Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

By: Matthew Kohl
Twitter: @virtuallymatt

The baseball off-season can be fraught with peril for some. Especially if you don’t care for many,
or any, of the winter sports. Baseball fans who aren’t content to follow the free agent game or the trade rumors have a few options to scratch the baseball itch. For example, I like to take a trip through my childhood baseball card collection. My card binder is one of very few things I have left from my youth and it’s the oldest thing I own that I purchased with my own money. It’s interesting to see who I thought was worth putting in the book versus who got clipped into the bike spokes since I only collected cards from players and teams I liked. I didn’t care if they were stars, though many were, and I didn’t care if they played for a rival team. Sometimes a card would get promoted from the box to the binder and sometimes they would get demoted, a practice which accounts for entire pages with only a single card on them in some instances. I don’t change it these days even though the order of cards and grouping of players is ramshackle at best and absolutely maddening when I’m looking for something specific.

Whenever I go through the book, I’m reminded of cards I had that would be worth having today or in the future had I kept them. I didn’t care enough about the players at the time to do so. Allusions of monetary gain be damned as I firmly stand by those edicts that decided what or whom was worth keeping, mysterious as they were. Mariano Rivera’s 1992 Bowman rookie card may disagree with me tossing it aside, but what kid keeps a baseball card featuring some twit standing in khakis and a polo shirt in his collection? Besides, he played for the evil empire. Sometimes though, I get confused as to why I kept something in the book.


“Who in the hell is Mariano Duncan?” That’s usually the first question I ask myself whenever I peruse the book. He’s on the first page. He was a 2B/SS and career .267 hitter who is currently the hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs AA affiliate Tennessee Smokies by the way. I learned that from Wikipedia just today! Even though his career may have been a bit underwhelming, I don’t dare take the card out. For one reason or another an eight year old me thought it belonged in the book and I don’t doubt that reason was a good one. Its placement on the bottom right corner leads me to believe it’s one of the first nine cards I ever put in there. It’s possible it could even be from my very first pack of cards.


I probably kept him because he had good fundamentals.

Another player who I have several cards from that also has a Cubs connection is Pat Listach, though I know why I kept his cards. He was second place to only Kenny Lofton in stolen bases and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. All but one of the cards I have from him are from that season. Coincidentally, he didn’t do much else the rest of his playing career. He’s currently the Cubs third base coach and was voted Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2008 for leading the Iowa Cubs to the postseason. So he has that.


These are great looking cards though.


There are also some strange phenomena that permeate my card binder. One of which I call the “Doc Strawberry Page.” It’s weird that two players who got famous in two different decades that both practically ruined their respective careers through drug use ended up grouped together. I knew about the drug problems they had even as a kid. Maybe I thought if I kept them together, but segregated from the other cards, the other players couldn’t do drugs with them. I really loved Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. I was disappointed to see their careers go downhill for such stupid reasons when they both had such great natural talent. I never really gave up on either of them though. That’s probably why I’m so unforgiving of players today.


Another bit of weirdness is what I like to call the Eric Karros Quartet. I’ve grown to dislike him even more as an adult due to his lackluster commentary but I absolutely hated Karros as a kid. Why I kept any of his crap let alone four of the same card is completely unexplainable. In hindsight though, he looks a lot like my cousin Gary. Maybe I thought he was just moonlighting as a police officer.


Fuck you Eric!

I don’t have a name for this one but probably the strangest thing that appears in my collection is the random presence of a Damon Berryhill card every other page or so. It begins on the tenth page mysteriously adjacent to Mike Scioscia. Then he appears again on the very next sheet next to Gary Gaeti, another player whose inclusion I have no explanation for. This continues on for another 15 pages until the second to last one where a wall dedicated to Ryne Sandberg ends the curse. I don’t really think I liked him as a player and I can’t imagine I would have liked anything about him other than the fact that he was a catcher, but even that’s a sketchy theory. I didn’t even really care for the Cubs too much until later in 1998 or 1999 so it’s weird that I would have so many of his cards let alone put them in my binder. I can’t figure out why they’re so scattered either. Unless somebody else can come up with a reason, I’ll just have to leave this mystery to future generations.


A selection of Berryhills. Maybe I liked his name?



One of the heroes of my youth.

Still, there are some cards that really do deserve to be in my collection. In fact, one of my favorite pages in the book is the Bo Jackson page. I loved everything about Bo Jackson when I was young. I loved him so much I even picked up a Raiders hat when I had no connection whatsoever with football. In fact, Bo Jackson was the reason I began watching football. If it wasn’t for Bo, I would have entirely missed the final years of Joe Montana’s amazing career (another player I idolized as a child) and the best days of Steve Young’s. I was excited as all hell when he came to the White Sox, and now that I really think about it, he was the reason I started paying any attention at all to my local sports teams. Well, he and Mark Grace, who I was never lucky enough to get a card of…

…but whatever.

One of the stranger memories of Bo Jackson was the cartoon with him, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. It was called Pro Stars and it was ridiculous.

Of the stranger memories regarding Bo Jackson was the cartoon with him, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. It was called Pro Stars and it was ridiculous.

Wookie Cookies: All The Flaovor, None Of The Hair

Posted: December 11, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Misc


What it is this cookie?

It’s a “Wookie Cookie.”

It looks like a regular chocolate chip cookie.

Oh no, there’s more to this cookie than meets the eye! There’s a subtle flavor to it that clearly draws it’s inspiration from Kashyyyk culture. I mean look at it, it’s clearly reference 1st era Woo-

Stop bullshitting

Fair enough.


I got my friend a Star Wars cookbook from the Air and Space museum in Washington DC a month ago. This was purely a gag gift. It was clearly intended for little kids as an arts and crafts project they can work on while some poor parent desperately looked to tire their progeny out.

I never thought she would actually make something from the cookbook.

Alas, a gag gift turns itself into real cookies which in turn becomes a fake scouting report on said cookie and the inside joke advances itself to a fairly ridiculous level. At some point this joke will go to far and all parties involved will deeply regret the day I passed up other gag gifts and said, “Hey, you know what would be REALLY funny?”

Anyway. All this will be on the 20-80 scale.


For me there are a few key factors that make a successful cookie.

  • Contents
  • Texture/Chew Factor
  • Concept
  • Presentation


This is essentially a chocolate chip cookie. This is already coming out ahead in my book. I love chocolate chip cookies. It’s perhaps the most basic of cookies, but it’s also the workhorse of the cookie rotation. You can always fall back on the chocolate chip cookie, you can depend on it to eat innings for you, even if it isn’t solid.

This cookie had an interesting approach. My friend used two types of chocolate chips. Sweetened and unsweetened. At first I didn’t like the idea. After thinking about it I started to appreciate the nuance of using two different sweetness levels in one cookie.

Haha just kidding, I still hate the idea.

Grade: 40. Needs milk to play up to average.

Texture/Chew Factor:

I don’t like thin cookies, so this one was already behind the 8 ball. I heard it from a source that the recipe was flawed. The source indicated that the cookies ended up being larger than they looked in the picture and that they thinned out too much even though the proper amount of ingredients was used. I think we can just hang the L on Lucas on this one and move on.

The texture was fine. I was put off at first but it played well. The chew factor was present, surprisingly. The center retained moisture and had a decent feel to it.

Grade: 55. Can play up to a 60/65.


Dude, it’s a fucking Wookie Cookie. I’m only slightly disappointed there wasn’t more gimmick.

Grade: 70


It came in a plastic container topped with aluminium foil.

Grade: 30/80 This has elite potential though. If you got really creative with it you can theoretically have an elite tool here.


60 grade cookie, first division starter, teases with elite potential. Needs to refine the approach to become elite, but the potential is there.

Also, it’s pretty fucking amazing that someone made me any cookies, so that certainly adds a lot to the final grade.

Foreword by Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr.


Critique by Mat Festa

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Castor and Pollux are two friends with conflicting taste in movies. Castor loves mainstream fare while Pollux prefers pretentious art films. A quirky miss matched roommates sitcom is in the works.



POLLUX: That was amazing. I had no idea what to expect when I heard Nolan was making a Batman movie but that was excellent. The level of depth and complexity in the character development, the intricate layout to the structure – going back and fourth through time to show his growth as a person and evolution into becoming Batman simultaneously, and what a cast! Neeson, Watanabe, Oldman, Murphy, and Bale was as pleasant a surprise as Nolan.

CASTOR: I know! And the Joker is going to be in the next one! I’m so excited. I mean this one wasn’t perfect-

P: Yeah, the camera was too close and shaky during some of the fight sequences, but that’s an endemic problem for action movies these days. And that scene where Batman’s holding the guy upside down and threatening him getting a little over the top. Look, we know you’re Batman and you’re hardcore. You don’t need to growl at people. Meh, I’m sure they won’t do that in the next one.

C: What? I was talking about calling him Ra’s al Ghul. It’s pronounced “Raysh.” “RAYSH!”

P: Well, “ra’s al ghul” is Arabic for “the demon’s head” and “rass,” the way they say it in the movie is the Arabic pronunciation and the character was an Arab in the comics so… hey, come to think of it why do they have a Japanese guy in Tibet with an Arabic name?

C: The animated series called him “Raysh.” Dennis O’neil created the character and he pronounces it “Raysh!”

P: Whatever, we’re nitpicking. This was a great film. I can’t wait to see what they do with the next one.

C: Oh man it’s going to be so great!

[Three years of nerdly fawning, discussion, and praise ensue, and then….]


C: Holy sh-

P: Yeah, that was okay.

[Castor glares daggers at Pollux.]

P: …what?

C: This was incredible! It was mind blowing! So much better than Batman Begins. It was one of the best sequels, best movies ever! What could you possibly complain about?!

P: Whoa, ease up there, fanboy. It was a good action movie. It had the same sort of atmosphere of Batman Begins that I loved but the whole movie was paced and edited like an action sequence. Any sort of emotional impact that some of the scenes could have had just get glossed over because it races from one scene to the next. Not to mention all the weird little things that just didn’t make any sense.

C: Oh come on! This was so incredibly written. What didn’t make sense?

P: Okay, how about the fact that Alfred is the prim and proper English butler who has served the Wayne family for generations except for the summer he took off to be a mercenary in Burma?

C: You’re just looking for things to complain about. You can’t deny the amazing performance Ledger gave as the Joker.

P: Oh yeah, he was the saving grace for a lot of the movie. I love how of all the people to play the Joker over the years they’ve each had such a completely unique take on the character. …huh, look Heath Ledger died. That’s a pity.


P: Speaking of villains why was so much of the movie spent on how Batman won’t go all the way and kill the Joker if it comes down to that – the Joker who has murdered who knows how many people, blown up buildings, and been terrorizing the entire city – but he murders Two Face without a second thought?

C: He was pointing a gun at Gordon’s kids!

P: So he couldn’t push the boy out of the way? Or knock the gun out of his hand like he does to criminals all the time? Or just jump in front of the kid since he’s wearing body armor that already stopped a bullet when Two Face was aiming right at him? Come to think of it why was Dent only Two Face for the last 20 minutes of the movie?

C: You’re the one always harping on about the importance of character development. They had to establish who he was to show his tragic descent into becoming Two Face.

P: Yeah, they keep going on and on about how perfect and valiant he is. That he can clean up Gotham and do a better job of fighting crime than Batman without having to be a vigilante. (And we always say “face” twice when talking about him and calling him the “white knight” because Batman is the “dark knight.” Aren’t we a clever little movie.) Then his girlfriend dies so he decides to become a mass murderer?

C: But there was just so much more to this one. May the Movie Gods forgive me for uttering this horribly overused word, but it was EPIC! Batman Begins never had any jaw dropping moments like the truck flipping scene.

P: What was up with that, anyway? Batman hooks a cable onto the front of the truck, drives under it, sprays it with his trusty Bat-Anti-Physics spray and it magically flips over head first.

C: Come on, that was incredible! You can’t tell me you weren’t shocked when you saw that.

P: Yeah I was. Shocked. Surprised. Confused. He didn’t even attach the other end of the cable to anything. I thought Nolan’s whole thing with his take on Batman was “realism.”

C: It was awesome!

P: But it didn’t make any sense! So if in the next movie Batman tosses a stick at the Riddler and his head comes flying off like he whacked him with a broadsword you’ll start cheering in the theater?

C: …Yes.

P: Okay, that would actually be kind of neat, but you know what I mean. Anyway, all I’m saying is that this wasn’t as good a film as Batman Begins. It was an okay action flick with a great antagonist but that’s about it. Oh, but you want to know something else that really bothered me about this one?

C: Not really.

P: Here’s a hint.  **ahem** …WHERE ARE THEY?!!

C: Gah! Don’t do that!

[Four years of ridiculing Christian Bale’s vocal cords, and then….]


P: Well that was a steamy pile of-


P: **Defeated sigh** You’re kidding me, right?

C: This was beyond fantastic! Genre transcending!

P: Holy plot holes, Batman. Where should I even start?

C: How about with how you insist on over analyzing everything and can’t just enjoy a movie?

P: If you want to start on a positive note then it is impressive that Nolan managed to make a movie even worse than Inception. Had to be really embarrassing for Caine, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Murphy, and Cotillard though. Sort of like bumping into someone you know at the VD clinic.

C: What are you talking about? The cast was remarkable! Bane was such a powerful chilling villain.

P: You mean the guy who sounded like he was doing a Prof. Farnsworth impression with a bucket on his head? “Wif no shurwivors!!” What’s so intimidating about a villain who talks like a kitten poster?

C: Bane was the apex, what all of this was leading to. RAYSH al Ghul was the beginning, the ideals which Wayne opposed, everything the lead him to becoming Batman. Then the Joker was the embodiment of chaos, all the madness that was inevitable once someone like the Batman came into being. Now Bane is Batman’s only equal, the strength, cunning, planning, everything that Batman is turned against him!

P: You know who Batman’s most dangerous enemy is? A therapist. One good session of grief counseling and his entire reason to exist will vanish.

C: Bane was the mastermind behind all of this!

P: Right, and remind me what his plan is again.

C: He was finishing what the League of Shadows started in the first movie!

P: Don’t they open the film by saying that all the crime, mob activity, and corruption that was the whole reason they wanted to destroy Gotham is gone? And seriously, what was his plan? First he isolates Gotham, which he can do because apparently Gotham is an island now.

C: They set that up in the first movie!

P: Right, “the narrows,” which they established was the small crime riddled slum that Batman was trying to clean up. Now the entire city – banks, mansions, football stadium, hospitals, everything – is all on that island. Anyway, so he cuts off the city from the rest of the world, makes Bruce Wayne go broke for some reason, releases all the criminals from prison except the Joker who apparently doesn’t exist now-

C: Are you so determined to not like a fun movie that you’re going to attack Nolan’s leaving out mention of the Joker out of respect to Ledger?

P: How is that respectful? This is a mentality that’s become more and more prevalent in recent years. It started with 9/11 after which the media started removing the twin towers from everything. It’d be like if when you were in your 40’s your parents died so you start saying you grew up an orphan. And on the subject of orphans, Robin knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman because the first time he saw Wayne – a man whom he already knew grew up without parents – he could see by looking in his eyes that he grew up without parents? Was this something like the last Harry Potter movies where the screenwriters went out, got drunk, left the script under a table in the bar and had to rewrite the entire movie at the last minute?

C: Want to get back to Bane now, Captain Tangent, or would you like to keep taunting orphans and 9/11 victims?

P: Right, so Bane releases all the criminals that the League of Shadows wanted to get rid of in the first place, arms them with assault rifles, and lets them terrorize the city so he can blow it all up (himself, the woman he loves, and all his henchmen included) with a nuke. Your master tactician hard at work.

C: It was to torture him! He wanted Batman to suffer seeing everything he worked for tear itself apart. That’s why he had him watch the TV in prison.

P: Yes, the “hell on Earth” prison in Fakeistan so mysterious it’s existence is only a legend but sits so close to a city you’d be able to see in the windows of the buildings the second Wayne climbs out of it. Considerate of Bane to put him in a prison with a personal physician and its own built in escape route by the way. At least all the prison scenes gave us another 50 chances to hear the “ketchup ketchup fish fish” chanting because the 90 times prior to that weren’t nearly enough. You know how Zimmer only used the “Batman theme” in Dark Knight twice because he said he didn’t want to have a catchy tune people would leave the theater humming? So glad he changed his mind on that because hearing “KETCHUP KETCHUP FISH FISH” every time Bane came on screen never got annoying at all.


P: And where did Bane get these legions of devout adoring followers? All his brilliant plans just amount to blowing stuff up and his masterful combat skills consist of swinging his arms around like an eight-year-old throwing a dodge ball. But enough about Bane. Let’s talk Catwoman.

C: I am so glad Hathaway didn’t ruin the movie. Man was I worried when she was cast.

P: She gave what would have been the one interesting performance in the whole movie. Would have been nice if there was any point to have her in it. Another wonderful filmmaking innovation from Nolan in recent years: never show with one scene what you could say with long protracted speeches and half a dozen extra characters. It gets so needlessly convoluted that almost every scene she’s in the bulk of the time is spent with other characters rambling off justifications for her to even be there. If they’d just given her a prominent role and let her have the breathing room to act I think it would have been just as memorable performance as Ledger’s Joker. …even thought the writers thought so little of the character that she’s the only person in the whole movie dim enough to not know Wayne is Batman. Come to think of it did they ever even refer to her as “Catwoman?”

C: Get over it. What, are you going to complain that they called it “the Bat” instead of “the Batwing” too?

P: Actually-

C: Dude.

P: Fine, you want to stick to story points? How about the fact that the entire second and third acts of Dark Knight were devoted to trying to find out who Batman really was but in Dark Knight Rises everyone already knows and doesn’t seem to care.

C: Not everyone knew.

P: Gordon, Robin, Bane, Talia/Miranda, but you’re right not everyone knew. All the people who had it handed to them on a silver platter like Catwoman and the police whose job it’s been for the past eight years to figure it out would have had an easier time solving a Rubik’s Cube with oven mitts on.

C: Why do you have to pick everything apart? If you want to overanalyze every last shot of a movie go watch a von Trier film or something. It’s just a simple fun action movie. What’s so wrong with that?

P: There isn’t anything wrong with just pure entertainment flicks but Nolan’s whole intent with Batman, which he carried out so beautifully in the first film, was delving into a truly realistic depiction of a concept as operatic as a superhero, an idea which the Batman title is perfectly suited for. Now everything is goofy, implausible, ridiculously over the top as ever but it still maintains the pretention of being “realistic.” Except now in place of sincere and well-developed characters and plausibility we get Bush quotes and pseudo-political ramblings. It’s like all the 9/11 references in Transformers 3 or the abortion talk in Twilight; as if shoehorning in pathetically trivialized versions of actual social issues will somehow legitimize works that are so inherently silly.

C: What was so ridiculous about this movie?

P: Bane, someone who was so horribly beaten and poorly healed that he needs to be constantly fed painkillers through a facemask, punching through cement walls. One man dangling a string through a sewer grate providing enough food, water, shaving supplies, and laundry detergent to supply hundreds of people trapped underground for months. Gordon being bedridden and hospitalized for months because he fell in the sewer but then getting up and being perfectly fine when it’s narratively convenient. Batman harping on and on about how he won’t take anyone’s life when he’s already killed dozens of people-

C: ONE! One person. He killed Two Face to save Gordon’s kid.

P: Yeah, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghul-

C: He didn’t kill al Ghul. He just left him on the train and-


C: Stick to movies more than five people have seen, please.

P: As I was saying: he’s killed Dent, al Ghul, Watanabe, and all the people trapped in al Ghul/Watanabe’s house when he burned it down. Plus no one seems to care about the murders of the police that he took the blame for to protect Dent’s memory, which was the whole point of the finale of Dark Knight. Everyone thinks he’s just taking the blame for murdering Dent. Of course he’s taking the blame for that! He threw him out a window!

C: Look, the simple fact of the matter is that this was an action movie and provided exactly what action movies should: ACTION! It was fast, exciting, and just fun, and – brace your pretentious brain for this one – that’s what most people go to the movies for! They don’t want to spend their little free time on the weekend away from their tiring, frustrating jobs going to see some depressing drek that you need a masters in ancient literature to understand.

P: And there is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to call something “pretentious” aim it at a silly action flick with more plot holes and goofy characters than a fourteen-year-old’s fan fiction that forces in speeches about morality and politics every third scene, and still claims to be a paragon of “realism” when a billionaire who dresses like a rodent gets into screaming matches with a body builder wearing vacuum cleaner spare parts on his face.

Mat Festa

For the month of July only if you follow my work on Facebook or Twitter you will receive an ebook of Miséréri Nobis, my first graphic novel (a 238 page book) free. All you have to do is ‘like’ or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, email me at, and I will send you the link to download the book.

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

by: Tony Leva

A Leader is Born

As much as I’ve loved what I’ve seen from young Anthony Rizzo both with the bat and with his glove, he really showed me something I didn’t expect from a player of his age and experience.  During a game against the Braves on July 2nd, a ground ball was hit to shortstop Starlin Castro by Dan Uggla.  After fielding the ball, Castro hesitated before throwing over to first base.  Uggla beat the late throw and many, me included, assumed it was just another brain fart/concentration issue for Starlin.  After the Braves were retired, Castro was immediately called over by manager Dale Sveum, presumably for a “keep your head out of your ass” lecture.  He’s gotten them before and I applaud Sveum for doing so.  But this time, there was a wrinkle.

The Riz went right up to Sveum and said it was his fault, that he took too long to get back to the bag.  Uggla is a right-handed hitter and an extreme pull hitter.  The Cubs infielders were swung around in a shift, leaving The Riz playing far off the bag near the hole.  When the grounder was hit, Rizzo was late to break to first, causing the hesitation on Castro’s part.  Now, many young players who made a mistake like that would see that their manager was ready to lay the blame on another.  He could have slipped into the dugout unnoticed, let Castro take the blame from Sveum and the fans who want to blame him for everything, and nobody would have been the wiser.

But The Riz isn’t just any young player.

He did what a leader does….immediately owned the blame.  He didn’t look to pass the buck.  At age 22, The Riz was ready, willing and able to step up like a veteran player, own up to a mistake and accept any consequences that came of it.  Sveum accepted the explanation and I’m sure was impressed at the maturity level of a young rookie, only 22 years old, already looking out for a teammate. You don’t see that in a whole lot of youngsters.  A leadership role is something some need to grow into.  You need a certain level of confidence in yourself to be able to take charge of others in a team sport.  Some are born with it and have always done it.  Jonathan Toews is a perfect example.  The Riz seems to be another.

When the Cubs were winning divisions in 2007 and 08, they didn’t really have a take-charge guy.  The closest they got was a guy like Derrek Lee, who never seemed like a strong personality or someone the other players took their cues from.  Building a winning team involves more than getting good hitters and pitchers.  You need players who can lead and impose a winning attitude upon the entire clubhouse or locker room.  Taking the blame like The Riz did is the type of thing that others notice and admire.  Players with this type of attitude and makeup are what TheoCo are trying to acquire along with talent.  I think they can mark this one in the positive side of the ledger.

The PSU Investigation Report

I’m not going to hammer on this topic.  There is plenty out there online about the release of the Freeh report and the ensuing reactions and emotions.  You can’t escape it.   I’ll therefore try to be brief….

What the Freeh investigation proved was that coach Joe Paterno, PSU president Graham Spanier, PSU vice-president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all actively engaged in a massive cover-up of the activities of Jerry Sandusky.  Four insanely powerful and influential men did nothing to stop a serial rapist from perpetuating his vile activities, even allowing him unrestricted access to on-campus buildings and facilities, accompanied by numerous children (read: victims) for years even after they knew he had been under investigation for abusing children.  This had been suspected, but it’s now been proven.

The PSU program, termed “The Grand Experiment” was built by Paterno was built on a foundation of integrity, honesty and honor.  Paterno preached all of that and the PSU power-that-be embraced it.  It turned out to be a house of cards, built on a foundation of lies.  Integrity?  Please spare me.  Honesty?  Paterno lied to the grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it.  Honor?  Not a chance.  The entirety of PSU has been dishonored by the actions of those four and others like Mike McQueary, who saw Sandusky raping a kid on campus in the showers of the athletic building and did nothing to stop it.

There is no more defending any of those involved.   There is no more trying to justify Paterno’s reporting of the shower incident to his superiors.  There are no more questions about who knew what or when they knew it.  I do have one question though….who fits this definition?

sociopath, noun….a person with a psychopathic personality  whose behavior is anti-social,  often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

There are at least four acceptable answers I can think of here.  I’m sure you can figure them out because they fit them to a T.

Lying Thievery is Alive and Well

I’m not bitching about the recent dispute with Viacom that resulted in DTV dropping the Viacom network’s channels….MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and all their attendant channels, Comedy Central and a bunch of others.  That’s just a couple of fat kids holding their breath over who gets the bigger slice of the 16″ pizza in front of them.  There’s more than enough for both, yet they’re acting like spoiled little assholes.  But I digress….

No, what I’m bitching about is that DTV lied to or misled me from the beginning about what channels they offered, what their DVR capabilities were and the functionality of those DVRs.  I’ve burned thru more anytime minutes on my phone (good thing I have an unlimited plan) with these clowns than Keith Richards blew thru coke in the 70’s.  Well, maybe not.  But the point remains….DTV sucks a big fat hairy cock and my opinion won’t change until they make their service call Sunday and try to set this shit straight.

My money says they still fuck it up.

Mat Festa

Follow my work on Facebook [July only: LIKE my Facebook page and get Miséréri Nobis, my first graphic novel (238 pages) for free], Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Greetings ladies and gentlemen, my dears and darlings. Today for thy enjoyment, enlightenment, edification, and lots of other fancy words that begin with an ‘e’ I offer you a step by step breakdown of what went into the creation of one of my recent artworks, ‘Silhouette #3.’

0. This preliminary step, silly as it may sound, is of vital importance. This is a problem faced by amateurs just starting out and the most seasoned of veteran artists alike. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a blank page. [Blank canvas, paper, etc. For this project i used bristol board.] It does not bite. Do not be afraid of it. WHEN you make mistakes – it is not a question of “if” – you can fix them, paint/draw over them, work them into the piece, or just throw it out and start over. Canvases can be re-stretched. More paper can be bought. [Paper is cheap. Even fancy paper can be cheap.] It happens. Relax and go with it.

1. The reason behind the first step here won’t be immediately apparent. This is an acrylic wash that I sponged on with a rag. Instead of using water to make washes like this I tend to use a high concentration (90%) rubbing alcohol. It has a slightly thinner viscosity – better for leaving a textured pattern – and evaporates much quicker, which dramatically lessens the amount of paper/board buckling.

2. Once the wash was sponged on and dry I began laying down the water colors. Making a painting from water colors alone is very difficult and takes a lot of practice. It is still a medium I am no where near skilled enough to work with. However I love using them to lay down colors, patterns, textures as a component part of a more complex and layered work. With some pieces I do in this manner I’ll just throw the paint down abstractly and let it fall as it may, but going into this one I had the finished composition in mind from the outset so I put the paint down in a specific manner – albeit still loosely. The figure, a solid black silhouette, was going to be centered so I had the yellows, the brightest point, start there and move toward the reds, the darkest, at the edges. This keeps her pronounced and the largest point of focus in the piece.

3. At this point I began the penciling of the figure herself. As you can tell from this my pencils are little more than vague sketches. This is the main reason I didn’t include my preliminary concept sketches in here. Some graphic artists and illustrators will plan everything out in their pencil work before beginning to ink. As for myself once I have the image that I want in mind the pencils serve mainly to orient it all on the page.

4. Inking. As far as graphic design and illustration work goes inking is by far my favorite part and the medium I am most comfortable with. This is also the reason why my pencils are, for the most part, rough and simplistic. All the fine details and nuances of the piece are worked out during the inking itself. The ripples of fabric in her skirt were done with a brush, then the outline of the silhouette with a fine tip pen, and lastly all filled in. As I said prefer to plan everything out in the penciling stage – this allows you to erase, experiment – but personally I find more freedom and have more fun doing it this way. Now, go read that last sentence again. Yes, I said I have more FUN doing it this way. Fun is of the most vital importance. If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing and enjoy the doing of it then why are you?

5. Leaving her just as the inked silhouette felt unfinished. She seemed to be ambiguously floating on the page, so to frame the image I added this henna styled pattern around the boarders. This was made with pen and colored ink. You can buy colored inks but this was one that I made myself using a solution of acrylics, ink, and water. [Water used here instead of alcohol because of the way it is being applied. Using a dip pen it needs to have a much higher ratio of pigment to solvent in order to be opaque. If alcohol were used it would be thick, sticky, and wouldn’t flow from the pen. These are things you only learn from trial and error. This isn’t about using the “best” materials, it’s using what you’re most comfortable with to achieve the look you want. Play around. See what works for you.] None of this was penciled out at all but was done freehand as the inking largely was. It takes a lot of practice to be comfortable doing it this way. A large mistake here or with the inking could mean having to start over from the beginning, and believe me there are plenty of mistakes in there. Hopefully they are small enough to not be noticed when looking at the work as a whole.

6. This last step doesn’t have an image to accompany it because by its nature there isn’t one. Namely, digital compositing. This is NOT a part of the making of the piece itself but is an essential one for allowing people to see it. The nature of the ‘industry’ being what it is today the overwhelming majority of the people who see a work like this do so via digital means. Even prints, should any be made, would be created from the digital files. What this means is photographing or what is much more often the case, as it is here, scanning the art. This can drastically change the look of a piece. For starters a scanner is an intense and close light source. This will not only change the color of water colors but makes them translucent. This is where the initial acrylic wash comes in. I wanted the background to have a crackling fiery look to it and the wash beneath the water colors adds this extra texture. You can see it looking at the piece itself and in the scanned image. Photographing the work, while it could provide a high enough quality image for reproduction, wouldn’t be able to pick this up and would leave the background muted. Also under the intense light of the scanner the ink becomes highly reflective. This can leave huge white and grey blotches all over it. To counter this these scanner artifacts are digitally painted over with solid black. The largest advantage photographing art has vs scanning is being able to capture the whole piece at once. Due to the size of the scanner bed this work needed to be scanned in four sections and then pieced back together. This is a lot of tedious work and is difficult even at the best of times to hide the seams. This doesn’t make the work itself a digital piece – the art itself was finished with the ‘henna’ inking – this is making the digital facsimile as close to the physical work as possible so that you can see it how it truly is. Being conscious of reproduction is a concern that in all honesty I’ve only recently become aware of.

7. Ta-da! YOU ARTED!

Mat Festa

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dears and darlings, I have heard your cries and they shall not go unanswered. So great is your craving for comics outside of the mainstream industries superhero obsession that I can deprive you no longer. For the entire month of July every new ‘like’ of my work on Facebook or ‘follow’ on Twitter will receive Miséréri Nobis – my first book, a 238 page graphic novel – completely free. All you have to do is go to Facebook here or Twitter here, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ respectively, message me your email and I will send you the link to download the book. That’s it.

Miséréri Nobis is a dark and expressionistic story about Mary, a single mother searching for her abducted daughter and all the people whose lives end up intertwining with hers on her journey. Most similar in style and mood to the early Silent Hill video games the story gradually grows more surreal as it goes along. The world begins to reflect the fears, doubts, and insecurities of each of the characters until by the end they are virtually walking through their own dreams and nightmares.

“The darkest shadows of self-judgment and loss are explored in this extremely atmospheric blend of Kafka-esque eccentricity and psychological Lovecraftian horror.” – Dave Baxter of Read his entire review here. [Note: he lists the book as being 232 pages, which at the time was accurate, but what you are being given here is the second edition of the book which includes an extensive notes section. This gives you a running commentary that offers insight into the nuances of the story as well as a behind the scenes look at the production of the book.]

Again, all you have to do is:

  1. Go to FACEBOOK or TWITTER and ‘like’ or ‘follow.’ [Note: of the two Facebook is updated the most frequently and is where you will see the most new work.]
  2. Email me at
  3. I’ll email you the link to download the book.

That’s it. The entire book is yours FREE, but during JULY ONLY! Take advantage of this now or live a life of regret.


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This is coming on the heels of a very unfortunate Amar’e Stoudamire moment. One day, a brave soul will step out of the closet while still in a sports uniform. While I like to think that day is close, it’s hard to imagine in the current climate anyone willing to subject themselves to the pain that would ensue in the aftermath of coming out.

Chicago is a unique city, what it is at heart is a loose collection of towns that comprise the idea of “Chicago.” Localized parades here are pretty famous, none is quite the spectacle that the Gay Pride Parade is. It’s loud, it’s queer, it’s fun, it’s fabulous. Here are some images from the day.

Mat Festa

Follow my work on Twitter, Facebook, and Tiamat’s Garden.

[Note: This is a film critique, not a review and is intended for those who have already seen the movie. This will contain ‘spoilers’ and if you have not seen the movie in question – Prometheus – then much of this may not make sense.]

The most intriguing aspect of the series of Alien films is that while each individual movie is well made and enjoyable in its own right when looked at as a whole it’s a tangled mess of contradictory nonsense. The Alien series, which was never envisioned nor intended to be a series, is a mosaic, not a seamless cloth.

In my youth this was a continual source of frustration. Alien was then, and remains to this day what I consider to be one of the finest American made horror films. A movie I would put in the same group as Jacob’s Ladder, Antichrist, or Lake Mungo as a pinnacle of the genre. Whenever a person would mention that they consider Aliens to be the better movie – a sentiment that to this day I still hear frequently echoed – it would send me into a naïve pretentious rage that such an exquisite horror film should not only be followed by but considered inferior to an action flick. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to look at each movie in the Alien ‘series’ individually and only then did I appreciate them each for what they are.

Alien, as I’ve just mentioned, is a masterwork of horror. The atmosphere of dread and isolation is palpable. The pacing is agonizing and the threat of violence is visceral. This is a film that exists is the endless but immeasurably brief moment after you’ve lost control of the car but before the accident occurs. Every inch of your body knows the crash is inevitable and can see it hurtling toward you, but you are helpless to prevent it. However, while the structure and pacing of Alien are immaculate what truly sets it apart from so many other horror movies, and indeed what makes it a truly great film, is how steeped in symbolism and metaphor it all is. This is due largely to Giger’s seductive and repulsive design work. [For a detailed analysis of this see the artist’s own book H. R. Giger’s Film Design.]

Then came Aliens, an action movie. While Aliens does have all the trappings and failings inherent to the genre – minimal plot, one-dimensional characters (with the possible exception of Ellen Ripley, the one carry over character from the first movie and only connecting thread through the ‘series’ as a whole) – but that having been said it is an incredibly well made action movie. The pacing and structure and wonderfully adrenaline inducing and the characters, while insubstantial, are relatable enough that you actually care about what is happening. From a visual and conceptual standpoint the aliens themselves are already a world apart from the creature of the first film. What was in Alien a physical manifestation of sexual anxieties in Aliens was reduced to swarms of insects, and even the very idea of what the aliens themselves are was drastically changed, but more on that later. Lastly, speaking from a purely artistic point of view, while the aliens themselves are a far cry from Giger’s creation the actual creation and execution of the creatures on screen is a sight to behold. Made in the blessed days before rampant cgi the costuming and animatronics that bring the aliens to life on film, especially the intricate queen in the finale, are creature fx at their finest.

Alien 3 is a much harder film to pin down. The original release of the movie was greatly marred by frequent changes in production, scripting, and directing, but the version released years later, called the “assembly cut” is the best version and supposedly the closest to what the film was originally intended to be. On the surface it would seem to be an attempt to recapture the horror origins of the first film. The setting is remote, desolate, the threats abound, coming not only from the alien itself but also for Ripley herself (again the protagonist) from the majority of the other characters with whom she is trapped. In a much broader sense though the monster/horror aspect of the film is really just a backdrop to a fairly unique character study. The nearest film equivalent could be, oddly enough, is The Name of the Rose. A collection of curious, unique minds – those that would seek out the lonely devotional life of monasticism or the inmates who chose to stay in a prison after it is abandoned – hemmed in by an ever increasing threat – an unknown murderer or the alien beast. All the necessary beats to make a suspenseful film are there but what truly holds it together and makes it such an interesting film is the nuances of the characters themselves and their reactions (and increasing mutual antagonisms to one another) in the strange harshness of the situation.

As for Alien: Resurrection I don’t know what else to say beyond that it’s a Jean-Pierre Jeunet monster movie. If you haven’t seen his other works that there is little I can put into words that will accurately describe or do the faintest justice to how deliciously quirky, bizarre, silly, and beautiful they are. Watch The City of Lost Children. Then try to imagine the mind that created that making a monster movie. That’s Alien: Resurrection.

Now, as for the film at hand, Prometheus is simply put a movie with wonderful ideas pathetically executed. This was the first foray Ridley Scott has made back into the series since it’s inception. Although it was originally not intended to be a prequel to the original once that decision was made a great deal of the film was devoted to recreating various aspects of the original, nearly all of which came to the detriment to the movie as a whole.

The first and most obvious flaw is that which would occur when making a prequel to any film more than thirty years after the original: retconning. [For the sake of clarity from here on the aliens whom were sought out in Prometheus will be referred to as ‘Engineers’ as they are in the film, and the aliens of which are the subject of the rest of the series I will simply call ‘Aliens.’] Retroactive continuity changes are rampant throughout the entirety of Prometheus, from the minor easily excusable ones – the visual differences in the surface of the world on which the derelict Engineer ship was discovered – to the completely nonsensical – the Engineers weren’t killed by the aliens (what they did die of is never explained), the pilot of the Engineer ship (commonly referred to as the ‘space jockey’) not only didn’t die from an alien chest-burster but died miles away from the location where his body was in Alien, the Aliens seemingly didn’t even exist on the Engineer ship where hundreds of their eggs are found in the original, and so on. The most frequent bit of retconning though is one that is an increasingly common occurrence as prequels of this nature are being made so long after the fact of their originals: new technology. The simple fact is cgi is bright, flashy, and attention grabbing. For all intents and purposes you can animate virtually anything that you can imagine, and when it comes to the sci-fi genre depictions of exotic technologies are the first instinct of the purely superficially minded filmmaker. The problems it creates in Prometheus are:

  • 1. The technologies depicted (large scale holograms, recording and real-time viewing dreams, etc) did not exist in the time of Alien, which occurred at a much later date in the continuity.
  • 2. The portrayal of the technologies in question is so far flung and exotic that when it comes time to show that of the Engineers – supposedly a far more advanced culture – there is little to nothing available to distinguish them. And most importantly of all:
  • 3. The addition of these adds nothing whatsoever to the film. The only feeble argument that could be made for the dream viewer would be for the development of Elizabeth Shaw’s character, but nothing comes from it that could not be brought out (and much more elegantly) through ordinary exposition.

As I mentioned above many of the problems that occurred in Prometheus were in trying to recreate aspects of the original Alien. There were numerous small instances throughout the film but there are two which stand out prominently in mind:

  • The crew: In Alien the basis of the ship’s crew was simply “truck drivers in space.” Strange though it may sound this was an elegant solution to several problems. Having the characters be such ordinary working class people grounded the fanciful futuristic setting and made it relatable and understandable. Again having an ordinary group of people working a completely unrelated job stumble across the derelict ship, and thus the alien, simply by accident made their unpreparedness and the threat presented all the more potent. In Prometheus however the same aesthetic of “truck drivers in space” is sought for most of the supporting crew, but here – on a highly funded archeological expedition traveling to an uncharted world specifically to seek out an intelligent alien civilization, apparently, though never specifically stated, the first in history – it makes no sense whatsoever.
  •  Flamethrowers: In Alien the crew was completely isolated and had to scrounge together whatever tools and bits of the ship they could manage to fashion a means of defense; a crude flamethrower being one of these. This became a prominent visual theme during the panicked encounters with the alien and is brought back in Prometheus. While a flamethrower admittedly does look neat it is probably the most ridiculously impractical weapon ever created and would be the last thing you would think to bring on such an expedition. This may seem like minor nit-picking but I think it’s evidence of how a mistake so seemingly minor can go so far to pull a person out of a scene.

All that having been said there was also a great deal I deeply enjoyed about the film. More than any other film in the Alien series Prometheus holds true to the subtle philosophy of life being birthed from death. In the original Alien as conceived by O’Bannon, Shusett, and Giger the alien feeds off of its prey’s blood once it has them cocooned. As they grow weaker and the cocoon envelopes them their bodies become the egg from which a ‘face hugger’ will emerge to latch onto another victim who will die to birth the next generation, and thus the cycle continues. This was changed in Aliens to the more easily understandable simple structure of a queen based insect colony. In Prometheus however everything the Engineers do to create life comes at the expense of life. In the very first scene of the movie it is shown than an Engineer will kill himself so that his body may break down and become the seed to germinate life on that world.

Visually this is Ridley Scott at the top of his game. Although not without its flaws – the holograms are needless and over used, and the cesarean scene is just outright ridiculous – this is a visually stunning film. The crash of the Engineer ship towards the climax has such a physical mass to it you can feel the massive bulk of it in your marrow as it tumbles achingly slowly to the ground. There is an incredible array of creatures and while they are all unique the variations on a theme of the original alien and face hugger are easily visible. I was delighted to learn that Giger himself was brought in to consult on how his designs would be extrapolated out into other species. This is however another of the films problems though. There is no consistency whatsoever to the behavior of any of the creatures or Engineer related experiments. Often they seem to be made completely randomly without any attempt at logic.

By far though the most captivating part of the whole film is the character of David the android played by Michael Fassbender. After the initial shocking revelation of Ash’s character being an android in Alien their existence is entirely taken for granted throughout the rest of the series. In Prometheus on the other hand the first introduction we have to the characters is through David, and we spend a good deal of time with him before any of the others come into play. While all the human crew members are in a cryogenic sleep during travel David spends that entire time awake, alone, for over two years. During this time he not only does the needed research for the expedition but reads, watches movies. Supposedly emotionless and existing only in programming he tries continually to find himself, creating his own personality. In the most poetic of touches he draws greatly from the Laurence of Arabia (which he frequently quotes), a film about Laurence’s own quest of self-discovery. Sadly on the other hand as captivating as David is he comes at the expense of all the other characters, about whom we know virtually nothing and get only the vaguest caricatures and hints as to who they are.

In keeping with the uniquely diverse tradition that the Alien series has made for itself Prometheus is first and foremost a sci-fi movie, and given the subject matter had the potential to be a truly philosophical one. Unfortunately, while the subtleties were all in place the larger pieces were so terribly mismanaged that it ultimately falls apart. The first impression I was left with after watching the movie was that it felt like a first draft, not a finished work. Having read some of what Scott and others involved have said about the production it would seem that a large portion (30 minutes to an hour) of footage was removed from the original cut for the theatrical release. The addition of this could go a long way toward filling the gaps that felt so glaringly exposed in the movie as it is. An extended cut has already been announced and I’ll reserve any ‘final’ judgment until having seen it – Ridley Scott has proven himself far too great a filmmaker over the years to outright dismiss any of his works so easily – but as it stands now Prometheus is a movie of excellent ideas but terribly fails in realizing its ambitions.