28 August 2008

The Amenta - Occasus

I haven't posted about music in a while, mainly because I just listen to too much of it. I guess I'll just write when something hits me in a profound-ish way. This album does that. I've had a digital copy for quite a while now, maybe a year or so, but just got a physical version the other day while browsing through the used CDs at StereoShop. That was the first time I've been there, and I was impressed by the number of good albums I found there. I'll probably be heading back at some point; maybe when I get a car.

Anyway; Occasus can be pretty well defined as an industrial death metal album. There are also bits of black metal going on, but not strongly enough to merit inclusion in the genre labeling. The Amenta is one of those bands that likes to make themselves sound really serious and evil, not unlike Semargl, another favorite of mine of which I just ordered a record today. I'm pretty sure their main schtick is nihilism, i.e. the belief that nothing actually exists and that reality is a projection of our own minds. My introduction to nihilism was The Big Lebowski, so I don't really know a whole lot about it. Their lyrics don't seem to consentrate much on nihilism itself, although they do touch on it (especially on the track 'Nihil'). Most of the time they're just painting a big bleak picture of some sort of doom or something. References to gods or demons and whatnot all over the place. I don't really care all that much about the subject matter, and I didn't even know a single line from the lyrics until I bought the album.

The music is what's important. It's primarily a wall-of-sound deal with jackhammer drums and heavily distorted guitars, interspersed with creepy computer screeches and hums, and of course the vocalists deep grunt-growls all over the place. This album took quite a while to grow on me, probably because of the vocals really. They aren't all that great, but I think they fit the music nicely. This guy seems to have left the band though and their next album, n0n, is going to have a big ol' collection of established vocalists. You can hear one track from the album, 'Slave', on their myspace. Anyway I'm rambling.

It isn't all just in-your-face metal. There are several ambient passages, some in between songs and others in the middle of songs. I think they're really what make it special. Going from systematic pummeling to more randomly flowing apocolyptic noises really create an atmosphere that brings me back again and again. I think you can really call this a work of art; not something you can say for a lot of metal albums.

17 August 2008

Earth X

I actually haven't read many Marvel comics, but I've watched some X-Men and Spider-Man animated stuff and seen most of the movies. I have a pretty good grasp of a large number of the characters. This book makes me feel like I know nothing at all. I knew the Marvel universe was big, I just didn't know how massive and complicated it was. The complexity is due to many years of new ideas and recycled old ones. Earth X is an attempt to bring all of those crazy stories under one roof and give them a cohesive purpose; it largely succeeds.

Starring primarily Captain America, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic, the elastic man), and a character I'd not heard of called Machine Man or X-51, Earth X is about a time somewhere in the future when all the characters we know are old. For some reason every person on the planet has become a super-being/mutant/whatever. Most of the book is spend trying to figure out why this happened. In the course of events we find out why such beings and humans in general exist, and also that everyone is doomed. Of course this is averted for the time being but new developments arrive leaving a shadow of foreboding over the ending. This is the first of three books so it's there for a reason.

A lot of the time it all seemed pretty silly to me, just because the Marvel universe is not a cohesive thing; there's all sorts of crazy crap going on all the time and so many different things happen for different reasons. They sort of explained the reason for the variation but it seemed forced. However, in the end it all made a sort of sense, and had something close to the feel of the revelation at the end of Watchmen. I enjoyed it and I'll probably check out the other two at some point.

14 August 2008

Star Wars: Clone Wars (TV Series)

I had heard that this was good, but I avoided it because it's part of Lucass' prequel story which I loathe. However, it turns out that it is quite a bit better than those three steaming piles of dung.

It's set between Episodes II and III. As such, it deals with the a bunch of battles between the droid army and the clone army (hence the title). Of course the primary characters are Anakin and Obi-Wan. I think the best part of it all is how Anakin is less of a whiner and more of a bad-ass. In fact, everyone is more bad-ass; especially Mace Windu, who trashes battle droids with his fists. Overall, it just does a good job of reclaiming some of the spirit of the original films, as well as tapping into a little of the extended universe.

Being a cartoon it was a little cheesy, but the focus was hardly on humor. I'd say there was less humor in it than in any of the live-action films. Some parts got pretty darn dark. The dialogue was quite sparse most of the time, which I think is a good thing. They did tend to favor the use of old Star Wars catch-phrases a lot, i.e. "I've got a bad feeling about this." I think that one reared it's head at least three times.

The art style was a little bit too stylized for me to be completely happy with it, but I wouldn't say it made it any worse.

I've heard that the CGI continuation that's coming out soon follows in the footsteps of the prequels in that it is also crammed with feces. Too bad.

12 August 2008

The IT Crowd

Whilst reading Boing Boing for the last year or so I've noticed Cory Doctorow mention this show a few times. It seemed mildly interesting, but I didn't bother watching it. Just a couple weeks ago some guys at work started talking about it, so I decided to give it a shot. It's real fun.

I've liked British comedy since my introduction to Monty Python. This isn't quite as weird as that, and not as painful to watch as Fawlty Towers (not painful in a bad way). It is instead a very funny sitcom with pretty accessible jokes and likable, eccentric characters. I recognized two of the actors from Garth Merengi's Darkplace, which was a very fun show as well.

As the title suggests, the show is about some IT workers (Information Technology). The main cast consists of one mostly sane buffoon, a super-stereotypical nerd/shut-in, and a decidedly not-nerd female character who works as a personal relations manager for the IT department. There is also a recurring character who is a stereotypical goth (i.e. listens to Cradle of Filth, but I don't think anyone on the show has ever actually heard a note of them. Not that they're missing out or anything.) I think I like that one (Richmond) the most. He's just so ridiculous that you can't help but love him.

For a geek show there isn't really that much in the way of nerdery. I expected there to be a lot of in-jokes and pop culture references, but there really aren't many instances of either. It mostly concentrates on the social foibles of the characters and their extremely odd personalities. Anyway, great fun. Just 12 half-hour episodes so far, so it's really worth giving it a shot.

05 August 2008


Another great Showtime show. Also another great drug-related show, with a somewhat similar premise to Breaking Bad. Nancy Botwin is a gorgeous soccer-mom turned marijuana dealer, instead of a terminal science teacher turned ecstasy cooker. It's not really a black comedy, mostly just a comedy I think. Lots of family issues and plot twists. I really like it.

The major attractions are obviously foxy Nancy herself, and the rather risky subject matter. The drug trade is put in almost a positive light. At least, Nancy seems to think it's alright. She won't do anything other than mary jane, but her moral compass is pretty weak beyond that.

All the characters are great; even the kids. They're not playing typical kids so I guess that helps. It's hard to get convincing kid actors.

I don't have a whole lot to say other than I'm really enjoying the show. I'm all caught up now, and the last episode was rather great because we got to see something previously hidden from view ;)

Starship Troopers 3

I watched this because a semi-favorable review popped up on Ain't it Cool News yesterday. I've seen the previous two films as well so I didn't expect much from this one; rightly so in many respects.

Like the first film, it's primarily a satire. Instead of just a mockery of the military, it also includes quite a bit of religion/Christianity bashing. It got a couple laughs out of me amidst the cringes of disgust. The horrible CGI and the shoddy acting made it mostly less than enjoyable.

However, I was pleased to see that somebody in the writer's corner had maybe actually read the book this time. There were several elements that were actually taken from the source material, like the mobile infantry suits and unappreciative locals. Overall the film is still nothing near an actual adaptation of the excellent book by Robert Heinlein. The director himself has admitted that he only read a couple chapters or so from the book for at least the first film. He got depressed and bored and gave up.

This is a direct-to-DVD release so I quality isn't something that should be expected anyway. It's mainly just good for a few laughs.