Friday, April 30, 2010

Rush Fails

Everyone thinks I'm kidding, but, in a lot of ways this game is more difficult that actually playing the instrument.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Comic Day 4.28.2010

After last week's $30 blast, it's a blissfully light week, and mostly Marvel, which is odd for me.

Detective Comics #864

Written by DAVID HINE
Co-feature written by GREG RUCKA
Co-feature art by CULLY HAMNER

The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over DETECTIVE COMICS in "Beneath the Mask" Part 1 of 2! It's Black Mask verses Jeremiah Arkham for control of the asylum. But what of the enigmatic Three Beauties, and how does Batman fit into the mad plan? Everything that was set up and teased in BATTLE FOR THE COWL: ARKHAM ASYLUM and ARKHAM REBORN is at last revealed, but the answers to the mysteries just might drive everyone – including Batman – mad!

Then, in the co-feature, the spotlight is shone on Renee's personal life. But just who knows about her secret identity, and what will they do with that information? That is the question...

I guess that's the end of Batwoman headlining Detective Comics. I was loving Rucka's work with the character, but I also think that maybe this was drawing to a close at the right time. We shall see what David Hine does with the material.

Captain America #605

COVER BY: Gerald Parel
WRITER: Ed Brubaker/Sean Mckeever
PENCILS: David Baldeon/Luke Ross
INKS: Sno-Cone Studios, Ltd./Simone Peruzzi
COLORED BY: Joseph Clark/Simone Peruzzi
LETTERED BY: Keith Aiken/Jeromy Cox

The dramatic conclusion of "Two Americas" by acclaimed Cap scribe Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross. The final battle between two Captain Americas will leave each changed...and a new secret enemy will be revealed.

There's only one thing to say here...

When will Steve Rogers (it's just hit me just how great a hero name that is...almost as good as Steve Austin) be in the Captain America suit again? Bucky was a great placeholder, but he's feeling played out. It's also fair to say that DC handling this sort of story far better with Dick Grayson as Batman. I don't just keep waiting for the original guy (and the VASTLY superior original costume) to come back. OK, Marvel? He's back to life, stop jerking us around.

Ultimate Comics Avengers 2 #1

COVER BY: Leinil Francis Yu
WRITER: Gary Martin
PENCILS: Leinil Francis Yu
INKS: James Jean
COLORED BY: Arron Williams
LETTERED BY: Jared Fletcher

Some jobs are just too dirty for the Ultimates. For these, Nick Fury must gather the Avengers, a black ops team willing to do the missions that others won’t. What role will an infamous mass killer play in Fury’s plans? Find out here, as the Punisher returns to the Ultimate Universe! The blockbuster team of MARK MILLAR (ULTIMATES) and LEINIL FRANCIS YU (SECRET INVASION) presents the explosive beginning to ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.

Lord, Ultimate Comics Avengers just ended last week. So,'s on the pull list, but with the pretty weak wrap-up on the first series, this issue will have to be really damn good to get me to keep buying. At least it's a Punisher that's not some sort of half-assed Frankenstein monster riff.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did you miss me?

Had a stomach bout yesterday, and stayed home. Didn't really do much of anything but lay about, honestly.

The weekend was busy. Had a fundraiser for the Ka-Tet show on Friday, and tried to get my $25 worth. This led me to drink more than I would. Which, is usually close to nothing. Saturday was shopping/errands and my big comic book bill for the week. (**sigh**) Sunday was laundry, rehearsal, dinner and a movie.

I managed to get the "Reeses" track put to bed. Aside from vocals, of course. I feel I've been more than clear about the new process for approaching music work, and I'm not going to go over it again. I finished up the guitar solo on Saturday. Next to the vocals, guitar solos are where I struggle. I am not a fast player. I do not "shred."

My goal with every guitar solo, especially with this new work, is to find a melody line to play. I concentrate on hitting the rhythm, and building a melodic phrase around the chord progression. In the past, I could get fixated on trying to hit notes as fast as I could, and it ended up mushy and kinda blah. So, the idea is to get a little more in control of what I'm doing.

We'll see. I feel pretty good about things, so far. I do, however, need to work on my speed. Some of these tracks have wanted to run a bit, and I've been maybe too focused on what I set out as the goal. Not too worried about it, however. I have to go back for vocals, anyway...I can change the solo if need be.

Also started setting out a drum track for a much slower track, which I've dubbed "Gamble." The aim is something more akin to a Pink Floyd track, in my head. More textural, I guess, is how I'm thinking. It's gonna be slower than what's come before. I'm running at about 85 BPM for the first pass. I may have to speed it up or slow it down, depending on how things sound.

Generally, it's just a shot at a new sound. Again, if it doesn't'll never hear it.

Also spending a lot more time poking around the different pre-sets on the drum machine. Lots of interesting stuff to play with, I think. I was getting lots of ideas.

It's been nice. After a LONG dry spell, I actually fell some inspiration to play right now. I feel like ideas are coming at me, and I'm ready for them. My skills keep growing, and I hope that's gonna be evident over the first two CDs. When this one is done, that is.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What shall we talk about?

Another "slow news day."

Re-strung the Les Paul last night, and applied some Nut Sauce for the first time. I've been having some trouble with keeping the guitar in tune, especially the G-string. I think the problem is that the nut grooves are just a bit too narrow, and bind on the strings. So, when I play hard, or do string bends, they get caught in the nut, and can't slip back into the original, tuned position.

This is my guess, based on what's happening. The turners aren't turning, so it's not pulling out there. I really think I'm dealing with a binding issue. So, I was doing a little research, and trying to figure a way to resolve the issue. I was REALLY hoping I wasn't going to have to try to sand out the nut grooves, although that would ultimately be the "be all, end all" solution.

I started reading up on guitar lubricants, and found Nut Sauce. A lot of people seem impressed with it. I had to mail-order the stuff, which is just bizarre to me, living in Chicago with several high-end music/guitar shops, and I tried it out last night.

I didn't play much, but it looks to be holding tune pretty well, within an acceptable drift range, anyway. I played for about 20-25 minutes this morning when I got up, and, while I didn't check the tuning against a tuner, or anything, the tuning was staying reasonably accurate comparing string-to-string.

So, at first blush, I'm sold on this stuff. We'll see how it goes over some recording I hope to do this weekend. (I started working on a slower blues progression this AM, and I think it may become the next track for the ongoing project)

Speaking of which...I listened back to a few things. I'm actually...wait for it...kinda happy with how it's all going, so far. I'm really comfortable with the overall vibe of the music tracks, which are definitely hard-rock, with some metallic touches, with a better groove than anything I've done before, in my humble opinion.

Now, of course, I haven't started trying to lay vocals in. I know that's where I stumble, a lot of the time. I'm not a singer. I can carry a tune in a bucket, on occasion, but I certainly can't do the things I hear in my head, most of the time.

I really do (here I go again) wish I could find a group of people who wanna do some low-stress jamming, record some stuff, and maybe play a few gigs. I have this silly dream of playing fundraisers for the assorted theatre companies I'm involved with. (ha HA!) Making some original music, putting it out, and not worrying about making a career out of it. Just being creative, with real, live human beings to bounce off of.

Because I THINK these tracks are going to turn out well, pretty good. Certainly the best stuff I've ever done, but I'm also aware they could be excellent demos for something really good and fun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Great Little Steven

I saw this excerpt posted by Sal Nunziato, over at his Burning Wood blog. I couldn't let the almost-always perfect words of Little Steven Van Zandt go by.

And, yes, as a dyed-in-the-wool Springsteen fan, I probably raise Van Zandt and the other members of the E-Street Band a little higher than they need to. (I don't care at all if Max Weinberg leaves Conan O'Brien to become The Tonight Show bandleader, for instance.) That being said, Van Zandt has such a clear and pure vision of what Rock and Roll should be. As in this speech from the South By Southwest Festival. The man understands the history and importance of Rock, and he's one of the more eloquent speakers on the subject I've ever heard.

Excerpt from Steve Van Zandt's induction speech for the Hollies at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame March 15, 2010 New York City

You know, a lot of us in this room have been doing what we do a long time. We can't help it, I guess, if we take it all at least a little bit for granted. Sometimes some of us don't even show up. And we can't help but feel a little disappointed now that the business is pretty much artistically, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. With a few exceptions. And I say a few exceptions so you can pretend you're one of them.

It's temporary probably, a cycle type thing we hope. There's lots of great new bands out there and hopefully we can find a way to create an infrastructure to support them. But we can't help be a little jaded. A little cynical about what's going on, right?

So it's good once a year that we stop for a minute.

And think about what we do. And this is it.

This is our best night, right?

The Grammys, nice people, good show, a lot of fun but, with all due respect, it's mostly bullshit.

The American Music Awards, nice people, a lot of fun, mostly bullshit.

But this Hall Of Fame thing really has just a little bit of bullshit. On the bullshit scale, this is pretty good. As frustrating as it can be. This is as good as it's gonna get. We should respect it and enjoy it.

Because this night makes us think about what we do. And when you rise ABOVE the bullshit for a minute, you realize something that day to day we don't think about often enough. And that is this-

This thing we do, it's beautiful.

Making music, creating art, inspiring people...motivating people... making people feel good...helping them understand a little bit about life, helping them get through the day...feel a little less confused...a little less alone. What Andrew Loog Oldham called the Industry of Human Happiness. It is truly a divine craft that we work our hands in.

Of course we didn't have any of these big ideas when we started. Frankly most of us were just trying to get laid. Maybe get a little famous. Maybe get a little rich. But mostly it was the pussy. And of course trying to avoid having to work for a living. Something really went wrong with that one! I don't want to name any names.

We are a strange combination of troubadours, court jesters, rabble rousers, and magicians, catching and communicating the mystical mystery of music. This would be a wonderful job in any era. But those of us who have lived in the time of what will surely be remembered as a Renaissance Period are truly blessed. I sincerely believe the 20-year period from 1951 to 1971 will be studied and analyzed for hundreds of years to come.

It may sound crazy but I actually believe history will be divided into the pre-60's, and post-60's. Because the '60's was the birth of consciousness. Everything changed. And not all for the better. We're still struggling with the fragmentation that inevitably comes with cultural changes THAT profound. Civil Rights, The Sexual Revolution, Women's Rights, Gay Rights, Questioning One's Government, the Explosion of the Teenage Marketplace, The Anti-War Movement, Computer Science, the introduction of Eastern Religion and thought to the West, the concept of a Global Community, the radical realization that our Constitution wasn't finished, and a new mass media to tell us all about it.

Which included a terrific little magazine called Rolling Stone by the way.

These massive cultural changes both liberated and divided us. And our culture is still searching, still hoping to regain some common ground.

But for a moment our generation was very much as one.

And it was Rock and Roll that provided our common ground, our means of communication, our education, our means of venting our frustrations, our strength against the fear of growing up. It gave us hope and faith and somehow instilled in us a belief that there would be a future. It replaced everything our parents, our schools, and our society had taught us, and it would become our common religion.

The Disciples and Missionaries of this new religion would, for my age group, first come from England. We called it the British Invasion of 1964/'65. Ironically, as it would turn out, they would introduce us young Americans to what would eventually be recognized as a new art form, that much to our surprise, was born right here in our own country.

An art form born to serve the needs of a new species of humanity called the Teenager. Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan would add the eloquence and the specifics, but we didn't need anything more than Little Richard. He opened his mouth and out came liberation.

These unlikely missionaries from England would change society's perception, and history's evaluation, of the Rock and Rollers of the 1950's completely. Their status would change from temporary teenage circus freaks passing through town as an amusing diversion helping kids get through those awkward years from adolescence to adulthood, to Pioneers of that New Art Form. Pioneers that were in fact instinctive creative geniuses whose work will be celebrated forever.

I never would have heard of Little Richard or Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis or Carl Perkins or Muddy Waters if it weren't for the British Invasion. Forget about Arthur Alexander or Larry Williams. No chance.

It was the English bands that made us aware of the Pioneers' greatness by their own greatness. They introduced us not just to their own extraordinary music, and not just to the global community of new ideas, but to the very idea of a band.

A band.

The singular profound revelation of my life.

The critically important notion that a group of individuals could be stronger together than apart, complementing and completing each other, communicating friendship, brother and sisterhood, and ultimately Community itself.

Where would we be without that?

It is therefore a joy and pleasure to celebrate these artists, those that came before them, and those that have come since, and thank them in this setting once a year.

So here we are thanking the Beatles, the Dave Clark 5, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Herman's Hermits, the Searchers, the Zombies, the Who, Manfred Mann, the Spencer Davis Group, Procul Harum, and the band we celebrate and honor tonight, we're here to thank the Hollies.

Excellent speech, and excellent points. More than worth reading and considering

...But I still think there's more than a bit of bullshit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, too. The point's been made elsewhere that pop groups (which are certainly part of the rock and roll tapestry, don't get me wrong.) are in the HOF, but more "pure" rock acts Kiss (Love or hate 'em, they are an important band, historically.) or, more horrifying to me, personally, Rush (Come on...30 years, lineup virtually unchanged, they're still selling out arenas and making great records that do sell.) are not. There IS an agenda at the HOF against certain acts that are not loved by the selection comittee, but who's accomplishments obviously make the case for inclusion.

Anyway. Fantastic speech, and I wanted to share. Much thanks, again to Sal over at Burning Wood for pointing this out.

New Comic Day 4.21.2010

Big, almost HUGE, week...almost $30.


Sometimes I do wonder about how much I spend on this stuff. Doesn't help I also have a $25 fundraiser for my current show on Friday night, and I'm working hard to put away a significant dollar amount each week for San Diego. Oh well, I could be spending it on smack.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #11

Written by Paul Dini
Art and cover by Guillem March

As Gotham City swirls in a maelstrom of evil and villainy, three of the most unlikely candidates – Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn – step forward to bring some light to the situation. But will their efforts enough to stem the tide of madness and mayhem?

This series is kinda like comfort food. I'm never disappointed, but rarely excited, either. Dini is a master, but that doesn't mean the stories are always brilliant. However, sometimes they are, and I approach each new issue he writes with that hope.

The Brave and the Bold #33


Oh yes, it's ladies' night! Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Zatanna enjoy a nice, peaceful evening on the town that absolutely won't be interrupted by any kind of superheroic hijinks whatsoever... and if you believe that, there's a giant bronze globe in Metropolis we'd like to sell you!

Aw, yeah...ladies' night! **BOW-chicka-wow-wow**


JMS has been holding up his end of the deal so far, although the series isn't nearly as regular as it used to be. However, Straczynski promised odd pairings, and he's lived up to that. I stand by my previous assertion that this is old-school comics at it best. We don't need sweeping crossovers for heroes to get together, just sharp, done-in-one, fun storytelling. All 33 issues of the modern version of this title have lived up to that. Totally recommended.

Green Lantern #53

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:25 Variant cover by RODOLFO MIGLIARI

A BRIGHTEST DAY tie-in! Exploding out of BLACKEST NIGHT comes the next exciting chapter in the Green Lantern mythos: "New Guardians"! Forced together during the rise of the Black Lanterns, Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, Atrocitus, Indigo-1 and Larfleeze must agree to disagree if their next mission is to succeed. But when one of the strangest beings from Green Lantern's past returns, the future of the Lanterns and the universe at large once again falls into question.

Of course, there's noting wrong with huge crossovers, if done right. I'm excited to see what the post-Blackest Night/Brightest Day universe will mean for the assorted ring corps. I don't know if I've pontificated over this already, but it really needs to be said...Kudos to Geoff Johns for introducing the multiple color/emotion ring corps. It's, hands down, the best, most story-generating (which is the most important part) new element to be added to the Green Lantern mythos in decades. There's nothing wrong with the changes writers like Ron Marz put into effect, but rebuilding the Green Lantern Corps as a galactic police force, and then adding the additional spectrum's just opened up the cosmic DC universe in a huge way.

Justice League of America #44

Art and cover by MARK BAGLEY and ROB HUNTER
1:25 Variant cover by David Mack

A BRIGHTEST DAY tie-in! Following the events of BLACKEST NIGHT, the brand new Justice League of America enters into BRIGHTEST DAY with an arc featuring the Justice Society of America. The epic team-up begins with a character from the end of BLACKEST NIGHT joining the JLA. But when the storyline's over, what mysterious villain will be revealed – and which hero will switch teams?

Oh, God...WILL SOMEONE MAKE THIS BOOK GOOD AGAIN!?!?! I mean, I won't drop it, I love Mark Bagley too, too much, but, if he goes, I'm out. Unless they get someone writing this thing that can run with it, AWAY FROM THE ASSORTED CROSSOVERS, and make the team matter.

I mean, seriously, this title has been hamstrung with editorial mandates and tie-ins for years, and when Dwayne McDuffie up and admitted he was having trouble writing a compelling series when it had to tie-in to every DC event down the pike, they fired him. Bad form, Dan Didio. I love so much of what you've put in play at DC, but...You need to let this title breathe, get a team in place, and let it gell into a cohesive unit. Hell, the series has even become about how the team has problems working together!

Pull it out of continuity for a year, and let it establish it's own identity.

Power Girl #11

Art and cover by AMANDA CONNER

Power Girl's life has been torn apart, and the last thing she needs is to find out that one of her closest allies is now one of her deadliest enemies! But, we're sorry to say, that's exactly what Satanna has managed to serve up!

One part sad, one part glad. Sad because there's only one more Palmiotti/Gray/Conner issue of this series left, and it's become one of my favorite reads on a monthly basis. that's all because of what that team brought to the table. Especially Conner's strong-but-sexy artwork. I'll miss the hell out of this series when I drop it after next issue. Like I said at the top of the page...I need to cut back on the comics $$ for a bit, and if the team is gone, what I was reading for will be gone.

The Spirit #1

Co-feature written by Dennis O'Neil
Co-feature art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover by LADRĂ–NN
1:10 variant cover by MARK SCHULTZ

The Spirit returns in an all-new ongoing series! Central City destroys everyone who lives within its it's a good thing The Spirit already died once! International crime syndicate The Golden Tree wants to help Central City's Octopus consolidate control over the underworld and the Spirit is the kind of mess the Golden Tree was created to clean up. They've offered the Octopus the services of one of their finest assassins to take his breath away for good – and the sight of this killer would get anyone's heart pounding!

This issue also features the debut of the eight-page THE SPIRIT: BLACK and WHITE co-feature, showcasing the industry's finest talent. And who better to kick things off than DENNIS O'NEIL and BILL SIENKIEWICZ?

More of DC's First Wave line...A little background here;

The Spirit was created by a genius cartoonist named Will Eisner in 1940. It was a comic book series that was actually an insert into Sunday newspapers, and Eisner owned the property outright, holding full creative control. He managed to tell many different and affecting stories within the framework of The Spirit's world. The Eisner series is sheer genius. (Despite the ugly stereotype of the Ebony White sidekick character)

The most recent version of The Spirit was a series DC published starting in 2007, with the first 12 issues being handled by modern genius cartoonist Darwyn Cooke. After Cooke left with issue 12, the series limped along for about another 20 months, but no one really captured the way a modern Spirit ought to work like Cooke did. (I should've stopped reading with his departure).

The recent movie, directed by sometimes-genius cartoonist Frank Miller was nothing but a nightmare. I never saw the whole thing. The power went out about 20 minutes in the film, and it felt like a reprieve from Hell.

I hope this series gets it right, I really do. The property is too ripe, and too historically important to lie fallow. I am most intensely interested in the "Black and White" back-up feature. It'll be cool to see various creators play with the property, and O'Neil and Sienkiewicz are a hell of a way to start.

Ultimate Comics Avengers #6

COVER BY: Carlos Pacheco
WRITER: Mark Millar
PENCILS: Carlos Pacheco

Like father like long-lost psychotic son? Not quite! Looks like this anticipated Father-Son reunion will result in bullets instead of tears! Will the Avengers get there in time to keep Captain America and Red Skull from blowing themselves away and the world in the process? Hold on to your masks!

Y'know, this title debuted the exact month that Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (below), and Millar and Pacheco are already 3 months behind Bendis and Lafuente. Go figure.

The Ultimate Red Skull being Ultimate Captain America's illegitimate son is a fairly interesting concept, but I can hardly tell you what's going on in this story arc. It's been that long since I read an issue. However, I usually enjoy the title when it comes out, and Pacheco is no slouch in the art department.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #9

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
INKS: Todd McFarlane
COLORED BY: Allan Jefferson
LETTERED BY: Jared Fletcher

It's the return of Spider-Woman! And guess who she totally makes out with in this issue! What?? Yeah, you heard me!! Wanna see a Spider-Man story you have never ever ever ever seen before? We promise you, it’s right here!! All this and Kitty's Pryde's world comes crashing down around her as the U.S. government comes to Midtown High to collect her.

This title is great. It's a great all-ages title staring a familiar hero, and, while it carries some continuity BS with it, it's not the 40 years worth the "regular" title carries. I love this book, and I have from the start. I love the voice Bendis gives these kids, and the way he spins the superhero action in to the mundane High School hijinks in a pretty effortless way. It's top-notch.

But I still miss Mark Bagley's art.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everyone should watch this

Slow News Day

So, Yeah...

It's Tuesday. Not much more to say about that. Rehearsal tonight, and it looks like the rest of the week off until Sunday.

I'm using lunch breaks to work on lines. I'm making my way, slowly, but I'm making my way.

Generally speaking, it's a slow news day here. I've been hitting the usual haunts for something to spark the noggin, but, man...


We did have the big, new C2E2 convention in town over the weekend. I did not go. I thought about it, getting a day pass for Saturday, but, in the end, I just saved that money I would've dropped for SDCC. It's so fantastic to have a major comic con in Chicago again, instead of that raging failure Wizard has been shoveling out. I will be a regular starting next year, that's for certain. As long as the convention continues.

The professional response has been pretty good. My understanding is that the crowds felt light, but, honestly, I've also heard the main room was huge, with full-length windows letting in daylight from all sides. In an environment where most cons take place in rooms that pretty closely resemble warehouses, that kind of "open air" feel could do a lot to counteract the oppressive feeling.

It's kinda sad that so many conventions feel like you're cattle being herded that, when one doesn't, things feel "off."

But again, I didn't go. I have no first-hand experience.

Kinda wish I had.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Meet the newest Guns 'N Roses guitarist...

DJ Ashba

Hmmm...Top Hat, check. Les Paul, check.

Look, I made a joke about this guy on twitter a while back asking if he was Tommy Thayer. For those of you who don't know (and why would you?), Tommy Thayer is the current lead guitarist of Kiss. Now, the "legendary" lead guitarist of Kiss is Ace Frehley. He's the guy you immediately see when you think "the guys in kiss," or at least his make-up is.

There's been a lot of guitarists in Kiss, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick. Great players, and arguably all better guitarists than Ace. However, that "Space Ace" imagery that Ace formed and created is what people remember. Well, see, Thayer, essentially, dresses up as Ace to play. Now, I'm sure Thayer is a decent guy, and all, and a good guitar player, but...there's something about standing on someone else's image.

So, yeah...I look at Mr. Ashba there, and I wonder. It's just a little TOO close to the bone, for me. I dunno, maybe DJ Ashba's been wearing top hats and playing Les Pauls for years. Although, I think the whole band has a sponsorship with Gibson, so the Les Paul may be forgivable.

(I really am going to get off this Guns 'N Roses/Slash kick, I promise. I finished the book last night, so...moving on.)

Worked up a new track over the weekend, "Reeces." I'd just eaten a dark chocolate peanut butter cup before I started sequencing the drums, so whatever. The verse drum part came from the cover I had been trying to work up, but it just never came together. I was trying to go too far from where the song started, so that went into the garbage. However, I like the way the drums were sounding, so I started playing with that, and a bit heavier drum part for the chorus, with a time signature change for the middle eight.

The thing worked really well. I think I've gotten a handle on keeping the chord progressions simple enough, and leaving myself room to play a bit. I managed to finish it all except the solo and the vocals (as is my current MO). So that puts me with 3 "finished" tracks ready for vocal work, and a 4th that is kinda outside the box, but completely finished. I really don't know if I want to put that one out there, it's very, very raw. I think I used 2 tracks, total. Just my voice and an acoustic guitar.

So, we shall see.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another Week Down.

One less week until SDCC...

It's kinda pathetic how much I'm fixated on this trip. I mean, I have a LOT to do between now and then. Two shows, plus rehearsals, load-ins and strikes, two concerts I'm pretty (actually completely) revved up about, and a trip to see my family for the first time in years. There's a lot going on in the next few months, not even to mention the general work routine.

Right now, as far as Sun, Stand Thou Still, I'm in the "learn your damn lines" phase. I mean, I really haven't even started blocking rehearsals yet (that would be Sunday), but I feel the specter of tech week (starting May 10th). It's stalking me, and I mean to have it before it has me.

I also sat in on casting for the show I'm doing for Stage Left's Leapfest this week, so I have that bearing down on me, too. I'm doing one of the two major roles in The Meaning of Lunch, which is a script I was a big supporter of during the selection process. It's great fun, but also very quick, clipped, Mamet-like dialogue (Gee, why would I like that?). We'll also open the festival 12 days after Sun, Stand Thou Still closes. Both perform at the current Stage Left space, as well.

I was really happy to get to read The Meaning of Lunch selections with the actors up for the role of my father. I just love the play, and all of the guys made it fun to read. It's just so snappy. When you do one of these festival gigs, sometimes it feels like the fun gets sucked out of what you're doing. Not enough time for proper attacks on the material, but just reading a few pages got me all kinds of fired up. I can't imagine not having fun with this.

It's a quick turnaround between these two shows, quicker than I've done in a while. I know it'll all work out, as we say in the thea-tar, "it always does." However, I have these two scripts to become intimately familiar with quickly.

That said...I am walking over lunch today. I've spent too much time cooped up in this office going over my script this week. I need fresh air.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kick-Ass and the Fanboy Inferiority Complex

I'm just wiped out today. Exhausted. Have no idea why...

Well, yesterday became rather stressful for me, but I'm usually able to shrug that off. I didn't sleep much last night, it's true, but come on...I've gone on 5 hours of sleep more often than I can count.

Oh well.

Kick-Ass is opening tomorrow/midnight tonight. I see no reason to see it again. It was pretty good, I was entertained. I certainly don't see it as a downfall of human civilization, but neither do I overrate it. It's a well-made adaptation of a middling-to-poor comic series (that was saved by amazing artwork), that solves some of the problems of the source material while making more.

However, I did read Roger Ebert's review. I respect Ebert a lot, and I can totally acknowledge (as he does) that he simply doesn't care if Kick-Ass is effectively made, or not. The nature of the story, and the Hit Girl character in particular, just completely put him off the film. Fair enough, and frankly, the man makes some pretty damning points, "I know, I know. This is a satire. But a satire of what?" being the most biting.

I have friends who tend to look at films like this for pure entertainment value. Who get pissy with me when I start talking about films they simply see as, well, "kick-ass," in a larger social and moral view. You see, to me, comic books and other escapist entertainment are supposed to teach lessons about morality, and honesty, and fair play. That's been the role of stories that trade on mythology and hero iconography since the Greeks. Joseph Campbell isn't considered a genius for nothing. These hero myth stories are important, and I make no excuses for treating them as such.

(Not that you can't have a laugh from time to time.)

So, yes, I think Mr. Ebert is completely valid in taking Kick-Ass to task for turning an 11-year-old girl into a mass murderer and fetish object for laughs. I don't agree with him 100%, as I think Chloe Grace Moretz's Hit Girl may, in fact, be the most powerful and self-actualized character in the film, but something is off. I've always been more than slightly put off by the use of brutality for humor in the works of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, and this film trades on that in a pretty openly and pretty brazenly.

I did laugh. I did enjoy the film. However, the more I think about it, especially in light of Ebert's comments, it did feel like an empty vessel, filled with a lot of flash designed to directly appeal to the worst parts of the 12 year old in all of us. There is a question to be raised as to using superhero iconography for that purpose.

Frankly, the comic series was far, far more guilty of this. Of course, I say that as someone who finds Mark Millar's MO in regard to making comics highly suspect. I do not think a comic series should be justified as a method to see an idea as a movie. It's a process that lessens comic books as a form in their own right, IMHO.

On the other hand, we have Harry Knowles absolutely idiotic reaction to Ebert's review. Which is, yet again, another heaping helping of fanboy inferiority complex. The kneejerk reaction to anything that finds fault with something you enjoyed as a personal attack, or vice-versa.

I still get awful comments simply because I found the Star Wars prequels and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to be worthwhile entertainments. I enjoyed them, and far too many people are upset by that because we, as a fan culture, have become obsessed with groupthink. It's not just in fandom, honestly, think about the religious groups who cannot fathom or abide ideas that contradict their own. It's fear. Fear that, my God, if everyone doesn't blindly agree, I MAY BE WRONG!!!! The effort then becomes to utterly crush any opposing ideas, so you no longer have to grapple with your own doubts.

I prefer to just enjoy what I like.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Comic Day 4.14.10

A new series I'm most definitely interested in, but not entirely sold on, this week. A new series I've been very excited for, and a new crossover event begins. (Or, it began at the end of the LAST crossover event, you could argue.)

Batman #698

Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Guillem March
Cover by Tony Daniel

Only two months until BATMAN #700! As the landmark issue nears, Dick Grayson's life as The Dark Knight heats up in a big way. With Black Mask out of the way for good, the Falcone crime family attempts to fill that void – with no regard for the safety of Gotham City's citizens! And what's going on with the Riddler?

Sounds like another great Tony Daniel issue. I am becoming very curious about how The Riddler will be developing as we head toward the Return of Bruce Wayne story arc.

Brightest Day #0

Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin
Cover by David Finch
1:50 Variant cover by Ivan Reis

The biggest event in comics continues as BRIGHTEST DAY burns back the BLACKEST NIGHT from the writing team behind GREEN LANTERN and GREEN LANTERN CORPS – Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi! And don't miss the exciting DC Comics debut of red hot cover artist David Finch (New Avengers, Ultimatum)! The effects that the already classic BLACKEST NIGHT will have on the DC Universe will be felt for years to come and this issue not only sets the stage for the new ongoing biweekly DC Universe book BRIGHTEST DAY, but also the next exciting era of the DC Universe!

As much as I was ready for Blackest Night to wrap up, and for Johns to move on to phase 2 of this process, I gotta admit, I could've used a breather between these two series. I realize that this even spins directly from the last one, the events kinda demand immediate exploration, but, at $3.99 a shot, I think a month off would be nice.

Doc Savage #1

Written by Paul Malmont
Co-feature written by Jason Starr
Art by Howard Porter and Art Thibert
Co-feature art by Scott Hampton
Cover by J.G. Jones
1:10 variant cover by John Cassaday

The Man of Bronze in his own series at last! Doc Savage is the target of a brazen attack on New York City! Tragedy will strike one of Doc's compatriots, and someone may not survive the opening pages of "The Lord of Lightning!" Written by Paul Malmont, national best-selling author of The Chinatown Death-Cloud Peril, with art by Howard Porter (JLA)!

And don't miss the hard-hitting JUSTICE, INC. co-feature, starring Richard Benson, the Avenger! When criminals abduct one of his own detectives, Benson's icy heart sears with a rage hotter than any he's ever known. "Worst Nightmare" begins here, written by crime novelist Jason Starr (THE CHILL) with art by Scott Hampton (LUCIFER)!

I love the concept of this new DC "First Wave" line, bringing together the DC-licensed/owned "pulp fiction"-style characters in a shared universe outside of mainstream DC continuity. I'm, without a doubt, on board with the new Spirit series (though I cannot imagine it'll even brush the greatness of Darwyn Cooke's revival series...sheer brilliance), as I am a big fan of Wil Eisner's creation. I also like how they're working an alternate Batman into the line, as Bruce Wayne does share many traits with traditional Pulp characters.

Than said, I've never been a huge Doc Savage fan. To give the first issue a shot, or no...that is the question.

Flash #1

Written by Geoff Johns
Art, cover and 1:100 variant cover by Francis Manapul
1:25 Variant cover by Tony Harris

A BRIGHTEST DAY tie-in! Get in on the ground floor of DC's next epic in the making! The Flash races out of BLACKEST NIGHT and into his own monthly title as the all-new adventures of The Fastest Man Alive start with "Case One: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues!" Barry Allen runs back to his life in Central City, but when one of the Rogues turns up murdered under mysterious circumstances, it's up to The Flash to not only solve this bizarre crime, but protect those that are still targeted by the elusive killer. Plus, don't miss a peek into the future of the Flash universe in this special, extra-sized starting point issue!

Ahh...The Flash is my 3rd favorite hero, ever. Something about the costume and the idea of speed as a power. (And, yes, The Flash beats Superman in a race) Now that that Flash:Rebirth and Blackest Night stuff is out of the way, I hope we can get down to business. Yes, it's Barry Allen, not former Kid-Flash Wally West, under the cowl, but I can tell Johns is invigorated by the new character to play with. I mean, I "grew up" with Wally as The Flash, and he, and his inferiority complex about Barry, will always be my touchstone to the character, but I'm interested to see how this all shakes out.

I do hope that $3.99 price tag is only for the giant-sized first issue, however.

Ultimate Comics Enemy #3

Cover by Ed McGuinness
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Peter Sanderson
Inks by Malcolm Davis
Colored by Peter Vale

The heroes of the Ultimate Universe are desperate to track down their collective enemy before he/she/it strikes again! This mystery is at the backbone of the Ultimate Universe and will have major ramifications on the future of the entire line. Ultimate Universe co-founder BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN) and rising star, RAFA SANDOVAL (AVENGERS: INITIATIVE) bring you one step closer to revealing the mystery of the ULTIMATE ENEMY!!

I bought the first two issues of this, mainly because of Bendis, and my undying love for his Ultimate Spider-Man work, but....Man, this series has been struggling to make me care. It's also promising to lead into several more mini-series, and I REALLY don't think I care enough for that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Waiting for Sam Fisher...

I am having a hard time getting through this day, mainly because Splinter Cell: Conviction will be waiting for me at home.

Apparently, there was a release-day glitch that came up. A problem with the title update that downloads when you start up the game. Of course, it also sounds like it's already fixed. Score one for us old farts that have to work, and don't sit around all day playing video games.

I think after I finish the single-player version of this baby, I'm gonna have a little Sam Fisher-palooza. Start with the first game, and make my way through all five. It would be interesting, and a little journey through 2 generations of game systems. It's kinda funny, but I've been waiting for this game so long that, when I purchased the last game in the series, Double Agent, it was for my original XBox. There was an XBox360 version, but I hadn't bought the system yet.

Anyway, I still have all the games. As I said before, Splinter Cell was pretty much my first "video game obsession." They all work on the 360, so...It might be interesting to follow Sam Fisher through his whole story in rapid succession.

I surprised myself last night. After listening to the New Slash album, and reading his autobiography, I had been thinking about the Slash's Snakepit album from the 90's. I was thinking, "it was an interesting album, maybe I ought to download it." Then I'm flipping through the CD rack...and there it is.

Man, I need to keep better track of my CDs.

There was a second Snakepit album, Ain't Life Grand, in 2000, which I'm reading was even better. Looks like it's harder to come by, anyway...

I really can't explain this Slash interest right now, other than really jumping in with the new record and the book. I've not finished reading it, yet, but I am struck by a feeling of honesty. He's pretty upfront about what a fuck-up he could be, and the dysfunction of G'NR that can be laid on his doorstep. He just strikes me a a decent guy.

Now, of course, I know that can be a spin. Absolutely it could be. However, there's a certain self-effacing and willingness to admit failings, accept mistakes and not lay all the blame on others. When I read this interview with Axl (it's pretty old) the other day, I couldn't help but see the huge differences between the two men talking about what, exactly happened.

In Axl's world, it seems everything is someone else's fault. Axl is this poor victim, always at the mercy of others, despite his attempts to set things right. It's just so clear that the man has checked out of reality. I'm not trying to take anything away from him as a musician with that statement, as I think Chinese Democracy is a pretty impressive album. It's certainly a extremely sharp portrait of Axl and his world. My view of the album is pretty similar to Chuck Klosterman's.

Of course, plenty of people have made compelling musical statements and been rotten human beings. In fact, I don't even think of Axl as a rotten human being, but as an EXTREMELY screwed up guy. I can't even imagine how exhausting it must be to maintain that kind of paranoia constantly, and I don't even mean that as a joke. True or not, Axl believes himself to be under assault from all sides at all times.

I can't even comprehend what that must feel like.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ah, this is gonna be fantastic...

I am very, very much looking forward to seeing this film, when it eventually comes my way...

rush clip 1
Uploaded by azmovies. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

rush clip 2
Uploaded by azmovies. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Rush is just a criminally underrated band. I mean, seriously...30+ years, and they're still together, intact, and making great records. How are they not in the Hall of Fame?

Can't wait to see 'em this summer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Working Toward the Weekend.

Ah, Friday...You can be a cruel bitch.

Facing yet another weekend where the plate fills up fast. All good stuff, to be sure, but, man, I still yearn for a weekend where I don't have to see a show, or go to a meeting. I've been getting really excited about working on music, and my time seems oh-so limited for it.

I don't know if it's reading the Slash autobiography, or the music I've been listening to recently, but I've been feeling confident with the guitar lately. I feel inspired. Just this morning on the train, I hit upon what I think is a really cool idea, and something I've never done before. A cover, but with the full guitar/bass/drums sound. I did Freelove Freeway on early pressings (HA!) of my Hourglass 34 disk, but that was just me and an acoustic. It was also mainly a joke. (The Ballad of Serenity Valley was a second thought...LOL)

This would be more of a serious attempt. With a concept for attacking it that fits into the whole idea behind the tenor of tracks I'm working on, now. If it doesn't work, no fear...You'll never hear about it again.

Anyway, there will be some time for music this weekend, I think. Tonight we're taking in The Plagiarists' The Wreck of the Medusa.

Tomorrow we'll be heading out for Ryan M's belated birthday celebration, including Hello, Again with Bohemian Theatre Ensemble.

Sunday is yet another Stage Left meeting. Adding in the general tasks of grocery shopping and laundry, that ought to leave me some time Saturday during the day, and Sunday evening to play a bit.

Still, who knows? Best laid plans, and all that...

First week of Sun, Stand Thou Still is in the can, and I'm having a pretty good time. Last night was table work, and I think the entire company learned that I am one of those people who can just run on at the mouth when I get to thinking about things. Next week is very, very lean, for me, I'm only in on Monday night for a one-on-one session with our director. That's nice, but also a challenge. It's a long time to be away from it, and then jump back in the following week. I also really need to get down to business with the script. It's not a huge part, but there are pretty dense, fast-paced (at least in my mind, for what that's worth) sections, that I really would like to get in my head as soon as possible.

I pre-ordered Splinter Cell: Conviction for my Xbox this week, and it ought to be in my hands Tuesday evening...I'm jazzed.

Splinter Cell
is, in a lot of ways, the game that really got me into video games. It was certainly my first "obsessive" game, where I just couldn't stop playing, and I've been waiting a long time for the new game. It looks great, to my eyes, with the stealth gameplay (the game series was based more around not being detected, rather than killing everything in sight, though that was always an option) now being mixed with what looks to be a much faster paced game engine. In any case, I'm very excited to put Sam Fisher through his paces again, complete with that fantastic Michael Ironside voice work...

Also very excited about the announcement yesterday that Rush is going back on the road this summer.

I love Rush with a great deal of passion. It's gonna be a heck of a juggle to get the financials worked out to make it happen (the SDCC costs are always on the horizon, but they're playing July 5th in Chicago at the Charter One Pavilion, which is very close to downtown. For once, I won't have to drive all the way out to Tinley Park, I can just take the train, so that's a bonus.

Well, almost lunch...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slash - Album Review

Downloaded Slash's latest solo effort, Slash, on Tuesday.

I guess, technically, it's probably his first "solo" record, although, I tend to give that to the 1995 Slash's Snakepit release. That was a band project, in essence, but it certainly seemed like Slash was running the show.

Slash is a very different animal from that release, in that we have a rotating cast of vocalists/lyricists coming in and working with the top-hatted one. By it's very nature that makes this record a bit of a uneven affair. Musically, everything is pretty solid in that straight-ahead rock and roll style that Slash, and Guns 'N Roses, pretty much dragged back to life in an LA Glam scene that has supplanted bands like Aerosmith, for acts like Poison.

I also happen to be reading Slash's self-titled autobiography right now, and I've found a lot of respect for the guy. He comes off (now) as a very centered guy who's all-too-aware of what happens when you run off the rails too fast, from his own experience. He's not the near-burn-out he was was as Guns was coming together, but he's older and developed a firm grasp of exactly what he does.

He's a great Rock player. He's not a shredder, and far more into feel and groove than how many notes he can cram into a run. That's fully on display with this album, which has some great hooks and riffs that move the songs right along. To me, it's a call-back to 70's style rock, where, instead of trying to be impressive with horribly complex guitar parts, they just sit in the pocket and let the song, as a whole, have the power. It's, generally, what I would like my own playing to be, so perhaps I'm biased.

So, yeah, musically, lots of great stuff going on. On the vocal front is where things get dicey. Some of the more "legendary" vocalists on call, Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy Pop, for example, seem to have spent very little time formulating their lyrics. (The arguement could be made that all of these guys made their names on quasi-dumb lyrics, so maybe I'm expecting too much.) On top of that, the delivery isn't exactly the most...Committed, I guess, would be the word. Iggy's "We're All Gonna Die" lost me by the 9th or 10th refrain of "Let's all piss on the ground, and then jump around." Iggy can SELL lyrics like that, but here, it didn't play. Likewise Ozzy's "Crucify the Dead," became a skip track after the 2nd time through the album. Some nice moments, but the vocals are just dull, the whole track gets dragged down with them. I do quite like the opening track with The Cult's Ian Astbury, "Ghosts." The lyric is simplistic, but Astbury brings his full "Fire Woman" baritone to bear, and it sounds cool.

What kinda shocked me was the vocalists that really did make an impact. Myles Kennedy is great on his two tracks, nice blues-rock sound, but I expected to like those. What I didn't expect was to enjoy Fergie's work on "Beautiful Dangerous" so much, or Kid Rock's on "I Hold On." That second track, in particular, showcases a hell of a blues-rock voice. It's just a good song.

The big surprise, for me, in the end was a track called "Gotten." The vocals were very sweet and clear, and played against Slash and the band's somewhat dirtier tone. The vocals are credited to "Adam Levine," and I didn't know who the hell that was. I was pretty floored when I found out that's the lead singer from Maroon 5. Who new? Nice job, kid.

A lot of the "internet folks" want to put this up against Chinese Democracy. Well, if you ask me, Chinese Democracy wins. It's a much more cohesive statement of Axl Rose's crazy, paranoid world that this is of Slash's. (I'm not getting into if Chi-Dem should be a "Guns 'N Roses" record or not, just looking at the two as reflections of their primary creative forces.) That said, I know who I'd rather spend a few hours having beers with.

Slash is worth picking up if you like straightforward rock records.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Comic Day 4.7.2010

Welcome to the continuing look at how much money I waste on comics...

Actually, not fair. I actually spend far less than a lot of people out there, and my pull list is pretty tightly controlled. So, I don't apologize to anybody, man! BACK OFF!

Anyway, here's the buy/possible buy list this week...All-DC week, which isn't terribly unusual, I guess.

Batman and Robin #11

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Andy Clarke and Scott Hanna
Cover by Frank Quitely
1:25 Variant cover by Andy Clarke

"Batman vs. Robin" part 2 of 3! The Dynamic Duo fight it out in the ultimate duel to the finish. Meanwhile, Robin's mother, Talia al Ghul, sends an old adversary of Dick Grayson's to complete the job that her son may not be able to stomach!

Ah, me...this book is great. Despite the variant cover nonsense. Clearly, we (and Morrison) are ramping up to the "Return of Bruce Wayne" storyline. It's certainly being handled a lot better than his "death" was. Also, man the scheduling on this series is tight...the rotating artists concept has worked like a charm. It's shipping like clockwork. Well done.

Flash: Secret Files and Origins 2010 #1

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins, Francis Manapul and Others
Cover by Francis Manapul

Flash Facts! In the aftermath of BLACKEST NIGHT and THE FLASH: REBIRTH comes the beginning of a new era for Barry Allen and the deadly Rogues! As Barry readjusts to life again, strange happenings explode across Central City that will lead to one of the most bizarre murder mysteries Barry will ever face in the upcoming THE FLASH #1! Plus, don't miss Wally West, Kid Flash, Gorilla Grodd and a cold case that will send The Flash down a path unlike any other. Run – don't walk – to pick it up!

This is the "maybe" book this week. Great writer, great artists, and one of my top 3 characters, but the problem is, books like this are for newbies. People who need to get caught up on what's happened before. I don't. However, I'll flip through it, and see how the art and story look before I make a final call.

Jonah Hex #54

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art and cover by Jordi Bernet

Jonah Hex has been framed for murder! But with both the citizens and the law of the town convinced of his guilt, how will Hex avoid execution? Luckily he has some friends in town to help him out. Wait, they're the ones who framed him! Ah, well. Sorry, Hex.

I was just talking with my new director about this series last night, and how much I admire it. Truly, just a series where a genius like Jordi Bernet gets into print on a fairly regular basis is a cause for joy, but the fact that Palmiotti and Gray have never, ever slipped below "fun and readable" in fifty-four issues, and actually getting to "brilliant" more often than not, is a miracle. Please, if you read comics, or even if you don't, pick this up! It's worth it!

Red Robin #11

Written by Christopher Yost
Art and cover by Marcus To and Ray McCarthy

"Collision" races to its conclusion as Ra's al Ghul's endgame for Red Robin begins. The Men of Death are on the move in Gotham City, and Red Robin, Batgirl and Prudence set out to stop them from killing everyone Bruce Wayne ever cared about. But before he can take on Ra's, Red Robin has to get past Gotham City's own protectors...

My feelings about this book are unchanged. It's a truly good "second string" Batman title, and well worth your time. Tim Drake has had a lot of solo spotlight as Robin (Dick Grayson probably had more), and it pays off. I understand and like Tim in a very personal way. He's a good kid, and wants to do what's right...but he can't let go of Bruce, and now we know he was right.

Superman: Secret Origin #5 (of 6)

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal

Superman versus Metallo – for the first time! Witness the origin of one of Superman's most-feared foes, as an attack by Lex Luthor goes awry and gives birth to the evil of Metallo. Can an inexperienced Man of Steel handle a foe with a heart of Kryptonite? Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Perry White are close to revealing Luthor as the monster that he is – but are they willing to pay for that truth with their lives?

This is a totally creator-driven series for me. I mean, there is absolutely no reason to re-tell Superman's early days yet again, unless you're going for full-on reboot and restart, and that's not what we have here. Things are changed, sure, but nothing in any major way that needed a whole 'nother 6 issues of re-telling. OK, we worked Superboy back into Clark's teenage years...big deal. However, Johns and Frank are in top form, and the book is gorgeous. That's nothing to turn your nose up at, and I don't...I am buying it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day One....

After a fairly long dry spell, I'm starting a new show tonight. Sun, Stand Thou Still with Ka-Tet Theatre. It's exciting, and a bit scary. I always get nervous with new shows where I don't know anyone. It's always impossible to tell how the personalities will mesh until you're neck-deep in the process, and, frankly, I can be a bear to work with.

No, no...I'm not unpleasant, I don't argue and fight. However, I'm almost 40. I know what works for me, and what doesn't, at this point.

Case in point; group warm-ups....HATE them. I like to go off by myself and get centered, and go from there. I don't feel comfortable standing in a circle "getting my energy up," and I can be a real butthead about it. In fact, anything that makes me feel like I'm at a summer camp is really not fun for me.

I'll usually bear it out for a while, then slip away to be by myself.

Anyway...there will be another edition of yesterday's blog, but I have to work myself up to it. The Peter Pan situation, even at the time I understood, was not a malicious situation. No one was evil, it was just an overly stressful situation, and a lot of people got caught up in it. Doesn't change my utter despair over it, but I didn't walk out of that show hating a specific person, or feeling they were evil.

I'd be exposed to that soon enough.

Also...some people seem to have gotten the idea that yesterday was some sort of statement of my desire to quit, again. Not so. I have the impulse a lot, I assure you, and, as I said, at least once a year I feel that utter despair of being lost within something that I can't feel a connection to. I was simply talking about how depressing that show was over the weekend, and, did connect to some of the things I've seen/am dealing with lately. That doesn't mean I'm packing in, just yet.

I also got "Reason" and "Zep" re-done over the weekend. "Zep" still needs a guitar solo, but I've got most of that worked on in my head, I just need to get it down. REALLY happy with how these new versions sound, and I can hear new riffs in my head....So, hopefully, this weekend with bring at least the start of a new track.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The First Time I Gave Up Theatre

I relived this story over the weekend, and I've been thinking about it since.

There have been times in my life when working in the theatre has become so completely odious to me that I could not continue. The first time this feeling ever came over me was during my undergrad work (like I had any post-grad work, but whatever).

The production was Peter Pan, the version you're all familiar with from the Mary Martin TV specials. Foy Flying brought in their rig, and the sets were huge and there were dozens of children underfoot, and I auditioned because I had a desire to play Captain Hook. I remember the day of the audition I had this inner conversation with myself, because I had sworn to myself I was not, under any circumstances, going to audition. I talked myself into it. I said, "if you don't try, you'll always think maybe you could've done it."

I mean, it's not really a singing part....

My resistance to audition for the damn show should've tipped me off. I KNEW it was a bad idea, I just knew it. However that little voice of ego in my head, which I really needed at that point in my career (another LONG story), kept telling me I could do it, and I needed to try.

Well, that didn't work out.

So, Yeah, I was in the show all right, as "Kargo" the pirate (seriously, there's a list of names for the pirates in the one ever uses them or anything, but they're there) and...*sigh* Nana.

that's right, the dog. I played the damn dog.

What followed was nothing less than a hell for me. From the dog suit that was about 4 inches too short in the legs...AND CROTCH, to the screaming and yelling among the production team, and worst, watching someone play a role I absolutely wanted and knew I could do. John N, who actually played the role, was, in hindsight, good...this isn't about grousing over that failure on my part, but it was an annoying thing to come into everyday.

Kathy Zimmer likes to reminisce about my days as faithful pet to her Mrs. Darling, but in my mind, it was about being hot, with my knees, and neither regions getting beaten and smashed. People were injured, screamed at, and it was a generally unpleasant experience. Still, I've had those before, and since...

More to the point, it was the first time I really encountered a situation where absolutely NOTHING I did on stage mattered, at all. I have no problem playing small roles, I really do not, but I have to understand why those characters are there. If there's nothing to play, then I can't find a way to my character. If all I am is set dressing, then why am I giving so much of my time and energy?

It was shattering. I'd never been in a position where I actually dreaded going to the theatre, I found myself wishing I'd actually get injured by any of the myriad moving set pieces or fly rigs, so I could just stop having to do the show. Theatre and acting had been joyous to me at all times, but now I just wanted to escape. Nothing about the experience was leaving me fulfilled even in the smallest ways.

In contrast, When I toured in A Christmas Carol with Nebraska Theatre Caravan for two years, it was joyous...Same type of show, big, crowd pleasing, lots of small roles to play (Although, I had Jacob Marley, and that's always a hoot.) Still there was a palpable sense that everyone was important in that production. I relished the street scenes, where all I had to do was wander across stage.

Maybe I was older. Maybe I was more centered in myself. Maybe it was the paycheck. I have no idea.

The point was, I felt used on Peter Pan. I felt like everything I had come to believe about working on a show was smashed. When it ended, I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders, and I IMMEDIATELY started looking for something else to do with my life.

This was when I started trying my hand at music. Which had it's own disastrous aspects, but, no matter what, I always see as a growth experience. I needed something that was smaller and more immediate. Something I could control, take pride in as mine, and not something I was doing as an insignificant player. If nothing else, I got a couple of friendships that still warm me to this day.

I thought I would never, ever step on a stage, as an actor, again. I was prepared to give it up. It was only the fact that I NEEDED to do the work in order to graduate that brought me back, and eventually the ache and anger of those Peter Pan memories got washed over.

That said...It never fails that I have those moments, at least once a year when I think, "this is EXACTLY what working on Peter Pan felt like." It's in those moments that I wonder how much longer I can go on.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Half Day...

Cannot wait to get out of here, the weather in Chicago has been glorious the last two days. We actually slept with the window open last night. I guess Spring is here.

Watching the clock tick down to freedom.

Of course, it's another busy weekend for me. Catching the Babes With Blades show tonight, various shopping needs tomorrow, and strike for Here Where It's Safe on Sunday morning.

Other goals include taking another run at the two songs I "finished" last weekend, "Reason" and "Zep." As I listened to them I was struck by a certain tone on the drum track I didn't like for the former, and a generally messy-sounding tone on the latter. My solution, mainly as an experiment, is to try to run the whole thing, all the guitar tones, directly from my Line 6 X3 Live processor.

This is certainly giving me a cleaner tone. The guitar has more bite and definition. I always imagined this project as a little more ragged-edge rock sound, but I have to say I kinda like the control I have doing things this way. There's also a far wider range of tones I can access with the processor, as opposed to twiddling knobs on the amp.

So, I'm going to re-do both tracks this way, and do a comparison. We'll see what strikes me more when it's done. My major concern about all this is falling back into the "it's not perfect" rut. I really felt good last weekend to be moving forward on this project, but listening just wasn't quite right.

"Reason" is a warhorse, I've been fiddling with it a long time. I need to push past it. "Zep" has it's origins in an overnight stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, where they have a "check in, rock out" program, where you can get a free guitar in your room. By the time I tried to get one, only an acoustic was left. We happened to be on the Led Zeppelin floor, and I found myself messing around with a riff/progression that eventually because "Zep." It's got a nice groove, I think, but simple. It gets stuck in my head. I'm liking how it sounds with the drums (electronic though they may be) and bass. The mixing of an acoustic and electric sound is far.

But I do need to "finish" these, and then work on a melody line and vocals, which I hope will present themselves as I listen. I actually have a strong urge to finish all the music for this project before I go back and look at vocal stuff, at all.

we'll see how it shakes out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guilty Pleasure? Or Not?

Ok, let's start with this;

I am not a Creed fan. I don't hate them, but I rarely think of them as anything but the 90's band that paved the way for Nickleback.


Now, of course, when Scott Stapp went buggo, or started to believe he was Jesus, or went on the wacky weed, or whatever the hell happened to him, the rest of the band needed something to do. So, they found this new vocalist, Myles Kennedy, and formed Alter Bridge. I didn't think much of this at the time, I heard a couple of tracks off their first record, and thought Kennedy had a pretty good voice, but they pretty much sounded like Creed without Stapp's Jesus fixation. Life went on, and I didn't go out of my way about Alter Bridge.

Then there was a weird sea change. I started hearing about this Myles Kennedy everywhere.

When Robert Plant decided a full Led Zeppelin reunion tour was not something he wanted to do (Good move, Robert. I'd have HAD to go, but I just know it would've felt like a letdown), Page, Jones and Bonham were looking for another singer for a new project (The mainstream press never really caught on that it was NOT going to be called Led Zeppelin), and among other legendary vocalists, like Steven Tyler, this Myles Kennedy was supposedly one of the most impressive auditions...

Now Slash is putting out a solo album next week, and, in addition to singing two tracks, along with, again, legendary vocalists like Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell and Lemmy, Kennedy is going to be the vocalist for Slash's touring band.

A lot of people who could, in essence, play with anyone they wanted, were looking at this kid.

So I started sniffing around reviews of the Alter Bridge albums. The first record was pretty well dismissed, but I kept coming across pretty excellent reviews of their second disk, Blackbird.

So, I looked it up, listened to the song previews over on amazon, and found myself thinking, "This doesn't sound bad, and I do like that kid's voice." So, what the hell, I downloaded it.

I'm really digging it. I mean, it's not gonna change the world, by any means, and it's pretty mainstream hard rock. Hell, so was Journey, and they're pretty awesome. I know the hipsters, and music snobs, out there are laughing up their sleeves at me, that's fine.

What it comes down to is that Kennedy has a type of voice I really like, and guitarist Mark Tremonti seems unleashed from the past. He's really quite good, very reminiscent of Zakk Wylde, of Black Label Society and The Ozzy Osbourne Band fame, who happens to be one of my favorite hard rock players. (yep, pinch harmonics come into play)

Long story short, I like this record. I don't know if I can recommend it to others because I'm highly aware that it's not breaking any new ground, at all. It's a well-made, highly competent mainstream rock album, made by a talented group of people.

But I do dig Kennedy's voice, a lot.