Posted on Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Tomorrow I'm on vacation for ten days so, naturally, today was packed full of last-minute work projects and a non-stop parade of drama. Work I can handle... but the drama?
Well, the drama has nothing to do with me. Yet people somehow think that it should.
So I'm ignoring the outside world for a while, and focusing on more important things. Like Miley Cyrus using her entire sixteen years of life experience to advise kids as to how they should live their lives...
"I'm telling kids, don't go on the internet. It's dangerous, it's not fun, it wastes your life, and you should be outside playing sports or something. I just think it's kind of lame. I feel like I hang out with my friends and they're so busy taking pictures of what they're doing and putting them on Facebook that they're not really enjoying what they're doing. You're going to look back and have a million pictures, but you're not going to be in any of them. Because you're not having fun, you're too busy clicking away. So I think just enjoy the moment you're in, and stop telling people about it. Just enjoy it."
Wow. Where was this sage advice seven years ago when I started blogging?
The thing that's so odd is that kids pretty much live online now. American teenagers now-a-days haven't really known of a world without the internet. And, thanks to devices like the iPhone, they're beginning to not know of a world without constant access to the internet. They're online Twittering and Facebooking constantly, and when they're not doing that, they're texting each other non-stop. Sure it's excessive, but these are the times we live in, and that's the way society seems to want to interact. So, while I applaud Miley for encouraging kids to step away from the computer once in a while, I think it's unrealistic to tell them "Don't go on the internet." Ever. That's who they are now.
Besides, it would be pretty hard for them to buy tickets at Ticketmaster.com for Miley's concerts... or spend their time hanging around her two websites MileyCyrus.com and MileyWorld.com... or sign up for her email newsletter... or visit her official YouTube Channel... or shop at her official Amazon Shop... or connect with her on her official Facebook fan page... or view her musical endeavors on her official iLike Artist Page... or buy her music from her page at the iTunes Music Store... or even become a friend at her official MySpace Page.
So, basically, Miley tells her fans not to do the internet drug, but then pushes them all kinds of internet crack to feed their habit.
Maybe her millions of dollars puts her in a class above being a hypocritical douchebag, but this is still a disappointment.
Especially to a huge Hannah Montana fan like me...
Isn't it terrible when our media heroes turn out to be sanctimonious wankers after all?
Posted on Sunday, April 18th, 2010
Oops! I almost forgot about Bullet Sunday! It's been a very busy weekend.
• Volcanic? The eruption of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland and subsequent blanketing of all Europe with ash has disrupted air travel on a massive scale... including mine. Everybody's schedule has been hopelessly screwed and their travel plans postponed indefinitely since nobody knows when the eruption will subside. Worst case scenario has the action intensifying, causing the nearby Katia volcano to erupt as well. If that happens, planes will make their decision to fly from day to day based on weather patterns, and nobody will be able to plan for anything. At the very worst, travel could be mostly trains and ships around Europe for a long while. On the other hand, this could all blow over tomorrow.
But no matter what happens, I am saddened by people saying things like "I hate Iceland" and "Iceland just ruined my vacation" or whatever. Even if the country of Iceland didn't exist, that volcano would still be there. So hate on the volcano, not the country it happens to be erupting on. It's no more Iceland's fault now than it was Washington State's fault when Mt. St. Helens erupted. I've been lucky enough to have visited Reykjavik, and found everybody there to be friendly and kind to visitors. Certainly they're not deserving of such ill-will for something that's not their fault. Besides, karma dictates it could be your country next.
• Good Beaver? Ever wonder what Lil' Dave would look like if I were Canadian? Wonder no longer...
Yes, things are gearing up for TequilaCon 2010 quite nicely. Just six more days...
• Airfix? For well over a decade I've been combing the internet looking for information on an artist named "Satori" who was responsible for some of my favorite album covers in the 80s. I first noticed them for the Thompson Twins' Into The Gap album, where they turned the band's logo into a map...
And of course there was that beautifully haunting cover for Dead or Alive's Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know with Pete Burns staring at you with those black-on-black eyes...
And of course there were those genius covers for a little band called Def Lepard...
This week "Satori" came up in an email conversation, and I Googled them just to see if anything new had popped up. Turns out that there has been something new... "Satori" was just a studio name for Andie Airfix. Not only does Andie now have a personal site where you can purchase some of his amazing work, BUT HE HAS AN AWESOME BLOG called "B*b G#ld*f Stole My Sunglasses?"
No joke... if you have even a passing interest in 80's music (or graphic design), you must visit Andie's blog. It's filled with genius stories featuring Grace Jones, Thompson Twins, Pete Burns, Def Lepard and more. I've read through his every entry twice and will undoubtedly read them all again. Great stuff.
Meh. I suppose I should probably try and get some sleep now. Who knows... one of these nights I might actually get lucky.
Posted on Friday, May 7th, 2010
I've had several perfect days in New York City. It's not terribly difficult, because the entire world is at your feet the moment you arrive. But, in all the years I've been coming here, this is going to be the day to top.
It started with an evacuation at Times Square.
It ended with an amazing dream concert I've waited half a lifetime to see.
That concert would be a-ha's Ending on a High Note farewell tour. For better or worse, a-ha will forever be known as the "Take on Me Guys" here because they're pretty much a one-hit-wonder in the USA. Probably because most of their follow-up albums were never released here, which is a damn shame because they had some amazing music in the years that followed.
The show was, as expected, flawless. Morton Harket's stunning vocals were as good as ever as they tore through a catalog of the band's hits. Sure there were some tracks I wanted to hear that were left out, but if they had put in everything I wanted the concert would have lasted five hours.
Still, it was a brilliant performance, and made me sadder than ever that the band is breaking up...
Good bye and thanks, guys.
That's the last of my favorite 80's bands that I needed to see in concert*, so I guess my life is complete now.
Going back to the beginning, my day started in Times Square... just as they decided to evacuate it. A cooler was left at West 46th Street, and the police (wisely) decided it's better to be safe than sorry...
Things ended up being a false alarm, but it's comforting to know that the NYPD is taking no chances. I must have gotten a dozen tweets, emails, and texts from people saying things like "ARE YOU CRAZY?" and "BET YOU WISH YOU WEREN'T IN NEW YORK NOW!" or whatever. I ended up ignoring all of them because (no offense) I just don't give a crap. Travel is ALWAYS dangerous... and, yes, New York is probably more dangerous than other places I could go just this moment. But that's not going to stop me from coming back. If my options are to stop traveling to amazing places like this... or to sit in my house for the rest of my life and fret about how dangerous the world is... I'll take my chances out in the world. Because I'd rather die doing what I want to do than doing nothing at all.
Anyway, the weather was absolutely fantastic, so I scuttled my plans to visit galleries all afternoon and decided to instead just
What a great tour! Starting in the upper-left, that would be Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, The New York Times, FAO Schwartz, Apple Store Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Garden, New Yorker Hotel, Shake Shack, Flatiron Building, Central Park Carousel, Bethesda Terrace Landscape, The Loeb Boathouse, Bow Bridge, The High Line, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, and Yankee Stadium. Whew... that's a lot of New York City! And I actually walked most of that, only taking the subway four times when the walk would have killed me...
The final stop of my Gowalla Tour... the Shake Shack!
The last cool thing of my day was after I had dinner following the a-ha concert. Dozens of police cars and motorcycles lined up to zoom through Times Square. It was darn impressive, and a great way to end my evening...
And tomorrow is another day.
*Unless New Order decides to get back together and tour, in which case I have one more band to go.
Posted on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
Bullet Sunday from Chicago! It's a good place to be!
• Lost. When the television phenomena known as Lost debuted, I was a serious fan. I obsessed over the show and was lauding it as "genius" with each new incredible revelation and juicy mystery. It was everything I loved about television come to life. But then, somewhere in the middle of Season 2, I slowly began to realize that the the show was all smoke and mirrors with no substance whatsoever. It was nothing but mystery on top of mystery, and the writers were quickly building a house of bullshit from which the show would never escape. They just kept piling on "cool stuff" until NO resolution would ever be worth it. So I gave up the show. Every once in a while I'd tune in because people would tell me how awesome it was getting, but all I ever saw was more shit being dropped on a big box of bullshit...
And so tonight, after a lovely dinner out in the 'burbs, I got back to my hotel where the final episode of Lost was nearly over. So I decided to watch. I decided that if I liked what I saw, I'd admit I was wrong all along and go back and watch everything I missed.
Except I wasn't wrong. In my humble opinion, it was the single biggest wimpy cop-out bullshit of an ending the writers could have possibly come up with. It just validated my belief that they really didn't know what the hell they were doing, which is why they kept adding "cool shit" to distract everybody and keep the audience watching. That would have been fine, except you have to be able to really deliver at the end. And they didn't. So when I hear how show-runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse imply that they knew what was going on all along, I think they're either A) LYING, and just slapped on some lame shit that "explains" nothing and everything at the same time... or, B) THE WORST WRITERS EVER that they think THIS was a worthy end to a six-year investment of people's time. I'm not saying that every detail had to be wrapped up and explained at the end, I'm just saying that, ultimately, the end has to be a satisfying conclusion to everything leading up to it, and I didn't see that.
Whatever the case, I thank heavens I never wasted any more time with the show than I did.
And yet, if there are fans who loved the show and felt the ending was perfect... more power to you! Not everybody has to like the same things, and so congratulations on getting what you wanted out of Lost.
• Grey's. If there's one guilty pleasure of mine to be found on television that's NOT Lost, it would be Grey's Anatomy. Overall, despite some very notable set-backs and other stupidity (e.g. Dead Denny), I find it to be highly entertaining. Somehow, the writers are always managing to come up with these clever twists and interesting stories that keeps moving everything forward.
Except for the season finale last week, which was a total load of crap. What kills me is that the premise was outstanding. Genius, even. But then the writers got lazy and stupid and just decided to fill time with scene after scene of characters going into needless fits of hysteria. It was enough to make me want to bitch-slap half the cast through my television. Maybe two hours was too much time to fill... I just don't know... but by the time they finally got to the end, I was to the point where I never wanted to watch the show ever again. Not exactly the best way to wrap-up a season.
• Kinda. This afternoon I was lucky enough to have RW (of 1 Step Beyond fame) invite me out for his own recipe "Kinda Mediterranean Pizza" with him and Mrs. RW...
Just as he claimed when he published the recipe, it was fucking delicious. I think the secret must be his homemade Carrettiera Sauce, because it adds a lot of flavor while managing to keep things light and fresh (which makes me wonder how many other ways it could be used). Most definitely worth your time to make... especially since he has a step-by-step guide free for the taking.
You'd think that hanging out drinking beer and talking with friends on a beautiful Chicago day would be enough... but RW had to go and make awesome pizza too. The bastard. How can I in good conscience order out from Dominoes when I have friends over? I can't! From now on I'm going to have to go to the extra effort to buy frozen pizza and pretend like I made it! Thanks a heap, RW!
• Interview. Many thanks to Troy of Blue Goo Ate My Mom fame for giving me a heads-up to the great interview with a-ha posted over at CBC's Q Uncut. It's well worth a listen, even if you never heard of the band after Take on Me disappeared from the airwaves. They went on to a lot of great music, and the interview helps North Americans get "caught up" with all the things we missed...
Though Minor Earth Major Sky is probably my favorite a-ha album, their latest (and last) album Foot of the Mountain is exceptional, and harkens back to the sound that made them famous. Sadly, stupid-ass record labels have tied up the distribution rights so you can't buy the album in the USA unless you pay for an import, but a good (but incomplete) "singles" collection is for sale on iTunes.
And now, I suppose it's time to get some work done. What else is there to do on a Sunday night?
Posted on Saturday, June 19th, 2010
In my never-ending quest to see all my favorite 80's bands in concert, I headed over to Seattle this morning so my sister and I could see The Psychedelic Furs playing at the Showbox SoDo. The Furs were responsible for transitioning me out of my "punk" phase, and led me to a life-long love of the new wave music scene which has lasted until this day.
As expected, the show was phenomenal, even though they didn't play my favorite song (Until She Comes) and the Showbox SoDo is not one of my least favorite venues. Still, with 30+ years of material to draw from, Richard Butler tore through their setlist with an energy and enthusiasm that was contagious, and belied his 54 years...
Probably best-known for their hit Pretty in Pink, The Furs have a fantastic catalog of music that's well-worth checking out if that's the only song you know them by. Their 2001 "Greatest Hits" album is a good place to start (iTunes Link), and at $7.99 for 17 tracks, it's quite a bargain.
Posted on Friday, August 6th, 2010
This afternoon I headed over to the coast because my sister's friend had scored tickets to the Natalie Merchant concert at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. As a long-time fan of both her solo career and her work with 10,000 Maniacs, this was a fantastic opportunity... especially considering that she hadn't released a new album in the past seven years.
Natalie's new CD, Leave Your Sleep is a very interesting experiment into converting poetry about childhood from 19th and 20th century writers into music. And while some songs definitely succeed more than others, the sheer variety of musical styles and subjects are both mind-boggling and beautiful. First she's singing about how one explains war to a child, and then the next song she's singing about crazy-ass flavors available at a fantastical ice cream shop. It's a very interesting work, and is pure Natalie Merchant from start to finish...
And while Natalie's performance was beautiful, as expected, the concert itself did have some problems. Previously when attending a show at Chateua Ste. Michelle, I sat in the seated area, which is just like any other concert you might attend. This time we sat behind the seating area where people spread blankets and watch the concert picnic style... enjoying bottles of wine and dinner while they watch. Unfortunately, the more informal "seating" in the picnic area encourages people to goof around and let their kids run ape-shit, blocking your view... but, even worse, people won't shut the hell up while you're trying to listen to the music. At one point I was really enjoying the witty and complex lyrics to Bleezer's Ice-Cream when some drunken douchebag started screaming at everybody to get up and dance, ruining the moment completely. After that some bitch behind us started going on and on and on about selling her house, which pretty much ruined the next two songs. It was so discouraging, we actually packed up our crap and left a little early because there was little point in staying if people were just going to talk the whole damn time.
But Natalie tried to maintain good humor throughout, often talking to audience members who walked in late by updating them as to what songs they missed: "...Ooooh... then I sang Gold Rush Brides... I'll bet you're really sorry you missed that one!" and "That hot dog looks delicious. I'll bet it goes great with the wine!"
Overall, a great night... just not as good as it could have been had people shut the fuck up and minded their kids.
Posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Annnnd... Apple had another one of their "Special Events" today.
As usual, it was filled with cool stuff and left me wanting to have Steve Jobs' baby. Again.
The "big news" of the day was the revamp of the iPod line. The tiny iPod Shuffle (my favorite of all the iPods) took a disastrous turn during the last revision when they took away the navigation button. This time, they wisely brought the buttons back, but kept the sweet "VoiceOver" technology which uses a robot voice to compensate for the lack of display...
I'd buy one, but I already have the original iPod Shuffle. Still, the new colors are nice...
And, in even cooler news, Apple revised the iPod nano. My first-generation iPod nano powers my car stereo... I ditched it when I got my first iPod Shuffle because the size was better. Except the new fifth-generation nano is only a little bigger than my existing Shuffle. It's tiny! But, despite the size, Apple managed to fit a multi-touch screen interface, which is damn cool...
I must have one. And have one I shall. I'll just slip my iPod Shuffle into my next AnySoldier.com care package so it doesn't go to waste.
Apple also revised the iPod Touch, but I have an iPhone so I didn't pay attention. I did perk up again when they introduced the new Apple TV though...
They took out the hard drive, which makes the unit absolutely perfect. I never bought the original Apple TV precisely because of the hard drive... no matter how big of one they put in the thing, it will never be big enough. As your media collection grows, the hard drive eventually fills up. My media belongs on an expandable network drive system, not locked away inside a television box. So now I'm actually going to consider buying Apple TV. It's the simplest possible way to stream all my videos, photos, and music to my television (including NetFlix streams!) and the $99 price feels right.
His Holiness Steve Jobs also teased us with a sneak peek at new stuff coming up for the iPad, including PRINTING, which is a much-needed feature for the device. It's also getting all the sweet new iOS 4 iPhone goodies like multitasking and a unified in-box for Mail.
BUT, the thing that fascinated me most to come from the "Special Event" was the revisions to Apple's venerable iTunes. That I'll save for tomorrow...
Posted on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Yesterday I waxed poetic about Apple's "Special Event" where they unleashed a bunch of new iPods, revised Apple TV, and teased us with new features coming soon for iPhone and iPad. It was all very cool, and renewed my Mac Whore certification (along with my undying love for Steve Jobs).
But His Holiness Jobs did not stop there. He also introduced a new version 10 of iTunes... Apple's venerable media player. Many of the changes I approve, some I don't, and much of it has me feeling indifferent. Let's take a look, shall we?
The first thing you notice is that the icon has changed. The old icon had a CD on it, which doesn't make much sense considering that online downloads are eclipsing CD sales. Pretty soon, people won't even know what the heck a CD is (much like the 8-track tape and cassette). And, while I approve of iTunes getting a new icon, I have to say what they come up with sucks ass...
We finally get an opportunity to move past the gum-drop gloss of the original Apple "Aqua" interface, and you drop the ball by giving us a glowy blue blob that harkens back to design of of years past? What happened to the new "brushed aluminum" look you've been cultivating? That's pretty classy...
It also matches the visual elements of iTunes' interface, and is inline with the DVD Player, but whatever.
The interior of iTunes, oddly enough, is where they are getting rid of the glowy mess and going for a refined, more classy look. Where there's color, it's bright but not offensively so...
In still other places, the color has been eliminated completely. The small sidebar icons are now exclusively monotone. This is a little bit stupid, because color really helps to differentiate things when the images are so very small. Now they all kind of run together...
Usability is getting a modest boost in some areas. My favorite being the album artwork popping up in List View if you have more than five songs on that album. Like Steve says, there's room, so why not? Visual information helps you find what you're looking for faster...
And Apple is also helping add some nice vertical space by shifting the Window controls to a smaller, vertical format. A very good thing, even if it is inconsistent when every other window interface...
Enough about looks, what's new in features? Well... there's finally the ability to rent television shows for 99¢ each. In many cases, that's half the cost of buying the same shows in HD, but you can only watch them once.
And the BIG announcement? It's PING!
What's Ping? It's a "social networking feature" that allows you to follow artists and friends to see what they're playing so you can discover new music. Sound familiar? It should... that's what Last.fm does! I've been using Last.fm for years, sending my awesome musical tastes to the site via an iTunes plugin. I've made some great friends there, and discovered a lot of new music that I love. A part of me really, really wishes that Apple would have simply partnered with Last.fm... or even bought them out... rather than try to reinvent the wheel. Poorly, as it turns out.
First of all, since the service is new, the number of artists participating in it is limited. The "recommended to follow" people they keep giving me is nobody I'm interested in (except perhaps Linkin Park, who I did enjoy back in the day)...
And it only goes downhill from there. When it comes to people, the important thing about music is (surprise) THE MUSIC THEY LIKE. Unfortunately, Apple has limited the music you get to like to the music they sell. This is sublimely stupid. Like the Beatles? Tough shit. They don't exist. Love some local indie band? Too bad. Unless they sell their music on iTunes, they don't exist. One of my favorite bands is a-ha... they only partly exists. Some of their albums can be Pinged... but a majority of them can't be. Scoundrel Days? Nope. Minor Earth, Major Sky? Nope. Analogue? Nope. Their final album, Foot of the Mountain? Nope. The new Deluxe Edition release of Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days? Nope. Nope. Much of their live stuff? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Since Ping is supposed to be all about your music, you'd think you'd at least be able to talk about albums you like... even when they're not for sale at iTunes, right? Nope. If Apple doesn't sell it, it doesn't exist, because the like/post feature is tied to the iTunes Store, not your library...
What the fuck?
Apple can brand this as "social networking" all they want, but it's total bullshit. It's a MARKETING TOOL! Apple is getting you to sell music from their store to your friends... AND NOTHING ELSE!! This is beyond FAIL! It's beyond EPIC FAIL! I don't even know a word that describes just how massive a FAIL! that Ping is.
I'll just come out and say it: I fucking HATE Ping. Apple does not get to decide which music exists and which music doesn't. The fact that they feel otherwise is a very, very scary prospect. And a bad business decision. People are going to notice what they're doing here. It's things like this that made Microsoft so roundly hated, and Apple has got to fix it fast. Because it's a short leap from hating Ping to hating Apple. Especially when it comes to something like music, which people get passionate about.
Apple says that they love music. If that's true, let people share ALL their music... not just the music that record labels allow Apple to sell. Otherwise, you aren't loving music at all... just the money it can generate. And while every company is out to make money, they shouldn't be out to become draconian evil bastards who dictate the music people are allowed to share and discuss.
UPDATE: Chris Carlozzi has created a few replacement icons for iTunes 10 which are much, much better than what Apple slapped on it...
Posted on Monday, September 27th, 2010
Yeah, it's pretty frickin' amazing and was well worth the wait. I'd blog more about it, but I'm too busy listening to it. Get your own copy at the iTunes Store!
Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Welcome to an ALL-REVIEW EDITION of Bullet Sunday!
• SIDEWALKS! I still haven't come down off the high I got from Matt and Kim's second album masterpiece, Grand, so when I heard they were dropping their third album, Sidewalks, I was skeptical. How could they possible come up with anything even near as awesome? Well, they're Matt and Kim, so how could it not be awesome? I love it, and have been listening to Sidewalks constantly. Here's a short video talking about the album with a sweet taste of the awesome first track...
The only song I don't much care for is Northeast, which deviates from the happy funtime sound that makes me love the band so much. The other nine tracks are gold, however, with my clear favorites being Block After Block, Cameras, AM/FM Sound, and Good for Great. My only criticism of Sidewalks would be that it seems over-produced compared to what's come before. The charm of Matt and Kim's music has always been the raw, unpolished, basement sound that lets their indie roots shine through. But everything here is polished so heavily that no rough edges show, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Kim's wild, unapologetic brashness when banging on the drums is kinda... muted... this time around. And while the complexity they've layered into their latest songs adds a welcome maturity to their sound, I'd hate for them to eventually be buried by it.
SIDEWALKS RATING: B (Recommended).
• THE WALKING DEAD! Comic book adaptations for television have historically been hit-or-miss, with even the most successful translations feeling like something is lacking. So imagine my surprise when one of my favorite comic books ever, The Walking Dead, actually managed to elevate the source material so high that it exceeds my impossibly high expectations. In some ways, it's even better than the comic book upon which it's based...
Shocking, I know. But no more shocking than a comic book where no character is sacred and anybody can die at any minute. What's truly shocking is the production values on the series. AMC is putting some serious cash into all aspects of the program, and it shows. The special effects and location shooting are brilliant. The zombies are works of art and not the schlocky B-movie retreads I was expecting. And the acting is top-notch, with Andrew Lincoln's flawless performance as Rick Grimes adding a sense of danger and realism that's almost too good to be true...
Genius television on every level, and already renewed for a second season!
COMIC RATING: A+ (Highly Recommended).
TV SHOW RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
• EARTH! As a huge fan of The Daily Show, I was quick to snap up their humorous primer on all things USA called America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Even though The Daily Show is a comedy program, it still manages to have an intelligent discussion of news and politics between the funny. With America (The Book), they poke fun at the country by reducing our culture and history down to a ridiculous grade-school textbook filled with witty essays that illuminate while they amuse. It was a terrific book, which compelled me to pick up the follow-up tome, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race...
It's reminiscent of America (The Book), but on a global scale. Except this time they dismissed with the essays and went with page after page of easy jokes and witty one-liners slapped on wacky infographics and amusing photos. While still funny and moderately insightful, it doesn't leave the reader with much to think about (which seems to be the point). So while I definitely enjoyed Earth (The Book) it was kind of a step-down from their previous effort.
AMERICA (THE BOOK) RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
EARTH (THE BOOK) RATING: B (Recommended).
• BLU-RAY COLLECTIONS! I've been opposed to wasting my money on re-purchasing videos on Blu-Ray that I already own on DVD unless there's a very good reason for doing so. Unfortunately, two new sets have dropped which left me with no choice, because they both contain some of my favorite films of all time PLUS very good reasons for buying them...
Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy. I am convinced that all three of these films are some of the most brilliant and inventive movies to ever grace the silver screen... and it's all because of the details. The original Back to the Future not only had a great story, but showed the consequences of time travel with numerous small details that geeks like myself go crazy over (such as when Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody's trees in 1955, causing the "Twin Pines Mall" in 1985 to transform into "Lone Pine Mall"). Then we got Back to the Future II, which managed to create an all-new story WITHIN the original film all while giving us a fantastical look at the future. Sheer genius. Back to the Future III was a bit more mundane, trading the future for the Old West, but managed to wrap-up the trilogy in a way that was satisfying and respectful to those that came before. This new Blu-Ray set has an incredible transfer to hi-def that's a marked improvement over the old DVD versions. Despite having been filmed in the 80's, everything looks crisp and new, and there's tons of extras that any BTTF fan will love (some of which I have never seen before). An added bonus... digital copies of all three films is included, so you can transfer everything to your iPod, which is awesome. Two down-sides. 1) The packaging can make releasing the discs a real challenge. You pull down on the disc to unhook it, but sometimes it doesn't work like it should, and I worried that I'd snap the thing in half. 2) The menu system is FUCKING STUPID! Maybe it's just my player, but every damn time I view something, the menu won't come back and I have to eject the disc, then wait the five minutes it takes for the menu to load again. A serious flaw that drops my rating... I'll take functionality over design any day.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY RATING: B+ (Highly Recommended).
Alien Anthology The issue here is picture quality. The Alien films are fairly dark, which is a real problem for DVD/TV. You can get some nasty compression artifacts and murky shadows that obliterate details and kill the spooky atmosphere that makes the movies work so well. Thankfully, the new Blu-Ray Hi-Def transfer is fantastic. The picture is probably better now than it ever was, which makes me wish they'd re-release the films in digital theaters. In any event, the original Ridley Scott Alien film was a masterpiece blend of science fiction and horror that can still scare the crap out of me even today. It was followed by Aliens, where James Cameron did the impossible by grafting a high-octane "space marine" action flick onto the original sci-fi/horror concept... and actually made it work. David Fincher's Alien3 was a disastrous disservice to the story from Aliens, but a pretty good film when looked at independently. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection has some amazing visual sequences that are tied together by a rather weak story which revives Sigourney Weaver's deceased character in a way that never really worked for me. And even though I hated the freaky-ass mutant alien that provided the "villain" for the fourth installment, I think I enjoyed the film overall. Everything is brought together beautifully with a shitload of awesome extras that will take me days to get through. The packaging (again) is a bit odd (WTF-?), but workable. For any fan of any of the films, Alien Anthology is a must-have.
ALIEN ANTHOLOGY RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
And now I'm out of money, so that will have to be enough unabashed consumerism for the day.
Posted on Sunday, November 14th, 2010
It's a blah blah blah kind of week. Thankfully it's Bullet Sunday with some good things to the rescue!
• Music! One of those shows that I wish I could quit, but can never seem to stop watching is Grey's Anatomy. They just keep doing things to keep it interesting, and the stories are (usually) pretty good. But the best thing about the show is the music, and I've lost count of the number of great songs I've found from watching Grey's. This week it was Mackintosh Braun (a band I had never heard of before) and their song Could it Be. Turns out the entire album is great, and now I'm a fan...
Well done Shonda Rhimes and the rest of the people responsible for Grey's Anatomy not sucking too badly. Now please fix Christina and move past the whole "hospital shooting" crap which has been lingering for far too long.
• Pooh! This caught be completely by surprise... Disney is coming out with a new Pooh movie on July 15, 2011 called (appropriately enough) Winnie the Pooh!...
Beautiful! Thank heavens they didn't feel the need to recreate the look of the series in 3-D or use computer animation or some other stupid shit like that. The Keane song is perfect, and just the icing on the cake. I hate seeing movies in theaters any more because people are assholes, but I'll make an exception for this.
• Veterans! Thanks once again to Applebee's for treating veterans to a free meal on Veteran's Day this week. It seems as though they were making money hand-over-fist from all the people who were there with veterans that were not veterans (like me!), so I can only hope that it's a win-win event for them.
• High! I've mentioned plenty of time that I have a paralyzing fear of heights, and always have to psych myself up when traveling because all the good touristy stuff seems to be up high. Recently I watched a television program about the "Grand Canyon SkyWalk" which goes beyond scary for somebody like me...
Photo from the official Grand Canyon Skywalk Site.
While searching for a photo on the internet which shows the glass floor, I came across this shot...
Shiiiiiiit! Photo from GloboTreks.
The GloboTreks article is called "7 of the Most Impressive Skywalks in the World", and I've only seen one of them in person: the Sears Tower "Ledge" in Chicago...
Yes, it's just as scary as you'd think it would be.
They might as well call this list "7 Places Guaranteed to Make Dave2 Crap His Pants"... because, damn... just look at some of these terrifying things. Of course, if I should ever visit any of these instruments of torture, I'd definitely force myself to experience them. I always do. But I'm sure my "experience" would consist of me crawling on my hands and knees while crying for my mommy. After crapping my pants. Because, damn...
• TV on DVD! Tonight I found out that one of those long-forgotten television shows I've been begging to come out on DVD, Palace Guard, actually DID get released on DVD back in July! Apparently all nine episodes are included on some kind of massive 10-disc retrospective called Prime Time Crime: The Stephen J. Cannell Collection. It seemed a total bargain at just $22, so I scraped together the money and ordered it immediately. I previously described the show thusly...
The best role of D.W. Moffett's versatile career, and a show that I find impossible to understand how it failed... The Palace Guard certainly seemed like a crowd pleaser, and was mindless fun in a way people usually respond to. PLOT: Moffett is a career jewel thief who is caught and imprisoned. As a part of his parole, he gets a job as a security expert in a megalith hotel chain. A Moonlighting-like twist is thrown in when he starts to fall for his boss (Marcy Walker) who pretends to despise him but, of course, is falling for him as well.
I can't wait to watch the show again and see if it holds up as well as I remember it. If only television studios would get off their asses and release some of my other favorites (even selling them on iTunes so they don't have to go to the expense of pressing DVDs would be great)...
Now it's back to blah blah blah...
Posted on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
As predicted by just about everybody, The Beatles have finally come to Apple's iTunes Music Store. Yes, at long last, one of the greatest bands of all time (if not the greatest) has their music for sale by the world's largest music retailer.
As a huge Beatles fan, this is the moment I've been waiting for. When I first "discovered" The Beatles (thanks to my Beatle-loving uncle), I ended up buying all their albums... but on compact cassette tape. Any audiophile reading this blog just started laughing their ass off, but I'm from the cassette generation, and that's just how we bought music back in the day. Not to mention the fact that a Walkman was far easier to carry around than a phonograph and a stack of records...
I had super-awesome yellow Walkman Sports cassette player like this. (Photo by Stephen McFall).
Laugh all you want but, in my defense, at least it wasn't 8-track.
Since you can't rip a tape into an MP3 file without some trickery, I borrowed CDs of all The Beatles albums that I owned on cassette and ripped them to iTunes that way. Technically, I did already own the music, so I didn't consider it to be stealing (so go fuck yourself, RIAA). The problem is that I eventually threw out the cassettes (no way to play them!), and I always felt funny that I couldn't point to the music on my shelf and say "yes, I own them."
Hence, the reason I've been waiting for The Beatles to be sold on iTunes... I want to be "legal" in the eyes of the law. And here was my chance, because I had a $75 cash rebate card burning a hole in my pocket!
But let's back up for a minute...
Last year, every Beatles fan's dream came true when beautiful remastered boxed sets were released of the entire Beatles catalog. Of particular interest to me was the limited edition Mono Box Set. In my humble opinion, mono is the only way to listen to most the first ten Beatles albums* because they were designed to be listened to that way by The Fab Four Themselves. The stereo versions were nothing more than a cobbled-together afterthought that usually sounded hollow and freakishly incoherent in my headphones. Some of the albums are so badly separated into stereo (even on the remasters) that they don't even seem like the same songs. My guess is that stereo was kind of a novelty back in the beginning, so they separated the recording as harshly as possible into distinct left and right channels with no middle in an attempt to make you really notice the technology. Well, you do... and it's overbearing in places... so I don't like it and would rather listen to those gorgeously crisp and brilliant mono tracks the way that God (and The Beatles) intended.
The Limited Edition Mono Box Set looked fantastic, but it was selling for $250 (at discount!) and I couldn't afford it, as much as I was dying to own it...
At the time of release, I said "Hopefully when the songs make it to iTunes, you'll be able to buy the mono versions there."
Which brings us to today...
Much to my profound disappointment, all the tracks in the iTunes Store are from the stereo remasters, which are exactly the versions I don't want. This shocked the hell out of me, because it was my understanding that Steve Jobs Himself is a massively huge Beatles fan, and I assumed he would be a stickler for at least offering the true fan's preferred mono versions of the songs. But, alas, they are nowhere to be found.
Assuming that the Limited Edition Mono Box Set would have long-since sold out and only be available on eBay for thousands of dollars, I went to Amazon and nearly wet myself. Not only was the Mono Set still available, the price had actually dropped to $129.99! This was mind-boggling. That's almost 60% less than the original retail price of $300!
Without hesitation, I bought the set.
On the down-side, I won't be getting all the cool iTunes LP extras that you get when you buy from Apple... and I have to spend hours ripping the CDs... and I still have to buy the three remaining stereo albums not in the set (which I will be getting from iTunes)... but, on the up-side, I'm getting the actual music I've been dying for. At last. No thanks to Apple.
And, where The Beatles are concerned, it's their music that's important.
* The possible exception being "The White Album" which sounds amazing in stereo.
Posted on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVE
All things considered, 2010 was a bitchin' year for 80's music whores like myself because OMD, a-ha, and Duran Duran all came out with awesome new albums. Then 80's throwback Goldfrapp dropped an album straight out of Xanadu. Two of my indie favorites, The Weepies and Matt & Kim came out with some great new stuff. And I discovered an amazing band (new to me!), Mackintosh Braun, thanks to Grey's Anatomy (of all places). As if that wasn't enough, Daft Punk managed to put out a soundtrack for TRON that didn't suck. It all added up to a lot of music purchases for me this year.
Here is a list of my favorite albums from 2010:
#1 History of Modern by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
As a long-time fan of OMD who was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by their "last" album back in 1996 (titled Universal), I was almost dreading the announcement that a new album was coming out. The last thing I wanted after 14 years was another disappointment. But a part of me was hopeful, and that hope was rewarded in spades with History of Modern. Easily one of their best albums, it's a return to glorious form for original members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys. Each song feels like a love-letter to their fans and serves as a reminder as to just how good OMD's music is. I love every track save one (the badly misplaced New Holy Ground) and would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, as it changes with each listen. Right now I'm in love with Green and History of Modern, Pt. 2, both complex and haunting tracks that stick in your head. Last week it was Sometimes and Sister Marie Says. All I can do is hope that they tour the USA and bless us with an equally-awesome follow-up album in 2012.
#2 Sidewalks by Matt and Kim.
When I first heard Matt and Kim's debut album, I remarked that it was if I had discovered music again for the first time. Then they broke into mainstream with their brilliant follow-up, Grand, and my love for Matt and Kim was sealed. They have a... joy... for music that you just can't find anywhere else. When I heard they were coming out with something new, Sidewalks, I was prepared to be blown away once again. Oddly enough, that didn't happen. The once raw and unrefined sound that made Matt and Kim be Matt and Kim had been replaced with something more polished which had worn away all the rough edges I came to love in their sound. Kim's wildly unapologetic brashness when banging on those drums had been subdued to levels so small that it was almost as if her kit had been put on half-mute or something. And so I spent the first week being mildly disappointed. But I never stopped listening. I played it again and again and again. And fell in love with Matt and Kim all over again. From the minute I hear the opening bars of Block After Block, I'm hooked. This is an amazing album in its own right, even if it deviates from the Matt and Kim sound I had grown accustomed to. For their next effort, I'm hoping they take a half-step backwards while they're moving forward.
#3 Foot of the Mountain by a-ha.
For reasons I cannot understand, a-ha is relegated to one-hit-wonder status here in the USA (they're the Take On Me guys!), even though they went on to create some of the most amazing music I've ever heard. So when the boys announced they'd be breaking up after their Foot of the Mountain album and tour, I was more than a little upset. The first thing I did was get my hands on the CD as an import since a-ha doesn't get their stuff released here in the US. The next thing I did was buy a flight to New York and tickets to their farewell show. All I can say is that if the band simply had to retire, they couldn't have picked a better album or tour to go out on. Much like OMD's effort, Foot of the Mountain is a true return to the sound that made everybody fall in love with a-ha. With the exception of the mind-bogglingly bad final song Start the Simulator (WTF?!?), every track is gold. My favorite song is Mother Nature Go to Heaven which has the band firing on all cylinders... Morten Harket's haunting vocals being lovingly tempered with Magne Furuholmen's keyboards and Pål Waaktaar's guitar and lyrics. It's everything I love about the band summed up in 4 minutes, 9 seconds. Add the beautiful title track and seven other amazing songs and you're left with my third favorite album of 2010, but it's probably the one I'll remember the most since it's their last.
#4 Where We Are by Mackintosh Braun.
This album came out of nowhere from a band I had never heard of. I was watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy and, not for the first time, found myself Googling to find out what the awesome song was that was playing. Turns out it was Could it Be by Mackintosh Braun. A quick trip to the iTunes Store and I was running through the tracks like mad, floored by the dreamy sound that was oozing out of my speakers. I bought the album without hesitation, and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. The following week, Grey's featured another track Made For Us, which is yet another winner. Hell, every track is a winner. My favorite is Familiar which is not only plays like something out of a dream, but has a stunning musical progression that builds and falls like waves cresting in your mind. I kept hoping that I'd get tired of Where We Are so I'd be moved to purchase their debut album The Sound from 2007. Mostly because I wanted to appreciate each work separately. But I never got tired of it, and ended up buying The Sound anyway. It's a less mature album (and surprisingly simple in parts), but still an enchanting listen. Where We Are one-ups it, and I expect great things from the band in the future.
#5 All You Need is Now by Duran Duran
Back in 1985 Arcadia dropped "the best album Duran Duran never made" with So Red the Rose... 25 years later, Duran Duran is back, and managed to come up with a last-minute 2010 miracle: All You Need is Now... easily their best effort in 17 years. With this release Duran Duran is back in full-form, giving us a great title track plus gems like Leave the Light On and Being Followed. It's no Rio or Seven and the Ragged Tiger, but it made this fan very happy that it wasn't another Liberty or Thank You either.
(Honorable Mention) Tron: Legacy (Soundtrack) by Daft Punk.
While electronica house music has never been a favorite genre, it would be hard to ignore the works of the French duo Daft Punk. They're crossover success on YouTube with Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger made them an overnight sensation back in 2007. Even so, I had serious reservations about them doing the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy. The last thing I wanted was some house dance music fucking up an otherwise amazing film. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. From the moment the first track Derezzed was leaked, I knew in my gut that Daft Punk was a truly inspired choice to score the movie. Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg, and the entire album was filled with mind-bending electronica that listens like nuclear-infused ear candy. While I may not listen to it often, Tron: Legacy makes my "honorable mention" for having the good sense not to fuck up the movie it supports (any problems that movie had were not due to the soundtrack).
It's not over yet! Albums 6-10 are in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVEAnd now, at long last, comes that one entry for people who are curious as to what I've been up to, but only like to read one blog post a year. All-in-all, it was not a terrible end to the decade. Picking and choosing all the good stuff that happened in 2010 (out of a blog that is already picking and choosing all the good stuff) kind of makes me think it was a great year. Alas, I know better, as there were boatloads of crap I had to deal with that never end up at Blogography. Oh well. It's okay to pretend, isn't it?
• Realized the right tool for the job won't actually get me a free date with Elizabeth Hurley.
• Opened my big mouth and got the entire wine-connoisseur world pissed at me.
• Found out that somebody stole my monkey.
• Discovered that Canadians are responsible for the pussification of America, and showed them how REAL AMERICANS GET SHIT DONE!!
• Seattle FINALLY got a Hard Rock Cafe, and I got my 125th visit.
• Released my medical findings on a cure for the common cold to Twitter (and so much more).
• That Crasher Squirrel has been showing up everywhere...
• Just like Lindsay Lohan's cootchie...
• Explained why Roger Ebert is WRONG about video games not being art.
• Attended THE blogging event of the year... TEQUILACON 2010 VANCOUVER!
• Took a dump on Lost and then went out for pizza with RW, which ended up having far-reaching consequences you'll find out about later this year.
• Summed up my position on the BP oil spill.
• Saw the Worst. Movie. Ever.
• WAY TO GO BLACKHAWKS!!
• Had more fun than should legally be allowed at Bitchsterdam 2!
• Saw one of the best episodes of television ever (thank you Steven Moffat, The BBC, and Dr. Who!). I can honestly say that I think this is the only time I cried in all of 2010.
• Explained to haters who don't like being referred to as a hater that they kind are.
• Was inspired beyond my ability to express by the final words of a legend.
• Took a Mediterranean vacation and saw such remarkable places as Barcelona, and Malta, and Tunisia, and The Amalfi Coast, and Rome, and Portofino, and Corsica, and Monaco. As if all that wasn't enough, I got to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse!
• Remembered The Golden Rule and became the biggest evil dumbass inhuman monster of them all.
• Partied down in rural Wisconsin... a good place to be!
• Went to Albuquerque to gamble away my money at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino there.
• Found out my iPhone can take some pretty decent photos if I bother to stop and look around because there's an app for that...
• Took a look at porn and handjobs in the interest of airport security.
• Want to know where to go on vacation? Here are some of my suggestions!.
And that was pretty much what happened with me in 2010. How about you?
Hope your 2011 is a good one, and thanks for reading!