Apr 28, 2020

An introduction



In 2008, I set up this blog as a way to just give my thoughts on various topics.  Sometimes it was serious things that bothered me and other times it would just be a funny video or some cool music I wanted to share.   I don't advertise the blog, aside from my facebook/twitter accounts, relying instead of word of mouth and google searches.

One of the main questions I get about the blog, is what's up with the name?   Searching for Chet Baker?   There's very little Chet Baker on the site.

That's true, but there WAS a method to my madness. lol.   When I was going to set this up, I wanted some name that would be catchy I suppose.  Something that might stand out.  A bunch of blogs that I liked had weird or strange names, and so I wanted something that would be fairly short and memorable.

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Apr 17, 2014

[REVIEW] Dessy Di Lauro - This Is Neo Ragtime




RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS

I've spoken on my blog numerous times about how we, as music fans, tend to put ourselves in boxes.  We limit what we listen to, because we feel that we won't like it, or that's not "real music" or that the music is what older people listen to, not what young people listen to, or any other number of excuses we give.  At the end of the day, though, that's all they are:  excuses.

We're making up excuses to explain why we don't listen to more types of music.  Sometimes, the music just genuinely does nothing for you, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Other times, sadly, race plays into the factoring of why someone may not listen to a genre such as Rap music.  Sometimes the reasoning is sound and understandable, other times not so much.

I bring this up because I discovered an artist recently that just blew me away.  So creative, so original so undeniably cool that I was kind of mad that I had not heard her before.  Her name is Dessy Di Lauro, and she's one of these artists that really need to be seen and heard to be appreciated.  Just telling you what she does, I don't think would do her justice, and as I've tried to explain her music to people before, I think I end up doing more to dissuade them from hearing her than I am helping. Because she's kinda indescribable.

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Mar 30, 2014

[REVIEW] Watson + Holmes Issue #1

8/10 CHET BAKERS
 


Sherlock Holmes & Dr. John Watson are two of literature’s most enduring characters.  They are the subject of numerous books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and have inspired even more characters, either through adaptations into plays, movies and television shows.

The list of actors who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes is very long and distinguished, and includes names such as John Barrymore, Joaquim De Almeida (probably best known as the villainous El Bucho in Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado) Michael Caine, and most recently Robert Downey Jr. in the movies, while Jonny Lee Miller (CBS’ Elementary) and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) portray him on television.
The character of Dr. Gregory House is also inspired by the good Dr. Holmes, with his best friend Dr. James Wilson being the Watson to House’s Holmes. (get it? House? Homes?)

The idea of adapting a famous literary character to other locations, and changing up their attributes to create a  fresh start, so to speak, is fine, and I welcome that.  And the idea of taking historically white and British characters and changing them to African-Americans sounds like a novel take on it, and it could be an interesting venture.

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[REVIEW] The Hood: Change From Within Issue #1


 9/10 CHET BAKERS



Vigilantism.

It definitely has an appeal to many people's base instincts.  Their desire for justice and revenge.   This is evident by the success of TV shows and movies depicting various people who take matters -- and the law -- into their own hands and mete out punishment.  To right wrongs and make the world a better place.

It's a nice sentiment and one that plays on all the right emotional strings.

It's why we liked the show Dexter (before it went off the rails in that ridiculously absurd ending).  We had a guy who was only going after those who were guilty, who had done really bad things.  We, of course, had the benefit of knowing 100% those he was going after were guilty.  With only one or two exceptions, those that Dexter Morgan killed in his time on the show, were horrible people. Pedophiles, child murderers, rapists, etc.  We had the benefit of being all knowing, all seeing as it pertained to their guilt, and so we were able to get behind a sociopathic, psychopathic serial killer because we knew that he was doing good, even if his methods were not.

The real world does not work that way, however, which is why shows like that are deceptive.  In the real world, we can't know that everyone we target is actually guilty.  When ex police officer Christopher Dorner went on a rampage and was killing police officers that he felt had betrayed him and who had done him wrong, there was a percentage of society that were cheering him on and drawing comparisons to the Jason Bourne character from the movies.  His saga tapped into a segment of society that already had a massive distrust of the police (and often for good reason) and so it was easy for them to completely and utterly agree with his motives and methods.

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Mar 25, 2014

[REVIEW] Kristo (Graphic Novel)

 9/10 CHET BAKERS
 


Last year I helped kickstart a graphic novel called "Kristo" by writer Sam Roads & artist Alex Sheikman.  I just happened upon it when looking through the Kickstarter projects on the site, and immediately pledged when I realized it was a re-imagining of The Count of Monte Cristo (my all time favorite story) set in Stalinist Russia.   This was definitely something that I could get behind, and I was thrilled when it was successful.

Recently the copies of the book were sent out, and I got mine and finally had a chance to read it this morning, and so these are my thoughts on the book.

The thing about the Count, is that this story can be remade in virtually any setting, any time, any place.  The themes of betrayal, revenge and hope and redemption are universal, and thus can be universally applied.  There have been numerous takes on this story over the years in film, television and other media.

The pacing of "Kristo" is very quick.  Clocking in at around 65 pages (including appendices, and credits and that type of thing), it is not a slow paced read.  Things happen very quickly, and I think I was surprised by this.  Being as how this is my all time favorite story, I am particularly critical when it comes to interpretations of it.  I absolutely LOVED the 2002 film starring Jim Caviezel (Person of Interest, Passion of the Christ) and Guy Pearce (Memento, LA Confidential).  That movie was brilliant and I think perfectly paced, acted, written, directed, etc.


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Mar 10, 2014

The One With The Bible Twisting, Gospel Perverting "Pastor"



Anyone who has read my blog for longer than a minute knows that while I was raised as Christian, and I still identify myself as such, my faith has wavered a good bit over the years due to way that I perceive my faith has having been hijacked.  You see all these so-called Christians on the news screaming about how God hates Gay people (or sometimes they'll say that He loves them, yet will still condemn them to an eternity having the flesh burned off of them, because they dare love someone of the same gender).

And these people will point to the Bible and single out specific scripture that they claim backs up their assertion that God does not like the LGBT community, or rather He does not like what they do.  They utilize the single most maddening phrase, to me, the whole "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" mantra.  Personally I despise that saying, because I do not believe that it is possible to love someone and yet hate a core aspect of their being that you feel is a sin. 

You cannot believe that homosexuality is a mortal sin that is punishable by having the flesh burned off your body for eternity (or if you're going strict old testament, stoning or whatnot) and yet still claim to love that person.  You cannot believe that you love someone and yet have no bones about condemning them to Hell if they do not change their sexual identity.


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Mar 5, 2014

The One Where ONTRAC May Be Costing Amazon Some "Prime" Customers



UPDATE:  Wednesday, March 5th @ 10:41am.  SEE BOTTOM OF POST TO READ UPDATES.

I've been a member of Amazon Prime for several years now.  I enjoy the shit out of Amazon Prime.  I buy a ton of things from the site whether it's music, movies, video games, household appliances, and whatever else I might see and decide I must have.  I don't want to think of how much I have spent over the years on MP3's alone.

The reason I have Amazon Prime is the shipping perks.  I don't necessarily care about the Instant Streaming perks, although that's nice.  And I have an iPad, so the Kindle Lending thing doesn't apply to me, since I have to do that via an actual Amazon Kindle or Kindle Fire.  So it's the free 2 day shipping, or one day $3.99 shipping that is what attracted me to Amazon's Prime service ($79 a month...for now), and is what has kept me there all these years.

However there is an aspect that it making me rethink whether or not it's worth the time, hassle and various problems that come with it, ESPECIALLY if they decide to up their rates anywhere from $20 to $40 a year.

And that is the fact that one of the shipping services that they use, along with Fed Ex, UPS and USPS is a regional service called "ONTRAC".  ONTRAC is mainly located in the western parts of the United States, and they flat out suck.  There's really no other way to put it.   In the entire time that I've been with Amazon Prime I've had packages delivered by pretty much every delivery service.  By far and away, the worst is without a doubt, ONTRAC.


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Feb 18, 2014

My Response to Bizzle's "Same Love (A Response)"



Today I woke up and found a story online about a Christian rapper named Bizzle, getting death threats over a "response" video he put up to address Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love".  The song, titled, appropriately I suppose, "Same Love (A Response)", pretty much lays out all the problems that that Bizzle had with the song, and it doesn't really take a long time to think about what those issues might be.

So when I first saw the headline I knew exactly what the problem the rapper would have, but I was curious as to who it was.   I don't really listen to Christian hip hop, or Christian music in general.  I did at one time, but I've long had my issues with Christian music, and I've been over this before so you can click here to read my review of Lecrae's album "Rehab" or here to read my review of Sho Baraka's album "Xth" to get my expanded thoughts on it.

So I was intrigued when I realized that I actually did know who it was, as I had featured Bizzle's track "Just Saying" on episode 4 of my indie hip hop podcast.  I enjoyed the track then, and I still do.  And I suppose I was curious as to what he said in this new song of his that would elicit death threats, although to be honest, it doesn't take much to get death threats on the internet these days, and that should not be indicative of an entire group of people as a whole.  The internet is a vicious animal that brings out the absolute worst in people, thanks to relative anonymity.

So after reading the lyrics, I was stunned into silence, getting angrier and frustrated with each line I read. I didn't care for the original Same Love song, although I agree with the message, I thought the song itself was garbage. I did love Mary Lambert's vocals on it though.

I was raised Christian and to some degree I still am, although nowhere near as devout as I used to be.  I'm not Gay, however I consider myself a strong supporter of marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBT community.  And reading what Bizzle was saying was infuriating, although not wholly original as these are pretty much talking points put out by bigots at the Family Research Council or professional bomb throwers such as Bryan Fischer or Tony Perkins.

It was no easier to read though.  And after reading it I realized there was no way I couldn't actually watch this video.  I had to see it because I was thinking maybe these words were wrong, and there was some kind of joke.  He didn't REALLY say this stuff did he?

Alas, he did.


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Feb 16, 2014

The One With My House of Cards Season 2 Thoughts



NOTE:  It should be obvious, but just in case it's not, this will contain MASSIVE spoilers for the Seasons of House of Cards, mostly Season 2.  If you haven't seen any of House of Cards, or you haven't finished Season 2, consider coming back to this post later.

Last year when I watched House of Cards, it took me awhile to get into it.  Not because it was bad or slow or anything like that (it wasn't), but more I have ADD and I tend to get distracted easily, and then I just kept going off to other things.

This year, there was still some of that, but I began watching immediately, seeing the 1st episode soon after they appeared on Netflix, and then I saw the rest over the course of Friday & Saturday, finishing up last night around 10pm.  There were little sections where I paused it and was doing some stuff online, as I use my monitor/TV for both computer use and my PS3/PS4 which I was using for Netflix.

Overall I liked the season very much.  It was so. full. of. treachery. that it was almost a chore to get through some of the episodes.  I mean there were backstabbings, manipulations, double and triple agents, and it just got to the point where I was like "please, just a little happiness!" here folks. That's all I ask.

But this isn't something that ends with everyone happy, singing and dancing through the closing credits.

 

Overall, this was another fantastic season, although there were some cracks in the surface that highlighted some flaws this season, writing wise.  Last season there didn't seem anything, to me, that stood out as "oh come on, what is this crap?" type stuff.  Everything was solid, everything was necessary, no filler I mean.
This year, there just seemed to be moments that really left me scratching my head as to why they went in that direction, particularly with a specific character (more on that later). 

They wrapped up the Peter Russo subplot fairly quickly.  Was kinda surprised how quickly they took care of that, and one thing I thought was interesting was subplots come and go, and they are forgotten.  Aside from maybe five mentions (almost all in the 1st episode) of Peter Russo, it was like he was never even there.  I suppose that could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint.   I mean you don't want them to dwell on things that are no longer of importance (to the storyline), as there are constantly new threats appearing, but at the same time, it is weird to see massive things happen and then on to the next one, so to speak.

There were some truly WTF moments, but not necessarily in bad ways.  Although one specific WTF to the Nth degree comes in involving one of the Underwoods security men.  It's near the end of one of the later episodes, and you know it when you see it.  I have no words.  But true to form, it's never mentioned again.

Easily the biggest WTF moment was near the end of Episode 1 when Frank throws Zoe in front of a moving subway train. I literally yelled out "FUCK!" at around 1:30am in my church run apartment building.  That wasn't my highlight, let me say.


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Feb 11, 2014

The One With The Date Grape Daiquiri

Image courtesy of The Inlander


I have decided to throw this out there for those who are inexplicably supporting The Spokane Downtown Daiquiri Factory in their decision to name a drink at their new establishment, "The Date Grape Kool Aid".  Perhaps this is a fool's errand, in thinking that I would get a rational response, however being that I live in Spokane, and it's kind of frustrating to have the name of the city I live in constantly being associated with these people, I feel like I had to at least try to reach out and figure out just where their heads are at.

I have a question for those who are behind the naming of this drink, Jamie Pendleton the owner of the bar in question, as well as a local radio station, and for those who are still supporting him. 


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Feb 8, 2014

Common live at North Sea Jazz Festival ("BE" Tour) 2005




This here is a fantastic concert! Performed in Den Haag, Netherlands for the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2005 around the time that he dropped his classic album "Be".

Check this out folks, this show is not to be missed. The video and audio quality is excellent! 


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Feb 5, 2014

The One Where George Zimmerman Wins Again



So by now, I'm sure, everyone has heard about the proposed "Celebrity Boxing" match that has been allegedly set up between child killer George Zimmerman and rapper DMX.  The fact that it was announced, on what would have been the week of Trayvon Martin's 19th Birthday, I'm SURE was just a coincidence.  On that very fact alone, this should have been dismissed by anyone with a conscience.

I'll be honest I've had mixed feelings about this whole thing from the jump.  On the one hand, like many, my initial thoughts were that this was awesome.  That there was going to be someone to step in and give George the beats.  That Zimmerman would finally, if in some fashion, pay for what he did.  For what a jury inexplicably couldn't do: mete out Justice.

However, that doesn't hold water.  This isn't Justice.  Justice isn't a man gets to live the rest of his life in freedom outside prison walls, while his victim's family gets to watch as he milks his 15 minutes way past the deadline.  Justice isn't a man profiting off of his heinous crime, completely tone-deaf (or uncaring) how he comes off.


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Jan 29, 2014

[REVIEW] @Gangstagrass - Broken Hearts & Stolen Money

RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS

About five years ago when the FX series "Justified" premiered, I was first exposed to the music of Gangstagrass.  I had been anticipating the show for awhile, as it was based on characters from the mind of Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown).  Originally titled "Lawman", before being changed to Justified because of an identically titled show from Steven Seagal, the show's theme song was a mixture of hip hop and country/bluegrass.

As anyone who knows me knows, I really dig cross genre music.  Whether it's Hidden Beach Records "Unwrapped" releases which is a melding of Hip Hop and Live Jazz, or Apocalyptica, which is Heavy Metal and Classical, I like creativity. I like the pushing of the boundaries, the blowing up of the box that some artists find themselves trapped within.

Purists may scoff, but there's something kind of genuine about a group like Gangstagrass, an ever evolving collective.  Each album features some old standbys, so to speak, in the way of artists that are longtime collaborators, however they also will often feature brand new collaborators, who will figure into the Gangstagrass ecosystem going forward.


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Jan 18, 2014

The One Where Being Homeless Makes You A Target



When I was homeless, living on the street for several years during the 90's, it was a shock to the system, so to speak.  Nothing really prepared me for it, and it sort of happened all hurried like.  There was no slow build up to it, where it's like "Well first of the month comes, and I don't have the rent money or anywhere to go, so let me see if the shelter will have a spot."  More to the point of one day I had a place, the next day I didn't.  No warning, no hints, nothing.

And for a lot of people that is their exact story.  Nothing prepared them for it, and unfortunately not everyone makes it out of that situation.  I consider myself extremely lucky that I found myself in a city I had never been in before and met people who helped me get back on my feet.

When you are homeless there are certain things you have to get used to.  There's no guide to being homeless, that I am aware of.  There's no handy pamphlet or book that will ease you in and warn you what you need to watch out for.   You are thrust into an uncaring scenario where you are viewed as something other than human.

You are, as Fox News would call you, a "Taker".  In many people's eyes, you serve no legitimate purpose as it relates to society.  You are to be avoided.  Stepped over on the way to work, never looked in the eyes.  Ignored and made to feel that you don't exist.

And that is if you are lucky.

The alternatives could be you are singled out and targeted for the whimsical fancies of the sociopathic in our society.  Whether those sociopaths be high school kids out getting their kicks by rolling a homeless person, grown up budding entrepreneurs who will often pay homeless addicts $20 to beat the shit out of each other, so they can film it for their own amusement (and sale on the internet), or you will have the truly psychotics that will not only beat you, but set you on fire and watch you die in front of them, all while they laugh.

Now this isn't something that is happening to every homeless person, of course, but it is something that happens.  There are many documented cases of this happening, and it seems every month we see another instance of this.

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Jan 11, 2014

The One With The Bounty on Virginity



I was online today and stumbled across a video of a rapper named Aye Verb being interviewed, and he offered a fairly strange thing:  A bounty on the virginity of a female rapper named Jaz. His point, if you can call it that, seemed to be that she had the potential to be a phenomenal rapper on the level of Jay Z, but not until someone had sex with her.  Once a man had sex with her, then she'd be a real woman with real stories to tell, apparently.   Below is a snippet of transcript along with the video interview:

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Jan 5, 2014

The One Where Hip Hop Makes History



February 17th 2014.  Mark that date down on your calendars, or perhaps more appropriately in our age of technology, in your phones or tablets.  This is the day in which Hip Hop will have achieved, arguably, its greatest accomplishment.  And that's saying a lot, considering all that Hip Hop has done over the years.

On February 17th when Jimmy Fallon becomes the new host of NBC's The Tonight Show, the venerable live Hip Hop collective, the Legendary Roots Crew will come along with him as the official house band.

Seriously, how freaking cool is that?

As someone that grew up listening to hip hop and who loves Hip Hop in general and The Roots specifically, this is a momentous occasion on a level I'm not sure many properly understand.  Hip Hop is officially a part of one of NBC's Flagship shows.   This is major, folks.

The cache that comes with being affiliated with the Roots has given Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a sense of hip cool, while the affiliation with Late Night with Jimmy, has given Hip Hop a huge visible faction to mainstream America.

And some might think that this isn't that big a deal, because Hip Hop has already been taken mainstream, for the most part.  And to a point I would say they were correct, however, this is a different situation altogether.

This is a positive visible dynamic for Hip Hop.  Too often what Hip Hop is portrayed in the Mainstream Media is all of its negative components, and none of its positives.  When Hip Hop is portrayed to the Mainstream, it is done so with ignorance and buffoonery, to put it politely.   It is the lowest common denominator, which leads many out there who are not familiar with Hip Hop to assume that THAT is what Hip Hop is all about.

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Jan 3, 2014

The One Where I Lament The Death of Reading



So, I didn't wanna do it like this.  I didn't wanna start 2014, a brand spanking new year on a negative point, however I am forced into this.  One thing that has kind of irritated me these past years (among many many many things, I assure you) is this inexplicable embracing of anti-intellectualism in this country, especially as it pertains to online interactions and social media.

This is nothing new, as anyone that's been online more than a minute will understand.  That doesn't make it any more frustrating to come across websites that have completely done away with anything that requires you to read more than a paragraph, if that.  And sometimes, that seems to be pushing the limits of what people seem to want.

The latest example of this, or at least I'm just now becoming hip to this site, is "Upworthy", which is a website that essentially posts videos with hyperbolic headlines (and that's it) to get people to spread the links online, thus causing them to go viral.  The headlines are absolutely ridiculous (Even more than my own Friends rip-off structure to my headlines), and are designed to encourage you to watch the videos. Things like "This girl was crying and you'll never believe what this man does next!"   I know, I assume the man slapped her and told her to grow up, right?  No, of course not, it's always some sweet saccharine feel good story, which ironically is what everyone totally believed would happen.



Here's the problem though: I don't want to watch the videos.  I don't want to watch a 6 minute video about something totally amazing someone did, when I don't know thing one about them.  Why can't you just write a paragraph summarizing things, and then if I wanna spend that 6 minutes to see more, I will.  Why this marching towards the elimination of actual reading?

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Nov 9, 2013

[REVIEW] @AdairLion Music Video for "US".



Whoa.

That's my reaction after I watched the brand new video for Adair Lion's song "US" which is taken from his most recent mixtape release "Michael & Me".   When I reviewed the mixtape, which is a tribute to the late Michael Jackson (many of the songs utilizes vocals from some of his tracks), I enjoyed it all, but as I said, the one song that stood out more than any other, and the one that got the most replays from me, was this song.

Adair has long been a politically motivated artist.  He's done songs about LGBT rights/Marriage Equality ("Ben"), The Immigration policies in this country ("Am I Dreaming"), and so this isn't really that shocking from the idea that he would do a song like this.  What WAS something that took me aback was how in your face, confrontational, and provacative the song was.

Lyrics such as the following, give you an idea of the subject matter involved here:

Relax, Gringo, yeah I'm here legally
And it's my right to protest shit peacefully
I speak English & Spanish, two White languages
Stripped of my Native Tongues but I survived the damages
They lied about our history, turned it Disney
And tried to sell the DVD to me for $19.50
...
Too many sheep, not enough rebels
Too many brakes, not enough gas pedals
Too many yes men, not enough defiance
Too many pussies, not enough Pussy Riots.

The song is incredibly emotional and angry and one of the more pointedly aggressive songs that Adair has done in his career so far.   So when he posted up on twitter one day a month ago or so and asked what song from the release he should do a video to next (He had already released videos for "Ben", "Another Part of Me" and "BAMF"), I quickly responded with "US", and he agreed.

In my view it was an obvious choice.  From my perspective, it is the strongest track on the mixtape, and the potential for something truly special and meaningful was seemingly endless.

The video was released this morning.  And my reaction as it ended was: Whoa.

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Oct 30, 2013

REVIEW: Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3)


RATING: 8 OUT OF 10 CHET BAKERS

Is it possible to have a laundry list of complaints about a game, and yet still like it?  Is it possible to have so many faults that you can find with a game and yet you still enjoy the game and would recommend it?  That's the quandary I find myself in with Batman: Arkham Origins, the first offering by WB Games Montreal, which was founded specifically to work on this project.  Rocksteady, which put out the very good Batman: Arkham Asylum and the phenomenal Batman: Arkham City has moved on to work on (reportedly) a PS4 Arkham game, so this one was handed off to WB Montreal.

A lot of what people loved about Arkham City is still here.  The combat system, arguably one of the best in the business, is (mostly) left untouched, and Rocksteady lent WB Montreal the game engine, so it looks and for the most part feels like Arkham City did.  If you liked Arkham City, you should find a lot to enjoy with this.

However there's also a good deal that is problematic, and therein lies my confliction.  I enjoyed the game a lot, but that may be due to my love affair with Arkham City.  I've played that game so many times over the few years it's been released, having beaten it five or six times, and have collected everything in the game (sans combat challenges and Game+ mode) twice including all riddler trophies.

So I came into this game with it as my most anticipated game of the year.  More anticipated than Last of Us (which I still haven't finished), more than Beyond Two Souls, more than Grand Theft Auto V, more than anything.  I pre-ordered it the moment it became available on Amazon (and then cancelled and pre-ordered on the PSN when it became a Day 1 Digital title) and have been driving my friends crazy with my constant "only X amount of months/weeks/days left!".

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Oct 25, 2013

The One Where We Are Complicit In Death



There are all sorts of cliches in sports that conflate what the athletes do with something else.  In the heat of the moment, you will often hear football players talk about "Going to war" or refer to themselves as soldiers or combatants on the gridiron.

In Boxing there is also a cliche that gets thrown out often as hyperbole to amp up the excitement for the upcoming bout, and that is the "I'm willing to die in the ring."  You've heard that time and time again, if you are a boxing fan, most recently by hard hitting brawler Ruslan Provodnikov referring to his matchup against Mike Alvarado this past weekend (more on that later).

Even some who write about the sport succumb to the cheap cliches, such as one that wrote the following two weeks ago in regards to the Timothy Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez tilt:

"A Fight To Die For" is what I call this fight.  That is because Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez are willing to leave it all in the ring come this Saturday. These are guys that are willing to leave it all in the ring, even if it means death.  They love the sport that much.
Now that classy and well thought out prose aside, I think that while you can never really attribute 100% certainty to anything, I'd say probably 98-99% of those saying that, aren't really willing to die in the ring.  They have families and loved ones, they are often young successful fighters who are certainly not truly willing to die in an attempt to win a fight.  It's just something that is said.  It's one of those things, or to use another cliche, "It is what it is."  It's like the other cliche about something being a "life or death struggle", when often it's just a really hard fought tough matchup.

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Sep 28, 2013

The One Where The Almighty Johnsons Ascend To Asgard



For the past three years I've been enthralled by a New Zealand television series called "The Almighty Johnsons".  As someone who lives in America, I enjoy finding shows from all over the globe that interest me.  I've been fortunate to discover a lot of really cool shows over the years from outside of the country, whether it's Canada's "Durham County", "End Game" and "Little Mosque On The Prairie", to Australia's awesome action series "Rush", or the UK's "Hustle" and "Spooks".

Often I have to find ways to see these outside the mainstream, as these shows don't tend to air here in the states, although a few have recently started showing here including the delightful Little Mosque.

The Almighty Johnsons, is a show about four brothers who are reincarnated Norse Gods, with the youngest brother, Axel, being Odin.   The basic premise is that Odin needs to find his wife "Frigg" (The Goddess of Marriage), and if he dies before finding her and performing the ceremony, then all the Gods and all the humans will die.

For the last three seasons we've seen Axel get close, and there have been some red herrings thrown about as to who the Frigg would be revealed as.  My money early on was of the lovely Keisha Castle Hughes, however through a helluva twist, in the season 2 finale, that was not to be.  I won't spoil that for those who are interested in catching the series.

There are certain shows that you watch and you get caught up in thanks to the great writing and acting in it.  Currently the best example of that is Breaking Bad which is about to air it's series finale this weekend.  It's kind of amazing to see the incredible reaction the show has gotten over the years, and how it's built to this crescendo as the finale episodes have aired.  It's truly like nothing I've seen before that I can recall.

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Sep 21, 2013

The One Where The Spider Has Flown Away



I found out tonight that Isamu Jordan, frontman of the Spokane Washington based live hip hop orchestra "The Flying Spiders" committed suicide a few weeks ago.  This hit me hard, because as is the case with many situations dealing with suicide, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  Unknown to me, and many others apparently, Som dealt with depression, and it appears to have gotten the better of him.

I didn't know Som that well.  I was blessed to have interviewed him for this blog early last year, and I reviewed the Flying Spiders' debut EP, and I was fortunate enough to have talked to him some on Facebook over the last year or so, and he came off to me as someone that very intelligent, very much in love with hip hop, and someone who was wanting to make a positive impact.  It was clear, as well, that he was very well loved.  However isn't that always the way it seems to be?

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Aug 31, 2013

The One Where "White Privilege" Reigns Supreme



I've written on here in the past about how there is this thing called "White Privilege" that allows some people (read: White people) to do things and it be acceptable, or more celebrated, while others (read: Black people) are condemned or criticized for it.

Most recently I posited that if Keith Olbermann, who has recently returned to ESPN after he wrecked shop over just about every connection he had there (and virtually everywhere else he has worked), were Black, then there's no way I saw him routinely getting high profile job after high profile job, after the wreckage he left behind at each previous job.  That his Privilege, for lack of a better word, allowed him to get away with that type of thing and continue to score high profile (and high paying) jobs.

With the exception of Mayor Marion Barry, I couldn't really think of any high profile African Americans in the media or politics that could go through some huge storm and then come out of it and continue to score opportunities in their chosen profession.

And while the whole discussion over "White Privilege" is a real thing, I do sometimes think that it is used a bit too liberally, by some when they want to criticize others for differences of opinion, particularly when it comes to issues of race.

Any discussion like this on social media will inevitably devolve to someone throwing out the wonderfully clever and not at all annoying bon mot, "Your Privilege is showing!".  Even if I would have agreed with the person in the bigger picture, that statement makes me want to immediately assume that they are just making something out of nothing.

I don't know why, but I think it's just the grade school level taunt vibe of it that sets my teeth on edge and makes me want to ignore anything else they have to say.  As I said, not that the issue of Privilege is bogus or whatever. I've written about it in the past, and pointed out that I can get away with things as a straight White guy that if I were Black or Gay or a woman, would never get away with.

It's a sad truth in the world we live in today.  That doesn't make that "Your Privilege is showing" comment any less annoying.

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Aug 25, 2013

Exclusive Interview with Hip Hop Artist @AdairLion



On the internet there are hundreds and thousands of indie artists trying to make it. The internet has made the act of getting your music to the masses infinitely easier, and as a result, I think, the quality of the pool of artists has been watered down.   Not all are good, in fact it seems like the majority that I've heard out there are pretty bad.  There are tons of indie artists out there flooding the internet with their horrible .... *shudder*.... horrible music, which perhaps makes it a bit more difficult to find the diamonds in the ruff that should be standing out, if it wasn't for the mountains of garbage covering them up on the internet.

One such diamond, in my opinion, is El Paso, Texas rapper, singer, producer and director Adair Lion. He got a lot of exposure last year when his video for "Ben" was released which, aside from using the vocals from Michael Jackson's song of the same name (leading to a bit of legal issues which you'll read about in the interview), got a lot of press due to his unabashed support of those who are LGBT as well as marriage equality. 

As I looked around on Youtube, it was clear that Adair had been around for a little bit, as he had a good number of music videos out, some of which are dealing with social issues such as Immigration (the track "Am I Dreaming?") and of course LGBT issues ("Ben").  I found myself feeling a kinship with Adair, as our political ideologies seemed to line up, and I was really digging his music.

I also liked the fact that in addition to regularly highlighting the Four Elements of Hip Hop in almost all of his videos, he also regularly puts his peoples in his videos as well.  Loyalty is a very important aspect, at least to me.  If someone is loyal that goes an incredibly long way with me.  There's too little of that in the world these days, as everyone's out for themselves.  So it's good to see regular faces show up in his videos, whether it's Louie who seems to have an unhealthy hatred for cameras that he feels like he has to punch at, or any of the other cast of characters that have shown up repeatedly. 

For awhile now I had heard of his upcoming project "Michael & Me" which would feature, as he put it, "An Album of Singles", all featuring samples of Michael Jackson.  The track "Ben" features, obviously, the early Michael song "Ben", the song "BAMF" features MJ's "Smooth Criminal", and other tracks like "Another Part of Me" and the upcoming single "Black or White" featured samples of those same titled tracks by MJ.

All of the production was done by him, and he also worked overtime doing pretty much everything on the videos as well from directing to editing the videos.  Not often you see an artist basically take almost every role in an album and the music videos on a project him or herself.  That's kind of impressive, I think.

Now the album has finally been released (Read my Review of it here), and it's actually a relief to know it's here.  I enjoyed the album, and as he mentioned it's an "Album of Singles".  So many albums are designed to have three or four singles, and then the rest are simply "Album Tracks".   They know they have a handful that are really solid ones that will (hopefully) connect with the public, so they put those out as singles for radio play.

I recently got with Adair Lion himself to get his thoughts on the "Michael & Me" project, his thoughts on rappers advocating social change, some of his controversial videos, and just what does it mean to be "Above The Notes".


SEARCHING FOR CHET BAKER: I first came to hear of you, as I'm sure more than a few did, from your pro LGBT song "Ben".  Talk about how that song and video came about, if you would.

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Aug 24, 2013

The One Where Delbert Belton's Murder Was Race Related



This past week in the city of Spokane, Washington, where I currently reside, an 88 year old World War II veteran named Delbert Belton, was beaten to death outside of a community center that he went to to play pool.  The two kids who did it, both 16 years old, have been identified.  One has been apprehended and arrested and will be charged as an adult.  The other is being pursued at this time, and hopefully he will be picked up and also arrested and charged.

The shocking violent crime kind of shakes you, particularly because of his age and the fact that he is a Veteran.  I was talking to a friend here in my apartment building about it and I said that I think it struck a nerve with a lot of people because violence against children, women and the elderly are ones that really stand out as abhorrent.  All violence against innocent people is horrible and should not be tolerated.  However like it or not we have a certain reaction when one of those three groups are victimized, regardless of race.

Now I mention the word race, because there are many people who want to label this situation as a "Racially motivated murder".  In their eyes because the kids who committed this heinous act were Black and the victim was White, well then of course it's a racially movitated murder.  I mean, why else would Black kids kill a White person?  And besides, those on "The Left" were all up in arms about George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin, but they're not mad as hell about Delbert Belton or Chris Lane, the Australian Baseball player who was killed by three teens in Oklahoma this past week (two of which were Black, one was White), so that somehow shows a hypocrisy.

However there is no evidence that race played a role in the murder of Delbert Belton, and in fact the police here in Spokane have stated that race was not a factor.  And in the case of Chris Lane, the police there have come out and stated that race was NOT a factor in the murder.

But I believe that the motivation behind people on social media and in the press pushing the idea that those two cases are racially motivated, and attacking the Left for not having the same reaction as to Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman, reside in something else: Hatred of the President in general and hatred of the fact that America's history of racism is being pointed out to them on a regular basis specifically.

Allow me to explain.

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Aug 21, 2013

[REVIEW] @AdairLion - "Michael & Me" 9/10

 RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS

I've been a fan of Adair Lion's for awhile now.  I enjoy his positive music that he puts out, as well as his socially conscious attitudes that he displays in his music.  He's had quite a few tracks over the years that have demonstrated his embracing of social and political issues, whether it's tackling the issue of Immigration and the Dream Act with "Am I Dreaming?" or letting young LGBT kids know that "Gay is Okay" with his viral hit video for the song "Ben".

Those are two things that are important to me when it comes to finding artists that I like.  I don't like ignorant shit.  I don't listen to artists who rap about "Popping Mollys" or getting "Turnt Up".  That doesn't interest me because, in my opinion, it's not saying anything.  Not saying anything positive, anyway.

Adair released his project yesterday after it had been delayed for awhile (Michael & Me was originally slated to come out late 2012), and it proved to be worth the wait.   When I asked him about the album recently, he said that he had envisioned this project as an "Album full of Singles", which I think is appropriate.  Interludes aside, pretty much every track on here I could see being a radio single, as opposed to most albums coming out with a small handful of "radio tracks" and then the others that tend to be average or mediocre.

"Michael & Me", a tribute of sorts to the late great Michael Jackson, features several catchy tracks on here, some inspirational ("Ben"), others that get your head nodding quick ("Just Another Part of Me"), and one especially that is fairly aggressive and pointed in it's criticism of this country's discrimination and racism against Latinos.  That track, which happens to be my favorite track on the album, is "Us" which uses some vocals from Michael Jackson's controversial "They Don't Really Care About Us" in an excellent fashion.

The lyrics are sharp and powerful, and really leaves no doubt as to what Adair's thoughts on the subject is.   Lyrics like the ones below illustrate this point perfectly:

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Aug 15, 2013

The One Where You Have To Have Children



On Twitter today there was an interesting discussion that comedian and founder of This Week in Blackness, Elon James White, was having with a number of his followers, about people that persist in asking "So when are you going to have children?"  You can check out his timeline HERE and read the discussion.

I found this interesting for a number of reasons, but a couple stood out to me.

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The One With Russell Simmons and the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

Image via Twib.Me


So.   Russell Simmons.  Yeah.

You know, I wasn't actually gonna write about this.  I first saw the disgusting post that Russell had linked to (on his own All Def Digital Youtube Channel), which was a "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape", portraying Tubman who has been repeatedly raped by "Massa", turning the tables and blackmailing him into letting her run the Underground Railroad, saying it was the "most hilarious thing I've ever seen" yesterday evening.  And around that time everyone else on twitter was seeing it and were losing their damn minds over it, and rightly so.

A friend of mine saw some tweets I made about it, expressing my outrage and disgust over it, and he jokingly said "I smell a new blog post coming".  But I told him I was going to leave that up to better writers than myself.  And I felt that way for two reasons, although they both sort of intertwine.

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Aug 9, 2013

The One Where Peter Rosenberg Closes His Mind To Picasso Baby



Recently, Hip Hop artist/businessman/business, man/etc released the first video off of his new album Magna Carta/Holy Grail, titled "Picasso Baby".  Directed by Mark Romanek, the video was pretty damn impressive, in my opinion, and it was a highly creative and original video as it relates to hip hop.  The inspiration behind the video, Marina Abromavic's "The Artist Is Present", was definitely in evidence, and the video featured Abromavic herself in a fairly prominent fashion.

Now while I thought the video was brilliant, and it's gotten quite a lot of praise from various people who have seen it, it's also gotten some criticism.  Now some of the criticism is valid and it's basically summed up by saying "ehh, don't like the song, visuals, etc", however a lot of the criticism I've seen falls into one of two categories.  First category it's the people who just don't like Jay Z and won't like anything he puts out, or at least they refuse to acknowledge that they do.  You can't really do anything with those people, so I'll just ignore them for the time being.

The second category of people who don't seem to like this is for a pretty stupid reason, in my opinion, and that is that Jay is "selling out" by surrounding himself with "White people and hipsters".  Their argument appears to be that unless Jay is throwing up his middle finger to "The Man" and throwing verbal bombs against the White establishment, then he's "selling out". It's either "Pro Black" or somehow it's assimilation.

And while I completely and unequivocally dismiss those people and feel their opinions on the situation are inconsequential, I think it DOES illustrate the problem that Hot97 Hip Hop DJ Peter Rosenberg has with it.  Not that I think Peter Rosenberg hates Jay affiliating with White people or anything like that, I think it's more of a narrow viewpoint and that Rosenberg has boxed himself into certain space creatively, and that unless a hip hop artist ALSO boxes themselves into a certain area creatively, then Rosenberg has no use for them. 

That's the thought I had when I watched Rosenberg's "Realness" rant today in which he "Said Goodbye" to Jay Z because he couldn't relate to Jay's video.  Which in and of itself isn't that problematic.  No one says you have to accept everything someone does, but it was the manner in which he did it that kind of set off some alarm bells, and I think exposed his ignorance when it comes to thinking outside of the box.

First, take some time to watch Jay Z's performance art piece "Picasso Baby", and then below that is Rosenberg's take on it.

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Aug 7, 2013

The One With Deadspin's Sourcing Policy, Or Lack Thereof


Image Courtesy of PlaystationLifestyle.Net

Recently the gossip tabloid rag website Gawker came under fire over a piece by one of their staff writers, Cord Jefferson, dealing with the idea of a "White Culture of Violence".  This piece was in response to the whole kerfuffle in the media about how Black people have a "Culture of Violence" and as an extension to that that Black people don't care about "Black on Black Violence" and that their outrage at the George Zimmerman verdict was somehow hypocritical.

Some people pointed out that Jefferson's piece shared some similarities to a series of tweets written by Twitter user @TheWayOfTheId, and storified by Imani Gandi aka @AngryBlackLady.  When that was pointing out to Gawker, their response was simply, "Bullshit."

Now, a few things before I go on.  First of all, this is Gawker.  I don't view them as anything other than a slightly (barely) higher level of scum than TMZ or Mediatakeout.    They're the source for an indepth look into the ranking of protective arm slings worn by Mariah Carey, ranked by fabulousness!  It's also one of the favorite sites enjoyed by Sydney Leathers, that wonderfully classy woman that just will not go away now that she's kicked in the porn door due to her becoming famous for having phone sex with a married man.

So I don't expect them to adhere to journalistic standards ethics such as proper sourcing.  That doesn't and shouldn't let them off the hook for when they refuse to source someone properly, but it's Gawker, not The New York Times.

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