Thursday, September 24

Wednesday, September 23

Epic Win, Dixie

Here's my beloved Vandals with an homage to the hottie with the snotkins I saw pushing a cart around the grocery store earlier today.
I think the lyrics pretty much say it all.
Sorry for the lame footage-less video, my only other choice was a live performance version where the camera was (no lie) locked in on ace studio drummer Josh Freese's kick drum pedal for the full duration of the track. Still a kickass song though (and hopefully one that will cheer wigsf up a little, especially after his reaction to my last post).
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm heading back to the store to stock up on ..whatever.

[Listening to:  The Roots (feat. Mercedes Martinez) - "Clock With No Hands" ]


Tuesday, September 22

Omiai

There are things you talk about when you talk about running. Terms you use when you whisper about kissing. Currency words, unique identifiers.
Passkeys.
There is a look that a lover will give you when they want your touch, but don't want to hear themselves saying it out loud.
A nod of the chin, a curling of a lip.
Criteria to be judged. An idea introduced, like iegara from a trusted Nak┼Źdo.
Hashikake, the bridge.
Onegai Shimasu, the request.
Omiai, the meeting.
"The problem is that you never give me anything." She wrote. "Or to
put it more precisely, you have nothing inside that you
can give me."
All I have is the tone of your voice. Pictures on a refrigerator. Letters and postcards. A ring on a keychain. The flavor of sugar and cream. Ink on a wrist. A bobby pin on a bedside table, forgotten in haste to get back home before the absence is noticed..

We unite these things. Bring them together in our minds like little arranged marriages between practical items and emotional memories.
Separate, but equated.
Reminders in the music. Messages electronic. All but meaningless to the strangers we encounter in the lives we lead alone. Cultures apart, lost in translation
..like passing whispers on a crowded street.

[Listening to:  NIN - "Every Day is Exactly the Same" ]


Monday, September 21

That's My Jam: A Tale of Two Bands

Wake up. Drag yourself out of bed. Check the time. Feed. Clean. Dress Up. Drive. Slide the security badge through the reader by the door. Turn on the computer. Check your voicemail. Check your email. Check your inter-office mail. Fill your coffee cup. Put on the headphones. Scroll with your thumb until it says "shuffle songs."
Like so many other things on a Monday morning, hoping for the best..
Only to get exactly what you need.
I discovered One Minute Silence about a year ago, when I happened upon this song through Internet radio. I'd never heard of them before -- but after getting instantly addicted to this burner I immediately set out to learn more. Turns out they'd had only a quick 3-album run before breaking up, which in my opinion has a lot to do with the fact that this is about the only tune of theirs that sounds like this.
Because unfortunately, like a lot of bands trying to break through in the
late 90's, One Minute Silence began delving into the idea of Rap Metal.
It seems a laughable footnote now, but Rap Metal was a hot trend when it hit. The problem was, most bands that tried to jump into that fray suffered from one of the two following major handicaps:
A) A rock singer trying to rap.
B) A rapper trying to sing rock.
Rap metal is essentially a bad word these days, but when it first appeared it was an idea loaded with crossover potential. Fans (and the bands themselves) don't like to admit it anymore -- but there are several established groups (Korn, Disturbed, and Slipknot come to mind) who got their foot in the door with their own variations of this genre, only to grow out of it about the time the wave started to crest and the record companies started looking at the entire idea as a commodity.

Recognizing the commercial successes of groups like Limp Bizkit, labels started trying to either manufacture hits with put-together groups like Linkin Park or over-emphasize the urban side of the equation by having hip-hop producers mix metal albums, which in many cases tended to sap the overall attitude of the band's recorded musical performances -- leaving in it's wake little more than second rate vocal tracks that essentially had no chance competing against established producers and performers on Top 40 radio.
Best rap metal song I've ever heard? -- 99 Problems, by Jay-Z
The simple truth was that very few rap metal bands even at the height of the style's popularity had anything close to a serviceable, skilled rapper as a frontman. As such, once the initial novelty wore off it became clear that the majority of the bands were just rock guys trying to imitate the styles of more urban artists, and in most cases failing miserably.
When all you have is the suggestion of authenticity, then it's hard to take your message seriously.
And what rock guys rarely seemed to get is that underneath everything else -- rap music was (and will always be) about the message.

When your entire musical style is built on skimming only the surface qualities of another genre, whether it be the beats, the style, or the suggested attitude -- it becomes almost immediately clear that you're not only trying to be someone else, but that you don't really understand where that someone else is coming from at all.

Even worse is that because in many cases you've wired into a false identity, it becomes hard to sustain. We all like to put on masks now and again, but eventually it has to give way to your own style -- which is possibly why many so-called rap metal acts now claim to be something else, not only in an effort to shed that negative connotation, but because there's really only so far most bands can actually go with that style without becoming a flat-out imitation of someone else.

I know it sounds like I'm talking about racial heritage here, like I'm alluding without really saying that white kids should stay on their side of the fence, but honestly -- that's not it at all. Music isn't about what you look like or where you come from, it's about how deeply you feel it. How much you're able to connect the emotional side of your creativity with the mechanical process needed to create sounds from an instrument or a voice.
It takes a lot more than a knowledge of pentatonic scales to play the blues.
Industry writer (and good friend) Adam Bernard recently posted a fantastic article about the decline of actual rap in the era of hip-hop, discussing at length the danger that comes when one genre attempts to assimilate and commercialize another. At the way the negative image that is associated with rap has been in many smoothed over and homogenized by the watered-down rap style that's emerged, leaving actual rappers with something real to say out in the cold.

I will forever contend that there were a few bands out there who got it right, who melded the aggression of metal with the street poetics of rap in such a way that you could bounce your neck to something just as often as you could bang your head to it -- most notably Rage Against the Machine and personal faves Hed(PE), whose first three albums were actually produced and released on Jive records -- but the simple fact is that so many of the other bands who tried on the jacket of Rap Metal in the name of commercial success (as it appears One Minute Silence might have) couldn't do so without in many ways watering down their metal side first.
Which is not to say that I think One Minute Silence is a failure as a band, or that they weren't being true to themselves when they decided to take one direction over another -- but that like a lot of other groups at the time they weren't able to find a path to a sound that authentically represented the contact points of their varying interests, and wounded their own growth when they decided instead to rob the energy of their heavy side in an attempt to try to feed what they felt was their funky one.
It's a shame too, because these guys could flat-out bring it when they wanted to.


[Listening to:  Living Colour - "Burned Bridges" ]


Friday, September 18

Fargin' War

I was working on something. Inspired. Kinda feeling it. I've only been writing sporadically lately, struggling with the words.
Not entirely sure why.
But today, by chance I caught a tiger by the tail and had something going. Not so much a rant, or some article, but something real.. Poetic. Evocative.

Then there was this meeting I couldn't ditch. And this coworker who said he wanted to ask me a question about work, but then turned it into something else. Who did I like in the game, what was I listening to on the headphones?
And just like that, like a pretty girl in a bookstore -- it was gone.
All those words. This whole fantastic groove I was running with..
Audi.
Deuces.
Gonzo.
Like a dream interrupted by an alarm clock that you force closed your eyes and try to recapture, I tried to get it back. Tried to backtrack the themes, the words, the vibe. Replayed the songs I was listening to. Tried to step away and come back, see if I could reset it, like some machine with a glitch.
Couldn't get it. Not yet, at least.
I'm not done fighting, but I think there's a point in the day where you've just got to call it a wash, put it down, and just come back later. I mean, it's all just a part of the game, right?
..fuck that noise.

[Listening to:  Team Sleep - "Ever" ]


Tuesday, September 15

The Kid Stays In The Picture

My panda puppet, it clappeth.
This is a slice of awesome the likes of which I haven't seen since bear-shark-unicorn-surfing. Honestly, I thought keyboard cat was gonna be my new drug of choice, if only because there are only two episodes of Dragon Half apparently available (I don't usually go in for cutesy anime, but when a show is as purely insane as this one it's hard to resist -- seriously, it's Shin-Chan with explosions).
But then I stumbled across this.
Don't even ask me how, either -- because I don't even really know. I was probably chasing the latest Kanye meme, or clicking mindlessly on some twitter-fed nonsense and just sort of happened across this image.

Of course it's entirely possible that this has been floating around the Intarwebs forever and I'm just the last one to discover it. The net is kinda like that, despite it's predilection to burn through viral memes within mere hours of their relevancy (Chrisbrownsbowtie, anyone?) -- but even with all of the cross-networking going on via Twitter and Facebook these days, there's always gonna be some schmuck who emails you in the middle of the night saying, "You gotta check this out -- it's a page full of hamsters, and get this.. they're dancing!"
So all apologies if you've seen this before, but I'm digging on it.

[Listening to:  Deftones - "Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event" ]


Monday, September 14

That's My Jam: Stick Your Stupid Slogan In, Everybody Sing Along

It's a weird thing -- I've always enjoyed Marylin Manson's
albums, but I find the man himself tremendously annoying.
Of course I've never met the guy, but from interview footage and a half-hearted skimming of his autobiography in a bookstore while waiting for a coffee date to arrive I get the impression that the person off the stage is vastly different than the one who puts in the contact lenses and the black lipstick, but in the end it's usually not enough to sway me over.
In the end I usually pick a song or two off the albums, add them
to the iPod, and listen now and again when the mood is right.
Because regardless of anything else, dude could always put together a song when he put his mind to it.

Case in point -- while certainly overplayed to the point of cliche these days, The Beautiful People is in my opinion one of the better rock songs that came out of a time period (and frankly, a genre) filled with just tons of crap. The hook, the riff, the dynamics.. it all just sorta works, which is probably why had so much crossover success when it came out.
Great songs just are.
But like so many things in Manson's universe, it became something else entirely when it came time to showcase it as a calling card. Even when he was arguably the worlds greatest villain a few decades back, it was his performances and media presence that tended to push me away from him more than the perceived abrasiveness of his music or lyrics. I'm no fan of establishment and organized religion, but at least for me there was always something sort of plastic about the Nazi uniforms, the riding crop and the bare-assed antics. Perhaps I was a little to old at the time to find him iconic, too steeped in images presented by the musicians I had liked before he came on the scene to fully buy into it.
I liked the feel of the songs he put out, but all to often it became
sort of a chore to get past all the hype to actually appreciate them.
Even the tune I'm featuring this week kinda suffers upon viewing of the video. Back in the day I used to rock this all the time at the strip club. Raven -- the girl who preferred goth rock as her soundtrack didn't request this particular song the first time I played it, but she always asked for it afterwords.

And why not? There's a vibe to the riff. A mindlessness to the simple cheesiness of the lyrics. The matching of a vocal style to the shifting dynamics. It's almost like if you can close your eyes and do your best not to imagine Manson (and all that the association with that name implies) singing this tune, that the real essence of the song and the inescapable catchiness of the beat really begins to take hold.

Especially when you consider that the overriding message of the lyrics decrying that everything new is just the same old thing in a different package, fed to you by people who don't care it it's good or not as long as it looks a certain way and makes them money applies in many ways more to Marylin Manson and his own marketing machine than it ever could to any of the shadowy puppet masters he's railing against.
Whatever the case, I've always dug this track.
Perhaps a more timely comparison would be Kanye West, an artist who's albums and music I genuinely like and actively enjoy, despite repeated public evidence that the person behind the sunglasses and the music is (and probably will always be) an insufferable douchebag.

It seems almost too easy to point the finger at the overblown sense of self-importance that Kanye and Manson exhibit as the problem. Especially when you consider that it's impossible to avoid those themes of entitlement in the lyrics of songs that I actually enjoy.
Thus the question remains -- why do I appreciate the art of artists I personally dislike?
Do I respect the talent enough to ignore the personality? Does one really need to affect the other? Does it even have any bearing at all? Think about it -- when you go to a restaurant, do you want to know the chef's life story before you order? Of course not -- you just want the flavor of the meal.

There are several artists out there that are easy to dislike almost exclusively because of their personalities (Guns and Roses leaps to mind, but there are many others). Performers whose music I'm not immediately fond of, have grown tired of, or actually dislike that sort of close their own cases with me because of their attitudes. Bands that might actually have some good music hiding in their libraries that in the end I'm not really interested in digging any deeper to find out about.

It reminds me of a fascinating book I read once about the musicians of the Third Reich (many of whom were actually Jews and Slavs) that ordinarily might have had different fates, but because Hitler fancied himself a music lover found themselves in an odd way serving their greatest enemy, perhaps even in certain ways inspiring or providing solace for the soldiers they played for.
The book wondered aloud if these men were also villains.
If art composed or performed in the service of evil was somehow evil itself, or if it could be (as I think many of us might like to think) immune to the environments it blossomed in, exist somehow above the din and the chaos.
A question the author left unanswered. Hanging in the air, like fading notes at the end of a song.

[Listening to:  Jessica Williams - "Spoken Softly" ]


Tuesday, September 8

The Great Shismar Ain't Shit

For better or for worse, I decided to to bring HBO back into my life about a year ago when I upgraded to digital cable. Comcast had sort of a deal happening at the time, and I was growing tired of waiting for the DVD releases of Entourage and True Blood to come out so I could catch up on those shows. We'd had the network at home when I was growing up, and like a lot of kids growing up in the 80's I logged waay to many hours watching it when I probably could have been doing more constructive things.
A trend that I'm finding myself falling into all over again lately.
I think one of the great misconceptions about the 80's is that we all watched MTV nonstop. Granted we did a lot of that, but the thing about MTV was that (much like radio), when a song came on that you weren't particularly fond of you tended to just switch away from it.

But with HBO what almost always happened was that you'd switch to it and end up in the middle of some movie that you didn't instantly recognize, and you'd hang around watching it while you searched the couch cushions for that little colored booklet that told you what movies they were playing. You'd rarely find it (someone would always take it in the bathroom, or lose it altogether) -- but by the time you'd given up on searching you were usually deep enough into the plot of whatever no-name movie they were playing that you kinda felt compelled to finish out the story.

But more importantly, when that movie came on again (and it would, because back then HBO replayed everything to death), you'd watch it again because "Hey, I watched part of this the other day -- but now I can see the beginning!"
Next thing you know, you've seen Red Dawn four times.
Not that it's a bad thing (Red Dawn rocks) But as a result, there's this whole string of movies that for whatever didn't always make an initial splash in theaters that lots of us know and love probably a little too much, because they were always friggin' on.

Action movies like Big Trouble in Little China, Lone Wolf MqQuade, and Point Break. Chick Flicks like Working Girl, He Said She Said, and Adventures in Babysitting. Sci Fi features like Solarbabies, Megaforce, and Silent Running. Moves you didn't really have an interest in seeing, but would watch anyways simply because they were on.
I swear to god the Chevy Chase/Dan Akroyd comedy Spies Like Us was on twice a day for about 10 years running. I like that movie, but even now I wonder if it was because the film itself was funny, or simply because it was on so much that I had no choice but to surrender to the comedy gold that was "the cheating on the special agent's exam" sequence.
Whether HBO realized they were doing this or not I don't know -- although it's entirely possible that in those early days of premium channel cable that there were only so many movies to go around that they had the rights to, and they just cycled them to try to fill in the spaces between the bigger name releases that they showed in prime time, and the pseudo-softcore series they liked to run late at night (The Hitchhiker, anyone?).

The good part of this was that many of these lesser known movies that HBO would show were really entertaining to watch. Especially for kids at an age and a time where going to the movies was more of a special deal than a regular weekend event.

But the bad (and there was a lot of that to go around) was that you also found yourself watching a lot of crap.
Seriously, How many latch-key afternoons did I waste on The Legend of Billie Jean?
And you might find yourself asking -- if the movies were so bad, why did you do it?

The answer is easy. Because if nothing else, HBO and Cinemax have always functioned (as A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin so perfectly coined it) as reliable boob delivery systems.
Simply put: If you were willing to put in a few hours with a bad movie, HBO would reward you with topless women.
So you watched Swamp Thing. You watched Just One of the Boys. You prayed for Fast Times at Ridgemont High to come on. You began to really appreciate horror movies like Wolfen, Chopping Mall, and Demon Knight.

Sure you came to like these movies for other reasons (mostly), but in a pre-internet world where nudity wasn't simply a click away whether you wanted it to be or not (honestly, sometimes I think Google image search is just messing with me) there was almost a magical, magnetic force to films with a little extra skin in them.
And although it's certainly not rocket science -- there was a time when it seemed like
HBO and Skinemax were the only two channels on TV who really understood this fact.
Blank
Anyways, the point I've been trying to get to here (before I distracted myself with this tangent about movie boobs) was that at least for me, all this HBO overload sorta left me with the feeling that there were a series of actors and actresses that I could generally "trust" to pick decent scripts to work on.

In other words, when you were looking through the old HBO guide or looking on the TV guide channel to see what was coming on later and you'd a movie you'd never heard of before starring one of these people, you'd be more likely to give it a shot.
Movie I've Never Heard Of? = Probably not gonna watch it.
Movie I've Never Heard Of with Rutger Hauer in it? I'm there.
It's a theory that works both ways -- because I have an alternate list of people who when I see their names I know the movie is going to utterly suck (*cough cough* Jessica Alba *cough*) regardless of the plot. But in general, this unofficial mental list has served me fairly well when it comes to discovering cool movies I might not have otherwise heard of.

The short list of winners for me includes people like Kurt Russell, Michael Ironside, Lance Henrikson, Donny Yen, Ray Liotta, Eihi Shiina, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Bill Paxton, Jason Statham, and Keith David (but not David Keith).

Of course, names like this usually tend to show up in the Roger Corman type schlock films they tend to play on the Sci-Fi Network, but for someone with my tastes and sensibilities it usually works out pretty good.
It's like my "If Bruce Willis is Blonde the movie is more fun" rule (Fifth Element, The Jackal, and [hopefully] Surrogates).
The only problem is that because my list is built mostly of veteran character actors who tend to take years off between projects, so if the movie channels aren't in the mood to hit you over the head with re-runs, you don't always get a chance to see them.
Or to put it another way, for every two movies Michael Biehn makes, C Thomas Howell makes 10.
Case in point is someone I feel is one of the most underrated actors out there, Dennis Quaid. Dennis has done his share of stinkers (Meg Ryan), but back in my youthful HBO-verload days he did two movies that basically got him a lifetime pass from me. Dreamscape and Enemy Mine

Dreamscape is pretty much what it sounds like, but Enemy Mine if you've never had the pleasure of seeing it is the story of a soldier marooned on a planet with an alien that his race is at war with, and the Odd Couple-ish friendship that develops between them as they try to survive the ordeal. If this sounds sorta stupid, consider that the big plot twist comes when the alien (played by Louis Gossett Jr. of all people) discovers that he's pregnant. Then they spend the next hour or so pretending like Dennis wasn't the baby daddy.
Hey, they were marooned. What were they supposed to do, play checkers?
Anyways, because of these two dumb movies I've always been willing to check out other films that Dennis was in (Sadly, this preference also extended an olive branch to his brother Randy, who's let me down ever since). The results aren't always winners, but most of the time you can count on Dennis to bring it, especially when he's called upon to do an action role.

And I know some schmuck is going to point out that Quaid had a starring role in GI Joe, and offer that as evidence that he sucks -- but I would argue that making that movie in general was a stupid idea, and no one actor or actress was going to be able to turn that sinkhole into anything more than a cash grab, so why not get paid enough that you can make one or two real movies in the next five years?

One of the movies HBO is currently playing too much is called The Express, in which Dennis plays the football coach for Ernie Davis, the first African-American to every win the Heisman. Despite being based on a true story, the movie-about-an-athlete/team/coach-who-fights-racial-prejudice-in-the-50's-and-teaches-the-South-a-lesson-about-equality-and-harmony has largely turned into a bad cliche -- but if you can stand one more shot at it, consider giving The Express a go, because it's actually a better than average take on the idea.
Something I certainly never would have discovered if they'd given the role to Tommy Lee Jones.
The reason I bring all this up is that Dennis Quaid for whatever reason is back on the scene, and has a bunch of movies coming out that I'm really jazzed to see.
Especially this one --

-- NSFW, in a bad language and horror movie type of way.
And while I accept the possibility that a movie about a machinegun wielding Angel could suck, there's no way that it (or his other flick, Pandorum) won't be fun.
And considering some of the crap that's been in theaters lately, I think we could all use a good time on the screen.
I'm probably not the only one who thinks this way. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person in the world who has a list of actors or actresses they'll usually show up for if they're in a movie. Seriously, how else can Kate Hudson's success be explained?
So, who are some of yours?

[Listening to:  Missy Elliot - "Beep Me 911" ]


Monday, September 7

Why Lie


[Listening to:  DI - "Richard Hung Himself" ]


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