Sunday, April 25, 2010

PLUGGED: Song of the month (and this time it's from Germany)!

This uber German sounding piece is the latest track to raise the hair on the back of my neck. I include my own sample of it, so you can get a feel for Emma Hewitt's decidedly haunting vocals, without having to deal with YouTube's often questionable sonic qualities. A tight musical production Duderstadt's remix lends a groovy, organic edge to the typically mathematical, power chord-driven Sun Decade style, and the proggy rhythm makes a perfect fit for the vocals (which are, of course, more thought provoking than your average American pop).

Ronski Speed pres. Sun Decade Feat. Emma Hewitt – Lasting Light (Duderstadt Progressive Mix)

Ronski Speed pres. Sun Decade feat. Emma Hewitt - Lasting Light (Duderstadt Progressive Mix) - JM3 Edit

Lie awake until the morning
Then sleepwalk back into their world
Time won’t ever silence the haunting
The dream won’t leave until it’s heard

You know we’re waiting
Don’t keep us waiting for you

Leave the shadows crawling behind you
With all those bridges that you've burned

You know we’re waiting
Don’t keep us waiting for you

We’re the ones who chase the sun across the sky

To feel the lasting light
To feel the lasting light

And we leave it all behind in sacrifice

To feel the lasting light
To feel the lasting light


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Appeal for Creative Guidance From My Writer Friends

It has been several years since I sat down and completed a short story. I am now calling on my friends to assist me in determining which of the below ideas should be at the top of my list. Vote, people! All comments are welcome! (As one might suspect, theft of the below ideas will be addressed with the surest and most brutal strokes of karma).

Faith’s Trailer Park Finishing School
A rural beautician vainly attempts to ameliorate her community’s chronic lack of social refinement.

Anna Marie and the 75MPH School Bus (Sequel to Faith’s Trailer Park Finishing School)
After being fired from a beauty salon in the local trailer park, a West Virginia woman goes berserk and attempts to exact revenge upon the six most prominent residents of the community.

Various Ramifications of the Red Broccoli
In the bowels of an obscure microbiology institute, a genetic engineering experiment goes awry after a forgetful botanist is hired to replace the executive director, yielding a particularly odoriferous incubus that threatens the entire state of Delaware.

Blamestorming With Baxter
Due to a clerical error in Human Resources, a socially awkward database administrator is selected to lead a systematic audit of each of his company’s core functional areas, despite the fact that he is in no way qualified for the task and is, in fact, seen by key employees in each department as a complete buffoon. Will the ship of software float or sink?

The Sinister Minister
Upon arriving at his new assignment in a remote Tennessee village, a deranged man of the cloth suddenly discovers the financial temptations of trafficking moonshine, then twists his pulpit into a vehicle for inciting panic and paranoia upon the confused flock.

Certainly Not Natasha
Two extremes find themselves compressed together in a single office: over the course of three months, a lazy, allergy-prone administrative assistant and her irrational, workaholic boss each devise extreme tactics to have the other sacked.

How Myrtle Blew Up The Nursing Home
An angry geriatric with an IQ of 177 painstakingly orchestrates the spectacular demise of the convalescent home at which she was forcefully disposed.

The Second Adventure of Sticky Vic
The proprietor of a failing fast food franchise decides to bring a taste of Las Vegas to downtown Allentown, and proceeds to import a veritable array of side show performers – along with a particularly eccentric real estate agent.

Zoology for Faunaphobes: A Field Guide
Part I: A detailed survey of the species commonly, yet sometimes unexpectedly, found in proximity of the typical American home, complete with statistical analyses and a comprehensive, historically-accurate listing of serious injuries, parasites, diseases, and death rates associated with each type.

Little Abboud and the Misplaced Sorcerer
On the bustling streets of old Fez, a pick-pocketing urchin with a pronounced stutter accidentally finds himself tied to a genie with a less than competent skill set.

The Vengeance of the Santa
Deeply perturbed that her age, race, sex, national origin, and relatively lean build encumber her ability to serve as the famous sleigh master, Kristina Krumuwala prepares to hijack Valentine’s Day.

The Grand Solo
A compulsively vocal dramatic contralto mistakenly leaves the Metropolitan Opera for a job at the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Beats From The Brooklyn Boy - 2010 02

The infamous Joe fully realizes that no one in his entire social circle shares his taste in music, particularly when it comes to trance. That said, he also refuses to abandon his attempts to rescue said acquaintances from the crude, sorority-talent-show-flunky Lady Gaga and other "musical performers." His hope is to shine a light on forms of electronic music that show a bit more mastery of music theory, and certainly a great deal more emotion.

Here's a selection of recent finds, in no particular order, in the event that a few, relatively adventurous friends care to enlighten themselves -- or even just find some new sonic material to accompany their cardio...

Marco V - Coming Back feat. Jonathan Mendelsohn (Nic Chagall Remix)

Marco V - Coming Back feat. Jonathan Mendelsohn (Nic Chagall Remix) - JM3 Edit
A song so powerful that, upon a first listen, I declared it "worthy of going deaf to". This progressive anthem centers on a deeply moving piano melody and Jonathan Mendelsohn's soaring, other-worldly vocals -- and lyrics so uplifting they border on spiritual (anyone remember Michael W. Smith?).

Released on January 12, this may quite likely prove my favorite musical composition of 2010. It will certainly be a tough act to follow. (My own cut from the song, playing in the background on this page)

Medina - You and I (Deadmau5 Remix)

It's no secret that I often consider Paul Keeley and Deadmau5 (aka Paul Zimmerman) the two brightest glimmers of hope that North America can still produce talented musicians. Interesting that both artists are, in fact, Canadian. Here, the Niagara Falls native remixes a song to which I might otherwise have paid no attention. The result is a seriously catchy, synthy piece, with great compositional structure and an energizing rhythm. Treadmill music, anyone?

Mat Zo - 24 Hours (Oliver Smith Remix)

A musical genius remixes the work of a musical genius, yielding an epically scaled whirlwind that is at once energizing, hair raising, and suitable for extended examination by students of classic composition theory. Ollie want a Matzo. Make more, guys!

Angelic - It's My Turn 2009 (Darren Tate Remix)

Virtually anything released on Darren Tate's Mondo Records is worth a listen. The 2009 freshening of this apparent classic (I missed the original release) is certainly no exception. A pedestal of self empowerment, if ever there was one, with simple lyrics blasted into the stratosphere by vocalist Amanda O'Riordan:

"Why start to worry / About the hands of fate / When right before your eyes / It becomes to late... It's my turn."

Amster Dyen presents Airplay 47 - Be Free (Mat Zo Remix)

One day I'll discover the reasons that Eastern Europe has become such a hotbed of sophisticated musical talent. Here, Mat Zo remixed the Hungarian duo's latest track. Check out how gracefully his trademark, bouncy rhythm underlays the ethereal wave of the strings section and female vocalist.

Mike Shiver & Matias Lehtola - Snooze (Samuel Jason Remix)

Anything but sleepy, and one of many strong, recent releases by Mike Shiver, the happy bounce of this song should appeal to anyone with an appreciation of 1980's pop. Proof that happy, lighter electronic music needn't lack structure.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar (2009)

For the greater part of a year, I sat gnawing my fingers in anticipation of James Cameron's latest sci-fi feature. Few of his films have been disappointments, and given the increasingly horrifying lack of depth afflicting the latest entries of this genre, I had high hopes that Mr. Terminator/Mr. Titanic would, at least, not leave me lumbering out of the theater in malaise.

I was excited to see this film in 3D. I heard the hype, the stories about how new technologies were developed to help film the entirety in full perspective. Yeah. To say I was skeptical would be an understatement -- several recent sci-fi films have left me underwhelmed, outraged, and/or despondent.

Could even the great James Cameron resist the temptation to load up on overwrought special effects at the expense of plot? Would he resort to the same, breathtakingly tacky film making fads as other directors -- like gratuitously shaking the cameras in an effort to trick the audience into feeling excitement?

Yes, and no.

The movie is rich in highlights:

  • Sigourney Weaver's acting, as it always has been, is simply stunning. From her delightfully brusque introduction -- I just loved the chain smoking -- to several emotionally moving situations later in the film, her portrayal of Grace Augustine consistently captures the screen, at once both direct and nuanced. Sadly, none of Avatar's younger cast -- and indeed, few actresses in any recent sci-fi film -- even approach the vibrant substance she breathes into this part.

  • A stunningly detailed ecosystem. The planet Pandora is rendered with a degree of exactness that makes one suspect the inclusion of entire teams of botanists and evolutionary biologists throughout the storyboarding and animation process.

  • Despite all the attention given to other aspects of the film, nothing impressed me more than the rendering of the computer interfaces. Even after several minutes of introduction toward the beginning of Avatar, the visual candy created by the characters' nonchalant manipulation of portable, clear, handheld computers was simply stunning, pushing even this jaded viewer to a vocal utterance of "wow!"

Sadly, for all the attention given to certain aspects of its development, and the seemingly endless time spent exploring the Pandoran ecosystem, Avatar falls a bit short.

  • Neither the 3D filming nor the special effects are as game-changing as the popularity suggests. Come on, people, did no one else see unfinished textures and animation artifacts? Next to the flawless CGI of The Matrix: Reloaded, this film looks downright Shrek-like. Case in point: while what must be the movie industry's 8,658th conception of generic flying dragons dive across the screen, the film presents countless low-budget looking -- and totally flat -- backdrops. Apparently, audiences were so distracted by the creatures flying across the foreground that they never even noticed.

  • The film's plot would not support a 45 minute television show, were it not for non-stop special effects. Military officer infiltrates the enemy camp, sympathizes with enemy plight, and goes native. Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. Only a heavy pouring of militant environmentalism prevents this device from becoming blatantly derivative. Speaking of which, what is Kevin Costner up to these days?

  • The film shows an almost diabolical negligence in character development among its antagonists. We're expected to believe that Colonel Miles Quaritch is simply a very bad man -- a violent neanderthal with a grudge, just because, well, that's what he is. (That's what most Marines are, right?) Considering the degree to which he's meant to drive the plot, an astonishingly minuscule amount of screen time is dedicated to showing us why Quaritch is such a trigger-happy lunatic. We know absolutely nothing of his past, much less why he is such a ludicrously simplistic madman. You're joking, James. Right?

  • Michelle Rodriguez plays yet another superficially charming but ultimately disposable QuasiGoodGirl (a rogue cop, a rogue marine -- and a typecast actress if ever there was one).

  • Could the score have been any more evocative of "Titanic"? While it did have its soaring moments, at countless times in the middle of Avatar I had to suppress my inner diva and its attempt to burst into song, "Near, far, wherever -- oops, that was wrong movie!" FTLOG, fully half the score felt absolutely interchangeable with the composition prepared for the melodramatic escapade of the doomed giant cruise ship.

The fact is, while I enjoyed Avatar, I simply can't see myself watching this film again and again, year after year, sitting around with friends to discuss various nuances of the plot or characters, as has been the case for generations of fans of the original Star Wars trilogy. There is little of the depth of personality, and none of the legend, the mythology, or the epic scale that characterizes such instant classics. A week after viewing it, I could no longer even recall the name of any of its main characters.

Avatar is a fun and generally satisfying movie with some truly spectacular moments. It may well be the best sci-fi movie since the Matrix trilogy -- although that is a dubious honor, given the abysmal quality of the genre over the last five years. Ultimately, the film is a relatively cold, contrived product of fancy computers, and much the same as those state of the art processing machines, it very likely will age into a dry, gray obsolescence. 3.5/5 Stars.