Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best of the Year 2017: Song

Kendrick Lamar

I know that "HUMBLE." gets all the attention, but "ELEMENT." is just as good and the music video is underrated.

No Joy

The dreamscape of No Joy's Creep EP are wonderful. You should check them out.

Marilyn Manson

I overlooked this lyrical monster on the first few listens of Heaven Upside Down, but then I realized the sound and texture made it the best on the album.

"Second Sleep"
The New Pornographers

This is a glimpse of the future (listen to it with headphones).

"Creature Comfort"
Arcade Fire

A simple song about the vanity of suicide, but so sonically optimistic.


Honorable Mention: "Love and Sex"
Prince and the Revolution

Though not recorded anywhere near 2017 (even though the beat seems new), this song finally saw the remastered release it deserved. What a jam!

Honorable Mention: "Other Ways to Get to the Same Place"
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Though lyricless, this masterful score moment for Ken Burns' Vietnam War draws a bleak landscape of mind and conflict. Man, that sentence sounded pretentious...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Edge of Human (Blade Running Blues)

[Semi-spoiler-free review of Blade Runner 2049]
  • Replicants are bioengineered humans, designed by Tyrell corporation for use off-world. Their enhanced strength made them ideal slave labor.
  • After a series of violent rebellions, their manufacture became prohibited and Tyrell corp went bankrupt.
  • The collapse of ecosystems in the mid 2020s led to the rise of the industrialist Niander Wallace, whose mastery of synthetic farming averted famine.
  • Wallace acquired the remains of Tyrell corp and created a new line of replicants who obey.
  • Many older model replicants - Nexus 8s with open-ended lifespans - survived. They are hunted down and 'retired'.
  • Those that hunt them still go by the name... Blade Runner

It’s a very quiet movie. The score is used sparingly and there are long pauses in dialog. The theater (surprisingly packed) is filled with occasional coughs. Loud coughs, small coughs, short coughs from the front, from behind, from the side. I imagine a plague, a superflu that starts slowly. The human race is always weak against slow builds--they never forsee a creeping doom.

I thoroughly enjoy seeing a movie spoiler-free. I do watch much-awaited movie trailers, but not too close to the release date. I loathe early reviews... those critics and starving writers wanting their opinion to be the first.

I remember 1998’s fated Godzilla big budget blockbuster. The early movie trailers avoided showing the monster’s full face and figure. Eventually, as summer came and the movie premiered, the face and body were no longer a spoiler. I remember feeling spoiled when I saw the full lizard, because I didn’t see the movie until it was on VHS. Now, I shield my eyes from TV teasers, so I can go in pure, unfettered. I’m thinking, “maybe I can outguess the director and discover the plot using my Holmesian powers”. Usually, I am surprised and pleased to see a movie unfold different from my dreams. And this happened for Blade Runner 2049.

A few days before I saw BR49, I went to the Wikipedia article on it to look up a character name. For some reason, I had to know what Ryan Gosling was doing in this film. And, to my dismay, I thought I had seen too much. The next morning in bed, I woke up with an epiphany to the plot. I knew the director (Denis Villeneuve) had a penchant for plot twists, and I believed we were going to get a “twin” event. If you’ve ever seen his Enemy, you’ll know where my head was:

I dreamed up a movie where Ryan Gosling was playing both a replicant and a human. Each scene with a Gosling would jump between the human and the copy character. They looked and sounded the same, but one was real and the other was manufactured. We wouldn’t find out until the end that there were two characters on the clock. It seemed very Villeneuvien to me, so I went with it. But, to my joy I was totally wrong. That dream-movie would make a great sequel to what I witnessed in 2049.

The Harrison Ford and “Rachel” scenes were the least interesting in the film. But I guess there were old fans to placate. A CGI Sean Young seemed tacked-on. What I’m impressed by is new sci-fi ideas. Novel ideas thrown onto the screen like:
  • A portable hologram girlfriend that can be erased forever (just like a real one)
  • Farming synthetically (replicant animals that humans eat?)
  • A terrorist attack, deleting all cloud data
  • Memory fabrication
  • Nuclear Vegas
If it were to be compared to the 1992 or even 1982 version of the original, I would say ‘49 has 90% less Asian influence with 80% more detective work.

I remember bleak silence. Silence (with no coughing plague).

The only thing I distinctly remember from the PKD novel (Androids/Sleep) is the ending. I was on a plane to somewhere, reading in my seat. At the end of the book, Decker is outside of the city and he finds a toad. He believes it is the real thing and it uplifts him immensely. He goes on thinking that for several pages, but in the end, it turns out to be synthetic.

Monday, April 17, 2017

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 Latter Day camp) and I enjoy it. Yes, I was introduced later than the die-hards, but I saw the majority of the classic master-riffs that most people acknowledge and remember fondly:

Mike MSTers get:

  • Deathstalker!
  • Mole People
  • Jack Frost
  • Prince of Space
  • Neptune Men
  • Space Mutiny
  • Pumaman
  • Touch of Satan
  • The Final Sacrifice
  • Merlin's Shop
  • Final Justice
  • Diabolik
With Joel, I can only think of a handful of notable ones. Yes, Manos was under Hodgson's watch, I give you that.

Anyway, now it's 2017 and we have a 3rd MST3K Camp: Team Jonah.

I've finished the first episode (Reptilicus) of the Netflix revival, and I have some thoughts.

I've come in with fresh eyes and cautious optimism with it, and really read nothing about it other than it was a Kickstarter project by Joel, and neither him nor Mike were going to be in the new run.

It seems like more of a kids show now than ever. The intro and the segues are really dumb and involve a large amount of poppy music. And, although a lot of their jokes are still esoteric references, you can tell they've watered it down a little for the Netflix demographic. I can't blame them for that, but why are they still riffing old movies if they're targeting a younger audience? I guess licensing rights ($$$) is the answer.

My biggest criticism has to be the casting. Jonah doesn't seem to have any character--he's like Joel and Mike, but he doesn't have anything interesting going on about him. I don't even know where the character was born and raised. Does he have a family? Any interests other than white-boy rapping?

And worse, to my surprise, the voices of Tom Servo and Crow have changed. They offer no explanation, and they probably want you to realize that they are robots with adjustable voice output. This fucks with me really hard, and it's difficult to get past. Kevin Murphy in particular was one of my favorites, especially his joke-writing. Way less annoying than Crow T. Robot (Bill Corbett).

With The Return, it seems they are trying really too hard. The jokes-per-minute (JPM) value is way up to where you can barely pay attention to the movie plot.

They are doing a lot of gags where they interact with the screen, and it's kind of annoying. I wasn't impressed the first time Tom Servo flew around the screen, so why do it three times? Are they showing off their new tech?

Anyway, lots more to watch, even though watching this makes me feel old.

Maybe I'll post again with a large apology to the backers and writers and production crew. Maybe not.

This is also an opportunity to name-drop Master Pancake Theater (formerly Mister Sinus Theater). Their Christmas Show is a must-see.

Monday, March 6, 2017

February Music Selections


I've decided to semi-regularly share what I've been listening to on Spotify.

No Joy

No Joy is best described as "dream metal"... they have a little dreampop but they can also go really hard. Once you get past that they're not a girl band, let this EP take you on a journey. Each song is distinct, and you'll switch favorite tracks with every playthrough. "Flourescent Dread" even goes into  Black Moth Super Rainbow territory.


Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Patriots Day

A more-than-just-muzak soundtrack with the best songs starting with Track 8 ("The Night Drive"). Give it a listen!


Japandroids came out with a new album, and so did Cloud Nothings. I gave both thorough listens, but really the only standout was the 'droid's "Arc of Bar":

The Flaming Lips captured my attention for a time, but after repeated listens the album just didn't hold up.

I tried to listen to the new single by Bush, but it didn't inspire me to check out their back catalog.


Sign 'o' the Times

I've been a big fan of this album for years, but right now I have "Housequake" stuck in my head. Starting with that song, the next 4-5 songs are just incredible. My only critique is that the title track could be about 1 minute shorter. It boggles my mind that this came out in '87.


Other than that, I've been previewing singles from bands that have recently reunited--Ride, Slowdive, At the Drive-in.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Best of the Year 2016: Song

Hi. I am behind on my "best of" lists. Here's what I thought was the best from pop/rock in 2016:

"Watch Me"

"Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold"
by Sleigh Bells

"If I Lost You"
by Garbage

by Kanye West

"Violent Men"

by Preoccupations

...I will try to describe them later on if I can. For now, just check them out on Spotify or elsewhere.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 Retrospective: Loss

Memento mori

As early as summer, I saw signs that people wanted to erase 2016 from history. Just skip it. The passive aggressive memes were strong. It had to do with politics, with socioeconomic outrage, with dying.

Here are some crazy deaths:
  • Harambe (1*)
  • Texas Hot Air Balloon Crash (16)
  • Orlando Night Club shooting (50)

[*Yes, I realize Harambe was an ape. Maybe it's not so crazy.] And then there were celebrity and culturally-significant deaths.

I wasn't a fan of Leonard Cohen, but he passed this year. So did two majorly influential idols of mine in the music arena: David Bowie and Prince. I've already written mostly about the latter, but the first one I am still in astonished about. I mean, it was sudden and it was right near Bowie's birthday anniversary and schedule album release. Still shocked.

And then there were more personal passings. A suicide, and another sudden happening of my grandmother. My maternal grandmother, aged 88, had many scares in the past few years, but she always fully recovered. She was an example of an active, educated octogenarian that broke the stereotype. She still drove herself around, and she was incredibly active in volunteering and card playing social circles. She even exercised. All of this with multiple sclerosis diagnosed some 40+ years ago. What an inspiring person.

Next year (2017) can't have this amount of death, can it? When I think about all the aging rock stars, the icons of the 20th century... does death become the norm? Is it part of growing older? If it is, I must endeavor to create (rather than destroy).

Movies watched in 2020

Here's my annual list. I beat 2019 by about 60 . I stopped tracking TV series, too. The only films I saw in theaters were: Star Wars IX,...