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Archive | 10:00 pm

American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior: Return of the Black Widow

5 Sep

September 5, 2011

Last week, in the most anti-climactic episode ever, the Teutuls signed a settlement finally giving Senior the shares of OCC that he wanted. Paulie added the condition that he gets the Black Widow bike and after only a few minutes thought Senior agreed. The tease for this week’s show seems to be some kind of battle over the bike. We’ll see.

The show began with Senior being informed by his lawyer that Paulie was going to pick up the bike and expected it to be running. It has just been sitting around and needed maintenance. Senior got pissed that he found that out at the last-minute. “Typical Paulie last-minute,” he growled. He thought the bike would be turned over as-is and blamed Paulie for changing the rules. The person he should be mad at is the lawyers. That should have been hammered out already.

This week PJD finished the Fist bike while OCC started a Power Probe bike. Power Probe makes electrical testing equipment and presented Senior with a customized tool, which he will never use since he barely does any work on the bikes anymore.

Six minutes in, like last week, Jason Pohl appeared on-screen to act like somebody. He called the Power Probe tool “a product we use everyday.” Really? “I have a lot of people here who use it.” He has a lot of people there who use it? He does? He gets worse every week. And remember the problem with the lousy handlebars he designed last week? He blamed the mechanics for the “confusion” over the handlebars. Let’s be clear, and this came straight from Rick, there was no “confusion,” Jason’s design was impractical.

Paulie and Vinnie went to OCC to get the bike. They asked Mikey but he decided not to go. However, he did bring Paulie a black widow cake to celebrate. The bike was in the showroom and so were a dozen or so gawkers taking pictures of them. Senior sent outa kid to tell them that they had to go through the whole shop to take it out. Why? Just to stick it to them.

Senior paid his son a backhand compliment. Going to OCC himself was “a sign of humbleness.”

He also said that Vinnie was in a hurry to get out “like he had cheeseburgers waiting outside.” Why should Vinnie want to stick around? To see him? After the way Senior treated him like shit? Vinnie did all the work and got all the crap. I wouldn’t want to see Senior either. And Senior taking a shot at someone’s weight? Sorry, not everyone has suspiciously inflated muscles like he did.

Eventually Senior stopped watching them on camera and came out and shook their hands. They exchanged some small talk and Paulie and Vinnie left with the bike. No fireworks, no excitement, no big deal.

Of course Senior said that “Paulie didn’t look me in the eye,” and it was “a sign of feeling guilty.” This guy can’t leave well enough alone. Every lawsuit has been settled, the bike was exchanged, and he can’t let it die. A couple of days later Senior was still grumbling and said the he didn’t like Vinnie and acted like he was Gandhi for shaking Vinnie’s hand. Then for no reason he said that he “gave him everything he asked for and he still isn’t interested in being a family again.” I’m not sure if he meant Mikey or Paulie but it doesn’t matter.  Can you blame either one?

And Mikey still has no intention of seeing his father, and after this episode, never mind all the others, I don’t blame him.

The last third of the show was about the bike build, and Power Pro really got their money’s worth the way Mike Ammirati slobbered over their tools.

There was a little more talk about OCC having to move and Rick said they should just go back to the old shop since Senior put a new roof on it. Senior told him since it was next door to PJD Rick could go over there and build bikes on his lunch break “since nobody there can.” I guess he forgot how he got smoked in the Cadillac Build Off.

The Fist bike with its biometric starter came out great, but the Power Probe bike was gaudier than usual. It was red and yellow with lightning bolts and a lot of extra accent lights and almost looked like a Hulkamania bike,  but I have to admit they nailed the theme. And (coincidentally? I think not) it had an unusual push button starter.

At the OCC unveil, Senior couldn’t make it so who was the first one introduced? Jason. He did all the talking and though he gave credit to everyone, he talked like he was in charge. And who can blame him the way Senior treats him?

Paulie worked, almost literally, to the last minute before the unveil, and Paulie gave Vinnie the honor of riding the bike on stage. Part of this episode was about the history between them. They showed some clips from the very first episode where they worked on the Black Widow bike, the first build they did together, and you can see how they developed a friendship. Compare that to Senior who over the years has lost everyone close to him.

NEXT WEEK: Paulie designs a Gears of War 3 bike.

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How Dark Shadows Ruined The Vampire.

5 Sep

September 5, 2011

I just finished a Dark Shadows marathon. I watched 1,225 episodes, two original cast movies, and the 12 episode 90’s revival in just about a year and a half. On top of that I also listened to four modern Dark Shadows audio dramas and read both a series guide and six novels published as the show ran in the late 1960’s. Throw in the collection of comics by Gold Key and it is fair to say that yes, I know a little bit about Dark Shadows.

For those not in the know, Dark Shadows is a soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971 on ABC. Unlike nearly every other daytime drama of the time, every episode exists, minus one, but that episode’s soundtrack survives so it is the most complete- by far- show of its type. Compare that to Doctor Who whose shows of that era have almost as many lost as there are still in existence.

The show was a dark and spooky half-hour drama (done on a tiny budget) that regularly featured ghosts, werewolves, time travel, witches, spiritual possession, mad scientists, Frankenstein-like creatures, parallel worlds, immortal Phoenixes, and vampires. And if you know the show there is one name that leapt to mind as soon as you saw “vampires,” Barnabas Collins. 

And he was not just any vampire. Dark Shadows is widely credited with the creation of the modern conflicted vampire. Barnabas Collins was turned into a vampire by a witch’s curse, and instead of destroying him, his father chained him in a coffin. 200 years later he was freed and met a doctor, Julia Hoffman, who cured him. Barnabas would revert back to vampirism a few times over the course of the series, but he was usually a tragic figure, hating what he had become, longing to be human again, and generally becoming the romantic hero of Dark Shadows.

And that is why I hate him.

Until Barnabas vampires were universally characterized as evil. Though Bram Stoker’s Dracula defined the modern vampire, with some help from a few Gothic forebears, the contemporary Twilight vampire and others of that immature ilk all descend from Barnabas Collins.

Take the classic vampire. To be concise I’ll skip the ancient creatures of mythology and proto-religion and move to the 18th Century.

The OED dates the first appearance of the word vampire in English from 1734, in a travelogue titled Travels of Three English Gentlemen. However, the word itself has roots going back to Eastern Europe as early as the 11th Century.

Vampires were usually reported as bloated in appearance, and ruddy, purplish, or dark in color; these characteristics were often attributed to the recent drinking of blood. Indeed, blood was often seen seeping from the mouth and nose when one was seen in its shroud or coffin, and vampires of the Balkans and Eastern Europe had a wide range of appearance ranging from nearly human to bloated rotting corpses.

None of them sparkled.

Gothic writers like Sheridan Le Fanu added beauty and sexuality, and Bram Stoker added class and refinement, but one thing remained constant: The vampire was a creature of unrepentant evil. And more importantly, he was always an animated corpse. Vampires are classically feared as revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but they can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire. Vampires are distinctly creatures of the supernatural or demonic realm.

Dark Shadows was also one of the early (though not the first, Richard Matheson explored this theme too) depictions of vampires being cured through scientific methods, which is totally at odds with the “black magic” or demonic origins of the vampire. It was never really clear, nor did it really make sense, how a series of blood transfusions cured Barnabas Collins’ witch’s curse.

Teenage fiction is full of nobly conflicted vampires, utterly handsome, all needing the love of that one girl to turn him around. They are the rebellious bad boys who really aren’t that bad at all, deep down. Dark both in personality and looks (despite somehow also being pale) and brooding, they are the property now of the teen and adolescent.

And that is a damn shame because the vampire should be the boogey man in your closet who comes out not to whisk you into a fantasy world of delight but to rip your throat open and gorge himself on your blood as it sprays gristly crimson ichor across his face. And that face shouldn’t inspire love or lust, the vampire’s face should inspire extreme fear, panic, and revulsion, but most of all, it should be the last thing you see before you pass out or die.

Vampires are not handsome. They are repulsive and loathsome creatures whose breath reeks of the grave. They have moldy dirt under their fingernails from crawling out of the earth and their skin is more than pale and pasty, it is almost translucent, stretched over their body too tightly and their teeth seem long only because their gums have receded and withered. They are animated corpses.

Vampires are not charismatic. They are cunning like animals, like wolves. They do not throw elegant dinner parties. Like rats, a vampire may crawl on the ground through the mud to bite your ankle and in centuries past anyone asleep in a field kept his shoes on at night lest a vampire suck the blood out of their heels. No romantic embraces for them, for a vampire is past the point of love or romance. They are malevolent killers.

 

One of the great ironies of Dracula, and one of the great bits of Stoker’s writing (of which I otherwise have many faults) is that Count Dracula arrived in England on a ship called the Demeter. Demeter was the Greek goddess of the harvest, a life-bringer. Dracula brings only death.

I loved every minute of Dark Shadows, even the early episodes where there was little supernatural and the drama revolved around the threat to the Collins family shipyards. And I loved Barnabas Collins, even if he did single-handedly ruin the vampire genre for decades to come.

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