Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Xmas Xtravaganza of Xmusic: Day 4 (by Dave Machado)

It's officially the Holiday season so I thought I would start a new series to help guide us safely to Xmas Day (where we celebrate the birth of Jason X). Each day, I will showcase one song that I enjoy as a way to expand upon the list of Holiday music you listen to each year. I'll also give you a few fun facts about each song to help you appreciate the significance of it.

Day 4:
All I Want For Christmas Is You (by Mariah Carey)

"Make my wish come true/All I want for Christmas is you!"

I have returned from my Thanksgiving induced food coma to continue this important series. After missing a few days, I figured it was time to bring out the big guns (boob pun). Say what you will, but I have a real soft spot for this song. I don't care for the rest of her Christmas album (except Joy to the World) but this song alone makes the existence of it crucial to the enjoyment of the Holiday season. I tend to enjoy lots of cynical anti-Christmas songs (I love the holiday, but cynicism always wins out over Merriness and Joy) but this is a good example of a great modern Christmas song that actually celebrates the holiday (without being all "Christ-y").

Fun Facts:

  • Mariah Carey released a new Christmas album this year.
    • Sub Fun Fact: No one cares.
  • When I sing this song in my car, I am most likely singing to a DVD Box Set I have my eye on.
  • This song plays an important part in the movie Love Actually, which is a movie I love about 1000x more than I should. Seriously, I watch it every Christmas season.

You're Welcome,


Previous Days:

Day 1 (Christmas Night of the Zombies - MxPx)
Day 2 (Christmas Tree - Lady Gaga)
Day 3 (Santa Claus is Coming to Town - The Pointer Sisters)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Xmas Xtravaganza of Xmusic: Day 3 (by Dave Machado)

It's officially the Holiday season so I thought I would start a new series to help guide us safely to Xmas Day (where we celebrate the birth of Jason X). Each day, I will showcase one song that I enjoy as a way to expand upon the list of Holiday music you listen to each year. I'll also give you a few fun facts about each song to help you appreciate the significance of it.

Day 3: Santa Claus is Coming to Town (by The Pointer Sisters)

"He sees you when you're sleeping./He knows when you're awake."

I have loved this song since it appeared on A Very Special Christmas in 1987. This cassette would get played the most during Christmas season at my house, and I'm pretty sure I learned all the words to every song. But no song on that tape held a special place in my heart like The Pointer Sisters' version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It's a wonderful bit of 80s cheese and provides a fun nostalgia trip every time I listen to it (which during Christmas season, is a LOT!). The song is fun enough to make you forget about the weird stalkerish tones regarding how much Santa is watching you all the time. He's behind you now!

Fun Facts:
  • The line near the beginning "I want a BICYCLE" is the greatest line in the history of Christmas songs.
  • Since it was the 1980s, the snow used in the music video for this song was pure cocaine.
  • Santa no longer visits June Pointer. She died in 2006.

You're Welcome,

Previous Days:

Dave's Secret Family Recipe of "To Die For Stuffing"

Thanksgiving is the one time of year where Americans decide to throw caution to the wind and overeat. It's a great way to give thanks for all you have been given in life by showing how little you care about things like longevity and cholesterol levels. We Americans (if you are not an American, please stop reading this now) spend so much time watching what we eat all year that it's only fair for us to have one day where we cut loose (like the seams on our sweatpants). Now there are lots of things people look forward to during Thanksgiving meal: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, racist comments from your weird uncle who lives downstairs with his guitars, and of course squash. But what really gets my tummy rumbling (besides my crippling ulcers) is stuffing!

Stuffing is easily the greatest part of Thanksgiving. Everyone has that one family member who makes it just right and every year you count down the days until you can chow down until the only thing you feel is the sadness of there being no more stuffing. Now I know just reading about this has caused you to start salivating while you fantasize about that delicious dish of bread mashed together with spices and other random items but I have some surprising news for you. My family possesses the recipe for the greatest stuffing known to man! I'll allow a minute for that to sink in... Now that your jaw is back off the ground, let me tell you even better news. I have decided, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to share that recipe with you today. So fire up that stove, roll up those sleeves, and make sure that creepy uncle is away at "band practice" because it's time to get cookin'!

Items you will need:
  • Box of Cheez-Its (1)
  • Salt (Lots)
  • Pepper (Lots)
  • Butter (stick)
  • Turkey (Raw)
First, take the box of Cheez-its and open it up. Remove the plastic bag that is filled with the delicious bits of baked cheese and cut open the top. Take a minute to breathe in the scent. Once you have properly smelled the cheese, look in the empty cardboard box around the side to see if you are in instant winner. If so, please send me the box. Pour the Cheez-its into a large Ziploc freezer bag and seal the bag shut.

Next, think about something that makes you very angry. Maybe a nasty break-up, that promotion you were overlooked for even though you clearly put in the time and hard work but maybe didn't feel comfortable playing High School level backstabbing politics, or even your own mortality. In any case, get nice and riled up. Now begin taking out your aggression on that bag of Cheez-its. Keep pounding away until the Cheez-its are in nice little pieces. Don't continue for too long though, you don't want them to be mashed into a thin powder. There still needs to be some consistency to them or else the texture of the stuffing will be thrown off. If you reach the ideal point of mashed Cheez-its but still have some aggression left over, try to bottle that back inside and forget about it until a later day (or Thanksgiving meal after 3 glasses of wine).

Now you can pour the contents of the Ziploc bag into a bowl. What? It won't pour?  Oh sorry, open up the Ziploc bag first and then pour the contents into a large mixing bowl. Its understood that Cheez-its have a natural level of saltiness but since this is Thanksgiving after all, let's add a bit more. Take a good amount of salt (a can will do) and pour that into the bowl. It's OK, don't be a pussy, really get that salt in there. Once that is done, throw some pepper in there as well for seasoning. Not too much, or you will reenact a comical cliche and sneeze so hard all the contents of the bowl will be scattered all over the kitchen floor. 

Ready to do some actual stuffing? Well slow down because we are not ready yet! Take the stick of butter and plop it in the middle of the mix. Place the bowl in a microwave and let it heat for about 30 seconds. Then remove the bowl from the microwave and, using a large mixing spoon, mix up the melted butter and hot seasoned Cheez-it bits, making sure the butter gets soaked in. Now go sit down for a second. Are you sitting? Good, because now it's time to do some stuffing!

Take your turkey and make sure the inside of it is nice and empty. Try screaming "Hello" into it and if you hear an echo, you are good to go. If you hear a response, please throw that turkey out and go buy a new one because you got yourself a haunted turkey. Once you have confirmed the turkey is ready for stuffing, put on some mood music. I suggest some Barry White or Josh Groban. Once that is done, try lighting a scented candle. My favorite is Apple Orchard. You can now begin spooning the mix into the turkey. Take your time though, there is no need to rush things. I got all day. 

Once completed, pick up the turkey and shake it side to side a bit, making sure all those raw turkey juices really get soaked into the stuffing mix. You may even want to put something a little more fast paced on the stereo for this, like Benny Hill music. Once complete, gently put the turkey back down and go have a cigarette while you let everything get nice and comfy up in that bird.

Once you finish your smoke, go back to the kitchen. I'm sure you think you are done and can now just cook the turkey but you are gravely mistaken. (Such a typical female response. Oh, you aren't a female? I just assumed because you were cooking that you were. Well, if you are a male and have made it this far, congratulations, you are gay. Use that confusion the next time you need some anger when mashing up Cheez-its.) Anyway, tilt the turkey down and scoop out the juiced mix into an oven safe dish. You will not actually be cooking this in the bird. The previous steps were done simply to get as much raw turkey juice as possible into the stuffing mix. You can thank me later.

Place the dish into the oven and bake at 350 degrees. Set the timer for 37 min. You can now throw out the turkey since that's someone else's job for Thanksgiving. While you wait for the stuffing, I suggest relaxing and watching some TV. Although now that I think of it, a little exercise might do you some good. I'm not here to judge, just stating a fact. Those workout DVDs over there sure have a lot of dust on them. Anyway, do what you want, it's not my life (thank Christ). Once you hear the timer go off, remove the dish from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Turn the oven off (I can't believe I even had to remind you) and go back to being a waste of space while the stuffing cools down. About 25 min. should do the trick. Once properly cooled, you can place the stuffing in a nice Tupperware container and put it in your fridge, where it will be ready for Thanksgiving day!

Oh, and I should have mentioned at the beginning to wash your hands between each step. If you didn't, that's gross.

You're Welcome and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Xmas Xtravaganza of Xmusic: Day 2 (by Dave Machado)

It's officially the Holiday season so I thought I would start a new series to help guide us safely to Xmas Day (where we celebrate the birth of Jason X). Each day, I will showcase one song that I enjoy as a way to expand upon the list of Holiday music you listen to each year. I'll also give you a few fun facts about each song to help you appreciate the significance of it.

Day 2: Christmas Tree (by Lady Gaga)

"Ho Ho Christmas!/My Christmas Tree's delicious!"

This one is for all the Little Monsters out there. What better way to celebrate Christmas than with a giant sexual metaphor. I discovered this song last year when Amazon was giving away one free Christmas MP3 a day. You can imagine my surprise when I saw this come up because I wasn't even aware Lady Gaga had a Holiday song. I quickly did a search for the only other artist who I felt needed to have a Christmas song (Andrew W.K.) but sadly came up empty handed. After I got over the initial shock of how terrible this song is, I became to embrace it as an example of how to use subtle (SUBTLE) hints to make Christmas songs a little sexy (slutty). 

Fun Facts:
  • This is one of two Christmas songs to end with the line "Cherry Cherry Boom Boom!" The other is Hark! The Harold Angels Sing by Sting.
  • Christmas Tree = Lady Gaga's vagina
    • Sub Fun Fact: It took me 7 listens to figure that out.
  • Space Cowboy (who this song also features) was my nickname in High School.
  • The balls are now in Katy Perry and Ke$ha's hands (heh heh) in order to "out slut" this Christmas song.

You're Welcome,

Previous Days:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (by Dave Machado)

*This review contains spoilers

I'm not what you would call a "Harry Potter Fanatic." I've never read any of the books and have only seen each movie once. In fact, I hadn't even seen any of them until last summer when I caught up on the previous 5 when The Half-Blood Prince came out in theaters. By the time I was all caught up, The Half Blood Prince was out of theaters making Deathly Hallows my first theatrical experience for the franchise. In a way, I'm kind of glad I waited until now to see one of these movies in the theaters because Deathly Hallows is the best Harry Potter movie so far and as of right now, one of my top 3 favorite movies of 2010. It's quite a feat for any movie to be this good, but it's simply astounding that this is the 7th movie in a major franchise.

I envy kids who grew up watching these movies. As each one came out, the themes kept getting darker and darker, perfectly matching the ages of the fans who were most likely to see the film. (I understand this probably also holds true for the books but since I haven't read any, I can't speak on them. Let's just say that I agree J.K Rowling is a genius for creating these stories.) I was a little too old when the first movie came out and I wrongly brushed it aside as childish fantasy nonsense. While I do admit the first couple films are not exactly deep like the latter half of the series, they were still surprisingly entertaining. They are also essential elements to the arc of the entire series. Everything that comes before The Deathly Hallows helps setup the emotional core of this film. It's something rarely accomplished in a long running series and the filmmakers should be rightfully applauded for it.

The one thing that struck me the most about this film was the way it was shot. Everything has a sort of gritty look to it. There is very little Hollywood slick on display and most of the action scenes use the "Bourne hand-held" camera style to very positive results. It helps pull a movie about a young wizard trying to defeat an evil sorcerer down to reality. This also has the added effect of making everything seem much more dangerous. These characters are no longer children and you can sense the actual danger they are in. By leaving behind the polished look of the earlier films, it helps give it a more adult feel, making it seem like any of these characters (aside from our main three of course) could fall at any minute.

Speaking of death, there is a lot of it in this film. One thing that I sort of had a hard time dealing with was the fact that a few of the major deaths occur off-screen. We only hear about the deaths instead of actually seeing them. I would have thought that characters such as The Minster of Magic (Bill Nighy) and Alastor (Brandan Gleeson) would have been given better treatment. I understand that these movies are to be told through the viewpoint of Harry Potter so it almost makes more sense to hear about the death the same way Potter would, but since we see other scenes that don't involve him, it was an odd choice to me. I can respect it though as it forces the audience to pay attention, something I always hope for in a movie.

But the most punishing death of all was that of the little house-elf, Dobby. I believe this is only Dobby's second appearance in the film series. He first reached almost Jar-Jar Binks levels of annoyance in The Chamber of Secrets, though I always had a soft spot for him due to his sad demeanor and low self-esteem. Luckily, they completely redeem the character this time around. They make him the emotional core of the movie's climax only to have it all taken away so fast due to Bellatrix's knife. Dobby's last lines about being happy to be with friends, as he lay dying in Harry's arms, actually made me cry. Normally I would be angered at a movie for making me cry at the death of a fictional CGI house-elf, but I was completely blown away at how perfectly they nailed that scene. My only complaint is that the movie then had one scene too many. I understand they need to get people pumped for next year's Part 2, but if the movie ended on the burial scene at the beach, I'm pretty sure I would have stood up and clapped (while stealthily wiping away tears from my eyes).

It's been said in pretty much every review written about the Harry Potter series, but the filmmakers really lucked out that the core cast (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) have grown into good actors. Rupert is finally given some heavy lifting to do in this movie and is able to do so in a way I didn't think he would be able to do. He is still excellent at the occasional (and much needed) comic relief but his character gets a welcome layer added to him. Daniel and Emma are also given lots more to do (dramatically speaking) and play every scene perfectly. The silent scene of Harry getting Hermione to dance only to have them resume their despair once the song is over is an excellent example of how these young kids have grown into great actors. It's going to be really interesting to see how they fare outside of the Harry Potter Universe.

It's amazing how large the cast of the Harry Potter movies has become. They bring so many characters from previous films back, though some for simple one-line cameos. I found myself going through the metaphorical search database in my head every so often, trying to place where I've seen this character before. As I stated earlier, I've only seen each movie once, but luckily the movies have such memorable characters that I never had a problem identifying an important character. This was also due to the almost unbelievable feat of the series keeping the same actors for most of the cast (save for one actor dying, which I guess is understandable).

This movie sets up the finale perfectly as it left me wanting the second half to start right away. It seems that while this movie took a wonderfully slow approach to storytelling (as a way to build the characters up in ways the series hasn't done before), next year's finale will be an all out battle. The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, as a standalone film, is great. As the penultimate entry in the epic Harry Potter series, it's a masterpiece. These movies will be talked about for years to come the same way people talk up the original Star Wars trilogy as being the defining pop culture series for a generation. Is it July 15th, 2011 yet?

You're Welcome,

Xmas Xtravaganza of Xmusic: Day 1 (by Dave Machado)

It's officially the Holiday season so I thought I would start a new series to help guide us safely to Xmas Day (where we celebrate the birth of Jason X). Each day, I will showcase one song that I enjoy as a way to expand upon the list of Holiday music you listen to each year. I'll also give you a few fun facts about each song to help you appreciate the significance of it.

Day 1: Christmas Night of the Zombies (by MxPx)

"Christmas night of the living dead!/Their face is green and the snow is red!"

What better way to start this series than with the ideal Xmas song for someone like me. It takes the joy of Xmas and combines it with the even greater joy of zombies. I was first introduced to this song when I purchased the Holiday album A Santa Cause, which you will be hearing much more about as the days go by. Christmas Night of the Zombies is loud, fast, original, and awesome. If you ever wanted to hear a Christmas song about shooting zombies in the head with a shotgun, then this song is for you. Now if only someone would make an entire movie based on this two and a half minute long song.

Fun Facts:

  • This song is based on the real life Christmas Eve Zombie Epidemic of 1983.
  • If you listen to this song 5 times in a row while driving in a car, you will become awesome.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, most Zombies actually celebrate Hanukkah.
  • This is the only song worth listening to by MxPx.

You're Welcome,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

15 Things That Would Get Me To Read George W. Bush's New Memoir (by Dave Machado)

George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, was unleashed into the wild on Nov. 9. Since I have no interest in reading this book, I decided to have some fun and give you my list of 15 things that would have to happen in order for me to consider buying this book:

  1. The audio book was narrated by Gilbert Gottfried and contained copious amounts of laser gun sound effects.
  2. The entire book was George W. Bush reviewing his favorite 80s action movies.
  3. The title was changed to Megashark vs. Giant Douchebag.
  4. The book was a whodunit thriller about a detective (George W. Bush) trying to find the culprit who ruined America. (Spoiler alert: it was him.)
  5. It was ghost written by Josh Blue.
  6. The entire book was a written apology to mankind (both past, present, and future).
  7. Every paragraph break was filled in with pictures of Katy Perry's cleavage.
  8. George W. Bush spends the entire book trying to coin the phrase "Presidential Sweets."
  9. Lots of pug pictures.
  10. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book where every time you make the same decision Bush did, it leads to a "...and now you're dead" page.
  11. Every chapter ended with the words "Skeet Skeet..."
  12. All the color pictures in the middle section have Bush replaced with the black kid in the wheelchair from Malcolm in the Middle.
  13. 3 Words: Full Frontal Nudity.
  14. It was 700+ pages of George W. Bush talking about how silly he feels about having been so religious while in office. He then embarrassingly reveals his regret over letting his religious beliefs cloud his judgement when trying to make decisions for our country.
  15. It was a memoir of George A. Romero.
You're Welcome,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DVD Review: Splice (by Dave Machado)

I always find it disheartening when certain types of movies are thought of as just brain candy. They get incorrectly labeled as superfluous distractions that may be entertaining but leave us with no real substance to digest. I'm typically a big fan of these movies and find lots to chew over where many others find emptiness (see: Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). It's usually the "B" movies that get this unfortunate label as certain people are not able to see past the gimmicks and get to the heart of the story. Splice is one of the better examples of this that I have seen in a long time. While I fear some may be put off by the sci-fi elements of the story (which are fantastic), once you are able to get past that, you are rewarded with a rich story that wrestles with multiple philosophical issues while also being one of the best movies of 2010.

Splice centers on scientists Clive and Elsa (played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) who are employed by a large corporation and tasked with creating organisms that will lead to important medical breakthroughs. To do this, they have successfully spliced together the DNA of multiple (non-human) organisms in order to create a new species that can be studied in order to possibly find the cure for all of life's greatest diseases. When they are told that they are to stop splicing and focus on getting the protein that is needed from their current specimens, they decide to go off the books and experiment on their own. By adding human DNA to their already successful organism, they are able to create a new life form that is both highly intelligent and possibly dangerous beyond anyones imagination.

If years of sci-fi movies have taught us anything, it's that all instances of humans playing God will end tragically and/or violently. Splice is no exception. In fact, the movie plays tribute to the original God of cinema, Dr. Frankenstein, by having the main characters named after actors from James Whales's 1935 masterpiece, Bride of Frankenstein. The new organism created in Splice ages at a very advanced speed, giving Clive and Elsa the idea to let it live so they can view the species entire lifespan in a short span of time. One of the great things about this movie is seeing how the creature, named Dren, evolves over a short period of time. At key points throughout the movie, we see that this creature has developed numerous defense mechanisms that make it very difficult to put down.

The best thing about Splice to me was that it was able to incorporate a surprisingly human subplot regarding the way victims of abuse tend to become their tormentor as they grow up, usually without even realizing it. It was amazing how they snuck that idea into an already overloaded movie without causing it to seem like the cast and crew bit off more than they could chew. Between philosophical debates about the obligation of mankind to do everything in our power to further our species, even at the risk of harming what cannot easily be described as other lifeforms, the movie takes a very smart left turn and grounds the story in some very human drama. It all unfolds in an organic way that to me never felt forced. It's amazing that Splice works as well as it does, which I think causes me to have more respect for it than other sci-fi movies that take the more expected route.

There were a few things I didn't like about the movie, namely the final act, which has a twist that is too easily telegraphed and causes the movie to delve quickly into a generic horror setup. It was disheartening to see such a smart sci-fi movie that deals with very human issues boil down to a "stalk and kill" climax. Luckily, the payoff puts the movie back on good footing, but for a while I was afraid the whole thing was going to implode. Certain characters become far too expendable and it seems they were almost shoehorned into the movie specifically for the final few "horror" scenes. These complaints, along with a bit of hammy acting from the supporting cast, are certainly not large enough to ruin the movie. 

I hope more people give this movie a shot. I get tired of always saying that, but typically the movies I love the most are the ones that need a bigger audience in the first place. Fans of sci-fi will love this movie unconditionally but I think even those who typically shy away from these types of films should give it a shot. Splice challenged my perception of right vs. wrong while also providing one of the coolest sci-fi creations (Dren) that I've seen in quite some time. Help celebrate unique and intriguing storytelling by seeing Splice. I have no doubt we will be singing it praises years from now as a true classic of the genre.

You're Welcome,