Monday, August 29, 2011
My wife was shocked when she heard this Old Navy commercial appear where Salt N Pepa's old school rap hit "Let's Talk About Sex" has been converted to hocking pants.
I was surprised too, how could they, the almighty powers that be, use a controversial song from the 90s in this way? Then it made more sense when I heard another commercial on tv use some version of Duran Duran's "Girls On Film" to sell something too. A song that instantly recalls the classic "night club" version of the video (and I think most people in my age group knows what I'm talking about. "The Chauffeur" too, all arty and black and white.) So that's where we're at in advertising land, they're going to use songs with slightly taboo memories to get our attention now. 'Cause sex and mild controversy sells, as you can tell I still remember the 'ol Brooke Shields jeans campaign. I have to admit it works, I'm writing about it aren't I? And I don't have kids or shop for clothes.
For me it's just another sign of getting older. People my age, most of whom are probably parents, will snap their necks to look at the screen when one of these clips hit the tv. And their kids will sing along to the hook, completely unaware of the original connotation of what they're singing. It's funny how time erases controversy in music, like when I was growing up I never heard Ozzy Osbourne on the radio (he's Satanic and eats animals!) but now can see him on tv whenever and hear "Crazy Train" while shopping for groceries. It's probably how the generation before me felt when they started hearing "Louie Louie" at Johnny Rocket restaurants. They're playing what!! As Johnny Carson used to say, weird wild stuff.
So what's next? George Michael's "I Want Your Subway Sandwich"? Madonna's "Like A Volvo touched for the very first time"? C'mon corporate america, hit this old man with your best shot.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
I pity the fool that doesn't like The A-Team! It's a formulaic action movie based on a formulaic action tv show. The movie acts like an oversized version of the original source material, loud lunkheaded fun with even more explosions. It's well done stuff, nicely cast and delivered with a ton of zip. Although not the headline star, The Hangover's Bradley Cooper gets plenty of "face" time. And don't ask me how he did it, but Liam Neeson has neatly slid into all those middle aged badass roles left vacant by Mel Gibson's career implosion. Most impressively, former teen actor Brian Bloom nearly walks off with the whole picture as the ruthless bad guy. Bottom line, as far as a cash in on an old 80s tv show goes The A Team ain't bad.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
While in Las Vegas we caught Cirque du Soleil (a name I will forever get confused with Punky Brewster) Ka at the MGM Grand. It's the first Cirque du Soleil thing I've seen. Going in, I wasn't even 100% sure what it was about. I thought it was about the elements fire, water, air and so on. My wife said she thought it was a love story. We both expected a lot of stunts. For the most part, Ka was a blank slate in terms of expectations.
So when you walk in the auditorium there are some striking things about the set design right off. The main stage is a pit that spews flame balls upward at random, the front lip of the stage is wide enough to stand on. The main stage is flanked on both sides by something like Star Wars Ewok Village. The ushers are dressed like a cult and will repeatedly address you as "friend". We had 2nd row seats which were pretty awesome, close enough to touch the actors if we wanted to.
I don't want to give away too much of what Ka is because I felt part of what made it exciting was I didn't know jack about it. So a broad explanation I could give is it's like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon meets Disney meets Avatar. Or a live action Hiyao Miyazaki movie. The story is about royal twins who are separated by an attack on their clan and forced to flee. They are split up and adventures ensue and so on. At least that's what I got out of it since none of the characters (save the narrator) speaks english.
The stunt work in this show is amazing, the timing of their movements were impressive. Hanging from tall heights, martial arts fights with weapons and enough wire work to fill a second Matrix trilogy left me in awe. I had to go to the bathroom half way through but didn't because I was concerned my movement might throw off the performers. Acting was first rate, the fact that these performers can flip and dive and kung fu then hold a convincing facial expression for their character was fantastic.
Again, don't want to give away too much. When George Lucas made Star Wars, he said something like he wanted it to be similar to a foreign movie that starts in the middle and makes you decypher what is happening. Ka is like that. A visual feast for the eyes that retains the thrills of circus acrobatics and adds an emotional layer of epic storytelling.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Just came back from my first trip to Las Vegas. What an incredible trip it was! Three days of fun shared with my wonderful wife. And how else should I commemorate the trip than create a playlist of memories, another Playlist of Pooh!
Gram Parsons - Ooh Las Vegas
To get psyched up for the trip I thought I should listen to Ac/Dc's "Sin City" or ZZ Top's "Viva Las Vegas" but I never did, instead I played this song on my Ipod repeatedly in the week leading up to the trip.
Journey - Raised On Radio
We listened to the radio on the way to the airport, I had no idea that Steven Seaweed and his Hot Lunch program was still on the air. In high school I loved listening to that show on the now defunct KRQR radio station. The weed man wanted folks to call in requests with "radio" as the theme, I would have called this in if I had time to hear it before arriving at the airport.
The Beatles - Ticket To Ride
It was a long wait for our flight at the airport, it was delayed by about two hours. I have an extreme fear of heights and flying, so even though I watched plane after plane take off the runway without incident I was still going nuts. I tried to think of how many of my favorite entertainers have spent decades flying all over the world without problem. Or the other times I had been on planes and safely gotten from one place to another. Unfortunately, all these rationalizations didn't help much so my wife bought me a magazine about The Beatles to distract me.
Asia - The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Our trip to Vegas was off to a bad start, the flight was delayed and then it took another 30 minutes for our shuttle to leave the airport because they were waiting for other passengers. Except they didn't tell us that, they sat us in the shuttle and left us there to the point we considered just walking to the hotel. Our hotel was The Luxor, a pyramid shaped place that reminded me of the Asia Alpha album cover.
Ohio Players - Love Rollercoaster
Once we dropped off our stuff in the room we decided to walk around. The New York New York section nearby so we went on the roller coaster. It was a great coaster with huge drops and loops throughout. Easily the best roller coaster we had been on in ages. My only problem was I rode the coaster wrong. How do you ride a roller coaster wrong? On this one you have to keep your head flat against the headrest or else it bounces between two neck bars like a ping pong ball. I didn't know that going in, the sides of my lower jaw are still sore. But what a great ride!
Sammy Hagar - I Love This Bar
We had a drink at a bar, I think it was called Diablo. There are tons of restaurant / bars on the Strip including Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo and another owned by Toby Keith. I was sort of interested in going to Cabo Wabo since Sammy Hagar is as close to a prophet / philosopher that I can think of in the world. But when I heard their music system pumping new wave music I thought "ehhh". In Sammy Hagar land there should only be Saint Sammy's jams on the speakers!
Quarterflash - Take Me To Heart
The next morning this song was running through my head for no apparent reason. Just seemed to fit the mood of relaxing opulence at The Luxor.
Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City
Vegas is all about tourism, for many living there it is working in the service industry but for others it's sales and promotion. There is this place under construction called The Grandview which will eventually be 20 towers tall but only has six built right now. The Grandview has hired an army of blazer wearing folk to offer package deals of show tickets and gambling money in exchange for going through what I assume is a lengthy presentation to get you to buy into a timeshare at the new establishment. While the sales people are perfectly pleasant, they're planted like ant farms all over Mandalay Bay, The Luxor and The Excaliber making their repeated "Do you have any plans for a show this evening" or "How long are you in town" queries irritating beyond belief. I actually preferred the porn peddlers waving their leaflets in my face up and down the strip to The Grandview reps. At least those guys and gals understand my shaking my head and hands at them means "no" and don't try to overcome my objections. It doesn't quite fit, yet "Atlantic City" came to mind when dealing with these people. I don't blame the salespeople themselves they're just people trying to earn a buck just like me, but damn...
We had a nice romantic gondola ride through an indoor area that is designed to be like Venice, Italy. The...I guess maybe they're called Gondalier? Anyway, the guy that moves the boat with a pole was friendly and an excellent singer. One of the songs he sang he prefaced as being from The Lady And The Tramp which was this tune.
Ray Lamontage - You Are The Best Thing
While spending time with my wife looking thru the mall stores, this song came on which fit the mood perfectly.
Kool & The Gang - Too Hot
Did I mention it is hot in Vegas? The temp was over 100 degrees every day until when we left, when it was a cool 97. Even at night you feel like you walked into a broiler. After walking much of the day we were exhausted and took a hasty cab ride back to our room for some rest. Then we met with some of my wife's relatives for a very pleasant dinner.
Queen - Body Language
Won't go into too much detail, I'll just say seeing provocative dancing to this song was the first time I enjoyed hearing this forgotten track. Thought "Body Language" overdid the dance angle of the band following "Another One Bites The Dust" in terms of Queen's music, but in this context it was the perfect tune.
She And Him - You Really Got A Hold On Me
In a rare quiet moment in this very exciting city, I sat down with my Ipod and listened to some She & Him while reading the hotel magazines. This song really popped when I heard it.
Duffy - Mercy
If there is a song The Luxor likes, it's definitely "Mercy". Heard this play throughout the hotel multiple times every day. It's amazing how these hotel / casinos are designed, they're like mini cities within themselves with tons of food, shopping and entertainment at your disposal (at a high price of course). Oh, if you're ever in The Luxor I recommend having the fried rice at Rice & Co. upstairs, it is insanely good!
The Heights - How do You Talk to An Angel?
It's my wife's birthday! We had a delicious breakfast at the Mandalay Bay, it was a fancy place with a great view of other buildings and palm trees. I had a Norway Benedict while she had smoked salmon with bagels. It felt like the setting for a scene in a tv show with rich people, like 90210. A wonderful time with my wonderful, beautiful wife.
Styx - Mr Roboto
After breakfast I took her to The Fremont Street Experience. The magazine in the hotel room promised shopping and art and a good time. What actually was there was old Las Vegas, the original Strip. The Fremont Street Experience was fascinating, a sort of land-that-time-forgot. A place that emphasizes the "loosest slots in town" and offer prime rib dinners for $4.95 on posters. The older casino / hotels retain much of the 70s style sense of glitz with tons of light bulbs flashing on signs everywhere. Signs you could easily imagine having held the names of legends like Sammy Davis Jr or Dean Martin at one point in time. There weren't many people there when we went, adding to a ghost town effect. When I told my wife the magazine said Fremont Street was 80s themed this year, she jokingly said that was the reason I took her there. The topic came up when "Mr Roboto" blasted on the Fremont St audio system while we looked at a kiosk selling 80s t-shirts saying something like "Vegas says Relax" (for those too young to remember, the 80s had a lot of "Frankie Says Relax" t-shirts. Right up there with oversized "Choose Life" shirts).
John Waite - Going to The Top
My wife has always wanted to go to France, so I took her to the Eiffel Tower in the Paris section of Las Vegas Blvd. The view was really awesome, I just wished my fear of heights could have subsided so we could have enjoyed it more.
Elvis Presley - Viva Las Vegas
In the early afternoon we made our way back to the Bellagio / Ceasar's Palace part of the Strip. It was there on a private balcony we witnessed the famous water fountain show at The Bellagio. Done to the tune of "Viva Las Vegas", it was truly a spectacular show. So glad we got to see this.
The Simpsons - Monorail
We rode the monorail back towards our hotel afterwards. I love monorails!
Black Crowes - Share The Ride
That evening we saw Cirque Du Soleil Ka which I will write a separate review on. Once that ended we tried to catch a cab back to the hotel, but the cab stand line was too long so we footed it. Before Vegas, I had taken maybe two taxi cab rides in my life. In Las Vegas it was a daily necessity. It is so hot outside you have to find other ways to get around. Most of the taxi drivers were friendly and amiable, others not so much.
Nearer My God to Thee
The next morning we went to see the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor. On the one hand, it may not have been a good idea to delve into one of the greatest disasters in modern travel on the same day as catching a flight. On the other hand, it was a well done exhibit. It is solemn, informative and involving. To see the personal effects of the travellers and remaining pieces of the ship is so sad. The recreation of the grand staircase is impressive. But what really stuck with me is the facsimile of the side deck at night, it makes you feel like you're really on a ship. A feeling of calm and beauty, unaware of the disaster looming before them. Violin music played in the background, which I believe included this song that may have been performed while the boat sank. After Titanic we walked over to the Shark Reef to see an impressive display of animals and sea creatures.
Gym Class Heroes - Cupid's Chokehold / Breakfast In America
To cope with the flying I had to drink a lot before the flight. While downing a beer this song played in the background at the bar, my wife hadn't heard it before so it caught her by surprise. I had to break the news that yes, even Supertramp is not immune to sampling. Can't say I dislike this tho, it's Supertramp with a modern beat.
Led Zeppelin - Fool In The Rain
We sat in rush hour traffic through San Francisco to get home. The radio played three Led Zep songs in a row, after "Fool In The Rain" we talked about our trip matching the cadence of the verses.
Smokey Robinson - Being With You
Thank you for the trip honey, I loved being there with you :)
Weezer - Memories
While driving to get some food today, the radio was all advertisements so I threw in the Weezer cd I had in the car. This song was perfect for the moment. All the memories make me want to go back there...
Friday, August 12, 2011
I've spent the week trying to put together a review of the Dokken show I saw at the County Fair last Saturday. I wrote it out, posted it for a second, and then thought maybe I was being a little too harsh on Don Dokken so I took it down. Don Dokken's voice isn't quite what it used to be. The best I can say about the show is that I can check Dokken off the wish list of concerts I hadn't seen before. And my wife takes nice pictures, which I'm including in this post.
Heaven isn't too far away...- Sad to read Jani Lane was found dead at age 47. While I'm not a huge Warrant fan I liked their music generally. R.I.P. Jani Lane.
Footloose - is every movie I saw in the 80s going to be replaced with a new one? Since when did film memories become like Windows upgrades?
Destination Unknown? - It's a time for the most over advertised movie on tv this week, Final Destination 5. I've never watched any of these Final Destination movies, does anyone ever survive these movies? I take it that death is never represented other than maybe by Candyman, are these characters always killed by an unseen force? Guess I'm saying I don't understand the point of these movies.
A little bird told me - I am totally hooked on Angry Birds on my phone. Damn those pigs!
Some Kind Of Monster - lots of speculation going 'round that Metallica and Megadeth will form a new group together. You can't ever say never, yet I can't see this happening.
Weatherman says it's going to be hot tonight - Heather Locklear, yes Stacy Sheridan herself, is engaged to "All I Need" Jack Wagner. Locklear seems to be getting a lot of good press lately thanks to the engagement and the promising modeling career of her daughter. After a lot of news stories in recent years portrayed Locklear as falling apart at the seams, nice to see her rebound.
Did I Do That? - I am diggin' Jaleel White's appearance in the new Cee Lo Green video. Didn't realize how much I missed Urkel.
Friday, August 05, 2011
In 1982 I went to my first concert of a real band, Air Supply. Yes, those wonderfully sappy purveyors of Carpenters style balladry that came to define adolescent images of romantic love in the early 80s. For a two year period they were unstoppable, casually lobbing one carefully crafted soft rock ditty after another onto the radio. Then the 80s really took hold and Air Supply had run out of oxygen, unable to compete with the macho power ballads flooding the airwaves. By 1986 Air Supply couldn't even muster a minor Top 40 hit.
Last night I wondered how Air Supply would fare 29 years after I had first seen them. Could Russell Hitchcock still belt out those soaring sustained high notes? Would they sound tired of playing the same 'ol songs for nearly three decades? Does their appearance at the Solano county fair signal the end is near for the Australian group?
It was a strong turn out for them in terms of crowd, the largely Filipino audience eagerly awaited the beginning of the show. Then the group hit the stage to deliver their message of love. And after a quick smooch between principal songwriter / guitarist / singer Graham Russell and vocalist Russell Hitchcock the band went off to the races with this set list (at least what I remember of it):
Even The Nights Are Better / Just As I Am / Here I Am / an upbeat song / Chances / The Power Of Love / A Little More Time / I think an upbeat song here / The One That You Love / Lost In Love / I think a song I didn't know / Every Woman In The World / Making Love Out Of Nothing At All
encore: an upbeat song something about a Big Idea / All Out Of Love
Air Supply kicked off with a rocked up take on their final Top 10 single "Even The Nights Are Better". Hitchcock seemed in clear voice, retaining a surprising amount of power considering how long they've been around. Right from the start Hitchcock's stage mannerisms started with pointing at the crowd and blowing kisses at them, he had not lost a beat since the last time I saw them. The band was energetic and filled with talented musicians, yet they had trouble throughout the night trying to pull off some hairpin turns in their arrangements.
Giving "Nights" a heavier rock edge made more sense as they led into "Just As I Am" from 1985 - a time period where Air Supply tried to rock harder (I use that phrase modestly, Air Supply never rocks hard). One of my favorite Air Supply songs, even though my most lasting memory of it was attending a youth group meeting senior year of high school and sitting in a circle on the library floor while "Just As I Am" blasted on the tape deck as our touchy-feely theme song.
The hits kept comin' with "Here I Am", more memories of borrowing my best friend's Mom's two Air Supply records back in the day. "Here I Am" also featured a big Air Supply tradition: milking the big note. When I saw them way back when they would stop playing before the big vocal note and not continue until Hitchcock felt he had enough audience applause to do it. Well, they still do that on almost every ballad. In fact, the pause was so long on this song that when the singer paused on "It's just no good without..." the audience began yelling "You! You! Yooouu!" before they resumed. Air Supply likes them some applause.
Graham Russell addressed the crowd, asking them if they were ready for a night of love. The word "love" is invoked with near religious reverence in the Air Supply lexicon. He then made one of several comments thru the evening of how beautiful a place the audience lives in. Next up was some upbeat song, you know the Supply gotta have those so it's not just one long ballad fest. At this point I was really impressed with the professionalism of Air Supply, these guys commit to putting on an entertaining show. Graham Russell does his waddling boogie dance, Hitchcock works the crowd, they give their supporting band numerous shout outs and let them strut their stuff. I was impressed by their guitarist with the Mike Reno headband, he wasn't a bad axe man. Nailed those soaring solos.
The highlight for my night was "Chances", a song I heard the first time when I saw them in '82 (it latter was released on the first Greatest Hits Lp). Such a great song. They followed up with "The Power Of Love" which is probably best known in the U.S. as a Celine Dion song although it was a remake of a Jennifer Rush song. Supply had covered this in '85 so they had a credible reason to perform it and it was rendered nicely. Their version is the one I like the most anyway.
I hit the head at this point and came back in time to see Graham Russell stand up straight like a soldier to a military style marching beat. My wife filled me in that Russell had performed a moving song about a soldier's wedding he had performed at. The soldier was later killed in action and the widow said their last words to each other was "A little more time".
Pretty sure another upbeat song happened next. Then Air Supply made a move that caused the crowd to go nuts. Hitchcock and Russell walked through the seated lawn area while performing an acoustic take on "The One That You Love". Cameras and throngs of people surrounded them as they slowly made their way around. Women were crying and shouting "I Love You!" right to their faces. Yeah, that sealed the deal. Air Supply owned this audience.
It was time to score some insurance runs, so Air Supply followed up with "Lost In Love". While I find it personally humorous, the concept that someone is "lost" in "love" like a person would be lost in a haze trying to find a way out, it is undeniably a monster in the soft rock catalog. And so many great 80s movie soundtrack memories to boot.
I don't remember if there was a song between "Lost In Love" and "Every Woman In The World", I was just going with the flow of the concert now and not keeping track of the setlist closely. It might have been band introduction, where we were told the names of Mike Reno headband wearing guitarist, Jersey Shore drummmer and keyboardist Amir. "Every Woman In The World" is another treasured Air Supply song that went smoothly. I really like the Love Boat / Fantasy Island view of romantic love this song has.
To close the set, Russell Hitchcock started a capella with "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" before launching into the full band version. This was the only song where Hitchcock's vocal skill couldn't overcome age as he had to take a lot of breaths to get through the long windy Jim Steinman penned verses. To be fair, Jim Steinman songs are built tough, tough enough to make Meat Loaf faint. For a reason I couldn't quite figure out, they did the 2nd verse twice. Didn't seem like an accident, maybe to stretch out the song? The band wound up the show and trotted off stage.
Shortly after, the group returned for the encore. An upbeat number ensued, something about a "Big Idea". Followed by band introduction #2 of each member 'cause Air Supply likes to get their props. Apparently Graham Russell really liked his 2nd introduction because he then gave Russell Hitchcock a kiss on the cheek. Then Graham Russell said this would be the last song of the evening, that they could not leave without playing this song.
"All Out Of Love" rolled out, the bands biggest and baddest hit. Yet another wave of gooey soft rock swooniness took over the audience (during this show I saw enough swaying arms in the air to fill a season of American Idol) and all was right with the world until...UNTIL...BLAM! A big ass drum solo by the Jersey Shore looking drummer two thirds of the way thru. The band left the stage while the drummer who I will now refer to as The Situation blasted through a thundering solo which was fine for what it was, by why in the middle of "All Out Of Love"? It was your standard epic rock concert drum solo that crushed all the sentiment out of the song, it was like watching someone paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa (OK, that metaphor was overboard but you know what I mean). The Situation then went to the front of the stage to throw his sticks out to the audience, like we're going to impress other people with a stick from the drummer of Air Supply (sorry, if you're not the original drummer Ralph Cooper I don't care). Like I'm supposed to say "Yay, you destroyed 'All Out Of Love' good job!"
As easy as it is to ridicule Air Supply (and it is easy...) I am at heart a fan of their music. And as a fan I have to say Air Supply delivers a good show, committed to creating an energetic environment to which people can feel their brand of ...er, love. I guess you can say (please, don't say it) they made love...out of nothing...at all...
Yesterday I watched Hollywood's latest attempt at creating a big budget kitsch classic with Cowboys and Aliens. The movie definitely has a head turning title. Despite the nutty premise, the film has big stars (Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and lots of other actors where you go "Oh yeah it's that guy!") and is directed by Iron Man Jon Favreau. My guess was to anticipate a fast paced plot, lots of running and shouting with explosions, you know the usual action stuff. I went in with the intention of not thinking about what I'm seeing and enjoying the ride.
To make a film like this work, it needs to have some kind of creative angle or sense of edgy humor to make the thing zip along. You can't buy into the story with any sense of realism, the central idea of the project is basically a Syfy channel movie on steroids. So it's too bad Favreau didn't get that memo, 'cause he directs this popcorn flick like it's Saving Private Ryan. The tone is mostly serious, nobody looks like they're having fun on screen (well, except maybe Harrison Ford but that's 'cause he's so awesome). Aliens don't get much screen time until the ending, most of what you get is the bickering of the townspeople who have gathered together to try to rescue their loved ones from the mysterious demons of the sky. Since the bulk of the film plays like a standard Western, the aliens aren't just intrusive they seem pasted on like the marketing tool that they are. It's like Favreau couldn't get the money to do a full on Western so he settled for making 4/5ths of one.
The Western part of the movie is solid, thanks in large part to that great cast. James Bond / Daniel Craig is no stranger to portraying the badass with no name bit and fits in fine. Harrison Ford is a blast as the hardened cattle rancher / ex war officer with a soft spot for little kids. Ford seems to relish playing this character and is the only character to generate a strong emotional reaction. Sam Rockwell's sensitive barkeep also registers strongly. Yep, all the actors pull their weight except for maybe Olivia Wilde. I couldn't tell if her acting was good or not since her character was so hokey I couldn't envision anyone doing it well.
Since the movie was more drama than fun, I had lots of time for my mind to spin its wheels. I began to wonder how Olivia Wilde's character managed to wear so much makeup in the old west, make up that doesn't run after getting soaked in water no less. Or how she got such a tight fitting frontier woman's dress, it was like the Tron outfit in a skirt. And why were the Aliens stuck with the generic outer space invaders playbook. Alien weapons that humans can only use in the presence of the aliens themselves (District 9). Creatures that capture people to "study for weaknesses" in the human race (every damn invasion movie but mostly thinking of War Of The Worlds). People kept in a zombie like state packed together in a room (The Matrix). A scurrying army of green armored creatures that can jut out attack appendages (Aliens, Starship Troopers).
Cowboys And Aliens isn't an all out bad movie, it just misses the point of its own existence. One that makes promises of epic battle storytelling and then bores you with the tales of the long trip it took to get there. Sort of like telling a friend you went to Disneyland and then spend the next 90 minutes detailing your car trip with pee breaks as the high points. Thankfully, Indiana Ford is there to bring back fond memories of Raiders Of The Lost Ark...or at least Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull.