music

2014: My Year In Lists (Part Two)

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Music! It’s that stuff that pours into your earholes from out of your radio (hahaha, remember RADIOS) digital music computer doodad… that contraption you’ve got clipped to your fashionable, like, satchel thing… whatever… you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe all your music is in a cloud somewhere. Music chip implanted in your brain? I don’t understand how anything works.

Look, we’re going to talk about the music that I experienced in 2014. And we’ll be doing so via a bunch of mini-lists, because the thought of combining everything into a big Top 10 or Top 20 list makes me very, very tired. And I’m tired enough already, you guys.  My iVinyl songtunes app won’t synch up with my sonic Bluetooth cochlear graft!!! I can’t even!!! That’s a thing kids say, right? RIGHT??? I’M GOING TO HASHTAG EVERYTHING JUST TO BE SURE.

To the lists…

5 Absolutely Perfect Pop Songs from 2014

“Team” by Lorde – This song is like getting drunk on a weird Thursday at 2am with a bunch of really cool people that you’ve only known for a couple of weeks, so they’re still exciting. “Team” manages to whip up almost a mystical feel, but super-modern; I imagine this is the kind of thing that Stevie Nix would turn out if she was currently 17 and into synthesizers.

“Pompeii” by Bastille – If I had to sum of this song in a single word, that word would be, “Triumphant.” Listening to “Pompeii” makes me want to triumph over something. I don’t know WHAT, specifically, I would like to triumph over, but still… this song makes me long for a non-specific triumph, where I’d thrust my clenched fists into the air right at the “but when you close your eeeyees” part. I feel like that would be really satisfying.

“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor – If you could use a wizard’s spell to turn a wad of strawberry Hubba Bubba into a song, this is what you would get. Now, I will grant you that the marrying of a sort of old timey-ish voice with modern pop isn’t a new idea.. nor is this the best ever example of that trend (Amy Winehouse would be the queen of that particular retro castle). However, “All About That Bass” is fun as shit, so whatever. Plus, when you see the song title written out, it’s mildly entertaining to pretend she’s talking about her love for a certain kind of fish.

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea & Charli XCX – There’s some kind of iffy racial stuff with this song… she’s essentially doing “black voice,” which is not cool… but, you know, the video was a whole, awesome Clueless homage. So… we’re going to say it’s okay to like this song…? Because it JAMS? Look, I’m not sure where I’m supposed to stand on Iggy Azalea, so I have to listen to my heart. My heart is telling me that this song makes my pants want to get up and dance. So there’s that.

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift – When Taylor Swift is president in like 2045, we’ll look back at the release of “Shake It Off” as the moment when everyone in America suddenly realized… hey… Taylor Swift is actually pretty great. Those first stirrings of goodwill will snowball until, eventually, we the people decide that it would probably be in all of our best interests if she just ran everything for a while. I feel like her Vice President will be her cat.

3 Terrible Songs from 2014

“Fireball” by Pitbull – I do not get why Pitbull is popular. He looks like a Miami dad, and he exclusively puts out songs that sound like they were specifically designed to be shitty ringtones.  And yet he’s super famous, and I work in a deli. The world, once again, fails to make sense. Anyway, I would rather be killed by an actual fireball, Backdraft-style, than ever hear this song again.

“Animals” by Maroon 5 – Everything about Adam Levine is gross… I imagine that he always smells like American Spirits, some kind of hair wax, and cheap lube… but this song, which is LITERALLY about hunting and killing women, is really just too much. Listening to “Animals” makes me want to apologize to everybody on behalf of my gender.

“Battleships” by Daughtry – The whole song is an extended, tortured metaphor about how a relationship is like two battleships fighting. That sounds stupid enough on its own, but then there’s the part in the song’s chorus when he goes “boom BOOM boom… boom BOOM boom.” HE’S BEING THE CANNONS ON THE BATTLESHIP. Sometimes, the onamonapias work in your favor, and sometimes they’re the hill upon which you die. Ugh, I can’t believe I phone-voted for you when you were on American Idol, Chris Daughtry. How the… not mighty, exactly… how the mediocre have fallen.

1 Song from 2014 That Sounds Like Time Travel

“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson – You could tell me this was a track that was accidentally cut from Prince’s “Dirty Mind” album due to a grievous production error, and I’d totally believe it. By the way,  I do an excellent car dance to this song that really impresses the other drivers and lets them know I’m a cool guy who is very hip to the popular musics of today. My car dance has shoulder wiggles AND head bobs. It’s pretty awesome. This song is more awesome, though.

2 Songs from 2014 That I Hated At First, Then Totally Loved

“The Man” by Aloe Blacc – I hated it because it was in every MLB promo for every baseball game that existed in 2014, and that kind of repetition is just brutal. But then baseball season ended, and I heard it context-free on the radio, and it made think… you know what… maybe this song is about how I’M the man, I’m the man, I’m the man. So I love it now. Because I’m THE MAN.

“Chandelier by Sia” – This is song is gorgeous and inspires within in me soaring emotions, and… for some reason, I hated it the first time I heard it. Some things are just too beautiful to be appreciated at first glance. Anyway, “Chandelier” makes me want to survive some kind of huge ordeal, then describe the experience via the medium of interpretive dance.

3 Artists/Bands That I Rediscovered in 2014

Carole King – That lady sure could beat the shit out of a piano. Listen to “Tapestry,” if you’re okay with taking the time to glue your heart back together afterwards.

Crooked Fingers -They’re kind of the postscript to the band Archers of Loaf, who weren’t even a really huge deal back when they had some hipster, record store cache. So this is the small band that came from a slightly larger small band. And man… they’re just weird and great and like the soundtrack to my life, if I were a little bit cooler. Listen to this song, then go listen to the entire album that it’s from.

Paul Simon – That I ever forgot about Paul Simon is shameful. Thankfully, the movie Obvious Child came along and reminded me of what a bad, Paul Simon-shunning person I had become. Mandatory Paul Simon listenings should be written into The Constitution. I’ll have to get a petition going that calls for said change; something that I can present to President Swift at a Town Hall meeting or some such.

16 Bands from 2014 That I Totally Made Up

Condescending Turtles

The Beefpants Trio

El Boring Boringson & The Dulls

Mama Jokes

Crucified Judas

Elbowsnatch

Virginia Hummelsmith & The Best Band That Could Be Assembled Via Craigslist

Goodbye Horses (a Q Lazzarus cover band)

Dads in Garages

The Dirtbag Dandies

Professor Emanuel’s Sweet & Sour Lemon Drops (sorry, that’s a brand of lozenge that I invented)

Cud Punch

Prolapsed Soul

2Scary4School

Wet Jeans

and, of course…

Ed Sheeren (but not the one you’re thinking of)

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A Definitive Ranking of Every Song From Grease 2

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Grease 2 gets a bad rap. People shit on it because it’s “so inferior to the original” and “awful in every way imaginable,” and… okay… sure… if you hold it up to conventional standards, Grease 2 is definitely going to be found sorely lacking in, among other things, overall quality. HOWEVER… if you choose to look at Grease 2 like I do, as a very colorful, peppy multi-car pile-up where nobody gets out alive… then you will start to come around to the fact that Grease 2 is actually a strange blend of madness, camp, good intentions, and sexual metaphors that deserves your attention. Your DRUNKEN attention… don’t try to watch Grease 2 sober, you guys, seriously. Grease 2 only fully blossoms when the viewer is hammered. Sorry… should have mentioned that up top. Nonetheless, it’s true… Grease 2 is an underrated movie. A hidden gem, if you will, provided your bar for the phrase “hidden gem” is firmly locked into the lowest setting.

Now, having outed myself as a Grease 2 apologist, I feel like I should also admit up front that the only thing I really like about the movie is the songs. The script, the acting, the way that everything kind of looks cheap and flat… yeah, it’s all pretty bad. BUT THE SONGS. Some of them are top-notch! And soooo bizarre. I can only imagine the breathtaking majesty of the mountain of cocaine that was required to come up with some of these production numbers. They are, mostly, truly entertaining. So… as a way to honor Grease 2… and to maybe get some other people to watch it, so I’m not like the ONE person holding down the Grease 2 table in the Great Hall of Fan Enthusiasms… let us now take a hard look at the songs from Grease 2, ranking them from worst to best, and reveling in their weird-ass glory.

A Definitive Ranking of Every Song From Grease 2

12. Who’s That Guy In a movie that has its share of dead spots, this is the deadest. When a mysterious motorcycle guy appears on the scene (SPOILER ALERT: it’s a plot contrivance!), the entire cast sings a song wondering… hey… who’s that guy? That’s it. That’s the sum total of the song. Its reason for existing in Grease 2 is so that we, the viewers, will understand that the characters on-screen would like to know who that guy is that just showed up. Pointless! And also poorly constructed as a set-piece! During the song, the mysterious motorcycle guy does a bunch of tricks and stunts on his motorcycle to embarrass a gang of thugs, and also to evade the police. Grease 2, it seems, did NOT have the budget for a motorcycle stuntman of any real caliber, so the tricks and stunts are massively awkward, slow, and about as awe-inspiring as a Boy Scouts pinewood derby.

11. Charades Technically, THIS is the worst song in the movie. It’s drippy, poorly sung, and there’s so much reverb added to actor Maxwell Caulfield’s voice that it’s hard to understand exactly what he’s droning on about. However, Maxwell Caulfield… though a few quarts low in the charisma department in Grease 2… is the same actor that plays everybody’s favorite rock n’ roll lady-killer, Rex Manning, in Empire Records. Nothing involving Sexy Rexy can ever be the worst… so “Charades” gets a bump up the list by default.

10. Rock-a-Hula LuauThis song is so unnecessary to the plot of Grease 2, I couldn’t even find a clip of the production number on YouTube. Think about all the garbage that’s on YouTube. There’s a whole galaxy of useless crap on there, yet “Rock-a-Hula Luau” doesn’t make the cut. That’s pretty sad. Anyway, this song’s sole purpose is to establish that the characters are at a Luau. And, hey, it does establish that pretty thoroughly! Essentially, the song goes: “We’re at a luau, hey look… we’re at a luau. Do you understand where the characters are at? A luau!” And then there’s some vaguely racist stereotyping of Hawaiians. Good fun, though… again… totally unnecessary.

9. We’ll Be TogetherBy the time this song rolls around, I’m usually pretty drunk… so… I don’t have any specific memories of it being awful, or wonderful, or anything at all. My guess: It explains that all the characters will be together, giving us, the viewers, peace of mind that everything’s going to be okay once the credits roll. That’s very thoughtful of the Grease 2 creators, thinking of our needs like that.

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8. Love Will Turn Back The Hands Of TimeMichelle Pfeiffer’s second big solo number (we’ll get to the first one in a minute), “Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time” is a ballad that her character sings after she thinks that her mysterious motorcycle lover guy is dead. It’s kind of a whatever song, but it’s elevated by a fantasy sequence that takes place in MOTORCYCLE HEAVEN, which I have put in all-caps to denote my enjoyment of such a stupid concept. Said mysterious motorcycle lover guy appears on a pile of crashed, white motorcycles in a shiny, silver version of his bad-ass biker ensemble, and then they dance around in the output of a whole fleet of fog machines. It’s very silly, but it’s played SO straight-faced. MOTORCYCLE HEAVEN IS REAL, YOU GUYS, STOP LAUGHING.

7. Back To School Again The big opening number! And, for an opening number, it’s kind of… I don’t know… unfocused, I guess? I mean, there’s certainly a lot going on. Everyone in the cast is involved, plus SO MANY EXTRAS. The “Back to School Again” ensemble makes the Helms Deep battle from Lord of the Rings look like several guys hitting each other with pillows. The entire high school population is out there shaking their butts, sometimes together… sometimes not… sometimes in big groups… sometimes in smaller groups. Everyone is just kind of everywhere doing their own thing, and the overall effect is sort of like a very rhythmic rush hour at Grand Central Station. Also, the song is sung by The Four Tops, who are not at any point on screen during this number. So all the teenagers are just dancing around to disembodied voices, which breaks like eleven rules of the Cinematic Musicals Universe. Not a great way to start things off, Grease 2… ah, but you’ve always been an outlier. Doing things your own way. Rascal.

WARNING: From here on out, the songs get extremely catchy. ZFS is not responsible for whatever tune gets stuck in your head like an errant lawn dart. Proceed with caution.

6. Girl For All SeasonsThis is the song that the Pink Ladies, a girl gang, sing at Rydell High’s talent show. In the world of Grease 2, the annual talent show is the Super Bowl, or at the very least, the Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. It’s a BIG DEAL, mainly because the grand prize is “100 long-play records.” Which I guess is something to get excited about? Man, the 60’s seem like bummer. Anyway, “Girl For All Seasons” is a perfectly fine song… pretty, pleasantly melodic… plus, the girls dress up in some wacky outfits to denote the different months of each season. One has a giant catcher’s mitt on her head. Another is dressed up like some kind of weird, George Washington/quarter thing that looks the the result of a Seth Brundle telepod mishap. It’s all very strange, particularly when you consider that these are supposed to be teenagers, yet they have the costuming and makeup budget of an Off-Broadway production.

5. Cool RiderThis is Michelle Pfeiffer’s big, showstopping solo number. It is about her desire for a “cool rider,” which sounds like a very unpleasant sexual maneuver involving Icy Hot, but is actually just a dude with a motorcycle. The song itself is catchy enough, but it’s made that much better by Pfeiffer, who totally commits to the cause. You are TOTALLY on board with her needing a cool rider in her life. Look at how she climbs, then straddles that really tall ladder like it’s a motorcycle! BOLD ACTING CHOICES. The best part of the song, however, is the ending. As “Cool Rider” fades out, Pfeiffer dances off into the middle distance, still quite involved in selling us this number, as everyone else just goes about their business while totally ignoring the fact that a crazy person is currently boogieing across the quad to a song that is presumably in her own head. Or maybe they CAN hear the song, and are just totally over it. “Oh hey it’s that girl who’s super into Cool Riders. What’s that again? A sex thing involving sno-cones and a BMX bike? I wish she’d stop singing already; we’re trying to have outdoor study hall over here!”

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4. Prowlin’This would be the T-Birds entry into the Rydell High talent show. The T-Birds, by the way, are the male equivalent of the Pink Ladies, i.e. what passes for a gang in the early 60’s. They are, to say the least, about as a threatening as a kitten licking a marshmallow, which would be fine… I don’t look to movie musicals for gritty street gang realism much like I don’t look to Boys N The Hood for jazzy tap numbers… if they weren’t posited throughout the entirety of the movie as the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. The T-Birds make the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story look like the Ching-a-Ling Nomads, but whatever. As for their big song… “Prowlin'” could easily be filler for a Brian Setzer Orchestra album, plus there’s some nifty shadow work towards the end. A respectable theatrical effort from such tough-as-nails bikers.

3. Score TonightThis song is about bowling, but it’s REALLY about fucking. They’re gonna score tonight! GET IT. “Score” means “fucking.” Anyway, this is where Grease 2 moves into Aggressively Cheesy territory. “Score Tonight” basically beats the shit out of you, the viewer, with a cinder block forged from pure, uncut campiness, and yet it’s all palatable because the cast is SUPER into it. I don’t know if they all really believed they were crafting the next, great Hollywood musical, or if they’re all just like Daniel Day Lewis-levels of committed to their performances but… yeah… I believe that THEY believe that they’re going to bowl/fuck the ever-loving shit out of tonight. Oh, and a special nod here to Lorna Luft as Paulette… she gets to sing like six lines in the whole movie by herself, but she sings each one of those six lines like Ethel Fucking Merman as Mama Rose. You go, girl! NO SMALL PARTS!!!

2. Do It For Our CountryEasily the best song ever written about a guy using nuclear war as a method of getting into a girl’s pants. Seriously though, this song is greatness. It’s clever, funny, and just generally working on a higher level than the rest of the movie. It really does feel like “Do It For Our Country” time-warped in from a better, more cohesive musical, and I feel like if that musical actually existed, it would be my favorite musical of all time. Instead, we have this perfect castoff of a song… one excellent musical number in a movie that most of the time tops out at mediocre. So why is it on the list at number 2? Because number 1 is…

1. ReproductionIs “Reproduction” the absolute best song in Grease 2? No. But it secures the number one spot because “Reproduction” IS Grease 2. It is its essence, boiled down into one extremely silly, radioactively catchy, bad-idea of a song that is made excellent by a game cast with zero sense of shame. Look, this is another song about fucking, and it’s essentially just one long lyrical string of sex jokes and innuendos. On paper, this is the stupidest song ever written outside of “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.” But when the full-force commitment of the Grease 2 ensemble is put behind it, “Reproduction” just… works. It REALLY works. For a few giddy minutes, you forget that you’re watching a pretty terrible movie. That’s all you can ask for from a musical number in this context. And having us forget that we’re watching something awful because of something SO GREAT… that’s all that Grease 2 can ask of us. 

Color Me Badd Loves Me

I was listening to some 90’s hip-hop yesterday afternoon, and tweeting about it (like ya do when you’ve been drinking).

This morning, I woke up to a little nugget of internet-based joy:

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Couple of things…

-Color Me Badd are still together? Not to be ageist or anything, but I feel like a group of guys in their late-40’s/early-50’s busting out New Jack dance moves in ill-fitting multicolored suits wouldn’t be all that cute in 2014. I mean… maybe they’ve updated their look by now, I don’t know… but still. Or maybe they’re NOT together, like “still out there performing” (which I think we can all agree would be for the best). Maybe this Twitter account is just how they manage the Color Me Badd brand. The point is, there is still an entity out there that officially and legitimately identifies itself as the 90’s hip-hop group Color Me Badd, and they are present and active on Twitter. That is why the internet is a very strange place.

-There is someone related to the band… an intern, I hope to god, although that brings up a whole host of other horrifying scenarios (WHY DOES COLOR ME BADD NEED AN INTERN IN 2014???)… that is searching around on Twitter for mentions of Color Me Badd, and then favoriting the tweets that contain said mentions. I’m assuming here that they’re ONLY favoriting positive mentions, though who knows what Color Me Badd is all about these days. I would think that, if you’re a group/brand entity like Color Me Badd, you’d have to have a “well, at least they’re still talking about us” mentality… bad press is still press, ya know… and, thus, would favor even the tweets that likened the song stylings of Color Me Badd to a collection of farting buttholes. But maybe not. Ultimately, how they steer the ship of their web presence is entirely up to them and/or the intern (?) that’s running their online affairs.

-It’s probably one of the band members’ kids that’s running their Twitter account. That just occurred to me. Or it’s like a nephew or something. That’s so fucking adorable, I want to stab myself in the eye. Even if that’s not true, it’s the lie I want to believe.

-I find it fucking HYSTERICAL that Color Me Badd favorited a tweet of mine in 2014. Because… why the fuck should THAT be a thing that happens? Why is that our world now? Social media is such a bonkers, complex web of tin cans on strings, I sometimes can’t even fit the idea of it all into my brain. What I’m getting at here is that, this morning, I feel like I’m living in THE FUTURE because a band from the 90’s liked a thing I wrote above the toilet in what is essentially the internet’s bathroom stall. That is my paradox for today.

-Oh, and I guess you can follow me on Twitter if you want. I am @zombieshark on there. Fair warning, though, you’re going to hear a WHOLE LOT more about the Texas Rangers than you probably ever wanted.

10 Alternatives to SXSW That Are Also Happening This Week

SXSW

South by Southwest, or SXSW, or “South-by” (if you’re awful), is an annual music/film/tech festival held every year in Austin, TX. Over the past decade, it has grown into kind of a big deal. Everyone who is ANYONE is currently there running wild, partying with celebrities, and living, man… LIVING.

Sadly, you are not there. You are not involved in the music, film, or tech industries. Also, frankly, you are kind of a drag. I mean, look at those pants you’re wearing. [mimes slitting throat]. Am I right?

Anyway, just because you’re nobody special, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Moderate fun, like drinking a beer on a carousel, but still. Here are several events that are happening this week in major cities near you. Enjoy! Or don’t. You’re not exactly a career-maker, buddy… nobody cares.

Billings, MT: The Old Man Swearingen Memorial Rock Quarry Fun-Run

London, England: Bawdy Farces in the Park, featuring Al Twoomy, England’s #1 Benny Hill impersonator.

New York, NY: Not an official event, but it’s usually this time of year that residents of the East Village gather in the streets to watch the first rat swarms of Spring pick clean Winter’s last hobo skeletons.

Dallas, TX: Boot Blowout at Wacky Jeff’s Boot Barn & Belt Buckle Emporium

Seattle, WA: That guy Dwayne from Accounting is having a thing. Can you bring bean dip?

Barcelona, Spain: Paella Eating Contest (contestants must provide own saffron and tarp)

Tuscaloosa, AL: Tammi Baldrich’s Bi-Monthly Garage Sale & Charity Moon Pie Slap Fight

Athens, GA: The Springtime Unveiling of Georgia’s Most Luxurious Dandies (1 free mason jar of sweet tea per attendee)

Las Vegas, NV: Opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, Qiralium; using elaborate set-pieces and jaw-dropping acrobatics, the story of a guy named Larry and his crippling addiction to penny slots is told.

Dublin, Ireland: Celtic Dancing Until Ye Puke 2014

Zombie Fights Shark 2.0

Several years ago, when the Internet was… well… kind of like it is now, but a little less so… there was a blog called Zombie Fights Shark. It was written by me, Clinton… or C-dog, if you like… and as far as blogs go, it was mostly fine. I wrote the majority of it from my cubicle in the billing department of a New York advertising agency, usually in lieu of doing actual work. But it was the mid-00’s! You could DO THAT. Nobody cared.

Eventually, the economy collapsed. Was it because everyone was writing blogs instead of working? Possibly, although I am not an economist. It’s much more likely that it had something to with math. And… maybe CHUDs? Not ruling it out, although… again… not an economist.

Anyway, the collapse of the economy triggered a whole series of events that ultimately led to the demise of Zombie Fights Shark. It’s a long story, but suffice to say, those CHUDs screwed me over pretty good. After a few fits and starts of trying to keep the proverbial ship afloat, I ended the blog for good in 2010. One bullet. Back of the head. Mafia style.

And now… four years later… I have decided to bring Zombie Fights Shark back, albeit in a slightly different form.

The obvious question is, “Uh… why are you doing that?”

My answer to you, question-asking-person, is, “Don’t worry about it!!!”

I have my reasons, and they are boring. What’s important here is that Zombie Fights Shark is back, my babies, and we are going to have a reasonable amount of internet-based fun! (I shouldn’t qualify things like that, sorry). WE’RE GOING TO HAVE THE MOST FUN THAT HAS EVER EXISTED; IT WILL BE MORE FUN THAN MINI-GOLF (whelp, now I’ve oversold it… nothing is more fun than mini-golf)

So… what has changed? How is THIS Zombie Fights Shark new, better, and different than the OLD Zombie Fights Shark? For starters, I went all in and spent literally several dollars on the actual domain name, “zombiefightsshark.com.” A bold move, but it’s one that I feel completely legitimizes this whole operation. Not having a “.blogger” or “.wordpress” in my web address basically makes me like the Huffington Post now, but with stronger opinions on horror movies and liquor.

Also, this time around, I’m hoping to put out a much more lean, focused version of Zombie Fights Shark. No more personal stuff that nobody cares about. No more posts detailing how I can’t think of anything to write about (it is EMBARRASSING how many of those are on the old ZFS). Generally, I’m shooting for less fat, more meat; the website version of a filet mignon, complete with an omnipresent beefy smell (as soon as the OdorTron 3000 technology is finally approved by the FDA, of course).

The picture will become more clear as we move along, but that’s basically where we’re at.  This Zombie Fights Shark represents a fresh start, and with that fresh start comes a lot of exciting, new content that I hope will absolutely knock you on your ass (or at least make you chuckle softly to yourself while sitting on the toilet). And, for you fans of the old ZFS, don’t worry… I’m bringing back a few old favorites, too, because one guy can only be so creative.

And so, with the publishing of this inaugural post, I now declare that Zombie Fights Shark 2.0 is officially live!

More to come.