Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Twenty-Eight Years

My post from three years ago says pretty much everything I have to say.

However, I was struck by the video that's recently surfaced.

Never forget the courage, the sacrifice, and that the crew of STS-51-L, Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Payload Specialists Greg Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe, believed in man's place in space.

RIP Pete Seeger

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fourty-Seven Years Ago Today.

The Apollo 1 fire.

Lost were Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom (one of the original 7 Mercury Astronauts), Edward H. White II (the first American to perform a space walk), and Roger B. Chaffee (on his first NASA mission) were lost when a first broke out in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the command module during a "plugs-out" test of the craft on the launch pad.

All three men were dead within 30 seconds of asphyxiation and severe burns.

Grissom, White and Chaffee
 The heat and pressure were so great that the command module's hull ruptured within 15 seconds.

The accident led to many changes in the construction and design of the Apollo Command Module, and the sacrifice, however undeniably tragic, helped in making future Apollo missions safer.

Whatever your belief, God bless the first men who gave their lives for what I consider mankind's greatest achievement. Who willingly risked all so that man might leave Earth, and stand upon the moon.

Well, I Think It's Pretty Cool

Lotta hate going around.

The piano solo before the riff-o-rama bridge is a little odd, I'll admit, but I liked the intro.

(Video content now blocked)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Powerpuff Controversy

Please go read this article.

The cover in question
Mimi Yoon was commissioned by Cartoon Network and IDW to re-imagine the Powerpuff Gilrs in her signature, clearly anime-influenced (not to mention owing something to those BRATZ dolls), style. Obviously, she made them older, but what I see are three teen girls who's poses reflect the characters as we know them, standing in triumph over a defeated enemy. (She even got a variation of Blossom's "fists on hips" stance)

(Mojo Jojo, to be exact, who's pretty much just a massive Asian stereotype, but no one really wants to tackle that issue.)

My first thought upon seeing it? "Cute." Nothing more, nothing less. The proportions of their bodies don't feel overly exaggerated (ok, aside from the eyes/heads - but that's a long time anime trope), and the poses seem innocent enough. Based on the art itself, I don't immediately think, "not for kids."

Not liking the style is a whole 'nother matter. I'm personally not a huge fan of anime, as I find the big eye thing kinda creepy. However, I can also recognize talent, even in styles I'm not overly fond of.

You can take some task with aging the girls, but is it inherently wrong to imagine that Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup might grow older, and continue to be heroic? That seems like a pretty empowering thought, to me. Which goes along with Dirk Woods' response:

I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. 

Fan art
Are there people out there with anime fetishes, for example, who might be aroused by this? Oh, you bet, but, as I've asked before, do we really want a society that judges, and moves to censor, everything on the level of those furthest outside the norm? Does the fact that maybe 10 people out of a hundred get boners negate the 90 people who may just see a pretty cool re-interpretation of the characters?

Take the fan art to the right, it's the same concept, The Powerpuff Girls grown up, and the style is far more realistic, clearly using models to set the poses. It also strikes me as much more sexualized than what Yoon created. All supermodel bulging boobs and hitched hips.

Of course, that's fan art and not official IDW/Cartoon Network material. It is a difference. And there's FAR, FAR worse fan art out there...believe me.


It is a matter of perception, I admit. With such a personal thing like sexuality and eroticism, it always is. Some people are into babyism, different strokes, folks.

When Dennis Barger looks at Mimi Yoon's art he sees sex. I see three heroic teenage girls. His interpretation of them wearing "rubber fetish wear" is also not the first thing that came to my head, either (looks like a pretty standard, anime-influenced, "superhero" costumes based on the outfits from the show).

I honestly can't help wondering if that says more about him than the art itself.

And now, of course, IDW and Cartoon Network have pulled the cover.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Monday...er, Thursday With The Boss: Part 18 - High Hopes

The announcement, on November 25th, 2013, of this album's impending arrival was a bit of a surprise. The "rumor mill" had mutterings that the E-Street Band had gone into the studio while touring Australia with Tom Morello standing in for Little Steven Van Zandt.

It was only a few weeks between the announcement of the new album, and release of the title single, and when the album dropped on January 14th, 2014.

I was excited, as I am always excited with a new Springsteen release. That said, the format this project shaped up to be was a little disappointing to me. The are relatively few "new" Springsteen compositions on the record, unreleased leftovers from projects reaching back to The Rising. I am a big fan of this sort of thing, and Springsteen's Tracks box set, a hodge-podge of alternate takes and leftover songs from the first 20 years, or so, of his career, is pretty much on constant rotation for me.

The rest of the tracks consist of covers and Springsteen compositions that are pretty familiar to fans. Songs that have become associated with Morello's "special guest" guitar work. Again, I'm a fan of what Morello's guitar work brings to the E-Street mix. I know a lot of people aren't (Hello Matt K), but I dig it, and Morello's presence at the Wrigley Field shows was a true highlight. The first time I heard a recording of Morello sitting in with the band for The Ghost of Tom Joad, my mind was blown. It still is, every time I hear it live. I was excited to see what Morello would bring to the recording studio.

Thing is, I simply wish that, instead of billing High Hopes as "The NEW Springsteen Album," the record had gone out as a (much) briefer version of Tracks. A way to clear some good numbers off the shelf that Bruce wanted to get out to the public, but didn't fit with the original albums they were written for. Harry's Place, aside from sounding too much (title-wise) like Mary's Place, is a pretty damn cool track, and it has no place on a powerful, directed statement like The Rising album. So, I'm happy to hear it released, and I really like what Morello added. Likewise, The Wall is a really fantastic number about the Vietnam Memorial. I'm over the moon that's it's available to me in high quality, but the connective tissue is tenuous for what I've come to expect from a "New Springsteen Album."

I think the most disappointing thing is the studio versions of tracks that are widely available in live versions. American Skin (41 Shots), one of Springsteen's absolute best protest songs, has a live, and definitive, version on Live in New York City. What Bruce cooks up in the studio simply can't touch what was captured at Madison Square Garden.

The Morello-fied The Ghost of Tom Joad is great, but it's pretty much the exact same arrangement (and guitar solo) that could be found on the Magic Tour Highlights download released to support the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. Frankly, the energy and power of the live version is not captured in the studio version.

Not to beat a dead horse, but again, if you want the definitive version of Bruce's cover of Suicide's Dream Baby Dream, with The Boss solo on a small pump organ, it's right here. (Side note: I was actually in the house when he played this song for the first time on the Devils and Dust tour at the Rosemont Theatre - it closed every remaining show of that tour, and it was an amazing, stunning performance) Adding more musicians doesn't add to the power of the song, and the intimate feeling I had with Bruce the 3-4 times I saw it performed live. The studio version simply doesn't add anything.

Lest it seem like I HATE this album, or something, there is lots to like here. The three tracks above are all good and listenable, but simply unneeded. The Wall is worth the whole purchase, and I've really taken to the title track (written by Tim Scott McConnell) and the Just Like Fire Would (written by Chris J. Bailey) covers.

Nothing here is "bad," it just doesn't coalesce into what my expectations (admittedly high) are of a "New Springsteen Album."

After receiving my (early - I feel so important! ;-) ) copy of Kathy Zimmer's latest Static Inhabited (which you should download RIGHT NOW - it's terrific), I immediately reached out to tell her how much I loved the song order. I felt weird, honestly, after I sent it...it seems like faint praise, "yeah, the songs are in a nice order." Thing is, what I was trying to get at is that her record felt like a unified whole, with a flow of music that took me on a journey. That's how I feel about pretty much every Springsteen album.

High Hopes doesn't make it, and it's really just because of my expectations of a "New Springsteen Album," if I'm honest with myself. If the marketing had placed it as what it truly is, a collection of leftovers and sundries that are absolutely worthwhile, but aren't a unified vision, I'd probably be singing this record's praises.

Favorite Tracks
High Hopes
Harry's Place
Just Like Fire Would
The Wall

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Feels Appropriate (Times Two)

Written in 1927
By Max Ehamann (1872-1945)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly
and listen to others,
even the dull and ignorant
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing future of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be careful.

Strive to be happy. 
Written in 1895
By Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

So Much Going On

I have been lax in my blogging.

More than lax, honestly. I've downright ignored it, with some exceptions.

The fact is, things have been piling up here. Be it The Shadow Over Innsmouth, or starting rehearsals for Golden Boy, I've been feeling nothing but overwhelmed for the last few weeks. Getting sick didn't help. I didn't work out for TWO WEEKS, and, by now, you should all know how much that bothers me.

...And Getting Dollars Back is out there. Hayoth exists. A few people have downloaded tracks, or the whole album. I thank those who have, and who have taken the time to listen. I am feeling the urge to start working in that direction again....

But I also have to fucking get off book for Golden Boy. Somebody asked me if it was just a lot of dialogue, or if I was old. I said it was both. I feel so tired. I figure it's a offshoot of being sick, and the miserably cold weather we've been enduring here in Chi-town, which is understandable, but still...I need some energy.

I've been WAY into Kyuss, lately. Probably because I've been thinking about recording some more tunes, and Hayoth has always had some Kyuss inspiration.

50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)
by Kyuss

I am drinking
I am rolling (you can't stop me)
I am hiding
I am running (you can't stop me)

But I'll never forget you (anyway)
But I'll never forget you (anyway)
But I'll never forget you (anyway)
But I'll never forget you

I am drinking
I am rolling (you can't stop me)
I am running
I am rolling (you can't stop me)

But I'll never forget you anyway
But I'll never forget you anyway
But I'll never forget you anyway
But I'll never forget you

See our family to realize
As it's running down today
I love the city love the day

No fool for you
In this I am
I'm never gonna run about

Monday, January 6, 2014

For My Money...

The best version of this song, ever.

Magic Bus
by The Who

Every day I get in the queue
(Too much, the Magic Bus)
To get on the bus that takes me to you

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
I'm so nervous, I just sit and smile

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
Your house is only another mile

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
Thank you, driver, for getting me here

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
You'll be an inspector, have no fear

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
I don't want to cause no fuss

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
But can I buy your Magic Bus?

(Too much, the Magic Bus)

I don't care how much I pay

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
I wanna drive my bus to my baby each day

(Too much, the Magic Bus)

Give me a hundred
(Magic Bus)
I won't take under

(Magic Bus)
Goes like thunder

(Magic Bus)
It's a four-stage wonder

(Magic Bus)
Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus
I want it, I want it, I want it...

(You can't have it!)
Think how much you'll save...

(You can't have it!)

I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it ...

(You can't have it!)
Thruppence and sixpence every day
Just to drive to my baby
Thruppence and sixpence each day
'Cause I drive my baby every way

Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus...
I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus, I want the Magic Bus...

I said, now I've got my Magic Bus

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
I said, now I've got my Magic Bus

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
I drive my baby every way

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
Each time I go a different way

(Too much, the Magic Bus)

I want it, i want it, I want it, I want it ...
Every day you'll see the dust

(Too much, the Magic Bus)
As I drive my baby in my Magic Bus

(Too much, the Magic Bus)

Friday, January 3, 2014