Saturday, July 11, 2009

Artist of the week...

I'm usually on the tail end of pop culture type movements, as my tastes are steeped in the classics, and alas, this case is no different. I came across this band about three weeks ago...and three years after everyone else in the world...but have been diggin them ever since. Three brothers and a cousin have proved that rock...both melodic and otherwise...can still be written. Ladies and gentlemen...those of you who are as oblivious as is Kings of Leon...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

For Your Consideration: Top Ten Films of the 1980's

Granted: the 1980s was not necessarily the height of the film noir aesthetic as we saw in the Sixties or the thinking-man's film market as we had in the Seventies. We can thank Steven Speilberg and George Lucas, with their watered-down, cotton-candy family action/adventure flicks and John Hughes, with his overly-sentimental, gawdily-stylish high school melodramas for the downgrade in quality that was the rule more than the exception throughout that decade. Nonetheless, there are some true gems to be gleaned from the rubbish pile of 1980's cinema...these specimens being all the more precious considering the dirth of inspiration and imagination that consumed the movie (and music) scene. The following list is about as close to definitive as it's going to get....cause the industry did not really give us alot to work with in the course of that particular decade...but the films that made the cut are truly worth acknowledgement.

10. The Road Warrior (1981): It is rare indeed for a sequal to surpass its predecessor, but the Road Warrior does just that for the Mad Max franchise...and it's not just because of the (somewhat) larger budget the filmmakers have at their disposal. All of the things that made the first Mad Max great, the gritty, tight, briskly paced narrative and relative-newcomer Mel Gibson's bad@$$ portrayal of the title character, are cranked to full volume, but done so very tastefully, in this worthy sequal. And the apocolypse of an ending and the movie's cynical-yet-effective punchline ensure this overlooked film a spot in the top ten of the decade.

9. The Lost Boys (1987): If you can overlook Keifer Sutherland's supermullet and the subpar soundtrack, then you have yourself one of the finest vampire flicks since Salem's Lot way back in '76. Forget the tragic, moody, emo vampires of Interview With the Vampire and Twilight...Sutherland and company want to eat you and make a big mess while they're doing it. They're evil creatures of the night and damned proud of it...just as Bram Stoker, the progenitor of the literary-artistic tradition of the vampire myth, meant for it to be. And the teenage hero motif that was used ad nauseum throughout the 80s actually works, considering the twisted, misanthropic (and interesting) nature of the misfit comic-book twins faced with destroying the hip vampire horde.

8. The Terminator (1984): Even more so than Conan the Barbarian, this film established Arnold Schwarzeneggar as the bad@$$ of the decade. And deservedly so, as it is his one, truly perfect role. Schwarzeneggar brings the undying, inexorable killing machine to murderous, metallic life. And, unlike his usual tasteless action blowout extravaganzas, James Cameron allows the story and the characters time to slowly build, at the same time giving the audience the gradual revelation of the Terminator's true identity, culminating in an unbearably tense climax.

7. Caddyshack (1980): It is hard to determine who was funnier in this flick: Rodney Dangerfield or Bill Murray (and Chevy Chase in a distant third). Either way, the final product is one of the finest comedies of the decade. And of course, let's not forget that adorable groundhog...

6. Return of the Jedi (1983): Out of fairness, we can only allow one of the Star Wars films into the list, and while most everyone else puts their bets on The Empire Strikes Back (1980), my chips are all going on the series finale. Sure, Han Solo is somewhat hamstrung as a character by this point in the series, but this is more than compensated by the new, improved Jedi Luke Skywalker. He whoops @$$ in all the ways we wanted him to in the first two installments, and he has the actions-speak-louder-than-words attitude to back it up. And the final, emotional confrontation between father and son is more than any fan of the franchise could have hoped for from the finale of the series.

5. Videodrome (1983): This is one of the strangest films I have ever seen...and that's REALLY saying something, considering some of the movies I've watched. Nonetheless, considering it is some of the most bizarre, most impressionistic material in David Cronenberg's canon, he handles it without sacrificing narrative or character, something David Lynch has not managed to pull off through his entire career. But this one is definitely not for the kids...or some squemish adults.

4. Time Bandits (1981): Terry Gilliam's stab at a children's film comes off as rather nightmarish...and dense, considering it deals with issues about God, good and evil, textbook-historical accuracy, human nature, and fate. Nonetheless, the kids can still enjoy it and the grown-ups are given enough to chew on, as well.

3. The Evil Dead (1981): I believe this movie STILL holds some records for amount of gore in a single scene. That's not to say that that is all this film has to offer. Sam Raimi gave us one of the most shocking, most enduring, and, at the same time, one of the funniest horror films of all time....and he gave us Bruce Campbell on top of all that.

2. The Wall (1982): Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe might be two of the most brilliant and disturbed minds involved in popular art. And director Alan Parker brings their haunting themes and images to life like a diabolical puppet master. While it shocks and disturbs, at the same time, it resonates with us all and speaks to the loneliness and isolation at work in each and every one of us. It is just a shame that it is marginalized with vapid drug flicks like Easy Rider and Up in Smoke. Perhaps, someday, it will get its due.

(drumroll, please). And the winner iiiisssss......

1. The Shining (1980): Since Stephen King was unhappy with Kubrick's reinterpretation of his novel, I can only surmise it was because King was jealous of the vast improvement that Kubrick had made of the production. Not enough can be said about this film: The finest, most aesthetic specimen of Stanley Kubrick's career, the performance of a lifetime from Jack Nicholson, and, of course, the "Heeeeerrre's Johnny!" axe scene that has become part of popular culture for all time. So REDRUM, y'all....and if you've not seen this movie yet, then shame on're life is not complete yet!
And that's it for the first installment of the "For Your Consideration" series, which I hope to make an ongoing production here on I Herodotus. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to voice them. And if you have any greivances with the above list, you'd better come with ammo.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This one's for the kids

Scuffles and minor altercations are bound to occur amongst adolescents; it is treated almost as a rite of passage....a rite that should occur rarely, if at all. However, when your little angel starts engaging in viscious group attacks like a pack animal or commiting senseless, spontaneous acts of violence towards figures of authority, then there is obviously something at work on our younger generations that threatens the very fabric of our civilation...and drastic measures are going to be necessary.
The consideration for punishment of a criminal act of a violent nature, especially when it involves such irrational rage and sadistic relish such as that involved in the case in Polk County, Florida, or the bus attack in Kalamazoo should NEVER be mitigated by factors such as age or upbringing. In fact, the details of such cases are almost always far more shocking in their brutality and wantonness and, since theses acts are commited at such a developmental period, should be taken as an indication of something fundamentally flawed in the guilty party. And perhaps, for this reason, the perpetrators must be dealt with in a more strenuous (and maybe permanent) manner. For your consideration, as a concerned citizen, here is one possible set of corrective measures that could be followed to reclaim our youth and the future of our nation.
1st Offense: Sterilization. On top of any time served in one of our fine correctional facilities the offender should undergo mandatory sterilization, since he/she has made it obvious that they are unfit to control themselves, much less any offspring they produce. The result will either be another violent,out-of-control specimen or a tragic case of extreme child abuse. A law-abiding society has an obligation to keep that from happening.
2nd Offense: Physical and Mental Neutralization. The recurrence of violent acts during adolescence is a demonstration of an incurable, anti-social personality, incapable of taking a productive part in our fine society. Unilateral action, such as labotimization or inducing physical paralysis (best when both are combined) is the only option that the perpetrator has left for the rest of the law-abiding community. It may sound harsh, but we are doing our society a far worse service by letting these hellions mock and threaten the fabric of our civilization. These are purely hypothetical correctives, but if something of this sort is not pursued soon, it may be you or your child who is assualted next. More later.....

Monday, July 6, 2009

The entrammeling of greatness...

As I watched Andy Roddick play the match of his life...and still come up short of the necessary resolve, grit, and game to defeat a champion of Federer's stock...I began to ruminate on another talented guy that...just...can't....finish: Phil Mickelson. Both of the guys are extremely talented...both were, at one time, tauted as "the next big thing" in their respective sports...and to be fair...both have had wonderful and productive careers...Mickelson with three major championships...and Roddick with his U.S. Open title. Still, neither has lived up to expectations...and why is this?
The easy answer is that each is a contemporary with another who is arguably the "best ever" in his area....namely, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. If Federer didn't exist, Roddick would have at least one Wimbledon...and probably another U.S. Open title...and, jeez...when one thinks of what Mickelson would've done on a "Tigerless" gets down right depressing for the guy. But this can't be the only answer...I mean...even Gary Player and Chrissy Everett won against Nicklaus and Navratilova....every now and then...and on multiple occasions. It can't just be this...
But...what if it is? What if the psychology behind the realization that...were it not for one would be the greatest of your so weighty that it is inescapable and causes a self-defeating the very moment when one needs to summon a higher change ramp it up...take it to another level...or whatever cliche you want to use?
What must it feel like to succeed at levels higher than anyone around you for your entire life... to be told that you can re-write record books...only to find one other person...who isn't marginally better than you...but so much so that it isn't even up for discussion? Is there personal resignation...or is there an innate drive to overcome...after so many disappointments?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

P.C. vs. Patriotism (because you just can't have it both ways)

There is an unhealty dichotomy at work within the American mind which seems to be grow more pervasive with each generation. While most of us are aware of the perfectly natural inclination to be proud of our identity as American, there is also this subconcsious urge (egged on by certain media personalities and politicians) to repress and outwardly deny our national will. The truly alarming part of the whole thing is, those media moguls and politicians, mostly of the leftist persuasion, have convinced us that the latter of these two tendencies is the truer.

Only in the early half of the nineties did this compulsion become known by the common nomenclature of "Political Correctness," a sort of oxymoron, if you will. It is the natural enemy of the much-older American mental habit once known as Patriotism. It is quite amazing that Americans, even (or perhaps, especially) the middle class, havemastered the mental trapeze required to practice both, since they are polar opposites and mutually exclusive. Eventually, however, one of the two must and will overcome the other. If the likes of Teddy Kennedy, who wishes to morally and financially aid our most ardent enemies, or some gap-toothed, late night T.V. personality, who wishes to savagely rip the clothes off of Alaskan tweenies, have their way, I believe you know which of these two tendencies will ultimately have sway over the American soul.

The first of the two that currently make us who we are, Patriotism, in the end, will inform who we are and how we will finally save ourselves; the other, "P.C.ness," will lead us to self-denial and an obliteration of identity, national and, ultimately, personal. If Darwin were here, he would tell us, in evolutionary survivalist terms,that Political Correctness is the next to last step toward extinction. But, after all, as an American, you still have a choice, for the time being, between the two. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Independence Day, America...and a minor tribute to LT black rabbit...

This is an early post, as I will be incognito for the holiday weekend. Still, I wanted to say something to register, respect, and recognize this most important and significant of American traditions. Ours is a unique experiment in self-governing. The mere idea of a "republic" was revolutionary and transformative in 1775...and has been an example of an ideal to attain for cultures and peoples hence. To maintain this, we rely on folks that volunteer their time, experience, and lives to make sure that what was established so many decades ago... remains...and will remain...intact. To those brave souls... I say...and I speak for a majority in this great country...simply, thank you. Those of us who choose not to serve will never know the sacrifices you and your families make...but we offer...two simple words...packed with heartfelt knowledge...thank you.
One such person is one of my best fact, I've known this guy longer than any other close friend that I have...he is the famed black rabbit. He is currently serving "in-theatre" , and is eagerly expected home by his wife and family within a few months. Simply put, he is one of the most courageous, genuine, and loyal persons I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. The thing is...we have thousands of others ...whom I've never met... that serve with him and are probably those things...and others. LT black rabbit...and those who are with him...I well, be safe, and know that we aware.
Having lived in foreign lands for extended periods of time, I say this with an untempered resolve...this country is amazing...and I'll be damned if I let others who are either ignorant of history... or malicious in personal our founding the hope of some sort of trans-national and ideological utopia...that has been tried...and never realized or actualized. We, as Americans, have had, do have, and will have, deficiencies and inequalities to overcome...but this is the greatest nation...and political ever exist in human history...more so than Babylon...more so than Athens...more so than Rome. It is worth is worth is worth admiration. Let freedom ring true and loud. God bless the United States of America.