Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The new website

Man, it's been a long time since I've been here. I've mostly been working on the new website for my book, The Darkness of the Womb. You can check it out here. Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The 10 Greatest Wizards in Video Games

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Here's my latest article for Complex. It's about wizards. Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: VALIS

VALISVALIS by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What did I just read? VALIS is such a strange book (By the strange author, Philip K. Dick, I might add) that I'm not sure how I really feel about it. What was real, what was fiction, and is it possible that they were one in the same in this book, or least in PHK's frayed mind?

It's well-known that PKD did go on a spiritual journey throughout his life, but it's hard to sum up if it was because of drugs (Which is very possible), or if it was a real religious experience (Which is questionable). VALIS is like the channel to learn what PHK endured, and in the end, I'm not sure what I really believe. Again, it's a strange book, possibly the strangest I've ever read, and I'm undecided on how I feel about it. If you're interested in PHK's life during his more trying years, then this is required reading. But if you just want to read a sci-fi tale, I suggest you read some of his more popular works, like "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" You'll definitely have an opinion on something like that. With VALIS, I'm not so sure.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Forward the Foundation

Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #2)Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading the awful "Foundation and Earth," I was highly skeptical about Asimov's prequel novels, "Prelude to Foundation" and "Forward the Foundation," which he wrote toward the tail end of his career and life.I was skeptical because, chronologically, he ended the series so terribly with "Foundation and Earth," which was overly long and left the reader furiously hanging. It's entirely inconclusive about the future of mankind and the Foundation, and it just doesn't work. It's a overlly wordy, misguided novel.

But "Prelude to Foundation," was excellent, and "Forward the Foundation," is even better, somehow creating a satisfying conclusion even though chronologically, it takes place before the original "Foundation." It's a testament to how good Asimov was as a writer to successfully accomplish that. This title is a fitting end.

Forward is so great because it parallels Asimov's own feelings about getting old and dying. It's a highly personal book that in every way is as much an ending to Foundation as it is to his own life. If you love Asimov, then you'll love this book. It makes up for "Foundation and Earth," completely, and if you're reading the series for the first time, I advise that you actually read the books in the order that they were written, as they truly feel like they were meant to be read that way. Plus, it was save you the aggravation of the inconclusive "Foundation and Earth." Overall, it's a wonderful series with only a few hiccups along the way. If you love smart sci-fi, check it out.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Ten Musicians Who Became Famous For Being Bad

Here's another article that didn't make it to Complex, unfortunately.

Music is the most subjective form of art in the world. What you might find amazing, we might find shitty, and vice versa. There really isn’t a barometer or scale that can prove what music is stellar, and why. That said, bad music is much easier to discern. Whether it’s the amateurish production, the playschool lyrics or the sheer inability to hit notes, bad music is often ridiculed and booted off the stage, out of sight, out of mind.

But then, there are exceptions. Some acts or groups become famous BECAUSE they’re so bad. These are the anomalies that, though the odds were stacked against them, they still turned out to be famous. Many of them even grew to have cult followings, which are the greatest followings a musician can have. Those are the kind of people who will follow a group or musician to the end of the earth and get their face tattooed on their body. Now that’s clout.

This list features ten of the biggest musicians who were straight up trash, but got famous anyway, which is why we kind of dug them. How many times have you checked them out on YouTube?

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10. 50 Tyson

Most popular song: “I Ain’t Gonna Lie”

Performing live from his bathroom three years ago was 50 Tyson, a young, autistic man who literally has no flow whatsoever, which is part of his charm. Repeatedly saying the same lyrics over and over again (“They call me 50 Tyson from the Northside Zone, Twin City Minnesota, that’s where I’m from,”) 50 Tyson somehow managed to stumble over his words and still get a record deal, which is beyond amazing. Over 54,000 Twitter followers don’t lie. The guy has some serious fans.

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9. Shooby Taylor

Most famous song-Stout-Hearted Men

Do you really need to play an instrument to be a musician? Shooby Taylor certainly didn’t think so. In fact, instead of blowing into a horn of any sort, he uh, blew himself. Using his mad skat skills, Shooby Taylor basically made a whole bunch of horn sounds from his mouth to the joy and amusement of thousands. Is it good? Well, no, not really. In fact, we wouldn’t want to listen to it for more than three minutes, but for those three minutes, we’re in scat heaven. Peepy, poppy, peepy, poppy! He sounds like Bill Cosby looks in all those intros to his old TV show.

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8. Rebecca Black

Most famous song: Friday

Believed to have made one of the worst songs ever made, Rebecca Black made a career off of telling us that Thursday precedes Friday. She also informed us on her morning routine of eating cereal and that we , we, we so excited (not ARE so excited) for the weekend. Hmm. At over 34 million views on YouTube and countless copycat renditions, you can’t tell us that Rebecca Black isn’t famous. Or should we say, infamous?

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7. William Hung

Most famous song: She Bangs

William Hung cannot and could never hit a note to save his life. In fact, that’s why America fell in love with him. Sounding like a million other people singing at home on their Karaoke machines, the best thing about William Hung was his personality. It was infectious and lively. We’re STILL not sure if he knew that America was laughing at him, rather than with him. But he took it all in stride to the bank. Most struggling artists can’t even release a single mass-produced album. William Hung has three. 

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6. Sanjaya Malakar

Most famous song: You Really Got Me

Making little girls cry since 2006, Sanjaya, like William Hung, was another American Idol reject. But unlike Hung, who didn’t make it past the first round auditions, Sanjaya made it all the way to 7th place on the show, leading some people to wonder, who the hell was voting for him? He could barely reach certain notes at all and his renditions of certain songs were cringe-worthy, but people just seemed to like him. Except for Simon Cowell, of course, who officially said he would have quit the show completely if Sanjaya had won. Luckily, Sanjaya didn’t win, so we were spared a few more years before we got the abysmal, X-Factor.

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5. Tiny Tim

Most famous song: Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Awkward, high-pitched, creepy—these are just a few of the kinder words we have for Tiny Tim, whose most famous song, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” could be heard playing in the recent movie, Insidious. And you thought that was a girl singing that song! Nope! That was Tiny Tim, strumming his little ukulele, and looking like Sponebob in real life. We love the guy!

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4. David Hasselhoff

Most famous song: Hooked on a Feeling

The Hoff is probably most known for playing Michael Knight on Knight Rider or for his stint on Baywatch, but Hasselhoff became an overnight celebrity in Europe for his hammy renditions of some contemporary pop classics. His rendition of “Hooked on a Feeling,” while awful, garnered him a wider audience than he could have ever hoped for running shirtless on the beach. Do it for Deutschland, David! 

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3. T-baby

Most famous song: It’s So Cold in the D

Probably made most famous for being ridiculed on Beavis and Butthead, even the dancers in the background of the Starburst hair-colored, T-Baby’s, video, “It’s So Cold in the D”, looked like they didn’t know what they’re doing. Rapping about the cold unfairness of Detroit, T-Baby took a topic that could have been insightful and enlightening and made it suck ass. With a subpar beat and lazy rhymes, Detroit is probably where she’s  going to stay for the rest of her career. Still, we can’t help but think that the chorus is actually kind of catchy. It’s so cooooold in the D…

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2. The Shaggs

Most famous song: My Pal Foot Foot

Forced into being a band by their father, this all female group had a different outcome than the famous Jackson 5. Their lyrics rarely made any sense, they played their instruments as if they were all in different bands, and well, they just plain sucked. Their Philosophy of the World album is an endurance test in torture. But, in sucking so hard, they were actually kind of listenable if you shut your eyes and stopped cringing long enough to listen to them for a second. It wasn’t good, but hey, they were different. For better or for worse, nobody else sounds like The Shaggs.

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1.      1. Wesley Willis

Most famous song: Rock and Roll McDonalds

Out of all the “musicians” on this list, we’ve probably heard the most from Wesley Willis. We mean, how could we not? He released over 50 albums, all of them with the exact same song structure. If you don’t know his songs, they basically go in this order: Casio playing, lyrics, Casio playing, lyrics, long Casio playing, lyrics, and then finally, “Rock over London, rock on Chicago,” followed by some nonsensical advertisement. That said, we also probably love Wesley Willis more than any of the other artists on this list, mostly because he kept it real and wasn’t really trying to get famous. What he was trying to do, was expel the “demons” in his head, as he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and the music helped him relax. Out of all the people who suffered for their art, Wesley probably suffered the most. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The 25 Best Underground Rap Albums Of All Time (Part 9)

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3. Madvillain-Madvillainy
Released in: 2004
Label: Stones Throw

What do you get when you combine the metal-faced villain, MF DOOM with Madlib? Madvillainy, of course. You also get one of the most slickly produced, wittily rapped albums of all time. While some might claim that Mm..Food is Doom’s strongest release, we’re sticking with this one, mostly because it doesn’t have a whole line of interludes slowing it the hell down in the middle. Every track is special, but we’re particularly fond of “Bistro,” “Accordion,” and “ALL CAPS.” Because, you know, you gotta remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man’s name (the man's name, the man's name...). MF. DOOM and MADLIB deserve no less than that.

Best track: Great Day

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2. Company Flow-Funcrusher Plus
Released in 1997
Label: Rawkus

Pretty much the birth of Rawkus Records, this was the first release off of the trendsetting underground label, and it was definitely the best as well. Bigg Jus and El-P truly made an album that was “independent as fuck,” as they were to put it, as Funchrusher Plus is seriously all over the place. And if it wasn’t handled by El-P, then we’re pretty sure that this album would be a hot mess. But songs like “Blind,” “Vital Nerve,” and “Silence,” work in such a way, that it’s impossible to not bop your head, (though your neck might just be confused by the erratic beats and esoteric lyrics found on this brilliant release). It's almost a perfect album. There’s only one better in the pantheon of underground rap.

Best track: 8 Steps to Perfection

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1.     Cannibal Ox-The Cold Vein
Released in 2001
Label: Definitive Jux

The only thing El-P ever did that was better than Funcrusher Plus was produce this masterpiece, which is the greatest underground rap album of all time. Honestly, we’d be hard pressed to say that there have ever been any lyrics better than the ones Vast Aire spits on this release, as every last one of them resonates like nothing ever before or since. We mean seriously, “When there’s crack in the basement…crackheads stand adjacent.” How brilliant is that? From its space age opening track, to its resurrection themed conclusion of, “Scream Phoenix,” this album, the only release from Vast Aire and Vordul Mega, is a total encapsulation of what the underground is and what it should be—unique, different, and inspired, which this album definitely is and then some. Whenever you’re down, pop this album in and scream phoenix. That’s the Can Ox way, of course. 

Best track: The F Word