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Archive for the ‘Dr. Who’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TRIUMPH-Just a Game (1979).

When I was a kid, my love of Rush was followed closely by my love of Triumph (I had a thing for Canadian power trios).  I’ve recently read a bunch about Triumph and was surprised to hear how acrimonious the band was.  Of course, I didn’t care about any of that back in the 80s.

This album was my favorite (even though Allied Forces was their major breakthrough).  In my gate-fold album the inner foldout was an actual board game.  How thoughtful!

It’s funny listening now, how much I liked this album back then because there is definitely some cheese here.  And I could never decide if I liked drummer Gil Moore’s songs or Rik Emmet’s songs best.  “Movin On” is a great hit but the backing vocals and “on and on” parts are kind of wimpy 70s rock–I must have blocked it out while jamming to the guitar solo.

Rik Emmet has since gone on to a successful solo career.  But on “Lay It On the Line,” the song that got me into them (thanks MTV) Rik rocks like he loves this band and this music.  The song features some serious guitar workouts and some impressive vocal acrobatics.

Perhaps, in hindsight, I like Rik’s songs better, as “Yong Enough to Cry” is pretty cheesy (it was fun to sing along to when I was 13 though–even if I never understood Gil’s pain, man).  But all of that was forgiven for the majesty of “American Girls.”  Sure, it’s also a cheesy song, but man it rocks.  As a young kid, I loved hearing the national anthem in the middle of the song.  And that solo is non-stop.

“Just a Game” is a powerhouse of a song although it’s a little long for what it is.  But then there’s the amazing “Fantasy Serenade” just over 90 second of beautiful classical guitar (a direction he’s go in much more after leaving Triumph).  It’s wonderful as a solo and it works as an amazing intro to the majestic “Hold On” (a song about music that doesn’t suck).  Although admittedly, the single version is better without the weird disco instrumental in the middle that really kind of puts a kibosh on the flow of the song.

The album ends with the strange (and quite long for what is it) “Suitcase Blues,” a 3 minute slow blues about touring.  But hey it showcases diversity, eh?

Even though many people compare Triumph to Rush, I think the more likely comparison is actually Kiss.  “American Girls” has a real Kiss vibe towards the end, and the opening chords of “Movin’ On” have a real Kiss feel.  Regardless, they played great metal/rock/prog and I’ll always love them for it.

[READ: February 12, 2012] Ready Player One

Do you like Rush? Do you like Monty Python?  Do you like the 80s?  (not those 80s, but cool 80s like Blade Runner, coin op video games, Family Ties, Square Pegs?)  Then you absolutely must read this book.  Especially if you like Rush, because how often does Rush form a plot point in a book?

Sarah was reading this book and she insisted that I read it (she has really been passing on the good suggestions lately!).  And when I heard her playing Rush a few days after reading this book (and she doesn’t like Rush), I knew I had to read it.

But what is it?  Well, It is basically the story of an online quest to find a secret egg and win a massive fortune.  The egg was placed in a virtual world by its creator, James Halliday.  Halliday was “a nerd uber-deity on the level of Gygax, Garriott, and Gates.”  He created amazing video games and ultimately the most amazing virtual reality space ever: OASIS.  (For Atari geeks, his inspiration for getting into creating video games in the first place was the Atari game Adventure).  Halliday was obsessed with the 19080s (the decade he grew up in), with technology and with geeky movies.  The only way to find this egg in OASIS is to know a thing or two (or 1,000,000) about the man who created it and the decade he loved.

If you were hooked by the first paragraph, you’ve already put this book on hold.  If you were hooked by the third paragraph, you know you have to put this book on hold.  If you’re not convinced yet let me back up.

It is the year 2044.  The earth is in a hellish state–there’s no fuel, there’s no jobs, people live in trailers that are stacked on top of each other.  Life sucks.  Except for OASIS.  OASIS is the virtual world created by Halliday.  At this stage in the world, OASIS is where most people go to school (cheaper and easier to do virtual teaching) and where many people spend most of their lives.  It’s depressing and horrible (and I actually didn’t enjoy the opening chapters all that much because it was really horrible and at a times a bit more caustic than I was expecting–but that changes quite a lot).

So Halliday invented OASIS as an idealized pace.  It was originally a multi-player game but soon became a new place to live, a kind of Eden.  It was free to join and you didn’t have to pay to play.  Although you needed credits to travel (or to build your own buildings or planets or whatnot), you could stay on the main world (which looks a whole hell of a lot nicer than the real world) and just hang out for free.  You can earn points through various achievements which would let you travel (or you could always hitch a ride with a friend) around the worlds.

Anyhow, when Halliday died, as his last will, he created a contest in OASIS.  Anyone who could find the three keys and unlock the three gates would win his entire fortune (billions of dollars) and total control of OASIS.

The protagonist (Wade in the real world, Perzival in the OASIS world) is telling his tale because he was the first avatar to find the first key to Halliday’s Hunt (it took over five years to find the first key).  If you played D&D, this section will make you smile.

When Perzival found the key he was suddenly famous because everyone on OASIS knew it was found.  Prior to this moment, the “leader board” which previously listed only Halliday, now suddenly lit up with Perzival’s name.  (Good thing OASIS avatars are anonymous, right?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, October 4, 2011 (2011).

In addition to playing SXSW, Colin Stetson also played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and NPR was there.  Unlike with SXSW, this set appears to be full length (about 50 minutes–which is a pretty amazing amount of time for him to blow that horn).  Like SXSW (and the album) Stetston starts with “Awake on Foreign Shores” and “Judges.”  What I love about this recording is that after Stetson finishes “Judges” a guy in the audience shouts (in a voice of total amazement) “That shit was off the hook!”  And he is right.  It’s not even worth me going into how amazing Steston is once again (check previous posts for  that), but man, just look at the size of that horn he’s playing (seriously, click on the link to see it bigger).

Stetson plays a few more songs from New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges like “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” (which is outstanding) and “A Dream of Water” (which works without Laurie Anderson, although he does say he’s sorry she’s not there).  He also introduces two news songs “Hunted 1” and “Hunted 2” which show new levels and new styles that Stetson employs.

This is a remarkable set, and Steston is clearly in his element (and the crowd is rapt).  The only problem I have is the recording level.  It must be very difficult to maintain recording levels for Stetson’s brand of noise–his louds are really loud–but you can’t hear him talk at all.  And most of the time, the introductions to his songs are worth hearing.  I’m sure if they tried to get the speaking level a little louder the music would have sacrificed though, so I think they made the right choice–I only wish there was a transcript available.

[READ: October 31, 2011] The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Apparently it’s pronounced, “Wow”, by the way.

Because of my new job, I don’t have a  full hour of lunch-time reading like I used to.  And so this book took considerably longer than I intended.  However, once I set aside some time to read it, I flew through the book.

I’m going to get this part out of the way because I was thinking about it throughout the book and I want to mention it without having it bog down the post.  This story reminded me a lot of Roberto Bolaño.  On the surface, sure this is because they are both writers from “Central America” (Diaz is originally from the Dominican Republic but moved to the US, while Bolaño is originally from Chile but moved to Mexico and then Spain).   But I’m not really talking about their origins so much as the style of storytelling.

Without going into a lot of Bolaño here, I’ll just say that Bolaño tends to write very detailed character studies–stories that follow one person throughout his whole life on something of a fruitless quest.  And the details of that person’s life include information about family members and distant relatives.  Further, Bolaño has written about the brutalities of both Chile and Mexico and how a person can survive in such a place.  Similarly, Díaz follows the life of Oscar and his extended family and he talks about the brutalities of the Dominican Republic.

This is in no way to suggest that there is any connection between the two writers. I mean, The Savage Detectives came out in the States in 2007 (same years as Oscar Wao) and while he certainly could have read it in Spanish, I have no evidence that he did (and as I recently found out, the first draft of the Oscar story was written in 2000).  Again, the parallels are only from my reading and have nothing to do with Díaz himself.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system…

This is the story of Oscar de Leon.  But more than that, this is the story of a fukú–a curse that befalls the de Leon family and follows them through several generations.  Oscar is the youngest member of the family and the person whom the narrator knows best.  So we see this fukú as it impacts Oscar.  And although the book is ostensibly about Oscar, it is about much more.

Oscar was born in Paterson, NJ (the town next to where I grew up!) and went to Don Bosco Tech High School (where many of my friends went).  Oscar is Dominican (his mother is from the DR, but he and his sister were born in NJ), but unlike every other Dominican male, Oscar is totally uncool, into geeky sci-fi and D&D and is clearly destined to be a virgin because he is fat with terrible hair and no social skills.

And, (no spoiler), as the title states, his life will be short. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Uh Huh Her (2004).

After the sort of mellow, almost commercial release of Stories from the Sea, PJ Harvey throws the fans a left turn once again with Uh Huh Her.  It’s a heavy, raw album although not raw like Dry was.  It seems  simpler, somehow.  And I think it’s with this disc that you realize that every PJ Harvey record is going to be different.  It was apparent that she had a trajectory on those first few discs, but this one changes everything, and she proves that you’ll never know what’s going to come from her.

“The Life and Death of Mr Badmouth” has a very simple blues riff with kind of chanting (and occasional creepy backing vocals) by PJ.  While “Shame” adds more texture (melodica?) and some more washes of sound.  “Who the Fuck?” is a wonderfully vulgar and raw track with brutal guitars and overly loud vocals.  “Pocket Knife” is a buzzy but quiet track which feels like a demo (the guitar even seems out of tune), while “The Letter” has a great fuzzy guitar sound and a cool melody.

“The Slow Drug” is one of several slower pieces.  As with many of her quieter stuff this does nothing for me, although it’s a nice change on the disc.  “No Child of Mine” is a brief acoustic number.  It feels more like an excerpt or a transitional song than any actual song (being only a minute long).  It leads to the rocking “Cat on a Wall.”  “You Came Through”  mixes things up very nicely with a heavy percussion.  The effects in the song are really captivating.

“It’s You” is a slow piano-based song, while “The End” is a brief instrumental (more melodica).  And “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” is a dark ballad.  The oddest track is “Seagulls” which is a minute of actual seagulls squawking…an unusual addition for any disc.  The album ends with “The Darker Days of Me & Him.” It’s a quiet acoustic song which shows just how many different style she’s willing to experiment with even on one disc.  Even though to me this is a raw rocking disc, there are still a number of acoustic tracks as well.

This album feels like some kind of psychic purge.

[READ: March 31, 2011] The Littlest Hitler

I picked up this collection of stories because I enjoyed Boudinot’s story in the BlackBook collection very much.  I didn’t realize that that story was in fact part one of a two-part story (although part two bore no relation to part one, as you’ll see).  The story in BlackBook was funny and dark, but it didn’t prepare me for just how dark these stories would get.  And for the most part, it seemed like the darkness came at the very end; a surprise, a shock.   I admit i grew a little weary of the device by the end of the collection, although not all of the stories employed it, so there was some diversity. (more…)

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