whether we enjoy them or not, could be the dream lives of our parallel selves.

So, what if our dream are part of some shared consciousness or experience that connects us with the other versions of ourselves.  Perhaps we dream what we dream because one of our parallel selves has already lived through that experience.  So, our dreams aren’t really dreams so much as memories our alternate selves have from their lives.  Maybe, when I dream about hooking up with Aubrey Plaza, it’s because a me in another reality already has hooked up with an alternate version of Aubrey Plaza. 

That doesn’t explain everything.  For example, why the Hell did I dream last night about chasing around a little mouse through some old creepy, decrepit house?  I wasn’t human me, I was a very angry cat.  It was basically a Tom and Jerry cartoon only much more realistic-looking and much less plausible.  Am I a cat in a parallel existence?  I suppose anything is possible, but it sure doesn’t make much sense.  And why do I dream about swirling bars of color so often?  Is there another universe where I’m a color swatch or something?

This is an intriguing idea, but it’s also kind of off-putting.  I think I liked dreams better when they were just synapses in my brain firing off randomly.

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Why the Hell Not?

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Today’s post is gonna be about racism.  More specifically, it’s about how I’m a racist.  Fun times.

Of the many comic book characters that have yet to make it into theaters as contemporary film adaptations, one of the most perplexing is Wonder Woman.  As far as I’m concerned, a well-executed Wondy movie would do nothing but make fat stacks of phat cash.  It’s a perfect movie.  Wondy’s hot, which brings in the kiddie crowd (and also the pervs).  Wondy also kicks a lot of ass, which brings in the action flick aficionados.  On top of that, Wondy’s a strong female character, which would give girls a reason to show up.  That deafening din you hear is the sound of cash registers ka-chinging.

The trouble with any kind of Wonder Woman movie is that the character is a right pain in the ass to correctly cast.  Wondy has to be beautiful, but she also has to carry herself with a grace and regalness many contemporary actresses can’t pull off. Wondy also has to be large enough in stature to convincingly beat people (meaning a lot of dudes) down.  And she should be able to emote, which means the role calls for a real actress and not just some chick who looks hot in the suit.  Some of the rumors that I’ve heard about the casting have been laughably bad.  Megan Fox?  Seriously?  She can’t act and I don’t believe she could beat her way out of a wet paper bag.  Jessica Biel could work.  Maybe.  Gina Carano surely fits the bill physically, but she doesn’t have the acting chops.  Besides, I want to see her play She-Hulk.

ImageThen, earlier this week, I read somewhere that a fan movement is trying to get Gina Torres cast as Wonder Woman.  It’s really quite perfect.  Torres is gorgeous, but she’s also capable of convincing ass-kickery, and she has the regal, distinguished quality Wondy should exude.  A home run, I thought.  Why didn’t this occur to me before?  The answer hit me square in the face, and I was less than proud of myself.  I’d never considered Torres for Wondy because she’s African-American.

The problem with being a comics fan is that there is a tendency to get too attached to every little detail of a character’s reality.  The way a character talks, how they act in a certain situation, what a character looks like: these can all become sticking points.  And that’s kinda stupid.  There’s no reason why the fact that a character that is one ethnicity in the comics means he or she can’t be another ethnicity in the movies.  Unless said character’s ethnicity is a vital part of why he or she behaves or influences his or her actions, skin color should be interchangeable.

Which is why my inability to see an African-American woman as Wonder Woman bothers me so much.  As long as the character is right, there should be no reason why what said character looks like should bug me.  As long as Wondy acts like Wondy should act and kicks ass like Wondy kicks ass, it just doesn’t matter what color her skin is.

And it’s not like Hollywood hasn’t done something like this before.  Kingpin’s always been a big, fat white dude in the comics, but in the movie, they cast Michael Clarke Duncan.  The result?  Well, MCD’s performances was actually one of the best things about that movie.  By the end of the film, you’re not thinking Goddamn those ass hats for making Kingpin black.  You’re thinking, that was a great performance and I’d like to see more of Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin.

I imagine the same thing would happen with Gina Torres as Wondy.  I think she’d be great, and I bet it would set the bar for female-led comic book movies.  I’m also a little ashamed I let a little thing like skin tone affect my thought process on this.  We like to say things like movies are just entertainment, but they can be a barometer for how our society has evolved.  And seeing that there are still too few African-American female-led comic book flicks, I think Gina Torres (or any other African-American woman) as Wonder Woman would be an epic step forward.

O.K Lunchbox, Let’s Try This Again…

(Or 5 Reasons Why I Gotta Get the Hell Offa Facebook)

I remember a phone call I had with a dear old friend one day a couple of years back.  He asked me if I was on Facebook, to which I replied “What the frak is that?”  I decided to do a little research and the next time this buddy asked asked if I was on Facebook, I said “Hells no, and I never will be!”  But after a couple months worth of nagging, my strength wore down, my resistance eroded, and I gave in and joined.

Cut to present day, and I have something I need to share.  Hello.  My name’s Fatty and I’m a Facebook addict.

It’s kinda ridiculous and more than a little pathetic.  I wake up and one of the first things I do is check Facebook.  I leave and go to check other sites, but ten minutes later I’m checking Facebook again.  If I’m not doing that, I’m on Facebook for hours on end playing Bejeweled or something stupid like that.  I could be outside, getting fresh air and trying to improve my health.  I could be playing on my guitar, writing music, which is something I dearly love but don’t do nearly enough.  I could be cleaning or reading or writing or doing a myriad of things I’d be better off doing.  But I’m not.  I’m sitting in front of my laptop, worrying that I may have missed something in the past twenty seconds, and waiting to see if something I posted gets a response.  I absolutely loathe myself for that.

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That about sums it up…

A couple months back, I tried to curb my Facebook habit and failed miserably.  I just couldn’t keep myself from looking at it every five minutes.  Maybe I didn’t have a good reason to succeed (the reason I gave myself was that I wanted to see what I could accomplish if I wasn’t on FB all the time).  Well, I’m about to try it again, and this time I have five damn good reasons to succeed.  And those reasons are as follows:

  1. In just the past three days, I’ve made a comment that sounded way nastier than I intended (damn you, computer screen inability to convey sarcasm!) and got pissed about a comment someone made that wasn’t intended to anger me.  It’s so easy to get worked up when you’re shrouded in the anonymity of cyberspace.  Nobody can see how pissed off you are. It’s also easier to slam people on the net, because you don’t have to fear retribution.  I mean, if you slam someone on your thread and they try to slam you back, you can always just delete their comment.  But I have a habit of getting angry at what folks say.  And then I get even more angry because I’m letting someone else’s stupid comments affect my mood.  You get the picture.  It has to stop.
  2. Facebook has been described as a black hole for time, as in it sucks it away and you never see it again.  I don’t look at it like that because black holes actually stop time.  For me, FB speeds time up and and makes it magically disappear.  I can start playing Bejeweled, look at the clock what seems like an instant later, and three hours will have passed.  I’m always wishing I had more time to play with, so by that logic, I need to try to cut back anything that makes time disappear.
  3. You ever post something that you think is awesome, or hilarious, or witty, and then get hit with a wave of anxiety about how your FB friends are gonna react?  Yeah, I do that all the time, and then I can’t bring myself to go do something else because I’m so concerned about whether or not people are gonna think I’m as funny or awesome as I think I am.  It’s pathetic and it needs to end.
  4. I’m getting very used to the idea of stalking chicks I am now or used to be interested in romantically.  The fact that I’ve developed such comfort with being so skeevy creeps the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed crap outta me.  
  5. Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and said if I don’t get off Facebook, he’d melt my brain.  If that’s not a good enough reason to try to curb my habit, I don’t know what the Hell is.

Now, understand that my main goal is not to quit Facebook completely, but to curb the amount of time I spend there.  I’d love if I could even get to the point where I only check it once a day.  Once a day as compared to constantly being on there?  Are you kidding me?  That would be success beyond my wildest dreams.  I know I’m gonna stumble and I gotta be willing to not sh*t on myself when I do.  But if I can even get down to checking things once ever three or four hours for five or ten minutes instead of getting on and never leaving, I’d view that as a huge-ass epic win. 

So, starting October 1st, I’m gonna give it one more try.  Wish me luck.  (Gulp…)

Fatty Asks: What is Heavy?

I’ve been listening to metal in some form or another for most of my life.  I love the sound: the growling guitars, the pounding percussion, and the screaming vocals.  But it’s got me thinking about what makes music metal, as opposed to hard rock.  Along with that naturally comes the question of what exactly is heavy.

Let’s first tackle the question of metal separates hard rock from metal, cuz, in my mind, the answer’s pretty simple.  Both feature big, crunching riffs, wailing vocals, and thunderous drumming.  The big difference lies in the degree of technical proficiency present in the music.  Most hard rock is still rock, meaning there’s a looseness to the music and the arrangements are fairly uncomplicated.  It’s built around the riff, but said riff is usually fairly simple, leaving room for the vocals and such.  Think something along the lines of Monster Magnet’s “Space Lord” or Def Leppard’s “Photograph”.  Those are melodic songs built around simple riffs that rely more on the vocal performance than the musical prowess to hook the listener.

Now, that’s not to say that hard rock can’t contain technical riffs or virtuoso performances.  Steve Vai’s playing is incredibly complex and technical without streaming into the metal arena.  Slash shreds his way through a lot of Gun N’ Roses songs.  And there’s no way you can tell me Freddie Mercury’s bombastic vocal performances aren’t worthy of a virtuoso.  But most hard rock is taking the things it learned from the blues and blowing up out of proportion, all while still providing a melody you wanna sing along with.

In metal, there’s much more concern with playing riffs that are technically challenging to play.  Listen to early Ozzy, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, or Lamb of God and you’ll hear players trying to push the complexity of their music.  Sometimes, thing get so technical, it seems like it’s for the sake of playing finger-tangling riffs and wild, wobbly tempos (Hello, Dillinger Escape Plan).  That’s not a bad thing.  I love hear players play stuff that I have no idea how to play my self.  But for me, that is how metal differs from hard rock.

Now then, what is “heavy”?  How does music go from being “hard” to being “heavy”?  Both hard rock and heavy metal trade in extreme volume, so what’s the difference?  For me, it has everything to do with rhythmic tension in the music.  Most rock in written in a 4/4 time signature, and it seems to me that many rock bands go about filling every square inch of music with sound.  But, the heaviest stuff I’ve ever heard has some serious tension and release going on in the music.  For example, listen to the opening salvo from Gojira’s “Ocean Planet”.

It’s noisy, it’s full of crunching guitar noise, but listen to how the riffs stop and start.  There’s space there that allows the riff to breathe and come to life.  And when the guitars hit you again, they hit you all the harder.

That’s something I’ve noticed with a lot of music that I think is ultra-heavy.  It doesn’t have so much to do with have much gain is on the guitars, or how low everything is tuned.  It has to do with the groove and the way the groove builds and releases.

It should be pointed out that you don’t have to play metal to make heavy music.  If you don’t believe me, check Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” or “Nobody’s Fault” by Aerosmith.  Conversely, not all metal music is heavy.  A lot of bands play super fast and don’t leave any room for tension and release.  I love fast frakking metal songs, but they don’t hit me very hard because there’s simply no time dedicated to develop any sort of groove.  Take DragonForce.  Love ’em, and to squealy, Journey-vocals-drenched “Nintendo-metal”.  And they are definitely a metal band.  Few human beings can shred like the boys in DragonForce.  But it’s so fast, there’s no real rhythmic push and pull.  Thus, it metal without being very heavy.

If you’re interested, here a five songs that further illustrate my idea of what heavy is.  And if you don’t agree with me, please share your thoughts.  Let’s get a discussion going!

  1. Sepultura – “Rattamahatta”
  2. Killswitch Engage – “Fixation on the Darkness”
  3. Black Sabbath – “Supernaut” (The push and pull in the verse riff is unreal.)
  4. Ash – “Clones”
  5. Van Halen – “Unchained”

Where Be the Nicknames?

I’m sitting here, scarfing down potato chips (mmmmm… garlic and sea salt) and watching the opening weekend of the NFL season.  It’s the usual litany of big hits, bigger plays, hot sideline reporters, hotter cheerleaders, and ads for drugs to combat erectile dysfunction.  It feels like home.  But something is missing.

It’s been missing for quite some time now.  I can’t quite put my finger on when it disappeared from NFL football, but it’s definitely gone.  It’s not the athletic ability.  If anything, NFL players are bigger, stronger, faster, and more capable of jaw-dropping athletic feats than ever before.  It’s not the strategy of the game.  Football has always been a bit of a chess match to see which team can outsmart the other.  But I think I finally figured it out.

Back in the day, I gave most of my friends nicknames.  There was Toonces, Halfstack, Binki, and Bobo.  There was the guy who went from Buttercup (which, in retrospect was a far better nickname cuz it pissed him off so much) to Ham, because he kinda resembled Ham from The Sandlot.  Eventually, I stopped calling those guys by their given names and just used their nicknames.  As far as I was concerned, that gave my buddies more character and made them more interesting.

Growing up watching football, and trying to learn about the history of the game, I noticed that many of the greatest players had awesome nicknames.  There were guys like Dick “Night Train” Lane, “Mean” Joe Green, “Too Tall” Jones, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, and Walter “Sweetness” Payton.  More mediocre players also got great tags, like William “Refrigerator” Perry, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, and Elbert “Icky” Woods.  Positional units even got cool nicknames, like “The Hogs” (Washington O-Line), Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense of the 70’s, or the Dolphins “Killer Bees” defense.

Recently, though, I haven’t been giving my friends nicknames.  I guess I have less imagination nowadays, and I’m also a lot lazier.  Similarly, the NFL is suffering through a dearth of great player nicknames.  There are a few, like Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and Adrian “All Day” Peterson (cuz he keeps coming at you all day long).  More often, you get guys being called after their initials or their jersey numbers.  It’s a bit dispiriting and takes some of the character out of the game.

It makes me wonder what the problem is.  Are sportswriters and media types less imaginative than they used to be?  Are they just lazy?  Do contemporary NFL’ers just lack personality?  Whatever it is, I miss the days when teams were full of players with colorful nicknames or oversized personas.  I guess if I wanted that kinda stuff, I could watch wrestling.  Yeah.  That’ll definitely happen…