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Archive for the ‘Terry Gilliam’ Category

zitaSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Running with Scissors (1999).

Running_with_Scissors_(Weird_Al_Yankovic_album_-_cover_art)This is the first album Al released with is new look—LASIK surgery and long hair.  He looked quite different, but it didn’t diminish his song writing skills.  Running with Scissors is a pretty great collection of songs.

“The Saga Begins” is a genius parody taking the music of “American Pie” and merging it with the plot from Star Wars Episode I.  The way he retells the story is snarky and funny.  “My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder” is a weird song—an accordion-based zydeco song about, well, a guy whose girl loves Eddie Vedder.  Vedder is kind of a weird person to pick (since he does make fun of him), although I guess it’s pretty mild abuse.  “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” opens with a joke on a Def Leppard song (in Hebrew) but then moves on to “Pretty Fly for a White Guy.”  The original is pretty goofy and there’s not much Al could have done to it except this—changing it to being all about a rabbi. I like this version better than the original now.

The next track is the theme for The Weird Al Show.  It’s utter nonsense, but very funny.  And it packs a lot in to the 75 seconds that it lasts.  “Jerry Springer” is a parody of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.”  The original is pretty weird/funny, so this seems an odd choice, and yet Al’s specifics to the Jerry Springer show is pretty funny.  Of course I hate shows like that so I don’t love this song.

“Germs” is a style parody of Nine Inch nails (the song opens a like “Terrible Lie”, and then moves through some other songs).  The sound is uncanny in its soundalikeness (except perhaps the “microscopic bacteria” section which is a little too goofy sounding even for NIN.

“Polka Power” is one of the first medleys where the parodied songs seem utterly dated.  Like The Spice Girls, Harvey Danger, Backstreet Boys (which I only know because he says “Backstreet’s Back.” Smash Mouth.  Chumbawamba, Marchy Playground, and Semisonic.  Of course, there is also a Beastie Boys line (“Intergalactic”), but it’s a very era specific song.  “Your Horoscope for Today” is a ska song of horoscopes inspired by The Onion (which is hilarious).

Of course, nothing comes close to “Its All About the Pentiums,” Al’s first rap song about being a total dork  It is amazing—heavy guitars and lots of screaming.  It’s even more bad ass than the original.  And the smack talk is hilarious Asking about his computer: “You think your Commodore 64 is really neato.  What kind of chip you got in there, a Dorito?”).  I can listen to this song over and over.  It’s a wonderful precursor to “White and Nerdy.”  “Truck Drivin’ Song” has a remarkably deep voice for Al. It’s about driving a truck (as a transvestite).  The humor is childish but funny and with that voice it’s particularly so.  “Grapefruit Diet” is another series of jokes about being fat, but it works very well as a parody of “Zoot Suit Riot” with the jazzy horns and all.

That leaves “Albuquerque” an eleven, yes eleven, minute story song.  It’s a style parody of a song by The Rugburns which I didn’t know until recently (called Dick’s Automotive, but that song is much more “adult” than Al’s. The song is simple enough but the lyrics are wondrously absurd and very very funny.  And as it goes on and on and on you just marvel at the mind that created it.  And it’s catchy too.

Scissors is a great album which holds up quite well after 14 years.

[READ: June 23, 2013] Zita the Space Girl

I’d actually read the sequel to this book first, but I quickly found this first book and the family devoured it, too.

This is a charming and sweetly drawn series about a girl, Zita, who winds up in outer space.  As it opens, Zita is being a bit of a bully to her friend Joseph.  Not horrible but teasing in the way friends can do.  And when they find a giant meteor hole and a space-type gadget with a big red button on it, of course she threatens to push it in front to him,  He freaks out, but she does it anyhow.  And when she does, another dimension opens up and sucks Joseph away.  Oops.

So she pushes it again and winds up in the same place which she realizes is very very different from her own.  The thing that has Joseph is all tentacles in a diver’s helmet.  But that’s just one of the weird creatures here (as seen in Gilliam’s Guide to Sentient Species–which I take as a tribute to Terry Gilliam).  Like Strong-Strong, a large lumbering biped (who helps Zita), and a group of chicken creatures (who do not).  There’s also a man who plays a flute (called Piper) who may or may not be a friend.  She also meets a giant mouse named Pizzicato, but which Zita just calls Mouse.  Mouse is very sweet and communicates through a printer around its neck. (more…)

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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: DROMEDARY RECORDS

My friend Al started Dromedary Records many many years ago (for the whole, in depth, history read here).  He released a number of cool indie rock CDs and then decided to put a halt to the proceedings.

Recently, he decided to resurrect the label, with mostly downloads as opposed to physical product (for the post about that, read this).  He’s currently offering a free EP download from the great Jersey band Footstone.  But more importantly, he’s gathered a number of cool indie bands who contributed a track for his new compilation called Make the Load Lighter: Indie Rock for Haiti.  Proceeds from the compilation go to Haitian relief.

Al has always loved music.  Dromedary was his way of getting great music out to people without all the bullshit that major labels were foisting on artists (this was all before internet music, of course).  And, Al has always been a really good and decent human being (even after owning a record label for a dozen years).  I’m delighted that he’s able to do a nice thing for people and still get music out to those who want it.

So, buy the download, support a good cause, and enjoy some great tunes.

[READ: February 2009] 52 Weeks Heads and Quotes

This is a day planner (sort of) and as such it doesn’t really qualify as a book I’ve read.  However, The Believer published this planner which included excerpts from the magazine, so it kind of counts.  Each week there’s a quote from an artist (usually a writer, but also actors and musicians) as well as a Charles Burns drawing of him or her (or even it in a couple of cases).

And since it is not tied to any year (you write in the month as you go) it has the delightful quote on the back: “You can start this planner anytime–it does not expire.” (more…)

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