Saturday, February 27, 2010

RIP Andrew Koenig / Boner

This week the body of actor Andrew Koenig was found from an apparent suicide. A sad passing in my world of entertainment because I grew up a huge fan of the tv series Growing Pains, in which Koenig portrayed the dim witted loyal friend to Mike Seaver - Boner. In many ways, Boner was a more identifiable character for me than Mike because Boner was a misfit, an outsider. During my teen years I could certainly recognize that feeling. I'll never forget that episode where Boner decides to join the military and grow up, sending Mike into a fit. This of course has no bearing on Andrew Koenig the person as Boner was a character. It's sad that Koenig suffered from depression despite being accomplished and well liked from the reports I've seen. Hopefully the attention paid to depression in general will bring something positive from Koenig's death.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Wanna Go Back

"I Wanna Go Back" is an oldie but goodie hit from the Money man in 1986, a song that Blender magazine rated one of the Top 500 songs of the past 25 years. For decades, I thought Eddie Money was the only guy to release a recording of this sentimental slice of pop rock. But in the past month I've found out that there are two versions that pre date Edward Mahoney's smash take. The original version is by a band called Billy Satellite who managed to make the Hot 100 in 1984 with it (a song co-written by guitarist Danny Chauncey, latter of the revamped Thirty Eight Special). Their take was a little softer and after watching the video online I realized I had seen/heard their clip before way back when and didn't realize it was the same tune two years later. Then, when buying a Gregg Rolie cd for $1 last week I found yet another version of "I Wanna Go Back" on it (released in 1985). So the song had a longer and interesting history than I ever knew, though of course Money's punchy version with the swanky sax will always be the best known.

To tie it together with another sudden recovery of memory, on New Years Eve of 1985 I saw a concert that included both Eddie Money and Gregg Rolie. I wonder if Rolie played that song that night (I can't recall that vividly)? I wanna go back and find out, but I can't go back I know.

For some bonus fun, here's a memorable clip of Beavis & Butthead carping on E. Money's "Shakin" video.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Force Of One

The cinematic event of the 90's for me wasn't Jurassic Park, or The Matrix, or even Independence Day. It was the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy, granted with updated special effects. The chance to see the three classic films on the big screen again led me and tons of others to stand in a long line at the movie theater like it was 1977 all over again.

It was a thrill to view these movies "as they were meant to be seen" again, even though the added special effects seemed just OK to me. The only added scene with punch for me personally was a chance to watch the Jabba The Hutt scene in its entirety after decades of seeing just still pictures (even if it had the most jarring new effect with Han Solo "stepping" on Jabba's tail.) While the rest of the new effects (like the Death Star battle) were spiffy it was hard not to miss the old scenes that had been committed to memory.

I can't claim to be a total purist and hate the special editions, it's just a shame that Star Wars became like a scab that George Lucas couldn't stop picking. Particularly after the prequel trilogy, the original films got more revisions than a bill through Congress. Just the same, the 90s would have been a bit duller without the re release of these incredible films.

Monday, February 15, 2010

He Had The Knack

Today it was reported that Doug Fiegler passed away from cancer. The leader of The Knack, the late 70s band that practically defined the term "one hit wonder", Fiegler created a song that is as indelible in its memory to anyone living in America in 1979. Or 1993 when it made a come back. But mostly in 1979.

"My Sharona" was one of the songs I liked a lot even before I listened to a lot of music. It was catchy catchy catchy, with that jumpy beat and pogo stick chorus "My-yiy-yiy-yiy yiy woo!" Strong memories of grade school and junior high I associate with this song, part of the soundtrack to my personally mundane "Wonder Years". Am I lovin' "quotation marks" in this post or what? Anyway, it ranks up there with "Hot Blooded", "Celebration" and "Believe It Or Not It's Just Me" (the Greatest American Hero song) as the backbeat to my youth.

I was all too happy to see the song make a comeback in the early 90's thanks to the Winona Rider movie Reality Bites. My generation rediscovered the song and its sense of dirty fun even amid the sweatstained marks on the flannel of Grunge.

The most vivid memory of The Knack came about in the late 90's. I was about to buy The Knack's record from a used goods store for a few dollars on an impulse. This guy and his girl got all upset about it like it was the last The Knack record made by man. Since I knew this record was a $1 bin regular in just about every used record store I had been to, I gave it to him. I'll never forget that, this guy must have been the laziest Knack superfan there was.

The term "one hit wonder" is often used derisively ( though I admit to liking another The Knack song "Good Girls Don't" as being pretty good too) when the hit is the size of "My Sharona" it shouldn't be a bad thing. This song will always take me back to days of corderoy pants, hot days in the sun playing baseball and Atari 2600 games. So thank you for the music, Mr Fiegler.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Midnight Madness - Tiger Woods Edition

I'm Tiger Woods!

Like usual, I'm way late on getting to a topic. While playing Wii golf I had an epiphany. Well, not really an epiphany but a thought sprang to mind - I know why Tiger Woods cheated with all those women. For the jokes! All the bad sex jokes that can be used with golf and Tiger metaphors surely needs an audience, as large an audience as possible. Who was Tiger Woods to deny all those people the pleasure(literally)? Jokes like -
  • You need a Tiger in your tank?

  • Watch me sink this birdie.

  • I'm going to need a 9 iron for this.

  • I've got my ball caught in the rough again...and I like it.

  • Clean my balls please.

  • It's all about hip rotation and arm extension.

  • A Ho in one!

  • That's a warm club holder.

  • Do you prefer metal or Wood?

  • I'm talkin double bogies!

  • I tee'd off on the fairway.

  • Should be a chip shot from here.

  • Sand trap!

  • Caught a Tiger by the tail. Or a Tiger caught some tail?

  • I've got two under par going into the last hole.

  • You're not out of the Woods yet. Or the Woods aren't out of you yet.

  • Avoid the water hazards.

  • I can give you a closer shave - courtesy of Gilette
  • I've got the smoothest stroke on the circuit
  • And I call this one "Jack Nicholas"
  • Last but not least - FORE!

And now...on with the Madness!

Play Me Out Johnny - Being dead is quickly becoming less of an obstacle for successful artists as both Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash have new songs being released. Can't wait to see the CGI re-animation of their performance in a video. Ugh.
Eminence Front - The Who looked sad and aged during their pyro heavy performance at the Super Bowl. I will give them this though, Roger Daltry sounded better than I've heard him in a while. Still, I winced when I heard how much gimmicky echo was put into the famous "YYEEAAHHHH!" during "Won't Get Fooled Again" to ensure he didn't blow it. Pete Townshend sounded out of breath on the mic and every windmill arm motion sent his gut flying toward the cheap seats. As a whole the performance lacked power, maybe the next episode of CSI would be about finding who killed The Who's mojo.

Got A Situation Here - Sad to admit it, I'm enjoying watching reruns of The Jersey Shore. I just find it to be a hilarious show.

Like A Swift Kick To The - I wasn't impressed with Taylor Swift's Grammy performance, then again I haven't been impressed with any of her live performances (jeez, do I like anything?). Yet it seems to me Swift has been taking a bashing after winning the Album Of The Year Grammy. It's like half the country has gone Kanye West on her. I actually feel sorry for the young multimillionaire.

Mini DVD Reviews:

  • The Story Of Anvil - My wife bought the DVD for me as an early Valentine's Day gift. The documentary tells the sad tale of a band who apparently thought This Is Spinal Tap is a life guide, because their story mirrors that fictional group in a lot of ways. Except it's sadder because these are real people and not movie characters. It's actually an emotional experience watching this movie, seeing two guys sense of brotherhood as they cling to a dream of rock and roll stardom that's just out of reach. Ironically, the success of this film has brought them some of the recognition they craved but that's after the fact. The Story of Anvil is a good film with a lot of heart, worth seeing on its own merits.

  • The Invention Of Lying - Ricky Gervais (The star of the original British version of The Office) envisions a world where people all over the world only know how to tell the brutal truth. They not only have no idea of what a lie is but not even a word for it. Gervais' character, a documentary film writer (because there's no such thing as a fiction writer) discovers lying and parlays the talent into achieving his dreams. Lying uses its cutesy premise to good effect, having characters bluntly and offhandly state their base thoughts creates some clever social commentary. Boldest of all, the movie suppositions that religion is based on lying without hitting you over the head with it. With that, it's easy to see why this wasn't a blockbuster film. It is a charming comedy nonetheless.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mars Needs Women

Being a fan of cheesy hair metal since the Reagan Presidency (admit it, some of you started during the first Bush era) there has been a minor issue that has bothered me for the past twenty odd years. That's the lack of love for Mick Mars, the axe slinger for Motley Crue. Mars is an excellent guitarist, maybe a little economical compared to his peers (I can't recall any twenty minute solos from the albums, I haven't seen them live) but that is actually part of his strength. He swoops in, kicks ass and leaves before wearing out his welcome.

Now I'm not the biggest Motley Crue fan in the world, I mainly like the hits such as "Wildside", "Girls Girls Girls" or "Dr Feelgood". So I can't go into whatever his greatest solo is or best riff or anything like that. But I know good playing when I hear it and Mars could definitely play. So why is he so ignored by guitar fans? Normally the lead guitarist is one of the focal points of a hair band. Ratt = Warren Dimartini, Europe = John Norum, Poison = CC Deville and so on. When it comes to Motley Crue, they equal...well, everyone but Mick Mars. And I think the reason Mick Mars gets ignored is, he just ain't pretty.

That was one of the big draws to being lead guitarist in the late 70s thru the 80s, the romanticized vision of guitar god. The guitar god who looked pretty and got the girls while wowing the dudes with his shredding solos. Mars didn't fit that profile, he could amaze with his six string antics but no one wanted to watch him do it. While I watched a video of "Home Sweet Home" today I noticed when his epic power ballad solo came up you see him start the solo then cut to a bunch of slo mo shots of the other band members for the rest of it. Even in his own band he got little screen time.

I remember when Motley Crue broke big with the Shout At The Devil album. There were all these rumors as to why Mars looked the way he did. "He was born prematurely" was one, "He was born with his stomach inside out and that's why you never see his chest" was another, and of course the old standby "He got messed up in a car accident." People just couldn't accept Mick Mars the way he was.

Bottom line, I think Mick Mars doesn't get enough respect for his guitar playing. He let his talent do the talking during the MTV era, a time when looks are more important than sound. So I'm going to take this small piece of cyberspace to say Mick Mars is a bad ass guitarist and here's a nice solo from 1985.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Big Blue Versus Big Blue

National Geographic presents blue cat people from outer space

Avatar rating:

Yesterday I joined the millions (and millions!) of people who have seen the movie Avatar (but not in 3D). The latest in a chain of James Cameron epics. And you know what? It wasn't bad.

That's not to say it was great or legendary, other than being fine entertainment it escapes me how this flick has made as much money as it has. Technically it's a cut above, the visual effects are striking. Cameron creates a planet called Pandora that looks like a blue Roger Dean painting - lush fauna, arched granite, flying dragons and floating islands galore. On this planet are some tall blue people who live in harmony with nature. The digital effects are brilliant and engrosing, backgrounds are complex and lively while the blue alien creatures are rendered well enough to evoke human emotions without appearing entirely affected. It's not the jump of say The Matrix in digital effects but it is an impressive technical feat nonetheless.

Storywise Avatar follows the pattern of past Cameron classics. On Pandora the blue alien creatures are threatened by humans working for a corporation that wants to strip mine a precious ore from the surface. They want to relocate or kill the blue people to make a profit. Familiar patterns emerge i.e. a scrappy hero against a dogmatic enemy, a love story tested by the heat of battle, Police / Militairy personel portrayed as lunk headed gung ho killers and a lead character going through the stranger-in-a-strange-land syndrome. With Sigourney Weaver present it's easy to think of this as a sort of Aliens with the sides flipped to make the humans evil. Being a fan of James Cameron movies, it was easy for me to see where the story was going and I began sorting out which characters would die and which would live within the first 40 minutes of the 2 and a half hour epic.

To be fair, Cameron continues to add new elements to his storytelling. With Titantic, Cameron learned how to be mushy (and long winded) which carries over to Avatar. In Avatar, Cameron adds more social commentary into his style. Plenty of heavy handed allusions to modern wars for profit, destruction of the ecology for the sake of industrialization, the unfair expensiveness of medical help and the inhuman detachment of the technological world get play.

All in all, Avatar is a good movie. It wasn't mind blowing or a religious event as I've seen it described by some online, but it was good stuff. Is it ironic that this anti-corporate movie cost a bundle to make and is making even larger bundles for a major corporation? Looks like Cameron still has some dragons left to slay.