Three mo’ down, only 16 left – time travel, demons, gunfights and belated returns

It’s been a while. Long time no blog. I’d love to say that various interesting things have been keeping me from telling strangers about the mundanities that make up my life, however, that’s not the case. I’ve had blogs before and they’ve never really lasted but I told myself that I’d stick it out with this one and you can’t say I ain’t trying. Well maybe you could say that but at least I’m sporadically trying. Aaaanyway, I’m here now and that’s what matters.

A few pop culture related discoveries have occurred over the past month and a bit. I’ve fallen in love with several TV shows, most of them comedies. Community. Man, what can I say about that one. I’d need to utilise caps lock to fully express my love for this unapologetic ode to popular culture but that’d be an aesthetic nightmare, not to mention annoying. I’ve started watching the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, the first season of which is called Game of Thrones. Not more than two days ago, I decided to check out Parks and Recreation, another NBC comedy series. I’ve already caught up with every episode of Community and now I’ve got to wait until September for season 3 so I needed something to fill the gap left by my newly beloved. P&R is proving to be a worthy successor so far and I hear it only gets funnier. Woody Allen is another new fixation of mine. I watched Annie Hall and immediately had to see more of his stuff. I’ve seen three of his other films since, Manhattan taking the cake. I’m going to have to do write-ups about all of these things at some point so stay tuned.

The focus of this post, would you believe, was originally going to be on the last three books I’ve read. I guess I’ve still got some time to save face so here goes. First up: Slaughterhouse-Five. This one totally floored me. Cliche alert! – this is the kind of book that can alter one’s perception of life and death. It’s subject matter is naturally depressing, anchored by the main character’s experience in a POW camp in Dresden, Germany prior to the infamous fire bombing that devastated the city during WW2. There are plenty of books out there that aim to enduce empathy in readers by using doomed, historic stories as bait. That might sound callous of me, but honestly, I feel that I have read and seen enough stories of human kindness set against the backdrop of World War 2 (ahem, I’m looking at you Markus Zusak) to understand the strength of the human spirit during times of crisis. What makes Slaughterhouse-Five so refreshing is that the World War 2 segments of the story are mere fragments of a much greater whole. It really is a batshit-insane book. I won’t spoil too much but in an attempt to nail a genre on Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, I’ll label it a darkly humourous science fiction book with historic elements. It left me feeling optimistic about life itself, a little less afraid of death and excited about the future. Yeah, I’m starting to gush but I really think that this is the most I’ve ever taken away from a book. That really is the highest praise I can give.

I retuned to the world of fantasy after my journey through space and time with Kurt Vonnegut. The Name of the Wind is the debut novel by young American author, Patrick Rothfuss. He admits it’s essentially a culmination of much of his pop-culture fixations. It’s almost as long as one of George R.R. Martin’s tomes but it kept me engaged throughout nonetheless. I felt like there may not have been enough resolution at the story’s end but I guess that’s what the sequel’s (titled The Wise Man’s Fear) for. It’s what is known as a ‘bildungsroman’. According to Wiktionary, this term is German for ‘novel of education’ or ‘novel of formation’. In essence, it refers to a story that traces a character’s growth from childhood to maturity. The Name of the Wind shares some things in common with the Harry Potter franchise. It’s central character is part of an esoteric group that practices magic at a special university and is constantly haunted by the loss of his family to an elusive and evil foe. OK, that makes it sound like a complete rip-off but there really is a lot more to it. It contains much more mature themes for one, and the way in which the story is told is familiar yet refreshing. Put simply, this is a fun fantasy experience.

Most recently, I finished reading Red Harvest by one of the pioneers of hard-boiled detective fiction, Dashiell Hammett. It was published in 1929 and it tells the story of the nameless Continental-Op, a detective hired to investigate a murder in the small American town of Personville (affectionately referred to by the locals as ‘Poisonville’). Once he solves this crime, Elihu Wilsson, the de-facto king of Poisonville and father of the murder victim, hires the Op to sort out the escalating gang wars between men he himself hired to take care of a labor dispute. The Continental Op accepts however, justice for Elihu Wilsson is the last thing he has on his mind. What makes this book interesting is that it’s based on the author’s real life experiences as an operative for the Continental Detective Agency based in San Francisco. It comes across as formulaic at times but this is mostly due to the fact that it’s form has been imitated so often since it’s publication. It just goes to show how influential Red Harvest really was. Just don’t expect too much substance.

Well, it’s good to be back. See y’all later. I’ll try and come back a bit sooner this time!

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Listening habits: hard boppin’ it

Coltrane: one of the coolest motherfuckers that ever lived.

Lately I’ve been pretty fascinated with jazz music. It’s probably one of the most daunting genres to get into and I think I started off on the wrong foot when I first listened to Miles Davis’ historic 1959 album, Kind of Blue. Most people will tell you that its the perfect place to start for a jazz virgin but I beg to differ. Sure it’s nice and all, but it wasn’t that appealing to my rock-trained ears at the time. I wonder how I would have reacted if I’d heard something a bit more funky instead. Some Charles Mingus maybe; who, in my opinion, is the perfect starting point for anyone curious about jazz music. I guess I’ve been trying to make up for that early misstep by getting back-to-basics.

Before I go any further, it’s probably good idea for me to explain what drew me to jazz in the first place and why I remain fascinated by it to this very day. I think that one of the things that first sparked my curiosity was the sheer awesomeness of the distinctive Blue Note (perhaps the most famous of all jazz record labels) album covers. They are just about the coolest thing you’ll ever see and they all stick to the same aesthetic theme no matter what. So yeah, that’s a pretty superficial reason but it’s the truth. There are two big reasons why I continue to be interested by jazz music. Numero uno: it’s democratic. Every member in a group of jazz musicians gets a turn to show off, however I never fail to get a kick out of hearing every member of a band playing as a cohesive unit. That brings me to the second reason: jazz’s harmonic nature. The way all the instruments blend together in good jazz always astounds me. So there you have it. A little bit of context never hurt anyone. I don’t think.

The most accessible form of jazz music is (debatably) hard bop. Hard bop is an offshoot of the bebop style which is known for its quick tempos, melodic soloing and harmony between the various instruments. The difference between hard bop and bebop is largely a matter of what influenced the players of each style musically. Hard bop came into prominence in the 1950s and so its musicians mostly grew up listening to a combination of blues and bebop music as opposed to the more limited range of music that was available to the older generation of jazz-cats. Therefore, hard bop music often borrows from blues in terms of structure. So I’ve been trawling the discographies of many prominent musicians that recorded in the style of hard bop at any point in time, looking for the ideal gateways to jazz that I never had.

I already had a modest collection of jazz music when I decided to do a bit more exploration of the genre a couple of weeks ago. Some albums I already had in my posession include Miles Davis’ Cookin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (1957), John Coltrane’s Blue Train (1957) and Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um (1959). All of these are hard bop recordings so I was already pretty well-versed on the subject but I wanted to become even more familiar with it. I knew that once I listened to enough hard bop albums, I would be ready to embrace more avant-garde stuff like free jazz (a very loose style that focuses more on emotion than structure and harmony) and Miles’ fusion work.

Last week, I listened to jazz trumpeter, Lee Morgan’s 1964 album, The Sidewinder. I almost instantly fell in love with the self-titled and first track of the record. It’s very groovy and has some fantastic soloing from Morgan and pianist, Barry Harris. The rest of the album is good too but it never tops the first track. Like Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um, The Sidewinder would serve as a great starting point for anyone curious about jazz. The next album I listened to was Monk’s Music (1957) by pianist, Thelonious Monk. I didn’t enjoy it a great deal. It doesn’t really ‘bop’ enough for me, if that makes any sense. My favorite hard bop records put a decent emphasis on the blues element of the style e.g. The Sidewinder. A young John Coltrane plays saxophone on most of the tracks but even he’s in underwhelming form. Playing on this probably schooled him a bit though as he’d only just finished his debut album for Prestige (a prominent  jazz-oriented record label).

Although it’s not exactly a hard bop record, I’ve also given Coltrane’s 1961 long player, My Favorite Things a few spins recently. It doesn’t groove like Morgan’s stuff but the title track in particular is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from The Sound of Music. Coltrane plays the vocal melodies on saxophone and it’s very pretty. The emotional tone of Coltrane’s cover is nothing like the original, which is a whimsical ode to life. Coltrane tackles it differently, suggesting darkness and evoking a sense of foreboding in the listener while still retaining the simple beauty of the melody. I need to listen to the entire album a few more times before I can form a final opinion of it, but I can safely say that the first track alone is worth the price of admission.

I still have much to learn and discover when it comes to jazz and that’s an exciting prospect. The hardest part is knowing where to go next!

Oh, and I’m also enjoying Deerhunter. They’re great.

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Twenty two becomes nineteen and I muse on The Bell Jar

Well, three more books have bitten the dust and my tally for the year has risen to a hefty six. Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, was insightful and fun but, ultimately, not very substantial. The Hunger Games was a nice page-turner but it left many loose ends waiting to be resolved. I guess I’ll have to get around to reading the sequels someday but they’re certainly not at the top of my to-read list.

By far the best of the three books I’ve recently read was the late poet, Sylvia Plath’s only work of prose, The Bell Jar which is in the form of a novel. It is said to be semi-autobiographical which makes it an unsettling read as Plath committed suicide no more than a month after the book’s publication. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating look at clinical depression.

Nineteen year old, Esther Greenwood is an aspiring poet who recieves an internship working for a women’s magazine in New York. Her time at the magazine introduces her to many women of her age. These women are unlike Esther in that they seem to have a pre-determined path laid out before them that they are content with. By the end of her tenure working for the magazine, Esther gains a new, disheartening perspective on everyday life and once she returns to her home in Massachusetts, her lack of a future career path brings on feelings of inadequacy and a deep depression begins to consume her.

Sylvia Plath at work

I was expecting The Bell Jar to be well written as Sylvia Plath was a very highly acclaimed poet but some of the figurative language in this book really exceeded my expectations. The metaphor at the heart of the book slowly reveals itself over the course of the story and it is so simple yet so profound. I suppose that when I began reading this book, I thought that the dark subject matter would make it a slow and drawn out experience. On the contrary, The Bell Jar proved to me that a book about depression can still immerse you in it’s world no matter how far removed from the subject matter you are. Esther’s life at various asylums is one of deceptive banality; with dull routine threatening to give way to a bout of shock treatment any day. I think that it’s this mysterious quality that compelled me to read this book so voraciously.

Sylvia Plath commited suicide by way of carbon-monoxide poisoning in February, 1963. She left two children motherless and a husband a widower. The Bell Jar was a final cry from her soul. It is harrowing and somewhat prophetic but even if Plath had lived to this day and conquered her depression, this book would be no less important. If you have ever known anyone who has suffered from depression at any point in time, then The Bell Jar will give you an idea of how it felt to be in the skin of that person in their darkest hour.

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The Evil Dead review – a flawed masterpiece

Ash: the film's hero

Last weekend I watched The Evil Dead with my friends Alex, Phil and Louis. We were all talking throughout the whole movie and therefore didn’t get much out of it. I thought it seemed good enough but I knew I’d need to sit down with it again. Today I did just that, on my own this time. As I expected, it’s actually great.

A group of friends embark on a weekend retreat to a cabin in the woodlands of the Tennessee Mountains. From the moment they arrive, things seem wrong. Voices are heard, things go bump in the night. The two men of the group, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Scotty (Richard Demanicor) discover some recording equipment and an ancient funerary text titled ‘The Book of the Dead’ in the cabin’s cellar upon investigating some of the strange noises. They play back some of the old tapes they find which are recordings of a man who was once researching the power of ‘The Book of the Dead’. The voice of the man recites some incantations in a strange tongue and things go completely downhill from then on.

The Evil Dead was made on a shoe-string budget and it is nuts. One of the girls in the group gets raped by the forest; another gets stabbed in the ankle with a pencil by her possessed friend. There are even points in the film where it is apparent that claymation was utilised. This was director, Sam Raimi’s (the Spider-Man trilogy) first film. Watching this back in 1981 when it was first released must have been a breath of fresh air for film-goers, particularly horror fans. Raimi shows ingenuity in his choice of film-making techniques. Some of the best sequences in the film involve POV shots from the perspective of an unknown presence, later revealed to be demonic spirits. In these scenes, the camera surges through the air on the wind, shoves tree branches out of the way and in perhaps the best moment of the film, doors as well. It’s really the camerawork that stands out the most in The Evil Dead (apart from the gore, maybe).

The acting is questionable at times, excluding Bruce Campbell. He doesn’t get much to work with in the way of characterisation, however. Ash doesn’t really seem to care when his sister gets possessed but when his girlfriend does he’s devastated. Otherwise, he owns this film. There’s some fairly hokey continuity issues too: characters who are sprayed with blood at one point, appear to be cleansed in the next scene and there’s even a moment where a not-so-subtle wardrobe change is evident. These aspects of the film can be jarring but they don’t really bring the overall experience down.

The Evil Dead is entertainment at it’s most thrilling. It’s a potent and concentrated mix of blood, evil spirits and edge-of-your-seat thrills. I’m looking forward to the sequel now, which is supposed to be even better. It’s going to be interesting to see how an increased budget added to what was already a winning formula.

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TOOT TOOT! I have a list of my favourite pop culture road trips and I’m not afraid to use it

Here is me performing an affirmative hand gesture

Since yesterday, I have legally been able to drive a car on my own. It’s a great feeling. The driving test itself was pretty nerve-wracking: every mistake I made, however small, seemed like an instant fail to me. Then thirty minutes later, the instructor was all like, ‘OK, I’m passing you today,’ as if he plans to test me again some time in the future and fail me.

Yeah, so I feel liberated and all that. Blahdi blah blah. I was planning on writing a blog post if I managed to get my license;  however, not just a simple ‘soap-box’ rant. In order to awaken the adventurous beast that lies dormant somewhere within me, I’m going to compile a list of my favourite road-trips in pop culture history. A couple of my choices are so obvious that I give you permission to laugh derisively to yourself.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Dean and Sal

An absolute classic written by one of the pioneers of the ‘beat’ movement, Kerouac’s book is the kind that awakens a teenager from an apathetic slumber by blowing several loud saxophone notes in his/her ear. It’s an almost entirely autobiographical account of several years of his life; with alternate names used to avoid accusations of libel. Kerouac is Sal Paradise, a young beatnik living in New York City, itching to go and discover America after meeting a friend of his pal (Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg) called Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). Throughout the story, Paradise and Moriarty form a lifelong bond born from their adventures on the road. They wind up everywhere from San Francisco to Mexico City. There are many quirky characters that they meet along their way, each influencing the pair (particularly Sal) in one way or another. These include Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs), a sage-like drug addict, and The Ghost of the Susquehanna (as Sal dubs him), an old hobo whom Paradise meets while hitching his way west. Sal Paradise and particularly Dean Moriarty have become cult icons. Dean is anti-authority and anti-establishment. Sal is in awe of his seemingly pure freedom. Dean’s laidback lifestyle, however, comes at a cost as you’ll find out upon reading the book.

On the Road is my first choice for this list (although it’s really in no particular order) because I think that the ideal cultural depiction of a road-trip is one in which the ultimate destination itself is not necessarily just a city but an existential awakening. Sal’s journey in On the Road teaches him a great deal about himself. Jack Kerouac managed to successfully capture the essence of what we know as a ‘road-trip’. 

Dumb and Dumber

Lloyd and Harry

OK so it’s pretty ridiculous going from one of the foundations of modern literature to this. I’ve had a special place in my heart for this movie since I was really young. It’s immature, cringe-worthy and totally hilarious.

Lloyd (Jim Carrey in his best role) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are two lower-class dimwits struggling to make ends meet. When Lloyd witnesses a beautiful woman drop a briefcase at the airport he convinces Harry to set out on the road with him to track down his new object of affection. What follows is a series of increasingly embarassing and very funny scenarios as the two make their way to snowy Aspen (‘Where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano’) and the woman of Lloyd’s dreams.

Lloyd and Harry’s journey in Dumb and Dumber doesn’t really teach them that much (they’re dumb after all), but they do learn that a friendship as strong as their own can never really fade. Any two people that still like each other after one drives them both halfway across the country in the wrong direction, are pretty much destined to be friends forever.

This Is Not the Way Home – The Cruel Sea

This song by the whiskey-soaked blues-rock band from Sydney doesn’t tell a detailed story but it manages to capture the experience of a young male’s Australian road trip pretty damn well. Everything from barren landscapes and bullet-ravaged road signs to downing six packs of beer and throwing up in a men’s restroom. The drums gallop along aimlessly while the guitars weave in and out of the song like snakes by the roadside. Whenever I listen to it, I can almost feel the sun ruthlessly beating down on my neck and that alone would have earned this song a spot on my list. It’s a killer blues-romp as well so that doesn’t hurt either.

Bart, his friends and a creepy hitchhiker

Bart on the Road (The Simpsons)

This is by no means one of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons, but I think the concept of four ten year olds concocting an alibi that involves a ‘grammar rodeo’ in Canada and hitting the road after one of them gets a fake ID is pretty memorable.

This is Bart’s episode through and through. My favourite moment (off-topic alert) is when Bart reads the title of a pamphlet outloud in class: ‘Go to Work With Your Parents Day?’ Suddenly, Principal Skinner answers him over the PA: ‘Yes, Go to Work With Your Parents Day.’ Gets me every time.

The actual road trip portion of this episode is naturally far-fetched but some aspects of it ring true; namely the dynamic between Bart, Milhouse, Nelson and Martin. They argue over their destination (Martin suggests a tour of the Bridges of Madison County) and the little things (Milhouse insists that they stop to buy a cup upon discovering that their car has a cup-holder). It’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of how a car full of young folks would behave.

Like many road-trips, Bart’s does not end like he’d hoped. Shit goes wrong pretty regularly but he winds up safely at home (via Hong Kong) by the time the credits roll.

I’m sure there are many more great examples I could have crammed into this list but the ones I’ve chosen are those that make up the image of a ‘road-trip’ in my mind. I’ve never really seen cars as an object of pleasure; more a simple means of transport. All I wanna do is get where I wanna go without having a back-seat driver every time I get behind the wheel. Now that I can do that, it’s just a matter of figuring out where I’d like to go…

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Why I love Batman – superhero pseudo-psychology!

Batman: The Animated Series

Batman. His sheer awesomeness cannot possibly be contained by words. I have loved Batman for as long as I can remember. My third birthday cake was modelled after the chiseled visage of his head. Almost all of my childhood fears revolved around his arch-enemies. Sure, there were stages which I have tried to erase from my mind on many occasions, where I replaced Batman with a new hero/christ-figure. Fred Flinstone, Action-Man, Stretch Armstrong, Hercules from the Disney movie. None of these, however, lasted. Everything begins and ends with Batman.

I often wonder about the psychology behind children’s obsessions. Why is one little boy fascinated by racing cars and another by dinosaurs? Why did Batman appeal to me so much and more importantly why do I still enjoy his escapades? Of course, Batman’s badassery is hard to resist for most young boys but surely his appeal goes depper than that.

I was introduced to Batman via his early ’90s representation in the dope-as-fuck, Batman: The Animated Series. This show was really dark for a kid’s cartoon. It wasn’t only made for a young male audience, but mature fans as well. The opening sequence that kicked off every episode is still great to watch today. It suceeded in capturing the essence of the series in little more than sixty seconds. This short clip is most likely the first exposure I had to the character.

That music. Danny Elfman (the composer of The Simpsons theme and countless other recognisable film and TV themes) created a menacing and iconic musical backdrop. It’s righteous in just about every sense of the word, as is the entire minute that makes up the sequence. We see police blimps (!), faceless, shadowy bank robbers, an explosion, the Batmobile, Batman, guns (which were rarely allowed to be shown in children’s shows twenty years ago), batarangs and swift rooftop justice. The final moment is the silhouette of Batman standing atop a skyscraper, suddenly illuminated by a fork of lightning. That image has always stuck with me and seems to be what I always see when I hear the word, ‘Batman’.

Batman/Bruce Wayne’s character was explored in many interesting ways in this series. Batman’s enemies often seem to challenge the darker places of his psyche and this is one of the keys to the character’s lasting appeal in all forms of media. For instance, The Joker (impeccably voiced by Luke Skywalker AKA Mark Hamill!) is the embodiment of anarchy and chaos, whereas Batman represents order and justice. This creates a ying/yang relationship and forms the heart of the Batman mythology. The Scarecrow brings out Batman’s fear of failure, Two-Face provides the hero with a glimpse at what his dual identity could become if he sacrifices his morality too often; the list goes on. B: TAS really nailed the characterisation of Batman and his villains along with the tone employed by the artists/animators. It is said that rather than drawing on white sheets of paper, the art team would use black to create the darker look that the series is known for. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in the character of Batman after seeing Christopher Nolan’s recent films to watch Batman: The Animated Series. After all, Nolan’s interpretations of Batman and his enemies are clearly very inspired by those of B: TAS.

Batman sees those secret folders on your computer

The creators of the series must be credited with introducing Batman to a whole new generation. So what was it about this series that drew me to the character and his world? It’s very hard to find an answer off the top of my head. I can’t really remember what motivated me in my first years of life. Who can? There isn’t much ambition or drive at that stage of anyone’s life. It’s all about food, fun and affection; at least it was for me. Like a lot of great entertainment, Batman: The Animated Series (and Batman in general) is pure escapism. I think Batman just came along at the right time in my case. He became my hero and I was in awe of him. Not just because he could beat the shit out of baddies with ease and had access to an array of gadgets that would make Bond blush but also because of the way he dealt with his problems; his grief and sadness in particular. The death of a parent is the worst fear of many children, me being one of them. Batman became a masked vigilante as a result of the death of his parents at the hands of a petty criminal. I think this stuck with me. Seeing someone,  even if they were just a work of fiction, turn their fears into righteous vengeance was the coolest thing ever for child-rob.

I dreamt of being able to fly when I was younger. The Batman of the animated series appeared to be able to fly at times which I thought was the epitome of uber-cool. In several episodes though, he fell from the sky or betrayed his inability to fly without the assistance of gadgets. This was when Batman seemed at his most human in my eyes. It was as though he’d let me down. What’s a superhero if he can’t even fly? I kept watching though. The reason that Batman is so well-loved is often attributed to his lack of superpowers and the relative amount of ass he is able to kick without them. His lack of a real ability to fly eventually made him morereal to me and made me realise that heroes can exist in real life, even if on a slightly smaller scale than Batman himself.

Yeah, that's why I was scared of him...

There were always particular Batman villains that haunted me in my sleep. For some reason, I was terrified of Clayface. I vaguely remember an episode where Batman fought Clayface on top of/in/near a speeding train. I had nightmares after watching that. A fear of the unknown has always plagued me and I think that Clayface may have embodied that. He could morph himself into just about anything which enabled him to sneak up on Batman and pull off big heists and whatnot. Maybe I thought that my bed would suddenly turn into Clayface while I was asleep and scare the living shit out of me; I really don’t know.

Two-Face was the villain I was the most scared of, however. It wasn’t the B: TAS incarnation but Tommy Lee Jones’  in Batman Forever. I have still not seen that film from beginning to end. The reason? Because Two-Face is in the opening scene. I cannot for the life of me give you any psychological reasoning for the crippling fear I suffered as a result of seeing that opening scene. After refreshing my memory just now via YouTube, the scene involved Two-Face deciding the fate of a bank’s security guard by flipping his trademark coin. The scene is pretty much tension-free (as opposed to a very similar scene in No Country For Old Men, a film which also stars TLJ coincidentally), but nevertheless, I can see why I was scared of it. Tommy Lee plays a great bad guy. That slow reveal of the disfigured half of his face is memorable and he has the gravelly voice down pat. I think I was just exposed to a guy that knows how to play a scary villain for the first time in my short life. As simple as that.

Batman satisfied my morbid curiosity as a child. We’ve all got a bit of it in us. I was scared of the dark, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of the death of my loved ones, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of the unknown, yet I loved Batman. I was scared of just about everything ever, yet I loved Batman; and still do to this day. He’s timeless, representing the darkness that lies within all of us. It chooses to show itself at strange moments. But it’s there whether we like it or not. The character of Batman shows that good things can come from the bad and this ultimately gives children and adults hope. I guess that’s why I still love him. But again, the badassery, the gadgets…

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Odd Future takeover: a hip-hop collective to rival Wu-Tang Clan?

Earlier this week I watched this video:

That is Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats, two MCs that make up only a fifth of the hip-hop organisation that is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (we’ll stick with OFWGKTA thanks). As you can see in the video above, they know how to put on a show. Garden gnomes, possessed children, gargantuan brass instruments with names that escape me. More importantly though, they know how to create buzz. Right now they are the definition of the word ‘hype’ but don’t tell them that.

Odd Future have been active since 2007 and began releasing mix-tapes for free via their tumblr page in 2008. An air of mystery surrounds the group, with little biographical information on the members available. They are all young; their ages ranging from 17-23. To me, they seem like smart guys. They’re making fun of the music industry while simueltaneously poising themselves to conquer it.

Tyler, the Creator

OFWGKTA’s enigmatic and talented leader, Tyler the Creator spits rhymes full of menace on his debut mix-tape, Bastard. This was the first Odd Future release that I checked out after watching the Jimmy Fallon performance. His lyrics are disturbing and often disgusting. I’d heard of death-rap before but was never so much as intrigued by the concept of people rapping about necrophilia and rape. For some weird reason, Tyler’s modus operandi comes off as intrinsically disturbing rather than believable. The beats that back his rhymes are minimal. On the title track of the album (my personal favourite), a piano pounds away behind him and as the track progresses, synths swell ominously. It’s pretty refreshing to hear for someone who’s not fully-schooled in hip-hop, like me. Bastard served as a great entry point into the Odd Future experience and I’d definitely recommend it as an ideal gateway for anyone else interested in the group.

Hodgy Beats, Tyler’s sidekick in the Jimmy Fallon performance, has a pretty low-key, almost boring style. He’s very much a background player. The second most promising member of the group behind Tyler is probably Earl Sweatshirt who is in fact the youngest, having released his own debut mix-tape at the tender age of 16. Apparently his mum listened to it and forbid him from hanging out with Tyler and the gang from that point on. The OFWGKTA website is adorned with the slogan, ‘FREE EARL’.

Even Tyler and Earl have some ways to go before they are recognised as truly great MCs but Odd Future’s…future is looking very bright. Are they the second coming of the Wu? Nah. Their debut material is nowhere near as strong as Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 breakout classic, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). The comparison is too obvious and not very substantial. Like Wu-Tang Clan though, they are a product of the times. Wu-Tang burst onto the scene in the early nineties with gritty beats that blew Dr. Dre’s oft-maligned G-funk out of the water. They totally revitalised east coast hip-hop and paved the way for the future of the genre as a whole. Perhaps OFWGKTA aren’t as explosively revolutionary but their punk-mentality and market-savvy tactics are making the Gucci Manes of today look like chumps. The musical landscape has changed. Artists are releasing their work for free and relying on other means to create revenue in the early stages of their careers. Odd Future know what’s what.

Watch out.

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