Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Game of Thrones 2017 Season Predictions

Game of Thrones season six just ended. I really enjoy the show. I've only read the first book, so I'm focusing on the TV universe here when I say that it has jumped the shark. It was a good run, but the pop culture virus that makes all great franchises more consumable, more watered-down, has finally infected the HBO series. Also, George R.R. Martin is apparently no longer the source material for the series--it has begun its own path.

When the season started back in April, I had this funny feeling that the storylines were being dragged out. For instance, Arya was basically waffling around for 3 episodes until something interesting happened. The same goes for Daenerys... a few small scenes could have summed up her story arc, rather than 8 episodes of fluff. And, let's not mention Bran's ability to time travel... what a bad writing choice.

The other problem, and I think it was not a decision by the producers and writing staff, was to have a "Previously, on Game of Thrones" segue to help people understand what scenes are about to unfold. One thing that Game of Thrones (and HBO) could hang its hat on is its elitist attitude toward cable TV. I really hate this opener, but unfortunately this is a really commonplace crutch that is beneficial to newbies, invalids, and the infirmed.

ANYWAY, here are my predictions for Season 7:
  • Something only mildly interesting will be revealed (Episode 1, Episode 4)
  • The Hound and Arya will become a Murder Team (Episode 5)
  • The Wall will be partially destroyed (Episode 8)
  • Cersei will become pregnant (Episode 9)
  • Nothing will happen with Dany's army until Episode 3
  • Bran's magic will reboot the timeline and ruin the entire show (Episode 9)
I'll post and update more as I think of crazy-ass TV tropes between now and next spring. We are Sparta!

Friday, April 22, 2016

My Prince experience

I feel like this whole Prince death thing is an elaborate hoax, funny only to Prince and his collaborators. I know he had the flu a few weeks ago... did his religiousness bar him from treating it? Has Prince ever been sick and cancelled a concert before? I thought he was immortal like Bowie. So many questions.

I gasped really loudly in a meeting when I saw my coworkers message. I was leading the meeting, and we had to pause so I could explain my exasperation.

On the scale of Prince knowledge and dedication, I would place myself on the above average part of the scale. I've never seen him live, nor waited for a record store to open to pick up his latest. I do have many of his CDs, and I even dressed as the Purple One circa 1984 on Halloween (and won a costume contest). I've read books lionizing him, podcasts in his namesake, and watched unauthorized biographies on Amazon Prime about the man. My Google+ icon is Prince, if that says anything. I respected his musical prowess, and his sexual allure to women even though he seemed quite effeminate.

I didn't really know him in the 80s until Batman hit. I was crazy about that film, even though I was too young to see it. But I do recall seeing "Batdance" on television.

In college, a friend of mine blasted "Pussy Control" in a public computer lab, and it changed my life. If you can recite the lyrics (even the Spanish intro), you're a fan. It made me download the instrumental album N.E.W.S.

I saw Purple Rain for the first time in about 2008, and I was blown away. I quickly bought the soundtrack, and it is part of my monthly routine to listen to a few tracks and maybe find a YouTube interview or two with him.

Prince appeared on SNL some years ago, where he played "Fury" from his Planet Earth album. If you want an example of his guitar virtuosity, you need to go find a video of this. The man could shred.

Advanced Genius Theory, which centers around Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie (the Trinity) also has Prince not far behind. Then there was this VH1 Countdown for the best bands/artists ever. Prince was voted by his colleagues as #8 on the list, which is an astounding feat. Being a top 10 musician is high honor.

Have you ever listened hard to the ultimate verse of "Little Red Corvette"? Prince's quasi-call-and-response is just astonishing. I once played it over and over for an hour. If history asks, "who was the Mozart of the 20th century?", it would be Prince Rogers Nelson.

I think rock 'n roll will be like this from now on--legends dropping like flies. Bowie and Prince were just the beginning, alas, but they were also the most important.

Related: The Overlooked Prince videos

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best of the Year 2015: Movie

This year was when I saw the worst movie ever and maybe the best action movie of the last 20 years.


Mad Max: Fury Road
Viva practical effects! This movie rocked me. I thought the trailer was excellent--which normally sets the bar too high for a movie. I had the lowest of expectations going in, and I knew the troubled history of the movie (and also it took years of post-production--filming mostly wrapped in 2012). The wait was worth it. As others have said, it is a watershed moment for action movies. It seemed as if only 90 seconds of the movie was not action. I don't know how anyone could top this masterpiece. It is one of a kind.

Jurassic World
This is the template for the 21st century popcorn movie. Small story, but huge action scenes.


Ant-man
Funny, great addition to the expanding comic universe.


What We Do in the Shadows
Great, original mockumentary about the vampire genre.


The Martian
It was a good year for Mars (and Pluto)!


Star Wars: The Force Awakens
How many times in your life do you get to review a Star Wars film? Well, hopefully it stays that way (and Disney handles the franchise properly). J.J. Abrams is an overrated director, and he had an impossible task, but he delivers the proper ingredients in the proper proportions.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My David Bowie experience

[insert stoic Bowie photograph from the 70s (or 80s) here]

Like many Bowie fans, I was listening to Blackstar () on repeat this weekend. "Where the fuck did Monday go?", Bowie asks in "Girl Loves Me".

I was thinking about him a lot, especially that he turned 69. I watched dozens of his music videos and interviews on YouTube. I even edited Wikipedia articles to add some detail about some of the more recent videos. Also I highly suggest The Church of Man-Love.

I saw a 1999 interview where Bowie recounted a documentary about dirty bombs (and his dread of terrorism). He kept the conversation light though, but it was an eerie vision into what would happen the New York two years later. I saw another interview where he recounted his shaving of eyebrows in frustration with Mott the Hoople. I kept comparing his 2015 facial structure to that of the 2000's A Reality tour, when he looked much more animated and youthful. He still was a sex symbol, even close to the end.

As I watched some of his recent videos from the Next Day and Blackstar, I kept thinking, "I can't wait to see what he produces next". And, "he's not too old. He looks healthy in 'Lazarus'. How old is 69 anyway?" I was really looking forward, which is something all good artists teach others to do.

Saturday night they had karaoke at a work party. Nobody sang Bowie, but I was itching to try out "China Girl" to an unsuspecting audience of non-Bowie fans. They probably didn't realize there were "visions of swastikas in my head". I don't have the vocal range.

Bowie's songs always had some weirdness. He was really into eerie melodies and atonal music, and it's all over his singles. Either lyrics ("As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent") or melodies (check out "Life on Mars?" chord progression).

Sunday morning, when I drove downtown, the local public radio (KOOP) was playing covers of Bowie songs by Bauhaus and by other artists. It was a Bowie-celebration.

I learned of his death by a talk radio show. They were playing isolated vocals of  "Under Pressure". At first, I thought the Bowie-celebration was still going, which made me happy. Ten minutes into the tribute, I knew it was reality.

My parents introduced me to Bowie. They loved him. My dad had a US vinyl copy of The Man Who Sold the World. The cover was not the one that people remember:

My dad recounted to me that his mother (my Grandma) would often go into his vinyl collection and read the lyrics. She thought Bowie was on drugs. Even though he was, Bowie was genuinely weird, and definitely a one-of-a-kind trendsetter. A genius, most likely.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard "Space Oddity". I was in junior high, and I was listening to a small college radio station in my hometown. I was in an unfinished basement, and the DJ introduced the song with a long delay of silence. Then, the two-chord intro came on. The lyrics hit my brain and inspired me. I was hooked after that.

Grantland wrote a really good "nobituary" in 2013 when there was a rumor of Bowie's death. It goes into great detail about some of the underrated highlights and career moves of the man. I suggest you read it.

Maybe that is what early January needs to be: a few days of Bowie retrospection.

If you haven't heard his non-hits and less notable releases, I would start with the electronic era of Earthling and Outside. There is some hard hitting drum-and-bass jams on there. "The Last Thing You Should Do" is a great song for a good car audio system.

Right now, if I had to rank some of my favorite tunes from the man, I would go:

5. I'm Afraid of Americans V1
4. TVC-15
3. Life on Mars?
2. Sound and Vision
1. Space Oddity

That's all I can muster right now. Check out the breaths Bowie takes on the Blackstar version of "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore". I don't know why, but I like it.

Death can be inspiring. Take Kurt Cobain as an example; a whole cult of personality was built around him. Bowie, in life, already had a cult. To me, Bowie epitomized the cool. What will happen as times crawls on without Bowie? I'm still looking forward to the future.