Sunday, May 5, 2013



Thanks for your interest in Nostalgia Equals Distortion.  I'm moving it over to be inside of my main blog (Silber blog) & you can view future posts in the N=D series here.  Thanks for your interest & support.

Brian John Mitchell

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I think I found out about Sprees when I was about four years old.  They sold them at the snack bar at the pool in their long skinny tube of black & silver & yellow.  They looked like they came from outer space.  Of course we weren’t handed over money to buy candy at the snack bar.  Eventually I got to try a yellow one from a pack my sister got on a road trip & as life went on occasionally one of my siblings would get them & I’d eat a few, but they were never my personal choice.

So it’s been 20+ years since I last had some Sprees.  I bought them on trip to the dollar store with my niece & nephew.  I was a little let down they were in a box instead of the classic roll (ends up the still come that way in some places).  Also the pieces in the box are about 2/3 of the size of the classic ones.  It says that a serving is fifteen of these things, but I gave up on the fourth one because it seemed to be soap flavored.  So not having had these for a long time, I can’t be certain they actually used to be good, but I am confused by people intentionally buying them today.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I remember seeing Gattaca around when it first came out & liking it fine.  I think it was the first sci-fi movie to really give me hope for the genre doing something serious (I hadn’t re-seen Blade Runner or Alien as an adult at that point & I generally think of The Thing as a horror movie & while I love Starship Troopers (which came out the same year) it’s more of a fun movie than a serious one).  But oddly there isn’t much I could remember about it.  I know it’s dystopian & I assumed it was Philip K Dick (it’s not) & I remembered it having interesting lighting.  The main thing I remembered though was this girl I was going out with at the time got all hot & bothered by Jude Law & got mad when I referred to him as “the gay dude” (it ends up I guess he’s not gay, just British).

Re-seeing it, wow, this is a different film than I remembered.  I didn’t remember at all that Ethan Hawke is there doing his coffee shop intellectual narration like he did in Before Sunrise.  I haven’t quite figured out how I feel about Ethan Hawke, I generally avoided anything with him back in the 1990s but the things from that era I’ve seen relatively recently (Before Sunrise & Great Expectations, even the Precinct 13 remake) seem fine.  I guess back then I saw more coffee culture intellectuals than I run into now & so I found that stuff way more annoying than I do now & that pretty much seems to be the character he always plays.  I also didn’t remember the first third of the movie before Ethan Hawke is impersonating Jude Law & why he was impersonating him in the first place.  I really forgot a ton of plot points that I am not sure if I should give away in case somebody might re-watch it that has also forgotten them.  So I guess what I’m saying is “spoilers.”  So the murder investigation… I was 100% sure that it was done by Uma Thurman because she was also an illegal impersonator & I was shocked that she wasn’t an impersonator nor the murderer.  I also feel like I wasn’t paying attention because I didn’t realize the one cop was Ethan Hawke’s brother until the reveal.  I did like that there wasn’t a happy ending romance wise (because I believe Ethan Hawke will die before the end of his trip in space) & I was surprised by Jude Law incinerating himself.  This movie is pretty solid & I don’t know why it isn’t put up as one of the top ten sci-fi movies (or at least top twenty) in a lot of lists & instead seems to be drifting towards obscurity….

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I loved Alf as a kid.  I got the puppet with the flexi-disc at Burger King & everything.  I even used to tape it so I could re-watch the episodes with my older brother when he came over on Tuesdays when he came over for dinner.  My buddy Nick Marino (Super Haters) has been talking about Alf lately & even did a parody of him in his comic.  So when I saw it was going to be on TV I said, “What the hell? I’ll watch an episode.”

What’s the theme song kicked on I knew I was in trouble.  I remembered it being a little bit rocking & it was actually a pretty lame muzak thing.  The episode I actually remembered bits of.  It was the one where they think Alf ate the cat & he writes a not making references to the TV show the fugitive when he goes off looking for the cat.  The laugh track was pretty horrible & really negated my ability to enjoy the show in any way.  The only joke I liked was when Alf says something like, “I know the rules, you don’t eat members of your own family.”  I’m kinda confused not by why I liked it when I was eleven as much as why the show was popular with people older than that.  I know the way sitcoms of the era were designed was “normal family with a twist” & the twist being an alien is pretty ingenious (even if it had already been done twenty years earlier).  As much as I think it sucked, I still kinda want to check out the cartoon version of Alf & that movie about the guy who wrote it (is it called Permanent Midnight?)…

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Otherworld (1985)

I have the vaguest memory of this show from when I was a kid.  I thought it sucked because it was a family show & I wanted my sci-fi pretty freaking dark (I was 9, so I’d already seen Road Warrior & Dawn of the Dead).  I don’t know if the rest of America changed the channel for the same reason, but this show was gone pretty quickly.

As an adult, I’m slightly better about mixing genres like sci-fi & comedy & family so I decided to give this show a chance.  This show has some ideas going on.  There’s a family that gets sucked into a vortex & then they are wandering on an alien planet where things are almost normal but not quite, so basically it’s Sliders only with a family.  Every episode seems to be warning against some form of fascism &/or slavery, which is kind of interesting I guess?  I do like that in the episode with androids, mining robots designed themselves into androids with human-like social structure to occupy their downtime to alleviate boredom.  But in general the things that are supposed to be shocking with social commentary are just boring.  Like the state church oppressing rock music (which is the two teenagers covering The Beatles & The Rolling Stones), even at the height of all the Tipper Gore stuff I don’t think it was taken seriously.  But then again I remember around this time a friend of my mom banning her kids from listening to Led Zeppelin because they were satanic (meanwhile my brother blasted Black Sabbath & Judas Priest, shaking the wall between his bedroom & the kitchen in his attempt at teen rebellion that was acceptable behavior in our household), so maybe it was a thing back then.  I don’t know, my mom likes Danzig & Joy Division & I remember one time driving up to Pennsylvania with her listening to Nuclear Assault’s The Plague on repeat for six hours.  I guess kids want to rebel & squashing music is just a metaphor for squashing sex & drugs & poorly thought out ideals.  Maybe it is more interesting if I really try to make it interesting.  There are also a drug episode & a women enslaving men episode & a wealthy enslaving the working class episode & a beauty & the beast episode.  I think the eight episodes made is just about the right number as all of the characters are pretty generic 1980s family straight out of Charles in Charge with no real development.

I do find some of the actors interesting....
The teenage boy is played by Tony O’Dell who went on a few years later to still play a teen (at nearly 30) as the preppy kid that always wore sweater vests in Head of the Class.
Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad) plays a fascistic military leader & is probably the most interesting character on here.  He appears in pretty much all of the episodes as a semi-generic number one bad guy.
In one episode Carolyn Seymour from Survivors is on & is kind of awesome & I wonder how she didn’t become a well known character actress.  I recently found out she went on to be a Romulan on some Star Trek thing.
& check out these bad ass clear cymbals from the rock & roll episode.  Did they really make these things?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft

I think it was the summer between middle school & high school when I read the entire H.P. Lovecraft canon.  I found out about Lovecraft the same way most boys my age did, heavy metal music.  Specifically the cover art from Iron Maiden’s Live After Death (the quote on Eddy’s tombstone “That is not which can eternal lie, yet with strange aeons even death may die”) & a few Metallica songs on Ride the Lightning & Master of Puppets & Obituary using the same art for an album cover as a paperback for a Lovecraft book.  So while the girls getting into horror were reading Steven King & Peter Straub & V.C. Andrews, the guys were reading Lovecraft.  It was a horror so horrible I dare not describe it for fear of your very sanity & at the time I thought it was at least a little cheesy & outdated (this story in particular was over 60 years old at the time) & I moved on to reading David Schow & Clive Barker & the like before abandoning the genre for ten years.

With the exception of a few short favorites like “Pickman’s Model” I haven’t really re-read any of the Lovecraft stuff, though I have often watched the crap movies inspired by it (notable exception of Dagon which is awesome & the Re-Animator series).  But I’ve been reading the letters between Lovecraft & Robert E. Howard because I love REH for personal reasons.  Anyway, because of my respect for REH, I felt I really should checkout some Lovecraft again.  So “The Call of Cthulhu” seemed like a good spot to go to.  It was odd to me how similar he reads to Edgar Allan Poe (though I haven’t read Poe in a while).  I remembered all of his stories being about finding an old manuscript that talks about a horror that the writer dare not describe & while this did indeed have that, it wasn’t as silly as I thought it would be.  It’s all about setting mood & a feeling of dread & I did find it interesting how there are essentially no characters with any development & that characterization isn’t really needed in his work.  Though some of the characters have names & brief descriptions of them, even that much is unnecessary.  It’s interesting because as much as I know people these days look back wanting to do an homage to Lovecraft, it feels like he was already reaching back trying to be an homage to the previous generation’s ghost stories.  I’ve always had a leaning towards the belief that all good writers think they’re derivative hacks, so I say that with an air of admiration rather than condescension.  I can’t say this is an awesome flawless work, but I don’t think it was meant to be more than a fun read in a toss away pulp magazine & given that was it’s aspiration it is phenomenal.  If you haven’t ever read any Lovecraft & only seen the crap movies based on his work, you can read this story (or get an audiobook of it) that takes less time than a movie would & you get to experience the truth of it & then if you’re lucky you can listen to a heavy metal song about it afterward….

Friday, May 11, 2012


I don’t know when I first saw this movie.  I would guess I saw it in 1986 or 1987 on the local indie station before Fox took over it’s programming.  I do know I liked it & as low budget local stations seem to like to do, they gave me the opportunity to see it five times in a month.  I eventually saw Trancers II & Trancers III, but somehow never saw the original again even though I recommended it on a regular basis.

This movie is straight forward enough.  A criminal from the future comes to the present to kill the ancestors of political enemies so they’ll never be born, so they send a cop back in time after him. In this movie time travel works by sending your mind back in time into an ancestors body & possessing it (I guess like Quantum Leap, though this does pre-date that). Oh, & the criminal can turn people into zombies. Oh, & it takes place at Christmas & the love interest in it is Helen Hunt about ten years before Mad About You. Anyway, this movie is just about perfect. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. It’s a low budget time traveling cop 1980s action flick & if that doesn’t sound awesome, I’m not sure what does.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I first saw this movie in the dollar theater with my son’s mother.  It was over a year after my son was born (we’d given him up for adoption because we were kids) & almost a year since her family had moved to another city.  She was in town for a couple days visiting her grandmother & it happened to be near the theater & I walked the three miles to meet her for the movie.  I was 14 & the post-apocalyptic nihilistic savior vibe of the movie was great.  It was the last time I’d ever see the girl.  She lived an hour away & writing letters for over a year just wasn’t a sustainable relationship for two high school kids not old enough to drive.  I like to think it was her that stopped writing first, but to be honest I can’t remember.

So this movie came back on my radar because I was hanging out with my son before he was moving across the country to go to graduate school & the house we were hanging out at had a collection of B movies including Cyborg & I pointed it out to him & told him his mom liked the movie.  Then almost a year passed & he came back to town for spring break & we played a house show together at that same house & there was the movie still sitting on the shelf.  So I felt compelled to re-watch it.

There’s a couple of odd things about this movie.  It’s called Cyborg, but the cyborg in it really doesn’t have to be a cyborg for any reason – though I guess if you titled the movie Genetic Scientist Trying to Get to Atlanta it doesn’t sound as cool – & isn’t even really a main character.  According to Wikipedia this movie was made in an attempt to recoup costs from two cancelled movies, so I’d guess the cyborg prop that appears in one scene was probably something they had lying around.  Most of the characters in here are named after musical instrument companies for some reason (Gibson Rickenbacker, Nady Simmons).

Now I know this movie isn’t good in the same way as Alien or Blade Runner, but it is good in the same way as Return of the Living Dead Part 3 or Soldier.  It stars Jean-Claude Van Damme & it’s directed by the guy who did the Masters of the Universe movie.  Well, here’s a confession, I like the Masters of the Universe movie.  I also like this movie.  It doesn’t have incredible style or great production values or anything.  But the character Van Damme plays is a little more sophisticated than being a simple bad ass, somewhat reminiscent of Mad Max in the original Mad Max.  Also like Mad Max or Soldier it’s more of a post-apocalyptic western than a sci-fi action flick.  Somewhere between Shane & The Terminator I guess.  I spent a good portion of my life the twenty years between my viewings of this movie trying to like arty movies & re-watching this lets me know me liking something has nothing to do with technical merit & what I want is something that is just competent & satisfied with what it is.  Probably because that’s what I’m seeking for myself, to be competent & satisfied with my lot in life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Lathe of Heaven (movie)

I first saw this movie when I was five or six years old. The main things I remembered from it were dreams altering reality & aliens that looked kinda like turtles hiding on the moon. & I was sure it was black & white (but I think I watched on a black & white television). The movie freaked me out & it’s one of the many things I watched as a kid that I don’t really understand why I watched it & that went on to kind of effect my interests for the rest of my life.

So it was hard to figure out what this movie was to re-see it. First off everyone says, “Oh, Dreamscape” when you say a movie about an early 1980s movie about a guy having crazy dreams that effect reality. Second off, it wasn’t actually in black & white. Anyway, I actually managed to find it by Googling “alien turtle moon movie” which is pretty crazy as a description. I guess Google is getting to know me better. Re-seeing this movie is interesting to me. It has that vibe from before sci-fi movies became a genre of action movies, definitely a Philip K Dick vibe even though it’s actually by Ursula K Le Guin. One of the things I find really interesting about this movie for me is it may well be the root of my complete dis-trust for psychiatrists as the psychiatrist in this is pretty corrupt & manipulates his patient. The basic premise is there’s a guy who has dreams that can alter reality & it opens with him undoing a nuclear war after which he starts taking drugs to suppress his ability to dream. After a near fatality from the drugs he is forced by the state to go to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist figures out he can manipulate the dreams & tries to use them to make the world a better place, but usually it ends up making things worse – the solution to over-population for example is a plague.

This movie really works for me. Which is odd. The production value & acting quality isn’t too far removed from Logan’s Run or an episode of Twilight Zone. Maybe that’s what I like about it. It isn’t driven by fancy special effects or action or good acting or good cinematography – it’s just an interesting story told in an interesting way. It’s simple & dull & soothing. It’s not for everyone & that’s fine because I do think it’s for me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

War of the Worlds (1988 Television Series)

I have vague memories of this show from when I was a kid.  In my area it was on up against dinnertime on Saturday nights, so I very rarely got to see an episode.  But I remembered it being pretty cool even though the acting & special effects weren’t too terrific.  A couple weeks ago I re-watched the 1953 movie so I thought I’d try to check this out & as luck would have it the whole series is more or less bootlegged onto YouTube.

Well, here’s the thing about this show, season one is pretty much a clunker.  I didn’t even watch all the episodes.  Season one relies pretty heavily on the idea that the 1953 movie was a documentary & the government (along with the aliens somehow?) have made people think it never really happened.  It’s probably worth checking out the series premiere & a random episode or two just for some character backgrounds.  The only cool thing to me on season one really is these bizarre suits the alien leaders wear.

Enter season two.  Holy crap.  Step one, take the worst actors on the show & kill them off.  Step two, change the setting from wandering around modern North America looking for aliens to living in a bunker in some dirty dystopian city that is maybe apocalyptic (not post-apocalyptic, but there are routine shortages of things like water, food, medicine, & electricity).  Step three, make new alien technology based on weird organic looking stuff instead of basing it on the designs of 1953.  Step four, instead of having the aliens be exclusively an invasionary force, have them be final survivors from a planet that have no place else to go & have to do crazy shit to the Earth & its inhabitants to survive (so some moral ambiguity instead of just “humans versus aliens”).  So yeah, season two is good to me in the same way the Max Headroom series is good to me, but I can see why it would totally piss off fans of season one & why people who had seen season one wouldn’t bother to check it out.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is a sci-fi show from the late 1980s & I’m not saying this is as good of a discovery as a ton of other things, but I dig it.  They even have an industrial music episode (though I couldn’t figure out who the band actually was, but I guess it was around the time that the cyberpunk & industrial sub-culture raised its head into the mainstream for a few seconds & scared parents in the way punk, metal, & rap (because hey, it wasn’t hip hop when parents were scared of it!) did (which reminds me how funny it is that the last musical thing I remember parents getting scared of was Britney Spears – will there ever be something with angst approaching the mainstream again?)).  Oh, it’s probably worth noting that the one guy on this show went on to star in the Highlander television show & the little girl went on to be one of the hosts of Are You Afraid of the Dark? & the star of the Clueless TV series.  Here’s a clip from season two & if you dig it, maybe check out some more...

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