Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Mark Lanegan - Duke Garwood Album is Coming. And I’m a Little Nervous
My love of Lanegan is well known throughout the world. Or, at least, throughout my little group of friends. Lanegan has a new album coming out soon with a gentleman named Duke Garwood. It sounds like it could be a bit of continuing embrace of the kind of Americana that Lanegan has often touched on, but there might also be a more “brave” aspect to the music.
And that makes me nervous.
Music, movies, literature that tries too hard to be brave-- to push boundaries too self-consciously-- tends to be the kind of music that I don’t much listen to. I like my music to be lacking in pretension; I prefer it to be straight-forward and honest in its emotions. So, what will this new duo bring? Well, here’s a taste:
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Charlie Sheen Can’t Even Fail Well
According to Fox, some people weren’t impressed with the first show in Charlie Sheen’s “Torpedo of Dumb” tour. I just can’t figure out why.
What did they expect? Did they expect a better class of failure? A more fun kind of public self-destruction? Or perhaps they hoped for some life-changing wisdom from the colossal ego and his porn star/actress “goddesses.” I know that when I want guidance, the first place I look is a hack actor who probably should have been jailed a number of times over for assaulting and threatening the women in his life. Maybe we can all learn something from a man who has managed to skate through all of his most disastrously dumb decisions and increasingly crazy behavior without having to pay anything resembling a real cost. Except, apparently, in his dental hygiene.
If they are really lucky, maybe he will share his way through the mound of cocaine that just has to be part of his rider.
I’m sure that what they really want is just the big drama and unhinged rants that made him even more famous than the exquisitely bad excuse for a comedy whose only redeeming value is that I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for Ducky. They want the car crash and he just didn’t manage to deliver enough blood.
There’s something sad about a man who can’t even fail with enough panache to keep the mob happy.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
The Last Airbender: Ten Point Review
Before I jump into the ten points, let me say this: I really wanted to like this movie. I really wanted the M. Night Shyamalan of Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense to find a way to thrill us again and Darling Wife had the same hopes. Instead, what we got was a muddy story, a silly script, and some of the worst acting I’ve seen outside of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Is M. Night Shyamalan at all relevant as a director anymore? Not that I can see.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Moscow on the Hudson through Fresh Eyes
It has been a long time since I saw Moscow on the Hudson--probably since I was in high school--but I remember liking the movie. Netflix, one of my new bestest friends, streamed the movie into my home tonight and looking at it is a little like looking back into a time capsule. In some ways, it is also like looking at a better version of America.
For those who don’t remember, the movie is about a Russian musician (Robin Williams) who defects in a Bloomingdales in New York City. It follows him from Moscow, through his defection, and through learning to live in America. It isn’t a completely easy journey for him and it shows both him and his adopted country with warts and foibles and a bit of complexity.
With all the references to the old USSR, KGB, and the Reagan presidency, it is a look at a world that doesn’t exist any longer--it excites some of the same nostalgia bursts as Red Dawn without the campy overtones. But if you look past that little, gentle nostalgia, there are also some wonderful moments in watching the immigrants’ journey that put me in mind of an America that lives mostly in my hopes and may never have been entirely real. It glorifies hard work and opportunity over government handouts, it despises hyphenated allegiances at the cost of an American identity, and, in the end, it praises, if you’ll pardon me, the spiritual necessity of liberty over the state-controlled and, theoretically, perfectible society.
Two scenes really stand out to me. First, early in the movie, the immigrant watches a room full of new citizens taking the oath of citizenship. It is very quietly affecting as the judge gives her statement before administering the oath: “Today you will become citizens of the United States of America. No longer are you an Englishman, Italian, a Pole or whatever, neither will you be a hyphenated American. From this day you are no longer a subject of a governement, but an intergal part of the government, a free man.”
Then, nearer the end, when William’s character has suffered an assault and he is questioning the value of freedom when liberty is put to particularly dark purpose, he is reminded by a diner populated mostly by immigrants (a Cuban, another Russian, a Chinese man, and the American server) of the words of the Declaration of Independence. And while, as a scene in a movie it feels almost glib and you would be forgiven for wondering how such a moment might have calmed the anger Williams was showing, I can’t help but enjoy watching these folks extolling the virtues of freedom.
It’s no great movie. The character’s transition, for all the difficulties, still comes too easy. Too scripted. It also makes the emotional choices a little too simple for Williams giving a relatively tidy ending where some of the reality is bound to be messier. Still, I enjoyed it and have to say that a few of the performances are remarkably good. Williams, himself, is wonderful. He’s a good deal better than the script and he gives the whole thing more gravity than it might deserve.
More than anything, though, it was like a visit with an old friend. Not challenging, not new, but warm and comfortable.
Moving from there to Every Which Way but Loose, is particularly strange, though. Time has done precisely nothing to make Sandra Locke’s singing any easier to stomach…
Friday, October 01, 2010
The Not So Bright Life of Zomby
I’m listening to a song that hasn’t been on regular rotation in my iPod for years. Maria McKee’s “If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)”, which I absolutely love. Great stuff.
However, it plays to the worst of my own personal mental defects. It plays to the bits of me that movies, music, and literature to adore the idea of suffering instead of savoring the happiness that life has handed me. When she sings, “If love is shelter, I’m gonna walk in the rain,” I’ll be damned if I don’t want to fall out of love so that I can taste a little misery.
I’ve often said that happiness is overrated--and I am pretty happy--but I meant it in what I thought was an entirely different context. I’m coming to the conclusion that I might just be emotionally allergic to happiness.
And, boy, is that stupid.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Talk About Your Infinite Jests…
To be fair, I tried this with three different posts. I was curious to see if there would be a dominant style. The first post gave me Arthur Clarke, the second was HP Lovecraft, and the third was Wallace. Apparently consistency of presentation isn’t my strong suit.
Thanks to Wheels for pointing this out.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
A Few Late Night Observations
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Midnightish Music Lamenting the Ending of Summer
Louder than my normal midnight musical offerings, the The Raveonettes’ “Beat City” has a kind of has a My Bloody Valentine meets early sixties pop thing going on (which might also explain this little ditty). Mostly, though, it’s a bit of noisy fun.
I hate it when summer starts to go away.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Kindle v/ iBooks
This wouldn’t surprise me in the least:
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Billie Joe Armstrong Embraces His Inner (Very American) Idiot
Britain’s Q magazine--one of a handful of music magazines that I still read regularly--published a sort of musical overview of the last decade that, of course, incorporates a look at the political events that shaped these years. Predictably, my opinions weren’t well-represented. In fact, reading music journalists writing about the musings of rock stars on some of the weightiest issues of our times isn’t likely to wake any slumbering brain cells. It is rarely interesting, it is even more rarely insightful, and it is close to never useful to any larger debate.
Witness, for instance, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s take on Obamacare:
There’s a nuanced view of health care that neither seems to have any understanding of what assistance was in place for the poor before Obamacare nor of any of the practical issues of how to properly administer any healthcare plan. Deep thought is not this man’s strongest suit.
Of course, if he had simply said that I wouldn’t be writing this post. That’s a very tame grade of dumb. What is more impressive is the full-on weapons grade dumb that he exhibits when asked this by Q’s interviewer, “If you went for a beer with Bush, do you think he’d turn out to be quite a nice guy?”
Billie Joe’s answer is, well, inflammatory.
What a ridiculous, silly little man.
If you’re inclined to read the interview, you can find it on page 61 of the January, 2010 issue. Why, yes, I am a little behind on some of my reading. Why do you ask?
Update: Having read the magazine, I find a very specific trend to be intriguing. Of all of the interviews in the issue, when the musicians were asked about the best and worst of the decade, those who went political answered almost unanimously.
Worst of the decade was President Bush. Which seems a tremendous hyperbole when you consider the global economic meltdown, the terrifying natural disasters, and the rise of Real Housewives of Wherever.
Best of the decade was President Obama. Which seems just as tremendously premature. I imagine, though, that his actual job performance won’t be changing their minds.
And precisely none of them mentioned Osama bin Laden, terrorists, or the 9/11 attack. Defining the “worst” thing of a decade is always difficult, but here’s the thing: no matter what you think of former President Bush, he did not go into office intending to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, he had sounded during his first campaign, like a mild isolationist. The worst thing of this past decade could very easily be that thing that precipitated the wars that no one really wanted: the terrorist attacks that murdered thousands of innocents. Not just terrorist attacks in the US, but around the world.
I find it mind-boggling that not one of the people interviewed noticed that the worst “thing” of the decade was the surge in deadly, radical Muslim terrorists working hard to destabilize governments around the world.
I truly love music, but these are not serious people.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
This Ain’t TMZ (The Mel Gibson Edition)
I’ve tried to ignore them, but there’s like a critical mass of Mel Gibson content out there that makes it hard to miss the audio that is being released. And, boy, he’s a mess. There is a scary, out-of-control quality to his anger and he comes across as entirely unhinged.
I don’t feel entirely comfortable listening to other peoples’ fights. It’s like being in a restaurant while the couple in the both next to you is having an argument--I don’t want to know who has done what to whom and I don’t want to see that raw emotion thrown out for everyone to see. It makes me squirm a little and it’s hard to escape the feeling that Oksana Grigorieva is baiting him and poking at him to get the response that she wants. It isn’t pleasant listening and her apparent manipulation doesn’t forgive his threats of violence (and, potentially, real acts of violence) and vicious words.
Here’s the thing: Mel sounds like he’s one bad movie review away from killing someone. I’m not sure if it would be himself or someone else, but if all of those snippets of audio are genuine, then he should be spending some quality time with mental health professionals.
One thing is very clear: the Mel Gibson as public construct isn’t much like Mel Gibson the real person. As we’ve seen more and more of the real Gibson over the last few years, it’s become increasingly hard to find something to like about the guy.
Resurrectionsong isn’t TMZ, but this link will take you to that star-stalking site of celebrity obsessives. I almost feel dirty just for linking to them. Or if that seems like a link to far, here’s one to Fox where you can listen to some of the audio.
Friday, July 02, 2010
I Find Myself Wondering…
...If there is a big spike in folks either Googling or trudging over to YouTube to watch Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.” And, if so, if there is a subsequent spike in secondary searches (from people like me) listening to “Sink the Bismark” again for the first time in years.
Because, seriously, those are awesome songs.
Well, if so, let me simplify your morning.
And then, if you find yourself wondering at my wondering, check this out. I’ve just discovered that my wife doesn’t know either of these songs--has never even heard them.
Her parents neglected to educate her properly. Bad parents. Bad, bad.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Carter Must Be Lovin’ It
Is it just me or has this entire administration seemed a little like one long malaise speech? It’s making the Carter years look positively upbeat.
More than a year on, the message remains just how bad the last administration was, how unlucky they were to have inherited such a mess, and, gosh, life is tough. Here are a few messages I really think President Obama and Vice President Gaff-o-Matic need to learn if they want to do something other than offering excuses for the next few years before being ushered out of office with nothing to show for their effort but a pair of “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts (which I’ll be happy to send on my own dime--assuming I have any dimes left after the program of threatened tax hikes, fee hikes, energy cost spikes, and new health care costs that have been leveled toward me like the barrel of a freakin’ 12-gauge).
Businesses are like consumers: when they understand the rules, when they know the costs and risks, they adjust, they expand, they take calculated risks in hopes of creating reward. The problem comes when the rules and risks aren’t understood, when folks believe that the rules are changing faster than they can keep up have no space from which to take those risks. They have no way to judge whether the potential reward is worth the cost.
None of which changes the fact that Youth in Revolt, (which, in the simplest terms might well be described as a quirky, humorous look at a boy suffering a psychotic break who obsesses dangerously over a pretty girl) is absolutely wonderful. Smart, beautifully shot, entertaining, and morally questionable, it’s still not for everyone. But if the sound of seeing Better Off Dead as written and directed by Wes Anderson sounds intriguing, then this might be the movie for you.
Update: Michael Steele hasn’t quite been the person that I expected when I supported him for his job as head of the RNC, but on this issue I find that I am echoing his words:
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Birthday Presents for the Discerning Screaming Trees Fan
Sweet Oblivion is being re-released on vinyl. Which is freakin’ awesome.
It also might help blunt the pain of the Lee DeWyze win. If that doesn’t, a quick dose of 16 Horsepower might help.
And if you want something a little more light-hearted, try Richard Swift’s “Would You?”
American Idol: The Old Guys Are Better Than The Young Guys Edition
(Spoiler Down Below)
One thing about watching fogies night is the realization that the old, professional singers are, in large part, out-singing their American Idol counterparts. Including some of those who made it pretty far into the show. Including one of the guys who had a chance to win tonight.
Seriously, Lee DeWyze seems like a really nice guy, but his voice isn’t particularly good, he can’t seem to remember (or maybe he just doesn’t appreciate) the melody, he doesn’t connect emotionally to the song, he’s charismatic in the same way that firewood is charismatic, and he’s boring.
I like pop music and my disappointment in the show isn’t a reflection of the songs that they sing (although what I wouldn’t have given to see them have to tackle, say, Corrosion of Conformity night). It’s a reflection of the fact that they pile outrageous praise on vocal performances that simply don’t deserve it like, for instance, Lee’s take on “The Boxer.” He had zero understanding of the emotion or the subtlety of the song and, honestly, it was a horrible song for a night where they were supposed to be singing inspirational songs.
“The Boxer” may be defiant, but it’s hardly inspirational either in tone or in subject--it’s a hard song about someone who, in the words of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, is “born to lose and destined to fail.” Unlike the Ness song, though, Simon and Garfunkel’s boxer keeps standing up to take the next punch. That’s not inspirational because there is precisely nothing in the song or the character they paint that leads anyone to believe that the guy is going to win the fight (much less “win” in life)--he’ll just gather more scars and wish he could find his way home. His life will leave him lonely and he’ll continue to take his solace in “the whores on Seventh Avenue,” but that’s an empty and cold life by anyone’s standards.
Inspirational? I don’t see it.
If he had managed to sing it well, I might have forgiven him, but he didn’t. In fact, of the episodes that I saw this year, there really weren’t a lot of highlights--and what few bright spots there were didn’t come from him.
Tim Urban, with one of the most limited voices on the show, managed one of those high points when he sang “Hallelujah.” While it didn’t capture the emotional wallop of Leonard Cohen’s original (another guy with a seriously limited voice) or the transcendent beauty of Jeff Buckley’s version, but he put heart and soul into the song and came out with something special in its own right. Perhaps it was that he managed the emotional connection that most AI performances simply can’t reach. Or maybe it was that you could tell that he was standing right at the ragged edge of his vocal range and giving his all to make it as good as he could possibly manage.
And Tim--we called him Smiley around the Zomby household--was the picture of good grace. His parents must be proud. He stood in front of judges who were brutal and, week after week, he faced their criticism with good humor and a brilliant smile. Even when you could see that something had gotten through, he didn’t let the smile fail. And, finally, the judges relented, even to the point of almost admitting that they had treated him poorly. Still, he smiled, did his best, and enjoyed his opportunity to be in the spotlight.
He didn’t deserve to win the show, and I’m not suggesting that he did, but he had something that nearly none of the others had this year: a natural charisma and good spirit that had me pulling for him whenever we caught the show.
Tonight, though, the two who had a chance to win were a second-rate vocal talent with little charisma and a much more vibrant vocal talent (and a bit of a throwback to the early late sixties in style) who wilted a bit as the show went along.
And while I enjoyed most of the songs that Bowersox had a part in, the truth is that they were often outshone by artists well past their prime. Did you catch Joe Cocker’s moment? The man still has a bigger voice than anyone else on the show (and Lee positively disappeared beside Cocker and Bowersox in that moment--it was obvious that he wasn’t even in the same weight class).
How about Alice Cooper with his immense showmanship and command of the stage? Or Michael McDonald’s duet with Big Mike? Both of the old guys showed up big (even if the audience seemed largely confused by Michael McDonald).
The truth is that American Idol largely crowns second-rate talents and, while I’m happy for the winners, they are mostly music history footnotes just a few years after they win. Tonight, between these two, the winner should have been Bowersox, but the prize went to a guy who probably won’t be remembered except to the Idol-obsessed masses. He’ll make gobs of money (because there are some big guarantees) and he’ll live the life of a star for the next couple years (more than I’ll ever experience) and he won’t much matter in the grand scheme of things.
With Simon Cowell’s retirement from the show, I’ll be mercifully released from the last, tenuous hold that American Idol has used to lure me in with increasing irregularity.
What a relief.
Soulsavers and Mark Lanegan singing “Can’t Catch the Train.”
Sadly, I won’t be able to use Lala’s features to embed songs since Lala disappears in a few days. PS- If you were in the mood for something louder, this, from the same album, might fit the bill.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Robin Hood: The Ten Point Review
Three stars, then, mostly for the battle scenes, the amazing costumes and sets, the wonderful rapport and chemistry between the lead characters, and the fact that I’m a big fan of knights, swords, archers, and anti-tax sentiment in popular culture. A decent movie, then, but only just. I’m a fan of Ridley Scott, but this is one of his lesser efforts.
If you do find the Robin Hood myths, then Stephen R. Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy is worth your time. It isn’t your standard view of Robin Hood, and purists will be disappointed, but the story-telling and period details are wonderful. Similarly, his take on the Arthur myths are remarkable (give a skip, though, to Avalon, a singularly unsatisfying book and a wholly unnecessary add-on to the end of the series).
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Sad Day for Metal Fans: DIo has Died
Fans of Sabbath, Rainbow, and Dio will all be mourning today.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
All You Zombies…
No, it’s not a call to arms. Neither is it a short story by Robert A. Heinlein.
Well, actually, yes it is both of those things on some days, but I’m not talking about them right now. I’m talking about the Hooters’ song by the same name. It came up while on BYO.fm today--which, more about that later--and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy this song. There’s a touch of synth toward the end that I could do without, but the song itself is awfully darned catchy. It was followed by Arbouretum’s “Pale Rider Blues,” which I believe I’ve talked about here before. If not, then treat yourself to this nine-minute, slow-building dose of dark thoughts. Not to mention that you’ll find the album, Rites of Uncovering, has some of the most impressive guitar solos that you’ll ever find on such a deeply folk-influenced album.
It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is phenomenal.
I suppose the funny part is that after those two picks, BYO sidetracked me into Bernie Mardones’ “Into the Night.” Which, no, I will not apologize…
God bless random picks from my giant freakin’ music collection. The problem with having tens upon tens of thousands of songs at your disposal and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for more and newer music is that you forget to appreciate the good and great stuff already in your library. The same could be said for books. The problem with having a finite lifespan is that there is just too much to see, learn, hear, read, and experience for one, short life.
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