Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bill Walsh

Coming from the Bay Area in the 80's, I heard about the genius of Bill Walsh for half my life. And the indomitable spirit of Joe Montana. And the "Catch" by Dwight Clark. I heard so much about it I really didn't care much for the 49ers. It didn't help they had so many fair weather fans, when I first started paying attention to football they were 2-14 and had four fans that I knew: My next door neighbor, his son (worshipped Paul Hofer-no, thought he WAS Paul Hofer), a guy named Joe in the 8th grade and my Dad.

My Dad took me to a 49er game in 1982. It was cold, it was long (I never realized every radio and tv commercial resulted in a time out) and the lady behind me got excited that Steve Deberg dropped back for a pass and spilled her entire beer on me. What's colder than Candlestick Park in winter? Candlestick Park in winter doused in overpriced beer that you're too young to drink anyway.

Despite these things, I did enjoy going to the game with my Dad. It was really cool to see a live football game played by professional players. That part is a nice childhood memory, a father/son thing that I would recommend to any, um, father and son. Thanks Dad! And my Dad was a real fan, he wasn't obnoxious about it and he always followed what the team did and discussed what their strategy was. He watched their games regardless of their win/loss record for as far back as I can remember.
But the game reinforced my aversion to all things 49er. They were something like 3-2 after losing the game we went to, still good enough to get the local population excited. They started having more fans who would then give you crap for not being a fan (I liked the Atlanta Falcons, they threw bombs and blitzed constantly. Plus the Quarterback's name was Steve Bartkowski. Say it. Bartkowski. Sounds like Power!), then the bottom fell out and they ended at 6-10 for the year. Their fan base receded back to the four people I knew before the season started.

The rest of the 80's saw the 49ers grow into a dynasty and their fan base grew immensely. Suddenly, they had more than four fans, everyone was a fan and had been a fan since way back when they were 2 -14. I could not stand the 49ers at that point, though looking back I guess it had more to do with their fans than the team itself. They would talk so much trash, the same people who put them down when they were losing were now loyal fans "forever". It was so annoying.

But Bill Walsh, I had respect for him. He took a nothing team and built it into a World Champion franchise through shrewd strategy and drive. How do you defeat a 1980's zone defense? Throw a whole lotta screen and short yard passes. It was ingenius, Dwight Clark and even running back Earl Cooper would lead the league in receiving with less than a thousand yards receiving because they were catching three yard passes. Walsh was willing to buck the macho ethic that every play had to have a big yardage pay off. He understood there was only one statistic that really mattered, the win/loss column.
So, ironically I had respect for the person chiefly responsible for giving those fair weather fans something to get excited about. I stopped following sports about the mid-1980's, but you would had to have been blind and deaf to not know how the 49ers won Super Bowl after Super Bowl the rest of the decade. Like the fancy talking guy in The Matrix, Bill Walsh was the Architect. He was, ergo, they won.

I was saddened to hear of his passing, he had been discussed so much by friends and family for years that he seemed like someone I knew. Like a famous Uncle you never met. I guess I just want to say, thanks for the memories Bill Walsh.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chicago - Stay The Night

I'm determined to bring back the 80's...one video at a time! This video got me hooked on Chicago back in '84, I thought this was one of the last clever videos to be made. The movie was shot like an episode of Chips with car chases, crashes and a lot of bad acting. Peter Cetera did an excellent job of playing the moon faced leading man chasing down the dangerous hard-to-get girl (or in one shot, obviously a male stunt driver). This video started my obsession with the aging balladeers, the song had a playful mood that translated well and David Foster's dramatic sense of over Production. I also love the part where the cars chase through the dried up LA Aquaduct system (Grease and Terminator 2 did the same). So flip up the collar to your Izod polo shirt and get totally gnarly, 'cause here's Chicago in 1984's Stay The Night!

Jet Li's Fearless-Fearless I tell you!

Last weekend I happened across Jet Li's Fearless, a 2006 flick I had an interest in seeing last year. It was hailed as Jet Li's last martial arts epic. After Fearless, there would be no more half shaved heads with ponytails and philosophical tea drinking for this guy. The commercials had me pretty pumped, but the iffy reviews it received made me cool my "jets". Time went by and I forgot all about it.

Fast forward to last weekend, I started watching this movie just to fill some time in the middle of the weekend. I thought it would be one of those movies where I see the beginning, end and then the middle in different segments (I've almost pieced together The Sixth Sense this way. Ohhh, Bruce Willis is dead, that's why his wife won't talk to him. Killed by a New Kid on the Block no less). My wife walked in and was interested, so we decided to watch it together later.

Jet Li's Fearless is a return for Li to his best style of Martial Arts movie, the historical drama full of Chinese pride and cultural superiority over the West. In many, many ways it's reminiscent of Li's classic Once Upon A Time In China series. But in some important ways it's different. In the China series, Li's character is constantly trying to do the right thing. With Fearless, Li spends the first third of the movie almost being a villian-a sympathetic villian, but a villian nonetheless.

Fearless tells the story of Huo Yuanjia, an unbeatable martial artist who thinks the key to life is winning every fight. The story follows Yuanjia from childhood, where he witnesses his Martial arts master father beaten in a challenge and then gets his own butt whipped by the son of the guy who beat his dad (follow that?). Yuanjia becomes bitter and dedicates his life to never losing a fight.

The movie skips to young adulthood with Li as a twenty something Yuanjia. Li's too old to pass for twenty, but he turns in his best acting performance ever in this movie. I'm not saying Li = DeNiro, but for him it's really good. Li captures the desperate need and impetuous arrogance of Yuanjia. Some tragic stuff happens that leads to Yuanjia getting lost in the country before finding his way back with the unselfish purpose of bettering China against Western occupation. Li handles the transition smoothy and is convincing in his role throughout.

The action is terrific, Li can still do chop-socky with the best of them. This was done with some great wire work courtesy of the legendary Yuen Po-Wing (read: the guy who choreographed the flying people in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Best of all, the fight scenes actually serve a purpose in the story showing the evolution of Yuanjia as a character/person (it's based on a real person).

This movie had a lot to say about the importance of personal integrity and fighting both physically and spiritually to be a better person. It falls a little short of the first Once Upon A Time In China movie but still is both visually entertaining and emotionally moving. I definitely recommend this movie.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Number 49

I thought I would never get this far, but here's Number 49 of my 100 favorite CDs.

Number 49: U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)

This album usually shows up in the top 10, if not the best of most peoples all time favorite CD lists. For me, it only ranks number 49. It's not that I don't appreciate the shimmering beauty and surging power of U2's music on this landmark album, it's just a matter of timing.

That timing is 1987, a time when an artist could become oversaturated very easily once they became successful. U2 was one of those bands. When U2 released the Joshua Tree, they instantly became the standard bearer of everything rock critics loved about rock music. Political and spiritual purpose, an original and distinct sound, a willingness to use the media as a platform for their views. It did help that they were actually as good as they were advertised.

But I found that type of oversaturation obnoxious, the same way I did during Prince's Purple Rain or Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA. MTV, Top 40 radio, magazines even movie theaters played the music from these records day and night. Friends and relatives kept telling me I had to like this band. On top of this, their adoration from both the rock music press and religious right made them that much more annoying. I mean, how perfect can one band be?

It wasn't until years later I came to appreciate U2 and The Joshua Tree. The only song I liked at the time was "Where The Streets Have No Name". I thought it was a great song title and liked how the melody rose and fell. It kinda sounded like a helicopter. In the '90's, when I really listened to this album, I came to appreciate the other songs. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" without the hype came across as an earnest search for spiritual meaning. "Exit" sounded claustophobic and harrowing. "Running to Stand Still" had poignancy. "Bullet The Blue Sky"took capitalism to task over a dark, clangy groove.

Joshua Tree isn't my favorite U2 disc, but looking back it was a great one just the same. Now to celebrate getting to Number 49, here's the first 50:

100:David Bowie-Changesonebowie (1990) 99:Loverboy-Get Lucky (1982) 98: Lindsey Buckingham-Out Of The Cradle (1992) 97: Fleetwood Mac-Tusk (1979) 96: Radiohead-OK Computer (1997) 95: Journey-Arrival (2001) 94: Go-Go's-Beauty and the Beat (1982) 93: REO Speedwagon-Hi Infidelity (1980) 92: Steve Howe-Not Necessarily Acoustic (1994) 91: The Cars - The Cars (1976) 90: Journey - Evolution (1979) 89: Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002) 88: Jet - Get Born (2003) 87: Nirvana - Nevermind (1991) 86: Aerosmith - Pump (1989) 85: Steve Miller Band - Greatest Hits (1978) 84: Dokken - Under Lock And Key (1985) 83: Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) 82: Blondie-Greatest Hits (2002) 81: Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1982) 80: Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life (1976) 79: Fleetwood Mac - The Dance (1997) 78: Los Lonely Boys - Los Lonely Boys (2003) 77: X - Los Angeles (1980) 76: The Strokes - Is This it (2001) 75: Red hot Chili Peppers - Californication (1999) 74: Van Halen - Van Halen 1 (1977) 73: Heart - Heart (1985) 72: Yes-90125 (1983) 71: Counting Crows - August and Everything After (1993) 70: Van Halen - 5150 (1986) 69: Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman (1988) 68: AC/DC - Back In Black (1980) 67: Def Leppard - Hysteria (1987) 66: The Smiths - The Singles (1995) 65: Night Ranger - Midnight Madness (1984) 64: Journey - Raised On Radio (1986) 63: White Stripes - Elephant (2003) 62: Cheap Trick - At Budokan (1977) 61: Foreigner - Records (1982) 60: Santana - Best of (1998) 59: U2 - Achtung Baby (1991) 58: Lenny Kravitz - Greatest Hits (2000) 57: Jackson Browne - Best of (1997) 56: Toto - Isolation (1984) 55: Matthew Sweet - 100% Fun (1995) 54: Yes - Close To The Edge (1972) 53: Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time (1989) 52: The Doors - Best of (1985) 51: Bob Marley - Legend (1981) 50: Metallica - Metallica (1991)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Best Week Ever...or I love snarky trash!

While running through various channels on cable tv, there is no doubt that my favorite channels are VH1 and VH1 Classic. It's music television, it's made for old people and the non music programs are vicously sarcastic. When I was but a wee lad, I used to dream about a world where people cussed and were sarcastic all day and then played baseball the rest of the time. A time where my Fonzie look (torn blue jeans and a white T shirt) would be evercool 'cause I was Kid (clap your hands) Dy-No-Mite! Now, thirty years later, that world has arrived (the cussing and sarcasm, I'm not the Fonz). And the biggest sign of the Apocalypse? Best Week Ever.

Best Week Ever is a TV show where a group of comedians riff on the latest gossip and pop culture events. It's made for people with short atten...I like Best Week Ever. The show picks the best trashy moments of the Paris Hilton's, Lindsey Lohan's and Britney Spears of the world. It raises sarcasm to an art form as it is performed by skilled professionals who mercilously shred their targets. It has all the great jokes you wish you said about someone or something, if you happened to know someone else who cared.

As fulfilling as I find all the rampant sarcasm in the media, particularly the internet, I actually do miss a time where these traits weren't omnipresent. Smug, intellectual sarcasm seems to be drowning out any type of sincere communication. Like anything there needs to be a balance of pros and cons, yin & yang and blah blah blah so communication can be found in it's proper context. Or maybe I just don't like that these comedians are funnier than me. Damn you Chuck Nice! (I'm still laughing over his imitation of a baby coming out of Nicole Ritchie and saying "Lionel Ritchie is my granddad".)

I will always enjoy good harsh sarcasm about generalized topics or people I know of but don't really know. But at the same time I'm going to try to remember to Cherish the love. We should Cherish the love we have, for as long as we both shall live. Cherish the love. Cherish the love. Cherish the love. Kool and the rest of the Gang would have wanted it that way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Flight Of The Conchords

I covered this program briefly a few weeks ago shortly after it debuted on HBO. Since then, I've become hooked on this show and is one of the few programs I try to view as soon as a new episode comes out. Flight of the Conchords centers around a comedy-folk duo struggling to make it in New York. They specialize in offbeat, clever humor delivered in a sweet yet deadpan manner. After a few episodes, I've found the show to be pleasantly entertaining with great music videos.

The duo of Jemaine (the tall one with glasses and a faux soul man growl when singing) and Bret (the bearded one with a clipped speech pattern) tackle New York with an innocence meant to be born from their New Zealand upbringing. They have an ineffective manager who mainly works as part of New Zealands tourism department and one obsessed fan along for the ride.

Most of Flight's humor is derived from their overintellectual thought processs and child like emotional innocence. Such as a recent episode where Bret needs a job so he becomes a street sign holder. Bret takes the job so seriously he quits the band and begins wearing a power suit complete with Bluetooth. It's a little like Seinfeld with people who are nice. At times, the jokes are a little predictable but the duo's comic chemestry keeps things going.

The best bits are the music videos with many songs pulled from their live act. The opening episode's "Beautiful Girl" includes great lyrics like "You're so Beautiful / You could be a waitress / You could be a part-time model ." Later in that same episode, when the Beautiful Girl (played by Rachel Blanchard) dumps Jemaine he walks away and starts singing while the Girl is left behind to wonder where he is going or what he is doing. Another song, "If You're Into It", has the band proposing the man and woman could get naked and make love "If that's what you're into" or even have a three way while Bret serenades his girlfriend. The newest episode included one of my faves, "Business Time" where Jemaine fantasizes about mundane sex with the Beautiful Girl . It's great when he illustrates the two minute sex when he says "Two minutes is all you need, because i'm so intense! ".

I don't know if this show will last, Flight of the Conchords is a bit too quirky to ever be really popular. Plus, most of the songs come straight from their live act which means the good songs could be used up quickly. Until then, I'll continue to rush to my tv at 10:30 on Sunday nights to see the latest and greatest from this show.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Giuffria - Call To The Heart

The latest entry in the Flashback section is this Journeyesque power ballad from 1985 called "Call To The Heart" by Giuffria. Giuffria is a mid-80's arena rock band that lasted all of two albums before firing people to become House of Lords. You say who? Exactly.

"Call To The Heart" had many of the qualities I looked for in a song that year. The sparkling, "heavenly" keyboards, soaring guitars, bracing melodic chorus and Steve Perry...or at least a guy who sounded like Perry. Many of the great cheeseball trappings of the decade are on display in this video: the spandex, the wall of hairspray on people's heads, tiger print muscle shirts. It's all here in all it's flashy 80's glory.

This is one of those records I would play relentlessly after coming home from school. I had the 45 for the single edit and later bought the full record bringing me the excellent "Lonely In Love" as well. Many of my high school friends thought it was a joke that I was a fan of this group. In retrospect, Giuffria was not a great band by any means but they did play a style of music that fit me perfectly. So here it is, "Call To The Heart", a top 20 single from 1985. I feel late for the school bus already.

Lifeforce...or the sound of Space Vampires Sucking

I was a little tired today and wanted to watch some mindless entertainment when I came across Lifeforce (1985), a cheeseball sci fi/horror epic I haven't seen since it's original release in 1985. The two main things I remembered right off were 1) it was boring and 2) a girl walks around naked for half the movie. This plus the nostalgia factor was enough for me to dig in for another heaping pile of...Lifeforce!

But something has changed since the last time I saw this film 22 years ago. I've matured, I have a different way of seeing things. And now, I can see this movie wasn't boring but actually an exciting unintentional comedy of epic proportions. Lifeforce, produced by those B movie experts at Cannon films (the home of Chuck Norris in the 80's) is intended to be a blockbuster film of Spielbergian range. The London Symphony Orchestra performs the score, make up and special effect wizards like John Dykstra were brought in and to direct it all was Texas Chainsaw's very own Tobe Hooper. The plot would involve a threat to all mankind. You could virtually see Cannon films pushing every penny both borrowed and owned into this film to make it a hit.

It's that zeal that makes it so fun to watch. Because the movie itself has a junky plotline, bizarre characters and spaceship designed to look like an artichoke. Add ridiculously bad acting, lame effects and Patrick Stewart before Star Trek TNG and bring to a boil. What you end up with is a movie so bad that it all becomes funny, like the funniest comedy I've seen in quite a while.

The plot is about a space shuttle investigating Haley's comet (remember when that was a big deal?) and finding an artichoke, I mean spaceship inside. The astronauts go inside to find stone bats and three naked people in plastic coffins. The lead astronaut has his world rocked by a hot French alien played by Mathilda May. Next thing you know, all the people on the shuttle are dead and so Britian retrieves the aliens. The girl begins sucking the life out of all the guys and possessing the bodies of her victims. The victims she doesn't possess become life sucking zombies themselves or turn to dust if they can't.

That's more plot than anyone needs to know about this flick, because it's not about plot. It is about the fun of watching a bad movie be poorly made with millions of dollars. The special effects are meant to look impressive but instead look like models filmed in someone's basement. The lifeforce energy is represented by a blue light that looks painted on the frames in post production. In a flying helicopter scene you can see the wall of the set outside of the front window. And those aren't the highlights!

Highlights include seeing Patrick Stewart talk in a girl's alien voice and then almost make out with a guy mimicking a seizure while grips throw trash around the room to imitate a possession. Watching really fake looking puppets pretend to be people drained of their "lifeforce" and then exploding in a fury of brown dust. Seeing the surviving astronaut act out his "mental link" with the girl vampire with overblown screaming and sweating in his nightmares and visions. And watching security guard after guard see the girl Space Vampire attacking a person on a security camera and then running to that room instead of alerting other security guards.

Last week I saw the competent comedy Talledega Nights (2006) and though it was entertaining, I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I did at Lifeforce. I won't even bother to go into detail of all the implications that go with a hot naked girl draining men of their "lifeforce" by opening her mouth. All this plus a cast of fifty extras made up to look like thousands and a sweeping orchestral score that outshines anything on screen.

Lifeforce reminded me of all those Steven Benchley and Stephen King miniseries that used to show up on tv in the late 90's. Big cast of has beens, weak special effects and an empty plot padded to fit a greater scale and length. But now, Lifeforce has taken...um, a life of it's own...and become a fine example of misplaced intentions resulting in pure comedy gold.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

World Series Of Pop Culture

VH1 has started up a new round of the World Series of Pop Culture, a show my wife is convinced I should try out for because of my skads of useless knowledge. It's a fun show to watch, it's like Jeopardy for people who watched tv instead of studying during high school (people like me!). The show also does a great job of validating my knowledge of trivial matters like "1983: Rock of Ages, Rock Rock (til you drop), Stagefright" (the answer's Def Leppard Pyromania). I don't think I'll ever win a game show because I missed my chance by not trying out for Rock & Roll Jeopardy but this series has inspired me to spew some of my favorite needless trivia:

*Adrian Vandenberg was in Whitesnake for two years and the only thing he recorded with them was the guitar solo for "Here I Go Again". He was billed on the Slip Of The Tongue (1989) album but didn't actually play on it because of some type of hand injury.

*Actress Rosanna Arquette inspired not one but two classic 80's songs: Toto's "Rosanna" and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes". She must really be something!

*Genesis is the only band I can think of where the established Lead Singer and Lead Guitarist quit, weren't replaced and the band became more successful as a result. Get out of Phil Collin's way, Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett!!!

*Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" says a city boy came from South Detroit. There is no South Detroit.

*X wing pilot Wedge Antillies appeared in all three of the original Star Wars films and survived two attacks on the Death Star. Good shooting Wedge!

*In the original Star Wars films only three human women were shown: Princess Leia, Aunt Beru and the girl who tells the Ion Cannon to fire in Empire Strikes Back. Now we know the true reason why there was a Star Wars-the Rebel Alliance and Empire were too horny to think straight. And none of them were as cute as that girl who tells the Vipers to launch in the original Battlestar Galactica.

*The communications station senior officer at the start of Star Trek:The Motion Picture (1979) that gets eaten up by V'Ger was originally hired to play Mr Spock's replacement in a second series of StarTrek TV shows starring the original crew (minus Leonard Nimoy 'cause He Was Not Spock at the time).

*Jean-Luc Picard is supposed to be French, not British. That's not really trivia, but you know that Star Trek episode where Picard returns home to visit his French brother at the family winery. Hilarious! Picard (Patrick Stewart) is about as French as Toad in a Hole and Queen Elizabeth. Tea. Earl Gray. Hot.
*Terri Nunn of the band Berlin was in the running for the Princess Leia role in Star Wars.

*James Marsden appeared in two superhero movies last year: X3 and Superman Returns

*Firing drummer Aynsley Dunbar leads to big success. He was fired from Journey after their first platinum album but before Escape (1981), he left Jefferson Starship shortly before it became the more successful Starship and he was fired from Whitesnake just before they hit it big as well. He's a great drummer but like the Tiki doll of rock.

Well, with Whitesnake I have come full circle and can stop for now. That's the power of Whitesnake people.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth: Crisis? What Crisis?

Sorry, couldn't help referencing Supertramp after watching the other recent mega-concert-the snooze inducing Tribute to Diana. For the most part, the Tribute was dull with English native Joss Stone providing the only modicum of excitement. The only part of the show that really stood out was watching Roger Hodgson of Supertramp fame dragged out of hibernation to play a greatest hits medley. Apparently, Princess Di was a huge Supertramp fan (who knew?) and watching Hodgson stumble over his words with his puffy shirt and long, wavy unkempt hair reminded me of a mad scientist who hadn't seen the Sun in a few decades. The bordom of the show brought on some dread for the upcoming 24 hour version, Al Gore's Live Earth.

Fortunately, Live Earth was leaps and bounds ahead of Tribute to Diana. Live Earth took the original Live Aid / 8 format of placing concerts in arenas on all of the major continents for an all day bash. Also, live Live 8 the show was intended to raise awareness rather than money resulting in an endless scroll of names flashing on the screen throughout the day. In another nod to Live Aid / 8, a huge load of talent was used with both musicians and Hollywood stars to fill all the programming needed. So, what was the difference?

As a concert, Live Earth beat the recent Live 8 at their own game hands down. Maybe inspired by Al Gore, all of the artists tried to bring their "A" game for this show. Even perfomers that played Live 8 faired better this time around, particularly Bon Jovi (with a newly sober Richie Sambora) and Dave Matthews Band. Madonna, Kanye West and Duran Duran are among the other repeat performers. Madonna wrote a song just for the event, the Roger Watersish "Hey You" (Waters performed later that day as well). Like Live 8, there were special combos such as Country star Keith Urban teaming up with R&B singer Alicia Keys for a fiery version of the Stone's "Gimmie Shelter". And though they couldn't boast a reunion on scale with Live 8's Pink Floyd, recently reunited bands like The Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Genesis and Crowded House brought some hype in.

So, other than the quality of performances, how did Live 8 differ from Live Earth? For one, Live Earth had way better television coverage. Live 8 frustrated the viewer by showing only segments of a song instead of a whole song or whole set. To make it worse, Live 8 was treated as one big infomercial. Live Earth showed whole songs and/or whole performances. In the US, the coverage leaned towards rock creating a series of rock anthems being played in a row making one person (me) very happy. A brief synopsis of the performances I saw:

Genesis: "Land of Confusion" and "Invisible Touch" happily bounced along and had the audience involved. Phil Collin's was the least likely to get censored, but he was when he used the F word during "Invisible Touch".

Keith Urban with Alicia Keys: "Gimmie Shelter". Kick. Ass.

Pussycat Dolls: Everything was fake but the lead singing. "Buttons".

AFI: Unexciting goth rock

Joss Stone: A soul live wire just like her Tribute to Di performance. "Tell Me 'Bout It."

Madonna: Pleasant, but what was with her stradling power stance during the songs? My wife accurately pointed out she looks like Shelly Long now. "Hey You" and "Ray of Light".

Duran Duran: After playing Princess Di's show as well, they should just start living at Wembley Stadium. I really wonder if "Girls On Film" really makes people think of global warming though.

Dave Matthew's Band: The most "on" I've ever seen them anywhere. I even enjoyed "Don't Drink The Water". The rest of the set was mostly slow, but they blazed through "Too Much" like a house on fire.

Kelly Clarkson: Continues to push her career as that of an artist by giving strong perfomances of "Never Enough" and an acoustic ballad. Seemed to sleepwalk through her obligatory delivery of "Since U Been Gone". Hate to say it, but Clive was right: Clarkson is too lightweight a talent to be an artist with a capitol "A". She has talent, but she's no Chrissie Hynde.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: fine take of their hit "Dani California"

Rhianna: She played the hit with the Soft Cell sample to good effect. Nice body suit straight out of the Salt & Pepa "Push It" collection.

Lenny Kravitz: Tore through "Are You Gonna Go My Way" with a vengence.

Metallica: Strong performance of "Enter Sandman" with James Hetfield sporting a ZZ Top Beard.

Bon Jovi: His country tinged Arena Rock translated well in Giant's Stadium. Richie Sambora looked alive and alert for the first time since 1990. Rehab helps! "Lost Highway", "It's My Life", "Wanted Dead Or Alive", "Who Say's You Can't Go Home" and "Livin' On A Prayer" were all played.

Roger Waters: Came up with a good pastiche of Pink Floyd, "Money" and "Another Brick In The Wall" with a child's choir.

Foo Fighters: This band seems forgettable until you hear them. Dave Grohl led his band through a rousing rendition of "Best Of You".

Smashing Pumpkins: Together again...sort of. Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chaimberlan team up with another girl bass player and bowl hair cut guitar player. To her credit, the girl was a better player than the original bass player despite her Courtney Love get up. The whole enterprise reeked of 1994. "Revolution" and "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"

Beastie Boys: Decked out in green suits and real instruments, they banged their way through "Sabotage".

The Police: At least they found a mutual beat they could agree upon. Decent, but not spectacular. Lacking in fun until John Mayer and Kanye West came on stage for "Message In A Bottle". Other songs-"Driven To Tears", "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You".
In a way, Live Earth did fail below Live 8 in terms of achieving an actual object beyond the music. Live Earth existed only to bring awareness to the Greenhouse effect which was successful, but apparently there were seven points we were supposed to get as well. The points are:

1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become 'carbon neutral;'

3. To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4. To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5. To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

The goals all sound good, maybe I'll try them out. Live Earth did not really shed much new light on the situation of global warming, but in terms of a global rock concert it was fantastic. I was happy to see Tipper Gore keep a low profile as she spent the 80's trying to stop some of these bands. If it's one thing these Gore's no how to do it's think green (Gore junior was probably high on pot the whole time) and Al pushed his message to the people.

Live Earth did not make me feel there was a crisis of any type (the red and white circles did make me feel this was a Target commercial) but was the best world wide concert ever. So, it was both a failure and a success. That's gotta be Inconvenient!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Independence Day and the Boss

The July 4th holiday just went by, a terrific holiday celebrating our Declaration of Independence from Britain. I originally thought I would celebrate by writing about freedom and the 4th of July in general, but after spending some time with my wife I found a better angle. So here it is.

Independence Day has special meaning for me because there were two Declarations of Independence for me. The most recent one happened on July 4th, 1999 when my wife and I moved out of my mother-in-laws trailer and into one of our own. I'm not complaining about my mother-in-law, it was very nice of her to put my wife and I up for a couple of years. It just felt great to have a place of our own. We no longer had to adjust our schedule to fit someone else's because we owned the trailer. We no longer had neighbors directly on our wall like when we lived in an apartment either (neighbors suck when they blast their music/tv and beat on each other 'til one of them cries).

As music is such a part of my life it's normal for me to equate a song to this. The song "Independence Day" by Bruce Springsteen is a pensive ballad about a person's rite of passage in moving out of the parents (in this case Father's) house. The song, about moving out of the house from your parent, is moving in it's wary caution and pride in leaving. It's on the Hungry Heart (1980) album and the Live 1975-1985 box set.
The second Independence Day (chronologically the first) actually happened on July 5th, when I asked the woman who would become my wife out on a date. We were watching fireworks while working at a major Northern California theme park when I asked her out. Then I had to dodge the Lead because she was on duty and I wasn't. July 5th is one of our anniversaries and we always think of that night when we watch fireworks (the first movie we saw together, Sleepless In Seattle, added to that a bit also). To paraphrase Green Acres, you are my wife-Bye Bye, single life!

Our song, Springsteen's epic "Thunderroad", is a poetic ballad about getting out of their town before family and economic opportunities force them to stay. "Thunder Road" is a great ballad with dark, urgent lyrics about taking one last shot at chasing your dreams. My wife and I used to sing this song together often (privately - no one else should have to endure my singing voice. Unless you're into pain!) while we were dating. The lyrics go:

The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porchAs the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinkingThat maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me
You can hide `neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vainFor a saviour to rise from these streets
Well now I'm no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's busting openThese two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back - Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road,
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road, sit tight take hold, Thunder Road
Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely and there's words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach roadIn the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone on the wind
So Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.

There are many versions of this song, our preference is the live version on Live 1975-1985 (1986). It has some nice piano and an intimate feel to it.

Before meeting my wife, July 4th was really just another holiday with hot dogs. Now it is a day I can celebrate my marriage and the freedom our great country gives us to spend it together. And the Boss is the soundtrack to the whole thing. My wife just walked into the room and "Born to Run" just popped up on the IPOD at random. Meant to be!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Get Well Soon Grandma!

In a non-media related post, my Grandma fell down Monday and broke her hip. Tuesday, my wife and I visited her in the hospital and she had a successful operation to repair her hip. Grandma will be receiving additional care to help her with healing from the injury, she is a strong willed person and I hope her recovery is quick.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Number 50

It's been another gap between updating my favorite 100 CDs, but we're starting off with a good round number. Waltzing in at Number 50 is...

Metallica - Metallica (1991)

Remeber when Metallica rocked? I mean really rocked in that brutal, uncompromising take-no-prisoners kind of way. I do and here's the last time it happened, a "beginning of the end" in a way. After spending the 80's establishing a cult following as the best speed metal band on the tour circuit, Metallica slowed down and focused their sound to more of a hard rock feel. The result? One of the best selling albums of all time! The band gained fans and became the top hard rock band for the next decade. This fame and fortune would lead the band to turn their backs on what made them great to instead concentrate on finances and marketing (read: GREED) but when this album came out none of that had happened yet.

Metallica the album saw the band connecting with producer Bob Rock to tighten and successfully commercialize their sound. Starting in the early 80's, Metallica ranked side by side with Slayer as the best of their breed. Agressive speed metal with heavy riffs, fast beats, complex arrangements and snarling vocals were the order of the day. After spending all of the Reagan Administration dealing in what would be their creatively fertile period, Metallica decided a change was needed following the rambling, over thought (but not less powerful) ...And Justice For All album (1988).

Gone were the epic ten minute songs and in it's place were shorter, more consise songs. The classic "Enter Sandman" with it's sub-Sabbath riff and locomotive rhytm gained the band video and airplay that it never had before. Softer ballads like "Nothing Else Matters" and "The Unforgiven" added to their success by showing a softer (but not mushier) side. The Road saga "Wherever I May Roam" followed their Led Zep "Stairway To Heaven" style of build up to a T. Occasionally, the groups speed metal origins would leak out on the stampeding "Through the Never" and "The Struggle Within."

Best of all is the acerbic "Sad But True". "True" has another of those Sabbath style riffs layered under the barking vocals of James Hetfield. I love the song's attitude, how it soldiers on through adversity in the face of struggle and indifference. Another favorite is the rampaging rocker "Holier Than Thou". Maybe it's my distaste for my religious school upbringing that revels in how the song takes zealotry to task, but that opening line "No More / Crap rolls out your mouth again" and the chorus tag "Holier Than Thou / You Are / Holier Than Thou /You /Know not!!!" speaks volumes to me.

After this incredible high point, Metallica would take five years (!) off to raise families and buy mansions. When they returned, Metallica had gone from the leaders of rock to followers. They desperately foisted themselves on a Lollapolloza tour and cut their hair to blend in with Alternative acts. To make sure they didn't lose a single penny of their millions of dollars, they pursued the downloading program Napster with the ferocity of pit bulls fighting over a small piece of meat. The fact that the band's initial cult following grew out of home tape copying and they had already made enough money to run a small country meant nothing to them.

Other tracks, like the slamming beat of "Of Wolf and Man" or the bass heavy "The God That Failed" also were memorable. All in all, Metallica deserves it's classic status as a must have album. They have better albums, but none as well known as this one.