Friday, December 26, 2008

My Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, Two Thousand and Eight
I was visiting family for about a week straight;
And mom had the tree up and all decorated,
A list of chores to be done, which I thoroughly hated;
And a plan for the next day, for family affairs
And she, Dad and sister were asleep all upstairs;

And I with my iPod and new Oakland A's cap,
Had just settled down for a Jay Leno nap,
When outside the house arose quite a sound,
I sprang from my chair to have a look all around.
Away to the window I flew pretty quick,
And before I opened the door, I grabbed a big stick.
Now, there's no snow in Cali, but the moon was quite full
So I could see things at night - which was actually kinda cool,
But then, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But some crazy-ass sled thing, and some monster-sized deer.

And then there was some dude, dressed all up in red,
A terrible disguise for a burglar, I thought in my head.
He was wearing white fur and medallions and rings
And the grill of his sleigh was all spinners and bling
He had massive black boots on, like gang-bangers do
And his hat was like something from Huggie Bear, too
Now, these deer moved pretty fast and they pulled on his sled,
And he whistled, and shouted, and he rapped as he said:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

Now, I had no idea what any of that meant
But the deer seemed to get it, and so on they went
And these were no ordinary deer, I assure,
Freaks of nature that flew around fast, like a blur,
And before I even knew it, they were up on my roof
With the sled right behind them, leaving scuffs with each hoof

So, I headed inside, and toward the backyard,
When down the chimney this guy came pretty hard.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
With that bundle of god-knows-what flung on his back,
He looked like a drug dealer out peddling some crack.

His eyes were all bloodshot, and his teeth were -- Good Lord!!
"This guy," - I thought - "is coked out of his gourd!"
His droll little mouth was all drooly and gross,
And he stumbled around for a minute, then froze;
Then he tried to say something, but it came out all garbled,
Then he almost threw up as he stammered and warbled;
He had a broad face and a big old fat belly,
He'd been drinking for hours and his breath was quite smelly.
He was chubby and plump, maybe "swollen" is the word,
And his struggle to keep his pants up was absurd;

Then a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon brought to me absolute terror and dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
'Started messing with stuff in my house like a jerk!
So I tackled him straight to the ground with a THUD!
And I said, "You ain't gettin' your crack money here, BUD!"
And I socked him once hard in the jaw with a crack
Then he laid me out solid, landing flat on my back
And he swung his ol' bag around fast like a hammer
But being so drunk, it began him to stammer
And he fell like a big, red, round, rosy plump mass
And he shook the whole floor with the impact of his ass

He's dazed and confused! I thought, this is my chance!
I rose up and charged at him, "Alright, fat man, let's DANCE!"
Then laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
"You won't get away, you fat old conniver!"
I screamed up the chimney at the chubby sleigh-driver
But he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a stir,
And away they all flew like the cowards they were
But I heard him yell out, "Next stop is Atlanta!"
And that's when it hit me... "Oh, shit. That was Santa."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In the news:

THIS JUST IN:
MIKE SCHWARTZ KILLED THE SPY KIDS!

"Noooooooooooooo!!!!!" cries an anonymous Robert Rodriguez fan.

Film at 11:00.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hitler's 3rd Birthday

Okay, so... this is a TRUE story.

There's this family in New Jersey with three kids - The Campbells. And it's the oldest one's birthday. So the Dad - Heath Campbell - goes to the local ShopRite to get a cake with his son's name on it. Only the store refuses to decorate the cake with the kid's name on it. Now, why the hell would a cake company refuse to put the name of a 3-year old boy on his birthday cake? What kind of cruel, inhumane, utterly sadistic bakery would refuse to do that? And what possible reason could they have? What, I ask you? WHAT?

The kid's name is Adolf Hitler Campbell.

And I'm not making this up. This is real. Adolf Hitler Campbell.

As you may have guessed, Heath and his wife, Deborah Campbell, are ignorant, white trash, stupid, child-abusing, racist bastards. They have another kid named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell. Seriously. "Aryan Nation" is in the child's name. ("JoyceLynn" isn't a name, either!)

From news.com.au: "Mr. Campbell, who has swastikas decorating the family home and believes he is related to a former member of the SS, agrees that the Nazi’s were not a highly charitable bunch: 'Yeah, (Nazis) were bad people back then. But my kids are little. They’re not going to grow up like that.'”

Other fun quotes from Mr. Campbell include:
  • "I think people need to take their heads out of the cloud they've been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past."

  • "There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change."

  • "They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what Hitler did."

  • "Say he grows up and hangs out with black people. That's fine, I don't really care. That's his choice."

  • In reference to the several children of mixed race who came to young Adolf's birthday party, Mr. Campbell said, "If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?"

And, when asked what the f**k they were thinking when he and his wife, Deborah, named their child after history's greatest monster, Mr. Campbell commented with a brilliant sense of logic, "no one else in the world would have that name." He sounded surprised by all the controversy the dispute had generated.

Their youngest child is named "Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell." He was trying to name her after one of Hitler's right hand men, Heinrich Himmler, but he was too stupid to look up how it was actually spelled.

Oh, but don't worry. Little Adolf got his cake. All that took was a trip to the bakery at the local Wal-Mart. That's right: cakes for Hitler, but no Dixie Chicks albums!

Okay, now... if I have to voice an opinion on this one, here's my take:
  1. It's wrong to name your kid after Hitler, Himmel, or to just name her "Aryan Nation". Very wrong. You're a bad person if you do this, or any variation of this action.

  2. It is well within the rights of a big-box retail store to deny a certain type of service if there is a legitimate argument for deeming the request for said service "inappropriate".

  3. It is well within the rights of another big-box retailer to grant the same request.

  4. It is within the rights of an American family - no matter how stupid and twisted - to name their children after some of human history's most sinister and evil madmen.

  5. All of these are true and fair because this is America. America is a free country, and along with all the beauty of freedom comes this. This is the ugliness of freedom. And in the end, it's still worth it.

But guess what, Deborah and Heath Campbell! America also enjoys the Freedom of the Press! So, happy birthday, kid! You're parents are on the news!

God bless America.

P.S. Not to give the plot away, but Tom Cruise totally tries to kill this kid in his new movie, Valkyrie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Honestly! Who throws a SHOE!?!?

And all of a sudden, for the first time I can remember, I'm proud of our President, George W. Bush.

On Sunday, during a visit to Baghdad, Iraq, President Bush ducked a pair of shoes that were hurled at his head - one after the other - in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The assailant - later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi - leapt from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.

"Don't worry about it," the president said to his bodyguard as the room erupted into chaos. "I'm fine."

Don't worry about it? Did you see how smooth that guy was!?! Watch the video! Homeboy is cool as an effin CUCUMBER! As though he's used to having shoes thrown at his head everyday! Zoom! "Ain't nobody gonna hit ME with a damned Iraqi shoe! I'm the muthaf***in' gingerbread man, sucka!" he seemed to say.

"This is the end! Here is your goodbye kiss, DOG!" shouted the man, as he launched each of his shoes at the leader of the free world, obviously hoping to completely destroy the man and thus be greeted in heaven by seventy podiatrists.

Ironic, it seems, that Bush and al-Miliki were presently signing into legislation a law that would ban all shoes from all reporters in Iraq. Angry as he seems about this news, al-Zeidi was actually the first to comply with the new law, albiet quite aggressively.

As it turns out, it's quite the epitome of insult to be slapped with a shoe in Muslim culture - recall the image of the statue of Saddam Hussein being torn down and beaten with shoes by Iraqi civilians in the streets of Baghdad several years ago. Bush took the insult coolly, joking later that the shoe was "a size 10". He then retired to a private restroom where he quietly sobbed on the floor of an unused stall for forty minutes. "Why don't they like me?" he was overheard to cry. "WHY!?"


Friday, December 12, 2008

"THE FRONT OF THE LINE (THE SUBWAY SONG)" - Metallica

In honor of my last blog on the great 'Weird Al' Yankovic, I've decided to post one of my many, many (two, actually) personal creations of song parodies. This one is to the tune of "The End Of The Line", a rocker from Metallica's latest album, Death Magnetic. Inspired and conceived of entirely by Rob Florance, but fleshed out and written almost entirely by me, this song is from the voice of a dedcated Subway sandwich restaurant manager who proudly wants to please the customer, but is also trying to train new employees. I call it "The Front Of The Line (The Subway Song)". Press play on the player to hear the original Metallica song, and read along to the new lyrics I've written and posted below.

P.S. This just goes to show that not everyone can do it as good as The Mighty Yankovic.





"The Front Of The Line (The Subway Song)"

Need... More and more
Sandwiches today!
Greet... Customers
“Welcome to Subway!” you’ll say!
Grain... Honey Oat
Is starting to corrode
Stain... On that shirt
That’s just the way that this job goes

Choke… on our food
We’ve got a Heimlich chart!
Scorch... burned the bread
That Pizziola’s way too charred
Careful!... Machinery
Now Greg’s an amputee
Employer... You treat him well
We’re “equal opportunity”!

Meatballs and Marinara
Eat more and more
Try a double-stack! I dare ya!
Eat more and more

Check out our Coke machine
The root beer tastes like gasoline
It’s almost quittin’ time
Nevermind...
You've reached the front of the line

Breads… Got eight kinds
They’re all dry as a bone!
Cheeses! Four more kinds
From peperjack to provolone!
Toasted!… if you want
But please make up your mind
Let’s go, man!… I’m short on staff
And got six more people in line

Sweet Onion Teriyaki!
Eat more and more
Ol’ Jared’s getting stocky!
Eat more and more

Check out our Coke machine
The iced tea smells like kerosene
It’s almost quittin’ time
Nevermind...
You've reached the front of the line.

Dropping pickles in a line
Spilling olives all the time
No more mayonnaise today
We’ll be okay...

But don’t forget the mustard
But don’t forget the mustard
But don’t forget the mustard

Don’t you forget the mustard!
Need more and more
Don’t make me get too flustered!
Need more and more

Check out that Coke machine
That’s the darkest Sprite I’ve ever seen
It’s almost quittin’ time
Nevermind...
Five-Dollar-Foot-long sign
Says it’s ‘only for a limited time’
Chips & a drink today?
Now you’ll pay!
‘Cause you've reached the front of the line

The front of the line.
The front of the line.
The front of the line.
You've reached the front of the line




Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Weird Al' Yankovic - Brilliant Innovator or Total Rip-Off Artist?

It has been drawn to my attention as of late that one of my all-time favorite comedic performers may not be as beloved by all.

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born in Downy, California on October 23, 1959 and raised in the town of Lynwood.
During Yankovic's sophomore year as an architecture student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he became a disc jockey at the university's radio station, KCPR. Yankovic said he had been nicknamed "Weird Al" by fellow students and "took it on professionally" as his persona for the station.

He had already discovered an affinity in himself for absurdist humor and music. Combining his talents for both, he made a name for himself in 1979 with the underground hit, "My Balogna" - a parody of the recent radio hit by The Knack, "My Sharona".

Since then, 'Weird Al' Yankovic has released over a dozen records consisting of completely original compositions as well as a slew of parodies of popular songs. He has toured the world, be it in large venues or very small county fairs, for over 20 years. An overwhelmingly positive person, Yankovic has even used terrible personal tragedy as fuel for his creative fire:

On April 9, 2004, Yankovic's parents, Nick, 86, and Mary, 81, were found dead in their Fallbrook, California, home, apparently the victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from their fireplace that had been recently lit. The flue was closed, which trapped the carbon monoxide gas inside the house, suffocating them. An hour after his wife notified him of his parents' death, Yankovic went on with his concert in Appleton, Wisconsin, saying that "since my music had helped many of my fans through tough times, maybe it would work for me as well" and that it would "at least ... give me a break from sobbing all the time."

A pop culture staple in the 1980s, and a performer whose music was as omnipresent as Michael Jackson and Madonna (by means of his parodies of such superstars), 'Weird Al' Yankovic's career has been consistently changing. His look, his sound, and his ability have all evolved since then and continues to break new ground today. His music videos, often also parodies of the videos for the songs that are the basis of those parodies themselves, always strive to innovate as well as entertain; (case in point, his entire "backward" sequence in the video for "Amish Paradise", a parody of Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" from 1996).

Sometimes Yankovic uses modern songs to parody an old subject (as in the case of "Beverly Hillbillies", a parody of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" on the subject of the hit TV show of the same name from the 1960s) or the opposite, writing a song about a current popular topic to the tune of an old song (as in "Jurassic Park" - a parody of "McArther Park" by Richard Harris and Jimmy Webb and lyrically-based on the blockbuster movie, or "The Saga Begins", a tune that tells the entire story of
Star Wars: Ep. I - The Phantom Menace to the tune of Don McClean's timeless anthem, "American Pie"). Sometimes his songs are only "style parodies", such as "Bob" - a song in the general style of a folksy Bob Dylan tune of the 1960s while rhyming lyrics that are all palindromes: written the same backward and forward - ("May a moody baby doom a yam?")

And sometimes, Yankovic's songs are not parodies of another song at all (like "Since You've Been Gone", "She Never Told Me She Was A Mime", "Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White", and "Hardware Store").

And although his direct parodies may lead one to call Yankovic a "rip-off artist" or claim that he has no "original creative talent" (direct quotes from someone I know), I would argue that it is the aforementioned "style parodies" and originals demonstrate that Yankovic is a talented and dedicated student of music theory, who then turns what he's learned on his practice and churns out brilliant originals concepts in the studio.

Beyond his own talents, Yankovic has long surrounded himself with apt musicians and technicians who can imitate any recording's sound to a tee for the sake of an accurate parody. Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz joined Yankovic as a drummer through a chance meeting in 1981. The following year, manager Jay Levey teamed them up with a full band.
Steve Jay became Yankovic's bass player, and Jay's friend Jim West played guitar. Schwartz continued on drums. Yankovic's first show with his new band was on March 31, 1982. This has been the band line-up ever since. It doesn't hurt that his band mates are... interesting-looking gentlemen, to say the least, as it plays well in their music videos.

His comedic acting in his film UHF (1989) as well as several other cameos in films and TV shows over the years, as well as his directorial abilities on his own music videos as well as for other acts (The Black Crowes) and films (Spy Hard opening credits), prove that Yankovic is an artist in his own right and a leader in the genre of musical parody humor.

Fast approaching th age of 50 years old, 'Weird Al' Yankovic is - in my opinion and that of many others - anything but a hack.
He has sold more than 12 million albums—more than any other comedy act in history— recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and has performed more than 1,000 live shows. His works have earned him three Grammy Awards among nine nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. Yankovic's first top ten Billboard album (Straight Outta Lynwood) and single ("White & Nerdy") were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career. These are all things that a "hack" simply cannot achieve.

So, what's your opinion? Weigh in on the debate and put this argument to a vote. 'Weird Al' - love him? hate him? don't care? mildly amused? Let me know! Comment below!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

P.S. / Update

For example - here's a little slice of brilliance I mentioned before. This is an original, non-parody, non-polka 'Weird Al' Yankovic song about a guy who's wayyy too excited about the opening of a new hardware store. The design and execution of the layered vocals in the chorus, along with the amazing breakdown listing all the great things this hardware store has to offer, make this one of my favorite songs of his. And it's just stupid funny.

ENJOY, DAMMIT!




Lyrics:

[sound effects from tools]

Nothin' ever (ever) happens in this town
Feelin' low down (down), not a lot to do around here
I thought that I would go right out of my mind
Until a friend told me the news

He said, "Hey, you know that vacant lot
Right beside the gas station? Well, somebody bought it
And on that spot they're gonna build a shop
Where we can go buy bolts and screws"

Since then I've been walking on air (air)
I can barely brush my teeth or comb my hair
'Cause I'm so excited and I really don't care
I've been waiting since last June

For this day to finally arrive
I'm so happy (happy) now just to be alive
'Cause any minute now I'm gonna be inside
Well, I hope they open soon

I can't wait, (no I) I can't wait (oh when)
When are they gonna open up the door?
I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store

In my sleeping bag I camped out overnight
Right in front of the store, then as soon as it was light out
I pressed my nose right up against the glass
You know, I had to be first in line

Gonna get me a flashlight and a broom
Want a pair of pliers for every single room of my house
See those hacksaws? Very, very soon
One of them will be all mine

Guys with nametags walking down the aisles
Rows of garden hoses that go on for miles and miles
Brand new socket wrenches in a plethora of styles
All arranged alphabetically

And they're doing a promotional stunt
There's a great big purple sign out front
That says every 27th customer
Will get a ball-peen hammer free

I can't wait, (no I) I can't wait (oh when)
When are they gonna open up the door?
I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store

I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store

Would you look at all that stuff ...
They've got allen wrenches, gerbil feeders, toilet seats, electric heaters
Trash compactors, juice extractor, shower rods and water meters
Walkie-talkies, copper wires, safety goggles, radial tires
BB pellets, rubber mallets, fans and dehumidifiers
Picture hangers, paper cutters, waffle irons, window shutters
Paint removers, window louvres, masking tape and plastic gutters
Kitchen faucets, folding tables, weather stripping, jumper cables
Hooks and tackle, grout and spackle, power foggers, spoons and ladles
Pesticides for fumigation, high-performance lubrication
Metal roofing, water proofing, multi-purpose insulation
Air compressors, brass connectors, wrecking chisels, smoke detectors
Tire gauges, hamster cages, thermostats and bug deflectors
Trailer hitch demagnetizers, automatic circumcisers
Tennis rackets, angle brackets, Duracells and Energizers
Soffit panels, circuit breakers, vacuum cleaners, coffee makers
Calculators, generators, matching salt and pepper shakers

I can't wait, (no I) I can't wait (oh when)
When are they gonna open up the door?
I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store

I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store

I'm goin' (yes I'm) goin', I'm a-goin' to the
Goin' to the (hard) ware I'm goin', really goin' to the
Goin' (hard) I'm goin' to the (hard) oh yes, I'm goin' to the
Hardware store


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Album Reviews (Not that I do those anymore)

Okay, okay - I just wanted to rant quickly about a couple of new albums.

First, you all know I like the new Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy. And while I agree that it's not really anything like the old GN'R we used to know and love, it's definitely the old Axl. And the fact of the matter is that the album - no matter who he has playing on it, and although it is a bit too polished in places - is very enjoyable. Seriously, people. Stop bitching about every little detail and just find a great stereo system upon which to crank this one up and listen with some objective ears. Yes, he should have called the band something else, but what other brand from Axl Rose was going to make waves like "Guns N' Roses"? He legally owns the brand name and it was purely a business move - a smart one, too. Let's get past that. The music is still rockin'. The end. Check out tracks like: "Catcher In The Rye", "Scraped" and "Riad N' The Bedouins"

And then there's Kanye West's new album - 808s & Heartbreak. It's very different from his usual offering in that it's very electronic and dance-oriented. It also lacks the usual flare and grandiosity of his music especially when compared to his last release, 2007's Graduation. That said, 808s is an interesting album and if you can get past the fact that Kanye has decided to (ironically?) cash in on the modern popularity of the voice-modulator thingie on every single track (on some more noticeably than on others), then you can see the soul behind the technology. I wouldn't say it's worth buying, but it's worth checking out if you're into Kanye West. My favorite tracks so far are: "Welcome To The Heartbreak", "Heartless" and "Paranoid (featuring Mr. Hudson).

And finally, I checked out the new album from The Killers - Day & Age. It's definitely not as good as their first album, Hot Fuss (2004) - not by a long shot. But I like it more than their sophomore disappointment, 2006's Sam's Town, and a lot more than last year's covers album, Sawdust. Day & Age was produced by some famous dance/club music producer, so it certainly has that disco-revival/electronica sound about it at times ("Human"), but more than else it has a very ultra-modern, alt.rock sound ("Spaceman") that is expected from them. There are many more interesting songs here than on Sam's Town, and that what made the band popular with Hot Fuss - interesting songs. Favorite tracks of mine include "Losing Touch", "Spaceman", the Clash-inspired "Joy Ride", the Tarzan Boy-reminiscent "This Is Your Life", and "The World We Live In". Again, none of these tracks have the power we saw on Hot Fuss, or even on the hit single "When You Were Young" from Sam's Town, but it's still a step in the right direction. A solid "B -" .

And then I will mention that AC/DC's Black Ice - their first album since 2000 - is all that you can expect from that group; it's loud and raunchy and fun. Possibly the best thing they've done in 28 years. Meanwhile, Nickelback's new album, Dark Horse, is pretty lame. I'm getting very tired of Nickelback. And Metallica's Death Magnetic still rules.

That's it! No more album reviews for a while!

Peace out!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CHINESE DEMOCRACY LIVES!

And I FINALLY have it! Both on CD and Vinyl! After more than 15 years... the wait is over. Axl can retire now for all I care. This was all I needed; a little but of closure. Thanks, Axl!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Whole Nother Blog

Hey people. I'm launching a second blog page just for my fictional writings. It's called STORY SCRIBBLES and you can read my first story (actually an old story) there now!

It's called Death In A Closet and it's just a short thing I wrote a few years ago. I've also scoured the Internet (and used some Photoshop) to illustrate the story a little bit, but what I'd love is to find a way to scan my own sketches so you can see it the way I see it. Otherwise, I'll have to rely on my own descriptions to help you see my vision. Oh well.

Hope you like it. But even if you don't, feel free to leave lots of comments. (But go easy on me - I'm just putting this crap out there for the first time.)

GO HERE -----> http://storyscribbles.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Right Now: Sammy's still workin' it

Why didn't anyone tell me that Sammy had put out another new album?

Granted, I haven't really been keeping up on these guys like I did when I was 16, even though far more information is available to me now via this version of the Internet, as opposed to that of 1997, but... there just isn't as much going on... or so I thought.

Here's the video for Sammy Hagar's new single - COSMIC UNIVERSAL FASHION - from the album of the same name. And, from the looks of it, Sammy's been reminiscing about old times.



It's good to see Sammy just gettin' loud and distorted again. He's been trying my patience with this Jimmy Buffet-wannabe Waboritas crap for years now. It's not terrible music, but he's just been lining himself up to be the next Parrot Master, even going to the extent of dubbing his fans "Redheads".

But, finally, here's an album of just some good old loud rock n' roll. It's a little dark, a little angry, but mostly just rockin'. You certainly can't say Sammy has ever stopped trying. While his former bandmates in Van Halen have not put out an album of new material in over a decade, Sammy has continuously channeled his creative spirit in album after album (six times since originally parting ways with Eddie & Co., plus a few live albums and greatest hits compilations). This guy just never slows down, which is pretty admirable. Eddie should have taken Sammy's old motto to heart: "There's only one way to rock."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Soul-less

"Bond... James Bond."

Yeah, it's a classic line. Never gets old, does it? Too bad he never says that. Not in the latest installment of the James Bond movie franchise:
Quantum of Solace. He does make some bland comment about the vodka martini, but he's still grappling with coming to a "favorite" drink. I guess you could say that the teaser poster for this film is sadly appropriate: a shadow of James Bond strutting his way through a dry and desolate wasteland.

This second in the sequence of the new "Bond Begins" films, starring Daniel Craig as Ian Flemming's famous "007" character, is a continuation of the story that made it's predecessor,
Casino Royale (2006), so brilliant. And then, it falls flat on its face.

I must start by mentioning how the opening title sequence pales in comparison to that of the last film.
Quantum's pop single, "Another Way To Die", by Jack White and performed as a duet with Alicia Keys, is a decent modern-yet-classic Bond theme, but it just doesn't have the energy and emotion of Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" theme from Casino Royale. Also, the design in that film, which was reminiscent of a classic Saul Bass style (using all the shapes of the four suits in a deck of cards in conscious symmetrical patterns) played beautifully with the theme of the film's title and also hearkens back to an era when that design was more popular - the 1960s, where James Bond began. It was poetically retro and brought the entire character quickly and respectfully full circle. Quantum's title sequence looks like it's trying to sum up the essential pieces of the title sequences of every previous Bond film, adding nothing unique or special. Bummer.

As for the story, we pick up about an hour after the last film ended and we're taken through a terribly long and ridiculous car- and foot-chase scene - elaborately staged and beautifully executed, I'm sure, but you can't tell by watching it. At what seems like a rate of 100 different cuts every minute, it's hard to tell who's chasing who and who's winning or losing. And what's more, those shots are shaky and blurry, so it's ridiculously confusing and disorienting. Director Marc Forster delivers less of an elegant telling of a car chase story and more of an editing room masturbation sequence; a great lesson in how
not to edit an action sequence. Then he goes on to do the same thing about a half a dozen more times throughout the film.

And ultimately, there's a very confusing, diluted and thin plot driving the action behind this film - quite a let down from a team headed by acclaimed screenwriter Paul Haggis, who has turned out brilliant scripts for
Crash (2004), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) and In The Valley of Elah (2007), as well as Casino Royale. Forster, whose previous films (The Kite Runner (2007), Stranger Than Fiction (2006), Stay (2005), Finding Neverland (2004), and Monster's Ball (2001)) are usually more sentimental stories about the beauty of humanity, takes a stab at a genre outside his own and... well, just doesn't get it right the first time. The acting, the camera angles and the lighting are certainly all up to par, so he did fine on all of that usual stuff. But... substance, man! It's substance we lack! I just didn't get a real story out of this film. Lots of great characters and set pieces, but no tangible, believable context. The soul of the Bond character is all but completely left out.

Of course, in
Quantum, Bond characteristically breaks the rules, defies M's direct orders and plays the maverick to a tee. But this is nothing new or interesting - it's actually horribly cliche. And cliche would be fine if this was Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton... but this is Daniel Craig. This is the new James Bond for a new generation. Casino Royale changed the game. Gone was the wise-crackin', smirky, swaggery Bond whose attention was more on his next "booty call" than on his mission. Here was a Bond for the new millennium, a Bond who reflected the world in which we live today: young, rugged, unruly and seeking an identity. That's something to which the movie-going audiences of today can relate! But in this film, we seem to be heading back into the old cliches again.

That's not to say that it's not an entertaining film. There are some unforgettable scenes, set pieces and special moments that certainly belong in a Bond film - like the business in the opera scene, the plane crash and the final moment in the desert with the villain (the brilliant Mathieu Amalric, whom you may know from Steven Spielberg's
Munich (2005)) - and I must pick these kinds of moments out as a credit to the great Paul Haggis' talents. The newest "Bond Girl", Camille (Olga Kurylenko), is unlike any we've ever seen - she's just as blood-thirsty and vengeful as Bond, if not more so. (And, I hope this doesn't give away too much, but... he never even sleeps with her!) And overall, it's a great way to kill a couple of hours on a weekend (that is, if you don't go in to see it with a splitting headache already plaguing you, as I did - but I can't hold that against the filmmakers.) The action is intense, and there are a lot of familiar faces in the cast to cement the two films together and remind you that we're still in the same world.

But, after racking up a total production price tag of $230 million - the most costly Bond film ever - Quantum of Solace falls a bit flat... especially when compared to Casino Royale. It seems that all the gold in the world can't make up for a thin screenplay. But, then again, it's hard not to think that
Quantum is just a stepping stone to a third part of a "new Bond" trilogy: a drawn-out and almost unnecessary middle story that serves only to get us from Point A to Point B. If that is the plan, then so be it; on we go to the next (and, hopefully, much richer) tale of Bond's trial-by-fire initiation into the world of modern-day espionage. But sorry, kids - Quantum just ain't no Casino Royale.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A dedication...

So, yesterday, I got an email from a person I used to know - a person I'd like to keep in my past. I didn't respond to the email, and it were a bit less than friendly, even if the intention was good. But, without going into detail about it or actually responding in any specific way, I'd simply like to post a dedication to that certain someone here on my blog. This is the first song (and perhaps most appropriately) that came on my iPod after I'd received the email

This one's for you, girl:

STREET OF DREAMS
(formerly titled: "The Blues")
by Guns N' Roses

from the forth-coming album:
CHINESE DEMOCRACY




Lyrics:

All the love in the world couldn’t save you
All the innocence inside
You know, I tried so hard to make you…
To make you change your mind

And it hurts too much to see you
And how you left yourself behind
You know I wouldn’t want to be you
Now there’s a hell I can’t describe

So now I wander through my days
Try to find my ways
To the feelings that I felt
I saved for you and no one else
And though as long as this road seems
I know it’s called the street of dreams
But that’s not stardust on my feet
It leaves a taste that’s bittersweet
That’s called the blues

I don’t know just what I should do
Everywhere I go I see you
Though its what you planned
This much is true
What I thought was beautiful
Don’t live inside of you
Anymore

What this means to me
Is more than I know you believe
What I thought was you now...
Has cost more than it should for me
What I thought was true before
Were lies I couldn’t see
What I thought was beautiful
Is only memories



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Strategery in Action: Mike's Political Soapbox

Holy crap! Is it too late to still impeach this pig fucker?

With the new President a couple months away from being sworn in, it seems that Ol' Lame Duck Dubya had been bombing the fuck out of anyone and any place he deemed worthy of destruction in the name of The War on Terror, and kept it all top secret all this time. No, not just before the attacks took place, but afterward as well. And he's been doing it for the past FOUR YEARS!

Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times reported this morning that, "The U.S. military since 2004 has used broad secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against al-Qaida and other extremists in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, say senior U.S. officials." (Read more here.)

So, I just wanted to comment that, on top of the Guantanamo Bay/Torture thing, and the abolition of Habius Corpus thing, not to mention the wire tapping, the water boarding, and over-all defiance of the Geneva Convention and the official rules of engagement in war that this Bush Administration has carried out over the last eight years, now we hear about this. THIS!

It's one thing to make a totally unjustified declaration of war on a country that never did anything directly to us, and posed only an imaginary or "potential" threat to our homeland, proof of which could never be found. It's a completely other thing to then secretly take the war to countries outside of the lines drawn by that declaration of war - to "Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere" - just because you feel they pose a threat as well. And I'm not arguing that there wasn't a threat out there, or that we should only attack abroad after we've been attacked at home - but TELL the American people! We have a right to know to which targets have our tax dollars gone for the purposes of blowin' shit up! Make reports after the fact of your super secret missions! Not four years later, not two years later, but THE NEXT DAY! It's not okay to do your own bidding behind our backs! "...OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE", JACKASS!

And I guess it's not surprising. It's actually pretty characteristic of the dirty pool these guys play in the name of keeping America safe. And, by no means will I argue that Bush doesn't know how to get some things done, but there are ethics to consider here!

This administration was supposed to be representing America: the American people and their ideals, which our forefathers fought and died in multiple, very bloody wars to uphold! Ethics like the right to fair trials for all accused parties - not just American accused parties. Habius Corpus - one of the fundamental ideals upon which our government was founded; the right for an accused party to deny the charges against him and stand trial by a jury of his peers... just tossed away by these guys! Because of what?

Now, I'm not some political expert or historian, but we all know that the Bush family has been in bed with the Saudi Royal Family for decades - it's ridiculously well-documented - and we know that this Iraq War had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11/01, a connection to which the Bush Administration went to great lengths to draw. So it's obvious to me and a lot of other Americans that this has just been one giant opportunistic scheme carried out by some of the most diabolical minds (and the most brain-dead patsy) that Washington has ever seen.

But on top of all that filth and greed, (to which I'm sure we won't know the full story for years and years,) to then metaphorically burn the Flag and spit on the ideals of this great country in such a manner is just completely... well, there are no words. It's not just bad, it's not just sickening, and it's not just completely wrong on every level. It's deeper than that. I'd say it's evil, but I don't know that I believe in evil.

I believe in extreme short-sightedness. I believe in misguided morals and misleading principals. I believe in the power of corruption and the corruption of power. But I also believe that this, too, shall pass. I believe that the pendulum swings both ways; forever back and forth. It's plain to see that, as in the past, this country will see horrific struggles in the future. We will see economic woes and violent wars. We will see dark times the likes of which we cannot imagine today. But we will also see brighter times. And as the sun rises on a new era, and a new President, I certainly am witness to some seeds of hope that I don't believe have been able to find root in this American soil for nearly half a century.

Let us hope this new sun will shine brightly. God bless America. And God have mercy on the soul of George W. Bush.

Friday, November 7, 2008

ROCK N' ROLL HINDSIGHT: The Guess Who?

Hey peoples,

It's been a while since my last "RNRHS" post, but I think this is a pretty good one - Remember these guys?

THE GUESS WHO




I first discovered this band as a teenager, whilst rocking out the the best Classic Rock radio station the San Francisco Bay Area has ever known: 97.3 KRQR - THE ROCKER! I miss that station. In two short years, from 1993 to 1995, they taught me much of what I know about music. At the very least, they got the ball rolling on my complete obsession with rock music. From "Two-fer Tuesdays" and "Three-fer Madness" Weekends (a pun that didn't make sense to me for many years), to free tickets to a Stevie Nicks concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA in 1994 that would serve to pop my concert-going cherry... they were the best. "107.7: The Bone" later tried to live up, but... the just couldn't.

Anyway, I learned about all kinds of classic rock, but it was the early stuff - from the 1960s - that had the most magical air about it. It was more historical and seemed like it came from another planet, and not just another era. From The Beatles and Zeppelin to The Stones and Hendrix, the rock of the 1960s was epic but distant - fascinating to a young mind the way a dinosaur is. (Hence, the term "Dinosaur Rock", I suppose... but that doesn't seem nice.)

And one of those bands that never could compete against the grandiosity of the aforementioned mega-bands was "The Guess Who?" - a Canadian rock group whose peak was hit between the years of 1968 and 1970. After some early line-up changes, an arguably "classic" and hit-making line-up consisted of Burton Cummings (keyboardist/lead vocalist), Randy Bachman (guitars), Jim Kale (bass), and Gary Peterson (drums). In 1969, the band found new success with the release of their first Top 10 US hit single, "These Eyes" - a classy, '60s-style jazzy/bluesy love ballad - from the previous year's album,
Wheatfield Soul. It's a total classic.

You might remember this song from it's recent resurgence in the hit comedy film,
Superbad (2007). Here's a clip of Michael Cera being forced to perform the song a capella:



That year saw the release of a new album from The Guess Who (who by now had dropped the "question mark" from their band name because, I will speculate, the phrase "guess who" is usually not a question at all, but a command). The new album,
Canned Wheat (1969), spawned several new hits: "No Time", a gritty rocker with an audible influence by The Byrds, "Laughing", a happy-go-lucky chorus in a sad, heart-broken croon of a ditty, and "Undun", a heavily jazz-guitar-infused mid-tempo dance tune which has a psychedelic drug-hazed theme about a girl who's "lost the sun".

One theory suggests that the song is referring to the untimely demise of TV-icon Art Linkletter's daughter who, in the late 1960s, dropped acid, "found a mountain that was far too high" (which was actually a high-rise) and, believing she could fly, leaped to her death. This was a news item about six months before the appearance of the song, but this has not been revealed as the true meaning of the song. I love the break-down in the middle of the song - it's brooding and eerie with some deep lyrics:
Too many mountains and not enough stairs to climb
Too many churches and not enough truth
Too many people and not enough eyes to see
Too many lives to lead and not enough time...


Then, the next year, The Guess Who topped out with their greatest success to date -
American Woman (1970). The album boasted one of the greatest rock anthems in music history - a lust-filled and very-patriotic tune from a bunch of Canadians - the title track, "American Woman". Everyone knows this song, and more recently because of rocker Lenny Kravitz's cover of the song for the Mike Myers film, Goldmember (2002), the music video for which saw Lenny rocking out in front of a giant electronic American flag while a scantly-clad, hot-and-bothered little vixen in the shape of a young Heather Graham crawls and writhes around on the top of a tour bus, wind whipping her wild blonde hair all around in a frenzy of rock-laden sexuality. All this from a 32-year old song from a bunch of Canucks.




The album also saw the release of an updated version of the single "No Time" - the one we're most familiar with today, and my absolute favorite song by The Guess Who: "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature".

This nearly-5-minute early mainstream progressive rock track has a more ebbing and flowing pulse of absolutely electric energy than the album's hit title track, and Cummings' vocals are completely unique, coolly subtle at times and nearly perfect. And here's the coolest part of this song: The first 2 minutes are the "No Sugar Tonight" part, then at 2:30 the keyboards come in and create a whole new song, which could be viewed as an extended bridge or break-down, separately titled "New Mother Nature", and then the two songs converge and both parts are sung together in perfect harmony before busting back into the choruses of each part. Check it out. I love it!

After this album, guitarist Randy Bachman left the band (and eventually enjoyed great success with his new band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive) and they continued on without him, making many more albums. The band even continues to tour to this day, but they were never again able to create such magic as had occurred in their heyday. But in the end, these guys leave behind a handful of timeless rock hits, fused with jazz and blues rhythms and an incredible voice. let The Guess Who never go unappreciated! Rock on!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

MADDOW REVEALED!

ow, I'm not one to bash a good Liberal counter-point to your Limbaughs, Hannitys and O'Reillys out there, but I think this is just news that needs to be out there.

MSNBC and AirAmerica Radio political talk show host Rachel Maddow is actually...




















Wil Wheaton! All growned up!






















Just thought you'd like to know.

Wow! We dodged a bullet!

I don't mean to rub it in, but... wow!  Even as a Democrat, I wanted to give this woman a bit more credit than this!  I'm impressed with how unimpressed I am with Sarah Palin!  Watch this:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Readers of the Dead (or "Michael Crichton: The Terminal Man")

Michael Crichton

1942 - 2008

For those of you who aren't familiar with the work of the now-deceased author, Michael Crichton, here's a little bit of what you missed.

He wrote the novels that were made into great movies like Jurassic Park (1993) and Disclosure (1994) - and terrible movies like Sphere (1998) and Congo (1995).

He also is credited as the creator of the long-running hospital drama, "E.R.".

And although the scientific brilliance of the concept behind the story of Jurassic Park inspired me to become a filmmaker,
I'm hard-pressed to not call The Andromeda Strain my favorite film adaptation from one of Crichton's books (- and this does not include the recent TV miniseries).

Anyway, while posing thoughtfully for a photo in the jungle in his mind on Tuesday, Crichton was ironically and poetically eaten by one of his dinosaur creations from his novel (not Jurassic Park... it was actually the T-Rex from The Lost World... but I couldn't tell you the difference). I think that's what happened. It was either that or cancer.  Either way, he will be missed.

Thanks for the words, Mr. Crichton.

Amerithmatic

Here's a simple math equation to help all my Republican friends understand how the Democrats are feeling today.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Are HUSSEIN enough to Vote?

Ya know, I was supporting Obama in this Election Season, but... recently I saw a video that made me COMPLETELY change my mind!


Did you KNOW that his middle name is HUSSEIN!?!?! HOLY CRAP! Just like that Iraq guy! Remember?!? And she's right! We ARE at war with those people! And, hold the phone! Did she say he's an AY-RAB? I didn't know that! Why isn't the news reporting this!?!?! It's a good thing this woman had the guts to reveal the truth!

And it makes me realize the importance of voting based on a name. You know, you can tell a lot about a person by their name! For example, I used to think that Barack Obama was a Christian African-American Senator from Chicago. But now I realize that he's actually Barack HUSSEIN Obama: Muslim terrorist socialist liberal elite! And now I'm SCARED TO DEATH!

And for another instance, we definitely should never have voted for that George W. Bush guy, because - did you know that there used to be this big evil king over in England named King George? He was as tall as a dinosaur and he would eat children and tax his people like a socialist!
That's why Christopher Columbus left there and founded America. Then he and his wife gave birth to George Washington and appointed him President! (They had to appoint him, cause no one wanted to vote for a George back then, either!)

Now, the reason John Kerry lost back in 2004 is because his middle name is "Forbes" - no kidding! Forbes! - and everybody knows what that means! He's as rich as the day is long! And there's no way that anybody who knows how to earn money, run a campaign, and married the woman whose dad invented Katchup would ever understand how to run a country!

But wait! That means we can't vote for McCain either, because - according to Wikipedia, (where more Americans get their news...) - "
McCain Foods Limited, a privately owned company established in 1957 by the brothers Harrison and Wallace McCain in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada, is the largest producer of french fries and other oven-ready frozen food products in the world." And we can't have a greasy, salty French Fry man as the leader of the free world! HE'S FRENCH... AND CANDIAN! I know it also says, "It is not connected with the American presidential candidate John McCain," but I've also been told by the LIBERAL ELITE MEDIA that Barack HUSSEIN Obama isn't really a socialist or a Muslim. But we all know which sounds more entertaining! (Thus: true!)

But that's okay, because he's chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate - and everyone knows that "The Hebrew word sarah indicates a woman of high rank and is sometimes translated as 'princess' or goddess, or 'high holy one'." And, although I - as the average American - am terrified of those Hebrews - I have to think that Jesus would have backed that one up.

And, speaking of names and that guy Jesus - if he was a Jew in the Middle East, why the Spanish name? But I digress.

Anyway, in closing, I'm just saying that Shakespeare was full of crap. The Simpsons discussed this issue in a family meeting once:

Lisa: [A person's] name doesn't matter. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Bart: Not if you called them "stench blossoms".
Homer: Or "crapweeds".
Marge: I'd sure hate to get a dozen crapweeds for Valentine's Day. I'd rather have candy.
Homer: Not if they were called "scumdrops".

Brain Leak: Out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

High School Reunion

I got back this evening from a few days up in the good old Bay Area, with my long-time friends, Rob and Reuven, going to our 10-year High School reunion - a decade since our graduation from California High School.

The party itself was held at the Canyon View Dining Hall, overlooking my home town of San Ramon. Tickets were $65 (unless you bought them late - which raised costs an extra $10), and bought ticket-holders entrance, a Chicken Marsala dinner, plus one alcoholic beverage. If you wanted more to drink, it was $7.00! (Good thing I don't drink! Free sodie pop for meee!)

I
'd say between 70 and 100 actual graduates showed up, many accompanied with a "non-Grizzly" date or spouse, so it was a pretty good-sized party. But, I gotta admit that the D.J. was a bit of a dolt as he played music from eras far and wide away from our high school years (1994-1998), like Bon Jovi, Vanilla Ice, Lynard Skynard, and - of course - "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Was this a Grade School reunion? No! And on top of that, he would mute the record at key lyrics, hoping those on the dance floor would shout out the popular line of the song, but when there are only 5 people on the dance floor, it's pretty unlikely, pal! Then, he made some comment about someone from the class of 2000 - which didn't make any sense - and he told everyone that the "after-party" was going to unofficially take place down the hill at "El Bolazio" - he meant "El Balazo", but I get the feeling he'd never heard of the place, so... whatever.

Other than that, it was good to see a lot of people that I had been friends with (what seems like a lifetime ago), as well as a handful of people I never needed to see again. The Chicken Marsala was decent, the music was okay at times, and hey, it was a party!

But when things moved to El Balazo, I wondered why I had paid $65 to go to the dinner party when I could have gone to a Taqueria/Bar for free and seen all the same people. But that's okay - the music at El Balazo was too loud to converse with anyone, so I guess the initial party was better for that purpose.

I was also saddened to hear that another childhood friend, Chad Straub, died recently. Just a freak medical condition, I heard. It doesn't seem real at all, but I hope his family members - especially his brother and sister - are doing okay; I lost touch with the family years ago. It's these things that make a reunion seem quite surreal.

But it was the day after - the Barbecue party I held at my house on Sunday - which was the real fun. It was more intimate, more of my own friends - even the ones who never came to the reunion - with more and better food! Special thanks to Russ Collinsworth for making the long drive down from Bend, Oregon, and to Brett Robert from Santa Rosa and Emily Welty from Sacramento. Along with Rob, Reuven and myself, they all traveled a long way for one little BBQ! Thanks, guys! The only ones that were really missing were Mark Zabrowski, who is a bit busy with a wife and a few kids down in Palm Springs, CA, and Brad Lytle, who is busy earning a Super-Mega-Ultra-PhD in Chicago, IL. They'll be there for the 25-year reunion, I'm sure. They were missed.

After we ate, we all piled in a couple cars and made a visit to our old high school, which certainly isn't our old high school anymore - they've certainly done a lot of work on the place! Almost all of what we knew is gone. The same can be said for our junior high school down the street - Pine Valley Middle School - which we also visited. Good times!

To everyone involved - especially my dear parents who worked very hard to get the house looking great and feeding everyone, not to mention giving up to 5 extra people a place to sleep last night - thanks for making the entire weekend a huge success! We should have a 10-year High School reunion every year!