Archive for October, 2008

Poppacultcha At The Movies: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

October 13, 2008

Being desperate for any kind of actual content, I’ve decided to commit myself to reviewing everything. Movies I see, music I listen to, books I read, everything. Everything new, anyway. I’m not going to bore the hell out of all of you with ten year old movies I got from the library or a lengthy meditation on some old episode of Scrubs I just watched on TV Land (why is Scrubs on TV Land again? And Extreme Makeover Home Edition? Let us think on these things), my posting habits are arbitrary enough. Random complaining about whatever my eyes and ears pick up during the day is what my Twitter stream is for (not what I said it was for earlier, I’ve decided to make that a separate one). Anyway, on with the show.

As I start this review, three facts should be mentioned.

1) Kat Dennings is hot (which you may already know),

2) Judd Apatow is not involved with this movie in any way (which this movie does not want you to know), and

3) There was supposed to be a third fact here, but I have no idea what it was going to be.

Seeing ads for this movie might confuse you as to what it’s supposed to be. Is it some cutesy teen romance, or some kind of hip urban Superbad that you can take your girlfriend to? What it is is this: the bastard child of Superbad and Juno, basically. And your confusion is fair. The movie seems to not quite know what it wants to be either. Half of it is hip, romantic teen date movie fare, and this is spliced with plentiful gay jokes, general sex humor and a few moments so just plain gross they feel dropped in from another movie.

That’s not to say it doesn’t hold together. Which isn’t to say that it does. It’s hard for me to tell. I’ve seen the complete Kevin Smith oeuvre, some of them far too many times. I’m used to this type of cognitive dissonance. Numb to it. If Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow and Diablo Cody collaborated on a movie, it would feel vaguely similar to what we have here.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I saw this movie mostly because Michael Cera is in it. His presence and the somewhat strong reviews drew me in. I would also be lying if I didn’t say that the recent spate of movies that throw around the names of indie rock bands to build credibility didn’t get on my nerves a little. Two things redeem them in my mind: one, it pisses off music snobs, which is always fun. Two, that one line from Juno where she gets pissed off at Jason Bateman’s character and rips on Sonic Youth as “a bunch of noise?” Gold. I laughed my ass off and felt fucking vindicated by it in a deep and profound way. To an extent, this movie does the same thing. Fortunately, the one band that gets mentioned most and initiates the plot of the movie, Where’s Fluffy, is fictional. It’s not like they were trying to get to a We Are Scientists show or something.

There is a lot to like about this movie, beyond just the humor (which is sharp and worth the price of admission), but it’s hard to quantify. I, for one, enjoy living vicariously through fictional characters on occasion. I could watch cool teenagers wander around New York having a good time and listening to good music for hours. Judging from a lot of the complaints I’ve heard about movies like, say, Garden State (which I adore and, for complicated reasons, have bought on DVD twice), not a ton of people agree with me there. You don’t have to, to like this movie, but it helps.

On my highly experimental rating scale, which goes from -3 to 0 to 3, I give Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist a somewhat unexpected 2. Unless you thought it looked like it sucked, I would check it out.

– Robbi Ramirez, thirty century man


Poppacultcha Halloween Special – The Vampire

October 12, 2008

[Editor’s note: I’m writing most of this naked at my girlfriend’s request due to her aversion to turning of the fucking air conditioning. She also insisted I add this note, so blame her.]

My favorite holidays are, in order:

1) Christmas, for solely religious reasons. Without that, substantially less cool.*

2) Halloween.

3) My birthday, because it’s all for me, damn you.**

I love Halloween with a passion that is, appropriately, frightening. It might not show too much, for two reasons: I’m lazy as hell; and I’m currently flat broke. Halloween is for the rich, it so is. And it isn’t even a gift-giving holiday, no matter how much I wish it was. Wouldn’t that be cool? Can you imagine the kinds of gifts you would get on Halloween?

But even without the economy-boosting shopping season, it’s still an expensive day if you do it right. Just getting a decent costume together can cost as much as a fucking video game. Of course, that’s for my definition of “decent.” Yours is probably different. If you actually want to decorate your house or, God forfend, set up a nice haunted house, you’ll have to give up extravagances like food or shelter (unless of course you live in the haunted house, and live off of Halloween candy, in which case you, sir, are awesome).

So, not having the luxury of currency, I am forced to celebrate this glorious day with the means I do have. What I do have is the ability to, if I consume sufficient pizza and/or caffeine (tonight: pizza!) to give me the motivation, write snarky, rambling humor articles on really geeky subjects. Sort of like the Little Drummer Boy, but replace the birth of Jesus with whatever the hell Halloween celebrates (although I would like to wish you all a good corn harvest this year, that’s just being polite).

So. Let’s talk about vampires.

There is something about vampires that interests people. I don’t want to do what every other “vampire expert” does here and turn it into something sexual.*** When you do, you’re basically saying “people really do, deep down, want to be raped and murdered.” And I, well, I have a bit of an issue with that. Forget Anne Rice and Twilight and how hot you thought Spike was on Buffy, sexuality and vampirism go together like…I was going to use a food metaphor here, but fuck it, they go together like SEX AND BLOOD-DRINKING DEAD PEOPLE. Does that not say it all?

Here is where I would go on a rant about how traditional vampires aren’t even supposed to be attractive, but while that’s true, that’s another thing that pisses me off about vampire fiction. Everybody wants their vampires to be better in some way, but saying one is more “accurate” than another is just crazy talk. There is no such thing as an accurate folklore vampire because no two “folk” could agree on one. Every part of the world has vampire myths, and if a vampire from Germany met a vampire from China, they wouldn’t recognize each other, let alone engage in some kind of secret handshake.

The best part is that some of the most common characteristics are the last ones we think of, and the first ones we think of are crap that was made up for movies less than eighty years ago. One of the most common vampire traits is compulsive behavior. That’s right, vampires the world over are identifiable by their crushing OCD. Throw a handful of rice at them and they completely flip their shit and start counting the grains. And as I said before, the attractive, charismatic vampire basically started with Bela Lugosi.

So “accurate” vampires are completely out the window. So you know what, writers? Make up whatever you want. If you want your vampires to love garlic but go completely bugfuck around paprika, go for it. And don’t feel the need to have your vampires take five minutes to explain to the audience, I mean, the protagonist, which familiar vampire things do or do not apply to them. One rule, though.

Do not, under any circumstances, have your vampires freak out around crosses and feel the need to point out that this is so totally not an indicator of the accuracy of any specific religion. Nobody is forcing you to use the whole cross thing, dickhead, you chose to. Pulling an explanation for a necessary plot element out of your ass is one thing, but doing that for something you voluntarily put into your story for no actual reason? Yes, I’m looking at you, Joss; you’re the hardcore atheist, you of all people shouldn’t be tethered to the preconceived notions of what a vampire is or isn’t. If you don’t want to drop something into your universe that waves its arms and shouts “BY THE WAY, GOD IS REAL,” there is no gun pointed at your temple.

And please, please, writers, I beseech thee: leave Dracula out of it.

For starters, Dracula is not a vampire novel. It’s a novel where the antagonist happens to be a vampire. In the original book, it’s actually a plot twist. Nobody knows going in, not even the reader, that he’s a vampire until Van Helsing (who is not, I repeat, not, Awesome Victorian Batman) figures it out by sheer blind luck. Saying Dracula is a vampire novel is like saying The Sixth Sense is about a dead guy, Fight Club is about a guy with a split personality disorder, or Star Wars is about a one-handed farmer rescuing his sister from his cyborg father.

Imagine if every superhero story went back and pulled in a bunch of public domain superheroes because they were the first superheroes, or if every story with aliens in it used grays because they’re the real aliens. If you want to do a Dracula story, do one. If you want a vampire story, go ahead. They are not the same thing.

And if you make him the first vampire? I’ll kick your ass myself.

Next up: Frankenstein.

– Robbi Ramirez, Lieutenant in the Allied Dance Command

* Why Easter is less special that Christmas is a different rant altogether.

** My birthday usually sucks, but still, it’s my holiday.

*** By the way, where do places like the History Channel get vampire “experts?” What qualifies you to be a vampire expert? Living among vampires for a few years, studying vampire behavior? Can you get a doctorate in Vampire Sciences at Berkeley or something?

The Master Plan

October 8, 2008

Okay, here it goes.

I have a big long-term plan for…well, not this blog, but what this blog is a part of. At its full scope, as I’ve plotted out so far, it involves at least fifteen separate components.

Poppacultcha is one of the main three sections. Each section consists of a blog, a message board, a wiki, a Twitter stream and a web site.

For Poppacultcha, the plan is this:

The core of this section if the blog. The message board is basically a general meeting place to discuss pop culture, and the blog, and possibly some other things come up with at a later date. The other three parts are more specialized. The wiki is tentatively named I-Get-It, and it’s something I’ve been interested in, in some form, for a while: a collection of interpretations of any work in any medium. Movies, books, songs, anything that lends itself to creative interpretation. Each work has a page, which consists of, maybe, a summary or synopsis, followed by any interested user creating a section for their own ideas about the meaning. If you want the world to know what “Particle Man”really means, make a page for They Might Be Giants, a page for Particle Man, post the lyrics, slap on a divider, and write up your brilliant assessment of how Triangle Man represents religion and its oppression of science.*

The Twitter stream, which has been launched HERE, is also different. Unofficially titled “Brainstorm,” it is a place where I will post random Ideas I have for…anything. Movies, books, TV shows, comics, anything. The point is that you do the same: set up a Twitter stream, Follow mine, and post any time you get a cool idea you don’t mind somebody else running with (collaboration and citation are encouraged). The web site, The File, will be a collection of these from everybody in the group sorted by creator, probably medium, etc.

Section two is much more specific: it’s geared toward traditional game design (ie, card, board, tabletop RPG, anything you don’t have to hook up to a screen, basically). It’s an open source gaming initiative centered around a wiki called GameBrew. Create a page for your game or part of a game (more on that around launch time) and lay it out. Creations I choose to spotlight will be raved about at the accompanying blog, The Distillery (there’s a microbrewery theme to the names, I thought it was appropriate). The message board, The Brewhouse, is for discussion of the wiki and everything on it. The Twitter stream and web page (The Hopper and The Cellar, respectively) are similar to the one for the Poppacultcha network, but for game design ideas.

The third section is way, way too out there for me to announce at this moment. I’m trying to find a way to describe it in detail without sounding like a cult leader. It’s a cultural movement that aims to make the world more fun and encourage people to do the kinds of things they would love to do but never would otherwise (break out into an elaborate, semi-choreographed song-and-dance number in public and post the video online…for example).

Stay tuned.

– Robbi Ramirez, democratically elected representative of the fourth congressional district of the Pompatus of Love

* This is actually a very common interpretation. I’m sticking with the Watchmen thing, myself.

Short Fiction: “The Edit”

October 7, 2008

New Century Neuroscience From the desk of Dr. Pat Arnolds Aug 21 2026

TO: Dr. Henry Mendel CC: – RE: RESULTS – Day 12

As I write this, it has been twelve days since the procedure detailed in my previous report. Enclosed with this report should be twelve days of records from the tests I and my assistant (Dr. Janet Peters, head of diagnostics for the department) have been conducting on subject Jerry Healey three times daily, after each meal. There seem to be, as you will see, no irregularities. Dr. Peters has also enclosed logs of her daily psychological evaluations, which are perhaps more pertinent to the issue at hand, for obvious reasons.

It is still too early to declare any conclusive results, of course, but for the time being, the procedure appears to have been a complete success. The subject’s emotional state is stable and appears entirely unaffected, allowing for the mood swings in the first few days that have so far affected every subject. The brain needs a certain amount of time to acclimate itself to the new parameters, for lack of a better term.

Dr. Peters and I are continuing to administer the placebo, and the subject appears to have no doubt about the information he has been given.[1] We began to monitor the subject three days before the procedure, in addition to the day we spent with him while getting his consent. We wanted to make sure he knew exactly what he was getting into before he signed off, partly in the event that the procedure fails at a later date, which could cause severe emotional trauma. He was made fully aware of these risks before signing on, as indicated in the photocopied pages of the waiver enclosed with the first report.

The psychological tests, as noted, show no abnormalities. The topics discussed are kept purposely vague, as not to give him any clue about the true nature of the experiment, or what may have changed in his life lately. The obvious relevant topic is broached delicately, and the subject is quickly changed. He shows no abnormal thoughts or feelings on the issue that would indicate recovered memories or subconscious awareness of the situation.

A further report will be issued in another twelve days, followed by a third, at which point weekly visits will be made to the subject’s home until the test period is complete. However, as of now, Jerry Healey has no idea that his wife is dead. Thank you for your support.

[1] The standard explanation is currently an experimental memory enhancement drug. Due to the nature of the psychological tests given, we initially tried telling the subjects that the drug was an antidepressant, but we were concerned that the resulting placebo effect could interfere with achieving an accurate picture of the subject’s emotional state.

Web 2.0 Shall Be My Bitch

October 5, 2008

This…this is a blog is what this is.


Anyway, the point is, blogs are really the tip of the iceberg here, internet-wise. There is, as you may have noticed, a link in the links section to the Poppacultcha Forums. The question is, what else may there be?

I do have a MySpace. I never use it (that picture may be from ninth grade). Now, I might. Feel free to add me as a friend. If there is some sort of…group…feature…there may be a Poppacultcha one. Blog posts here may be cross-posted to my Myspace blog.

I’ve noticed that most high school students use MySpace and most college students use Facebook. Yes, I am in college. Yes, I still have a MySpace. No, I have no plan to make a page on Facebook. If any of you only use Facebook, I may start one.

For the record, my e-mail is Don’t be shy.

There will probably be a wiki, but not a Poppacultcha one. I have a Big Plan in the works, and it is a wiki, but it’s only peripherally related.

YouTube is irrelevant. You will be assimilated.

There may be other spin-off blogs and other various web pages that will likely interest many readers to some extent.

The weather-machine, food-pill and shoe-phone programs are not going well.

Ignore the previous sentence.

A Twitter stream is…unlikely but possible. I tend to ramble, which kind of defeats the point.

There’s probably a bunch of other flavor-of-the-month crap I’m forgetting (Poppacultcha: The iPhone App!* Poppacultcha: The Flamethrower!), but so be it.

Now that I have rambled sufficiently about how my content will be distributed, my next post should be actual content. I’m feeling generous.

– Robbi Ramirez, King of the Lanes

P.S. For anybody who doesn’t know, the name of this blog is a reference to the Pixies song “Subbacultcha” (think about it) from the underrated album Trompe le Monde.

* There will, however, be an Android app, once my devteam finds out what’s causing the seizures in epileptics and the mildly clairvoyant.

What The Hell Have I Done

October 3, 2008

This…this is a blog, is what this is. Something you have to update somewhat frequently. I am not in any way prepared for this.

Douglas Adams once said that he loved deadlines for the pleasant whoosh sound they made as they flew by. I’ve always sympathized with this sentiment very strongly. If this reeks of laziness, I should probably leave out the fact that, in my case, these deadlines are largely self-imposed. I would do terrible, terrible things for the right to actually have the public care enough about what I write to warrant somebody getting on my ass over dragging my feet on my next masterwork. When I write, I do it for me, and I still don’t do it. I’m too lazy to do something that’s for my own enjoyment.

Ironically, I’m great with real deadlines. All through my school years I rarely missed an assignment, or handed one in late. I procrastinate the hell out of them almost every time, true, but they get turned in perfectly on schedule. Apparently I care more about appearing to be a hard worker than I do about actually working with any vigor. Fuck you, subconscious.

So why a blog? Consider this an attempt to go cold turkey, assuming it’s actually possible to quit not doing something. I’m throwing myself into the deep end so I can learn how to swim by channeling my much deeper need to not drown and die. Of course, nobody is going to kill me if I don’t update my blog – I can only dream of a day when enough people enjoy my writing that it could provoke at least one deranged fan to try to murder me if I stop – but I don’t want to embarrass myself, especially after ranting about my own laziness for this long. It’s never a good thing when your last known blog post consists solely of “please, God, don’t let this be my last blog post.” The internet has enough well-documented public nervous breakdowns, so the last thing I want is for my most famous writings to be an exhaustive, Lovecraftian diary of my own dwindling sanity as a paradoxical result of my own inability to keep that very blog updated.

So, you know…let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

From this blog, expect deep analysis (read: rabid rants, positive and negative) of whatever pop culture I’ve taken in lately and have a strong opinion about. Editorials may be vicious, reviews will probably be effusive. And occasionally vicious. Expect (hopefully lengthy) interviews with anybody who interests me and will return my e-mails. Snippets of fiction might show up occasionally. God willing, so will links to various projects I’m considering starting up (homebrew tabletop RPG systems probably making up most of these, because during lean seasons I tend to produce half-formed game ideas at a disturbing rate), but after they are introduced they will be mentioned minimally outside of their respective separate pages. If you come here for rants about disappointing comic book crossover events, why Halo sucks and the overrated or underrated status of whatever band I just heard for the first time, I won’t bore you with why my homemade universal roleplaying system is clearly superior to all other homemade universal roleplaying systems (I’m looking at you, Hybrid). I may even keep different media in different categories for just this reason.

Expect any updates that might magically happen on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or weekends.

We’ll see how that goes.

– Robbi Ramirez, last of the freelance hackers and greatest swordfighter in the world.