Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 End of Year Media Power Rankings

This is the time of year for year end lists. Otherwise they'd be too early or too late. I've always liked the idea of ranking everything that came out over the year, but I've never been the kind of person who took in that much media group any given year. I'm usually listening, watching, or reading the same things I have for years. Not to say that a rookie can't find their way into my heart throughout the course of the year, but by and large im rewatching the same things I've seen a hundred times. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Everyone gets all crazy about all this new stuff, but there's something to be said about media that not just captures your hear, but then occupies it for a good portion of your life. So I don't do an end of year ranking of new media, I do an end of year media power rankings. Some of these books and movies have been out for years whereas some were just out this year. They're ranked on how much I enjoyed them over the course of 2014. This was a tough year, and and some that were ranked highly didn't even make the list. Like every year though I just appreciate everyone who competed. I assure you the process to determine this was both fair and incredibly scientific. 

(I decided not to include any standup, because if I read one more non-famous comedian's analysis of a famous comedian's special I will probably blow my brains out.) 

TV Division

1 (Last year's ranking: 5) How I Met Your Mother 

With the finale of Breaking Bad 2013 was the year of the crime drama. 2014 saw the close of one of the best sitcoms that's been around for a long time. How I Met Your Mother was in it's day just about the funniest thing that was on TV. The past few years were defineitely not the prime of this show. The last season was hit and miss. The finale was mostly miss, but finally sitting down to watch this show that I'd spent so much time with was satisfying even though the last episode was anything but. Also there is something to be said about a finale that pisses you off. It means you've invested so much time and energy in it that, good or bad, it really means something to you. So I choose not to focus on how much better the last season could've been, but how much I truly loved the first four seasons. 

2 (Last year's ranking 2) Firefly

Last year Firefly was number 2 because it's a great show. Firefly remains a great show so it remains number 2. If you don't like it then you're probably a bad person. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. 

3 (new to the list this year) Game of Thrones

This show went from something I was sick of people talking about, to something I promised I'd check out, to something I becasme obsessed with, to something people around me were sick of hearing me talk about. If it continues being this awesome then I don't think I'll stop talking about it anytime it then talk to me about it please. 

4 (new to this year) 24: Live Another Day

When I heard this was coming I'll admit I was pretty nervous. Yes, I loved and still love most seasons of 24, but it's been a while. I wasn't sure Jack Bauer would still have what it takes to be at his bad assest. Luckily there was no need to worry. This wasn't the best season by a long shot, but goddamnit it was good. Usually if 24 is gonna suck it's gonna happen in the second half of the season. Live Another Day fixed that by just not having a second half the season. The writers played the same tricks the've played and over played throughout 24's run, but when they do it well who gives a shit. 

5 Star Trek: Voyager

I watch some incarnation of Star Trek a lot. It's probably the media franchise I've spent the most time and money on throughout my life. Voyager isn't my favorite among them, but it's not awful. If you pick and choose what episodes you watch and when you begin to realize how great this was when it was on it's game. It's hard not to watch the show and wonder what could've been. Janeway deserved a better show, but there are still some great episodes in there. You should watch them. 

Movies Division

1 (not ranked last year) Guardians of the Galaxy

This movie is nothing but fun. Why doesn't that happen too much anymore? Why can't you just go and have fun at the movies. I'm sick of sitting down to watch a movie and having it be a gritty portrayal of real life. I'm familiar with real life. I often find it plodding and redundant. As much as I loved the most recent Batman movies you'd be hard pressed to label them as fun. Guardians puts a smile on your face in the first ten minutes and makes it stay there for the next two hours. Plus Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon should get all the Oscars this year. That's not hyperbole that's a cold hard fact.

2 (not ranked last year) Blue Ruin

I really only watched this movie because I kept on seeing the poster on my Apple TV screen saver. I was curious, it seemed to have good reviews on Netflix so I watched it. One of the most tense movie watching experiences I can think of. Even though there's not a whole lot of dialogue I spent the whole movie genuinely worried. When it was over I was relieved that I didn't have to be in that world anymore. But there's something to be said for a movie I wasn't really invested in to pull me in that completely. 

3 (not ranked last year) Django Unchained

If this list was the most bad ass movies I saw this year then this would be number one. I don't think this will end up being my favorite Tarantino, and the scene where he tries to act was almost bad enough to bump it from this list entirely, but what's good about this movie is fucking great. 

4 (last year 4) Serenity

I think every year that Firefly is on this list Serenity will also be. It's hard to watch one without watching the other. Particularly since the show was cancelled without much notice this serves as a perfect sendoff for a great show. 

5 (last year not ranked) Star Trek: Generations

I didn't much care for this movie when it came out. It's not the best Star Trek movie that's been made. It's not the best Star Trek movie with the Next Generation cast in it, but it's a lot better than you remember. A good sendoff to the TOS crew, and a great start to what I thought was going to be a great run of Next Generation cast moives. It didn't work out that way, but it's still a much better movie that I admitted until this year. 

Books Division

1 Y: The Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

I'm not the type of guy who cries a whole lot. Nothing wrong if you're the kind of wuss who does, but that's just not me. When I first read Y: The Last Man I wept like a baby while reading the last book. Having read it a second time and knowing what to expect I assumed I'd handle the ending better this time around. I did not. It's hard not to immediately be carried away into a world where all the men on Earth have died suddenly died except one. Even if you're not a fan of comics I can't imagine anyone not just loving all ten books in the series. Check it out, you'll thank me. 

2 The Stand - Stephen King

I'd never read anything by Stephen King. I had heard of the guy of course, but I guess I always just dismissed him as not for me. I was a fool and I'll admit that now.  I don't really know why I decided to finally read one of his books, let alone the longest book in his catalog. I opted not just for The Stand, but the extended version. I guess King thought the original 800 some page version was just wasn't enough so he beefed it up to just shy of 1200. Well holy shit. There's something to this King character.  One of the most unsettling, scary, funny, readable books I've ever come across. Even though the last third doesn't quite deliver the same punch as everything else, it still instantly became one of my favorite books. 

3 World War Z - Max Brooks

By no means a new entrant. I've read this book a few times, and now that I've read it another time I already can't wait to read it again. I've never been a huge fan of the zombie genre. After having read World War Z I thought I'd get more into it, but the opposite ended up being true. Max Brooks paints such a realistic, far reaching, relevant, and vivid picture that shows like Walking Dead just seem silly. The fact that Walking Dead is a bad show doesn't help though. 

4 The Night In Question - Tobias Wolff

I love Tobias Wolff. He's probably my favorite author. He's at least the author I've read the most. His catalog isn't huge, but I generally read something by him at least once a year and have for the last bunch of years. He's written novels and memoirs, but this book is a collection of short stories. All his protagonists are so flawed, but relatable that it's hard not to immediately see yourself in his characters. The last story in the book, Bullet in the Brain might be my favorite thing that's ever been written. It's what made me buy this book to begin with. I heard Wolff read it on an episode of This American Life. I went out that day to buy this book. I read that and then bought the rest of them right after. 

5 Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

Another new entrant to this year's list. My wife had told me a hundred times that I'd love this book. Turns out she was right. He made a nonfiction that reads like a novel. Using what must have been a shitload of research Larson tells the stories of the folks who built the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as a monster who used the pandemonium surrounding the fair to murder a whole lot of people and a number of other folks who helped shape and were shaped by Chicago as it entered a new era. 

Music Divison 

1 (Last year 1) Adele - 21

 2 (Last year 3) The Beatles Abbey Road

3 (Last year 4) Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

I keep on waiting to get sick of these three albums. Hasn't happened yet, don't know if it ever will. All three remain bunched up at the top and I gotta tell you I don't see that changing any time soon. I have weeks worth of music in my iTunes library and still I listen to one of these three just about everyday. I sincerely hope I find something to usurp these, but they ain't gonna go down without a fight. 

4 (Last year not ranked) Hozier - ST 

A new entry to the end of year power rankings. I don't know if this is a passing fling or if Hozier is here ot stay. Regardless, music is generally what I'm the most closed minded about. I almost never seek out new stuff. When a friend is insistent about me checking something out I will, but I won't be happy about it. If I'm out and hear a song I like I'll check it out. Usually that'll result in me listening to it a few times and then forgetting about the band forever. I downloaded a Hozier song assuming that it would be same with this character, but I listened to the whole album and it was real solid. So I kept on listening to it, and I plan on continuing to listen to it for the foreseeable future. Rest of the list, you've been warned. Hozier just fired a warning shot across your bow. 

5 (Last year 2) Jay Z - The Black Album

Down a few spots from last year, but I wouldn't hold that against old Hova. He had two spots in last year's power rankings plus Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped with a shit ton of fanfare so there was bound to be some backlash in this year's rankings. Given that there's only five spots, so to be awarded any position is extremely difficult. Don't let his position on this year's list fool you, Jay's looking to make another strong showing in 2015. 

Congratulations to everyone who made the power rankings this year. If this is the second year in a row that you've made them then extra special congratulations are in order. There was some fierce competition this year. Lorde made a strong push to be a newcomer to the music list. Meat Loaf again was a close number six. I felt sick leaving him off, but that's just how the chips fell. Prison Break should've made the TV list given how much I watched it, but I had to take some points away due to the fact that it wasn't a very good show. Enjoyable, but not very good. That being said it was a fun year for new and old media alike, I hope you enjoyed reading about it half as much as I enjoyed taking it in. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FIGHT MIC! 2014-2014

Six months ago I was a man with a dream. A dream born on a bar patio. I had a dream to run a show. Not just any show though. A comedy show where, before comics performed, they would box each other. That may seem a little sadistic to uninitiated, but nothing could be further from the truth. The idea was born when I was hanging out with some comic friends and thinking about how great it would be to watch them all get punched in the face. If only there was a place that would allow such a thing.
Either a promotional flyer or evidence. 

Due to some good fortune, and some terrible decision making on the part of Rebecca Trent of The Creek and Cave I was able to make that dream come true. FIGHT MIC! was on. For two whole shows my dream came true. During those shows I learned a lot. Though many were very excited to talk matchups they were much less interested in actually taking part. I learned that some people are reluctant to punch their friends in the face. I also learned that some people are all too eager to punch their friends in the face. Both of these facts should have given me pause. Neither did.

There were some great matches those two shows. But there was one big challenge that FIGHT MIC! just couldn’t overcome. That was the fight with common sense. You see FIGHT MIC! was a great idea. And like most great ideas it was actually a really bad idea.

Kurt Cobain said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” before he proceeded to burn himself out. And that’s what FIGHT MIC! has done. For two glorious shows FIGHT MIC! burned hotter than any show could ever be expected to, and now it’s time for it to rest.

So to FIGHT MIC! and to everyone who made it possible, I say goodnight and good luck.

FIGHT MIC! 2014- 2014.

Special thanks to: Rebecca Trent for enabling. Andy Sanford and Bob Hansen for being accomplices. And to the brave warriors who made it possible: Benel Germosen, AJ Thompson, Robbie Collier (a lot stronger than he looks), Chelsea Hood, Chelsea Taylor, Evan Jones, Evan Davis, Chris Waelti, Nick Naney, Peggy O’Leary, Lauren Vino, Owen Straw, Justin Flanagan, and Brett Osinoff. You’re all champions. Unless you lost. Then less so.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bus Got Your Tongues?

A couple months back I turned over this space to a lady named Angry Bus Lady. She was a lady that I saw on a Chinatown bus who was very angry. Well, I took another bus ride and as luck would have it I got to meet another fucking lunatic who I'll call Crazy Bus Guy (CBG). When traveling by bus you have a number of options. Megabus is usually the best in terms of the caliber of the people you’re going to find yourself traveling with. Not great, don’t get me wrong. There are still a bunch of losers running around. You don’t have nearly as many options with them though. So if you need to make it across the country, you don’t have a bunch of money to blow on a plane ticket, and you don’t mind it taking a week and a half to get where you’re going then you gotta go Greyhound. The best passengers are the ones you don't notice. Take only pictures leave only a weird smell. Take only naps leave only fart smells. The thing Angry Bus Lady and Crazy Bus Guy have in common is that they were very noticeable. Angry bus lady was very noticeable, but to her defense she at least passed out. Also she was a few rows a head of me which helps. But at least she didn't bring god into the whole thing.

Enter Crazy Bus Guy. CBG was a gentleman I encountered on my most recent Greyhound trip to Detroit who was crazy. Things seemed pretty normal at first. He was dressed like a dirt ball, but who doesn’t when they prepare for a trip on the Greyhound. You have to dress for comfort. It's not like flying on a plane, it won’t be over soon so you should dress accordingly. CBG was wearing ESPN pajama bottoms and a paisley thermal shirt. Short hair no weird shapes or things shaved into his head. As a regular bus rider I've gotten pretty good at being able to spot potential wild cards. I saw thing guy and thought nothing of sitting right behind him. It was a packed bus, so I didn't really have too many other options, but it seemed to be a safe bet.

CBG in all his glory

Things started falling apart a couple hours in. I was sitting there reading my book like a normal person does on the bus. He was sitting right in front of me staring straight ahead like a crazy person does on the bus. I stop reading for a second, look up, and realize the guy is looking at me. Don't think too much of it, but then he says "what do you want from me?" I just assumed that he thought I had said something. So I said "oh, I didn't say anything." He says, "no, what do you want from me?” I was starting to realize that I was dealing with a crazy person. So I said "nothing, buddy." Then he said "you know I will NEVER be like you." So I decided to end the conversation by saying “Oh cool you take care then.” I said take care like I was walking away from him. Not continuing to sit two feet away from him for the next dozen plus hours. After that I tried to not pay attention to him while paying a shit load of attention to him so I was prepared for when he went fucking nuts. He then muttered something about how he's a stronger person than me, then kinda shook his bible. Which was the only thing he had with him from what I could tell.

Our bus driver
From there he spent a lot of time just muttering things under his breath. It was hard to make out much of what he was saying. I think a fair amount was about Jesus. I kinda wanted to put my headphones on, but at the same time I knew he was gonna say something nuts that I'd want to hear. Because I like listening to crazy people. It makes me feel better about my own mental state. I might be hanging on by a thread, but at least my thread is a shit ton stronger than CBG's thread. I shouldn't take too much solace in this, but oh well. Life is all about these little victories so find yours where you can and quit judging me. 

Next outburst was him raising his fist to the air and yelling “this is my sword. I came here not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” I remember this quote. It's a Jesus quote. I'm pretty sure at least. I've never read the bible of course, but I used to listen to this Christian talk guy named Bob Dutko. He was fond of that quote. I'm sure he knew more stuff from the bible, but he really mostly focused on the passages that talked about how awful gay people were and that whole sword thing. Though in Bob Dutko and CBG’s defense I've never read the bible maybe that’s all that it is. Just "all gays and no play make Jesus a sword wielding maniac." for thousands of pages. That would explain a lot about this character. 
89% of Christian radio stations are also called "The Light."

Then a few hours after that we were treated to the dude actually speaking in tongues. Listen, I'm not one to judge people for believing in religion. I'm not a religious person, but I've always kind of envied people who are. I wish I had the certainty that comes with a strong belief in god, but it’s just never been something I’ve had stick. If you have that thing that pulls you towards religion, bully for you. I took a bible studies class in college. I read the chapters that were assigned. So I’m not very religious nor am I a Bible expert. THAT BEING SAID, whatever you think is in there that tells you to speak in tongues is wrong. That's not what they're saying. 

The gloved sword of CBG
Multiple times he broke into rounds of tongue speaking. It's one thing to be in a group of people all cool with the tongues, but not when you're shattering the quiet of the bus with the shouting of your gibberish. It's just not cool. Lots of people believe in god, not everyone are using that belief to freak everyone out. Whatever chapter that says that in the bible is some horse shit. Don't buy it. If you're into that religion, for god's sake I implore you that a quieter religion will be much more likely to get you into heaven.

Real live audio of CBG speaking in tongues and the bus driver telling him not to.

The bus driver had to put his foot down. when we stopped and had to ask the guy if he was gonna be cool for the rest of the ride. He told him no more praying, and then crazy guy had to tell him that he was gonna pray. They went back and forth about the issue of praying, until finally they came to a compromise. The guy was allowed to pray, he just had to do so at a level that was only audible to himself and god. That seemed fair. 

CBG all tuckered out at the Cleveland bus depot.

Sometime after all this this went down a lady got a phone call. She answers and says “Hell… Just on the bus… no it's fine.” I'm sorry this is fine? You are locked on a bus with a guy who's referring to himself as the sword of god, who's been screaming in gibberish for the past hour. I don’t know how many more years phone lady has in bus ridership than I do, but I do know I have to find another way to travel before I find myself describing that trip as fine.