Friday, August 31, 2007

 

Big Ol' Stupid World



Just in case you'd momentarily suffered from the delusion that the world isn't a stupid place to live, here are a few recent news items to disabuse you of that notion:

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

 

The Concert Diaries



In October, Wendy and I are going to see Gov't Mule at a club in Richmond. Gov't Mule is the first rock band I've heard in something like 15 years that I've actually liked enough to plan to see live. My last rock concert was Nine Inch Nails in Winston-Salem, NC, in November, '94. Since then I've only seen one nationally touring act (Lyle Lovett, an adult-contemporary/folk/jazz/country performer).

In the 80's and early '90's I saw a buttload of bands in concert … mostly hair metal bands since it was, after all, the 80's and early '90's and I was a teenager and hair metal was my thing.

I figured that since this blog is the closest thing I'll ever have to a diary I'd go ahead and post a brief "concert diary" while I can still remember the bands I've seen live. The following is a list of the bands I can remember having seen in concert, along with a brief memory or two about the acts.

AC/DC
One of the best bands I've ever seen live. I saw them in '88, I think. AC/DC is always reliable as a fun, energetic, good-time rock band. I was thrilled with how much of their older material they performed. I remember being giddy with glee when they played the opening riff of "Whole Lotta Rosie."

Aerosmith
I saw Aerosmith around '92. The most memorable thing about this show was that it was the only concert I ever attended with a girl with whom I was on a first date. It was kind of a distraction. Aerosmith was OK, I guess.

The Allman Brothers Band
The Allmans put on a great show when I saw them in the early '90's. Interestingly, their lead singer and guitar player at the time was Warren Haynes, the singer and guitar player who impresses me so much in Gov't Mule. So although I don't remember him, I'm 99% sure that I've already seen this remarkable musician play live.

Tori Amos
I saw Tori on tour in support of her Little Earthquakes album. She didn't have a band, just her and her piano. It was a really great show. She's an outstanding entertainer.

B.T.O.
I saw the "Taking Care Of Business" band in the late '80's. I remember someone threw a full "Big Gulp" size cup of soda and ice and hit Randy Bachman in the chest. Uncool. He brushed it off and kept playing. Very cool.

Clint Black
A popular country artist from the early '90's, Clint put on a decent show. His opening act was Lorrie Morgan. Anybody remember her?

Bon Jovi
The main thing I remember about Bon Jovi is that they are one of only two rock bands I ever saw live who didn't curse or use any vulgarities at all during their performance. Even in my teenage years that impressed me. It made them seem confident in their music.

Garth Brooks
I gotta say, Garth went out of his way to entertain his audience, and judging from the way my girlfriend at the time reacted, Garth did a good job. I wasn't much of a fan, but I don't remember having a terrible time at this show.

Cinderella
The main thing I remember about Cinderella was that they were a tall band. The average member was probably 6'. Maybe 6'3" with hair, 6'5" with hair and heels.

The Cult
This band produced one of the best and most underrated, underheard rock albums of the '80's. When I saw them their drummer was Matt Sorum, who went on to later fame drumming for Guns N' Roses. The Cult was a good live band, playing crowd-pleasing, competent, note-for-note reproductions of their live tracks.

Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy
Remains the only hip hop band I've ever seen in concert. They were pretty good, I enjoyed their set. The cool thing about Disposable was that they played live music rather than just rapping over prerecorded tracks. Their guitarist was Charlie Hunter, who has since made quite a name for himself in the world of jazz.

Gibb Droll
I'm including Gibb here even though he's a bit of a regional artist and most of you have probably never heard him, except maybe through his work with Keller Williams or as a performer at The Gathering Of The Vibes. Gibb is an electric guitar player in the Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughn tradition, and he's really very good. He does a lot of session work now and occasionally produces a solo album, but back in the day he used to tour as the guitarist and singer in a three-piece band. I saw Gibb and his band play, damn, I don't even know how many times. I never saw a bad show. This guy is a great entertainer, a damn good songwriter and musician, and an all-around nice guy. I've been waiting for him to finally get his "big break" for more than ten years now.

Dokken
I saw Dokken in '88, I think. I have absolutely no memory of their set. You know, it's probably better if a band makes a bad impression (like Poison) than no impression at all.

Foreigner
I saw Foreigner during the height of their "I Wanna Know What Love Is" popularity, back when they had the original members of their classic line-up. They had a lot of lasers and dry ice and a big choir with them. This was the first rock band I ever saw live, I was maybe 14 or so. I was quite impressed.

Four Non Blondes
I saw them open for Aerosmith. They sucked. Their lead singer was Linda Perry, who is now a producer and songwriter responsible for a number of bad current hit records. Apparently she isn't through messing up my life yet.

Giuffria
Who the hell are Giuffria? I was asking that when I saw them live and I'm still asking that. OK, thanks to the internet, I do have a bit of interesting trivia about this band. Giuffria's lead singer was David Glen Eisley, who I remember cursing an excessive amount during their show. Even if you've never heard of him, you have probably heard him sing if you're a Spongebob Squarepants viewer. It seems that Eisley is the singing voice of Spongebob in the Band Geeks episode of the show. He sings the song "Sweet Victory" in that episode. So when I saw the little known rock band Giuffria in concert, I was entertained by the spectacular vocals of Spongebob Squarepants.

Great White
The best thing I can say about the Great White set I saw is that I survived it. After the band's irresponsible use of pyro lead to a fire a few years ago, I considered getting an "I Survived A Great White Concert" T-shirt. The second best thing I can say about the Great White show I saw was that they were the best unofficial Zeppelin cover-band I ever saw.

Merle Haggard
A true legend of country music. I enjoyed his set, although I remember that the guy had this really crazy looking glint in his eye while he was performing. Merle might be a little touched in the head.

Indigo Girls
I've seen the Indigo Girls play live twice, and both times I had a great time. One time they played a few requests from the crowd, including one song they didn't know ("Me and Bobby McGee") that they tried to work out for the first time on the spot. I've never seen another nationally touring band do that. The Indigo Girls are the best lesbian folk-rock duo I've ever seen in concert (though not the only one). In fact, the Indigos are probably one of the top fifteen lesbian folk-rock duos in the US, right up there with The Murmurs, Tegan and Sara and Tenacious D.

Kingdom Come
A Led Zeppelin wannabe band that opened a rock festival I saw in the late '80's.

Little Feat
Like the Allmans, who I saw after the death of Duane Allman, I saw Little Feat after the death of their founder and leader, Lowell George. Nonetheless, Little Feat was still made up of a number of damn good musicians, and I remember that I thought that they were very good live.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band is both the name of one of their albums and the name of Lovett's touring outfit. They're a remarkable assembly of players and singers. Wendy and I saw them three or four years ago, and they sounded great. We were both a bit disappointed, though, in Lovett's decision to play mostly brand-new material.

Marilyn Manson
Apparently, Marilyn Manson failed to shock or scare me since I saw him and his band open for Nine Inch Nails and have no memory of their performance.

Metallica
I saw Metallica three or four times in the '80's and early '90's. They really are one of the most consistently entertaining and worthwhile rock bands I've ever seen. I never saw them have an off night. They always sound good and always play for a long time. Plus, when they play live, their songs have a kind of loose groove that isn't there on the albums. They're awesome live, well worth seeing.

Motley Crue
I saw Motley Crue two or three times in the '80's. They were fun live, but extremely cheesy. For instance, one of the conventions of rock shows is that the band will come out and play for a while and then say "Thank you, good night!" They'll then go back stage and the crowd will stay in place and the house lights will stay down and the crowd will chant and the band will come back out after ten minutes and do a few more songs. It gives the impression of an "on demand" encore, but it's conventional. I've never been to a rock show where this didn't happen. Anyway, one time when I saw Motley Crue they did the "Thank you, good night!" bit and went off stage … and then a big electric sign behind the stage started flashing the word "CRUE CRUE CRUE CRUE," which, of course, prompted the crowd to chant for ten minutes. Then the band came back on stage and Vince Neal said something like "Boy, you guys must want some more, huh?" Gimme a break.

Nine Inch Nails
My ears rang for weeks after seeing NIN in '94. They were the loudest band I've ever seen and may have been violating noise ordnances when I saw them. They were also very good live. I thoroughly enjoyed their painful set.

Ozzy Osbourne
The most interesting thing about the Ozzy Osbourne show I saw was that, at the time, Ozzy was touring with Geezer Butler on bass guitar. Ozzy and Geezer were, of course, founding members of Black Sabbath. Now, at the time, guitarist Tony Iommi was the only original member still in Black Sabbath. So when I saw Ozzy, I saw more original members of Black Sabbath than I'd have seen at a Sabbath show. Also, Ozzy's guitarist on that tour and at that show was Zakk Wylde, a good musician and bandleader in his own right. Zakk's guitar playing during "Paranoid" produced the best version of that song I've ever heard.

Poison
Poison may be the worst band I ever saw live. Bad singing, bad playing, bad sound, bad showmanship, bad songwriting, bad make-up, bad costumes, bad conduct and bad hair. Other than that, fine show.

Primus
Primus had the worst sound mix of any live band I've ever seen. The music was one loud, fuzzy throb. I didn’t enjoy their set.

R.E.M.
I saw them touring in support of the album Green, on election day, 1989. This was the day that Virginia screwed up and elected the likable but incompetent Doug Wilder, which I thought was a good thing at the time. I drug my friend Jamie to this show and he had a miserable time. I had an OK time. REM's opening act was some band I've forgotten (it was the band Pylon, thanks for the reminder, Jamie), and their lead singer was visibly pregnant. She remains the only visibly pregnant singer I've ever seen open for R.E.M.

Ratt
I'm not even sure how many times I saw Ratt in the '80's. Maybe four times. They were a reliably middling-to-awful band. Their singer sucked. Their guitarists sucked. I thought they were awesome at the time, though, because I was easy to please.

Tony Rice
The best musician I've ever seen play live, and my favorite guitar player of all time. I saw him do a set with Peter Rowan, another legend in the bluegrass arena, but I hardly remember Rowan's presence. Rice is the man as far as I'm concerned. After the show Tony came out and socialized with the fans, so I got to meet him and thank him for the positive difference his music has made in my life over the years. He seemed genuinely touched by my gratitude. Tony Rice is the coolest guy in the world.

Sawyer Brown
Another of the country bands I saw in concert during my years working in country radio. You get the tickets for free, so you figure, heck, I might as well go. I have no memory of their set.

The Scorpions
I saw this band around the time of their mega-popular live album, World Wide Live. They sounded very good live. This was a band that had been touring, recording and performing for some fifteen years by the time I saw them, and they were tight and talented.

Shenandoah
Shenandoah was a popular country band in the '80's and '90's. If you weren't listening to that kind of music at that time, you don't remember them. They were, in all honesty, the best country band I ever saw in concert. (Notice I said "country," not "bluegrass." I've seen a bunch of better bluegrass players.) Anyway, Shenandoah played their hits along with a number of James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg covers and ended their show with an impressive (and utterly unexpected) cover of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." I went home happy. I think my girlfriend at the time (the Garth Brooks fan) was a bit baffled by their song selections.

Slayer
Slayer was really outstanding live. I saw them in a club in Hampton Roads, Virginia, touring in support of Seasons In The Abyss. They opened their show, if I remember correctly, with "Raining Blood," one of their heaviest songs. The played hard and fast and loud and never made a misstep. The Governor saw that show with me and has since seen them a number of times, and he has never reported a bad show. If you like loud, aggressive thrash metal, Slayer is the band to see live. And, by the way, Slayer is the only other rock band (along with Bon Jovi) that I've seen play live who never uttered a single swear word or vulgarity during their set. Instead, their singer, Tom Araya, kept saying things like "I trust that everyone is enjoying our performance this evening..."

Testament
I saw this thrash metal band open for Slayer. I remember thinking that they were good and that their singer was a huge, scary guy.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
Toad was a popular alternative rock band in the '90's and they were pretty good live. I saw them with special guests Everything, a one-hit-wonder from that time. I think I remember that Everything was pretty good, too. The main thing I remember about Everything was that they were selling t-shirts that had their logo on the front and the words "Poor. Ugly. Happy." on the back. I thought those were pretty cool shirts.

U2
On the Zoo TV tour at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in the early '90's. Best show I have ever seen. U2 is a stellar live band, and they had all the bells and whistles, props and lights and lasers, that a stadium-size show will accommodate. Man, what a great show. They sounded great, they thoroughly entertained several thousand people, I went home exhausted and happy.

Van Halen
I saw Van Halen three or four times in the late '80's, during the Hagar era. They were a solid band live. Eddie Van Halen once threw a guitar pick right over my head; the guy behind me got it. Dammit. I also remember that during one show Hagar spotted security roughing a guy up and stopped the show mid-song and told them to stop. Very cool.

Vixen
Vixen was an all-girl metal band that was popular for six minutes in the late '80's. After they broke up, the guitarist briefly taught guitar for a living on Long Island, New York. She was the guitar teacher for a guy my wife used to date before she and I ever met. Six degrees of separation or something.

White Lion
They didn't suck.

Whitesnake
I saw them twice. They were prompt and professional, as is befitting a group of veteran British musicians. I saw them during the years when lead singer David Coverdale was still dating Tawny Kitaen. This was the '80's when she was still young and hot, as opposed to nowadays when she looks like a transvestite.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 

More Scum Mistreating Dogs



And this before the Michael Vick story could even get cold. Rapper Earl Simmons, who goes by the stage-name DMX, shows us what kind of dog owner he is:
PHOENIX (AP) - Deputies searching the home of rapper DMX during an investigation into claims of animal cruelty found about a half-pound (0.23 kilogram) of suspected illegal narcotics, the Maricopa County sheriff said Saturday.

No charges have been filed or arrests made. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the investigation into alleged animal cruelty was ongoing, and the suspected drugs were being tested to confirm their content.

Friday's search was prompted by reports that pit bulls kept by the rapper at the home in rural north Phoenix were not being given enough food or water. A dozen pit bulls were seized, the bodies of three dogs were dug up in the yard and a variety of assault-style weapons were taken from the home, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.


I'm really glad that the investigation is being headed up by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. You may have heard of him, he's one tough S.O.B. This is the sheriff who makes his inmates live in tents in the desert, work on chain gangs and eat green bologna. Sheriff Joe rules. I'd love for him to get hold of Simmons.

Of course, Earl Simmons reps claim that he hadn't been at the Arizona home in months and that a shoddy caretaker is to blame, but witnesses claim that the rapper was at the home in the last few weeks. Besides, this kind of thing is classic Earl Simmons:
In 2002, Simmons pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia in New Jersey. Police said they found pipes for smoking crack cocaine, a pistol and 13 pit bulls at his home in 1999.

I wouldn't want a pit bull, but I can't help but feel sorry for them. They seem to be the dog of choice for scumbag rappers and athletes who want to neglect and abuse them.

Maybe we should have a low that bans celebrities from owning dogs. Between Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Michael Vick, Earl Simmons, and Ving Rhames, I don't think any of them are responsible enough to take care of an animal.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

 

Life Music



It's kind of surprising how many pop and rock songs about abortion have managed to slide in under the radar ... some of them even receiving radio play.

The best example is probably the one hit by the Ben Folds Five, "Brick". In 1998 it was almost impossible to turn on the radio without hearing this delicate piano ballad. According to Wikipedia, Ben Folds has said that he had a difficult time writing the song because the lyrics spoke so literally about the pregnancy that he and his girlfriend aborted in high school.

Of course, once they'd aborted their child, the couple's relationship was changed forever. The lyrics are frank:
"Driving home to her apartment,
For a moment we're alone.
She's alone.
And I'm alone.
And now I know it."

For whatever reason, embedding is forbidden for the YouTube music video, but if you click the still below the video will open in a separate tab or window.




Del Amitri's 1995 album Twisted featured an awful hit called "Roll To Me" and eleven other pop-rock songs, at least eight of which were brilliant. The best track on the album is "Driving With The Brakes On" a song that appears (to some of us, anyway) to be about the helplessness of a man who's significant other has decided to abort their child. The lyrics seem to speak volumes, including lines like
"Driving through the long night,
Trying to figure whos right and whos wrong.
Now the kid has gone.
I sit belted up tight,
She sucks on a match light, glowing bronze,
Steering on.
And I might be more of a man if I'd stopped this in its tracks
And said, 'Come on, lets go home.'
But shes got the wheel,
And Ive got nothing except what I have on."


The YouTube video is rough, it seems to have been uploaded by someone who took the time to aim her video camera at the TV screen. But, then again, if it weren't for this, I'd never even have known that there was a video for this song:




A thrash-metal song that condems abortion in no uncertain terms? Sure, and only the awesome Slayer would have the balls to pull it off. I'd probably heard "Silent Scream" fifty times in my life before I actually listened to the lyrics and realized that the song castigated abortion with extreme prejudice. Of course, with brutal music, shocking imagery and horrific lyrics as their bread and butter, Slayer had no reason to pull any punches when they sang about abortion:
"Silent scream,
Bury the unwanted child.
Beaten and torn,
Sacrifice the unborn...
Scattered, remnants of life,
Murder, a time to die."




It's a damn shame that so few people know about the awesome rock band King's X from Texas. They've been around for ages, they've turned out one solid album after another, and it seems like there are ten or twelve of us who know who they are.

If I had to put King's X in a pigeon-hole, I'd call them "Beatles-inspired hard rock," although they really defy classification. They do all kinds of music, and they do it all well. Plus, they're one of the few bands that's unashamed to explore spiritual themes in their lyrics. They're not a "Christian rock" band, they're a rock band made up of guys who happen to be into Jesus. My favorite King's X album by far is Faith Hope Love, and not just for it's reflective, spiritual lyrics. I have to admit, though, that the album's last track, an open and honest song about abortion called "Legal Kill", is a big favorite of mine for it's moving lyrics:
"I know your side so very well,
It makes no sense that I can tell.
The smell of hell is what I smell,
and you hand it out with handshakes everyday.
I have trouble with the persons with the signs,
but i feel the need to make my own...
I can feel
The fight for life is always real."






Janet recently mentioned the song "The Freshmen" by The Verve Pipe, and it brought back memories for me. This song was very popular the year my son was born, and the way it rages and laments an abortion really effects me. My son came along at a time and under circumstances that wouldn't fit any one's definition of "ideal," but from the minute I first saw him I knew I'd belong to him forever. I'm blessed that I have never had to live through the kind of post-abortion regret that "The Freshmen" admits to:
"When I was young I knew everything,
And she a punk who rarely ever took advice.
Now I'm guilt stricken, sobbing with my head on the floor,
Stop a baby's breath and a shoe full of rice..."



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Saturday, August 25, 2007

 

It's A Conspiracy



Last night I watched most of The History Channel's 9/11 Conspiracies: Fact Or Fiction. It's really good, I recommend catching a rebroadcast if you can.

It's really interesting, I think, that there are so many 9/11 conspiracy theories out there when not one of the theories stands up to the slightest scrutiny. The History Channel's program makes that pretty clear, with testimony from experts in this or that field. Not that the testimony is really necessary; a lot of this is just common sense.

I wonder how many nutroot comments I'll get from the previous remarks, by the way.

And I've noticed something else ... have you ever noticed that many conspiracy theorists, maybe most of them, are atheists? I have a pet theory about that. I think that they might realize deep down that there really is something huge controlling everything ... but since they reject the idea of God they believe instead in some gigantic, all-powerful, hyper-present and totally competent government.

It's really kinda funny.

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Gov't Mule



Addendum below*

If you, like me, live and breathe rock and roll, then you know what it's like when you hear a new band (new to you at least) that just blows you away.

Gov't Mule has been around for a long while, but I've never been interested in them because I'd thought of them as just another "jam band." Bands like Phish, the Grateful Dead, etc. Bands that play long, boring, pointless songs and attract crowds full of smelly, dreadlocked, white college kids with more time on their hands than brains in their heads. Hippies. Oh, how I hate hippies.

Nonetheless, a friend recently suggested that I check out Gov't Mule. He said he was convinced that they were my kind of band. He loaned me a couple of albums and I thought they were pretty good, so I picked up one of their albums myself. And, oh dear Lordy is it good. I can't stop listening to it. It's amazing.

I'm trying not to use superlative phrases like "the best band I've ever heard," since that's the kind of phrase that people toss off casually when they first discover a new band, and then a month later when they've moved on to another band they've forgotten about the one they were praising just before.

Having said that, I think that Gov't Mule might just be the best band I've ever heard.

Check out the clip below and then go get yourself some Mule. From what I've heard, the studio albums are stellar and the live stuff is just plain mind-blowing.



*Addendum: You know, when I gripe about hating "hippies," I'm not really saying what I mean. The people I'm complaining about aren't really hippies. What I'm complaining about is the whole subset of irresponsible, financially comfortable, smelly, annoying white kids who follow these "jam bands" around, living off of their daddy's credit cards, buying "Che" shirts and doing drugs. What has that lifestyle got to do with the original meaning of "Hippy?"

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Friday, August 24, 2007

 

Another Junk Dump



A while back I posted some stuff that had accumulated in our junk folder, and I thought today that I'd kick off the weekend with another random junk post. Some of the stuff below might just be very slightly NSFW.

But first, a bit of news ...



I've mentioned a wildfire that was burning on the mountain behind our home. Well, good news, authorities now say that they have it about 70% contained. We had a downpour last night, and that helped.


A while back I posted some video that I got from Rhodester that featured a very realistic looking bit of UFO footage. Well, the creator of those clips has outed himself and admitted that the videos are an elaborate, well-made hoax, which is bad news for UFO enthusiasts because those videos looked so good that now every bit of UFO footage will be dubious at best. Anyway, the creator of those fake clips has created another, just to show off, this one featuring a UFO over a Paris street:



And now, on with the junk ...

First, if you click this link, or right click and save it, you'll load an extremely funny WMV video clip featuring highlights of some of Jay Leno's best "interviews."

Here's a funny Bud Light commercial that apparently doesn't violate YouTube's terms of service, since they let me upload it (but not the Leno video linked above):



And now for the images that have been piling up in our Junk folder... I'll apologize in advance for having tagged each of them with my URL. I know that can be annoying. But if people are going to continue hotlinking my files and stealing my bandwidth (and they are) and if I'm going to continue to be unable to figure out a way to stop them (and I am), I may as well try to generate a bit of traffic in the process. Right? Right. So on with the goofy images I've stumbled across over the past couple of months...








Somebody at Amazon needs to rethink their policy of posting an Order It Used button with every item they sell. And why the heck do they sell this item, anyway? Who makes this purchase over the net?


























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Thursday, August 23, 2007

 

A Story For Animal Lovers



If you were moved by Otis's tale of a rescued tortoise (and I admit, I certainly was), then you have got to check this story out:
Larry Thompson first noticed his 14 year old dalmatian was missing on Thursday night. Over the weekend, he heard noises and realized the dog, Alex, had fallen in a storm drain.

For four days the Thompson family and friends used a backhoe to dig a hole ... nah, not a hole, a thirty foot crater ... on the Thompson property with the hopes of rescuing the dog. When digging got dangerously close to the storm drain, the Thompsons continued digging with their bare hands.

Larry Thompson says, "A lot of people wouldn't give it the time of day or even attempt to get the animal out. I wanted to get him out alive or dead, either one. The effort was worth it both ways."


How'd the story end? Watch this video and see:


Now, you may be asking yourself, why would a reasonable person tear up his property to save a fourteen year old dog? I can't answer that question, but I can tell you this: If Tilda or Chester were stuck in a storm drain, I'd tear up my property and yours to find 'em. Mine and yours, pal. And that's no joke.

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Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum





Synopsis

Jason Bourne is a super-spy who's lost his memory. Over the course of two previous films, Bourne has struggled to recover memories of time spent as a black ops agent for the US government, meanwhile eluding government agents and others who believe that his very existence is a threat. In this third and final installment of the Bourne series, Jason Bourne returns from Europe and Asia to the United States, his memories more or less in tact, to find those who've hunted them and exact his revenge.

Pros:


Cons:


Generally:

4 out of five stars. The Bourne series has been rock solid escapist entertainment, and the conclusion doesn't disappoint.

Extended Review:

Neither Wendy nor I had any interest in The Bourne Identity when it was released in 2002. See one big, dumb action movie and you've seen them all, right? Except that all the critics and friends of ours assured us that The Bourne Identity wasn't just one more big, dumb action movie. Finally, one night with nothing better to do, we caught the movie on cable and we absolutely loved it. We've been kicking ourselves for skipping it's theatrical run ever since.

While the Bourne story is highly convoluted and utterly implausible, it's far from dumb … and as action movies go, The Bourne Identity is a total success. The plot is taught and keeps you guessing, the acting is fine, and the action sequences keep you on the edge of your seat. This really is the kind of movie that makes for memorable summers. We should have seen it on the big screen.

When the sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, was released in 2004, Wendy and got our butts firmly planted in theater seats to take it in. We had high hopes, and they weren't disappointed. The Bourne Supremacy was even better than the first installment. I had some issues with director Paul Greengrass's decision to film the movie mostly with handheld cameras, but I had to acknowledge that he achieved his goal of turning out a movie with an immediate, documentary-like feel. Once I got used to the jerky look and breakneck edits, I thoroughly enjoyed the second film in the series.

Now, with The Bourne Ultimatum finishing the trilogy, I can say with a lot of satisfaction that the Bourne movies are all solid, smart, fun action films that kept me thinking, kept me guessing and entertained me through and through. Each of the three films is better than the previous, and each film builds on the other, changing what you've seen before for the better.

Now, don't see these movies hoping for realism. This isn't political commentary disguised as action, this is action front and center. The story is comic-book in nature, with a hero who's part Batman, part MacGyver, and part Sam Fisher. The plot, involving his lost memories and his constant pursuit by former allies and longtime foes, is really nothing more than a skeleton to hang action scenes on. That said, Matt Damon still manages to turn in some damn good acting in this series. And, you know, I have to admit, Damon really is a good actor. Between his work in this series and films like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Saving Private Ryan, he's turned out a body of work he can be proud of. The fact that the Bourne movies are action movies is no detraction from his work here. Damon is a good actor, and these films provide ample evidence of his skill.

Now, while I was thrilled with The Bourne Ultimatum in terms of a series finale, I should caution new viewers that you really do have to see the first films, at least the second one, to understand this one. A lot of movie series episodes take pains to make sure that each film can be enjoyed as a complete work. This isn't one of them. The Bourne Ultimatum plays less like a complete film and more like the second half of a long feature. Nonetheless, if you've seen The Bourne Supremacy, you'll be thrilled with the way the series wraps up and resolves it's story. The action sequences are bigger and more exciting, the story remains complex and involving without becoming silly, and the principle characters develop in interesting and compelling ways.

The third movie also features a number of twists that totally change the meaning of key scenes in the second film in important and entertaining ways. I'd suggest re-watching the second film before you go see the third one. Or, better yet, if you've never seen the second film, rent it and then go see the final installment in the theater. I'm sure that you, like me, will enjoy the way that the second movie's final scene is totally changed by the new events of the third. Like Bourne himself, these films always have new surprises just under the surface.

The Borne Ultimatum is as good as the two previous movies in the series, and that's really saying a whole lot. If more action movies were this solid, Wendy and I probably wouldn't have a negative predisposition toward "big, dumb action movies."


Trailer



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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

Sam By Day



The Splinter Cell video game series is the greatest video game series of all time. It qualifies for that honor by having met these important criteria:

Therefore, since I have enjoyed these games more than any other games ... more than most other things, in fact, including ice cream and respiration ... I am proud to name Splinter Cell the greatest video game series ever. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Now comes advance hype for the fifth game in the series, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and my heart is all aflutter.



The amazing thing about this game is that Sam is no longer in the dark. Over the course of the last few games Sam has gone from special agent to double agent, and now to fugitive from justice, hunted for crimes he didn't commit. Now, without his ubercool spy gadgets, Sam has to move by day, finding new ways to be stealth. The new Splinter Cell game will not be about finding shadows and staying hidden. Now, as Sam, players will have to hide themselves in crowds in broad daylight, create diversions and use their environment for defense and offense. Sam's access to spy tech is gone. It's all about wits now.

This video shows that some of the game will still take place in the shadows, but Sam no longer has night vision goggles, heat sensors or toys. The enemy has the same advantage and disadvantage as Sam now:


I didn't watch too much of that video, I don't want to see too much of the game yet. It's like peeking under the wrapper at the present, you know? But one thing got my attention: practically no HUD. It's all about paying attention now. Sam is really on his own.

I'm thrilled to see, though, that some of the game takes place in one of my favorite places in the world: the elaborately reproduced National Mall in DC.


I want this video game so much I can practically feel it in my hands ... but it won't be out until first quarter '08; and, besides, it's exclusively for the Xbox 360, which we do not have and can't afford.

But someday... someday... Meantime, I guess I'll have to plan a trip to the National Mall and spend a day sneaking around, playing pretend Sam Fisher, like an idiot.

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Music That Doesn't Sooth The Savage Beast



I read Janet's Tell It To Me Tuesday regularly, but don't usually contribute because I just don't often feel like I have anything worth adding. Better to keep your mouth shut than to add something pointless, right?

But this week's topic happens to be a subject I know a little about: songs that invoke anger. Or, as I interpret the topic, songs to listen to when you're good and pissed off.

I've mentioned before that music therapy is the only thing that works for me when I get highly aggravated, and what I often do is listen to good anger-music to get it out of my system. Once I've heard a few tunes ... good and loud, mind you ... and maybe let out a couple of primal screams ... I tend to feel better. Here are some of the songs that help me bring the anger to a head, dissipate it, and get on with my life.

Pantera: "Regular People"

There are a ton of good Pantera songs when it comes to lettin' off some steam, including B13's outstanding choice, but the one I'd pick is "Regular People", a song about having had it up to here with somebody's BS. As heavy metal goes, Pantera was one of the best bands ever ... and their music was the kind that perfectly suited aggressive, angry lyrics. Each and every track on Pantera's amazing "Vulgar Display of Power" is a monster, and "Regular People" is one of those "critical mass" songs for me.

Sample lyric:
I’ve trampled on that road
That you think you own.
You and that ’smart ass’ attitude,
It’s time to stop the fiction.


Some YouTuber has put together a music video for the song, featuring video from some video game. I have no idea why, the video adds nothing to the music ... but you can sample the song here:



Metallica: "Wasting My Hate"

Of course, the worst thing about being good and mad at someone is that when you get mad and stay mad at some idiot, you're giving them too much of yourself. When you're mad at someone, you're giving them your time, your energy, your mind and your body. And most of the time, when you think about it, the person you're mad at isn't worth the sacrifice.

Metallica's "Load" features a song called "Wasting My Hate", and it really puts it all in a nutshell. The band's James Hetfield wrote the song after hearing a story from country and western legend Waylon Jennings: Jennings was sitting in a cafe having a cup of coffee when he noticed a guy sitting in the parking lot, in the passenger seat of a truck, giving him the evil eye. Jennings looked away, but when he looked back, the guy was still looking at him. So this time he tried to stare him down, but the guy didn't budge. The longer he sat there, the angrier Waylon got, and finally he decided to walk outside and really give it to the guy. And when he got outside and approached the truck, he realized that the guy was sound asleep, head cocked back on the seat, and actually staring at no one and nothing. "Man," Waylon is reported to have said to Hetfield, "I was just wasting my hate on that guy."

Sample lyric:
Good day, how do,
And I send a smile to you.
Don't waste, don't waste your breath,
And I won't waste my hate on you.


Again, the YouTube video features unrelated and irrelevant video, but you can hear the song here:



Johnny Cash: "San Quentin"

Johnny Cash didn't write protest songs to be trendy or to attract attention. If Johnny wrote a song in protest of something, it was because he was good and pissed off. Such was the case in 1969 when Johnny visited San Quentin State Prison in California to perform for the inmates and saw them living in conditions not fit for human beings.

According to the liner notes from Cash's legendary live album "Johnny Cash At San Quentin", Johnny wrote his classic song entitled "San Quentin" during the first hours of his visit to the penitentiary. That was the thing about Johnny Cash... when he converted to Christianity, he took the call seriously. Including Christ's call to His followers to visit and minister to those in prison. Cash believed that people who'd committed crimes should pay their due to society, but that they shouldn't be reduced to something less than human. What he saw at San Quentin appalled him. During his concert that day Cash asked for a drink of the same water that the prisoners drank and found it filthy and disgusting. Later, Johnny debuted the new song for San Quentin's inmates, stirring them to the point that he had to perform the song again, immediately, to satisfy them. Imagine that. Imagine being one of the guards or the warden in that infamous hellhole, watching as a pissed-off country rocker got your whole prison population all worked up, all at once.

Sample lyric:
San Quentin, I hate every inch of you.
You've cut me and you've scarred me through and through.
And I'll walk out a wiser weaker man;
Mister Congressman, you can't understand.


And here's a clip of that very legendary performance:



Tool: "Bottom"

The heavy progressive rock band Tool just gets better and better. Their 2001 album "Lateralus" is possibly the finest example of heavy progressive rock that's been turned out by any band ... but each of their albums is good in it's own right, and 1993's "Undertow" features a number of great songs, including "Bottom".

"Bottom" is a song about wallowing in your own spite ... and let's face it, we all do that from time to time. But "Bottom" is an honest song; a song that admits that when you're wallowing, you're doing nothing more than celebrating your own failure. Still, wallowing has it's appeal. Sometimes when you're good and mad you just want to be left alone to enjoy your anger. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you get it out of your system and move on. Have a good wallow, then get up and get on with it.

Sample lyric:
I have swallowed the poison you feed me,
And I survive on the poison you feed me.
Leaving me guilt-fed. Hatred-fed. Weakness-fed.
It makes me feel ugly.


Again, ignore the animation that some YouTuber has attached to the song and just enjoy Tool's groove:



Billy Joel: "Pressure"

Is there anything worse than some jackass who just can't wait to tell you what you should be doing when things fall apart? Not much. And we all know the type, too. We all know some blowhard who just lurks in the background, waiting to see if you're going to fall on your face, not caring what you're doing or what you're learning or how hard you're trying ... just waiting for that chance to waltz up and say "You know, if I were you..."

Billy Joel has obviously dealt with those kinds of people before, and his 1982 album "The Nylon Curtain" contains a track that sums them up to a tee. Billy even sings "Pressure" with a voice that's about to crack from anger, making it obvious that he's not singing about a hypothetical lunkhead. Some smart-ass actually inspired this song. I hope he knew that it was about him when he first heard it on the radio.

Sample lyric:
I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale.
But here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice.
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle pressure.


And here's the classic music video from the '80's.



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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

 

Dumocrats



I've been trying to follow the campaigns of a few of the Republican candidates for President, and I've mentioned Fred Thompson and Mitt Romeney a couple of times. But I realized today that I haven't really taken any time yet to irresponsibly trash and browbeat the Democrats. I must remedy that.

There are only three Democrats worth mentioning at all, of course... and here's my take on all three of them:



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Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Dorkside



For those of you who remember Wendy, she's posted her semi-annual blog entry for 2007. Stop by and read her review of the things she's been doing instead of blogging.


 

Sic Vick!



As a Virginian who

I got a kick out of this picture I stumbled across:


I really hope Vick goes down hard over his dog fighting.

Heck, I dislike Vick so much I was even rooting against him in this crazy instance:

Embattled NFL quarterback Michael Vick, facing federal charges related to his alleged participation in dogfighting, has been hit with a "$63,000,000,000 billion dollar" lawsuit filed by a South Carolina inmate who alleges the Atlanta Falcons star stole his pit bulls and sold them on eBay to buy "missiles from Iran..."


I was bummed to hear that the case was thrown out of court. I'd really hoped that somewhere, somehow, there might be a judge who'd say "Hmmm... it is Michael Vick ... this might be worth hearing."

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

 

Wildfire Still Burning



The forest fire in our back yard is still blazing, although fire fighters and the forest service are working as hard as they can to put it out. The latest information indicates that the fire is slowing, although there hasn't been an update in the local news for a few days.

I'm grateful for the hard work and dedication of those who're fighting the fire, although I do wish that the local media would update us a bit more frequently. The smell and sight of smoke is still strong, as indicated by these pictures and video that we got this afternoon:












Here's another YouTube video, this one from another user. It's better, closer, and more informative than the brief bit above that I shot with our digital camera.


This YouTube user must live in the same area that we do; he or she also has some nice video of a waterall that's about ten minutes away from where I work:



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Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

Real Horror



We got on the subject of horror movies at work the other day ... and how movie concepts that seemed scary when we were teens now just strike us as silly. Of course, that's because now that we're all grownups with families and responsibilities, our priorities have changed.

That lead to a discussion of the kinds of topics that would make for genuinely scary horror movies these days, and a lot of laughter ensued.

PC graphics aren't my strong suit, but I amused myself by throwing together posters for some of the "grown up" horror films that would scare the daylights out of most people my age at this point in our lives:











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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

 

Two Quick Bits



I got an e-mail from a lady the other day who'd done a random Google search for "Lamppost Tattoo" and found my post from the day when I got my The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe tattoo. She got a real kick out of that and sent me a picture of her own Narnia tattoo, which is on her arm and features the same lamppost that I have on my leg. I'm glad to see that there is at least one other person out there with a Narnia inspired tattoo ... here's hoping that this is the beginning of a trend!


Also, I mentioned the wildfire in my backyard yesterday. Not much news today, except that the fire is thought to be "partially contained" ...

Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that has burned about 120 acres on Waits Mountain in Alleghany County, an official with the National Forest Service said Tuesday.

Firefighters have contained about 10 percent of blaze, but officials estimate more than 400 acres could be at risk, forest service spokeswoman Barb Stewart said.

Nearby homes and Alleghany Regional Hospital, which is about a mile and a half from the fire, are not in danger because the fire is spreading away from that area, a news release from the forest service said.


Still hoping for the best. Firefighters seem to still be optimistic, for the most part and everyone is hoping for the best.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

Fire On The Mountain



For some reason, YouTube won't let me upload video tonight ... Well, as of Wednesday afternoon, I was able to upload the video to YouTube. So you can watch it below, a brief local news segment about a nearby forest fire.


If you watched that video from last night's local news, you heard the fire described as a "brush fire." Well, it's gotten worse over the past twenty four hours and they're currently calling it a "mountain fire". I call it "bad news." A 100 acre patch of land is currently burning and authorities are projecting a fire of up to 400 acres before all is said and done. They're also saying that they don't think it will effect the nearest buildings, which include my mom's house and the hospital where she works as a nurse.

If you heard my brief narration at the end of that embedded video, you heard me describe how close the fire is to the the house where I grew up. The neighborhood I live in now is only about two minutes away from there, and the smell of smoke is pretty thick in my back yard right now. Hopefully, this thing will be contained before too much longer.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

 

Playing Catch-Up Again



I had little time for blogging for most of the last week, so I missed out on some good stuff from my blogroll:



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Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

Might As Well Jump



Well, it's official. Van Halen will be touring with David Lee Roth on lead vocals.

Right about now you're having one of two possible reactions:



If you don't know, Van Halen was one of the most successful hard rock bands of the '80's. The band's drinking, drugging, and groupie indulgences are legendary, and they remain known as one of the hardest partying bands that ever toured.

But that isn't exactly the band you'll be seeing on this reunion tour.

During their heyday, Van Halen looked like this:


But if you catch them on this reunion tour, what you'll see instead will be three corpses and a child:


The child who's replaced bass player Mike Anthony is Wolfgang Van Halen, the son of Eddie Van Halen, and he's been playing the bass guitar for almost an hour now, so expect to be dazzled.

If you're unaware, it might be relevant to throw a bit of Van Halen history out there:

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

 

Anyway



Monday I said that I wouldn't have time to blog for a while, but then I did have time to blog on Tuesday and Wednesday. But now, today, I really don't have time to blog, so there'll be no post today, other than this one, which is really just here to tell you to go read Monday's post, which explains that I won't have time to blog for a while.




Wednesday, August 08, 2007

 

To Serve And Protect



Twenty years ago, Ice Cube of N.W.A. insisted that certain kinds of cops are just "punk m#$&#rf%$#&rs with badges and guns." In this instance, I certainly can't come up with a better description:
A police officer shooting at a snake apparently killed a 5-year-old boy who was fishing at a nearby pond, officials said.

Austin Haley was fishing with his grandfather, Jack Tracy, when Tracy said he heard a shot and saw something hit the water just a few feet in front of the boat dock where he was standing.

Moments later, a second shot hit Austin in the head.

A Noble police officer who had responded to a report of a snake in a tree apparently fired the deadly shot while trying to kill the snake on Friday, City Manager Bob Wade said...

Tracy has little doubt. "I'm not saying the cop shot him on purpose," he said. "But let me tell you - if I had a kid and put him in this car and didn't put him in a car seat and he got killed on the way to town, they'd charge me with murder ... and what this cop did is a lot worse than that."


A child is dead over a snake. A godamn snake.

I work with a number of tough-guy types who are so afraid of snakes that other coworkers sometimes toss pieces of rope or bungee cords into their laps and yell "snake!" It always results in screaming and flailing and freaking out, much to the enjoyment of other coworkers. This strikes me as stupid for a number of reasons. For one, snakes want less to do with humans than we want to do with them. Anyone who's ever even seen a snake in the wild knows this. For another thing, snakes don't just drop out of the sky into people's laps, and a reasonable person should know that. And for a third thing, anybody with a phobia that controls them to this level ought to realize that they need help.

Now, some moron who's so afraid of snakes that the sight of one in a tree causes him to go all to hell has initiated a chain of events that's lead to a child's death. And some idiot cop has decided that it was a good idea to fire a gun to placate some other moron's snake phobia. Irresponsible isn't a strong enough word. What we have here is shocking capriciousness with regard to firearms, an idiotically unreasonable attitude about snakes, and a blatant disregard for the safety of others.

Somebody needs to burn for this.

Oh, and by the way, the snake was a black rat snake, a species that is utterly harmless and helps control rodent populations.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 

Movies In Brief



Three brief reviews for the films Love Actually, Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii: The Director's Cut, and This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

 

A Range Of Opportunities



I have a lot going on this week, with time for everything except blogging. Might be a few days before I post anything, although I have a number of ideas I want to write about.




Friday, August 03, 2007

 

An Interesting Day Of Fishing



It's not unusual for fishermen to pull things other than fish out of the water. Litter, junk, carcasses, even human corpses have been recovered by fishermen. What was unusual about the deer that Chad Campbell and Bo Warren pulled out of the Chesapeake Bay, 1.5 miles off shore and in 80 feet of water, was that it was very much alive.


Campbell recounts the story:

We looked back to check our gear and saw something odd in the water.

Was it a seal? Can't be, we don't have seals around here.

On closer look, it turned out to be a buck deer that was way off course. He was desperate and barely staying afloat...

This critter was just keeping his nose up and looked like he'd been swimming all night long. In fact, he was so worn out that he swam toward the boat, probably thinking it looked enough like land to him...

So, since the fish weren't biting, we thought we'd give this buck a hand... and shuttled him to the closest beach - Kent Point...


More pictures and details are available at the Snopes page which confirms the incident.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

 

Isn't This Where We Came In?



I've been pondering writing a post about how much I love Pink Floyd for a while now. What's kept me from doing it is that I realize that such a post would really be a masturbatory exercise; of little interest to anyone else.

So I decided to try to come up with something at least marginally interesting. Rather than a long, rambling, needless post about how super cool Pink Floyd is, I'll post something segmented and fairly brief. I'll try to keep the personal meanderings short and few, and try to pepper this post with enough trivia, general interest, and "things that make you go hmmm" about the Floyd to hold your interest. Deal? Deal.



There are a number of good sources for Pink Floyd information, downloads, pictures, etc, on the internet. They include:

The Official Pink Floyd Website.

A Fleeting Glimpse.

Floydian Slip.

Brain Damage.

And ten SouthCon bonus points will be awarded to anyone who can name each of the Pink Floyd songs that feature lyrics from which I drew headers for this post.

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