Friday, December 30, 2016

On My Mind a Lot This Week

Growin' Up
by Bruce Springsteen

I stood stone-like at midnight, suspended in my masquerade
I combed my hair till it was just right and commanded the night brigade
I was open to pain and crossed by the rain and I walked on a crooked crutch
I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and come out with my soul untouched
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, "Sit down," I stood up
Ooh... growin' up

The flag of piracy flew from my mast, my sails were set wing to wing
I had a jukebox graduate for first mate, she couldn't sail but she sure could sing
I pushed B-52 and bombed them with the blues with my gear set stubborn on standing
I broke all the rules, strafed my old high school, never once gave thought to landing
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, "Come down," I threw up
Ooh... growin' up

I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere, and you know it's really hard to hold your breath
I swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared, I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress
Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars
And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd, but when they said, "Pull down," I pulled up
Ooh... growin' up
Ooh... growin' up

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hayoth Preview

Yep, still alive.....and still slaving away at Vol. 3 - Light & Shade.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

By Grabthar's Hammer...

What can I say? I really don't care much for his Snape.

Alan Rickman
1947 - 2016

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lemmy is Dead

That's a hard line to write.

Lemmy passed away on December 28th, 2015, after being diagnosed with an "aggressive" cancer on December 26th. Two days after his 70th birthday.

There's that old joke that Keith Richards is immortal, that when the Earth is a barren wasteland, it'll just be Keef and some cockroaches. That Richards somehow embodies rock n' roll...

But I'm here to tell you, Lemmy Kilmister was more rock n' roll than Keith Richards will ever be. Lemmy had a small apartment in LA a few blocks from the Rainbow Bar & Grill, where he could regularly be found sipping drinks and playing video poker (a video poker game that was actually moved to his apartment for the last few days of his life). Lemmy played his final show just 20 days before his death. Keith, for all his awesome qualities (and there are many), lives on an estate in Jamaica, ensconced from the world between Stones tours. Motorhead toured hard, and was never so popular as to have the comforts of massive success. They played - worked - because they had to.

Motorhead released 21 albums in 28 years, and still had to push themselves on the road constantly. This year, they played 54 shows, all while Lemmy was suffering with multiple medical problems. Lest I ignore facts, it's clear that Lemmy LOVED touring, and mentioned several times that he'd be happy to die on stage. I'm sure there would've been lots of shows either way, but perhaps Lemmy could've traveled in a bit more comfort. I won't even go into the weird merchandising choices the band has made in recent years.

A few years ago I found myself listening to a lot of Motorhead, right about the time AC/DC was issuing another cookie cutter album and launching a world tour. It struck me very strongly that AC/DC and Motorhead were very much in the same business, but Motorhead was simply miles better at it. There is a certain cynical, distanced quality I always detect in AC/DC, they have an understood, practiced formula, whereas Motorhead felt honestly raw. They weren't the best players, their songs tended to be blunt-force instruments, and Lemmy's influences, in many ways, began and ended in the 1950's with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. Their catalog is filled with riffs that are lifted from the earliest days of rock n' roll, but played with the attitude (and volume) of a man who'd lived though the eras of Hendrix and Zeppelin.

I may be kidding myself about that, but I can only go by what I know of the man who simply was Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister. There is a palpable sense in everything about Lemmy that the man simply didn't care to play by your, or anyone else's, rules, because his rules were working fine for him. His interviews ring unflinchingly honest, and the man clearly had no interest in insulting anyone, yet also had no time for PC self-censorship. He spoke the truth, as he saw it, and didn't expect his truth to be universal.

If you want a really good look at who he was, I'll recommend the documentary Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch

Lemmy was singular, he was an original, he was an icon, warts and all (no pun intended). I'm very aware that we shall not see his like again. RIP, good deserve it.

Lemmy Kilmister
1945- 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Stuck in My Head: 12.23.2015 - Chlorine & Wine

I really, really am digging this album, and especially this song.

Chlorine & Wine
by Baroness

When I called on my nursemaid
Come sit by my side
But she cuts through my rib cage
Pushes the pills deep in my eyes

The taste was much sweeter
Than chlorine and wine
And my doctor is unable
To cut through the cable that leads to my mind

In spite of the winter
There's ways to keep warm
Whatever you give me
Please know that I'm asking for more

The day I stopped swiming
Came out of the dark
I've never felt so uncomfortably numb
Here by your side

Black birds on the bed
Turning to fire
Black birds in the day
Shining a ray

Please, don't let me go
Under the rock where I found
My place in the crowd
Hope for the fathers and sons

Black birds on the bed
Turning to fire
Black birds in the day
Shining a ray

Please, don't let me go

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stuck In My Head 12.22.2015 - It Hasn't Happened Yet

It Hasn't Happened Yet
by William Shatner 

I was crossing the snow fields
In front of the Capital Building
It was Christmas and I was alone
Strange city, strangers for friends
And I was broke

As the carillon sang its song
I dreamt of success
I would be the best
I would make my folks proud
I would be happy

It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened

Yes, there are nods in my direction
Clap of hands, the knowing smile
But still, I'm scared again

Foot slipped, pebbles fall and so did I
Almost, oh my
On Yosemite, the big grey wall
(Fear of falling)
Where to put my foot next
(Fear of failure)
I'm afraid, I'm going to fall
(Be at one with the mountain)

I whispered in the air
(Fear of falling, fear of falling
(Fear of failure, failure)
Fear of losing my hair
(Falling, falling, falling)

When is the mountain scaled?
When do I feel I haven't failed?
I've got to get it together, man

It hasn't happened yet It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened
It hasn't happened

People come up and say, "Hello"
Okay, I can get to the front of the line
But you have to ignore the looks and yet
I'm waiting for that feeling of contentment
That ease at night when you put your head down
And the rhythms slow to sleep

My head sways and eyes start awake
I'm there not halfway between sleep and death
But looking into eyes wide open trying to remember
What I might have done, should have done
At my age I need serenity I need peace

It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened yet
It hasn't happened
It hasn't happened

Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (No Spoilers)

It's been asked for so here it review.

I am avoiding spoilers here, and will hopefully chime in later with a more spoilery reaction.

I've had a relationship with Star Wars since it's birth. I was five years old, and I lost my goddamn mind. The bottom line is that I wanted to do *that,* whatever that was, and launched myself on a lifetime journey to figure out what the was.

Between the ages of 5 and 11, I had the original trilogy, Episodes IV to VI, wherein we saw the galactic civil war, and the rise of Luke Skywalker as savior of the ways of the Jedi, and redeemer of his father, Darth Vader, AKA Anakin Skywalker. As with so many people, these three films are a defining moment of my life (as the previous paragraph should indicate).

Between the ages of 28 and 34, I had the "Prequel" trilogy, Episodes I to III, wherein we saw the fall of not only the Old Republic and the Jedi order, but of Anakin himself. These films have been a hotbed of contention for years. With long diatribes about their faults and failings.

Here's where I stand; I love Star Wars. I love it all, I love it despite it's faults and failings, but also in many ways, because of it's faults and failings. As a whole, it is an idiosyncratic work, with weird digressions and inclusions that are there for no more reason than George Lucas' fancy. It's that personal touch, for good or ill, that, for me, lift them above standard Hollywood studio escapist fare.

This article pretty neatly encapsulates my feelings.

So, now, here we are. It's 2015, I am 44 years old, and over this past weekend I have seen Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens twice. It's a very, very good movie. It introduces exciting new characters into our saga of the Skywalker family, returns old favorites to the screen with vim and vigor, and pushes us forward into a new trilogy of adventure tales.

I do not think it's anywhere near perfect. However, it's imperfections are along totally different lines from the films made under Lucas' supervision, and will not detract from it's entertainment value. In fact, I feel it's imperfections run almost perfectly opposite from the earlier films.

Let's bottom line this....Do you have any interest in the type of film that Star wars is? Space opera (NOT science fiction) on a grand scale? If you say yes, see this movie. It's not the best film of the year, or even the best adventure film of the year (that would still be Mad Max: Fury Road), but it's the best space opera since at least Revenge of the Sith (sorry Wachowskis). I had a great time with the film, so what I'm about to go into is NOT "this film sucks" criticism, don't read it as such. It is so worth seeing, and I cannot wait to see where Rian Johnson takes up with Episode VIII in two years.

My first viewing of The Force Awakens was after spending nineteen hours in a theatre watching the previous six films. While this made me excited as hell to see the new film, it also made the shift in tone with this film very apparent to me. Lucas' Star Wars films were pastiches of 1930s sci-fi serials, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and the like, with a heap of Joseph Campbell to take all that nonsense and give it a sheen of real cultural and anthropological importance. The Force Awakens, in a very, very real way, is a pastiche of Star Wars itself, and the reverence to Campbell-style myth-making has been supplanted by the filmmakers reverence to this specific myth.

Which was probably utterly unavoidable. I would guess there is not a single competent filmmaker in Hollywood, who would have any interest in making a Star Wars movie, who doesn't revere the earlier films. Honestly, the saving grace here was likely the involvement of Lawrence Kasdan in scripting. He was there, having scripted both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (not to mention Raiders of the Lost Ark). He clearly enjoys this type of material, and yet, I'd guess, isn't star-struck by it.

There is a sequence in the center of the film that, if I'm fully honest, didn't feel like Star Wars, but rather like one of the myriad Star Wars ripoffs that littered the 80's. A lot of the humorous dialogue struck me as a lot more glib and unceasing than the earlier films, like it was the product of someone who remembered all their favorite lines, and regurgitated them without the breathing space that made those lines originally pop. Now, to be fair, the writing here is so far beyond Lucas that I hardly cared, but I was struck by the change in tone.

And the structure. There is more than a little truth in the criticism that the film is little more than a remake of A New Hope (AKA the original Star Wars). That's not a huge problem for me, because that fits with Lucas' vision. The Phantom Menace echos A New Hope, as well, but less slavishly. There is a point when I'm thinking, "oh this is like the Mos Eisley Cantina....Oh, look at the echo of the trench run...etc." I almost wish they'd just made our new desert planet, Jakku, a return to Tatooine. The production design is so virtually identical that it's obvious that they were trying to have their cake and eat it too. There is a long, long list of elements that fall into the "remember that?" category.

All of that becomes almost totally forgivable because Abrams and Kasdan have given us a nice big pot of terrific characters to revisit and get to know. I loved, loved, loved all of the new characters, and I was surprised by how much I was drawn to Kylo Ren, in particular. He's a villain that gives us a new perspective of the Star Wars universe, and The Force, that we've not really seen before now, and Adam Driver does a wonderful job with the part. Harrison Ford is better than he's been in years and Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are honest-to-God movie star finds. Oscar Issac isn't given much to do, but fills his moments. Much like with his Star Trek films, you can find absolutely zero fault with Abrams' casting instincts.

Watching the film is a blast, and I'm resistant to even delving into the plot very much, so as to allow you to discover it yourself. It's an experience, and all of the critical comments I've made are pretty irrelevant while you're watching. However, as a huge fan, I am concerned with the ultimate health of the franchise. There's things here that make me worry, specifically with Disney's aggressive plan of a new Star Wars film every year.

The Force Awakens is now corporate product, you can't deny it, and I see echoes of Disney's (financially, if not always creatively) successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fact that the emotional beats work as well as they do is a testament to the skill and talent of J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, because in other hands, this film could've easily toppled over into Transformers territory.