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.