Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Beatles - Let It Be (album and film)

If you're wondering why I'm doing this one now and not Abbey Road, it's because I'm covering them in the order they were recorded, not when they were released.

This is another album that I waited a long time before I ever purchased.  It's not necessarily bad, it's just that none of these songs are really among my favorites so I never felt compelled to purchase it.  It also doesn't help that this was a very bad time for the Beatles, and their inability to get along means that some of these are not much more than jams that were spiced up a little to try to make more complete recordings out of them.

  1. "Two of Us" - A good start to the album, simple and sweet, but something about John and Paul singing it together really adds to the song.
  2. "Dig a Pony" - There's a lot of nonsense words here, but musically it's a pretty basic blues number.  It's not something I listen to a lot, but when I do I enjoy it.
  3. "Across the Universe" - It's pretty strongly different from the other stuff John was doing at the time, and it's also very slow.  But I think it works well for what it is. It also seems to be a song that it's easy to cover and not screw up, as I like both Fiona Apple's version and Rufus Wainwright's.
  4. "I Me Mine" - George is being thoroughly passive aggressive here, but he writes a good song out of it..  This one gets stuck in my head a lot, probably because it does have a bit of a repetitive nature, but it's an excellent song and shows just how much he's grown as a song writer.
  5. "Dig It" - This is definitely one of the songs I'm talking about that is not much more than an extended jam.  I'm just not a fan of this kind of unpolished recording.
  6. "Let It Be" - A nice ballad from Paul.  Growing up I always assumed "mother Mary" was a Christian reference, but his own mother's name was in fact Mary so you could take it either way, I suppose.  This is probably the second strongest song on the album, it's simplicity is what makes it so strong.
  7. "Maggie Mae" - An old folk song they recorded.  I'm not a huge fan of folk so I don't care for this one very much.  But it's also less than a minute long.
  8. "I've Got a Feeling" - A good song, and similar to "Two of Us" I like it because it feels like a true collaborative effort between John and Paul, which was becoming so rare at this point.
  9. "One After 909" - As I mentioned on the Anthology review, this is an old song that it took them a lot time to finally record.  I'm a little more partial to the original version, but this one is good too.
  10. "The Long and Winding Road" - Another ballad from Paul.  I'm not sure we needed two of them on the album, as listening to them one after the other makes this song feel as long and winding as the road.
  11. "For You Blue" - Another George song.  I don't like this one as much as the other, but I do like that slide guitar sound he's using here.  It's a fairly simple song, but it's nice.
  12. "Get Back" - This one is the strongest on the album, in my opinion.  A great upbeat tempo and some fun lyrics to go along with it. 

United Artists didn't feel as though Yellow Submarine qualified as a film starring the Beatles, and I can't say I disagree with them.  So they still had one more film to go to satisfy their contract.  A documentary style was chosen, filming the Beatles as they worked on their next album, which would eventually become Let It Be.  They also unintentionally caught what was essentially the beginning of the Beatles break up on film.  This film is largely unavailable today, though it did have a brief VHS release.  A DVD release was planned but never finished, and the rumors are that Paul and Ringo found the extra footage (which I guess was going to be part of the bonus features) to be too upsetting to be released to the public.  I suppose if you imagine someone had filmed a particularly nasty breakup between you and your ex, you probably wouldn't want the whole world to see it either.  While I would definitely purchase and watch it, I have to admit it would probably be a one time only viewing, because if it's as ugly as they suggest, it might be a bit upsetting for me to watch.  Hell, the ending of The Beatles Anthology bums me out, and that's much more lovingly handled.

I watched the full version of Let It Be on Youtube a few years back, but it seems to be taken down.  Most of the notable clips are available within The Beatles Anthology documentary.  The film is fairly dry, and only one disagreement between Paul and George is included.  We simply follow the Beatles as they work on some recordings, bring Billy Preston in to join them for a few songs, and the film ends with the now famous performance on the rooftop.  It's a good end for the film and a good end for the Beatles film career.  I recommend checking out that footage of the concert if you can, and don't feel too bad about missing the rest.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (album and film)

There's a couple repeats on this album and the second half of it is all instrumental, so we'll quickly go through these and get to talking about the film.

  1. "Yellow Submarine" - See my Revolver review
  2. "Only a Northern Song" - The lyrics are pretty weak and the music is pretty slow and sleepy.  There's a couple interesting bits in there with the horns, but overall I'm not really impressed.
  3. "All Together Now" - Really meant to be more of a children's song than anything else, I feel like this could fit easily on Sesame Street or something like it.  It's repetitive but it's cute, and it's enjoyable for what it is.
  4. "Hey Bulldog" - I don't own this album, so when I got The Beatles Rock Band, I was essentially hearing this song for the first time.  It was great, because it meant I got to fall in love with a Beatles song like I hadn't in ages.  It's a simple bluesy number, but the shouting exchange between John and Paul makes this song so much fun.
  5. "It's All Too Much" - I find myself having a hard time finding anything to say about this one.  There's just nothing to it and nothing particularly special about it.
  6. "All You Need is Love" - See my Magical Mystery Tour review
  7. "Pepperland"
  8. "Sea of Time"
  9. "Sea of Holes"
  10. "Sea of Monsters"
  11. "March of the Meanies"
  12. "Pepperland Laid Waste"
  13. "Yellow Submarine in Pepperland"
Instead of analyzing all the instrumental tracks together, allow me to just say this: George Martin is a fantastic composer and musical arranger.  He was clearly as adapt at arranging orchestral instruments as he was the rock music. Listening to these tracks his influence on other Beatles' works like "A Day in the Life" and "Eleanor Rigby" becomes obvious.  I once watched a clip of atheist Penn Jillette talking about how a friend  told him the Beatles existence was proof of God, because the four of them together made something greater than any of them ever did individually.  His snarky response was "So you're saying George Martin is God."  I fully believe he is right in as much that Martin is the reason that the four of them were better together than they ever were alone.

Perhaps understandably, Magical Mystery Tour was panned by critics and not well received by the public.  As such, the Beatles weren't too enthusiastic about making another film, but were still contractually obligated to United Artists to make another one.  They're attempt to get out of it was Yellow Submarine.

The story was written by Lee Minoff taking large amounts of inspiration from various Beatles songs, "Yellow Submarine" being the most obvious.  It's animated and the characters are not voiced by the Beatles themselves.  The film is of course a musical, and while the plot is somewhat loose it's stronger than Magical Mystery Tour.  Pepperland has been attacked by the Blue Meanies, and so they send Old Fred out in the yellow submarine to get the Beatles to come help them.  They pass through several seas and pick up a real nowhere man before finally arriving in Pepperland and saving the day.  It ends with a very brief scene of the Beatles in live action that is absolutely adorable.

I didn't see this film until I was a teenager, and when I did I found myself really confused.  I basically thought that the filmmakers had to have been on drugs when they made it.  I recently asked around trying to see if anyone I knew had watched the film as a child and what they had thought of it.  I got two different responses, one telling me they had thought of the film as a moving storybook as a child, and another person telling me it was her daughter's favorite movie at the age of 2.  For me personally, I think if I had watched this film as a kid it would have given me nightmares.  There's just a lot of really bizarre imagery going on here.

But as an adult I've come to appreciate the film a lot more.  There's some fun wordplay to be had and of course all the songs used are great.  The moments where we're first introduced to each Beatle in turn are very cute and play very well to their established personas.  I also think having "When I'm 64" playing while they age and de-age in the Sea of Time is a very cute idea.

The highlight of the movie for me though is definitely Jonathan Hillary Boob.  Now that's a fun name to say!  He speaks in wordplay and despite the insults they throw at him, seems to be the smartest character in the movie.  It's interesting how culture changes over time.  In A Hard Day's Night we got Paul's grandfather insulting Ringo for reading a book instead of going out and experiencing life, and now we see the Beatles chiding Jonathon for being a well studied expert in so many fields without actually experiencing anything.  While there's certainly a valid point there, I think we can all agree that people could stand to read a bit more and take their schooling more seriously these days.  And I think well read people are a little more respected now than they were then.  At least I hope so.

While this is a children's film, I think there is enough to enjoy as an adult thanks to both its artful look and clever script.  It's not really a classic, and I'm not sure modern children could entirely appreciate this older style, but I think it's worth checking out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Beatles - The Beatles aka The White Album

 I remember around high school there was a sudden thing where musicians couldn't seem to resist name dropping this album as being really influential on them. I'm sure that's true, but for me, this album is a mess.  It's a double album solely because they were reaching a point where they all wanted to do something different and no one wanted to yield and the record company wasn't going to tell them no because this is The Beatles we're talking about.  There's good and there's bad and there's horrid on here.  Let's get to it.

  1. "Back in the U.S.S.R." - We start off strong, with Paul writing a song that was a direct response to the Beach Boys, both with their multi-part harmonies and their All-American lyrics.  It's a fun song.
  2. "Dear Prudence" - A fairly simple song by John, written in India because the lady in question refused to leave her room.  It's very sweet.
  3. "Glass Onion" - It's followed by another from John that's a bit more blues inspired and contains some interesting sound clips as well, along with a lot of nonsense lyrics and references to their past songs.  The "here's another clue for you all, the walrus was Paul" line feels like he's talking about the "Paul is dead" conspiracy until you realize that didn't materialize until after they had broken up.  I'm pretty sure what he's really doing is calling Paul a charlatan, like the walrus from "The Walrus and the Carpenter."  These were not happy times for them.
  4. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" - The second song I knew of because of a TV show appropriating it for its theme song. (Anyone even remember Life Goes On at this point?) It's fun and bouncy and great to sing along to.  Reportedly, Paul drove them all nuts while recording this song.  That's also how the "Desmond stays at home and does her pretty face" line came about, because they had been doing it so many times that he accidentally sang the wrong thing and liked it enough to keep it.
  5. "Wild Honey Pie" - It's so strange that this one appears before "Honey Pie."  This is just a jumbled mess of an experiment and should definitely have been left off the album.
  6. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" - I don't like a thing about this one at all.  The chorus of vocals, the lyrics, the music.  It's just bland to me.  Yoko's slightly off key vocals don't help at all.
  7. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - Probably one of George's best Beatles songs, with that wonderful slide guitar sound.  The lyrics aren't great, but I think the simplicity of the song really makes it work. And yes, Clapton plays on the track, but he doesn't do anything here that George himself couldn't pull off just as well, so I refuse to give him any credit for it.
  8. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" - A great one for John that sounds more modern today than it is, and is probably one of those that the 90s musicians found so influential.  I love the way the song takes so many twists and turns, and the lyrics evoke great imagery even if they don't always make sense.
  9. "Martha My Dear" - This song was written for Paul's sheepdog.  I worry for anyone who thinks it's a romantic song.  But it is very sweet and fun to sing along with.
  10. "I'm So Tired" - Another great one by John.  I love the building nature with that "I'll give you everything I've got for a little peace of mind" before grinding to a stop and then starting over again.
  11. "Blackbird" - Simple, sweet, and lovely, a song about the civil rights turmoil going on in the states around this time period.
  12. "Piggies" - I like that this is one of those songs that sounds like a children's song on the service but has some of those more sinister meanings hidden in there.  It's a shame that it was later used by a madman to create something horrible.
  13. "Rocky Raccoon" - This one is silly, but I really like it.  There's also a great early take on the Anthology discs where Paul flubs his line that's pretty funny. (Also, check out the adorable cartoon someone made of the song that I linked.  It's cute!)
  14. "Don't Pass Me By" - Ringo has finally written a song!  And it sounds like a lot of the others ones they used to give him to cover really.  It's not bad for what it is, but not really my style.
  15. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" - It's Paul's turn to get a little bluesy.  I like the style of it, but it seems pretty clear that he really only had a couple lines of a song that he then jammed on while they hit record.
  16. "I Will" - A sickeningly sweet Paul love song.  I don't like it. 
  17. "Julia" - Julia was John's mother.  She died when he was 17 and it had a profound effect on him.  So why does this song suddenly become all about Yoko by the second line?
  18. "Birthday" - I had taped this song off the radio once before I even realized it was by the Beatles.  To me it sounded like some sort of rock number from the 70s.  It also has Linda McCartney and Yoko singing on it, badly.  Unfortunately neither of their beaus would realize how bad an idea that was and continued to record them singing for years later.
  19. "Yer Blues" -  More straight up blues than some of the songs John did early.  I think his vocals are well suited for the genre and so I really like this one.  If you are curious who "Dylan's Mr. Jones" is, click the link.
  20. "Mother Nature's Son" -Way too slow and sleepy for me to get any kind of enjoyment out of this one.
  21. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" - His monkey is referring to Yoko.  And it's not exactly sung in a way to suggest a loving pet name.  It's weird.  Beyond that I really do like the song's beat and that bell clanging away through the verses.
  22. "Sexy Sadie" -This is one of those songs where I start off liking it, but it just keeps going on and doesn't change up all that much and I'm just ready for it to be over.
  23. "Helter Skelter" - Growing up I remember always thinking this was a bad song that I shouldn't listen to.  I didn't really know why, beyond that it was somehow related to a serial killer.  Of course as I got older I realized there was really nothing wrong with the song itself.  It's about a playground ride for crying out loud!  It's also interesting to note that this was Paul attempting to beat The Who at making the "loudest, rawest, dirtiest"  song based on a quote from Pete Townshend.  Measure it up against "I Can See for Miles" (for which Townshend made the claim) and see which one you think wins.  It's kind of a shame that Paul largely dropped this style in his solo career, because I can only imagine how fun a Paul McCartney heavy metal album could have been.
  24. "Long, Long, Long" -I had no memory of this song at all, and I can see why.  It's too slow and dreamy, with not much happening at all.  The ending is also pretty weird.
  25. "Revolution 1" - Not the version you're thinking of, because this one was deemed too slow to be a single and they made the hit we all know and love today. I have to agree, I can't see this one possibly being released as a single.  Which is not to say that it's bad in and of itself.
  26. "Honey Pie" - Unlike its strange sibling, I really like this song.  It's similar to "When I'm Sixty Four" with its old fashioned sound.  Easy to sing along to and easy to get stuck in your head.  I also like the lyrics a lot.
  27. "Savoy Truffle" -George was having a bit of trouble finishing song lyrics around this time, and it's probably nowhere more obvious than on this one, where he was literally reading varieties off a box of chocolates.   It's not a bad song but it's not one I listen to very often.
  28. "Cry Baby Cry" -I love the way the lyrics resemble the words to "four and twenty blackbirds" and then slowly develop into something else.  I find myself singing the chorus of this one a lot to my cats when they start whining.
  29. "Revolution 9" - Junk.  (Did you imagine you'd ever hear me say that about ANY Beatles song? Especially a John song?) It's not music by any definition of the word.  It's just assembled noise and dreadful to listen to.  I appreciate his willingness to experiment but that doesn't mean I have to like the results.  If you do happen to like this one and are not familiar with noise art, I recommend you look it up.
  30. "Good Night" - Written by John for Julian, so why is Ringo singing it?  His voice simply isn't strong enough for this.  It is a nice lullaby, but it's not really a Beatles song at all.
So I know I'm being pretty harsh here, but I can't help but be bothered by the way Yoko largely took over John's focus for a good portion of the album.  I'm not saying she forced him into it, mind you.  Infatuation  that becomes love can hit a person hard and make them want to do things.  It's just that John was clearly so adamant about it that no one else (particularly his former writing partner) could make it through to him that maybe some of these things weren't such a great idea.  Granted no one had the guts to tell Paul either that some of these songs didn't really belong here either, so I guess it doesn't matter what the circumstances where, you just had two guys who were a bit out of control in knowing the good from the bad at this point.

It's also worth noting that all of the missteps here are songs you could easily point to as being wildly influential in creating new styles of music.  So even if the guys themselves couldn't perfect what they were trying for, someone further down the line did.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour (album and film)

This album has some of my absolute favorite Beatles songs on it, and most of the rest are still pretty strong.  To give you an idea, all but two of the tracks here I have stored on my phone to listen to whenever I'd like. Of  course this is also technically a soundtrack album, but I always felt more like the movie was made to suit the songs rather than the other way around.  You'll see what I mean when I talk about the film.

  1. "Magical Mystery Tour" - While certainly meant to be an intro into the film, I think the song still stands on its own.  I love the quality of the "roll up!" and how it sounds like the tape is warped and perhaps going to break at any moment.  It's also nice to hear a song where Paul, John and George all have individual singing parts on top of the harmonies (even though Paul obviously dominates the track).  It shows how they were developing their own distinct voices and I like moments like this where they all worked together.
  2. "Fool on the Hill" - And of course, after I've said that, we now get Paul working alone.  That's not entirely true, as the other Beatles do play on the track, but this is most definitely his.  I enjoy the simplicity of the penny whistle in there, but it is a rather sleepy song so it's not one of my favorites.
  3. "Flying" - A completely instrumental song, almost seemingly there to remind us that this is a soundtrack album.  It's not bad, but there's not much to it.  As you might have guessed, this is one I don't keep with me.
  4. "Blue Jay Way" - While this one certainly still has Indian influence to it, it's a lot different than George's recent offerings.  It's slow and sleepy but the quality fits the song perfectly, and the inclusion of the cello means this is a song I really, really like. 
  5. "Your Mother Should Know" - A fun, old timey sounding song.  The lyrics are pretty repetitive but it mostly suits the bouncy nature of the melody.  This kind of bouncy stuff is really what Paul is best at.
  6. "I Am the Walrus" - I love this song so much.  It's so wonderfully absurd.  It doesn't make a lick of sense and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I remember when I was young, getting Beatle books from the library, trying to find some clue to what was going on here.  Instead I found John explaining that he wrote most of these lines while on acid.  Of course he did.  It's the kind of lovely nonsense that Lewis Carroll and T.S. Elliot would appreciate.  It's also interesting from a technical perspective, with the distorted vocals and the way they literally turned on a radio and twisted the dial until they found something.  My only criticism would be that the "Everybody's got one"/"Oompah oopmah stick it up your jumper" sequence goes on a bit too long.  But it's a pretty minor complaint.  Obviously, one of my favorite Beatles songs.
  7. "Hello Goodbye" - And we move on to something completely different but just as wonderful.  It's a throwback to their early pop days while also displaying the musical maturity they've gained since then.  Paul's wonderful bass melody, a touch of George's slide guitar, and those wonderful contradicting backing vocals. I said it before in my anthology review, but the video for this one is just too cute.  I love the way they switch from the Pepper outfits to the collarless suits, the tiny and then oversized drums, and especially that ending dance sequence of them just being completely and utterly silly.  It's so very them and so very wonderful.
  8. "Strawberry Fields Forever" - And on to another song I love, but in a completely different way.  There was a time when I would dismiss this as John leaning on more nonsense, but the deeper I looked at it the more these vocals spoke to me.  When I have those days that I feel so utterly alone and that no one is ever going to understand me, I put this on and suddenly I'm not so alone.  It's a little bitter toward the human race,  but that's pretty much what that feeling of isolation is all about, isn't it?  Beyond the lyrics it's musically both unique and beautiful, with so many things going on that it's hard to list them all.  It gives the track a dreamlike quality that I love.
  9. "Penny Lane" - I don't think you can make it any clearer that Paul and John were starting to build a  bit of a rivalry here, where we've got two tracks in a row that mention areas they visited in their childhood.  It's a very different kind of song, naturally being a bit more light and playful than John's song.  I think what I found so surprising was when I found just how cheeky it is.  "He likes to keep his fire engine clean" and "Four of fish and finger pies."  It's an interesting thing to do for what sounds like such an innocent song otherwise.  Musically it's just all around very beautiful and a great song to listen to.
  10. "Baby You're a Rich Man" - This is the other song I leave off.  It's even more repetitive than "Your Mother Should Know" and there's just not a whole lot to it.  It's not awful, it's just not something I ever feel much of an urge to listen to.
  11. "All You Need is Love" - Admittedly, this one is also repetitive, but I think the message shines through strong enough to make it okay.  While it should be just as outdated as "The Word" was, I still like it, even if I think the idea is a bit naive.  Love won't fix all the world's problems, but a little kindness never hurt either.  I can understand how some people may find it a little too saccharine, but I enjoy it.  Especially the way Paul starts singing "Loved you, yeah, yeah yeah..." at the end.
While it's not my favorite era of the Beatles, it's definitely one of my favorite albums of theirs, just full of so much strong material.

After being in two well made studio based films, the Beatles decided to try their own thing with Magical Mystery Tour.  There were no scripts written, and only the basic of plots planned out.  As such, this film is entirely experimental art film and not much else.  There are still song performances that are like music videos, but the rest is primarily like strange dream sequences.  If you prefer structure and logic to your movies, you're going to be immensely disappointed.

I managed to tape this movie off VH1 in the 90s.  It was released on DVD in 1997 but is now out of print. 

Richard Starkey and his Aunt Jessie are joining a ragtag group of individuals on a bus tour.  That's Ringo using his real name and actress Jessie Robins, not actually related to him in anyway.  John, Paul and George are also on the bus, though they don't necessarily seem to all know each other. The four of them and Mal Evans also portray some wizards in the sky watching over the bus that are sort of responsible for all of the crazy things that happen to them.

Beyond the fantastic music sequences, there are some fun scenes.  The scene of John with the little girl is very cute, and Ringo's comfortableness in front of the camera just shows, even if the dialogue is sincerely lacking.  Victor Spinetti is very funny as the army sergeant, even if they let the scene go on a bit too long.  My favorite is probably the scene of John shoveling spaghetti onto Aunt Jessie's plate.  His deranged look just makes it hysterical.

Of the music sequences, I really love “I Am the Walrus,” which manages to be just as zany and insane as the song itself, but I also really enjoy “Blue Jay Way.” The projection is a simple effect, but they put it to good use.  Also, how can you not love that ginormous sunflower John is wearing? (I've linked both of these videos above with the songs if you'd like to see them.)

For a movie that was originally shown on television, it's a little surprising to see a strip tease included, but then I guess British standards are different from American.  That scene also begs the question, what were the women doing while the men watched that?  By the way, the song being played during this scene is “Death Cab for Cutie,” and yes, that's where they got their name from.

During “Your Mother Should Know,” Paul is wearing a black carnation while the other Beatles sport red.  This has been used as a “Paul is dead” clue, and Paul's official defense is that they ran out of red flowers so he took a black.  I'm sorry, but that just doesn't make any sense.  I can accept him walking out of step on the cover of Abbey Road since he's left handed, but are you really going to tell me they only had three flowers of a very common color?  Which is not to say that I think Paul is actually dead, I'm just saying there's got to be a better reason there.

I realize this review is pretty disjointed but given the nature of the film, I don't really have a choice.  It's a complete mess.  My love of the Beatles allows me to enjoy it, but even then it's the kind of thing I probably would only watch once every five years or so.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Birthday weekend happenings


I started the day by seeing Iron Man 3 with my parents.  The nice thing about Iron Man is that while I know names here and there, for the most part I have no expectations about how things are supposed to go, and I'm able to just enjoy the movies as is.  And I did enjoy it, quite a bit.  I'll discuss it in more detail on our eventual Strangers from the Internet episode

After a disappointing lunch, Dayna called almost as soon as I got home to see if I was ready to head to the local comic shop for Free Comic Book Day.  I was.  I picked her up and we headed over.  The place was fairly crowded, but mostly because it's not a very large space to begin with.  It was good to see that many people out and interested in the whole thing, and I think the female presence was almost equal to the male there, which was nice.  We browsed a bit before I decided to get Saga volume 1 (a present from her as she had told me to pick a TPB) and also The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born.  I believe she got a Batgirl trade as well as issue #1 of The Movement.  We also grabbed what they had left of the free comics.

I dropped her off at home and headed back to my neighborhood to go vote.  I'm pretty sure that's the first time I ever voted in a non-presidential election (I voted for other things besides the president, but always because I was already there) and this was a vote related to the toll bridge and property taxes, so clearly I am officially old in order for me to care about such things enough.

From there on I helped Jak with the storyboards for our film shoot the next day while also watching some horrible season 4 ST:TNG episodes.  I went to bed early since we were getting up early for that.


I tend to keep logs of all our filming days so I won't go into too much detail here, but we were short handed and had nature against us but we still managed to get the whole scene done.

Since I had taken off the next day we weren't ready for our day to be over, so we called up our friends Hood & Corie and crashed their apartment.  We goofed off in our usual way, watching old videos and being exposed to the music of a woman who apparently records soundtracks for Skinemax flicks and also went out to eat at Peppers, which is a pizza place and not a Mexican restaurant as you might expect.  We were not going to drive ourselves crazy by going somewhere like that on the day that white people suddenly pretend to like Mexicans just because it gets them beer and margaritas.   I got macaroni and cheese as my entree, made grown up and amazing by the inclusion of caramelized onions in it.  One of these days I will have the patience to make my own caramelized onions and I will just put them on top of everything I eat.  Overall the visit was just a really good time.


Being my last day of freedom before work I mostly did chores but I did have a chance to read Saga.  I  can understand why it has been getting all the hype.  While certainly for adults only, the art is gorgeous and the universe these characters inhabit is very imaginative and full of possibilities.  I plan to start getting the rest of the series via individual digital issues.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

This album is largely considered mind blowing and many people will tell you that it "changed everything."  In an interesting contrast, my dad told me that he and his older brother took a trip to the record store.  His brother bought this album, and my dad got one by Herman and the Hermits.  They listened to this album once, then proceeded to listen to the Hermits album over and over again.  While it's certainly fair to mention that my dad was only 8 at the time, it still shows you that not everyone had their minds immediately changed when they heard the album back then.  I do however think it's a strong album, and certainly appeals to me as a clear predecessor to the rock music I grew up with.

  1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - A great guitar riff and a good driving drum beat make this song great.  It's near impossible to not also imagine the Beatles in their bright colored suits as you hear it too.  It's such an iconic image at this point, and the song is the proper backdrop for it.
  2. "With a Little Help from My Friends" - I technically first heard this song via the Joe Cocker version that was the theme song to the Wonder Years.  So when I heard this much peppier version for the first time, I was confused.  But overtime I've really grown to enjoy it and I  think it's one of  the most enjoyable Beatles' songs that Ringo sings on.
  3. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" - I spent a lot of time in my youth wondering if John was telling the truth, if this really was just based on a drawing by Julian, or if it was in fact a tribute to LSD.  As I get older I've decided it doesn't truly matter.  The images and wordplay sound to me like a tribute to Lewis Carroll, and the dreamy quality of the organ and the filter on John's vocals just set the mood perfectly.  A really great song.
  4. "Getting Better" - A song that perfectly encapsulates Paul the optimist and John the cynic into one simple line - "It's getting better all the time - It can't get no worse."  It's also just wonderfully upbeat in rhythm and a lot of fun to tap your foot to and sing along with.
  5. "Fixing a Hole" - A slightly more abstract song from Paul that's still about staying positive and not letting the bad stuff get you down.  Musically I don't know how to describe it, but I do like it a lot.
  6. "She's Leaving Home" - Definitely the one slow contribution from John & Paul, it's slow tempo and sad tone mean that it's one I have been known to pass over occasionally.  But I do find it very interesting that the point of view seems to be that it was good for this young girl to run away from home, despite the fact that her parents did not seem to be abusive in any way.  While there's certainly a detriment to spoiling your child, I'm not sure it warrants running away.
  7. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" - I love the inspiration behind this one, the idea of finding such a great poster and then building a song around it.  The circus sound is just great and I really love the song.
  8. "Within You Without You" - George's song of the album, Indian influenced and just not my thing at all.  This is  the one I definitely skip.
  9. "When I'm Sixty Four" - Whimsical and silly, with a wonderful bouncy quality.  I dare you not to sing along with this one!
  10. "Lovely Rita" - Similar to the one above, it's just silly and infectious and wonderful.
  11. "Good Morning Good Morning" - A bit more dynamic than a lot of  the rest of the album, in a really good way.  I love the sort of monotone vocals John delivers on the verses followed by the shouting nature on the chorus, I can very easily see setting this as a song to wake up to.  Also, I love the parade of animals at the end, supposedly each one being followed by their natural predator.  The chicken being the last sound heard doesn't make any sense in that respect, but the chicken to guitar transition that takes us into the next song makes that worth it.
  12. "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)" - Even more rocking than the original and therefore even more fun.  It leaves you wanting more.
  13. "A Day in the Life" - Such an odd little song that feels like a concept album in and of itself in its own way.  The pieces of the song don't really mesh together all that well but there are enough proper transitions there that I don't mind it.  I also used to love turning the sound up to hear every last bit of that last piano chord ringing out.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Things don't always turn out the way you planned.  Such is the case with today, where I had hoped that I would get a chance to go to the zoo and maybe also hang out with some friends tonight, but both plans fell through outside of my control.  However that doesn't mean that the day wasn't good.  In fact there was lots of good.
Starting at midnight I changed my twitter picture and name and began roleplaying as Rosalind Lutece, a character from Bioshock Infinite.  The Luteces are hands down my favorite characters in the game, speaking in riddles and thoroughly confusing you until you reach the end and what they are saying suddenly makes sense.  Jak and I have been playing around with mimicking their speech patterns in real life, and after I saw my friend Devin do his own roleplaying on his birthday, I thought it would be fun to take it to Twitter.  It was,  We thoroughly confused everyone in a wonderful way.
I've recorded all our interactions below, along with links to references I made. Things marked with an asterisk are game references that will spoil you if you go searching for them.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The beginning

The beginning [NOTE: this post is so named because it was the start of a personal journal originally posted on another blog site.] At work they recently gave us access to a test that is designed to find your strengths. The point of view of the people who came up with it is that too many studies talk about improving your faults or negative qualities rather than focusing on the positive. My results were not too particularly shocking for me. 1. Input Much like Johnny Five, I thirst for knowledge. I spent a good ten minutes yesterday discussing with a coworker how clouds form. She is a former pilot and therefore learned a lot about weather conditions, and so I was quizzing her based on the little I could remember from school. Once a stray thought got me thinking about twins which led me to Wikipedia to read about them and I learned just how inexact a method human reproduction is. It’s so easy for so many things to go wrong that it’s kind of amazing. I get what Doc Manhattan was saying to Laurie. That’s just two examples off the top of my head, but basically I’m always storing information like this in my brain because I love to learn. 2. Deliberative It basically means I am cautious and will review all the risks of something before I dive in. Sometimes it means I play devil’s advocate just because, other times it just means that I’m not going to move forward on something until I’ve researched every angle. It is exceedingly rare that you will see me make an impulsive decision. It also means I don’t share very much of myself with other people beyond a few close friends. 3. Intellection They should really just call this one introversion, because that’s essentially what it is. Needing alone time to think things through and being better at expressing my thoughts in written form. It also means I have an aversion to small talk, and would much rather focus on things that matter. 4. Consistency Both an aversion to favoritism and a desire for things to remain constant. It applies to both my nature to treat everyone fairly and put myself in the other person’s shoes, as well as the fact that I’m a creature of habit and generally follow a similar routine every day to create more and more efficiency at those processes. 5. Restorative I’m a problem solver. When I first got into this job there were a lot of imbalances in some of the accounts related to what I do, and digging in deep and through the years to see what went wrong and how was a lot of fun. The fact that those problems are pretty much all resolved now is actually a little disappointing to me. This also means that I look for things wrong in myself, always trying to fix them. The problem with that comes in when I find things too deep to be fixed easily, and become disappointed in myself when I can’t fix them right away. One of their suggested action items for #3 was to write a journal. I’m combining that with a way to improve #5, because I had a livejournal in the past and I mostly used it to complain about things. I don’t want to do that. Instead, this will be a chronicle of awesome, interesting, or positive things that happen to me or maybe just some new bit of knowledge I found or a deep philosophical matter I’ve been pondering. If you want to hang around and read or comment, you’re more than welcome to. All I ask is that if things do go near political, religious, or other sensitive matters that you treat everyone respectfully. My consistency will probably not tolerate it otherwise. I’m not going to promise that I will write here everyday because that’s usually a guaranteed recipe for failure, but I will try to write often.
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