Monday, February 25, 2008

Dick Lightning's Traveling Workout

When you're on the road, working out and eating clean can be tough. But not that tough. If fitness is ever going to become a lifelong habit, you need to be able to work out anywhere at anytime. Sure you're used to seeing people running up and down the sidewalk. But jump rope in a parking lot and people think you're a weirdo. Alas, as Dick Lightning always says, "Their loss is your awesomeness." Just remember to pack your training shoes, a jump rope and a few protein bars.
During a week of Illinois foot high pie, Missouri pizza and beer, Flagstaff Thai, Las Vegas Buffet and California Dim Sum, Dick Lightning correspondents VienDammage and Carpetbomb Slick managed to stave off the traveling slump and keep on rockin'. Here's how!
Arms and Shoulders at the University of Missouri-Columbia Student Recreation Center. Three stories of weights, cardio machines, a rock wall, swimming pools and a juice bar that sells Myoplex at un-jacked up prices! Go with a student and get in free.
Cardio and push ups in the parking lot of the La Quinta Sedona. Forty miles south of Flagstaff, a gorgeous resort town complete with golf courses, tours by helicopter and Humvee, dozens of art galleries and a lot of folks over fifty. Use the curb to change your push up elevation and prepare to be asked, "So what are you training for?" by random hotel guests, some of them twice. This workouts free baby, you just have to do it!
Cardio at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Twenty minutes off the famed Las Vegas Strip, we channeled our inner Randy Couture and Evan Tanner by hitting the sandy trails. The elevation hits you in odd ways, VienDammage was breathing for his life but didn't feel his heart beating. CarpetBomb Slick got a slight headache buzz from the altitude. After braving the ups and downs of the Calico Hills path, we hit the rock formations for a little free climbing and hoping we didn't fall into the crevices below. It's a National Preservation Area so a car costs five bones.
Cardio with triceps and back at Huntington Beach. We hit the sand early for a coastal jog, the wind blowing salt water at us like somebody just spit on a fan. After the run, we found some old bike racks and did some pseudo pull ups and rows. Nearby we pumped out some bench dips on a concrete barrier. Park at the Pier side shopping center and the only bucks you'll have to cough up are for the Jamba Juice afterwards.
It's all out there, you just have to figure out how much you want it. Or how you can steal it.

Tom's Day at the Movies: No Country For Old Men

Tom takes us on a trip to see the Coens' latest lauded offering, No Country For Old Men. Here's part I of Doctor Jolliffe's pleasant experience.
Not long into 2008, merely weeks, and I decided to go out of my way to a nearby cinema to see No Country For Old Men. Out of my way as such because my two nearest, and favoured multiplexes decided not to show this particular film (though following its box office success, they have since put it in their line up). I knew No Country For Old Men would be good. I’d seen a few good reviews without delving to hard into too many, so as not to give anything away. I also knew it was vintage Coen, and given that I’m a big fan of the brothers C, I was excited to say the least. So off I ventured- a 20 minute bus ride, to the Regal Picture house in Henley On Thames. I got there, whipped out my still valid Student ID (even though it’s been a over a year since I was a dirty tax dodging student!), and got my self a nice little discount. A clean, round fiver for my ticket, a good wedge less money than the bigger multiplexes, even after student concession. A word on the Regal picture house in Henley, well it’s a delight! An old fashioned, very British style cinema. We’re talking 3 screens, not huge, but big enough for that “cinematic” experience, while the sound system is loud, punchy, but not obnoxiously so like the more American styled cinemas I usually go to.
Indeed I watched Sweeney Todd a week or so after No Country, and aside from finding that film watchable, yet highly overrated, it’s wretched songs where played about 100 decibels higher than wretched songs should be. But the Regal was homely, relaxed, tasteful, and impeccably presented. With ticket in hand and a now emptied bladder (in preperation for the 2 hours plus running time that I didn’t want interrupted) I casually strolled into screen number 1. Given that this was a midday showing on a Tuesday, the screen was currently empty- and by the time the film started only two other people entered to watch this sucker. I felt no shame in watching this alone. It was after all a spare of the moment decision, and being as my days off are weekdays, and most of my buds have weekends off, I felt inclined to just go myself rather than wait on when I could rope someone else in to see it too.
The trailers came up, nothing really distracted me from my Coen inspired level of concentration I was building up, that is until There Will Be Blood’s trailer popped up on screen. A cracking trailer and for one main reason, Daniel Day Lewis. Even in this 2-minute trailer, every truncated glimpse and tease of Day Lewis’ performance had me fascinated, intrigued, engrossed and just in awe. The guy’s a great actor, to the point he spews forth immense charisma, immense gravitas into the short preview. Definitely one to mark in my diary. Trailer, over, and now to the main event! Tune in next time as Tom breaks No Country For Old Men wide open!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tower of Troof Photography Presents

Vision of the West
Tower of Troof Photography owner/operator James Coats has kindly provided Dick Lightning with an exclusive sample from his "Live Natural" set.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

White Lightning: "I Ate the Worm: T-Shirts, Tequila and Mezcal."

And here we go again. Dick Lightning proudly presents a new addition to the team, as Jason !El Guapo Guero Loco! gives us his thoughts on a South of the border staple.

At some point in your life, you have almost certainly seen a stereotypical “party naked co-ed” shirt from Cancún or Tijuana boasting tequila-inspired “I ate the worm” slogans. Available at countless tourist stores and roadside souvenir stands in any Mexican city catering to tourists with more money than sense (or taste), these unfortunate shirts are a chronic hallmark of the week-long drunken orgy known in the US as Spring Break. Featuring bright cartoons of what look like earthworms with giant smiles and sombreros, these silkscreen wonders have spawned popular myths and misconceptions about tequila and tequila drinking. Although I’m generally not a fan of such spectacularly tacky souvenir t-shirts, more to the point is that I don’t like the display of drinking ignorance they perpetuate. But that’s ok, read and learn. If there is one booze I really enjoy it is tequila, and I’m here to help you enjoy it too.

There are two basic things wrong with those shirts. First, although there is a tradition of floating invertebrates in some Mexican liquor, tequila never ever has a worm in it. If you ate the worm, you weren’t drinking tequila, and instead you probably had a smashing hangover from a rougher booze called mezcal. Sometimes spelled “mescal” or “mexcal”, this fiery beverage is closely related to, but distinct from, the more famous tequila. Although mezcal and tequila are both distilled from a group of desert plants called agaves, they are produced from different varieties. Whereas mezcal can be made from a handful of agave varieties, tequila is manufactured from only one kind: Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. Also called blue agave (in Spanish, agave azul), this plant is famous in the tequila-producing regions of Mexico for the greenish-blue hue of the long, spiky leaves. Mexican tequila distilleries use this type of plant, and only it, when they make tequila, and cultivate huge fields of it in Central Mexico.

Besides the main ingredient, another important difference between tequila and mezcal is how the two are produced. Both liquors are distilled using the extracted plant sugars from agaves, but tequilas are distilled at least twice and are carefully filtered to remove impurities. On the other hand, mezcal is considered finished after one distillation only. As a result, mezcal often has a more bold color and a more pronounced smoky flavor. Although I don’t personally enjoy the smoky taste, which is the result of baking the agave in an underground kiln, it is considered one of the desirable traits of mezcal. Because of the multiple distillations and filtering process of tequila, especially the more refined types, it tends to have a smoother and mellow taste. To me, this is more palatable.

Returning to the sombrero-wearing worm, happily swimming in mezcal (not tequila), brings us to the second basic mistake. The thing floating around in the bottom of a bottle of mezcal is called a maguey worm, but it is in fact not a worm at all. It is really the larva, or caterpillar, phase of life of a moth that lives around agave plants. The “worm” eats agave leaves before it transforms into its adult form, and in large numbers can devastate agave crops. Some mezcal producers insist that because the caterpillars eat agave leaves, they absorb the “essence” of the plant and enhance the flavor of the liquor. Although on mezcal plantations the insects are collected and bred, they are destroyed in fields dedicated to tequila production because they weaken the plants.

The tacky t-shirts that the next-door fraternity picked up while binging south of the border only function to conflate tequila and mezcal. Mezcals tend to be cheaper than even cheap tequila because of the wider variety of agaves and shorter period of distillation that are involved in production, and as a result are easier on the bankrolls of college kids who just flew 1,200 miles to party in Mexico. So, it tends to be bought and drunk more often if you are a drinker on a budget and don’t know any better.

If your face crinkled up into an expression of disgust after taking a drink of mezcal, like mine did, savor the memory of having tried something new and different. However, I would also encourage you in trying something else new and different: a nice shot glass of 100% agave azul tequila meant for sipping, not shooting. You’ll be surprised at the difference, and you won’t even have to worry about the worm. Salúd!
Tequila suggestions:
One of my personal favorites is Gran Centenario Añejo. Aged in oak barrels for at least a year, this mellow tequila is a fantastic (if somewhat expensive) buy. Worth every penny, I like to savor the taste of this spirit completely by itself, no salt, no limes, and one sip at a time. Tastes great with tortilla chips and a salsa loaded with chopped cilantro.
A cheaper alternative is Sauza Hornitos, a brand of mid-range tequila you can find in any decent liquor store. It’s not bad if you like to do tequila shots, jello shots, body shots, what-have-you. It makes for a great mixer and I like to use it when I make my own margaritas.

Dick's Cardio Obliteration

Jean-Claude Van Damme's face is dripping sweat. A vision of agony, hunched over a stationary bike's handles like Lance Armstrong, legs pumping furiously, sweatshirt soaked through. He postures up, slowing his pace and taking his pulse. "It's about 600 calories in 40 minutes, which at my age, 42, is pretty good."
-Excerpt from Dans la peau de Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Daily Headspace

"El Caballito" or something like that. A "caballito" is the traditional shot-glass that tequila is served in. They're thin, straight-sided, and tall, much like many super-models. I will continue to mourn the loss of the American hour-glass figure in favor of the anorexic rails in fashion these days. But, that's a different column entirely. An alternative name would be "A Drop in the Glass", it may be a little less presumptuous and more approachable than El Caballito.
-Jason "El Mucho Guapo" Fenton

Dick's Time Out: Baldwin's on television.

Anyone else notice that all four Baldwin brothers are on television? No, not Alec on reruns of Saturday Night Live or Inside the Actor's Studio. Not Stephen in the umpteenth showing of The Usual Suspects on TNT. Nor William on USA's millionth airing of Backdraft. Not even Daniel on Homicide: Life on the Streets in syndication. Dick's talking current, prime time gigs on major networks. Go ahead, flip through and you're bound to find a Baldwin on a lauded satire, raising money for charity with a billionaire, as a spineless politician or trying to get others to stay in rehab while he plots his own escape.

Yep, Alec, the reputable brother with the flaring temper, star of The Hunt for Red October and host of Saturday Night Live a whopping sixteen times is on NBC's 30 Rock with Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan. Stephen, the goofy joker of Bio-Dome and The Usual Suspects, raises money for breast cancer research and children's hospitals alongside Gene Simmons, Lennox Lewis and other celebrities on NBC's The Apprentice. Leading-man William of Backdraft and Fair Game mixes it up with Donald Sutherland on ABC's Dirty Sexy Money. And last but not least is the jowliest Baldwin, Daniel, of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and John Carpenter's Vampires on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

Since their acting debuts, each Baldwin has attained a degree of success in film and television. Their personal lives are also well documented in the cases of Alec and Daniel. With each being on current television, have the brothers hit an equal plateau? Not really. Alec is still the leader, garnering rave reviews and an Emmy nomination for his work on 30 Rock. Big brother was even called in to help on an episode of Celebrity Apprentice where Stephen's all male team went on a three week winning streak before seemingly imploding in its own success. William maintains his role as the "other Baldwin" as Dirty Sexy Money attains mild success in a career of mild successes. After battling cocaine and pain killer addiction, Daniel came to Dr. Drew's rehab facility to help others, acting as a rock to withdrawal suffering patients like Jeff Conaway and Jessica Sierra. But after a facility barbecue gets a little too raunchy, Daniel makes like a tree, and gets out of there.

Who's next? Will the stars align and send Keenen Ivory, Dwayne, Damon, Marlon and Shawn Wayans to network television success? Nah, they're still doing pretty well in the movies.

Lightning Spree: London and Led Zepplin

Back for part two of our English Double Shot as Dick Lightning correspondent Cochise gives us his quick thoughts on traveling across the Pond and the mighty reunion of Led Zepplin.

Nobody was wearing sweat pants or tennis shoes with their jeans. Everybody had on nice, casual clothes, nobody was fat or dumpy looking.

You see all these signs, oh it's only 4 pounds...then you realize, wait a minute, that's 8 bucks...

The guy took my order and said something to me but I couldn't understand him, so I just kinda said yeah and looked around. Then he said it again, that they'd bring my sandwich out to me so sit down. Oh, right.

It was intense man. He'd just be going off, like in a daze or a trance, drooling on himself. It was awesome.

The place is clearing out but there's still people going against the crowd, coming in to go to the after party backstage. All of a sudden the crowd kind of parts, and there is he is, less than three feet away from me, Noel Gallagher.

There's no turnstiles for the train. It's all honor system. So I'm just hopping on it back and forth all weekend. Then on my way to the airport, the guy asks for my ticket. Uh I don't have one. No ticket? That's a charge! Yeah man I know, how much?

Lightning Across the Pond: Missionary Man

In the first of our double shot from England, Dr. Tom Joliffe takes a look at Dolph Lundgren's newest starring and directing outing, Missionary Man. With more buzz than usually reserved for a direct-to-DVD action affair, Missionary Man hit the US Top Rentals at # 26, raking in $2.15 million in rental revenue. The Swedish karate champion turned chemical engineer turned action movie icon returns to the Top 50 for the first time since Detention rang up $760,000 in January of 2004.

Tom writes:
Dolph’s latest film, and his third foray into directing, is once again one of his career best. Like The Mechanik, Dolph puts to bed some of the murkier days of his back catalogue, and proves, that the best man to help bring Dolph Lundgren back into the limelight, is Dolph Lundgren! Delving once more into a film with a theme of revenge, as in The Mechanik, there might have been a niggling worry, that re-treading that ground could breed familiarity. But what Dolph delivers is an action film in style, tone, and look, that is not only far removed from what he’s previously done, but a film that just looks and feels fresh. There aren’t many action films out there like Missionary Man, on a visual, tonal level. There’s a kind of Frank Miller vibe at times, and a bit of Robert Rodriguez too.

In Missionary Man, Dolph stars as Ryder, a mysterious stranger who rides into town for a friends funeral. Pretty soon he’s rubbing local oppressor John Reno up the wrong way. As the film progresses we start to see Ryder has other motives for being in town. It’s a modern western and has some great western trademarks, including a fantastic climax. However though on paper the story has similar arcs as Dolph’s previous directing effort, Missionary Man is such a contrast. It’s a whole different style of flick, and with Dolph’s increased level or creative control since his last directing gig, it’s a more complete vision. Perhaps unfinished business that Dolph touched upon in The Mechanik.
As director, Dolph really has a great visual eye here. What’s great about the film, is that beyond the choice of super-16, it feels as if Dolph is in complete control. He’s constrained by a tight budget certainly, but he spends it brilliantly, and really creates a great atmosphere. Dolph, his DP Bing Rao, and steadicam operator, George R Niedson combine to create a visual delight. There’s some great shots in this film, and it has a feeling of being a graphic novel brought to life, particularly with some almost picturesque still shots. Dolph has gone all out here. He’s really put the work in, and he’s really experimented with his choice of shots. At times it feels quite arty, and considering this is a DTV film, and a Dolph Lundgren film, that’s quite something! The choice of super-16 is one that can be fraught with peril. There’s a graininess to it, and the way it picks up light and colour can sometimes make a film look bad if not in the hands of a capable or inspired DP. Seagal’s Urban Justice is an example of a super-16 film that looked particularly horrible. No such problems though on Missionary Man. Of course not only is the film well shot, but given it was shot on super- 16, there was the advantage of it being mastered directly onto HD. This also allowed for easier digital grading, as well as ensuring the film looked crisp. I mean this sucker has a great transfer. Dolph makes full use of the grading tool, and gives the film an almost monochrome look. The de-saturated picture adds to the foreboding atmosphere, and is also ably helped along by the low key and effective score by Elia Cmiral (Ronin, The Mechanik).
Elsewhere Dolph knows action, having worked with the likes of John Woo, and he delivers here. Obviously given the budget, there’s no huge set pieces, but in a film like this, it wouldn’t feel right anyway. There’s short punctuations of violence throughout the film, before the inevitable, and just downright badass showdown. Dolph just goes Terminator on some biker dudes and it rocks the action Kasbah!
As actor, Dolph does well here too. He’s no Olivier, he knows it himself, but he plays to his strength, playing the Eastwood style man of few words, but immense badassedness (not a real word, but should be!). Parallels with Clint will be made of course, both being movie tough guys who made the jump from actor to writer and director. Dolph will not likely have the success of Clint, but he’s the straight to video equivalent I guess, and there’s no great shame in that anymore. Even Al Pacino has tasted the nectar of straight to video, even Morgan Freeman too. Dolph’s got that tough guy charisma. Nowadays what we lack in cinema is action stars, with the sheer hardness and tough as nails presence that Clint, Bronson, Arnie, Sly, and the likes of Seagal and Lundgren, used to deliver. We’ve not had any new action men come along who had the same presence, merely pretenders like Vin Diesel and The Rock. There’s also been thesp’s like Matt Damon, who while magnificent as Bourne isn’t gonna settle down into the handing people their asses genre. You do have to, with the odd exception, have to look in the direct to video market for a good old school hardass action flick, and visit the old guard like Dolph and Jean Claude. There does some to be a new resurgence now in old school action flicks foregoing the overly complex ideas, reliance on CGI, avid fart stylistics, and pg-13 namby pambiness. Along with the advent of digital screens, meaning cheaper distribution, we might just see a return to the multiplexes for the old guard. Sly’s hit a resurgence, and in the DTV market, so have Van Damme and Lundgren, and no one would deserve another shot at the big time, and the cinema, more than Lundgren, out of the DTV action heroes.

The remainder of the cast are mixed. Given the films budget, the support cast isn’t great. The incidental characters, probably including locals given a place on screen, aren’t great. Thankfully though the important roles are well filled. As Reno, Matthew Tompkins makes for a good bad guy. Also starring is August Schellenberg a very good actor who fans of Free Willy will likely remember, and he adds a bit of gravitas to proceedings. Young actress Chelsea Ricketts is superb, and surely has a bright future ahead of her (the kid who plays her older brother isn’t great to be honest- but his role is insignificant). John Enos III stars as the lead biker and Ryder’s main foe, and though he only comes in toward the end of the movie, he does a great job.
Overall, while the film won’t win originality prizes, it feels fresh because of the style. It’s just a good old fashioned R rated action film, proving big set pieces and oodles of CGI do not make a good action film (*cough* Transformers!! *cough*). Dolph is getting more assured behind the camera with every film, while also showing a versatility to switch style and tone. All three of his films have been markedly different, but Missionary Man stands out as something that is perhaps his most unique work. Action fans will not be disappointed. I’d love to see Dolph given a bit more money to play around with. Plus given how much of a badass Dolph looks during the finale, I’d hope we might see him appear somewhere in a Tarantino, or Edgar Wright flick, someone with a gift for the surprise cast. Fingers crossed, cause the big man deserves it. ****

Stat Lightning: Dublin Davis Irish Report

He's back. They're back. It's all back. Following a post-holiday slump, Coach Obrynba's Dublin Davis Irish 8th Grade Girls Basketball Team has stormed back into the winning column, taking FIVE of their last SIX games, including a victory in Tournament action. When we last left Insane from the Ukraine Coach Obrynba, the journeyman was searching for a way to reinvigorate his team after suffering back to back losses. Well bottle it up and sell it from the trunk because reinvigorated they were as Dublin Davis conquered the Norton Wildcats like poachers unleashed in a nature preserve, winning by 32 points for a final of 43-11. From there, the Irish dropped one contest to Hilliard Heritage 19-27 but rebounded with three straight victories to end the regular season. Overcoming Dublin Grizzell 28-22, Dublin Karrer 28-9 and Dublin Sells 36-7. Do you see the pattern emerging? I hope so because it's pretty obvious. Hungry for victory, the 8th Grade Girls Basketball Team took on Worthingway in their first game of Tournament Play, triumphing 29-15. Stay tuned as we continue to follow the Dublin Irish in their quest for the gold.

Lightning Will: Cap on Drugs!

What happens when you give the specimen of metabolically enhanced human perfection a concentrated dose of designer stimulant? One of the greatest mini-series in Captain America history, that's what!
That's right. For seven issues in 1990, Captain America fought a new battle. The battle against being a junkie. Not intentionally of course. Caught in a warehouse explosion filled with street candy ICE, Cap's system is overloaded with the potent pick me up. Erratically navigating his way through the streets and meeting up with the likes of Daredevil, Diamondback, Black Widow, The Red Skull, Crossbones, Bullseye and The Kingpin himself, Wilson Fisk, Captain America finally ends up alone in a dank alley. Coming down hard off of his super high, a shambled sight of paranoia and unfocused aggression.
The FDA's new Anti-Substance Abuse Slogan:
Use drugs and Cap will whup that @$$.

Captain America # 372-378. Gruenwald. Lim. Bulanadi. Marvel Comics.

Check out for issues. for Captain America details.