Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Don't Get It

I'll bring up Mississippi Queen by Mountain, which is, IMHO, one of the great guitar songs of all time. It was also a pretty big hit.

And people just stare at me...

So odd.

Mississippi Queen
by Mountain

Mississippi Queen, you know what I mean
Mississippi Queen, she taught me everything
Way down around Vicksburg, around Louisiana way
Lived a Cajun lady, called the Mississippi Queen
You know she was a dancer, she moved better on wine
While the rest of them dudes was gettin' their kicks
Go an' get your partner now I'm gettin' mine

Mississippi Queen, if you know what I mean
Mississippi Queen, she taught me everything
This lady she asked me, if I would be her man
You know that I told her, I'd do what I can
To keep her lookin' pretty, buy her dresses that shine
While the of rest of them dudes was makin' their bread
Go an' get your partner now I'm losin' mine

You know she was a dancer, she moved better on wine
While the rest of them dudes was gettin' their kicks
Go an' get your partner now I'm gettin' mine
Ohhhhh Mississippi Queen

You Can't Fix Everything

You can only be yourself, and love yourself.

The Fixer
by Pearl Jam

When somethings dark
Lemme shed a little light on it

When somethings cold
Lemme put a little fire on it

If somethings old
I wanna put a bit of shining on it

When somethings gone
I wanna fight to get it back again.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When somethings broke
I wanna put a little fixing on it

If somethings bored
I wanna put a little exciting on it

When somethings low
I wanna put a little high on it

When somethings lost
I wanna fight to get it back again

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When signals cross
I wanna put a little straight on it

If there’s no love
I’m gonna try to love again

I’ll say your prayers
I’ll take your side
I’ll find us a way to make light

I’ll dig your grave
We’ll dance & sing.
What's saved, could be one last lifetime!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Fight to get it back again
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's My Last Day At Work

So, as usual, I leave you with Springsteen Christmas cheer! Even more cheery with the knowledge of a new album and tour in 2012!!

Sad, because...RIP Big Man. You will be missed.

Merry Christmas!!

Oh, and BTW...that is about the only Christmas song I can stand...

Stuck In My Head 12.22.2011

I have been on such a Zeppelin kick, lately. This is one of my favorite Zep riffs....

The Ocean
by Led Zeppelin

[Count-In: John Bonham] - "We've done four already but now we're steady
and then they went: One, two, three, four"

Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain.
Hitting on the moonshine, rocking in the brain.
Got no time to pack my bag, my foots outside the door.
Got a date, can't be late for the high hopes hailla ball.

Singing to an ocean, I can hear the ocean's roar.
Play for free, play for me and play a whole lot more.
Singing about the good things and the sun that lights the day.
I used to sing on the mountains, has the ocean lost its way.

Oh Yeah...

I don't know

na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
na na na na na na na na

Sitting round singing songs 'til the night turns into day.
Used to sing on the mountains but the mountains washed away.
Now I'm singing all my songs to the girl who won my heart.
She is only three years old and it's a real fine way to start.

Oh yeah.

It sure is fine.

Blow my mind.

When the tears are going down.

Yeah, Yeah.

Oh so good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"In a World Where I Feel So Small, I Can't Stop Thinking Big"

I feel small.

I feel insignifigant.

I feel lost. I feel alone. I feel betrayed. I feel redundant. I feel like an asshole. I feel selfish. I feel passed-over. I feel like a failure. I feel it slipping out of my control. I feel every mistake I've ever made. I feel the ground giving way under my feet. I feel strong. I feel weak. I feel brave. I feel frightened.

Sometimes, I am certain I feel too much. Sometimes I feel like there's so many conflicting things in my heart and in my head that I may go crazy. I'm sure lots of people feel that. We are all creatures of feeling.

But, sometimes, I wish I could stop. Sometimes I wish I could embrace my inner Vulcan, put aside all of these stupid emotions, these useless fears, and just push through with logic and rational thought.

But it's never that easy, is it? Fulfillment is never just about us, what we can make happen, but also about what trust others put into us. What trust others are willing to place on us, what faith they have in our abilities. Sometimes, I hear the voice in my head that sees all too clearly that precious few people are really willing to bank on me. That, often correctly, reminds me that trust is a foolish endeavor. That being selfish is the only way to ever possibly move yourself forward.

That, my friends, makes me sad. It makes me sad, searching for an environment where one will be challenged, supported and nurtured, then, time and again, feeling themselves left behind, and left out. Life confirms, over and over again, that to trust is foolish, teamwork is a dead end.

I find myself, in times like these, turning to music more and more often.

by Rush

In a world lit only by fire
Long train of flares under piercing stars
I stand watching the steamliners roll by
The caravan thunders onward
To the distant dream of the city
The caravan carries me onward
On my way at last
On my way at last

I can’t stop thinking big
I can’t stop thinking big

On a road lit only by fire
Going where I want, instead of where I should
I peer out at the passing shadows
Carried through the night into the city
Where a young man has a chance of making good
A chance to break from the past
The caravan thunders onward
Stars winking through the canvas hood
On my way at last

In a world where I feel so small
I can’t stop thinking big

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stuck In My Head 12.20.2011

Broken, Beat & Scarred
By Metallica

You rise, you fall.
Your down then you rise again.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
You rise, you fall.
Your down then you rise again.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
Rise, fall, down, rise again.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
Rise, fall, down, rise again.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
Through black days, through black nights,
Through pitch black insights.

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a'coming.
Show, your, scars.
Cutting your feet on the hard earth a'running.
Show, your, scars.
Breaking your life, broken beat and scarred.
But we die hard!

The dawn, the death, the fight to the final breath.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
The dawn, the death, the fight to the final breath.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
Dawn, death, fight, final breath.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
Dawn, death, fight, final breath.
What don't kill you make you more strong.
They scratch me, they scrape me,
they cut and rape me.

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a'coming.
Show, your, scars.
Cutting your feet on the hard earth a'running.
Show, your, scars.
Breaking your life, broken beat and scarred.
but we die hard!

Breaking your teeth on the hard life a'coming.
Show, your, scars.
Cutting your feet on the hard earth a'running.
Show, your, scars.
Raiding your soul in a hard luck story.
Show, your, scars.
Spilling your blood in a hot sun's a'glory.
Show, your, scars.
Breaking your life, broken beat and scarred.

We die hard
We die hard
We die hard

You Can't Escape It

Meltdown last night.

Over fucking Christmas cookies.

Well, that's silly. It was Christmas cookies, and the cleaning I have to do, and the stress of in-laws coming, and my own self-critical nature. Not to mention a creeping sense of professional dissatisfaction. I do not feel at ease right now, and it exploded like a faulty pressure cooker...

As I am want to do.

Sometimes I really hate myself. I mean, everyone has those feelings, but sometimes my disgust with myself burns like phosphorous. Sometimes I feel like everywhere I turn is a reminder of my own failings and failures. Usually, I can put on the brave face, give it a self-deprecating joke, and soldier on. Other times, my Bruce Banner just gives up the go, and all I want to do is SMASH SOMETHING!!

I dunno. Normally, I don't have the "Holiday Blues" that I hear others talk about. I have no expectations about this time of year being so joyous and special as to be upset or depressed when it's just the end of one year, and the start of another. This is the shit we were put here to deal with. Game on.

Yet, I am also not dealing with said shit very well, right now. That's not even a "Christmas deal," honestly, but a "Mark's ending the year unsatisfied" deal (as usual). It's ridiculous, too. At the VERY LEAST, I appeared in the lead role (and I think I did it pretty damn well) of a show that I will always consider one of the high points of my career. I worked with a lot of people, in that show, and others, that I, flat out, treasure the time I got to spend with them.

I'm a winner. Objectively, I know this. Yet I don't feel like a winner.

I worry about that, because, as you can see from the blog I linked to above, this is becoming a recurring feeling. I work, work, work, I'm terrified not to work, because work begets work, and I have this sinking suspicion that my work is just getting worse, instead of better. What do you do with that? How do you box that up, put it away, and move forward?

I swear to God, sometimes I wish I had been born in the past somewhere. Someplace where you simply had no time to decide if you were "fulfilled," or not, because you'd be scrambling to simply survive. I imagine hunting and foraging, and knowing that when you brought home that boar carcass, and your family ate, it was a good day. Simple, straightforward markings of a successful survived it.

A time when to could settle a dispute not with words and negotiation, but with steel and blood. How simple that would be. If you failed, you were gone, and there was no need to live with your failure. Except in some afterlife, and who knew what that was, exactly? There's something lizard-brain appealing about that to me. "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women."

Yeah, it is childish, kinda nuts, but, damn...Living on your wits and strength in a environment where that was all you needed? No more questions about "is this what I'm supposed to be doing with my life?" No second guessing of decisions, because, if you made the wrong one, you're dead. No guilt, because you did what you needed to do to survive.

Yes, I would miss the comforts of modern life, decent health care, etc. Thing is, if I never had them, I wouldn't. Modern me wouldn't last 10 seconds, but modern me never would've existed.

I also probably would've had a whole load of different gripes...Ah, well..

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh. My. GOD!!

I cannot wait six months...

I cannot wait six months...



I don't want to speak too soon, but I think I saw the best film of the year over the weekend...

Martin Scorsese's Hugo is a triumph, a beautiful, exquisitely crafted, heartfelt love letter to Paris and the movies themselves. It's also on the very short list of movies in which I feel the use of 3-D is not only appropriate, but absolutely thematically justified. I'd add on top of that that Scorsese is on the short list of filmmakers (a list that, really, has only one other member, James Cameron) who actually took the damn time to learn how to shoot and execute 3-D correctly.

Of course, it's Marty Scorsese. The film was going to be beautiful, but he's also grasped what so many others do not (no matter how much time Cameron's spent talking about it). You have to blow out the colors when shooting in 3-D, you have over-light, because the process itself saps the brightness of the picture. Scorsese gets it, as well as 3-D best use, in adding depth to the image. As Hugo travels around the walls of the Paris train station, Scorsese allows steam and various mechanical props to hover between his camera and actors. Through this we feel the claustrophobia and isolation of Hugo's life.

There's other elements that make the use of 3-D absolutely fitting, as well, but I kinda hate to give it away.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Hugo (Asa Butterfield - now cast as Ender in Ender's Game) is a Orphan who worked with his now-disappeared uncle maintaining and winding the clocks in the train station after his father's death. Now Hugo is alone, continuing to work on the clocks, while stealing what he needs to survive form the station shopkeepers.

He meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) who is under the charge of the station toyshop proprietor, Papa Gorges (Sir Ben Kingsley). Together they try to solve the mystery of an automaton that Hugo's father (Jude Law) had found and was trying to repair. The machine is designed to write, and Hugo is convinced it will reveal a message from his father.

It's a simple story, but with lots of room for Scorsese and screenwriter John Logan to build the world of the station. We see the lives of the shop proprietors in exactly the right amount. They feel real and full and vibrant, without derailing the story. Sacha Baron Cohen does truly fine, subtle work as the station inspector, obsessed with hunting down the orphans and urchins that scamper through the station. What could've been a fairly one-note, slapstick character grows deeper and deeper as we follow the story.

There is a turn the story takes that has been fairly openly discussed, but, frankly, I feel like the reveal is one of the joys of the film. If you want to know, a quick internet search will reveal it, if you want to know. Frankly, it reduced me to tears, and the film continued to build on the feeling exqusitely as it played out.

In moments, you will realize why Scorsese would be interested in, and so, so lovingly craft this story. You see why 3-D is such a wonderful, touching choice. Most of all you begin to realize that Hugo may be one of  Martin Scorsese's most personal works of filmmaking. It's beautiful on almost every level, the work of a master craftsman with a deep investment in the subject he's bringing to life.

I have no doubt that Hugo will be lodged firmly in my top ten for 2011, and, right now, it's the one you have to beat if you want the top slot. Absolutely, deeply and wholeheartedly recommended.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We're in Play Reading Mode on Damen Ave.

So, the blogging has been a bit slower.

Yes, it's that time of the year when my theatre company starts looking at shows to slot for our next season. So, that's a list of anywhere form 15-20 plays to read, of which I usually am assigned about 4-6. Of course, being someone who likes to know what they're talking about, I try to read all of them

This year, however, the timetable is very, very tight. Our first discussion meeting is Sunday evening. I've completed my assigned scripts, and now it's a matter of figuring out which ones I want to add to my read list. I'm, personally, very invested in what happens with our '12-'13 season, so I'll giving it some extra effort.

Anyway...lame excuse for another "Stuck In My Head" Blog....

The Battle of Evermore
by Led Zeppelin

The Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone

Oh, dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light
The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all

Oh, throw down your plow and hoe, race now to my bow

Side by side we wait the might, of the darkest of them all

I hear the horses thunder down in the valley below
I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow

The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care, which they do not forget, no, no
Dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light

The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant's face is red

Oh, war is the common cry, pick up your swords and fly
The sky is filled with good and bad, mortals never know

Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow

The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall, the Ringwraiths ride in black (ride on)

Sing as you raise your bow, (ride on) shoot straighter than before
No comfort has the fire at night that lights the face so cold

Oh, dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back, bring it back

At last the sun is shining, the clouds of blue roll by
With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes

Oh, bring it back, bring it back...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bruce Norris - You May Not Want To Hear This....

I love this:
(Bruce) Norris does not believe that theatre is a particularly good catalyst for change. "There is no political value in having sensitive feelings about the world. I don't think it generates political action. You go, you watch, you say, 'That's sad,' and then you go for a steak. The best you can hope for is to make people slightly uncomfortable. At least if you take the piss out of the audience, they feel they are being addressed," he argues.

This man is so right. Theatre is not an agent for change. I do believe it can be an agent for understanding, and maybe Norris poo-poos that too easily. Understanding can lead to change, in the right context. I also, strongly, believe it can impart moral lessons, as all storytelling can, but moral lessons are not political statements.

Oh, I know, everyone thinks their own, personal, politics always carry the moral high ground. Here's the difference, morals are personal, politics are institutional. Morals are emotional, politics are intellectual.

Lectures are intellectual, stories are emotional. Please, people, stop writing plays that are political manifestos first, and storytelling second...because nobody gives a shit.

Seriously, nobody gives a shit. Oh sure, the people who agree with you will rally around you, slap you on the back and tell you how brave you are. Here's the're not brave, you're just another part of the problem.

And what is the problem?

We've worked ourselves into a corner because we've allowed ourselves to become awash in trying to give our work "meaning." We've got tons of kids coming out of theatre school, all pumped up with their desire to re-make the world into a liberal utopia, having been fed that they can do this by doing what they love. How happy and easy it all sounds! I don't have to protest, or run for office, or collect signatures, or do any of that icky work. Yes, you can CHANGE THE WORLD with theatre!!!

No you can't. Sorry to break it to you.

Just a joke...OK, Picard fans?
One of the biggest reasons you can't is because in the last century we have all but given up our place as actual, honest-to-god entertainers in favor of trying to be educators. No one cares about theatre except the people making it. Year after year, production after production, we've receded further and further from making emotional connections in favor of trotting out facts, figures and heavy-handed, blindingly obvious arguments. We've lost our way as storytellers so completely that theatre of a serious bent, as opposed to the cotton-candy bullshit of the Broadway musical, is reduced to lecture.

Research is important, facts are important, but, ultimately, useless for storytelling.

"There are 213,000 victims of sexual assault each year! A sexual assault occurs every 2 minutes!!! DOESN'T THAT MAKE YOU ANGRY!!?!!?"

Well, if you want me to be honest, no. It doesn't. The reason is simple, too. It's just a number. Why don't you, instead of waving numbers in my face, tell me story about a rape victim? Someone who's just living, and trying to deal with the results of what's happened. Why don't you eject the "concerned rape councilor" character, who's a crutch for you to inject facts and figures, which, ultimately, are a billion times less interesting and important than just writing a damaged character honestly, and letting an actor play it honestly.

People, also, do not talk like that.

Well, some people do, but NOBODY WANTS TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH THEM. Let alone watch them on stage. They may have to, and there's some drama to be mined in that. The drama however would be in the fact that THESE PEOPLE ARE INSUFFERABLE.

A few years ago, I directed a production of Stop Kiss by Diana Son. I love that play, and I think it's genius. It's wonderfully aggressive about not being profound. It's not about gay bashing, or homosexual awakening, it's about two people falling in love, who happen to be women, and something terrible happens to them. The fact is, that story makes more of an impact because Son just refuses to write a "gay play," but creates characters who act and feel real. Normal people in extraordinary circumstances, who are too busy dealing with their situation to even think about what it means to other people, let alone speaking it out loud.

Stop writing about ideas. Write about people.

Stuck In My Head 12.12.2011

I'm a big Zakk Wylde fan, and I particularly like his acoustic stuff. Here we have a cover off the The Song Remains Not the Same album...

Can't Find My Way Home 
by Steve Windwood (Blind Faith)
Performed by Black Label Society

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone 
somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting so long
somebody holds the key
Well, I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

Come down on your own and leave your body alone
somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting all these years
somebody holds the key
Well, I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is It Just Me

Or does the whole "process" around the San Diego Comic-Con this year seem a little...odd?

I mean, in an unheard-of turn of events, I can book my flights to San Diego now, but I can't buy my tickets for the show itself. I COULD book my flight, but I'm sure as hell not going to do that before I know I can go. Now they're saying "pre-registiration" (some kind of ID system) will happen in January.

That better happen fast, because isn't the "hotel day" debacle usually in February?

Now, look, I understand that this is all in an effort to make things work quicker and smoother for everyone involved, and I know a massive convention like SDCC is a logistic nightmare. That adding MORE steps to the process, not to mention pushing the whole thing later, really a proactive step?

Really, they've been putting off open registration for so long now, in the back of my head there's a nasty little voice saying "they sold all the tickets before the 2011 convention was over." I'd never think they did that on purpose, but hell, if memory serves, preview night 2011 sold out before SDCC 2010 was over. I'd hate to see San Diego become a "you go every year, or you don't go at all" convention.

Mainly because I can only go every other year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guns N' Roses Indcuted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Guns N' Roses has made the 2012 induction class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I could grouse a little about the continued rejection, at even the nominee level, of Rush, but what's the point? It'll happen, eventually, and hopefully the long wait will give them a ton of well-deserved press when it does happen.

I am happy that Guns is getting inducted. I think anyone who'd argue they aren't one of the most important bands of the late 80's/90's is a fool. Just as anyone who'd argue that Appetite for Destruction isn't one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time, not to mention one of the greatest debut albums of all time. The shit kicks, and it still kicks. Play any Appetite track in a bar or club, people get excited.

They are, and always have been a volatile band. There's a real question about what's going to happen at the induction on April 12th. Of course, what the world (and I'm sure the Hall) wants is to see the original five members (Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler) on stage for a reunion. It seems that most of the band would be into it. Adler is very vocal about wanting to play together, even to the point of a full tour (that's not going to happen). Everyone else obviously still gets along, Slash and Duff are still associated (along with Adler's replacement, Matt Sorum) with Velvet Revolver, and Izzy, well Izzy seems to float in and out of everyone's life. "Helping" with songs for Velvet Revolver, for example.

Then there's Axl.

I have a feeling in my gut that, after April 12th, we'll have new footage of the original Guns lineup playing two or three songs. I do. Something makes me optimistic about it.

Axl, however, is the stumbling block. Thing is, I understand why he might not want to do it. I do.

Look, no matter how you feel about it, Axl is out there on the road with a new version of Guns N' Roses that he put together, and seems very committed to. This is his band. Maybe they all are ass-kissing hired guns, or maybe they're part of a cohesive musical unit.

I'll say this, very few people I know who've seen the current lineup will say it's a bad band. In fact many of them praise the musicianship on display, with the perennial "but."

"But it's not Guns N' Roses."

Axl, however, feels it is. He's also spent the last fifteen plus years working with this unit (in one form or another) to create what he feels Guns N' Roses is, now. You can bitch about his attitude, the late concert starts, the album a decade-plus in the making that was so over-ordered by Best Buy that they had it on sale for $1.99 recently.

I'd argue that Chinese Democracy deserved better, myself. It's not a bad album, by any standard. It's not Appetite, and it took far, far too long to put together, those are it's greatest sins. Those were sins, however, the public was ready to crucify the album, and Axl, for.

The Chinese Democracy lineup, and material, are what Axl is doing NOW. If he agrees to the induction gig, goes on stage with the original lineup, and kicks ass, the internet will be aflame. Much like when Led Zeppelin was triumphant with their O2 gig in 2007, the immediate question is, "where does it go from here?"

For Axl, I'm pretty damn sure the answer will always be "back to my band." You thought that lineup had a tough time now, more than twenty years after the Appetite lineup dissolved? Try it the week after the internet floods with video of the "reunion."

That is a no-win situation you can't reprogram the computer out of. The only way out of it is to...just not go. Which would be sad, it'd be disappointing, but I'd get it. So, while I honestly do have this gut feeling that we'll see the original five that night, I also see rational reasons for it not to happen.

Not like that Van Halen debacle in 2007. Where, once and for all, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony proved where the class in that outfit was located. What an embarrassment.

What do do if Axl opts out? The answer toured with Slash, and is working on an album with him right now. Bring in Myles Kennedy with the rest of the original band. There's no better proof of this option than Slash's recent live album, or if you saw the tour. The guy can sing the stuff, and well. He's also extremely charismatic, but also respectful of the history.

Hell, according to Mick Wall, the guy almost replaced Robert Plant. He can step in for Axl, if need be.

In no way am I saying Axl shouldn't be up there, but, if he pulls a David Lee Roth, I'm offering what I think is a good alternative. Not that anyone cares what I think...but I bet it's crossed Slash's mind.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stuck In My Head 12.6.2011

Busy day. You can thank reading No Regrets for this one....

New York Groove
by Ace Frehley

Many years since I was here, on the street I was passin' my time away
To the left and to the right, buildings towering to the sky
It's outta sight in the dead of night
Here I am, and in this city, with a fistful of dollars
And baby, you'd better believe

I'm back, back in the New York Groove
I'm back, back in the New York Groove
I'm back, back in the New York Groove
Back in the New York Groove, in the New York Groove

In the back of my Cadillac
A wicked lady, sittin' by my side, sayin' 'Where are we?'
Stop at Third and Forty-three, exit to the night
It's gonna be ecstacy, this place was meant for me
Feels so good tonight, who cares about tomorrow
So baby, you'd better believe

I'm back, back in the New York Groove (repeats out)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stuck In My Head 12.5.2011

It's definitely a Monday for me, right now.

It's not that I feel BAD, I just feel discombobulated and a little on edge. Things churning in my head, and gnawing at me. A lot going on, and a lot of places where I'd like, and people would like me to be this weekend.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues opens Friday. I've directed two of the monologues. The cast is great, and I'm really happy with how it's all turned out. Especially with the two pieces I directed, Hollywood (Ian Maxwell) and Dancer (Kimberly Logan). These two actors have given me some of their best work, and I thank them profusely for it. We also have our "closing" party for Bus Stop that night. Between that I have acting classes, rehearsals, tech, blah, blah, blah...

I'm gonna be happy when things slow down a bit.

Also found out today that Michael Chabon's next novel, Telegraph Avenue, will (finally!) be out in the Fall of 2012. It's been too damn long since The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

But this is a "stuck in my head" entry...

 by King's X

Have you gotten any cigarettes
And have you got anything for me
I no longer know just what I'm saying
Is this how it's supposed to be.
Sometimes I think the pain blows my mind
Pain blows my mind.
Is it june or late september
Is it 1993
Could you help me to remember
Is this how I'm supposed to be
Sometimes I think the pain blows my mind
Pain blows my mind.
Did you ever get those cigarettes
And did you get anything for me
Will you help me to remember
When I fall into the sea.
Sometimes I think the pain blows my mind
Pain blows my mind.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"I Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then"

I've always liked Bob Seger. I wouldn't call myself a "fan," and I'm more than aware of his status as "Michigan's B-list Bruce Springsteen." He's at least in the wheelhouse of something I adore.

Oh, come on...there are more than a few similarities.

However, I've always liked his songs, so when I found Ultimate Hits: Rock And Roll Never Forgets, on Amazon, I thought, "what the heck?"

Now, I haven't had time to really ingest the whole thing. I barely got through Disk 1 on the train ride in, but I was just struck by the sadness that runs though almost all of the songs on this collection. Every song seems to be about loss, memory of a time when things were better. Sadness at the core.

Seger was a nostalgia artist at the height of his career.  Seriously, every one of his major hits has elements of "you should've seen me when I was young and whole." He was also older than your average "rock star" at his high point. He was born in 1945, meaning that in 1976, when the Night Moves album was released, he was 31. That's kind of amazing. Springsteen was 5 years younger when Born to Run was released.

Not that I'm saying 31 is "old," but in the realm of Rock/Pop music, it kinda is. Also, to clarify, my description as a "nostalgia" artist is only referring to the subject matter of his songs. He seems to have been looking back on better days right from the start.

Night Moves is, simply, an amazing song. The whole song has a sense of melancholy, but also a sense of childish naughtyness:

She was a black haired beauty with big dark eyes
And points all her own sitting way up high
Way up firm and high

I mean, what song can go wrong with such benign, if *ahem* pointed sexual references?  Seger, however takes it further, with a clear vision of what the childish groping he's writing about actually is. He effectively mixes the meaninglessness of it with the absolute joy of it, and the all-encompassing teenage need to "keep score":

We weren't in love oh no far from it
We weren't searching for some pie in the sky summit
We were just young and restless and bored
Living by the sword
And we'd steal away every chance we could
To the backroom, the alley, the trusty woods
I used her she used me
But neither one cared
We were getting our share

Just when you think the song will only be a clear-eyed memory of childhood, Seger drops the last verse on us, and it's majestic and shattering, leaving us with the inescapable images of a man who can feel those days of freedom and excitement, but never again touch them:

I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in

If this was just one song, I could write it off, but even in his most off-the-cuff, "fun" songs, there's blatant sense that the best days are gone.

Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the hill
Today' music ain't got the same soul
I like that old time rock 'n' roll

"A Relic?" He was 33!

Of course, everyone, and I think especially every man, always feels like, whatever age they are, is the oldest that anyone has ever been. It's intrinsic in the human experience, I think. No way to escape, but of course, everyone yearns to escape, and Seger goes there, too.

Took a look down a westbound road right away I made my choice
Headed out to my big two wheeler I was tired of my own voice
Took a bead on the northern plains and just rolled that power on

I get that, and I think a lot of folks in my age bracket would, too.

I think I found the Seger "Mission Statement" however, in one line at the end of the first verse of Against the Wind. A line that really encapsulates a lot of what I've been feeling over the last few years, and what I think a lot of people feel as they grow older.

Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then

Yeah, maybe I'm not a big Bob Seger fan, and I still think Springsteen does a lot of this better. That said, well done, Bob, you've hit the target.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Does Anybody Think This Van Halen Reunion Will Work?

Look, I am a fan of Van Halen. I have been for many years. I own all the albums, I listen to them regularly, and I love all aspects of the band's history, Roth, Hagar and even Cherone. You cannot downplay the influence of Edward Van Halen on the guitar, even today.

Yet...This picture fills me with nothing but dread.

And I'm amazed that it makes anyone else excited. Yeah, yeah, I get it, Roth's back. New album with Roth.

It was the same when they launched their nostalgia tour in 2007. I was curious, I'll admit, but I also wasn't going to pay $100+ for seats behind the stage. There was also the issue of Michael Anthony being summarily dismissed, to be replaced by Eddie's son, Wolfgang, because he DARED to, A: want to work, and B: remain friends with Sammy Hagar.

But, see...When I look at videos from the 2007 tour, I see a tired act. I see Roth pulling the same jackass shit he did in 1981, and it feels old. Roth was a superstar of his time, of that moment. I remember when his A Little Ain't Enough album hit in 1991 it was just utterly ridiculous. He, and the album, were openly mocked as Spinal Tap come to life, and this was before the Grunge revolution.

It's one thing to be true to yourself, it's another to act like you're 21, when you're pushing 60. Of course, his core fanbase doesn't give a shit. I tend to believe most of them wish it was still 1981.

Eddie, too, seems a shadow of himself. The 2007 tour was full of embarrassing videos of him playing off time or out of key. I compare those videos to the last time I saw him on stage, in 1998, with Cherone, and it's night and day.

The core point is, there's a lot of people out there who have a lot of energy committed to the idea that this album is gonna be "like 28 years never happened." Well, it won't be. It can't be, and if you want it to be, I'm predicting a lot of disappointment. It'll be The Phantom Menace all over again. It's exceedingly rare that anyone can recapture something that was unexpected and organic the first time.

Plus, they've all changed as artists. Eddie spent 13 years with Sammy Hagar, who had a much more elastic voice, and a wider acceptance of musical styles, than Roth. Oh, Roth lives for "Jump," now, but Eddie had to fight to get any keyboard song on a Van Halen record. I hazard to guess he's less apt to walk away from that wider palate of expression the years with Hagar afforded him.

Roth isn't even "Roth" anymore. The whistlestop scream is gone. He was never much of a vocalist to begin with, but he's even more limited now.

I'm also not down with Michael Anthony being persona non grata. This is no critique of Wolfgang, who's obviously talented. I've seen videos of him working multiple instruments with skill. That said, let's not whitewash how much of the "Van Halen sound" is Anthony's backing vocals, in any era of the band.

The most unsettling element of this entire deal is. really, that it feels all amazingly half-assed. The album has been the center of swirling rumors for almost six months, now. It's finished, mixed and mastered. It's finished except Eddie and Roth are fighting about the vocals. It's finished, but we want a new label deal. (I find it funny that, according to rumor, anyway, Cherone was let go because Warner Brothers records demanded it, and then, when Roth comes back (which is apparently what WB demanded), they jump ship to Interscope (because they're a "hipper" label, which smells like Roth thinking).

I also see a lot of people excited online because, reportedly, the band has put promotion and marketing in Roth's hands. OK, fine, but...what, exactly, outside of the 2007 Van Halen reunion tour, has Roth been successfully involved with promoting, recently? Each of the 4 solo albums he's released since 1991 have met with increasing public apathy. His tenure as a radio host was somethign of a non-starter. He ended up as a Vegas lounge act for a while.

The last year has also been marked with announcements involving the band that are later withdrawn, cancelled, or ignored. With the actual band response being mostly the latter. They were announced to headline the Soundwave Revolution Festival in Australia during the summer of 2011. The shows were promoted, tickets sold, then the entire festival was cancelled. The official line was that a "unannounced co-headliner" dropped out and forced the cancellation. Rumor was rampant that Van Halen dropping out was the real cause. Van Halen public response? Zip.

Then the band signed with Interscope. The news broke, and the ONLY acknowledgement from the band was the above picture. Let's take a look at it again;

Y'know what I notice? Roth's distance from the rest of the band. I've taken enough publicity photos in my time to know that you put thought into what's the focus of your image. The strong choice, and one that any respectable publicist would make would be to put the band, as a unit, in the center of the picture. They are the reason everyone's there. Yet, we see this gulf between them. 

Then our latest, the Grammy Awards Nominations concert, and the official announcement that a "reuniting band" would be making an announcement. The Grammy twitter account even gave this hint, 'Who do u predict the reuniting band will be...Does this hint make u wanna “Jump” & “Dance the Night Away”?'

Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it? Other people thought so, too.

Of course, the band didn't show up. And it's left to the Grammy people to make excuses. Not word one from the Van Halen camp, who had to have known those press releases, tweets, and hints were going out. It's utterly ridiculous. It feels smug. It feels condescending. It feels like a band taking it's fanbase for granted.

In short, if the album is "finished," and has been finished for months, then what the hell are you waiting for?

Personally, I'm of the mindset that this album will never come out, the tour will never happen, and that we've seen the end of Van Halen. The internal ego battle between Eddie and DLR will drone on and on, and the delays will continue until the whole thing just dies. I also find myself very much OK with that. I think, at this point, I'd be more excited to see a new group with Wolfgang Van Halen and other musicians his own age. His father and uncle could make guest appearances, or produce the album, but that would be something new and fresh.

Instead of feeling like I'm waiting for the corpse to start rotting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.30.2011

Sister Luck (Croweology Version)
by The Black Crowes

Worried sick my eyes are hurting
To rest my head I'd take a life
Outside the girls are dancing
'Cause when you're down, it just don't seem right

Feeling second fiddle to a dead man
Up to my neck with your disregard
Like a beat dog that's walking on the Broadway
No one wants to hear you when you're down

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name

A flip of a coin might make a head turn
No surprise, who sleeps
Held my hand over a candle
The flame burnin' but I never weep

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
What a shame

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
What a shame 

I love the alternate versions of the Black Crowes standards on this album (the "Soul Singing" is AMAZING). Something about this song really struck me on the train this morning. Acoustic, bluesy, and I feel like that re-invigorated the band...then, of course, they went on an extended hiatus right after. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back to the Classroom

I am taking an acting class starting this week.

Which is kinda freaking me out. I mean, I have taught acting and improvisation to High School students, but other than that, I haven't been in a "classroom" environment since 1994. It's not that I ever felt I had nothing to learn, but I'm a big believer in learning by doing. I've done a LOT of doing in the past, Jesus...17 years.

The thing is, so much of what I do, how I approach the work is rooted in the script itself. What is this show? What style does it require? How to I best play THIS character in THIS play. I've often found that prescribed schools of thought about acting can get you into trouble. Trying to use "method" in a Shakespeare or Moliere piece is rather counter-intuitive and, frankly, playing against the intent.

This all comes from my early training, of course. The wisdom of Jeff Green, who's acting classes were really all about style work. What is this play? What style does it require? Truly, one of the most important moments of my acting life was playing Valere in Tartuffe with Jeff directing.

I was DEEP in my "fucking Al Pacino kicks ass and I am a Method actor" phase. Jeff had developed a conceit for the rehearsals and production where we had a giant "flower" in the middle of the round playing area. When we moved, we had to stay on the lines of that design, all crosses, all moves were arcs, no straight lines. On top of that, we were in full Restoration dress, with the physicality that requires. Arms outstretched, on the balls of your feet, generally, as Jeff called it, "that poncy French shit."

Well, there I am, all Mr. Pacino/DeNiro/Brando wanna be, bemoaning that I didn't "feel it." So, Jeff made us run my big scene over, and over, and over again. Well into the double digits (my weak memory says 60-75 times). We did it until I broke, stopped thinking,  just hit my marks and said my lines, and suddenly (magically, even) the scene worked.

What's really idiotic about my attitude is that I really didn't know shit from shinola when it came to "Method." We, really, had no "Method" training. It was part of the style work we did, but not a intensive course, by any means. My concept of "Method" was watching "Method" actors, and reading a few books.

Honestly, I don't think I ever really had a philosophy of acting until I read David Mamet's True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor. I know, I know, people hate it, think it's stupid, but "speak the words, brave and true" tripped a trigger, for me. It led to a path where what seemed to take so much effort, so much self-inflicted torture, and made it seem not so hard. Trust the play, trust the director, trust the rest of the cast. Listen, believe, and respond.

I sometimes think there's a deep-seated inferiority complex with actors. This raging desire to make what we do harder than it really has to be. Which is not to say I think it's easy, no, no, no, but I think many people try to complicate it so much. K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid. How much time to we spend agonizing over our choices? Trying to find the "right" one?

The trick is, there is no "right" choice.

There's only the choice you make right now, and it cannot be "wrong" if you commit and follow it through. You're living in the moment, right? Then why the hell are you trying to plan out your whole performance in advance? You wouldn't do that in the real life...would you?

That's all really just me pontificating, now. Take what you will.

So, yeah, starting tomorrow night I'm starting a class in Meisner technique. Now, I'm no expert in, really, any school of acting, other than my own, but my reading makes me feel like this is a school of thought that will work well for me. But who knows? It's been so long since I operated without a character or play to rely on that I am rather scared about it. No, I don't feel I "hide" behind a character, but I have come to rely on the world that the playwright and director have built for me to drive my choices and moment. This is a situation that removes that crutch.

I hope I don't fall down.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sometimes I Marvel at Frank Herbert

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

That's genius, folks. It's true, it's wise, and it's in a book with major plot and thematic elements revolving around giant worms. And people wonder why I say an entertaining story, ripe with allegory, makes a stronger point than any amount of "serious" drama.

So, thanks Frank. I needed it.

Only I will remain.


I think I've mentioned here before, I've been alternating reading Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro series (I'm up to Sacred) with various one-off books. Non-fiction has always been a good palate-cleanser for me, and, lately, that's been rock biographies. It's allowed me to not be overcome with, well, sameness, while reading a single series. On top of that, it's inspiring on both ends, as I've been working on music more, and I've also got a writing project in the detective, neo-noir genre in the embryonic stages.

The latest rock bio was When Giants Walked the Earth, by Mick Wall. It's a pretty comprehensive, in depth exploration of the creation, career, dissolution, and legacy of Led Zeppelin. Now, dear reader, I can't know what your own feelings about Led Zeppelin are, but I can share mine...

When the band came together in 1968, as Jimmy Page's attempt to revive and reinvigorate The Yardbirds (they were actually billed as The "New" Yardbirds, at first), in which he was the last of a epic line of lead guitarists, it was a bit of a watershed moment for rock. The hippy/flower-power moment had really run it's course, and the scene was ready for something new. Page had a concept, a band that would mix the "light and dark," as he called it, the acoustic and electric, the melodic and the powerful. He set out to find the players to bring that concept to life.

Zeppelin, on disk, represents the best of 70's hard rock. Tunes and melodies liberally lifted from blues classics (often without credit, as Wall points out), mixed with John Bonham and John Paul Jones' amazing rhythm section, Page's epic guitar, and Robert Plant's unmistakable vocals. You really can't argue with the greatness of those albums, even if there are limp tracks. Nobody's perfect.

Now, the live Zeppelin, which I freely admit to having no first-hand experience with, and can only judge based on film and album, The Song Remains the Same, as well as the How the West was Won materials, was a beast capable of amazing flights of musicianship, and stultifying indulgences. Yes, yes, John Bonham was (arguably) the greatest rock drummer of all time, or at least his time, but I maintain that no one needs a 45 minute drum solo. I've only watched the full "Moby Dick" drum solo in The Song Remains the Same once, when I saw it in a theatre, every other forward. Same with Page's unending guitar solo.

I've never been overly into "jam bands," with songs stretching longer and longer to accommodate various solos. As a musician, I can get off on the display of chops, but there's a point where even that loses it's hold on me. It's especially hard for me when the recorded material is tight and powerful.

To sum up; Zeppelin represents the best of 70's rock, and also the worst of it's indulgences.

To Wall's credit, as he was/is actually friendly with all of the surviving members of the band (although Page apparently wan't nothing to do with him since the book's release), he's straightforward about all the highs and lows of the band's career. I think he's maybe too harsh about the rare performances since John Bonham's death, and the breakup of the band. Certainly, the charity concert at the London O2 arena in 2007 has been noted by many as a pretty sterling gig from a reformed band, and Wall just sorta brushes it off.

As you might expect, the book covers a lot of ground. With Wall trying to explore all four band members, and manager Peter Grant, who he (correctly, I think) positions as a major force in all aspects of the band's output. Since he knows all of the guys, and has repeated interviewed them, I felt his observations and conclusions were pretty solid.

His depiction of Bonham, in particular, is interesting. He almost depicts the man as bi-polar, with his epic partying on tour merely a mask for depression over being away from his home and family for months on end. This, tied in with what seems to be a intrinsic need to be what the people around him want him to be. There are descriptions of Bonham misadventures that, with no exaggeration, position the man as almost a monster. Attacking women, drinking insane amounts, and destroying property for seemingly no reason other than loneliness, and the idea that's what expected of him. While Page and Plant indulge in what might be called "normal" rock star hedonism, and Jones, seemingly, removes himself from that scene completely, Bonzo just leaps, head-first, into the deep end.

Wall spends time on Page's heroin use, and the S&M games he liked to play with groupies. Really, however, it's clear he wants to dig into the guitarist's occult beliefs, and his interest in the teachings of Alistair Crowley. There's a long section of the book about Crowley, and what might have drawn Page into that belief system. Pointing out that, unlike the popular perception, Crowley really wasn't a satanist, but more of a pagan, with a belief system that embraced all human weakness as somethign to be explored fully. It's pretty obvious Page was into Crowley, he purchased many of the homes where Crowley had lived and conducted rituals.

"The Hermit" -by Jimmy Page?
Wall takes some pains to not paint the guitarist as some frothing Satan-worshiper, but points out how much of the imagery, lyrics (apparently, you don't have to play Stairway to Heaven backward for it to be "the most Satanic song, ever"), and "jokes" (like the Crowley quotes inscribed in the vinyl of the first pressing of Led Zeppelin III) are tied to Crowley. That Page craved power, the power to make his creative visions manifest.

Now, if you want to get in a twist about that, the book will offer some ammunition for you. (Possibly why Page has now ended his friendship with Wall) Me? I could care less. Good music is good music, and I figure whatever sort of belief you want to have is your business. I got no truck with Scientologists, either.

Although, I was really drawn by the discussion of "The Hermit," the artwork on the inner sleeve of Led Zeppelin IV. It's credited to an artist that apparently no one has ever heard of, is obviously inspired by the tarot and the teachings of Crowley, and Wall begins to make a case that art-school-trained Jimmy Page may have created it himself.

Who knows? Page ain't talking.

There is one annoying thing about Wall's book. He's taken a tactic of writing large sections of the book in second-person "You are Jimmy Page, you've grown tired of session work..." etc. It's a decision that wears out it's welcome pretty fast (maybe for him too, there are far fewer of these asides in the latter half of the book), and leads to wall covering the same information over and over again. I think ever John Paul Jones interlude was about arranging some song for some soul artist. If it felt insightful, it would've been clever, but, alas, it doesn't. Even "inside" Page's head, there's only so many times I wanna hear about how uninspired he was by his session work.

All-in-all, I found When Giants Walked the Earth a pretty decent read. It's well researched and has a lot of information right from the horses mouth, so to speak. If you're a fan, you'll probably want to read it, if you haven't all ready. Wall clearly loves the band, but isn't afraid to speak up about things that disappointed him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuck In My Head 11.23.2011

Pay Me
By TomWaits

They pay me not to come home
Keeping me stoned
I won't run away
They say it's easy to get
Stuck in this town
Just like Joan
You know I gave it all up for the stage
They fill my cup up in the cage
It's nobody's business but mine when I'm low
To hold yourself up is not a crime here you know
At the end of the world

I kick my foot at the lights
I breathe it in all night
There's a light on a canvas tree
Money from home supporting me
They pay me not to come
I won't eat crow
Ill stay away
And though all roads will not lead you home my girl
All roads lead to the end of the world
I sewed a little luck up in the hem of my gown
The only way down from the gallows is to swing
And I'll wear boots instead of high heels
And the next stage that I am on it will have wheels

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So the New Thing I Saw in RAIDERS This Time

So, I'm watching Raiders of the Lost Ark Sunday night. Happy as a clam.

We're near the end of the film, Indy's rode the Nazi sub to their secret base. He's hiding watching Belloq disembark with the captive Marion Ravenwood...

And all of the sudden, all I can see is the Nazi guard on the right side of the screen.

A guard who apparently had some sort of run-in with...something. He's got a bandage on his head, and one arm in a sling. Yet, he's still got his machine gun. It's really obvious as the shot above begins, but I, unfortunately, couldn't find a screencap that showed it better.When he first walks into frame, the damage is very obvious and clear.

I'm facinated by this now...what the hell was the idea? Did Marion kick his ass? Is it just a dumb joke to put in the corner of the frame? What?

I know it's not just happenstance, or utterly random, or a mistake. Spielberg, at some point, said "get a bandage on his head, and his arm in a sling." I can applaud the random, Monty Python-esque bizarreness of it, if that's the deal, but I'd really like to know if it's that simple.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Could Say I've Been Waiting For This

Official from

Well, things are starting to heat up down on E Street.

A lot of you have been hearing that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be on tour in 2012. That is absolutely correct. The European dates run from the middle of May until end of July and are being announced this week. Info on the US dates and the World tour dates will coming up shortly.

In addition, we want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we're planning for 2012. That's all the info we have for right now, but we'll get back to you--real soon.

The first dates to be announced are all in Europe, early to mid Summer. No conflict with SDCC, thank God.

Lots of questions...What's the format of the tour? What's the tone of the album?

How do you replace Clarence? I really hope they bring the throne back out, and leave it empty for him. I feel like that would be fitting.

Time will tell. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.18.2011

Ah, let's turn the Wayback Machine to about this time of year, 2009....

New Fang
By Them Crooked Vultures

New fang,
No thang.
Had it made
To parade,
Found a sucker,
Now I want another.

Stand up,
Step aside,
Open wide,
Handing out and on
Until the feelings gone

Want to?
Yes, I do.
Wanna learn,
Taking turns getting carpet burns.

Loose lips,
Lipstick spit.
Come or go,
I think it's both I gotta know.

Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I think you've got me confused with a better man.
Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I know you've got me confused...

For a better man.

No slack,
Couldn't quit,
Gums flap so
Here's your teeth back

What I left
Far behind in a time
When my mind was like a landmine.

By the lake,
Too much, too young,
Every button gonna come undone.

No joke,
Nothing left,
So you go baroque.

Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I think you've got me confused with a better man.
Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I know you've got me confused...

New fang, passing over
No point waiting around for

New fang passing over
No more waiting around-ah

New fang, New fang
They can't wait, no-oh

New fang, newwwwww 

I love this band, and that album, so much. In a very real way, it/they inspired the music that I've been writing ever since. Great live act, too. Cool all around. I remember having to record this Austin City Limits episode, and being so excited to watch it.

I wish they'd record another album.

RAIDERS Returns to the Big Screen

Always my favorite Raiders poster
Frankly, the thing I am most excited for this weekend, is that a new restored print (I think it might be digital) of Raiders of the Lost Ark will be showing at Chicago's Music Box Theatre. I LOVE seeing this film in a theatre with an audience, it's just smashing to hear the crowd enjoy the adventure together.

I'm always on the lookout to see "important" films in theatres with audiences. This started, in earnest, when I saw a restored print of Gone With the Wind in an theatre in (I believe) 1998. I had always been "meh" about Gone With the Wind. I respected it for it place in history, the artistry involved, but watching it on TV never impressed on me it's entertainment value.

I was shocked at how incredible Clark Gable is in that film. He's hilarious! It's a performance that just lives by hearing laughter around you. It's never the same in a living room. There's also, truly, no way to understand how incredible the shots in that film are without being overwhelmed by the imagery. The absolute same can be said of Lawrence of Arabia. I still shudder thinking about seeing a 70mm print of that in 1989. Glorious. (I'm not buying that until there's a Blu-Ray)

I'm a purist. Movies are made to be seen in large groups, with overwhelming imagery and sound. It's supposed to be an event to connect with the humanity around you, and revel in how you can all react together to what's on the screen. Yes, yes, I'm very happy technology has advanced to where I can see amazing, film-like presentations of movies I love in my living room. There's a place for that, but that is not where movies live and breathe. Like theatre, we're supposed to be together in watching a movie.

But I digress...

I love this
Star Wars lives in my heart as my favorite series of films. The place where my cinephilia sprang full form as that Star Destroyer rumbled over my head. It lives in a special place nothing else can touch.

But, for my money, Raiders of the Lost Ark is perfect. It's the most brilliant execution of the exact film that was intended that has ever graced the screen. All the elements are exactly right for the style and genre that was being attempted.

The script? Perfect. The cast? Perfect. The filmmaking? Perfect. All the pieces are executed exactly as they should be. No one made a wrong turn. No idea seems shoehorned in, the internal logic is impeccable. It's simply the greatest "popcorn movie" of all time. It's a living example that you can make blockbuster entertainment, and it doesn't have to be dumb.

It also doesn't have to feel utterly preposterous. One of the saddest things, to me, is that we never really got a sequel to Raiders. Yes, Indiana Jones returned, but there's a rough edge, and a realism, in Raiders that none of the sequels ever come close to.

Yes, Raiders is filled with humor, but, almost immediately, the humor began to take over the franchise. The first film was astounding because it WASN'T a cartoon, it felt real. Indy hurt, he bled, and in a realistic way. Yet you could still get comedy out of it, the scene between Marion and Indy on the Bantu Wind is engaging, funny, and yet clear that what Indy has gone through took a toll. With each sequel he bounced back that much more easily.

This too. By Tom Whalen
To be clear; I love all the Indiana Jones films, deeply. I just simply hold Raiders as miles above the rest. Temple of Doom got darker, but also cartoony. Last Crusade and Crystal Skull both play more like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" pictures, comedies first and foremost, rather than adventure films. They all have their great moments, and are entertaining, but they can't touch the original. Not at all.

(And...No, I don't see anything in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that deviates all that far from Last Crusade. They're actually the two Indiana Jones pictures that seem most connected, tonally, to me. You wanna talk to me about the refrigerator bit? Then you have to acknowledge that the fighter plane in the tunnel is as dumb, if not dumber. Yeah, the aliens...I know, but I don't see it as that far removed from the "magic" we see in the rest of the series. Your mileage may vary.)

Long story short, there's a, well, magic, in Raiders of the Lost Ark that many films have tried to replicate, but no one has been able to.

I can't wait to see it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nose to the Grindstone

I've found myself in a fairly fertile period, musically. I think this can be credited to a few things, one, I'm playing guitar a lot, with Bus Stop performances going on. I'm certainly play acoustic more than I have in a long, long time. That's led me to some nice things, including music for a set of lyrics that have been sitting around for over half a year.

Of course, I have a LOT of lyrics that have been sitting around for half a year. That's a whole 'nother issue.

Second, I just feel inspired. This may come from all the Rock Biographies I've been reading, or the positive energy from the people around me. Either way, it's great. I've just come to a point where I'll play a riff, or a progression, and I'll think "that sounds pretty good," and I'm OK with that. Sometimes I still get caught up in the "make it more complicated" thought process, but not as much as I used to. I'm feeling good about my rhythm playing, even if I can say my lead work could be better. I love putting down a drum beat, and playing over it.

But yes, oh faithful reader, here it comes...

Do you think he has some free time?
God, the drum machine is starting to bug me. I really need to figure out some way to make the drum lines more organic, more connected to the guitar and bass parts. What I'm doing is fine, it keeps the beat, but I'm just not good enough at programming the damn thing to do the cool stuff that's in my head.

It comes down to this, find a drummer (Dave F, where are you when I need you?), or figure out how to do it myself. I've been looking at some electronic kits. I'm not a drummer, but I know I can keep a beat, so it might just be a step up from the machine, but it would be live. Or, I could put everything aside and, y'know, put some time into REALLY figuring out how to program the machine. Either way, I want something MORE...

The reason is simple. I feel really good about the riffs and songs I'm putting together. It's the best stuff I've ever figured out, and with the equipment I have, now, I can make it sound really, really good. So, here's the deal, and I know I've been saying this FOREVER, I am looking forward in the schedule, the time has come to really focus and get this set of tunes done. Make them work, and make them work well.

I may end up shaving the number of tracks I wanted to have down a bit, which seems like a bit of a cop-out, but it'll also get me to "finished product" faster if I say "EP" instead of "LP." At this point, after so much time, I think that's just being realistic. I also think it's time to stop mucking around with the 6-7 tracks I have "in process" all at once. I intend to start from scratch, and take one track at a time, percussion, guitar, bass, vocals, mixing, mastering...then onto the next track.

The honest truth is I'm lost on some of the work I've done before. I can't even remember what exactly I was thinking when I made certain choices. This is a chance to wipe the slate and regroup (Thank God I've been taking better notes about what, exactly, I'm playing), and actually move forward with finished progress to mark my path.

I think I need it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Do you like joy?

Jon Stewart started talking about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert with that question. I found it hilarious, because it was true. I could ask the same thing about seeing The Muppets, Disney's 100% well-handled return of Jim Henson's creations to the big screen. 

The bottom line is, I think you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted to be of my generation and not be moved by this film. It's chock full of good will and positive energy. Even if you find nits to pick, the overall effort is so energized, and so on-task to the spirit that Henson himself imbued the characters with, that you have to let it evaporate.

I defy anyone to watch the sequence where The Rainbow Connection is fully performed to tell me this film doesn't capture the spirit of the Muppets. Yes, elements are updated, but not changed. Star/co-screenwriter Jason Segel has imagined a history that leaves untouched the "classic" Muppet projects, but sets up a quest/road picture that, yes, sows some seeds of discontent between the old team.

Personally, I had no problem with that. The characters did not become coarse, or stray from the personalities we remember, but they had moved on in logical ways. Fozzie still, desperately, trying to stay in showbiz. Piggy moving into high fashion. Gonzo becoming a plumbing magnate.

Yeah, that last one was odd, but IT'S GONZO. Plus, I chuckled heartily at the gentle dig at fears of "toilet humor" seeping into the proceedings.

There's a number of jokes like that, where Segel, with co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin stick in elements that, I'm sure, fans were terrified might rear up in a "re-invention." "The Moopets,"  ghettoized, crude versions of our familiar troupe comes right to mind. (Frankly, I'd have liked to see more of them...the idea tickles me so much...a "perform off" with the originals, or something. It also provides a funny celebrity cameo.)

Special kudos to Chris Cooper, who is nothing short of wonderful as Tex Richman, and my friends can thank him when I'm driving them nuts with, "Evil Laugh....Evil Laugh..." Let me just say this...the man can rap. Also, I can't tell you how much loved Uncle Deadly and ESPECIALLY Bobo the Bear as his partners in crime. Bobo SLAYED me in almost every scene. Genius work from Muppeteer Bill Barretta.

I really enjoyed Segel and Amy Adams as our main human protagonists. They were cute, which is pretty much the whole job. There's also Walter, our new Muppet. He, in many ways, drives the story. Just about every original character gets a good bit, or two, but there is a lot of ground to cover. I think Gonzo got a bit of a short shrift.

The new songs, by Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, are pretty good. I enjoyed all of them, but some of them, specifically Man or Muppet, sound an awful lot like Flight of the Conchords numbers. I'm luke-warm on that show/band, so your mileage may vary.

I also wonder about the Gary (Segel)/Walter relationship. They're brothers, but one is a Muppet? Then Mary (Adams) refers to Walter as Gary's "friend?" Aren't they brothers?

Aw, the heck with it. Long story short, if you were worried about someone coming in and screwing up the Muppets, allay those fears. You can question if it's as good as Jim would've done himself, but it's a loving, respectful love letter to his creations.

One last bit...Thank you, God for Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe. Brilliant. Utterly.