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I guess I just like liking things

hh-coverThe only thing you need to find a passion for history is a good teacher. Everyone now has a good history teacher in Dan Carlin, host of the podcast Hardcore History.

I thought it was a good way to start my posts about podcasts here at zwolanerd with what I think is the pinnacle of the medium. It isn’t that Hardcore History has the high production values of something like Radiolab or 99% Invisible. What makes the show a must-listen is the depth each topic is given, every perspective is explored. Carlin has an excellent talent to contextualize historical events in modern terms.

There are two series in the podcast’s run that can give you a good idea of what makes it so special. The first is Carlin’s examination of the Mongols, and what made their empire such a unique case in history. Not only do you get the battle-by-battle details, you get some in depth takes on the way the Mongols affected the cities they sacked. The whole series is about nine hours long you can grab the first episode here.

The other is the series on World War I. It’s called Blueprint for Armageddon, it brings a complex war into perspective. Though the war cast a long shadow, World War I is often given short shrift in history classes.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that the war doesn’t have as clear a moral component of World War II. Carlin takes the complexity of the era before and during the run up to the war and presents it clearly and plainly. He does a great job of showing how this war transitioned the world from the Colonial to the Modern era, and how it changed the place of those powers in the world. That one’s an even longer series. The six episodes clock in at 25 hours. You can grab the first episode of that here.

You aren’t adding these four or five hour epic podcasts to your weekly time budget. Hardcore History only comes out every ninety days or so. The shorter episodes do come a little quicker. As episodes fall off of the RSS feed the become available on iTunes or Carlin’s site to purchase.

If you have even a passing interest in History, you need to start listening to Hardcore History. Carlin is a unique voice who attempts to examine multiple perspectives, both the big historical figures and the way every day people coped. This is a show that I always listen to the new episode as soon as it comes out.


He can't believe it's not butter

He can’t believe it’s not butter

You’re jokin’, you’re jokin’,
I can’t believe my eyes
You’re jokin’ me, you gotta be –
This can’t be the right guy!

-Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, summing up most folk’s reaction to the most recent picture of Jared Leto as the Joker

“Why does he have tattoos??”

“What’s with the caps on his teeth??”

“One purple glove?!?”

Here’s the thing I’ve learned in my 43 years on Earth: people gripe. About everything. All the time.

You might not be old enough to remember, but in 1988/89, people griped a lot about Michael Keaton playing Batman. Conversely, most people thought George Clooney would be a great Batman. Then people were worried about Christian Bale being Batman. And then people griped a lot about Heath Ledger being the Joker. That last one is the hardest to imagine now, years later, but it happened.

So you’ll forgive me if I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about this most current Joker. Is it necessarily my thing? Not really (particularly his “Damaged” forehead tattoo… I think his pallor and the green hair maybe give hints in that direction?). I don’t really understand teeth grills/caps in general, either, another sign of my age, I suspect.

To be honest, I don’t really get how this Suicide Squad movie is going to go, anyway. If I understand the concept correctly, the government has put together a team of psycho criminals to do dangerous jobs so they earn… what, reduced sentences? A) I don’t want the Joker to have a reduced sentence. Dude kills people for chuckles, remember? B) He escapes all the time, anyway.


So, yeah, I’ll hold off on judgment until I’ve seen the movie. I’m guessing it’ll be fine.


freddyvsjasonI have seen 67 of the 422 movies released in 2003, and I couldn’t make this list any shorter than 20. Just couldn’t bring myself to do it, sorry. So you get an extended list today (but no honorable/special mentions).

Here are my favorites from 2003:

20. Final Destination 2 – My favorite of the series (is it weird that I have a favorite from this series?) and includes the best movie death(s) sequence of all time so far: the air bag->cigarette->gas->barbed wire fence one.

19. Identity – John Cusack and a whoooooooooooole lot of rain.

18. Hulk – The swirling colors “fight” at the end and the crazy dad aren’t the best, but there’s a lot of really good Hulk stuff in this movie.

17. School of Rock – This movie honestly gave me an appreciation for classic rock.

16. Elf – This movie would have ranked higher before I had to see it 850 times.

15. The Matrix Reloaded\The Matrix Revolutions\The Animatrix – Yes, this is cheating a little, but without The Animatrix the other two get bumped way down, so they should be thankful and shut their mouths.

14. Open Range – One of my top five favorite Westerns. The main shoot-out had what I can only describe as a “real feel” to it. Believable.

13. Daredevil – People give this one a lot of grief, but I’ve always liked it, particularly the Director’s Cut. I still haven’t watched the new TV show, if you can believe. I plan to, I just haven’t yet.

12. Freddy vs. Jason – This movie was better than it had any right to be.

11. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – It’s hard to remember amidst the haze of the sequels, but this first one is pretty good.

10. Big Fish – I feel like I don’t completely understand this movie, but I still like the feel and look of it.

9. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – T1 and T2 stand as two of the all-time greats, but I really like the twist they put on the Terminator storyline here, making Judgment Day a different thing than they expected. It looks like they’re taking that a few extra steps in Genisys, and I’m looking forward to how that’ll go.

8. A Mighty Wind – I didn’t have much connection to folk music before watching this one, but I’ve always maintained that the best satires teach you about the subject while they’re making fun of it (reference: Portlandia).

7. Lost in Translation – Oh, man, just the feel of this one.

6. Finding Nemo – Another Pixar movie that I was just “meh” on originally, but have grown to really like. That hasn’t happened (nor is it likely to) with Cars.

5. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life – Again, I wish they’d made several more of these with Angelina Jolie.

4. The Rundown – The Rock in his first “on his own” movie (no one counts “The Scorpion King”), and it’s better than you think.

3. Kill Bill Vol. 1 – So many great fights in this movie!

2. X2: X-Men United – So many mutants!

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Most people griped about the multiple endings and I was all “where’s the cleansing of the Shire??”


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It has become frustrating that everything we see isn’t readily available. It used to be if you didn’t watch a show when it was on, you had to hope you’d catch it in reruns eventually. We dealt with it because that’s just how it was. Now, we fir up Netlfix or Hulu or even YouTube to watch something we “missed,” and it seems like everything should be available like that.

Currently I am bummed that this “not being able to get everything” nonsense apples to this shirt:


And don’t even try to go to Computron Products, because you will be sorely disappointed.

(Thanks to bd for the tip on this shirt)


Batman is my favorite super hero. I was even forgiving of … well, let’s not go there. I have been reading and watching Batman related media for well over 40-some years. It is with this bias and experience I wish to write today.

Like many of the trailers for upcoming movies, the one for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice has the internet in a tizzy. When Ben Affleck was announced as Bruce Wayne, many thought it was a sign the film would be a disaster. I was always of the opinion to hold off judgment in that regard having learned my lesson with Michael Keaton. Instead I wanted to wait and see what the film would look like.

I have already made my thoughts known on Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel. My opinions of that film have not changed. We got our first look at the follow-up recently and, well, here are some more of my thoughts.

This film is being released three years after Man Of Steel. I like how it is giving us a Batman that isn’t in need of (yet another) origin, but has him already established, older, a veteran.

But what has been going on during those three years? Is this the same Bruce Wayne that hung up his cowl at the end of the Christopher Nolan trilogy? What has Superman been doing? Who has he been fighting?

I like the idea of exploring Superman as a god, which this trailer alludes to. There appears to be a backlash, which is fine, but in the three years between Man Of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice what has been going on? How did we get to this point? There is going to have to be a lot of exposition which usually doesn’t bode well for superhero films.

And the look. I dislike desaturated colors. I get that there’s an artistic statement to be made with the lack of colors, but it isn’t realistic and takes me out of the story. Using a thematic color palate is fine but to go in during post-production or whatever and mute the colors feels… false.

At about the 1:34 mark we see Batman on top of a building holding what looks like a sniper rifle. I assume this is going to be some sort of weapon to use against Superman. Kryptonite bullet to slow him down? Am I the only one who doesn’t like that implication of Batman using a gun? Yes, early on in the first comics he did use a handgun, but that went away quickly. The generally accepted mythos is Batman doesn’t like guns because that is how his parents were murdered.

Immmediately after this we see the “glowing eyes batsuit armor” which is cool.

I am not a fan of the overly gravelly voice that Christopher Nolan had Christian Bale use in his Batman trilogy, and it appears to be making a return here. A little disappointing. I’m not expecting “happy go-lucky” Adam West delivery, but something less… well, somebody get him a lozenge.

Final impression of the trailer?


Look, I may be overly critical. This is, after all, just a trailer and not necessarily representative of the final film which comes out next year. I am holding final judgment until I see the film. I am just tempering my expectations now.

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