All posts by Shadow Squadron

About Shadow Squadron

Hey! I'm a Star Wars fan. I like rock music. I play electric guitar. I write a blog That's all.

The 5 Bands That Shaped Early Metal

Some genres seem to appear out of nowhere, but others can be traced to very specific roots, artists and dates. The latter type predictably causes some controversy as to what is actually a new genre, and what is just a fancy twist on the old one. Metal is one of these; it comes directly from hard rock and rock n roll, but it’s exact beginnings are a little fuzzy. It’s come such a long way since then though that it is hardly recognizable as one genre anymore; modern ‘core is hardly comparable to the 70s glam swagger that started it all. But when it comes to finding the very first metal bands, there are a few that come to mind.

Obviously, there are much more; these are just the most influential. Metal would not have been possible without dozens of other bands in the 60s and 70s, but these are the bands that kickstarted the genre and made the rest possible.

Van Halen:

VH is credited with inventing glam metal, understandably. However, their influence didn’t stop there. Eddie’s brilliant solos invented and/or revolutionized many styles used extensively in later metal subgenres, such as two-handed tapping, whammy dives, pinch harmonics, pinch harmonics combined with whammy dives…you get the idea.

Led Zeppelin:

Led Zep is not exactly a metal band. Their most well-known song, Stairway to Heaven, may be a lot of things but it is hardly metal, and their bluesy hard rock sound was not at all unusual at the time. However, as the 70s progressed, their sound only grew heavier, eventually heavy enough to inspire future metal bands and possibly to be considered metal themselves. The definition of metal music has changed over the decades, but in the mid-70s, Led Zep fit the picture.

Deep Purple:

British prog/psychedelic hard rock outfit Deep Purple seemed like an unlikely band to kick off a genre like heavy metal, but here they are. Their sound may have been bluesy or psychedelic at times, but at the end of the day it was heavy as well, and at the time that stood out. Their unusually heavy guitars are what earned them their place by Led Zep and Black Sabbath in what is now known as the “unholy trinity” of British proto-metal.

Motorhead:

You probably weren’t expecting to find Motorhead on this list. They called themselves rock n roll, and for a while that worked out. They lived the rockstar life like no one else–leather, whiskey, and amps cranked to 11. They never cared what the world thought; they just played their music regardless of what people called it. But given their sound from the very beginning, it was no surprise that people started calling them metal as soon as the word had a meaning in music, and while their sound remained relatively stable, the labels changed from hard rock to heavy metal to early thrash metal. While the accuracy of those labels is debatable, Motorhead remains one of the most underrated and overlooked bands to influence the beginnings of metal to this day.

Black Sabbath:

Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. Sabbath is the first band to be considered actual metal, and their influence is beyond measure. The song “Black Sabbath” is credited with inventing all of metal and while one song couldn’t possibly start such a diverse genre singlehandedly, it’s album, ironically also called Black Sabbath, was the first album to be considered legitimate metal. Some of their other songs, such as Iron Man, Paranoid, War Pigs, and Children of the Grave, together were where it all began, followed up by Crazy Train and other songs by Ozzy and his new guitarist Randy Rhoads. The band’s influence on the future of metal is unmatched by all of the others combined.

8 Ways the World Could End

In a world with billions of different species fighting for survival and superiority, it is natural that one will rise above the rest. But no society can last forever. Just like an individual, a species must die out sooner or later. Normally, one species replaces another, but this time it could be different. This time, humans could be the architects of their own destruction.

Naturally, it is possible that humans will outlive the earth. By the time the earth is uninhabitable, humanity could be spread over multiple planets or even multiple solar systems. But in the event that humanity does come to an end, these are some of the most interesting ways it could go.

The Sun - Solar Flare

8: Solar flare. Solar flares disrupt the magnetic Earth’s magnetic field when they touch it. Effects of this radiation are increased radio static, high inaccuracy in radio transmissions, and disruption of electrical circuits. One power grid or a few sensitive pieces of technology are not a huge concern, but a big flare could knock out power in the entire world. In the future, when just about everything is dependent on electricity, a global outage could result in serious problems.

1390818902_buconero.jpg

7: Failed experiment. Most of the ways we expect the world to end are natural, external factors, but humans are very capable of getting it done themselves. For this one, particle accelerators are the most likely cause, but there are others. Of course, a synthetic black hole or singularity could be the cause. These are not easy to create, but even more difficult to control, and a man-made black hole would swallow the earth in seconds. Of course other types of experiments could also spell disaster for the human race, such as artificial diseases or nuclear weapon testing.

alien-invasion.jpg

6: Aliens. It is unlikely that when aliens contact Earth, their first idea will be to conquer it like they do in movies. However, there are some very real threats associated with extraterrestrial contact. One risk is that the bacteria or similar organisms that could be unintentionally transmitted to Earth might be so much stronger than bacteria we know that our organisms will be wiped out completely. But the most sinister threat may be the aliens themselves. There is a good chance that the aliens that make it to Earth will be so much more advanced than us that they view us as we would view single-celled organisms on Mars. They would experiment and take samples, and the damage to our society could be catastrophic.

8225-background-fantasy-wallpaper

5: Mass insanity. Advancements in all fields of science have led to significantly longer, safer, more comfortable, and less exciting lives. In the future, when robots have taken people’s jobs and humans have no work to do, the human existence could be so dull and artificial that boredom will be a serious psychological concern. Thousand-year lifespans, or even non-physical existence, could have serious mental consequences. Eventually, boredom will lead to insanity, and that just can’t end well.

terminator_genesis_robot_face_104262_3840x2160.jpg

4: Artificial intelligence. Many sci-fi books and movies develop the idea of robots that break free of their programming and go on to attempt to take over the world. While it is unlikely to happen that suddenly, sooner or later it will become a problem. There are already robots that have developed their own indecipherable language that not even the people who built them understand. Robots have better senses, thinking speed, and reaction time than humans, and without the burden of emotions, they are able to make much better decisions. It is only a matter of time until an AI figures out that the world is better off with robot leaders than humans ones.

nukevideo-feature

3: Nuclear war. This is fairly self-explanatory. In the event of another world war, which might not be as far away as people want to think, new technologies would make it much faster and deadlier than any other war in human history. Perhaps the deadliest weapon used would be the atomic bomb, which can out an entire city instantly and make much of the surrounding area uninhabitable for decades. The technology has improved drastically since WWII. There are already existing bombs that are over 6,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast, and the total amount of nuclear weapons in existence could destroy the earth dozens of times.

gas-mask-soldier-rifle.jpg

2: Biological warfare. Antibiotic-resistant diseases are here, and that’s bad news in itself. Some countries are already manufacturing artificial diseases, and if they are used, the entire human population can be wiped out in days. A resistant disease with no cure manufactured to spread fast and kill instantly could spread to all continents via air travel. In fact, given the high rodent population in most big cities, an antibiotic-resistant form of the bubonic plague is not impossible. If there is no way to make a cure, there might not be anything to do but sit back and watch history repeat itself.

mad-max-fury-road

1: Global warming. It is a natural cycle, but this one is different. Humans create 114 billion (114,000,000,000) kilograms of greenhouse gases every day, which drastically increases global temperature. Even if it is stopped, the results will be catastrophic. But the truth is no matter how long we postpone it, it’s unavoidable. There has to be a storm after a calm. The only reason humans are still alive is that the Earth’s climate has remained unchanged for the previous 20,000 years, but the “heat age” is long overdue and the climate will give way eventually, and the eruption will be more sudden the more we postpone it. Even if no other apocalypse occurs, it’s only a matter of time before the Earth will be uninhabitable. We can only hope Mars will be ready to be colonized by then.

Alaska Travel Guide

Alaskans joke that if Texans won’t quit saying they’re the biggest state, they’ll split Alaska in two and make the cowboys third biggest. While a lot of Alaska is frozen solid year-round, it’s still a big state to explore. Because of its size, it’s not easy choosing which part to visit. It’s way too big to road-trip in a week or two so sacrifices will have to be made.

chugachmountains

Regardless of which part you decide to see, there are a wide variety of reasons to go. Wildlife is one of the most obvious reasons people want to see the state. Alaska is home to many types of wildlife, including deer, elk, reindeer, moose, musk oxen, wood bison, red and gray foxes, marmots, porcupines, beavers, coyotes, wolverines, lynx, black bears, grizzlies, polar bears, and tundra wolves. Birds include puffins, osprey, bald eagles, and ten different owl species. Sealife includes harbor seals, dolphins, belugas, orcas, and humpback whales.

alaska-shutterstock_87922123

Denali is a good area to see almost any type of Alaskan wildlife. In salmon season (May through September), you can find car-accessible bear-watching spots in Hidden Creek. For a less wild experience, see the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where you can see much of Alaska’s elusive wildlife in huge but safe habitats. While you’re at it, check out the Alaska Sealife Center too.

If you’re interested in cruises off the coast, Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier are some of the best. However, sealife and glacier tours are offered off the coast of many small towns and parks as well, so if you’re near the coast, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one.

akphotograph.com

There is no one perfect place to stay to see everything you want to see, so you could consider staying in several places for a few days at a time. But if that’s off your budget, here are some of the most popular places:

  • Anchorage is a popular place to stay due to it being a big city, but being surrounded almost entirely by wilderness.
  • Seward, a few hours’ drive south from Anchorage, is close to many popular destinations, most notably Kenai Fjords. It’s also a hotspot for boat tours off the cost.
  • Juneau, down in the “panhandle,” is a completely separate part of the state, which is worth a whole separate trip.
  • Fairbanks, up north, is also a good place to stay if you don’t mind the snow and cold. It’s close to Denali, which draws in the most visitors, and it’s a good place for dog sledding. If you want to see the Northern Lights, Fairbanks is the way to go.

2252e-alyeskawinternite-4

When it comes down to individual locations, it’s not an easy choice. There are way too many to choose from. However, since it’s unlikely you’ll get a chance to see them all, here are some of the most popular, most interesting, and most scenic, and best rated places in the state:

akmendenhallglacier_en-us7350375136_1366x768

#11: Mendenhall Glacier. This one is located only a few miles from Juneau, which makes it one of the most popular glaciers in Alaska. It’s also one of the most easily accessible, since trails from the visitor center go right down to it.

1200px-klondike_gold_rush_nhp_skagway

#10: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. In this park and the small town near it, you will find museums dedicated to the history of Klondike, gold rush-era log cabins, and the largest gold nugget ever found.

cruise-hubbard-glacier-1800x1000

#9: Hubbard Glacier. The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America, and one of the fastest. Because of it’s (relatively) fast movement, it’s common for large chunks of ice to break off into the ocean, which is why boats can rarely get closer than a half-mile from the face.

#8: Sitka National Historical Park. While it’s known chiefly for its totem poles, there is a lot more to discover. It’s located on the site of a battle between the Russians and the Tlingits in 1804, and as a result, the park has an odd combination of Tlingit and Russian culture. But along with the artifacts and buildings, there is also a lush rainforest and a scenic coastline that make Sitka a good park for hiking and camping.

2street-fairbanks.jpg

#7: Fairbanks. The town of Fairbanks in central Alaska is popular mostly because of how common it is to see the northern lights. It’s also a good place for dogsledding. However, know that temperatures go well below freezing day and night, and the snow can be heavy enough to keep people stranded at home.

downtown-seward

#6: Seward. It’s proximity that makes this town a must-see. In addition to the town itself, it’s close to Kenai Fjords, Resurrection Bay, the Alaska Sealife Center, and many more popular destinations.

alaskahighway_fn

#5: Alaska Highway. The Alaska Highway a scenic route that runs all the way from British Columbia to Fairbanks. It’s a good route to take if you intend to drive to Alaska, and the views are worth seeing. The towns along the road offer places to stay, and there are plenty of attractions along the way.

download

#4: Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve. Glacier Bay is known for its whale-watching tours, but it’s also a good kayaking/camping spot, with over 700 miles of shoreline to explore. Sealife is the main attraction, which is plentiful and includes harbor seals and humpback whales. Tour boats and cruise ships are the easiest way to enter, since there is only one road.

web-canadian-mountains-1

#3: Tracy Arm Fjord. This is bigger and better version of the Mendenhall Glacier. The waterway is often no wider than a half mile, but the 3000-foot cliffs, glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife, make it a spectacular natural wonder that’s a can’t-miss if you’re in the Juneau area.

1bp2sa12ayqy.jpg

#2: Kenai Fjords National Park. This park is located just a few miles from Seward, or a two-hour drive from Anchorage. Hiking, whale-watching, climbing, and visiting active glaciers are just a few of the activities found there. The Exit Glacier is one of the major attractions.

denali_alaska

# 1: Denali National Park. Denali is simply a can’t-miss. It’s a big place, like everything in Alaska, so even within the park you will have to choose what to see and what to miss. In the spring, you will find endless fields of wildflowers in the pristine, untouched wilderness. Moose, elk, bison, reindeer, lynx, bears, and tundra wolves are no stranger to the park, though some of the above mentioned are elusive and hard to spot.

14 Metal Subgenres

Metalheads are a highly misunderstood group of people, mostly because very few people know as much about heavy metal as they think they do. For this reason, metal as a genre is not only unknown to most people, but villainized as well. The truth as metalheads see it is that it’s not just noise. It’s not always satanic and it doesn’t always involve sheep heads and blood. And it’s not any less sophisticated than pop or any other genre. Sadly, the average mainstream listener will probably assume all those things. So I’ll clear them up.

Note: videos may take a while to load, but they’ll show up eventually.

Classic Metal:

Metal dates back to the early 70s, when Black Sabbath’s self-titled album launched a new genre unlike anything the world had seen before. Along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, they shaped classic metal out of classic hard rock, psychedelic rock, and hardcore punk, paving the way for the heavier subgenres to follow.

Hair metal (aka glam metal):

This light(ish) subgenre came from heavy hard rock more than it did from classic rock/hard rock rather than classic metal. It took pop-oriented melodies, and bashed them with distortion and aggressive keyboard leads. Bon Jovi, Ratt, Motley Crue, and Guns ‘n’ Roses were some of the most popular in the 80s, but the subgenre is close to extinct now.

Heavy Metal:

The term “heavy metal” is often used to refer to all metal in general, but the more specific subgenre is not as heavy as the name suggests. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were the most notable bands, laying down the foundations for future subgenres of metal. Since it is often confused with metal as a whole, the term is not used and the subgenre goes by different names.

Progressive metal:

Note: video sounds best with stereo headphones. Progressive metal, or prog metal, was shaped from progressive rock and psychedelic rock, which were some of the more experimental genres of the 80s. It incorporated traditional metal sounds into keyboard-oriented arpeggios, unusual scales, and frequently changing, complex time signatures. Queensryche and Dream Theatre were some of the most successful prog metal bands, but some more influential bands, such as Metallica, had some prog metal songs even though it’s not their main genre.

Doom metal:

Doom had some of the original classic metal influences, but was characterized by slow beats and a thick, dissonant sound that can only be described as doom and gloom. Candlemass, Black Sabbath, and Lost Paradise are the most popular bands in doom. The most iconic doom metal hit of all time is easily Black Sabbath (by Black Sabbath, in the album Black Sabbath).

Thrash metal (aka speed metal):

And this is where it starts getting heavy. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth were on the frontlines shaping a whole new type of metal–one that can actually be considered heavy. Thrash is a fast, aggressive, ambitious genre with harsh distortion on the guitars and dark, brutal lyrics, but clean vocals, unlike death metal. Thrashcore (aka speedcore) is very similar to traditional thrash, just more dependent on the fast drums.  Metallica was one of the most influential thrash band in the beginning, and Master of Puppets was and is still a classic.

Groove metal:

Bands like Pantera, Lamb of God, Machine Head added back some of the classic metal-like melodic groove into thrash, while still keeping it heavy. Some say it is an unnecessary style that metal could have done without. But Pantera undeniably shaped heavy metal as much as the next band, groove or not.

Metalcore:

If you like hoarse, tortured vocal screeching over drop A# guitars and sixteenth beat double kick drums, this one’s for you. Suicide Silence, Motionless in White, and Killswitch Engage reinvented “heavy” music with their scream/yell-singing.  Unlike some other lighter genres, metalcore (formally hardcore heavy metal) retained it’s popularity well into the new millennium, leaving classic metal in the dust.

Death Metal (and brutal death):

Rather than screaming, true death metal not only incorporates but relies almost exclusively on equally hoarse but much deeper guttural growls for vocals. While it’s not always as heavy on the distortion as other genres, the brutal and distorted lyrics are what sets death metal apart from all the rest. Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel are the most well-known bands, and while there are many more, Cannibal Corpse was easily the most influential in the development and longevity of death metal.

Melodic Death Metal (aka melodeath):

Another type of death metal, melodic death, was developed to counter the already-established death metal bands that focused on distortion and weight rather than the actual music. It was essentially the groove metal for death metal, and as such some people didn’t like it or considered it unnecessary. However, unlike groove metal, melodeath is still around well into the new millennium. Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, Carcass, and The Black Dahlia Murder are some of the most popular and influential bands.

Deathcore:

Basically a combination of death metal and metalcore, hardcore death metal is one of the most extreme heavy metal subgenres. It’s combination of screaming, screeching, and growling above over-the-top distortion on guitars and superhumanly fast kick beats result in what can only be described as the heaviest sound known to music. Grindcore, which is sometimes considered the same genre, is a faster and even more energetic type of deathcore.

Black metal:

This is how music meets satanism. Black metal is about as heavy as it gets in terms of sound, but it’s known mostly for the live shows, which are responsible for much of what people associate metal in general with: blood, barbed wire, decapitated farm animals, crucified corpses, radical satanism, way too much fire, and raw noise without musicality. Bands have been blamed for animal abuse, gruesome murder, church burnings, and even abduction of mental patients straight from asylums. Unblack metal a similar sound but with lyrics that show religion in a better light, but classic, satanist black metal like Gorgoroth, Behemoth, and Opeth remained far more popular.

Alternative metal:

In the 2000s, when hard rock was essentially dead and metal was quickly losing popularity, an altogether new genre emerged out of alt rock and thrash/heavy metal: alt metal. Heavy metal fans had their doubts and opinions, but since it was completely new and fairly successful, it was no use complaining: it’s what metal had become, and there is no going back. System of a Down, Godsmack, Disturbed, and Breaking Benjamin are some of the most popular bands rooted in alt metal.

Nu metal:

A relatively new subgenre that was invented in the late 90s and was most popular in the 2000s after the death of rock n roll. It completely revamped the metal genre into something completely different, yet with consideration of the old styles. Slipknot, Korn, and Disturbed are some of the most influential.

gettyimages-81091189-1504100757-1024x645

There are more, of course. There are crossover genres like rap metal, electro-metal/techno metal, and trance metal. Some subgenres are so unpopular that they are often overlooked, like sludge metal, stoner metal, avant-garde metal, neo-classical metal, Viking metal, and death ‘n’ roll. There are some that overlap almost perfectly with other genres, like power metal, drone metal, and industrial metal. Some are too indistinct or unrecognized to be considered an actual genre, like djent metal. Some are considered to be more specific than subgenres, like unblack metal.

maxresdefault

10 Cryptids You Should Know About

Cryptids have always fascinated conspiracists not only because of their elusiveness but because they appear so often in lore from almost every culture there is. Cryptids are by definition any creature that has been reported to exist but there is not enough proof for its existence to be scientifically accepted. Some are ridiculously unlikely, but others have some reasonably believable evidence. These are ten that the casual conspiracist might not know about, but definitely should, in no particular order.

I’m skipping Bigfoot because I already wrote about him. Here’s everything you need to know about him, an interesting theory on his ancestry, and all his relatives.

mounstruo-lago-ness

The Loch Ness Monster (and its relatives). You’ve probably heard of this one: a large, mysterious water monster that resides in Loch Ness of the Scottish Highlands and other large lakes. Nessie and Champ are its two most common aliases, but it’s been called many things. The species is described as either a long, thick snake with a large head, or a fat soft-shelled turtle with a long neck and a protrusion on its back. Its most likely explanation is an overgrown eel, but some people claim that Nessie is not one creature but a breed of ancient dinosaurs that survived the prehistoric apocalypse that killed the other dinosaurs by waiting it out in the depths.

slenderman

Slenderman. This friendly guy is actually invisible to everyone except young children, unless he is on camera. Most people agree that there is only one Slenderman, but he appeared in cave paintings and lore in several countries and continents (Brazil, Egypt, Germany, etc). He is often seen in suburbs and forests, following children. Little is know about his behavior because of his invisibility, but legend says he grows tentacles from his back if needed and communicates with his human servants telepathically. His motives are unknown, but what we do know is that he kills any children he catches. He has also been blamed for several murders, most of them kids killing other kids in his name.

lg_0e91829b06ec-mothman-steve-baxter

Mothman. This is not a Marvel superhero, although it would make a good one, but a mysterious humanoid cryptid residing in West Virginia. Unlike many other cryptids, this one saves people rather than murdering them. There are several accounts of a large, owl-like creature scaring people away from an area before a disaster. The most famous one was the incident of I-35W bridge collapse, where Mothman appeared months before and reportedly attempted to scare people off the bridge more and more often until it collapsed. However, there are even reports of him haunting the sites of Fukushima, Chernobyl, and 9/11 weeks before the disasters.

Chupacabra feeding on a goat

Chupacabra, also known as Goatsucker. These critters are known to feed on livestock by sucking their blood. For goats and sheep, they tend to inflict snake-like punctures on the neck or chest, through which they suck out the blood, but they are known to resort to mutilating larger prey and drain them limb by limb. The scientifically accepted explanation is a coyote-dog hybrid with mange, but some eyewitnesses describe a reptilian creature with green scales quills protruding from its back.

the_goatman_by_viergacht-d429xui-1

Maryland Goatman. A legend of an ax-wielding seven-foot tall half-man half-goat hybrid that runs around the countryside scaring people out of their minds might sound far-fetched, but some Maryland residents are convinced of its reality. The backstory is that an agricultural experiment concerning goats went wrong, and the result was this hybrid, which grabbed an ax ran for the woods. It is most often seen on the side of the road waiting for teens, who it seems to enjoy scaring particularly. However, no murders are associated with it yet.

black-dog-blog

Hellhounds. There are many legends of sinister black dogs as omens of death from just about everywhere in the world. Arguably the most well known is Black Shuck from Britain, but there are other famous devil dogs in folk culture as well, from the Vikings to Native Americans. Some are considered omens of death, and others as servants of the devil. Hellhounds are difficult to search for since they can be confused for any big black dog, and because they are supernatural entities so they can appear and disappear to individual people, rendering them impossible to find if they don’t want to be found.

screen-shot-2017-12-30-at-8-00-37-pm.png

Dover Demon. The general public appears to be undecided as to whether this freak is an alien or something else. It is known to take the form of a small humanoid with a massive misshapen head. It doesn’t seem to have any violent intentions, but it’s still a disturbing creature. The likeliest explanation people have come up with so far is that it’s an orphaned baby moose, and even that is contradicted by the fact that someone mistook it for a deformed child and chased it until he realized it was an alien, which indicates that it is bipedal.

rugolabu-jack01

Spring-Heeled Jack. Sightings of this guy date back to Victorian England and are almost certainly related to Jack the Ripper. The only clear difference between the cryptid and the killer is that Spring-Heeled Jack is a supernatural being, thought by some to be a devil. Jack is a shapeshifting humanoid often seen flying through the sky, characterized by his hat, cloak, and long, claw-like nails. He is known to laugh and shriek loudly before jumping off buildings and walls and flying away. He has been blamed for several real crimes, including murder, but much like Jack the Ripper, he was never identified as a single person.

allghoikhorkhoi

Mongolian Death Worm. Olgoi-Khorkhoi, the official name of the creature, loosely translates to “large intestinal worm,” but contrary to the name they live in the Gobi Desert, not people’s guts. These creatures measure up to seven feet long and a foot wide. They have been observed to kill a human by touch alone, but its main weapon is corrosive projectile saliva. The sheer number of sightings over the past few thousand years and hundreds of attributed deaths alone give credibility to the myth, although no fossil evidence has been found.

Iceland Travel Guide

Iceland is full of many different types of scenery. Despite being a relatively small country, a one or two-week visit will hardly scratch the surface of the scenery to be found.

If you’re looking for waterfalls, take a look at Gulfoss, Dettifoss, Seljalandsfoss, Goðafoss, Hraunfossar, and Glymur. Check out Eyjafjallajökull, Keilir, Hekla, Landmannalaugar, Hvannadalshnúkur, and Kirkjufell if climbing mountains are closer to your style. If geothermal lakes interest you more, check out the Blue Lagoon, Lake Myvatn, Viti, Grjótagjá, and lakes in Landmannalaugar.

screen-shot-2018-01-20-at-10-44-12-pm.png

The Golden Circle route (which can be driven around, but tours are offered too) is one of the most popular areas to visit. It begins in Reykjavik and takes as long as you want it to, from six hours to a full week. It includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geyser Geothermal Area, but detours can be made to include the crater lake Kerid, Langjokkul Glacier, the Thjorsardalur Valley, and the historic town of Skalholt.

There are reasons to visit other than the scenery, too. Aurora Borealis, or the Northern lights, is visible most clear nights between September and April. In the summer, milder temperatures of up to 70° F (22° C) draw in visitors wanting to explore the island without heavy winter gear. Icelandic seafood is known to be excellent any time of year (although some traditional Icelandic food is not usually appreciated by tourists).

Reykjavik is a popular place to stay due to the abundance of tours that start there, but there are hotels available in central Iceland, which provide more proximity to day-trip destinations. Check out Sandhotel and Fosshotel in Reykjavik, Hotel Ranga and Hotel Vík in the South, Ion Adventure Hotel (pictured) in the Southwest, and Fosshotel Myvatn in the Northeast. Exotic and unusual hotels are also available in Iceland, from log cabins and igloos to the famous Bubble Hotel that’s actually more comfortable than it looks.

There are a lot of great places to go–too many to choose from if you have limited time there. These are the 12 best must-see places to visit in Iceland:

gullfoss_waterfall

#12: Gullfoss Waterfall. Gullfoss is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, and its an essential part of any trip to the South of the island. It’s a part of the Golden Circle route, so a lot of tours include it.

iceland-2016-day1-19.jpg

#11: Kerlingarfjöll. This mountain range is one of Iceland’s most interesting, despite being basically the middle of nowhere. Huts are available to rent, but camping is more common.

reynisfjara_black_sand_beach

#10: Reynisfjara Beach. Found near the village of Vik in southern Iceland, Reyisfjara is known around the world for its black sand and unusual rock formations. It’s only a few hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

asbyrgicanyonoverlookingcopy_2000px

#9: Asbyrgi Canyon. Asbyrgi translates to “shelter of the gods” in Icelandic, and the place has an interesting legend behind it. In addition to a great view, there are many hiking trails around the area.

this-lagoon-sits-before-the-famous-ravine-of-silfra-in-thingvellir-national-park-4

#8: Thingvellir National Park. In this park, the most famous part of the Golden Circle tour, you will find the Oxara waterfall and the Nikulasargja Gorge (aka Money Gorge), along with other photo-worthy destinations.

lakemc3bdvatnhikeandbath.jpg

#7: Lake Myvatn. While its pretty far North from Reykjavik, it’s worth the drive if you have the time. There are plenty of geothermal lakes that offer a cheaper and less crowded alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon, as well as geothermal caves and underground lakes to swim through.

a-river-system-running-between-orange-and-green-rhyolite-mountains-in-landmannalaugar-4

#6: Landmannalaugar. The most scenic parts difficult to access and there are not many services to be found, so you need to pack your own food, gasoline, and camping equipment. But once you’re there the lava fields, colorful hills, and striking peaks make up for the inconvenience.

039e16178b19a6be4653346c276db094.jpg

#5: Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Located in the Northwest tip of Iceland, the Hornstrandir Reserve is an extensive nature reserve that is open for hiking and camping, though a guide is recommended.

skaftafell-ice-cave.jpg

#4: Skaftafell National Park. There are many things to do in Skaftafell. The Crystal Cave is a popular ice cave worth seeing if being under several dozen feet of shimmering blue ice doesn’t give you claustrophobia. Tours of the glacier are also available, with the right equipment. The Svartifoss with its oddly regular columns and the Hundafoss are the two most famous waterfalls in the area.

the-blue-lagoon-geothermal-spa-lives-up-to-its-name-boasting-beautiful-azure-waters.jpg

#3: Blue Lagoon. The geothermal spa Blue Lagoon is one of the most iconic experiences in Iceland. It’s easily accessible and close to Reykjavik, which makes it a popular tourist destination. However, be warned: it’s a little expensive.

20630662051_b2ab3f4065_b.jpg

2#: Kirkjufell Mountain. This is basically the Matterhorn of Iceland. Along with Kirkjufellfoss, the waterfall, it is one of the most visited natural locations in Iceland. It’s pretty remote, but the good news is it’s only a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, so it’s a good day-trip from there.

reykjavik_00420l-20toshio20kishiyamagettyimages.jpg

#1: Reykjavik: The picturesque town of Reykjavik is Iceland’s biggest city, as well as its capital. It’s the most popular place to stay, and the start of the Golden Circle route. It’s a must-see not because of the scenery, but the convenience and proximity.

Additional resources for planning a trip: Iceland Travel, Guide to IcelandIceland 24afar.com’s and Oyster.com’s hotel lists.

5 Issues With The Last Jedi’s Plot and How They Could Have Been Fixed

The Last Jedi took some serious risks with its style, and it still managed to deliver. It was a decent movie overall, but it did disappoint many fans who wanted something more like The Force Awakens. Odd pacing, multiple climaxes, pointless scenes, the dismissal of several teased plot points from TFA, and an uncharacteristically cheap sense of humor were major problems that could have been solved easily, but the plot also had some big issues that could easily have been fixed.

Before we begin, SPOILERS — but I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. And if you haven’t read it already, you might want to check out my review of The Last Jedi before you read this.

star-wars-lightsaber-1050x375.jpg

Problem #1: For the first time in any Star Wars movie, there was no lightsaber battle. You can’t even count the skirmish with Snoke’s guards as one since the guards had different, though still awesome, weapons. Snoke died without ever igniting his blade, if he even had one. Not even Luke drew his green one when Rey pulled hers (or rather, Luke’s other one) on him. Luke and Kylo did clash a little on Crait, but you can’t count that because it was only a few strikes and Luke wasn’t even there.

Solution: The easiest way to fix this does not involve Rey or Snoke (Snoke’s death was too good to change it). Luke’s fight with Kylo before the new Jedi Order was slaughtered could be shown, which would solve this problem as well as explain why Luke couldn’t defeat him. That would allow the movie to keep its final battle the same, but still have a traditional lightsaber fight.

star-wars-the-last-jedi-finn-vs-phasma-phasma-fighting-finn-reflection-helmet

Problem #3: Captain Phasma, the new Boba Fett, died in the same way as Boba and Jango: an easy, cheap skirmish that really should have gone down the other way. Her entrance with a squad of Stormtroopers marching through the flames was very promising, but her death was a massive disappointment for fans, who were hoping she would be better than the other Boba equivalents in their respective trilogies.

Solution: She could survive and come back for episode IX. But the better solution would be to let her kill Finn and have Rose sacrifice herself the way Finn tried to. Although it kills a lot of characters, the bad guys didn’t get many new recruits for The Last Jedi so it would level things out. In addition, it would give the entire movie more weight, which is never a bad thing.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 9.33.38 PM

Problem #2: Ackbar’s death was waved off as if we weren’t even supposed to know who he was. Not only did it happen off-screen, it was done inconsequentially and without much thought. Ackbar has been around since the Empire, making him almost as experienced as Leia. He didn’t deserve to be dumped out of the script so easily.

Solution: He should have been the one to smash Snoke’s star destroyer with a hyperspace jump. It would have provided the weight for his death that he deserved, and it would have avoided an emotional death for a character we barely know and replaced it with a well-deserved, timely death for a character who we know well enough to miss.

 

amilyn-holdo-the-last-jedi-featured-10182017

Problem #4: Holdo existed. Withholding a plan that was not need-to-know was not only pointless but jeopardized the trust of the crew and caused the mutiny, which Poe was right to start: she wasn’t transparent with her own crew, so she had something to hide. While a corrupt Resistance commander is not a bad thing to include in the movie, the fact that Leia trusted someone like that more than anyone else in the crew is strange, to say the least, and not fitting for her character at all.

Solution: This is a tough one, as her arrogance and stupidity (or was it treason?) were crucial to the plot, which makes her character basically irreplaceable. Ackbar couldn’t take her place entirely either, as it would be completely out of character for him. However, instead of trying to “redeem” herself by sacrificing herself for the rest of the Resistance, Ackbar could have been the one to save the day instead, which would solve two problems in one.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 10.21.56 PM

Problem #5: One of the most iconic lines in any Star Wars movie, second to “may the Force be with you,” was never actually heard in The Last Jedi. In fact, it is the only movie so far where not a single character utters the famous one-liner, “I have a bad feeling about this.” This would be an unusual lack of attention to detail on the part of the filmmakers…

Solution: Watch the movie again! While it may not be spoken in English (or, I should say, Basic), it’s in there. BB-8 is the one to say it this time, as evident by Poe’s reaction to it in the very first scene.

So, do you agree with these, or did you like it the way it was? Do you have any better solutions? Let me know!

8 Types of Bigfoots

Everyone knows about the legend of Sasquatch: a tall, hairy ape-man that roams the forests of the Pacific Northwest. But what most people are familiar with is only one type of Bigfoot. Whether they are a separate species, subspecies, or just a different variety, there are others. Almost every culture in the world has one legend or another of an elusive ape-man that can never be captured but is sighted occasionally, deep into the wilderness. These are the eight most common.

yerenwatchinghikers.jpg

Sasquatch, a name that is almost interchangeable with Bigfoot, is actually a more specific term for the North American variety. Sasquatches have been around for as long as humans, according to Native American legends, and are thought to have crossed the Bering Strait along with people and other animals. They were generally considered to be a spirit of the forest, but they were also reportedly spotted on rare occasions as a physical creature.

native-american-woman-against-windigo-e1515274262963.jpg

Wendigo is a Native American Legend about a spirit that manifests itself in the form of large animals, often as a Sasquatch. It is said to have an insatiable hunger to devour mankind, and true to the legend, whenever it is reported to show up, unexpected and violent deaths follow. Some say it is a vengeful spirit, while others claim to have encountered an interdimensional being, but either way, it is an example of a Bigfoot relative that is from out of this world.

bigfoot-hoax.jpg

Skunk apes are almost exactly the same as Sasquatch, with a couple exceptions. First, they live in the bogs and swamps of Florida rather than forests and mountains. Second, they stink. The stench has been associated with methane-filled bogs, but some say it comes straight from the beasts themselves.

mushroom-hunter-michael-wawrzyniec

The Grassman is another name for  Sasquatch, but more specific. Grassmen reside in only in Ohio and some neighboring states. They feed mostly on livestock, but also hunt in the Appalachians and eat plants from the forests.

yeti-625x350

Yeti, or Abominable Snowmen, reside in the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet. Some say Yeti are the original variety of Bigfoot, and the others diffused and evolved from them. They are characterized by white or yellowish-white fur and a stockier build than Sasquatches. They are often confused with the Arctic variety of Sasquatch, which has a similar color but is found in the far north of North America.

wildman_2265058k-e1514593680285.jpg

Yeren are another mysterious ape-like creature rumored to inhabit rural southern China. They are even more closely related to the North American Sasquatch than their neighbors, the Yeti. They are known to be malevolent to humans and even to eat them, and there are legends that Chinese travelers in the mountains wore tubes on their arms so they can slide out of them and escape when the Yeren captures them. It is more likely that these “tubes” were intended to prevent frostbite.

sloth-banner

The Mapinguari (aka Maricoxi) is another possible bigfoot relative living deep in South American rainforests. Some say it’s humanoid, while others describe a partially bipedal bear-like creature with sloth claws. Whether it is a Bigfoot relative or a remnant of an ancient species of megafauna thought to be extinct is heavily debated. The scientifically accepted explanation is that it might be a giant ground sloth, which was previously believed to be extinct.

yowie-e1416408487723.jpg

Yowie, Squatch’s violent Aussie cousin, has been reported to exist in the bush well before Australia was discovered. The Aboriginals described ape-like beast found in the forests near the coast that had lived there for as long as they had. Yowies are thought to be considerably more violent toward humans than Squatches, although they have not been reported to have eaten anyone yet.

There are others, too. The Almas of Kazakhstan, the Orang Pendek of Sumatra, the Chuchunaa of Siberia, and the Ebu Gogo of Indonesia are all considered subspecies of Bigfoot, but are too elusive to find good evidence or pictures. Still, it can hardly be a coincidence that every part of the world has some sort of legend of a Bigfoot. In fact, that may be the single best evidence of their existence.

2017: In Review

In case you missed any, these are 8 of my most successful posts this year.

ae669f7fc7d862f62f940ac260099b31

The Disneyfication of Star Wars. It’s irreversible, but it might not be bad news.

maxresdefault1

Marvel vs DC. This one was bound to happen. Justice League further justified the conclusion.

thrawn-zahn-tall-1536x864-145742485579

Why Thrawn is still the best Star Wars villain. Because he is.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race

8 Reasons Why Rock Should Still Be Popular. Because it’s so much better than modern pop.

toxoplasma-gondii-suicide

How Cats are Turning Us Into Zombies. Read it and it will make more sense.

275052-cryptozoology-bigfoot-wallpaper

Regarding Bigfoot. The worlds greatest hide-and-seek champion, according to a comment I got.

databank_jeditempleguard_01_169_3416bea1

8 Reasons Why Jedi Are EVIL. An unusual opinion, but logical if you think about it.

last-jedi-poster_mediapost24

The Last Jedi: Perfect or Terrible? Better than The Empire Strikes Back or worse than Attack of the Clones?

The Last Jedi: Perfect or Terrible?

last-jedi-poster_mediapost24

It’s here. The movie we’ve spent most of 2017 waiting for finally arrived last week. The hype was almost as good as it was for the Force Awakens, and it should be. There was plenty to look forward to in the tenth movie of the most popular movie franchise to date. But just like when the prequels came out, some people are disappointed. In contrast to the rotten tomatoes score of 93, Metacritic gave it an 86, and IMDb a surprisingly low 7.8. So why didn’t people like it?

Before we can discuss that, this review contains just about all of the main SPOILERS for the movie.

For starters, the Disnification was obvious even more than in The Force Awakens. Porgs, while popular, were obviously something only Disney would put in a movie. The same goes for the ice foxes, formally called Vulpex, and even the “master codebreaker” looked like something out of a cartoon. On the other hand, some of the other creatures, including the Fathiers and the Caretakers, are distinctly the style of Lucasfilm and the original trilogy. While Disney’s influence does change the tone, it’s not necessarily a bad change, just different.

The big deal for some was that The Last Jedi tied off many of the loose ends presented by The Force Awakens too easily. It was almost like Rian Johnson simply discarded JJ Abrams’ ideas to support his radically different ones on how the sequel trilogy should go. Even if his idea was better, the change created some serious inconsistencies, and even plot holes.

886215-e1513810795182.jpg

Several characters were severely undeveloped and died prematurely in terms of the storyline. Such was Captain Phasma, aka Boba Fett 3.0. She is without a doubt the closest thing to another Mandalorian: just like Boba and Jango, she was introduced as a badass villain and quickly became popular among fans, only to die in a thoroughly disappointing way without doing much more than looking cool. Supreme Leader Snoke also died too easily. Despite all of the internet’s promising theories on his identity, Snoke is just Snoke: a menacingly powerful Dark Side user who appeared out of nowhere, attempted to take over the Galaxy, and died without so much as a fight. That is not to say that his death was bad; in fact, it was very well thought out. But there was so much left to do with him it was unfortunate that he was killed off so fast.

Leia’s stunt is another divisive factor. Theoretically, Leia is Force-sensitive, but not nearly as much as Luke, or she also would have been trained by Obi-Wan and Yoda. Naturally, using the Force to fly while nearly dead, stuck in a freezing vacuum, and without any previous training came as a bit of a surprise, but it got the point across: Leia is not done yet. If that was the intention, it was executed well, as unexpected as it was.

There are other issues, too. The Knights of Ren, briefly seen in Rey’s vision in The Force Awakens, were explained away as Jedi who joined Kylo after he massacred those that would not. Rey’s parentage, though it might have significance later, was also a letdown.

star-wars-last-jedi-ep8-ff-000021.jpg

But we can’t forget the good things. The showdown on Crait was well done, and the snow-covered salt flats were a nice colorful addition. Chewie and C-3P0 are still around. The Rey-Kylo team up and their connection through the Force were good ideas. The dreadnaught, the walkers, Kylo’s TIE Silencer, the Resistance bombers, and all the rest were great new additions to the fleet of different vehicles already around. Yoda showing up was a good idea even though he did look a bit like a puppet. The Force and the Jedi were also portrayed and used differently, although that could be good or bad. Luke’s Force projection stunt was an interesting twist, and his death was fitting.

star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer-5-rey-force

The Last Jedi was different from any other Star Wars film so far, and that threw some people off. It took Star Wars in an unexpected direction that hadn’t been done before. But in the end, it was a good movie. As with the prequels, it’s different because it makes it interesting. The next trilogy or the anthology movies that have already been announced will also be different, and some people won’t like it, but if all the movies were the same style invented in 1977 it would get dull and pointless. This one was an experiment, and it worked out pretty well. It still felt like Star Wars, and as long as Disney keeps future movies in the franchise that way, not much can go wrong with them.

snoke_throne_room.jpg