Friday, January 30, 2015

Korro Reunion

Check out the reunion of the most awesome metal band to ever exist on Long Island...KORRO.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Breakin’ Hundred Reunion

Graduate school. I guess if I’m talking about Breakin’ Hundred I should start with date they were formed or the date they broke up but I honestly don’t remember.  What I do remember is that they formed at some point toward my last years as an undergraduate and split-up at the end of my graduate school career.  I asked the 4 former band members for specifics and got 5 different answers.  (Philly answered twice; once under the name Philly, once under the name Michael).  So, when I hear Breakin’ Hundred, I think back to graduate school. 

Dear college, I never truly appreciated how fun you were.
I discovered the band through Krista Ryan.  She introduced me to her then boyfriend Judd Jaworowski who was the bassist.  He gave me their CD A Jar of Change for free and told me to check out one of their shows.  Krista then proceeded to remind me of every single upcoming performance. 

Not too long after I got the CD, a friend and I were sitting in his car listening to the album, breaking down each song one by one.  We analyzed the CD, not as an amateur album made by a garage band, but a professionally produced piece of pop-art.  We discussed everything from chord progression, to lyrics, to overall sound mixing.  We talked about what worked, what didn’t, and how they could improve.  We didn’t do this to be dicks, we believed they had genuine potential to get signed to a record label and just needed to smooth out some rough edges.  

While Breakin’Hundred was trying to hit it big, I was trying to get my masters in Speech Communication, Performance, & Rhetorical Studies.  Yes, the degree is as boring as the course work.  A fulltime graduate student takes 3 classes (9 credits).   Each class assignment typically involved reading 50-100 page essays written by old dead dudes blabbing about the fundamentals of communication, speech, pop-culture, performance and oration.   We then needed the ability to give a thorough analysis of the material by the following week. To put this in context, here is a quote from Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy.

  • “The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity. The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance, or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it” (Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy).  
That’s just the first 2 sentences of a 49-page book that needed to be read in one week.  It was also typical of the type of readings we were assigned.  If I ever get ahold of a flux capacitor the concept of Sweetness and Light is going to mean time traveling psycho killer.  Each class left me feeling like Lane Myer from Better Off Dead.  During finals it was regularly expected that we write 20 page term papers all due the same week.  That’s 60-80 pages of writing that analyzed dudes like Matthew Arnold, Jacques Derrida, and Plato (yes, Plato, congratulations you’ve heard of one of the old dead dudes I studied).   

This sums up my life rather perfectly.

But once a month I’d hit up a Long Island bar and check out this band called Breakin’ Hundred.  For about an hour out of my life I could forget about all those damn philosophers and books I wasn’t reading.  I could ignore the papers I wasn’t completing and just listen to some indie pop rock.  So when I think about Breakin’ Hundred I think about a time in my life where I needed the biggest distraction possible and they were happy to help. 

The band went their separate ways right around the time when my academic career concluded.  I always wished that I could have seen at least one show without Michel Foucault ringing in my subconscious but it wasn’t meant to be.  It was a loss, not only from the music but also the collapse of the community that had formed around Breakin’ Hundred over the years. 

One of my first graduate papers discussed the community that formed through music and Breakin’ Hundred was a band that proved my theory’s authenticity.  I even cited their website’s message boards in the paper.  What was also unfortunate was they never advertised their last show.  They went from playing gigs twice a month to just being gone.  Friends I saw rather frequently were gone overnight.  Sure, I could attempt to hangout with them apart from a show but that’s just too much work.   

So on January 16, 2015 Breakin’ Hundred reunited to say goodbye to Eric “Little Philly” Lao (the guitarist Philly’s brother) and their old drummer Mark Corso.  Little Philly is moving away to some foreign country somewhere (Cuba maybe?) and Mark is retiring down south to Shady Pines.  It was bittersweet because it wasn’t only a Breakin’ Hundred reunion, it was also a community reunion.  I saw people I never thought I’d ever see again in my lifetime or the next.  It seemed like they hadn’t changed much or maybe they were caught up in the nostalgia. 

It was the best Breakin’ Hundred show I ever saw.  Eric Maestre’s vocals were sharp, Judd looked relaxed and happy, Philly lifted his head up and talked to the crowd, and Mark made a joke.  It was like all those rough edges were smoothed out, the band had personality, style, and solid music.  I spent my time taping the show for the community members that couldn’t make it and for a moment forgot all about my mortgage, career, and overall adult responsibilities.  So if you’re a fan, when you watch this video try to think about where you were in your life when they were going strong, then focus on the positive vibes they hopefully gave you.  If you never heard them before, enjoy the distraction.  

Written by 
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®

Life After Breakin’ Hundred

Judd Jaworowski – Defeated the Evil Clan.  His land was revived in peace and people will talk of his deeds as legend in years to come

Michael “Philly” Lao – In addition to finding the legendary 5 treasures, stunned the world with his discovery of 2 lost treasures.  He became a master treasure hunter.   

Mark Corso – Destroyed the vile Red Falcon and saved the universe.  He considers himself a hero. 

Eric Maestre – Completed his quest and was presented with a new quest by pressing Button B. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Subliminal Messages

The man who made the concept possible.

The impeccably accurate Wikipedia defines Subliminal Messages as “any sensory stimuli below an individual's threshold for conscious perception.” So basically people are getting brainwashed without realizing it, much like in the awesome John Carpenter film They Live.  The problem with the idea of Subliminal Messages is that it’s total crap.  If it’s truly subliminal no one would ever know a person is being influenced. 

The sad thing is he would have won the election anyway.

Let’s look at all those wonderful Disney controversies throughout the years.  Let's start with the naked lady in the Rescuers.  VHS playback allowed people to see a photo of a naked woman in the background while mouse versions Bob Newhart and Zsa Zsa Gabor flew away on the back of Dom Delouise to rescue some ugly ginger child from an alligator.  The parents were up in arms.  Disney was using a subliminal message to brainwash the animated viewing populous everywhere into being naked or not closing their curtains or something.  The intended message that everyone inferred from the fraternity level prank is left to interpretation.  That’s really the point.

How many movies were watched in slow motion before the angry mom found something to gripe about.
In all forms of communication there is an encoder and a decoder. The encoder constructs and sends the message while the decoder receives and interprets the message.  If the decoder interprets the message wrong the encoder must adjust his/her message to ensure it’s understandable.

So in reality most people didn’t even see the encoded image in the backdrop until some overbearing mother decided to examine how G the MPAA rating of a movie really is. Therefore if a person doesn’t receive the encoding their brain can never decode it and thus understand what they are suppose to do.  

Not this G
 I know what you’re all thinking.  "What about that episode of Saved By the Bell when Zack used a Bo Revere song to trick Kelly into asking him to the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance?"  Well despite the glaring fact that Screech was the true genius behind actually implementing that plan, wouldn’t every politician in the world have hidden audio in their campaign commercials to help them date rape women and tell people to vote for them?  This technology would make every state in the union a swing state and completely screw up the ever efficient Electoral College. 

What could have been accomplished if they channeled their powers for good.  Maybe Dustin Diamond would still have a career in entertainment.

It’s not possible to secretly trick or influence the human mind.  You can bother, threaten, beg, plead, love, guilt, kill with kindness, or outright lie to someone into getting them to do things that you want.  All these actions require a person to be a willing participant in the message.  You can’t just snap you fingers or plug the word “sex” into animated clouds and suddenly make the populous turn into nymphomaniacs.  A neurosis like that takes years of familial and societal abuse. 

He was raised by a meercat and a pig.

So the next time you eat an entire bag of Double Stuff Oreos and lapse into a diabetic coma don’t blame Nabisco for their advertising campaign, or when you contract that inevitable STD from frolicking with strange women you meet on the beach don’t blame Disney for the uncontrolled boners you get on wedding cruises.  Blame yourself for being too smart for your own good.  

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®

Friday, January 9, 2015

Marvel’s Agent Carter: Everything Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Not!!!

This scares you into thinking it will be like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spin off show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not that exciting.  Even the more interesting episodes are bad episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  We’re talking Beer Bad episodes here.  (Note to reader, I actually liked Beer Bad but others hated it.  [I once met Nicholas Brendon {Xander in BtVS} who admitted to me it wasn’t a good episode.  That’s the only bad episode of BtVS I could think of.  I’m going to STFU before this becomes a Buffy article].  He then proceeded to call the police and have me removed from his house).  Noticed how I referenced Buffy there?  You didn’t? Well pay closer attention to your reading comprehension.  

They should really make a movie based on this show...
When you see Joss Whedon’s name attached to a TV show on a major network like ABC, you expect Buffy/Firefly caliber stories on a larger scale budget.  Yes, Firefly was on Fox but let’s face it ABC, NBC, & CBS are the bigwigs if only by reputation (perhaps it’s that extra hour of programing they offer).  Firefly never got the ratings and was canceled after just a few episodes.  Buffy gave 7 seasons on the WB/UPN and Angel did 5 on WB.  The networks were small and ended up having to merge just to survive.  The excitement that surrounded the follow-up show to the Joss Whedon directed Avengers coupled with his past works of Buffy, Angel and Firefly just seemed so awesome.  The Whedon fans were left to expect a Bufferverse/Firefly story telling styling coupled with scaled down Avengers scale action.  

Whedon should have shaved his head years ago.
What Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered to us was blah.  It’s not unwatchable but it’s rather generic and bland.  There is no real depth, layered characters, or decent jokes (all staples of Whedon’s prior shows).  It’s forced humor and nonexistent sentiment for characters that talk way too much (except Agent May, she’s really cool and totally hot).  All the show appears to be is nonstop references to the fact they live in the much more awesome MCU.  The show picked up a bit after Captain America: The Winter Soldier premiered, but only slightly and also left viewers to ponder if we are only going to get decent stories as spillover from their more awesome movie counterparts.  Season 2 is about halfway through and is just as bland as season 1.  I’ve grown tired of waiting for a show that’s incorporated into such a rich cinematic universe to start doing something.  Even with all its flashy new pretty cast members it’s just a lot of bells and whistles with nothing happening.  Now with that long nerd rant out of the way let’s talk about how Agent Carter couldn’t be further from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in only two episodes (technically one since it was a 2 hour premiere).

All these people and I'm still not interested.
Agent Carter immediately opens with depth and diversity and a relatable character.  They show the ending of Captain America: The First Avenger and what you think is just a recap for people who didn’t see the movie or haven’t seen it in a while is actually the driving force as to why she is who she is.  We then see Carter as a woman in 1940s New York trying to navigate a male dominated industry of government spying. None of her cohorts see her as anything other than a secretary.  The potential story arc of a character earning the respect of her sexist peers or just flat out leaving them behind as she moves onto bigger and better things is right there in the first freaking episode.  It’s a plot point with a clearly defined goal on where our character can go.  She may end up somewhere totally different but at least it’s a scope of reference for us to follow.  I may not be an English lady in New York but I do understand what it’s like to be an outcast.  Everyone relates to that at some point in their life, whether being the new person in the club or being a man in his thirties that proudly plays with Legos.  


What we also get is references to the MCU, but not forced references of people talking about an Alien invasion in New York.  We get references where Agent Carter thinking about events that fit into the overall character development.  We have a character whose driving force is the thought of her lost love Captain Steve Rogers.  It’s her driving force in why she keeps fighting to keep the world safe.  What’s Agent Coulson’s motivation, or May, or Skye’s?  Who even cares, given the one dimensionality of them? 

This comic strip is more entertaining about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Carter has layers and depth.  She’s playing a giant chess game with the world.  She navigates the men who look down on her.  She manipulates them with utter perfection.  She perfectly belittles Chad Michael Murray (CMM) when he makes her file some folder because she’s a woman who’s naturally better at filing.  Carter smartly points out how the system for filing is the alphabet and he’s a moron for not understanding it.  I was truly lost as to why she still took the folder from him until later in the show the men are roughing up a suspect to get information.  They ask her to leave because ladies shouldn’t see police brutality and she very coolly tells them to “have fun boys.” It’s because she understands that whining about her positon in life will not get her the respect she wishes to attain.

Kindergarten Cop would make an awesome TV show!
Agent Carter is playing the long game and hopes to attain the respect of her “colleagues” by being a good agent.  She’s assertive, not aggressive.  Men can be aggressive and it’s considered acceptable.  If a woman is aggressive she’s called the B word.  She needs to be assertive, that’s not done by bludgeoning men with rants about how she’s an equal or complaints about how unfair she’s treated.  It’s done telling a person who directly addresses an insult at you that you do not appreciate it or in the case of CMM pointing out how ridiculous his reasoning is.  Then she moves on with her life because there is no use wasting precious brainpower on sexist pretty boys.  She later shows her smarts by exposing the bad guy and after he flees, she takes the shortcut chasing him down while her male counterparts exhaust the long way with no success.  

Agent Carter doing her Carmen San Diego impression.
All this awesome character development happens during the humdrum office procedural stuff in the show.  The creators do not waste the time they have.  They understand they have 40 minutes to tell a story and have to move the plot and that’s what they do.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is nothing but downtime in their show coupled with the phone it in required action.

Oh look people in a room talking to progress the plot.  How interesting...not.
Agent Carter’s action sequences and cool spy stuff is fun and entertaining.  They give the audience excitement and suspense.  There is humor, action, drama and an assertive (not aggressive) female lead.  It's reminiscent of a little show that aired on the WB called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It has all the elements Whedon fans wished Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had yet Joss Whedon’s name is nowhere to be seen.  Just two episodes of Agent Carter have been more satisfying than the 20+ S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes the fans have been forced to endure.

For the record, Carmen San Diego is actually pretty cool.

Written by
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®