Heads On Sticks & Ventriloquists

The prodigious writings of a tortured genius.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They Are Not In Heaven Because They Fuck The Wives of Ely

Many of the moments that give me the chills in any form of story are when a character (usually an underdog) approaches another character (usually a huge motherfucker) and tells them off. But not just tells them off... tells them of their obvious plight -- something so clear throughout the tale -- and spices it up with a curse word.

I was thinking about this as I watched the film 8 Mile for the fifth time yesterday. This guy gets screwed and screwed and screwed and finally in the climactic rap battle he does not choke, but tells off the primary antagonist. The line that specifically gives me the chills is when Eminem goes up to the dude and says "Don't ever try to judge me dude, you don't know what the fuck I've been through".

Whew. First off, great use of the word "fuck". The timing, the emphasis; it all comes together quite beautifully. The word "fuck" is able to express a certain degree of pain and anguish.

No one is quite certain what the true origins of the word "fuck" are, but many believe they arise from the German "ficken", meaning "to strike". Regardless, the contemporary meaning of the word can be anything, and it truely has become one of the most versatile in the English language.

I haven't listened to So-Cal punk band The Ataris for quite some time, but in high school they had one song that I found extremely affecting, if only for the inclusion of the word "fuck". The song was called "Angry Nerd Rock". It began with a dark, bubbling bass line building tension as the singer told a tale of social isolation. He was "stuck inside of someone else's dream", as if his life had turned out perfect by any casual observation -- he's in a successful rock group, he's enjoying himself with his friends. But there's the anonymous authority figure, or perhaps a friend just trying to help him get out of his funk. He complains that everything is the same as it's always been, just "different faces, different names". The cliche of the line isn't as important as the fact that it feels real, it feels like he's honestly needs to get out of this life that he leads.

It finally boils down to the intense climax of the song, all instruments finally blazing forward dull-throttle when he shouts "I don't have to listen to you, so don't you fucking tell me what to do". Is this the angsty statement of a teen yelling at his dad for not giving him the car keys. The fact that this guy is in his twenties and has a kid leads me to think this is more than that. But what is particularly interesting is his use of the word "fuck". It conveys the anger in ways that simply shouting could not. "Don't you fucking tell me what to do".

Similarly, but less provacative, is the song by beloved 90s pop-rock group Third Eye Blind entitled "Graduate". This song uses swearing and the zeitgeist of college living to convey a frustration that is surely specific, but universal to anyone who hears it. This time the frustration is not only with the establishment, but with the self. The vocalist ponders "Can I get my punk ass off the street?", hoping to find some motivation to remove himself from his abstract predicament. In a sort of third person soliloquy, the singer confronts his down-and-out self with a more motivational, optimistic self. He muses, "Talking to somebody like you, do you live the days you go through?", which I find to be one of the more profound lyrics in the band's discography [and yes, I do believe that the band Third Eye Blind is not taken as seriously because of their pop culture status, but they really do cover topics that other bands of their stature might steer away from. I mean one of their singles is about being jaded with a life of sex, drugs, and rock n roll and yet another single is about choosing whether or not to have an abortion... and these are the singles].

The motivation for the song's protagonist comes in the form of fighting the system, not through teenage snottiness, but by fulfilling your potential and accomplishing your goals in the face of the very people who thought you'd never make it. But cursing is still an effective way to convey this frustration when he confonts the antagonizing authority figure with "To the bastard talking down to me, your whipping boy calamity, cross your fingers I'm going to knock it all down".

The curse doesn't seem forced. It isn't a casual use of the word "bastard", nor is it a rebellious childish use of the word; this is a guy who really thinks that this other guy is pretty much a huge bastard. Some of the worst insults are not when someone calls you something totally outrageous and provactive or insults your mother or something of that matter. No, the worst insults are when someone calls you something totally minor, but means it. If someone thought I was truely a bastard, it would be more affecting than someone who called me a fucking dumbshit cunt head. There's a level of calmness and rationality in the small curses.

And yes, all of these described moments still have the power to give me chills. Maybe I like cursing. Or maybe I like underdogs. But when the two come together in a verbal attack on the proverbial dickheads of the world, I really dig it.


Earlier I implied that the song "Graduate" deals with college living. The more I think about it, the more I think that it uses the literal idea of graduation as a metaphor for entering a next stage of life, rather than the actual act of graduating from school. This also makes sense because frontman Stephen Jenkins was in his early thirties when this song came out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I've been thinking a lot lately about historical significance versus pop-cultural significance. Given the choice of a vibrant life of artistic success, but to be critically considered pop-trash or have an entirely unsuccessful artistic life, only to be regarded as intensely brilliant post-mortem ... which would you choose?

Answer now.

I would choose the first option. If you chose the second, you're probably some sort of masochist or entirely in love with yourself. Sometimes people can have their cake and eat it too in this scenario -- Andy Warhol, The Beatles, the dude that wrote Beowulf -- but more often than not it's one or the other.

I've been thinking about this subject for a couple days now, because I find myself reading two books by relatively famous Chucks; Palahniuk and Klosterman. The books in question are Survivor and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. It is my belief that these two authors contribute nothing to the lexicon of history, but I also feel that both of them secretly (or perhaps openly) know this. What is it to become a "great" writer; do you have to create something that you just feel like talking about (Klosterman) or create a noir-ish social commentary (Palahniuk)?

John Fante was an Italian depression-era author from Colorado who saw limited success in his early life. This is most likely because he wrote seven books about being an Italian depression-era author from Colorado. He went to L.A. and began writing screenplays that eventually were made into movies. Still no one cared. Then sometime later, after his death in the 80s, someone was like "Ohhh, I get it... he's an Italian depression-era author from Colorado. This is deep". Ask The Dust, currently Fante's most popular work, finally made it to the New York Times bestseller list six decades after its publication (and even that required heavy pushing from Charles Bukowski... and he was drunk the whole time anyway). The problem about this man is that I feel he was endlessly self-involved and basically wrote journal entries over the course of his bazillion books uncleverly disguised as some other character (let it be known that I have not read one word of John Fante).

"But wouldn't people that want instant fame and gratification be in love with themselves too?"

Yes, this is true as well. I'm sure that pop-band-of-the-moment Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz is immensley obsessed with himself. But, I think it's a different kind of in love with yourself. People that want to be immortalized after their death are "visions-of-grandeur-in-love-with-themselves". These people want to be like Jesus... or David Bowie. People that opt for the first choice are "I-just-want-to-be-popular-in-love-with-themselves". Who are we as a people, but insecure. It's only a normal hope that people in some capacity can recognize you as cool. The people that obsess over what "the critics" say want to make art. Everyone else kinda just wants to have fun with it.

So this brings me back to my two Chucks, whose books I am finding immense enjoyment in (and they're critically appraised!). Maybe it's a Freudian pleasure complex*, but I want to read pop-novels of now, just because I'm entertained and can relate to them. To say you would rather have your work loved later is to say, "I don't want to be pop now, but I would like to become pop later". It's the same thing, the same sort of adulation, but now you're deep, even if you were just writing about what your neighbor said to you or something.

My Chucks want to entertain first, and be profound second if it happens to occur at all. C.P. wants to write dark social commentary for your enjoyment. C.K. wants to write highly-self aware pop-culture-isms for your enjoyment. And in creating enjoyment for others, both of these authors certainly must enjoy what they do.

I'm currently working on a screenplay for my screenwriting class. At the encouragement of my teacher, I have created a dream-like, intensely personal, character piece. And I fucking hate it! I never write stuff like this and I don't care about anything happening in it, even when my class nods in approval of its "deep" message. Listen, I would rather be in Queen than in than in Radiohead. Because it's fun. It's pop music. Still, it's profoundly connective. Freddie Mercury could sing on the most cliched or boring subject matter of all time (girls, having fun, riding a bike) and it would still be awesome because it's fun. Sure, Radiohead are great artists and an incredible band. Maybe I just have a problem being totally sincere about things I care about. Or perhaps I just don't care about things that Thom Yorke would care about. I care more about having a good ol' time than global warming**. Plus it's Queen, man... fucking Queen!

*It is undoubtedly not a Freudian pleasure complex
** Get the Hold Steady's new album.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

This Just In!

Since I posted about videos I used to make in high school not moments ago, it might be interesting to see videos I've been a part of in college.

Click da link to see da video made by Joey Stakun, Tommy Rice, and myself.


Also read the post just below this one for more vidzzzz.


As part of our totally self-indulgent, it's-only-funny-if-you-know-them, retrospective series "Revisionist History", my collaborator Jon "Kitty" Katz has just updated the Bill Benz Show YouTube site.

A little background: The Bill Benz Show was a video project founded by Jon Katz, Mike Chen, and myself. We started in 2001 and the show was dead a mere two years later (like other creative projects I have taken part in). It was before viral videos or non-music file sharing really took off, and obviously before YouTube and flash streaming video.

The first part of our retrospective series (found here) gave people a brief glimpse into the conception of the series and some of the main ideas behind it. The second part will be out in a couple weeks, featuring interviews with regular cast and crew members. The most curious thing about the Bill Benz Show is that -- in retrospect -- it seems like a great warm up to a truely funny and entertaining show that had potential, but we just stopped. As soon as we started writing sketches and skits and actual scripts, the show was finished.

Anyway, before having this post become any more convoluted, the following are five original Bill Benz Show segments with commentary below each by Jon himself. Enjoy!

"Ho Hunting": Perhaps the most classic Bill Benz Show segment, this video features a young Jon "Kitty" Katz in desperate pursuit of some girls.

Interesting fact: The Santa Claus appearing in this video recently met George W. Bush at the White House for a Christmas photo op.

"Experimental German Film": Brendan Barrett and Peter Shadzik are rival gang members in this project created for someone's German class.

"Ninjas Med Stokker": Jon Battista and Erick Geiger engage in an epic ninja battle. Subtitled in Norwegian.

LaSalle College Highschool's finest student, Paul "Fresh" Gormisky, tries to pawn his Religion class's textbook Bible for a low, low price. Operators are standing by...

Edit: "Break Stuff" was removed to avoid potential employers seeing certain parties doing certain things.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Photo Adventure 3

New photo adventure is up on Joe's page.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Revisionist History part 1

Watch the video above. Also play this game all the time.

Dolphin Olympics... my high score is 1 million 200 thousand something. Beat that!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The 151st Pokemon

So this will be the fourth blog post I've made in 4 consecutive days. Wowie. Or three. I forget.

So I've been on a kick of this band Mew since I first got their album, "And The Glass Handed Kites" in August. Since then, instead of becoming disinterested with it, their music has grown on me greatly. They're Dutch or Danish or Donuts or something like that. Their music is possibly the nerdiest shit I've heard in a long time, but in a totally good way; because they're nerds who are being heartfelt about their nerddome. By the way, this is their fourth album, which means I have some backtracking to do.

It's hard to call it anything but poppy prog-rock, and it should have been the score to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is the best album I've heard this year, but I'll talk more about that in my grand, end-of-the-year, highly acclaimed music wrap up (no one cares about it, it's totally mastubatory). Watch deez vidz:

Above is Mew's most recent video. It's all sexy and shit.

I don't know how they get away with this shit. I mean, the audacity! They're all wearing scarfs with an elaborate light display as wind blows through their perfect Danish hair. Oh shit, fake snow!

This is the first song I heard from them (well not specifically, this is the single version, I like the album version better). A lot of times I just want music videos to be beautiful shots of the band rocking out. This is that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why Global Warming Is Awesome

Global warming fucking rocks. As I sit in the brisk fall air, I realize that it's not brisk at all, it's fucking nice out! The world needs to stop complaining about global warming, because it's only benefitting us. "Us" being, everyone that lives in a nice temperate climate zone, like Pennsylvania. It's November and it's like 65 degrees out! Show me the downside!

"But Bill, I'm not sure you've got it right... It's going to melt the ice caps, wah wah wah, makes the world colder in the end... cry cry cry... poisons the air... bloo bloo blah."

Listen, crybaby, you can whine all you want about the inevitable, or we can really embrace this awesome thing we call global warming. Notice it's not called global destroyening. It's just global warming. Why try to fight what could be the coolest thing to happen to the earth in about thousands of years?

"But Bill, all of our culture and beautiful cities and lovely writings and educations will be lost forever if they're all submerged in water! Wah wah wah wah wah! We'll all be miserable."

First of all, you're already miserable, so submerging the earth in a couple hundred trillion gallons of water isn't going to change that. Just accept that we'll all be living on catamarans, drinking our purified piss out of a Brita filter and hanging out on giant floating towns, selling dry dirt to the highest bidder. It will be something like this:

If you're still not convinced, I hope you drown in your own whiny-baby tears before the Katrina times 100-like squalls do the same. Meanwhile, I'll be busy constructing a glorious vessel and stocking up on non-perishable food items. I guess I'll see you true believers in the decades following the apocalypse of the land dwellers. Have your dramamine ready.


I just realized that this global warming thing isn't happening as fast as I'd like. Still, I can't wait to bring as many children into this world to experience the adventures that I would only be able to dream about. You're so lucky future-children.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To The DP of Battlefield Earth

Many a blogger has tackled the following: Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, Celebrities and Scientology, Dianetics, Battlefield Earth, Marmaduke, etc. They're all easy targets and I won't really get into the specifics. Scientology is a cult, duh, we all know. Tom Cruise is batshit insane, duh, we all know (but he's always been). L. Ron Hubbard was a wacko pedophile, etc., we all know.

This one goes specifically to the director of photography for the 2000 film "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" starring John Travolta and Barry Pepper and I think Forrest Whitaker. The film is based on L. Ron Hubbard's shittingly long book of the same name. If you have ever wanted to read it, you're a dork.

The DP -- or cinematographer -- of "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" is a gent named Giles Nuttgens. His film credits include "Swimfan" and "Keep The Aspidistra Flying" (?) among other things. Giles, I have a few bones to pick with some of your shot compositions... well, most of your shot compositions in the film "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" (quite a coincidence that the events in the film happened at exactly the turn of the millenium).

Now let's forget for a moment that the writing wasn't awful, the acting not emotionless, and that there was actually some direction to the film. There's something about your shot choices that still would have been... how shall I put this, um... stupid.

Well that's a decent shot. The ground must've been slightly uneven so there's a slight tilt in the frame... nothing too worrisome. Barry Pepper has gorgeous hair, by the way.

Ah, interesting shot. The rule of thirds is in effect here, it works. Looks like the right tripod leg was a little bit shorter than the rest. No worries, no one will notice, it's only a slightly canted angle.

Alright Giles, it seems that you have now made the right tripod leg significantly longer than the other two. It appears that the camera was lopsided when this was shot. This looks like an important shot too. Oh well.

Oh, Jesus. Why is the angle canted so far? Are these a species that are able to stand straight up on a 30 degree plane? Maybe so. All these angles are really making me nauseous.

What the fuck? Did the cameraman fall over?

Almost every shot in the film "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" is tilted in some degree -- ranging from "slightly tilted" to "oh my, that is quite tilted". Surely this is just a stylistic choice showing the dizzying paradoxes that occur in the film "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" and not how you actually shoot every film. Right? Well I don't really want to watch "Swimfan" or "The Deep End" or really anything else listed on IMDB, so I'll probably never know.

Nitpicking? Or just general disdain towards the film "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000"? I don't know. Probably the former.

No wait, "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" totally fucking sucked. Not just because every single shot was canted, not because I didn't really understand what the hell was going on, not because it was boring, not just because the alien makeup was just claws and dreadlocks, nor just because the script is bad and I'm assuming the one million paged novel is as well. No, it was all of these things. This movie was torture. I didn't watch the whole thing to the end. And if there's any "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000" purist out there who is now saying "Well that's why he didn't like it, he didn't watch the whole thing", I don't care. It sucked, it sucks, it will suck.

It sucks so bad that I have turned into one of those internet nerds who complains about something that I have no emotional investment in, like the guys at Something Awful or that Maddox guy. I've turned into a complainy weiner baby blah bloo. All because of "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000". Why complain about something that everyone knows is bad? Why act like I'm a badass or something for doing it? I'm reduced to nothing. Thanks to "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000".


So I was leafing through the library's copy of L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" and came across this interesting passage on page 3,466:

"...but how, the flowing-haired man, wondered. How could there ever have been a world that existed on a flat zero degree plane. Surely he had never seen it (it was and is, afterall, the fucking year 3000). 'Well' answered the leader of the Dredloxinz (reading the human's thoughts), 'Sometime in the year 2550, we fucking rammed our ship really hard into the earth. it tilted the earth to a 45 degree angle of what it used to be. That's why you humans got all pissed and shot your puny missiles at us. That's why we killed most of you. That's why we are here on this battlefield, which is on earth. It's sort of a... what do you call it... well I guess it's a battlefield earth."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Life Is a Meaningless Series of Events That Always Lead Me To Play Guitar Hero at Tom Rice's Apartment


Green, Red, Green, Green, Red
Yellow, Green is Black Sabbath
in Guitar Hero

I tilt my guitar
But star power won't start
Totally sucks, man

Tonight I shall play
Guitar Hero yet again
I can't stop, I won't


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Van Mineral

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Poem For Film Majors and People That Hate The Rain

I toiled through the night, film project of course
But Final Cut Pro was lacking remorse
as my audio tracks were only a faint hiss
my room-tone and ADR totally amiss
I'll finish by one, I did confidently chime
Matching film to sound would take "no time"

Around three thirty, I saw what I was stuck with
and glared at the Mac and muttered, "Man, fuck this"
And went to export
but the port did retort
that it had no sound with which to consort

And to this I replied, "No, it's all there, all nice."
but the computer said "Check your output device"
I tried again, hoping to see through the glitch
But the computer, as always, was being a bitch

I know it's not me, so the computer's a liar
Oh wait, it is me, let me check firewire
Yeah shit, export thru firewire, I'm a dumbass
Hopefully I'll get enough sleep now for my film class

Oh, a light rain
No cause to complain
I'll call my girlfriend for a space on her floor
'Cause my home's too far and class is next door

It's fucking pouring
I wish I was snoring
but lemme get soaked on this shitty Wednesday morning

Friday, November 03, 2006

That Will Suck

It's going to suck in 2-4 weeks when every person in the world is quoting the new film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I've made a blog about this very phenomenon about a year ago, involving the film Napoleon Dynamite. Arguably the worst part of all of this is not hearing humorless people recycle the jokes so they'll seem funny, but hearing every self righteous comedy purist I know complain about that very thing. We get it, it's not funny, but let them be.

Time will tell. I'm going to see the movie tonight, myself. It's going to be hilarious.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Photo Adventure 2

Hey kids, check out the newest funnies in Photo Adventure World!