Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Comeback albums of 2012

There were handful of comebacks this year for alterna-grunge-metal bands from... simpler times. Garbage finally came back into the fold, albeit quietly. Probably the way they wanted it. Honestly, I didn't like any of the new tracks. Maybe I'm just growing old.

A louder, tackier group came back too: the Darkness. Their album didn't make much of a splash (at least in the U.S.) To be honest, I was disappointed. Their Hot Cakes actually turned me off from the band. I had too high hopes. I was a huge fan of their 2005 album, and eagerly awaited their return. Their new music videos disappointed me, too!

Tenacious D also came back after 6 years of silencio. Some good songs, but nothing here truly legendary in the way their debut rocked our socks.

Then there's Van Halen: Revenge of  The Roth! A great album of redone demos from the Zero sessions. Absolutely what the doctor ordered. I played the guitar solo from "She's the Woman" on repeat at least 30 times. And, If you haven't watched the videos of the band reminiscing, you definitely need to have a peek. I could watch them discuss the past all day. Van-fricking-Halen.


But the most surprising to me is King Animal, the Soundgarden record. After their permanent breakup, Chris Cornell seemed to become more... "fatherly" with his music. When I heard the news that the band was back, I feared the worst. I dreaded something as soporific as Audioslave; songs primed for those horrible Now! compilations. When I got news of the lead-off single being titled "Been Away Too Long", my heart cringed. The title of the album seemed bad also.

Fortunately, King Animal sounded like Soundgarden. And, it was good. It felt like it was a sequel to their last album. Still 90s pedigree. "Bones of Birds" and "A Thousand Days Before" are maybe my favorite songs of the year (even though, as Pitchfork points out, they are copies of oldies).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of the Year 2012

...working on Best of the Year 2012 right now.

There will best lists for:
Stay tooned!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Entry #008

I think I'm in love
(probably just hungry)

I think I'm your friend
(probably just lonely)

I think you got me in a spin now
(probably just turning)

I think I'm a fool for you, babe
(probably just learning)

I think I can rock and roll
(probably just twisting)

I think I wanna tell the world now
(probably ain't listening)

I think I can fly
(probably just falling)

I think I'm the life and soul
(probably just snorting)

I think I can hit the mark
(probably just aiming)

I think my name is on your lips
(probably complaining)

I think that I have caught it bad
(probably contagious)

I think that I'm a winner, baby
(probably Las Vegas)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Austin Recycling: What about Glass?

Oct 2013 update: it seems that glass is now a big part of Austin Recycling! Yay!

For living in a progressive, conscientious city like Austin, it is a chore to recycle some things. Some things (like paper and aluminum) seem to be easy to do, but this city is pretty terrible compared to my hometown (population 10,000), which takes just about anything curb-side. My apartment complex doesn't even have recycle bins.

So, I've made plans to create a one-stop database for all the places in Austin to recycle: http://www.steveprutz.com/recycle/ (hopefully will be live soon)

In the meantime, here is my wishlist (call for submissions, if you will) for more information on recycle places for the following items:
  • GLASS: 9th Street only? If so, this is a travesty. Update Nov 30 2012: a brief explanation why...
  • ELECTRONICS: Best Buy takes a heap of stuff now. There is a spot at the door for CDs and Remotes! Goodwill Thrift Stores also take electronics (even non-working ones).
  • METALS:  there's a spot on the extreme southern part of S. Congress, but I am not certain.
Also, here's a bunch of links I found about recycling in ATX, but they're often OUTDATED and UNCLEAR:

See also: The Austin plastic bag ban: will it succeed?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Entry #007


OK, I'd like to thank Kanye
And my nigga Deezle for giving me this diesel
Like a F-350, tank never empty
Damn, everybody in the bank act friendly!
Used to think my shit didn't stank, boy was I wrong
Approving million dollar deals from my iPhone
I'm gonna take it one, two, way back
Like a silk wifebeater and a wavecap
Or the wave pool at Blue Bayou
And I waved fool, as I blew by you

Monday, April 2, 2012

The grungyness of post-grunge

I've always been leery about the Foo Fighters. Let's rewind back to 1994. I only witness Unplugged after the suicide (when MTV played it into the ground). But, when Cobain did die, the band broke up for good. This is a very good thing. Dave Grohl (technically) did the right thing and made a new band of his own. In an alternate reality, he could have led Nirvana Mark Two into a pseudo-grunge era. Let's talk about that label: "grunge".

First of all, grunge is not what you think. Unless you were in Seattle in the late 80s, or are a rock researcher, you don't really understand. And, let's be honest: most musicians don't even know what genre their song represents. Let's even be more honest: genres are an imperfect quagmire of a system.

When I think of "grunge", I do not think about Nirvana. My mind echoes Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and early Silverchair. Nirvana transcended that genre pigeonhole in 1991.

The year of 1994 was a pivotal moment in my life. My favorite year of music. Several albums were hot then: Siamese Dream, Throwing Copper, The Downward Spiral. None of those were true grunge, however. The post-grunge era of music had already begun!

What is post-grunge? For examples, listen to:
  • Bush: Sixteen Stone
  • Foo Fighters: The Colour and the Shape
  • Creed: My Own Prison
  • Nickelback...
  • anything labeled "2000s rock" in your iTunes
Eww... hair...
When the Colour and the Shape  released in 1997, the music world was a terrifying place. All the old giants that couldn't adapt went the way of the dinosaur. That summer, I got a major lesson in music culture... via the Boy Scouts. Bands like K's Choice, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, and Foo Fighters were major topics of discussion, as we had no radio and only CDs and tape recordings. These were all bands that were marketed and produced as "grungy", but without all the flannel and whatnot. "Diet grunge"... But, removing the "whatnot" would be looked back on as a mistake.

The Foo Fighters were (and are) very popular. In 1997, all of my friends loved their second album. But, as I said before, I was leery. I didn't like it. I bought the album (only because of the "Everlong" video), but the rest of that album is extremely polished quasi-grunge. Take a look at the vapid "My Hero". Not that deep, and perfect for Guitar Center clientele. I admit, I learned to play that song on guitar (it's very easy). Dave Grohl pretty much single-handedly invented this style. And even right now, in 2012, he is still in his element. Dave's music wins Grammys. And I'm not blaming him for ruining music. Ultimately, the masses ruin everything...

The question is: when the hell will this sub-sub-genre ever become unpopular?
The dilemma: no one would ever admit their favorite music is post-grunge.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Total Recall and Ninja Turtles remake?

Nostalgia sells, and is easier than originality. Take a look at ironic neon sunglasses, classic rock radio, Mad Men and Titanic 3D. And it's that time, the time for nineties nostalgia! And, I remember those crazy 90s very well. I had a conversation with someone else who grew up in the same time, and we were remembering our favorite films. All of my fond movie memories start with E.T. re-release in 1985 and onward. I became a movie fiend, and it grew as I grew.

You just had to be there...
In 1990, there was no way I was going to be allowed see Total Recall. I had to wait quite a few years to see it, and see it uncut. Today, the film kindles remembrance of the era of ultraviolence. The early 90s were full of action flicks, thanks to superstars like Stallone, Willis, and Arnold. Movie rental stores were in their heyday, and so was action. That era ended in about 1997, when (for some reason) violence went more underground. My hypothesis is that CGI took over the need for bloodlust. Now, the movie executives want to relive that past (in a more computer-generated, artificial way).

Colin Farrell (who was already in a movie adaptation of a PKD story) stars in a second film adaptation of "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". I'm not sure why a B actor was chosen, or why this film was selected out of all the action tour-de-forces. Maybe it was the director's lifelong dream to do the story right. Maybe it was the success of Inception that put the "dream vs. reality" hook back on the table. I'm sure someone knows. Anyway, like to see any futuristic film, because I'm a geek boy who likes seeing cool flying cars and laser guns. Question: will kids today have nostalgia for a nostalgic reboot?

I consider Total Recall the most violent big-budget action flick ever. It is still wildly entertaining, twenty years later. That violence is almost matched by the Last Boy Scout (which narrowly loses, even though it has suicide and helicopter blade dicing). Are they going to remake that one, too?

Speaking of the 90s, I was a Ninja Turtle fiend, too. I can remember exactly where I was when I saw the TV trailer for the original TMNT film. I watched that damn cartoon every day, and seeing it in live-action was like discovering a new planet. My head exploded. And, it met all of my (high) expectations as a 10-year-old.

And now... now... Michael Bay wants to bring the shelled warriors to the 2010s... not as mutant turtles from a sewer, but as space aliens. Fans are confused and frustrated, calling his treatment "unnecessary", "childhood ruining" and even "sodomy". I tend to agree.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magical realism and the Blues Brothers film

Ok. *deep breath*. Here goes.

I was watching The Blue Brothers on VH1 Classic the other night, strictly for the ending. If you have not seen this 1980 classic, it has one of the best climaxes of all time. It just keeps escalating and escalating. It's police car pornography.

Is the Bluesmobile magical?
Anyway, I watch the whole film, anticipating the build-up, then I come to the car chase into the City. And, the Illinois Nazis join in. And the Blues Brothers are having engine trouble whilst dodging bullets. Jake & Elwood drive to an unfinished bridge, and slam on the brakes to avoid a certain plummet. Then, something miraculous happens. Something I have seen one hundred times and simply accepted. The Bluesmobile thwarts the Nazi pursuit by an end-over-end slingshot, and landing safely in the opposite direction of danger. It defies logic, and I say (out loud), "magical realism!"

My mind immediately stirs about the idea. A film, an American film, that threw in a magical element just for kicks. Yes, it could have been script writer's laziness (there are a lot of unexplainable parts in that film), but, I kept going over it in my head: magical realism. A term associated with Latin American writing in the 50s, no less. And, I run the entire film--scene by scene--in my head to discover that this could totally be a Hispanic story.

Imagine Jake & Elwood Blues being Latino. Jake is getting out of prison, for one. As the film unravels, a rich layered story unfolds (just like magical realism fiction). They go to their Catholic orphanage and are asked to save the church. A bit Spanish, no? They go to a revival, and Jake sees the light (salvado). Magic in the grit of blue-collar Chicago.

I've mulled over how to define magical realism, compared to fantasy, sci-fi and even just realism. The best way to put it, in terms of film is: Realism is 100% reality; Magical realism is 98% reality and 2% magic. "Fantasy" can be anywhere from 50% reality to 1% reality (the remainder magical). Most importantly, the magic has to be accepted.

Almost magical realism.
The more that I think about it, the more I see magical realism in film. Especially in the pre-CGI days of the 70s and 80s. For one, Jaws is almost magical realism. Everything is steeped in reality in that film except for one thing: an vengeful, oversized shark.The problem with almost is that they don't quite accept the shark's "magicality" until later in the film. If Chief Brody and Hooper would have just listened to Quint, this would be pure magic, and not horror.

If the horror is accepted, then it is magical realism? I think I'm on to something here! Maybe The Shining? I don't know... more research needed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The curse of the trilogy

I was watching a video review of a game (Mass Effect 3), and had a realization about the "Curse of Three". The concept is all around me, but I never came to fully understand it until now. The first sequel is awesome; the second sequel sucks.

This is a rule (with exceptions), but I am going to focus it on movies, especially action movies... like The Dark Knight Rises. This threequel has no chance of being great.

1. Weird title. Yes, the second film was open-ended, but what film isn't these days. This is basically watering down a classic comic book. How about The Caped Crusader, or Batman Ends (get it)? It's a lack of imagination, and it reminds me of the Star Wars trilogy.

A U.S. Army recruitment video.
2. History repeating itself. Remember Batman Forever? It had Jim Carrey as the Riddler (which was awesome), but pretty everything else was horrible about this movie. They knew the franchise stakes were high;' they went completely crazy on this film. I'm talking about all the fluorescent colors and A-list actors. Yes, it was entertaining, but in a Val Kilmer kind of way.

3. Fanboy influence. Eventually, a franchise can't hold back the cultural influence of fans. They raid the temple; permeate the writing process. Expectations become out of control. Eventually, they want to throw in a flying batmobile.

4. The tagline: "The Legend Ends". Huh? How does this work? I thought, "Heroes get remembered, but legends never die". How am I going to tell my children about this one?

5. Terminator 3, Spider-man 3, Star Trek III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Alien 3, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, The Matrix Revolutions, Back to the Future Part III, Goldmember, and Ghostbusters 3 (sad). Count Men in Black III, too.


The Christopher Nolan Bat-trilogy is supposed to be more intellectual, more dark... but I think at the end of the day it will be the Tim Burton era that gets those nods. Is Nolan the ultimate "Batman done right"? We forget that Batman is a comic character, and his film persona will always be compared to that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Obama, Artificial Intelligence, Getting Ahead at Work


Obama's gonna win again. Is there any doubt? If there is, you’ve been watching too much TV. I mean, Barack’s done nothing horrible, nothing immoral. Maybe be a little un-American (can you blame him from distancing himself from the tacky parts of our country?). This President never dons a cowboy hat. And, Tacky America makes us look like cattle.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of the Year 2011: Song


"Amarillo"
Gorillaz
From their free iPad-made album, this song is a big wall of sound vibe-y goodness.

"End to the Lies"
Jane's Addiction
Although the album was widely panned, this track is great rock.

"Art of Almost"
Wilco
Tweedy's brand of electronica. I dig it.

"Queen of Hearts"
Fucked Up
Holy gosh! Toronto is so hot right now.

"Niggas in Paris"
Jay-Z & KanYe West
On my 8-hour drive to Hometown, I listened to a heap of R&B and rap radio. These guys are a killer duo. I can't think of any other in history. The Blades of Glory sample is witty. There's some Dre-esque backbeat, and a Nine Inch Nails coda. This is the second biggest thing Jay-Z's done this year. This is the best track of the year.

MST3k Return thoughts

There used to be two camps when it comes to MSTies: Team Joel or Team Mike. I'm in the Michael J. Nelson camp (the 1997 Sci-Fi Channel ...