Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Becoming a Lad Most Insane...

Part of the joy of writing is seeing where a story will take you. Often one's initial design for crafting a story may seem set in stone from Point A to Point B. Other times it's the spark of an idea that triggers inspiration from which a seasoned author must be prepared to build upon it. Even if the foundation trembles and the entire venture falters, a good writer can either put it away and return later or dig deeper to find a stronger root to hold it all in place.

Spontaneity in writing appeals to the junior explorer in me. It's as exciting a way to write as coming to a new album you suspect is just gonna rock. The only trick now is that I'm a full-grown man, filled with both adult and heathen-twerp emotions. We never quite lose all of our youth. Pray tell, I still think like a seventeen year old at times, but responsibility forces me back to my forties and into my dad shoes. At least until my little man is in bed, then the bedroom slippers and sweats come out once I flex my fingers and start cracking at the word processor. I look like a seventeen-year-old trapped inside a man's body when I write, I admit it. I just drink a lot more coffee in the morning now and I don't have to sneak a beer behind my parents' backs while writing now. Back then, I figured the sound of clacking typewriter keys covered up what I was up to.

It's perhaps best a creative individual remains in touch with both the young id and the older superego in his or her repertoire. Particularly if one is to sell a lead character who might have a flaw or two, but those flaws become the crux from which to tell a good story. Flaws stem from adolesecent recklessness and an adult wherewithal to chase down elusive happiness within a remaining lifespan--the latter case being a great unknown.

I've been on a mondo David Bowie kick the past few weeks. Here is an artist who has mastered the fine art between juvenile and mature values, not to mention a searing borderline of androgyny from which to operate. Bowie's work today is downright conservative in comparison to his glam years, but there's something humbling to witness when you evaluate the thread of his career from Space Oddity to Hunky Dory to Ziggy Stardust to Low and beyond. Bowie's chameleon propensity has been one of his major draws. If anyone besides Bjork and U2 knows precisely what's going on in all facets of music, it's Bowie, of course. He's written the book on self-reinvention and career extension through astute hipster couture.

The album of Bowie's I've been stuck on (though Ziggy, Hunky Dory, Heroes, Station to Station, Lodger and Low have been likewise attacked mercilessly in the past week alone) is Aladdin Sane. Dare I say, this album may vault to my personal favorite of Bowie's by the time I've finished the current story I'm working on. Bowie's cheeky roasting of the subvert sexual revolutions ripping through seventies London, Manhattan and L.A. is as dead-on today as it's ever been.

In fact, Aladdin Sane's vampishness really opened a channel in my mind to the flow of this particular story, which I've titled "The Grinning Soul" in homage to Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul" from this album. Bowie's muse is an oversexed diva with sociopathic tendencies. Therein lies a tiny teaser into my project, though my story is more focused on an awkward night of passion that turns ugly between a white married man and an attractive young black girl working in the record store he frequents.

All I had initially was the record store setting from which to launch this story, plus a direct visual of the girl in question. I knew I wanted my two leads in bed, I just needed to figure out how to pliably get them there and moreover, what was going to happen post-consummation. Somewhere in the course of fleshing out this story I decided to make my female antagonist a hardcore Bowie fan. After pulling his albums of my shelf, I ran through them in search of "the song," the one that would figuratively become my antagonist's theme tune. Aladdin Sane spoke to me and not only did Bowie's music whisper "This is the one for your psycho chick," it also unraveled a deeper pathological breakdown from which the story gets its balls, as it were.

I don't feel "The Grinning Soul" is a glorification of Bowie's music nor a condemnation of it. I'm a big fan of the guy and even more so after writing this story. If anything, I'm grateful I even thought of Bowie in the genesis of my plot. Part of the exploration process is manipulating your own personal environment and keying in closely. Age brings about different intakes, thoughts, confirmations and rejections and I believe it's one hundred percent viable you can process something you're well-familiar with in a different light as you grow older. Guaranteed, I've taken much more from Aladdin Sane at age 41 than I did at 31.

Dare tell what I come up with a decade from now with the same jean genie grooves sashaying in my ear.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Be a Pal and Help Your Fellow Writer

In the past week, I've been approached by two writers on opposite ends of the spectrum seeking my assistance. One is a well-entrenched Manhattan journalist seeking my knowledge on a specific region as relates to heavy metal music. The other is a relative newbie looking to get himself back into the music game for a second try and he came to me looking for any sort of "in" I could toss his way.

Where would we all be as professional authors and journalists without a helping hand or two along our way? Frankly, it takes more than just a couple of outstretched hands to make it in writing and therein lies the rub, if you take my meaning.

I gladly welcomed correspondence and text messages from these two writers and I'm more than happy to help them to the best of my ability. In the case of one, I directed him to a good editor friend of mine whom I've written countless pieces for. It was my sincere pleasure to connect them and I hope they develop a healthy editorial relationship. In the other case, I still need to research his query a bit more and I find myself in need of a transcontinental helping hand from a good buddy I know across the seas. JP, I know you're a regular visitor here, so hit me up, mang, I need your counsel.

The point is, everybody needs everybody in this business. Whether you're an editor, an author, a literary agent, a publicist, a radio jock, a photographer, whatever your deal is in the creative and media outlets, helping hands are critical to achieving our respective goals. I can't thank enough the people who threw me a bone when I needed to make some coin, nor can I discount those who nudged me up the totem with their generosity. Yeah, you to have show your chops and you must build your rep from ground zero, but the harder you work, the more connections you make and the more you display an eagerness to please your newfound alliances, they will make all the difference in your career...more so, your life.

Sure, I've spent numerous evenings throwing out article queries to magazine editors and received no responses, not even a rejection notice. I've thrown myself out there to all of my contacts with requests for assistance in getting to viable names who might listen to my pitches or take a handful of manuscript pages for review. More often than not, people won't help or they're just not in the position to do so. It's part and parcel to networking and fighting for what you want. As long as you make friends along the way and keep your intentions pure, there are very few boundaries set before you in requesting future help--so long as you use common sense.

You know, individual goals can become a mutual goal as one path opens to the other. You never know what doors may be revealed if you take a minute to answer a question from a pro instead of silently seething with jealousy and refusing to help just to spite that person's success. Often you won't get an immediate reciprocal benefit from lending your expertise, but rest assured your name is getting out there. How else do you think that journalist from USA Today or The New York Times got to you in the first place?

I'm honored to help other writers and I'm deeply touched when I receive a flattering message from a comrade as I did this afternoon. You can never take for granted when another writer seeks your advice and your help, particularly when they inform you they've been directly influenced by your work. This is a pessimistic society we live in, and most jaded people would call heavy complimenting the fine art of the schmooze. To certain latitudes, there's accuracy in that judgment, but not when you have the opportunity to befriend a rising voice in the literary community. People forget one another on their way to the top, sure, but most of them do remember a good deed and they'll very likely pay it forward, either to yourself or to another writer who seeks their advice. Our craft as a collective only stands to blossom when we take the time to help each other to our best capacity.

So if you ever get contacted by a serious author with a serious request, try to be a pal and take that pivotal moment of connection seriously.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's New With Ray in 2012 So Far

With 2012 already in full swing, I'm as-ever on the hunt for extra coin so I can get the bills in line. A lot of changes last year carrying over into this one and so far, the proposed strategies are slowly coming to fruition. I'm feeling upbeat in general and have much to look forward to once I address the monkeys and shake 'em away.

The most positive news I have to offer you, readers, is the completion of two new short stories, "John's Dead" and "Moonchasers." Both have been submitted to publications for their hopeful acceptance and then I've already started another short story, still untitled at this point.

The tones of these stories differ far more than their titles indicate. One deals with a coming-of-age moment for a 10-year-old boy in the midst of the John Lennon assassination. The next is a roasting of my rock journalism life and the latest one is shaping up to be a horror story that begins in a record store and ends up in much darker territories.

So hopefully I'll be announcing the publication of these tales in the near future while I begin a brand new edit of "Saved by Zero" which came to me through the suggestion of a literary agent I've been in extensive communication with. I look forward to the next step in that novel's evolution because I believe the winning combination is here this time.

Last (but nowhere near least), I have entered into a collaboration project with a well-known former thrash drummer. I will divulge further details at a later date once the cogs are spinning at full effect. Said affiliate and I are hammering out the semantics and the R&D of what we hope to accomplish together. Should be gnarly, based on our initial conversation last week.

As ever, I appreciate everyone who drops in at this site and even at The Metal Minute, which continues to receive visitors in heavy increments even while in limbo. Bless all of you for your enduring support...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ki Ki Ki...Ma Ma Ma...

You know you're from the eighties when you automatically check the movie listings every Friday the 13th.

Buck superstitions, bad luck days happen on any given day as do good ones. Throughout my teens, Friday the 13th ended up being the day I was on the phone or knocking on doors gathering buddies to go catch the latest red doings of ol' Hockeyhead Jason Voorhees. Each film we'd go to (at least until most of the guys grew up by the seventh film, unlike me), we'd act like hooligans in the theater and later come out both bitching and cheering. Was there enough blood this time around? Enough nudity? Were the chicks hot? Was Jason moving fast or slow? Was the ending lame as usual?

The answer to the latter query was always an affirmative, for the record. Lord, did those films know how to queef. Only the original Friday the 13th from 1980 ended spectacularly and really, how do you even attempt to outdo the double entendre of a beheading and then a subsequent ghoul attack from underwater? The bar was set and the Friday franchise, no matter how many films they've done since, never got their scaly nails within reach of that bar. I'm convinced Sean S. Cunningham and his crews weren't even interested in trying.

Really, though, we're talking about Friday the 13th. These aren't films for the intellectual horror buff. You go to The Shining or The Serpent and the Rainbow if you want to think on top of having your spine pricked. The blueprint for the Friday series is so brain dead any hack can come to it so long as they abide by the rules: fill the cast with attractive though pitiless cannon fodder, get half of them nekked, don't show Jason for a few frames but hint he's lurking about, then let him loose and rip 'em all apart. One or two get to survive, usually a boy-girl pairing (and the only two who didn't have sex together or toke up, of course) and they kick Jason's tail so he can take a powder until the next flick. No caveats needed. Follow and obey, just like the Friday the 13th reboot film did to a tee a couple years ago and will assuredly repeat the same method on its reported "sequel remake." Only thing differentiating the new Friday is that the sex is far more gratuitous and convincing. How many young male actors begged their agents to submit their profiles for the upcoming Friday the 13th Part 2 (redux, natch)?

Criminey, can you imagine if they try and reach the same number in remakes as the original series did? Today's generation can mark their calendars as Friday film day like we Gen X'ers did. On the other hand, if we have to stomach Jason tearing up New York City and outer space a second time...

There's a reason those folks in Blairstown, New Jersey are difficult to corner in convo about Friday the 13th. I know by experience having been on assignment there and at Camp No-Be-Bos-Co. It was amazing I found a couple of townies who would talk outside of the cheerful camp administrator, but they didn't have much to offer other than Voorhees was a common name throughout Jersey. I guess when your burg is affiliated with all that crimson slop and teen poon, you don't have much you care to talk about. Truly, I'm positive their kids don't go around whispering ki ki ki...ma ma ma at each other up there. The repercussions are no doubt worse than anything Jason can dish out.

Luckily I lived in a place where we did it all the time (especially at girls who thought we were dumb and pretended to be scared just to amuse themselves) and we smile about it today. There's hardly a Norman Rockwell feelgood ethos behind Friday the 13th, but you take your happy pills wherever they're still stashed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thank You, 12-5 Steelers

Where I live, I'm likely to be booed for this post. So be it. Football fans are immature and psychosomatic. Even I needed a day to defuse after this past weekend's irksome playoff round. For a moment, I was infuriated my football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, just had to be the ones who gave Godboy Tim Tebow his coming out party. As much as this kid was both crucified and glorified all season, the Denver Broncos were the one team I sure as heck didn't want my team to square up against. It was a media bonanza in the making and unfortunately, Ike Taylor and the chewed-up Steelers secondary let Mr. Tebow throw near-Hail Marys all over the place en route to an unbelievable first round dispatching.

I'm a big boy, though. Disgusted as I was watching a first play bomb go for an overtime Denver win to send the Steelers home earlier than most expected, it's a done deal, I'm over it now. Life goes on. I have things to do, stories to write, people to network with. Tebow will either serve the New England Patriots a gridiron hymn or two or he'll be thanking the Lord from the locker room for the end of an improbable miracle season that got him and the Broncos this far. John Elway taught his elevated disciple a few tricks about stunning the favored opposition. Kudos, kid, you bucked the odds and the naysaying oddsmakers. People are kneeling all over the country in your honor instead of God's. Therein lies the dumb irony of this Tebow fad--and it is a fad.

I'm happy to see a lot of Steeler Nation reaching out to the team and the coaching staff to thank them for a 12-4 regular season that would've been a division winner in most cases, save for when your main nemesis boasts the same record and has busted your balls twice in the same season.

Of course, I happen to live where the Baltimore Ravens roost and I can vouch they're partying down here already as if it's Super Bowl weekend and the purple birds have a three touchdown lead over the NFC conference winner. People in this town consider the Steelers their main enemy to the point of ridiculousness. Much as Baltimore Orioles fans used to condemn the New York Yankees as vile invaders everytime the pinstripes set foot in Charm City. Nowadays, the Orioles have posted so many losing seasons in a row the Yankees fans have free reign over Oriole Park at Camden Yards whenever the Bronx Bombers hit town. Can you imagine a day if the gold and black took over M&T Bank Stadium? Not bloody likely, but you get the sentiment.

I won't talk to many football fans unless it's a general conversation about the league overall. Bring any smack talk of any kind and I'm over you, just like that. When you don't actually play the game, how you find the wherewithal to use possessive lingo such as "we," "ours" and "us" is just arrogant stupidity. Worse is when a fan claims "our" team will kick "your" asses. I just can't stomach it. I really can't. So let the Bronco fans Tebow in the streets in genuflection of their season savior. Let the Ravens geeks squawk all they want. If they falter to the Houston Texans this weekend, it's all for naught. Ain't the beer cold, huh, peeps? You have to be from Baltimore to get that reference.

All of that being said, I want to offer my thanks to coach Mike Tomlin and defensive guru Dick LeBeau for a sometimes hard to watch though overall happy season. Moreover, I want to thank the grit of the team itself for continuing to show up even banged up every week. While everyone's getting a good nyuk this week over the email showing Tim Tebow in Heaven and Ben Rothlisberger in Hell, the point everyone lost is that Big Ben at least had enough character to play a respectable level of football while injured. As he has in the past. His numbers the past three to four games aren't all that pretty, but at least the guy showed up. You either forgive Ben's past sins or you don't. The Ravens' Ray Lewis forever carries a stigma out of Atlanta he doesn't deserve but he has the respect of the league evermore. I guess people missed when Rothlisberger pointed skywards during games before Tebowmania ever came about. Ditto for when Ben and Ray Lewis prayed together on the sidelines after each game they knocked heads in. Seriously, though, God favors no team, so get real...

At least we've learned the Steelers offensive line is willing to put their bodies on the line for Roth again, even if most of those bodies got broken up this year, particularly at the center position. You won't find a tougher quarterback in the NFL in this age of pretty boys and numbers crunchers. I'm not saying it to be biased; I've never seen a meathead such as Ben Rothlisberger who will lay it all on the line for his team, no matter how beat up he is. The league and the league's best all inflicted their punishment upon #7 last year in light of his purported (never admitted or confirmed) transgressions and he ate it all up like a man. This year he played hurt after putting up mostly solid numbers. Did it cost his team in the end? Yes and no, but the guy showed what a football player is all about. Go ahead and boo Big Ben if it makes you feel good about yourself, but no professional football player trying to win a ring would scoff at having a bona fide tough guy like Rothlisberger helm his offense.

Thank you to Troy Polamalu, as always. Doubtful he'll repeat as defensive player of the year (that honor will probably go to the Ravens' Terrell Suggs, who stands to inherit their daunted defense once #52 hangs it up), but Polamalu continued to show what instinct does for an already speedy defenseman. Sometimes Troy got burned by overextending a play or by leaving open men in the trust of others in the secondary (cough, cough, Ike), but you can put together a highlight reel of Polamalu's 2011 season that'll rival any of them. You're righteous as always, brother.

Thank you, Antonio Brown. What a breakout season with all-around stats on receiving, running and special teams. All season long we heard the commentators say over and over how Coach Tomlin cited Antonio Brown as the hardest working man on the team. Try one of the hardest working men in the whole damn league...

Thank you to Rashard Mendenhal and Mike Wallace for doing your best to open up the offense. Not easy trying to light up the stat sheet as a running back in a season where passing became the norm for most teams including this one. Wallace was Mr. Electric many times this season. Hopefully he's ditched that awful faux hawk for good. Thanks most of all to Heath Miller, one of Pittsburgh's most reliable receivers and also one of their classiest. Similar to former Ravens receivers Brandon Stokley and Todd Heap, Heath Miller is a tank in the open field who makes most of his catches, takes a number of beatings and leaves his mouth shut. In an era of football where trash-talking, muscle-flexing divas rule, kudos to Miller for showing the old school rules. A quick shout-out to Hines Ward for posting his thousandth reception and twelve thousandth yardage points. Not bad on top of a glitzy dancing trophy. Keep away from the car keys when you've been tipping the bottle, though, Hinesy, eh?

Thank you, James Harrison and the entire Steel Curtain. Harrison has been the league's favorite bitch in terms of enforcing helmet-to-helmet fines. I can only imagine what players from Mike Singletary's day on back to the real bruisers of the NFL (ala Artie Donovan, Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus) must think about the hypocritical policing of defensemen today. Yes, we would rather see our gridiron heroes live into their elder years with their brains intact, but Harrison has remained a perpetual scapegoat for a position where you're taught to clobber and play at a high level of intensity. Harrison got another fine and a suspension this year on top of missing a few games due to injury, but when he was on top of his game this season, he was a difference maker.

There's many players I'm unintentionally ommitting like the Viking-esque Brett Kiesel, whose exit in the Denver playoff game was more detrimental in that loss than most people realize. It wasn't just Tebow lighting up the depth chart. He didn't have Kiesel chasing his ass around, nor Polamalu since the latter had to back up and cover the gap lost to the sideline instead of engaging Tebow with his usual mad dog pursuit. Cheers to Tebow for making the Steelers' D look shabby, but the banged-up Kiesel was a sad reality to a fine season lost through adversity.

No excuses, as they say. In the NFL, you figure out how to win, or you go home, regardless of the amount of personnel lost. Which leads me to again thank Coach Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau for ingeniously orchestrating a 12-4 regular season that could've gone much worse given all the guys they lost. Award of courage goes to Tomlin for putting safety before glory by making the right decision to bench Ryan Clark, who has sickle cell anemia and nearly died from the altitude of Denver a couple years back. A controversial call that brought out jeers from cowardly football "fans," Clark was reported as saying Coach Tomlin treated his situation the way he would if it his own son. Kudos times the power of three.

Yeah, Pittsburgh should've won the second Ravens game and they choked by not kicking the field goal within the play clock allotment. You can't always trust your defense when your opposition knows you so well. They got burned. Yeah, the Steelers shot themselves in the feet out in San Francisco, but so did the Ravens in San Diego the same weekend. Bad juju on the west coast for each team on top of poor officiating in both games. The bottom line is the Ravens owned the Steelers this year and I believe that must've weighed as heavy on the Steelers' minds as the revolving injuries they had to adjust through the season. At least they posted two shutouts and the least amount of points given up prior to the playoffs. Okay, they got Tebowed in the end, but they lumbered into Denver instead of gimped, so let's cut Pitt some slack.

You have to tip your hat when your team slugs through turmoil instead of folds up. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, at least the Steelers were still feared in 2011, all the way down to a playoff game they were expected to win and crumbled under their own faltering weight. Divine intervention? The press likes to joke it up in the interest of headlines, but Steeler fans aren't laughing. The whole good versus evil tripe surrounding last weekend's playoff game superceded the event itself, stupidly enough. Denver pulled off a deserved upset, but there's no tangible reason why Steeler Nation shouldn't be proud of 2011--not when so many men gave life and limb just to make it to the playoffs.

And seriously? Let Hines take his pay cut if the cap demands it and finish out as a Steeler. It shouldn't even be up for discussion. Nobody wanted to see Emmitt Smith (a dancing champion in his own right) finish his stellar career as an Arizona Cardinal. They may have silent bounties on 86 here in Baltimore, but once Ward finally steps down, it'll all be moot on his way to Canton.

Finally, prayers go out to Kirby Wilson, the Steelers' running backs coach who was badly burned in a fire prior to the AFC playoffs. We don't need a Tim Tebow to lead us on wishing you Godspeed in your recovery...

Photos courtesy of and available for purchase at www.pittsburghsteelers.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Listen Up, Ya'll, It's Sabotage

Throughout my course of covering metal music, I have to admit I became a little disgruntled with the topic of Black Sabbath. Not with the band itself, nor do I refute Sabbath represents a cornerstone and birthmark of a hyper-gloomy breed of dark music soon to be coined "heavy metal."

It's the easy way out most fans and writers take when they cite Black Sabbath as the first and greatest heavy metal act of all-time. Sorry, but Iron Maiden is the greatest and you can go back as far as Link Wray for his innovative distortion chords that officially indoctrinated the sound that later evolved into metal. Some pick Led Zeppelin or Iron Butterfly as the first heavy metal acts, yet I posit a strong argument for Cream, Blue Cheer, Amon Duul II, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Deep Purple, Canned Heat and The Beatles' "Revolution" as some of the groundbreaking focal points of heaviness. I mean, hell, Deep Purple's In Rock alone is one of the heaviest and loudest albums this side of a Marshall stack, yet it gets little mention today.

In other words, I've taken exception to the overt laziness by people in declaring Black Sabbath the world's first heavy group.

Granted, the first Black Sabbath album is a fierce, hapless and orgasmic collision upon the ears, while Paranoid proved there was room for rock-out musicality as well as heated political stances within Sabbath's tenebrous demogogues. Herein is where average listeners stay when it comes to Black Sabbath's recordings.

However, those heavy metal bands past and present who all claim Sabbath had an encompassing influence over their work would likely tell you it's the subsequent quartet of albums, Master of Reality, Vol. 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and the ingenious Sabotage from which they drew inspiration. As damn well they should. Without question, both Kiss and Alice Cooper were affected by "The Writ," "The Thrill of it All" and "Supertzar."

Yes, the Ozzy Osbourne years (minus Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die)--along with the Ronnie James Dio-led classics Heaven and Hell plus Mob Rules--combine for a collective benchmark of supreme heavy metal music. All eight albums should be considered mandatory if you're a genre head, but for whatever reason, 1975's Sabotage tends to get overlooked by the metal majority.

I was just as guilty when compiling 100 indispensible metal albums and chose Vol. 4, Black Sabbath, Mob Rules and Heaven and Hell at The Metal Minute. Should Master of Reality made the cut? Yup. Paranoid? Double yup. Sabotage? Shame shame shame on me.

I've been spending quite a bit time with this album after an inexplicably long layoff and my first thought within the first stanza of "Hole in the Sky" is to wonder why Sabotage doesn't leap off the tongues of most when discussing the greatest albums of heavy metal. "Symptom of the Universe?" Jesus, man, the whole ethos of metal is wrapped in a 6:29 symposium of brackish brutality and an out-of-nowhere acoustic half-jig which carries as much of a swing as a summons to headbang. "Megalomania," another example of unrelenting fury, ten minutes of skull-crushing riffage and Ozzy Osbourne inviting you to "suuuuck meeeee..." "The Thrill of it All?" Oh yeah...OHHHHH YEAH!!!

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath introduced a lot of progression and symphonic supplements to Black Sabbath's brooding verve, but the stirring choral presentation on "Supertzar" from Sabotage is twisted, haunted and ultimately euphoric. Set in front of the grand finale couplet "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" and "The Writ," the triumvirate combined might as well be considered the building blocks of the more astutely-written black metal from Celtic Frost to Agalloch. Evil, but intelligent evil.

Occasionally you can hear some choppiness and abrupt transitional mixes which betrays Sabotage in a couple spots. Otherwise, you have to count this album as a watermark for the genre, not just for Black Sabbath. The band was clicking on its final cylinders with Sabotage and you can hear both the tension and the mania raging out of Ozzy's voice. He sounds tormented and in danger of losing control (especially on "The Writ," criminey), precisely the kind of performance you want on a metal record that stands the test of time. "Hole in the Sky" is one of Ozzy's finest, most unhinged vocal performances while Tony Iommi banged out one of his mightiest sets of chops here. When you hear everyone from Saint Vitus to Fu Manchu to Weedeater to even The Black Keys claim Sabbath as an influence, "Hole in the Sky" is where they're coming from. It is heavy metal unto itself.

As is "Symptom of the Universe," a mean mutha that clocks you upside the head after Iommi has settled you with the sedate acoustic interlude "Don't Start (Too Late)." I've heard many young bands rip out the main riffs of "Symptom" as much as I hear it played by roadies during live set changeovers. It's been covered by Sepultura, the Melvins, Helmet, Orange Goblin, Stone, Freak Seed and many others. It's passe to do "War Pigs" or "Iron Man," dude. Nail "Symptom of the Universe" and you've won favor from the metal gods. Brownie points if you tackle "Megalomania" as Venom did on the Prime Evil redux in 1989 with Demolition Man in brief replacement of Cronos.

All of this being said, I suppose I can come to terms with the "laziness" I accuse others of having when it comes to staking out metal's roots. It's important we acknowledge Link Wray and even Leadbelly before him. We're criminal if we're skipping by Cream's Disraeli Gears. Zeppelin's entire catalog is a veritable blueprint for all that followed them. The Beatles were their mentors along with Buddy Holly and Howlin' Wolf.

If we're going to use Sabotage only as a gauge, then it's more than forgivable to go directly to Sabbath for heavy metal sovereignty. Caveat, though, be sure to stop by Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast, Killers, Piece of Mind and Powerslave along the way before you raise the crown.

Godspeed on your fight against lymphoma, Tony...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Taking a Trip to the Wrecking Ball

If there's one thing about music that haunts me in my adult life, it's having to admit my parents were right about country music. It's hard to tell a testosterone-jazzed male teen he's one day going to find himself in company with music so apposite of crunch chords, shredding riffs, insane bass lines, thrashing beat patterns and a weird range of vocals that both vigorate and challenge. It really is hard. You'd probably get further saying sex without condoms is a near-guarantee you're throwing your life away, although that's not going to influence most teenagers much, either.

Sure enough, though, my parents used to torment me whenever I'd come walking through the living room in my teen years and make pretend ralphing gags whenever they had Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Scaggs, Grandpa Jones, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens or Hank Williams on the family stereo. "You're going to like country music one day, boy," I'd hear. Mark their words, endpoint.

It echoes in my ears even now, as that slide guitar twang once drove me nuts for much of my life. Only when I was a young child and the country-comedy variety show Hee Haw did I appreciate the genre though it was more being interested in the cute Southern belles and their way-hot cutoff shorts, plus finding out who was going to get clunked in the ass by that prop clapboard from the "wooden" farm fence. Even then I tuned out the music, though I did pay attention when Roy Clark and Buck Owens started their picking duels. Whether you like country music or not, you have to admire the fast-flying-finger skills it takes to move those banjo and guitar strings so effortlessly. Even better in the midst of friendly competition.

Well, sure enough, those parents o' mine were right on with their prediction. You can thank psychobilly, cowpunk, Hank III, Stray Cats, Neil Young and today's alt county/alt folk hybrids for altering my way of thinking. The rough 'n tumble prime time soap Dallas had a good bit to with it, especially while revisiting the series on DVD. A wow moment of mine came when I heard Buddy Holly's early-on country bop and rockabilly recordings, Holly in the Hills. The more recent (though highly retro) country swing of Ray Condo and His Ricochets and The Paladins endeared me almost as much as the Reverend Horton Heat. Of course, a trip to the Rock 'n Hall of Fame a few years back and its astute history lesson which puts you in the heart of Texarkana, the Okie folk movement and the po' boy blues really puts some perspective on it all. I immediately had to get chummy with Phil Ochs, Leadbelly and Hank Snow.

For the past five years or so, I've made cautious steps into actual country music. It began with Hank the Elder and Hank Snow, the acknowledged founding fathers of the style. I soon took a daring ride with Dolly Parton while waiting for a table at Cracker Barrel. Her Backwoods Barbie album from a few years ago caught my attention from an audile promo stand and it landed in my possession. Even though I never got to follow up with my out-of-nowhere interview request to one of her publicists, I was allowing for country music to break my will. I did, however, interview Mike Daly, author of Time Flies When You're In A Coma: The Wisdom Of The Metal Gods and one-time multi-instrumentalist for the country-alt hybrid, Whiskeytown. I got familiar with the band catalog in preparation. The writing, as they say, was the on the wall for me.

Now I've been exploring the genre on a touch and go basis but then I heard Emmylou Harris' enchanting take on Neil Young's "Wrecking Ball" on a local independent radio station and I surrendered. I yielded. I let my parents enjoy a well-deserved rip and I praised the Altar of White Lightning in their presence. Emmylou Harris has an endearing vocal gift that has carried her through four decades of work and if that's not inspiring enough to give her and country music audience, then well, your resolve is stronger than mine.

Photo courtesy of Chris Kuhl and Wikipedia

I realize the country sanction regards Harris as one of its sovereign queens, however, only the truly devout and the alternative sects have continued their support of her work. Harris is still country but she has radically altered the scheme beginning with her impressive Wrecking Ball album from 1995 and it continues on today. Through some gift cards and rollicking through our town library's massive music collection, I've gotten rather familiar with Emmylou Harris' career from her seminal seventies albums with The Hot Band, Pieces of the Sky, Elite Hotel and Luxury Liner to her "roots" albums like Blue Kentucky Girl and Roses in the Snow to her more recent offerings, Wrecking Ball and All I Intended to Be being standouts.

I can't yet offer a deeper analysis of Emmylou's long-standing career since there are gaps to fill in the listening sessions, but I can tell you her voice has already become divine to me, one of the archetype pitches that milks the best of country, folk and soul. Like Hank III, she's an amalgam, the by-product of astute multiple songwriting theories. Music in general drives Emmylou Harris' work, though her mainstay bread and butter vibe is country. It proves to me what my stepfather said about country music, that it's so close to rock 'n roll at its core you can't not like it. Hear, hear, Pop...

Sadly, I still can't get down with modern country. It feels way too mainstream for me, like today's rap and hip hop. All of it is corporate, fabricated and soulless to me. None of it has the juice or the 'shine making Johnny Cash, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Roger Miller and Merle Haggard the legends they are. It's all sodapop and it's far too safe and tidy in my opinion. Plus, those sumbitches stole my metalhead ripped jean culture thanks to Garth Brooks. It takes a bold mix of Ricky Scaggs-minded bluegrass and alt sways ala Mumford and Sons to show there's still pure country outside of the pure bull. Much as it takes a Jurassic 5 to make you believe there's still something left to the rap industry that's been ruined since Bone, Thugs 'n Harmony sold the genre down the convoluted river.

Johnny Cash was a visionary. If you ever saw his music variety show of the seventies, you'll note Cash had guests outside of country music appear, those being of the rock, R&B and pop threads. Pop in the seventies still had cred before disco, keep in mind. Cash did more to cross country music over to a broader audience and I think that supercedes his Man in Black aura. Writers and fans celebrate the rebellious nature of Johnny Cash (as well they should), but he later became a principled man after going through some son of a bitch ruts and it's his music and his love of music that speaks in his absence from this world. I think that's what Emmylou Harris and some of her open-minded contemporaries bring to the table.

You're never going to hear Rascal Flatts or Taylor Swift reach deep inside themselves (and a gorgeously crafted Neil Young tune) to produce a heart-wrenching ply to the soul like Emmylou Harris does, like Derek Trucks does, like Bonnie Raitt has the propensity do when she's not ordered to produce a mega hit. "Wrecking Ball" for me has become a personal instant classic and it speaks loudly of Emmylou Harris as a perfomer and interpretive genius. Unlike Linda Rondstadt, who made a career off of starchy country and pop covers, Harris has the ability to take others' work and craft it into her own. Harris has a collaborative nature, as did Johnny Cash, but moreso, she has a respect for her peers and her own talent. All of it is held in check though she bleeds her very aura into her performances.

Yeah, my parents were right. I grew up to like country music--at least that which was recorded from the mid-eighties on back. I'm actually glad to be the butt end of their well-intended joke. Like they used to holler on Hee-Haw, salllluuuute!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Knot: It's a Sipper...

I don't pretend to be an authority on alcohol, but I do consider my tastes more extreme than your average tosser. I prefer Guinness, Smithwicks, Spaten Optimator and dark brews compared to the rest of them, though I will readily accept your hospitality whatever you put in front of me, thank ya kindly.

My visits to vineyards will expose me as a novice, but like my beer, I fancy the dark side, though I'm agreeable to the full range of whites, chablis and roses along with the cabarnets, merlots and pinot noirs. Mostly, it's all about the experience of what life has to offer, you know?

When it comes to whiskeys and liquers, I'm not a hardcore shooter, but I do throw some back in spots. I've had some hellacious run-ins with straight-up moonshine and then there's the nefarious "Green Death," which put me face-first in the snow many years ago. I still haven't lived that incident down. Jack might be my average favorite as I used to cover gigs at a long-perished Baltimore club, Thunderdome, and I chatted up one of their female bartenders frequently. I also tipped her high because she made my Jack and Coke with a heavy hand, God bless her.

I love me some Bailey's and I'm rather keen on martinis. Vodka's been a good pal of mine through the years and I will thank you for a screwdriver or a Black Russian any day.

Then we come to The Knot. It's 100 proof Irish whiskey with a sweet, vanilla chaser that sticks to the palette after the initial ting. A buddy of mine turned me on to this stuff and apparently Santa decided I could use some extra Daddy's Little Helper this Christmas since I found a bottle snug in my stocking. You better watch out, I think he joked in ear as I slept Christmas Eve.

I've read various opinions on The Knot out there, the most incredulous being some whiskey expert who thinks it's more tailored for women. The women I've seen sampling The Knot have all waved at their tongues and commented how delicious it was, but not for them. As for the men who've tried it in my presence, we all agree this is some mighty fine booze. I think of it as a mix of scotch, tequila and Grand Marnier with a tasty finish. Understand, though, this will light up your guts if you're foolish enough to shoot it.

To the gentleman whose liver must be rather unsightly at this time, not all of us think The Knot's a girlie drink, boyo...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cock Rockin' With Lick it Up

Ask me who my favorite band in the world was up through senior year in high school and I would've had "Kiss" emitted from my tongue before your query was punctuated.

Of course, that was before many things, first and foremost before Gene Simmons kicked away a bedsheet of the group (both the makeup and non-makeup lineups) I'd spent days freehanding with magic marker. I wish I still had the damned thing because I did a hell of a job if I say so myself. I'd thrown the sheet up to the stage after dangling it from the front row of the long-demised Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, circa 1987. I wanted Kiss to have it as a tribute, naturally. Yeah, okay, like Gene and Kiss don't have an entire warehouse of fan-made memorabilia, including boxes of bedsheets with their likenesses on them. I was 17 and thrilled to be seeing my favorite band front row. It was the closest I was going to get to any of them--before I became a music journalist, anyway. It was the nonchalant, disinterested way Gene punted my sheet to a nearby security guard that pissed me off.

No worries, though, because Bruce Kulick (Kiss' most profilic guitarist ever, no disrespect intended, Ace) saw everything and he strutted over to our side on stage right in mid-song, then he pointed straight at me and whirled me a guitar pick. Hell yeah, man! It was my honor to thank Bruce directly for that gesture when we interviewed a couple years ago. Kiss may not be my favorite musicians any longer (the Ramones and Prince have stolen that distinction), but Bruce and Ace were kickass interviews and nice dudes, on top of it. Now where'd I put that guitar pick, anyhow?

Say what you will about Kiss, either favorably or in condemnation. They're used to either case and they've historically gotten off on it all. Chances are you've passed through life to this point and bought something connected to the Kiss legacy and that's the kind of sugar papa likes, as you can hear The Demon wax lasciviously on the Gene Simmons solo record from 1978. We won't expand on that thought any further. Ace...Ace...Ace...Ace...

The thing about Kiss is they're master entertainers, they're master riff lords, they're master marketers and, if you're familiar with their vast catalog of cock rock, they're masturbators. Lyrically, anyway. If you've read Gene's autobiography, his muff conquering life before Shannon Tweed leaves no room for self-gratification.

I like to joke how Kiss should've been locked up somewhere in the course of their history for selling audile pornography to minors. Very young minors in the seventies who sang along unwittingly to "Ladies Room," "Love Gun," "Makin' Love," "Take Me" and a slew of sex-driven ditties throughout Kiss' kabuki-clad heyday. They knew damned well they were selling a cartoon product that kids ate up along with the Superfriends, Scooby Doo, Star Wars and Land of the Lost. Shame, shame, but these days, the early catalog of Kiss is heralded as hard rock eminence. Through Dynasty and Unmasked much of it is deserved.

As Kiss grew older, they certainly didn't grow up. 1983's Lick it Up introduced the planet to a paint-stripped Kiss, which eased the burden of shock as they slid in newcomers Eric Carr (who at least had a makeup alter ego and playing credits on Creatures of the Night prior to) and Vinnie Vincent to their dumbstruck fans. Peter Criss and Ace Frehley's true faces remained enigmas through the late eighties while Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons showed off their true colors. Read into that as you will.

Accordingly, Lick it Up became famous and infamous as one of the heaviest albums in their career...and also one of their filthiest.

It's only right now, Paul pants on the title track, and he doesn't want to wait until you know him better. He wants to feel good about the time together with you, so go on and be good to yourself...and Kiss, all in succession. Lick it up, baby, just lick it up.

Back in the day, I devoured this album as I did Creatures of the Night, then considering both a logical rebirth of Kiss, followed by the subsequent Animalize album. Vinnie Vincent was out by the time Kiss torched Heaven on Animalize. Mark St. John was in...for a moment in time, anyway. Bruce Kulick stepped in for the ailing St. John and acted as a silent conscience in Kiss by the time they released the more tempered Asylum in 1985. Still, at the core of the costume-stripped version of Kiss was two horny devils who made a sport in out-grossing their tuneful but skanky struts of the past.

On Lick it Up you have lust-filled odes such as "Exciter," "Gimme More," "Lick it Up" and the blatantly sinful "Fits Like a Glove." Gene blares testimony how going through tight snatch is like "a hot knife through butter" on the latter song, while Paul knows danged well what you want and what you need on "Exciter." If you're not thinking about subjugation through oral copulation on "Lick it Up," then ignorance is bliss.

Even when Kiss tries to play the romantic sap trump card on "A Million to One," you know Paul is suggestively hinting at a reacharound while lyrically declaring himself a martyr of love. Gene ends up playing the uber-masculine avenging archangel on the deplorably misogynistic "Dance All Over Your Face." Cheating women bring Gene "disgrace," (per the song) while he (prior to Shannon Tweed) should be free to let his nefarious tongue seek heat wherever it may flicker. Of course, Kiss had bellyached about two-timers long before Lick it Up ever saw the light of day. They were just more seasoned at the craft in '83.

To me, the funniest (though heaviest) song on Lick it Up is "Not For the Innocent." Song-wise, the cut is a beast and one of my favorite on the album, even if "All Hell's Breakin' Loose" is the signature stamper. "Not For the Innocent," however, is a too-late confessional by Kiss to their grown-up flaming youth and those who innocuously came to the band to rock out. They never were for the innocent. Kiss portrayed themselves as cold gin guzzling hellraisers (Gene has always claimed to be clean of substances, however) always looking for specialized room service on the road. Along the way, they seduced the collective juvenile ears of the world as they did the thousands of women who parted chasms for them.

To defend Lick it Up in these jaded times, Kiss vocally were probably at their deadliest on here. The harmonizing between Paul and the band is par excellance, while his high altos and occasional falsettos are superb. Even Gene keeps his growls tempered by some nifty cadence. If all overt horndogs sounded this air-tight, they'd get laid every single time, guaranteed.

Herein, though, lies the inevitable disclaimer: Lick it Up is, musically, still a nut-busting, brain bashing heap of fun. However, it now sounds brain dead almost three decades later. Gene and Paul obviously have grounded relationships and stabilized family roles. Anytime they sing about sex, however, it sounds unbelievably immature and more irresponsible than writing lyrics ringing to the tune of "put your hand in my pocket, grab onto my rocket, feels so good to see you again...I wanna know, do you wanna blow... etcetera etcetera" from "Take Me" off of 1976's Rock 'n Roll Over.

In 1983, Kiss was even more bold on "Gimme More" by demanding favors from their unseen sexual playthings, while they at least took the time to coax their conquests with artificial charm in the makeup years. 1983's Kiss had them snarling, "got a thirst for playin' rough, I can't get my fill...never keepin' score, c'mon baby, let me in, gonna break your will..." Never mind Paul had already ordered his girl toy to lick his candy cane in the same song. They blamed Vinnie Vincent for scorching his solos and playing too fast them. When half of your catalog (and Lick it Up in particular) is about flying jizz, what else could they have expected from Vinnie?

It's something of an anamoly that Lick it Up rocks as hard as it does, because it's one mean bastard with little social conscience outside of date rape and knuckling down against anyone with hair still above the ears. Paul's intro rap on "All Hell's Breakin' Loose" is laughable stuff to hear today, but you kinda bought into it back then. He was speaking for all of us and those who were condemened by the moral majority for our long hair and our unbendable propensity to rock and fuck. As I said, Kiss were masters and at least back then, we were willing disciples...

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Hypocrisy of PG-13 Superhero Films

Okay, so this little rant stems completely from being a father, but I've nearly reached the end of my tolerance for today's superhero flick. Specifically, the fact none of them can come down to the less-racy standards of a PG rating. It's viewed by script writers and older demographic fanboys who've long since grown up reading comic books that today's superhero movies have to show more balls by amping up the violence, the sexual innuendo and of course, foul language. Hence, we have what the comic world ought to consider coining "The Golden Age of the PG-13 Superhero Film." As if it needed a bronze era.

I have a marketing background, so I get it completely. PG is considered wussy. PG-13, cajones of steel. R rating? Potentially the stuff of legend. PG-13 is considered the midline, safe bet in which to hedge future profits from the standpoint of a movie studio. Throw in some fantastical violence like no one's ever seen and let the alter ego leads sling some curse words and you can consider it bank. Really, check out the box office receipts for Thor, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, Green Lantern and the X-Men films. None of them rated beneath a PG-13. All of them pushing the limits with outlandish effects, visceral nihilism, borderline brutality and crude dialogue. Jonah Hex should've gone for an R since the scarred western bounty hunter has a refined, limited audience to begin with.

At least Watchmen, perhaps the greatest superhero tale ever told, had the fortitude to film as an R and it nearly lives up to its source as a work of art. Ditto for Frank Miller's Sin City and David Lloyd's V is for Vendetta, every bit the spectacles as the original graphic novels. Though nowhere near as stellar, at least Constantine and Ninja Assassin didn't sell out for the PG-13, as well they shouldn't. None of those aforementioned stories are for young children.

But neither is Green Lantern, Daredevil, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Iron Man or the Spiderman films, and that's the point. Much like the Pirates of the Carribean movies, these movies of wonderment lure youngsters as much as they do tweens, teens and nearly everyone on the age bracket who yelled "Up Up and Away!" or "I'm Batman!" as part of their playtime habits. In the past, Christopher Reeve's Superman never fetched higher than a PG rating and his first two outings remain amongst the greatest hero flicks of all-time. The first Michael Keaton-led Batman by all means pushed the line as a PG (in particular Jack Nicholson's gruesome portrayal of Joker) to the point something had to be done about it.

Thus the PG-13 rating was created to allow for stronger and often more intense visions. The two recent Fantastic Four films actually showed more moxy than their competitors by going for a straight PG. This proved financially viable at the box office since younger kids could show up to the party. Unfortunately, neither film has been received well by the superhero community, much less film fans in general. Rise of the Silver Surfer was the better of the two, but you can imagine director William Hoy grunting silently how he wished for greater leniency with partial nudity in Jessica Alba's scene of Sue Richards finding herself naked on the streets. Much as he probably would've wanted the chance to have The Thing call someone a prick, a douchebag or an asshole. Accordingly, the X-Men films push as much t&a as they can with Mystique, Storm, Jean Grey and Emma Frost without incurring an R.

And here is my where my beef lies. I have a four year old son who is captivated by superheroes. That's undeniably my influence, as I grew up reading comic books and watching Superfriends, both of which I've exposed him to. I have given him some of my old superhero toys and I've saved the creme de la creme for when he grows older--much older, as in past the time when a boy finds toys babyish and they end up in a trash can out of sight of his parents. My generation is the first to have been taught to hold onto our childhood treasures. Of course, it's all being sold back to us and our children anyhow, right?

The PG-13 hero film does its mightiest to ensure that transitional period in a young child's life is not only blocked, it's capitalized upon. The fascination with superheroes stays intact when they kick more butt than the Saturday morning versions did and they have the liberty to snarl obscenely amongst the other cast members. Sure, we're supposed to accept this all as part of reality, the way human beings really talk and interact. We live in the age of reality tv, where we're supposed to accept at face value what's depicted on the tube is representational of true life.

Bullshit, I say, and with an intended pun. I was positively livid that my son got exposed to a lace of profanity within the first ten minutes of Green Lantern, a film he's badgered me to pieces to let him watch. As a parent, I've shielded the child from most of my movies--especially all of my horror films released after 1960. I refuse to let him watch the Pirates of the Carribean movies because of their intense horror scenes and extreme violence. Whether you like those silly sea yarns or not, the fact remains Mickey Mouse has a mean streak since Disney releases the misadventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, a bumbling quasi-hero who influences children--mine, especially. Kids love pirates, what more can you say? Blackbeard was actually a son of a you-know-what, but pirates have always been romanticized. Sadly, though, standard classic adventure tales like Captains Courageous, Treasure Island or Moby Dick just aren't strong enough for kids today. Thanks a hunk, Mick. Disney also has a franchisee's hand in many of today's PG-13 superhero films and they even jacked up their own Tron franchise with more elaborate violence and a couple bits of suggestive lines in Tron: Legacy.

Now, should I have let my son watch Green Lantern? Not with that PG-13 disclaimer. I took a dumb chance and immediately dismissed him from the living room. I felt like a heel by his disappointment, but even the PG-rated Green Lantern animated film Emerald Knights (which is far superior to the Ryan Reynolds vehicle) had a few objectionable curse words that angered me even more as we checked it out together. I felt entrapped, honestly. I don't even dare let my son watch the new Batman: Year One animated film I received for Christmas, despite his incessant pestering. It's enough the child won't cease asking me to let him watch the ultra-bloody Robocop films. Batman: Year One is rated PG-13 for heavy violence and "sexual material." Push me all you want, boyo; it ain't happening.

Now, I have the original comics for this Frank Miller-penned Batman storyline and I remember it being fairly intense, but here is where we're at in the superhero world. Even the cartoons aren't kid friendly, yet as parents we're expected to shell out for action figures, playsets, posters, calendars, t-shirts and kid-oriented table ware featuring all of these heroes they're not allowed to watch. Hypocritical, yes?

As I write this, my son is watching the old Challenge of the Superfriends series on DVD, but he is also coming up every so often and asking me to pull Elektra off my shelf (I have the "unrated" version, yip yip), as is he nattering how much he wants to see the new Thor movie and the two Iron Man flicks. Conan the Barbarian? Child, please. I have to wait until the kid is in bed before I put these movies on and that's not right.

If I didn't have a child, would I be as offended? To certain latitudes, yes, because Superman and Superman II were some of the most magical superhero movies in history and they stood on their merits as PG films. Yes, there was a curse issued from Margot Kidder's fangy interpretation of Lois Lane and Superman did use his x-ray vision to check out her underwear, but there was still a shade of innocuousness about it back then. At least they didn't let Margot Kidder ask Supes if his crank was made of steel like they would today as a surefire cheap joke.

It's my fault, sure, but it's also the fault of Hollywood and its corporate greed. We all know Hollywood is on delicate ground with the home video revolution, much less the portability of cell phones and tablets where people can kick back to movies wherever they may roam. Hollywood needs to try all of its last gasp tricks including 3-D, remakes and of course, the still-penetrable superhero market. It's just a shame that I have to tell my son he can't go see the new Spiderman, Batman and Avengers movies next year because he's not old enough for them.

Try telling that to a child who can already recite the names of a quarter of both the Marvel and DC universes...