Categories
Blog comic

batman vs superman

It is ironic that the battles comic book aficionados want to see most are between friends. Batman hates the Joker: this is a given. Superman hates Nazis: duh. But what would happen if Batman fought Superman? What would be the outcome of this nerdy battle royale?

I’m not interested. What does interest me is how differently these superheroes approach their gigs. Although they have the same mission (fightin’ evil), that is where the similarity ends.

It is well known that Batman and Superman are, at best, frenemies. Batman thinks Superman is a lousy showoff (think: Kanye West), and Superman thinks of Batman as an outlaw (think: Jesse James). They also have the exact opposite taste in fashion. Superman prefers loud, bright colors while Batman steps out into the Gotham night in muted blues and grays. It’s perhaps inevitable, then, that when these titans meet, there will be blood.

Metropolis. This bright Los Angeles of comic book cities plays host to alien Kal-El. By day he pretends to be dorky Clark Kent, newspaper reporter. Also by day he is Superman, the Man of Steel, who saves the city from all manner of villainy.
Superman inflicts countless millions of dollars in property damage in his never-ending battle to rid the universe of evil. Metropolis cannot lure a single pro sports team due to the fear that a giant robot, searching for Superman, will destroy every player on the field. This is more frustrating to Metropolans than having the Cleveland Indians as your home team.

Gotham, a rat-infested hellhole (Phoenix? Detroit?), can’t really be hurt by a man dressing up as a giant bat. Any building Batman enters is condemned or abandoned, so he really can’t do anything to make the value go down. Also, Batman doesn’t attract the kind of world-domination villains Superman does. Batman attracts the psychopaths, the lunatics. Do you want to dress up as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and play out your weird sexual fantasies? Go to Gotham. Are you a 500-foot-tall squid monster who eats babies by the truckload? Go to Metropolis.

Batman is Bruce Wayne by day. The millionaire playboy has to be an easy part to play, since Batman runs on about 30 minutes of sleep per night. He literally couldn’t function as a character who required specialized skills or social graces. Bruce Wayne basically shows up at a board meeting, bottle of Jameson in hand, and proceeds to burp his way through the presentation. Then Alfred picks him up so he can make a fool of himself in public (a fancy hotel or a political fundraiser), then back to Wayne Manor. Then the real work can begin.
As a regular human being, Batman stretches himself to the limit. Superman, on the other hand, is an almost indestructible alien who gets his power from the sun. Batman needs to stop and eat at least twice a day.

Superman fights crime for the joy of it. He doesn’t really need to do it, he just feels the moral imperative. Batman, on the other hand, witnessed his parents murdered at gunpoint when he was a child. Batman hates guns and criminals; it’s personal.

Batman has had to learn how to fight so as not to get himself seriously injured. He also has to be a cop, a detective and a scientist to solve crimes. Superman just looks for the fire and flies over to put it out.

No matter what the villain, Superman uses the same tactic to defeat it. Cyborg? Punch it in the face. Squid monster? Punch it in the face. Woman who thinks The Shawshank Redemption is better than Citizen Kane? Punch her in the face. Yes, Superman will hit a girl.
This post will do nothing to put the Batman/Superman debate to rest. What I do hope is that it has shed some light onto why this blogger thinks Batman is, like, a billion times cooler than Superman. Batman, if you’re out there, Falling Rock has your back.

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Blog

let it be: the album even phil spector couldn’t mess up

Let it Be was the final Beatles album released. It was not, however, the final album they recorded. Abbey Road, a superior album in almost every way, was the Beatles’ farewell to their fans. The final full song on Abbey Road is even called The End. You can’t get more explicit than that. But for reasons of apathy, the Beatles had recorded but never bothered to release the album that would be called Let it Be.

Since the Beatles didn’t want to do it themselves, and since longtime producer George Martin had never been involved (which, I think, hurt his feelings a little bit), the hours of tape were handed to Phil Spector with the hope that he would make an album out of it.

Spector, known for his Wall of Sound approach to recording, wasn’t the best choice for the album. Let it Be was supposed to be a live album: all songs recorded in one take, with no overdubs or studio trickery. Spector had become famous for doing the exact opposite. He’d record a piano playing a certain part, then have that person play the exact same piano part twenty more times so that it sounded like a piano army. The Wall of Sound was an assault to the senses at a time when records were rarely recorded using more than four tracks. Asking Phil Spector to make a stripped-down Beatles album would be like asking the WTO to please think of the poor countries in their trade agreements. They’re just going to get steamrollered.

Spector did just what he always did when making an album. He hired an orchestra and started adding bits to almost all the songs. He did show some restraint on songs like Two of Us and I’ve Got a Feeling, but on the whole the album would never be mistaken for “live.”

Strangely, he included bits of studio chatter between the songs. Normally this would add to the illusion that you’re listening to a live album, but Spector sabotaged himself with the huge orchestrations and intricate arrangements of the songs themselves. When you’re listening to Dig It, a fun jam, it sounds like the four (or five, with Billy Preston) musicians playing together in a room. Then you are jarred by the sound of dozens of musicians playing The Long and Winding Road. Are we in a studio where an entire orchestra can sneak in and set up completely unnoticed? No. We are in the middle of a Phil Spector record.

Let it Be manages to be neither a live album or a completely finished one. In spite of that, there are moments of greatness. No one, not even the Terrorists, will deny Let it Be is a great song. George’s guitar solo on that version of the song (different, I don’t know why, than the single version you hear on the radio) is his greatest solo ever. In I’ve Got a Feeling, hearing John singing his part in the right speaker while Paul’s in the left is just really cool. Two of Us and Get Back are a couple of Paul’s fantastic songs. (I still like Get Back even though it gets played to death on Tucson radio.) Across the Universe is John’s best work here, and I always enjoy George’s Blues pastiche For You Blue.

Taken as a series of singles, Let it Be works. But as an album, it suffers from lack of organization, probably because the people making it never really cared about putting it together right. Throw in one nutjob to produce it, and you’ve got a very good Beatles album instead of one of their best.

It just goes to show how good the Beatles were: even Phil Spector couldn’t totally ruin a Beatles album.

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Blog

BOOMBOX

Before Superbad was a funny movie about high school, Super Bad was an awesome funky song by James Brown. (Probably not a coincidence, considering the funky score of Superbad the movie.)

I was introduced to Super Bad‘s awesomeness in college. Me and my friend Jason worked out in the gym at our small liberal arts college. Yes, when everyone we knew was getting stoned and reading Sappho, Jason and I spent a little time exercising. There were other students at the gym, most of them in varsity sports. That made us an anomaly – average guys lifting weights. It was a little weird to be perceived as athletic. I’m no jock, but if you stood me up next to a dozen of my History major peers I suddenly looked like the epitome of health.

The majority of people in the gym at any given time were townies, which suited us just fine. Everyone kind of did their own thing. Well, everyone except the Boombox Guy.

The Boombox Guy was an African American fellow who wore a headband and wristbands. His workout clothes stand out in my mind because they came straight out of the Seventies. I only wish he had a goatee or sweet moustache, but my memory has him clean shaven. Of course, he never entered the gym without his Boombox.

The gym didn’t have its own sound system, so normally you’d just hear the sounds of people lifting weights up and setting weights down. When the Boombox Guy was there, you got to hear James Brown.

I’m pretty sure it was a Greatest Hits tape because the same handful of songs played over and over. It was great. Soul, or funk, or whatever you want to call it, was absolutely perfect for the gym. And when Super Bad came on, James was right there, pushing me toward greater feats of strength. “Uplifting” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling. I was Superman. A scrawny, redheaded, nearsighted Superman. Yeah.

For some reason they never play the right music in any gym I’ve been since college. I can’t figure out why. Play Motown. Play Stax. Play James Freaking Brown, for chrissakes. Or go the other way and play AC/DC. It isn’t quantum mechanics, it’s workout music. It should make you feel good.

My thanks go out to that guy in Ohio for bringing his boombox. He’s got the feelin’.

Categories
Blog friday robot

friday robots



I think of these guys as cave painting robots. Neolithic robots. When early humans went out to hunt deer, they’d run into these primitive Friday Robots. Then they’d get back home and, over dinner or whatever, they’d say “Hey, that was a pretty cool robot we saw today. We should ask the artist to paint them next time he’s in a cave.”

30,000 years later, here they are online.

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park

Categories
Blog reviews

listening to the beatles remasters

I bought the world’s biggest, most inefficient ipod.josh-beatles2
Just kidding!

The Beatles remasters are out on CD, and this blogger has been listening intently for the past week.

Everybody knows the band: Liam Gallagher on vocals and rhythm guitar, Noel Gallagher on vocals and bass, Liam Gallagher on lead guitar, and Noel Gallagher on the drums. Everybody also (should) know the songs. But what this blogger, and millions of people my age and younger, don’t know is how the Beatles themselves wanted the music to sound.

You see, I’m 29. 22 years ago, the Beatles released their albums on CD. Before that, they were on records and cassette tapes. In order to listen to an album, I had the choice of hearing my parents’ records, a cassette, or the tinny, terribly mastered CDs. Records sounded good but they had been played for the past 30 years or so and sounded a bit worn. Also, you couldn’t play them in the car. Cassettes played just fine in my Dodge Aries but they never sounded good, even in the best of circumstances. And the CDs, like I said, were rushed to market and sounded like it. But no worries, right? Every band was re-releasing their albums in the 90’s. Except, of course, the only band that really matters.

So for my entire life, I’ve never heard the sound the Beatles intended. I heard either worn records (not too bad, but also not portable), cassettes, or the hastily-produced CDs. Mainly it was the CDs.

And so it was with much anticipation that I put on the newly remastered White Album to hear While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Just for comparison, I first put on the version with which I was familiar. Then I popped in the new CD and was amazed, amazed I say, at the clarity of this 40-year-old recording.

I suddenly heard the Beatles themselves. I heard musicians playing the instruments. I could feel the presence of Ringo at the drums, rather than just a drum-sound. I heard the sound of Paul catching his breath in Paperback Writer. I heard John (at least I think that’s John) coughing in a quiet section of Norwegian Wood. Sometimes I can hear them putting down their instruments at the end of a song. The Beatles are closer now, the songs I’ve heard thousands of times more exuberant, more human, and more dear.

The sound quality really makes a difference. Dear Prudence really sounds like the band playing in a room together. It made me wish they could have performed it live. When they sing harmonies I can actually make out the separate voices. The bass is more present, as are the drums, but not overwhelmingly so. The comparative levels of the songs haven’t changed, it’s all more clear. The Beatles no longer play in a room full of gauze. There’s air there.

My earlier trepidation has been removed. The Beatles CDs finally sound as good as the music recorded onto them. Now I’ll get back to my Beatles ipod.josh-beatles

Categories
Falling Rock

Falling Rock National Park