Archive for August, 2014

Western Watchins #93

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Young Pioneers. That is the name of this week’s pain. I haven’t even finished watching it yet, I will, but right now…I…I just can’t. I will finish it of course, that’s my promise to you all and the curse to me-all. I’m only half way through it but here I sit, convinced that when I am done, my theory that this film is the very sphincter through which all monotony, tedium and disinterest comes into the world will stand proven and irrefutable. It is a master class on how not to perform onscreen and some of the actors are so unbelievably terrible I have doubts that they could even function regularly in the real world. That these nimrods remember to breathe while sleeping is proof that a loving God exists and takes pity on the wretched. Beyond that, many of the decisions the characters made were so outrageously, brain-bafflingly, dumb-shitingly stupid that, had actual pioneers made them, we’d have never made it past the west side of Boston much less all the way to the West Coast.

But I’m done joking. I can no longer, in good conscience, continue taking swipes at this dangling turd of a TV movie out of the concern that someone reading this might take my humorous anecdotes as even the slightest of endorsements and decide to track this one done for some yucks. It’s not “so bad it’s good”. It’s so bad it’s the worst goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. Instead, I’ve found a video for you to watch. One that I feel sums up all that Young Pioneers is and all I went through watching it. Enjoy:

 

 

Young Pioneers went on to spawn a Christmas special and even attempted a regular weekly series because, despite what I said earlier, God hates us. I never thought it would get worse than Hooded Angels which earned itself a “0”. That’s right, not one single round in the chamber, and yet 0 is still a number and thus means at least some recognition. What to do then for a film that is shittier than the sum of all shits ever shat? Ladies and gentlemen I bring you a new low here at Western Watchins as I proudly and without joy or hesitation award Young Pioneers with exactly what it deserves:

 

 

Amigos I was blind but now the scales have fallen from my eyes and I know that as bad as some of these movies get, they could always be worse. It is always blacker than the blackest black times infinity before dawn. After this week, I should have one hell of a sunrise coming my way.

And now I’m off riding true to go and find it. See you next week.

Master vs. Disaster

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I’m still not sure last weekend actually happened. I got about three hours of sleep Friday night before heading to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in celebration of a dear friend’s 30th birthday. Nearly constant servings of Butterbeer kept me one whacked out wizard all day but once I got home I was down for 12 hours straight. And I never do that. Had to get my beauty rest, though, as the very next night Angie and I were driving to Tampa for Motley Crüe’s final tour with special guest, Alice Cooper.

I was in for many, many surprises.

I’d never seen either act live and was completely amazed by what I saw. Both Alice’s expert showmanship and Crüe frontman Vince Neil’s complete lack thereof. Alice Cooper is the make-up wearing, child-scarring Godfather of all things macabre-rock. He’s 66 years old, looks twice that number, but kicked so much ass in that amphitheater you’d have figured him for a man half his age. From the moment he appeared you were his and he was yours down to his last sweaty pore. To say there was sort of a connection between Alice and the audience would be like saying that wrapping your dick in tin-foil and fucking a light socket only feels sort of amazing! No, there was an immediate and set lasting connection unlike few, if any, I’ve ever felt. Let’s contrast this for a moment with how Vince worked the crowd.

First of all, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx pretty much look like they always have. Lean and mean and rock and roll. Mick Mars looks like a skeleton with AIDS having a really bad day after a month of bad days after every year of his life having been worse than the one before. He might already be dead with only our love and appreciation animating his tired boney fingers, I can’t be sure, but I can tell you one thing: this poor diseased riddled 63 year old bastard can still fire up such an audio-orgasmic boner the likes of which will fuck your ears to the point they may never fully recover and you’ll be goddamn happy about that fact. Three-quarters then of Motley Crüe sound just as great now as they did back in 1981. Not so for their lead singer who sounded about as bombastic as a ghost passing gas behind closed doors. And, on top of all that, he looked like this:

 

 

You think I’m kidding but here’s the band. From left to right there’s Nikki, Tommy, Mick and on the end like some confused elderly woman out looking for mimosas in her mumu is Vince Neil. What at first we all thought was a tech issue we quickly realized was not at all a tech issue. Vince was embarrassingly out of shape and while there have been some successful plus size entertainers, such as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and that ball from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mr. Neil is not among them. If you’re heavy set and perfectly happy? Good for you! I wasn’t when I was big, so I changed because I wanted that for myself, did it for myself and nobody else; which is how it always should be and usually the only way the changes remain permanent. If, however, you’re the lead singer of a balls-to-the-wall, high-speed hair-metal band you might want to be at least in shape enough to make it through one damn song before you’re winded. Watching him struggle was no fun. Whole lines were mumbled, rushed or forgotten entirely. “Kickstart my Heart” takes on an ominously defibrillatory tone when the guy singing it is covered in cold sweat and clutching his chest. Alice Cooper had a huge animatronic Frankenstein puppet thing that moved its awkward girth about the stage with more conviction and class than Vince ever managed to muster at any point during the evening.

And you laugh for a spell then you think about what each guy, Alice and Vince, are telling you with their performances. He said he was happy to still be alive but Vince had little respect for himself and even less for the audience. One guy is honest with himself, about his abilities and what he has to offer and he blows your mind. The other guy isn’t and just blows.

I touched on this last time we talked but honesty is above all else the quality you must embrace and enact if you’re to be deeply fulfilled in this life. The cosmic conjunction of kismet that’s surrounded me since AFO continued dead center of the lawn seating at the Cooper/Crüe concert when two college guys sitting in front of us began chatting with Angie and I. At one point, and for whatever reason, one of them looked at me and said “I want to see you up there. I would pay to see you up on that stage just talking!” He stared at me with this mixture of reverence and desire. It was unsettling but once again I felt right there what I’d felt back at the con. Maybe I’m not the best host in the world (I am!) but people sure seem to give a shit about what I’m saying (many shits, in fact!). I’m impressed and encouraged that even in the middle of nowhere God, the universe or whatever is still hounding me to get off my ass and do what I’m meant to do. You’re thinking “Chris, it was probably just some random and drunken adoration between single serving friends” and I think “who the hell said that?” and “you might be right!” But then later, on the way home whilst stuck in some godawful traffic, I see a tweet about a Gen Con event I used to emcee, the tweeter mentioning me by name as he laments how that show has suffered and is just not the same since I was unceremoniously removed from the mic. Now the encouragement has become most impressive.

Maybe I’m not so full of me as much as I’m full of something inexplicable but undeniable, something I enjoy giving and people sure as hell enjoy getting. I’ve heard so many comments recently confirming that tweet’s sentiment from mentors, friends, close and casual fans and even some individuals very close to my former adult entertainment associates; and while I do believe there’s a time for everything wasting any more of it on former friends does no good whatsoever. For me, those around me, or the world at large. Trust me, I’ve imagined unleashing jokes, tweets and Facebook posts filled with curb-stomping, cancer and laughable coital catastrophe with every intention to make those who attacked my wife and I hurt just as deeply as they’ve hurt us. I don’t at all claim to be above those kinds of actions but, at least in this instance, I’ve never ripped into those responsible in a fashion fully deserved by their cruelty. For that I’m proud. And from that I am so much the better.

Yes, so much better to go on as I have. If AFO and all this continued confirmation have proven anything to me it’s that being the better man leads to a better life. I will pick myself up by the bootstraps to go find and sing from a thousand microphones replacing the single one cowardly taken from my hand. There’s something in me, something like Alice has, that transcends simply being a commanding public speaker. At the end of the show were they glad to hear you or just glad you shut the fuck up? When all is said and done you want the crowd to know a little more about themselves and that they were right next to you, hand in hand, the entire show. I don’t know how it’s done, what that x-factor is, but my friend Sally, whom I mentioned last week, had this insight and reminded me thus:

“Well Chris, it’s not about your jokes or your speeches. It’s what you DO. Think about it. You and Angie go and DO all these wonderful things! You go places, you do things, and you inspire us to do the same!”

Both Alice and Motley Crüe were singing the same songs in largely the same way as they have been doing for decades. The difference between Alice’s unforgettable turn and Vince’s tired and traumatic attempt boiled down to honesty. Alice is still cock of the walk while Vince is just the brunt of jokes from critics, fans and his own bandmates. Both have a lifetime’s worth of extravagance and swank to wield upon any audience. One guy still cares enough to do so, the other has deluded himself into feeling like he’s so great he doesn’t have to care at all. Alice wasn’t that one moment on stage, he was the indescribable sum of all he’d done up to that point and what’s more, he was letting you in on it. No, fuck that, he was reaching out and grabbing you by the throat and dragging you emotionally up on stage with him. His show was about your goddamn good time. Ever talk to one of those people that when they’re done you realize about 92% of the conversation was about them? And if you got a word in edgewise they’d already heard about the same thing or done it all before and better than you could ever hope to do it? Those people aren’t there for you. They’re not there to listen and truly interact. They’re talking to convince themselves just how important, impressive and accomplished they are.

Alice has done it all but he also wants that for you. Vince has done it all too but he just wants you to kiss his ass. The former inspires, the latter insults.

Vince was deaf to the crowd and pulled the wool over his own eyes to eek his way (just barely) through a 20 song or so set list. He figures his fame and rep will get him through and since he was so awesome back then he doesn’t even need to try now. Alice stood up there and merged himself sonically with the crowd, riding that throbbing dick made of maddening decibels to fuck the fuck out of the whole fucking world! Only way I reckon he could look himself in the mirror afterwards and know he gave you everything is if he actually did. Alice is one honest mother with himself. I challenge myself every day to be the same.

And I ask the same of you.

If you don’t like the direction your life is headed in, if you know you want something more, then go in a different direction. Go get your “more”. And if you don’t like what you see on whatever stage, stop going to see the show. Rock stars, cable networks, movie studios and yes, even your friendly neighborhood provider of convention based entertainment, none of these entities will take any notice or give any fucks at all until you take a stance and then actually stand behind it. 

My time, money and effort are worth more to me than mediocre. I live life unashamed and give all I got. I expect the same from my pastimes and entertaining distractions. I would see Alice Cooper again without a second thought, Motley Crüe (all due respect to Tommy, Nikki and Mick) not so much. In everything you take in and everything you put out, you’ve got a choice too. Between boldness and boredom, between encouragement and apathy, between sincerity and farce.

When words are written, spoken or sung, it’s the heart behind them that’ll make the difference every single time.

 

Western Watchins #92

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The Western genre, sad but true, is barely a blip on most folk’s entertainment radars. We’re a post modern, neo-retro/futurist society steeped in disposable electronics and relationships based on clicking “like”. The thought of a dirty, disconnected world in which your word meant something scares a lot of people. Cowboy themed movies struggle to find a broad audience as does print with the same stylings and their bastard offspring, the comic book, has it even harder. I’ll bet you can name all the Western comic book characters you’ve ever heard of with nothing but one hand and a quizzically forlorn look on your face. No shame in that, I only mustered up Jonah Hex, the Lone Ranger and Zorro. So when I spied a copy of A Man Named Hawken over at my pal’s house I knew what I had to do. I asked that sum-bitch, with gravel at the back of my throat and nothing but cold, black comic book need in my heart, if I could borrow his trade paperback. He then took a draw off his whiskey, looked me dead in the eyes, and muttered a meaningful “yeah”. Make sure if you ever borrow something you make it all cool like that. And wear a poncho if you can. I wasn’t wearing mine and that’s a regret I’ll carry with me the rest of my days. Of course, when I reach the end of all of those “my days” I sit here secure in the thought that I will not be nearly as beat to hell as Kit Hawken.   

If you mummified the “The Man With no Name” after you rolled him around in buffalo turds, kicked him in both balls repeatedly, scalped him and then called him “Kit Hawken” you’d pretty much have Kit Hawken. He’s only the surliest of souls probably because those of everyone he’s ever killed follow him around just to fuck with him. A gunslinger literally haunted by his gun-downed victims. The “haints” as he calls them might be real or Kit might be sun burnt in the brain-pan. Definitive clues are lacking and as only six issues exist thus far the answers are really left up to you. The first arc leaves quit a bit to be desired but as an example of what a father and son can do when taken in by the moment AMNH is commendable. More on that in a moment, first back to the jarring interplay that occurs when one moment your reading some wacky conversations between ghosts and our sand-deep-in-his-crack kind of crabby protagonist and then the next it’s all boom goes the dynamite. 

 

 

Hawken is gritty, even flirting with genuinely disconcerting, only to quickly transition into a panel or two featuring a ghost dog peeing on somebody’s face. I love me a good piss-face scene but I never knew if I was supposed to taking any of this seriously. High Plains Drifter is one of the best examples of how to blend the humorous and the horrible and make you forget that those things should never be a mingling. One minute Clint’s fighting for his life, the next it’s a laugh a minute rape scene. Man I love that movie. Because it’s an amazing movie and because talking about it the way I do must just freak the fuck out of some folks. Conversely, Hawken doesn’t get the blood to boiling as much as it should. The characters are designed really well and the art style is well suited to the task but when payoffs like this come:

 

 

What should leave me all “hell yeah” merits instead a simple “ho-hum”. I wished this book was better on the whole. Kit’s toothy under-bite, obvious baggage and “fuck my obvious baggage” attitude create what could have become a welcome addition to the painfully few classic comic book protagonists who aren’t adverse to wearing buckskin. Kit was brutally bad ass, the world he lived in had promise, the story they told together was somehow just average. Had this series continued my opinion could have easily changed but one trade’s worth of what amounted to one big bloody introduction made the tome I held tight in my hands feel emptier than it should have. My disappointment with Hawken can’t be denied, however it was assuaged a good bit once I learned of how it had all come to be.

Ben and Tim Truman, the father/son due I spoke of above, have some heavy, mostly indy, comic book street cred to the point they even managed to get Geof Darrow to work up a devastatingly detailed alternative cover for issue #5. Writer Ben lived in Tucson and artist Tim paid him a visit one year. The family took a road trip all over the Grand Canyon State from up north all the way down to Tombstone and Bisbee right near the border with ol’Mexico. Along the way was born Kit Hawken and his quest to bloody up the world before he’s six feet down. Little nods to that particular geographic locale throughout the narrative and none so blatant as when, just a few pages in, some banditos decide to stir up trouble at a lonely desert mission. 

 

A mission, lying southwest of Tucson, in which I’ve actually attended mass.

 

 

 

Angie and I visited the Mission San Xavier del Bac last time we were at home in the desert. It’s beautiful and mussed, sitting there all open arms in the middle of nowhere like a charming whore with some dirt behind her ears. And she’s why I can’t be that vicious when quantifying my convictions about A Man Named Hawken. Built over two hundred years ago San Xavier is one of the many treasures I’m sure Ben and Tim saw along the heat burnt byways they traveled for a week together. This book is incomplete. It’s a slice of angry life served on the gravestone of a man who doesn’t realize he’s already all but dead. It’s tastes good but it tastes sour once you roll it around for a while and no matter what you think of the flavor it leaves you wanting more so you can see if it’ll ever live up to it’s spite filled potential. Once you put it down you might realize though that maybe this story was never meant for us. This story was meant for Ben and Tim, within their relationship is an understanding and appreciation we will never fathom. 3 rounds in the cylinder for A Man Named Hawken. As a satisfying tale of vengeance, unflinching and exhaustive it fails to deliver. As evidence of the labor of love between a father and his son, I tip my hat.

Now get out there riding true amigos, your own legends await.  

 

Haikuesday Returns!

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Monsters and make-up

A happy nightmare made real

Thanks Mister Cooper

 

Western Watchins #91

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Cheap isn’t meaningless. Cheap isn’t useless. Cheap is not something to always be avoided or scoffed at. Some of the best times of my life could accurately be described with some definition of “cheap.” Some of the best things I’ve ever owned and some of the best things I’ve ever done? Cheap!

But you know how it is.

Money talks.

Talks people into giving up on their dreams, talks people into fucking over their friends and families. Money might even talk you into buying a video game dripping slick with top of the line advertising efforts and financially fluffed “reviews.” So stumbling across small, independent titles that are swimming against the tide isn’t commonplace in an unforgiving ocean of “OMG! Have you played Titanfall? What? NO!?!? Why Not? It’s a game with things that happen and things that move! I read that Aggro-Opinonator gave it like 8 out of 5 starzors! It’s got graphics and sounds!!! It’s totes available on your PS4Box9000and you should go get it right now just like the commercial sez!!!”

I’m a fan of some huge franchises like Gears of War, but for every deserving studio out there that produces a polished product there’s another conniving to cock punch you with their next release. Like a minor-leaguer still hungry for success, some of the most innovative, inexpensive and plain damn fun to play titles will forever come from somebody you’ve never heard of in your life. So when you do find, as I have this week, one or two of these precious little nuggets floating down the vapid and empty gold-claim of the modern console era you must rejoice. And at a buck each these two are both that perfect kind of cheap I’ll saddle up with any day. Two tiny, indy, one dollar games are maybe not what you were expecting but I didn’t expect to fuckin’ fall off my horse last time I was out riding either, I didn’t expect to become infatuated with the American Southwest and need to move to Arizona and I sure as hell didn’t expect to be married to a kind and gorgeous woman who loves me a hundred times more than I deserve.

Always getting what you expect is boring. And I will not be a party to that.

So I’ll tell you a little about Cowbots and Super Amazing Wagon Adventure instead.

 

 

Cowbots is a combo platter of turn-based card game and twin-stick shooter and whether you’re facing off against the CPU or a buddy in Battle, Railroad or Survival mode it’s amusing if not terribly in-depth. No matter the mode, the gameplay is basically the same. Earn gold, guns or icons each round in order to play cards of varying offensive or defensive value before your opponent does the same. One screen (i.e. the first one I found on an image search) looks like this:

 
 

 

Get your strategy all figured out and pick your perfect hand. Once that’s over you roll around in a mine cart plinking rapid fire, shotgun or large caliber rounds at anybody that isn’t friendly. The variety of mechanical men you can bolster your ranks with is rather large and amusingly diverse. I specifically said “men” because there aren’t any women in this game. Not one robot whore. I weep on my pal Bender’s shoulder as he quietly leaks on mine because we both have a soft spot in our hearts for that soft spot presumably deep inside most if not all whores. Other than the glaring lack of cybernetic soiled doves my only gripe with this game is that when you play “Railroad” mode (a race to build a complete track across the screen) if you don’t get a Prayer card in the first three rounds you’re screwed. That card allows you to play extra cards each round which in turn increases your chances of fielding an impenetrable posse in addition to finding one of the eight railroad track piece cards you’ll need to win the whole shebang. Don’t see those praying hands early on and you might as well shove a bottle of Jack up your ass and give yourself the whiskey shits because your time will be better spent shitting whiskey than trying in vain to achieve victory.

Alcohol tinged taints aside Cowbots is my go-to game when I’ve got ten or fifteen to spare and I don’t feel like yelling at 12 year olds playing anything online. Like jerking off, it’s easy to learn and doesn’t take too long to finish but man is it ever fun. 3 rounds for this genre mixing little hombre. And if pretending to be a tiny terminator version of Cullen Bohannon grunting your way across the plains in the name of mechanized manifest destiny isn’t totally worth a buck, the hell if I know what is. Of course if all you have is a buck and you’re looking for the complete opposite of short and simple look no further than to the second part of this week’s review.

 

 

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is all of these words and then more words. Like Cholera, killer scorpions, flaming buffalo stampedes, spitting lamas, exploding volcanoes and evil bandit destroying tactical air strikes.

 

 

Think about that old Oregon Trail game and then imagine it about fifty times harder and with aliens and sex and time travel. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is not quite as accurate historically as the old O.T. was but you really haven’t struggled to expand this great country of ours unless you’ve fended off narwhals with your pterodactly pistol now have you? This game is 8-bit glory wrapped around a damned near impossible to complete story. It’s insanely addictive due to its fairly basic controls which make you feel like you’ve gone full retard as, in the amount of time it takes you to eke out even one complete journey, you could have probably read the dictionary twice. When I finally, and after what seemed like the longest of “lasts”, reached the West Coast I was sure the pelican that flew welcomingly over head was going to try and kill me so there I sat unaware of my victory with fingers clenched tightly around my controller and my anus clenched tightly around my anus.

It really is that amazing.

Both the game and my anus. A doctor once told me that if I kept lifting heavy weights my “rectum would fall out.” This upset my anus terribly and to this day he works even harder to support me as only he can and I’m pleased to say that all my parts are where they should be. And you amigo, should support these two little games that could. 4 rounds by the way for Super Amazing Wagon Adventure. A touch better than Cowbots because of its liberal use of ridiculous humor and the curious mix of skill and luck needed to complete the damn thing.

But both are great and you should buy them both because c’mon, it’s only two dollars. There’s probably two dollars in your car/couch/cat right now or maybe someone owes you two dollars or you could promise to show someone your dick for two dollars and then do it and then you’d have two dollars. Lots of ways to meet this minimal monetary need. You keep riding true and I’m sure you’ll figure something out and then be playing around with these two hidden gems before you can say “hey, I showed you my dick. Where’s my money?”

 

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