Posts Tagged ‘Lists’

h1

Fancy Plans… Guide to Rock and Roll (More Requests & Old Favorites)

August 16, 2010
[Another from the Way Back Machine. Originally appeared 05/23/09.]

Another edition of the Fancy Plans… Guide to World Domination thru Misinformation (finally!). Feast your eyes on these delicious chunks of san-serif text and badly-captioned photos.

The Fancy Plans... Guide to Fighting Tin Lizzy

The Fancy Plans... Guide to Fighting Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy
Formed in 1967 in Dublin, Ireland and still regarded to this day as “the only band to have come out of Ireland,” Thin Lizzy featured two former members of Them, whose lead singer was a young Jim “Van” Morrison. Morrison’s penchant for impromptu poetry slams and malfunctioning trousers frequently found the band at the receiving end of police brutality.

The epitome of 70’s rock, Thin Lizzy released their biggest hit, The Boys Are Back in Townduring the pinnacle of rock’s power (allmusic.com pinpoints this as ca. 1974-1978). Thin Lizzy’s “definitive” sound and “unique” lyrics allowed them to sound more like everyone else than anyone else.  Among the songs that could quite possibly be theirs:

  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
  • Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
  • Hair of the Dog
  • American Band
  • Slow Ride
  • Roll On Down the Highway
  • Lost Inside Your Love
  • Rock & Roll Hootchie-Koo
  • Life’s Been Good to Me
  • Teenage Kicks
According to Brownsville Station's concert rider, they were to be accompanied by a minstrel at all times.

According to Brownsville Station's concert rider, they were to be accompanied by a minstrel at all times.

Brownsville Station
Formed in Michigan in 1970, Brownsville Station scored a minor hit with their cover of Thin Lizzy’s Smokin’ in the Boys Room. True success came later with 1977’s Martian Boogie, an influential space-rock track that post-dated the scene by nearly 10 years. Championed tirelessly by British tastemaker, Dr. John Demento, Brownsville Station recorded four classic Demento Sessions.

Christian Death's first lineup featuring Anthony Soprano Jr.

Christian Death's first lineup featuring Anthony Soprano Jr.

Christian Death
Formed in L.A. in 1979, Christian Death combined two staples of the goth rock scene (hatin’ on Christians; acrimonious splits) into a swaggering proto-deathrock nightmare. A nightmare for band members.

Original lead singer Rozz Williams left the group and former guitarist Valor promoted himself to lead-singer-for-life. Rozz tried to retain sole ownership of the Christian Death name but, as they were hardly a real band and not anywhere close to being on a real label, he was unable to do so. Various band members came and left and by 1983, there were no fewer than 16 Christian Death configurations touring, often opening for each other all around the Midwest.

Rozz Williams detached himself fully from the convoluted mess and devoted his time to his various sideprojects, including: Premature Ejaculation, Erectile Dysfunction, Inability to Achieve Orgasm, Female Pattern Dryness and Pee-shy.

Just really not that current at all.

Just really not that current at all.

Current 93
Death folksters whose name, much like Prince’s 1999, means less with each passing year.

house_of_pain811

Everlast models the primary form of Irish communication.

House of Pain
There’s nothing about this group of white rappers that hasn’t been better said by me already.

Chuck E. Cheese engineers prepare to scare the bejeezus out of your kids.

Chuck E. Cheese engineers prepare to scare the bejeezus out of your kids.

Kraftwerk
A joint effort of Disney Imagineers and the Ford Motor Co., as a tribute to all things German and nationalistic. Kraftwerk are fully-functioning animatronic showroom dummies and their icy synths and metronomic beats have captured the fascination of children worldwide, including Georgio Moroder and Afrika Bambaata. Now on permanent display at EuroDisney, they entertain dozens of people yearly with their hits Trans-Europe Blitzkrieg, Tour de France and Whalers on the Moon.

Previously on the Fancy Pants… Guide to Rock & Roll
Vol. 1
Vol. 2 (Requests)

-CLT

h1

Taking the Easy Way Out: 10 Songs for Your Suicide Soundtrack

August 10, 2010
[This is the first of what may become many archive pulls, in an effort to keep the blog alive while its authors attend to life elsewhere. First published on 02/06/09.]

So you’ve got it all lined up. Time to show the world what it would be like without you. But you need a finishing touch, something to add a shiny rustproofing layer of depth to your most self-centered act yet.

The perfectly chosen song can tell the (cruel) world about your inner pain in ways that a handwritten note riddled with grammatical errors cannot. It will serve as your voice beyond the grave, communicating your essence with a few simple chords and well-chosen words.

With these choices available, you can elevate your simple “cry for help/attention” into an event of histrionic proportions, allowing you to be remembered as something other than “the guy who misspelled ‘cruel.'”

Remember, suicide is a victimless crime, like prostitution, drug use, cheating on your taxes or punching a mime.

The time has come. Push play. Do something nice for yourself.

1. Jesus & Mary Chain – Drop

jamc

This tiny gem of a downer is found nearly at the end of Automatic, in which their drummer was replaced with a more sober and less expensive drum machine. Original drummer Bobby Gillespie was kicked out after repeated requests to play “some of the songs I wrote.” They refused, shoved their guitars thru their amps and told him to “go start his own bloody band.” Thus, Primal Scream was formed and remains somewhat relevant today, unlike the brothers Reid. This quieter number shows off their mediocre acoustic guitar skills to marginal effect.

Key Lyric:

I should have guessed
When I took that pill
Do I love her still
Well did Jesus kill

Method: Gunshot to head at “kill,” thus laying the blame elsewhere. Further distance can be added if death is ruled accidental, i.e. “subject was reported to be cleaning the gun. With his tongue.”

2. Spiritualized – Medication

spir2Rising from the ashes of Spacemen 3 like a smack-soaked phoenix, Spiritualized expanded the blueprint for hazy space rock with the addition of horns, backup choirs and another chord or two. As usual, the lyrics of Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman; Jason Bourne) tend to be elliptical and function best as a comedown from a hedonistic night of regret and misplaced nostalgia. Can also be used as a heroin analogue if no actual heroin is available. (Bonus fact: early pressings of Spiritualized albums are considered controlled substances by the DEA.)

Key Lyric:

I’m waiting for a time
When I can be without
These things that make me feel
This way all of the time

Method: Heroin OD at peak. The song kind of comes and goes (much like you’ll be doing), but at 7 minutes and change, you should have time to determine which peak works for you. (Hint: wait for the brass section).

3. Mogwai – Cody

Key figures of the post-rock movement, Mogwai are known for their lengthy instrumentals and unintelligible Glaswegian accents. They have achieved a small amount of success in the States playing before mid-sized audiences composed solely of rock critics, rock bloggers and others who feel lyrics are “giving away the store” when it comes to interpreting music. This particular track features their trademark dynamic shifts and tons of post.

Key Lyric:

It’s an instrumental so you may be forced to do some empathetic humming.

Method: Fistfuls of painkillers and whatever else may be in the parent’s medicine cabinet (caution: “whatever” may contain dangerous levels of estrogen.) Fade slowly away from life, allowing your soul to don Levi’s jeans and run free thru a buffalo-overrun cityscape.

4. Joy Division – In a Lonely Place

joy_divisionThis cheerful group formed during the heyday of punk in Manchester, England. They began as a local blues cover band before sacking Pete Best and replacing him with Steven Morris, who brought a  metronome-like precision to the group. As the band moved on following lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide, Steven Morris was replaced by a drum machine, who brought a metronome-like precision to the group. This selection, often a popular request at the beer tent, shows a darker side of these fun-loving Mancunians.

Key Lyric:

Hangman looks round as he waits
Cord stretches tight then it breaks
Someday we will die in your dreams
How I wish we were here with you now

Method: Form a suicide pact with three others; be the only one that follows thru, as the rest go on to live increasingly irrelevant lives.

5. m83 – Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun

m83A long, slow-building atmospheric track from French electronic shoegazers, m83. They have gained notoriety on the music festival circuit for their amazing live shows and their ability to spot trainer brand names from upwards of 300 feet. They often sound like a combination of My Bloody Valentine, House of Love and m83. Mostly, though, they sound like m83.

Key Lyric:

Instrumental. Try blinking rhythmically.

Method: Razors, candles, bathtub. Toss powered Korg into tub at 9 minute mark. (The song runs around 11 minutes, so pace yourself. Drink plenty of water.)

6. Dashboard Confessional – Any Song

The story of Chris Carraba and his project, Dashboard Confessional, is a long and uninteresting one. Suffice to stay, Chris sensed a void in the sensitive stud area, wrote some introspective tunes, grabbed his acoustic guitar and sideburns and the rest is history. Or would be, if he would just stop touring and putting out albums. We can only hope. Unfortunately, as long as there is a few thousand people willing to believe each song, produced for mass consumption, speaks to them (and only them), the brand (er, band) will go on. (See also the Cure; the Depeche Mode.)

Key Lyric:

I’m sure they’re all pretty introspective. Take your pick. I’m sure as a fan of the emo scene, you should have no trouble twisting someone else’s personal experience to fit your own. If nothing else, we can thank the emo scene for giving the world a new breed of slightly slimmer goths.

Method: Well, I’m sure you’ve all been practicing already. Just try to hit a major artery this time.

7. Suicide – Frankie Teardrop

suicide1977No group says Suicide like Suicide. Martin Rev and Alan Vega formed their confrontational and controversial band after stumbling across a large stash of amphetamines. They wanted the “least commercial name ever” for their band, but had to settle on their third choice after discovering Rectal Exam Bot and Wilson Philips had already been trademarked. This number was a staple of their confrontational live shows and often lead to death of at least one audience member. Their bleak nihilism and mastery of one key on the keyboards has been highly influential and echoes of their groundbreaking work can be seen in bands as diverse as We Are Wolves, Cabaret Voltaire and Raffi.

Key Lyric:

Frankie teardrop
Frankie put the gun to his head
Frankie’s dead

Method: Fail to adjust to civilian life/fail to adjust to Russian Roulette. (First, not any gun works. You should get a revolver) Note: if leaving the CD out at the “scene,” be aware that some may think you were just trying to leave a caption.

8. Staind – It’s Been Awhile

nurockFeaturing a lead singer who combined the good looks of Billy Zane with the trim figure of Black Francis, Staind brought out a more sensitive side of the nu (aka mook) rock era. This weeper brought them to the top of the charts briefly, before the one-two punch of an overlooked misspelling and Fred Durst’s general unpleasantness brought them crashing to earth. Think of them as a meatier Dave Matthews with fewer sandals and more Red Bull. Where are they now? According to their website, they are in the middle of recording something or other. I really can’t be bothered to do any fact-checking on this.

Key Lyric:

And it’s been awhile, since I can say that I wasn’t addicted
And it’s been awhile, since I can say I love myself as well
And it’s been awhile, since I’ve gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it’s been awhile, but all that shit seems to disappear when I’m with you

Method: Trying to show your “sensitive side” backfires as you get trolled to death by the infamous /b/. Perhaps those 320×240 Mavica shots didn’t capture the “real you.” Whatever. (Note: Cameras that use floppies for storage cannot support the resolution need to capture inner beauty.)

9. Clubfeet – Teenage Suicide

clubfeetClubfeet bring the best of both worlds with this toe-tapping dirge, bursting with self-awareness, irony and that emotion I understand is called ennui. If you’re on the verge of ending your world with some banging and whimpering and you find yourself dancing along, please reconsider. If you can’t take this seriously, you’ll find yourself perhaps maimed or disfigured, rather than good and dead.

Key Lyric:

Teenage suicide (don’t do it)

Method: Autoerotic asphyxiation, using some amyl nitrate and the Sears catalog lingerie section for stimulants.
(Will the world appreciate your finely honed ironic sledgehammer? Probably not. More likely, your eulogy will will go something like this: “<Insert name here> will always be remembered for his relentless negativity, his uncanny knack for ‘harshing your mellow,’ and, of course, his inability to follow simple instructions.”)

10. Radiohead – Fitter Happier

fitterhappierRadiohead burst onto the scene with “Creep,” a singalong of self-loathing backed by a thunderous chorus of guitar distortion. Much later, TLC paid their dues with a cover. Much, much, much later, Prince did the same at Coachella. In the meantime, the Radioheads experimented with different forms of music and free downloads, much to the dismay of their label. They also scored movies, released solo work and convinced Tom York to drop the extraneous letters from his name. As their thirst for reinvention has not been quenched, look for upcoming work to reflect their broadening horizons, including four nights at the Sands in Las Vegas, Jonny Greenwood’s collaboration with Visanthe Shiancoe and Paul Thomas Anderson for a re-scored and re-shot “Boogie Nights” and the remaining band members waiting patiently at home for the phone to ring.

Key Lyric:

Calm
Fitter, healthier and more productive
A pig
In a cage
On antibiotics

Method: School shooting/turn gun on self. Ignore requests for “Doom music”/mercy.

This list is by no means definitive, but it should give you some inspiration for your grand finale. The shockwaves of your last act should reverberate through the halls of your respective schools/workplaces as your fellow students/coworkers enjoy an unexpected day off. They may even struggle to remember some defining anecdote to sum up your entire existence. Bad poetry will probably be involved.

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Volume 5

July 22, 2010

Remember this old thing? 

If you don’t, get un-rusty here:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4 

Diane Keaton was informed that this would be her "career" wardrobe and was to be worn in every film thereafter.

31. Annie Hall (1977)
Local hero Woody Allen makes good, abandoning his earlier wackiness in favor of subtle comedy, a style more likely to pair him with women out of his league. In this case, his comedic foil and unbelievable girlfriend is played by Diane Keaton, who continues to acquit herself well in lightweight comedies, all the while looking like she hasn’t aged a day since Annie Hall, in which she looked to be about 50. 

One of many Oscar-winning films directed by Allen, who has yet to actually pick up a single statuette as he is otherwise occupied every single Tuesday (in perpetuity) playing his clarinet (in a not pretentious at all sort of way) in some boho New York club. This shows that he is a real artist who creates out of love for the medium, rather than for the acclaim and access to women he wouldn’t otherwise be dating. 

(Note: in his latter years, Allen leapt from women he “wouldn’t” be dating to women he “shouldn’t” be dating. Although there was some fallout from this unfortunate turn of events, he still continues to faithfully blow his own horn every Tuesday night for the rest of whatever.) 

Trey Stone and Matt Parker often cite Coppola's use of "angry marionettes" as an influence.

32. The Godfather Part II (1974) 
Easily twice the film the first one was, but somehow well more than twice as far down the list. The only explanation for the 29-spot difference is the notable lack of noted AFI pre-req Marlon Brando.

Followed by a prequel (1972) and a sequel (1990). The standard against which all other gangster flicks are judged, including The Godfather Part III, which by comparison is Uwe Boll’s cutting room floor. 

Just another "stoner" classic.

33. High Noon (1952) 
Laconic and square-jawed Gary Cooper plays a put-upon marshal faced with the task of taking on a gang of local baddies. To make matters worse, he is forced to drum up support for a this suicide mission in real-time, without the aid of useful montages or fades. 

Finding the townspeople reluctant to serve as bullet-catchers, Cooper laconically decides to face them on his own, aided only by his square jaw and some guns. The tension becomes nearly unbearable as the projectionist has problems switching reels, delaying the solid black and white action for nearly two “real-time” minutes, giving Cooper’s character 120 seconds of darkness with which to escape town and star in a livelier picture. 

Take it from someone who's lived around them: mockingbirds kick in around 10 pm at night and never shut the fuck up. So, I view this title as a suggestion or a list of imaginary instructions.

34. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 
Based on Harper Lee’s bestselling book, To Kill a Mockingbird is a treatise on racism thinly disguised as a courtroom drama. Gregory Peck plays attorney Atticus Finch, who uncovers the town’s unsightly attitude and generally plays himself, only nobler. 

A young Robert Duvall plays local introvert Boo Radley, who finally blossoms into a 4-piece Britpop group thanks to the ceaseless intrusion of Finch’s children. Has done more to improve race relations in this country than any film since Roger Corman’s groundbreaking action flick, Malcom X-Men: Last Stand

Gable's moustache secretly envied Colbert's amazing eyebrow length.

35. It Happened One Night (1934) 
As the Great Depression wore on, filmmakers (in conjunction with “New Deal” legislation) sought to distract viewers from the epic grimness of their lives, utilizing a series of “screwball” comedies. This film, along with other classics of the genre (Bringing Up Baby [#97], Meatballs Pt. 2 [#51]) delighted moviegoers nationwide while relieving them of their last few nickels. 

Remade several times, the most recent being Abel Ferrara’s nun-killing reimagination, Bad Night and David Mamet’s tense but stagey drama, It Happened One Fucking Night.

Thanks to a contractual dispute, Hoffman and Voight were forced to appear under each other's names.

36. Midnight Cowboy (1969) 
Much has been made of Midnight Cowboy’s status as the only X-rated film to win an Oscar. Tame by today’s standards, the most offensive element of this film is its crass portrayal of New York City as a cruel, heartless metropolis populated by rude, self-centered citizens. 

Much has also been made of Dustin Hoffman’s “method” portrayal of Ratso Rizzo, in particular his ad-libbed “Hey! I’m walking here!” Widely considered to be one of several small touches that “made” the role, the larger-than-life legend overshadows the fact that this heavily quoted line is actually a studio overdub, done in post-production. Hoffman’s original ad lib was, in fact, “Hey! I’m acting here!” 

Of course, Jon Voight’s baby face and intensely blonde looks aided Hoffman in their own way, as the contrast between the two leads gave credence to the idea that Rizzo/Hoffman was as ugly on the inside as he was on the outside. 

Thanks to the advent of upskirt photography, the ensuing years were pretty great indeed.

37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 
Nostalgia-thon in the mold of The Big Chill and Dazed and Confused, The Best Years of Our Lives follows the wistful reminiscing of its protagonists as they wax semi-poetic about their younger days, when they were big fish in an easily impressed small pond. 

Powerful performances aid the viewer in living vicariously through these human time capsules. Thrill along as they still listen to the same music, sport the same hairdos and drag out the same bitchin’ Camaro periodically. Superbly cautionary and infinitely sad. 

Yeah, bro. We’ll keep using “rad” if you want us to. 

[Ed. – Wow. Just wow. Not only have you clearly never seen the flick, but this is like a the review of Smells Like Teen Spirit that no one was asking for.] 

Because nothing says "brutally spare noir" like a pink-as-fuck poster.

38. Double Indemnity (1946) 
The harrowing tale of actuarial tables and the damage done, Double Indemnity is a spare noir masterpiece filled with hard-boiled women and easily duped men. Shot in black and white for maximum impact and film availability, Billy Wilder’s film takes viewers on a twist-filled ride through the greed damaged psyches of a claims adjuster and the two protagonists who wish to “game” the “system” through a reckless combination of murder and quotation marks. 

Hailed as “not even the best film of 1946.” 

The Russians are fond of their bristly makeout sessions. They also dig tiny horsemen emerging from somewhere around their shoulders...

39. Dr. Zhivago (1965) 
As is the case with most long-winded epics, this classic film is dense, Russian and exceedingly long. Packed wall-to-wall with pathos, snow and moustaches, Dr. Zhivago is easily the 39th best film on this list. Exceedingly long. 

Unfortunately, Grant is no match for the spray attachment and soon finds himself hurtling through a series of rectangles.

40. North by Northwest (1959) 
The second of over 50 Hitchcock films on this list, North by Northwest is an unparalleled thriller dealing with a case of mistaken identity. Everyman stand-in (as if) Cary Grant plays Richard Thornhill, an ad executive mistaken for another devastatingly attractive clotheshorse who has apparently found time in his busy schedule of being adored and aging immaculately to attempt to smuggle some state secrets out of the country. 

The film follows Grant’s handsome escape from his comparatively unattractive pursuers, which takes him everywhere from the Heart of America (an airplane-ravaged cornfield) to the Nose and Upper Lip of America (Mt. Rushmore). Contains approximately one (1) thrill per minute (TPM). 

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to Music Genres: Part Two

July 9, 2010

In our previous guide we discovered, through the magic of the internet and several broad stereotypes, what various musical genres encompassed. Today it’s more of the same, only with different genre names and stereotypes. The elderly may or may not be abusing Bradypus variegatus. We’ll just have to wait and see. Mainly wait.

So, while the inevitable crawls slowly into view, let’s take a quick, informative look at a few other music genres and their corresponding fans.

It does. Like a motherfucker.

World Music
Any music not produced in the US, Canada or Western Europe, or by Caucasians in general. (For example: Krautrock – not World Music; Drunken gypsy chants – World Music.)

Despite its origins, World Music is mainly sold to white people (Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne) who then co-opt and repackage their watered-down version and sell it to other white people (Vampire Weekend).

Black Americans may recognize this modus operandi as being nearly identical to the repackaging of black rock and roll into friendly, white packages (Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, Fred Durst). The only difference at this point is that the new white purveyors are viewed as “enlightened” rather than as “thieving pricks.”

Fans: White people. White people who think they’re smarter than other white people. White people who think they’re smarter than all other people, regardless of race, which they don’t even think of the world in terms of, because that’s how damn “enlightened” they are. DJs/producers in search of royalty-free samples.

And my vinyl tits run...

Drum n Bass
A perverse offshoot of both hip hop and breakbeats in which the bassline and the drums are programmed by separate producers who are not allowed to contact each other at any time. This results in tracks consisting of a bowel-loosening bassline over which a drumbeat skitters along like cockroaches running from a light source.

Often accompanied live by an MC, or “toaster,” whose impromptu rhyming tends to flow along a melody only he can hear and consists mainly of invitations to dance more or show more enthusiasm, but in a broad Caribbean accent. Inexplicably popular.

Fans: People who have grown tired of “danceable” dance music. Drum n Bass producers/DJs. Radiation-proof insects. Reggae lovers with sizable speed habits.

The scene is nothing without the love. Or the reusable shopping bags.

Drill n Bass
Like Drum n Bass, only utilizing a drum programmer with no previous experience or mechanical aptitude. The bowel-loosening sub-bass remains, but the drumbeats now skitter along like roaches running out of a lit meth foiler.

Fans: People who think drum n bass is too “hummable.” Richard D. James fans. Richard D. James. Hardcore techno fans who are tired of keeping score.

Because it's just not a goth wedding without someone in a Hefty Cinch Sack.

Goth
One of the most maligned music genres, Goth was conceived during a wild three-way involving punk, art school and eyeliner. Blacker than punk but lighter than black metal, Goth gave misunderstood teens the world over a whole new way to be misunderstood.

Taking Henry Ford’s mantra of “any color as long as it’s black” to their bleeding hearts, Goths let their (black) freak flags fly, drawing the intense mockery of music critics, peers, teachers and parents. This of course makes the whole genre that much more “real,” despite it being 90% heavily-madeup artifice.

Fans: Misunderstood teens. Emo fans who don’t really understand genre boundaries. Mislabeled emo fans. Eyeliner manufacturers. People looking to shock the easily shocked. Anne Rice fans. People who greatly overestimate black’s “slimming” power. Cleopatra Record execs.

While Nordic Youth #1 struggles with righting his cross, Youth #2 decides to pick another church made from a more flammable material. Like childrens' sleepwear.

Black Metal
Black metal is a “darker than thou” form of metal, usually found in wintry Nordic countries with centuries of organized religion under their belts. It can often be a very demanding genre, in which you really haven’t “made it” as a band until you’ve had to disband the group, thanks to a majority of the members having committed suicide or facing murder charges.

Perhaps the only genre that can be entirely attributed to a Vitamin D deficiency.

Fans: Former metal fans disillusioned by the lack of dead/arrested musicians in regular metal. Un-murdered Nordic youth. That guy you thought was a harmless goth until he celebrated his latest church burning by killing you and having sex with your corpse. Satan.

Minimal producer Sidney Frost declares LP label to be "too busy;" asks for a 40% cyan reduction.

Minimal
A Germanic-influenced brand of techno deployed by producers with a shortage of equipment/plugins. Has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, perhaps as a backlash to the overblown sounds of trance, or more likely, as a result of there being a very high DJ/fan ratio, which leaves few bedroom producers with the steady income needed to purchase more equipment/plugins.

Or maybe it’s just some sort of Germanic thing, (see also: Krautrock.) in which another genre (in this case, techno) is disassembled and reassembled incorrectly, leaving several “extra” pieces, which are discarded in Germany’s quest to remain both misunderstood and brutally inept.

Fans: Techno fans tired of being asked to enjoy multiple sounds simultaneously. Chin-stroking wallflowers who have mistaken “not much going on” with “artistic integrity.” IDM fans who enjoy an occasional 4/4 beat. The staff at Pitchfork, which is mostly comprised of chin-stroking wallflowers who have mistaken “not much going on” for “artistic integrity.” Painters who believe the real action is the drying time. Satan.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which will explore Folk, Rap Metal, IDM and hopefully, many others.

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to Music Genres: Part One

July 8, 2010

As you all are very well aware, I’ve subjected you to a weekly Heavy Rotation, spotlighting various bands and musicians of all persuasions. As I’ve rattled along at great length, I have no doubt deployed several musical terms in an attempt to define a sound by obscuring it with meaningless words. 

The following is a guide to the many genres currently polluting our overly defined musical sphere. It is hoped that this information will help you understand what is meant when I (or someone like me, like Pitchfork — especially Pitchfork) uses an insufficiently descriptive term like “minimal” or “slowcore.” 

"I'd like to accept this round of applause on behalf of the many, many more band members who were unable to fit into the panoramic shot..."

Post-Rock
Reserved for all bands who use rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums) but eschew verse-chorus-verse song structures for sprawling, unfocused epics. Vocals are often optional. Could just as easily been called Prog Rock, thus horrifying proponents of these two “disparate” genres. 

Fans: Chin-strokers who have outgrown the need to enjoy music on any level. Any leftover multi-instrumentalists who somehow failed to be invited to the thirty-person collective currently overrunning the stage. Marillion fans who wish to cast themselves as something other than a cheap punchline. 

Punk = no tux. Post-punk = tux.

Post-Punk
Like Post-Rock, but performed by bands who never properly learned to play their instruments. 

Fans: Gainfully-employed former punks. Art school grads. Gainfully employed art school grads. [Ed. Does not exist.] 

Witness the awkward glory that is a full-on tweecore gig.

Tweecore
Oxymoronically aggressively passive form of ultra-lightweight music, relegated to rainbow-colored EPs and Cassingles. Live performances tend to consist of band members huddling in the far corner of the venue and giggling nervously while staring deeply into each others’ eyes. 

While this performance would be graciously called “underwhelming” by normal people, its fans are usually huddled in the opposite corner staring into each others’ eyes while giggling nervously. A tweecore gig is usually breathlessly described (in very hushed tones) as being like that time when they “almost got kissed.” 

Fans: Indeterminate, as lack of spine tends to preclude the forming of any strong opinions or positive declarations. Gentle woodland creatures with anime eyes

Note: this video is running at 30 FPS.

Slowcore 
Hardcore music so glacially paced that band members are often able to work on their side projects (often of another “-core” variety) between downbeats/chord changes. Generally avoided by promoters due to the fact that soundcheck alone can run an entire night. Often described as being like “old people fucking a sloth.” 

Fans: People who find the Melvins’ hectic pacing “a bit much.” Multi-taskers. Quaalude enthusiasts

Take these gentlemen very seriously indeed, for they are well-aware of the score.

Hardcore 
One of the few genres to cross over successfully, covering a harsher, faster brand of both rock and techno. Albums and live performances tend to contain various self-affirming statements such as, “Only for the Hardcore,” “Strictly for the Hardcore,” and “Hardcore, You Know the Score.” 

These pat-yourself-on-the-back statements add a veneer of exclusivity to yet another generic mosh pit/rave, whose attendees like to spend their post-conversion downtime being preached to. 

Fans: People with self-esteem issues. Scorekeepers. Porn fans moving on from the training wheels of Cinemax

Pioneering shoegazers My Bloody Valentine exhibit their pioneering 60-degree head tilt.

Shoegazer 
Named after its proponents’ tendency to avoid eye contact with their fans and gaze on their footwear instead, which everyone thought was delightfully introverted until it was discovered that all the downcast looks were the byproduct of drug-addled guitarists attempting to negotiate their maze of effects pedals. 

With this misconception firmly in their grasp, the shoegaze scene cranked out album after album of delightfully introverted (and misunderstood) music, eventually trademarking the term “ethereal.” Of course, the music was too good (and too introverted) to last, and the scene was soon steamrolled by the heavily forested sounds of grunge, whose proponents weren’t nearly as distracted, thanks to their limited supply of pedals/imagination. 

Fans: Delightfully introverted (and misunderstood) wallflowers. Fans of the word “ethereal.” Other shoegazer bands. This guy

Hawkwind completely encapsulates every aspect of space rock in one unfathomable album cover.

Space Rock 
Like Prog Rock/Post-Rock, only with more heroin. While a prog band might allow its lead guitarist to run off an occasional 12-minute self-indulgent solo, a space rock band* will allow its lead guitarist to run off a 12-minute self-indulgent exploration of a single chord. This, of course, assumes that the guitarist in question is not currently lying in a pool of his own vomit. 

*Unless this band is Hawkwind, in which case everyone is allowed to run off a 12-minute self-indulgent solo, especially the flautist

Fans: Heroin users. Single-chord enthusiasts. Heroin dealers. Acid casualties coming down from a 2001 binge. That guy who was “This guy” in the last section.

Yet another example of uncontained German exuberance.

Krautrock 
Of all the things Germany does well (auto manufacturing, intense nationalistic fervor), “rock” is something it does not. Most of the Western world would define “rock” as the product of a guitar/bass/drum/vox combo, fronted by an immaculately coiffed lead singer. 

The Germans, however, view “rock” as the product of immaculately coiffed and emotionless mannequins playing outdated electronics in front of a beige backdrop. And, while most rock tracks have a distinct beginning, middle and end, Krautrock tracks tend to consist entirely of “middle,” often for 10+ minutes at a time. 

Fans: Metronome enthusiasts (see also: Minimal). Germans. Bands looking for unverifiable “influences.”

That wraps up Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, which deals with Goth, World Music, Minimal Techno and various other redundant terminology.

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Volume 4

June 22, 2010

The march toward the end of the list continues! (Hmm. That sounded way more exciting before I typed it out…) If you’re just joining us, please fill out the “Getting to Know Me!” card, which is found in the Comment section. We’ll introduce ourselves after we conclude Volume 4 in The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films

See also:
Volume Three
Volume Two
Volume One 

Unfortunately, new fonts wouldn't be invented until 1942, forcing the producers to settle for "Hobo Circus."

21. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Trifling road picture about a family’s ill-fated excursion to California, the land of dreams and cheap-ass labor. Hilarity ensues as Henry Fonda (playing against type as a well-rounded character) leads his family from misadventure to underpaying misadventure, including the inadvertent death of his grandfather, his grandmother’s dog and indeed, the grandmother herself. Directed by John Hughes, the whiter of the two Hughes brothers (directors of Menace II Society). 

SPOILER ALERT: Nothing in this film moves anywhere as fast as that shuttle drawing would indicate.

22. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001 uses then-cutting edge technology to prove the old adage that “In space, no one bothers to write much dialog.” 

The first half of the film is an impeccably shot space travelogue. The second half finds the protagonists dealing with a sentient on-board computer whose unwavering belief that the mission be completed is of greater importance that actually leaving anyone alive to complete it. The third half presents an extended hallucination suffered/enjoyed by the main character as he dies and is reincarnated as some sort of orbiting, metaphoric space fetus. 

Presumably this ending would have been better explained if Kubrick hadn’t blown the entire budget on construction of a full-size, fully-functioning space station and insisting that every scene be shot on location just outside of Jupiter. Exceedingly long. 

Always ahead of his time, Bogie shows off his double-gun action, beating John Woo to the punch by nearly 45 years.

23. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Influential film noir, shot in noir and blanc and starring America’s most noir-ish actor, Humphrey Bogart. Based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, The Maltese Falcon follows the story of several small-time crooks who aim to name the valuable titular bird and the one drunken private dick tasked with getting to it first. Packed with incredible performances, fast-paced dialogue and inadequate lighting. 

Little known fact: Hammett originated the phrase “grinned wolfishly,” a descriptor that Bogie tries tirelessly to emulate by “sucking on his teeth,” which also originates with Hammett. Both phrases have been subsequently beaten to death by many authors since, most notably Clive Cussler and his nearly-sentient offspring, Dirk Cussler

"Insiders noted that De Niro looked 'puffy' and 'hand-shaded...'"

24. Raging Bull (1980)
Scorsese’s 1980’s masterpiece (which doesn’t look a day over 1950, thanks to a film mixup during development) follows the epic storyline of legendary boxer Bobby (Robert) De Niro (La Motta) whose brutal fighting style and even brutaller lifestyle saw him climb the heavyweight hierarchy while simultaneously hitting rock bottom (and his significant others). 

Remade four years earlier as Rocky, which featured a more populist slant, one that culminated with Rocky 4 in which Rocky beats up the Soviet Union. 

Eliott shows up the "magic" of static electricty to his new, and suddenly very scared, friend.

25. E.T. (1982)
Spielberg returns to space (or rather, space returns to earth) five years after his groundbreaking UFO flick Close Encounters of the Third Kind gave us all a much-needed sense of wonder, as well as something to do while playing with our food. 

E.T. follows the story of The Man Who Fell to Earth, except that the “man” is actually a diminutive alien with the voice of a 75-year-old chainsmoker rather than a wispy ambisexual singer. Much like most tourists, E.T. soon expresses a desire to return home, which he soon [SPOILER ALERT] does, but not before touching the lives of the kindly Tanner family via Reese’s Pieces product placement and various small miracles like levitating bicycles and turning guns into walkie-talkies. Goddard routinely cites this film as an influence. 

The military demonstrates the power of its repurposed "Release the Hounds" button.

26. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Kubrick again, this time taking a darkly serious script and turning it into an inadvertently funny film, thanks to his heavy-handed use of black and white film and a major miscasting of Peter Sellers as four different characters. 

A note to young filmmakers: when dealing with something as portentous as the end of the world, you are probably better off utilizing a style similar to Airport ’77 or anything Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) has directed. 

Notable for its Nazi scientist, frank discussions of bodily fluids and stock footage of A-bomb detonations. 

Beatty models his proto-Dick Tracy look while Dunaway laughs drunkenly.

27. Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway set the gold standard for anti-heroes with this biopic. Still as visceral as it was back in the late ’60s, Bonnie and Clyde jumpstarted Beatty’s career, serving notice to Hollywood that this young actor would attempt to bang his female co-stars for years to come. 

Bonnie and Clyde also jumpstarted a new wave of moral panic for its portrayal of criminals as human beings, albeit highly romanticized human beings. The ensuing controversy briefly resurrected the Hays Code, which stipulated that the criminal character(s) must meet a “violent death shot at no less than 72 frames-per-second.” 

Starring Billy Zane as Billy Corgan! Featuring the disembodied head of Gregory Peck!

28. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The war flick to end all war flicks (mainly due to actor attrition and Coppola’s blowing of an entire decade’s worth of film budget), Apocalypse Now follows the story of a soldier tasked with hunting down and destroying Marlon Brando’s massive, bloated ego. As notable for its filming as it is for its epic deconstruction of the Vietnam War, it has nonetheless gained a loyal following that often finds it has four-hour chunks of time just lying around. 

A cultural phenomenon, Apocalypse Now revived “Ride of the Valkyries,” surfing while being shot at, overly-expositional narration and sent a generation of young readers straight into the open, boring arms of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Redefined “War Movie” and ‘Exceedingly long.” 

Alt. title: "Mr. Smith's House of Wax Busts."

29. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
A Will Smith vehicle so utterly banal that it doesn’t even bother with giving his character a new surname (or even a first name) with which to justify his $20 million payday for “acting services rendered.” 

Features the extremely unlikely story of a black man being elected to public office, Mr. Smith exists mainly to showcase Capra’s mawkish “everyman” daydreams and unnatural affinity for black and white photography. Written by Babaloo Mandel. 

Bogie is the last to succumb to argyria, thanks to a lower amount of "silver lust."

30. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Humphrey Bogart stars in this harrowing tale of gold and the damage done. Boldly showing the lengths that man will go to “strike it rich,” The Treasure of the Sierra Madre unflinchingly takes on man’s capacity for evil and the Mexicans lack of badges (and indeed, their inability to comprehend why anyone would need any badges). 

Hailed by uber-critic Rex Reed as a “paranoiac’s wet dream,” who goes on to say “Don’t touch my stuff.” Followed by a much-belated sequel National Treasure of the Sierra Madre 2

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 3

June 12, 2010

After taking the first 10 films in a couple of easy-to-digest sets of five, we’ve decided to shove ten (10!) films down your throat this time around in the interest of giving your mousewheel some much needed exercise. Brace yourself for the undiluted loquaciousness that is Volume 3 of this still-viable series.

Previous versions:
Volume 1
Volume 2

Unfortunately for Stewart, Donna Reed succumbed to motion sickness almost immediately. And had just eaten.

11. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Capra’s slick inversion of the Scrooge mythology, in which the protagonist (a do-gooding son of a bitch teetering on the verge of suicide) is visited by the ghost of network TV, which attempts to saves its own ass by dragging family members away from each other and back to their rightful place at the receiving end of the “talking picture box.”

Using Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey as a thin metaphor for television’s unblinking one-way eye, the ghost/angel self-servingly points out how un-wonderful life would be without itself, a brutal vision that includes anarchic riots, the collapse of the world’s economy and families interacting with each other around the dinner table.

While arriving decades too early to depict the internet and the damage done, it is, at the very least, prescient enough to slam various board games and Jumbles.

This summer, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

12. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Bad Boys II (2003)

[Ed. note: Given that Sunset Boulevard is only famous for its last line, we have replaced it with an equally powerful film.]

Michael Bay parlays his advertising career into a lucrative money-printing machine with the delivery of Bad Boys and its attendant sequel, Bad Boys II. His embrace of style-over-substance and cliche-over-originality can be viewed as “circuitously ironic” by even the most jaded moviegoer.

Combining the comforting familiarity of buddy-cop conventions with the popularity of blowing shit up (in slow motion), Bay concocts a film that defines “lightweight” and “disposable.” It also gives the two leads (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) a chance to show us what they do best: play Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Hailed as “brilliantly forgettable” and “only in theatres.”

Being a bridge, it was somewhat unprepared for being "shot right in the fucking face."

13. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Light years ahead of its time with its use of “artistic whistling,” The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the true story of American POWs who are put to work constructing an “Overground Railroad” bridge at the behest of the Japanese captors.

Faced with budget issues, lack of motivation and some truly hellish morning stretches/corporate team-building exercises, the POWs surprise their captors with their rather bridled enthusiasm and good old-fashioned American ingenuity.

Will these purpose-driven troops construct this monument of Japanese excess before the war ends/bridge gets blowed the hell up? Only Steve McQueen and his trusty companion, Motorcycle, know for sure. Exceedingly long.

One nipple per ear, just like in the contract...

14. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot paved the way for the cross-dressing comedic hijinks of Bosom Buddies, the Kids in the Hall and The Crying Game. Following the story of two guys who don women’s apparel to get into Marilyn Monroe’s pants (assuming she too wasn’t wearing a skirt), this controversial comedy was a showcase for the comedic stylings of the two leads, as well as being the perfect display case for Marilyn Monroe, who positively shines with her ability to act coy, surprised and coyly surprised. Filmed in United Artists’ groundbreaking “TechniGray.”

Being a large space helmet, it was somewhat unprepared to be "shot in the fucking eye," not to mention begin surrounded by various robots and upper torsos.

15. Star Wars (1977) The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

[Ed. note: Come on. The 2nd movie is twice what the first one is. It’s just simple math.]

Easily the best of Lucas’ Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back is a fluid meshing of fast-paced action and dark drama, no doubt a result of Lucas ceding the film’s writing and directorial duties to actual writers/directors.

Features Mark Hamill (in his only role ever) as Luke Skywalker, a former carpenter named Harrison Ford (born Jesus Harrison Christ) as the anti-hero, Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher as Hamill’s love interest and sister, Princess Leia.

Skywalker loses a hand to his dad and his sister to an unrelated male. The only black man in space sells out to “the Man,” who also happens to be black, but just on the outside and two robots enjoy the fruits of a common-law marriage.

Much, much better than the belated prequels in which Lucas attempts to skew younger by casting a mannequin to play a young Darth Vader and brings in an anthropomorphic Jamaican.

Another lovely shot of Bette Davis capturing her wearing her iconic "I just woke up on the wrong side of humanity" look.

16. All About Eve (1950)
An icy tale about fan obssession and manipulation, All About Eve tells the sordid tale of a fading Broadway star and the fan club president who steals her role and, eventually, her life. As is the case with these “victimless” crimes, no charges are pressed and everyone agrees to bitchily disagree and occasionally “wrestle it out” in a tubful of Jello.

Famous for the lack of chemistry between the two leads, whose Method-acting approach allowed them to take this film over the top and into the annals of filmery. Jello-wrestling notwithstanding, this film is highly recommended to fans of abhorrent human beings and general cattiness. One of nearly 75 films on this list shot in black and white, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Humphrey Bogart stars in "The Emmett Kelly Jr. Story."

17. The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn cavort in the African Outback, bantering bitchily and drinking each other under the makeshift table. Pitched as Madagascar meets The Odd (Heterosexual) Couple, The African Queen is prized for its sweeping vistas and plotless storyline. Every bit as good as its 17th place finish would indicate. Keep your eyes open for some bold full-color shots.

Nothing but ninety minutes of half-naked men and women staring meaningfully at each other.

18. Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock shocked audiences and his fellow filmmakers by killing off the only likeable character less than halfway through the movie. The remaning running time combines amateur psychology with taxidermy to weave a harrowing tale of a cross-dressing mama’s boy and the private detective who aims to take him down.

Followed by sequentially-numbered sequels and a shot-for-shot remake which greatly expands the color palette.

Nicholson thoughtfully covered up Dunaway's receding hairline with his chainsmoking habit.

19. Chinatown (1974)
A hardboiled detective story that recalls the great film noirs of the past, all of whom it apparently outranks. The film follows the footsteps of Jake Gittes (who apparently can’t walk ten feet without being physically assaulted) as he investigates an adultery case that somehow manages to involve water rights, corruption, incest and takeout menus. Jack Nicholson turns in an amazingly gritty performance, one he wouldn’t top for nearly three decades (2003’s Anger Management).

Nicholson spots a name he recognizes; appears pleased.

20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Jack Nicholson follows up his gritty performance in Chinatown with his completely unhinged portrayal of an aging actor with easy access to booze and cocaine. Set in a psychiatric hospital, this Oscar-winning film exposes the abuses of the system by the staff and details the complete breakdown of the human psyche.

A triumph in movie myth-making, featuring an unreliable window-breaking narrator and an unreliable coke-snorting actor.

-CLT

h1

The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films – Vol. 2

June 4, 2010

Just recently we took on the first five films on AFI’s Top 100 Films list, which much like the movie industry itself, is loaded with obvious selections, most of which exceed three hours in length and/or are shot in black and white. The next five films listed promise to be “more of the same.”

Enjoy?

As was common in those days, The Wizard of Oz starred several SURNAMES.

6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Well ahead of its time (4:20), The Wizard of Oz is universally considered a “stone classic,” full of singing midgets, hand-tinted film stock and gay icons. Much like Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Wizard of Oz is an extended hallucination suffered by the main character when she is killed by a [SPOILER ALERT!] tornado.

Oz is really two films in one: the first satirizes the blandness of a flat, arid and witch-infested Kansas while the colorful “back nine” pokes fun at the idea that traits like “love” and “courage” somehow make people more “human.”

The posters for The Graduate preemptively give away the entire movie before the trailer has a chance to.

7. The Graduate (1967)
A cautionary tale of plastics and seduction, The Graduate served notice to well-meaning parents everywhere with its chilling portrayal of ennui-laden and aimless youth, many of whom were headed back home for the summer.

Starring a somewhat attractive, young Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichol’s film answered the age-old question “It’s late in the afternoon. Do you know where your children are?” with a resounding “Floating angstily in the pool/banging Anne Bancroft.”

Worth a look for its prescient commentary on plastics, which were “the wave of the future” for years until dethroned by the sudden popularity of kickboxing.

Brando looks around apprehensively for the next green-tied assailant.

8. On the Waterfront (1951)
An unflinching look at union labor, boxing and Father-surrogate son relationships, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront is also known for the powerhouse performance delivered by an oddly coherent and dangerously underweight Marlon Brando.

Shot in Oscar-baiting black and white, On the Waterfront earned Kazan an enormous amount of goodwill, which he quickly pissed away with his extensive sellout of colleagues and competitors during the McCarthy “witch hunts” (which netted surprisingly few witches, but did snare several deadly Communists).

Pitched as "The Matrix" meets "Over the Top."

9. Schindler’s List (1993)
Director Steven Spielberg goes back to his roots as a 1940’s-era director, utilizing the black and white cinematography that was the “all the rage” in the days before color (or colour) film.

Cameo appearances by Robin Williams (as a Good Morning Vietnam-ish radio personality) and Roberto Begnini (as a rubberfaced entertainer whose jokes are all of the “too soon?’ variety) keep the film from sinking into complete pathos. Exceedingly long.

They were later charged with "indecent exposure" and "possession of unlicensed umbrellas."

10. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The first Oscar winner to feature a dropped “g,” Singin’ in the Rain is a charming musical that takes a very dark turn at the midpoint when it’s titular song becomes the soundtrack from some dystopian ultraviolence. A change in tone is also signalled by a change of costumes, from suits and fedoras to codpieces, jumpsuits and bowlers.

The remaining time is given over to a heavy-handed allegorical songfest, which lays out a devastating condemnation of both reckless optimism and the collected works of Ludwig Van. Recommended for its amazing choreography and surprising amount of nudity.

-CLT

h1

Fancy Plans… Guide to North American Trees

May 28, 2010
[In the interest of buying myself some time, I’m dragging an old post out of the archives and into the harsh glare of nearly a year’s worth of hindsight. This one dates back to 06/25/09 and features the short, punchy stylings of a blogger in his prime. You’ll notice I run a lot longer now…]

In the interest of bettering our fellow bloggers, we provide this handy guide to the trees of North America. While this can generally be a tedious and forgettable subject, we hope that, when all is read and done, you’ll walk away with at least one more fact to add to your collection of useless knowledge. Prepare to be taught at!

The over-dramatic Weeping Willow prepares to hurl itself into the river, quoting "Hamlet" all the while...

The over-dramatic Weeping Willow prepares to hurl itself into the river, quoting "Hamlet" all the while...

Weeping Willow
Easily the most “emo” of all North American trees, the weeping willow spends its lifetime sullenly hunched over, bitterly complaining about anything and everything.* It can often be found sulking morosely in the darker corners of your yard.

  • *Wind – Fine. I’m waving. Crawl out of my ass. Jesus.
  • Calm – A breeze would be nice.
  • Rain – This is how I feel inside. All the time.
  • Not Raining – Nobody understands me. Not even the weather.
  • Snow – Why can’t we live somewhere warmer?
  • Heat – This fucking figures.

Natural Enemies: Sunny, temperate days; the laughter of children

Given local wind patterns, your neighbors may be surprised by a few maples of their own, long after you've skipped town...

Depending on wind patterns, your neighbors may be surprised by a few maples of their own, long after you've skipped town...

Maple
Widely acknowledged as Canada’s only export, the maple is known for its appearance on national flags and its ruthlessly efficient seed distribution system, which is regarded by many top scientists as a “miracle.”

DaVinci’s early model for a flying machine (known today as the “autogyro”) was based on the corkscrewing flight pattern of the maple seed. The U.S. military took this to its logical conclusion in Vietnam, using their autogyros to scatter “leaflets” over the irritated population, who grumbled and told their kids to get outside and rake the yard. (“Watch out for the punji pits and anti-personnel mines. I don’t want to have to clean up two messes today.”)

Natural enemies: Rakes; currency exchange rates

Yeah. I've been working out. I also own a Big & Tall franchise...

Yeah. I've been working out. I also own a Big & Tall franchise...

Oak
A hulking metaphor of a tree, the oak tree is prized for its bold statement that even the smallest of us can grow up to do great things, like win the heavyweight championship of the world, or take out a neighbor’s water lines.

While it tends to do better in wide open areas, it can usually be found in groupings of smaller trees, rubbing its towering new look in the faces of its former classmates, who teased it mercilessly during its formative years.

Natural enemies: Squirrels; small claims court

The rarely seen, but easily activated, aspen G-spot...

The rarely seen, but easily activated, aspen G-spot...

Aspen
The most sensitive of all North American trees, the aspen is known for it “quaking” and “shivering” at the slightest breeze, while gusts in the 30-40 mph range will cause it to break down in full-blown tears. Recent scientific studies have theorized that the tree may actually be the most easily aroused of all plants, its quaking due to an incredibly easily achieved orgasm.

Either way, aspen owners should keep their distance, as it becomes emotionally attached at the slightest provocation, leading to late night surprise visits and drunk-dialing.

Natural enemies: Woodpeckers; frat boys

A promotional still from "Biker Boyz," featuring the semi-rare R-type redwood in the background...

A promotional still from "Biker Boyz," featuring the semi-rare R-type redwood in the background...

California Redwood
Although native to California, the redwood has begun to creep up the coastline into Oregon and Washington, prompting locals to bitch endlessly about these intruders. These diatribes, usually delivered from atop a bicycle or light-rail car, are usually disregarded by tourists and redwoods alike.

The looming threat of California’s bankruptcy should only increase the redwood exodus, providing the Pacific Northwest with novelty tree “tunnels” and yet another goddamn reason for tourists to visit. There is some speculation (as yet unproven) that the trees are only looking for cheaper real estate/heroin.

Natural enemies: Oregonians; tainted needles

Most Pleasant View Obstruction - Bed & Breakfast Monthly, July 2002

Most Pleasant View Obstruction - Bed & Breakfast Monthly, July 2002

Cedar
The Swiss Army knife of trees, the cedar has been used to create everything from moderately priced furniture to bedding for pet rodents. Due to its versatility and distinctive smell, the noble cedar has excelled in many areas during the last several years (listed below).

  • Intramural volleyball team captain
  • District co-champion, debate team
  • Co-signer on Aaron Nussbaum’s auto loan
  • President of the Sierra Club (1984, 1996)
  • Personal assistant to Blythe Danner, Phillip Michael Thomas
  • Toothpick of the year (1997)
  • U.S. Goodwill Ambassador to Luxembourg
  • Recipient – Don Mills Clean Living Award (2009)
  • Best Smile – Paloma County High School (Junior Year)

Natural Enemies: Cheerleader cliques; asthmatics

Close-up view of the many small parts of the common pine, which is very easily disassembled...

Close-up view of the many small parts of the common pine, which is very easily disassembled...

Pine
Perhaps best known for its involvement in the George Brett pine tar scandal (as well as its role as an “enabler” in several lesser incidents), the pine has cleaned up its reputation to become a well-known Christmas icon, on par with Santa Claus and his son, Jesus Christ.

Also well-known to homeowners and other Christmas celebrants as “nature’s litterbug,” the pine cannot help but shed needles and cones every-fucking-where constantly. Years of domestication have failed to housebreak the tree, as its shedding reaches a peak when kept indoors. “Evergreen,” my ass.

Natural enemies: Umpires; Jehovah’s Witnesses

"... at which point your grandmother, on your mother's side, fornicated with an angel..."

"... at which point your grandmother, on your mother's side, fornicated with an angel..."

Family
Ranging in size from a full-blown leviathan (Utah) to barely more than a misshapen stump with a few rare branches (Arkansas, West Virginia), this decidedly North American institution is prized for its collection of interminable slideshows and long, boring stories.

While it continues to grow all year round, it reaches its peak during the summer reunion months.

Natural enemies: Attractive cousins; Planned Parenthood

-CLT

h1

The Bible: Inappropriate for All Ages

January 22, 2010
Noah's neighbors considering moving to the suburbs.

Noah's neighbors considered moving to the suburbs.

[Apologies for the deafening silence. Here’s another one from the archives. Originally published May 15, 2009.]

To hear Sunday school teachers tell it, you would think the Bible is chock full of platitudes and see-through parables, all based on Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. But as you actually start to read the thing, you’ll see it has as much in common with those qualities as your local rave does. Why, it’s nothing but E’d-up teens dividing their time between rubbing on each other, asking you for drugs and trying to come up with enough pocket change to split a $6 bottle of water. Only more Biblical.

The Story of Job
In what is widely viewed by prominent theologians as a “dick move,” God tortures one of his most faithful citizens just to win a bet with Satan. God says, “Job’s my dog, yo,” and guarantees that Job won’t sell him out, no matter how bad it gets.

How bad does it get? His son and daughter and a bunch of their friends have the house collapse on them and then burn to the ground. His crops and livestock are killed. He’s covered head to toe in boils and blisters and is reduced to scraping at his skin with broken pottery. His friends taunt him. His wife leaves him (at least through the rest of this story). Uwe Boll flies in to host a film festival. Satan sits outside Job’s compound in a tank, blaring Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold and Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.

His friends and neighbors stop by and encourage him to “curse God and die.” Or at least cop a plea and ask for a reduced sentence. But Job stands by his man, much to Satan’s dismay. After collecting His winnings, God rewards Job by giving him… exactly the same life he had previously. No bonus. No home version of the game. Nothing.

Oh. He also gives him ten more kids. Cause that’s the kind of thing that makes life worth living.

The Flood
In what is widely viewed by theologians as “excessive and punitive,” God destroys the world with a flood.

First, God picks local winemaker Noah to be His village idiot and has him get busy building a ginormous boat. God also shows His contempt for the metric system by making Noah use measurements like “hand” and “cubit.”

Noah dutifully clearcuts the surrounding area, heads to Home Depot for a “Cubits to Real Dimensions” converter and spends the next 40+ years on the ultimate arts and crafts project. As if building an ark in your driveway wasn’t enough punishment, his neighbors show up just to heckle him. (“20% chance of rain, tops. You want I should get you an umbrella? The hell is that, a cubitstick?”)

After finishing the Ark, Noah kicks back with a good Merlot and waits for rain. God quickly ruins his day by ordering him to gather “two of every living creature.*” After stressing the importance of boy-girl pairing, God sets Noah to his task. “Even those creatures we’re sick of dealing with?” Noah asks. “Especially those,” God replies.

This accomplished, Noah herds his family onto the noisy, cramped and foul-smelling ark. God then proceeds to “make it rain on these hoes” for 40 days and nights. Noah’s neighbors, sensing they may have backed the wrong team, beg to be allowed to come aboard (“Let us in Noah. There must be, like, 20 or 30 cubits of water on the ground. We think.”), apologizing noisily for the “umbrella thing.”

After floating around aimlessly, the Ark finally runs ashore. God says, “Hey, Noah, my main man. How do you feel about repopulating the world through massive amounts of inbreeding?” Noah says, “That’s cool, I guess. We’re kind of sick of fucking the animals.”

Sociologists agree that this was the “tipping point” that pushed the world’s ensuing population to more than 50% stupid.

*except non-related human beings

Sodom
Once again, God’s pissed and He wants to break something. This time it’s Sodom, birthplace of the Shocker. Oh, and sodomy. He threatens to destroy the entire city unless 50 “righteous” men are found. Abraham, stoned out his gourd, says, “No problem. Those dudes are all pretty righteous.” God says, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you stoned? Again? It’s, like 8:30 in the morning.” And Abraham says, “It’s cool. I’ve been up all night. *giggle*”

Later, God and a more sober Abraham speak again. The word “righteous” is clarified and Abraham knows he’s screwed. He begins to work his lawyer mojo and bargains God down to one. A safe bet, since the one he’s referring to is his nephew, Lot.

God sends two angels to Sodom to warn Lot and his family of the city’s impending doom. The locals gather outside Lot’s house, demanding that he send out the two visitors so they can gang-bang them. Lot does what any gentleman would do in this situation. He refuses to send his guests out.

He refuses to send the guests out but offers them the use of his two virgin daughters. Smooth.

The townspeople refuse (this is Sodom, after all) and yell something about “banging some ass we haven’t had before,” leading Lot to believe that his daughters have misled him.

God then strikes the Sodomites blind, allowing Lot and his family to escape, and proceeds to rain fire on the evildoers. However, Lot’s wife, an avid swinger, takes a look back at all the random sex she’s leaving behind and is turned into a pillar of salt. Literally. (Even metaphorically, I don’t think it means anything.)

The Illustrated David and Bathsheba Fan Fiction Collection

The Illustrated David and Bathsheba Fan Fiction Collection

David & Bathsheba
David, king of Israel, while cutting thru the neighbor’s bushes one night, catches a glimpse of Uriah’s (one of his palace guards) wife, Bathsheba, as she bathes. Which is all she did, really, hence the nickname.

David uses his kingly powers of seduction to bang her a few times and, as often happens (especially in After School Specials), knocks her up.

He proceeds to do the honorable thing. He tries to talk Uriah into having lots of sex with his wife, starting immediately, in hopes that Uriah will mistake David Jr. for one of his own kids. No deal, says Uriah, preferring to follow the palace guidelines and stay with the rest of the guards (some speculation is allowed here).

David then proceeds to do the next honorable thing. He tells his general to take Uriah out to the next big battle and strand his non-marital-relationship-having ass way behind enemy lines.

Plan B works and David gets Bathsheba. Their new little bastard is born and then killed by a horrible disease, in accordance with the Hays Code.

Abraham & Isaac
God, bored shitless by an endless chorus of angelic praise, once again screws with Abraham. He commands him to head to Mt. Sinai and offer his son, Isaac, as a human sacrifice to Him.

Abraham, a true believer, hauls Isaac up the mountain mob-style, having him carry the wood and build the altar that he is to be killed on.

Isaac asks, with increasing paranoia, “Where’s the animal we’re going to sacrifice?” Abraham responds, “God will provide one, wink wink.”
“Why do you keep winking, Dad?”
“Ummmmmm… got some altar dust in my eye. Go ahead and get comfortable on that altar.”
“Why are you putting on those gloves, and that rubber apron?”
“I’m, uh, heading to the eyewash station, and I don’t want get my clothes bloody. Wet! Bloody wet!”

At the last moment, heaven’s governor grants a stay of execution. God says, “Well-played, dog. I thought you’d blink first, but you just had something in your eye. You ice cold, dog. Ice. Cold. Here, have a ram.”

For winning this game of “chicken” with God, Abraham received the reward of abundant prosperity and numerous children to spend it all. Full of good news and good “swimmers,” Abraham ditches his wife and heads out to marry his son’s cousin.

-CLT

Related writings on God and such:
What Jesus Can’t Save
The Real Story of Creation