The Iron Spider stops Mr. NotSoStrange: A review of Spider-Man Far From Home

The newest Iron Man movie starts off with a half-assed high school tribute to the founding Avenger Tony Stark. Then it quickly devolves into a 2-hour quest for Little Tony Junior to discover his inner Iron Man before he can defeat the newest Dr. Strange knockoff in the latest Marvel movie masquerading as a Spider-Man flick.

I have been far too soft on the Avengers films. In fact I have sung their praises individually while maintaining my displeasure with the shear amount of films required to follow the massive cinematic universe Marvel Studios have crafted under the heavy hand of The Walt Disney Company. Yet as I sit in the theater enjoying easily my favorite stand alone, solo Marvel superhero go on his latest adventure I can’t but wonder when are we going to get a Spider-Man film that doesn’t have ties to either the Avengers, SHIELD or Tony stinking Stark. Don’t get me wrong this is not an attack on the film, I enjoyed it, nay I loved it. Save for a few heavy handed references to that industrialist whom I have grown to detest, loath even. To the point I am willing to revert to cliche’s in an attempt to accurately convey my disdain for the fact that nobody has a problem with any of these movies because godforbid you  have your own opinion. No if you stray from the message of Marvel Rules and the MCU is cinematic perfection, then you will bring the wrath of the nerds down upon your sorry ass faster than Thor can throw a thunderbolt at Loki.

The plot

This is my sticking point. The movie is utterly fantastic, through and through, no question there. I loved this portrayal of Peter Parker, his friends and even the very adorable Mary Jane. I was annoyed at first that there were obvious alterations from her comic book appearance but the actress handily won me over and made my heart flutter, yes that is in deed the woman this version of Peter Parker would fall madly in love with.

The parts of the story that focus on Peter and his friends and teachers is absolutely brilliant. I loved it. It really captured the essence of a high school field trip gone awry. As a former high schooler who experienced many failed attempts at following the itinerary the adults were amusingly trying to force upon us this film encapsulated that perfectly.

The downside is the movie relies heavily on SHIELD interfering to bring Spider-Man out to play while once again making Tony Stark the central force not only tying the plot together but serving as the entire motivation for the villains. Every single person who sides with Mysterio does so exclusively because of their respective desire to destroy the legacy of none other than Mr. Stark himself. By the time the film gets Peter on a plane waving his hands around at his version of Jarvis, now named EDITH (Even in Death I’m The Hero) a not-so-subtle reminder Stark is still running the damn show. Seeing Spider-Man replicating the motions of the man who wore the Iron Man suit, while constructing his own Iron Spider suit, just goes to show had desperately the MCU has come to rely on a single man. Now, don’t get me wrong I can handle a reference to Stark, I can surely accept these movies are in the same universe, but when the entire film centers entirely on Tony Stark as the motivator for the plot, the reason for the antagonist and the solution to the problems created throughout it only makes me wonder who, behind the scenes, is infatuated with either the character, or the actor who played him? Even in death Robert Downy Jr’s Tony Stark was seen throughout the film, on multiple occasions.

There was even a point where Peter suggests he doesn’t want to be the next Iron Man, he just wants to be Spider-Man. YES, that is exactly what I want too! I want a Spider-Man movie more akin to the very faithful adaptation Sam Raimi provided more than a decade ago.

The characters

I can’t spend too much time knocking the characters. In fact I literally want to do the opposite. The kids were fun. The adults were fun to laugh at. The villains were exactly as expected and most importantly Tom Holland nailed his portrayal of Peter Parker both in and out of the Spider-suit.

I haven’t seen the previous film so I didn’t spend enough time learning the names of the new characters. I will say that each one served a purpose and was exactly as entertaining as I expected. I honestly have no complaints. I was, at first, annoyed our beloved Mary Jane Watson was not a red head (especially as someone who is fond of red heads just look at my Jean Grey obsession) but I can honestly say this interpretation won my heart. She really was the object of Peter’s affection and she nailed her performance. The other characters were as aptly acted as I expected and nobody stood out as off putting. For everything I love about the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, the one thing that I don’t like is Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Miss Watson.

The only characters that did annoy me were the Avengers characters that I felt were out of place in this picture. I don’t need to see Nick Fury sending Spider-Man to Proq to fight Mysterio, I want Mysterio to hate Spider-Man for his own personal reason without the need for Stark Industries or SHIELD to be involved what so ever. Still, the Mysterio parts were totally amazing.

The action

This takes me to the best part. As is to be expected the action sequences handily deliver an experience that is very much worth seeing in the theater. In fact, I will say that as much as I absolutely love the original 2002 Spider-Man, this movie was clearly the more cinematic picture. Sure, times have changed but still this movie jumped off the screen whereas that previous film merely did the job it needed to at the time.

Really the only complaint I will voice here is how Spider-Man’s suit looked too high tech. Again I am more than happy with a spandex wearing super hero I don’t need my Spidey running around in Stark Industry gear. However, Disney apparently disagrees so here we are.

The fight scenes where Mysterio are giving Spidey the beat down of his life are just amazing. The illusions were perfectly crafted to confuse the audience while disorienting the wall-crawler simultaneously. I can’t think of a single action scene that didn’t work for me. For the most part the action tends to be the best part of these films anyways so I have no complaints.

Scenery

I don’t normally include this category in a review but this film went out of its way to ensure every shot was breathtaking. The cinematographer deserves an academy award I think. This movie made me feel like I was web slinging with Spider-Man. It made me feel like I was on a bus going down the country side of some distant country I’ve only heard about in movies. It was a very beautifully shot film that really brought the characters to life and made the settings pop.

Overall

The movie is a very enjoyable ride. From start to finish the movie goer is sure to get a thrill ride easily worth the price of admission. While Spider-Man is absolutely my favorite solo superhero in the Marvel battalion, his films have been largely inconsistent. There is usually a great film thrown together with a few minor details to nitpick. In the 2002 picture the movie was mostly perfect with a few cheesy one liners and a terribly cast Mary Jane. The Amazing Spider-Man had some of the most exciting action scenes and took the character in a much darker place but fell short on the charm that makes the character so like able in the first place. This film is no exception. It was a damn near perfect movie only tainted by the overwhelming and very in-your-face references to Tony Stark and the Avengers. Other than that it was perfectly cast, perfectly acted, beautifully shot. It more than capture the essence of the character and the plot, while a little contrived, fit the film nicely. All in all I had a blast and most fans will too.

I rate it a solid 5 out of 5. The minor flaws are just not nearly enough to take away from an absolutely spectacular Spider-film.

A list of every PS1 Greatest Hits title

I wanted to share a list of the Playstation 1 Greatest Hits titles. I compared multiple lists and this is the most complete one I could find. Enjoy.

I will be compiling a few more lists for reference. I hate how Wikipedia and GameFaqs make it difficult to copy/paste these types of things. I hope someone can find this useful.

007: The World is not Enough
007: Tomorrow Never Dies
1Xtreme
2Xtreme
A Bug’s Life
Activision Classics
Air Combat
Alien Trilogy
Andretti Racing
Ape Escape
Army Men 3D
Army Men: Air Attack
Asteroids
Battle Arena Toshinden
Casper
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Chrono Cross
Cool Boarders 2
Cool Boarders 3
Cool Boarders 4
Crash Bandicoot 1
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Crash Bash
Crash Team Racing
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Dance Dance Revolution Konami Mix
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
Destruction Derby 1
Destruction Derby 2
Die Hard Trilogy
Digimon Rumble Arena
Digimon World 1
Digimon World 3
Dino Crisis
Disney’s Tarzan
Doom
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22
Driver 1
Driver 2
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill
Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home
Fighting Force
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 8
Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy Anthology
Final Fantasy Chronicles
Final Fantasy Origins
Final Fantasy Tactics
Formula 1
Frogger 1
Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge
Gran Turismo 1
Gran Turismo 2
Grand Theft Auto 1
Grand Theft Auto 2
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing
Jeremy McGrath SuperCross ’98
Jet Moto 1
Jet Moto 2
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Legend of Dragoon
Loaded
Madden NFL 98
Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor: Underground
Mega Man 8
Mega Man Legends
Mega Man X4
Metal Gear Solid
Monopoly
Monsters, Inc. Scream Team
Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Namco Museum Volume 1
Namco Museum Volume 3
NASCAR 98
NASCAR 99
Need for Speed 1
Need for Speed 2
Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit
Need for Speed: High Stakes
NFL Blitz
NFL Blitz 2000
NFL GameDay
NFL GameDay 97
NHL 98
NHL FaceOff
NHL FaceOff ’97
Nuclear Strike
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Pac-Man World
Parasite Eve
Rayman
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
Reel Fishing
Resident Evil 1
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 3
Ridge Racer
Road Rash
Road Rash 3D
Rocket Power: Team Rocket Rescue
Rugrats: Search for Reptar
Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase
Silent Hill
Sim City 2000
Sled Storm
Soul Blade
Soviet Strike
Spider-Man
Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro
SpongeBob SquarePants: SuperSponge
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro: Year of the Dragon
Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Stuart Little 2
Syphon Filter 1
Syphon Filter 2
Syphon Filter 3
Tekken 1
Tekken 2
Tekken 3
Ten Pin Alley
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Test Drive 4
Test Drive 5
Test Drive Off-Road
Tetris Plus
The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Special Edition
TNN Motorsports Hardcore 4×4
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
Tomb Raider 1
Tomb Raider 2
Tomb Raider 3
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear
Triple Play 2001
Triple Play 98
Twisted Metal 1
Twisted Metal 2
Twisted Metal 3
Twisted Metal 4
Vagrant Story
Vigilante 8
Vigilante 8: Second Offense
Warhawk
WCW Nitro
WCW vs. the World
Wheel of Fortune
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: 2nd Edition
Wipeout
WWF SmackDown!
WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
WWF War Zone
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
X-Men: Mutant Academy
Xenogears

Favorite Strong Female Comics Characters

I was about 12 years old when I really began getting into comic books and comic book culture. It was around this time I started reading Wizard magazine and other comic related publications. I can’t remember the name of all of the different magazines, back in the 90s there was more than one magazine floating around on any given topic.

During the transition phase of going from a child to adolescent I began to notice my interests were changing. It’s only natural at this stage in life. One area I became more interested in is discovering the artistic expressions, in comic books and other media, of the female form. I struggled as a Christian with the balance between being able to appreciate a woman for her beauty without over sexualizing her in the process. I will say it was a battle I sometimes lost due to the nature of being bound to a fleshly body. That being said I often did let my eyes decide which female characters in the comic medium to investigate whether it be based on a costume, the way she presented her self or something else. I also grew up the only male child in a house full of females. It was a unique experience to say the least.

This is a list of some of my favorite strong female comics characters.

Early on my favorite female comic book characters began to take on a certain theme. They were the types of women, like myself in many respects, that didn’t fit into the typical roles. Often they were a super hero with a power that set them apart or they were a character with some sort of personality disorder. It never failed, despite the physical attractiveness one might find as drawing to a character, the traits of independence and being powerful figures in their respective story lines were most often what determine which characters I was drawn to. This was not always the case with male characters, so I can now take a look back and analyze this more.

My first love when it comes to comic book characters is the goddess Dawn from the Cry for Dawn comics and later other mini series. It original attraction was her depiction the artist drew her in the comics as well as the magazines. She was always looking at the reader in a way that suggested she was self aware of her comic book existence. Truth be told the character herself was rarely used in the stories of the books I managed to read. In fact, she was hardly even a narrator for all intents and purposes. Still, the image of a seductive but powerful female demon type was a character I found myself drawn to.

If I were to go so far as to admit to having had a crush on any single comic book character as depicted it would be Marvel Girl, aka Jean Grey. More specifically her Original Team interpretation and her later post-Phoenix Saga rebirth. I was always drawn to Jean for a number of reasons. Primarily she was by far the most powerful of the X-Men. She was romantically attached to my favorite of the X-Men male characters, that being her lover Cyclops aka Scott Summers. I even picked up the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini series due to my appreciation for those characters. Not to mention the wedding issue I cherished for a many number of years. I was also kind of a trading card collector so I made the mistake of cutting out the 3 cards inserted into the middle of the issue, a regret I maintain to this day especially after I purchased for mere dollars a complete set of the series those cards were from. Jean became even more of a character I admired once her movie adaptation breathed a new life into the character. I didn’t care for every story line they put her in, but I was more than happy just seeing my favorite of the female X-Men sticking around.

Then there was Rogue. She was definitely the character I was not letting my eyes trick me into discovering. Her character was, shall I saw, not depicted in a manner I found even slightly attractive. I felt she was too muscular and her stripped hair, frizzy hair was a turn off. I don’t mean to completely let the characters physical appearance determine my interest, I was a pre-teen boy raised in a sex-obsessed culture after all cut me some slack. However I became intrigued with the Rogue character more and more over time. I began to realize the complexity of her character was a major draw to the stories she was involved in. I didn’t care for every aspect of her personality, or her falling for that slick Cajun card hustler, but I was still able to really find myself strongly interested in the fact she was raised a super villain who turned hero and had such a tragic story tying her to everything. She was a lot more interesting as a person than Jean.

Next up is Kitty Pride also known as Shadow Cat. She was a character I was originally adverse to. She was young and annoying. Not unlike Rogue herself but I was introduced to the 90s adult Rogue and an early 80s annoying teenager Shadow Cat. Still what drew me to the character more than anything was her struggle with fitting in. The whole purpose of the X-Men is finding a place for misfits to find their place in society. Being a mistfit among freaks is even more difficult to deal with. Shadow Cat never really grew into a main stream character but I eventually developed a fondness for her and began looking into her other books. My favorite was the Wolverine and Kitty Pride mini series.

For reasons I don’t have time to dig into, I eventually branched out and began discovering other female characters in comic books I found appealing for some reason or another. As someone raised in the male world of men are strong women are not but the changing perceptions of the 90s to today, I had to cope with a lot of breaking the rules and allowing myself to like characters I wasn’t supposed to. Of course in the Batman universe it was Harley Quinn that caught my eye. This time it wasn’t her appearance so much as her costume but even more so, her obsession with Joker. Like most Batman fans the Joker is naturally one of my favorite characters. It is no surprise I would begin to develop an interest in a character who struggled with her desire to love the crazy clown, while also exploring other possibilities of self fulfillment. In the end her character became larger than life in many respects but I still enjoy reading a good HQ centered story from time to time.

Everyone has their guilty pleasure character. That one character you know you shouldn’t admire but you can’t help but worship in some way for reasons beyond critical thinking. In terms of comic characters for me it was Wendy from the Casper series. I didn’t read many Casper comics and truth be told he was pretty far down my list.When I did however I preferred the ones with his little witch friend.

I always had a sort of fondness for Wendy despite knowing better. I can’t quite explain it but something about her always made me drawn to the stories she was in. I suppose there is a part of me, as an over protective big brother, who saw a resemblance to her in some respects to my baby sister. Still, I shrug that off as only a surface level explanation for why I would be drawn to that character.

Although it was far from sexual, I did have a strong affinity for Batgirl as my other DC female I admired fondly. Why? Because much like the awesome Batman himself, Batgirl kicked ass and was a fantastic detective. Unlike the annoyingly cheesy Boy Wonder, I always wished Batman and Batgirl would become a permanent team replacing the sparrow-inspired lame duck with a superior character that made a whole lot more sense.

If there was a character I was drawn to for, shall we say carnal reasons, it would most certainly be White Queen from the X-Men. Of course, well for very obvious reasons she was drawn in such a way to make her seductive. She also was the anti-Jean having largely the same powers but was far more flexible in her morals, if you could argue she even hard morals. It didn’t help any when they cast a woman actress who portrayed one of my favorite characters in the highly sexualized drama Mad Men to portray her in the X-Men film franchise. Needless to say they were spot on in that regards. As far as her character as a person, this is probably the one I can say I know the least about as a person, going back to that maleness in me that didn’t even bother taking the time to get to know her more. Oh well, everyone has their fling. She was not my true love however.

In terms of comic characters the one I would give my heart to, if she were real, is none other than the beloved story book character Alice from the Alice in Wonderland series. I have been drawn to so many comic book interpretations of Alice I can honestly say as a sales gimmick the best way to get my hard earned dollars is to make some variation of the character in comic book form I have yet to experience and chances are I will be there.

The last character I want to briefly discuss is going to be controversial to some. She is the heart and soul of the Scooby Doo franchise and the one female character I think really pulls the entire show together. Of course I am referring to the great Daphne. I know there are weirdo’s out there who like the glasses wearing geeky Velma. Not me, she was just annoying. I don’t pick Daphne based purely on looks however. I always felt she was a far more important character than she is often remembered. Sure she is usually the damsel in distress but what’s wrong with that? So is Princess Toadstool and she has been quite the success in the video game arena. Okay sure there is the whole stereotype argument but what can I saw, I don’t let that ruin a perfectly good character for me. I love Scooby Doo as a franchise. I certainly believe the entire team brings their own skills to the table, Daphne is still the one who ties the group together. She is, to use the cliche, the glue. It also didn’t hurt any she was the one carried over into the 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo when that annoying nerd got booted off the show. To top it all off the highly admirable Sarah Michelle Geller, who portray the very popular Buffy, was selected to bring Daphne to life for the live action film, of which I am one of the rare fans.

This is far from a comprehensive list of the female comic book characters I have been interested in, this is largely the ones I consider the most intriguing for some reason or another. Stay Cool.

Pokemon blues

The first time I heard about Pokemon was through a trading card magazine I used to get in the mail back in the late 90’s. If I am not mistaken it was a one off done by the folks at either Toy Fair, Wizard or one of those other hobby magazines I used to subscribe to in the days before the dominance of the web.

What I remember reading about was not the Game Boy game, but rather the exciting new trading card game taking the country by storm. The country, at that time, meant Japan, and the article was about how it was getting ready to invade the states. Invade was not strong enough of a word. Pokemon completely changed everything.

I had a friend who opened up a trading card shop in the early part of the decade during the rise of the Magic the Gathering craze. Magic was a great game and all, but me, I was more into Star Wars CCG. That’s Customizable Card Game for the uninitiated.

One thing he told me, at the time, was card games come and go. He believed Magic had longevity because of the cross over between D&D fans. I was more skeptical. See, I bought Marvel OverPower, Star Wars CCG and Spell Fire (the D&D game) so maybe I was a little biased. However, neither of us expected Pokemon to stick around longer than a few seasons, the card game that is. At the time there wasn’t a video game or cartoon in the states just yet. The oncoming storm was brewing, we just weren’t fully prepared for it.

I remember right after my younger sister started showing me her Pokemon cards my first reaction was to roll my eyes. I already started getting into Dragon Ball Z TCG and the Digimon cartoon was starting to pique my interest. I thought Digimon was so much better than Pokemon, it would only be a matter of time before it supplanted Pokemon and the ‘Pikachu and Pals’ craze would fade into obscurity.

It was around the time I picked up a Game Boy Pocket that I got my first taste of the Pokemon video game. A friend at school sold me his Yellow Pocket so he could buy a Green Game Boy Color. He gave me two games with it, Wario Land, Super Mario Land 3, and Pokemon Blue. Needless to say I didn’t even insert the pokecart into my machine. I traded it to Software Etc., the game store in our mall before it turned into a Game Stop. That was it, no more Pokemon for me. I bought an N64 earlier in the year, along with a PS1. I started to realize there were Pokemon games showing up on the N64 and then, seemingly out of the blue a movie gets announced.

I continued to resist. I was too old to get into that crap. I was 16 when it came out and I had already upgraded to Playstation and Mortal Kombat, I wasn’t even spending much time playing Sonic or Mario games at this time in my life. Pokemon was certainly, I thought at the time, beneath me. Especially with my younger sister, six years below my age, being so into it. Of course she didn’t have a Game Boy, for  her it was a card game.

One day I came home from work. I worked at the buffet in the casino. I discovered all my tip money I had been saving up was missing, around $40 or so. By the end of the day I discovered my sister and one of her friends had taken my money and spent it. They played games at the arcade, rented movies at the video store, bought a pizza and to top it all off they brought home a few packs of those silly Pokemon trading cards. I was furious. At this point I had enough. I made her and her friend sell their Pokemon cards to pay me back the money they stole. I wasn’t going to be too harsh on my ten year old sister, so I ended up taking her and her friend out to the buffet for supper to say no hard feelings, but I insisted they sell those damn cards to pay me back. I learned in the trading card business how quickly a hot card can rise in value and then plummet so I knew we had a narrow window to sell them for cash. She ended up paying me back every penny, and I washed my hands of that fifthly game for good. Or so I thought.

The years would go by and I would continue to resist. Every time a new game came out I grew increasingly hostile towards Nintendo. They never released those stupid things one at a time. They always came out in pairs along with some console tie in or spin off, which meant they were devoting a lot of resources to that game not making games I would have bought. This resentment carried into my interactions with fans online. I instantly attacked, berated and dismissed the opinions of anyone over the age of 7 that talked about Pokemon. I was really harsh. I really hated that game.

Things began to soften up a little bit once I got a Game Cube in 2004. I purchased a copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee and quickly learned Pikachu was a pretty good character to win matches. I chalked it up to him being the most recognizable character in the franchise so I never really let it lure me into trying the games. It wouldn’t be until 2010 when I downloaded the Pokemon Blue rom for GB and played it on my Windows PC before I ever game a proper Pokemon game a chance. If this is the part in the story you were expecting me to say, wow, what was I missing out on all these years, wrong. All it did was confirm my suspicions.

The game was just a watered down, RPG knock-off with the most obnoxious collect-a-thon mechanic at the entire heart of the game. Not something like a RareWare platformer where the core game play was at least fun. It wouldn’t be until Pokemon Go before I would give a video game in the franchise a serious chance. This time it was for work. I was working at a newspaper at the time of the games launch. Of course all the other media outlets were doing stories on people walking into traffic or walking off a cliff or similar stories. I decided to write safety guide and how to column for the newspaper where I worked. I order to be informed, I downloaded the app and tried it out.

Now you are thinking a-ha! Finally that sour puss converted once he saw the true light! Wrong again. I ended up keeping the app installed for a little over 2 years, but only to let me nieces and nephews walk around catching Pokemon and hatching eggs. Eventually I lost interest and walked away.

Now why am I writing an article about how I missed out on the Pokemon craze if I continue to have disdain for the video games and cartoons? After all, at this point if nothing has converted me nothing will right? Wrong. Or slightly incorrect. You see I have converted, sort of. Recently the collector in me- especially the kid who was big into collecting trading cards in the 90’s- has started to have a desire to get back into collecting trading cards. Again as a window to bond with my sisters kids I thought I might give collecting the cards another go round. Not that I want to look for rare or valuable cards though. I thought maybe I will pick up a few packs and see what kind of a set I can get going.

Along the way I sampled the anime when it came to Netflix. I even tried out some of the other games, including Coliseum on Game Cube. The only one I ever enjoyed even slightly was the original Blue. I liked the e-Reader stuff and have considered collecting Pokemon-e  but I suspect that would be cost prohibitive at this point. These days I play the Blue Rom on my laptop and wonder what it would have been like had I discovered this franchise 2 years earlier in life, or maybe not had the negative experiences to associate with it. Needless to say my Pokemon blues today manifest in the form of a what-if scenario I will play in my mind. At least once in a blue moon, as they say.

Why HOUSE music is NOT TECHNO music

The birth of Techno music is often attributed to an isolated DJ in the slums of Detroit while it’s counter-part, “house music” is attributed to an isolated DJ in the clubs of Chicago. Both alleged movements describe their music as the definitive origin of modern Electronic Dance Music. These distinctions are often very divisive among aficionados of electronic music. However to divorce both techno and house from the origins of Hip-Hop is doing a disservice to the pioneers of the techniques that would evolve into the diverse strands of EDM music techno-nerds constantly fighter with each other over on the interwebs to this day.

This is an analysis of the evolution of the terms as they relate to the styles of music we have today. This is all from the perspective of a lonely DJ whose understanding comes from the studying of the roots of the movements, independent of any agenda, or even more importantly, ties to a movement.

The claims go as such. Someone in Detroit was mixing disco records with electro records and developed this into the musical style techno-nerds will call “techno” music. The so-called attributes of the music are singled out as they are defined solely by how closely they resemble the benefactor with no regard to the reality of the techniques being developed for nearly a decade previously by DJ’s in the Bronx, Southern L.A. as with elsewhere. The so-called purists make every attempt to white-wash Techno music by making the claims it strictly evolved out of the ashes of the discothèques from the late 70’s who’s audience had moved on.

The addendum to this alternate reality account of the rise of the dance music disregard the techno moniker entirely, going out of their way to stringently insist it only applies to a very narrow, very precise set of rules determined arbitrarily by the followers of a cult-like DJ who they credit with creating, what they refer to as ‘house’ music, which bears a striking resemblance to the music the uninitiated refer to as ‘techno’, which they deem either unworthy or inferior to their beloved house term. Both sides equally ignore the development of the music Hip-Hop DJ’s were doing elsewhere, while simultaneously accrediting, incorrectly, developments to DJ’s who severe ties with the urban roots of Hip-Hop. This is not to say the author himself believes white washing is inherently a sin. However, in the context of the evolution of electronic music, it is a disservice to blatantly neglect the work of the ghetto disc jockeys and their obnoxious rhyming emcees who popularized the music being created by mixing records on turntables. This, in fact, requires a serious bending over backwards on the logic of those holding to the false narrative.

Thus it is now THE RAT, who shall bear witness the truth of the birth of electronic music, henceforth correctly identified as Techno for all purposes. Partially based on the erroneous neglecting of the connection to Hip-Hop music the cult followers of the Detroit/Chicago narrative stubbornly adhere to. Also partially birthed in the fact that words actually matter but only in that they are defined. Consider this. Rock N Roll music is the bas moniker for Hard Rock, Punk Rock, Heavy Metal and Speed Metal. Yet, none in the rock community disregard the black roots of their music. The undeniable reality is Rhythm And Blues, born out of the same ghettos that would give rise to rock n roll, bears little sonic resemblance to modern rock n roll to the uninitiated. Still, those who can rightly follow the path from blues to rock to metal ought to also be able to follow the same path from R&B, to funk/disco to Hip-Hop/Techno. It’s not exactly rocket science. Of course ignore the obvious auditory similarities still requires one to disregard the science of linear time. That is, Chicago House and Detroit Techno could not exist in a vacuum with no ties to the developments of electronic music taking place in the Hip-Hop community. Rather it allows certain individuals to disconnect their beloved ‘European-based’ music from the taint of American urbanism. That is to say, a narrative that proclaims techno or even house, began in the white suburbs of the Midwest completely ignores the existence of the disc jockeys mixing disco and funk records into what would become colloquially as rap music.

Disco music itself was a white-washing of the funk music being produced. There are two different paths which interconnect, dissect and reconvene throughout. The short version is this. Funk was stripped of its hook and verse, reduced to the simple break, then mixed with another break, layered upon with scratches, 808 drum beats and other elements to become Hip-Hop music, one of the four elements of the Hip-hop culture.

Disco music began winding down in the cities as rock n  roll was making a resurgence. Clubs and radio waves were cluttered with New Wave bands and imitators who were mixing pop, rock and electronic music to form the basis of the synth pop that dominated the decade. Eventually disco was also stripped in a similar fashion and also layered as funk was being turned into Hip-Hop, disco underwent the same process becoming what those who are not afraid of the cult followers simply call techno. Techno music became an offensive term as it was entered into the lexicon and became short-hand for all electronic produced music. Thus in retaliation the cult followers began impressing upon society an effort to restrict the usage of the term until such time as nothing left could be classified as “techno”, they were so offended by the utterance of the word they not only cringe upon hearing it they shift into belligerent attack mode in an effort to contort history to belittle the pour soul who elected to mistakenly use the word they fear so much. Thus the re-writing of history ensues in an on-going barrage of misinformation used to scare people into accidentally using the wrong term. Coupled with a culture born from being as Politically Correct as humanly possible and this fear of words limits their ability to express themselves without accidentally offending those who adhere to the cult.

This is the truth. Electronic music created using the same methods as Hip-Hop, be it old school turntables with mixers and the like, or combined with synthesizers or even created using loops, if it is in fact electronic and is produced in the same manner at all, as in NOT by playing of actual instruments to create new, original compositions, it is in fact Techno. House music does not exist in the mind of this technophile. It is a make believe term retroactively applied, falsely to a genre of music whose very existence has been under attack by the cult of a single DJ from Chicago.

All of this can be proven by listening to a handful of Hip-Hop acts Break Dancers cling to, mostly who fall under the banner of Electronic Funk (a cousin of Hip-Hop) which is what the cult of house followers will point to, falsely, as what they call ‘Techno’. If one listens to Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock” and calls that ‘techno’ then listens to TECHNOtronic and calls that house, dismiss their unsound logic and believe the truth, Techno is what they cult of house refuse to utter for some weird hang up. Techno Syndrome is not even correctly label a “techno” song on wikipedia because the cult of house are hard at work scrubbing all references to the word, even when used itself by those making the music. They adhere to a false doctrine perpetuated by a lie to hold up their weird, twisted belief that some disco DJ sitting in Chicago was somehow insightful enough to create his own style of music with absolutely NO prior knowledge of what was already being done elsewhere in the country at a time when radios and MTV were prevalent. Let the haters bring their wrath upon the one delivering the truth. Stay cool friend.

–THE RAT

Best 80’s Trucker movie?

Here is the contest. Which of the following three 80’s films represent the truck driver spirit best? The films are Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone, Big Trouble in Little China starring Kurt Russell, and Maximum Overdrive starring Emilio Estevez.

Each of these three films presents a different aspect of the truck driver world. Big Trouble focuses on a loner truck driver making his way in the world. Maximum Overdrive centers on a group of survivors at a truck stop being attacked by possessed trucks. The last film, Over the Top, digs into some of the sub culture of the trucker lifestyle.

The great American road trip has been a staple in American culture ever since the beginning of time for this young nation of diverse people. Even before there were automobiles there was the famous wagon trains exploring the American frontier of years past. Also there are the lone riding cowboys who hit the dusty trails of the American wild west. All of these people have one thing in common, leaving their world behind to seek adventure on the open road.

The road trip movie is one of the most iconic sub-genres of the adventure film in American cinema, birthing such classics as Easy Rider, The Blues Brothers, Dumb & Dumber and Tommy Boy.

The truck driver culture, or truck stop culture, of the road trip is a great staple.

This is a look at three feature films each presenting a different aspect of the trucking/trucker culture. As someone who has several family members who either are, or were at one time, truckers or aspired to be truckers, this topic is one I have been holding onto for a while.

It’s going to be written in four parts. Following the reviewing of each movie with the focus on how well does it capture the trucker spirit, then a final review pulling the information from each film onto a final article deciding which of the three is the best trucker film.

This is going to be an ongoing series. It will require the re-watching and taking of notes for each film. Sit back and enjoy the sure to be bumpy ride.

Transformers Star Trek crossover

Crossovers have been a big part of the comic book and sci-fi/horror genres for decades. Sometimes crossovers make fans excited, other times they make fans angry.

Learning about a Star Trek meets the Transformers crossover sounds like the kind of fan service, on the surface at least, fans of both franchise should be excited for. If you consider the Transformers are sentient alien robots while the Borg, a race of sentient alien robots, exists in Star Trek the two certainly do have some room for crossing over.

The problem I have is based on the roots of the franchises. The issue for me goes back to the Marvel Comics days. Under the old Transformers comics published under Marvel the Transformers were grafted into the Marvel Universe. Numerous references, including a Spider-Man appearance early on, cement this point of view. Now Star Wars was a part of the Marvel Universe during the same time period and now, under Disney, they are also under the Marvel Universe officially now.

If this crossover takes place it could bring Star Trek and Star Wars into the same multiverse. This is problematic when you consider DC comics published Star Trek comics once. Paramount wants to launch their own shared universe. Their most popular science fiction properties are Transformers and Star Trek. Although G.I. Joe is popular, they’ve already done plenty of crossovers with the Transformers.

From a purely story-telling standpoint there is plenty of room for the Robots in Disguise to exist in as many science fiction multiverses as those with the property rights desire to allow. The only issue I see is them falling into the trap of tying the Cybertronians to the Borg in a weird way. I would hope they find away to insist they aren’t the same but the robots have to prove this fact to the crew of the Enterprise first.

The next issue that I see is which incarnation of each fiction does this take place within? For example would it be Next Generation crew going up against Beast Wars characters? What about Voyager crew facing the G1 movie team? Or the worse match up, Original Crew facing Armada characters. There’s so many possibilities. Of course I haven’t read the entire details on what could be coming all I know is the announcement alone has me curious. It’s one of those annoying crossover stories that will probably end up being a highly sought after one off or mini series collectors and fans of both franchises must have. As an avid Transformers fan and passing Star Trek viewer I can say it certainly sits on my list of comics I might pick up down the road.

Thoughts on X-Men Film Franchise from the perspective of a fan playing catch up

In the early 1990’s I was the exact right age to get sucked into the Fox X-Men Animated series. Needless to say I became a pretty big fan of the series. I bought toys, comics, video games and watched all the cartoons I could. I loved X-Men. Imagine my excitement when I am reading the latest issue of Wizard magazine and they are showing off images from the set of the upcoming live-action feature film starring my favorite mutants.

Throughout the years the X-Men have continued to star in nearly a dozen feature films following that first masterpiece from 2000. It was the perfect film to transition comic book movies from the dark days of the 90’s into the golden age of comic book movies were are experiencing today. I was still the right age to be excited for the movie when it released. I was 18 when it released and finishing up high school. I vividly remember going to the theater and then being so excited to see it again, and again. I couldn’t wait for the next film in the franchise.

Now nearly 20 years later there is a new X-Men themed hit tearing up the box office right now and another mutant fest right around the corner. I decided this was a good time to finally get caught up on the films. I watched Days of Future Past earlier today. This had been the last of the primary X-Films I hadn’t seen yet. It was a good thing I did because I actually had a great time watching this movie. It was a dream come true seeing the stories I used to be mesmerized as a child coming to life in a new medium.

Here is a breakdown of the X-Men films so far. I am not counting the Deadpool movies or Wolverine films. First, I haven’t even seen them yet, and second I am not really a fan. I will keep this to the primary X-Films until I can get around to watching the spin-offs.

X-Men

Looking back on it now I still think this was a brilliant way to kick off the franchise. While it does boast a modest budget and reasonable special effects, for the time, it’s clearly more focused on the story. The best part of the film is the casting. These actors easily bring my favorite comic book heroes to life in a manner that is consistent with my liking. The characters are the heart and soul of the X-Men and although they choose to center it on a very small cast, it’s a great selection of characters.

The action isn’t over the top like later films. I actually like this on repeat viewings. It doesn’t really seem tame as it does reigned in. The movie gives the characters a chance to breath while leaving enough to the imagination to build up to the next film. It’s obvious they were trying to repeat this pattern with the flawed Fantastic Four films, unfortunately in that case it didn’t quite resonate with audiences.

X-Men 2 (X2 X-Men United)

Removed from time this movie remains one of the all-time greatest super hero science fiction films ever produced. Even with all the modern spectacle of Avengers films, this movie continues to amaze me with the way it present the mutants powers. It’s not excessive like others in the series yet it is far more refined than the first. It’s obvious the first movie was used to test the waters while this movie was given the freedom to do what it needed.

Story wise it’s a direct continuation of the first movie. The characters have real heart and start to really come together as a team. By the end of the movie the stakes are real. The deaths are gut wrenching and the mood is somber. It perfectly sets up the third film in what was originally to be a trilogy.

X-Men 3 The Last Stand

I remember the anticipation for this movie was very high for me. I was heartbroken at the death of one of my two favorite X-Men characters in the previous film. I suspected she would return as Phoenix because that’s the way they did it in the source material. I wasn’t entirely on board with how it turned out but I still enjoyed this movie tremendously, considerably more than the vocal fanbase who has condemned it for reasons I have yet to determine.

X-Men The First Class

This movie came out around the same time as the first Wolverine movie. By this time super hero movies were in full swing and the X-Men were starting to get played out. This was the first of the series I didn’t see in theaters. It wasn’t because I had any problems with the prior film it was more the market was now saturated with big budget sci-fi spectacles and suddenly X-Men movies weren’t as interesting.

I did eventually see it years later. I thought it was pretty good. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first three films but I did enjoy it still. The character selection was a little odd. I would have preferred they stuck with characters I was more familiar with, I still liked the way the story unfolded. The new Mystique was also a pretty good choice in casting. By this time audiences had grown to expect more out of special effects so the use of the super powers increased significantly. I liked the movie but not as much as the others.

X-Men Days of Future Past

This was the last one I saw previews for and was actively excited for. The trouble was there had been so many new movie franchises rise to prominence by this time I was more into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I ended up skipping this movie. I finally got to see it today and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not in the film, it was fantastic. I was disappointed I let myself go this long without seeing this movie. In fact I enjoyed it so much I am starting to get excited for the next film in the series.

X-Men Apocalypse

This was the first dud in the franchise as far as I am concerned. By this time Disney was dominating with their MCU films. The story was fine, the characters were all right but the issue was in the execution. The movie felt a little bloated. It seemed to be the first movie to stray too far from the source material in terms of story for my liking.The movie was entertaining enough it just felt like they were trying too hard with the effects this time.

I have seen two of the three Wolverine movies. I haven’t seen The Wolverine yet and I also haven’t seen either of the Deadpool films yet so I will evaluate those at a later date.

Over all I still think the entire X-Men franchise has been consistently good. There have been a couple bumps in the road.

What it’s been like transforming a weekly podcast into a daily internet radio show

Congratulations you are caller number nine stay on the line and we’ll hook you up with today’s grand prize don’t touch that dial we’ll be right back after these messages.

Ever since I was very young I always wanted to get into broadcasting one way or another. I studied broadcasting in college. I never knew if I would end up in radio or television all I knew was I wanted to be able to create a show I could share with an audience and keep them entertained and informed.

My career in the media and entertainment industry has been a little bumpy, to say the least. I have worked in live entertainment, weddings, a sports arena, two different local broadcast TV station and a weekly newspaper. On the digital front I have done a little bit of everything ranging from writing, producing, music, videos and everything else. At one time I even started up my own independent record label which I used to publish underground hip-hip and techno/trance albums. The only thing missing from my repertoire is radio.

Like most people in this business my primary goal is to stay busy. Whenever one job has run it’s course I quickly begin looking around for the very next opportunity. Sometimes, if you are lucky and keep your eyes open, you can end up juggling multiple projects at the same time. I launched my current blog, this website you are reading this article on, around 2013, while I was still in college. Since then I expanded to include a YouTube channel and a once a week, 2 hour long uncensored podcast. While I enjoy doing the podcast I felt like I was cutting myself short. When I was working for the newspaper I toyed with the idea of transforming the podcast into a daily internet radio show. The idea never went very far as I was always working. Now that’s changed I have a little more time to focus on doing the things I enjoy.

Recently I decide to give it a show. I finally settled on a format I think works for my personality while maintaining some sense of professional production values. I want to do the radio show as if it was a broadcast series. This means keeping it limited to a set time length, a specific format and staying within the guidelines of the FCC. Although it is an internet show and thus government censors do not apply, my goal is to do it as closely to a over-the-air radio show as I can get it.

One of the things that has been motivating me is my desire to stop waiting around for someone to give me a job doing the things I enjoy and instead just making things happen. Fortunately I can say without a doubt since I have launched the daily series I have gotten the attention of the right people as I have finally begun getting many of the job offers I had been waiting for.

The biggest challenge isn’t biting my tongue. I function quite well in polite American society so I can form intelligent sentences without the use of profanities or other “dirty” language. The real difficulty has been in being disciplined enough to keep the length and format the same each episode while being consistent in uploading at the same time each day. It’s important to reach my audience if they can rely on me to deliver a consistent product that matches their lives.

One of my worries was if I did this daily would I be able to come up with enough topics to hold it down? I decided if I settled on an hour long format with very specific segments it would emulate what I learned working in the TV business. This way I would know exactly what needs to be discussed during each segment. I decided I would do an opening segment where I just talk a little about my life, my day and the world around me. Then I would transition into a recommendation section where I discussed an old movie, music work and a video game. I decided on this segment because it gives me something to be consistent while also being flexible to keep the conversation loose.

Then I decided I would transition from there to reading of headlines and offering commentary on those headlines. I figured this format would be tailored to my tastes such as I would be able to keep it going for a while. The first road block is I have finally been offered a position at a TV station I can’t refuse. This is going to put me back to working a 40 hour work week. At first I thought that would interfere with my ability to produce a daily show. However I am not thinking it will only make me more disciplined and polished giving me a chance to produce a more professional show.

No matter what happens I want to keep doing both The Dark Web Podcast on weekends and the new Dark Web Daily Show on weekdays for the near future. Part of what I like about producing my own show is I am in complete control of the content. I am looking forward to getting back to working a steady job for a media production company. Still I enjoy having the freedom to produce something on the side that is entirely mine. More than anything I produce the show I want to do and I hope my audience will find it as enjoyable to listen to as I do producing it.

Coming soon, the future of local news

The entire time I have worked in the news media business, be it television, newspapers or online, the number one question people ask is not is print dying, but how long before it dies. Unfortunately s newspapers die off communities are left with what are called news deserts, in other words they have no local news. Sure you can get gossip on Facebook but without journalists who are objective verifying facts and interviewing local sources, those posts run the risk of being flagged as fake news, and with the rampant fake news epidemic facing our culture right now that’s best to avoid

I have been struggling with a way to combing traditional news media practices, beat news reporting, local human interest stories, covering local topics, holding local government’s accountable and generally doing all the things a typical print newspaper would do. Nobody I have met considers the local news station (broadcast TV) as any less important or legit as the local newspaper for delivering local interest stories. The problem there is broadcast news has to cover such a wide area to make money, and is facing such stiff competition from digital outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc., we’re seeing local news stations struggle, close or consolidate in the same manner as the local newspapers. A democracy cannot flourish without news organizations informing the public what their government officials are doing, what their schools are up to, where their tax money is going, not without professionally trained journalists doing the work to get that information out to them.

It’s been a catch 22 for about 20 or so years for newspapers and local news stations alike. How do you produce expensive content on decreasing advertising dollars without deteriorating the quality of your product? If you make it available for free online you run the risk of giving away your product and not being able to make any money, or do you? I propose a different business model that will target the Millennials and their younger counterparts who are increasingly looking to digital as an alternative. Local TV news needs to give way to a locally produced newscast, distributed entirely on YouTube. Advertising dollars can be had via sponsors contained within the program, not traditional pre roll or post roll ads you have to share with Google. Yes, of course for the free web hosting YouTube provides let them get the pre and post roll ads, but you can take charge of the content with sponsored videos. However this only works for replacing the local broadcast affiliate, which I strongly believe is the future. It doesn’t do much for the newspaper. This is where I am proposing a new model that will combine the best of both worlds. You will get professionally produced content, delivered digitally for free, but packaged to a confined, hyper local market that is easy to sell to advertisers. Target your audience to the local shoppers and you can get the local shops to advertise with you.

In order for this model to work you have to keep your rates in line with what they expect to pay. It has to be cheaper than print but more expensive than Google or Facebook. The flip side is you can promise them you are targeting a local market instead of throwing a wide net for pennies in hopes of catching that one or two fish who swim through. Think of it like this. If you have a local wedding dress shop that targets young ladies in a specific geographic area, you can demonstrate to that shop owner that your website, a community newspaper online or a community news blog if you will, that will entice local audiences to browse content tailored for their specific tastes, then you can convince that dress shop to run her ads on your site instead of the local print newspaper.

In order to make a weekly newspaper you need a staff of at least 1-2 people. One person creating content, the other selling ads. Sometimes you run into a situation where there is just one person doing the newspaper as a solo project, more or less as a labor of love. Every local community needs it’s own newspaper. But times have changed. You no longer need to go down to the local super market to pick up a physical copy of that newspaper in today’s world. What works best now is you use social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, to target the locals in the area, use those links to get them onto your site and then provide content they cannot get elsewhere. Your job is to get them to trust you enough to spend a few minutes of their day on your site, reading up on local happenings, before heading out into the vast ocean of repeat content all the national sources are fighting over. In this world getting it first is the name of the game in national media. But getting it right is still the focus of local media.

That is why instead of investing money in a local print publication. I am going to build a series of local community news sites, newspapers or blogs that exist entirely in a digital space but treat them no different than if I was running a local newspaper. The difference is like night and day. First, you have more time to craft stories without being limited to a hard deadline. A weekly newspaper that has to print once a week has to make sure all content is packaged and done before the paper can go to print. This can lead to rushing out stories that are not quite ready but are also too old to be considered news. I ran into this dilemma all the time with our Friday newspaper. In order to get a newspaper out by Friday morning I had to send it to the printers Wednesday evening. That meant my Friday paper couldn’t have anything in it newer than, at absolute most current, 5 p.m. Wednesday. Most often I was writing stories about government meetings that took place on Monday so readers wouldn’t even know how their local politicians voted to spend their money until nearly a full week after the fact. What if something newsy was happening on a Thursday? I either had to ignore it, write about it after the fact as an after thought or try to get someone in the community to contribute to the newspaper. Sure, we did this but it was gut wrenching to learn about an event on Tuesday night that was going to happen on Thursday morning but it would be impossible for your newspaper to tell people ahead of time to go to because the paper came out after the fact but was printed before. I joked with my editor it was like writing stories in the past tense about things that haven’t happened yet. It was a juggling act.

A community blog acting as a digital newspaper wouldn’t face this problem. If news happens on Tuesday, you get your reporter there on Tuesday, snap photos, interview those involved and knock out an accurate, timely story by Wednesday morning. You then get the best of both worlds, timely and accurate news without the rush of getting that printer deadline. In today’s digital age it makes no sense not to run a local blog instead of a newspaper. The hang up old newspapers have are how to get digital advertisers. The trick is to have the same ads you always had, produced in house and tailored to their specific needs, not agency ads blanketing a mass market, not low CPM affiliate ads you make pennies on. The balance is to meet in the middle. I would set up something where an advertiser could purchase a display ad to run during a certain number of articles for a fair, fixed price. Then if they liked the results  it would be easy for them to renew.

I believe the future of newspapers is digital but not the old model of make a hard copy, then upload the PDF behind a paywall. That model hasn’t worked at reaching a new audience nor is it appealing to advertisers that have left. Local news is coming back in a big way and its going to take pioneers to blend the old model with the new model and utilize tools that social media provides. In doing so an editor can provide their local community with current events and stories that interest a local market yet still attracting advertisers that target that local market without the headache of having to provide a printed product that may or may not reach the eyeballs it was meant to.