Posts Tagged ‘30 Days’

30 Days Challenge Songs Pt. 4

August 17, 2020


19 – A song that makes you think about life

This song made me think a lot about my depression and my anger problems. I used to listen to the song and hurt, feeling misunderstood. Eventually, I realized how much of it was a choice that I was making and that I could choose to be happy (with the help of anti-anxiety drugs). I did not want to feel like the villain anymore and so I worked to change my life. Listening to this song makes me think of those days and how I do not want to slide back into them. I would have been interested to see the rock opera that this was supposed to belong to as the villain Jumbo sounded like a sympathetic character.


20 – A song that has meaning to you

Honestly, this was probably the first song I can remember that made me weep. People can hate on this song all they want but it came at right the just moment in my life. I had been working at a job that I hated and did not feel appreciated at. My mental health was deteriorating quickly and then they let me go and I agreed to go at about the same time. Still, I was devastated because I had never been asked to leave a job before. I had always been the one who made that decision so I felt lower than low. I went to visit my folks for Easter and I left there feeling down but a little bit hopeful. This song started playing on my car speakers and I just lost it. I had lost the good news in all of the bad news. I was free! Sure I had no paycheck but I also did not have to go to a job that had me depressed and anxious and was negatively affecting my health. It made me think of how I needed to find something that suited me better. I have now found that job and I will move on from my current job and find something that equally suits me. At that moment, I learned to “Let it Go” and I felt so much better after a good cry.


21 – A song you like with a person’s name in the title

This is the first song that popped into my head that met the criteria and it still cracks me up as a song. Abbey Road remains my favorite Beatles album and I used to listen to this song on repeat. I love the juxtaposition of the dark subject matter with the bouncy music backing it. The lyrics actually remind me of rap music with their internal rhymes and the way it plays with language. I used to say this was my favorite Beatles song as a joke but, honestly, I still love this song for real. People are down on songs like these because they are silly and have little meaning but sometimes the Beatles were great when they were being silly. Songs like this, Octopus’ Garden, Yellow Submarine, and more really did not seem to mean much but were just fun to listen to.


22 – A song that moves you forward

When I am low on energy, I will often listen to pro-wrestling themes. It makes sense as they are usually designed to fire up the crowd and the performers. This band, Downstait, has written a few that I listen to for Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and now Cody Rhodes. I am also a huge fan of the bands that work with WWE’s CFO$ like Code Orange and Incendiary. I am really fond of “The Root of All Evil” (Aleister Black) , “Real Deal” (Emma), and “Limitless” (Keith Lee). I also like some of Jim Johnston’s new stuff like “New Day, New Way” (The New Day). I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the music department of All Elite Wrestling as well which seems to be using different artists instead of an in-house crew. Stuff like “Superkick Party” (Young Bucks), “The Best Friends Theme”, and “I Fell” (Darby Allin). All of the music is designed to get people hyped and it is why I often use it as my alarm in the morning.

23 – A song you think everybody should listen to

I just picked a song at random from on my phone but I have loved this track since I first saw the music video ages ago. While being dangerously close to being an X-Men reference, he X-Ecutioners were actually a DJ/Turntablist trio that did a lot of work with other artists. They embraced the spirit of the old turntablists but with original compositions. Linkin Park is a group that I have loved since their inception even though a lot of their songs sound similar to each other and blend together. The mix between electronic, rap, and rock is pretty fun to listen to. This plays up the turntable strengths of both the X-Executioners and Joe Hanh with the strong style of Mike Shinoda’s rapping.


24 – A song by a group that you wish were still together

Jurassic 5 was one of the groups that first got me into rap music and they remain a benchmark that I judge a lot of rap groups by. One thing that I respected was that the group never had to go dirty or violent with their lyrics. There is nothing wrong with violent or sexual lyrics but it made J5 stand out among the pack when I was also listening to NWA, Wutang Clan, and Busta Rhymes. As you can hear in this track, they also sampled some really fun stuff. (The Muppet Show!) Their lyrics were always mind-bendingly complex and most songs changed rhythms and melodies several times throughout the song as different members stepped in. I have since heard a lot of good things from the former members on other tracks but they were always so good together.

30 Days Challenge Songs Pt. 3

August 10, 2020


13 – A song you like from the Seventies

I have liked the Ramones since I first heard them as a youth. I was exploring beyond my parents’ musical tastes when I discovered Punk as a genre. It is the perfect thing for a preteen misfit to stumble upon. I loved the Ramones because they were high energy and their lyrics sounded crazy and exciting. They were counterculture, slacker weirdos and with their long hair and leather jackets, they felt like they were on a similar wavelength to me. What is interesting is that this song and many of their songs from early albums did not even chart. However, now I hear this song everywhere. It is in plenty of movies, television shows, commercials, and video games. Everything goes commercial eventually. That used to annoy me more. The Ramones were my happy introduction to the land of Punk, somewhere I still love to visit.


14 – A song you like from the Sixties

Jimi Hendrix was my jam for a long time when I was in high school. One of my friends was a total music snob but we could connect through our love of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix transcended a lot of boundaries because just about anybody I knew loved at least one of his songs. I remember listening to this friend’s coffee house version of All Along the Watchtower and just really enjoying it. Hendrix was a consummate performer who had a strong creative mind. His stage antics and stunts are well known (ie smashing or burning a guitar on stage) but he was also known for changing up how he played and sang songs while on tour which gained him the ire of his more purist fans. My youngest brother was actually the one who really taught me about the guy. He played a right-handed guitar upside down because he was left-handed, for example. My brother first learned guitar by watching Jimi’s fingering in videos of live performances.


15 – A song you like that’s a cover by another artist

It is hard to pick just one song, actually. I picked the above GWAR cover of Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” because their performance before and during the song is just legendary. Covers are really hit and miss but that does not make them inherently bad. Many times a band can really nail another band’s song and make it something new and fun. Sometimes they simply make a safe copy of the original song with just a few tweaks and that’s alright. Other times they seem to miss the point of the original completely or make it into something unfun. For example, I am not a fan of bands that turn modern, upbeat songs into dirges or stripped-down slow versions. Some of those bands’ sole purpose is to change the genre of the original song. At the same time, I am always in for a good Metal, Punk, or Dubstep cover of a slow song that speeds it up. I guess I just really like uptempo music more.


16 – A song that’s a classic favorite

I am not sure what ‘classic favorite’ means here but I figure it is another throwback to what folks would consider falling under the classic modifier in musical genres. I am actually going to say a bit about classical music because I am sure it is underrepresented in these sorts of lists. This is one of the tracks that I would listen to in the afternoons after attending high school while I rested my eyes so I could do my night owl thing. Also, I would turn it on low when I had a migraine and drift off to sleep with the help of a handful of acetaminophen. Mozart has always been my favorite classical composer because he has such complex compositions that are rich in different sound textures. He also wrote a lot of symphonies and operas which are more fast-paced than slower composers. This particular composition, Jupiter, always made me think of both the Roman God and the Sailor Scout at the same time.


17 – A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke

This is a song that does not really feel like it is not that hard to sing. It is slow enough to get the words in but fast enough to be fun. I like a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival but this is probably my favorite. I used to sing it to myself a lot when I worked and lived in New Jersey. It has a simple, jangly tune and there are not that many lyrics to it. Come to think of it, that may be why people gravitate toward so-called classic rock. It has the less complex composition that they are used to while modern music adds a lot more noise to the signal. I like either, myself. Also, it would have to be a duet because there is no way I am going on stage to do karaoke by myself. I just do not see the appeal.


18 – A song from the year you were born

Of course, it is not what I was listening early on in life but mainstream Rap music was really being born during the same year that I was. Sampling was becoming more of a thing and we were experiencing a new explosion of culture in the United States. Thanks to the Hip Hop movement, new innovations and influences were brought into mainstream music. The original DJ work will never be commercially available because of the rights issues with sampling and record companies shying away from any sort of lawsuit. There is some work being done on platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud but even those are not safe spaces from legal challenges (legitimate or not). However, the music underground still exists offline at least here in Baltimore as I have been exposed to Club and House mixes that were pretty spectacular done. I used to do some remixes myself but stopped when I lost access to better equipment and software.

30-Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 2

July 27, 2020


7 – A song to drive to

When I was living in New Jersey and driving my broken down white Saturn, I used to love to listen to this one as I drove. It has the perfect mix of calm and upbeat to really get me into a groove. It is also really fun to sing along to. I actually first listened to it on the road when I worked for the circus. Sitting shotgun in a mack truck, dozing a bit from exhaustion and listening to easy listening classic rock. The Eagles rock but they never really rock too hard and it was always pleasant to listen to them on the road. I remember listening to them on the long drives from Northern Jersey home to Baltimore when I was furloughed or for the holidays.


8 – A song about drugs or alcohol

Buckcherry was the music that I would play loud in my room during my middle school and high school years when I was angry. I would sing along and get it all out of my system. In retrospect, it was not so healthy to stew in it like that but teenage angst paired with an anxiety and anger problem is not pretty. The driving guitar and metal-style singing reminded me of a mixture of heavy metal with hair metal with a garage band edge. The band is very good at churning out problematic lyrics (see their song “Crazy Bitch”) but their songs are definitely bangers.


9 – A song that makes you happy

Ninja Sex Party is a band that I discovered on YouTube just as they were starting to really take off and thus the production values of their videos were getting better. Music Videos kind of died a while ago but some artists have kept the flame alive. All of NSP’s videos tell a story visually and lyrically. Danny Sexbang (Danny Avidan) is just so joyful with his lyrics and plays an obliviously happy character. I love the bouncy composition that Ninja Brian (Brian Wecht) came up with for this one as well. It is so catchy and easy to sing along to. I will always be a fan of this band and I remember well seeing them live before they really started touring. I also met Brian Wecht briefly once.

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10 – A song that makes you sad

In my opinion, the most overrated song in the history of music so far. I have really grown to dislike this song. It is slow and pointless and has never been fun to listen to. It made me hate Led Zeppelin for years until I learned to listen to their more upbeat and uptempo songs. I do not even consider it a rock song because it does not rock.


11 – A song you never get tired of

When the Gorillaz came on the scene they were a revelation. I was instantly a fan and the more I learned and listened, the more of a fan I became. They are a supergroup made up of many top musicians in rock, electronic, and rap. It had a punk rock feel to it and that was definitely supported by the animation style furnished by Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame). Because the band was made up of fictional characters, any musician could enter or exit the band for any song and create without being tied to their particular style. Their first album was probably the first that I listened all the way through without ever skipping a track. It was basically a perfect album and this was my favorite song off of it. Part of that is due to Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s rap breaks. The music just comes together so well.


12 – A song from your preteen years

I was a bit of a bigot when it came to music as a kid. I dismissed rap music but during my preteens and teens, I suddenly saw my folly and embraced rap and hip hop culture. I had bought into previous generations’ racist and classist take on rap. However, I was raised better than that and during this time I started to rebel against everything I thought I had believed. Part of that process started with Tupac Shakur, a fellow Baltimorean who had made it big out in California. His style was the quintessential style in rap that I would grow to love. His samples and flow were upbeat and just what I wanted to hear. His lyrics were brilliant the way they fit together like puzzle pieces so tightly. Tupac led me to artists like NWA, Busta Rhymes, Pharoah Monch, and so many more.

30-Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 1

July 20, 2020


1 – A song you like with the color in the title

Paint it Black may well be my favorite Rolling Stones song. It has a faster tempo than a lot of their songs driven by a killer drum beat and a great guitar riff. It also features a lot more toned down vocals form Mick Jagger than he usually sings. One of the funny things about this song is that it really gets me going even though it is about grief and depression. This is a song that I have heard since I was a kid because my dad was way into the Rolling Stones. However, my passion for it was reignited after its prominent use in the video game Twisted Metal Black which really fit the tone. I also really liked the french version used in Talladega Nights. Runner up (since black is technically not a color) is Mr. Blue Sky, a great upbeat tune.


2 – A song you like with a number in the title

I have to go with Seven Nation Army because of the Ravens. The song was not written for Baltimore (although a lyric mentions my hometown) but we certainly adopted it as our own. The signature guitar riff has grown from Ravens games to Orioles games and has taken over as an almost soccer-like chant. It has also recently been used as a chant in support of pro-wrestler Keith Lee (“Oh, Bask in his Glory!”). Independent of sports, the song is just a lot of fun. Like the above song, it has a driving beat that fires me up. I have no great love for the White Stripes but they do have some fun uptempo bangers. Part of that with this song is the fairly simple seven-note riff mixed with Meg White’s “heartbeat” tempo. I also like the vocals that Jack White uses here. They are distorted and, as much as I respect a pure singer, the sound designer in me loves filters and distortion used musically.


3 – A song that reminds you of summertime

I picked this song because of the summer I spent outside doing labor as a campaign staff member tasked with helping to put up 4X8 campaign signs. It involved a lot of carpentry but even more swinging of sledgehammers (which I already had experience in from the circus). We rode around in a big pickup truck and tried to beat the heat. One of the ways we kept our spirits up was listening to pop music and my mind keeps drifting back to that particular year in music. This was the summer that I fell in love with Katy Perry’s music and this song, in particular, reminds me of summer. The song is bouncy, fun, and has a great little rap insert from the legendary Snoop Dogg (before he became Snoop Lion for a bit).


4 – A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget

I mean, I do not want to forget the man who I called my father since I was two years old. However, there is a version of him that I would love to forget. He is an alcoholic and that version of him never felt good. Now, I still love this song but there was a time when all it did was remind me of my father’s demons. Plenty of people are able to drink recreationally without issue but I never really got into songs that glorified excessive drinking. I hold out hope that my father will exorcise his demons again but I remain realistic. As to the song itself, I particularly love Nicki Minaj’s rap portion of the song as this was my introduction to her style.


5 – A song that needs to be played loud

I was tempted to write in NWA’s “Fuck the Police” here but you probably should not do so without backup and a sturdy recording device. Instead, I have to give love to a band that I have loved since I could pick my own music. I did not give them love during last Wednesday’s trivia night but I can give them a bit of love now. Pretty much any AC/DC song can be and should be played just below the threshold of pain. I listened to a lot of their music on repeat (on headphones) during high school (mostly Greatest Hits and Stiff Upper Lip). I think I will go with Highway to Hell because the song has played such a part in amusing me and firing me up through the years. There have been so many times that I have been driving toward something and the song starts playing and I have to chuckle. Sometimes the title is accurate and sometimes it is not at all accurate but it never fails to get a reaction from me. The driving guitar riffs and wailing vocals are hard to deny.


6 – A song that makes you want to dance

I mean, I do not really dance. Not in public but I do bop a bit and the most dance-like movements I make are usually in the shower while I am listening to upbeat music. As a huge Disney fan, I fell in love with the lore, style, and especially the poppy music of the Descendants franchise. Steven Vincent has been on board as a songwriter for all three Descendants movies (but strangely not the TV Show) and he has only gotten better with each movie in the trilogy. Part of his success is he has some of the greatest young performers that Disney could probably have gotten their hands on. I have become especially enamored of Sofia Carson’s vocal style (although China Ann McClain is the better singer). This song is probably my all-time favorite of the whole franchise. The lyrics are extremely relevant to both the fairytale setting but also the apprehension that all young couples face. The bops in the Descendants franchise seem almost scientifically designed to get your toe tapping so it is no wonder it makes me wiggle.

30 Days Challenge: Film Pt. 4

June 22, 2020


19 – A film made by your favorite director

I have been on board with Guillermo Del Toro since I first saw Mimic but I really fell in love with him as a director since Hellboy. He is such an imaginative Director who knows how to make brilliant stories with breathtaking visuals. I have loved every single one of his films that I have seen and I am working on finally seeing them all. I feel like this movie was kind of lost from the conversation of his career. I think people went into this movie expecting full-on horror but instead got more of a fantasy drama piece. What I find most amusing about this movie is that it may have had a Disney origin. Del Toro had signed on to do a movie based on Disney’s Haunted Mansion but the project ultimately fell through. Lo and behold, his next project ended up being a movie about a haunted house anyway. It makes me wonder (and I am not alone) whether or not Del Toro recycled some of his ideas from the Disney project into his own thing for Legendary. The movie is a great mystery and a very atmospheric, spooky movie. The visuals definitely made me really feel the movie more than most others (ie the cold, the damp).


20 – A film that changed your life

“Changing your life” is a strong statement. I do feel that movies have the same power that a good book or a good television show has, to move society and expand our minds. One such movie that expanded my mind is Pi, my first experience with the trippy work of Darren Aronofsky. The movie is about a young mathematician who figures out a great breakthrough. He is pursued by the powers that be who want to use the breakthrough for their own ends. The movie is dark and atmospheric but it meant more to me than it just being a good movie. To me, the movie is about knowledge and how to be responsible for it. The government, corporations, and other unscrupulous and corrupt powers will take and pervert knowledge that could be used for good. It also has a really accurate portrayal of chronic pain (which I dealt with for years) and social anxiety which I still deal with.


21 – A film that you dozed off in

I am ashamed to say it but I did fall asleep during Vertigo. It was not that it was a bad movie, I think I had just been suffering through some light sleep deprivation. The movie is really good, obviously, a classic rightfully lauded with honors. At the time, my friend Arthur was excited to show it to me but I yawned and ended up actually falling asleep which unfortunately ended movie night. I felt embarrassed at the time but now I realize my teenage body was just going through normal weirdness and I was also a bit of a night owl which led to sleepiness on other nights.


22 – A film that made you angry

The Boss made me particularly angry. It was somebody else’s choice for a movie night and I was not exactly looking forward to it. I am no big fan of Melissa McCarthy who seems like a one-note comedian who almost completely traffics in fat jokes and plays dumb irredeemable characters. She is kind of like Because of this movie, I will always hesitate before giving Melissa McCarthy a chance. She plays an absolutely horrible woman in the movie who is never shown to have learned any lesson. What makes it worse is that one of my all-time favorite actresses, Kristen Bell, is in this movie. It is such a waste of her talents. The movie is set up to basically crap on Kristen Bell for its entire running time and that is basically the point of the movie.


23 – A film made by a director that is dead

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly is one of the best films of its time. It was such a revelation and I was lucky enough to watch it at a fairly young age. It took an Italian man to reinvent the American Western. Sergio Leone was really good at creating beautiful yet ugly movies with engaging characters. He turned a mostly silent protagonist into something compelling. It is a shame that that actor turned into such an old racist but Leone could hardly be blamed for that. Leone portrayed people as they are, warts and all. Heroes are not paragons of virtue and villains are not absolute monsters.


24 – A film you wish you saw in theaters

I really enjoyed Knives Out but I really think that some of the nuanced humor could have been helped by seeing it with an audience. Also, the movie is really pretty, and seeing it on a bigger screen could not have hurt. There are plenty of other movies, especially during these times of COVID, that I wanted to see in theaters. I missed out on seeing the following in theaters this year or last: Spiderman Far from Home, Onward, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Bloodshot. I would have also loved to see older movies in theaters. In particular, I think of the Marx Brothers movies. I would have loved to laugh along with huge crowds as the brothers’ antics ensued.

30 Day Challenge: Film Pt. 3

June 15, 2020


13 – A film that put you in deep thoughts

I went with Do the Right Thing because it is such an important film that is still relevant today. The movie is written and directed by Spike Lee and is probably his best movie (at least in my opinion). The plot follows a young black man who works as a pizza delivery for an Italian-American restaurant. He is keeping his head down and just trying to make it through his day. In the height of summer, a strange disagreement becomes a racist incident which then becomes a fight. The situation quickly gets out of control until a young black man is killed by a police officer with a chokehold. This sparks the community to violence. The movie makes me really think because it is interesting to follow the course of events and the lines of dialogues to see how things go so badly. Many criticize whether the main character did “the right thing” but it is clear that he did. Those who claim that he did not have fallen into the racist trap of equating property damage with human loss of life or injury. Property can be replaced but a person can never be replaced once they are broken. This is incredibly relevant as I type this right now.


14 – A film that gave you depression

What Dreams May Come is such a depressing film. It is completely about death which is not exactly my favorite subject. Film is escapism and forcing me to contemplate my own mortality is not the escapism that I want. At the time that I watched it, I had recently started my fandom of Robin Williams. I love and continue to love him as an actor and entertainer but I love his comedy above all. He is not funny at all in this movie. There are plenty of movies that are not exactly wacky comedies that I have enjoyed him in but this is a really dire movie. It also has some weird casting choices with two white characters strangely becoming people of color in the afterlife. It also deals heavily with grief and suicide in a way that just drags on and on without being entertaining or uplifting. The movie just felt so dreary.


15 – A film that makes you feel happy

Moana is a film that just exudes joy. The main character is so interesting, a young woman with wanderlust. She denies that wanderlust but then must heed its call when destiny comes calling. The main character’s boundless optimism and determination are inspiring. The sidekick, a demigod, is funny and goofy but is constantly upstaged by a mere human. Every character in the movie is a delight. The monster comes off almost as a Polynesian David Bowie. The coconut goblins are so creative and the action is thrilling. On top of that, a lot of the movie is sunny and bright and it just makes my heart feel good. The songs are written by the excellent Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i combining Miranda’s snappy lyrical style with Foa’i’s more traditional island feel. The movie just comes together to form a very happy memory for me. Also, as an aromantic, the lack of a romantic subplot makes me even happier.


16 – A film that is personal to you

When I was in Fifth Grade, I was diagnosed with a structural birth defect that sent me into surgery. I was so afraid as I went into surgery but suddenly I was out like a light and I woke up in the ICU, recovering. As I lay there drugged and feeling completely destroyed, they wheeled a television in. I lay there on my side and watched Aladdin. It was such a gift to me. To be there with my mother and watch a movie that I absolutely love was such a godsend. Whenever I watch the movie, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling about my life being saved. It is also just a really great movie about how class does not matter but the strength of character does. It also about how freedom is more important than just about anything you could ask for.


17 – Favorite film sequel

Thor: Ragnarok was something that I did not expect and I was blown away by. I loved Thor and Thor: Dark World but I seemed to be somewhat in the minority. The two movies each felt like a breath of fresh air but they were both a bit dark. Ragnarok took the concepts from the first two movies and completely shook them up. They put a God in a helpless state and finally, truly having to face humility. The comedy is off the charts without distracting from extremely important messages. It is the first Marvel movie with a truly dynamic and interesting villain and it is a woman. Not just any woman but Cate Blanchett. It is not only a Thor movie but it is also a Loki movie and a Hulk movie. It fully revived a franchise and infused the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with new energy to move forward. This was absolutely necessary moving into the Infinity War.


18 – A film that stars your favorite actor/actress

Life After Beth stars my favorite actress, Aubrey Plaza. Her dark sarcasm and twisted sense of humor never fail to amuse me. She has done more television work but she is starting to get more film work. Life After Beth is an offbeat movie about a girl who dies and comes back as a zombie. Her boyfriend tries to deal with it but eventually, things start falling apart. The movie is funny but it is also off the wall bonkers insane. Aubrey Plaza absolutely makes this movie with her unhinged performance that shows such a range.

30-Day Challenge: Film

May 25, 2020

1 – The First Film you Remember Watching

I am sure I watched many movies before it but the first movie that was an event, that I remember when I saw it was the 1989 version of Batman. At age 7, I was already a big fan of the character and this would be the first time that I got to stay up to watch a movie. I was so excited and the movie definitely lived up to the hype and continues to do so. This movie still has one of the greatest impacts on my creativity and imagination. This was peak Tim Burton, who worked within the framework of the comic books to create something absolutely new and fresh. Michael Keaton does such a good job of playing both Bruce Wayne and Batman which is a difficult balance to pull off. Jack Nicholson is so good as the Joker with so many quotable lines but a sinister edge to it that just works. The production design and the Prince soundtrack should not work but somehow do.

2 – A film that you like that starts with the first letter of your name

This movie absolutely came out of left field for me. I had never heard of the comic book prior to the release of the film but I wish I had. Still, it was really fun going in blind. The movie is delightfully wild and absurd. It is definitely up my alley as it is both a comic book movie and a video game movie (although it is not actually adapting a specific video game). The movie uses video game terminology and tropes to tell a compelling story about figuring out your life. For those who have not seen it, the elevator pitch is that Scott Pilgrim must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes if he wants to be her boyfriend. However, the movie has way more to offer than just that. The movie is filled with deep moments accompanied by goofy and offbeat humor. It is probably Michael Cera’s best performance to date. On top of that there are a bunch of great comedic roles from Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick. We also get Mary Elizabeth Winstead as she was really coming into her own. I once chose this as my birthday movie for the express purpose of messing with and confusing my family.

3 – A film whose title has more than five words

Dr. Strangelove (for short), was a great watch when I first saw it. It is a zany comedy about one of the darkest subjects that you can joke about. Total nuclear annihilation. Set in the middle of the Cold War, a simple mistake threatens the safety of the world. There is a huge cast of characters, all parodying some portion of the Military-Industrial Complex. Three of the major characters are played by comedy legend Peter Sellers. He transforms himself into three very insane characters, the kind of people you hope are not in charge of nuclear weapons but who you fear are. There is also Slim Pickens as exactly what I think of the military. George C. Scott actually plays an over the top comic character which is usually out of his comfort zone. The movie is directed by Stanley Kubrick who is not exactly known for making sunny movies but he was able to inject the story with plenty of dark and zany humor. Additionally, this was my dearly departed friend Joe’s favorite movie so it will always be even more special to me. It is definitely a blueprint for later movies like Death of Stalin which makes the audience laugh as atrocities are performed.

4 – A film with a number in the title

This movie unexpectedly threw me for a loop. This movie is based on a Stephen King short story that I never read. It is one of the simplest adaptations of King’s work and has an astonishingly small cast. The main characters are played by John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Cusack plays a writer who has recently experienced great loss and travels around the country debunking the supernatural. Receiving a mysterious challenge, he is in for the fight of his life. The movie is a pure horror movie. It relies mostly on psychological pressure than petty jumpscares. Cusack is great as a skeptic who is suddenly shown the light. The movie thrives on unreality and the special effects that show that are absolutely brilliant and understated. This is also possibly Samuel L. Jackson’s most subtle role and it is so interesting to see. The movie feels way deeper than most adaptations of King’s work and that helps drive the point deeper. It is light on plot and heavy on character moments which actually also helps prevent the usual Stephen King rambling. There is also a devious sense of humor running through which twists the knife even further. This was definitely a predecessor of effective horror storytelling like the legendary PT and so many other surreal horror stories about psychological torture.

5 – A film where a character has a job you want

I was always intensely interested in keeping archives and researching things. Indiana Jones was always a fascinating character and for sure I wanted to be him when I was a little kid. I even had a copy of his famous fedora for a little bit. I also wore a tiny bomber jacket with a map on the inside. I wanted to be an adventurer just like him. However, after growing up a bit I realized that I really did not want that. Indy is a professor and I really do not like talking in front of crowds. I also think the rest of his work is pretty dangerous. However, the people who research and catalog the supernatural things, that seems way more interesting to me. We first see this organization at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. We next see evidence of them in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If I read between the frames well enough, those scenes mean somebody is in charge of keeping tabs on magical and highly advanced technology. That definitely sounds like an interesting job.

6 – Your favorite animated film

I have written about it many times before but hands down my favorite animated film is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Henry Selick really brought to life a neat little world full of fun lore and interesting characters. It is a great look at depression, passion, and boundaries. Skellington Jack is such an innocent soul for the King of Halloween and it is hard not to see my own bouts with depression in his. I also definitely see Jack’s passion and sense of fairplay in myself. The portayal of Santa Claus is one of the best in cinema history. I would put him up there with the portrayals from Klaus, Ernest Saves Christmas, and The Christmas Chronicles. Santa is best when he is a rounded character who is not saintly good but good because he earnestly sees good and evil in the world and chooses good. Sally is just such an interesting character and it was not often back in the early nineties where a woman was portrayed as the smartest character. The whole cast of characters are so well designed and the animation and music are superb.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 6

March 11, 2019

WILPW

17 – Favorite Debut/Return


Chris Jericho

One of the craziest debuts in the history of the WWE and it is unlikely that it will ever be topped. It was 1999 and everywhere you looked, you could see a clock counting down to the year 2000. Many believed that we were under the threat of a Y2K bug in electronics and there was an anticipation in the air about what was going to happen. One man happened to look at one of those clocks as he was getting ready to debut in the then WWF. He proposed that they start a countdown clock for months before his debut. They would occasionally cut to it during broadcasts with everyone wondering what it was. The time left on the clock did not line up with New Year’s Eve. On an episode of Raw, the Rock hit the ring and he was talking to the fans when all of a sudden the clock showed up again and it hit zero right in the middle of a Rock promo. The lights went out, fireworks went off, and then Chris Jericho appeared to the sounds of rock music. The crowd went ballistic as some were fans of his zany antics in World Championship Wrestling, some knew him from Extreme Championship Wrestling, and some were just caught up in the moment. Right away he traded words with the Rock and his career was off to a new start. It turned out to be a bumpy start but he eventually became even more of a legend from his runs in the WWE.


Paige

I had just started watching NXT when Paige first showed up. It was a dark time for women’s wrestling on Monday Night Raw. The place was rife with “Divas” who were better at posing than talking or wrestling. Paige dubbed herself the Anti-Diva, a wrestler who had a pale goth appearance and tons of actual athletic talent. She had just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship when she had a surprise debut on Monday Night Raw and she beat champion AJ Lee in what had to be the best women’s match on Monday Night Raw in a long time. Her star burned bright but unfortunately, she did not last as long as other performers and she is now retired by injury. She will definitely always be fondly remembered.

18 – Favorite Commentator


Mauro Ranallo

I was not so sure about Mauro Ranallo when he first showed up as an announcer. He was a commentator for other sports first and sometimes that just does not work out. Professional wrestling is a unique beast and sometimes the skills do not translate from actual sports. Mauro’s references sounded a little forced at first. He makes a lot of geeky references and a lot of references to other sports. I usually get the geeky references but I do not always get the sports references. However, he eventually won me over. His enthusiasm is impossible to ignore and it has obviously caught on with the WWE Universe. Part of what really got me on Team Ranallo was his admission that he is bipolar and his advocacy for mental health initiatives. He moved from the main roster back to NXT and he became part of the fabric of the place. Fans chant his now famous “Mamma Mia!” catchphrase when amazing things happen during matches. His enthusiasm helps build rivalries and sells the story. Villains become more villainous, heroes become more valiant, and every move pops just a little bit more as he adds his two cents in. I know that he still has other gigs and that his mental health is important to him but I hope that he finds a healthy balance so he can stick with the WWE family for a good long while.


Renee Young

She started as a backstage interviewer and stuck with the company long enough for them to really realize her potential. She filled in at the commentator table a few times and it was clear that she was more than ready for the big time. When she finally got her chance, she had been known to fans of the WWE for years. I had been hoping for a female commentator for a long while. First, because they kept bringing back the same tired male commentators who were only getting worse (Lawler, JBL, Booker T). Second, they were finally pushing women in professional wrestling and it only made sense for a female to lend her voice to this new movement. Third, if women were going to be given a more equal spot on the card, they should get a more equal spot at the commentator table as well. Renee is outspoken and knowledgeable about pro-wrestling and adds a badly needed different perspective on the product. I am glad to have the fresh blood behind the table.

19 – Favorite Underrated Wrestler


Cesaro

I first became aware of Cesaro when he was known by his real name of Claudio Castagnoli in Ring of Honor. He was part of the Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and Sara Del Ray. All three of them now work for the WWE which was a brilliant decision. Pound for pound, Cesaro just might be the strongest guy on the roster. He can accomplish amazing feats of lifting and athletics with seemingly no effort. When he needs to, he can be a high-flyer, a brawler, and a technician. He has been a part of a lot of amazing moments in NXT and WWE history. Yet, he has never really gotten the fair shake that has always been due to him. He should have gotten a major title match a long time ago. When I watch him, I see a workhorse who always does what is demanded of him. He has proved himself in feuds with Sheamus and Sami Zayn. He has done well in tag teams with Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd, and Sheamus. He has suffered from weak feuds that were not his fault. I really believe that he could be a great heavyweight champion if given the chance. Right now he is doing great in his tag team with Sheamus but I feel like his singles career is now a fading memory. He just needs one good feud to ignite the run of a lifetime.


The IIconics

Like most people, I first became aware of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce when they first showed up on NXT. They appeared as The Iconic Duo which was immediately interesting. There had been female groups before but there had always been a clear pecking order and most of the teams eventually fell apart. Billie and Peyton are true friends and each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They work together to gain opportunities for whichever of them has the best chance at the moment. They are actually real life friends who went to high school together in Australia and it shows. They have so much chemistry together and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s performances. They are really funny and a lot of the time they come off like a sketch comedy team instead of wrestlers sometimes. However, when they get in the ring they can definitely get the job done either together or separately. There is plenty of time for one or both of them to get a run with a women’s championship but I feel like soon they might get a good feud for the women’s tag titles. I really hope that people see their shine through all of the chaos and give them a real shot.

DnD 30 Day Challenge Pt. 6

January 12, 2019

27 – What lore in Dungeons and Dragons are you most fascinated by lately?

Lately, I feel like I am most fascinated by the lore in Sigil since it is so mysterious to me. I feel like not a lot of people focus on Sigil since it is potentially incredibly dangerous and very abstract. Sigil basically feels like Wackyland felt in Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies. It has a loose structure and a caste system but almost anything can happen there. It exists outside of the material plane, the inner planes, and the outer planes. It is its own thing and sort of a nexus of reality. Known as the city of doors, any door in the city can double as a portal to anywhere else. These portals need to be activated by a key but that key does not even have to be a physical object, it can be a word, a feeling, a spell, etc. Denizens of most any realm can randomly show up at any time either on purpose or completely by accident. I am still figuring out the society there as I have heard different podcasts approach it a little differently. It is at once wondrous and brutal as the diversity and exotic parts are beautiful but anything can kill you. There are also swarms of rats with psychic powers. At one point I was absolutely fascinated by the Lady of Pain. She is a masked god-like entity that protects and controls Sigil mostly through extreme violence and fear. Anybody who says her name or tries to worship her is horribly and painfully slaughtered by her. The idea of a goddess who kills any of her own worshippers is fascinating to me. She also never talks so people just had to figure all of this out through her violent actions and just hope that they did not somehow piss her off.

28 – What was the first time that you heard Dungeons and Dragons was ‘evil’?

Long before I actually played Dungeons and Dragons, I listened to a lot of comedy clips and watched a lot of comedy videos on the Ancient Internet. I was hanging out with a lot of older friends (as I do now) and they clued me into Dr. Demento, a radio personality who curated a large collection of weird comedy audio clips, most of which were songs. He was the guy who first discovered Weird Al Yankovic and helped him break into the business by sharing his early music. He also aired comedy sketches and one of them I stumbled upon was by a group called the Dead Alewives. Unbeknownst to me, I would later become a big fan of one of their members Dan Harmon who went on to create Community and co-create Rick and Morty. Anyway, they did a Dungeons and Dragons skit that parodied the idea that Dungeons and Dragons was somehow a dangerous activity for kids. The kids in the skit were just big dorks eating snacks and drinking Mountain Dew and making fun of each other. The point was that the game was far from the satanic recruitment device that people thought it was. This confused me. How could any game played with pen and paper be dangerous? It was theater of the mind and when the game ended, all of it faded away and people went back to being regular people. The idea that Dungeons and Dragons was dangerous was laughable to me and it continues to be laughable.

29 – First movie that comes to mind that you associate with Dungeons and Dragons?

Believe it or not, the first movie that comes to mind is something like Fast and Furious 7 or the Fate of the Furious. While the movies do not fit the setting of any Dungeons and Dragons campaign that I have ever seen, the tone definitely fits. A lot of Dungeons and Dragons is over the top with people doing ridiculous things all of the time. Dominic Toretto and his gang are like any good Dungeons and Dragons party. Each member has different backstories, different specialties, and personalities. As members of the party die or change alignment, they are replaced by new characters. For a group of people who were at one point thrown together, they have a lot of intertwining backstories. The tasks that the party has to complete get harder and harder each movie as their skills and equipment also improve. It really feels like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign where the players are constantly rolling high and the Dungeon Master is rolling poorly. Still, they keep coming up with new amazing spectacles peppered with witty dialogue. On top of all of that, Vin Diesel is a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan and still plays now and then.

30 – What’s the single most important thing you have learned while playing Dungeons and Dragons?

I would say confidence. When I started playing tabletop roleplaying games, I was very skittish about it and shy. I stammered and froze up while I tried to translate my great ideas into actions and words that came from my character. More than that, the fear made it so my brain would often just not work and I would try to get enough out to make the Game Master move onto the next person. Still, somehow I found enjoyment from it. As I continued to play, I became more comfortable with myself and confident that my ideas were not horrible and that the people around me did not hate me. In fact, they are now my closest friends. I started to get more aggresive at the table and more likely to share my ideas and speak up. I also was comfortable enough to really “drop in” to my character. Instead of relaying what I thought my character might do or say, I was able to channel my character more directly. Recently, when I started to take new anxiety medication, I made even more progress. I feel more at ease throwing things out there and seeing where they lead. I am also braver about making the hard choices and shooting from the hip when I need to. Afterall, it is just a game and overthinking things leads to unhappiness for everyone at the table. I look forward to gaining even more confidence as I have now really adjusted to my medication and I feel more at peace with my surroundings.

DnD 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

January 7, 2019

23 – Which is your favorite monster?

While it is not really in Dungeons and Dragons main purview, I really like vampires. Perhaps it is the goth kid and lover of Halloween that still lives inside of me. Vampires are so iconic and versatile but somewhat hard to fit into any old adventure. Still, I also really like that they are sentient monsters so their motivations can be explored and there is room for plenty of backstories. Most vampires are considered lawful evil by nature but that can easily be tweaked and homebrewed for more interesting storylines. I think of shows like Angel and Supernatural where a hero becomes a vampire and is able to stay good. Also, materials from other games like Vampire: The Dark Ages can be used to give more flavor to the character. Similarly, I really love the Hag. Having an old witch that trades favors or curses people like Ursula is a great toy to play with. They are also shapechanging characters with illusionary powers which brings up a lot of options. For example, having a coven of three hags like the beginning of Macbeth. They are too powerful for the party to take head on so they might have to do some errands for them at first or find a way to trick them. Basically, I have a soft spot in my heart for the creepier enemies in Dungeons and Dragons.

24 – What is a character outside of your comfort zone that you might play in the future?

I would really like to play a bard in the future. I know that I am an introverted person but, with the aid of my anxiety medicine, I feel like I am stronger than I used to be. I actually have a basis for a bard character that I may want to play in the future should it fit into what we are doing. A while back we did a one-shot set in a science fiction setting (which was not Dungeons and Dragons-based at all) but I played an android who was constantly handing out business cards and trying to drum up business while already on the job. If I were to play a bard it would be somebody like that. I think it would be fun to play somebody who is way into themselves and focused on their own branding. Maybe they will grow toward wanting actual respect instead of successful branding. Maybe instead they learn that fame is not what it is cracked up to be. Maybe they also learn the importance of teamwork and true friendship. There are many possibilities. If I were to be a bard, I would probably end up being from the College of Swords. If I was going to be an entertainer, it would make more sense to be a swashbuckler who entertains with feats of daring and action. I could also draw on stories from my brother’s experience as a fight choreographer in the character background. The thing I am stuck on is whether the character would be constantly rushing into battle or would actually be a bit of a cautious coward.

25 – What character have you been saving up to play in the future?

I always have a bunch of ideas in my head for what I could do in the future but the first one that comes to mind is the studious nerd wizard. Even though I have always been a good student, I have never been the A student who obsesses about studying and forgoes most other things. I have this idea in my head of a bespectacled young man who has studied magic hard and has been sent into the world to actually put it to practical use. Having lived in a theoretical world for so long, the real world would be jarring and it would be hard to find his nerve. I like the idea of a character knowing a lot of useful knowledge but never having had to use it and so there is a disconnect. Similarly, the character could be quite old. The character has spent a long time dicking around like Flynn Carsen in the Librarian. Having finally left academia, he is completely out of his element but still be supremely confident. I do not have much experience at that level of academia but I could draw on stories from my youngest brothers in his Ph.D. studies and also stories from other academics I have known. I also have not played any magic users yet in Dungeons and Dragons and I want to play with the complexity and versatility of a wizard. After the simplicity of playing a barbarian, I kind of want to play something where I have to worry about a lot of things at once. I guess that sounds kind of weird now that I have written it out.

26 – What was the first dragon your character slew?

After a long time idling in a small town, our cleric and druid revealed that they were being troubled by nightmare visions almost every night. Apparently, they had kept this a secret for quite a long time because it had not been so bad at first. However, the dreams had gotten worse and the dreams were threatening our party members’ sanity. The visions seemed to lead to a forest in the middle of nowhere that nobody had any experience with. When we arrived, we were confronted with an abandoned village and a sign that warned to stay away. This was when a lot of the party found out that my half-orc character did not know how to read. Of course, we were not going to heed some silly sign and we ventured into the creepy abandoned town. We fought a lot of plant-based creatures and my half-orc even got taunted by a tree and then, unfortunately, I rolled a one on trying to chop it down. It turns out that dragons in 5e have the innate ability to warp reality around them. Unbeknownst to us, a green dragon had taken residence in the town and slowly warped it into a poisoned wasteland. On reconnaissance, our druid successfully lured the dragon out of its lair which gave us a fighting chance. My character could not reach the flying dragon so I just hucked javelins at it the best I could, daring it to fight me. Instead, it nearly killed half of our party with its breath weapon and it was only a crossbow bolt from the rogue that brought it down. Of course, he brought it down on top of my barbarian’s head but I was still raging so it was fine. My character was so angry that he did not get the killing blow that he proceeded to slash at the dragon’s corpse over and over. Unfortunately, the dragon scale could have been used for our druid’s armor so… oops.


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