Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Now, the song "Dedication" was apparently completed by the rest of the band after bassist-singer Phil Lynott died in 1986, but it's not one of those "Free as a Bird" or anything released by Biggie or Tupac in the last decade kind of things where it's pieced together from a couple of verses and then resampled over a Bob Marley loop. No, this is a full-on, 80's style Thin Lizzy song, and it fucking rocks, albeit in an 80's kind of way. Not that it's like Poison or Motley Crue or anything, because it's played by guys who are actually good musicians (apologies to C.C. DeVille, who actually is a good guitarist and Tommy Lee who actually is a good drummer; they are merely surrounded by dunces).
Anyway, this can only be influenced by that Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal book that I've very nearly finished. I just got to the section where Nirvana is beginning to get airplay on MTV, which marked the beginning of the end for two things: Rock videos on MTV, and videos in general on MTV. So I've been going back through my old CD's and such to listen to them and figure out where and when the music might have gone bad. Personally, I draw the line where Warrant got famous, and any hair band after that just needed to go bye-bye.
A lot of people say that it's all the fucking ballads that killed rock and roll; that it was songs like "Don't Cry" and "November Rain" and "Estranged" that really put people off from ever buying another Guns 'N' Roses CD ever again (although the only one that ever came out after the Use Your Illusion albums was a cover-album named The Spaghetti Incident?). I don't think that's really true, because those videos were more popular than any of the bands' other work. Why? Chicks, and –in the case of Guns 'N' Roses– epic videos. The videos for the ballads were at least an order of magnitude better than the videos for the rock songs, and they appealed to a wider audience. Joe Elliott of Def Leppard once explained it on VH1's "Storytellers" by saying that ballads basically sell albums, and that the band wouldn't be able to put out a good rock song if there wasn't a ballad on the album, because no one would buy it.
So you've got the hair bands going the Firehouse or Mr. Big route, with everyone doing some kind of ballad, and by 1991, the metalheads have either jumped ship and cut their hair, or they're looking for something else. I mean, clearly these groups singing love songs for love, of all things, rather than Poison's not wanting nothin' but a good time, totally alienated their core audience, and the metalheads are like, "So what the fuck do we do now?" And then comes this screaming from Seattle, and over the next year, the whole musical landscape has changed. Five years after that, Kurt Cobain is dead, ska is king, and the guitar solo is totally extinct.
So what killed rock and roll? It got stale. That's all. When you have all of these bands that sound exactly alike (and Henry Rollins covered this very fact in the 2001 show I referenced in a previous post), people are just going to throw up their arms and go, "What the fuck?!" So, by that rationale, the record industry killed rock and roll by milking it for all that it was worth, and then some. Every record company had to have a hair band or two, and the record companies wanted all of them to sound like Poison and have the swagger of Motley Crue. The formulaic nature of verse-chorus-verse devolved even further by overproduction on the albums, to the point where everything sounded perfect.
Now, good production is a good thing, but at some point, the albums started sounding artificially good. These days, we just take it for granted that an album is going to be put together and tweaked in a program like Pro Tools, and that nobody gets an entire song down in one take anymore. Hell, you can't even trust the live albums anymore.
And, I think the last part, the thing that really killed rock and roll is the fact that everyone had become so pretty. I don't mean that in the Bowie-inspired, New York Dolls-throwback, makeup-wearing, gallon of Aqua Net look of Poison or some of the other groups. I mean that in the sense that it had gotten to the point where you had to look good to get on MTV, which totally influenced radio airplay. Why did guys fucking hate Kip Winger? He was too good-looking to be a rock star, and that influenced what we thought of his music. Rock stars are supposed to look like the rest of us, and that's what the years of 1991 to 1995 gave us: Flannel-wearing, scruffy-looking, everymen. And then that wore out, and so did the last gasps of rock and roll.
Let's be honest: John Mellencamp wouldn't exist in this day and age. Neither would Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, KISS, Black Sabbath, or Bob Dylan. For some of them, the music is too literate for the masses of today. For some of them, their first couple of albums didn't sell that many copies, and a label will fucking dump you if your album doesn't live up to expectations. But the common factor amongst all of them is, these guys aren't pretty; none of them. With the kind of influence that MTV (somehow, given that they don't play videos anymore) wields to this day, we wouldn't have some of the best music that history has ever given us.
So, despite my being against peer-to-peer file-sharing, I'm going to say something, and I don't think I'm being hypocritical in the least for saying it: Trade your music with friends.
Okay, see, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead got some people fairly irate because, about a month ago, they asked archive.org to pull their Grateful Dead bootlegs, which they'd always said was free to trade. Now, the issue was over recordings that were actually recorded out of the Dead's soundboards, and was officially released by the band, and the audience-made bootlegs have reportedly been returned to the site with the band's blessing. Point being, though, that peer-to-peer file-sharing is nothing like tape-trading back in the day of the Dead, or how it worked in the early-Eighties, when you'd make tapes for your friends and say, "Dude, listen to this!" and then they'd make a copy for one or five of their friends, and little-known music would eventually work its way across oceans. One of the members of the Dead said (and I agree) that the difference is back then it was community-driven, people who actually knew each other; today you don't know the color of their eyes.
So, if you've got good music that needs to be heard, ask your friends if you can send it to them through Instant Messenger or something. Don't hop on Kazaa or Limewire, or whatever the en vogue peer-to-peer program is. Burn a CD and give it to someone at work. If the band has a website with downloadable songs, point people to it. At the very least, hop on your blog and talk about it. Sing its praises, because the only way good musicians are going to survive in this day and age is by having a community behind them, seeing their shows, buying their music, and just supporting them. Especially for those musicians without record deals, there's an additional point on the most basic level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; the level that includes food, shelter, et cetera:
Artists need validation.
Well, this is teetering right on about 1,400 words, so I'm going to stop now. Think about what I've said, though. Artists need promotion, and –given the rule of six degrees of separation– we can recommend better music to our friends than MTV can recommend to us. We are the DJ's of this new century, so look at your buddy-list; that is your audience. Get broadcasting.
My personal recommendations of the day: Nadafinga (maneuver to the downloads page; I recommend the song "Barker Style" as a starter), and Ass Plow, which is my friend Louie's project out in California. I also like Small Shiny Things, which is an eclectic group that I don't get out to see nearly often enough, and their recordings are totally homemade, but it's good music, and that's what counts.
So, start double-clicking screennames and make people aware of what you like, now.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
On a much more satisfying note, Serenity was more epic than I was expecting. Given the last episode of Buffy, I should have expected something like this, but then again, the final episode of Angel wasn't exactly satisfying. By that, I basically mean the last thirty seconds of the series. And now Angel is a sidekick on one of those, "I see dead people!" shows. Or is it one of those C.S.I. shows? Oh, wait, it's both! Yeah, that's why I'm so fucking dissatisfied with television.
Anyway. Serenity. Good movie. Go buy it. Put money in Joss Whedon's pocket, maybe he'll give you something cool in the future. I bought a couple of seasons of Buffy, and then he put out the absurdly cool Fray graphic novel, so it works!
Anyway, "Panama" just started playing on my iTunes, which means it's time for me to go, because I fucking hate the vast majority of David Lee Roth's work with Van Halen. "Hot for Teacher" is one of those songs that I love, but I fucking hate "Panama." I have no idea what the fuck it means. "Panama, Panama-uh, Panama, Panama-uh-oh-uh-oh-uh-uh." Fucking genius work, Diamond Dave; your platinum record for Skyscraper must be lost in the mail.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
In return, my parents gave me a hundred bucks (nearly enough for four box-sets tomorrow; cashing in on Warner Bros.' rebate offer), a very nifty hand-cranked LED flashlight that never needs batteries, an iKlean variety pack (which does a much better job of cleaning my laptop than the crap I've been using), and –my personal favorite– a pair of Chucks, classic black.
For those of you who either don't remember, or those who have never heard of them referred to as such, Chucks are (I feel like I'm explaining two-plus-two-equals-four) Converse All-Stars, named for Chuck Taylor, whose name is on every pair. My nephew was looking at my shoes, and he's like, "What's so special about those?" So I explained to him that I used to have a pair of them in high school, and when they'd wear out, I'd get another until I wore that pair out, and that they're a classic. "Well, why are they a classic?" I held them up over my head and asked my mother if they had these when she was my nephew's age, to which she told him yes, and he was amazed by this, because that was like a hundred years ago, by his estimation.
The best part is, the Chucks fit, unlike last year's most unfortunate "Boots!" incident, which some of you may remember, where I turned into The West Wing's Toby Ziegler for three days, walking around in a daze, only able to say the word, "Boots!" It figures that after a bad Christmas, I'd turn into a middle-aged Jewish guy.
Anyway, I'm getting paid for this day off of work, so I'd best be productive. I have to watch the last one and a half episodes of Firefly, then watch Serenity, I've got two seasons of Gilmore Girls and two seasons of The West Wing that I haven't even opened yet, the extras on the extended & uncut version of Sin City, Merhcant of Venice, Sideways, and probably a half-dozen other movies that I've watched about five minutes of before starting work on something else. And it's Christmas, which means I have to watch E.T. at some point this week, because I do that every year. The movie's over twenty years old, and I've only seen it five times, limiting myself to once a year, which keeps it from getting old.
And then, somewhere in the midst of all of this, I'm probably going to go to Denny's and sit down with a cup of coffee and finish reading Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, which is like reading the transcript of a rather massive sort of Behind the Music: Hair Bands. Now, when I initially read the title, I thought to myself, "Oho! A book on a musical trend!" and picked it up. The down-side is that it's not so much about the musical trend of heavy metal as it's about the individual bands that made up the genre, and I see a substantial difference between the two. I think that a musical movement is like a gestalt, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and I don't think that the implosion of Ratt or Quiet Riot led to the end of heavy metal. I don't think that the rise of alternative music led to the end of heavy metal, seeing how all of the metalheads I knew in junior high and high school flat-out rejected Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and basically anything else that came out of the 1990's.
So, once I'm finished with that book, I'll start in on the one that strikes me as considerably more fascinating, Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America. I've always found censorship to be a very interesting subject, and I think that Granville Hicks' quote on the subject is absolutely true: "A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to."
And, in closing, the new issue of Rolling Stone with King Kong on the cover is, bar none, the very finest issue of Rolling Stone that has ever been published. It's got their collection of mavericks, rogues, and rebels of the year (including Cindy Sheehan, Kanye West, George Clooney, Billy Joe Armstrong, et cetera), and it labels 2005 as the Worst Year Ever, which is absolutely true. It's even better (and often funnier) than Al Franken's newest book, which I spent considerably more money on.
Conclusions I've come to this year:
- The patriots who founded this country were a bunch of intellectuals who decided to tell the ruling powers to fuck off.
- We need more patriots.
- My generation will save the world, provided my parents' generation doesn't destroy it first.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
First, at least it had a plot. FUNimation's biggest seller, the Dragon Ball series, basically equates to, "My kung-fu is better than your kung-fu; let's fight! AAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!" and then the speed-lines show up. Blue Gender suffers none of that, having an episodic plot that picks up at the end of the previous episode, essentially mandating the viewing of the entire series. It doesn't really at any point go about creating "filler episodes" which have nothing to do with the main story arc and do nothing more than fulfill a contractual obligation to do a certain number of episodes per season (this being my major issue with American prime-time dramas). -Good
Second, it starts out being about a whining little prick-bastard, sort of like every protagonist of nearly every Final Fantasy game ever made, as well as virtually every piece of Japanese animation that doesn't center around kung-fu, vampires, or high school girls who have to save the world from tentacles. Thankfully, he goes crazy after a while, which makes the show considerably less annoying. -Good and Bad
It's got giant robots. -Good!
They don't transform into anything. -Bad!
If you saw the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie (let me begin by saying I feel your pain), you understand what I'm talking about when I say that the Japanese have this thing for the notion that one day Earth is going to really fuck us over and kick us out. Unfortunately, Blue Gender ends up going that route by the end of the series, and it made me throw up a little in my mouth, just because of the similarity to the aforementioned Final Fantasy movie. -BAD!!!
It's got a catchy opening and closing theme song. -Good, because it's catchy; bad because I don't want anyone to know how much I like it.
People die and they don't come back. -Good!
It's not an ADV box set (buy me Gatchaman for Christmas!), so there aren't nearly as many nifty extras as I'd like. And, I'm sorry, but putting the voice-actors' profiles on each and every disc does not constitute having extras on every disc, because I only count those once. And the same goes for the textless opening/closing animation, which just confuses the shit out of me, anyway. -Bad.
It doesn't plumb the depths of the human condition like Evangelion did. That's not really something I can classify as bad, because it's like saying Brokeback Mountain won't be any good because it doesn't include any footage of the gay cowboys eating pudding. Actually, it's nothingn like that, but I just wanted to bring back a South Park joke that's gotta be five years old by now. Anyway, comparing everything to Evangelion tends to be a fast way to disappointment, just as some would say comparing everything to Voltron (either the lion or the vehicle version) would cause nothing but sorrow.
So, like I said, it falls somewhere in the middle. Overall, considering the price was around forty-five bucks, I'd say it was a pretty good deal; I spent a shade over three times that much buying the seven discs of the Platinum Edition of Evangelion until ADV made a box-set of it and released it for around fifty dollars. FUCK YOU, ADV!!! And then there was much the same story with Robotech, but they boxed that one up and included a few discs' worth of extras. FUCK YOU, ADV!!!
God, I hate being a slave to Nipponese animation. I end up paying out the nose for it, and why? Because they ask better questions than American filmmakers. American films are primarily made to turn a quick buck and entertain an audience, preferably having the audience leave the theater after the show with a warm, fuzzy feeling and possibly the urge to come back and see the movie again. However, at no point do American films ever make people question their existence, barring possibly the original Matrix film, which was largely inspired by Japanese films, notably Megazone 2-3.
Japanese films, and the animation even more so, have this thing about the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. If you can work a nuclear explosion into it and a dude in a rubber lizard-suit, so much the better. But the Japanese are a lot better at telling very internal stories, whereas American cinema is very external; we prefer to see the hero battling villains than battling inner demons (unless they are actually demons, whereas we'd like to watch that). And it's that kind of audience that keeps the vast majority of American cinema from ever even aspiring to be classified as art.
Seriously, how would you like it if you went to the local art-museum and all they had there were pictures of dragons holding crystal balls and dwarves holding axes; rejected covers from the latest series of Dragonlance modules? You'd fucking hate it. You'd say, "Where's the Warhol? The Picasso? The Monet?" and they'd say to you, "Americans don't want that shit; they don't like anything that requires interpretation. So we threw all of that out and now if you'll just step around that corner, we've got the new Dark Sun campaign on the walls."
Well, great. Now I've gotten on to a tangent, so I'm going to go now, before I start dissecting why it is that I like the last couple of episodes of Evangelion better than the End of Evangelion movie.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
I haven't gotten any of my Christmas shopping done yet. I have no idea what to buy for my parents, because they're hard to shop for, given the fact that they never tell me what they want, and they never use what I get them. I think that the blow-dryer that I got for my mother last year still hasn't been taken out of the box, and she even asked for that in such a way that I thought that she'd throw out the old one as soon as she got the new one. Of course, by the same coin, I haven't told my parents what I want, beyond, "Peace on earth, good will towards man." In other words, they'll be getting me a gift card or something.
I bought myself a 19-inch LCD for my desktop yesterday, after the 19" CRT monitor I'd been using for the last six years finally crapped out on me and decided that it really liked the color blue. It had been having brightness issues for quite some time, and so I was prepared for this day. So I bought this really nifty Hyundai (yes, Hyundai!) LCD that pivots on its support-arm so I can go from a landscape-style 4:3 aspect ratio to a 3:4 portrait-style aspect ratio. I haven't yet figured out what exactly I'd do with that, but something will occur to me. However, it's the answer to my question as to why anyone would ever have used the NVrotate utility in the Detonator driver set. Note to readers: A 19" screen is just overkill. Of course, if I had the extra $300 of disposable cash, I would probably have gotten the 21" Samsung that caught my eye. My room is also several degrees cooler since the monitor left; I have no idea how much power it was consuming, but my bet is probably a lot.
Here's something that I don't understand: I bought my monitor for a shade over $300, and yet people are spending twice that on 15" LCD televisions. I'm sure that, given some cables or a TV-tuner card, I could probably run television signals on my monitor, so why are people wasting so much money on smaller panels? Oh yeah, they have speakers for the sound, and the users are probably computer-illiterate.
On a 19" monitor, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 can induce some very real motion-sickness while in the first-person mode. I think that riding a virtual roller-coaster somehow messes with the human body, because you're watching this screen, and your body is getting ready for the accompanying G-forces (not to be confused with Gatchaman or Battle of the Planets), which just aren't there, causing your stomach to freak out and spew all over your keyboard. Note to self: Stop making such insane roller coasters with 200-foot nearly-vertical drops. The Magnum out at Cedar Point should not be remade in a computer game. Beyond that, though, it's a largely unremarkable game.
Ooh, I think I'm going to go play some F.E.A.R. now, as that's a fantastic game upon which enough praise cannot possibly be lavished.
Oh, and here's proof that the government is indeed spying on us: A student at U-Mass Dartmouth, writing a paper on fascism and totalitarianism, was visited by agents from the Department of Homeland Security because the student had requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book. The fact that I am noting this in my blog probably means that my room has already been bugged. Oh, another fact that I learned from a story on Slashdot some time ago: Aluminum-foil hats apparently do nothing to keep the satellites from reading your brain frequencies. Well, it was something like that, anyway; point being that they don't work.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
So, when do we get a big-screen version of Knight Rider? Hell, I bet David Hasselhoff would probably do the movie for peanuts, provided it could be shot between his European tour and recording a new album. I mean, how hard could this be, picking up Knight Rider twenty years later? He's got a car that talks and crashes through walls... or what we call a Hummer with OnStar.
And, speaking of great things from the 80's that we'd like to see again, we'll be wrapping up 2005 in a few weeks, calling it yet another year in which Guns 'N' Roses didn't release Chinese Democracy, which has been in the works since 1997. Axl Rose takes longer to put out an album than it takes for me to write a screenplay. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal: If and when Guns 'N' Roses puts out the album, I'll work on my script,.
Here's why: A Boeing 737, trying to land in the fucking snow, skidded off the runway at Midway airport, and then tried to merge with traffic at 55th and Central. I understand the plane was trying to get on to the Stevenson and take Lake Shore Drive up to the Gold Coast to drop off some of the first-class passengers. That last part is a joke, of course, because it was a Southwest Airlines plane, and had no first-class.
Yes, I'm mocking a plane-crash. I'm going to hell for so many other reasons, why not tack another one on the board.
And I just finished watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and I can't, for the life of me, figure out why so many people seem to loathe the movie. I mean, sure Angelina Jolie's hot and all, and her bosoms seem to always be just on the verge of escaping whatever skimpy top she happens to be wearing, but that's not the point; well, the entire point, anyway. It made me laugh on more occasions than most of the comedies I've been watching lately, and did I mention Angelina's bosoms? Anyway, it's directed by Doug Liman, who pretty much always does good movies (The Bourne Identity, Go, Swingers), so that probably helped matters. And bosoms.
Actually, some parts of it reminded me of my relationship with the Bozo Bucket girl; except, y'know, with guns... and bosoms.
And I'm currently doing fifty-hour weeks at work, which has been killing my blogging time, as well as my World of Warcraft time, so I'm really not a very happy camper. Not to mention half of the people I work with seem to be clinically retarded. So I'm going to spend the next hour or two playing World of Warcraft, and then it's off to bed for a wonderful seven-hour day of work, which precedes a thirteen-hour day, which precedes having to open on Sunday. Stupid retail.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The issue at hand is, the movie just doesn't say anything. It makes no comment on society at large, falling victim to the classic event-movie blunder, which is that it was made purely for the sake of entertainment. You'd think that it would make sense that social commentary would be woven into movies with larger audiences, but the reverse is actually true. Event-films are sanitized of anything that could possibly make people think, or even think about thinking, because of the off-chance that it might offend someone so much that they wouldn't consider going to see the movie again or would refuse to buy the DVD.
So, you'd think a movie like Kingdom of Heaven would be the perfect opportunity to get a message across like, "Going to war in the Middle-East is a big fucking mistake, just like the Crusades," but no. I think that's implied around 97 minutes into the film, and it's done in a rather subtle way, which is good, because the pro-war faction of America is too fucking stupid to understand subtlety. Six minutes after that, the movie turns into the part of Three Amigos! where Steve Martin tells the city-dwellers that they can defend themselves from El Guapo.
On the other hand, I recently got a hold of a subtitled copy of Final Fantasy: Advent Children, and it's the single greatest piece of total badassery (probably my word, trademark pending) ever created. While watching it, I only said two words: "Shit" and "Fuck," both of which were uttered in complimentary manners. After I watch it another two or three times and sort through the events of Final Fantasy VII, I'll have a proper review ready.
I've also got a lengthy and largely overlooked review of Green Day's Bullet in a Bible, U2's new live DVD, and Springsteen's Born to Run 30th anniversary box-set over at That's Just Not Right, so check that out. I really wish I'd done something to break up the text a little more, because it's really rather intimidating.
I'll bring back 'teh funny' one of these days, I swear. Right now, though, I'm going to watch The Long Kiss Goodnight, which will always be Renny Harlin's best movie.