Thursday, June 28, 2007

SUMMER


Summer Glau, who was very good in SERENITY, but ultimately unrelated to the season of the same name, and also, this article.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere (also known as "the Better Half"), our lives are rolling around into that daily assault of heat and haze we call Summer. Many people hate the heat, and will spend their time going from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office. They will complain about how hot it is and wear flip-flops, bumming everyone out with negativity and exposed toes.

Friends, I welcome the heat. It can suck, yes. Hot days are tiresome and sometimes make you vomit. Yet in the humidity and oppressive warmth, you have an endless excuse to be lazy, and drink cold beer at inappropriate times. It's okay to stink a little, because everyone else is just as sweaty. It's a wonderful mix of letting yourself go, but also losing weight every time you walk three blocks. You get a little color, you throw on a pair of shades, and wear shorts to dinner. Have a beer- it's hot out!

Summer is the season of skimpy clothes, and if you are a male of the species with a functioning wiener, you may now pray to your pagan gods and thank them verily for tank tops, cleavage, short shorts, open backs, sun dresses, bikinis, and all the other hot-weather wardrobe choices of lovely and winsome lasses. Think of the sweaty hair and tan lines, the fashionable sunglasses and the strapless tops, and then thank that horrible ball of atomic destruction around which we orbit. Thank The Sun for allowing us to get a little closer to him in our journey, so that he may heat up our air and encourage girls to go poolside with oily brown bottles of Hawaiian Tropic. Can you smell that weird coconut aroma yet?

Trips to the beach, lazy afternoons in the park, and cooking out on a grill are universally beloved by all humans. Chugging ice-water and going swimming after a long and exhausting bike ride... what's not to like? Sure, there's some heatstroke here and there, and the infrequent blackout because everyone has their AC on full-throttle. But I promise you, despite the miserable weather conditions, if you go to Coney Island on a hot afternoon and have a cup of foamy beer, ride the Cyclone, then go home and fire up the grill, have a bratwurst before you go for a swim, and finish the night off with a bout of sweaty coitus, you too will see why Summer is rated A for Awesome.

Friday, June 22, 2007

COFFEE


Coffee helps me wake up in the morning. Coffee helps me poop. For those things alone, it wins a gold medal and the Noble Prize for best Movie Ever.

I used to not drink coffee at all, but then I helped my dad refurbish an old house for six months, and coffee became like unto a needle drug. He would wake me up at five-thirty or six, and we would go get biscuits with country ham somewhere cheap, and wash them down with disgusting, bitter, black coffee.

Then he would make a pot of coffee, and we would go to work with cups of coffee sitting close at hand. Then we would have another pot of coffee with lunch. Then I would get the shakes mid-afternoon and want to die. This was a daily ritual.

I drank my coffee black because that's how my dad did it. It wasn't something I was drinking because I liked the taste; I was drinking it so I didn't pass out from exhaustion. I'm one of those people that needs like, ten or eleven hours of sleep each night. Waking up early does not suit me. So coffee was like a foul, liquid energy source and nothing else. Creamer was meaningless!

Presently I like a little cream in my coffee, and I only have a few cups in the morning. I'm glad it's not a staple of my day anymore. I used to wake up, and the first thing i would think about was getting coffee. It was my immediate priority when my eyes opened. That's a pretty sad state of affairs considering I didn't even like the taste. I could maybe handle wanting ice cream first thing every morning, it's delicious. But the coffee I was drinking back then was an inky gas station drip that tasted like salty motor oil. That's not an addiction to be proud of.

My preferred poison lately is the Chock Full o' Nuts Hazelnut. I am no coffee snob, and I like this blend because of the packaging and the ad jingle. There are some great coffee shops in Park Slope (a favorite is MULE), and I will often sample their wares. Good coffee is quite tasty, and whenever I drink a really great cup of it, I think, "I should get this every morning! It's terrific!". But I'm lazy, and I end up going to the nearest deli instead. Whatever!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TUESDAY TOP FIVE: World Conquerers

A quick list from me this week... No time for love, Doctor Jones.

FIVE: LRRR OF OMICRON PERSEI VIII

Lrrr sometimes uses "human horn" aphrodisiac to mate with his queen, and is a fan of the television show "Single Female Lawyer". He also ate a hippie once.

Joe sez: Why this got cancelled and the Simpsons labors on in almost Family Guy levels of awfulness is beyond me.

FOUR: ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD

Never actually conquered the world, but came awfully close. His initial reveal in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is truly classic; it's the cinematic equivalent of seeing a girl from behind with a really sweet ass, only to have her turn around and reveal spectacular breasts as well.

Joe: One might think the Dr. Evil parody would kind of permanently ruin the genius of Blofeld. But that one would be completely wrong, and rather turdly. Blofeld transcends parody, all the while extinguishing the lives of less competent henchmen and stroking a cute putty tat.

THREE: DARKSEID

The ruler of Apocolypse, whose mission in life is finding the "anti-life equation". That, and enslaving the known universe. Created by The King, Jack Kirby, in his prime.

Joe: Fuck you, Thanos, you goddam prune-looking asshole! This is the real deal here. He doesn't shoot lasers out of his eyes. No, for Darkseid you've got to have a power name more regal and unique. Darkseid is better than lasers. Darkseid has the OMEGA EFFECT!!!!

TWO: KHAN

A genetic superman who ruled the earth in 1992. After being defeated by James Kirk, he quotes Milton at him. Awwwww yeah.

Joe: If Khan and Roy Batty from Blade Runner ever hung out, that would be the coolest, classiest couple of bad-guys-that-would-probably-make-the-world-better-if-they-ruled-it EVER. They would say stuff that the rest of us didn't really understand and laugh in a gentle way that doesn't make us feel ashamed. Why won't they take over now? (Unfortunately in writing this I have unwittingly given some awful nerd fan fiction writer an idea that will culminate with stilted descriptions of what he/she imagines gay sex to be like.)

ONE: MING THE MERCILESS

The original Alien Overlord, Ming ruled Mongo with an iron fist. It's almost as if you could say he had no mercy. Max Von Sydow played him in the crappy FLASH GORDON movie... Take that, Bergman!

Joe:
Did I read somewhere that someone was making a new Flash Gordon show? As long as they keep Ming awesome, they will be A-OK.

GALACTUS

Against my better judgement, I saw that horrible new Fantastic Four movie last week. I shouldn't have to say much more about it, beyond the expected; abortion, excrement, unwatchable, etc...

If any good came out of that 90 minutes wasted, it was a kick-in-the-nuts reminder of how spectacular Jack Kirby was, and what a mind-blowing designer he could be. Early in the original run of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, he showed off his design chops with visual treats like Doctor Doom (still one of the coolest villains ever), The Inhumans, The Sub-mariner's Atlantean Army, and endless piles of weirdo machinery. Pretty quickly, Kirby established himself as a distinct voice in comics, standing out like a thunderstorm in a field dominated by the generic Eisenhower-era Sci-fi of DC Comics.

While The Legion of Super-Heroes hung out in a Buck Rogers Rocketship, and the Justice League met in an empty cave (okay, they had a table), the Fantastic Four lived in The Baxter Building, a hi-tech skyscraper with a nuclear reactor and a rocket silo. And while everyone else was still coming to grips with jet-planes, Kirby was designing space-ships that looked like this:

Which brings us to GALACTUS, The Destroyer of Worlds. Not only does he travel through the universe in the Moebius strip shown above, but he requires a Herald. The only other arch-villain I can think of that requires a Herald was Sauron, whoi is no slouch in the villainy department. Having a minion that announces your arrival to the doomed who await your coming?

Pure class.

The rumor/urban legend is that Galactus was created when Kirby got a plot from writer Stan Lee that was simply "The Fantastic Four fight God." So the FF faced imminent apocalypse in the form of a giant alien who EATS PLANETS. Kirby took what is essentially one of the most basic super-hero plots (alien invasion/save the world), and turned it into a teeth-grinding epic that had scope and imagination almost entirely unseen in comics. Kirby raised the bar so high for Bad Guys, that Galactus still hasn't been topped. He is the King Grandaddy Most Holy Chairman of the Board of comic book villains. If you can't stop Galactus, everybody dies. And stopping Galactus is almost impossible. This is the kind of high-stakes tension that makes Lex Luthor seem like a minor annoyance. Luthor's a joke!

Visually, Galactus is not only singularly distinct, but when set against the buildings of 1960's Manhattan, he becomes imposing, bizarre, otherworldly, powerful, and downright chilling. Despite (or maybe because of) a costume some would call silly (fools, they are!), Galactus immediately reads as a Major Threat. He's huge; twenty stories tall at his smallest. He casually floats in the air, ignoring the civilization beneath him. Nothing harms him, and he's older than the universe itself. Galactus is accurately nicknamed "the Destroyer". Aliens pray to him. He wields the POWER COSMIC, and created the enormously powerful Silver Surfer as easily as you or I might hand out Smarties on Halloween.

I don't care what anyone says. If you think that a giant, swirling dust cloud is as visually exciting as this guy, you have no soul.

Monday, June 11, 2007

TUESDAY TOP FIVE: TIME MACHINES

A new feature, here at the WORLD OF AWESOME... The TUESDAY TOP FIVE.
We'll pick something awesome, and then count down the Top Five Examples of said awesome item.

This week we start with TIME MACHINES. Time Machines are hard to beat; they take you back (or forward) in time, typically with a lot of flashing lights and flipping of switches. If I could go back in time, I wonder if my mom would try to seduce me, ala Marty McFly. I actually don't wonder that at all. My mom was a sexy little vixen, and she would totally ignore me.

But I can live with that.

NUMBER FIVE: The Time Machine


H.G. Wells wrote about a Time Traveler who went into the future and fought morlocks and banged one of the morlocks' sexy livestock. His machine was a marvel of proto-Steampunk luxury, with a a big velvety chair surrounded by filament tubes and spinning dials. It stays in the same spot while the world whizzes by in fast-forward or reverse. You can just sit back and relax, and dream about all that delicious Eloi lovin' you'll get, just by being the only male that isn't afraid of fire.

AWOL sez:Proto steampunk? I thought Wells was kind of the definition of steampunk.
Anyway, I had this heavily abridged kids version of The Time Machine when I was a kid, and for some reason it scared the bejeezus out of me.
The only other thing I remember about it? The Eloi were fascinated by pockets. Pockets? How retarded are they that they couldn't think of pockets?


Joe sez:I used to sit on my Sit and Spin and pretend it was the time machine. H.G. Welles never mentioned the debilitating vertigo and nausea I experienced, but he was probably just censored.


NUMBER FOUR: Doctor Doom's Time Platform


This is how incredible Doctor Doom is. He built a time machine, but rather than use it to conquer us all, he just uses it to annoy the Fantastic Four. He doesn't need a time machine to rule the world. Time machines are but a trifle to DOOM!

AWOL: There was a totally awesome one-shot comic where Iron Man and Dr. Doom get transported back to the days of King Arthur's court, where they have to team up to kick Morgana leFay's ass. Time travel and sexy femme fatale sorceresses? Awesome squared.
Also to get back, they have to wire their respective armors together. How sweet is that? The only thing better than a time machine is an ad hoc time machine.

Joe:I also love that it's basically a flat square with some buttons on it. Doom does not care for baroque design.


NUMBER THREE: The Guardian of Forever


Remember when Bones goes all crazy and paranoid and jumps into the portal and it shows them cowboys and Hitler and then Spock has to hide his ears and then Joan Collins dies and Kirk cries like a big baby? I love that shit.

AWOL: Trek+Nazis = Awesome
Plus, didn't Harlan Ellison write this?
Update: Yep.

Joe: The Ellison thing is actually a count against it . . .but anything that remains awesome after Harlan touches it truly deserves this ranking.


NUMBER TWO: The Tardis


Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
With all the talk of "relative dimensions", you'd think the Tardis would do a bit more than dangle from a string in front of a black backdrop when it's flying. Chintzy special effects aside, the Time Lords of Gallifrey designed themselves some pretty nifty little tesseracts to take a spin in.

AWOL: I always thought that the best thing about the Tardis was that despite all the time traveling/relative dimensions/regeneration crap, the doctor could never fix the shapechanging thingamjig. I mean, come on, how hard could it be?


NUMBER ONE: The Delorean


This one isn't much of a contest. As Dr. Emmett Brown says, "...if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?". Between the rad eighties vibe, the nuclear engine, and the Flux Capacitor, how can anything else compete?

We've had the Delorean listed in our "Always Awesome" sidebar since Day One, and the recent pop-culture cross-referencing in KNOCKED UP serves to remind us all; if you want to go back in time, you need 1.21 jigowatts, and you have to hit 88 miles per hour.
The Delorean flies, has a Mr. Fusion appliance, and personalized tags. Doc Brown cheated Libyans out of their plutonium to get things started. He promised he'd make them a bomb... Ha! Yes my friends, where we're going, we don't need roads.

AWOL: Why is the Delorean so cool? Not because is can go fast, it has to go fast. Just because.
Also, I use the term "flux capacitor" at work in the same way that John Pertwee used the term "reverse the polarity".

Joe: Also for a while it worked on rails, and things on rails are automatically awesomer. And who hasn't sometimes pretended that his car could turn the wheels in and fly? I'll tell you who hasn't: some sick, evil jerk.

Honorable mentions:
*The Legion of Superheroes Time Bubble
*Bill and Ted's Phone Booth
*This thing: AWOL: and this thing:




Detail of text at top:


















Joe:
And
*Getting hit on the head really hard

Sunday, June 10, 2007

BROOKLYN


Let's face it- Brooklyn rules.

It's pretty much the best place in the world. When you situate yourself in a Brooklyn neighborhood, people get all chill and friendly. Before long the guys at the deli know exactly what brand of seltzer you want, the UPS guys all wave when they drive by, and you can pet strange dogs. (People just stop and let you pet their dogs. That's crazy!) Kids still play stickball, and old women hang out of their windows, asking random pedestrians about the Mets game. It's like a cozy womb filled with Italians and dirty bodegas.

If you don't care about that kind of thing (and who does?), consider the other fine elements of The Borough of Kings. There's Prospect Park, which is one of the most perfect municipal parks ever designed. Not only is it huge, and filled with great open spaces as well as hidden wooded paths, but it also has lakes and horses and a Zoo.

Also, you can grill there. Take that, every other park in the world!
Nearby is the awesome archway at Grand Army Plaza, the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and easy access to TWO (count 'em TWO) CHIP SHOP locations. The Chip Shop is some of the best food you can put in your mouth. Or rub all over your body.
Either way is fine.

Brooklyn at Christmastime is covered in garland and lights and dirty snow. There are the nomads that appear to sell Christmas trees on the sidewalks, so the smell of sappy evergreen trees is in the air. Brownstones pop up with lights here and there, enough to get you excited, but not so much that you're sick of sparkly lights by the time Christmas actually rolls around. In the summer, kids play in fire hydrants, public pools open up, and there's a street fair almost every weekend, somewhere. Street fairs suck everywhere else, but in Brooklyn, it's one of the only times you can walk around outside with beer, and eat disgusting fried food without your girlfriend giving you a lecture about your "health". (Whatever! My left arm hurts from workin' out!)


Brooklyn is a beautiful place, filled with amazing little spots that never get boring. I love walking over the disgusting Gowanus Canal; it's filthy and decrepit and lovely in a horrible way. I'm never happier than when riding my bike between the brownstones and tree lined streets, checking out all the incredible old buildings, and listening to people yell obscenities at each other.

Parts of Brooklyn still have remnants of a maritime past, when whaling ships set off from the naval yards, and stevedores in striped shirts loaded huge cargo crates all day. So if you yearn for the days of pea-coats and waxed canvas, you can just smell the salty air and see the tugboats and imagine you're about to set off on a tramp steamer for parts unknown. You can walk (or ride a bike) across the Brooklyn Bridge, over old wooden planks and through the haze of commuter pollution. Nothing makes you feel quite so alive as riding a bike across the bridge, angrily shouting at tourists who are standing in the "bike only" lane taking pictures.



The best part of it all is the wealth and diversity of culture here. My girlfriend is always up my butt about going on a trip somewhere, but where are we going to go that's better than Brooklyn? Why go to Egypt when the Brooklyn Museum has one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world? Why go to Japan when Prospect Park hosts a bitchin' Cherry Blossom Festival? Why go to Puerto Rico when you can sit on our stoop? Of course, she always says that "it's not the same thing", and I think, no, It's Better! Why spend all that money to go to Germany, and be surrounded by Germans, when you can just go to Cafe Steinhof during Oktoberfest? Traveling is for suckers.

Yea verily, Brooklyn rules. The bars are friendly and inexpensive, the people are cool, and the restaurants are wonderful hidden treasures, beloved by neighborhood locals who have long since stopped trying to eat out in Manhattan. Living anywhere else is crazy! Is it a little more expensive to live here? Maybe. But that's the price you pay for being in the most Awesome Place Ever.


A typical row of homes in Brooklyn, where people are happy and living fulfilled lives.