Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wake up and smell the castles

I have struggled since the beginning of this blog to formulate the right words to discuss the topic at hand. While i mulled and considered that space was filled with words and pictures about casteles. To my chagrin there was a problem with all of the discussion about castles. While points were vigorously debates I couldnt quite figure out what the problem was. Then I realized...all of the castles lived firmly across the border from the far outpost of crazytown we generally inhabit and existed in fantasy land. So here as follows are the top 5 REAL castles. Thats right, these ones exist, no b.s. these castles are not a series of 0111000111 001 00111 but they are legit. Here we go.

1. The Forbidden City: Beijing China

First of all this is more than a castle, this is the most badass place you could inhabit. Emperor Puyi was a captive within the walls of the forbidden city of over 15 years and he didnt even care the place was so big. To start with, what is more forbidding as an entrance way than a giant picture of chairman Mao. Also I like this pick as number one because it takes the traditional idea of castle, puts it on its head and then asks for 300 yuan for the traditional chinese foot massage it just gave you. The only thing i would change about the place is that its army of Eunichs there to serve the emperor, well they make me uncomfortable.


2. The Alahambra: Granada Spain,
This place is both incredible and incredibly different than the forbidden city. This fortress if mostly stone as opposed the wooden architecture of the forbidden city. But the castle is really known for its intricate stone work.


Now whats also sweet about this place is that not only is it built by the Moores (or muslim people from north africa). It was built by people who were like, um i dont really care that we dont live here im building a castle...and you get out. In a nutshell this place makes old crumbling british castles look like a pile of loose stone they took off Hadrians wall glued together with mud. need more proof?


3. Mont Saint Michel: France

Neil mentioned this castle in passing... but passing isnt good enough for this one. As neil mentioned its on multiple levels surrounded by tidal mud flats. Its literally built on a mountain that sticks out of the sea. There is only one narrow strip of land to this place. Imagine surveying the seas off the norman coast of france from the top of this place. Its just sweet. Better yet this island repelled the brits multiple times during the 100 years war.


4. Chatau de Chillon: Montreux Switzerland

Location Location Location. Look at this place. If that romantic jerk lord byron loved it, who wont? Its not in use now like the next pick is but, looks like a sweet place to kick back after the Montreux Jazz festival.


5. Windsor Caslte, Birkshire county England

If the Royal family loves it so will you. This place is huge, and if you love intricate paneled interiors that would make a wealthy victorian woman swoon you got it here. while its defenses may be questionable (this seems to be an important issue to some though im not planning on waging any war unless it be ideological) im sure it will be all right seeing the william the conquerer never lost the place. This place also has some sweet guards with awesome hats, we should get some of those dudes.



Other castles worth note:

No i will not mention mad king ludwig's caslte that the disney castle is based on, way too cliche.

And there you have it...reality fights back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Can I Just Say that I just finished BSG. Thought you boys would like to know...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas FORUM (Double Inaugral Post Post)

I need some help coming up with good and cheap holiday gifts. I have a few ideas myself and here they are:

Homemade Calendars: "Men of the Bates Watchtower," is the first idea that comes to mind. Each of us strapping young fellas gets a month (team poses allowed of course!) to do with what we will, as long as it is bawdy and irreverent. If you are down, please email me (markrichardandrews@gmail.com) a suggestive picture of yourself naked, but strategically covered with an object reminiscent of yourself, or perhaps a statement making pose and concealing object double whammy combo. This gift is cheap to make and makes a great gift for grandparents, parents, siblings, and potential lovers. Also great for fundraisers at girl scout troop events and church auctions. With the number of friendscestual couples we have in our ranks we could probably make a couples calendar (those unpaired just pick partner), or the women could challenge with a "Naughty Watchtower Girls"  response and we could host a poll for the winner. I'll try posting a couple poses of my own soon to give everyone some ideas.

Christmas/Holiday/Hinjew Cards: Families love to have pictures of you with your friends, roommates, pets, delivery men, etc. The holidays are the perfect time to put together a mass produced card to send out to everyone who marks the years with photo portraits of family members in ugly sweaters around the hearth. This is not really a gift idea but a great opportunity to put together an awkward picture of you and your friends posing in such a way as to raise slight doubts as to the authenticity of your motives. This holiday season make your parents uncomfortable with that lingering hand on your buddy's upper thigh, or a lustful look at your friend's girlfriend.
Please help me out by posting some other ideas. Thanks so much. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Trilogy Tournament

Last week Joe and I had an epic conversation about which trilogy we thought was better -- Indiana Jones or Star Wars.


The conversation was pretty solid, led to some interesting arguments and has eventually led to the obvious question...

"What exactly is the best trilogy of all time."


It has been a question that has been brought up by many, but rarely given a satisfying answer. It is a question that has puzzled millions and has brought countries to the brink of epic war.

Of course, the only official way to settle this is to use a Sweet 16 bracket so that we can analyze 16 different trilogies on a match-up by match-up basis.


I have spoken to a few of you about this, but here is how we think it could work:

Every week we will randomly assign folks to a different trilogy in a specific matchup. That person will be responsible for submitting a brief, but POTENT argument as to why that trilogy is indeed better than the movie they are matched up against. Once both arguments are submitted they shall be posted onto the blog. We will then set up a poll so we can see how the arguments measure up. Note I said "Arguments" not "Trilogies". That's right, you will be responsible for the fate of the trilogy.


In order to keep this relatively organized we will be setting up "deadlines" in order to keep this thing moving week-to-week.

Well, without further ado, below is the bracket:

Now, invariably, I am sure some of you will take issues with this. You may have a specific trilogy in mind that you think belongs in the tournament. No worries! Just put your trilogy in the comments below. If folks have certain strong opinions about including some movies over others we'll make the required alterations

So, check it out, comment, and get prepared for the greatest debate of your lives.

Addendum: I realize that I misprinted in one of the bracket spots. It should say HP III - V.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In a break from the discussion of star wars, a shout out

Hi Party People.
I am currently on a plane (YES they now have wifi..so awesome) on my way home to Atlanta for thanksgiving and I'm bored and miss bates like whoa. I hope everyone scattered through out the country (and world, mark) are doing great and getting excited for one of the best holidays ever. The one where you basically get to eat as much as you want, drink as much wine as you'd like, basically just enjoy all that is great and terrible about your family.

Plus it's my Birthday. And Harry Potter came out this weekend.

But in the fashion of blogs of the past and because I really have no opinion on Star Wars, here is a little update on my rather ordinary life.

DC is still pretty great, though election fever is over now (unfortunate for the hilariously weird political commercials) everyone here has turned toward 2012 and whether Palin is going to run or not (Oh please run, PLEASE). I sometimes forget that in place other than DC no one really cares or follows these things as rabidly...Anyway, back to my life, I'm still working at GMF which is pretty much terrible except for the random event where i get to be in the same room as someone ridiculous like Madeline Albright (yup totally happened and I may have stolen her pen...on purpose..) Since they refuse to pay me, I am now also a sandwich artist. A very prestigious art form that is in extreme demand, don't judge. SO I'm officially working 2 jobs, something that actually is as tiring as they always show in the movies (12 hour days SUCK, just saying).

As for everything else, it's pretty good. I'm trying to figure out a way we can all get together before Maddie's wedding, because that is just way to far away....any suggestions?

Miss you all tons, and COME TO DC TO VISIT ME, I'm super fun!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace isn't that bad...

Part 2: Why it succeeds

Back to the Delorean...

I left the theater sort of dumbfounded. Didn't really know what to say, neither did Kalen or Kyle. I remember getting in the car and my mom asking us how the movie was. We all offered a unified shrug. "Meh."

If you had told me that finally seeing the revival of the star wars series would muster such an unenthusiastic response I would have told you to flip it and get with it. But instead, it is I who was required to flip it.

My relationship with the movie remained unchanged for some time. I joined in on the endless Lucas bashing which was only amplified by the hilariously bad "Attack of the Clones." It was only until an interesting weekend at the Larkin residence where my view on things changed.

We had gathered (as we had done countless times before) with little or no plan on what we were going to do. I opened up my backpack and found a DVD copy of The Phantom Menace that was rented from Video Signals and to this point had gone unwatched. We all briefly laid into the film, recalling how shitty it was before Dave mentioned that he had never seen it. "Well, no time like the present"

Throughout the movie I remember just a pleasant sense of enjoyment. Occasionally we would all comment on not remembering particular scenes or even shouting out "whoa, badass shit." This one night changed my entire opinion on this movie. And, now, I shall lay out the specifics as to why this film ain't so bad.

1. The Droids

One of the most underrated aspects of the 1st movie is the explained origin of one of the most essential pairings to ever grace the silver screen -- 3PO and R2D2.

In the interest of time I'll speak to one specific scene one scene in episode 1 displays a moment of such perfect subtlety that should have been present throughout this movie. At one point in the movie our heroes attempt to leave the imprisoned planet of Naboo and escape the orbiting Trade Federation armada. During the escape, the ship is damaged terribly and several droids are sent on a space walk to fix the ship. As the escape perilously continues individual droids are popped off the ship and tumble to their doom. All but one. R2D2 manages not only to survive the attack, but prove Neil's 1st Law of Droid Mechanics: "Not all droids are created equal."

It was a subtle hint that maybe R2 was special. It was something that hit me deep. And something that should have happened a bit more often in the original triology.

2. The Pod Race

Another significant aspect of the movie that gets better with time. This was the main action set piece of this movie and, in my opinion, it delivered. It is one of the only scenes that Lucas delivered on his CGI promise. The CGI flowed brilliantly as pods blistered over the hot dunes of the tatooine desert sea. With additional viewings this scene continues to improve. Several years later the scene has not aged, but has only impressed further and further. The choice to give the viewers 3 laps of the same track was a subtle, yet brave one by Lucas. He could have decided to make it 1 single, long lap that showed off some more Banthas a la the special edition of episode 1, yet he chose restraint.

He allowed the viewers to embrace the scenery and truly get into the scene. It gave us an opportunity to finally understand what Obi-Wan meant when he said that Luke's father was "the greatest pilot in the galaxy." After that scene, how could you think different?

And honestly, this sealed the deal for me:

3. Darth Maul

This guy worked. One of the most interesting considerations of this dude is that he barely said a word. Yet... can one possibly suggest that he wasn't a total badass? True, one can make the case that Maul's lack of verbage makes him another example of Lucas' worthless character developments. I, however, beg to differ.

What exactly did you want the guy to say? Did you want him to spew stupid bullshit during his attacks on Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon? Seriously, this was finally a villain who didn't waste his breath telling his enemies exactly what he was going to do to them. Instead he just did it (seriously ask what remains of Qui-Gon Jin's epigastrium). He was a character who just oozed what makes one evil.
SO! These are just some of the reasons as to why this movie works in the end. Surely, it should have been better. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, it's important to maintain perspective in matters such as this. Personally, I find The Phantom Menace an enjoyable flick that has gotten better with additional viewings. I suggest you give yourself a chance and check it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Retort to The Fictional Castles List

So I have to agree with Neil's best fictional castles list. But that is because I am a jadded adult, deserted from the heart of his youth. I am Ed Norton in the beginning of Fight Club, Tom Hanks in Big when he is trying to be an adult businessman, and Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly at the Catalinia Wine Mixer. ______________

Castles are the essence of childhood made tangible. As Billy Batson is to Captain Marvel, so is the-two-chairs-with-a-sheet-over-it-fort to a castle. And to carry forward that analogy, one fateful day, with the discovery of castlemagic, the bates watchtower allegiance brought to the heavens a collective SHAZAM!
But as we go forward, to realize a dream of our yesteryears, we must continue to listen to our inner voice, that high pitched prepubest one. The one without intelligence, reason, or taste; only passion and heart. The one that tells us that the best car in the world is not a 1967 GTO, but actually is a piece of crap airbrushed van with shag carpet and couches inside which the cool 17 year old down the street has. Yes, the smart money is on Hogwart's as the best fictional castle ever. It has it all, hands down. But I submit that a castle is only of worth if it is the fever dream of the past. And Harry Potter came too late in our development for it to have established the foundation of the definition of "castle" for us. So I take us back, to what castles defined "A Castle" as we grew up. And don't take my word for it, let us hear directly from the characters surrounding the castles themselves.
5. Latveria
A Letter From -
Doom MD.

Greetings future peasants. As you should have been taught, I am the shit. I'm dressed like some kid couldn't make up his mind when asked "What would be the coolest things to wear?" "Umm a Suit of Armor!! No, no, A Hoodie!!" Damn right, you got the best of both worlds, my little costermonger. Admit it, up until about 5 years ago, you weren't 100% sure if there really was a Latvaria or not. Check it out on wikipedia, Its fictional but they have it in the map of eastern Europe. It is the dream of every megalomaniacal kid; to have his own nation with his own badass castle. Tell me you don't want to name a capital after yourself, "Joestadl". I have wenches. And alewifes. And milk maids, but I got no cows if you get what I'm saying. This place is the tits. You should totally come. Ok maybe it isn't as great for you as for me. Yes, you will be immediately enslaved. I will take your most beautiful women to use as an uncomfortable mattresses, and your strongest men to slave away in my sugar caves, but....... well, I have no buts. Just check out my travel brochures, and come soon, I'm running out of fat kids to prop my feet up on.


Honorable Mention - To "Castle"
On a Post-It Note from Bobby Fischer

"To Castle" huh? The only castle on your list which is a verb. How dare you sully yourself. Verbs aren't fictional. You think you are so smart because you came up with a "castle" that isn't a castle. Well don't drag my haunted corpse from the grave just for kicks (am I dead, not sure if I watched the whole movie or not. Was Bobby Fischer even in it?). Well this deserves a little payback. I'm going to kick a little glitch in here that accidentally posts a picture from the tab you're checking out now for a break from this....

Oh,, umm........ yeah.... That's something......
So Castling. If chess wasn't impossible enough, it was that mysterious move which you had no idea how to execute, or even have the remotest idea of why you would use it. Except for if you were playing your younger brother (or demented grandmother) and they were about to beat you, so you called "castle" and moved your rook and king anywhere on the board you wanted. Who knows why this is on the list. I'll strike you a deal, it only goes as high as an honorable mention, or I'll share the fart hammer video you're watching right now. Bobby out.

4. Dracula's Castle, A.K.A. Castlevania

A Letter from Count Dracula to His Apostles

So good news is that the vampires are cool again. Loving that. Problem is, the last time this happened in the late 80s and early 90s, it spelled bad news bears for me. Every creepy douche in the valley was driving a stake into me while I was sleeping. I mean even Keanu killed me. I'm pretty sure he just came over from the set of Bill and Ted, without changing his outfit, and slit my throat. Me and Patrick Swayze killed by Officer Traven. Speaking of Patrick Swayze. What was up with that Castlevania guy. This was the only game where the kid playing it despised the hero they were, and only played it to get to me, the cool guy, just to see me turn into a bat. Before kids knew what 'gay' was they were going, "There is something about the Castlevania guy that is like Freddie Mercury, but I'm not sure what". Castlevania was probably the coolest game the NES had. Not necessarily the funniest, but it was just cool to think about, or even just show the case to people. It was the first game to introduce darkness, horror, and suspense. Name one other game that had ominousness catholic crosses at the time. It taught you that Castles were to be feared and that ancient terrors lied within. You learned that castles were only lit by candles, because there is no daytime anywhere near a castle. And these candles are afire for eternity, but a slight breeze from a whip will put them out.
Mine is the double whammy castle. Castlevania was an important enough castle reference, but you also know Dracula's Castle from tons of other references, from Halloween to Bram Stoker's, and even my future bestiality porn Lamb Stroker's Dracula. And to throw another wrench in the mix, it is the only one from both lists with an actual castle in real life which precedes the legend. Yes Camelot and the Disney castles control the reference parts of your mind tied to castles of honor and nobility, but only Dracula's Castle takes up the neurons which will make you stop your march at the base of a castle-topped-mountain, backlit by lighting; and put your head down, take a deep sigh, and go, "shit, this is going to suck so much for me."
That's really all I got, but I leave you will some evidence of the overt sexual confusion of the regrettable Castlevania hero. I mean the cover ass shot should have spelled it out for you.


3. Frank Castle
Pinned to the Chest of an Upside Down Perp
- From Batman

Hello Fanboys. Dark Knight here. That's the Batman who actually speaks like a normal guy and doesn't put on the fake gravely voice like a 12 year old trying to get some prank pizzas delivered to his next door neighbor. I would gladly pay an extra $50 for a bluray with an alternative audio track for when he speaks. Why don't I just speak in a Mexican accent, in that case?
Whoops, put a long string on that kite, huh? Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, Batman speaking. Put a condom over your head, because I'm about to blow your mind. Ready?
Frank Castle is my father. I know I know. I just dropped you in the dark woods, lost without your mama, but don't worry, I'll take your hand and guide you home.
As you know, I am one of the, if not the, favorite characters for the modern fanboy. Any story which includes me, can do no wrong. But I wasn't always like this. I changed only a few years before you met me. About 30 years ago, at the beginning of the 1980s I was like this, on the right here.
And yes, that does say "Watch out for Crazy-Quilt. The Man who stole his eyes" Those were the villains back then; Crazy Quilt. Not to mention the TV show a few years before, which was originally called Fun-Time Prancing Hour, but the network wouldn't actually pay for an hour. Most of you aficionados know the history of the switch to the dark, conflicted vigilante who is the modern batman. Tim Burton made Batman in 1989, which took its' essence from the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns from 1986, which recast batman from campy character to badass. But most of us don't know the history which precedes this.
During the era of the Hero in comics, superheros never used guns, they never sinned, and most of all, they never killed. The Punisher, Frank Castle, made his appearance in 1974 as a hardcore vigilante in Spider-man. He killed in order to clean up the streets, which was unheard of at the time. The writers half ass tried to make him a bad guy. But he turned out to be amazingly popular. Marvel started to throw him in team-up issues regularly whenever they wanted to boost the sales of a series.
At the beginning of the 80s, a new writer took over the Daredevil comic. He wanted to change how we saw comics. Marvel and this new writer saw the popularity of Punisher, so they ran with it, putting him regularly in the Daredevil story line. The writer's future depended on this move. For the first time Frank Castle became a regular character. The 'anti-hero' in comics was created in him. He killed, kidnapped, and beat his way to winning. He wrestled with his morality. He showed depression and anger. Just as an example of how different this character was, look at this cover of a Punisher comic which was occurring around the same time as "Crazy-Quilt" in Batman. Of course the Daredevil comic did amazingly well. The new writer was amazingly successful, and was now seen as the future. He was offered new positions as the head of the most popular comics. He left Marvel for DC, where he took his format and story arc to Batman. As you guessed, the writer was Frank Miller and the new series with the old story was the Dark Knight Returns.
And so I argue, without the Punisher shaping Miller and showcasing his skills, the Batman would still be the goody two shoes of the 70s, and those movies you love, would be on the same path as the modern Superman flicks.

2. Bowser's Castle

From the Wedding Invitations of Mr. and Mrs Thwomp

We offer the blasphemous insinuation that Bowser's Castle is the greatest video game castle of our time. And this is where I must appeal to your earliest experiences and beliefs about castles. I agree that Hyrule Castle is architecturally and ascetically far more impressive than Bower's Castle. I mean look at it. Its basically every other underground stage in the first Mario, but gray. But Hyrule Castle was not in Zelda until the 3rd game, which was in 1992. There is a gap for the castle in gaming before this. I agree, Hyrule perfected the principle, but who created the concept of a video game castle on which Hyrule could be built upon? I submit that it was Bowser's castle.
Take a few seconds to watch the first 30 seconds of this clip. Tell me that your heart doesn't start racing at the first few notes. This is where you learned that a Castle was the ultimate challenge. It is what everything led up to. You learned that this is where you were tested for the last time. For the next 20+ years you would know that every Mario game you played would end here, and you never thought that it was repetitive. It would be like thinking that using a controller for every game was repetitive. You learned that pools of fire automatically kill, ejecting you several feet in the air in the process. You learned that dragons resided at the end of the Castle, even if they looked like turtles. And yes Neil, this is where you learned about a draw bridge, and how quickly an aptly placed axe can spell demise for that bridge and the lizard it supports.
Mario 1, 3, Mario World, Paper Mario, all of the karts, yoshi's island, RPG, etc., etc. From NES to Wii, it has been in every system. It is conceivable that without Bowser's Castle, the typical last level in video games would have been taken from another one of the most popular early nintendo games, such as a dungeon (Legend of Zelda) or a fortress (Mega Man). And I believe we will find out from one of our wise post writers that a fortress is very different than a castle.
As one final test. Close your eyes, and think of every castle you drew when you were a kid. Now look at the top picture from the first Mario. 9 time out of 10 you gave drew the walls with that same brick pattern. And you took that from the castle you knew the best, Bowser's.


1. Castle Grayskull

Note to Self - December 26, 1989

Dear Me in 2010,
This shit isn't funny anymore. This is the second year in a row. Two years, with Castle Greyskull being number 1 through 14 on my Xmas list. There was a huge present under the tree, and I was sure this was my year. I tear it open, but there was no fortress of Eternia, only those beady ursine eyes staring back at me. "A Fucking Teddy Ruxpin!?" I scream, as my sausage fingers grab the neck of the nearest Santa-like representation. "Does this look a joke to you!?" I'm wrestled to the ground and given a mild dose of Haldol which most parents carried with them during this time period for just such an occasion.
Castle Greyskull is what I live for. I have spend the past 700+ days being nice to that putz, Ryan, because he is the only kid in the city with this toy. You have no idea how hard that is. He collects Styrofoam salad bowls in his desk for weeks. Salad bowls, for christ's sake. He smells like onions and has some kind of crust on his upper lip that never goes away. And the douchebag always wants to play with every other toy other than the Castle every time I go over. But it is all worth it for those 5 minutes when he goes to the bathroom and changes his retainer. Experiencing Castle Greyskull is what life was created for. I'm only 3 foot something, so this is the most gigantic toy ever to be created. It is 3 feet tall!! Whole rooms must be used for it. It has it all. Three levels for your action figures,..... skull entrance, and.. it shoots ....cannons at attacking enemies.. (Hold on).. Ok I'm back, I needed to take a puff from my inhaler, I was getting way too excited.
I suspect that life will remain to be unkind by not delivering onto me my lifeblood, so I must solve this injustice myself. I figure by 2010 it will have been enough time for you to have the technology and resources available to execute this plan. Step 1: By now, you are grown up, so you should be a pirate astronaut as planned. Take your hoverboard down to the nearest bank. Withdraw $125, and purchase Mount Greyskull. I'm assuming it is the same price. Step 2: I need you to withdraw another $125 and purchase a time machine, which should be readily available by this time. Step 3. Enter in the date December 27, 1989 and come find me. I will be waiting for you, in my room starting now. And be careful when coming in. I saw Time Cop, so I know that if we bump into each other, we will turn into piles of goo.

P.S. In case you have forgotten the importance of this, let me explain this a little. Castle Greyskull is the quintessential castle of childhood. It costs about $125 in the 1980s, which to a 7 year old is unfathomable. If only my parents were bank robbers or royalty, then I could have one. Castle Greyskull is the unattainable. The dream. What if you could own this? Well if that was possible, well maybe even you could one day own a real castle. Castle Greyskull is a gigantic fortress where your imagination goes wild. Where people jump from the top level to drop kick the villain, claiming victory, as you ride away on a gigantic tiger.
The Castle has it all. Mystical Powers which transform ordinary people into masters of the
universe. It not only has a drawbridge, it has a "Jawbridge". And I'm not making that up. The mouth of the skull opens and closes to make the bridge, which they call the jawbridge. You like moats? Well the moat around the castle is actually an infinite abyss. Try and wrap your head around that.
This is the Castle of your childhood. It was one of the most popular toys for the later half of the 80s. And maybe it may have missed some of you prepubescent boys of the 90s, but the principle remains. Toy castles and homemade forts were what defined what a castle really was for us as kids. And any effort to build or purchase a castle is only just the continuation of a childhood fantasy of capturing the essence of fantasy, fun, strength and protection, friendship, immortality, and adventure.