Friday, November 30, 2007

Bullz Eye updates

As promised, my latest up on Bullz Eye:

The title of this new Oasis DVD is all too apt: Lord Don't Slow Me Down. I think the Gallagher brothers are due for a break.

And back on the CD front... yet another Van Morrison compilation. If you forget the fact that Van (and really, nearly everyone of importance from his generation) has been and continues to be anthologized to no end, and if your collection contains nothing from the man at all, then it's not a bad place to start.

I've also got a brief entry in Bullz Eye's annual holiday gift guide. It's the one on the Frank Sinatra box set.

All the music writers were also asked to survey their top ten albums for 2007, as well as their picks for the 90 best albums of the '90s. The 90 of the '90s are being tabulated... when the final list is posted, I'll share my own list here. The tastes and opinions over at Bullz Eye are fairly diverse, so it's safe to say that what gets published will have more than a few eyebrow raisers. Then again, I'm sure my own list has its fair share. But we shall see soon enough!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm not there (anymore)

Back from a 6-day getaway out in Rhode Island, which is usually frigid and otherwise inhospitable this time of year. But, thank goodness for global warming, it was actually not that much cooler over there than it has been in the Bay area. And no snow! There was a touch of rain towards the end of my stay, but it was nothing to crow about.

The only really jarring thing about the trip was that, again, I felt like I was stepping into a new world. I swear, every time I fly there, new businesses open, new buildings go up, old businesses disappear... the amount of change that has happened there over the course of four years is pretty amazing. Don't know if it's good or bad, but something tells me that a huge high-rise luxury condo building in the middle of Providence that's failing to attract buyers can't be a good thing.

Also in the bad news department... I knew it was coming, but it was sad to hear nonetheless. Tom's Tracks, one of my favorite record stores, will be closing by year's end. Unfortunately, I couldn't even say goodbye to Tom because he's not well enough to tend to his store anymore, after having suffered several strokes. Oh, and he has MS too. Not fun. Tom was infamous for being cranky and grumpy with customers at times, but if he liked you and if you made a connection with him, you had every reason to keep going back. He was a fountain of knowledge, had great taste, and would hire similarly knowledgeable staff to help him out over the years. It was through some of those staff (one in particular I'm thinking of was also named Mike) that I got hooked on Black Cat Music, doves, the Hives, and others. As far as record stores go, Tom's was the last one standing on Thayer Street, after 23 years -- he outlasted them all. He even outlasted the Gap! With Tom closing up shop, I now have one less reason (and a HUGE one at that) to cruise by Thayer Street.

Ah, but the Avon is still there, my favorite single screen independent movie theatre! It was there that I saw Todd Haynes' new film, I'm Not There, not once but twice. And I have plans to see it again next week. Yes, it's that good, and it may unseat Bugsy as my all-time favorite movie. The music is, of course, fantastic. You can't really go wrong with Bob Dylan. A couple of the performances that sounded only so-so on the soundtrack double CD actually came off much better on-screen. In particular, I wasn't all that impressed with Richie Havens' take on "Tombstone Blues," which surprised me as he's generally a dynamic performer. But once that song was paired with the image of Havens himself strumming on a porch alongside the young Marcus Carl Franklin (as the "Woody" character), it became much better than just so-so. The other tune that benefited was Stephen Malkmus' version of "Ballad Of A Thin Man" -- this sequence was essentially turned into what amounted to a music video, with Cate Blanchett's "Jude Quinn" miming the song between images of the relentless BBC reporter who drew so much ire from him/her (there's a reason I used both pronouns, and not just because a woman is playing the role of a male here -- you'll have to see the movie to find out why).

Beyond the great soundtrack lies a real film, a real mind-bending non-linear narrative that weaves together the stories of six characters who were inspired by the real life (or lives, as it were) of Bob Dylan. All the actors who portray these characters -- Franklin, Blanchett, Christian Bale (who plays both "Jack Rollins" and "Pastor John"), Heath Ledger ("Robbie Clark"), Ben Whinshaw ("Arthur Rimbaud," as in the poet, not literally, of course), and Richard Gere ("Billy The Kid," "William," "Mr. B," or whatever you choose to call him) are excellent. But it's Blanchett who gets all the best parts and the lion's share of the zingers in the dialogue. Her resemblance to Dylan circa 1965-66 is uncanny, and being that this period was the height of his cultural impact, she had arguably the most challenging role to play. I wouldn't say she became Dylan the way Val Kilmer became Jim Morrison in The Doors or the way Jamie Foxx became Ray Charles in Ray, but she came awfully close, as close as anyone could. And that's sort of the point of the whole film -- as soon as you think you have Dylan figured out, he's on to something else. He might as well be somebody different every day. And here we have it on film -- six characters who are, but are not, Dylan. "I'm not there, I'm gone," Dylan sings in the old Basement Tapes song that lent the film its title. And yes, it's true. But it's not. It's a put-on. But it's not.

Go see it!

(...and learn for yourself just how far you can go in life when you master the arts of the con, thievery, and being an asshole... oops, did I just say that?)

Beyond that... I'm overdue for some Bullz-Eye updates. Look for those tomorrow.

Till then... take a cue from my parents' 15-pound cheetoh cat and go find something to toss around for fun:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chris Robley interview at Bullz Eye (and an AC/DC DVD review too)

Chris Robley

The interview I conducted last month with Portland singer/songwriter (and fellow East Greenwich High School graduate) Chris Robley made its way up on the Bullz Eye site today. Read and enjoy!

AC/DC Plug Me In DVD

Also just posted: a review of AC/DC's Plug Me In DVD set. Two DVDs. Four hours. That's a lot of AC/DC. But you know, Bon Scott and Angus Young at their best really did put on a hell of a show.

Only three more web development classes left for me, the last of which I will miss as I will be airborne at that time, heading East for the Thanksgiving holiday. That's one flight I'll surely want to zonk out on...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Here, there and everywhere

Scattered thoughts from a scattered mind...

LAST WEEK: More adventures with food

I think it was last week anyway. After checking out a band called the Feeders with my drummer friend from the east bay, we stopped for some Chinese food at a real Chinese restaurant nearby. No Americanized dishes at this place. How Chinese was it? Take a look at the leftovers I had for lunch the next day:
pig livers in ginger and onion sauce
Those are pig livers in ginger and onion sauce. My friend pointed them out on the menu and jokingly said, "you should try that!" Being that a) I had quite a lot to drink that night, and b) I'm always up for trying unusual foods at least once, I went for it. They weren't bad! My previous experience with liver was when I was a young child, and as they crumbled in my mouth, they grossed me out so I never went back. But I think that was beef liver. These pig livers could actually be chewed, and mostly just took on the flavor of the ginger and green onions in the sauce. Get too close and it smells a tinge like pet food, but other than that, they get my seal of approval. As in, I'd eat them again.

EARLY THIS WEEK: Thinkin' 'bout Peter Green & Aerosmith one morning

When I walk to work, I fire up the iRiver and sometimes listen to something specific, other times go for shuffle play. Sometimes I shuffle till I land on something I'm in the mood for and then listen to just that artist till I get to work. Earlier this week, I specifically went for Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, specifically the album Then Play On. I had forgotten about the song "Rattlesnake Shake," and when it came on, I got a good chuckle. It's THE single guy's song. I've been back in singledom for the past few months, and I didn't ever think that single guys needed an anthem until this week. "Rattlesnake Shake" is that anthem:

Now, I know this guy
His name is Mick
Now, he don't care when he ain't got no chick
He do the shake
The rattlesnake shake
Yes, he do the shake
And jerks away the blues

There were these kids in school I knew who used to make fun of people they didn't like (or just tease each other for fun) by saying they jerked off, as if it was the kind of thing that made you un-male. This was before puberty started to kick in for us. Once that whole scene started, the jerk-off taunts disappeared really quickly. Nobody ever said anything about it either.

Here's Peter Green, all scraggly looking, leading Fleetwood Mac through "Rattlesnake Shake" circa 1970:

Aerosmith latched onto this one too, and it served as a building block for the sound they created. It fits their sleazy image perfectly. Here they are in '77, all drugged up, jammin' on the shake. It's only a so-so performance, might require some reefer, but hey, it's history:

NEXT WEEK: "The McCartney Years" DVD

I'm excited about it. That's all. I don't get excited about DVDs, but this one, yes.


Thursday's appointment in Berkeley was a start towards clarity, I'll need at least one more, but till then... gotta get some singin' in over at the Mint. Karaoke is my addiction now. My poor guitars are suffering from abandonment. When will they be picked up again?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

New reviews and a follow-up to "other crap"

Alright, time for another update on my review activities... two more at Bullz Eye.

I write these things and I sometimes forget that I'm at liberty to let my imagination run a little wild. But this one I wrote up on Radiohead's In Rainbows I'm particularly proud of, precisely because I got a little nutty with it.

And then, something completely different: a box set distilling the early years of Frank Sinatra's recording career into an easily digestible, manageable chunk of 4 discs called A Voice In Time: 1939-1952. These recordings are so old, many of the masters predate the standard use of magnetic tape! We're talkin' glass and aluminum discs and metal 78 rpm pressing plates here. And yet, all things considered, the reproduction quality is so good you may not even notice the occasional clicks and pops.

And back to "other crap" from two weeks back... as the painful headaches and occasional nightmares continue, an important first step towards a resolution to my creative mind block starts on Thursday, when I see a career counselor at UC Berkeley. I'm hoping this will be the beginning of deciding which of my various "irons in the fire" are going to be most worth seeing through to completion, which ones to just toss aside or put on hold, and how best to get from point A to point B. That "sustainable, harmonious union" of interests I'm trying to achieve will soon be one step closer to my grasp...