Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Chess x 4

Click here for a game of Four Person Chess that I won against all odds!

Friday, June 30, 2017

DCCU, Facing Problem it has Already Solved, Will Probably Make Problem Worse

We live in an amazing time to be a geek. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has created a new blueprint for continuity (or, at the very least, reinvented what Abbot and Costello hath started), and the rest of Hollywood is scrambling to catch up, including Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

Ask anyone who doesn't embrace Superman as a character what their beef is with the Man of Steel, and a large number of them will tell you it's that he's too powerful. What possible crisis can occur that Superman couldn't solve himself, seeing as he's the guy who can invent powers for himself at a whim (like super kissing, turning back time by reversing the Earth's rotation, turning his chest emblem into a kite-prison)? Forget the fact that the Flash is the real overpowered hero in that group (a post for another day), Superman has always been portrayed as unbeatable.

Having "killed" Superman at the end of the cinematic dumpster fire that was (I will never, ever type out in it's entirety ever again, so enjoy it while you can) Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the new Justice League movie will supposedly have the league take on Steppenwolf, son of Darkseid, without the Last Son of Krypton.

Shyeah, right. They didn't even let his death stand for the last ten minutes the movie they killed him in, as the last frames show the dirt thrown on his coffin rising up. They just needed him mostly dead so that he didn't just solve the problem and end the invasion within seconds by spinning around fast enough to create an invading army sized vortex or turning his spit curl into a world shattering whip. There are, to my estimation, two methods to prevent Superman from ruining any dramatic tension a movie could have.

1.) Stop giving him ridiculous powers. There is a reason in the comics for Superman to have whatever powers he needs to end a crisis: some Golden Age comic writers were lazy hacks. Do a Google search for Superman's ridiculous powers, and bask in the glory that is "hand-borne miniature duplicates."

2.) Let his death have lasting consequences. In the comics, the death of Superman was far more dramatic, as it was set up for weeks of issues featuring Doomsday slaughtering every hero who stood up to him, and the titanic final battle was suitably epic. And, as expected, Superman returned eventually (after four imposters made everyone guess who was the real Superman before revealing the answer was E. None of the Above), but he was drastically weaker. He actually needed Kryptonian Battle Armor to engage in his daring doing.

Sidebar: If Superman has Kryptonian Battle Armor that allows him to be nearly indestructible for the brief period of time that he isn't naturally so, why the Hell doesn't he loan that shit out to his friends that aren't immortal demigods? Selfish prick. End Sidebar.

So why spend 90% of the movie having the Justice League get wiped up by Steppenwolf's Parademons only to have Superman rise from the dead and turn the tide with his seismic crotch-thrusting or whatever other ridiculous power they give him? Why not have Supes show up at the very beginning, and when everyone marvels at how indestructible he is, have him reveal that his "death" has severely reduced his power levels? Maybe he can now only leap tall buildings in a single bound, rather than just fly. Maybe he is just really durable rather than bulletproof. Maybe he can only lift a tank, rather than an entire continent. Maybe he can only shoot lasers out of his eyes for brief bursts that drain his solar energy. Maybe a hundred other different ways they can make him vulnerable and unable to resolve world ending with a snap of his fingers.

No, they won't do that. By the end of the picture they will have him hoisting the planet over his shoulder with a knowing wink of his time-displacing eye lashes, and DC will be right back where they started from.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why Donald J. Trump Won

November 8, 2016 will definitely go down in history. Just not in the way that many people thought it would.

Many Americans are in mourning, as Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States. According to them, the gates of Hell have been opened, as Trump has already repealed Roe v. Wade, deported one trillion immigrants, re-instituted slavery, rounded up every last Muslim into death camps, sealed off the United States under an air-tight dome, and even now already patrols the streets of America with his rape gangs.

Well, not yet. But it's coming, damn it! Just you wait and see!

Let's do a reality check here. Let's consider, for a moment, those whose lives have been affected negatively by Donald Trump's actions: Jessica Leeds, Ivana Trump, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, four Miss Teen USA contestants, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Ninni Laaksonen, Cassandra Searles, Summer Zervos, and a friend of Erin Burnett. Let's tack on a dozen for the likely as of yet unreported inappropriate glances and gropes and misogynistic violations, and another random dozen for business contacts who got stung by dealing with Donald. He truly is a disgusting human being, and had no business even getting close to the Presidency.

And yet he won, and to discover why, we must look at his opponent's list of people who's lives have been negatively influenced by Hillary and Bill's actions: Kevin Ives, Don Henry, Kevin Coney, Gregory Collins, Kieth McKaskle, Jeff Rhodes, Richard Winters, Jordan Ketelson, Danny Casolaro, Florence Martin, Stanley Huggins, James Bunch, Victor and Monty Raiser, as well as the five others who died in that crash, the four Clinton Secret Service Guards who were transferred to the BATF just prior to being killed by friendly fire at Waco, Paul Wilcher, Vince Foster, Jon Walker, Luther Parks, Ronald Rogers, Gandy Baugh, the attorney for Dan Lassater, Kathy Ferguson, Bill Shelton, Ron Brown, his lawyer, and the 34 others on board the plane with them, James McDougal, Jerry Parks, John Ashe, Victor Thorn, Seth Rich, Shawn Lucas... those are just the ones who ended up dead by mysterious circumstances, and the only thing they all had in common is having the potential to stop a Clinton rise to power. And let's not forget Sue Coleman, Mary Mahoney, and Ed Willey, whose wife Kathleen accused Bill of groping her in the Oval Office, who all died and had one other thing in common; alleged sexual assault by Bill Clinton. No great champion of women's rights, this one. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, all of whom died under her watch in Benghazi, would doubtlessly think the right choice won.

And how many countless others were put in danger by her refusal to obey the rules, her carelessness with classified information, her arrogance that her way was the best way, despite the fact that others have been jailed for lesser crimes of negligence? How many more would have been put in danger by her ego and belief in her own infallibility? We may never know the answer to the first question, and hopefully will never have to know the answer to the second. Clinton's history of lies, including lying under oath to Congress, willful ignorance, and outright incompetence puts this nation in danger. Her flagrant disregard for the laws of this nation, and the corruption she exposed in dodging criminal prosecution by calling in political favors, puts this nation in danger.

They're seeking a scapegoat, a person to punish for the defeat of their champion, and as a vocal detractor of Clinton's, I am an easy target. But the truth here is that the Democratic National Convention is, itself, to blame for this defeat. Bernie Sanders was winning the popular vote for the nomination, yet Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary's other cronies conspired to shove a deeply flawed and highly despised candidate to the top, against the will of the party. If I were a Democrat, I would be enraged right now. Democrats, you have been cheated, and you should be furious at your party that stole this election from you. In propping up Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the media have stolen your rights away from you, and showed that what you want really doesn't matter to them. They alienated a good portion of your party, drove them into the arms of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. How many of the 9.4 million votes in Florida were Bernie supporters voting for Stein, or Johnson, or Trump, or writing in Bernie himself, just because they knew Hillary was evil incarnate? How many were people like me, life-long independent voters who broke tradition to vote for Obama and were left disappointed by the decided lack of hope and change? Those 29 Floridian electoral college votes would have put the race at 257-250 in favor of Democrats, if it was anyone else but Hillary. That was one state, and it could have turned this entire election. Imagine where else those votes would have come from with another, less disgusting Democrat in the race. Blame Hillary herself for being such a despicable piece of garbage, and for having so much shit for Sanders to dig up on her.

I cannot, in good conscience, blame the victims for the crime, but we must be careful to not allow the blame to fly in any other direction than the right one. Several of my Democratic "friends" have taken me to task for voting for Jill Stein, in a traditionally Blue state won by their blue candidate. This loss has nothing to do with me.

The dedicated Hillary supporters obeyed their programming and asked anyone and everyone to vote for their "nominee." When asking didn't work, they tried bullying. They broke the forbidden taboo, comparing Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler, a crime I myself have been guilty of, in my analogy of voting for Clinton because she's "not as bad" as Trump as being similar to voting for Pol Pot instead of Hitler. It's wrong, because it belittles the horrors of what happened in Nazi Germany not so long ago, and I have since apologized for that mistake. Yet the self same Democrats who have chided me in the past for such comparisons are lining up to decry the American Fuhrer. They demanded I not vote for Jill Stein, lest I be complicit in the rise of Trump. They begged me to abandon my morals and vote for the lesser of two evils. The thing is, when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil. And I, for one, question whether the lesser of two evils actually lost here. Dems whine "they've investigated her for 30 years, and they haven't been able to convict her!" Yeah, they had a hard time pinning anything on John Gotti too, until they did, and like Clinton, he owned (or murdered) most of the people who were investigating him. I, for one, don't really need to see the blazing fire when there is thirty years of fucking smoke.

The truth of the matter is, Trump is a pig, but nothing he has done has endangered this nation as a whole. People are scared, sure, but that was lingering long before Trump won. I have been scared by Black Lives Matter representatives that have called upon people to openly defy law enforcement and endorse murder. I have been scared by Muslims who come to this country seeking to destabilize and replace the American Way. I have been scared by refugees and illegal immigrants who are brought into this country and are given more rights and protections than our own citizens have been given. I have been scared that people were going to attack me for wishing them a "Merry Christmas," or saying "God Bless You" when they sneezed.

CNN's Van Jones has said "I have Muslim friends who are texting me ' should we leave the country?' " Well, Van, let's ask them a few questions: are they putting a foreign nation's well being above that of the United States and it's citizens? Are they here illegally, reaping benefits that our citizens don't even get to enjoy without paying for them? Are they looking to bring Sharia Law to America, destroy our way of life and replace it with theirs? If the answer to any of those questions is "yes," then, yes, indeed, they should probably leave pretty fast and think twice about coming back. Otherwise, stay put if that's what you want, but be sure to do so respectfully to those that were born here and their culture.

As the totals were coming in, Democrats were flabbergasted on social media, and when asked how this could be happening, one Clinton supporter lashed out "Because people do not have a mind of their own and draw conclusions based upon what the media pushes on them." She said this without a trace of fucking irony. To her, I say this: It is you who blindly support what your party vomits forth. It is you who have betrayed your country with your ignorant obedience, your mindless idolatry. You insist that others bend to your way of thinking, to sacrifice our morals, our values, and help support your self-appointed dictator. If you knew yesterday what you know now, that Hillary would not- could not- win, which would you vote for? Donald Trump, or Jill Stein? Donald Trump, or Gary Johnson? Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders? Donald Trump, or literally anyone-fucking-else? You had a chance to avoid Donald Trump taking power, you blew it by latching on to the one choice that was less palatable than Trump, by refusing to go outside the two-party boxes and vote for a candidate that is a decent, moral human being, rather than desperately trying to make history with the absolute worst example of someone who deserves to be a part of history. There is no one else for you to blame. It is your stubborn refusal to do what is right for the country, rather than what is right for Hillary Clinton, that has created this mess. It isn't racism. It isn't sexism. It isn't homophobia, or xenophobia, or triskaidekaphobia. It's Politiciacorruptaphobia.

This is not a victory, it is an embarrassing black eye on the history of the nation. Blame Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Blame the legion of smug liberal celebrities who "guaranteed" that this wouldn't happen, assuming the people were going to be good subservient robots and vote in their insider. Blame Hillary Clinton for being Hillary Clinton. Blame everyone who voted for her, and insisted we vote for her as well lest we be labeled minions of the Antichrist, who created an insulting stigma about voting our conscience.

Now, we must move forward. This should serve as a wakeup call for Democrats everywhere. You have a choice: demand your party tear down the corrupt hierarchy and rebuild with decent candidates who don't murder their detractors, or put Hillary up again, and lose again. This election should have been a God-damned slam dunk for the Democratic Party! They were running against a racist cartoon of a man, a virtual Yosemite Sam (Anti-Semite Sam?), an angry misogynistic buffoon, but they decided to let the Wicked Witch push her way into the race, and they lost spectacularly for it. Next time, demand that your party put forth a proper candidate who has your best interests in mind, rather than a walking $12,000 pants-suit full of cockroaches and shrieking bats, and if they refuse, vote for a different fucking candidate! I hear a lot of people saying now is the time for this nation to come together. It's true, because the sooner we come together and unify under a just, moral, and decent potential candidate, the sooner we can tell Donald Trump "You're Fired!" Just do not insist that I sacrifice my morals and values to vote for any evils.

One silver lining here is that America still has a chance to elect our first female President and have it be someone worthy of the honor. Maybe it's Jill Stein, maybe not. So long as it isn't a corrupt soul like Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Top 9 “Beloved Classic” Songs That Radio Needs To Stop Playing (And the Songs They Should Play In Their Place)

Music, like any form of art, is a subjective medium. What some may hear as a pleasant arrangement of chords and melodies set to an interesting beat others may consider less pleasant than the sound a squirrel makes when you run it through a dull wood-chipper. Or Yoko Ono.

It’s everywhere around us. To many, music has become so ubiquitous that they stop listening and simply hear it without giving any thought to its structure, meaning, or direction. To others, however, each piece holds its own unique story, lesson, or parable to be dissected, devoured, and digested like a squirrel found in ragged chunks next to Yoko Ono.

As such, there are songs that have become staples on the radio, considered hits by many, that are played in regular rotation on niche stations that deal exclusively in the hits of a given genre or decade. “Radio listeners” turned themselves into “radio hearers,” and have kept some of these pieces alive and moving longer than they were meant to exist, like a musical zombie shambling across our radio dials. We hereby present for your consideration nine beloved classics that need to be put down, where their specific faults lie, and alternative tracks that would be better suited to carry their load.

1. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” – by Aretha Franklin

Problems: Repetition, Tragic Stupidity

Recorded in 1984, the title track of Aretha Franklin’s first platinum album peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Charts in 1985, and features heavily in 80’s radio station’s rotations.

Looking at the lyrics, the word “Zoomin’” appears in this song 41 times. With a song length of 4:44, that means there is one instance of “zoomin’” every 6.92 seconds, which sounds more like a NASCAR event than a track from the Queen of Soul. When you consider that each instance is book-ended by the word “who” (with an extra one thrown into another lyric), that means that in a span of 284 seconds, Aretha asks the universal question “Who?” a whopping 83 times, or once every 3.42 seconds. One would normally have to go to production of Tommy performed and attended entirely and exclusively by a parliament of owls to get that kind of output. If we asked anyone the same question every 3.42 seconds, we would expect to get slapped until our cake-holes stopped producing sound, not awarded with a Grammy. This is the musical equivalent of the “Most Annoying Sound Ever” contest from Dumb and Dumber. And what in blue-Hell is “zoomin’,” anyway? The song itself defines it as “foolin’.” Why not simply ask “Who’s foolin’ who?” Is the song about infidelity? Sexual aggression? Driving really fast? Whatever it is, Aretha doesn’t seem to understand, as she continually asks who is doing it, and to whom.

Replacement: If you want an 80’s song about infidelity, why not give a listen to Oran “Juice” Jones’ “The Rain?” It's a song about a man who catches his girl cheating and blows up her spot in the breakdown, and a hell of a lot more entertaining than listening to the confused screeching of someone who isn’t quite sure about the subject of her own song.

2. “My Heart Will Go On” – by Celine Dion

Problems: Belabored Sentimentality, Excessive Length, Clumsy Language

If there is an exemplar of over-dramatization, her name is CĂ©line Marie Claudette Dion. The love theme for James Cameron’s Titanic reached number 1 on Billboard’s Top 100 on February 28, 1998, and spent twenty grueling weeks suffocating us like a fat aunt giving that uncomfortably long hug at Christmas. It still gets played on adult contemporary stations and any station that regularly uses the word “Love” and does not immediately follow it with “Gun.”

When I typed “My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion” into the search engine, it said “Showing results for 'Slowly Drowning In Sap.' ” The theme song for James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic (which managed to make a story about the most famous wreck in the history of ocean voyages into a footnote in some teenagers extended first date diary), My Heart Will Go On is guaranteed to disrupt anyone’s good time. It clocks in at 4:41 (5:11 if you’re listening to the soundtrack; her heart really does go on… and on… and on…) and the chorus is more like Grover from Sesame Street describing the function of a pacemaker in a fresh corpse than any kind of genuine sentiment expressed by people who actually love each other. Legend has it that the word “cloying” spontaneously appeared in dictionaries everywhere at the exact moment this song was recorded. By the way, there are exactly two instances when this much flute is acceptable in a movie; the training sequence in The Karate Kid, and any appearance of Ron Burgundy.

Replacement: If you want a song about a shipwreck, there’s no finer choice than Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Although the video does not feature Kate Winslet’s naked torso, it does have the distinct advantage of not featuring Kate Winslet's acting.

3. “Shine” – by Collective Soul

Problems: Repetition, Simplicity, Annoying Insistence

Also known as that crunchy song where the guitar stops and the guy says “Yueah!”, this song reached as high as number 4 on Billboard's Alternative Songs Chart in 1994 before crashing on our couch and eating all our Cheetos while watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Cinemax.

Shine suffers from an identity crisis. Guitarist Dean Roland describes the chorus as “basically a prayer,” but the group vehemently denies they are a Christian Band. The repetition of the chorus’ only line over and over and over is like a rosary of poorly written prose, and its uninventive and uninspiring guitar work would make Mother Teresa spit on anyone daring to call it a riff. Aside from its repetitive religious pleadings, the remainder of the song is reminiscent of a rejected script for Dora the Explorer;

Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find…

Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky…

Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there…

For the love of your/not your God, Shine, can you not do anything yourself? For 3:55 (5:07 on the album cut) you nag us to show you, teach you and lay you. Doesn’t the Lord teach that he helps those who help themselves? Plus, any song that is a favorite of self-absorbed delusional emo fuckwads who shoot up their schools needs to be retired.

Replacement: If you’d like a song with vague religious references that actually features skillful guitar playing, we cannot stress enough how “Snow (Hey Oh)” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers will light you up like a votive candle.

4. & 4A. “It’s Alright,” & “But It’s Alright” – both by Huey Lewis and the News

Problems: Unnecessary Remakes of Inferior Quality

No, that’s not a typo. In 1993, Huey Lewis & The News released an acapella cover of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions’ “It’s Alright.” They had such a good time with it, they decided they wanted to do it again, so they found another song with the same title, and did it again in 1994, releasing their cover of J.J. Jackson’s “But It’s Alright.” Line up those two songs, it sounds suspiciously like a college student trying desperately to assuage the burgeoning fears of his eventual date-rape victim.

The songs themselves aren’t bad; the originals are both excellent tracks by competent musicians. The question is, why would they allow a human scarecrow like Lewis to handle their product? “It’s Alright” was Lewis asking the question “what would it sound like if we took all the instruments- and fun, charm, and joy- out of this song?” Acapella done correctly is a fantastic, beautiful thing. The News version sounds like acapella done by a wedding band that was stationed a little too closely to the open bar.

At least that was an attempt to give the song a different feel. With “But It’s Alright,” they didn’t even bother to change a thing except for the tempo, which is sped up by about a billionth of a second.

Check this out.

It’s a YouTube Doubling of the songs played next to each other. Sure, you have to fiddle with it a little bit, pause the Huey Lewis track for about half a second or so in the beginning, and they eventually separate again, but for a few brief, shining moments, you’re listening to the exact… same… track. So why bother?

Replacements: If you want to hear these songs, why not listen to the songs the way that God (and Collective Soul- or maybe not) wanted you to hear them?

The Impressions lay it down with “It’s All Right”

J.J. Jackson’s 1966 recording of “But It’s Alright”

5 (4B?). If You Don't Know Me By Now – by Simply Red or Seal, depending on the source of the transmission

Problems: Unnecessary Remake of Inferior Quality, Depressing

Speaking of unnecessary remakes, this song is on all the time, and which version you hear depends on what stations you listen to (Simply Red, 80's niche stations; Seal, more modern stations). Neither version is as good as the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes original, which isn't really that uplifting to begin with. Basically, our relationship sucks, and I see no way that it'll get better. Yeah, that's a rockin' way to get your Saturday afternoon started!

Replacement: If you want a song that questions how well you know someone, witness the perfect storm of comedy: Ludacris' You Don't Know Me Like That, as featured in the closing credits of the sublime comedy hit Tropic Thunder. Does it get any better? I say thee nay.

6. "What if God Was One of Us?" – by Joan Osborne

Problems: Depressing, Belabored Deceased Equine Battery

An interesting question, instantly rendered inane by sub-par song structure. The repetition is staggering: 252 words, 10% of them are the word "yeah". The only song relying on "yeah" more than this one is She Loves You, by the Beatles, which was, like, the first song ever written, and is actually a good, upbeat song, not a slog through a rainy funeral.

I imagine this song as a conversation between two people at a party, laying in lawn chairs and looking up at the night sky;

Party Goer One: "Hey... what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home?"
Party Goer Two: "Wow, man... that's deep."
PG1: "Like, what's his name? Yeah... And would you use it, or call him Sir, or your holiness, or something like that?"
PG2: "Good questions. The great unknowable truth of it all."
PG1: "Yeah... yeah... God is great. What does God's face look like? Would you want to see it if it meant you had to convert?"
PG2: "I dunno, I guess. I'm sure he looks pretty good."
PG1: "Yeah... yeah. Does he get texts? Isn't he lonely? Who calls him? Maybe the Pope, in Rome."
PG2: "I don't know. I'm gonna go see if there's anything left to eat."
PG1: "God is great, man. I mean, he's really good. What if he's one of us?"
PG2: "You know what, keep the weed. I'm out."

Replacement: If you want to hear a song about God and his greatest creation, how about Wonder by Natalie Merchant? It presents a unsolved mystery that makes you ponder the existence of God while actually being somewhat upbeat and intellectually stimulating (what is it about the narrator that makes her so wondrous? Can she fly? Does she have a third eye in her forehead? Can she explain common core math without using imaginary words?).

7. "What is Love?" – by Haddaway

Problems: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Tragic Stupidity, Repetition, Repetition

Stop looking for a link, you know God-Damned well what song I'm talking about. This turd filet topped the charts in 11 fucking countries, and hit #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 based on it's use in a terribly derivative Saturday Night Live sketch. This song is proof that it really doesn't matter what you sing about, people don't use their higher brain functions at a club.

Two hundred forty-eight words. "What is love" is repeated 14 times (although it feels more like forty) which is 42 of those words. "Don't hurt me" doubles that up, taking up 84 more words. "Baby" and "no more" each make 13 appearances, wiping out another 39 words. The ever-popular "Yeah" rears it's head three times. Word count for those ten unique words: 168. That leaves 80 remaining words. Two thirds of the lyrics are the same ten words repeated ad nauseam. Good gravy, someone put a bullet in me.

Replacement: If you want to hear a song asking a simple philosophical question, listen to What is Life? by George Harrison. You'll get amazingly talented musicians rocking your face off rather than carpal tunnel syndrome of the ear.

8. "Breakout" – by Swing Out Sister

Problems: Repetition, Confusion

This song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It reached number four in the UK in 1986, number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart in 1987. Meanwhile, can anyone tell me what the blue-fuck this song is about?

Don't start to ask
And now you've found a way to make it last
You've got to find a way
Say what you want to say
And breakout
Lay down the law
Shout out for mre
Breakout and shout
Day in, day out
And breakout

If you repeat that three times, you've pretty much sung the song (and probably have a semi-serious head wound, so seek treatment). There are other words, but they make as little sense as the chorus.

Replacement: If you want a song about rebelling against authority (my best guess at a meaning for this crap) listen to the wicked talent Idina Menzel defy gravity. She's got an amazing voice for the ages, and the song is so much more enjoyable to listen to in every way. Plus she's hot.

9. Sussudio – by Phil Collins

Problems: Repetition, Tragic Mind-Rending Stupidity, Clumsy Language

If you haven't already in life, go to The guy is raucous, profane, irreverent, and hilarious. Among one of his many long-standing crusades is informing the world of how talent-less Phil Collins is. I don't know if I agree with that statement, I feel he is a somewhat competent drummer and his work with Genesis was pretty tight. But boy, if he was judged solely by this piece of music, he would have been drawn and quartered ages ago.

How this dumpster fire reached number one on the U.S. Billboard chart is beyond me. The title is a nonsense filler word that Collins improvised while playing with a drum machine, meant to be a place holder until he could come up with something better. He never did, the lazy bastard. It's rare that the first draft of ANYTHING ever makes it to the final stage, and that's for a good reason. The meaningless of the word just points out how meaningless the song itself is. He just smashed a drum machine with the keyboards from Prince's 1999 and a nonsense word and lead off an album with it. Phil himself has stated it's a song about an imaginary crush. This song shows that even an imaginary love can be unrequited, because no one can love this pile of abortions.

Replacement: If you want a song about an imaginary crush, try either Beautiful by James Blunt or On My Own by any of the actresses to play Eponine in Les Miserables.

There are many more, and as long as they make music the clueless general public will continue to buy the shittiest examples of it. Post in the comments below if you have a least favorite fan favorite.

P.S., I own none of the rights to any music posted here, and I claim no credit for any of these works. Links used without permission.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

This Post May Change Your Life (Or Bore You To Death)

Hello, people of Earth. 

My name is Kenn Beck.

I'm an American artist in my 40's, and I'm here today because I felt driven to share something with you. 

I'm warning some of you you right now, what I have to say will shock, anger, or offend you. If you are the type of person who gets shocked, angered and offended by someone speaking their opinion on touchy subjects, then I'll wait a few seconds for you to close your browser window or click on a link to a video of cute fluffy kittens or something. Because no one likes being told they are wrong about a central tenet of their life, especially by some dorky guy on the internet. 

I mean, look at me: what's up with my hairline? Why does it look like I just ate a crate full of Pop Tarts? Did I shave with a dull spoon? 

I get it. I just do not look like the type of person that's about to bust into your brain-scape and challenge your preconceptions about matters that have dominated your way of thinking since the day you were conceived.

Nevertheless, here I am, and here we go.

Religion. You're doing it wrong.

Wait. I sense a great disturbance in the Force. It's as if a million souls clucked their tongues, rolled their eyes, and shook their heads disapprovingly all at once.

Let me explain where I'm coming from.

I was born into a Catholic family, but I am a bad Catholic. I drink. I cuss. I covet. I have anger management issues, an irreverent sense of humor, and hate and question many of God's creatures (Like slugs. Why, God, Why?)

I am as lapsed as Artie Lange's gym membership. I was still hazy about the differences between Catholic and Christian until I just Google/Binged them for the purposes of this discussion. I only go to the Catholic Church for baptisms, communions, weddings and funerals. 

I was dragged as a child to a few Latin Masses, where I was forced to kneel on concrete floors in a poorly ventilated basement and pray for my soul. In retrospect, my dad may have been trying to make us appreciate regular, above-ground churches with their carpets and padded kneeling benches and windows and fresh air.

I became an ordained minister over the internet as a joke and my first act was to bless the drinks of my friends at a local pub that night.

I have a very logic-oriented mind. I am great at spatial relationships, puzzling things out, and putting together the pieces of any puzzle. I fancy myself to have a keen detective's mind, much like Batman, without the spandex body armor, olympic level athletic prowess or billionaire lifestyle. I love me some science. 

The problem I have faced for much of my life is that what I have been taught academically and what I have been taught religiously never seemed to be able to get along with each other. 

The Bible (yes, I've read it) says that the Earth was created in six days, yet science tells us that it's billions of years old, and that mankind has only been around for a fraction of it. I believe the evidence I've seen of the existence of dinosaurs, yet there was no verse in Genesis where the Lord created the velociraptor. 

There are some that have tried to deny that dinosaurs ever existed. They, according to these folks (some of which I may or may not be related to), are a creation of those seeking to discredit the Bible. Why do I believe in scientific fact, they ask? Because I was told to, by scientists, they say.

If I had a job sitting down and looking at black jelly beans all day, then I will very likely come up with theories and hypotheses and calculations supporting why the study of black jelly beans is important, and you should trust me on it, because I am the foremost expert on the study of black jelly beans, seeing as how I have devoted my life to the study of black jelly beans. 

Of COURSE science tells us to take science as science. Because science! But they're doing it because they don't know the truth about God. At least, that's what these certain people have to say about it. 

I have a hard time with that. Because, ultimately, they are telling me that these people, who's theories are backed up by consistent results in countless tests over hundreds of years, are wrong, because other people, who have held certain beliefs for hundreds of years, BELIEVE that they're wrong. 

My logical mind refuses to accept the OPINION, the BELIEF, that black jelly beans do not exist when I am presented with evidence of their delicious existence (their deliciousness being another controversial topic, sadly).

I lack that ability to just accept something as fact without seeing some kind of concrete quantifiable evidence that can be repeated under controlled conditions. I believe those in the know call it "faith."

I lack faith. And the sad part is, I pity myself for that, because I know faith makes so many people around the world happy. I envy people for their faith. For their trust in a force that cannot be quantified, cannot be commanded, examined, or analyzed. I wish I could shut off the part of my brain that screams "prove it."

Since the moment I was able to look sideways at someone for trying to convince me that a guy with a beard could turn water into wine and come back from the dead because a book said he could, I have identified myself to any who should inquire as an Agnostic. Definition: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable, or more broadly, one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god. (Thank you, Merriam Webster.)

I do not object to the concept of religion, mind you. I have dated girls of several religions and spiritual alignments, and I've never shied away from a deep conversation about how their beliefs differ from what I've been told my beliefs were. I LOVE hearing about all the wondrous things that religions promise. And I secretly wish I could suck a little of their faith form them and keep it for myself.

The problem I have is that I have not seen any religion to date that doesn't have at least one rule or credo or commandment that makes me say "wait, WHAT?!"

Killing in the name of whatever god you believe in, first and foremost, is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard of. If your god exists, and he's as all powerful as you claim he is, I think he can handle his own smiting, and he'll be far more efficient than you ever could be, meat-suit. He won't take innocents as collateral damage. 

Blowing up marketplaces, burning witches, torturing people until they claim they believe in the same invisible man that you do, shooting people in a subway, flying airplanes into buildings, nailing people to wooden structures and leaving them to die, murdering people who try to draw a picture of the star of one of your holy stories... you're really just an embarrassment. It would be like telling a six year old to drive down to McDonalds and get you a Big Mac. If your god wants them dead, he'll kill them. I'd think he'd be more pissed at your assuming that he couldn't do the job himself.

Denying people the same freedoms you yourself enjoy based on their gender, the color of their skin, the place that they were born, the people they choose to spend their lives with or who they choose to talk to when they look into the sky is pathetic and elitist. If your god didn't want women to be able to read, he wouldn't have allowed them to evolve eyes (or bothered shaping them from Adam's rib, or whatever your sacred creation myths tell you). 

If you cling to a book nineteen hundred years old, and use it to defend your crusade against homosexuals being allowed to marry or even engage in their lifestyle of choice, while ignoring the fact that the same book also tells us that selling one's daughter into indentured servitude is acceptable, you are a hypocrite. And frankly, if you DO believe selling your daughter into indentured servitude is acceptable, you're an asshole, and probably shouldn't be allowed to have a daughter in the first place.

"Love thy neighbor as you would love thyself, unless he's too poor to afford insurance and you'd have to buy a smaller, off-brand TV because part of your paycheck is going to socialized medicine to help pay for his cancer treatments, in which case, fuck him," do I have that right? Every life is sacred from the moment of conception right up until the moment it would cost you an extra 1% of your six figure salary to help keep it from being homeless. 

Or the other end of the street, where the rights of a child too young to even draw breath on it's own are less important than the rights of a three time sex offender to get a college education for free. The sentinels of liberty who make it possible for a person, injured while attempting to make a quick escape after stealing from your house, to be the plaintiff in a personal injury case against their victims. 

The champions of free speech, who will fight endlessly for your right to say anything you want, as long as it's not on the list of words that people don't want to hear because it makes someone feel less special than everyone else. The ones who fight for the right to believe in any god they choose, but forbid people from praying in schools and government buildings because someone might disagree with which invisible man they're talking to.

We live in a world where people firebomb abortion clinics, then complain about paying for assistance programs for the children they were trying to save, and then profit from the process of trying to get these children into loving homes.

Look, I understand why people feel the need to analyze and interpret the scriptures of their given religion, in an attempt to understand the will of their god. What I don't get is why many of those people feel the need to try to impose their interpretation of their god's will on others. You disagree with my choice to listen to thrash metal? Oh well. You're going to pray for my sinful soul? Hey, thanks! I don't know if an all-powerful deity who can create an entire cosmos farther than humanity can even conceive needs advice from you on whether or not I am a good person, but I appreciate you putting in the extra effort in my name. I owe you one; let me know next time you need a party invitation designed or something, I'll try to hook you up gratis. 

Oh, wait, you're telling me I am going to Hell and your god hates me? Gee, that's not very nice. Are you sure your god wants you yelling at people and damning them to Hell? I though he was more about the love and forgiveness. Are you sure you're not just falsely representing your own fear and ignorance as the feelings of your chosen lord? Seems like the kind of thing a powerful man might look down upon.

I'm tired of it. I have finally come to the point where I realized I'm jealous of people who spend their days trying to make people feel bad because they don't believe in the same invisible man. I've been enviously chasing people who live by the words of documents written hundreds of years after their documented sources have died. I've been wishing for the ability to abandon the ability to think for myself.

No more.

Because I think I might have stumbled upon the secret. 

As an artist, I have often created pieces of artwork that make no logical sense to me. Slapped paint on a canvas and watched it drip, fascinated by the shapes it created as it traced its way down the canvas. Pushed brushes through it in no logical direction save for a vague idea in my head about a certain formation or effect I might want to see. I created that art, not to gain notoriety or fame, but because I saw something I could not grasp and wanted proof it existed. I made my own proof. I brought it into existence.

And I see that in the universe as well.

Nebulae, galaxies, sunsets and sunrises, mountains, streams, oceans, fields of colorful flowers, narrow paths through dense forests. I see beautiful patterns, most seemingly random, that fill me with feelings of awe and tranquility, a soothing stillness in my core. Who created these? Who is the artist on whose canvas I wander? Obviously it is someone who can work on a much larger scale than any artist I know. And his palette kicks some serious ass.

Someone created this. They may not be an actual person; they may just be a collection of forces and energies that guided chemical reactions. 

Social convention dictates that we assign names to topics of discussion to keep things brief and avoid confusion, and when you name something there is always the likelihood that someone is going to anthropomorphize it into a human-like being. So I'm going to concede that this creator, this force, is commonly referred to as a being, and for the sake of brevity, I'll just borrow a name from what my parents tried to instill within me. I'll call him God, this being that I'm choosing to acknowledge, just so we have a common frame of reference. 

And because until the end of time itself, some people are going to cling to their beliefs, even should they be proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt to everyone else, I'll further concede that there will never be a universal consensus as to which version of God is the right one, and therefore refer to the god I am speaking of as "my" God, even though I hold no claim on his creation and expect no credit for his works.

I also make no claim that "my" God and YOUR god are not the same person; they may well be, though I will leave that judgment to the judgmental. 

The God I envision, "my" God, is a painter who has created a canvas beyond vast, and has offered it up to any who would look and enjoy what they might find in it.

"My" God wants people to understand that beauty is everywhere, in everyone, and that that is to be celebrated. Accept compliments. Recognize beauty, in all its forms, be it physical, intellectual, spiritual, even if that recognition is a simple sincere smile. If you see someone smile at you, smile back. 

"My" God doesn't need us to go to daily prayer meetings, or weekly masses, or to genuflect at a specific time of day. He has no single sacred place or time. His church is the universe, his holy day is today, and tomorrow, and yesterday. He doesn't take attendance, and he doesn't require you to wear anything special or expensive. When you see a mountain and gaze in wonder, you are praying to him. When you smile at someone on the streets, that's his amen.

"My" God isn't limited by the human condition. He can be whatever he decides to be. He knows that this may be confusing to those of us who base a person's worth on their gender, race, color, geographic location, or income, but appreciates that there are some of us willing to recognize that as both our father and mother, he can be a she. He certainly doesn't get mad when someone refers to him as a her, and certainly doesn't need you correcting people about it.

"My" God doesn't want people to lie about important things, to be genuine about themselves, appreciate when others are genuine about themselves, know that none of us are perfect, and wants us to accept that about ourselves and others.

"My" God has a sense of humor. He cherishes laughter and happiness. If you're making someone laugh, you're making someone happy. He especially likes it when people are willing to laugh at themselves. Being the willing butt of a joke is a gift to all those who get a laugh from that joke.

"My" God views us all as equals. We're all beautiful. We're all brilliant souls that burn like stars for a short time before flickering out, and should be viewed with awe and wonder.

"My" God wants people to be happy, but not at the expense of happiness of others. If you're happy and you have the ability to make someone else happy, do it. If making someone else happy is what makes you happy, so much the better. But don't go through life banking on the suffering of others. If you're happiness comes from the fact that others cannot be happy, then you're doing it wrong. If you profit from the suffering of others, you're doing it wrong.

"My" God loves random acts of kindness. He loves when people tape a dollar to a vending machine for the next person to use, or pay for the coffee of the person behind them in line. He loves it when a struggling single mother still puts a few pennies in a charity box. He loves it when someone gives up their coat to a shivering person. He is saddened by those who continue to amass wealth beyond their needs when others lie in the streets suffering, simply because they can.

"My" God chuckles when we mention "karma." He likes the name, but doesn't see how we don't get it, that when we enjoy the suffering of others, even if they call it upon themselves, we too are finding joy in the misery of others. Recognize it, yes, but don't roll around in it. 

"My" God is not in charge of when and why every single person dies. He doesn't have have a "divine plan" for every soul. He doesn't take children away from their parents, and he doesn't strike people down with disease to teach lessons. He's just as shocked and saddened by sudden, senseless killings as we all are. He's just as saddened by those who linger and suffer as those who love them. But he does welcome those innocents who died by violence and tragedy into his home and gives them shelter, and he does welcome those who have finally passed from suffering and eases their pain. He knows our hearts, and doesn't base his decisions on who he welcomes on how long it has been since they've eaten a wafer or whether or not they've dunked their heads in a river (or had it forced upon them).

"My" God understands the human attachment we feel for those in our immediate circles, and the grief we experience with their passing. But he wants us to celebrate their life as well, and not be afraid to share happy times and memories about that person, even in the process of mourning their physical passing. 

"My" God wants people to cherish every life, not just their own. He is saddened by people getting abortions when there are others unable to bring children into this world, and compares it to a thirsty man watching someone let water pour into the ground because carrying it is inconvenient. He is also saddened that there are those who would let this happen because the cost of bringing those people together to solve each other's problems is too high, or threatens their own pocketbook, and views that as someone who is too self-centered to just give the thirsty man a bottle of water without needing to make a profit.

"My" God doesn't want anyone to want to kill anyone. He also understands that some people demonstrate depraved indifference towards the life of others, and that we may need to kill them so that others might not suffer. We should not enjoy their deaths, we should mourn them as we mourn the lives they took.

"My" God certainly doesn't want you killing anyone in his name, especially for using his name, painting his portrait, or describing him. He likes to see what kind of creative images and stories people come up with. Every parent cherishes their children's artwork. And if he wants someone dead in his name, he can handle that himself. But he doesn't enjoy it, and we shouldn't either.

That's "my" God. He might be yours, too, and you just don't know it. He's a pretty neat guy, the Creator Of Life. Col, to his friends (and we're all his friends, if we want to be (he's kinda chill like that)).

When I finally die, whatever constitutes my soul will be met by Col. I like to think he'll look at me and what I've done in my life, the kind of man I've tried to be, and nod. 

"I could have been better," I'll lament. 

"Of course you could have," he'll reply, "but you were good enough. Come on in. We have black jelly beans."