Fans of Kubrick (ahem) and 2001: A Space Odyssey get ready for a big day: October 23, 2007 – the release of the Director Series: Stanley Kubrick Collection as a box and individual titles consisting of two disc versions of my all-time favorite movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, plus The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, and one disc versions of Full Metal Jacket and the Kubrick documentary, A Life In Pictures, all with beautiful new packaging (unlike the current versions which are pretty naff). The titles will also be available separately on that day, and you can bet your ass I’ll be getting 2001: A Space Odyssey – but I’ll be tempted to get the whole box for The Shining and A Clockwork Orange as well, since it’ll be cheaper that way (and I’m sure the doc is very interesting.) No details as to what is on the second disc of those sets, since Kubrick is known to have left very little extra material behind for his films – what was released to theaters is it.
July 26, 2007
I spent nearly a freakin’ hour on the freakin’ phone with freakin’ Alltel last night trying to set up our freakin’ voicemail for our semi-new cellphones, bought a couple months ago. I knew the voicemail wasn’t setup and couldn’t be set up by us for some reason, but just never got around to it until last night. I figured it would be a few minutes long phone call, but it just grew and grew until nearly an hour had passed by the time I had my voicemail set up. So long that I never got around to writing my Re:Collection piece like I wanted to. So freakin’ annoying.
July 25, 2007
Well, I managed to distract myself from posting these things for a month. Fairly amazing, really. In that time I’ve . . .
. . . saw Transformers. Quick review: awesome. Stupid, but awesome anyway.
. . . begun a brand new series that everyone should read. I’m jumping in the way-back machine and exploring my complicated relationship with music in a new series of posts I’m calling Re:Collection. I just started last week, but I hope to have something new every week. It’s not just about music, for those of you who opt not to read the Lookout – it’s about my life. Music is as important a part of my life as nearly anything else, and it deserved to have some special attention paid to as to why.
. . . bought a pool! After seven long years without water to swim in, we finally gave in and bought a relatively cheap, above-ground vinyl pool from everyone’s most-hated store, Walmart, who had it much, much cheaper than anyone else. Twelve feet in diameter, three feet in depth, nearly 2000 gallons of water – it’s not Olympic by any means, but it gets us wet and cool, and Amanda loves it. Now if only these monsoon storms would go away so we could actually swim in it after work. (Alissa just alerted to me via email that her mom, who is watching her this week, reports that Amanda said, while having her swimmies put on in preparation for going in their pool, said, “Water safety.” Bill Cosby was right – kids do say the darnedest things.)
. . . planned a vacation! A real vacation, not a “fakation” like I took back in late May. No, this time we’re actually leaving Phoenix and heading to the summer home of Phoenicians, San Diego. We spent a good deal of time on the decision of whether to fly or drive, but in the end it just made a lot more sense to drive over – we could get a much nicer hotel, could take practically whatever we wanted with us, and we wouldn’t have to deal with the dilemma of getting Amanda’s stroller, car seat, and Pack-n-play onto a plane (because there’s no way we’re dealing with whatever the hotels have to offer – who knows what other people’s kids have done in those things, and you know they don’t clean them like they should.) So this time in August, we’ll be packing up to leave for a 5 day stay in Sandy Eggo. Plans are to hit Seaworld, the San Diego Zoo, and see the aircraft carrier USS Midway, which has been turned into a giant walkthrough museum. Oh, and rest.
I managed to devour two books recently, which is kind of a record because I get distracted easily. I probably got into these more than usual because they’re music-related, but they were actually just good reads all around (I did, however, have a few issues with each of them) . . .
Love Is A Mix Tape is the true story of Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield dealing with the eventual loss of his wife, a fellow music junkie like he is (I’m not spoiling anything here – this happens in the first chapter). It’s pretty heart-wrenching stuff, all written from the perspective of him going through mixtapes that somehow involved their lives together. It’s a very well-written book, but at times toward the end, I started to question whether, so many years later, he could manage to maintain such a “damaged by love” attitude. It got a little tiring after a while to constantly read how this or that song impacted him emotionally so many years later. In the condensed time-frame of a book, it’s hard to conceive how he’s still curling up on the floor, sobbing, at the loss of his wife many years after the event. I’m not saying it can’t happen, I’m saying that his writing didn’t realistically convey to me, the reader, why these songs or memories knock him down after so long. I will say, however, that her death later in the book (like I said, I’m not spoiling anything – he is upfront about her fate in the first chapter) was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever read in a book. It was beautifully rendered, and it made it all the more difficult to deal with what wasn’t so well rendered.
Perfect From Now On is an all together different sort of read. Light-hearted and fast-paced, it’s good for those music lovers who want to read about a fellow obsessive music lover’s trials and tribulations . . . with music. It’s written basically like a blog after the gripping first chapter, and gets a little too “in crowd” in the last few chapters, which deal with his infatuation with the all-together too-easily infatuatable Guided By Voices, but overall if you don’t mind the blog-style writing, it’s a fun, rewarding read, especially for music freaks like me.
Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation I’ve just begun, but I can see I could have a hard time with this one. I opted for this one because I’ve been meaning to check out Asimove for ages and figured that the book he wrote later in the series as an introduction to it might be the best way to get started. Now I’m not sure. First things first – I’m not a “fantasy sci-fi” reader by any means. My interest in sci-fi is in the “hard sci-fi” realm, that is to say, it deals with things that have at least some semblance of feasibility according to what we know now. I don’t deal well with people who have “powers” and such crap. I’m not saying that Foundation will be like that at all, but I’m seeing less hard sci-fi than I was hoping to see. I have a short time in which I will give a book a chance. Right now it’s already on the edge of going back on the shelf for another few years, which is where it has resided since picking it up in a used bookstore a few years back. Right now, it’s all talk, and all that talk is about some guy’s ability to mathematically deduce the future. Hmm. And it’s pretty dry writing, I hate to say it. Why all sci-fi writers can’t have Arthur C. Clarke’s beautiful ability to meld the technical with the human, I don’t know, but it’s what keeps me from ever being a particularly big fan of the genre.
July 24, 2007
This is it, everyone, the last Overlooked Alternatives new releases piece I’ll be writing. No, I’m not going anywhere – it’s the last because I’m shelving it for a new piece called “The Breakdown,” premiering next week. The change is more in name only, as I’ll continue to talk about the same stuff I always have, but I’ve decided that the “Overlooked Alternatives” moniker wasn’t fitting anymore, and I felt a little limited by it and a bit self-conscious talking about decidedly unoverlooked and unalterative releases. Now I won’t have that problem. But that’s not what you’re here for, is it? On to the new releases . . .
Trey Anastasio – The Horseshoe Curve: After a couple of vocal albums that found the former Phish leader a bit lost in the pop-rock world, Anastasio releases another self-released album (the previous album, Bar 17, and its accompanying EP, Step 18, were also self-released.) This time around, however, he’s going all-instrumental, backed with horns, and exploring the Afro-Cuban material he’d been playing with prior to Shine.
For those who were lucky enough to know about it in time, pre-ordering from his site netted buyers a free copy of The Lucius Beebe EP, a five-song live EP with three songs from the new album and two from his “classical” release, Seis de Mayo. There’s still hope if you weren’t one of the pre-orderers: hop over to his Musictoday site and you can still pre-order the vinyl of the album with a CD copy and still get the EP as a free bonus.
Dave Douglas – Live at the Jazz Standard: You’ve got to hand it to Dave Douglas (Downbeat’s pick for best trumpet player 7 years in a row.) After his experience with a major label, he set out to find a way to release his music the way he wanted to, and so far it seems to be working – he’s released a number of studio albums this way over the past couple of years along with several live releases. But the big deal for him was recording and releasing an entire week’s worth of shows for download from his site – 79 performances in 12 one-hour sets of mp3 files. Unfortunately for many listeners, mp3 files just aren’t all that appealing – the file format has not translated well to jazz listeners who are often much more demanding of the quality of their recordings and mp3 just does not pass muster, not to mention the lack of the much-beloved liner notes and artwork. Douglas decided to pick the best performances of new material from the week and assemble a two-disc set, one disc for material he wrote before the recording of last year’s Meaning and Mystery, the other disc material written after that (and two bonus tracks.) It also comes with the requisite beautiful artwork and insightful liner notes, where Douglas ruminates on the state of music today and his impetus to go all-mp3 with the concert set. You can only buy it from Douglas’ site, so click on over and order it! The $16.98 price gets you not only the discs but also very quick shipping – I ordered mine and had it in my hands five days later. (Note: they seem to be linking to the wrong page right now, but clicking the price in the links below the text will add it to your cart.)
Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers: Deja vu, right? Yeah, I already talked about this a couple months back . . . when there was no hope in site of this coming out in the US. And, of course, as luck would have it, here it is, coming out in the US.
Dramatic and a bit vicious, this is the Manics the way fans have wanted to hear them – vital and raw, unlike the all-too-lush sound that has overtaken them over the past few albums. It’s hard rock for grown ups who want intelligent hard rock. It’s also one of the better albums of the year, and one of the Manics better albums.
Slayer – Christ Illusion Deluxe Edition: Man, even Slayer is getting in on this “deluxe edition” crap? This might be the most annoying trend in album releases since the invention of that stupid adhesive “theft prevention” strip that goes on the top of CD cases (which never come off in one piece and always leave residue behind. Seriously, what is the deal with that? Could they not come up with an adhesive that doesn’t detach itself from its original surface? I spend a good amount of time on each new CD pulling that crap off with the parts of the strip that still have adhesive on it. I have a theory that people download music not to steal but to avoid dealing with the hassle of these damned stickers. But I digress.)
Blogcritics’ Chris Beaumont has a good review that I would suggest you read if you’re interested in this set, but I’ll break it down here: This version of the album includes the track “Final Six,” which reportedly was supposed to be included on the original but wasn’t finished in time, plus a different mix of “Black Serenade,” and a DVD with a whopping 15 minutes of footage. WOW! Let me rant again for a moment: if you’re going to make a “deluxe edition,” make it deluxe. Don’t even bother with the DVD if you’re going to waste it on 15 measly minutes of footage. I realize that part of the DVD is a feature to pimp an upcoming concert DVD, but why not release some other live footage on the DVD that would be exclusive to this set? Make it something I have to have. As it stands, it’s merely something annoying for someone who purchased Christ Illusion the day it came out. A bit of a slap in the face from the label for early-adopters – as usual.
July 19, 2007
I could get behind Drew Carey hosting The Price is Right. I can’t think of a better personality to take over for Bob Barker, actually – Drew has the kind of goofy charm that would work really well on a personality-driven game show like Price.
This begs the question, if Carey gets the job, will Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Greg Proops will be regular contestants?
I have to post this somewhere: quite possibly the funniest 6 minutes of Whose Line is it Anyway? history, when Richard Simmons is piece of all-too-willing “living scenery” for the comedians. If you manage to not be in tears from laughing throughout this, well, you’re just dead inside:
Emmy nominations are out today, and if there were somehow one for “most obvious title,” I might be in the running. But since this is writing and Emmy is all about TV, that’s not going to happen.
I’m only here to complain: Lost got almost completely snubbed, with only Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn being nominated for Best Supporting Actor. And I entirely agree about these two – of the entire cast, these two characters are the ones that keep people talking and keep the show spinning. Emerson’s “Ben Linus,” leader of The Others, has been fascinating since we first met him back in season 2, and has never once let us down. O’Quinn’s “John Locke” has been simultaneously intriguing and frustrating as hell, flip-flopping from being a sort of near-spiritual leader to one of the most selfish, annoying characters you’ll find on TV – but he’s the kind of character that you have to tune in again to see just what he’s going to do next, and that’s why he’s great. But the show deserved a nomination itself – season 3 was incredible TV. After the first 6 episodes, which got us out of the mess started in season 2, nothing was predictable and there were few letdowns (okay, that episode centering around Nikki and Paolo was a complete waste of time, but ignore that.) It was some of the best TV on TV, period, and the season finale upped the ante considerably. How this show got snubbed while other shows got nominated (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy) is beyond me. Popularity does not equal quality, Emmy nominators.
And, come on, what is with Grey’s Anatomy getting so damned many nominations? I’ve seen about 5 minutes of this awful crap and it’s nothing more than a daytime soap opera, with bit more going on upstairs, in prime-time. It’s still terrible TV.
Ever since I saw Contact, I think often about the long, graceful opening sequence that threw some viewers. A burst of sound is heard, like a radio rapidly changing stations, as we glimpse the earth, and then we are drawn further and further away through space as the sound begins to simplify and coalesce into things we can recognize. We pass the planets of the solar system, head out into deep space, then pass other stars and galaxies, and finally we drift into deep, black space, and that’s where the radio signals end. In the radio signals we hear our recent history – our successes and failures, but mostly we hear the things that simply entertained us.
I like to think about that because, while this is obviously simplified for the film, the idea is real. Out there, somewhere in the deepest reaches of space that man may never visit, are the ambassadors of the human race: our radio and TV signals. For good and for bad, the first impressions any alien civilization is likely to have of us will come from what we’ve blasted out into the universe from our TV and radio stations. And, out there in the darkness, in all that mess of music and television signals, are the things that touched us in some way. I know that, somewhere untold billions upon billions of miles from here, the most important music of my life drifts unimpeded toward the unknowable.
As a teenager, I never went to bed when I got in bed. I would always lie awake for another hour or so, listening to something on my Walkman, trying to time the moment when I would become irrefutably sleepy with a particularly good song, the rationale being that whatever was the last song in my head before I fell asleep would be the song I’d have in my head the next day. There’s no better reason to make sure it was a good song than that – no pressure, of course. I never actually fell asleep to the music. I just allowed it to take me up to the edge, where, hopefully, I’d found just the right song, and then I’d quickly set my Walkman and headphones aside and attempt to get to sleep quickly while the song was fresh in my head. I can’t say it ever really worked, I don’t remember actually having the “last listened to” song in my head the next day, but I sure tried.
More often than not I listened to a cassette in my Walkman, preferring, as I do now, to hear an album over a bunch of songs that the radio has to offer. But once in a while, I’d listen to the radio as I drifted toward sleep, hoping to hear something good, if not something new. On a rare occasion that something new did pique my interest, I’d hope against all good sense that the DJ would actually come back in and tell me who that was that I’d just heard, lest I be damned to possibly never know just what that song had been.
It was, however, those occasions when two irritating phenomena would somehow come together and both prevent me from hearing the whole song and getting the name of the band from the DJ that were most frustrating. For weeks around Christmas in 1989, I’d been plagued by hearing just the very end of a particular song – and I wanted to hear more. Every time I would go to the radio, hoping to hear the whole thing, the song never came up in rotation. It only appeared when I least expected it, and always just as I turned on the radio I’d run into it in the closing moments of the song. And, so, that December, I found myself listening to the radio more often than usual as I sought sleep, hoping to hear that song, in its entirety, again. And one night, I finally did.
The song that had been haunting me talked, strangely, in those last few moments I always caught, about magic wands and second sight, things that any good, young, hard rock listener in the 80s would eat up, but something was different. There was a maturity in the music that I wouldn’t have quite understood at the time, mixed in with furious blasts of drums and a soaring guitar solo over top of the texture of acoustic guitar, and a singer with a particular, unusual voice. Something in this mixture spoke to me, but, after many nights hoping to catch the name of the band, or the name of the song, something, I was beginning to think I’d never hear it again.
One night before Christmas, I settled in to bed with my Walkman. The station played a few inconsequential songs, commercials, and then the DJ announced some song when the opening strains of guitar, bass, and drums kicked in. Something tickled at my brain momentarily, but it was when the voice appeared that I knew this had to be it. “Wait!” I thought, frantically. “What did he say? Did he say Rush? Rush?!”
He had – the band I’d been pining for all that time had been Rush, the very band that just a couple of years earlier I’d thought people had to be knuckleheads to listen to – not based on any actual evidence other than that a couple of lunks in shop class in my freshman year of high school had liked them and talked incessantly about their then-new album. “Hey man, didja pick up the new Rush?” I recall one lunk saying to the other, and, in response, he received, “Hell yeah, man. Can’t wait for the tour.” This was accompanied by the kind of familial sharing of stories about seeing the band, listening to the music, their drummer, etc. These guys were not the cool kind of rock listeners, obviously. Everyone knew rock was all about the guitar solo, and I hadn’t heard these guys mention guitar solos yet. This, clearly, was not a band I was going to be interested in, I thought at the time. And I never gave them another thought.
As luck would have it, when the song finished, the DJ delivered, just to make sure I got it – “Once again, that was Rush with the title-track from their new album, Presto. We’ll be able to catch them on tour sometime next year . . .” Rush. Well, okay, I reasoned with myself. Why not? It sounded like great music from really good musicians. It didn’t rock in the way that most of what I listened to did, but there was something else going on there that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. I simply found myself undeniably intrigued, and I knew that I was going to have to have this album.
Unfortunately, Christmas got in the way, so I had to wait until a day or two afterward when, while preparing for a trip to see my aunt and uncle in Colorado with my parents, I disappeared to the Wherehouse. I made my way to the R section and grabbed the Presto cassette from the shelf, briefly pausing to look at the other albums. There was the one those guys in my class had talked about, Hold Your Fire – the cover was . . . three red balls on a red background? This was what they were getting so excited about? I guess I couldn’t say much for Presto, either – it was just a bunch of rabbits in black and white. What the hell was that about? I didn’t understand any of their imagery – it was so not rock ‘n roll – and the song titles didn’t hold out much hope either, but I bought Presto anyway.
I spent a good portion of the next few days getting to know the album. It took a few listens, but it was pretty quickly deemed good. Really good. And really different from anything I’d been listening to – Def Leppard, Scorpions, Dokken, Cinderella . . . everything seemed a bit different to me in the new light shed by finding Rush. I didn’t know it then, but I was on the cusp of a very big change in the way I listened to music. Rather than music simply washing over me, the music of Rush took me in and involved me. I could not resist listening in such a way that I focused like never before on everything going on – the intricate and heavy drums, the weaving bass, the yearning quality of the guitar, and, of course, the lyrics and vocals, the very things that I would come to find out later that put off so many people (and the very things which I would find so much solace in for so much of my life.) For me, it all meshed perfectly, grabbed me in a way I could never have imagined before, and it never let go. In years to come, Rush would affect me in ways no one could have guessed – one day I would have that band to thank for the most important things in my life.
Somewhere, out there, so far away that most of us can’t even begin to imagine the distance, the very broadcast of the song that I have come to think of as changing my life travels on and on, unstopping and unstoppable. Out there are the songs that touched every one of us in some way. If, as some scientists believe, and I hope, there is life out there, and they are sufficiently advanced, they may one day hear and see the things that affected our lives. Songs we fell in love to, songs with which we took out our anger, songs that brought us together and songs that drove us insane. Mine’s out there, I know that. Maybe whoever or whatever hears it won’t understand any of it at all, and surely they won’t be instant Rush fans like I was, but at least they’ll have the answer that many of us have been looking for: the signs that someone out there has been listening and watching and waiting for a sign, too.
This begins a new series focusing on the music of my life. It won’t always be serious, it won’t always be this long, but it will always be something meaningful to me that happened around the music that has filled my life for so long. Rather than a boring list of songs or albums from a particular year and why they were important, I thought it would be a lot more interesting not only for readers but for me to talk about the music that meant something to me.
July 17, 2007
I usually welcome these weeks that look quiet, but there’s the catch – it looks quiet for most but good music listeners will immediately find the nuggets hidden in the mid-summer release doldrums. For this week, Grant Lee Buffalo’s reissue of Fuzzy, an album that I’ve long wanted and, since it’s been out of print, I’ve never picked up, and Suzanne Vega’s new album Beauty And Crime fit the bill nicely. This is what it is to be a music addict. Gotta have my fix, man.
Grant Lee Buffalo – Fuzzy and Copperopolis: The band’s first and third Americana-pop albums, a band seemingly forgotten by all but fans, have been out of print for some time, but new label “Noble Rot” (Am I the only one to get a kick out of saying that name?) is bringing both back in new digipaks with new liner notes and, presumably, remastered sound. Unfortunately, there are no bonus tracks to be had on either. Let’s hope that it’s not just fans that are picking these one up. The band deserves better than that.
Suzanne Vega – Beauty And Crime: Most people seemed to tune out of Vega’s music after “Luka” and/or the various remixes of “Tom’s Diner” had their way with the airwaves, relegating her to that sad status as fluke hit-maker. Luckily for discerning listeners she paid them no attention and carried on creating strong albums that provoked and questioned what women in pop/folk could and should do. Six years after her last album, she’s back with her first release on Blue Note with an album that is being called one of her best.
July 16, 2007
After just over a year on “Dopamax” (I use its nickname here to try to avoid the spam-bots from tagging me like they love to do when you mention a drug by name – Google it and you’ll see what it is) and successfully avoiding migraines for quite a long time, my neurologist and I have decided to try and get me off of this crap. I’ve been doing so for the past month and a half, slowly moving down in dosage one pill at a time to see if lower doses allow the migraines to creep back in. So far, so good. I think most of my migraines were food-related, a realization that is both comforting and sad at the same time. Comforting because it’s therefore easy to avoid migraines – avoid the food that seemed to cause them (chocolate and cheddar cheese – believe it or not, I ate way more of both of these than I realized on a regular basis.) Sad because, well, it’s pretty obvious why – I love chocolate and cheddar cheese. But if that’s what keeps migraines and daily headaches away, fine, I’ll do without.
I must also throw in here the issue of allergies. My neurologist suggested from the start that out-of-control allergies could set off migraines, so getting started on a serious treatment program is sure to have had a big effect on my headache issues. I’m two months into a several-year long treatment by way of injections. At the end of that time, I’ll be far more resistant to the annoying things that set off sinus headaches and possibly what caused a lot of migraine problems. I’m absolutely stunned at how happily I will offer up my arms twice a week for a shot in each one.
However, as I’m coming off of Dopamax, I’m now starting on something some call “Morontin” (again, Google it.) I’ve had a nagging issue with my right arm for a couple of years now, something that has finally gotten to the point that I had to ask about it. Simply put, my pinky and ring finger, along with the portion of my palm attached to them, go numb during the night. This is not normal under any circumstances. It’s a condition called ulnar nerve neuropathy. Nearly every night, I will awake with either those to fingers completely, totally numb, or tingling as if I’d just had them in freezing cold water. Neither is a particularly pleasant sensation, and it wakes me up at least once a night, sometimes several times a night, and very rare is the morning that I wake up without those finger being numb and slowly over the next hour regaining their normal sensations.
My neurologist sent me for nerve conduction testing a couple of weeks ago. This was fun. Oh, it was fine at first – just some electrodes taped onto various spots on my hand and arm – but when no results came up, it was time for needles. Needles in muscles. Most were bearable, a couple were almost completely unnoticeable, but two were absolutely awful: the one going into the side of my palm and the one going into that big fleshy part on the palm by the thumb. The latter, actually, was excruciating. I have distinct, sharp memories of feeling the needle poke through my skin and then resist going further at the muscle until the technician gave the needle several short, sharp shoves. And then it just hurt constantly while she made me move my thumb against her hand for resistance. All that for absolutely no results – and that’s what my doctor expected would be the result! (To explain, he said that it’s possible that at this point only a small number of nerve fibers have been affected, and they may be in a position that the tests can’t reveal anything yet. I didn’t think to ask if this meant that someday I could look forward to more nerve testing.)
So, in lieu of surgery, because whatever is going on is just not bad enough right now, I’m on a drug that should hopefully eliminate some of the nighttime numbness and waking episodes. So far, three days into it, absolutely nothing has happened. I still wake up numb, but now I wake up numb and groggy. Fun. And, as luck would have it, in trying to get away from some of the side effects of Dopamax, like making me forgetful, I’m now on a drug that is also blessed with the same damned side effect, only it seems to make me aggressively dumb. Before I could kind of predict what I would forget, but with Morontin, it’s completely random. Example: I went out yesterday to hit a pool store for supplies (oh, yeah – we bought a “cheap” above-ground pool – more on that later!) and Zia for musical supplies. By the time I got half way down the road, I knew I was going to a pool store, but not why or, more accurately, what for. After I got there, it started to clear up, but I couldn’t help but walk around and wonder if I was forgetting something vital. When I left, I had no idea if I had something else to do besides Zia – but at least I had my priorities straight, right? So part of me is hoping that this drug just isn’t going to work and I can get off of it soon and just be drug-free (besides my allergy stuff, can’t live without that.) I don’t know what the solution is, or even what the situation itself is, but some good has to come from all of this, right?