Friday, April 30, 2010

The Old 97's Barrier Reef

I don't post much about music, but the song "Barrier Reef" was running through my head today. This song features some of the best quirky turns of phrase from Rhett Miller.

First look at The Mighty Thor

This pic appeared on io9 today. If you're not reading io9 yourself, you're missing out on some of the finest pop culture reporting going right now. I hate to just reprint what they are putting out, but this just fit too well with the current trend on Occam's Broadsword.
This picture generated quite a bit of controversy about the arm armor. Although its a good representation of the current comic artwork, lots of people were expecting real chainmail, not cross-hatched rubber. You have to admit, it's a heck of a lot better than Torvald Alexander's Thor costume. You do remember Torvald, don't you?
What do you think? Love it, or hate it?

The Fire Department came to my house...

To extinguish the fire burning in my mailbox when the latest issue of Esquire arrived.

In the words of George Harrison, "My sweet lord!" Obviously the smoldering Christina Hendricks ignited some junk mail... I'm not a big red-head fan, but...

BTW, while we're on the topic of Esquire Magazine, they are still running the hottest women in the world brackets. Stacy Keibler is still in the running and needs all the votes she can muster; she's up against an entire Cricket team of tanned Latinas! Go here to vote.

Captain Excellent?

Wow. Even with the information superhighway running right into my own home, stuff manages to get by me. Take the movie Paper Man. I knew nothing about it at all. The first I heard of it was when I opened my Entertainment Weekly this afternoon and found a small picture of Jeff Daniels and Ryan Reynolds tucked away in the movies section.

This movie is about a failed novelist who has a superhero as some kind of imaginary friend. That's all I know. Obviously it's not a major release.

But it's got Ryan "Mr. Scarlett Johansson" Reynolds in it playing yet another superhero, Captain Excellent. He played Wade Wilson pre-Deadpool in the Wolverine movie, and he's filming the Green Lantern movie. Of course, he's built like a lean superhero, so its no surprise he's typecast. What? You think I can't notice this? In the EW Iron Man 2 interview, even Jon Favreau notices. He eggs on Scar-Jo saying, "And then there's your husband Ryan Reynolds -- you could do your laundry on his tummy."

She answers, "And we do..." The guy's cut. There's no denying it.

Yes, rumor has it that's the Reynolds Green Lantern uniform.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iron Man 2 delivers easter eggs

No spoilers ahead.

io9 reported on the content of the expected easter egg that will follow the credits of Iron Man 2. You can follow the link to io9 if you wish.

I love the Marvel movies for reliably adding these extra teasers for fans. It's fun to sit in the theater for a few extra minutes and has-out what just happened with my friends while we wait through the credits. Usually the easter egg has some significance to fans, but rarely is it a zinger cliffhanger.

But I don't like the idea of having more than one easter egg running in different prints in different theaters. They did that with Wolverine. I sat through the credits just to get Logan sitting in a bar drinking. A snippet of foreign language indicated he was probably in Japan, but for all I knew, in his amnesiac stupor, he could've wandered into a sushi joint in York, PA. This was lame. It didn't give me enough to want more. I needed more payoff from it.

When I got the DVD (and I did because while the story was so-so, it's still Wolverine clawing people up!), the ending tacked on was the far more satisfying resurrection of Weapon XI/Deadpool. That was some payoff. The Nick Fury reveal in Iron Man? BIG Payoff. Although it was only for the nerds. One guy I went with had no idea who Nick fury was, why Samuel L. Jackson was playing him, or even what the big deal was with the Avengers.

The Professor X resurrection at the end of X-Men: Last Stand? Medium payoff.

(I'm only now realizing there's a rebirth them going on here...)

Anyway... If the rumors are true about the Iron Man 2 stinger -- and io9 had a pic to prove it -- I expect a payoff somewhere between X-Men: Last Stand and Nick Fury.

Get Well, Bret Michaels!

Bret, your Rock of Love may have sucked... But I still love your rock! As does any right thinking person who remembers the glory days of hair band rock!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Black Belt Test 2010

Last Friday night, my dojo held the Spring Black Belt Test; really more of a demonstration for the candidates' friends and family.
That's me in the middle. I'm about to take a severe beating from that man on the right. He's the head instructor at my dojo, and the owner's son. He earned his Bujinkan yondan that night -- after pummeling me into submission... Oh, and breaking three concrete blocks. I know, he looks way too young to be a lofty fourth degree black belt. But in Bujinkan terms, given how long he's been training (and how good he actually is), he's probably under-ranked. For those of you unimpressed by Bujinkan rank, he's also a BJJ blue belt.
What did I get for showing up Friday night? Bruises.

Nick Fury; Spandex Model

Uh... Huh. What's with all the cellphone holsters on your belt? And can you claim to have a hand in throwing down the Berlin Wall like former Fury, David Hasselhoff?

Strange Tides?

I liked the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Not everyone did. There's a school of thought -- and one I can sympathize with -- that they got big and bloated by the end of the third one. Okay. Still, I liked them.

They became a defense of escape, whimsy, and fantasy. One of the reasons I go to movies is to see new and marvelous things. And the POTC films never failed to deliver that. Yes, story is what makes or breaks good movies, but I'm often satisfied with imaginative spectacle. There's nothing wrong with that.

There are several rumors floating around about a fourth installment in the POTC series. Tentatively sub-titled On Stranger Tides, Depp will return as the rascal Captain Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush will return as his nemesis Barbarossa. Ian MacShane will appear as the famous Blackbeard -- though it remains to be seen how close this pirate is to the historical figure.

Also in the rumored cast is Penelope Cruz. Oh, and they've hired Astrid Berges-Frisby to play a mermaid named Syrena. There's additional scuttlebutt that Keith Richards will return in a somewhat greater capacity as Sparrow's father -- and that he's trying to cajole Mick Jagger into also appearing in a cameo. I'm no Stones fan, but this amuses me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Holy Anti-Climax, Batman!

The number one movie over the weekend was... How to Train Your Dragon? This was followed by the J-Lo romance, The Back-up Plan, and in third place was the grown-up comedy, Date Night.
No Kick Ass, no The Losers.
I really enjoyed HTTYD, so I have nothing agianst it. In fact, I'd like to see it do well. It's also good that word of mouth has helped bouy a movie -- any movie -- after a slow start. But, c'mon people... What happened to all the action fans? Are you all abstaining in order to achieve a tantric, super nerd-gasm when Iron Man 2 opens?
It's over a week later and I still find myself thinking about Kick Ass. I realize the "realistic" violence turned some people off. Others were put out by the language. This is a movie that will definitely find its audience on DVD. It has plenty of commentary on the societal relationship with superheroes. And yes... there is such a thing. That's why The Dark Knight was one of the highest grossing movies of all-time. It's why Iron Man 2 will open big. It's why I drive down the highway and see people with Punisher stickers on their vehicles. (Where can I get one, BTW?) It's why comic books continue to be an important "sub-culture" feeding the mainstream culture.
If you like movies that ask questions, take a chance on Kick Ass.

Tron Legacy pic

Mmmm... Tron.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"This stuff will make you...

... a goddam sexual tyrannosaurus. Just like me."

Okay, just a follow-on to yesterday's post on the airsoft minigun. One of the many potential uses is as a prop for your Predator Cosplay. I give this guy a ton of credit. While many parts of this outfit are fairly easy to get... He obviously spent a ton on "Ole Painless" and watched the movie dozens of times to pick up on some costume subtleties. He's got a non-standard zippered pocket on his left sleeve, there's a leather or snakeskin hatband on the bush hat, and he remembers to wear the trousers unbloused in two of these shots. (As Jesse "The Body" Ventura could tell you, this is common for SEALs as it allows better drainage when you emerge from the murky waters to cause mayhem on evildoers.)

But he wears all black jungle boots -- which were not part of Jesse's costume, and I'm pretty sure weren't even in the supply chain in 1986. And, more importantly, is it just me, or do those BDUs seem too clean? I realize he doesn't want to have sweaty cammies while chatting up the hot models paid to be at the convention boothes, but he could wear them around a little, got them stained, maybe leave them out in the sun to fade.

And do you think he's got an MTV black t-shirt on underneath? That was so Rock and Roll...

Here's our friendly Faux-Blain with a Snake Eyes cosplayer. Ready to team-up and take on Cobra no-doubt. But is a portable minigun really the weapon to take along on a ninja-stealth mission? Well, I guess it's no more implausible than bringing all that weight along on a jungle rescue mission over terrain that "makes Cambodia look like Kansas."

Oh, and I sourced one possible vendor for your own Blain Bush Hat... But someone needs to let me know if you find a good source for the hatband.

Stephen Hawking is Awesome!

Check this out -- noted scientist Stephen Hawking believes in the certainty of intelligent alien life. Cool, huh? But... (There's always a "but"...)
"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet... I imagine they might exist in massive ships... having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."
Is the prospect of alien warrior raiders chilling enough for you? No? How about this, he notes that a visit to Earth could turn out like Columbus' voyage to the New World, "which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."
So much for first contact.
If you think Stephen "I'm and Independence Day Fanboy" Hawking is a downer, try "Nihilist Stevie" who posits that intelligence itself may be a limiting factor on the presence of intelligent life in the cosmos, "Perhaps they all blow themselves up soon after they discover that E=MC2."
My theory is that if alien space vikings descend upon us in starship arks to denude our planet, Great Cthulhu will rouse from his slumber to swat the invaders from the sky. He will not do this out of any misplaced love for humanity, but because these pathetic insects need to be reminded how puny they are.
Ia! Ia! Cthuhlu f'taghn!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Time to get ole painless out of the bag."

The movie tagline was: "Nothing like it has ever been on this earth." They were talking about the extraterrestrial hunter, but they could just as easily have meant the manportable minigun, nicknamed Ole Painless.

Yep, ever since 1986, nothing else has said, "You don't want none of this" like a personal minigun. It has featured in the dreams of countless fanboys. And now anyone can have one in all its full-auto glory!

Well, anyone with $3500.00 who isn't picky about the fact it only shoots plastic BB's... You can get your own airsoft minigun. (video at the link) No, it's not quite as cool as the real deal, but it is somewhat less expensive, you don't have to pay the additional Federal tax for a Class III weapons license, and the BATF won't be knocking on your door for an unannounced inspection -- probably.

Has anyone ever bought one of these? Yes.

Above is one of the actual prop miniguns from Predator for comparison. Cool, huh? Sadly, the airsoft minigun is magazine fed. Although judging by that last video link, someone's managed to rig a feed. Can you imagine the virtually limitless ammo of a backpack like this filled with plastic BB's? Also, I hear you have to keep the bursts under 5 seconds, or it may blow a fuse. I swear, airsoft guns are super finicky. This is why they don't get along well with me.

In a movie extra that's available on some Predator DVD's, Jesse Ventura describes the minigun as a "chainsaw that spits bullets." Of course, there's the legendary scene in the movie in which the team unleashes a mad minute of intense firepower that levels a good portion of the rain forest. So, could a minigun really do that? In a word: yes. Thank god for Mythbusters...
The minigun makes a return in the new Predators out this July.

Strategic? Supreme? What is SHIELD anyway?

In the Marvel Universe, SHIELD stands for:

1.) Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division

2.) Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate


3.) Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division

That's the kind of thing only teenage boys without girlfriends can keep track of... Anyway, this organization has been around in one form or another since the 1960's when Marvel created it as a way to cash in on the James Bond craze (which spawned a host of other imitators with catchy org titles, like U.N.C.L.E. and C.O.N.T.R.O.L.). It was also a good excuse to bring back classic character Nick Fury, who was now rocking an eye patch. It was very much a Cold War creation, but over the years it became one of the fictional glues that tied the Marvel Universe together, like The Avengers. SHIELD was a watchdog agency that sometimes aided superheros, sometimes hindered them, sometimes employed them, sometimes marked them for "neutralization."
The underpinnings of SHIELD weren't always clear. In more optimistic times, it was a UN organization, sometimes it was a US organization and constrained by jurisdictional restraints. It seemed to have its hands in both law enforcement and espionage. Sometimes it acted like a military organization. Once, it even hunted Godzilla. It was a handy MacGuffin for Marvel writers.
It played an indirect role in the creation of GI Joe: a Real American Hero and Cobra Command. Larry Hama's initial idea was to write about a SHIELD strike force hunting frequent arch-enemy HYDRA. However, at the same time, Marvel was mixed up with Hasbro about the 3 3/4-inch GI Joe toy line re-launch. The editors saw the synergy in Hama's proposal and redirected him to the GI Joe comic property.
Now, I hear, that Marvel has retconned SHIELD again. Now it is a centuries old secret society that goes back to the days of Ancient Egypt and has tapped historical greats such as Galileo and daVinci in the struggle to protect the human race. Yuck. I liked it much better when SHIELD was a mysterious, hi-tech paramilitary organization.

Thank goodness for Hollywood. They like to keep the licensed properties simple. The Iron Man movie version of SHIELD is a US government operation and will probably not reference ages old 'secrets man was not meant to know." Sam Jackson's Nick Fury will just be a gun-toting badass like he was meant to be. And obviously, it is meant to be the glue for the 2012 Avengers movie and provide an excuse for Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America to come together with other marvel heroes.

Rogue Warrior video game

Somehow I missed this... They developed a home video game based on the life and fiction of Dick Marcinko, the Rogue Warrior. In a nutshell, Dick Marcinko was a Navy SEAL officer who fought in Vietnam, was involved in the staff planning for the Iranian Hostage Rescue Mission in 1980, and based on the after-action reviews of that, was commissioned to stand-up a Navy SEAL counterterrorist unit. He stepped on a lot of toes during his career, and earned a lot of nicknames -- not all of them flattering -- hence, the "Rogue Warrior." His career ended in a conviction for receiving kickbacks while purchasing flashbang hand grenades.

He wrote an autobiography (with some help from a ghost writer), and then turned the series into fiction "based on" his exploits. The series sold pretty well in the early to mid-1990's, then petered out, although I think it's still going.

So somebody released a video game in the vein of Metal Gear Solid, or Splinter Cell, in which the player controls Dick Marcinko himself trapped behind the lines in North Korea. And nothing is as dangerous as a trapped wild animal...

"Neat!" I thought. Of course, I actually met Mr. Marcinko about ten years ago. While he's still not someone I'd want to piss off for real, he's no longer in the prime condition necessary to conduct covert SEAL missions. Forced retirement seems to appeal to him, and he's enjoying the opportunity to drink lots of gin and eat well. Still, this guy really was trained to kill a man with everything from a backpack nuclear device to a swizzle stick...

So I went looking for some information about the game, and found a short write-up on Wikipedia with some snippets from game reviews. This one, from Andrew Renner of Game Informer, amused me: "With the quality of the gunplay being as bad as it is, and the story coming across as a six-year-old's interpretation of Cold War events, the only fun comes from the possibility of stepping into the shoes of a blatently homoerotic Rambo." Oh boy. Mr. Renner, I hope you never wake up in the middle of the night with a slightly paunchy, over-the-hill former SEAL commando in your bedroom...

err... Nevermind...

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on... The Avengers Movie?

Yep. Right here.

The Losers

I'm bummed to be skipping The Losers this weekend. A series of personal and family obligations are keeping me from finding a good time to go.

First, it seems much better than The A-Team movie, and less of an eye-wink to the audience than The Expendables. Sure, it's formulaic -- with a cast of stereotypical characters defined by job descriptions and wardrobe choices. so what? As long as the sniper makes physics defying shots, the hand-to-hand guy kicks butt, and the girl looks hot: who cares?

Second, I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a pretty good badass. His turn as the Comedian in The Watchmen was dead-on. He's got physical "presence", by which I mean he's not some scrawny dude, nor is he some gym rat with muscles like over0inflated balloons. No, he's a big dude without being a "BIG DUDE." Yeah, I know he got all sensitive and made moon-eyes at Katherine Heigl on TV. He's got range. I still find him a believable badass.

Third, the movie has Chris Evans , who's signed to play Captain America. I still have no idea who this guy is. If I've seen him before it was forgettable. So, yeah, I'd like to see him in an Action Movie so I have some basis to judge whether or not he's got what it takes to play Steve Rogers. Now, which Loser is he? Is he the one in the elevator gag? Better hit the gym, guy; if you plan to play the Sentinel of Liberty...

Whoa... Talk about fervent belief

I found this news item interesting:

"Indians reacted with shock this week after a report of human sacrifice to a Hindu goddess. A priest found the beheaded body of a 25-year-old man, adorned with red paint and surrounded by flowers and incense, at a temple to the goddess Kali in a remote village in eastern India. The sacrifice occurred during the Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival celebrating the changing of the seasons. 'The slain torso had new clothes on the body,' a local official said. 'There was no indication of resistance.' The multi-armed kali, revered as a slayer of evil, is a rare example of a Hindu deity who demanded human sacrifice, although the practice was oulawed centuries ago. Nowadays, most kali worshippers use pumpkins to represent human bodies in sacrifice."

Curious. I got my info from the latest edition of The Week. Here are a couple of other links.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; Cleveland, Ohio

Last weekend, Mrs. JRF and I flew to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Cleveland is a perfectly lovely, industrial city set on the shores of Lake Eerie. We stayed downtaon at the Doubletree Hotel -- I like their cookies.

We started our visit by trying to find some lunch. A quick walk around the vicinity of the hotel turned up Al's Grill, a perfectly lovely lunch joint. Being married, we both got the same meal -- chicken shwarma with french fries. The food was also perfectly lovely. Then we walked down to the Hall of Fame. We managed to avoid on vagrant because he was hustling some other couple at the moment we passed him. He made an attempt to hail and follow us, but we ignored him.

The Hall of Fame was more interesting than I anticipated; it was, in fact, perfectly lovely. Did you know there was Rock and Roll before 1968? Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Little Richard, Chuck Berry... Who knew?

Some perfectly lovely things I saw: two revolvers that belonged to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash's guitar, a Freddy Mercury costume, the ZZ Top Eliminator hot rod, two of Bruce Springsteen's cars, a character reference letter from Jim Morrison's father to the Florida Probation office (regarding his son's indecent exposure conviction), and Michael Jackson's rhinestone glove.

We also saw a U2 concert movie in 3D. The 3D effect was spectacular. The music was... um, perfectly lovely. Bono was, as usual, insufferable.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ready for Iron Man 2?

You know something? It ain't easy taking a good picture with an eye-patch on... And I forgot to include my Avengers Priority card in this one. Maybe I'll go back and take another.

Last Action Hero

Sly Stallone's latest action extravaganza, The Expendables, is a hail and farewell to action stars. He specifically carved out roles for all the major 80's Big Gun Guys. The buzz is all about the scene featuring the Planet Hollywood founders: Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Ahnold Schwarzenneger. Supposedly, it's just one scene with the Governator -- and of course, it's already in the trailers. (Way to go, marketers...) The story goes that Stallone personally offered roles to Jean Claude Van Damme and Wesley Snipes, but they turned him down...

(What were you thinking JCVD? Were you busy with a Period piece? A Comedy of Manners? Jeez Louise...)

He manages to pick up some impressive 90's and even 00's action heroes too. Jet Li is in the cast (as the Asian hand-to-hand expert... go figure), and Jason Statham nimbly steps from cult action to A-List as Stallone's right hand man. Getting a chance to beat the crap out of Stallone is Stone Cold Steve Austin. And Randy Couture also makes an appearance too.

Buffy alumna Charisma Carpenter makes a brief return from obscurity -- yes, a SyFy Channel film and work on the Legend of the Seeker TV series qualifies as obscurity -- as Jason Statham's gf.

Now, if all of this is beginning to sound like the most sensational, can't miss movie of the Summer, it sounds that way in Hollywood too. They're already talking not just sequel, but franchise. So maybe JCVD, Wesley, and even the alleged tantric sex-fiend Steven Seagal still have their shot. but you'd better hurry, Stallone's not getting any younger...

Happy Earth Day!

It's a beautiful day here on planet Earth...

I know you won't believe this, but I just got off the phone with Saint Albert Gore, who wished me (and all of you) Earth Day Greetings! Don't forget to plant a tree today, and you really should change another incandescent lightbulb over to an energy saving Florescent bulb too.

I, in turn, thanked St. Albert for inventing the internet and asked him if during his most excellent stint in public service he had received evidence of friendly visits from other planets. After all, if they had achieved the ability to travel beyond the speed of light, surely they had mastered the protection of their delicate ecology. Unfortunately, St. Albert wasn't able to answer that question openly.

Get outside and enjoy yourselves... while you still can.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

80's Awesome Returns!

According to some reports... The new Tron: Legacy soundtrack is going to feature the hair-raisingly awesome power ballad "Separate Ways" by 80's arena rocking supergroup Journey.

Oh, here's the new lead singer for comparison...

Previously Loved Books

You're looking at my treasure haul from a recent used book sale.

I visit a couple of different annual used book sales. No, I won't tell you which ones. I don't need the extra competition for the prime books. Besides, one of them is closed to the general public.

I love used books. Not only can you get great stuff at discounted prices, you may chance upon an out-of-print title unavailable elsewhere.

My first stop at a sale is the sports table to look for martial arts books. Most of the time I don't find any. When I do find some, they are usually pretty crappy titles (e.g. "101 Deadliest Karate Moves"). Judging from the martial artists I know, it seems we tend to hold on to the instructional books we accumulate.

After that, I'll usually drop by the history table. Old history books are an interesting window into different interpretations of historical evidence. I always end at the science fiction / fantasy table because I can always find something there worthwhile. I'm happy working my way slowly through pulp masters from the 50's , 60's, and 70's. So while others are fighting over hardcovers or graphic novels, I'm content with old paperbacks with lurid covers. I have a collection of Robert E. Howard books and some of them are duplicate titles that I bought just for the different covers. I'm always excited to find a Howard collection of obscure stories. Just when I think I've got all his stories, I find more.

I'll sometimes go to a used book store, but not as often as I should. There's a good one in the next county over. If there's a particular title I need, I've been known to use the Internet used book services. But it feels like cheating to me. There's not thrill of the hunt or discovery of a treasure. Also, those are professional book dealers, so they know what they have, and they make you pay a premium for the books.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Good Partner is Essential

As this video proves.

You know you want one...

Come on: admit it. You've been wanting one of these since you went to the movies on Friday night.

The Benchmade Model 42S butterfly knife. MSRP of $280.00, but available online at discounted prices. And don't worry, there's a trainer version of it too! that way you can master the fancy flipping without risking your fingers. We wouldn't want you to get a boo-boo now, would we?

I have a butterfly knife. It's stuck in the bottom of my personal toy chest. It came off some punk kid I took it away from in high school. He had the stones to attempt to intimidate me with it -- and I was just dumb enough to reach out (untrained) and snatch it away from him. I made an elaborate show of flipping it closed (a trick I picked up at summer camp... don't ask) and put it in my backpocket before walking away.

Gawd, I was stupid. Don't try this at home, kids.

Anyway, it looks very much like this -- although serrations weren't yet in vogue in the late 80's. The edge is all scratched up from the other guy's attempts to sharpen it. The handles have held up for 20 years, so they can't be die-cast metal, but who knows. I'm sure he bought it at a flea market. There is no manufacturer's stamp on it. I have yet to see any distinct advantage to a butterfly/balisong knife. They make a cool clickety-clack sound that can be intimidating if you're not used to it (or, if like I was, you're a dumbass kid), but once it is open, it's a knife. Whoppity-do.

Still, every so often, a movie comes along and showcases the butterfly knife and renews its popularity.

Black Belt Magazine Gets It Right!

I have been a habitual reader of Black Belt Magazine since the 1980's when they ran The Shadow Warrior column by Darryl Caldwell. Back then, the Internet wasn't really well known outside DARPA and Al Gore, and BBM was the leading edge in martial arts media.

Things have changed, and although BBM has tried to keep up, they haven't always been successful. Obviously, they caught onto the MMA craze and have been riding that since the mid-90's. Then, after 9/11, they plunged headfirst into so-called reality-based self defense arts (RBSD). of course, in both cases, they had been printing stories all-along. What changed was an editorial stance to actively push the topics to the forefront.

Now, however, the magazine suffers from three-way multiple personality disorder. Do they cater to traditional martial arts, MMA, or RBSD? Although I've never seen an "official" editorial stance, BBM seems to take the commercially prudent stance that all three are a continuum in a martial arts spectrum. That's fine by me, but it seems to lead to some writer or another printing an apology for (fill in the blank) at least once a month.

Also, they haven't been too discriminating in their editorial picks for what gets printed. So I've got back issues filled with BS from traditional martial artists, or trash-talking MMA fans, and of course the RBSD guys who seem to be professional paranoids. Yes, I know it's possible I'll be involved in a grenade attack... But I have better odds of hitting the lottery -- and I don't generally play.

Still, I've been fortunate enough to have a number of training partners who depended on their skills to keep themselves safe. So I have a healthy respect for RBSD-types who genuinely know their stuff. Unfortunately, BBM seemed to be promoting an RBSD instructor with a massive ego that was getting in the way of the useful information. I found myself counting the number of times the man used a personal pronoun and recommended his own (expensive) seminar series, books, and videos in the column.

But this week, I got my latest BBM, and found they had replaced the old RBSD column with a new column by Kelly McCann. I've been hearing great things about Mr. McCann for sometime now. People I respect have recommended his material to me. I finally got his basic book (see image above) a couple of months ago and devoured it. It is full of practical experience from a man who has been around the block a few times. Can he tell you how to survive a grenade attack? Oh, yes; and his credentials in that area are pretty tight. But his advice is more likely to be applicable to a bad night in the local pub. I have high hopes for this column.

Black Belt Magazine, please accept this round of applause for adding Kelly McCann to your list of columnists. I just might renew my subscription again this year now...

My Kick Ass Review; now in 1337

Awwsm, K1k4$$ rox! OMG!!!

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D00d g37z h1z @$$ k1kd! lol

H3z n0 kw177r tho. 7r4ynz mor. G37z 1n70 f1gh7 w/3 mor b1g d00dz & p027d 2 UT00b

D3n h3 h00kzup w/2 mor 500prh3rowz, B1g D4dd33 & H17Grl. H17Grl 12 h4wt! N07 sxxxy h4wt -- sh3 gotz m4d sk111z!

D3n, @11 734mup 70 f1gh7 M4f14...

Ok... someday, there will be a major critical dissection of this movie: but not today. It's so awash in geek culture references and social satire, I am still overwhelmed by it all. There is much more to this story than some kid dropping the "c-bomb."

The Big Daddy/Hit Girl relationship is a jumble of influences ranging from the campy, family friendly Adam West Batman and Robin days, to the pragmatism and sadisim of the Garth Ennis Punisher run, to the damned road to redemption walked by Lone Wolf and Cub. Some have seen a nascent "Lolita" nature to the relationship; but not me. I think those people are just looking for another perversion in this movie. Critics will endlessly argue whether or not there is genuine love and parenting in what must certainly be considered an abusive relationship...

But... WOW. For now, all I want to say is: Give us a Hit Girl spin off. That chick is a franchise in herself. And there a natural story about her constantly struggling to achieve a normal life -- heck, would she ever want a normal life?

Kudos to the Kick Ass cast and crew. You've pulled off a cult classic.

And no... I did not watch this movie for parenting tips, thank you very much...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Viking Axe

There was a time during the Bronze Age when the axe was an extremely popular weapon. It featured prominently among the Egyptian arsenal, for example. The axe didn't require much metal, it was sturdier than a bronze sword, and it packed a wallop.

But spears took over when armed formation came into vogue. And as metallurgy advanced, swords became more prominent as status symbols among the warrior elite. And as a result, axes almost completely disappeared as purpose-made weapons of war during Late Classical times and the early Dark Ages.

But not among the Northmen. When the Vikings began raiding Europe, they re-introduced the axe to the arsenals of warriors. The Viking nations loved the axe partly for the same reasons the ancients did -- and it was cheap. The sword was far more revered in the North, but the axe was far more available. And it was a reliable weapon of terror, which was a vital component of their raids. It became a recognized symbol of the Northmen, and was practically an identifier of the Byzantine Varangian Guard.

This axe is a hand axe. The handle is about 2 1/2 feet long, roughly the same length as a sword, and it is easily handled with one hand. The head has more in common with a meat cleaver than a wood axe. It is a thinner cross-section than a modern wood axe, so it is lighter. Also, the force concentrates at a smaller point along the edge. The edge is broad, but not as long as a two-handed Danish axe. The back part of the bottom point can be used to hook shields or limbs.

I bought this axe over 10 years ago at the local Renn Fest. The artisan who made it warned me that it was wall-hanger quality. I'm not so sure... I've been foolish enough to use it roughly and hack up stuff in my backyard. The head is fine, and I've never had to replace the haft. I can't swear it will hold up in a pitched battle, but it seems pretty reliable to me. And honestly, I'm not likely to go over the side of a longship for pillaging action any time soon...

Annual Disclaimer

Occam's Broadsword has existed for a few years now. So even without really trying, a ton of information has managed to accumulate. Every now and then, I get a comment for an old post. That was one of the drivers for instituting a moderation process, so I'd know when a comment was being posted.

I received such a comment this week. The guy was upset about something I'd said two or three years ago. I went back and reviewed the post, and frankly, i don't see what the fuss was about, but obviously it was important to him.

So let's gather around for what seems to be my annual disclaimer:

Occam's Broadsword has an occasional staff of one: me. I do this for fun. The blog is for entertainment -- mostly, my own. I'm truly flattered that other find it amusing too. But essentially, the blog is my personal journal. I'm not naive. I know it's all posted to the mighty Internet, which is, in turn, connected to all things and accessible by the great, unwashed public. But I'm not actively seeking new readers or any profit from it.

Emphatically, Occam's Broadsword should not be considered a "news source." I know I make some timely announcements, and believe it or not I do make an effort to research my posts. But remember (please!): Staff of One! My research is hardly exhaustive. I make mistakes. And I can be ill-informed or misinformed. I'm happy to learn new information about topics I'm interested in, so if you know something I don't -- please post a comment.

However, there is no need to preface your comment with "Hey, dumbass..." or insult my direct parentage or heritage. Ad hominem attacks will not convince me your points are more accurate or correct. Righteous indignation is unnecessary. My prose may sometimes be snide and snarky, but only rarely am I intentionally insulting.

If for some reason you should find my humble website while doing academic research, please do not cite me as a source. I am more toxic than Wikipedia. I may point you in the proper direction, but please double check any information you find here against more reputable sources. You just don't know where anything found on Occam's Broadsword has been lying around previously.

Thank you.