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.