Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christopher Walken's Three Little Pigs

They're not making actors like they used to. If you compare the classic Hollywood films of the 1930's through the 1960's, even on into the 70's to a lot of the movies being made today, that becomes alarmingly clear. Classic movies were filled with iconic actors. People like Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Judy Garland, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and a long list of others were icons because they brought some of their own unique personality to the roles they played. The characters they played were memorable because they shared similar traits to the actors' pre-established personas. Humphrey Bogart could be a tough gangster or a good-guy detective, or he could be a conflicted lover, and yet he was still Bogart in all of those roles.

Modern actors I consider to have this quality include Johnny Depp, Samuel Jackson, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Kathy Bates, Jack Nicholson, Will Smith...and a few others.

Like this guy, Christopher Walken. Whether he's in a movie, a TV comedy skit, a music video (he's done all three and then some), he's instantly recognizable. He can be creepy, serious, funny, dramatic...but he has that certain quality that makes him a character just by himself.

Case in point: This comedic, ad-libbed take on "The Three Little Pigs".

Now, if someone like Brad Pitt or Jude Law or Christian Bale or Will Ferrell read that same story, would it be as unique or funny? I doubt it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Top 10 Favorite FUNNY Christmas songs

Since I did a top 10 favorites and top 5 least favorites, I decided I should do a top 10 list of funny Christmas songs and Christmas song parodies. This one's pretty eclectic...I have a pretty weird sense of humor!

10. I Tawt I Taw Ol’ Santy Claws” (Tweety and Sylvester)Back in the early 90’s, Looney Tunes had a resurgence in popularity they hadn’t seen in years. The only problem was, their principal voice artist, Mel Blanc, passed away in 1989. They found replacements, but it took an army of voice actors to do what Blanc had once done all by himself. Nevertheless, a Christmas album was released with the new actors. This track from it managed to get some radio airplay, and rightly so…it’s hilarious, and it’s so well-voiced by Bob Bergen and Joe Alaskey, you’d swear it was Blanc himself. Sorry about the weird video, all I could find on the internet was a video of 2 little kids dancing to it.

9. Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (Unknown)
This is one of those silly parodies we all sang as kids, making up variations and just being silly. I don’t think anyone knows who first came up with it, but the folks who made the classic Batman Animated Series remembered it and did as good a tribute to it as any. By the way, the Joker’s voice is done by Mark Hamill. That’s right kids, Luke Skywalker was playing the Joker long before Heath Ledger came along.

8. Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear” (Bob Rivers)
Some of the funniest Christmas parody songs of all time were done by Bob Rivers, a West Coast DJ and song parodist. This combines two things you wouldn’t think to combine: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and cross-dressing. It’s sick, wrong, messed up, but incredibly funny.

7. 12 Pains of Christmas (Bob Rivers)
Again, Bob Rivers takes a Christmas song and turns it on its ear. This time, “The 12 Days of Christmas” takes a turn for the worse as various people in the song air their grievances with the Yuletide. A frustrated light-rigger, an effeminate Christmas card writer, an Archie Bunker-type drunk and a nervous woman scared to death of her mother-in-law, among others, make this a fun and funny listen.

6. Cat Hair Balls (Ren and Stimpy)
So nasty. So weird. So twisted. That’s Ren and Stimpy for you. After their original creator, John Kricfalusi (a pretty sick and twisted guy in his own right) was fired from his own show, that didn’t stop Nickelodeon from continuing without him, and merchandising it like crazy. There were several albums of songs and skits released featuring voice actor Billy West, including this one. It’s hard to imagine a Christmas album this nasty aimed at kids today. Still, this particular song sort of sticks with you.

5. The Hat I Got For Christmas Is Too Big (Mel Blanc)
Mel Blanc, the voice of the Looney Tunes, spins the tale of a Mexican (His “Speedy Gonzales” voice) who gets a sombrero for Christmas that is so big, it blocks his vision. Why he didn’t just take the sombrero off is anybody’s guess, but it’s a genuinely hilarious vocal performance by one of the greatest actors to ever work in film and radio.

4. The Night Santa Went Crazy (Weird Al Yankovic)
This original song by Weird Al tells of what happens one night when Santa Claus turns into a homicidal maniac. It’s not one of those “nice”, “warm fuzzy” Christmas stories. In fact it’s extremely violent! However, what makes it work is Al’s clever lyrics. The cartoon someone did to accompany it is a little on the bloody side, but it, too, is pretty funny.

3. Jingle Dogs (Jingle Dogs)
Now here’s an idea that’s so crazy it works…Christmas songs performed by pets! Back in the mid 90’s, somebody got the idea to record various dog barks and cat meows and string them together to create “Jingle Dogs” and “Jingle Cats”. Though not really something you want to listen to over and over again, when one of these pops up on a Christmas radio station, it can catch you off guard!

2. Twelve Days of Christmas (John Denver and the Muppets)
Another “12 Days” variation, but this is probably the best one ever recorded, even though it’s meant to be funny. John Denver sings the song in his trademark warm, clear voice, with different Muppets characters chiming in for each “gift”. Jim Henson and John Denver are both gone now, but this song and the album it came from have been charming listeners for 30 years

1.Merry Christmas From the Family (Robert Earl Keen)
Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen scored one of his biggest hits with this yarn about a redneck family Christmas. As distinctly white-trash as it is, it’s also surprisingly universal. We all have those eccentric relatives who get together at Christmas, and everything that comes with them. Keen brilliantly illustrates a scene filled with drunk parents, a sister with a Mexican boyfriend, a cousin who shows up in a trailer, and a growing grocery list of humorous items. Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Songs

Now that I've given my least favorite Christmas songs the criticism they deserve, here's a list of my all-time favorites. I couldn;t narrow it down to just 5 in this case, so I went with a top ten. As with the "worst of" list, I did some research on each one. Sometimes, the origin stories of these songs were just as incredible as the songs themselves.

10. Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi)
Jazz musician Vince Guaraldi lent his talent to the iconic TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. While this particular snippet of the soundtrack eventually became the “Peanuts” theme song, it is forever associated with Christmas. It’s a bright, cheery piano number that never fails to make the season bright. In fact, The whole soundtrack CD is perfect background music for family holiday get-togethers.

9. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Robert May)
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is a classic in spite of itself. It’s been commercialized to death, but its origin is a great Christmas tale if there ever was one. An employee at the Montgomery Wards department store in Chicago named Robert May was in a tight spot. It was the middle of the Great Depression, his wife had just died, and he didn’t have enough money to buy his daughter a Christmas gift. So he wrote her a story. An executive of Wards caught wind of it, and bought the story from May to distribute to kids who came to the store. After its initial success, the CEO of Wards returned the rights to the story to May, who promptly got together with his brother in law and wrote a song to go with it. May presented the song to country crooner Gene Autry, and it was a huge hit in 1949. The rest is history. Rudolph didn’t just save Christmas, he saved his creator too! Of course, it was also adapted to animation: twice. First, a straightforward adaptation of the book by Max Flesicher, and later the more familiar Rankin/Bass stop-motion film. This one is actually a two-fer...I like the original by Autry and feel the need to include it. But my favorite version is by Motown greats, the Temptations.

8. Frosty the Snowman (Jack Rollins)
After “Rudolph” proved to be a huge hit, Gene Autry wanted to find another Christmas song to turn into a hit. In 1950, he got one: Songwriter Jack Rollins came up with a song that told the story of a snowman who came to life with the aid of a magic hat. It’s pretty childish, especially by today’s standards…but the bottom line is that it’s a great Christmas song. Snow? Check. Happy children? Check. Christmas miracle? Check. It’s catchy as a mofo, too!

7. Here Comes Santa Claus (Gene Autry)
Gene Autry must’ve really liked Christmas music. It’s pretty obvious his wallet liked Christmas music too, considering he had a hand in three of the most iconic Christmas classics of all time. This was the first, though, and he wrote it himself after hearing kids chant “here comes Santa Claus!” in a Christmas parade. Many have tried, but nobody’s managed to top the original, either in performance or success. Like “White Christmas”, the first one to sing it always did it best.

6. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) (Mel Torme, Bob Wells)
Mel Torme and Bob Wells found themselves in the middle of a brutal heat wave in 1944. In an effort to keep cool, Wells decided to think of things that reminded him of winter. He wrote them down on a note-pad, and when Torme read it, he decided to sit down at a piano and turn it into a song, adding to the lyrics with his own cold-weather memories. They shopped it around and it was picked up by Nat King Cole, who turned it into a hit the following year. It’s one of the best Christmas songs ever created, and has always been one of my favorites.

5. Deck The Halls (Traditional)
This is a really old one. It dates back to 16th Century England, specifically Wales, and has been passed down through time. Even Mozart played it. There are a number of different versions of the lyrics, and it’s never been very popular as a recording, but it’s a song that just about everybody knows. The Christmas carolers of old sang it, kids today sing it, families gather around and sing it around the fireplace. And everybody puts boughs of holly in their homes on Christmas. I can't say I have a favorite version of it, they're all pretty much the same. But Nat King Cole did a good one. I'll give him another spot on the list.

4. Silent Night (Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber)
This traditional hymn was written by a priest in Austria (Mohr) back in the 1800’s. So the legend goes, he brought it to teacher Franz Gruber and they composed it as a song that could be performed on a guitar instead of a traditional church pipe organ. One variation of its origin story is that this was done out of necessity, in a hurry because the church organ broke before a Christmas Eve service. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and tells of the birth of Jesus. It’s generally sung as a church hymn, although Bing Crosby’s take on it has always been my favorite.

3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings (Barenaked Ladies)
Technically, this is two songs in one. One is a traditional Christmas hymn, the other is an Epiphany hymn (about the Three Wise Men who followed the North Star to see Jesus.) The Barenaked Ladies got bitten by the Christmas bug in the late 90’s, and with help from fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan, and together they merged the two songs together and set it to a catchy acoustic guitar riff. I think it’s one of the best Christmas songs ever, even though it’s actually just a modern medley of two ancient songs.

2. White Christmas (Irving Berlin)
Irving Berlin wrote it, Bing Crosby took it from there. I don’t know anyone who hates this song, or anyone who doesn’t know it. When he wrote it (By a hotel swimming pool in sunny, warm Arizona), Berlin is quoted as having said: “I just wrote the best song I've ever written — hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written! In a way, he was right. After it first appeared as part of a group of songs in the 1942 musical film “Holiday Inn”, in which Bing Crosby performed it, it was released as a single recording by Crosby. It is estimated to be, to this very day, the best-selling single of all time. In any genre, by any artist. Many have covered it since, but none have surpassed Bing Crosby’s version in popularity. Because that would be impossible.

1. I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day (Longfellow/Calkin)
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this incredible song on Christmas morning in 1863. He’d had a rough couple of years leading up to it. The Civil War was in full swing, and he’d just gotten word that his son was wounded in it. His wife had recently died in a fire. There wasn’t any Christmas cheer for him that day…he’d given up all hope. That is, until he heard church bells. What he wrote is not one of the more well-known Christmas songs. It wasn’t even turned into a song until at least 10 years after it was written, by an English organist named John Baptiste Calker. It’s not especially catchy, it’s not about presents and Santa and cute snowmen. I’d gone my whole life without ever hearing it, or hearing of it…until 2 years ago when I stopped by the Starbucks in downtown Austin on a really cold day seeking warm liquid refreshment after picking up a gift for my grandmother. I heard it on the in-store music, asked what it was and was pointed to a compilation of new and old Christmas songs produced by Starbucks. Turns out it was performed by Sarah Mclachlan. It hit me hard. I’d had a pretty lousy year, the country was at war, and I was kind of down in the dumps. Call it a random discovery if you want. Chance, maybe. But when I heard it that day, I knew it was God tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me what Christmas is all about…just like the bells that inspired its author to write it in the first place. “And pealed the bells both loud and deep, God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.” That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Santa Claus is Coming To Town (Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie)

As originally written in the 1930's by 2 guys named Coots and Gillespie, it's just another Christmas pop tune about Santa Claus. I couldn't really give it a spot in my top ten because the song itself is nothing special. Everybody's performed it, and nobody cares. Except ONE version, and that's Bruce Springsteen's. The Boss started playing it at live shows with his E-Street Band back in the 70's and 80's around Christmas time, and it became their little tradition. He took an old chestnut and roasted it on an open fire. A real classic.

My Top 5 Least Favorite Christmas Songs

I really like Christmas music. Christmas is the one holiday to have its own genre of music, and most of the songs are beloved classics that have been dusted off and enjoyed every December for generations. Old Christian hymns, pop songs about reindeer, snowmen and an old fat guy from the North Pole, and old vocal standards about warmth and good cheer. Some are religious, some are commercial, some just talk about the weather, but there's something in it for everybody. Not to mention that just about every recording artist you can name has put out a Christmas album at some point, or at least done a song or two.

In this first of 2 posts, I'll present my favorites, and the ones that make me want to go hide in a dark hole with Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch and chow down on gruel and that last can of Who Hash.

Let's go with the bad news first. I'll do only 5 for this segment, but don't worry, I'm making them count. This is one rancid plate of roast beast!

5. Silver Bells (Jay Livingston and Ray Evans)
Christmas is a time for giving. It is, above all, a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But you won’t find anything about those two subjects in this painfully commercial, schmaltzy, lay-the-sap-on thick little ditty from 1950. No, it’s about shopping in the city. Its most popular version (though it’s been performed by many) is by Bing Crosby…and not even Mr. White Christmas himself made it sound good. A lot of people like it, but count me as one of those people who doesn’t like its message.

4. The Chipmunk Song (Ross Bagdasarian)
One of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. It’s a classic, it’s creative, it’s cute and it’s well written. But that doesn’t numb the pain of hearing it over and over again back-to-back. Alvin and the Chipmunks are one of those things best enjoyed in small doses, and for some reason, this song is never used in moderation come Christmas time. This makes my list not because it’s annoying in and of itself, it’s annoying because it’s overexposed. Every Christmas, the family of the late “Dave Seville” (Ross Bagdasarian) listens to their pockets play “Jingle Bells”, and what do we get in return? Bad CGI blockbuster movies with poop jokes.

3. Christmas Shoes (NewSong)
This is a fairly recent addition to the Christmas music repertoire. A Christian musical group got a chain email back in 1996 telling the story of a poor kid who showed up at a store on Christmas Eve to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother. It’s a nice premise, but it’s SO sappy it hurts! Not to mention sad. When I hear Christmas music, I want to celebrate happy things like Jesus and Santa Claus, not poverty and death. I’m not a Scrooge, I understand that Christmas is a time to recognize and give to the less fortunate. But in doing so, we’re supposed to make them happy and feel good about doing it, not listen to tear-jerking songs about it!

2.Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Johnny Marks)
Oh man, make it STOP! “Hey, it’s 1958, those kids are listening to rock and roll records. We should do a Christmas song about it to show we’re not squares!” 4-foot-9 country vocalist Brenda “Dynamite” Lee performed the original, and in fact it really is more country than it is rock. I really can’t put my finger on WHY I don’t like this song, it’s just that whenever I hear it, a big neon sign flashes in my brain that says “This SUCKS.” It genuinely irritates me.

1. Jingle Bell Rock (Beale/Boothe)
Much like the #2 entry, this was a late 1950’s attempt to make a Christmas tune that was (at the time) hip and modern. "Jingle Bell Rock" was written by Joe Beal, a public relations man from Massachusetts, and Jim Boothe , a Texas advertising writer. That should be adequate warning that we’re dealing with one commercialized, purely empty piece of horse shit. It was originally performed by Bobby Helms. That version is really country (not rock), complete with steel guitar. It’s also the only version I’ve heard that features the sound of jingle bells in it at all. Lyrically, it’s the dumbest Christmas song ever. “Giddy up, Jingle Horse, pick up your feet!” What the hell is a “jingle horse”? I’m not a horse expert, but I know the’ve got your quarterhorse, your arabian, your saddlebred. I’m from Texas, and we’ve probably got every kind of horse there is, but danged if I ain’t NEVER seen no “jingle horse” around these parts. To add insult to injury, there are countless versions of the song out there performed by countless artists, and not one of them has managed to make it palatable. I hate it, I hate it, and just for fun, I hate it some more.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Music Video Collection

I've already told the Dave Matthews story, so no need to rehash that or repost the video here. But over the last few years, I've played around a lot with setting Looney Tunes to music. My method is pretty simple: I download the cartoons from Youtube or elsewhere, and then take snippets from them and arrange them to an Mp3 of a song using Windows Movie Maker.

It doesn't work with every song. There are songs that sound like they might work, but turn out to be completely wrong. Songs with long, meandering musical jams tend not to work, because I've found that the key to making one of these videos is being able to match a piece of animation to what the singer is portraying lyrically. From the beginning, animation and music have been closely linked. Early cartoons, especially those of Disney and Warner Bros., were timed to music, with the action plotted out on musical bar sheets. Disney's "Silly Symphonies", MGM's "Happy Harmonies", and Warner Bros.' "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" were so titled because they were originally mini-musicals. A whole cartoon, including plot, characters and situation would often be based on the title or lyrics of a popular song. So the animation often translates quite well even to modern songs, because the timing of the action and the beat of the music are still very similar regardless of the song.

I have rounded up nearly all of my Looney Tunes/Music experiments, with annotations where needed. These are the only ones currently still online, though. I have done a couple more that were removed due to copyright claims by bands who don't want people to showcase their music in unique and interesting ways.

"Radio Nowhere" by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
This one came from an online discussion with a fellow classic cartoon fanatic. The song had just come out, it was a big comeback for Springsteen, and I immediately noticed how poetic the lyrics were. We picked apart the lyrics and discovered that nearly every one of them had a scene in a Looney Tune that could illustrate it...and I made this as a result!

"Handlebars" by Flobots
This song is probably destined for the one-hit wonder category, but it's a great song and worked really well with cartoons. It's actually a very dark song, about the rise of a the use of the Hitler caricature from Bob Clampett's World War II classic "Russian Rhapsody" was a must!

"Insane In The Brain" by Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill were one of the pioneering hip-hop groups of the late 80's and early 90's, and while they're still around, this was their biggest hit. I think the title says it all as to why it works with Looney Tunes!

"Lawn Chair High" by Rehab
Rehab were literally a group of Southern redneck stoners who sang and rapped about their lives. They had a few minor hits in the late 90's and early 2000's, this one included. A song about sitting in a lawn chair in your driveway and getting wasted doesn't sound like something that would go well with cartoons...but you might be surprised! The bits with the bear are from "Porky's Bear Facts", a black and white cartoon that was redrawn (badly) in color in the 1960's and that's the only version I could find of it, sadly.

"Always Where I Need To Be" by The Kooks
The Kooks are a British pop-rock group and are just plain fun. They claim the Kinks and the Beatles as influences. This song just makes people want to dance...and if there's one thing Looney Tunes had plenty of, it's dancing.

"What About Everything" by Carbon Leaf
Also a one-hit wonder, as far as I know. But this song is lyrically amazing, poetic in every sense of the word. Every time I look at this video, though, I can't help but think I could've made it better.

"Whiskey You're My Darlin' by The Poxey Boggards
A close friend of mine in college introduced me to this band. As far as I know, their claim to fame is playing ancient Irish folk songs at Renaissance festivals, and the dirtier the song, the better! This old drinking song worked well with the 1930's cartoons of Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, who gave the finger to Prohibition by making lots of cartoons that revolved around drinking.

"Bad Day" by Daniel Powter
ANOTHER 1-hit wonder. But very fitting for the likes of Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote!
Looney Tunes Bad Day

"Ants Marching" by Dave Matthews Band
One of my first attempts. It's also probably the only video I have done using only 4 cartoons.

Ants Marching

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Virtual Farming?

I haven’t written in this thing for a while, and I promised myself I would keep it updated regularly. The best laid plans of mice and men, right?

Well, here’s a good topic to get it back on track…Facebook Farmville!

Some clever game developer called Zynga decided that since practically the entire world uses Facebook to communicate, there might be a market for “game” applications. At first, I found it extremely obnoxious, because people would send me invitations to play this “FarmVille” game I had never heard of, and figured was a waste of time.

Then a friend popped up in the IM feature and asked me to be his “neighbor”. Well, I figured I might as well give it a try. It couldn’t be as bad as “Mafia Wars”, a game by the same developer that, once accepted, was impossible to figure out, seemingly mindless, and would send constant notifications and clog up the Facebook feed. As it turned out, it was much more user-friendly.

Farmville has a visual, user-friendly approach, and there is actually a purpose and strategy to it. You start with a patch of “land”, some “coins”, a plow, and a “market” to buy “seeds”. From there, the goal is to plant and harvest produce, thus making money to expand and plant more. As your money increases, so does your “experience”, and the game gives you various “ribbons”, or goals, to strive for. Eventually you can buy animals, trees, decorations, buildings, and a wider variety of produce options. It also allows you to “help” your other Facebook friends with their own farms in exchange for money, and give various animals, trees and items to one another.

It’s little more than a time-waster, but since I check my Facebook regularly, it isn’t much of a chore. Everything from milking the cow to harvesting the cotton can be done in less than 5 minutes with the click of a mouse. The novelty will wear off after a while…but until then, it’s really kind of fun.

Proof that I shouldn’t knock something until I’ve tried it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm sorry, Kanye.

I'm sorry, Kanye.

I really wouldn’t want to be in Kanye West’s shoes right now. We all know the story by now, about how he upstaged Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Awards and proclaimed that Beyonce’s video was “one of the best videos of ALL time”.

Like everyone else who saw it, I immediately got into the act of ridiculing and condemning him for it. I was like seemingly everyone else in the world, hopped on the ol’ internet and joined the chorus.

I’ve been making fun of Kanye West long before Sunday night, though. He has been pulling stunts like this for years at award shows…whining and upstaging people at the Grammy shows, saying controversial things at big gatherings just to piss people off. He is the ego that ate the music industry. Even the “South Park” creators made an entire episode lampooning him for his egotistical and self-glorifying antics...ultimately drawing parallels to his way of thinking with Eric Cartman’s. Oh yeah, and they called him a gay fish.

Sunday’s incident, as far as I can tell, was not the worst thing he’s ever done. Yet, for some reason, it seems the world has made it out to be. What he did was mean, obnoxious, stupid and wrong. But when immediate and brutal criticism and joking justifiably resulted, it hasn’t STOPPED, even three days after the fact. President Obama reportedly called him a “jackass”, millions of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube posts skewered him and even stooped to dropping the N-bomb and saying they wished him dead.

Then the talk-show hosts went after him. Jay Leno essentially demanded that he apologize, asking him what his recently deceased mother would have thought. In response to that, he apologized, and cried on national television. Then came the jabs by Conan OBrien. Then Jimmy Fallon weighed in. Then all the bitchy daytime gossip reporters on the morning shows did their bit, and it’s still going on. You can bet it’ll be on SNL soon enough. There will be t-shirts made and song parodies by the assload.

What I have to ask myself and everyone else is: when do we stop casting stones? It’s one thing to joke around about something a celebrity did…they knew the job was dangerous when they took it. But to continually punish someone for something they have formally apologized for? How many times have we all done something in front of a crowd of people that we later regretted? We’ve all been or known the guy who got drunk and made an idiot of himself at a wedding, said something mean to or about a close friend or lover and lost them forever, or done something stupid and gotten arrested in public view. What happens after that? Well, what usually follows is backlash and punishment, an apology, mending of fences, and (let’s keep it hip-hop here!) “G’won, brush ya shouldas off.”

Kanye hasn’t been granted that chance to brush his shoulders off. I think it’s time for us, the public, to realize that there comes a time to forgive people, no matter how famous or well-known they are. We all like to point at celebrities and do a Nelson “HA HAAA!” when they screw up, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. But let’s be honest…WE are the reason these people are famous in the first place. Kanye West didn’t become a pop superstar with millions of dollars and billions of fans because he woke up and found a magic genie lamp in his room one day. Neither did Taylor Swift or Beyonce or Jay-Z or Lady Gaga or the late Michael Jackson or Pink or Blue or Chartreuse or whoever. Like Eminem says, “We’re the ones who made you”. Imagine being someone who believes you’re the greatest of all time in your chosen art, because you’ve been told so by legions of adoring fans. Your self-esteem is through the roof, because you’ve been lead to believe that you can do no wrong. Your public places you on a pedestal, they idolize you, and they pay their hard-earned money to experience what you say and do. But the second you make a mistake, they become a lynch-mob and chop that pedestal down, and throw you to the wolves. Imagine how that would make you feel.

I don’t like Kanye West. I like a few of his songs, but I don’t care for him particularly as a person. Still, that does not give me or anyone else the right to do what we have all done to him.

I heard this song on the way home from work today, and while I’d always liked it, I had never really paid attention to what it was saying. Suddenly, I understood how Kanyeezy must be feeling right now. West has even collaborated with the song’s creators, Coldplay, on a few occasions.

Viva La Vida lyrics
Songwriters: Berryman, Guy Rupert; Buckland, Jonathan Mark; Champion, Will; Martin, Christopher A J;
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world


Finally, let's all remember:

Luke 6:42: “How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
-Jesus (Who does, indeed, walk.)

I’ll drop it, Kanye. I hope everyone else will do the same.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Memo to various everything

Dear life: please start sucking less, and please do it soon. Dear rut: I'm tired of being in you. Dear God: please help me find a steady, enjoyable and adequate-paying job. Dear graduate schools...I'm looking at YOU. Be afraid! Mwhahaha.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interesting political article, and my thoughts on it

The following comes from The American Spectator, and is written by Ben Stein. Yes, THAT Ben Stein.

"We've Figured Him Out
By Ben Stein on 7.24.09 @ 9:45AM

Why is President Barack Obama in such a hurry to get his socialized medicine bill passed?

Because he and his cunning circle realize some basic truths:

The American people in their unimaginable kindness and trust voted for a pig in a poke in 2008. They wanted so much to believe Barack Obama was somehow better and different from other ultra-leftists that they simply took him on faith.

They ignored his anti-white writings in his books. They ignored his quiet acceptance of hysterical anti-American diatribes by his minister, Jeremiah Wright.

They ignored his refusal to explain years at a time of his life as a student. They ignored his ultra-left record as a "community organizer," Illinois state legislator, and Senator.

The American people ignored his total zero of an academic record as a student and teacher, his complete lack of scholarship when he was being touted as a scholar.

Now, the American people are starting to wake up to the truth. Barack Obama is a super likeable super leftist, not a fan of this country, way, way too cozy with the terrorist leaders in the Middle East, way beyond naïveté, all the way into active destruction of our interests and our allies and our future.

The American people have already awakened to the truth that the stimulus bill -- a great idea in theory -- was really an immense bribe to Democrat interest groups, and in no way an effort to help all Americans.

Now, Americans are waking up to the truth that ObamaCare basically means that every time you are sick or injured, you will have a clerk from the Department of Motor Vehicles telling your doctor what he can and cannot do.

The American people already know that Mr. Obama's plan to lower health costs while expanding coverage and bureaucracy is a myth, a promise of something that never was and never will be -- a bureaucracy lowering costs in a free society. Either the costs go up or the free society goes away.

These are perilous times. Mrs. Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, has given Iran the go-ahead to have nuclear weapons, an unqualified betrayal of the nation. Now, we face a devastating loss of freedom at home in health care. It will be joined by controls on our lives to "protect us" from global warming, itself largely a fraud if believed to be caused by man.

Mr. Obama knows Americans are getting wise and will stop him if he delays at all in taking away our freedoms.

There is his urgency and our opportunity. Once freedom is lost, America is lost. Wake up, beloved America."


Sounds like Ben Stein used his "Clear Eyes" today.

And before you read any further, keep in mind that I respect those who disagree with me. If you do, you are welcome to comment. This is simply my personal insight, and is not meant to be inflammatory towards any of my Liberal (or Conservative, for that matter) friends.

So here goes. Obama's just a figurehead for a bigger agenda. It's "party politics" gone awfully wrong. There's a bigger picture here, and it involves the Democratic Party as a whole. Democrats are not all bad, and neither are Republicans...but they offer very different viewpoints. Too much of one side or the other spells trouble. Yeah, Bush made some mistakes...and who was there to call him on it? Democrats. Clinton messed up. Who called him on it? Republicans. Checks and Balances, the basis for a multi-party system and the foundation of the American government.
But the Democrats seem to have decided that they know best, and that they are no longer content to be only part of the system. They want to BE the system.
So how do you get a majority in the House/Senate, and get a President in office to seal the deal ? Step 1? Get the media to talk about you. More importantly, get the media to say nothing but bad things about your opponents.
That’s politics...and the Republicans are just as guilty of it, right or wrong. Remember the Clinton scandals? The media loved that, because it was interesting and marketable. It also hurt the Democrats.So as not to let it happen again, the Democrats essentially took the reins of the media, and used it to slam the Bush administration every step of the way. Bush won a second term, and that infuriated the Democrats even more…but they’d already planted the seeds. No matter what Bush did, right or wrong, it was criticized in the media. The major news outlets, the music industry, and Hollywood all did their part. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “Bush is bad”, or “Republicans are bad” or “The War is Bad”. Surely, because Katie Couric or Wolf Blitzer said so, it MUST be true.
To the Democrats, it really didn’t matter if it was true or it wasn’t…because they had a not-so-secret weapon. They knew that Bush was on his final term anyway, and wanted to cut the legs off his party by using him as a symbol. What was wrong with Bush MUST be wrong with the entire Republican Party, right? The media asked us “If this cartoonish cowboy who mangles the English language in every speech and compromises our freedom by wire-tapping us is in office now, imagine what they’ll do for an encore!” What they offered for an encore was John McCain and Sarah Palin…and they never had a chance. From the moment they entered the picture, they were ridiculed. “Because they DESERVED it!” some of you are thinking as you read this. But read on.
The Democrats, on the other hand, offered a slicker package. McCain was an old white guy…just like all previous presidential candidates. (Ok, some of them were young white guys, but if you average their ages …eh, just hear me out.) So the Democrats went with a young black guy. Nobody would argue with THAT, would they? Except, perhaps, those “ignorant and possibly racist rednecks most likely to be Republicans”. He was also young, charming and an excellent public speaker…so, naturally, the media talked him up. To make the “old white guy” contingent happy, he brought on Joe Biden as a running mate. It helped that if anybody had anything bad to say about Biden, they were few and far between…and even if he had a lot of detractors, the media wouldn’t relay their message anyway. They had the media behind them, the prospect of having the first black President in history, and a weak opposition.

John McCain was old, cranky and had about as much charm as a hunk of stale cheese…and of course the media made sure we judged him on those counts, and heard little of what he had to say. Sarah Palin was a cartoonish soccer-mom with a royally screwed up family, and got the exact same treatment. Nobody was going to listen to her, and just for insurance, the media silenced her anyway.
Obama won. People celebrated. Now, though, people are starting to rethink that victory. We as a country were given a choice between two products. The usual choice between a lesser of two evils. But we chose based on the packaging and not the contents. Like being on the cereal aisle at the grocery store, given a choice between corn flakes and frosted flakes. One box is very colorful. It claims to taste good AND be good for you. It has a TONY THE TIGER on it, and he says they’re “GRREAT!” You saw its ads on TV too, didn’t you? The other box is pretty bland, and looks pretty silly next to all the modern, flashy boxes on the rest of the aisle. It’s plain white, with a straightforward picture of the product and a blandly colored silhouette of a rooster, who doesn’t say anything. Yet both boxes have a nutrition facts panel on the side that tells the truth. The flashy box contains sugar-coated cereal that looks and tastes sooo good that it’s hard to resist. But eventually the enjoyment passes, and what’s left are the unhealthy after-effects of too much sugar and not enough substance. The blander box has something that doesn’t have much of a taste to it, and may make you feel self-conscious for eating something so bland. Not very appetizing. But it offers nutritional value without harming your health.

We’re coming down off the sugar high. And now we’re discovering that because of the overwhelming support, we’ve made our choice and we have to stick with it. Until we go back to the store in 2012. By then, though, Tony the Tiger will OWN the store…and he’ll be offering double coupons. “Sure”, says the tiger. Eat all you want…we have that nationalized health care now, don’t we?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Ever had one of those weeks where nothing electronic/mechanical worked for you? That's me this week. I got back to Austin from a 4th of July weekend in Fort Worth on Monday morning to find that there was still no word on my next work assignment. Figuring I'd make the best of it, I decided to beat the boredom and the 105-degree heat by finishing my ongoing project of putting all of my old VHS tapes onto DVD. Tuesday, I went out and got some new DVD-R discs. They didn't work, or at least, 6 out of every 10 didn't. Figuring it was probably the machine but worth trying a different brand of discs, I went out to go get some. My car would not start. The closest car repair shop was closed for the day.

Wednesday, I called the auto repair shop. Since I could not start the car to get it there myself, I asked if they would tow it for me. They could, but the towing service was busy and couldn't take any more work orders. Today, to the tune of $398.00 and a whole morning worth of to-and-from hassle, I have a new starter for my car. I also have new DVD discs...and they do not work. The machine is no longer under just 3 months. Oh least my car works again. My fraternity had a saying: "Perge!", meaning "press on". As my life has moved ahead that has become less of a saying and more of a necessity, because whatever obstacles I encounter, the best way I know to deal with them is to keep going. I figure if I get knocked a few steps backward, they can always be regained.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Whatever happened to the Songs?

I was listening to the radio on the drive back from Fort Worth to Austin today, and even though I skipped between radio stations a million times, I kept hitting on the song "the Climb" by Miley Cyrus. Now, I have nothing against Miley Cyrus. But she's a 16-year-old girl. What does she know about "The Climb", as in, life experiences and conquering life's challenges? I am sure some anonymlus songwriter will forever remain anonymous because they sold their song to her record company. A spoiled, un-educated Disney kid has become a chart-topper for singing someone else's song. I'm reminded of a song by Blue October, a Texas band fronted by Justin Furstenfeld, a guy with serious mental issues who keeps himself in control by writing songs.

i'm like a storm cloud eager when you go out
calm again
i'll ask permission for the wrong to win
drop the bomb and get your story out and get it on
in a haze the beginning of your days
gonna fall down
got to get back up but at your own pace
got to fill your cup and find the way
out of your own maze
yeah boy what you said now

and hide the rule book throw it in the waste
look strong
like you belong cause you do belong
whether right or wrong you belong

i'm on your side if you fail atleat you tried
to keep your aching celebrating wonder making heart alive
yeah and pride don't keep it all inside
don't keep your aching celebrating wonder making heart alone
write you own song

whatever happened to our inner glow
whatever happened to the song the soul the me i used to know
whatever happened to my radio
whatever happened to my song
it is my song

so here's a preview shove it under old-new
or call it rock or pop or bach or fuck
goddamn where did we go wrong
now there's a catergory for every song

yeah we only want to sing when we want to
yeah we only want a dream we can flaunt to
yeah we only want to fly by the side making love to the rhythm be a jeckyl and a hyde
yeah we only want a field we can run through
yeah we only want a beat we can drum to
yeah we only want to fly by the side making love to the rhythm be a jeckyl and a hyde

so stride if you fail atleast you tried
to keep your aching celebrating wonder making heart alive
and pride don't keep it all inside
don't keep your aching celebrating wonder making heart alone
write your own song

whatever happened to our inner glow
whatever happened to the song the soul the me i used to know
whatever happened to my radio
whatever happened to the song

gonna wake up strong ya we're all gonna wake up strong...

That's all I have to say about the subject...or, rather, all Blue October had to say 6 years ago. It still holds true.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bill and Buster in: "Subtraction from Audition"

Back in 2006, part of the many assignments for completing my Graphic Design degree was to create some sort of project for myself, using the tools I had learned. I decided to create a short comic story by sketching out a storyboard and using it as a guide for an all-digital comic in Illustrator. I found that my characters really work better outside the limitations of Adobe Illustrator, but it was a fun experiment that turned out better than I thought it would.

I hung onto the original sketches, though, simple as they are. I liked the energy of them. I discovered the wonders of Adobe Soundbooth a while back, and realized that while I don't have the time or resources as of yet to animate something like this in Flash, I can arrange drawings in a sequence and record voices for them. I decided to take that old storyboard and play around with that idea. After lots of trial and error over a long period of time, picking it up and putting it down again off and on, I came up with this little animatic.

Yes, that's me as Bill Dawg, Buster Kat, Sam the Coyote, "Doc" and "Horace". I need to work on a more distinctive voice for Buster...but I think I got his personality well enough.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Saga of "Looney The Way It Is"

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. I have an ebarrassingly large collection of random crap related to Looney Tunes, and I have contributed to websites devoted to keeping their legacy alive since I was in high school. I am also a huge fan of music. Throw in my love of fooling around with video editing, and you've got my series of music videos using footage from these old classics set to popular music.

The Dave Matthews Band previewed the release of their currently # 1-ranked album, "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King", by releasing a single for free. The lyrics of the song, "Funny the Way It Is", lent themselves to the cartoon video treatment, and I made a video called "Looney The Way It Is." I put it up on Youtube, and it caught the attention of the band, and they have since endorsed it via their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Dave Matthews himself called me a "clever bastard" for making it...and I have been offered tickets to see their show here in Austin in October.

DMB fansite Weekly Dave Speak contacted me for an interview about the video, which you can read HERE.

The video, below, has since gained over 35,000 views, and I've been told that most of the band's fans liked it better than the official video they created for it. Neither Warner Bros. nor Dave Matthews have sued me. WIN!

Billy Mays: 1958-2009

TMZ reported this morning that Billy Mays, the iconic infomercial spokesman for such products as Oxi-Clean and Mighty Putty, has died.

I find it slightly spooky that this is the fourth sudden celebrity death in one week, after the passings of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

Billy Mays' death is especially sad, though, because he is one of the few people I can think of who became a household name just by doing his job. For all practical purposes, this was a normal guy with the gift of a distinctive, loud voice, and whatever "it" is that gives a person the uncanny ability to sell anything to anybody. No, I never bought any of his products...but I have sat through more of his advertisements at 1 in the morning than I'd like to admit. Something tells me God himself just signed up for 3 easy installments of $19.95, plus shipping and handling.


I just went to see Disney/Pixar's "Up". I had heard really good things about it, and since the weather was too hot to even bother doing something productive today, I decided to check it out.

Boy, was I impressed. I don't think I've ever seen a Pixar film that I didn't like, and this was no exception. For those who haven't seen it, I won't give too much away, but I will point out some highlights. The basic premise: an old man named Carl Fredricksen, faced with the prospect of being forced from his beloved home and sent to a retirement complex, decides to honor a promise he made to his late wife, Ellie. That promise? To go see Paradise Falls, a remote and largely unexplored wilderness in South America. A few thousand helium balloons later, Carl and his entire house are on their way to South America, unintentionally taking Russell, an eager young boy determined to get his next "wilderness Explorer Scout" merit badge, with him. What follows is a classic adventure story in which Fredricksen and Russell get mixed up in a conflict between Fredricksen's childhood idol, an exporer named Charles Muntz, and a rare and colorful bird dubbed "Kevin".

Muntz has devoted his life to capturing this bird, and has been camped out in the valley for many years with his trained dogs (outfitted with collars which allow them to talk), having vowed never to return to civilization without the bird. This would be all fine and dandy, until we realize that Muntz has gone a little the point that he's like Captain Ahab, Colonel Kurtz, and Wile E. Coyote all at once. All "Kevin" wants to do is be left alone to tend to her children (The bird's gender is not apparent to young Russell until later.)

"Up" is really a powerful little film not for what it IS, but for what it ISN'T. Like all of Pixar's best works, the film shines because of its respect and reverence toward its characters. They could have easily made the film tasteless and low-brow, with lots of "old man" jokes, fat-kid jokes and toilet humor. Instead, Pixar has made the characters as real as they can personality-wise, and any humor derived from Carl's age or Russell's chubbiness is logical and believable, rather than forced or cruel. Carl has a stiff back and walks with a 4-pronged cane outfitted with tennis balls, and Russell likes chocolate.
The real heart, though, comes from the backstory of Carl Fredricksen. The first 7 minutes or so of "Up", though it has very little dialogue, is as touching as anything you'll see on film, in any medium. Pixar are in a class all by themselves with their ability to take any digitally animated character, no matter what he/she is or looks like, and make them completely human and sympathetic.

Contrasted with the roughly 15 minutes of torture I endured via the previews for upcoming CGI/animated fare from other studios, that's truly a remarkable feat. Pixar has made another masterpiece, and the best thing the non-Pixar arm of the Disney empire can come up with for an answer is a preview for a movie about guinea pigs...with four, count 'em FOUR, poop jokes in less than one minute. Pixar has once again taken audiences beyond expectations. They've literally and metaphorically made it to Paradise Falls...and nobody else can catch them. Bravo, Pixar!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Proper Introduction

"Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pens. And keep your eyes wide. The chance won't come again ..."
-Bob Dylan

I woke up today and realized that I haven't kept a diary or any sort of permanent log of my thoughts and experiences in a long time. The things I've written and the thoughts I've expressed have been scattered all over the place. I have written the occasional piece on my Myspace page, or Facebook Notes, or just scribbled notes or typed stuff and filed it away in the bowels of my computer for future use.

I used to keep a regular blog in college. For the most part, it was a private collection of thoughts about that period in my life, as it was unfolding. I shared it with a few close friends, most of whom kept similar records of their activities. It came at the insistence of some close friends who had the same problem I do: a mind that works overtime and an inability to keep a lid on it. Some would view that as a blessing, and it has its advantages. But it also has a downside: it results in getting to know the taste of ones own foot very well. Keeping a blog really helped gave me an outlet when my thoughts boiled over. People who wanted to hear them could, and those who did not were spared.

Before you continue, whether you are a friend, acquaintance or total stranger, there are some things you should know about me and about the kinds of things you are likely to read here.

* I firmly believe that there is a God. I believe that God created the universe, and us, the human race. I believe that He came to live among us as a fully human man, by the name of Jesus Christ, subjected Himself to the trials and tribulations we face in order to better understand us, and ultimately forgive us for our flaws. If we believe that, we will ultimately join our creator for eternity after we're done with this life. If you do not believe this, I will not judge you for it. However, I will not self-censor my opinions on the subject to be politically correct and make you happy.

* I am a huge fan of cartoons, whether in animation or print. I believe they are possibly the ultimate form of personal expression at their best. The incredible power and legacy of the art form has been marred by the notion that all cartoons are meant for children, and that those meant for adults have to be crude, vulgar and amateurish. Expect to read many entries regarding cartoons and comic strips.

* I believe that humor is the ultimate therapy. I'll make fun of stuff on here, frequently. If you don't like to laugh at stuff, don't bookmark this page!

* I am not a musician, but I have great respect for music. I believe that songwriters today are the equivalent of poets in historical times. Every great song should stand on its own as poetry, or so the troubled but classic Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt said. I have no musical talent personally, for several reasons: one, I'm not patient enough to learn music. Two, my hands are too big to play guitar comforatably. Three, my elementary school music teacher was a cruel, horrifying woman who called her students "do-nothin', no-nothin' bumper-gums", and somehow thought that a third grader could make a cheap plastic flute called a "recorder" sound good and was eternally bitter because it was always proven false.

* I draw all the time, and I have a scanner. I am a graphic designer and cartoonist. Expect to see lots of images.

*The handful of previous posts on this blog, which I just created tonight, are collected from the aforementioned Facebook and Myspace ramblings that would have gotten lost in the shuffle otherwise.

All that said...enjoy, bookmark, and stay tuned! Mighty Matt is back!

The Alarming Generation Gap: As Illustrated by the Lyrics of Bruce Springsteen and Billie Joe Armstrong

I’ve always been interested in good songwriting, especially songs that tell a story. I find it interesting that some of the most recent songs by well-known American artists have been so broad. Broad, as in, contemplating the state of our country. Bob Dylan did it in the 60’s, so it’s not a new concept…but look what HAPPENED in the 60’s. Lots of really bad things. Many people honestly believed they were changing the world for good, but ended up damaging a good bit of America’s core ideals. Why? Two generations turned their backs on each other, and both essentially turned their backs on God Himself. I’m afraid the same thing may be happening in our time. People are so divided in their beliefs and ideals that nothing is accomplished but collateral damage from the fight.

I’m not drawing any particular conclusion here, but take a look at how different the viewpoints are between Bruce Springsteen and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Springsteen is roughly 60 years old, born and raised in New Jersey. Armstrong is about 30 years his junior, a California punk. Both write very broad songs, but it is incredible how different their outlooks are.

Read the lyrics to Springsteen’s latest, “Working on a Dream”. It acknowledges that times are tough, but it is also hopeful, the old “work hard and keep plugging” attitude he’s known for.

Working on a Dream
-Bruce Springsteen

Out here the nights are long, the days are lonely
I think of you and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Now the cards I've drawn are a rough hand, darling
I straighten the back and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Though sometimes it feels so far away
I'm working on a dream
And i know it will be mine someday
Rain pourin' down, I swing my hammer
My hands are rough from working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Though trouble can feel like it's here to stay
I'm working on a dream
Well our love will chase trouble away
I'm working on a dream
Though it can feel so far away
I'm working on a dream
Our love will make it real someday
The sun rise up, I climb the ladder
The new day breaks and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Though it can feel so far away
I'm working on a dream
Our love will make it real someday
I'm working on a dream
Though it can feel so far away
I'm working on a dream
And our love will make it real someday

Compare that to Green Day’s upcoming release, “21st Century Breakdown”. There’s even a reference to Springsteen (though an earlier, better known song of his.) But WHOA…big difference!

"21st Century Breakdown"
-By Green Day

Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell.
A welfare child where the teamsters dwelled.
The last one born, the first one to run,
My town was blinded by refinery sun.

My generation is zero.
I never made it as a working class hero
21st century breakdown
I once was lost but never was found.
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind.
to the 20th century deadline.

I was made of poison and blood.
Condemnation is what I understood
From Mexico to the Berlin Wall
Homeland security could kill us all.

My generation is zero.
I never made it as a working class hero.
21st century breakdown,
I once was lost but never was found.
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind.
to the 20th century deadline.

We are the cries of the class of 13
born in the era of humility
we are the desperate in the decline
raised by the bastards of 1969!!!

My name is no one, your long lost son
Born on the 4th of July
raising the bygones of heroes and cons
left me for dead or alive

There is the war that's inside my head
that questions the results and lies
While breaking my back til I'm damn near well dead
When enough ain't enough to survive.

I am an agent, a worker, a pawn
my debt to the status quo
the scars on my hands are a means to an end
it's all that I have to show

I'm taking a loan on my sanity
for the redemption of my soul
well I am exempt from this tragedy
and the 21st century fall

Praise, Liberty
the freedom to obey
it's a song that strangles me
well, don't cross the line

Oh, dream American dream
I can't even see
from rainstorms til dawn
Oh, bleed America bleed
believe what you read
from heroes and cons.

How did we go from a generation of people with hope and optimism in the face of hard times to a generation of people who feel hopeless, bitter and powerless? The sad thing is, Bruce and Billie Joe are only 30 years apart, yet have radically different viewpoints on the same issue. We as a country need to wake up and see this dichotomy, and we need to address it quickly. There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not the Republican logo. This is an alarming conflict of world views, and I fear for our nation because of it. While both are very well-written songs, I’d much rather live in a country that worked like Bruce Springsteen’s ideal, and not like Billie Joe Armstrong’s…

Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown Review

The following is my review of the new Green Day album, "21st Century Breakdown". I have included my impressions of the "storyline", the music itself, the lyrics and their meaning, and the overall feel of the album.

If Green Day's 2004 classic “American Idiot” was a vehement denouncement of the George W. Bush “era”, “21st Century Breakdown” is a confused observation (or anticipation) of the aftermath. Unlike its predecessor, the album seriously lacks direction and focus. The first single from it, “Know Your Enemy”, has Billie Joe Armstrong (or at least the characters whose viewpoints he illustrates) asking “Do you know your enemy?” Perhaps the point of this entire album is that, within its “universe”, there’s no definitive answer to that question. It is what I like to call a “Zeitgeist Album”…an attempt to capture the current sentiments of a period in time.

Like “Idiot”, this album is also a loosely constructed “rock opera”, though with a smaller cast of characters this time: Just Christian, a disillusioned, angry young man, and his also-disillusioned (but more optimistic) girlfriend, Gloria. Both seem to be taking a deep look into themselves, each other, and the world they’re living in. It’s not always clear which songs represent which character, but one thing is certain: they don’t like what they see!

What they appear to see is universal, omnipresent failure. This is a story of rebels without a cause, but not for lack of trying to find one. All they know is that they feel both oppressed and forgotten by society at the same time. “My generation is zero, I never made it as a working class hero”, the title track explains. In their eyes, America sucks (“American Eulogy”), its government sucks (“Last of the American Girls”), religion sucks (“East Jesus Nowhere”), love sucks (“Viva La Gloria: Little Girl”), and the media has no answers, just static (“The Static Age”). These kids want to fight for something, but there’s nothing worth fighting for anymore (“21 Guns”).

But the story doesn’t really have much structure. There’s no attempt to solve the issues the album spends 18 songs describing, and that is its major flaw. Or is it? That may be the point Armstrong, Cool and Dirnt are making: this is how the majority of America feels right now. Both the album and the country it is “eulogizing” have an uneasy “morning after” vibe. Sort of like the hangover after a house party that went wrong, where your house got trashed and then the cops came…and you woke up the next morning naked in the driveway. You feel uneasy, sick, confused and uncomfortable. You don’t know whether the worst is over or yet to come…because although the bad party is over, you still have to pick yourself up off the concrete and clean up the mess, and probably have a lot of explaining to do. Yet you have no desire to tackle the future because you’re in so much pain at present.

Musically, the album takes a couple of listens to appreciate. Some may call many of the songs ripoffs of earlier material by classic bands and Green Day themselves but each one comes off as a fresh take on old traditions. There are songs that sound sort of like older Green Day material (You’ve heard “21 Guns” before, it was just called “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”), some recall the Who (“21st Century Breakdown”), some are almost post-Beatles John Lennon (“Last Night on Earth”), some that sound a lot like the Clash (“Know Your Enemy”, “East Jesus Nowhere”), and a couple (“Modern World” and, to a lesser extent, “Christian’s Inferno”) that flat-out ape the Ramones.

Lyrically, Billie Joe Armstrong has never been deeper or darker. This is the only Green Day record I’ve ever heard that strikes me as completely depressing. Not to say that Armstrong’s gone “emo”. The material’s too smart to be called that. He’s almost the dark, hopeless polar opposite of Bruce Springsteen. His lyrics are the hopeless yang to Springsteen’s optimistic yin. He’s not QUITE as lyrically clever as Bob Dylan, but every bit as observant. He’s as bitter and acidic as Kurt Cobain, but not as chilling. He’s got zero sense of humor here, songs like “Long View” or “King for The Day” are nowhere to be found. So much for the “Hope” and “Change” of the so-called “Obama Era”!

My favorite part of the album’s three “acts” is by far the third, entitled “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”, 7 songs divided into 5 tracks. In particular, “The Static Age” and the “American Eulogy” trilogy (comprised of three songs, “American Eulogy”, “Mass Hysteria”, and “Modern World”) echo my sentiments exactly, whereas much of the rest of the album’s material is just too gloomy for me to fully embrace.

“Modern World”, a Ramones-esque denouncement of a world progressing too fast for comfort, states “I don’t wanna live in the Modern World”. I feel Green Day’s pain on that one. But while it’s an enthralling, deep, at times catchy and brilliantly realized place to visit, I wouldn’t want to live in THEIR world either. They may not believe that hope, faith in God and love can get our country and our world out of the rut it’s in, but I do. The album’s vision is masterfully constructed…but I really, REALLY want to prove it wrong.

15 Photos That Seem To Be Mandatory on Facebook

15 Photos that seem to be mandatory on Facebook:

1. The “Best Face Forward” photo. For guys, it’s the photo of you in the suit and tie or tuxedo, taken 3 or more years ago and cropped to remove your ex-girlfriend. For girls, it’s about the same, except in a nice dress, with hair and make-up done, and cropped to remove your ex boyfriend.

2. The “My pet and I” photo. Everyone has a photo of themselves hugging a dog, petting a cat, or fondling a small animal.

3. The “Family Portrait” photo. This is you and at least one member of your family, posed in front of a significant backdrop, be it the family house, or ranch, or hometown landmark, or favorite vacation spot.

4. The “Night I got Really Drunk” photo. It’s that one photo you don’t remember, even if you have a photographic memory, because it involves you holding an alcoholic beverage and doing something stupid, taken at a weird angle by your best friend.

5. The “Night My Friends Got Really Drunk” photo. Same as above, except it’s of the friend or group of friends who took photo # 4.

6. The “I Saw My Favorite Band Live” photo. Usually, this is a picture of yourself in the 90th row of a huge concert, smiling, with the band in the background, out-of-focus and the size of ants.

7. The “ Me When I Was Younger” photo. This can be a baby picture, a picture of you as a little kid, or one of you in high school.

8. The “Relationship” photo. This one involves you hugging your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. If you’re lucky enough to have either of the above.

9. The “Weird But Cool” photo. This involves a random, funny, or just plain strange image your camera captured once. Such as a funny restaurant sign, an animal doing something strange or funny, or anything that makes someone else laugh and/or scratch their head looking at it.

10. The “Horse Photo”. It doesn’t matter if you ride horses, train them, admire them, or despise them. Everyone has a photo that in some way involves a horse.

11. The “Funny Hat’ photo. May or may not coincide with #4…but it involves an unusual object placed on your head. Many of such photos involve items not necessarily intended for use as a hat.

12. The “Sports Photo”. This one depicts you playing, or attempting to play, a sport. It can also be a photo involving your favorite sports team, whether you’re in it or not.

13. The “Emo” Photo. A picture of you in a bad or intense mood, often including Photoshop tweaks for dramatic effect.

14. The “Vacation Photo”. A picture of yourself in front of a monument, pretty scenery, or other location from a vacation.

15. The “Caricature Photo”. This can be an image of the picture some guy at a carnival drew of you, or you as a “Simpsons”, “South Park” character, you morphed in Photoshop, or other internet program-generated exaggeration of yourself.

Sunrise vs. Bumper Stickers

Sunrise vs. Bumper Stickers
Originally written as a Facebook post, April 6, 2009

As I was driving to work today at 6:45 in the morning, I hit the endless stoplight at Burnet Road and Braker Lane. Usually it’s good for at least three full minutes, which isn’t that long, but at a stoplight it can be an eternity. I changed the radio station- really don’t care about the local car lot’s hail sale first thing in the morning, especially when it’s being screamed at me. I looked around, and noticed something awe-inspiring.

The last few weeks, it’s been either still dark or cloudy when I have left for work. Today, though, I saw the sunrise. It was an especially pretty one, full of yellows, reds, and oranges with a hint of blue on the edges of a few stray clouds. It looked like old-time Technicolor, and made the stoplight seem a little less significant.

I drove the last couple blocks to work, looking at this sunrise the whole time. I pulled into the parking lot, and noticed there were more cars than usual…we got some new people for the new indexing project. I pulled up next to a truck covered in colorful bumper stickers, and of course, read them as I got out of the car.

“Religion Kills Thought.” “Darwin: The Amphibians Can’t Be Wrong.” A Christian fish symbol with 2 stick-figure legs. The biggest and boldest of them all said “He Died in 33 A.D., Get Over It”.

Yes, it would seem I had parked next to an Atheist. This didn’t offend me, but it did get me thinking. I looked up at the sky with its pretty sunrise, then down at this truck. I thought “Hmm…if God died in 33 A.D., I wouldn’t be seeing that sky up there.” What did the owner of this truck, who must have seen the same thing I had on their drive, think of it? I know that there are people in the world, some of whom I call friends, who find it hard to believe that there is a higher power responsible for our daily existence. Personally, and especially when looking at things like this morning’s sunrise, I find it hard to believe that there ISN’T.

This person, with their witty bumper stickers, obviously believed strongly in what they said, and made sure they communicated that belief loud and clear. But what sadness that implied! This stuff, when you think about it, implied that this person had nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for. That the only reason they were on this planet, driving this colorfully-decorated truck into the brilliant sunrise, was because a fish randomly decided to breathe air. And since they believe Christ died in 33 A.D., and that religion kills thought, they’re certainly not looking forward to being anything more than what they are right now. With a mindset like that, I’m surprised they were even bothering to go to work in the morning.

I’m not trying to say that certain animal species don’t adapt and change with their environment. So do we, if you think about it. But for thousands of years, we’ve still remained essentially human, and we have managed to keep from destroying ourselves. I just can’t believe that we became what we are by chance. Besides, why would we be conscious of things like the colors in a sunrise, or the adaptations of fish in nature, or even the curiosity about where we came from if it didn’t matter? I don’t think the amphibians think too hard about that sort of thing.

I believe that religion doesn’t kill thought, but makes it possible. I believe that God created everything in the universe, and that includes fish, frogs, sunrises, and us. It may work so much like clockwork that we ignore it most of the time, but that’s what’s so brilliant about it. The sun rises every day, thanks to a specific rotation and orbit of the planet. It’s TOO specific to be random. There was a man named Jesus who died back in 33 A.D., but I believe there was more to it than that, and so do billions of other people nearly 2,000 years later. We believe that Jesus was in fact God, the creator of everything we’re aware of and more, who knew He’d dealt us a bum steer…he had given us a set of commandments and the conscious thought with which to understand them, but He also made us proned to disobey them. So He came to us in the form of Jesus, one of us, and showed us how to live by His word. And just so we’d be sure He wasn’t just a crazy man walking around ticking off religious officials and politicians, he allowed Himself to be killed, showed us He was good and dead, then the next day got up and walked again.

No other living thing in history, human, animal, or otherwise, has ever done that. Nobody’s been dead, stayed dead long enough that they could be nothing but dead, and then gotten up and walked into town to shake hands with the very people who had hours earlier pronounced Him dead. The only thing Jesus asked those people to do with this information was to tell others what they’d seen, that they’d seen it because Jesus was, in fact, God, and just for believing their own eyes and following what Jesus had taught them, they’d spend eternity in Heaven. And to prove THAT, he physically ascended up there in plain view, with enough witnesses that people are still believing it 2,000 years later.

He gave us the choice, though. We can choose to believe that God came to us in the form of Jesus to show us how to live the way He wanted us to, and invited us to come chill with Him for eternity when we were finished with that. Or, we can choose to believe that we’re nothing more than a random accident with no reason to believe anything, and we can go that route for eternity as well…we just won’t find it pleasant, in fact, quite the opposite.

I choose to believe I was saved from an unpleasant eternity by the God who put that sky up there above ....Austin.... this morning. I’d say that was a superior work of art to that truck covered in vinyl witticisms, and I’d like to know how it was done. Jesus told me what I have to do to find out. Sure, He died in 33 A.D., but that sticker left off the ending!