Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh, Amazon...

Why do you do this to me?

I mean, come on! I'm trying to save for San Diego over here!! You're killing me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.29.2012

Don't Believe a Word
By Thin Lizzy

Don't believe me if I tell you
Not a word of this is true
Don't believe me if I tell you
Especially if I tell you that I'm in love with you

Don't believe me if I tell you
That I wrote this song for you
There might be some other silly pretty girl
I'm singing it to

Don't believe a word
For words are only spoken
Your heart is like a promise
Made to be broken

Don't believe a word
Words can tell lies
And lies are no comfort
When there's tear in your eyes

Don't believe me if I tell you
Not a word of this is true
Don't believe me if I tell you
Especially if I tell you that I'm in love with you

Don't believe a word
There's a slower version of this as well, which I think is pretty damn cool.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Fall Show and Role

"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived, and long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more"

My favorite version of the Creature - Bernie Wrightson

"But soon," he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, "I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell."

The Icon - Boris Karloff
"Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me."

City Lit Theatre
Performances September 28th thru November 4th

I consider myself humbled and honored to be offered this role. One of the great literary creations of all time. A being of monstrous vengeance, childlike wonder, and devoted love. I am terrified and excited all at the same time, and no actor can ever ask for more from a role.

And, no, Sean H. - "FIRE! BAD!" is not one of my lines. ;)  And now, as cheesy as I will ever get about this...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.24.2012

Girls in Their Summer Clothes
by Bruce Springsteen

Well the street lights shine
Down on Blessing Avenue
Lovers they walk by
Holdin' hands two by two

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin 'round
Jacket's on, I'm out the door
Tonight I'm gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Kid's rubber ball smacks
Off the gutter 'neath the lamp light
Big bank clock chimes
Off go the sleepy front porch lights

Downtown the store's alive
As the evening's underway
Things been a little tight
But I know they're gonna turn my way

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Frankie's Diner's
Over on the edge of town
Neon sign spinnin' round
Like a cross over the lost and found

Fluorescent lights
Flicker above Bob's Grill
Shaniqua brings a coffee and asks "fill?"
And says "penny for your thoughts now my poor Bill"

She went away
She cut me like a knife
Had a beautiful thing
Maybe you just saved my life

In just a glance
Down here on Magic Street
Love's a fool's dance
I ain't got much sense but I still got my feet

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

La la la la, la la la la la la la
La la la la, la la la la la la la
La la la la, la la la la la la la
La la la la, la la la la la la la

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Perhaps I Just Don't "Get" Kickstarter

I mean, it's a lovely tool for fundraising. I'm happy to throw a few bucks toward getting a memorial for Harvey Pekar at the Cleveland Library, or to support a small non-profit theatre company, or helping musician with no health insurance pay medical bills. Those are charitable acts, where no one's looking to make a profit.

Things, however, get dogy for me when I'm being asked to just give you money to set up a for-profit business and/or venture.

Let me give you a couple of actual, real examples I've seen...

If your comic book shop is going under, I tend to feel like my patronage is me supporting you. If you're unable to make ends meet with your income from your customers, or you can't entice enough customers to keep your business afloat, that's just being a poor business owner. I guess I find it sort of...wrong to go asking me for more dollars than what I spend for your services.

Likewise, if you want to start a brewing company, and need to raise $30,000, it would seem to me that going on line and asking for people to GIVE it to you is completely irresponsible. Go to a bank, get a loan, and pay back your start-up capital. You're basically asking for a bunch of strangers to bankroll your business, which you will make money from, for a cheap bottle opener, or whatever trinket you're handing out. Gee, I'd like somebody to just give me money, with no need to pay it back, much less interest, to start a business, wouldn't you?

I mean, is that reasonable?

I don't think so.

Yeah, yeah...Kickstarter says you can't fund a business, but I've seen a couple of "projects" that are clearly, exactly that. For example, the brewing "project" I referenced above? Here's what the Kickstarter is for:
  • Fees for licensing (city, state, and federal) and legal services
  • Costs for our website and online social network
  • Brewery equipment (fermentation tanks and other equipment)
  • Supplies for brewing (grains, hops, cleaning supplies, bottles, rentals, etc.)
  • Paying great artists and designers fair value for their designs and artwork
  • Labor costs
That, my friends, is somebody starting a business. Also, how is "keep my comic book store open" a "project?"

I can even, to a point, see when they're set up for things like short films, and such. That is, when it's amateurs with no connections or resources to call upon. However, I mean, when I see respected, known guys in, say the special effects industry, asking for me to give them money for a film or series, I have to ask...Don't you know producers and such? Don't you have connections to try to get somebody to back your script and project? Which then makes me good is your script?

And then, back around're doing this to MAKE MONEY. So, essentially, you want me to take this cash out of my pocket, and give it to you to spend as you will, so that you can, in some cases, get me to buy the finished product from you. That's just not a process, a system, I can get behind.

Plus, what happens if you hit your goal, get your money, and  you don't actually complete your project? I don't see anything on Kickstarter's site that explains exactly how they guard against that, or if they do at all. Maybe somebody over there will read this and respond.

Now, to say again....I am NOT talking about not-for-profit concerns. I do think Kickstarter is very, very helpful for those kind of uses, and I respect that. I respect the people who run and operate Kickstarter for those reasons. It's just...I feel like this is indicative of a change in our society. The "gimmie gimmie" movement. It's my self-reliant nature, I guess, but I don't get it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.22.2012

You're a Lie
By Slash, Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

You're the voice of reason that I can't escape,
Cut me down a thousand times a day
I don't need you anymore
I don't need you anymore
I trusted you and there was no one else
All you did was make me doubt myself
Don't believe you anymore
Don't believe you anymore

You bled me out, you tore me down
Your time has come, you can go.

'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
All my faith has been wasted, wasted
'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
I don't need you to save me anymore

I'm fragile, but I'm not a fool
I won't hear another word from you.
You won't hurt me anymore
You won't hurt me anymore

The hand I held just held me down
It took so long, now I know

'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
All my faith has been wasted, wasted
'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
I won't sit here and take this anymore

You can say anything that you wanna say
But my intention's long gone and turned away
You're such a lie, you were only the enemy
Everything you are I will deny

'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
I'll just come out and say it, say it
'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
All my faith has been wasted, wasted
'Cause you're a lie (lie), lie (lie)
I don't need you to save me anymore
I don't need you to save me anymore
I don't need you to save me anymore

Monday, May 21, 2012

So What Did I Learn on Saturday?

First off, I love playing with other people.

Second, Don't stand behind your amp. You can't hear anything. Especially when your combo amp speakers are at about ankle-level.

Otherwise, I feel good. I have to admit, after playing to a drum machine and click track for, literally, years, it was nice to find out that I can lock in with a live drummer. It was GREAT to have ideas getting bounced around, because I enjoy working with other people.

I want to revisit the tunes we worked on Saturday, with some vocal material blended in, and some time to figure out proper solo sections. Everything I played on those recordings was well and truly right out of my ass. Listening back to them, I think I'd also like to work some more dynamics into what I have.

I also need to think about my songwriting more. Leave some more room. With my influences being more and more classic rock lately, I think "riff-riff-riff" is a bit much. Gotta think like Townshend, more big open chords with space for vocals. I guess that goes along with the "dynamics" thing.

It's a work in progress, as it should be.

In other news, very much looking forward to the release of Apocalyptic Love by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, tomorrow. I was a fan of Slash's solo album, but it was the live show that really struck me. Myles Kennedy is a hell of a vocalist, and I've liked pretty much everything I've heard off this albums so far. It was streamiing over at last week, and I took a couple of listens. Good stuff, and Myles sounds great.

I plan to download it tomorrow morning. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

So, What Happened Saturday

Well, I played with a live drummer for the first time in, well, forever.
Exciting as hell. I had three tunes mapped out to work on, we only got through two in our three hours in the rehearsal space. So, Morgan Clarke (drums) and Paul Czarnowski (bass) and I went in to try to figure something out.

I really reccommend The Music Garage in Chicago. The hourly rooms are very nice, good equipment, and $6 per hour, per person is, really, very reasonable. Yeah, I'd have like to have my own amp, but they had a nice Marshall combo that did the job for me.

I was pretty happy with what we got done. We recorded the results, as best as possible. I've put the tracks up on soundcloud.

Seeking (Live Drum Demo) by mpjedi2
Monkey Sex (Live Drum Demo) by mpjedi2

Reactions welcome.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Randomness 5.18.12

Man, it's been a hell of a week. I'm just burnt. Crispy.

I am really, really, really hoping for a relaxing weekend. Although, I'll be trying to get our wi-fi back up and running, and I have a very, very bad feeling that's going to be about as stressful as it comes. Tech nightmare.

All I want to do is crawl into a couch and watch a movie or something, but no such luck.

I'm sitting here, staring at the screen, and I just don't know what to write, at all. It's pretty clear that I'm not going to be whipping up my clever repartee for today's entry.

Oh, hell, right? Who cares?

What say we close the week with some Pete?

Or maybe some Springsteen?

Everybody have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Crash

I am at one of my "low points."

I don't really mean depression, or pain, or anything like that. I mean apathy. I mean inertia. I'm at a point where I struggle to get excited.  I struggle to generate enthusiasm. I don't know if it's exhaustion, or, yeah, maybe depression, or what.

Which, as you would probably guess, sucks. It sucks for me, and it sucks for the people I'm working with. Although, I do try to hide it, put on the brave face, soldier on, whatnot. That just makes me feel worse, because, damn it, I hate to let people down. At the end of the day, I just want something exciting to happen, and I feel like it might be a pipe dream.

It's not across the board. I'm really excited about the jam session on Saturday. That said, it's something different. I don't get to go in a room and play guitar with a rythum section often, hardly ever, honestly. It's been years.

It's the day-to-day stuff. Work. Eat. Stage Left stuff. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Doesn't help when the little shit, installing a new DSL modem and setting the wi-fi back up, for example, becomes WAY more complicated and intensive than it ought to. Haven't we evolved to a point where this sort of thing should be (relatively) plug-and-play? Or at least provide reasonably functional and clear directions?

Don't even get me started on the bigger stuff. It trickles down, and I just...feel...shot. I feel like there's nothing in the tank. At all. So much so, that, deep down, where I don't want to look very closely, I just don't really care so much anymore. That, my friends, scares the shit out of me.

Maybe I pushed too hard for to long. The '11-'12 season has been very busy for me. Three full shows, almost back-to-back, a directing gig in there, too, and a workshop process. I have to tell you, I'm a bit worried about having taken that understudy gig over the summer, at this point.

Then I read that..and just think, "what a whiner. What a brat." This is what you wanted, you idiot.

I need something really exciting to show up on the horizon. Something that speaks to me, personally. Something to be passionate about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.16.12

It's sort of a cheat after my last entry, but re-watching this version did.

It kills me, how good this song is. Absolutely kills me. I was in tears, on the glorious moments when I've gotten to hear it live.

Incident on 57th Street
by Bruce Springsteen

Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night with bruised arms and broken rhythm and a beat-up old Buick but dressed just like dynamite,
He tried sellin' his heart to the hard girls over on Easy Street,
But they said, "Johnny, it falls apart so easy and you know hearts these days are cheap."
And the pimps swung their axes and said, "Johnny, you're a cheater."
Well, the pimps swung their axes and said, "Johnny, you're a liar."
And from out of the shadows cam e a young girl's voice, said: "Johnny don't cry."
Puerto Rican Jane, oh won't you tell me what's your name.
I want to drive you down to the other side of town where paradise ain't so crowded and there'll be action goin' down on Shanty Lane tonight
All the golden heeled fairies in a real bitch-fight pull thirty-eights and
kiss their girls goodnight.
Goodnight, it's alright, Jane
Now let them black boys in to light the soul flame,
We may find it out on the street tonight, baby,
Or we may walk until the daylight, maybe.

Well, like a cool Romeo he made his moves, oh she looked so fine
Like a late Juliet she knew she'd never be true but then she really didn't mind,
Upstairs a band was playin' and the singer was singin' something about going home,
She whispered, "Spanish Johnny, you can leave me tonight, but just don't leave me alone."
And Johnny cried, "Puerto Rican Jane, word is down the cops have found the vein."
Them bare foot boys left their homes for the woods
Them little barefoot street boys, they said their homes ain't no good,
They left the corners, threw away their switchblade knives and kissed each other goodbye.

Johnny was sittin' on the fire escape watchin' the kids playin' down the street,
He called down, "Hey little heroes, summer's long but I guess it ain't very sweet around here anymore,
Janey sleeps in sheets damp with sweat, Johnny sits up alone and watches her dream on, dream on,
And the sister prays for lost souls then breaks down in the chapel after everyone's gone.
Jane moves over to share her pillow but opens her eyes to see Johnny up and putting his clothes on,
She says, "Those romantic young boys, all they ever want to do is fight,
Those romantic young boys, they're callin' through the window:
Hey, Spanish Johnny, you want to make a little easy money tonight?"

And Johnny whispered, "Goodnight, it's all tight Jane,
I'll meet you tomorrow night on Lover's Lane
We may find it out on the street tonight now baby
Or we may walk until the daylight, baby."
Goodnight, it's alright Jane, I'm gonna meet you tomorrow night on Lover's Lane,
We can find it out on the street tonight, baby,
Or we may walk until it's daylight, maybe.

A thing of utter beauty.

"All Back to My Place" - Damen Ave. Edition (via Burning Wood)

 I'm quite a fan of Sal Nunziato and his blog, Burning Wood. It's a great stop for anyone who's into music. Sal's signifigantly older than myself, but I still find myself really enjoying his tastes and interests.

Anyway, today's post was a "Burning Wood Edition" of MOJO magazine's "All Back to My Place" feature. I couldn't help but post my responses, and I thought it might be interesting enought to share as a blog post of my own.


I'm also on a Who kick right now, hard. I'm a guitarist, and I suddenly came to a realization in the last month or so about how fucking cool Townshend's guitar approach is. Also how a lot of his style compliments what I do, naturally. Really into any live tracks I can find, especially.


*sigh* Hard one. I'll just fall back and punt with The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle. It feels, to me like Bruce on the cusp of figuring out exactly who he wants to be, as an artist, while still embracing that spastic seaside kid he was on the first album. Plus, fucking "Incident"...gets me every time.


My recollection is a copy of Lou Reed's New York on cassette during an unending family road trip. Mainly because I thought the cover was cool. That said, I have a shameful feeling it was Buckner & Garcia's Pac-Man Fever.


Springsteen is the big one. I want to sing like that, play like that, and have a band that amazing. It's changed over the years, however, as I, and my tastes, have. John Lennon, Keith Richards, James Hetfield.


That is kind of a ridiculous question. Does ANYBODY sing the same song in the shower all the time. Usually, it's whatever is stuck in my head at the moment, even one of my own tracks I'm working on. That said, "Baba O'Riley" comes up a lot.


Zeppelin II. In my book, their best. That said, this is another place where I would answer differently in many situations. For example, I almost put in The Sword's Warp Riders, which I just fell in love with. It certainly feeds the metalhead that is still a big part of me, while also capturing a classic rock vibe (It reminds me of Thin Lizzy a lot, at moments) that I'm just loving now.


Zakk Wylde's Book of Shadows, which I think is one of the most under-appreciated albums ever. Great songs, great vocals, great playing, free of his usual bombast. You may write this off as "Ozzy's Guitarist," but give a couple of tracks a listen. It's great stuff. Runner up: Rodrigo Y Gabriela's self-titled debut. The Latin vibe mixed with rock and metal influences just works for me when I'm in a "relax" mood.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.15.12

God, what a week. I thought this was going to be a slow week, and I'd have some time to relax and rest.

Yeah, that ain't gonna happen.

Anyway, was listening to this album again, and it struck me how it's still relevant.

Revolution Calling
by Queensryche

 For a price I'd do about anything
Except pull the trigger
For that I'd need a pretty good cause
Then I heard of Dr. X
The man with the cure
Just watch the television
Yeah, you'll see there's something going on

Got no love for politicians
Or that crazy scene in D.C.
It's just a power mad town
But the time is ripe for changes
There's a growing feeling
That taking a chance on a new kind of vision is due

I used to trust the media
To tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I've seen the payoffs
Everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone's a crook?

Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Revolution calling you
[There's a] Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Gotta make a change
Gotta push, gotta push it on through

I'm tired of all this bullshit
They keep selling me on T.V.
About the communist plan
And all the shady preachers
Begging for my cash
Swiss bank accounts while giving their
Secretaries the slam

They're all in Penthouse now
Or Playboy magazine, million dollar stories to tell
I guess Warhol wasn't wrong
Fame fifteen minutes long
Everyone's using everybody, making the sale

I used to think
That only America's way, way was right
But now the holy dollar rules everybody's lives
Gotta make a million doesn't matter who dies

Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Revolution calling you
[There's a] Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Gotta make a change
Gotta push, gotta push it on through

I used to trust the media
To tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I've seen the payoffs
Everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone's a crook?

Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Revolution calling you
[There's a] Revolution calling
Revolution calling
Gotta make a change
Gotta push, gotta push it on through

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Hayoth Project Starts to Evolve

For many, many moons, you, my faithful readers have heard me bitch and whine and moan about the "next music project." after cranking out 2 DIY CDs in the space of a few years, I've been at a bit of an impasse with the next group of songs.

I've long considered this the "Hayoth project" because of an album cover I created using the internet meme that was going around a couple of years ago. I just liked the way the band name, the image and the album title went together. As I involve other people, it'll probably evolve, but...these are still Hayoth tracks, in my mind.

I have struggled with my own ruts on this stuff. I really wanted more eyes and ears on it. Somebody to push me, and to push back against. Something to get the juices flowing. I wanted to be in a room playing with other people. 

Well, I'm hoping to have some of that starting very soon. I'm actually getting together with real, live, ACTUAL musicians this coming weekend to jam on some of my ideas. In that spirit, I've made some more very, very, very rough demos of the tracks we'll be playing around with. I thought I'd share, for anyone who wants to sit though several minutes of a guitar and drum machine.

Feedback and comments are welcome. Just bear in mind these are very rough, and are really only for demo purposes. They were done very quickly, with very little work to make them sound professional.

(Apparently, I can no longer embed Soundcloud files here, so I'll provide links)


Monkey Sex
(yes, A working title, I think)

Getting Dollars Back

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lure of Live Albums

I had a conversation a while back, almost a year ago, I guess, where I was discussing music with a friend. I said that I really loved live albums, and often prefer them to studio records. The response was interesting, that how she preferred studio recordings because they we exactly the way the artist wanted the songs to sound.

Which, I suppose, is true. However, my response to that is, basically, a live recording is how the songs really sound. In the best cases and examples, it's the band, as it exists on stage, playing full-out and without any chance to go back and fix anything. Even if there's a bunch of hired-hand backup musicians, it's still what the "band" can generate right in front of you. I find that vastly more enthralling.

Yeah, sometimes a "live" album is full of overdubs, re-recorded vocals, and other studio trickery. Kiss' Alive! and Alive! II being two rumored examples of "live" albums that took almost more studio work than the original studio albums. Ace Frehley all but admits this outright in his autobiography.

You can contrast that with Metallica's LIVE SHIT: Binge and Purge box set, which was actually 3 full shows, two on video, one on audio. I'm always impressed when on one of the video shows, Kirk Hammet's guitar solo goes pretty blatantly out of key. Impressed because they left it there, because that's how the show went down. It would've been so easy to fix it, especially at that moment, right after the Black Album release, when they were as popular as they would ever be. I admire that.

Even beyond the idea that a live version is the song in it's most natural form, I also find, more often than not, that live versions are far more energized and exciting. The Who, for example, I will take a live version of pretty much any song in their catalog over the studio version. Even something like "Squeeze Box," which sounds almost nothing like the studio version (no accordion on stage), but just screams with energy. I'll admit that part of the factor with The Who is that some of their studio stuff just sounds awful. My copy of Tommy (admittedly an older master) is embarrassing in how poor the sound quality is. I don't think anybody ever really captured the best of The Who, as musicians, in a studio.

Now, of course, it can backfire, too. I've commented before that Led Zeppelin, when they let their impromptu jams get out of control, could be stultifying. How the west Was Won is OK, but The Song Remains the Same is a nightmare. Neither of them even brushes at the greatness of the studio albums.

Now, in these last two cases, I'll admit, I never actually saw them live, but I'm talking about live albums and recordings. I'm sure, if I was in an arena with Led Zeppelin, I'd be much more open to the musical digressions. Alas, I never had that chance, and I do regret it. Same with The Who prior to Keith Moon's death.

Rush is a band I love, and, for such a detail-oriented, technical group,  it's kind of amazing how much more often I'll reach for one of their live albums (and there are several), rather than a studio disk. Now, here's a group where there is tons of on-stage augmentation, samples and other pre-recorded bits. Of course, they're all triggered by one of the three guys on stage. It's kind of amazing to watch Lee, Lifeson and Peart not only play their instruments with such technical perfection, but also trigger all this other stuff at the right moments. There's also a goofy sense of humor and playfulness that isn't always as readily apparent on their studio tracks.

On the flip side of the power trio coin is King's X, who really only have one "real" live album out, Live in London. Whereas Rush wields much technology to hit the nuances of their material, King's X is three guys, and...well, that's pretty much it. It's a master course in forming your sound around what you can do with what you have. Bassist Dug Pinnick often wields a 12-string bass, and his tone, in general, fill in a lot of sonic room. One of my absolute favorite live acts, and, when you see them, it's almost always up close and personal.

Of course, for me, Springsteen is the quintessential "you HAVE to see him live" artist. I, personally, have over forty-eight hours of Springsteen music on my Zune. Most of that is live recordings, and most of those are bootlegs. I'm happy to say I own recordings of every Springsteen concert I've seen.

Obsessive? Sure.

However, I can tell you that every, single show I've seen has unique moments. Unlike, say, Rush, where every show of a tour is, essentially, the same, The Boss' show are constantly in motion and evolving. The set lists, while adhering to a structure, are always changing. I don't know how many other acts I could see two nights in a row, and feel it's worth it. I tried two Rush shows 3 days apart, and I have to admit, I got a little bored the second night. I mean no disrespect to the boys in that, but to point out (and I'd bet they'd agree) they craft a great show that they can repeat for every audience. So, it's not "organic," but it is awesome.

There are relatively few Springsteen live albums, I can recommend  Live: '75-'85, Live in New York City, and Live in Dublin. For a neophyte, I'd recommend the New York City disk. It's from the E-Street Band reunion tour, and the show is on fire. The first is a box set, and is rather sprawling, and the Dublin show is from the Seeger Sessions Band era (which is AWESOME, but not "classic" Bruce).

Ultimately, I do love live albums. They may not be as "perfect" as the studio recordings, but I think they more than make up for it in energy and direct performance. There's something magical about a really good live album.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.10.12

The Things You Do
by Zakk Wylde

Color my world all black & blue
The hell you dish out
Comes back three-fold to you
Inside your riddled rotten core
I hope you get what you deserve
Worse & even more

How can you do the things you do?
You make Satan look like Christ
I swear its true
How could you do the things you do?

The Rolling Stones once sang a tune
Singing words of sympathy
Yet none were sung for you
If the lord of darkness seen you comin' his way
He'd get on his knees
And look to Jesus
and start to pray

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

OK, So I Am Adopted

Adopted twice, actually. Once by my mother, and her first husband, at birth, and again by my father when I was about five, after he married my mother. I have 4 half-sisters and a half-brother by adoption, not that we ever really got into the "half" thing growing up.

I have never, ever, not once, found this to be an issue in my life. I, frankly, am unconcerned about the identity or whereabouts of my birth parents. My parents, who raised me, are my parents. It's a TOTAL non-issue in my life. I realize that not everyone has that experience, but I also think that the reason it's a non-issue is because I, and my parents, didn't allow it to be.

Oh, sure a couple of, now highly regretted, "you're not my REAL ________" outbursts, but that's more about being a teenager, than who's loins I emerged from.

I have a general stance about life. It's not where you came from, it's who you are. It's how you use what you're given, rather than what you start with being the whole of your life. It's why I get conflicted about any entitlement programs. From big things like Affirmative Action to the smallest, like the continual argument about how many female, versus male, playwrights get produced. I, personally accept people by their actions, their work, but I'm also not naive enough to think everyone does that. Yet, I think any preferential treatment, no matter how well-intentioned, is ultimately saying that "do your best" is not good enough. That hard work and self-application are, ultimately, irrelevant, and therefore foolish.

Sorry, bit of a digression, there.

This all stems from a online petition (*sigh*) that Jamie Berke, an advocate for the deaf, and, I guess, adopted (a cursory Google search finds mainly deafness issues), put up about an adoption joke in The Avengers. You can find it here. It has made me livid. In as much as, here is a group I am very much a part of, and this petition is a thin-skinned whining response to a single line in a movie that, apparently, SHE HASN'T EVEN SEEN. All of her tweets about the film simply reference a review she read.

For the record, here's the dialogue, per IMDB:
Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Take care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.
Thor: He's adopted. 
OK, it's an adoption joke, and in the film, it's funny. It's also not about Loki being adopted so much as the strained relationship between he and his brother. It's also the ONLY reference to Loki's adoptive status, and Thor's presence in the film is explained by his adoptive family's sense of responsibility to him. I mean, it's not like he's repeatedly called out for his birthright. Hulk doesn't call him "puny adopted kid." Captain America isn't leading the Avengers into battle shouting, "let's get that guy who doesn't know who his real mother is!" The line itself strikes me as exactly the kind of thing an embarrassed brother would say about another.

Also, if you've seen the Thor film (which, I'm sure Ms. Berke hasn't), it's pretty clear that Loki's ambitions have little to do with finding out that Odin isn't his "real" father. A revelation that happens well after Loki's evil actions begin. Since the character's creation in the 60's, Loki's evil has never been simply because he was adopted, as Ms. Berke tries to assert.

Which isn't to say that Loki's actions aren't somewhat tied to his family life. He's overshadowed by his brother at every turn, and insanely jealous of Thor for it. While the revelation of his parentage feeds that, it's not the reason for it. That's brothers, not just adoptive brothers.

Let me put it into the framework of my situation. I always knew there was a difference between myself and my siblings. There was a distance, some jealously on my part for the fact they were brought up together, but that distance had nothing to do with my adoptive status. If I had been the biological child of my mother and father, the situation would be exactly the same. Sure, I could've chose to make my status as adopted the issue, but I didn't.

That's the rather long, geeky, reasoning behind what I'm about to say. Some people may be offended by it, but this is how I feel.

Jamie Berke, you do NOT speak for me, as a child of adoption. I, as a child of adoption, understand the concepts of perspective, context, and, yes, humor. The joke in The Avengers is only offensive if you allow yourself to be so insecure about yourself that you can't hear the word "adoption" without tensing up. Taken as it is presented in the film, it's truly funny, and it illuminates the relationship between Thor and Loki.

There's an old adage that nothing is offensive if it makes you laugh. I think that's true. Comedy, well, GOOD comedy, by it's nature is about approaching difficult subjects with a lightness of heart and a willingness to laugh at yourself. If everyone around you is laughing, and you're not, maybe the issue isn't with the joke, but with you.

So, this adopted child is telling Marvel that they don't owe me an apology, nor anyone else. If Ms. Berke and her crew wish to boycott the movie, more power to them, but they don't deserve an apology. There's nothing to apologize for. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.8.12

by Armored Saint

I say goodbye to my favorite time of day
Watch the sun drop and dusk fade
Another two dozen hours go by
And times going quicker at forty five
When I was young I wanted life to go fast
Always in a hurry to see what's next
Maybe if I could slow time down
I might shake loose this reoccuring frown

Vacuum me in a deep freeze

Calling a truce with this ghost that I fought
And just chill with what I got
Breaking it down to see where I stand
It's all pretty grand

Periodically I find myself pissed off
Though never quite sure about which I bug caught
Very few things in my life are bad
Some bad shit happens to that other half
Don't want to appear that I ain't grateful
It's all gravy when you terminate the bull shit
Hurdles that come up running the track
Are best dealt with a calm state of attack

Rest assured so be understood
It's all pretty good

Feet planted on my own holy land

Monday, May 7, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers

Lord, I hate the "Marvel's" in that title. It typifies much of what troubles me about Marvel's film output. The characters, rather than creative engines, are now commercial money-machines. A situation that I can only see continuing with the ownership by the Disney overlords....

That said, somehow, despite their tight-fisted ways, Marvel has managed to rope truly talented people into their motion picture factory. Artists who are able to work within the company's rather rigid commercial framework and generate truly entertaining material. Perhaps Kevin Feige and his team have learned from the Iron Man 2 stumble, wherein building the shared "Marvel Movie Universe," and laying the groundwork for Marvel's The Avengers, basically overwhelmed the movie.

That's a macro view of the situation, honestly, and sounds much harsher than I mean it. Ultimately, The Avengers is a film that shouldn't really exist, yet it does. Joss Whedon shouldn't be directing a HUGE tent-pole summer blockbuster, but he did. Truth to tell, the film shouldn't be any good. Robert Downey Jr's star power should've overwhelmed the rest of the cast. The Hulk hasn't REALLY worked twice before on film. Too many characters, etc.

But it does. Marvel's The Avengers does work. Like gangbusters.

The film has a spark and energy that is very hard to deny, the performances are all winners, except Samuel L. Jackson,. who, once again, just kind of puts on his "badass" face and wanders around. I was particularly worried that Downey would just bulldoze the rest of the cast, and Whedon's comments about downey's first words to him being "now you know Tony has to drive this thing, right?" didn't ally that fear.  While Stark does still end up pretty central to the proceedings, the rest of the cast wisely realizes that the best defense is to not even run with him. Chris Evans once again is letter-perfect as Steve "Captain America" Rogers, and Chris Hemsworth is possibly even more winning as Thor than he was in his own film. Scarlett Johanssen finally comes into her own as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner is fine as Clint "Hawkeye" Barton (although the man is a HORRIBLE bowman).

The real winner in this team, aside from Whedon, is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, and, for the first time, The Hulk himself. It's no exaggeration to say that the Hulk steals the whole show. Ruffalo's low-key performance just brings the ball home. If there is truth to the rumors that the popularity of the Hulk (and his merchandise - More of that "Marvel's" attitude) may lead to another attempt at a film, you've finally got the star to make it work.

There are things that don't work. I don't think there's any spoiler in saying that an alien invasion occurs, arranged by Thor's adopted brother Loki (the marvelous Tom Hiddleston - a bravura turn). The Chitauri are faceless, bland, and ultimately not all that threatening. Oh, yeah, they cause lots of spectacular destruction and mess, but when you see them getting taken down left and right by a guy with a bow and arrow, and a gal with a couple of semi-auto kinda undercuts the threat. Plus, they have ZERO personality. No one seems in charge of what they're doing. Loki doesn't seem like he's commanding the attack. I'd have liked a 3rd act threat that didn't feel like a part of a mass. Perhaps a Chitauri general for Captain America to engage one-on-one?

It's a minor quibble. One that really only came to me after I saw the film a second time. Joss keeps the action fast a furious, and the one-liners flying. It's all so well executed and full of pep that you just have to let the few weak points slide. Marvel's The Avengers is a rousing start to the Summer movie season, and just a ton of fun.

Well worth your time and money, but I can safely say, having seen it both 3-D and 2-D, that 3-D adds nothing to the experience. Save the $5, and don't worry about it. It's no Avatar or Hugo, where the 3-D works wonderfully, and adds to the film.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stuck in My Head 5.3.2012

However Much I Booze
by The Who

I see myself on T.V., I'm a faker, a paper clown
It's clear to all my friends that I habitually lie; I just bring them down
I claim proneness to exaggeration
But the truth lies in my frustration
The children of the night, they all pass me by
Have to drench myself in brandy
In sleep I'll hide
But however much I booze
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out
I don't care what you say, boy
There ain't no way out

I lose so many nights of sleep worrying about my responsibilities
Are the problems that screw me up really down to him or me
My ego will just confuse me
Some day it's going to up and use me
Dish me out another tailor-made compliment
Tell me about some destiny I can't prevent
But however much I squirm
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out
I don't care what you say, boy
There ain't no way out

Won't somebody tell me how to get out of this place?!

Then the night comes down like a cell door closing
Suddenly I realize that I'm right now, I'm on the scene
While sitting here all alone with a bottle and my head a-floating
Far away from the form and the conscience going on with me
And on with me, and I don't care what you say
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out

Now the walls are all clawed and scratched
Like by some soul insane
In the morning I hungoverly detach myself
I take no blame
I just can't face my failure
I'm nothing but a well fucked sailor
You at home can easily decide what's right
By glancing very briefly at the songs I write
But it don't help me that you know
There still ain't no way out
Won't somebody help me?
I don't care what you say, boy
There ain't no way out

There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out

Give me the key, lock it away

There ain't
There ain't
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out
There ain't no way out

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Thought I'd Have the Summer Off

It's funny how, when you don't go looking for things, they tend to come to you. Of course, not always in the way you expected or wanted.

I had planned on remaining free of theatre commitments for the summer season. My plan was to focus on music projects, take the next part of The Artistic Home's Meisner program, and leave myself time for trips to Boston and, of course, San Diego for Comic-Con. That's...sorta...held.

The folks at Steep Theater Company asked me to audition for their upcoming show, Moment, which was very, very exciting to me. Alas, the opening weekend is when I'm in San Diego. I went back to them with true thankfulness that they thought of me, but I was really sad to say I couldn't do it.

Ultimately, I've been asked to understudy 2 roles in the show. Which, despite the fact I'm not a huge fan of understudy jobs, I'm very excited about. Steep is an exciting company for me, and I'm hoping to make a good impression. Get my foot in that door.

It did give me half a pause about going to Comic-Con again. This year has been incredibly aggravating on a number of levels. The long delay in opening ticket sales (at least from where it was the last time I went, in 2010), made getting tickets a stressful mess. Ultimately, by some miracle, we scored 4-day passes, with preview night. Which makes us luckier than most.

Of course, then came the damn hotel debacle. I've been to San Diego before, this year will be my 4th trip. I've always managed to get a hotel downtown, somewhere. The Doubletree has been the go-to location. This year, with three of us vying for rooms, two of us were shut out completely, and the a room in Mission Valley.

Now, on one level, I'm just happy we got a room, and it's on a 24-hour shuttle route. Not to mention the public transport light-rail option. Plus, with the near-miracle of getting a full-show pass, I couldn't walk away from the trip. On the other hand, I'm struck again by how much of a nightmare going to San Diego has become. Once you're there, of course, the stress falls away and it's just a good time. It's the 6 months leading up to going that becomes unbearable, at times.

Personally, I'm going to try to talk my brothers-in-geekdom into the New York Comic-Con in 2014. San Diego has just gotten too big, and the lack of adequate hotels and room in the convention center has set off a series of dominoes. I understand the need to control the amount of people, I do, but it's making the whole experience kinda ugly. I never thought I'd actually wish for Comic-Con International to pack up and leave San Diego, because the city is beautiful and fun.

But moving the show to, say, Las Vegas looks really good, right now. I also can't help thinking of a quote from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce representative when they were vying to take over the contract from San Diego a couple of years ago, "I have more hotel rooms on one corner than San Diego has in the entire city" (paraphrasing). I believe their convention center is larger, too.

I understand the nostalgic vibe. Like I said, I love going to San Diego. Comic-Con International has been in San Diego since day one, with a group in a basement somewhere. You don't walk away from that history easily, and a move to Las Vegas, in particular, would result in the convention sorta being swallowed by Vegas itself. When the convention rolls into San Deigo, it's like a little "United Nerdom" erupts in the city. You cannot miss what's going on. The whole downtown area shows signs of the influence. Plus, you can almost guarantee you'll run into comic pros on a nightly basis, because they congregate in specific areas. With Vegas, everyone would be thrown to the winds.

So, that's a downside, but now it feels like the SDCC organization is using this lack of space as a marketing tool. Driving demand WAY past any reasonable supply, using the resulting "sold out in an hour and half" stories to up it's media footprint, and perceived power in the pop-culture realm. It feels like this is all being orchestrated in order to guarantee a fan frenzy every year, when you could just move to Las Vegas (or any of a few other options), who clearly want the show, and actually meet the demand. It feels somewhat sketchy.

Anyway, we're going. (Long digression, there, I know.) Hell or high water. I'm behind where I usually am on my saving for this trip, and that makes me nervous, as usual. It'll all work out, it always does.

The rest of the Summer is coming together. The music project is moving forward, though I am still waiting for confirmation on what the schedule will be for the next Meisner class. It just amuses me, my plan for "taking it easy" is basically out the window.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fanboy Insecurity Run Rampant

Never underestimate the irrational fanboy need to be "right." It makes sense, honestly. Most of your hard-core fanboys (certainly myself) grew up feeling outside of anything and everything that would be considered "mainstream."

Yet, in recent years, we have this situation where fanboys have become a driving force in pop culture. With Hollywood falling over itself to make big-budget hay out of almost every cartoon series or comic book I grew up with, my generation of nerdy-types are feeling like the belle of the ball. Everybody wants in our grab our wallet.

The fan reaction to this sort of attention is always the same, and we've seen it over and over, and over again. A sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership. It's good, honestly, in small doses, breeding a deep affinity for these characters and properties. However, I can't think of a single case where this fan-property relationship hasn't turned dark.

Yeah, it's the UK poster, what of it?
The latest place where I see this is over on Rotten Tomatoes, in regards to the critical response to The Avengers (or, I guess the official title is Marvel's The Avengers - there you see Disney ownership in action). At the time I write this blog, on May 1st, 3 days before opening on May 4th, the "tomatometer" rating for the film is 94%. An excellent score, by any rational estimation.

Right now, there are five "rotten" reviews, with 82 "fresh." Now, I look at that and think, "well some people just don't enjoy this kind of entertainment." Part of my growing up as a fanboy made me 100% certain of two things. One is that I like what I like, and I shouldn't ever be embarrassed by that. Secondly, that not everyone is going to like what I do, what?

I love the hell out of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Across the Eighth Dimension, and, when that movie came out, virtually no one else did. Trust me, I've rarely felt as alone as I did sitting through that movie - twice - in a 500+ seat Cinerama theater with 3 other people.

But I loved that I was alone. I loved that Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers were something for me and just a few others. No internet to connect with those folks. The movie was, and is, quirky, weird, and not for everyone. That's part of why it's awesome.

Now obviously, The Avengers (screw you, Marvel's) is supposed to be a much more populist entertainment. Yet, I still wonder, what the hell happened to the sense of the individual in fandom? Why do we see fans getting in such a twist over the film "losing" it's 100% Tomatometer rating?

Worse yet, we see fandom as a offshoot of our current political discourse. Comments on every, single "rotten" review call for that critic to be "removed" (i.e. censored) from Rotten Tomatoes. Or, long, involved, overly fannish diatribes as to why the review is wrong.

I was particularly annoyed by the responses to Stephanie Zacharek's only barely negative response to the film in at Movieline. Where fans, including "Marvel Fan" (*sigh*) take umbrage with Ms. Zacharek's comparison of the film to the nostalgia-fests The Artist and Midnight in Paris (which, to be fair, it's pretty clear she likes more). Why in God's name would a fan be offended at that? Any mainstream superhero movie is, by it's nature nostalgic! If you're offended by that, then you better be offended by the entire way both Marvel and DC Comics have handled their publishing for the past twenty to thirty years!

Critics are not supposed to make you, or the people who made the film, feel better. They're supposed to honestly tell you how they felt about watching the movie in question. Stop acting like their job is to reinforce your personal self-worth by telling you how right you are.

The silliest damn thing about all of this is that the "94% Fresh" rating is never going to stand. Never. Once the mainstream press reviews start coming hot and heavy on Thursday, that percentage is going to drop like a rock. I don't think it's going to fall into "Rotten" territory (below 50%), but I suspect, ultimately, at a guess, somewhere in the 80% range. Respectable, even great, and the film is gonna make a bazillion dollars. With that pretty much assured, I don't see why people fixate on what Cole Smithey thinks. I mean, he's a pretentious twat, but what difference does that make to me?

I also get somewhat bothered about how this impacts my personal interactions. I am more of a fan of Christopher Nolan's Batman films than I am of the "Marvel Movie Universe," even if I enjoy both of them tremendously. I think Nolan makes insanely commercial art, and Marvel makes extremely artful commerce. I wouldn't miss either, but I'll always prefer the former. Upon seeing the latest trailer for Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, I shared it, and my excitement about it, on Facebook.

I was particularly hit by comments that I made being labeled divisive. What I wrote was, "I'm gonna be 100% honest with you folks...Every, single time I see something from this, I stop caring about Avengers." That's truth. I didn't say "Avengers sucks." Perhaps I could've elaborated, explained more, I'll admit, but after being really excited to see The Avengers on Thursday, all it took was less than three minutes of The Dark Knight Rises to make me absolutely more excited to see that.

You may disagree. That's perfectly OK by me. I like what I like, and not everyone is going to like what I do.