Tag Archives: SNL

Batmen and Bastards*

*Bastards is used here in the literal sense as you’ll see from my review of The Illegitimates. Actually, for that matter, Damian was born out of wedlock too unless you think Bruce Wayne’s marriage to Talia Al Gul is actually binding.


Running a bit late on getting a manga NetGalley post together so maybe next week. Probably one of the only ways I’m going to read Jane Austen though. More on that next week. In the meantime I’m pleased to share my review of a couple of hero titles, all featuring the sons and daughters of well known heroes.

First up…

Damian: Son of Batman (Deluxe Edition) by Andy Kubert & Grant Morrison

91lK2HiBbeL._SL1500_Despite growing up with Batman via the animated series and some of the movies, it’s really only been recently that I’ve taken the trouble to read the comics in any serious way. I’ve quickly learned that not only are some titles better than others, but some require you to do a little homework before even being able to read them. Hence, I’ve developed a set of criteria for a good Batman tale that I’ll use to evaluate this book.

Stands Alone: To me, a good Batman tale doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of the current Bat continuity (which has gone through several iterations as a result of the crisis and The New 52). This book gets about a medium grade on that score. I was vaguely familiar with Damian from Batman: Son of the Demon (which apparently is only half in the continuity since it is an Elseworlds tale) and the first volume of Batman and Robin (new 52 variety). This book stands outside current established continuity (since Damian died sometime last year in the comic though you know how these things go, since there seems to be an event to bring him back this year). It didn’t do a great job of clearing up for me that Dick Grayson (the original Robin and later Nightwing) was Batman at the beginning of this tale. So when Batman is killed and Damian is avenging his death, for a long time I thought we were talking about good old Bruce (who shows up later). My understanding of this tale was greatly helped by reading Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son (though issue #666 seems apart from the rest of the material and only makes sense if you know the Batman and Son context).

Keeps the DC Universe out of it: I’m a bit of a purist. I know Batman lives in the same world as the likes of Superman and Green Arrow, but I don’t think it helps a good Batman tale when they show up (an exception being The Dark Knight Returns). The Long Halloween is a great example of a Batman only tale. Damian stays entirely in Gotham, where he should be.

Violence has a cost: Batman does not kill, but Damian as Robin sure does. It makes a little sense since he was raised by the league of assassins, but his violent tendencies force Bruce to come out of wherever he was hiding (seriously thought he was a ghost for a second) and challenge Damian’s right to wear the Robin or the Batman costume. It takes understanding Batman’s creed to really make Damian a worthy successor, though truthfully in Morrison and Kubert’s portrayal he still seems willing to kill. He just gets a little more upset about it and feels guilty when he has to.

Except no substitutes: Just as Damian is taking on the mantle of the Batman, someone is taking up the purple coat of the Joker. Bet the real Joker’s not gonna be too happy about that.

Summary: Like Morrison’s work, Kubert’s telling seems to leave out some crucial information, and makes some jarring plot leaps at times. But some of the humor, particularly in giving an origin story to Alfred the cat, does help to lighten the tale. Kubert’s work is the better part of this collection. Not a very good collection for people who aren’t more familiar with Damian or Grant Morrison’s Batman work. (3 out of 5).

DC provided me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Illegitimates by Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko

81kn9lt0gAL._SL1500_You might recognize Taran Killam from SNL (or from being married to Cobie Smulders), but apparently he is also quite the James Bond aficionado. So much so that he’s written his own “tribute” comic.

With a title like The Illegitimates I wasn’t expecting very much, but Killam displays a surprisingly good knowledge of Bond pastiches, even in his choice of mothers for his five … er …  successors to the Bond franchise. Well, okay not Bond, but Jack Steele, but you get the point. Agent Steele is killed by his arch enemy Viktor Dannikor in what I have to say is  unfortunately gruesome fashion given the tone of the rest of the book (think fighting on top of a train with a sudden stop from a tunnel and actually seeing the results). Now Olympus (Steele’s MI-5) must replace Steele with his five children out of wedlock, because his skills are genetic apparently.

Given Steele’s jet-setting lifestyle we’ve got a good ethnic variety of progeny, and most fall into particular stereotypes. We have the country hick\marksman, the Mexican Mama’s boy, a Japanese car enthusiast, an African espionage agent, and a computer expert because y’know, the story needs at least one techie. Can this team of misfits live up to their father’s legacy and defeat Dannikor? And who is the mysterious traitor inside their ranks?

Actually, quite enjoyable except for the bits of uncharacteristic violence, and a few unfortunate incest attractiveness jokes, but these are more than made up for with smart nods to the whole scope of Bond films including dams, space stations, and gadgets. (4 out of 5).

Have a good weekend!

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J-Pop America Fun Time Now

I was among those who saw PSY for the first time on SNL, though I’ve been a fan of J\K Pop for many years. Seeing the ridiculousness of both the sketch, and the music video that inspired it, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite artists/music videos in this genre for those who saw PSY and thought “I gotta get me some more of that”.

M-Flo loves Emyli & YOSHIKA – Loop In My Heart: If you like Asian Dudes wrapping, then you really can’t miss one of the J-Pop Masters, M-Flo. His album “BEAT SPACE NINE” pairs him a number of other Japanese artists for what is actually a fairly consistent and enjoyable albums. Here’s one of the first tracks:

Monkey Majik – Picture Perfect: Disembodied heads singing on a table your thing? Well then you can’t miss this. Check out the facial expressions (since there’s little else to watch.

SOUL’d Out – To All The Dreamers: If it was the awesome dancing that attracted you to PSY, then you gotta check out the CG disco dancing antics of the second ending of Yakitate Japan.

SuperCar – White Surf Style 5: Moving on to the more conventional weird, why not try this alternative to the typical abusive relationship. Warning contains breasts being used as missiles. Trust me, bizarre enough to grow on you.

Ayumi Hamasaki – Ladies Night: The household name of J-Pop female singers. Unfortunately most of her vids are not full length on YouTube, but here’s a taste of some of her weirder material.

BoA – Valenti: A more conventional J-Pop artists, this track feels like something you might turn on Telemundo or some such. An upbeat break from the last couple of wierds I just played for you.

YUI – Rolling Star: For some decent Rock or Folk you can’t go wrong with YUI, whose music has been used many times in my favorite anime Bleach.

HIGH and MIGHTY Color: Keeping the Bleach love going, this band is a little uneven, but their best tracks feel like new Evanescence singles.

Rip Slyme – Super Shooter: Another anime theme, this one from Gantz, this is probably some of the craziest Jap-Rap you’ll hear. I’m not sure if this is the official video or not.

L’Arc~en~ciel – Link: The most ubiquitous band on this list, you’ve heard their music and probably not realized it. Their lead singer HYDE is kind of amusingly bad, but the music itself is very enjoyable.

Find anything you like?


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What’s Making Me Happy #3

Thanks everyone at the blog and Facebook for your condolences on the passing of my grandfather earlier this week. It really means a lot to me and my family 🙂

I thought I’d end the week with a round of what’s making me happy. We all have hard weeks from time to time, and I think it’s important to think about the things that still bring a smile to our faces.

1) When I’ve needed a laugh, old SNL’s have been there, particularly this sketch from 06-07 (Hugh Laurie):

SNL: Ghosts

2) And speaking of SNL there’s this Fresh Air interview with Bill Hader (my favorite cast member). Stefon!

3) I finally beat System Shock 2 on Sunday (as my sore back will attest). I’ll post a 13 years later review sometime next week, but key word AWESOME! And gross. Really really gross.

4) Apple’s patent victory over Samsung may actually help Microsoft sell more of the Surface. Ah, irony. And seriously you can’t patent rounded rectangles, zooming with your fingers, or tablets in general. Star Trek has had you beat for years!

5) I’ve started Chapter 5/6 of my “Secret” Non-Fiction project. Two months til release! Crunch time!

6) And speaking of secrets, here’s a new wrinkle. I’ve been reading a certain YA novel published 50 years ago (and loving it!) Who wrote it? Not going to tell you. Which book? Guess. Whatsit about? You have all the clues you need.

7) And lastly, I had a good visit with my Aunt this weekend. My wife and I took her to dinner at the Olive Garden and we got her to laugh. I tried a new beer (Peroni) which I daresay is better than Heineken, and had some Italian sausage in the birthplace of DiRusso’s. Mostly we just talked, which is something we don’t get to do a lot. It’s been a hard week, but there are still many special people in my life (including all of you).

Have a good weekend! God bless! And see you on labor-dabor day!


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Review: Gotye – Making Mirrors

Last week was a big week for Gotye, with covers on The Voice, American Idol and Glee and a live performance on SNL. Following the SNL performance, which started with an “Oh, that guy!” from my wife and I, I picked up the full album Making Mirrors. Gotye’s voice and musical style oscillates between Sting and Sufjan Stevens, but he’s at his best when he’s channeling Sting.

The title track is a throwaway 1 minute intro. A lot of artists seem to like to do this as a way of introducing the theme of the record, but few of them do it well, and Gotye is no exception. This is where the Sufjan Stevens influence seems at its most aggravated. (If you want to hear a good intro track, though in a different genre, try Sara Bareilles’ Kaleidoscope Heart).

But things get much better from here on in. Track 2, “Easy Way Out”, is an upbeat rock piece that reminds me of Beatles harmonies on the chorus, and leads right into best known track “Somebody that I used to know.” This track is pure Sting, crossed with a little Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver influence. There’s a real contrast between the soft emotional story told at the beginning to the outburst of the chorus that really grabs the attention right at the moment you might be drifting away. I equally enjoy the duet, which at first I thought was the girl the man is singing to but is in fact his current girlfriend basically saying, “why are you thinking so much about your ex?” Track 4,”Eyes Wide Open” the other track performed on SNL, equally seems Sting influenced and is enjoyable if not as emotionally charged.

Track 5 brings in a jazz, bluesy feel, with a driving drum beat underneath, and more haunting xylophone up top. Tracks 6 and 7 return to the more upbeat feel, with Track 7 “In Your Light”, invoking a little Paul Simon. For an album whose best known track is about someone who can’t get over an ex ignoring them, the album is surprisingly upbeat, but I think this serves Gotye well. Adele’s hit 21, while no doubt an excellent album, drives the same tone again and again, with few upbeat moments to pull the listener up from the doldrums. Some have criticized Gotye’s album for being too eclectic, but I think this is wise. An album of “Somebody that I used to know’s” would not be nearly as interesting.

Track 8 seems to both parody and praise the influence of technology on music. One of the funny things about watching the SNL performance was watching someone actually play a xylophone, while at the same time watching other synth sounds be controlled from an iPad.

The last 4 tracks are the weakest of the album, though there are still high points. Track 9 “Don’t Worry We’ll Be Watching You” and Track 10 “Giving Me A Chance” reminds me a little of Massive Attack and seems far more influenced by electronic music’s mellower moments. Albums do usually have a rise and fall, but these tracks tend more toward putting the listener to sleep than anything. Track 11 “Save Me” brings back the Sting with a reggae feel and in my opinion would be a better finisher than Track 12 “Bronte”. “Bronte” reverts to the Sufjan Stevens influence and leaves the listener mellowed out rather than energized.

Overall the album lived up to what I had heard on SNL, a show I don’t typically watch for the musical performances. Gotye knows how to perform live, their sound in no way diminished without the benefits of technology as many modern acts are. The album was well worth the price of $5 I paid on Amazon, though I’d hope that future albums embrace what works on this album and not what doesn’t.

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