Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jonah Hex - Time Traveler, Role Model

From All-Star Western #23 - Written by the great Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - Jonah Hex has time-traveled to the present, and met a bartender named Gina:

Hex: This here country never did seem to have it's head on straight since we kicked them damn Redcoats out. If'n ya ask me we always had a funny sense of justice and equality set ta benefit one group over another.

Gina: But we've come a long way toward fixing that.

Hex: Yer tellin' me ain't nobody dyin' fer a God that promises heaven an' lets ya live through hell? Ain't nobody bein' robbed or murdered or killed fer how they look?

Gina: No. All those things still happen.

Hex: An' that's why ah say give me a strong drink, a good horse an' a willing woman. An' the rest of the world can go ta hell. Now we're gonna do it again, only this time, yer on top.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Actors Do Not Belong to You, Being the Latest "Fanboy Entitlement" Rant

Y'know, stuff like this bugs me, for many reasons.

Now, granted, this is a relatively harmless little bit of, well, fan-fiction poetry. It hurts no one, and it's all good. That said, the underlying entitlement is fairly oppressive, honestly. The inference of a continuing relationship that, simply...Does. Not. Exist.

"Don't be sad, Matthew?" He decided to leave the show, for his own reasons, and he's off to make a movie with Ryan Gosling. Why in the hell would he be sad? I'm sure he's well aware that where he is now is almost entirely because he said "yes" to Doctor Who.  If he doesn't, he's a fool. He has to know that maintaining a relationship with the fans will be useful for his future career.

And, make no mistake, that is what Matt Smith is thinking about right now. What comes next, and how to make his time in the spotlight not about the show, but about him. The way the show, itself, has changed will help him with that, but...if you think he's laying awake nights worried about how long Whovians have to wait for the next series to begin, I think you need a reality check.

"Go to them?" Really? Like he's some sort of holy man?

The 11th (12th if the John Hurt rumors are clear) Doctor is gone, or will be soon. Just like the ten actors before him. They'll move on, to whatever level of success they may be destined for, and do some interviews from time to time.

I'll tell you this, I don't get the impression that ANY of the Doctors from the newer incarnation of the show are interested in carrying on the fan service that people like Peter Davison and Colin Baker have done. You're not going to see Tennant, Smith or Eccelston as fixtures on the convention circuit (MAYBE Capaldi, but only because of his deep ties to Who fandom...he might enjoy it), because, in the way that the show has become personality-driven, these guys are now on the radar of Hollywood.

I think that every fanbase has to go though a point of realization. Where you see that while I'm sure Matt Smith does love the fans, the power, adulation, and attention they brought, he doesn't LOVE you. He's not going to jump in front of a bus for a fan, he's not going to place fans over personal relationships, and he doesn't owe you any of that.

He owes you the performances he's already given that you enjoyed. So, his part of the deal is done, baby.

He doesn't have to hold your hand through the change to a new Doctor, or assure you that it's all OK. Of course it's OK, it's Doctor Who! Regeneration is the name of the game.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Music Update: Haunting, Sammy Hagar and Rival Sons

After yesterday's micro-mini update, I thought I should expand a bit.

Deliverance is done, well, close enough. I reserve the right to go back and tweak all of this stuff for a final mix before I start running off disks. Frankly, while I'm kind of agog with how much I just like the five completed tracks, the only ones that feel "finished" are MonkeySex and The Rain Came Down. The rest sound good, but I think another pass on mixing, effects, and just a bit of re-recording can make them pop a bit more, I hope. Just trying to make something I am (surprisingly) quite happy with sound even better. However, I consider that all "final mixing," and I want to have the tracks set before we go there.

So, I've started on a new track, Haunting, which was a bit of a discovery for me. It was something I had literally forgotten about. I had done a run on it with my 8-track, just me on an acoustic, and it just popped up on my iPod one day. I really think it's some of my best lyrics, and an incredibly simple number. I think the whole acoustic version is Em, that's it, just one chord.

I want to expand that, of course. What I've worked out is kind of a pseudo-"bucket blues" thing, the melody line still works, with some added changes so it's not so, literally, one-note. There's no chorus, per-se, and I still have to work out exactly what I was doing in the bridge section. Even with that, I'm feeling energized and excited about it. The riff is simple but sounds perfect, and , like I said, I think it's some of my best lyrics.

After that, I have 2 more numbers that are "done," in that I know exactly how they work, musically. I need to tweak and edit the lyrics, but they're in good shape. That'll bring me to 8 tracks, and my goal is 10-12. I have some riffs and stuff that I'll start mining at that point. After this stuff that's "set," my plan is to stop worrying about complexity, or if something is "too simple." I'll play, and let it be what it is. Clearly, the amount of time I've spent on this set is way too long, and it's allowed me to over-think everything, over and over again. That needs to stop. Time to go with the gut. Especially since I'm aiming for rockers to finish out the set.

Haunting has helped me see how effective that can be. The recording I found is just me pounding on the guitar and growling, essentially, and it might be the most exciting thing I have on tap.

In other musical thoughts, went with CByrd, Sean H and Kim L to see Sammy Hagar for my birthday on Friday the 23rd. The tour is in celebration of his 40 years in the music biz.

Great show. Starting off with a selection of Montrose numbers, then into solo hits, and Van Halen tracks. I was a little disappointed there was no Chickenfoot represented, despite Michael Anthony being on hand (I mean Sammy and Mike represent half of that era Van Halen AND Chickenfoot). Oh well, guess I have to hope for another 'Foot tour (I skipped the last, just because Kenny Aronoff, who is still a MONSTER drummer, is no Chad Smith, who was the highlight of the Chickenfoot show I saw a few years ago).

What's obvious is that Sammy has a good time, and it's infectious. I really try to stay out of the whole Dave/Sammy Van Halen thing. I love all eras of that band, but the fact of the matter is that Sammy, as a vocalist, is miles beyond Roth (as a frontman, you can debate), and Sammy has managed to keep his voice in tremendous shape. I was blown away by his energy and the sheer power of what his voice can do. Yeah, a huge chunk of his stage antics are fairly rote stuff, but, like I said, Sammy is obviously having a good time, and it's shared with the crowd. That, the undeniable talent on display, and a really strong catalog of material trump just about anything.

I had a blast, and screamed my ass off.

- Space Station #5 (Montrose)
- Rock Candy (Montrose)
- Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose)
- Red
- I Can't Drive 55
- There's Only One Way to Rock
- I'll Fall in Love Again
- Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy
- Three Lock Box
- Right Now (Van Halen)
- Why Can't This Be Love (Van Halen)
-  Best of Both Worlds (Van Halen)
-  Top of the World (Van Halen)
- When It's Love (Van Halen)
- Finish What Ya Started (Van Halen)
- Heavy Metal
- Mas Tequilla
- Knockdown Dragout

- Winding Down
- Eagles Fly

The other story about that evening was the opening act Rival Sons. The mix wasn't the greatest for them, but I was liking enough of the show to check out their latest, Head Down.

All I can say is, wow.

Great band, I'm enjoying the hell out of them on Spotify even as I type this. They have a solid blues-based sound, in many ways what I'd like Hayoth to sound like, ultimately. There's a ton of Zeppelin influence visible in their live show, but they don't sound like a copy. Sean hit the nail on the head when he said they sound influenced by a lot of things, but unique. I'm looking forward to digging into more of their back catalog.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

As Far As MY Jams

I took all five completed tracks and put them on my iPod. thought I'd mess around with sequence, and see what I thought after repeated listens. I put them through the dock and our home stereo, so that CByrd could have a quick listen.

I found myself thinking, "that's not terrible."

Never thought I'd see the day. Truly.

Some stuff to fix, and it certainly isn't a "pristine" production. But it works.

Stuck in My Head - Keep On Swinging

Keep On Swinging
by Rival Sons

One day my prayers are gonna be answered
Soo long I been hungry for something else
Where there's a will n there's a way... cause
The lord helps those who help themselves

Hey, hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin

Right now somebody's counting my money
So much they can't see the top of the stack
There's a will there's away
Moneys gonna find my hand one day and
When it does I ain't looking back

Hey, hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin
Hey I keep my head down but I keep on swingin

Monday, August 26, 2013

Well, So Much Has Happened

Gosh, I take my birthday off work, and the world suddenly starts buzzing. So, let's hit on a few things that happened, and how they are tied together...


Ben Affleck is Batman in our Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman.

Internet explodes with negative commentary.

You people. Seriously. Shatner was right, you need to get a life.

Ultimately, I am good with this casting. In fact, I think it's a really, really good choice after the Nolan/Bale films. Does Affleck have the simmering brutality that Christian Bale brought to the role? Not really, but he does have the sense of keen intelligence that will serve both Bruce Wayne and a JLA-bound Batman well.

The chanting of Gigli and Bennifer, and all that's ludicrous. It's stupid, because far more people bitch about Gigli than ever actually saw it, and it was a long time ago. It was a time that Affleck himself has talked about as one where he lost his way. He dropped back, took some time to himself, started picking projects more carefully, and made some really good films (I urge you to see Hollywoodland, it's really good). Then he started directing, and he made some truly, truly awesome films. Films in which he also gave top-notch leading man performances.

Ben Affleck is hardly a bad actor. Far from it. In fact, take Good Will Hunting. For all the Matt Damon and Robin Williams love that film generated, it's Affleck who nails, completely, the film's best, and most realistically earned, heartfelt moment:

Is Affleck's Batman going to be a dark avenger of the night? Maybe not, but, with Warner Brothers hell-bent on aping Marvel's shared universe playbook (as is Fox with the Marvel properties they've licensed), that may not be the right take, anyway. Driven? Focused? Of course, but the Batman who's hanging out with Superman and Wonder Woman, as is the plan for Affleck's tenure, will have to be less solitary and extreme.

I think.

But, see? What do we know? Nothing. No pictures, no script, not one frame of footage shot. There is no reason to believe he can't be great, just as there's no reason to believe he will be. However, yes, I am an Affleck booster, and I prefer to err on the side of hopefulness. Y'know, outside of the fact it's still Snyder and Goyer running the show.

So, here's an idea...Let them make their movie, and THEN decide if it's any good. See, because the internet is littered with outrage and bitching about casting. Bitching and moaning that, more often than completely unwarranted, and proven baseless. Heath Ledger, Michael Keaton, etc, etc.

So, if you're the guy with the internet petition? Shut the hell up and get over it. I've had enough of your jealousy. Because that's what it is, you all sound like high school kids who didn't get cast in Grease.

Now, on the other side of the coin....

Anna Gunn has a problem with how her character on Breaking Bad, and, by extension, she, herself, has been treated by the internet. Her take is that this is indicative of how the world reacts to "strong women," and that the vitriolic response by the internet fanbase is emblematic of deep-seated misogynist thinking. I have to admit, I take this less than seriously.

Which, I want to be very clear, should not be taken as a dismissal, by me, of misogynist thinking in our society, because I do think we have a long way to go.

That said:

I can only look at this op-ed piece as an actor. What I'm reading is an actress dismayed about how her performance has been received. I feel for her, everyone puts time and energy into a performance, and it's painful when the response isn't what you expected. Bluntly, this "well, people can't handle strong women" thing, it sounds an awful lot like dressing room grousing after Time Out blasts a show I'm in, i.e: "Well, they just don't get it." 

Dear Anna Gunn: Please see Wil Wheaton, RE: Wesley Crusher, for the EXACT same situation, and I mean the EXACT SAME SITUATION. And he was a 14 year old kid with people saying they wanted to kill him, not a full-grown adult actress.

This is not a new issue, and it's certainly not an exclusively female one. Flat out, sometimes writers create (intentionally or unintentionally) characters that people do not like, and the unwashed masses, for good or ill, tend to regard television actors as their characters. Hell, I've, in my vastly less influential way, played TRULY horrible people on stage, and it changes how people react to you in the lobby.

But, see, that's the thing. A pure audience actually shouldn't know the difference. If they don't know you, personally, then you ARE the character. For good or bad.

The characters she mentions, Skylar (Breaking Bad), Carmela (The Sopranos) and Betty (Mad Men), are all created to act in opposition to the central character. OF COURSE the audience, who tunes in to see the continuing progression of said central character, is not going to like these characters. Why would they?

Perhaps, instead of questioning why the public reacts this way, which is logical, she should ask (Breaking Bad creator) Vince Gilligan why he decided Walter's wife had to become an aggressive antagonist to him? Because that's a decision he, as the creator of the show, likely made for specific dramatic reasons. I'd hazard to guess his hope was that the public would react just as they have.

Gunn seems to feel it's odd that more people didn't identify with her character, "a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised." 

I understand her opinion of her character. She's an actress, and she CANNOT judge her character, but, y'know...everyone else, your audience? They get to, and frankly, their opinion, as your audience, trumps yours. Much in the same way that I feel that any creative endeavor can only be labeled "art" by it's audience, likewise, all your preparation, your steel backbone, and opinions of the character, are really not relevant if the majority of the audience feels like she's a bitch.

(Which also begs the question as to if that is really the case. God knows a very vocal, small group of people can make themselves seem like thousands, via the internet. Reacting in the way Ms. Gunn is really only rewards their behavior.)

She then undoes her own argument, frankly, in saying, "That viewers can identify with this antihero (Breaking Bad's lead Walter White) is also a testament to how deftly his character is written and acted." I would respond that, likewise, if viewers CAN'T identify with her much less traditionally awful character, the answer lies in the same place. Why do people hate Skylar? It's a combination of how she's written and how you play her. You cannot remove your own performance choices from the mix.

After all, we have Glenn Close on Damages playing a character that might very well be Satan, and everybody LOVES it. Rosanne Barr was the Queen of Prime Time for years with a grandly acerbic and aggressive character. We love to watch Angelina Jolie kick the crap out of people. It's not like American society has made a blanket dismissal of "strong women," we love the ones that we personally connect to. Unfortunately, it seems Skylar didn't connect with the audience the way you hoped.

Perhaps, instead of running to write this piece as the show was winding down, you could've discussed the direction of the character with Vince Gilligan during the run, and tried to address the issue. Maybe you did, and he refused, in which case that attitude is what you, very rightly, need to be talking about.

Just be proud of the fact that these people care so much about your show to have such strong feelings. Because, that, in itself, is a testament to your work.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bit of Obscure Springsteen Genius

One of Bruce's best songs, only appearing on the Tracks rarities collection.....

by Bruce Springsteen

Well her brains they rattle
and her bones they shake,
She's an angel from the inner lake

Baby's back
This time she'll tell me how she really feels
Bring me down to her lightning shack
You can watch my partner reelin'

She moves up, she moves back
Out on the floor there just is no one cleaner
She does this thing she calls the "Jump Back Jack"
She's got the heart of a ballerina

She's straight from the Bronx
Hung off the line
She slips, she slides, she shops, she bops, she bumps, she grinds
Even them dance hall hacks
From the west side of the tracks
Move in close to catch her timing

She moves up, she moves back
Out on the floor there just is no one cleaner
She does this thing she calls the "Jump Back Jack"
She's got the heart of a ballerina

She ain't no little girl, she aint got no curls
Her hair ain't brown and her eyes ain't either
Round and round and round and round

My heart's wood, she's a carpenter
She's an angel in the night, what she does is alright
Dance with me partner
Dance with me partner
Dance with me partner

Thundercrack, baby's back
This time she'll tell me how she really feels
Bring me down to her lightning shack
You can watch my partner reelin'

She moves up, she moves back
Out on the floor there just is no one cleaner
She does this thing she calls the "Jump Back Jack"
She's got the heart of a ballerina

She ain't no little girl, she ain't got no curls
Her hair ain't brown and her eyes ain't either
Round and round and round and round

My heart's wood, she's a carpenter
She's an angel in the night, what she does is alright
Dance with me partner
Dance with me partner
Dance with me partner

Grant Morrison Makes Me Respect THE KILLING JOKE Even More

I was reading Scott Tipton's COMICS 101, as I often do on Wednesdays....

Which sent me to the latest edition of Kevin Smith's FATMAN ON BATMAN podcast. The relevant section being at about 1:07:35 mark.

Says Morrison:
"That's why it's called The Killing Joke. The Joker tells the 'Killing Joke' at the end, Batman reaches out and breaks his neck, and that's why the laughter stops and the light goes out, 'cause that was the last chance at crossing that bridge."
Here's the relevant page:

I am floored by the sheer obviousness of what Morrison asserts that writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland have done here. I mean, granted this is after the fact, after Morrison points it out, but it's ABSOLUTELY in line with the title of the thing, The Killing Joke, as well as the thematic arc of the story.

In brief, The Killing Joke functions as a origin of The Joker, presenting him as a two-bit, failed comedian, recruited by some hoods to aid them on a heist of the Ace Chemical plant, where our unnamed comedian used to work. The comedian, unable to secure paying comedy work, with a wife to support, and a child on the way, desperately needs the money. The criminals give him a "Red Hood" to disguise him during the crime (The Red Hood was revealed in Detective Comics #168 [Feb 1951] to be The Joker's original criminal guise). During the course of the story, his wife (and child) are killed in a bizarre bottle-warmer accident, he's forced to complete the heist despite this, and he's dumped into the famous vat of chemicals. Emerging as The Joker.

That's flashback. The contemporary story involves The Joker kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, in the process shooting his daughter Barbara (traditionally also Batgirl - but that's never mentioned in this story), taking him to a dilapidated carnival and sideshow. He tortures Gordon, shows him pictures of his maimed daughter. Stating over and over again that his goal is to drive the Commissioner insane.

The MOST relevant line for this discussion? The Joker says:
"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day once. Am I right? I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day and everything changed."
One. Bad. Day.

How else can you describe what Batman endures? His best friend kidnapped, beaten, tortured. His friends daughter (and possibly one of his crimefighting partners), defiled and paralyzed. All by a man who he has, repeatedly, captured and incarcerated. A man he has, repeatedly, refused to kill, either out of pity or his own moral code.

Flat out, Batman is indirectly responsible for the monster called The Joker existing in the first place. He's also repeatedly refused to permanently end his monstrous work. Now, "one bad day" later, those facts have driven him over the edge.

He kills The Joker. Flat out breaks his neck. The laughter on that page stops abruptly, because the joker is now dead, in front of the arriving police sirens. Even after Gordon had warned Batman that it had to be "by the book," to prove to The Joker that the system still worked. The Joker has finally driven his eternal opponent insane.

The Joker wins, even in death.

I've always liked The Killing Joke a whole lot. A whole, whole lot. However, I've resisted it as "the best Joker story, ever" for a lot of reasons. Frankly, I've always felt that Denny O'Neil and Neal Adam's "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (Batman #251 - Sept 1973), or Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers' "The Laughing Fish" (Detective Comics #475 - Feb 1978) truly deserved that crown.

However, this re-evaluation of The Killing Joke's ending changes all that. Mainly because it becomes, literally, the ULTIMATE Batman/Joker story. There can be no more. It's also a deeply unsettling and twisted tale, as all Joker stories should be.

It also makes The Killing Joke EXPLICITLY outside of continuity. Which is the grandest thing of all. Even at 17, when the book was originally published, I felt like what Moore and Bolland had crafted should not, in any way, be tied to the regular books. When Barbara Gordon was suddenly confined to a wheelchair in the regular Batman and Detective Comics monthlies, I felt that The Killing Joke had been cheapened.

I've read a few attempts to debunk Morrison's reading, and I find them just as flawed as those who take umbridge with Christopher Nolan's film trilogy. The fan brain seems to be unable to process the concept of "outside continuity." This obsession with determining if stories "count," or not, is just terribly problematic. There needs to be a realization that truly great stories rarely appear when they have to connect A to B, or worse (and part and parcel of the serialized fiction world) connect A right back to A over, and over, and over again.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Am Not a Number. I Am a Free Man

We are honoured to have with us a revolutionary of a different calibre. He has revolted. Resisted. Fought. Held fast. Maintained. Destroyed resistance. Overcome coercion. The right to be a Person, Someone, or Individual. We applaud his private war and concede that despite materialistic efforts he has survived intact and secure. All that remains is recognition of a Man.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oh, man - This is THE SHIT

Any way you slice it...THE SHIT.

Stuck in My Head - Imaginos

A bit of background.

My friends and I, in high school, were very much into Blue Oyster Cult, and when their final album for Columbia, Imaginos, hit in 1988, our Junior year, we were all over it. It was played over and over and over again in our cars driving to and from class. We loved the album, and the concept (with Stephen King, I believe, involved conceptually - I could be wrong) even if we didn't quite "get" the whole thing.

The album was simply awesome, IMHO ( For example - the version of Astronomy on this record is definitely my preferred one over the earlier version on the Secret Treaties album). Powerful and melodic. Tending further toward a "metal" (which, yes, we were into) feel than most of BOC's catalog. Lots of hooks, even if a lot of the lyrics were, well, anywhere from "cryptic" to "outright hogwash."

It was their final Columbia album, and the final album, period, for over a decade, I believe. It's status as a "Blue Oyster Cult" album is also in a bit of dispute, as it really seems to have been a solo project for drummer Albert Bouchard (the first of a trilogy, in fact). It was recorded over eight years from 1981 to 1988, and some of the members of BOC were barely involved.

I recently found a remastered copy, and have been enjoying a lot of memories.

I'm sure someone will e-mail me a concise rundown of the concept of Imaginos, which involves an immortal knight, Frankenstein, and...well, y'know, never mind.

by Blue Oyster Cult

Imaginos, approached the sun
In August in New Hampshire
Singing songs, nobody knew
And stories left undone

See this fish
His scales turned green under such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun

A tongue and pale of Texas light
Descended on the border
While the bird called Buzzardo
Rattled the bones, he picked the flesh from

See this fish
His scales turned green under such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun

Checking the sign of the Moon fleet
Roll your wheel with mine
Sometimes in the light of day
The truth proves hard to find
Actually this Buzzardo
Was Imaginos in disguise, in disguise

Ooo, Imaginos
Ooo, Imaginos
Ooo, ooo, ooo, Imaginos
Ooo, Imaginos
Ooo, Imaginos
Ooo, ooo, ooo

Imaginos approached the sun
In August in New Hampshire
Singing songs nobody knew
And stories left undone

See this fish
His scales turned green under such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun, such a sun
Such a sun

I'm Buzzardo in Texas, last chance
I'm a pinwheel in Vermont, last chance
And gorge the Bungo Pony
Last chance, last chance, last chance

I'm a rocker a roller and a spinner, too
Below that scene of subterfuge
Last chance, last chance, last chance
Which is

The last chance border
Last chance, last chance, last chance
Last chance, last chance, last chance
On the border
Last chance, last chance, last chance
Last chance, last chance, last chance

On the border
Last chance, last chance, last chance
Last chance, last chance
The last exit to Texas

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Take Me Away

Take Me Away
by Blue Oyster Cult

Strange shapes light up the night
Never seen them though I hope I might
Don't ask if they are real
The men in black, their lips are sealed

Fantasy it fills my mind
To leave this place before my time
Release myself from earthly care
My dream may be your nightmare

I turn my hopes up to the sky
I'd like to know before I die
Memories will slowly fade
I lift my eyes and say
Come on, take me away
Come on, take me away

Come here, girl, close to me
A thousand stars your eye can see
First star we see tonight
I wish I may I wish I might

I turn my hopes up to the sky
I'd like to know before I die
Memories will slowly fade
I lift my eyes and say
Come on, take me away
Come on, take me away

I turn my hopes up to the sky
I'd like to know before I die
Memories will slowly fade
I lift my eyes and say
Come on, take me away

Thursday, August 15, 2013

R.I.P. Allen Lanier

We lost Allen Lanier, one of the founding members of Blue Oyster Cult, yesterday.

BOC was a big band for my friends and I in High School. Much like Rush, Blue Oyster Cult represented a band who wasn't trapped in the "party, chicks, party, chicks, repeat" song cycle. There was a sense of humor, and even depth to what they did. Godzilla, in the live video above, was a personal favorite, not only because of the wit of the lyrics, but then a bit of profoundness:

History shows again and again 
How nature points out the folly of man

Which is a pretty concise thematic statement for the first Godzilla film.

 Lanier played keyboards and rhythm guitar. He also worked with Patti Smith, and even carried on a short fling with her. The band never really got HUGE, but they had their hits. Still, if you like heavy rock at all, the first seven BOC albums are well worth checking out.

Allen Lanier

Stuck in My Head - One More Time

One More Time
by The Winery Dogs

Tell me, what's your drama?
What do you want this time?
Can we finally make amends?
You know I don't like to fight.
Put away the past, cause I don't regret my past.
Give me a second chance, can we get it right, can we try?

One more time, gotta bring you back.
But it's up to you tonight.
Time forgives and so do I.
Give us one more time, give us one more time.

Lookin out for nothin,
I'm tired of making moves.
The games that we play lead to misfortune.
Oh, open up your door and turn up your midnight life
Do you want to be alone, or do you want what you came for?

One more time, gotta bring you back.
But it's up to you tonight.
Time forgives and so do I.
Give us one more time, give us one more time.

I can't help but feel like you're closer to me,
shrouded in your mystery.
Here we are, we're back in love, and that's the payoff.
Come on baby, give it..

One more time, gotta bring you back.
But it's up to you tonight.
Time forgives and so do I.
Give us one more time, give us one more time.

Come on back.
Oh, baby come on back home.
Come on back, give us one more time

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Moment of Awesome

A Moment of Evaluation

Sometimes, I feel kind of lame to have my own tracks on my iPod. I remember back in college, there was a guy I knew who was described as "he plays his own band's music while he drives around." Which, probably rightly, seemed really lame.

Of course, on the other hand. I'm sure I listen to my stuff more than anyone else. Somebody should be enjoying it, right.

Anyway, this is just prologue.

I listened to some of my older tracks this morning, and then two on my newest, and, y'know, I feel like I'm progressing. I still wouldn't all myself a "great" singer, but I'm far more in control of my voice, and open to pushing it, than I used to be. Of course, I'm also just getting better at recording vocals, and have more tools for that job. Even at that, the vocals on the finished version of MonkeySex actually sound...kinda cool, to me.

Do they sound "perfect" or are they all that they could be? Probably not. Sometimes I do still wonder if I shouldn't try to lock down a vocalist.

The older stuff? Some tracks I handled well enough, but most...just cringe-inducing.

All in all, I'm just excited about what's happening. I feel like I've got a set of songs that are of a unified thought process, yet distinct. I feel like my guitar playing is stronger than it has been in a while. Or, maybe I've just come to a place where I don't feel like I have so much to prove. Solos and such, I feel more and more free to just play, and not worry about if it's complicated or technical enough. I mean, I'm just not an overly technical player.

It's been SEVEN YEARS since I last released music. I kinda freak out about that. However, what I'm listening to makes me feel that, while I ain't brilliant, or anything, I have gotten better in that time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Joe Walsh is Amazing

Openly stolen from this wonderful article on Grantland.  

Joe Walsh on fame: "The first thing that happens is that you get some kind of label, and you gotta live up in it, and you just get caught up in that, and I forget what the second thing is."

Joe Walsh on their (The Eagles) big breakup: "So much stuff just happened. You know, there's a philosopher who says, 'As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, nonrelated events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it's overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don't.'"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stuck In My Head - Eagles Fly

After the events of the weekend, I was feeling this song on the way to work.

I have to say, now that I've just pulled the trigger, I am excited to see Sammy for my birthday.

I'm sure some folks out there have no love for Hagar. The David Lee Roth/Van Halen/who's better's pervasive.  I mean, look....Dave is a great frontman, but Sammy is a great singer, and a great frontman. I love all versions of Van Halen, and both guys were great, IMHO...but I care mostly about Roth's solo stuff based on the band he's playing with.

I'll leave it at that.

Eagles Fly
by Sammy Hagar

Sunday morning, 9 a.m.
I saw fire in the sky
I felt my heart pound in my chest
I heard an eagle cry

Now I'm alive, I can breathe the air
Feel the wind, smell the earth in the air
I watch an eagle rise above the trees
Project myself into what he sees


Take me away
Come on and fly me away
Take me up so high
Where eagles fly

I often dream I sail through the sky
I've always wished I could fly
The simple life of a bird on the wing
Oh Lord, I could sing

Hey, take me away
Come on, fly me away
Pick me up so high
Where eagles fly, oh yeah

Oh, yeah

I'm alive, I breathe the air
Wash the earth from my face
I catch a glimpse of another dream
I turn, I look, but there's no trace

Take me away
Come on, fly me away
I wanna fly away
Pick me up so high
Where eagles fly
Oh yeah

Eagles fly, oh, take me away
Eagles fly, oh, take me away
Come on, let's fly away where eagles fly
I wanna fly away, ooh, where eagles fly, yeah

New Day, New Title

Zep is no more. Now, I call it Dark Water, and I THINK it's done. I may muck about with the vocals, but the song works...surprisingly well, honestly. I had sort of come to a point where I was wondering where the acoustic/clean tone guitar part, which was the whole genesis of calling the song Zep, went, but then I realized that I didn't miss it, at all, really.

Now it's not perfect, but nothing ever is. I suspect the lead break/guitar solo is too long, and the progression under it too static.That said, I think it's time to let it go. I could get locked into my own head, and chase "perfection" for ever...and I'll never, ever get there.

So, I'm putting it to bed.

Unless I wanna try another run at the vocal part...

I also started on Deliverance, I've laid down the basic guitar, drums and the bass part. I'm digging it. It's a slower, more open sounding track.

I'm not digging what sounds like a short in my crash cymbal trigger. I worked around it for the drum
part, but I can't, at the moment, get a ringing crash out of it. It cuts off like I've hit it again. Of course, I think that might be vibration in the frame, and I heard it triggering when I hit the snare, at points.

I'll work it out.

The tune is a bit more "open," I think. Lyric ideas, at least to start, are based on the film.

So, yeah..."Squeal like a pig"

Bruce Pays Tribute to Sting

After years of "meh" reactions to anything Sting-related (not involving The Police)...

From the Sting birthday tribute at The Beacon Theatre.

Wow. Bruce crushed it. I'm also going to Sting props, this is an awesome song. 

Early one morning with time to kill
I borrowed Jeb's rifle and sat on the hill
I saw a lone rider crossing the plain
I drew a bead on him to practice my aim
My brother's rifle went off in my hand
A shot rang out across the land
The horse he kept running, the rider was dead
I hung my head, I hung my head

I set off running to wake from the dream
And my brother's rifle went into the stream
I kept on running into the salt lands
And that's where they found me, my head in my hands
The sheriff he asked me "Why had I run"
Then it came to me just what I had done
And all for no reason, just one piece of lead
I hung my head, I hung my head

Here in the courthouse, the whole town is there
I see the judge high up in his chair
"Explain to the courtroom what went through your mind
And we'll ask the jury what verdict they find"
I said "I felt the power of death over life
I orphaned his children, I widowed his wife
I beg their forgiveness, I wish I was dead"
I hung my head, I hung my head

Early one morning with time to kill
I see the gallows up on the hill
And out in the distance a trick of the brain
I see a lone rider crossing the plain
He's come to fetch me to see what they done
We'll ride together til Kingdom come
I pray for God's mercy for soon I'll be dead
I hung my head, I hung my head

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Hate Feeling So Out of Sorts

I cannot get a handle on where I'm supposed to be right now.

My creative energies are scrambled and, well, lost. The love of the work that gave me solace and a sense of self is harder and harder to find.  I find myself longing to shut myself into my "studio" and just make music. Retreat into myself, just as I did in College.

I've found myself thinking a lot about my future as an actor. I don't know if it's just because I'm burnt out, or if I've genuinely just lost my passion for it. The worst thing is, I'm working right now, and it's throwing me off, I can't seem to learn lines, I can't focus. Which makes me feel like I'm letting people down, which just makes me more depressed, and...well, spiral of self-loathing, y'know?

The thing about when I work on my musical explorations, it's just me, y'know? I don't have to ask anyone else to give me an opportunity, I don't have to wait for somebody to allow me to do the kind of work I'm passionate's all me. It's also all me in terms of who I can let down. If I listen back to my latest track, and I think my voice sounds like shit...well, no one has to pay the price but me if I just don't find the strength to fix it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Peter Capaldi and the New Fans/Old Fans Thing

So, we have our 12th (13th?) Doctor for Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi.

Me? I am OVER THE MOON with this choice. Capaldi is certainly the best all-around actor to take the role since Christopher Eccelston. Make no mistake, I have enjoyed both David Tennant and Matt Smith, they have given valid, fine performances, but they have never, for me, reached a depth that Eccelston found. One that made the moments when he flew into a run of hyperactivity poignant compared to the deep sadness his hurt, traumatized Time Lord was carrying with him.

Tennant started out well, but I truly believe he overstayed his welcome. His final "season" of Holiday specials, if you remove the wonderful Waters of Mars, is really underwhelming, all the way to outright crap. His regeneration sequence, as well, marks the creative nadir of the revived series. Exchanging poignancy for outright schmaltz and downright horrid overacting from Tennant. I can't even watch it. It's too awful.

Smith came on like gangbusters, and I was very taken, right out of the gate. However, two factors began to wear on me. One, Smith's portrayal, and I'm not the only one to notice this, was just a bit too close to Tennant's for me. Two, Stephen Moffat's direction for the show has trudged, more and more, to being a "fairy tale." This actually didn't bother me when we were exploring Amy Pond's first year, when Moffat positioned The Doctor as Amy's imaginary friend worked. Then Amy leaves, and you're parking the TARDIS on a cloud.

Which is possibly the dumbest thing I've ever seen on Doctor Who. I've also been a fan since the mid-80's...I have seen a LOT of dumb shit on Doctor Who. That, however, was the first time I said, "are you kidding? What the fuck is THAT!?" out loud to the TV. It's one thing to be low-budget sci-fi, and trying to do big ideas on nothing, and another to have shit-tons of money, and use it to execute something that far outside the accustomed tone of the show.

(I do believe the format is wide-open and flexible enough to encompass a whole lot of different styles and tones. I will go pretty much anywhere, but that bit just seemed to far outside the, science way beyond our kin, but still science, tone that I associate with the show.)

Connected to that, is that the single most exciting thing, for me, with each regeneration was not knowing who The Doctor would turn out to be. Which is why, in hindsight, I'm very disappointed with the production team following Tennant with Smith. Again, neither one was bad, but there was a consistency of energy, and a "hey, look how goofy I am!" quality that, while endearing, was also kind of a violation of the single most exciting thing about regeneration as a plot element. The constant of change.

And, yes, I am an "old-school" fan. Capaldi feels, to me, like the kind of Doctor we haven't seen in a long, long time. A callback to the early days of the show. Physically, he conjurers thoughts of William Hartnell, and there's records of him writing fan letters during Jon Pertwee's tenure. He also, very specifically during his formal introduction as the winner of the role, did a variation of Hartnell's famous gesture of holding his lapels and twiddling his thumbs...which was such a lovely nod to those of us who "got it." If Capaldi can find a way to mix elements of those two readings of the character, he'll probably be able to knock Paul McGann out of my top three.

Ultimately, what is most exciting for me is that this casting...just on a pure demographic level, if nothing else...somewhat signals a desire to change things up. I think it's time for that. Eccelston's (far too short) run felt connected to the old show, but modernized and energized. Tenneant opened those floodgates to a lot of concepts and dramatic twists that, flat out, having an attractive young man at the helm of the TARDIS made possible...

But I'm sick of them.

I am sick of sexual tension between The Doctor and his female companions, for example. Ever since the doomed love affair between the 10th and Rose, this has just always been an issue. Sometimes sub-textually, sometimes right out in the open. I admit, the early days of Amy Pond's outright lust for 11 were amusing, but consider that Tennant's best and most memorable companion wasn't Rose, it was Donna. It was also, hands down, Tennant's best season on the show. That was in no small part to the fact they killed any hint of romance between them right off the bat.

Likewise, I want a return of male companions. Rory was sublime, and Arthur Darvill probably created the single best male companion the show has ever had. However, yet again, as with Mickey in the Rose years, the role of that male companion had to be defined in a romantic sense.

Love? Affection? Commitment? Protectiveness? Absolutely, but I don't think I need to see a companion pining for The Doctor, or worse, The Doctor pining for a companion, again for a very, very long time. An older Doctor (probably) eliminates all of that. It takes him back to the father-figure mode, which is where I think the character operates best.

Also on my list?

Pull a Davison and destroy the damn sonic screwdriver, because it's become WAY, WAY too easy to use it as a "magic fix everything stick." Make the Doctor rely on his wits and cunning, rather than the sonic.

Ease up on the Daleks. We don't need to see them every, single season. Hell, Davison only encountered them once in three years. The last few Dalek episodes have been...."underwhelming" is kind. They used to be surprising and unexpected. I love them, but wait until you have a really good story to use them in, rather than have a "new season? We need a new Dalek episode" mindset (Don't deny it, it's obvious).

(Obviously, the 50th Anniversary episode HAS to have Daleks, at some point...I'll give you that one).

So, I'm really excited. Davison is my favorite Doctor, ever, and he was the youngest at that time, so I'm not against a younger Doctor, but this change is all for the good. It's the most I've been excited about the show at least since Donna came on board, and probably since Eccelston's season, honestly. Peter Capaldi is EXACTLY the kind of actor I wished for, and I cannot wait to see him in action.

Not everyone feels that way. 

Now, what saddens me about that article, and the comments I have personally read, is that it jibes with personal observations I've made regarding the way Doctor Who fandom has changed since the series was revived in 2005, and especially since Tennant came on board in 2006. I can only point to the VAST difference in it's presence at San Diego Comic-Con today, with thousands of screaming fans trying to get into Hall H to see the stars, versus my 2006 Con trip, where the presence was minimal. I realize that fandom, as a whole, has changed over these past 7 years. Becoming more inclusive and mainstream.

But Doctor Who fandom specifically, I feel, has become more personality-driven. That really isn't a bad thing, and there's always been some element of that. Everybody has "their" Doctor, but this explosion in the show's popularity, along with the relative "sameness" of the last two actors, really made me terrified that the BBC would just find another young, pretty guy. Letting demographics and marketing drive creative choices. The fact they didn't makes me far more hope about the future of the show.

Because I have had a lot of bad feeling about the future of this show. The general turn to the "fairy tale" aspects, the seemingly one-note casting. I was going to give whoever got this role a few episodes, but if it was another round of "spazzy puppy" Doctor, I was going to drift away.  I have old episodes I can watch, and that works for me.

I feel a sense now that somebody, maybe it's Moffat, maybe higher up at the BBC, realizes the true strength of the show. That it should surprise, and that each actor who finds himself throwing switches on that console ought to feel fundamentally different from the last. All while keeping the sense of adventure and excitement, of course.

Some of the fanbase won't see it that way. They'll see Capaldi as "too old," or "not sexy," or whatever, and they'll drift away. Frankly, to my mind, those aren't real fans of Doctor Who. They're fans of Matt Smith, or David Tennant, and that's a fine thing. They found a home with the show for a few years while the actor they liked was on board, and then they moved on. That's not good, or just is.

This choice, however, makes me very, very hopeful. How long will he stay? Who'll come after? Will they directly deal with the 12 regenerations limitation, or sweep it under the rug? (I so hope the former)

And if the next Doctor is back to the youthful, hyperactive routine, so be it...because they've given me the variation I longed for. I trust the people pulling the strings are willing to surprise, and I'm in for the long haul.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Givin' the Dog a Bone

I have a very amusing memory about this song. It's tied to this strange thing I've noticed. Girls, who often are no fans of hard rock or metal, often dig AC/DC.

Many years ago, an uber-feminist friend was telling me how much fun she thought AC/DC was. Specifically this song. Mind you, I'm not saying was a huge fan, or anything, but she found them fun to listen to.

Then I asked if she'd ever read the lyrics....

I couldn't help but chuckle at the reaction.

I know. I'm terrible.

Now, I don't read much into this, at all, AC/DC, for all their limitations, write catchy tunes that, yes, you can often dance to. They also just sort of present themselves as such a caricature of the juvenile male mindset (Angus Young performs in a schoolboy uniform, for God's sake) that if you take them seriously, that's really more your problem than theirs.

Givin' the Dog a Bone

She take you down easy
Going down to her knees
Going down to the devil
Down down at ninety degrees
She blowing me crazy
'til my ammunition is dry
She's using her head again
She's using her head
She's using her head again
I'm justa giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone

She's no Mona Lisa
No she's no playboy star
But she'll send you to heaven
Then explode you to Mars
She's using her head again
She's using her head
She's using her head again
I'm justa giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone

She's got the power of union
She only hits when it's hot
And if she likes what you're doing
She'll give you the lot give it everything I got
Just giving the dog a bone

Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone

I'm justa giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
I'm justa giving the dog a bone

Springsteen and I

I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.

 I'm going to be honest about this, I didn't expect a whole lot out of this documentary. I mean, I expected to get emotional over it, because...if you missed it...*I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.* That goes without saying, because I am the target audience for this film. I'd read a few reviews that positioned it that way, as well. Pleasant, interesting, but not revelatory.

I think that's selling the film short. I don't want to over-hype it, but something very interesting, and I think far deeper than simple fan connection was going on here. It goes beyond wanting to feel a connection to a rock star, and, yes, plays into the Springsteen Fan belief that Bruce's songwriting touches something deep an primal. The film really, to me, is about how these people...people who recorded these vignettes themselves, with  no promise of reccompence, look into what Bruce has written, and see themselves. Who feel that going to a Springsteen show isn't just a concert, it's a connection to humanity, as a whole.

Certainly part of that is that Bruce works VERY HARD. There's a lot of performance footage to prove that. But lots of performers work hard, yet, people look at Springsteen on that stage and they see someone that reflects themselves. Who shares intimate stories that feel like your own.

The film, in many cases, is a chance to reciprocate. There are a LOT of really great, personal, and in some cases, intimate stories told, and I think most of these folks saw this film as a chance to thank the man who's brought them a lot of joy and solace over the years.

I was particularly taken with one woman, who shared the story of, as a thirteen-year-old ninth grader in the mid-70's, sneaking out to go to a concert. She worked her way up to the front row, and was lifted onto the stage with Bruce by the men around her, and then gently back down. Ultimately, you realize that what this woman is sharing is her sexual awakening, with that "beautiful man" on the stage in front of her, and the men around her, as she was soaked with sweat in her red silk dress.

I have to admit, she was obviously reading something she had carefully written out, and that made the whole story a little odd and overly flowery. Yet the power of what she was describing, the way it obviously affected was powerful. The emotional truth of what she was describing just transcended the ever-so-slightly overbaked prose.

I also loved the couple who's video mainly consisted of the husband grousing about being dragged to concerts, which, in his opinion, went on WAY too long, by the wife he obviously loved very much. It was lovely, in that it wasn't mean-spirited, and yet truthful.

The English factory worker, who saved up and took a trip to New York to see one of the epic Reunion Tour live shows at Madison Square Garden. Staying in a crappy hotel, eking by financially, only to find their tickets are basically the worst in the house...last row, top tier. Then a man approaches, who, by description, I would guess was Springsteen's Road Manager Terry McGovern, asks to see their tickets. "I think we can do better than that," he says, handing them pit passes and front row seats.

Every Springsteen fan has heard these stories. I teared up listening to this man tell his tale. Sometimes it feels like magic happens, when "the organization" seems to know exactly who needs something special to happen, and when.

I could go on. Some critics have knocked the film for a few self-aggrandizing vignettes, and, y'know, that is true. They are there, but every time it was getting too much, the editors cut to something far more intimate.

So, I enjoyed it, a lot.

I'll share one more of the stories, because, damn it, it was my favorite.

One of the fans, throughout the film, is a greenskeeper for a stadium in Stockholm, I believe (memory is fuzzy), where the E-Street band is playing. The epilogue of the film involves several of the fans having a meet and greet with Bruce (including the mildly disgruntled husband, "we tried to cut it short for ya tonight, but it didn't work out!" says Bruce).

The groundskeeper is quiet and respectful during the meet and greet, when Bruce approaches him they begin to talk about his job. He tells Bruce he'll be back on the field at 10 AM the next day to repair the damage from the concert. The conversation ends...

Then we see an interview with the man after, and he relates that, once the camera were turned off, Bruce returned to the room. Springsteen walked up to him, and removed a leather bracelet from his own wrist, and placed in on the fan's. I couldn't believe how calm the guy was when he described Bruce looking at him and saying, "this is a symbol of brotherhood."

On the way home CByrd and I wondered why Bruce would do that. Was it because the guy was so quiet and respectful? Now I realize, that guy, by putting the place in order after the show, was part of the team. He's part of the machine that makes an E-Street Band show possible, and he wanted to acknowledge that.

I'd have lost it. Completely.

If you're a fan, it's a must-see, obviously. If you're not? It's entertaining, and if you've wondered about the connection that hard-core fans have with Springsteen, the film offers some rather effective first-hand witnessing. It also offers enough silly moments and pure fun so as not to be off-putting.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Geek Girl Quandry

I would guess about four times a day, I see a post directing me to a video such as this.

Which is terrific. And I agree, kids, those ladies have nothing to prove.

But, here's the deal....That doesn't prove anything, one way or another, about the concept of the "Fake Geek Girl." Mainly because when I, and the people I know, refer to "Fake Geek Girls." it's not those ladies.

Geek Girls exist, be loud and be proud.

But Fake Geek Girls exist, too. So do Fake Geek Guys, without a doubt. You see them at every convention. We all have.

The girls are usually in a "costume" that suggests the absolute LEAST amount of effort and detail possible, while exposing the maximum amount of skin. I have seen them, their time is spent exclusively wandering the floor posing for pictures. No panels or autographs for these folks. Sometimes, you'll find out they have a table, signing nude photos and "adult" videos. Their "geekness" is wholly tied to attention or selling something.

The guys? Usually fit the "bro" model. They wander around looking for girls in revealing costumes, and mock other convention-goers. They are loud and obnoxious, drawing attention to themselves, because they are pretty well convinced they're the coolest guys in the room. No panels or autographs for these guys, unless they can enjoy themselves mocking it. They feign "geekness" in order to feel superior.

I am NOT saying this is the norm, or the majority, in either case, but THESE PEOPLE DO EXIST.

I like to refer to them as "assholes," but "Fake Geeks" works, too.

What bothers me is that, when I point out this observation, I'm inevitably accused of being a Male Chauvinist Pig. The anger is not toward those who are clearly perpetuating a stereotype, no, it's for pointing out, quite simply, that giving you, as a "Geek Girl," respect, is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT thing from pointing out that someone is an attention whore.

 I'm certain many of the Geek Girls out there know EXACTLY what I am talking about. There's a big difference between a woman spending hour upon hour, and hundreds of dollars, building a quality, sexy, detailed and accurate Power Girl costume, and one buying a set of Wonder Woman Underoos, a size too small, and calling that a costume (which I have LITERALLY seen on the floor at SDCC). One is cool as hell, the other makes me shake my head.

Are there male members of our Fandom community who don't get that? Oh, you betcha. Who like to lash out and miss the traditional idea of Geekery as a "He-Man Woman Hater's Club?" Of course. I have no patience for that. It should not be condoned or endured.

However, on the other side, I, as a fanboy, also have a problem with the assumption, which is just as pervasive, if not more so, that I can easily be manipulated, or mocked, because I can't get laid.

Neither attitude is useful, correct, or enlightened. They also both exist. I won't pretend they don't.