Monday, April 30, 2012

CuChulainn: Growing Up

The next in the series from the BBC about CuChulainn.  In this one, the boy, Setanta, leaves home and travels to the court of the king to learn the skills of the warrior.

Countdown to the Avengers: Monday

Hulk Smash!!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Countdown to the Avengers: Sunday...

Dux Bellorum!

Cover art from the Osprey Publishing book, Dux Bellorum, a rules set for late Roman / early Dark Ages wargaming.

This is Awesome! Ironclad

James Purefoy is becoming my "Go To Guy" for swashbuckling action.  The only real trouble is that his most awesome movies don't seem to get wide release here in the States.

Here he plays a Knight Templar defending a siege.  An awesome Templar.  And an awesome siege.

And there's an awesome sword.

No More New Year's Rockin' Eve?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Arn: The Knight Templar

CuChulainn: Birth

This is an animated segment from a BBC show that aired in Northern Ireland.

CuChulainn is sometimes called the "Irish Achilles."  He is the demigod hero of a mythic cycle from Pre-Christian Ireland.

Specifically, he is associated with the ancient province of Ulster -- which is the bulk of what is now Northern Ireland.  Interestingly, he is claimed as a symbol by both sides of the "Issue" in Northern Ireland.  As a purely Celtic hero, he is claimed by those who want to unite with the Republic of Ireland.  As the defender of Ulster who repulsed invaders, he is admired by those who want to stay in the United Kingdom.

In any case, CuChulainn is one of those badass warriors from the mythic past and I'm sure you'll all enjoy the shorts.

Friday, April 27, 2012

God Bless America!

"Find Me Somebody..."

I'm not going to say much here.  I'll just let Rolling Stone's website help sort out the nonsequitur of Wolverine having a private jungle encounter with Queen frontman and Rock God Freddie Mercury.

I'm so tempted to use that last picture as my avatar.

You know it's awesome.

God Save the Queen!

Cap's On A Plane!

Agent Coulson turns out to be just another geeky fanboy like the rest of us in this clip in which he meets Steve Rogers.

And no, Steve, the Stars and Stripes aren't a little "old fashioned," we just bicker a bit about what they really mean.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Disco Avengers!

What if Tony Stark had a really awesome mustache?  What if Thor wore fur?  What if the Hulk was painted green?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Secret of Kells

Recently my wife came home with the DVD The Secret of Kells.  This was a joint French-Irish production of an animated film that came out a couple of years ago.  It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film.

The movie is a highly fictionalized account of the creation of the celebrated illuminated manuscript known today as The Book of Kells after the Irish monastery with which it is associated.  The Book of Kells is an awe-inspiring work of art that shows the full, glorious powers of both medieval illuminators and centuries of artistic development in Celtic culture.

Our story centers on a young man living at the monastery of Kells who becomes apprenticed to the master illuminator.  At the same time, he lives under a constant threat of Viking invasion.  He also begins a strange friendship with a mysterious girl who lives in the forest.  There are competing forces at work in the boy's life.  Kells represents the promise of civilization -- these are the Dark Ages, and civilization is a rather precarious notion, but it exists.  The work of illumination and art is presented as the crowning achievement of civilization.  The Vikings represent an existential threat to civilization.  They can tear it all down in a night and destroy everything.  The girl and her forest represent a more innocent time in civilization's past that is now fading.  The three forces are in competition, but at the same time, they balance one another.  Nature proves to be brutal.  Civilization proves that it has the potential to ignore art as easily as the nihilistic forces.  In the end, the relationships are interdependent -- but man chooses to move forward, conquer the darker urges, and produce art.

The movie is gorgeous.  Although the animation style seems simple, each frame is a complex work of art and design.

Some of the online reviewers at ding the movie for a slow pace.  It unfolds much like a dream, so it is somewhat languid.  But moments of action are suitably speedy.  Others remark on the fact that the Book of Kells is a bible and the religious aspects are played down in favor of fairy magic.  True, but I think this is intended to enhance the universality of art.  It transcends religion.  Art is a common and universal human expression that, like religion, brings forth our better natures and lights the world.

I recommend The Secret of Kells.  If you appreciate great art, you don't want to miss this movie.

"Siegfried", or, "Holy Crap! Why Isn't This a Movie?"

This truly gorgeous, animated trailer set to music from Wagner's Ring Cycle is for a French graphic novel.  It is not a movie trailer.

Why not?  This is fantastic, amazing, stupifying!

Wagner's intention with the Ring Cycle was to create a complete work of art within the media of his day -- hence an Opera, in which all the arts of the theater and orchestral music combined.  But surely animated films fit this bill also?  Perhaps even more so, as they bring in elements of the fine arts that fade more into the background of the theater.

Even if we streamline the Operatic version of the story back to the original Germanic epic, we probably lose nothing, and gain one heck of a Barbarian-Conquers-All tale complete with Grim Gods, Dragons, Magic Swords, Barbarian Princes, Valkyries, dwarfs...  Set it to old school, Disney style animation and we're truly talking a modern epic work of art!

Why isn't this being made?

Well, enjoy what we've got.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Conan Criticism

Well, better late than never...  A well-written article on the cultural cache of Conan the Cimmerian from August, 2011 (on the occasion of the release of the truly awful 3D movie).

When We Need Our Barbarians, by Brian Phillips.

Who here knew President Obama collected Conan comic books???

I Need This T-Shirt

Find one for me, now!

Hot Toys Captain America: Modern / Avengers

Oh, Hot Toys...  You mock me.

I did not buy your Captain America: The First Avenger action figure because, although I liked the costume design very much, I liked the Avengers uniform even better.  I looked at your price tag for the WWII Cap -- $169.99 -- and thought, "I can't afford two figures.  I must choose only one.  Choose wisely..."

It certainly looks like waiting for the Avengers figure was the wise choice artistically.  This is a truly amazing figure.  The sculpt is wonderful, the uniform looks tight, and the articulation is up to snuff.  This is a figure that would look awesome posed in my display case.  A fitting tribute to my favorite super hero.

He even comes with a choice of shields, one shiny and new, and one battle-damaged paint job.  (The shield itself is, of course, indestructible.)

But the cost?

$214.99???  Excuse me, but: WTF?

The figure had better be indestructible for that amount!  I should be buying a screen accurate 1/1 scale Cap uniform for that!

Ugh.  Oh, Hot Toys...  You mock me.  You mock me with maniacal laughter...
And you should be made to pay for such arrogance.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Viking Ships Part 4

The Conclusion to the Viking Ships documentary.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jiu Jitsu All Over Again...

So, last night I went to my first real BJJ class in two or three months.  My old program had closed down, and I'd been searching for one that would take its place.  This turned out to be more complicated than I thought, as my wife's work schedule has shifted, and my daughter's activities schedule has also changed.  Then (of course) there are the issues of convenience and cost.

But, finally, I made it to a small, informal class run by a legitimate BJJ brown belt.  There were four students.  One of them is a purple belt in BJJ, one is a veteran martial artist with some prior, but sporadic, grappling experience, and there was a young lady with very little BJJ experience.  And me.

We started with a couple of basic armbar techniques to get the body use to grappling.  There was nothing fancy here, but the instruction was clear and solid.  He made a point of explaining that he was less interested in us learning the technique than the concepts behind the technique.  Good.

Then we rolled.

First, the instructor rolled with everyone.  He called me out (as the noob in the group) first.  Right away I recognized I was being checked out.  No worries.  I don't claim to be any great master of jiu jitsu.  But at the same time, I didn't want to embarrass myself or my previous instructor.  The first roll went very well.  I could feel the brown belt ramping it up and down in order to figure out where I was in terms of skill level.  Since it had been awhile, I was really just trying to go for position.  I'd sometimes recognize the opening for a submission, but I didn't always remember how to execute it.  It was also No-Gi, which was a change for me.  I also concentrated on not locking into a technique, but tried to let them go if they didn't seem to be going my way.  All in all, not too shabby -- if I must say so myself.

When he finished rolling with the other three, it was time for someone else to be the main attraction.  I got pointed out again to go first.  So, again, I rolled with the instructor, then I went against the purple belt, and then the martial arts vet, and finally the new girl.

Yikes: three minute rounds, twelve minutes total.  I told my wife later that I would've been home ten minutes sooner, but I think I was clinically dead when I was finished.  The second time, the instructor kicked-up the intensity a bit and actively submitted me.  The purple belt caught me out a couple of times.  No worries, I know my limits and I recognize they need the work too.  I managed the vet, even tapped him out once or twice.  The young lady was an interesting challenge however.  I recognized early that I could just repeatedly tapped her out -- and I'd be a jerk for doing so.  She's not comfortable yet with grappling, and I out-weighed her by... well, I outweighed her.  So I returned the instructor's favor in my first match by moving correctly, but providing he with some openings.  Sometimes I slowed down so she could see what was happening.  But I tried not to just give her a win.

So, I deem it a successful class.  I learned, and I helped other learn.  I liked the instruction, and I liked the dynamic.  I think I'll return.

Even if I did wake up this morning feeling a bit like I'd been run over by a bus.

How About a Dose of Awesome? AC/DC makes the girls go wild!

From Australian TV in 1976.  Bon Scott makes the young ladies feel all tingly in the right places.

Tunic Patterns

So I recently completed my first attempt at a Viking tunic.  Unfortunately, despite following the pattern, it is at least a size too small.  I'll get some photos of the tunic up later.

But if you're wondering how I came up with a pattern in the first place the answer is...

Lots of different places.

Here's a blog from a man who has opened a business devoted to reproducing Viking fashion for the Renn Fest, SCA, and Re-Enactors:  He's very informative about what it takes to get started.

There are any number of links out there for you to get instructions.  The UK Re-Enactment group, The Vikings has a ton of resources available on its website.  Even the North American branch re-directs you to the UK website.

Another UK group with excellent information is Regia Anglorum:

You can find many more links through this directory of Viking Websites:

There are, of course, links to sites that will sell you completed clothing.  To each his own.  Personally I am very interested in the artistic aspects of re-creating a Viking costume.  I would prefer to make as much as I can.  In theory, I could make everything.  This is what many people did 1000 years ago: make every article of clothing and ornament.  However, I recognize that my ability to sew is already ahead of my ability to do leatherwork or cast jewelry.  So I have bought, and will buy, various bits as necessary.  But eventually I should be able to do it all and make it look pretty.  At least, that's the plan.

However, the ultimate answer for which pattern I chose to use for my first attempt at a tunic is this:  I used the pattern for the lower right corner tunic.  Although I did make some initial adjustments to the sleeves so they would taper toward the wrist rather than billow, and I left out the belt.  When I get the size right, it should make an excellent undertunic of linen.  It isn't right for the wool outer tunic, although a correct undertunic pattern should give me something to judge the proper size for the outer tunic.

I'm also using the trouser pattern, so we'll see how that turns out.

The Viking Ships Part 3

The third installment of the Viking Ships documentary.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark, Dead at 82

Thanks for all the pop music memories.

But the real question is whether or not Ryan Seacrest can seize the Iron Throne now...

Viking Ships Part 2

More on those amazing Viking ships!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Axl -- No Soup for You!

More from G'n'R front man, Axl Rose as he tries to capitalize on the extension of his 15 minutes of fame.

To: Cleveland, Ohio, Guns N' Roses Fans and everyone who's shown support
for my decision regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

I seriously didn't plan on or expect the overwhelmingly positive response
and public support for my decision regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
With such a generous outpouring of solidarity from fans, media outlets, writers
and other artists, I'm truly humbled, blown away and unbelievably relieved! To
be honest, I thought it would go the other way and was just hoping to weather
the storm. As I said, I sincerely didn't want to disappoint anyone. It gets old
being the outlaw even if "it's only rock and roll".

It took a lot of focus and soul searching to be sincere and informative
while making a genuine effort to be somewhat diplomatic. We made, what I feel,
are real efforts to learn about the Hall and the Board, spoke as I said with the
president and various members, and though I inducted Elton John and Bernie
Taupin in '94 saying something to the effect of "I'm learning what the Hall's

I still don't exactly know or understand what the Hall is or how or why
it makes money, where the money goes, who chooses the voters and why anyone or
this board decides who, out of all the artists in the world that have
contributed to this genre, officially "rock" enough to be in the Hall?
This isn't an attack. These are genuine issues I don't have enough
verified information on to have more than rough ideas. Certainly not enough
information to make any judgments about.

I would like to apologize to Cleveland, Ohio for not apologizing to them
beforehand for not attending [the ceremony] in their city. I think they know how
much I genuinely love performing there. Cleveland does in fact Rock!!
Now that the smoke's cleared a little, any desperate, misguided attacks
have been just that, a pathetic stab at gossip, some lame vindictiveness, the
usual entitlement crap, he's obsessed, crazy, volatile, a hater. I once bought a
homeless woman a slice of pizza who yelled at me she wanted soup. We got her the
soup. You can get your own.

Again: HUGE thanks to the fans and to everyone for the incredible public
support. My congratulations to the other artists inducted. And my apologies to
the city and people of Cleveland, Ohio. I hope you'll forgive me and we hope to
see you again soon!

Keep Rockin',Axl

Unlike my open letter to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N' Roses
Fans and Whom It May Concern this was written for GNR's official website,
Facebook account and my personal twitter account and not intended as a press
release. If anyone does choose to pick this up as has been done previously I'd
appreciate if you'd run in full including this paragraph so as not to give a
partial picture, have things taken out of context or to imply or inadvertently
give the impression this was intended for other outlet.

I spent a lovely weekend at the Rock Hall. It's a great place with a ton of music history on display for all to enjoy. I didn't even think the ticket prices were all that outrageous.

Axl is not the first to decline induction. The Sex Pistols also famously declined. But Axl, you're not them.

The Viking Ships Part 1

A documentary on Viking Ships.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dear Axl -- This is the most relevant you've been since the mid-90's.

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N’ Roses Fans and Whom It May

When the nominations for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were first
announced I had mixed emotions but, in an effort to be positive, wanting
to make the most of things for the fans and with their enthusiasm, I was
honored, excited and hoped that somehow this would be a good thing.

Of course I realized as things stood, if Guns N’ Roses were to be
inducted it’d be somewhat of a complicated or awkward situation.Since then
we’ve listened to fans, talked with members of the board of the Hall Of
Fame, communicated with and read various public comments and jabs from
former members of Guns N’ Roses, had discussions with the president of the
Hall Of Fame, read various press (some legit, some contrived) and read
other artists’ comments weighing in publicly on Guns and the Hall with their

Under the circumstances I feel we’ve been polite, courteous, and open to
an amicable solution in our efforts to work something out. Taking
into consideration the history of Guns N’ Roses, those who plan to attend
along with those the Hall for reasons of their own, have chosen to include
in “our” induction (that for the record are decisions I don’t agree with,
support or feel the Hall has any right to make), and how (albeit no easy
task) those involved with the Hall have handled things… no offense meant
to anyone but the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn’t appear to be
somewhere I’m actually wanted or respected.For the record, I would not
begrudge anyone from Guns their accomplishments or recognition for such.
Neither I or anyone in my camp has made any requests or demands of the
Hall Of Fame. It’s their show not mine.

That said, I won’t be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction
2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns
N’ Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.I strongly request that I not
be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may
anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf.
Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock And Roll Hall
Of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am
included in any purported induction of “Guns N’ Roses”.

This decision is personal. This letter is to help clarify things from my
and my camp’s perspective. Neither is meant to offend, attack or condemn.
Though unfortunately I’m sure there will be those who take offense (God
knows how long I’ll have to contend with the fallout), I certainly don’t
intend to disappoint anyone, especially the fans, with this decision.
Since the announcement of the nomination we’ve actively sought out a
solution to what, with all things considered, appears to be a no win, at
least for me, “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” scenario all the way
around.In regard to a reunion of any kind of either the Appetite or
Illusion lineups, I’ve publicly made myself more than clear. Nothing’s

The only reason, at this point, under the circumstances, in my
opinion whether under the guise of "for the fans" or whatever
justification of the moment, for anyone to continue to ask, suggest or
demand a reunion are misguided attempts to distract from our efforts with
our current lineup of myself, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, Frank Ferrer,
Richard Fortus, Chris Pitman, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba.Izzy came
out with us a few times back in '06 and I invited him to join us at our LA
Forum show last year. Steven was at our show at the Hard Rock, later in
'06 in Las Vegas, where I invited him to our after-party and was rewarded
with his subsequent interviews filled with reunion lies. Lesson learned.
Duff joined us in 2010 and again in '11 along with his band, Loaded,
opening in Seattle and Vancouver. For me, with the exception of Izzy or
Duff joining us on stage if they were so inclined somewhere in the future
for a song or two, that's enough.

There's a seemingly endless amount of revisionism and fantasies out there
for the sake of self-promotion and business opportunities masking the
actual realities. Until every single one of those generating from or
originating with the earlier lineups has been brought out in the light,
there isn't room to consider a conversation let alone a reunion.

Maybe if it were you it'd be different. Maybe you'd do it for this reason
or that. Peace, whatever. I love our band now. We're there for each other
when the going get's rough. We love our fans and work to give them every
ounce of energy and heart we can.

So let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever. Time to move
on. People get divorced. Life doesn't owe you your own personal happy
ending especially at another's, or in this case several others',
expense.But hey if ya gotta then maybe we can get the "no show,
grandstanding, publicity stunt, disrespectful, he doesn't care about the
fans" crap out of the way as quickly as we can and let's move on. No one's
taking the ball and going home. Don't get it twisted. For more than a
decade and a half we've endured the double standards, the greed of this
industry and the ever present seemingly limitless supply of wannabes and
unscrupulous, irresponsible media types. Not to imply anything in this
particular circumstance, but from my perspective in regard to both the
Hall and a reunion, the ball's never been in our court.

In closing, regardless of this decision and as hard to believe or as
ironic as it may seem, I'd like to sincerely thank the board for their
nomination and their votes for Guns' induction. More importantly I'd like
to thank the fans for being there over the years, making any success we've
had possible and for enjoying and supporting Guns N' Roses music.I wish
the Hall a great show, congratulations to all the other artists being
inducted and to our fans we look forward to seeing you on tour!!

Sincerely,Axl Rose
P.S. RIP Armand, Long Live ABC III

The Avengers: Captain America

Can I tell you how excited I am about this movie?
No, I can't. Words fail me. I may even pass out just thinking about it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This! Is! Awesome!

Back when I was a kid, there was a popular commercial for Reese's Peanut Butter cups. "Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" "No! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!"

But they ended up deciding that these were two great tastes that taste great together!

So here's a trailer for a movie about a samurai who goes to Thailand. You know what two great tastes taste great together now?

That's right: Budo and Muay Thai! Jujutsu and swords not brutal enough for you? Have no fear, we'll add the bone crushing strikes of Muay Thai to the mix.

Is this historically accurate? Who cares? There's Muay Thai versus krotty, dude! And it looks like it culminates in a deadly Muay Thai versus Ninjas duel!

Like the title says: this is awesome.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Lords of Salem

Oh, Rob Zombie. Only you would be inspired by Solomon Kane stories to create a video in which the Kane stand-in is the villain, but still manages to win.

You've got such a bleak outlook on life, Mr. Zombie. Perhaps you need a trip to Disney World, the happiest place on earth. It will turn your frown upside down!