I saw “Dick Dael” and “Junyur Brown” at The Surf Club!

23 Jun

The Executive Surf Club is somewhat of a landmark in downtown Corpus Christi, TX. It’s a long-standing live music venue in a town where live music venues don’t seem to last too long. If you’re ever in the downtown Corpus Christi area, stop by and order a surf burger and batter fries with a side of walnut dressing; you’ll thank me for it later.

So while I fully endorse The Executive Surf Club, I’ve got to call them out. A few weeks ago,  I attended a party down the street from The Surf Club and as we were leaving, I pointed out to my friend the fact that their sign was done in Comic Sans typeface.

Because nothing screams 'Executive' like Comic Sans font

Click to enlarge

It gets worse, however. Yesterday I had lunch at The Surf Club with some family, and my brother pointed this out to me. Quite frankly, this is inexcusable.

lol @ Dead Kennedies

Click to enlarge

Corpus Christi, Texas is already ranked as the second-least literate city in the United States, and crap like this isn’t helping. Seriously, Executive Surf Club, there is no need for the “scare quotes” around the artists’ names. If the plaque had said Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez, that would be perfectly acceptable, but since he is universally known as Flaco Jiménez, the quotation marks are entirely unnecessary.

Also, the band’s name is Dead Kennedys. Although considering it was not the Jello Biafra-era version of the DKs, maybe they did call themselves The Dead Kennedies. I’m also sure the “surviving members” of Isidro Lopez‘s “family” are rather “upset” that the plaque misspells his “name”.

At first I thought that the use of Open Mike was incorrect, but it turns out that while both Open Mike and Open Mic are acceptable, Open Mike is the preferred usage. Go figure.

Again, this is totally inexcusable. It indicates massive failure on several levels: First, whoever wrote the copy should be fired and told never to write again. If the owner or management approved the copy, they need to suck it up and shell out the money for a new plaque; pardon my French, but this is a fucking embarrassment. And finally, I don’t know what company made the plaque, but I would not do any further business with them. It doesn’t matter if they used the copy that was provided to them; if you’re in the business of making professional-looking commemorative plaques, you should have enough sense to know that your customers can’t always be depended on to provide professionally written copy. An eighth-grader could have probably done a competent job of correcting the errors in this plaque, so everything points to the possibility that from start to finish, not a single person bothered to check for mistakes.

While I was taking these photographs, some tourists walked by and commented on the street construction (visible in the first photo) and then asked where they could find a good burger and beer nearby. Without hesitating, I pointed to The Executive Surf Club. Still, I have to wonder how many educated visitors see that sign and giggle, thinking what a bunch of yokels we are.

…and because I’m a dick, I sent the second photo to The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.

South Texas Rain

11 Jun

It hardly ever rains here in South Texas, but it’s rained more in the past week than it usually does in a full year. But this isn’t a post about the weather, it’ s about my new toy: a Sony HDR-CX380 camcorder. This sucker shoots full 1920×1080p at 60 frames per second and 55× optical zoom.

The other day it was raining so I decided to test out the camera. Here’s my ghetto-ass neighborhood being deluged with rain.  For shits and grins, I rendered the footage in B&W just to see what it would look like, and I was pleased with the results. I was tempted to jack up the contrast to give it an overexposed B-movie look,  but instead I just added a little something at the 1:30 mark.

One of the cool things about shooting at 60fps is that slo-mo looks much cooler. In a couple of spots, I slowed the footage down to half speed and it looks pretty damned good.

The downside of shooting at 1080p @ 60fps is that my computer freaks out when trying to process the footage. Right now I’m exporting a 10-minute clip shot in 1080i @ 29.97 fps and it’s going to take 5 hours to complete. This 8-minute clip took about 24 hours to export to a 1280×720 .h264 encoded mp4. Research indicates it’s not a processor or RAM issue, but that standard 7200rpm hard drives have difficulties with higher frame rates.

If I have any complaints about the camera they’re relatively minor. First, if I don’t want to shoot at 1080p @ 60fps, I can either shoot at 10801 @60fps or 720p @ 29.97fps; there’s no option for shooting at 1080 @ 29.97fps, or 24fps, for that matter. Of course, shooting at 720p vastly increases the amount of footage you can put on either the 16GB internal memory or an external memory card (up to 64GB; I got a 32GB that will probably serve me well, although I’ll probably upgrade the card soon).

Incidentally, my main reason for purchasing this particular model is that it is the cheapest Sony consumer camcorder with an external microphone jack. I haven’t tested the external mic capabilities yet, but the built-in mic does an impressive job. In some earlier footage I shot, the songs of the  neighborhood birds are nicely separated; you can tell some are coming from the south and others to the east and north.

I’d definitely recommend this camera to anyone. Sony makes an upgraded model that has a built-in projector, if that suits your fancy. I’d advise you to forgo that option and use the savings to get an external memory card, extra battery, and a tripod (you can’t take advantage of the camera’s 55× optical zoom without a tripod… trust me on this).

WTF, Askimet?

21 May

I’m beginning to think my blog is broken. Askimet is marking every comment as spam… even my own comments. Once a comment has been approved, the commenter is no longer supposed to be moderated.

99.999% of all comments on this blog are, in fact, spam. I chuckle when I read the spam comments telling me how informative my “In The Meantime…” post is. Still, if my own comments — as well as previously approved commenters — are getting eaten by Askimet, that’s a sign that there’s a problem.

I’ll try to fix it soon, but for now, I’ll just keep a close eye on the spam filter.

Great Moments in History as filmed with a Smartphone, Part One: The Hindenburg Disaster

18 May

The people who insist on filming vertically with their cellphones have latched on to the excuse “the phone is easier to hold that way”. Well, guess what? It doesn’t make it any easier to watch. The day you actually film something of value and want to watch it on another medium such as a DVD, your laziness will trump any significance the footage contains.


If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. If you want your friends and family to enjoy the footage you’ve taken, quit cutting off two-thirds of the picture. Imagine if a friend of yours wanted you to listen to the song they just wrote, and your friend didn’t even bother to tune his guitar, claiming, “it’s easier to play that way.” Vertical filming is to the eyes what an out-of-tune guitar is to the ears, capiche?

Celebrating the demise of Prenda with Thee Shatners

7 May

Lovers of schadenfreude have been following the Prenda case for several months now, and yesterday the internet had a collective nerdgasm when Judge Otis Wright issued a scathing ruling replete with Star Trek references. Music lovers might want to commemorate the occasion by busting out the Alexander Courage records — which is not at all a bad idea — but today I’m celebrating with an obscure little platter entitled Planet Pimp Records Presents… Thee Shatners.

If you like lo-fi surf/garage rock, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this record. It features twelve reverb-laden tunes that pay tribute to the exploits of the USS Enterprise and its crew (and a “mystery track” that’s really just some old man ranting about the homeless people in Santa Cruz). Pretty much every other surf/garage album I own has better musicianship and superior production values, but I can’t think of a single one that’s more fun than this record. (Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” is done as “Mr. Sulu”!)

Minutiae: Thee Shatners were a one-off side project of the California bay area band, The Hi-Fives. Also, fellow space-themed rawkers Man… or Astro-Man? covered Thee Shatners’ “Green Blooded Love” and featured it in their live shows.

Finally, here’s the album’s second track, “He’s Dead Jim”

Banner Month For Doom/Stoner Metal Fans

4 May

A mixture of thanks and “damn you!” to my good friend Jeff for introducing me to the world of doom/stoner metal. If you’re not familiar with it, the best nutshell description I can think of is this: It’s basically metal that uses — almost exclusively — Black Sabbath’s first four albums as a reference point.  I know some people would find fault in that description, but remember; it’s just a nutshell definition.

If you’re into the whole doom/stoner scene, or if you want to get into it, May 2013 is a good month. First off, in the see-what-I-mean-about-the-Sabbath-influence department,  Orchid’s Mouths of Madness will be released May 14. Here’s the single version of the title track:

Also hitting the shelves on May 14 is Kadavar’s sophomore album, Abra Kadavar. Their self-titled debut made a big splash last year, and it’s been in heavy rotation at stately Throatpunch manor since I got my hands on it. Expectations are high for this one, and to be honest, I’m prepared to be little disappointed. The advance single from the album, “Doomsday Machine” doesn’t hit me as hard as anything on their debut. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still good, but in my opinion, this would be filler had it been on their first album.

Available (through import, at least) May 21 is Church of Misery’s Thy Kingdom Scum album. I’m fucking stoked about this. Some people see Church of Misery as being rather gimmicky (all their songs are about serial killers), but I just see it as a band picking up the slack for all those pussy metal bands who have never bothered to do a single song about a serial killer. Also, these guys rock hard, so that’s always a plus. If the single from the album, “Brother Bishop”, is any indication, Thy Kingdom Scum is going to be up to snuff with their previous albums, which are all worth listening to.

Bonus clip: Here’s the “trailer” (do albums have trailers?) for Thy Kingdom Scum. I think it would be awesome if they bought airtime on Nancy Grace’s show for this ad.

Double bonus: Here’s a clip from Sonic Flower’s sole album. This was an all-instrumental side project featuring some past and present members of Church of Misery. Out of print, sadly.

In the meantime…

2 May

Shit, I haven’t updated this site in ages. Apologies to my zeroes of loyal readers! I’ll be busy this month, but I’d like to get back to blogging once I’m done with my rat killing.

Until then, enjoy this Kadavar video and keep an eye out for their sophomore album, Abra Kadavar, hitting the shelves later this month.

The Protector (2005)

25 Jul

Score: 6/10

After the success of Ong Bak, the world waited eagerly for a new Tony Jaa movie. The year 2005 brought us Tom Yum Goong, or The Protector for us Americans. And The Warrior King, Thai Dragon, Revenge of the Warrior, and Honor of the Beast for people in other parts of the world. Confusing, huh? In addition to the wide assortment of titles, there are just as many different edits. I’m reviewing the US release, so all references will be to The Protector.

The Protector

A boy and his elephants.

The Plot

In a nutshell, replace the statue’s head from Ong Bak with a pair of elephants, and you’ve got The Protector. Oh… and his name is not Ting, it’s Kham. And he goes to Australia instead of Bangkok. Get the picture? Sadly, The Protector is a case of “one step forward, two steps back”. Sure, we get crazy stunts and ass-kickings galore, but what should be a simple story is muddled and cluttered. I realize that part of it might be due to distributors chopping out scenes from the movie, but come on; in addition to Tony Jaa trying to get his elephants back, there’s a transgendered restaurant owner cozying up with a corrupt police inspector, and who knows what else going on in the plot. I’m not some neo-conservative backwater religious nut who freaks out over a female character who wasn’t actually born with a vagina, but it really didn’t serve much of a point.

The Protector

It’s a shemalé!

The Cast

Okay, so we’ve got Tony Jaa playing a country bumpkin who’s gone to the big city to retrieve a statue’s head his elephants. We’ve also got the dude who played George/Humlae in Ong Bak, this time playing a cop. He speaks English throughout much of the film, but the subtitles only show up when people are speaking Thai, which sucks, because his accent is so thick he might as well be speaking Thai. Even the people who released The Harder They Come on DVD had the sense to add a subtitle option even though the movie is entirely in English.

I’ve already mentioned that the chief bad guy is a shemale restaurateur who is getting it on with a corrupt cop. She also has a henchman named Johnny who sells drugs on the side. Johnny seems like a badass at first, but he’s dispensed of rather unceremoniously. Plus, his drug trade is guarded by BMXers and rollerbladers from The X Games.

And finally, there’s a whole parade of people who line up to get their domes smashed by Tony Jaa (notable among them is former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones). When I say “parade”, I’m not fucking around; I’m pretty sure he beats up a couple of giant balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

The Protector

Oh yeah… There’s a Jackie Chan look-alike in the movie, too.

The Twenty Minute Rule

At a little past nineteen minutes in, Tony Jaa is flying through a door and putting the hurt on some people at a karaoke party. Then it’s off to Australia for more beatdowns, so no complaints here.

The Protector

Let’s get this party started!

The Movie

If it sounds like I’m down on The Protector, it’s because I am. I just don’t think it’s a worthy follow-up to Ong Bak. What was bad about Ong Bak is worse in The Protector, and what was good about Ong Bak wasn’t really improved upon in this movie.

What should really be a simple, straightforward story about a guy trying to get his stolen elephants back is kind of all over the place. Here’s the deal: in my humble opinion, a competent martial arts movie should be like a porn movie. In a porn movie, when the cable guy shows up to fix the cable, he doesn’t really fix the cable, he fucks the girl who answers the door. And so it should be in a martial arts movie. When the protaganist arrives at a location, it should be for the sole purpose of chewing bubblegum and kicking ass but being all out of bubblegum. There’s a scene in The Protector where Tony Jaa and the cop go to a Buddhist temple… then leave. Then out of nowhere, they decide — for no real reason — to go back to the temple, where all manner of hell breaks loose. If you’re going to make a basic, by the numbers action flick, the non-action sequences should at least be serviceable. That’s just not the case in The Protector.

How do the fight scenes in The Protector hold up? Funny you should ask… that’s the only thing that keeps me from giving this a 5 out of 10 and relegating it to the “merely average” dustbin. One of the early fight scenes features Jaa going up against a gang of thugs on skateboards, BMX bikes and an ATV or two. The stunts are cool and all, but it just doesn’t seem… natural. Tony Jaa is billed as a human being who can do superhuman shit without the aid of wires, so putting his fights in a realistic context helps to highlight his abilities. This extreme sports scenario smacks of some focus group head saying, “I hear the kids are into extreme sports these days. Let’s put Tony Jaa up against some kids on motocross bikes! That will be ‘super groovy’ as you young people like to say.”

On the plus side, here is where they got things right: there is one fight scene that is over four minutes long, and it’s done in a single take. Even better, it’s done quite well in a single take. That’s the kind of innovation I was hoping for in The Protector, so props to them for doing it right.

There’s also a scene that I interpreted as Tony Jaa saying “Fuck you!” to Steven Seagal. I’m probably reaching, I know, but when Tony Jaa broke the limbs of about 50 anonymous bad guys (if this had been a Star Trek episode, these dudes would have been all wearing red shirts), it basically summed up Steven Seagal’s entire filmography in a few short minutes. Again, I know I’m reaching, but I really want to live in a world where martial arts movies offer symbolic middle fingers to Steven Seagal. Chuck Norris, too. Fuck that dude.

The Protector

Seriously. Fuck you, Steven Seagal.

In closing, Tony Jaa fans will enjoy The Protector, if only because Tony Jaa does what he’s expected to do. Fans of martial arts films in general will — for the most part — like the fight scenes, but squirm through all the other crap. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you probably won’t enjoy this one. I liked it, but just barely.

Craigslist and Butthurt is a dangerous combination

23 Jul

For some unknown reason, I read the local musician’s section at Craigslist on a regular basis. I honestly don’t know why, since most of the ads there are for Iron Maiden/Metallica/Misfits tribute bands or some form of heavy metal that is either brutal or intense, or both.

Every now and then, I get the urge to respond. The other day I had a little fun with all the “intense” stuff being posted, and a couple of people joined in on the fun.

Last night, I came across this ad, featuring this gem of a line:

if you consider yourself an “intellectual musician”, or if your first question is if i have anything recorded for you to hear, your not the type of person i’m looking for

To which I responded:

In other words, you’re looking for unintelligent, unthinking people who aren’t the least bit curious about what they’re getting themselves into.
Good luck with that. I’m sure you’ll attract some real creative types with that attitude.

This is what I found in my inbox this morning (I didn’t make any changes other than to remove the guy’s name):

If your ever done being a little bitch who hides behind post and emails, my name is [redacted] i’m from Annaville, i’ll be glad to meet you any where any time. In fact, i’m down town most nights. Feel free to ask around.

My response (Again, I’ve removed the guy’s name):

[redacted]? The [redacted]? Swoon!

How about this: at High Noon today (that’s when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 12), you meet me at the corner of Eat Shit and Die.

Seriously, what kind of goddamned loser gets so butthurt over a Craigslist posting that he has to puff up his big ol’ chest and threaten an ass-whoopin’? That’s right, a loser like [redacted], that’s who! There’s no need for me to ask around about you, I’ve got you figured out: you’re a fucking moron and a wannabe thug.

Instead of making an ass out of yourself by playing internet tough guy, why don’t you pick up your guitar and write some whiny emo song about how your poor little feelings got hurt and you had to lash out like The Hulk… HULK ANGRY!!! HULK SMASH!!! HULK WRITE BUTTHURT EMAIL!!! AAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!

Thanks for emailing me. It’s nice to start the day off with a laugh, especially when that laugh is at the expense of an idiot.

Have a nice day,

JLB

Furthermore, I posted this to Craigslist:

If you read something on Craigslist — or anywhere else on the internet, for that matter — that upsets, offends, or otherwise upsets your delicate sensibilities, it’s probably best to just move on to the next post, page, article, LOLcat, YouTube video, or whatever.

However, if you are so upset that you absolutely must respond, the last thing you should do is play the Internet Tough Guy and threaten violence. It doesn’t matter how tough you are; when you threaten violence over the internet, you’re just making yourself the butt of a joke. We’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing at you.

I realize that most people here have spent the requisite 5 minutes in the civilized world needed to learn this valuable lesson, but apparently there are a few folks who didn’t get the memo.

If I hear back from my new friend, I’ll update accordingly. Also, the links in this post a subject to dying at any time, with little or no notice.

Ong Bak (2003)

23 Jul

Score: 7/10

Martial arts movies went mainstream in a big way towards the end of the last century. 1998 gave us the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker buddy cop movie, Rush Hour. In 1999, The Matrix distracted viewers from Keanu Reeves’ and Carrie-Anne Moss’s lack of onscreen chemistry by showcasing the fight choreography of Hong Kong legend Yuen Woo-ping. Yuen again choreographed the action in the wire-fu blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Before long, the phrase “played out” started being tossed around whenever the words “martial arts” were uttered. When Crispin Glover and Drew Barrymore  are flying around like Shaolin masters in Charlie’s Angels and the zombies in a Uwe Fucking Boll movie know kung fu, then yeah, “played out” is an apt description.

Just as the death of Bruce Lee left a massive void in the martial arts film industry of the seventies, the mainstream acceptance of the same stars who had filled Lee’s shoes created a stagnancy in chop socky movies in the early 21st Century. That all changed in 2003, thanks to a little movie from Thailand known as Ong Bak.

The Plot

When the head of Ong Bak, the revered Buddha statue in Nang Pradu village is stolen, Ting (Tony Jaa) volunteers to go to Bangkok and retrieve the relic. He [SPOILER ALERT!] eventually succeeds, but only after planting his fists, feet, knees and elbows into the faces of numerous bad guys.

Ong Bak

Ting must jump through hoops to retrieve the statue’s head.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

The Cast

Let’s face it; Tony Jaa is not going to win any acting awards. His range basically consists of asking a question (in this case, “Where is Ong Bak?”) in an angry tone before throwing down. Then again, if you look at martial arts as an extreme form of sign language, then Jaa is indeed very convincing.

Tony Jaa

Ting, the Pradu Legend!

This is definitely one of Ong Bak’s strong points, and a strong point of director Prachya Pinkaew’s movies in general. It’s like they know they don’t have much of a story and the actors aren’t all that great, so the idea is to sell the stunts convincingly enough so that the audience will overlook the film’s other shortcomings. Ong Bak is really nothing more than the tried-and-true “fish out of water” story, but instead of winning the hearts and minds of the city folk through his homespun charm, Jaa beats them into submission. Hey, whatever works, right?

Jaa has two sidekicks in the movie, George/Humlae, who is from the same village and Muay Lek, who helps George pull off his two-bit scams. They’re supposed to be comic relief, but the problem is, they’re not very funny. Fortunately, by the time they get to be too intolerable, it’s time for Tony Jaa to crack someone’s skull with a well-placed knee or elbow.

The sidekicks

The “comic” relief

The chief bad guy is a degenerate gambler who speaks with one of those Peter Frampton devices. Even though he has a hole in his neck indicating a laryngectomy, I think it might be an affectation. I swear he yells in one scene without the aid of his electrolarynx (thanks, Wikipedia, for telling me what those Peter Frampton devices are called!). Oh… and chief bad guy apparently finances his gambling habit by selling stolen treasures to international collectors.

The main bad guy

Do you feel like we do?

Chief bad guy has a bodyguard who is a hard motherfucker. He’s probably not a very good actor, either, because I don’t think he had a single line of dialogue. For most of the movie he’s standing around glowering, hoping that his boss will order him to fuck someone up so he’ll have an excuse to inject massive amounts of performance enhancing drugs.

Final boss!

Yeah, I think “glowering” was the right word.

All in all, the cast isn’t that great, but it’s not too hard to overlook since the people who matter the most in Ong Bak are stuntmen, not thespians.

The Twenty Minute Rule

Hmmm… twenty minutes in, not much has happened, really. The movie starts off with the young men of Nang Pradu village fighting for some sacred banner in a huge — I mean HUGE — tree, but it really doesn’t serve as a hint of what’s to come. We also get to see Tony Jaa give a brief exhibition of Muay boran, in which he gives the inevitable pledge to never, under any circumstances, actually use this deadly martial art. Fortunately for us, Ting is in Bangkok for all of 5 minutes before he forgets his promise.

In spite of a slow start, once Ong Bak gets moving, it keeps a brisk pace throughout. You are forgiven this time, Prachya Pinkaew.

The Movie

If you’re bored with what Hong Kong has to offer in the martial arts genre, Ong Bak is a delight to watch. The stunts — not just the fights — are dazzling… for the most part. There’s an extended foot chase in which Jaa does some amazing stuff; he even manages to make jumping through some bubbles look cool. Later on, however, there’s a vehicle chase where the stunts are just silly in comparison to the things Jaa does with his own body (The story goes that Jaa grew up idolizing Jackie Chan and Jet Li, not knowing that they used wires to assist with their stunts). The fights are whole different story. This isn’t stylized ballet performed while dangling from wires; Muay Boran is a martial art whose goal is to immobilze opponents in a quick and painful manner. Ong Bak‘s fight scenes aren’t the least bit graceful; they’re brutal… and that’s a Good Thing.

Ong Bak

Just one of dozens of people who get beat up by Tony Jaa.

Ong Bak is really just a Thai filmmaker’s calling card, serving notice to the rest of the world that maybe it’s time to get back to basics when it comes to martial arts movies. You don’t need tragic love triangles and set pieces that look like music videos; you just need a guy going from point A to point B, kicking all kinds of ass along the way.

It’s not anywhere near a perfect film, but it’s definitely worth checking out.