May 30th, 2009

Are fucking metal.

21st Century Breakdown
May 26th, 2009

So, you could say that I’m a bit of a Green Day fan. Back in the 90s, I was pretty much obsessed with them, back when I was in my ‘punk’ phase (quotation marks cannot be emphasized enough here.) I think it started from a concert that was taped during the Dookie years, Green Day Live In Chicago. The live version of ‘Going to Pasalacqua’ just blew my mind and made me a fan. Dookie itself had a perfect storm of juvenile humour, rage, angst and fun that fit my adolescent self like a glove, while their followup, Insomniac was awesome. So awesome, that Insomniac is probably somewhere in my personal canon of Fucking Great Albums and I’ll probably do a longer post on that album at another time. The album channeled a lot of the frustrations and experiences they found post-Dookie: accusations of selling out, learning how to deal with live as a newlywed or as a father. Anyway, that was followed up with Nimrod, an album which was equal parts silly and dark. It also included another live show that was performed in an alleyway for a Toronto-area HMV for Muchmusic. During this whole period, I practically worshipped Green Day and they could do no wrong.

Then Warning came out, which wasn’t a bad record, as it had an interesting mix of stuff and wasn’t just them trying to recycle what worked before for them. You had juvenile rage with Dookie, a brooding ‘dark’ record with Insomniac and then a mixed, more mature bag with Nimrod. Warning, while not my favorite record of the bunch, continued to show a natural progression for the band: older, wiser, but still had that charm and energy that made you paid attention to them in the first place.

Following that came American Idiot, an album which was probably their biggest release in terms of significance, if not album sales. Along the lines of Insomniac and Nimrod, American Idiot seems to be a darker album, reacting to the current political and cultural climate in post-9/11 America. George W Bush had been elected, signalling a moment of triumph for the Religious Right of American politics, as Dubya was most assuredly ‘their man.’ Under his watch, we got to see the ‘War On Terror’ which heralded in the still-ongoing war in Iraq. We also got to see other Bush Initiatives come forth such as Patriot Act and administrative blunders such as what happened down in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. Opinions were polarized regarding the government, of which Bush was a part of, and folks in America (as well as a good deal of the Western world) were trying to come to grips with everything that had been going on.

While I’m not going to say that American Idiot was some profound, Chomsky-esque recording that helped shape the lives of a generation, what the album did do was tap into the feelings that a lot of people were experiencing and give them something that really resonated with them. It was affirming, if not revelatory, knowing that there were other people who felt the same way. The album didn’t just have the ‘fuck Bush, lawl’ sentiment that a lot of critics blasted it for: it also tapped into the feelings of the day-to-day life of people living in America. There’s a reason why there’s a song on the record called ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, in other words, rather than ‘GOP = Grumpy Old ‘Publicans’ or something equally insipid.

No surprise, then, that it became absolutely huge and put Green Day back on the map as one of ‘the’ bands out there in the music industry, a feat made all the more admirable as it happened in the post-Napster world.

Anyway, American Idiot landed the band another Grammy, a collaboration with U2 and gave Billie Joe the idea that covering John Lennon would be a good idea.


You Need To Check This Out
May 24th, 2009

David Lynch, Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse teaming up to make a record with artists like Iggy Pop, the Flaming Lips and Frank Black?

Yes please.

Metallica is Gay!
May 21st, 2009

I had made mention in a couple of posts about a sort of history lesson post involving Metallica that I was going to write and I was half right. This post is going to be giving a bit of a history lesson regarding Metallica, but it is also going to be talking about how gay Metallica is. Or, rather, how Gay Metallica is. Yeah, that one’s going to be needing a bit of explanation. Hold on.

James Hetfield: flaming.

When people talk about satire, there’s really only one major name that crops up for most people: Jonathan Swift. Which is a bit of a shame, as Swift was part of a group of writers, known as the Scriblerians, which featured a number of notable writers, such as John Arbuthnot (who actually invented the character John Bull), Alexander Pope (one of England’s most celebrated poets), Thomas Parnell and John Gay. Yeah…I think you might be able to sense where this one is going.

Gay. John Gay.

Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera, a musical play with strong satirical elements that lampooned England’s upper class by contrasting them with the thieves and whores of the lower class. Gay drew upon contemporary music when writing his Opera, eventually coming up with 69 different pieces for the finished work. Wanting to make his work familiar and accessible, Gay used a wide range of tunes, ranging from fiddle tunes to more sophisticated arrangements. Now, what in the hell does any of this have to do with Metallica? Well, one of the songs in particular was the Irish folk song, “Whiskey in the Jar”, a song that has been covered by Thin Lizzy and was in turn covered by Metallica.

Eww! Lars’ tongue is touching Kirk’s tongue!

While I’m sure that a number of folks already knew that “Whiskey in the Jar” was an Irish folk song, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t that many who knew of the connection between a well known 18th century satirist, the song, which has been dated back to 1650, and Metallica.

What’s even more interesting, is the influence that The Beggar’s Opera has had on popular culture all the way up to the 20th century. The Beggar’s Opera was adapted by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, bringing us The Threepenny Opera, of which another popular tune, “Mack The Knife” has become a standard for many singers in the past century or so.

So yeah, nothing too mind blowing or earth-shattering with Metallica, but it was something I had always found interesting. The joys of being an Arts major! Har har har!

How creepy! And phallic!
Let’s Talk About Books (Again!)
May 20th, 2009

So, one of the things that I am hugely interested in is steampunk, a genre of literature that has certainly caught on in recently, with people creating DIY masterpieces of all sorts of things, from laptops to guitars and games like Bioshock taking some steampunk elements and incorporating them into something new. I don’t know what it is, but the idea of all things steampunk is something that I find utterly fascinating. Maybe it was too many hours spent in front of the SNES, playing Final Fantasy 6 (another game which had a lot of steampunk elements.) Maybe it’s the whole concept of the world re-imagined into something new and fresh that seems so tempting. Maybe it is simply the DIY spirit that incorporates steampunk that makes it so appealing to me. I don’t know. Fact is, I fucking love the genre, for whatever reason.

For those that aren’t entirely familiar with what steampunk is, think (typically) Victorian-era technology and customs meets science fiction, creating all sorts of bizarre and fun stuff. Like just about anything that has the word ‘punk’ attached to it, it’s hard for fans to come to a general consensus on what ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ steampunk and, if you were to go to the Wikipedia page for steampunk, I’m sure there is either an edit war raging right now or the ashes of one can be found in the previous changes section. Anyway, generally speaking Victorian feel + sci-fi tone = crazy mad fun. For the visually inclined:

I’ve been branching out into some steampunk fiction, some of them, such as the works of China Mieville’s Bas-Lag books, are brilliant and make me hang my head in shame at the thought of competing with someone such as Mr. Mieville. Others have been somewhat lacklustre. Still, in an ongoing quest to check out new and interesting steampunk fiction, I picked up Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air, as I had heard a couple of good things about it and was jonesing for a steampunk fix.

That said, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Why? Well, there were a couple of major problems that leaped out for me. The first is one that can be problematic of most speculative fiction writers who are playing around in their own world: too much world building, not enough storytelling. It’s obvious that Hunt has put a lot of care and effort into creating his own universe and he just can’t wait to tell you all about it. Unfortunately, readers are subjected to an introduction to his world by the Micro Machines guy, where details, cultures, characters, places, cities, etc. whiz by at the speed of light. He does a good job of establishing the primary setting, the country of Jackals, which is basically playing the role of England in this story, but a lot of the smaller details are simply thrown into the mix without a lot of exploration or explanation. Sometimes Hunt will get around to explaining what certain things mean, other times he won’t. It creates a very disorienting effect and ruins the immersion. Maybe I’m spoiled by authors who do an incredible job with world building and writing about their worlds, like the aforementioned Mieville or George RR Martin, but I found the pace at which Hunt flew through things to be a little much.

The second problem I have with the story relates to the world building and it’s more of a peeve than an actual complaint. You know how in some stories where they’re talking about alternate universes and the only difference for something in the alternate universe is that the name of it has been ‘cleverly’ changed? I hate that and Hunt does it in Court of the Air. A lot. For example, there are subversive characters running around who are part of a ‘dangerous’ political group known as Carlists. You know, like Karl Marx, but with a C? He also does that a lot with places in Jackal, coming up with rather unimaginative names for existing places. It’s not a huge complaint with the story, really, but it’s something that sticks out for me and makes it hard for me to get immersed into the story.

Finally, I have a major issue with the characterization in the story. Or, rather, the complete and utter lack of it. The story revolves around two orphans, Molly and Oliver (Twist?), who are being pursued by unknown agents. Molly likes to read and is a bit of a brat, while Oliver was found in the middle of nowhere after being subjected to the something called ‘feymist.’ All Oliver wants to do is be normal. Got all that? Good, because that is ALL you learn about the characters for the entire book in terms of personality or motivation. And the story just flies, moving from action sequence to action sequence. Sometimes another character will provide exposition explaining why or who Oliver or Molly is running from, but that’s about it, really. There’s no time to build any sort of bond with the characters and the whole story almost becomes like a JRPG, as the main characters flit from locale to locale.

And honestly? I could deal with something like that, depending on the context, say like a young adult novel, where character development isn’t as important as telling an entertaining story. It still happens, mind you, but characterization/development takes a backseat to plot. But this is a 582 page book and is not marketed as a young adult novel. As a result, it becomes hard to care about the characters when they are completely devoid of any kind of personality.

That said, I liked the world that Hunt has created, I love many of the things that he introduced into his story, I simply didn’t like the execution, is all. I believe this was Hunt’s first novel, so he definitely has room to grow and improve his craft, so here’s hoping that he can do so with subsequent efforts.

No content? On my website? It’s more likely than you think.
May 18th, 2009

Gah, well, there’s a couple of reasons for that. The first is that I’ve been working on a few fairly big updates and doing some other ‘real world’ responsibilities lately. I’m moving to a new place and looking for work, so I’m a little on the busy side of that whole ‘being an adult’ thing. I know, Bad Blogger, no cookie for you.

Second, I’ve been doing some behind the scenes crap with regards to the site. Nothing huge, but it’s boring stuff that needs to get done.

So yes, please enjoy this photoshopped picture of Gregory House that I found, instead. I think I’ll do a post-mortem on the Canucks tomorrow, if I have time. Also, I recalled the Metallica history lesson thing I was going to do, so that’s back on the table.

Content. Lots of it. Soon. I promise.

This Will Only Make Sense To A Few…
May 1st, 2009


…and that’s fine.

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