Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Sho Time!!!

I was sitting with my wife watching Ninja Warrior who was enjoying watching her favorite competitor, Makoto Nagano. In fact, she has a fan page on a link at the side of this page about the most recent Ninja Warrior winner. Also on the program were Kane and Shane Kosugi. They appeared a few times on the program and Kane even dramatically lost in the final round (he went home literally crying in the rain). That's not to say they're athleticism or ability isn't impressive, but watching the Kosugi brothers made me think that they need their dad to Sho them how it's done. I'm talking the last known Ninja (that I know of), Sho Kosugi.

I grew up on B action movies produced by Cannon films. "Invasion USA", "American Ninja", "Death Wish 3"...these were classics to me. And one of my favorite stars was Sho Kosugi.
Sho had the iron face of a jackyl and the moves of a ...well, ninja. To say he was agile and badass is an understatement. I couldn't find it, but there was one movie where he did a running start and flipped over a concrete wall and landed on his feet atop of a parked car on the other side. He was known for being trained in the actual Ninja arts, not just the pretend stuff. Plus, he had that great name: Sho. Me and my friend would come up with excessively lame ways to use his name to comment on the movie action. "It's Sho Time!", "That Sho'ed him", "Sho'en how it's done", "Sho what!" , I'll Sho you (also a play on the Japanese word Shoyu for Soy Sauce)" were all phrases we used during the action or to punctuate the duller parts of the movie. I made this post so I could remember to Sho my wife what the hype was about, how this guy is great and much better than watching his kids.

So here's the final battle at the end of the classic Revenge of the Ninja (1983). I love how they start the fight on a Tennis Court because at the time I saw a lot of Tennis courts due to my parent's love of that game. It made this movie seem that much more real to me (because ninjas dressed in black in the daytime fighting on rooftops with ninja weapons instead of a gun is sooo realistic!). Also like how the first smoke bomb duds out and everyone act's like it was blinding them. So, for the educational benefit of my wife who has yet to learn the ways of the Sho, all 10 minutes of it, a movie Flashback!

More Rilo Kiley - Silver Lining

I debated with myself for a while on what my new Song of the Moment would be. Could it be the whistle happy "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John? The Zepped out White Stripes rip "Icky Thump" (which I like a little better than their Bad Companyish current single, "You Don't Know What Love Is"). So close, but I'm going to give the nod to Rilo Kiley. Again.

I guess I have to admit to really liking this band without really realizing it. I got into them through a Paste magazine sampler that had "It's A Hit". I thought the song was groovy in a 70's soft rock kinda way. Even the vague anti-war message was 70's to me. I bought their 2004 disc More Adventurous and was treated to cute, tasteful country inflected pop rock. I liked it but wouldn't say I was amazed by them.

So I've been a little surprised that I seem to like them a lot. Before the new disc dropped, I started listening to Adventurous again plus a live bootleg of one of their shows. I enjoyed "The Moneymaker" enough to make it a Song of the Moment. It's unintentionally silly with it's stiff funk and phone sex operator vocals but it really stuck in my head.

There's no doubt Rilo Kiley sold out and have become a little blander, but I still can't get enough. I guess it's all those Fleetwood Mac comparisons floating around. At any rate, "Silver Lining" has replaced "The Moneymaker" in my head thanks to a handclap beat, George Harrison guitar lick and plaintive vocal reminiscent of their earlier work. Like "Moneymaker" it's overproduced and beat happy but I still like it. The gospel backing vocals help a bit to, reminds me of a Disney movie soundtrack.

Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Number 46

I was glancing at my list of my 100 favorite CDs and noticed that Number 46 has been getting a lot of press lately. A recent cover of Rolling Stone magazine no less!

Number 46 - Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction (1987)

Without a shout of a doubt one of the greatest CDs of all time. For a few years, GNR was all anyone heard about in rock music. People thought they were going to be the new Rolling Stones. For a time, it looked like they could be.

My first exposure to this album stuck with me because I found it annoying at first. It was before they became popular, I heard this album played nonstop at my college dorm repeatedly. So much that I was tired of hearing it. But, during summer break I actually missed hearing it so I went out and bought it. That's when I really started to listen to them a lot.

In the summer of 1988 I played this album constantly. It was metal, but not polished or wussy like White Lion (not a total knock, I still love "Wait". "Wait...Wait...I couldn't get along with out you, one more ttiiimmmeeee"). Guns N Roses had nasty hard rock riffs, howling vocals screaming profanity and an authentic streetwise attitude. "Welcome To The Jungle" was and is a fantastic song filled with driving guitars, heavy percussion and frantic paranoia. "Mr Brownstone" grooved like Aerosmith (I would say like Aerosmith on drugs, but that was at least half of their career anyway). "Paradise City" always brings to mind the sights and smells of lawn seating at rock concerts, I don't know why.

My favorite song is "It's So Easy", a punky bit of jaded Los Angeles gutter rock. Sung in a lower register than the rest of the album, it's druggy, violent and misogynistic in an ear catching way!

Later that summer they hit with "Sweet Child O Mine" and unseated U2 as the top rock band in the land. It was never my favorite song of theirs, maybe because the first time I saw the video my friend intentionally turned off the tv to keep me from seeing it (he was upset I was watching HIS MTV, yet he never felt bad about borrowing money or any of my records). Anyway, GNR saturated the media which I was fine with until about Use Your Illusion era when Axl Rose started begging for people to understand him ( It was about two years before he offended so many different groups of people that he started to feel bad about it. )

Appetite is the rare album that has grown over time. As decades of artifical rock piles up, the raw raging essence of this disc feels that much more authentic. My wife got me into "You're Crazy", particularly the acoustic version from GNR Lies (1989). She also brought my attention to the catchiness of "Anything Goes". The Rolling Stone article shed new light on "Rocket Queen" which moves from raunchy sleaze to sweet optimism in the same song.

It's clear that Axl Rose will never recover enough of his sanity to regroup the original Guns N Roses and we'll be tormented with periodic updates on the loonng delayed Chinese Democracy album. The worst thing that Axl can do is release it because it's obvious that it sucks and once it's out everyone will stop caring about him. Appetite For Destruction captures one shining moment when rock music had infinite possibilities. Or at least a future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full

This has to be one of the best album titles I've seen in a while and it's very indicative of the approach to this album. Following his mournful but excellent Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005) album comes another album grappling with mortality. But where Chaos was sad, Memory takes a more lighthearted look at the golden years. The two discs bookend a summation of feelings about the appreciation of life, sentimental reminiscining of the past, humorous asides and hope for a decent legacy.

Taken as a continuing story, while Chaos found the Mac in sorrow and reflection Memory is the ray of sunshine on the other side (in fact there's a song called "See Your Sunshine" on this disc). The album starts off with an upbeat salvo of tunes remiscent of his earlier work. It leads off with the thumping, upbeat "Dance Tonight" which finds Sir Paul literally dancing with ghosts in the video. My personal favorite, "Ever Present Past" is a pop rock ditty with a classic McCartney melody similar to his "Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" song. The previously mentioned "See Your Sunshine is a well constructed pop song hampered by terrible lyrics. It has more sap than a forrest of Pine trees. "Only Mama Knows" is a harder edged rocker (by McCartney standards, anyway) that reminds me of "Jet".

The middle section of the album is where the tone is closer to Chaos and gets a little more eccentric musically. Following the early style Beatlish ballad acoustic "You Tell Me" is a set of songs "Mr. Bellamy", "Gratitude" and "Vintage Clothes" that are lyrically obtuse and musically scatological like White Album era Beatles. Memory Almost Full closes with a set of songs about preparing for the end, particularly on "The End of the End" where he details how he'd like to be remembered and his preferred funeral. Refusing to end on a down note, "The End of the End" is hopeful and sets up the closing number.

The album closes with "Nod Your Head", a Sgt. Pepper styled rocker that I take as a gentle joke at aging rock fans (and stars) who can only nod their heads at shows. It's a great close to an album that is at once personal and universal. As the title suggests, it takes the listener through all the phases of Paul McCartney's career as he prepares his legacy as a music legend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jack In The Crap

I've been debating the past few months whether or not I should cover food on this blog because it's not really media. After reading the Mayor of Claycord's website, I've been inspired to do a little civic duty. One restaurant really has annoyed me to the point I actually want to say something about it: Jack In The Box in Vallejo CA on Marine World Parkway. This is located in a spot that used to be busy (the intersection of HWY 29 & 37) but restructuring of the highway has killed off a lot of traffic in the area. Still, it's in a convenient spot for my wife and I to pick up food now and then.

First, a little background. One, I love Jack in the Box. I love the range of food selections, that they're open late, that they serve mozzerella sticks (usually you have to go to a fancy place, like Lyons or Dennys, to get one of those). Second, the Jack in the Box at that location has history. Throughout my childhood Jack in the Box was there serving good food, even when they blew up the clown (a sad day, 'cause I missed that damn clown). Third, I love their advertisements with Jack as a faceless CEO living the high life. Fourth, there are two other Jack in the Boxes in town and they both kick ass. So what's wrong with this one?

What's wrong is they never give you the right food and often hear the order wrong. When you order salads, they're perpetually out of the dressing to your salad but have the dressing to the one you didn't order. On another visit, I ordered the Chicken Club salad and they ran out of croutons so they gave me the spicy Southwestern crunchies instead. Recently, I ordered a chicken sandwich and got home to find out it was a burger patty. Everything else was the chicken sandwich except the part that made it chicken.

My wife has had just as bad luck at this place. She ordered a Diet Coke and was given ice tea that tastes like cardboard instead. She places her order at the drive thru and sees items appear on the confirmation screen that sounds nothing like what she ordered. She had to repeat her order of a side salad and large Diet Coke three times for them to get that right on the order screen. After making her order, she pulled up to the window and watched the customer behind her go through the exact same thing. My wife asked for Ranch dressing and was given Bacon Ranch instead. The sad part...the drive thru was being run by the Shift Supervisor!

Like I said at the start, I have a history with this place and have gone to this location for half my life. But we're done with this one. It's like the part in Lethal Weapon 2 where they go through the drive thru and Joe Pesci rants about what happens in there. I don't feel like quoting it word for word, but if you've seen the movie you know what I'm talking about.

Musical Musings

It's been a wild week in entertainment and it's only Monday! Hulk Hogan's son Nick proved he's as reckless a driver off the racing track as on, fortunately he and his passenger hasn't died. Hopefully both will come out OK. Owen Wilson (I think he's called the Butterscotch Stallion) allegedly tried to commit suicide. That's not funny, it's just...sad. Lindsey Lohan gets a day in jail for walking into a police station with cocaine in her possession. You know you're a hot girl when you can get away with a slap on the wrists for drug possession. Paris Hilton was sent to jail longer for traffic violations! I bet Paris is burning...with jealousy, that is.

But most troubling on the entertainment front is John Wetton's heart surgery. Who, you ask. Well, Wetton was the main songwriter / lead singer / bassist of Asia. The continent you say? No, the British early 80's supergroup that released two proper albums before personnel shifts and changing music trends sent them into obscurity. Wetton was a key member of Asia which also included drummer Carl Palmer, keyboardist Geoff Downes and guitarist Steve Howe. Their first two albums, Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983) were important to my early adolecence. My first attempt at singing (horribly) was recording myself singing "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" because Wetton had a low, droning voice that I thought matched mine (wasn't even close, I can't sing). I had an Asia poster on my wall and was depressed when Wetton was ousted from the band just before the infamous Asia in Asia concert on MTV. I remember buying their third album Astra (1985) and having my friend ask me if I was listening to Barry Manalow. Asia, John Wetton's Asia, was the model of everything dorky, excessive and uncool in the early 80's. Needless to say, they were my heroes.

So, here's to hoping everyone out there having a rough time has things get better soon. Especially John Wetton, the Heat Goes On buddy!

Other quick hits on the music front:

Kelly Clarkson's My December has only gone Gold and is considered a failure. Like many commercial artists, she thought making an artistic statement was playing the same type of songs with all the catchy parts taken out. Unless your name is Phil Collins, it's painful to watch commercial artists try to un-sell out.

Rilo Kiley is being blasted all over the net for ditching their cute indie sound for a commerical modern rock sound. It's painful to watch indie darlings sell out. And their new song "Silver Lining" rips off the guitar lick from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". Still, I have a soft spot for this band, so it's not over yet.
The Foo Fighter's new song "The Pretender"rocks hard but borrows it's chorus from Sesame Street's "One of these things is not like the other" tune. We'll have to wait to see if the new album is sponsored by the letter A.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Break Up

Much had been written about The Break Up (2006) when it was released last year, but little of it had to do with the actual movie. The headlines were about Brad and Angelina, Brad and Jennifer, Vince and Jennifer, Angelina against Jennifer...and so on. This past weekend, I got to see the movie that was more famous for being famous without any of that excess baggage.

What is left is a functional comedy based on broad two dimentional characters. The story follows Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston as the perfect couple who fall apart for the normal boy/girl relationship issues (He's insensitive and she knows it) and then go to war with each other over their super condo.

There's nothing new that really happens here, but watching it on tv it seemed to work well. Maybe because it wasn't a movie theater, I had lower expectations. Vaughn worked his fast talking smarm schtick and Aniston acted like she was still on Friends. On tv, the derivative plot and obvious jokes because, well, that's what you expect from tv. I would never suggest paying to see the Break Up, but if you happen to see it for free it won't hurt too much.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Less Than Zero aka Robert Downey Jr does method acting

In 1987 when the Brat Pack was in full swing the movie Less Than Zero hit theaters. Based on a best selling book, Zero focused on LA rich kids hooked on drugs and decadent good times. Leading Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy starred as the rich kid who goes to college back East and returns on Christmas vacation to find his high school girlfriend and best friend are Coke fiends about a snort away from an OD. His girlfriend, the miscast but always watchable Jami Gertz, calls him to say he should help his former best friend Robert Downey Jr. Downey Jr. owes the perfectly cast villian James Spader 50k and would rather give blowjobs than give up his habit.

The movie is gloriously shot in the type of oversaturated blue and red colors with tons of diffused light that could only be done in the 80's. The soundtrack is amazing and features the Bangles ("Hazy Shade of Winter") and LL Cool J (Goin' Back to Cali"). It was so good I had a friend that literaly stole the record from the library (if that's not Less Than Zero, I don't know what is). Andrew McCarthy continued with his well practiced bag of acting tricks (Happy=shit eating grin, Sad=wear shades, in all other cases open eyes wide and have them dart around the room with a shocked expression.) Jami Gertz tries to be the model / coked out girlfriend but lacks the charisma or mystery to make the part work. James Spader makes an excellent villian, but then he always did. This movie would be utterly dull if not for one reason-Robert Downey Jr.

When Downey Jr. started appearing in the paper for waking up next to young girls or other odd places in a drugged out haze, it seemed new and exciting to the public. Because no one saw Less Than Zero, no one realized how prophetic or true to life it really was. Downey plays a young guy sliding down the path of drug addiction, taking everyone he knows down with him. He seems hyper, engaging and funny while he captures the pathos and recklessness of drug addiction. His performance is the only human one in the movie, so he becomes the touchstone for the audience much more than the predictable Andrew McCarthy. It helps that the lows to which Downey's character would sink mirrored his own life.

Other than that, there is little to recommend Less Than Zero even twenty years after the fact. I'll always have a soft spot for Brat Pack movies and the 80's movies they specialized in which is why I watched this flick in the first place. Generally speaking, I wouldn't suggest watching this. However, if you want to see the high living, hard partying 80's life that most people didn't really get to live (unless you were in the Brat Pack) there are much worse examples than this one.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Have you ever seen a woman in short shorts and a tight top from a distance and think "Wow, she's hot" and then see her at a closer range and find the flash of skin and makeup is meant to hide someone visibly hardened by a rough life? If you have, then you would know the story of these women have not been told. Until now...

This morning I came across Sherrybaby (2006), a little movie about a young woman being paroled from jail and trying to reconnect with her little girl being raised by her brother and wife. While trying to reconnect, she struggles with her past and drug addiction. It sounds like your generic Lifetime movie. Sherrybaby is anything but.

This flick is not told in broad, predictable patterns but is instead a character study of a specific person in a specific situation. The detail and realism is held in check by the director using a lot of eye level shots to simulate the average person's point of view. It doesn't shy away from showing the ugly side of the lead character , Sherry Swanson, a tangle of selfish impulses and desires. Sherry wants her estranged daughter and family to love her unconditionally on her terms. She pursues her desires with little forethought and no concept of consequences.

As good as the movie is, the reason it works is Maggie Gyllenhaal of that famous sibling acting team of which her brother Brokeback Mountain Jake is a part of. Gyllenhaal gives a towering performance as Sherry, a performance thoroughly lived in and believeable. She gives Sherry the right tone of neediness and emotional damage mixed with a complete incomprehension of anything past her own nose. If this movie reached a mass audience, it would be a defining star making performance. As it stands, it is simply a stunning performance.
If anyone wants to see modern acting 101, see Sherrybaby. Special bonus, the always great Danny Trejo co stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Number 47

I couldn't think of anything to write about so it is time to add to the Top 100 CD list. At Number 47 is...

Rush - Moving Pictures (1980)

Is it fair to consider a CD one of the best ever if you can't remember the last two songs at all? Well, when the first six songs are as good as these are the answer is yes. Moving Pictures captures Rush at the exact moment when their artistic sensibility and commercial potential collided. Like chocolate stuck in peanut butter for the first time (thank you Officer Reeses) the band with complex rhythm patterns and a squealingly high voiced singer hit platinum sales while not giving up an iota of respect.

How did they do this? Rush is one of the greatest bands of all time, that's how. All three members are considered virtuoso's in their field: Drummer Neal Peart is a legend of technique, Guitarist Alex Lifeson could range from meaty riffs to scorching blues solos and Geddy Lee was one of the few bass players to play lead parts. Despite their prog rock tendencies, their music had an immediacy that labeled them hard rock. Top it off with intellectual lyrics about self determination and personal freedom sung in a screechy voice and you have the paradox that is Rush - a band that has a unique sound that speaks to millions of loners who amount to a mass audience.

Moving Pictures starts off with "Tom Sawyer", their signature song. The slow stepping beat and dark, swirling keyboards frame this classic hit. "Red Barchetta" is a fast moving rocker about a boy taking a car out for a drive after gasoline engines and cars have been banned. My personal favorite, the instrumental "YYZ" show off the band in all their instrumental prowess. The anthemic "Limelight" appears next with it's bold guitar riff and surprisingly self aware lyrics about the trappings of stardom. Another song, "The Camera Eye" gets by on a trobbing, synth driven groove.

The last two songs, "Witch Hunt" and "Vital Signs" I don't remember at all. But none of that matters. The first six songs are timeless rock classics. Moving Pictures is the reason there is a Rush today.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Yet another Flashback-Friday Night Videos!

In the mid 80's I didn't have MTV so I relied upon two programs: California Music Channel (CMC) and NBC's Friday Night Videos. CMC was hosted by Rick, a curly haired pleasant guy who played A-Ha's "Take On Me" for months before it was popular and then played it nonstop after it hit. Friday Night Videos was the program I really liked, in fact it's a little sad that I couldn't find the title animation where the record spindle shatters through a record and spins around with the show title.

Friday Night Videos was my main video outlet, where I would see Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" or Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" over and over again. They would have these video voteoffs where say Def Leppard's "Foolin'" would go up against Big Country's "In A Big Country" and you had to phone in to declare a winner. Best of all is that it was on this program I saw my all time favorite video: "Queen of the Broken Hearts" by Loverboy.

The video is the stuff dreams are made of. A rock band in vaguely Mad Max gear runs through the desert for no apparent reason. They come across a group of beautiful women who happen to match the number of men in the band. When a meeting like this happens, there can be only one result - rock out in a desert sandstorm!

The video was really well shot and edited to make the band look as cool as possible for 1983. The opening includes a contest winner who won a spot in the video through MTV. The winner was a woman who didn't care for Loverboy but entered because her son was a fan. This video blew me away by showing someone speaking in a vocoder voice (Look! He sounds like a Commodore 64 when he sings!). To top things off, the band reportedly mimed to the song in the middle of a real sandstorm and not wind machines. Impressive!

But what really stands out to me is that my friend that I taped records from loathed Loverboy because his older brother told him they suck. My friend went out of his way to put down Loverboy until he read a record review in Circus magazine that said the ballad "It's Never Easy" sounded like Todd Rundgren. He then borrowed my Loverboy tape for a month. Nah, I'm not bitter about it.

Loverboy really hit big at the time because they were able to combine new wave keyboards with a mainstream rock sound. I saw them perform in '86 and was amazed at how good a show it was, they played with energy and professionalism. At the show I turned down drugs (Nancy Reagan would have been proud) and saw live nudity for the first time I can remember (a girl popped up through the sunroof of a limo and flashed the crowd as they left the show).

These days Loverboy is still touring. Lead singer Mike Reno is remarkably larger than in his prime but still wears the tightest leather pants in the biz. I guess it wasn't hard to figure any band with the word Boy or Girl in it's title wouldn't age well. He can still sing his ass off from what I've heard on You Tube. Go Mike Reno! Lovin...Every...Minute...Of It. My favorite video of all time merits the ultimate Flashback!

Loverboy - "Queen of the Broken Hearts"

White Stripes Icky Thump the hell out of Californication

About a week ago I got the new White Stripes CD Icky Thump (2007). After spending the previous album, Get Behind Me Satin (2005), doing the "artistic thing" (i.e., follow up a successful album with one that completely ditches the established sound of the artist) and getting sidetracked with the Rancontours, Jack and Meg White return with their two person alt blues groove intact.

If anything, the guitar has a greater presence than before. All of the Blues missing from Satin returns for Icky Thump with a vengence. Songs like the title track, "Rag and Bone" and "You Don't Know What Love Is" hit hard with cutting riffs, rumbling drums and pinched howl vocals. The songs are consistently good, particularly the horn laden "Conquest" that sounds like bullfighter music from the 60's.

Icky Thump does lack that killer track to make the album seem like more than a sum of its parts. Nothing here excites quite as much as "Fell In Love With A Girl" or "Seven Nation Army". The album does set itself apart from previous efforts with a new fixation on classic hard rock. Influences from Led Zep, Bad Company and even Van Halen show up. This isn't bad in itself, but following both the Black Keys and Wolfmother into this territory means for the first time the Stripes don't seem cutting edge. While that is mildly disappointing, overall Icky Thump delivers a strong set of blues rock without any guilt.

If only the same could be said of the new Showtime cable series Californication (2007). Former X file David Duchoveny plays Hank , a successful author who is depressed over his divorce and writers block. To make up for his depression, Hank manages to sleep with every available woman in LA. Duchoveny uses his famous droll, deadpan delivery to underscore the detachment of his character. Sadly, watching this program will make you more detached than anything Duchoveny can come up with. It seemed like a show that had been done before, there's the ex wife that knows leaving is best for her but can't stay away, the precocious child who is learning about sex and drugs, the happy agressive agent who looks out for his client personally and the girl who turns out to be the wrong one to sleep with. The only thing that sets this apart from, say, a Fox network show is the blatant nudity that is used to yell "Hey, we're a premium cable show and not Fox!" Californication is one X File that needs to go missing, fast.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hall & Oates - Everything Your Heart Desires

The other day I was fishing through the used CD section of Rasputin's records, one of my favorite things to do. I really love looking for that one good, worthwhile CD mixed in with the endless copies of Backstreet Boys - Black and Blue or Britney Spears - In The Zone. At times, I've been lucky enough to dig out Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks or Steelheart to add to my collection. Yesterday I found a CD for $2.00 I had twenty years ago but gave up a long time ago: Hall & Oates - Ooh Yeah!

This was the last Hall & Oates record to have any real impact on radio. I remember it well, H&O were on a hot streak from 1980 to 1985 with a slew of hits that made them the most successful duo in pop history. Ooh Yeah! was to be their triumphant move from RCA to Arista where their hitmaking career was supposed to continue. It didn't.

Maybe it was the lame marketing tag that said it all: Ooh Yeah is what you say when the feeling is so right! After this disc many were saying Ooh No but there were still a gem or two left in Hall and Oates pocket. Such as "Everything Your Heart Desires", the last top 10 hit they would ever have.

I still love this song, the soulful singing of Daryl Hall, the chintzy synths, the popping electro drums, John Oates' porn star mustache. It still kills me that the video is the only place I can find Daryl Hall's rap monologue in the middle of the song. That's one of many reasons the video is the new flashback.

Hall and Oates - "Everything Your Heart Desires"

I just came across this great Hall and Oates parody. These guys really nailed this!

"Say It Isn't So" spoof

Pavement-Slanted and Enchanted again

Last weekend many blogs had this Vinyl theme where they looked back at different records they owned back in the day (back in the day we used to say "back in the day"). In the days of vinyl, I was mostly an AOR junkie. I had every Journey album with Steve Perry, all the Foreigner records, the Van Halen records as well as now out of print classics like Eric Martin Band's Sucker for a Pretty Face and Eddie and the Tide's Go Out and Get It!

At college I started listening to other, more alternative bands as I became exposed to other styles of music. As a result, one of the last vinyl records I bought new was Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted (1992). This album took a long time to get into, I bought it mainly because I liked the song "Summer Babe". I recently got this on CD, I haven't heard it since 1992. It was fun to hear these tunes again after such a long time.

Slanted and Enchanted is the epitome of slacker rock, ramshackle grooves that alternate between acoustic dreaminess and indie rock. Even the singing is lazy, the singer kind of warbles in a deadpan monotone with occasional shouting. Some of the ironic depression dates the album, as one song consists mainly of the singer saying "I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin" over an equally repetitive beat. The songs seem almost formless during the first 100 listens, but after a while the album takes shape. Pavement has a lot of texture to their sound and a unique chemestry of being able to play one step away from random noise.

All in all, it's a good record as both nostalgia and purely on musical merits. And it takes nerve to rip off the melody to Jim Croce's "Operator" for a song, in this case "Trigger Cut".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

1984 twenty three years later-looks a little scary!

We're getting into the second half of the year, the time when those slumbering giants of classic rock decide cash flow is needed for a new house. After a year that was mainly fueled by very lucrative Police reunion, every other band that was successful in 1984 decided it was time to cash in. It sounds bad...but hope is still alive!

Van Halen - The on again, off again, on again, off again reunion is on again for now. If they can keep Eddie Van Halen away from his multitude of vices and egotistical head games the band has a chance of making it through the tour. And that's assuming Diamond Dave doesn't piss off Eddie again! Can all the money in the world keep these two together? I don't know the answer to that or if they even still sound good but I really want to find out! I wanted them to stay away after the last failed attempt earlier this year but despite the warning signs (see picture above) I can't wait for their tour. What can I say, I'm their Mark, I'm a sucker.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - The Boss is coming back with a new album and tour with his legendary side band. These guys have never made a bad album before so there's no reason to think they would start now. It's called Magic. The album, that is.

The Eagles - weren't together in 1984 but I'm throwing them in anyway. The loonngg in production new album is going to see the light of day faster than Axl Rose can say "Chinese Democracy". The new song "How Long" harks back to the earlier, more country version of the Eagles and it's not too bad! Check out their website to hear it.

Fortunately, one person who won't be going back to 1984 is me. High School, Clearasil, Manimal - I'm glad that's behind me. My wonderful wife has a birthday coming up which makes the present that much better! Don't fuck with Bonnie!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reality TV Roundup...Don't F*ck with Bonnie!

As anyone who has seen television over the past 10 years knows, the programming is dominated by reality tv. Here's a round up of what's been going on lately in that genre:

Hell's Kitchen: I watched the last few episodes of this show with my wife to see the big showdown between the Rock (not the wrestler) and Bonnie to be top chef of a new Las Vegas restaurant. Star chef Gordon Ramsay yelled and berated everyone around him but was surprisingly nice to people when he wasn't doing that. I was rooting for Rock to win (he did), but the part that sticks with me is Bonnie talking to the camera about her newfound confidence "Bonnie's tough. Don't F*ck with Bonnie!" She seemed unintentionally cute while saying this, which made it really funny. Didn't help the program replayed the clip repeatedly during the last two episodes to rub it in. I think I'll make that my new catchphrase. Don't fuck with Bonnie!

Real World Sydney: Geez, is this show still on the air? After the booze and boobs soaked Vegas entry a few years ago, this show lost all sense of purpose.

Girls Next Door: Poor Hugh Hefner, he always seems so tired when he appears on the show. I'm sure he's enjoying life like he always has, but despite the mansion and multiple girlfriends he looks bored most of the time. It's hard to feel sorry for a guy who has so much money he can afford to make a dull tv show about his three girlfriends doing a lot of nothing, but I do.

Scott Baio is 45 and single: I grew up on Happy Days and was a Chachi fan but never understood how this guy ended up perpetually affluent while barely acting in anything. The show is sort of like Entourage meets High Fidelity while Baio wonders why decades of blatant cheating on women has resulted in him approaching middle age single.

Rock of Love: The rock & roll version of Flavor of Love has Bret Michaels of Poison trying to find the "one" amid a bevy of aging rocker chicks. At least Michaels doesn't need a psychologist to tell him his promiscuous lifestyle has led to him being single. Somewhat entertaining but not the full on train wreck that Flavor of Love was. Flavor Flav!!!

Hogan Knows Best: The Hulkster's debut episode this season was a downer with him and his wife talking divorce. Whatchagonnado, Brother? Don't Fuck with Bonnie! I hope this show gets happy soon or I'm running wild to another channel.

Reality cheap to make with no actors or script writers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Movie Roundup

Another weekend has gone by and so another movie roundup is due. These movies were spread out over the past week on TV and included one movie I was watching for a second time. There was violence, music and patriotism in this round. It kicks off with Lady Vengeance.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) is a Korean film by a noted director I think is named Chan Woo Park but I could be wrong on that. At any rate, it tells the story of a beautiful young woman who goes to prison for a crime she did not commit. She is blackmailed into taking the blame for the murder of a young boy. After 13 years in prison, she gets to execute a long brewing plan to exact revenge on the blackmailer and real child killer. The movie is told in non linear fragments that make it a little hard to follow at times, though on screen explanations and a voice over helps to fill in the gaps. It is stylishly shot with a great feel for mood. The sweaty prison, shiny workplaces, decrepit buildings and cold snowy nights come to life to frame the pain and sorrow of the lead character.

I didn't catch the lead actresses name, but she delivers an excellent performance as the Lady Vengeance. She captures the sadness and anger of a woman who had everything taken from her while hiding behind an angel's face. It sums up the entire movie: The darkest impulses and demonic acts can be easily hidden behind aesthetic beauty. One last note, this movie has a lot of blood and is not for the squemish.

For lighter fare, I rewatched High Fidelity (2000) starring John Cusack. I had seen the movie years ago and was disappointed by the lack of empathy I felt for the main character. Cusack stars as a slightly miserable vinyl record store owner whose girlfriend leaves him. Losing his girlfriend puts Cusack into a depressive tailspin and he decides to visit his other ex-girlfriends to figure out what's wrong with him.

When I first saw this film, I was looking forward to it because it had to do with being obsessed with music and had an actor I thought was good. The story was more about how the guy was a sad sack loser, so I lost interest. This time, I found the character's search for self more involving for no reason than I'm older now and I guess I can appreciate such things now. I found the Cusack character's self involved whining and selfish perspective more relatable, though I don't know if that's good or bad.

Either way, the film still has impeccable taste in music. Ranging from The Kinks to Belle and Sebastian to Stevie Wonder, the movie plays the songs that fit the moods of the film perfectly. The ending credits with Stevie Wonder's "I Believe" is a definite high point. Good stuff!

Speaking of music, out of bordom I watched the Dixie Chick's Shut Up and Sing (2006) movie. I've never been a fan of the Chicks beyond their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" but that was due to indifference to their sound than any political motivation. It is an interesting piece of media study to watch the best selling Country group unitentionally take a career dive because of a political statement made in jest. Even more facinating is observing how the Dixie Chicks and presumably other successful entertainers live in such a vacuum from the rest of society that they can't get their bearings on what's really happening. For the first half of the movie, the band and management try to maximize their visibility and in some ways intentionally stoked the fires of public opinion that eventually burned them.

Agree with them or not, they and others have the right to free speech which is supposed to be one of the reasons we go to War. I think if they had a better fix on how people were reacting to their fairly small comment that was blown way out of proportion they would have played the situation differently. But, they found themselves in a predicament and admirably stuck to their guns in their fight for free speech even though it meant losing much of their fan base. It's mind blowing to see the band not only be publicly hated but receive literal death threats over the issue.

Now they're the opening act for the Eagles and trying to reposition themselves as Country Rock. It's not often you see the cost of freedom come with an actual dollar amount. But the Chicks are "Not Ready To Make Nice" and it seems even the shift in public opinion on the War will not bring them back. Who knew a band that sang about killing obnoxious husbands or wide open spaces could be so political?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rush Hour 3 gets stuck in traffic

It's not often I see movies on the opening weekend, but today I saw Rush Hour 3 (2007) which also happens to be the #1 movie this week in the theaters. The team of Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and director Brett Ratner return for a third go 'round in the buddy cop series. This time, the duo take on the Chinese Triads in France. The movie takes the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and runs with it for a few hours. This could be taken as a good thing or bad thing, but either way you know exactly what you are getting with this Rush Hour.

The good news is director Ratner remembered what audiences liked about the first two movies and xeroxed them straight into this film. Plot about Chinese mobsters running amok on international authorities? Check. Jackie Chan scrambling all over the place to land the perfect kick? Check. Chris Tucker jaw jacking Chan and everyone else in sight? Check. Beautiful girls either in distress or merciless assassins? Check. Explosions and gunfire? That goes without saying.

Granted, Rush Hour as a series has carried its faults as well (such as giant plot holes, predictable stories) but all of the freshness is gone. Jackie Chan, looking older and glummer, still has a natural likability but now relies on special effects and other actor / stuntmen to carry the action scenes he became famous for. Chan does deserve some slack as he is a senior citizen now and has created an astonishing body of work featuring the most stunning action set pieces in modern history. It's just sad to see Chan have to go through the motions of stunt work when he once executed death defying leaps and falls on a regular basis. Even in the end credits where Chan usually shows the stunts that went wrong is skimpy beyond dialogue flubs.

Much of Chan's slack is picked up by Chris Tucker who is still a motor mouth with a great Michael Jackson / Prince impersonation. Most of the dialogue is Tucker's but with more screen time his persona becomes slightly grating. Oddly, Tucker is portrayed as a mean bully during the first half by holding a gun to the head of almost anyone he comes across. Disturbingly, Tucker holds a gun to a Chinese hitman's head in a style reminiscent of the famous Vietnam photograph where a man's head is blown away. He's still funny and handles his increased presence in the fight sequences well.

But at the end of the day, Rush Hour 3 is Brett Ratner's movie. Ratner understands the limitations of both of his stars and works to cover them. He limits Jackie Chan's fight sequences and dialogue to be within Chan's diminished reach. Using special effects and Chris Tucker, Rush Hour 3 is an impressive simulation of the same thrills of Chan's previous work although any element of risk has clearly been eliminated. But without Chan, Chris Tucker becomes an annoying bully verbally berating everyone with impunity. It seems most likely Tucker's insults towards Chinese characters is probably what offended the government of China.

Ratner does add something to RH3, a French taxi cab driver meant to ridicule America's foreign affairs. The taxi driver initially refuses to drive the American Chris Tucker because he represents a country that loses wars it starts and kills without purpose. This character is obviously meant to send up the international perception of America and make a few anti-war points as well. As the cab driver gets hooked on what he sees as an American style of reckless violence he becomes the most likable and human character in the movie.

The rest of RH3 holds together well because it is essentially the same movie as the first one. Thankfully, the scattered randomness of Rush Hour 2 has been done away with. What's left is a functional machine, you'll laugh, you'll shout, you'll be home in time for lunch. If that's your expectations (it was mine), Rush Hour 3 is a good fit. Just don't think past that point or you'll begin wondering why you didn't just watch the first Rush Hour over again for free.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Number 48

Boom Boom Clap! Boom Boom Clap! There goes one of the most recognizable beats in history (when it's heard, not written) known as "We Will Rock You." The band that delivered this timeless sports anthem? They're at Number 48:

Queen - Greatest Hits Vol 1 & 2 (1992)

Queen is a rare band that has existed in constant contradiction with themselves. They're rock stars that have all graduated college. They're mostly gay but have their songs chanted by people who are probably homophobic in sports arenas. In America, they were ignored in the 80's and then made a comeback just in time for the singer to die. They outperformed every band in the world at Live Aid on a day no one expected anything special from them. After being slagged by rock critics and tastemakers throughout their active career, they are now revered as a legendary band. They are Queen!

Most of my affinity for Queen comes from their Operatic bombastic approach to the already oversized Arena Rock sound. Growing up, I was hooked on the sports anthems "We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions" and the disco hook of the bass line to "Another One Bites The Dust." Then, in 1980 they made the soundtrack to Flash Gordon that went "Flash! Aaahhh...King of the impossible!!!". The movie blew but that song is still stuck in my head.

I did lose interest following the insufferable "Radio Ga Ga" and like many others I found the video for "I Want To Break Free" hard to take (didn't help drummer Roger Taylor actually looked like a girl when in drag). But I regained interest following the Highlander movie (1986) which included the phenomenal "Princes of the Universe" which is not included in Greatest Hits. But it does include the equally great ballad "Who Wants To Live Forever". "One Vision" from the Iron Eagle soundtrack (1985) was also great except for the over the top ending where they shout "Fried Chicken!"

"I Want It All" and "Breakthru" were the last Queen singles to really grab me and I will always associate these songs with one of my last visits to my Grandmother's place in Seattle. After that, Waynes World (1991) made Queen popular again and brought me full circle to a song I loved after a high school friend told me about the sound panning in the vocals which made me check it out.

Queen, the ultimate Arena Rock band. For better or worse, they have continued with smoky voiced Paul Rodgers in the vocal chair. At least Brian May's ringing, stately guitar playing is still intact. The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Song of the Moment: Rilo Kiley-The Moneymaker

This is my first Song of the Moment, where i'll pick a song that's not a Flashback that is stuck in my head.

Although posting too many YouTube videos slows down the loading of the page, I have a lot of videos to comment on right now and couldn't leave this one alone. It's the new video for Rilo Kiley called "The Moneymaker". Both the video and song throws away Rilo Kiley's image as cute, tasteful alt country rock darlings and replaces it with Courtney Love style sleaze complete with a moaning chorus and porn star actors. The song video is causing controversy both for it's lurid approach and forced sounding funk complete with 80's power ballad bridge section. Though I miss the indie style they sported on More Adventurous (2005) and don't think "The Moneymaker" is a great song, it has stuck in my head for the past few days. I guess shakin' what your mama gave you pays off!

The Illusionist or Make me disappear because I live in 1900's Austria.

Sometimes you don't want to do work and tonight was one of those nights. So I put it off a little bit to watch The Illusionist (2006), a film set in the early 1900s Austria where all the actors are Americans with fake accents. But what a great cast, Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti kick actor ass all over the place with Norton as the title character and Giamatti as a corrupt Police inspector. And Jessica Biel does a great job of looking good while Norton and a Crown Prince fights for her love.

A little backstory, the Norton character (I think the character is named Eisentem or something) meets Jessica Biel (the Dutchess of Burger King? A Dutchess for sure) as kids and she falls for his lower class wanna be magician ways. The officials find out and break the pair up while Biel's kid character begs Norton's to make them disappear. Norton's character leaves town and becomes a famous magician.

When Norton returns to town as the famous Eisenham, he immediately makes a play for the Dutchess of Cobble stone though she's dating the future Emperor of Austira. The Crown Prince has the Police inspector watch Biel and shake down Norton. Then the plot thickens with twists and near messianic Magic.

The movie itself is a strong acting piece that allows these talented players a chance to really show what they can do. The settings and costumes are appropriate and everything is filmed in a brownish haze that says "old tyme movie!" Norton plays the enigmatic central character with both intense feeling and intellectual ambiguity. Giamatti also excels as a corrupt cop wrestling with his conscience. The movie is directed in a tight, cagey style that is familiar to anyone whose seen a costume drama mystery but holds your attention nontheless. My only problem with the movie was the digital effects, thought they were overdone and should have had real magic tricks closer to what was possible in that day and age.

Some film person once said the only Love story that interests people are doomed love stories. It is certainly true with this movie and it delivers something rare in modern film: interesting characters and a well told story that aspires to be nothing more than a good movie. The ending is a little predictable, but most of the way through the film it keeps you guessing which direction the movie will go. It's a good flick worth seeing.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Flashback Comparision shopping

One of my favorite bands, Dream Theater, has just released a video for their song "Constant Motion" from the Systematic Chaos (2007) album. While the song is good, it's really remiscent of "As I Am" from their Train of Thought (2002) album which in itself was remiscent of Metallica's "Blackened". At any rate, the video had me flashbacking to the classic AOR anthem by Little River Band (technically LRB at the time) "Playing to Win". But don't take my word for it, here's both!

Dream Theater - "Constant Motion"

LRB - "Playing to Win"

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dawn of the Dead - We're all Zombies!

I've never been a big fan of horror movies, probably because I've found real life to be scary enough that I didn't need the frightning parts squeezed into a tighter format. And it always brings to mind the inevitability of mortality which is a less than uplifting topic to start with. But I've found myself drawn to watching Dawn of the Dead (2004) on TV lately. So I started to wonder why.

The reason is it's just a plain well made movie. It's not life altering or deep, but sets up its premise early and follows it logically and mixes realism with fantasy effectively. Dawn of the Dead is a remake of a 70's horror classic about survivors of a fast spreading Zombie disease barracading themselves inside a Shopping Mall. The disease is spread by Zombie bites, that is if they don't eat you completely first. Like many movies of this type, the Zombie virus can be taken as a metaphor for SARS, AIDs, etc. The remaining humans hole up in a shopping mall where they fight against Zombies and each other to stay alive.

I've read the original was an indictment against modern consumerism but there's none of that in the remake. The film takes many different angles: the moral indifference of death, the pull between survivalism and decadence. For example, the mall security guards subject the remaining humans to their own form of martial law to try to stay safe. Dawn also has a demented sense of humor, such as the survivors shooting Zombies in the head based on if they look like famous actors.

No, there's no depth here. Just a thrill ride of exploding heads, snapping Zombies and an able cast (Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames) that is able to handle the tonal shifts with ease. All the while, the dread builds to the hopelessness of their situation. Dawn of the Dead will never win best picture but is a more than competent horror movie workout.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


A quick add on post, this is the Mach 5 from the upcoming Speed Racer film set for 2008. It's going to be directed by the Matrix director brothers so it has potential. It will take some adjustment to see Christina Ricci as Trixie as I usually associate Ricci with edgy, depressing roles. But the car-they really got it right. Looks dead on like the Cartoon. I hope it still has the button for the hydralic jumping legs from the bottom. And the buzz saw blades from the front. And, And...I can't remember any more gadgets. Go Speed Go!

Movie Roundup

I've squeezed in a few movies here and there lately on television and DVD and now is the time to tell all! I've seen some classic Jackie Chan, Danny Devito get laid and the Purple one in all his majesty (not a Devito reference). First up...

Project A (1983) stars Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung as 19th Century sailors and scam artists in Hong Kong. It has bad audio dubbing and the picture wasn't cleaned up, but that couldn't stop the greatness of this film. This is Chan in his prime when he rolled out one death defying stunt fest after another (Wheels on Meals and Police Story come from this era). Chan indulges his Buster Keaton / Howard Lloyd jones in this one, an action comedy about a bumbling Navy trying to stop Pirates. The stunts are amazing, it's laugh out loud funny and as my wife commented, plays out better than Pirates of the Carribean. Good fun!

The Oh in Ohio (2006) has been on tv a bit lately, an interesting comedy about an uptight PR exec (Parker Posey) who's husband leaves her because of her inability to fully enjoy sex. Posey's character then goes into an exploration of her, um, self to find happiness. It's an odd premise for a mainstream film but the movie has the right balance of realism and humor to keep the viewer interested. A strong supporting cast including Danny Devito as a pool salesman and Paul Rudd as the clumsy, burnt out husband adds to the film's drive. Oh manages to be a movie mostly about sex without being unnecessarily lurid, it's an engaging film.

Last night I re-watched the 1984 classic Purple Rain. It was fantastic to watch the fey Prince in his purple Revolution get up riding that crazy motorcycle with his oversized shades on. I was really impressed with how director Albert Magnoli managed to make a cohesive movie with amateur actors and sketchy plot about bands battling for nightclub supremacy and the love of a beautiful girl. Prince is in top form, a whirling dervish of music and poofy shirts. Like Project A, the film is charged with a creative genius in his prime delivering a visceral performance. I wonder what ever became of Apollonia? Did she ever find Lake Minnetonka?

That's given me an idea for Rush Hour 4. Jackie Chan and...Prince! Now that's a movie. And unlike Rush Hour 3, maybe it would even play in China. Purple Hour? Rush Rain?? LovesexyShanghaiNooner??? The potential is endless.