Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stir Crazy...after all these years

Gene Wilder was a constant figure during my childhood. He starred in so many of the movies that I watched over and over again. There was a period of a few years as a young schoolboy when asked what my favorite movie was, I'd answer...(now I know what you're thinking, I know that you think you know what I'm going to say...but, you're wrong, it wasn't Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)....Silver Streak. My brother and I watched that movie so many times, along with Stir Crazy, another great pairing with Richard Pryor. 

Of course, I also loved Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein and The Little Prince and Gene Wilder was always the focus of my attention in all of the movies he was in. He was one of my first favorite actors. Last night, he passed away, but he will always live on in the legendary roles he left behind. One day, I will share his best with my daughter and hopefully she will find the same joy in Gene's performances that I did. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Neverending Story

As a young child, The Neverending Story was one of those films that sparked my imagination and formed my creative aesthetic. Along with The Last Unicorn, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Ewok Adventure, this film began my love of fantasy and the images from it have been cemented in my mind ever since. 

Last year, I finally read the book by Michael Ende on which the movie is based and ever since, I'd been meaning to re-watch the movie that I hadn't seen since childhood. I finally got around to doing that the other day. The strange thing is how familiar the movie still felt, as if I'd just watched it a few months ago instead of thirty years ago. That's a result of the multiple viewings. 

The thing about 80's premium cable channels was that they showed the same movies over and over again for months. So when there was one I liked,  I tended to watch it over and over again. This was one I'd watched countless times. The fact that I, and probably every boy my age, had a childhood crush on the Child Empress was responsible for a few of those viewings, I'm sure. Also, anything with animatronics in the 80's was cutting edge and captured children's imaginations like nothing else, except of course its cousin, animation. 

Watching this again as an adult, it brought back a lot of childhood memories, but not exactly the same excitement, unlike something like Star Wars does. There is something so incredibly PG about it that it's hard to love as an adult. The acting is also overdone, with Atreyu screaming every one of his lines. It's no wonder that Michael Ende HATED this film, but I don't think that's really fair. It's still a movie that I think would capture the imagination of a child. Now that I have a child, I'm going to be very interested in how she views these movies when she's old enough.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

My technical difficulties of last weekend did not return this time, which I'm thankful for. It was one of those moments where I felt like the entire universe was against me! I decided to only carry over two of those previously deleted reviews. The other albums that I reviewed last weekend before they disappeared didn't seem worthy of repeating, so I left them off and focused instead on albums that I listened to this week. There are a few new releases and a few older albums that I discovered, or had known about but just finally got around to evaluating. Some great tunes here, hopefully you will find something worthy of discovering. Enjoy.

Goblin Cock - Necronomidonkeykongimicon: The new album from the Pinback metal side-project is the band's third and first since 2009. Despite the silly name, and previous albums' silly covers, this is quality stoner metal played at high speed. Like Pinback, the musicianship is intricate and flawless, but nothing about this band takes itself too seriously. Simply a fun metal album, probably a little more consistent than the previous two. Worthwhile for sure.

Shotgun Sawyer - Thunderchief: This is the debut album from the band formerly known as Thunderchief. The Cali band is heavy garage blues, falling somewhere between Black Keys and Zeppelin. There are some moments where everything doesn't quite come together, but for the most part this is a fantastic debut and a band that I hope will continue to put out music. I certainly recommend going to their website (linked) and checking them out.

Big Blood - Dark Country Magic: Over the past decade, this psych folk duo from Portland Maine has become one of my favorite bands. There music has a way of tapping into my imagination that few bands can. This 2010 album is one that I'd been searching for and finally was able to give it a listen last week. It's one of their best, with songs like "Waiting Is...," "Coming Home Part III," and "She Wander(er)" being standouts.

David Johansen - David Johansen: The New York Dolls front man's solo debut from '78, long before he became Buster Poindexter, is a wonderfully unheralded record. I recently found a beautiful copy of this at the Goodwill and used my $1.99 credit to snatch it up. It's not as chaotic as the Dolls but doesn't stray too far from the essence of their work. Perhaps a little more straight forward, but still the album is dense. "Funky but Chic" is exceptional. 

Hockey Dad - Boronia: Another debut album for this week comes this Australian indie band, which follows their debut EP from 2014. I was into this form the first song, which has a Dinosaur Jr. guitar feel. From there, it continues with a 90s indie feel, but infused with a contemporary garage sound that reminded me of The Orwells. This is a very solid indie rock album and another band that I hope continues to release music in the future.

Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast: The band's third album was released in 1982 and is the first with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. I love the first two albums and had always stopped there because of the singer change, but Bruce is great. This is a monster record that fits securely in their NWOBHM sound. "Run to the Hills," "Children of the Damned," and "Invaders" are among my favorites. I'm slowly working my way through their entire '80s catalog.

Lena Zavaroni - Ma! He's Making Eyes at Me: This is an album that I'd been looking for back during my Kidcore search. I finally found it about five years ago for 99¢ in Seattle. I listened to it once back then, and then not again until this week. Lena was 11 when this album was recorded in 1974 and she has big voice as she belts through some standards and current hits of the day like "Take Me Home, Country Roads." My favorite is her version of "The End of the World." A nice curiosity and well worth the buck. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hidding Places

I've been interested in things hiding all around, remaining unknown and unseen. It's a concept that has seeped into my work in various ways, but recently has consumed my imagination. 

Last week I talked about character sketches that I'm working on for a story that is just beginning to percolate. As I've been gathering the cast and trying to flesh them out, I realized that I needed to formulate a rough plot to fit them in. I had an inkling, but when trying to figure out the characters, I knew that I needed more. 

Over the last few days, things have started coming together. One idea merging with the next. Slowly the picture is starting to come together and it involves this idea of things hiding all around us. Dark and scary things. Things we tell ourselves that they don't exist. These are the ingredients that are cooking up this story....stay tuned.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

So, I'd completed this week's Roundup and was all set to publish it when I hit the wrong button and erased a weeks worth of reviews. Unfortunately, I'm too drained to re-do them. Therefore, there is no Roundup this weekend. But there is always music. Here's two gem that I just found out about, covers of songs I love by a band I love. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Character Sketches

Over the next few days I'm planning to work on a number of character sketches for a new novel idea I've been playing around with in my head over the past week. It's going to feature a large number of horrors and I need to get them all straight before I can organize them in a way that makes sense. It's sort of a different way of working for me than I've done in the past and I'm looking forward to it. These are all secondary characters, but the way they come together will play a big role in the story. 

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Woodstock Weekend

This weekend marks the 47th anniversary of the original Woodstock '69 Music Festival. I live in the area, and therefore am inundated with the event's importance on an almost regular basis, but that doesn't diminish the concert's place in history. Any list of greatest moments in Rock n Roll would surely include this in the top ten. Listening to the local radio station's tribute to Woodstock the other day, I decided to spin one record from every band who appeared at Woodstock that is represented in my collection. Here's my Woodstock weekend:

It was a great way to spend this ridiculously HOT weekend and makes up for the fact that I had no time to review new music due to a beach vacation last week. Don't worry, the Roundup will return in a few days, until then, celebrate three groovy days of love and music with some amazing performers. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

The end of the working week has arrived and with it comes my weekly blathering about music I've been listening to during the week. This was another week that mixed old with new as I try to clean through a backlog of music that has been awaiting my ears. There were some real surprises this week, some good ones, some surprisingly disappointing. Either way, all music is enjoyable in some way and I know that many people will have an opposite reaction. So give it try and see what you think. Enjoy.

Jerusalem - Jerusalem: Released in 1972, this was the only album that the heavy UK band would release before breaking up, only to reform a decade ago. This album, and band, was one that was getting attention and could've been huge. This falls somewhere between Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, with fantastic heavy riffs. In fact, it was produced by Deep Purple's Ian Gillian. "Hooded Eagle," "Frustration," and "Murder's Lament" are standouts on an exceptional record. 

Black Sabbath - The End: This EP contains four unreleased tracks recorded during the 13 sessions, and while they are straight forward Sabbath songs, it's not hard to see why they were left out of the final track list. Not embarrassing, just nothing terribly special. It also includes a few live tracks from the recent tour. Worth checking out for fans.

Nacho Picasso - Blunt Raps II: Released last summer, this is the Seattle rapper's latest mixtape, a follow up to one done a few years ago. Over the past few years, Nacho has become my favorite rapper. His flow is like no other, and he always comes out with some lines that make me smile. This is classic Nacho, some of his best work and highly recommended.

Tales of Murder and Dust - The Flow in Between: The newest release by the Danish psych band is their second album. This falls somewhere between drone and shoegaze in it's style, meaning that it is an expansive soundscape with minimal changes in tempo. It's been a few months since I've picked an album like this to listen to and it was kind of refreshing. There is always the issue of boredom when it comes to this genre, but I didn't feel that with this record. It was nice summer drive time album, just zoning out and watching the cars pass by.

Ike & Tina Turner - Hits & Classics The Archive Series Volumes 1 & 2: I'd been meaning to check out some Ike and Tina for awhile and finally checked this out. This set includes a lot of covers, including some great Beatles covers. To be honest, I was expecting this to be better. I had high hopes, but in the end, it was just okay.

American Folk Singers and Balladeers Vanguard Recordings: A few years back, I bought this four album box set a few years back in Washington state for $1. I've always been a fan of Vanguard folk recordings and this is great collection of lesser known folk artists from the label. The Odetta and Rooftop Singers sides are exceptional.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Shame on You, America!

The other day, the New York Times released this video of supporters at Trump rallies across America during the course of his campaign of hate. It is a disgraceful display of ignorance, anger, and hatred that has no place in this country, let alone in our political dialogue.

By no means am I saying people need to back Hillary Clinton. I have my own issues with her, though I will vote her, even if only to keep that fascist out of the White House. However, there are other choices out there than voting for Trump. If you are thinking about voting for Trump, keep in mind that you will be aligning yourself with people like the ones in this video.

But even if he doesn't get elected, which I'm fairly confident that he won't, the cesspool of hatred that he has drudged up with continue to fester. His campaign has awakened a beast that will not be easily calmed. Even after he is defeated, there will be work for all of us to do in trying to enlighten our fellow Americans who are stuck in a backwards way of thinking.