Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview With Unsung Super Heros #1

  Ive recently noticed that many of the worlds greatest super heroes have the tales of their heroic endeavors told time and time again. But what of the lesser known heroes? What of the supposed local or gutter heroes? Are they risking any less? Are they doing less to help the world? Well simply put, Yes, but I've decided to interview them and get their side of the story anyway.

   My first interview is with the relatively unknown Super Guy, he claims he has all the powers of Super Man but to a lesser degree, I found him to be both open and slightly... abrasive. Enjoy.

DW: Super Guy, first of all thanks for doing this I know how busy your life must be
SG: Eh, not really I already got my plasma donation out of the way today so i was free.
DW: Plasma donation?
SG: yeah its a quick 40 bucks, gotta cure the shakes some how
DW: right...well you claim to have all the powers of super man but not quite as powerful, could you elaborate?
SG: yeah, it uh is essentially the same things but I don't have heat vision or xray vision
DW: so you can fly?
SG: sure
DW: Id love a demonstration
SG: OK I think there is a flight to Vegas out of O'hare in like an hour, we could go get weird.
DW: wait, you can only fly using a plane? Can't everyone do that?
SG: well I need to be flying already, I jump off the plane and I'm good to go
DW: Isn't that more like...gliding?
SG: well if you wanna get technical college boy
DW: I didn't mean to offend...
SG: yeah whatever next question
DW: OK, do you have super strength and invincibility?
SG: I can lift more than YOU that's for damn sure and I can stop a bullet or whatever but I bruise fairly easily.
DW: How much can you lift?
SG: Well I'm not sure but I once picked up a short bus that had stopped on some retards foot
DW: uh "retard" is generally regarded as an offensive term these days
SG: Who cares?! I knew you nerds were weak but I didn't take you for a pussy
DW: well that seems a little harsh...
SG: oh fuck off do you want to finish this thing or what?
DW:... OK,  how did you get your powers?
SG: I was bitten by a radioactive Gold's Gym wash out when I was a busboy in California
DW: What? Really?
SG: Yep, he died of lymphoma and now I'm the one picking up cars and chicks. Life is a funny thing, huh?
DW: ...indeed it is, you mentioned "picking up chicks", are you well liked by women?
SG: well what I do is is I tell them I'm Super Man and they fall like dominos. All I have to do is pick up a car with one finger and they are putty in my hands.
DW: You mentioned Super Man, assuming you have saved at least some lives, do the people you ever save show resentment or disappointment in the fact that it's you saving them and not him?
SG: know what? Fuck you, Fuck your website, and Fuck this interview I'm out of here!

   We tried to get in contact with Super Guy after his emotional out burst but we soon found out his phone lines had been cut due to a financial dispute over the price of a phone sex service and his unwillingness to pay the bill. Keep checking back for more unsung hero interviews and as always, Nerds do it better.

I mean, first of all, let me say whichever superhero first came up with the idea of wearing a cape, he wasn't really onto anything good. The number of times I'm treading on that damn thing or I throw a punch and it ends up covering my whole head. It's really not practical.
Christian Bale

Monday, August 29, 2011

Next Day Recap: Breaking Down Breaking Bad

This series will appear every Monday following AMC's hit show Breaking Bad. I highly suggest watching the episode before reading this column as SPOILERS will abound.

Episode 7: Problem Dog

Ladies and gentleman, please strap yourself down to the couch because Breaking Bad season 4 just entered drama beastmode. This week's episode, as predicted by yours truly, was superb. The plot lines have thicken, the stakes are high, and various other sayings.

We start off where the last episode ended, with Walt having to return the Challenger to the dealer. Except, that just wouldn't be good enough for Wal. Instead, he goes all rebel teenager doing doughnuts at top speed in an empty lot (soundtrack moment: The Pretenders, "Boots of Chinese Plastic"). With the car hopping a curb, Walt takes the sale papers, shoves them in the gas tank, and blows it to high heaven. But, not before calling a cab first, "I think he will see me," he tells the dispatcher. The drama nerd appreciated the raw emotion and stunning visuals of the scene, but the ULTRA MALE in me screamed NOOOOO, as that sweet ride blew up.

Jesse sure is cleaning up his act. He is finally painting his walls after his non stop party, and is four days sober. Walt makes his sales pitch to Jesse that Gus can't be trusted after all the death and destruction he is to blame for. Jesse takes notice, and almost just to shut Walt up tells him that he will kill Gus. Back at the lab, Walt cooks up some ricin poison in secret for Jesse to take out Gus. Jesse empties a cigarette and hides the poison capsule in the middle, covering the top with more tobacco. He is not as stupid as he looks, and this continues the trend of Jesse's creativity being a real asset to crime.

Hank and Walt Jr are at everyone's favorite neighborhood eatery/cover operation, Los Pollos. Gus glad hands with the boys, saying that they should have let him know to ensure free food, and offers Walt Jr. a part time job. Hank plays the role of grateful customer so well, but really he nabs the cup Gus refilled for him to scope it for prints. HANK IS ON THE TRIAL.

There has been so much awesome in this episode and now we get Mike and Jesse running the security for the cartel meeting. As I watched this, I couldn't believe that I had forgotten the cartel angle. Jesse's rules for the meeting, "eyes open and mouth shut." The cartel sends one guy to meet with Gus. There is no deal, no negotiation, just yes or no. Presumably, either Gus stops and lets the cartel take over or WAR. Mike mentions to Jesse later that he needs to learn to shoot because things "might get a little hairy" so it looks like war. Look at Gus now. At one time, we viewed him as the ultimate power in our little story and in one episode he is now the target in a three sided attack on him.

Jesse goes back to Narcotics Anonymous meeting to commiserate and talk. Aaron Paul also locked up next year's "Best Supporting Actor" Emmy with this scene. His vivid, emotional illusory story of having to kill a problem dog, a dog who didn't do anything, didn't bite anyone, but whose existence was a problem, was so stomach churningly intense that you can just feel his aching need to be judged. His soul is really being ripped in different directions by Walt, Mike, and what Jesse wants out of his future.

In the final season this week, Hank is back at the DEA's office laying out the detailed web of Gale's death and drugs that he has crafted. He connects the napkin to Gus's Los Pollos, the part number written on the napkin to a HVAC system that would only be used in a state of the art system, the buyer of the HVAC system to the company that owns Los Pollos. All circumstantial at best, but then, wait for it, connects the fact that Gus's fingerprints were in Gale's apartment. DUN DUN DUN.

Fav Scene: Jesse's problem dog speech at NA

Fav Line: Hank stock answer to people telling him how he looks "Chalk it up to clean living and vitamin pills."

Next Weeks Title: Hermanos

Stonecutter out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nerd Sketch - Why Kirby is a Terrifying Abomination

Video games are no stranger to creepy, scary, off-putting characters. Silent Hill's Pyramid Head, Metal Gear's Psychomantis, Bioshock's Kid Sisters, F.E.A.R.'s Alma Wade, Toad.....yes Toad.....Why are you always hanging in Bowser's digs? What are you really up to? For that matter, what the hell are you? A mushroom? A person? A horrible genetic experiment gone wrong? If I consume any part of you will I undergo a psychodelic mind altering experience? WHAT ARE YOU?! But I digress....

The focus of my post is the character which I believe to be one of the creepiest creations in video game history.....Kirby. We're talking about a being who can wholly consume and instantly digest any living thing at will. "Oh, so you're a 7 foot, 400 lb demon-spawned warrior with an RPG in one hand and a sword made of fire in the other? No Problem, I'll just SWALLOW you before you can blink." And if that wasn't fucked up enough in it of itself.....he gains whatever powers or abilities his victims possessed. What's that? You've dedicated your entire life to honing and perfecting this one particular skill, foregoing all other endeavors and life experiences, just so you can be the best in the world.....Ok, I'll just eat you and then I get to be best at whatever it was that you were so good at. You might say, "But, Pat, it's Kirby! He's just this cuddly little pink marshmallow." And I would say, "You're absolutely right." His appearance his his worst offense of all. He is a soul sucking wad of bubblegum from hell. How dare he try to pass himself off as cute and innocent. Below is a sketch of the little monster from my point of view.

A couple of points about this:
1. I was drunk when I started this.
2. I picture him emitting some creepy hissing noise whenever I look at this
3. Yes that's crayon I used for the coloring.....I'm experimenting....
4. A lot of my hostility on this issue stems from playing Smash Brothers. If you used Kirby on the regular in those games.....and just floated around doing that one brick drop move over and over...well, Fuck You!


Conan: The Barbarian! Which Version is Better?

Hello Ladies and Gentleman! It is your old pal Thulsa Doom, here to bring you a rare treat. With the release of the new Conan The Barbarian movie opening this past weekend, we here at the Smoking Nerd thought it would be a good idea to do a little compare and contrast. What is the superior Conan film? The 1982 epic featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones, or the newer and flashier Conan starring Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, and Rose McGowan? Which film is grittier and will have you donning your loin cloth and eating raw meat for the next few weeks, in an effort to capture the magic that can only be attained by watching musclebound behemoths violently slaughter at will while simultaneously mounting any and every woman in sight? Read ahead to find out!

Now it should definitely be noted that I am a HUGE fan of the original Conan film. My moniker is Thulsa Doom for Pete's sake. And perhaps the main reason for this is the fact that I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. No, let me rephrase that. I F*CKING LOVE Arnold Schwarzenegger. Allow me to briefly list his accomplishments. He came to the country a poor Austrian immigrant, and in a few years was a millionaire as a result of savvy business moves and investments. He won the coveted Mr. Olympia title, bodybuilding's greatest competition, a whopping 7 times and is widely regarded as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. He then went on to be a two term Governor of California! Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that he became the greatest action movie star of all time. Despite an Austrian accent that never quite left him, and what some would call "poor" acting chops, his iconic rolls have grossed about a billion dollars in worldwide box office sales. Now some fellow nerds may be saying to themselves, "Arnold? Bodybuilding? This doesn't sound very nerdy." To them I say have you ever heard of a film called Predator? Hows about Total Recall? Oh, I don't know, Terminator? Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Sci-Fi fanboy's dream, and a sword and sorcery epic like Conan just furthers that point.

What I thought would be best would be to take a couple points from the films, and compare and contrast new and old. At the end of this article I will sum up the findings, and give you an honest opinion. It was difficult, but I went into the "New" Conan with no bias and after viewing, this is what I came up with.

Conan's Introduction: In the original film, we find Arnold in his small village in Cimmeria as a small boy whose village is ransacked by Thulsa Doom and his minions. His father is killed by a pack of hounds, and his mother his beheaded by Doom right in front of him. He is then enslaved and chained to the "Wheel of Pain," where a young Conan is forced to push a giant wheel around in circles indefinitely.
In the new Conan, we see a fetus in a womb that is "born into battle" literally as a sword cuts right through his mother's belly. In the midst of battle her husband runs to her aide, and she demands that she see her child before she dies. He then cuts the baby out of his wife, and shows it to her. With her dying breath, she states that the child will be named Conan. Despite how it may sound, this scene was actually well done, and surprisingly heartfelt.
Winner: New Conan

Explanation of Conan's Fighting Prowess: In the original, Conan has become large and powerful after countless years on the "Wheel of Pain." Realizing his size and strength, his captors throw him into a series of gladiator-esque fights to the death against other slaves for the amusement of the slavers. Though raw at first, Arnold's power shines through and it seems he is a natural at killing. Realizing his skill, he is sent to the Eastern warlords, to have his abilities honed. He is taught to fight with steel, fight barehanded, and fight with no fear and no remorse. He is also forced to sleep with various women or mating stock, in an effort to breed more warriors. Though it may not be pleasant, it definitely smacks of truth, or at least the truth that I would assume if a Barbarian was bred to be an untouchable warrior in ancient times. Arnold never tasted defeat in all those years, and eventually earned his freedom as a result of his victories.
In the new Conan, there is no explanation to speak of. We see a young Conan as a youth of 10, perhaps 12. In an exercise where he and the other young men of his village are racing to see who is ready for battle, they are attacked by a bloodthirsty tribe of neighboring warriors. All his peers, who are all obviously larger and older then him go back to the village as they were taught. Not Conan though. He somehow fights 5 of these overgrown brutes, and in a series of high flying moves and brutal strength kills and decapitates them all?? Honestly, while watching this it conjured up memories of Shortround in "Temple of Doom" beating up grown men, though he himself was a 12 year old Asian boy. Upon return, Conan's dad forges him a sword, there is a haphazard scene where it is hinted that Conan is too wild and needs to learn control before he can harness his true power...and that's it! At no other time do they mention any learning, and as an adult he is invincible and suffers no defeat to speak off throughout the entire film. Even for a Conan movie, it was very implausible.
Winner: Original Conan

Conan Physique: This is another issue I had with the new movie. In the original, Arnold is freaking huge. Though one might say it is not integral to the story, I beg to differ. He is supposed to have prodigious strength, and in fact be the strongest warrior in all the land. Arnold looks the part. He filmed the movie in between bodybuilding competitions, and he definitely looked like someone you did not want to mess with. I once read that in his prime, Arnold could flex his pecs and stand up a can of coke on his chest like a shelf. Homo eroticism aside, that's how I want my barbarians, beefcakes.
Now, Jason Momoa is in great shape to be sure but it is obvious that the filmmakers were going for the pretty boy look over the musculature look. There were multiple scenes in the film where the warriors Conan was riding with were much larger than Conan himself. Unacceptable! Conan is supposed to be the baddest man in the land.
Winner: Original Conan

Epic Boobage/Blood and Gore: The Original Conan was full of boobs and blood, which I believe adds credibility to a movie about barbarians in a fantasy world. There were snake orgies for Gods sake! The blood and beheadings were often, however it was the early 80's, and as a result it did not look very polished. And to be honest, watching this movie recently I realized it did not age very well. There are a lot of delayed blood spurts after a sword swing that look really cheesy, and the fights themselves are very ham handed. But, that was how movies were done at that time, so it is not without its charms.
The new Conan's fight scenes are fast and furious, and honestly almost too stylized if you ask me. I would much rather have preferred a grittier look and feel to the movie. However the gore was believable and cringe inducing, which is what the filmmakers were looking for I believe. Also, no disrespect to female actors and models of the late 70's/early 80's but I just feel like Hollywood women are more attractive these days, with far nicer boobs. And brother, there are boobs aplenty in this movie.
Winner: New Conan

Conan's Nemesis: The original Conan had Thulsa Doom, played by none other then James Earl Jones. His hair is flowing, he is thoughtful and meticulous, and he truly fits the role of cult leader who could manipulate thousands of people into following him, even killing themselves for him without a second thought. That, and he can turn into a snake! Thulsa Doom is truly haunting, and he stands the test of time. Intelligent, devious, horrifying, he was the perfect evil doer for this film.
Conan's nemesis in the new film is Khalar Zym, as played by Stephen Lang. This guy is a total douche. He has no power to speak of, he just wants to piece back together an evil mask that gives the wearer incredible powers so that he can resurrect his dead sorceress of a wife. In the process he kills Conan's family and many other people. The guy even has a sorceress daughter who actually does all the work for him. And no joke, towards the end, he actually fixes the mask and wears it. And what does he do with it? Nothing! He had no more power than he did before, and Conan still killed him! What a joke.
Winner: Resoundingly Original Conan

Notable One Liner: In the original film, Arnold has one of the greatest quotes in cinematic history. When asked by fellow war chieftains what was best in life, he says, "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." Go ahead and google it.
New Conan? "I live, I love, I slay, and I am content." And a tumbleweed just blew by. The saddest part is you could totally tell that the director wanted this to be an epic line in the movie, and it totally failed.
Winner: Original Conan

Look everyone, I can't be unbiased anymore, the new movie SUCKED. And honestly I thought it was going to and hoped it wouldn't, but it did. Hard. Jason Momoa was not a good choice. He would have absolutely no nerd street cred at all if it weren't for "Game of Thrones," and his run as Khal Drogo. He did well with that because they didn't ask for much. He is not a good actor, and in this movie he was a smart ass, talking too much and cracking too many jokes because it was impossible for him to get hurt in battle. That is not a barbarian, and that does not lend itself to a film if it is trying to be taken seriously.

Now Arnold will never be argued as being the next Ralph Fiennes or Daniel Day Lewis, but why do you think he was so successful? Because he took roles that played to his strengths. He was huge and intimidating. Terminator, Conan, the dialogue did not ask much of him, and yet somehow he conveyed power and was believable in the role. And its not all Momoa's fault, as the new movie was a train wreck on all levels. Honestly, I could go on and on about how bad the new movie was and how great the original was, and I'm going to stop because I'm getting upset just thinking about how major movie companies are so eager to ruin franchises in the name of a quick buck. But I will leave with two final points. The new Conan actually had Morgan Freeman narrate it. For two scenes! No joke, he narrated about eight sentences throughout the whole film. Its like the director (Marcus Nispel) was trying to make the joke of Morgan Freeman narrating every film just to make a joke, because he barely narrated! I mean, did anyone think to say, "Hey Marcus, are you intentionally making this movie a joke by having Morgan Freeman narrate just long enough for people to role their eyes when they realize he is narrating?" God, Marcus Nispel should exile himself from society so that he never has any say in any movie ever again. And my second point. I read that despite opening in over 3000 movie theatres, and costing roughly $100 million dollars to make, the new Conan grossed $10 million its opening weekend, the 23rd worst movie opening in the history of cinema. Well, at least there were boobs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Next Day Recap: Breaking Down Breaking Bad

This series will appear every Monday following AMC's hit show Breaking Bad. I highly suggest watching the episode before reading this column as SPOILERS will abound.

Episode 6: Cornered

Apologies for missing last weeks recap, I had some IRL stuff to attend to. So let's briefly recap the two important story lines from episode 5. We last left Jesse cruising with Henchman Mike to the desert on what we assume is the end of Jesse Pinkman. Instead Jesse spends the day making "dead drops" with Mike and just tagging along. Then, ALL OF SUDDEN, there is an attempted robbery (that is set up by Gus to make Jesse feel like a hero) and Jesse has a sense of self worth.

Walt's cozy little world in which he has no control over anything is eating at him. He wants his just due from someone, anyone, for being the meth kingpin of the southwest. With the car wash bought, Hank chalking up Gale as Heisenberg, and his life in order, Walt decides to get all liquored up and OMFG, WALT WHAT ARE YOU SAYING??!!! Walt makes a drunken proclamation that Gale is probably not "the guy" as Walt believes his lab work to be little more than "rote copying" and that the guy is probably still out there. Hank dives back into the case noting that it is interesting for Gale, a vegan, to have a flier for Los Pollos Hermanas in his house. WALT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??!!11?!!

On to episode 6...

Awesome cold opening again. Once again we see the cartel attacking a Los Pollos truck (BTW, I want to eat at Los Pollos Hermanos so effing bad). Outsmarting the traveling muscle this time by attaching the exhaust to the refrigeration and waiting for them to die in the back. Now they just have to sit back, eat the recently-shot-in-the-face driver's lunch, and pick out the glow in the dark marked meth bucket.

Walt wakes up hungover after his reveal to Hank the previous night. Asking Skyler, "What did I even say?" Skyler does not look amused. A note about the drunken revelation, some may claim it was a cop out move, but it really felt like a real move anyone of us would have when their world starts crumbling and you lose a sense of control. It seemed a little random as we have never seen Walt indulge to this level before, but I know all my problems can be solved by getting absolutely hamhocked, so why can't Walt's?

Skyler listens to Walt's heartfelt love goodbye that she misinterpreted in the previous episode. Coupled with Walt's drunken boasting, she pieces together what is really going on in their new life. She deduces correctly the goings on and murderous atmosphere that Walt is in, and pleads that the last gasp must be to turn himself in. Walt spouts off with an AWESOME speech where he tells her that he is the one people fear and the whole organization ceases to exist without him. Skyler gets the fuck out of there, flipping a coin at the four corners to decide where to flee to. Walt also gets the keys to the car wash from smarmy ex-owner Bogdan. As a final "fuck you," Walt insists on keeping the first dollar Bogdan ever made and uses it to purchase a refreshing Coke.

Walt Jr. starts asking questions about where Skyler is and how she has no right to be mad at Walt because he "has a disease." Walt insists that everything he does is because of the choices he has made and not his "gambling disease." Speaking of poor decisions, Walt buys his sons love by purchasing him an awesome Dodge Challenger MUSCLE CAR OF AUTOMOBILE ERECTIONS. A out of work school teacher that just bought a car wash and has a "gambling problem" buys his son a new car. Yup, everything is normal over here, IRS.

Jesse shows up to work at the lab, oop nope, he's going out with Mike again. But not before him and Walt have a little face to face time regarding Jesse's new status within the crew. Walt really gives it to Jesse, basically telling him that he is nothing and that this must be ALL ABOUT ME. Walt figures out, accurately I might add, that Gus is driving a wedge between him and Jesse. After the way that Walt sums up the situation I would be ready to tell him to piss off as well. This isn't a you help me, I help you relationship anymore. Right now, its more about the horrible things they have done for each other, and there zest for staying alive. It's already clear that Jesse is trying to get as far away from what he has done to help Walt (killing Gale) with his drug use and constant partying. Looks like Gus' plan is working pretty well.

With Jesse out of the lab and Walt stuck with all the cleaning, he does the sensibly thing and bribes three Honduran women from the laundry to help out. They of course, are promptly fired and deported by Gus, because he is a ruthless crime boss. What did you expect Walt? Even after he tells Tyrus that, "You tell Gus to blame me, not them." Tyrus simply replies, "he does."

Well what do you know, Jesse is halfway competent at being muscle. He coaxes out the methheads in possession of the stash the cartel stole and saves the day. Mike even lets out a wry smile at Jesse's clever antics. Later, Mike presumably sings his praises to Gus, though we do not get to hear the conversation. Gus and Jesse's brief conversation outside the diner lend us to think that what started out as an experiment may have actual merit if Jesse's talent shines through. You don't get an audience with the boss if he doesn't like the job you did. Mike and Gus discuss the message left by the cartel that says "ready to talk?" Mike would like to "get 10-15 operators and hit them where it hurts." Why? Because he is the BEE'S KNEES OF CHARACTERS. Gus instead opts for a meeting to be setup. Lame.

In the final scene, Skyler and Holly return to the house to find Junior's new whip. As he goes for a ride, Skyler insists that it must be returned and that she will get blamed for it. It ends with her right on the money assessment that "someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family."

Fav Scene: Walter's speech to Skyler about how "in control" he is

Fav Line: from above Walt "I AM the one who knocks."

Next Week's Title: Problem Dog (based on the preview and where we are in the season, I think this one is going to be a doozy)


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Unfortunate Truth Behind "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey"

Anyone who grew up in the early 90s (or had kids in the early 90s) with a VHS player remembers the family-friendly animal-adventure Disney classic, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

Starring some of Hollywood's top voice-over actors (Michael J. Fox [as Chance, the wily, curious American Bulldog] and Sally Field [as Sassy, the snooty and downright abrasive Himalaya]) Homeward Bound grossed nearly $42,000,000 at the box office and continues to warm the hearts of children and their families across the globe with wholesome, animals-in-danger-then-not-in-danger entertainment.

A quick synopsis of the plot for those who can't recall why these everyday house pets are pictured traversing a 70-foot canyon by way of a fallen log bridge: Chance, Sassy & Shadow (the wise, aging Golden Retriever voiced by the late Don Ameche [interestingly, one of his last roles]) are abandoned by their owners (Airplane's Robert Hays, go figure) at a quaint mountain horse ranch in central Oregon with Schindler's List cruelty, prompting Shadow to interpret this as an evil masterplan which his "Peter" (played by Benj Thall) would never have a hand in and is in dire need of help. Through impeccable Retriever logic, Shadow deduces that home is "just over that mountain" and that he should go back with or without Chance and Sassy. The others concede that in fact, yes, home is just over that mountain range (the southern Cascades-meant-to-be-Sierras mind you) thus beginning the "incredible adventure" promised by the movie's title. Chocked full of excitement, danger, humor, and the occasional mushy-animal-feelings scene (like Shadow's moonlit reflection on the nature of the axiom "a dog is a man's best friend" or the reunion with a fully-recovered once-near-death-because-she-was-sucked-into-a-fucking-whitewater-river Sassy) these everyday house pets defy all odds and cross through the notoriously-mountain-lion-infested Oregon wilderness to return home relatively unscathed (except for Shadow's stupid leg) into the welcoming arms of their oh-shit-our-pets-are-fucked owners. The end.

Wait a tick...

The owners didn't abandon shit. Peter's stepfather, Robert Hays, needed a quiet weekend to move his family into a new house without a bunch of incorrigible asshat pets barking and shitting everywhere. Accordingly, Peter's parents left the lovely trio in the competent hands of a seasoned horse rancher in rural Oregon until they could handle pure, unadulterated chaos in their new home. Unfortunately, Shadow merely thinks in English, but can't understand English, thus he cannot grasp what his loving Peter is trying to say as the family is packing up to leave: (paraphrased) "DON'T WORRY. I'LL BE BACK FOR YOU."

Had Shadow (touted as "wise" by his younger counterpart, Chance) possessed any sort of patience or even the most basic dog instinct (like holy-shit-we-get-a-bunch-of-good-ass-food-here-let's-chill-for-a-bit, a la Chance) Sassy wouldn't have had a near-fatal-waterfall-shitshow experience and been forced to drink goat's milk from the bowl of an obviously-burnt-out-so-now-watches-birds Jerry Garcia lookalike, Chance wouldn't have been lanced in the grill with the barbs of a fully-pissed-off-then-giggling porcupine and subjected to the unorthodox medical practices of a beltway-outsider-vet-pound, and Shadow himself wouldn't have had a Toy Story 3 holy-fuck-I'm-going-to-die-here moment in the depths of a train yard sinkhole. On top of that, Peter's family needlessly experienced the agony of knowing that their shit-brained pets were wandering about in the wilderness, potentially getting the shit ripped out of their fucking insides by mountain lions or worse. All because Shadow was a "wise" Golden Retriever.

Take home point: Never leave your Retriever at a horse ranch in Oregon or pay the price. Or, just wait outside playing basketball, it'll be cool.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Comi-Con Chicago's (second) prolific nerd hive

   This year I attended Chicago's Comi-Con with The smoking nerd's own Adam Slaker aka Slakes107. I haven't attended this con recently because the much greater C2E2 has taken it's rightful place as the go to con of the year, but Adam missed that one and I of course was up for any con so off we went. Now if you asked me before I left how many people were going to be there I'd have guessed about 500 maybe 600, nope THOUSANDS. They looped around a football field sized warehouse in eternity just to get in. It was awe inspiring to see how nerdom had grown in Chicago to such epic levels that we can get this kind of showing for a half-assed con like Chicago's comi-con. Why is it half assed? well its because its small and the only things going on are commercial retailers and washed out celebrities charging 40$ for an autograph. Marvel, DC , Dark Horse, Image are all no where to be seen, I guess Chicago isn't good enough for the major publishers to come back twice a year. 

"But Dylan you make it sound like there is no fun to have at all?" No silly reader there was plenty of fun to be had. We saw people in amazing costumes and the first thing you see when you entered was a booth for the Suicide Girls (swoon). If you don't know who they are google it gentleman and thank me later. But oh man did we see some awesome costumes and other great fun was to be had for instance I got two 30$ graphic novels for 15$. I only buy graphic novels at cons it is the only way to go if you have the opportunity. deals, deals, deals. But lets look and some of the other awesomeness.
Yeah thats the Gibson from FLCL (a phenomenally weird anime) made completely out of Legos. I deem thee awesome.
Here is the 10th and 11th Doctors, both of the costumes were clearly very impressive and they both looked exactly like Tennant and Smith. I too find bow ties to be cool.
This is me with the embodiment of evil and destruction in the universe, a Dalek. (specifically the weaponized one from that WWII episode) But were cool, Exterminate? who me?
We also found these awesome people who went pretty far to create very awesome Sucker Punch costumes. I found the baby doll costume to be especially...well made
That was only a fraction of what we saw but I couldn't take pictures of everything so lay off me. But there were princess peaches and marios and Assassins of creeds all over the place. There was also an adorable couple of kids dressed as spider men and Doctor who. I always love seeing the nerd youth. Anyway in short it's not the greatest Chicago con but it is still REALLY awesome. Stay tuned for Adam's interpretation of the awesome and for one more picture I have of the man who clearly won the award for biggest nerd of the con (its pretty prestigious). As always my fine nerds, we do it better.

I love nerds. Comic-Con junkies are the taste makers of tomorrow. Isn't that funny? The tables have turned.- Kristen Bell

Monday, August 8, 2011

Next Day Recap: Breaking Down Breaking Bad

This series will appear every Monday following AMC's hit show Breaking Bad. I highly suggest watching the episode before reading this column as SPOILERS will abound.

Episode 4: Bullet Points

What a great cold opening this week. Henchman Mike is really becoming my favorite ancillary character in the show (Sorry, Saul!). As the cartel pours bullets into the Los Pollos Hermanos truck, Mike sits in the cold, biding his time before taking them out. He doesn't even flinch when he loses part of his ear. What a professional, which really appears to be the theme this week.

Walter and Skyler are prepping for the BIG REVEAL to the family about Walt's "gambling winnings" and the car wash purchase. Just an excruciating scene to watch, as Skyler hammers Walt over the head with this complex story. For being so meticulous in the lab, it almost seems like Walt couldn't care less about the convincing cover. Though I suppose it irks him more that it is out of his control and he comes off looking like a totally d-bag in this story. I love how thorough Skyler is by making him prove his blackjack system. Especially with them playing the recovery angle. As if Hank was going to bust out a five deck shoot and grill Walt about the count in different situations.

The instant change on Walt and Skyler's faces as they arrive for dinner show how deep they've thought out this cover story. Like a light switch, they flip on the bright smiles to convince their family of the good, yet strange time, they are going through. Hank actually seems happy to have company. Yet he doesn't miss an opportunity to take a dig at Marie ("She could burn water.") even in a light-hearted atmosphere. Oh boy, MORE ROCK COLLECTING STUFF. I love the disheartened look on Hank's face as Walt goes in-depth about the oxidation of Manganese. Hank makes Walt pop in a DVD from a case, and poof! in one swoop Gale is recapturing our hearts with a rendition of Major Tom that sounds like an angel.

The gambling story goes over incredibly well with the family, including Walt Jr. proclaiming that its "awesome." Walt excuses himself to get a look at the Gale file Hank has been consulting on. He and Hank have a heartfelt moment in the hallway where they tell each other if they ever need a confidant, that they will be there for one another. While Hank is genuine in his offer, Walt really just wants a prolonged look as well as information on the investigation.

The two look over the case as Walt starts nervously poking at Hank to find out what he knows. Hank, believing Gale is Heisenberg, wishes he could have been "Popeye Doyle waving the Frog One." To which Walt points out that this didn't happen in the first French Connection. WHICH IS ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER. Then we get to see the old Hank pop back up as he grills Walt about the curious W.W. dedication Gale included in his lab notes. Walt cleverly plays it off as it being in reference to Walt Whitman citing a previous page. SMOOTH. Walt learns that there were prints taken from the scene and that the cops has a few leads.

Walt scurries up to Jesse's hovel looking for him. Walt actually seems generally excited to be making move and taking action rather than sitting back collecting criminal life lessons, something he laments to Saul later. The look in Jesse's eyes as Walt asks him to relive Gale's murder really tells the whole story. It's surprising that Walt is too thick skinned to notice the damning effect its had on him.

Walt goes to Saul's to lay his frustrations out on his lovable sleazebag lawyer. Walt complains that he is the only one acting professionally, which is really far from the truth. Jesse is the exception as he has fallen off the deep end. Gus has never been anything but the consummate professional. Henchman Mike is the same way, even after his ear gets blown off from men shooting at him in the back of a refrigerated truck. His face never changes from "this is my job." What a total badass. Walt doesn't understand that murder is the only surefire way ensure the competition will lose. Walt can't separate the business and crime. Saul offers him some solace in that he knows a guy that can make him disappear if it gets too hot. He notes that this is an "endgame," which is the coolest expression to come out of chess.

Walt notes that the camera is not following him, but rather Jesse's every move. And wow, Jesse does not care about anything anymore. First, one of the junkies staying at his house steals $78,000 from him, then he comes home and gives out meth HE'S SKIMMING FROM THE LAB. He finds his money missing, doesn't even flinch, and begins playing video games with a HAWT junkie rather than having the sex.

The next morning Mike and the new henchman, whose name is Ray apparently, have cleared the house of the scumbags and caught the thief. Jesse says thanks, but doesn't seem the slightest bit concerned with what happens to him, the thief, or anything. Mike and Gus meet to discuss Jesse's increasing liability. We then follow Walt working alone in the lab, to calling and recalling Jesse, only to show up at his house and find he is missing. Walt returns to the lab and sternly asks the camera, "Where is he?" The episode ends with Mike and Jesse taking a long drive into the desert.

This was really a fantastic episode, everything from the intense brutality of the boring details of Skyler's cover plan to Jesse's complete nihilistic approach to life was a joy to watch. The first third of this season is shaping up some interesting story lines. Will they kill off Jesse? No way has Mike gone soft, so the trip to the desert has only one purpose. Walt will have to come up with something to get him out of this. The endgame Saul mentions will come up again I bet, but right now Walt still believes he has moves to make and he thinks he can still come out "winning", if that makes sense.

Fav Scene: The cold open of Henchman Mike

Fav Line: Mike "Wanna ask where we are going?" Jesse "Nope."

Next Week's Title: "Shotgun"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nerdy Weaknesses

   Nerds are quite possibly the most powerful beings in the known universe. We are the ones who know everything and are good at everything that matters. We can quote every (good) movie and we are the ones the non-nerdy always come to for help. Whether that be getting you through a hard level of a video game, fixing your blue screened laptop, or reworking the global economy. But do not think us gods we have our weaknesses OH YES we have our weaknesses.  Many in the nerd community may be angered with the fact that I will be giving them away now, but my intent is not to insight a war between the weak and the nerdy but to show that we are but humans as well and that those of us who are not nerdy need not fear us.

  First and most importantly we are weak willed, show us a variant cover for a book we already own and have read 30 times and you bet your sweet ass we'll by 30 copies. We may not have money for bills but we have money for the most recent video game blockbuster that's coming out (special edition of course). We know we shouldn't spend hours on end playing Minecraft, especially with that term paper due, but how do you expect us to stop? Give us anything we can fawn over and you could lead us right off a cliff like a Disney made slaughter.

  Among our lesser known weaknesses is anything Japanese, I can't speak for all nerds but many obsess about the land of the rising sun.  From their video games and cartoons to their women and robots. You dress a Japanese girl as...anything really and most nerd men will not only melt but can then easily be manipulated into doing just about anything. Another of our weaknesses is eye of newt but I won't get into that now. That is just a few of our weaknesses I can go on about our need for approval or our fear of pretty, self-confident people but that is commonly known. With this knowledge I hope to bridge the gap between nerds and the nerdless. We are not better than you we just do it better.

Nerds do it better- The Smoking Nerd(2011)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Next Day Recap: Breaking Down Breaking Bad

This series will appear every Monday following AMC's hit show Breaking Bad. I highly suggest watching the episode before reading this column as SPOILERS will abound.

Episode 3: Open House

Some people lament the sluggish pace of the the early episodes of Breaking Bad, but I love it. The show has no break from the tension with contrived plot points and overused mechanics that other shows would throw in (i.e. a car chase, action sequence, or something every...single...week). Instead, we drill into the characters and their psyches so hard that the tension stacks to incredible heights. This is why this is the best show on television.

Episode three opens in the lab as Walter reminisces about Gale's coffee before remembering that he was the cause of his death. His face is difficult to read, and you can't tell what he is thinking t the moment. He then peers up to see the newly installed security camera in the lab. Why wasn't this there the whole time? If we know nothing else about Gus, it's that he is a shrewd and calculating businessman. Walter gives it the ole middle finger as he realizes that he is not in control. A theme throughout this ep.

Skyler shows up at Walter's condo to discuss business, and Walter is reluctant to show her his black eye courtesy of henchman Mike. Skyler is frantic about the danger Walt might be in and even mentions turning himself in. SWEET PLAN. Listen to the phrasing Walter uses to describe how he got his black eye. It sounds like typical office politics instead of the life and death situation that the drug trafficking life is. Walt also tries to make it sound like he is in control of the situation ("I didn't retaliate because he is a much older man."). Yeah, also because Mike would, and has, wreck you. Walt is losing his grip.

Oh great, Marie and Hank story line. This better start going somewhere, as I am already having trouble defending it after two episodes. Marie is at an open house enjoying a glass of wine. ENTER THE GREATEST REALTOR EVER. Seriously, did you get a look at this guy? If I used any of the two following words to describe him; wealthy, southern, businessman, fried chicken, you could paint a pretty clear picture of him. Marie starts spinning an elaborate tale of a fake life before returning home with groceries to an unwelcoming Hank ("I said cheetos, not fritos"). She takes to go back to the store, but not before we see a little porcelain figurine. THE SAME FIGURINE FROM THE OPEN HOUSE. Uh oh, someone's acting out and needs attention!

Jesse's quest to never be alone again forces him to open up for just a moment to Walt and ask him to go do something. Walt declines the invite to go go-karting, and asks Jesse if he has anything he wants to talk about. Jesse retorts with the same question regarding Walt's black eye. The father/son , protege/mentor relationship has come to a screeching halt as secrets and the reliance on one another slowly degrades.

Unlike Jesse and Marie, Walt has a partner willing to help and share the burden. Walt and Skyler meet with Saul Goodman to discuss how to purchase the car wash. Saul is insistent that they move on to other opportunities, but Skyler will only go for that car wash. There is now a personal vendetta against Bogdan after his outrageous offers last week. For someone as business savvy as Skyler, she should really no better than to take things personally. She is also unwilling to get her hands dirty after Saul suggests some unscrupulous tactics to take control of the situation. She looks to Walt for confirmation that this is not how they play the game, to which he reluctantly agrees. He obviously is keeping the details to himself since he has already committed NUMEROUS MURDERS.

The back stories that Marie gives her fake personas are pretty awesome, my favorite being the astronaut/hand model power couple. Marie steals again, but this time the watchful eye of Stephanie the realtor notices something awry. Marie is not a good thief. She spends the first minute talking about the spoons and making herself a spectacle just to steal a spoon she was ranting about. Anonymity is key to theft people. But I get it. Kleptomania isn't about the stuff, its about the thrill and all she wants is the attention she isn't getting from Hank. She gets caught and bailed out by one of Hank's buddies, but not before breaking down crying in the police station.

Jesse is the saddest go-karter ever, riding endless laps of misery before returning to home. And his home? Not too homely feeling. What started out as a drug fueled, weekend house party has degraded into a junkie hangout. Oof, not the comfort of friends or family that Jesse needs, but he rolls with it because at least he is not alone.

Skyler scores a big one for homework enthusiasts as Saul's actor (aptly portrayed by comedian Bill Burr) is able to convince Bogdan of the environmental consequences thanks to Skyler's dogged legwork. Walt is almost smarmy as Skyler's plan is seemingly failing without a call from Bogdan. When he finally does call and Skyler refuses, Walt flips a lid. Skyler is very calculating in the details noting that if they don't try and get the best deal it will look suspicious. Walt half heartedly agrees, though it seems that he is so short sighted he wants to grasp at any victory that comes his way. They have been few and far between lately. Details come up again as Walt is chastised for buying a 320 dollar bottle of champagne. Skyler reminds him that on paper, he is an unemployed school teacher struggling to make ends meet. "The devil is in the details," Skyler notes. Walt, who is losing control of the world around him, tries to save face by assuring that he paid cash and no one saw him.

The episode ends with Hank being offered Gale's lab notes from his cop buddy that helped Marie get off the hook. We really see how Hank is purposely pushing Marie away at every turn. He says he is not hungry, but when she leaves the rice pudding, he eats it. We get a little information about his mineral collection and the relief he gets from cataloging them. I don't quite get why, but I'm not that smart. We see Hank's boredom reflected in his television choices. He starts with GLORIOUS pornography, before descending down to professional bowling and city council meetings. He finally ends up using his claw grabber thingy to pick up the Gale file and start reading.

Fav Scene: Jesse's go-kart of loneliness

Fav Line: Saul regarding Skyler's approach to the car wash problem "All we have to do is think of a non-violent, unsuspicious way to buy the car wash that protects the innocent and doesn’t cost us $20 million."

Next Week's Title: "Bullet Points"