Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rick’s Best Things from 2014


These are things I discovered in 2014.  They may have been created before, I found them in 2014.  So, they were all new to me. There were quite a few Television shows that were great this year, I trimmed it down to two.  The new music was mostly new songs not new artists.  However an old favorite came back in full force.  I was only going to do ten, but why limit myself?  These are in no particular order.


Penny Dreadful

I enjoy good Victorian era or Steampunk fiction.  The League of Extraordinary Gentleman first two graphic novels were great.  The film was somewhat of a let down.  Penny Dreadful on Showtime is what a cinematic version of the League should have been.  It is very Gothic, eerie and supernatural.  Multiple monsters and literary figures are present.  It has a wonderful cast.  It is dark and moody, but serious fun to watch.  It is also a very mature audience type of show.  2014 saw the first season and it was renewed for 10 more episodes.  The last season was only 8.  The show is following the British and premium cable television models with a shorter season.


Rat Queens

Rat Queens is a wonderfully down and dirty fantasy comic.  The Rat Queens are an all female adventuring group in a fantasy world influenced by fantasy table top role-playing games. The series is seriously bat guano crazy.  It has an Elven necromancer, a human cleric of a Cthuloid like elder god, a Dwarven fighter, and a Smidgen (part Halfling part Gnome) thief. It is very mature audience material with violence, language, sexual content and intoxicant/substance use.  It reminds me of every rowdy gaming group I have played with.


Guardians of the Galaxy & Big Hero 6

There were three major Marvel Films in 2014, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Big Hero Six.  There were two others based on Marvel properties, but Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past were produced by other studios through licensing agreements.  Captain America: Winter Soldier was great, however Marvel proved that did not need a top tier property to kick posterior with both these movies.  People forget the first big Marvel cinematic property was Blade, a C-List supporting character.  Before Guardians came out people were predicting it may flop.  It did the opposite. It brought back a crazy by the seat of your pants style space opera.  It used a 70’s hit song playlist as its soundtrack.  All of this could have crashed and burned.  Instead we ended up with a funny, exciting action adventure Sci-Fi romp.  If you have not seen it, please remedy that.  Then you have Big Hero 6.  It is, like its predecessor Pixar’s The Incredibles, a super hero tale and one about family at the same time.   It has the right mix of action, humor and emotion.  Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6 was produced by Disney Studios proper.  They still took an obscure Marvel property and did an amazing job.  These two are a perfect Double Feature.  One would start with Big Hero 6 and finish with Guardians of the Galaxy.


Hollywood Theatre

I have lived permanently in the Greater Portland area for close to thirty years.  In that time I never saw a film at the Historic Hollywood Theatre in Portland.  This year I resolved that, I saw Santo versus the Martians, To Be Takei, Galaxy Quest, and Monster Squad.  The first film I saw was a classic Luchador film, in fact a Santo film.  That is another Pop Culture genre I finally experienced.   The third film, Galaxy Quest, was seen as part of a Portland Geek Council series.   Finally Monster Squad sponsored by PSU with the director.  It is a wonderful old theatre that just finished its renovations last year.  I enjoyed the venue a lot.


Comic Book Central
http://comicbookcentral.net/

This Podcast is full of interviews with people involved with Film and Television adaptations of Comic Book Properties.  The host, Joe Stuber is knowledgeable and does his homework before each interview.  He digs deep and always has fun doing his interviews.  If you are fan of the various adaptations both old and new, Joe has the interviews for you.


Corelle Global Stripes and Oneida Lincoln

I know these are two items, but I will count them as one.  These are my dishes and flatware.  I left my 90% of kitchen stuff when I left the old life.  This year I was gifted these.  The folks who gifted them had me chose my pattern.  I have come to the realization that I have a Diesel Punk style.  That is a retro-futuristic style based on the 1930’s to 1950’s.  Films like Brazil and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are example of this aesthetic.  It is nice to have my own things.  These both have an Art Deco feel to them.     


Charles de Lint- Wildlings Series (Under My Skin, Over My Head, and Out of This World)

The first two books were released before this year.  I read them this year.  I own the third, but have not read it yet.  The idea is kids in a Southern California suburb are discovering they are shapeshifters, they call themselves Wildlings.  In the lore of the novels they are descended from the cousins or First People, the animal people of various Native American legends.  I enjoy the story and some humor.  One aspect is one Wildling character is fairly large in human form, but has a very small animal form.   This is used in humorous aspect and reminds me of what Yoda use to say, "Size matters not."


Weird Al Yankovic- Mandatory Fun

Weird Al came back in 2014 for his final album.  He said from now on he would only release single or smaller collections.  The Internet and specifically YouTube have kind of stolen his shtick.  This was his first Number One album.  The previous album I was not that familiar with the songs he was parodying.  This time around I knew more, thanks to my renewed observance to pop culture.  His originals are deliciously wicked and fun.  The Weird one is not so much back, he never left, but he definitely is at the top of his game.  


The Flash

DC Comics in the fall of 2014 launched three of their four shows for the season.  The fourth is scheduled to debut in early 2015.  I found Gotham good, but I am not a Batman fan so it really did not blow my socks off.  I love Constantine and I did not choose it for here, because it covered some of the same kind of ground as Penny Dreadful in Dark Fantasy/ Horror.  The 2014 version of the Flash was everything you want from a Superhero show form a character that debuted in the Silver Age.  The producers found the right balance between realistic and bright, shiny, hopeful four colored world.  There are Easter eggs galore for both fans of the Flash and DC Comics fans.  Even fans of the Justice League animated shows and direct-to-DVD films would get some of the Easter eggs.  They even got the actor who played the Flash in the 1990 TV show on board as Barry Allen’s father. Wonderful cast, great scripts, this show is hitting on all cylinders.


Chef

Yes, I am a bit of a foodie.  Hell, I was that before that term became so trendy.  That means I love good food, both eating and making it.  This Film hit the sweet spot on my love of food.  It is the story of a guy who lost his way in his vocation, cooking, and with his family.  The Movie is about reconnecting to things important in one’s life, one’s passion and one’s family.  This movie also resonated with me as I am also reconnecting to many of my passions and redefining myself.  John Favreau hit this one out of the park.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Reflective Material

December 12th is the Anniversary of my present path; I left a lot of heartache and sorrow three years ago.  This year has been a struggle.  I have been unemployed, and struggling with finding a job.  When I stated this journey I went from two jobs down to one, now I have none.  I have been dealing with something I did not know was a major concern, my health.  In gaining as much weight as I have, I have found out I have high blood pressure and low endurance.  Not to worry, I am being monitored by health care professionals.

One thing I have discovered is who my true friends are.  I discovered a Facebook group started by my favorite author.  It has been an outlet for discussions I do not know I needed. It also introduced me to dear online friends.   I have two friendships that have shockingly been wonderful and desperately needed.  Eric B and Mary thank you for being there and being my friends.  I discovered that many of the friendships I thought I wanted were not what I needed.  The ones I got surpassed any expectations.

As to my goals, due to lack of a job and therefore money there were many things I was unable to do.  That was mostly the larger events.  The things I did get to do were more appreciated by me.  I did a few Monster Kid Radio Crashes.  I went to two Funemployment Radio Network Events.  I saw my friend Wilton perform with his bands at least once.  I find myself parting with more of my things; I am even considering parting with some of my Action Figures.  The Geek Community things are right now not at the forefront of my thinking.  I enjoy being there with my friends, but I have trouble with large noisy situations. 

Funny enough, I had only planned to write 12 blog articles.  The rest of the year was supposed to be about fiction writing.  With this piece I have 32 pieces under my belt, including a poem from my University days.  As of this writing the Recovering Ubergeek Blog has 4,431 hits.  I repackaged some of my work from my Shadowrun Shamanism Website days.  That started in April and ended in September of 2014.  In it short run it had, as of this writing, 1,268 hits.  My plans for the Recovering Ubergeek blog in 2015 are uncertain.  I still have at least 3 more articles in the pipeline.

I did get to fiction; I finally finished my first piece of fiction in 16 years.  I have many pieces I started, but never finished.  This was a piece I wrote for a friend in their setting.  It is a very nice and welcome beginning.  Years ago I said I would never play in someone else’s sandbox.  This case was someone I knew, not some impersonal, uncaring corporation.  It fit best in their setting and was an idea I have been play with for 16 years as well.

I have done two things I am proud of, begun an exercise regimen (walking a mile every other day) and being more regular with hygiene.  In the old, life I gave up, that included taking care of myself.  I have learned to love who I am and where I am going.  I still struggle with caring what others think, specifically those not in my direct circles.  I am caring less, but for me it takes constant work.  I am discovering what kind of people I want to surround myself with.  With what I have been through, I am quite a picky person on that particular subject.

Things I wish to accomplish in 2015 are going to Rose City Comicon and Ory Con, writing more fiction, getting things figured out for a possible return to college (I have 4 years and no degree),  finding work, moving to the immediate Portland area instead of the outskirts (where I am now), and maybe drawing again.  Things that I am toying with are the possibilities of beginning my own podcast, working as a civil rights activist, and culinary school.  Those possibilities are contingent on other things.  For a podcast I need a newer computer and sound equipment. Culinary school is only going to happen once I finish my degree.  The civil rights work, I am not sure with where or how to begin. 


I needed this year to rethink things.  I needed to see that what I needed and what I wanted or expected were not the same things.  2013 was about me getting out into the bigger world.  2014 was about me learning what was truly important and what I needed.  I may find out in 2015 things about myself and where I am headed that may amaze me.  That is more than likely since it happened in the preceding two years. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CrossGen Comics

 In 2000, a new comic book publisher came onto the scene.  They were called CrossGen.  They started with four regular titles and one periodic title.  They added one more title in 2000.  Then in 2001 they expanded with three new regular titles.  In 2002 they added another four titles.  In 2003 they added another 4 titles and one more was added in 2004.  That did not include the various spin-off miniseries or licensed titles.  Many believe that the company expanded to fast without having the proper readership to keep up with the publishing costs. 

They were not the first to do non-spandex comics with a shared continuity.  They however tried to cohesively tie various opposing genres into a unified continuity.   The attempt of fusing so many disparate concepts may have been a factor in their demise. They also tried to have better business practices with the regards to employees. 

Other novel publishing ideas included collecting all the titles in anthology compendiums.  This is something found in European and Japanese comic book and manga publishing.  This idea was extremely resisted by the retail establishment.  After an incident when two major book store chains discontinued carrying their titles and did a huge nationwide return, things looked very grim for the publisher. After ceasing publishing in 2004, Disney bought all the intellectual property of CrossGen.  In 2011 after the purchase of Marvel by Disney, there was an attempted revival.  It was not highly publicized or marketed.  They did some major changes to the concepts of two of the three properties they attempted to reboot. They seemed to avoid some of the most popular titles in the reboot.

CrossGen had many strong female characters both as lead characters and supporting characters.  At the time this was also unusual.  CrossGen played with a few genres outside the traditional western comic books format as well. I am going to explain the shared universe, and then I will write-up all the major titles.  CrossGen also published creator owned and licensed books as well.  Those titles I will not be covering.  Many survived finding new publishers or self published.  Warning the write-ups include some serious spoilers.  The company went out of business 10 years ago, so there has been more than enough time. 


Sigilverse Shared Universe of CrossGen

Many of the Characters in the CrossGen Universe had a mark on them called a Sigil, hence why many refer to the shared universe as the Sigilverse. The story of the Sigil Bearers was central to many of the books.  Many characters had mentors who knew more than they were letting on.  There was also the First, a group of God-Like beings who were involved in the larger narrative.  The Sigil Bearers were created to combat an upcoming threat, the Negation.  There was a major event that was going on when the company folded, the Negation War.  The mini-series that told the main part of that event did not finish.  Many titles were in the middle of their story lines, when the company shut down operations.


Sigil

Sigil was a Military Science Fiction Space Opera.  It was set where a group of human worlds, the Planetary Union were at war with the Reptilian, Saurians.   Our hero was Samandahl "Sam" Rey, a Planetary Union Veteran turned mercenary.  Sam ended up a Sigil-bearer.  The series continued his and his crew’s adventures in the middle of the War.   It was a very gritty Space Opera.  Marvel attempted to reboot this in 2011 with Sam now a teenage girl from South Carolina who keeps shifting through time and space.


Mystic

Mystic was set on a world where Sorcery was an organized and real.  There were seven Sorcery Guilds and they control the world of Ciress, the setting.  Ciress was a high technology planet, but also a Magical one as well.  Giselle a spoiled socialite was given the Sigil on the day her sister was to become a Master of one of the Guilds.  When Giselle gained her Sigil she absorbed the spirits of the long dead Masters of all seven Sorcery Guilds.  By doing this she had seemingly usurped the power of the current Guild Masters.  Giselle’s journey was about mastering her new abilities, ones she did not want.  Mystic was part of the attempted revival.  It was more about a magic in a Steampunk style world where only Nobles knew magic.  The two sisters are breaking the rules being poor and teaching themselves magic. 


Meridian

Meridian was set in a world of floating islands and flying ships.   In this world each island was ruled by a Minister. The Minister of the island Meridian died leaving his fifteen year old daughter Sephie as Minister.  She and her Uncle, Ilahn, had the Sigils.  They were opposites whereas her powers were for healing, his were for destruction. They struggled against each other, Ilahn for power and Sephie to protect those she loved. 


Scion

Scion was set on a Techno-Feudal world.  The world was like the era of chivalry but had high Technological trappings including the genetically engineered lower races.   Two Dynasties on the planet warred, the Heron and Raven Dynasties. The story followed Ethan of The Heron Kingdom as he gained a Sigil.  He fought to avoid a war between his family and the Raven Kingdom.  The story follows the young Prince on his journey of discovery.  Scion was one of the few that ended a storyline before ending.  It was open to future stories.


CrossGen Chronicles

CrossGen Chronicles was an anthology book.  Each issue was a story from another world within the Sigilverse.  Usually the stories filled in the blanks for back-story for each title.


The First

The First followed the exploits of the First.  They were a collection of very powerful, nearly immortal beings, each of whom represented a different emotion.   The stories told were epic and very Homeric. They with the Sigil bearers were meant to battle with beings from another universe in the Negation War.  Like stated earlier that particular event was not completed, because of the company’s bankruptcy.



Crux

Crux was about a group of Atlanteans waking up in the present in the Sigilverse, 900th Century.  Earth has become an abandoned Amusement Park.  It is told that most of the Atlanteans transitioned to another plane of existence while some remained in suspended animation.  The Atlanteans Transition led to the Cataclysm and sinking of Atlantis.  There was a mystery to what happened to the residents of Earth and why they disappeared.


Sojourn

Sojourn was a quest styled High Fantasy tale.  In this story the Sigil Bearer was the main villain.  The heroine Arwyn, an archer, was on a quest for the five shards of a mystical arrow to defeat the evil Mordath, a wicked wizardly dictator.  It had many of the trappings of typical Fantasy, including Wizards, Dragon, Trolls and more.


Ruse

Ruse was a wonderful Victorian style Master Sleuth tale, akin to Sherlock Homes.  It starred Simon Archard as the prestigious consulting detective and Emma Bishop is aide and partner.  It is hinted one is a Sigil Bearer and the other a guide.  That is never completely examined during the run.  The revival turned the city of Partington into a Victorian settlement from being the capital city on another world.  It had the fewest changes, but enough that it rubbed long time fans wrong.  Mostly the mentions of the Sigils and the city being on another world were removed. 

Negation

This title followed the exploits of beings that had been abducted from the Sigilverse to the Negation universe.  It also answered the question what happen to the population of Earth.  They attempted a transition similar to that the Atlanteans accomplished.  Instead of ascension they were transported to another universe entirely.  The story deals with the fallout of these events.


The Path

The Path was set on the world of Han Jin which was also the same world for Way of The Rat and Brath.  The path’s two major political cultures were bases on China and Japan during the Samurai era.  The first Sigil bearer, Todosi, was killed by a member of the First, his brother, Obo-San, replaces him.  It deals with the invasion by Nayado, the stand in for Japan, of the Shinacean Empire, the stand in for China.  It story deals with the fall out of that event.


The Way of the Rat

The Way of the Rat was set in the Shinacean Empire.  It followed Boon Sai Hong, a thief known as the Jade Rat, and his exploits.  It was an example of a Wuxia, Chinese Martial arts tale.  Boon with his talking monkey companion, Po Po, found themselves over their heads when he tries to steal an item that gets stolen by another thief.  Boon’s exploits push him into the world or mystical powers and magical artifacts.  He also ran afoul of the corrupt government. 


Route 666

Route 666 was a Horror comic set on a world in the middle of a ‘50’s era cold war.   Cassie Starkweather started to see dark spirits.  Cassie ended up in a Mental Hospital.  The staff tried to convince her that what she was seeing was not real, however it was real.  The Hospital was in on the conspiracy and Cassie found herself fighting an entity called the Adversary. Cassie escaped and teamed up with a young man who later dies.  His father, a local sheriff, ended up believing Cassie, and they end up on a road trip to fight the conspiracy as the National Bureau of Investigation was on their tail.  Cassie had been framed for murder.  It was a wonderful blend of Cold War Horror and Road film.  Cassie was also a Sigil Bearer.


Brath

Brath followed Brath MacGaren, a Sigil Bearer and Urelander clansman. He was fighting the Legions of the Empire, a Roman Empire stand in.  The plot and story followed the typical Celts versus Roman Empire plots found in many Historical novels dealing with the early first centuries A.D. Brath’s mentor comes to him in the guise of the Stag God. 


Chimera

Chimera was a miniseries, which was teased to be revisited at a later date.  It was about Sara, the sole survivor of a planetary genocide that left the Chimera Imperial forces wiped out as well.  Sara was a Sigil Bearer and a child when the incident occurred.  She found herself on a distant frozen world as a miner.  She was trying to keep a low profile, but events kept that from happening.    


Solus

Solus was about Solusandra, an ascended Atlantean.  She was the creator of the First, and helped create the Sigil Bearers, which she did with Dank.  The other ascended Atlanteans, except for Danik, did not approve of her actions. The ascended Atlanteans attacked Solusandra, this resulted in their deaths.  The only two ascended Atlanteans remaining are Solusandra and Danik.  Solusandra was an amnesiac, since the attack and the story followed her attempting to relearn who she was.


El Cazador

Whereas most of the titles in the main Sigilverse were set in the far future, El Cazador was the first set in the past.  El Cazador was a tale from the Golden Age of Piracy during the 17th Century.  It told the story of a Spanish noblewoman who becomes a pirate captain herself after being captured by pirates.


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The second Sigilverse title to be set in Earth’s past, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was set in the 1960’s.  It followed an MI-6 agent named Charles Basildon.  Charles Basildon was revealed to be the name given to the top British agent.  We were introduced to Stephanie Shelly, who was partnered up with Basildon.  It was hinted Shelly may be the next Basildon some day. The title came from the Italian nickname for James Bond, Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.


Abadazad

Abadazad was not a Sigilverse title, but it was not a creator owned title either.  It was a series about a magical world that was written about by an author during the late 1800’s to the early 1920’s.  A group of children discover the stories had some grains of truth in them.  It melds Oz, Wonderland and other children’s fantasy from the same era.  It was revived by Hyperion Books, a division of Disney in 2006 in a hybrid format.  That format according to Wikipedia was a children's book series that combines diary entries, full-page illustrations, and sequential art.


The attempted revivals by Marvel, I feel did not do well, because they did not market them correctly.  Many CrossGen fans did not know they were out.  Another problem was they messed with the formula tried to fit the books in their idea of how they should work.  They also did not choose the most popular, save Ruse, of the titles.  I personally thought they should have launched Meridian, Route 666 and Ruse.  Route 666 was planned, but the poor sales of the first three led to that project being cancelled.  CrossGen was great and had well written strong female characters.  Maybe someday someone who grew up with these titles will have a shot at them with Marvel at a later date.


After seeing Big Hero 6, I think Meridian would be a perfect property for Disney Animation to adapt.  Sephie would fit in with many modern princesses, Merida, Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa.  It has the right amount of wonder and action.  Abadazad would be another good idea as well.  Especially with both properties not being used by Marvel, they could have a great chance as animated film.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Amusement Parks & Me

My history with amusements parks is storied.  I grew up in Ventura County California, near three top tier Parks on the west coast.  I also went to one park that back then, the mid 1980’s that was still considered second tier park and had not been elevated to first tier yet.  I went to these parks from 1970 to 1985.  Having attended these kinds of Amusement Parks with permanent attractions, I have always been leery of county/state fair rides and carnival rides.  It has always been a safety concern to me.  I am going to break it down by park.  There is also a big local institution on the list.


Disneyland

This was my first Amusement park.  It was my favorite as a pre-pubescent kid.  As a tween and teen I found it a little too kiddie, especially Fantasyland.  The first few visits were during the old Coupon or ticket system.  You had to buy tickets for each ride.  In the 1980’s when I started going almost regularly, from 1982 to 1985, that system was replaced by the park day pass.  I have not been back since 1984 or 1985.  I know the park has changed considerably in almost 30 years.  I loved The Enchanted Tiki Room, Bear Country Jamboree, Mister Toad’s Wild Ride, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, The Matterhorn, The Pirate of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion the most.   I know of those, the Country Bear Jamboree, one is no longer there.  It is at Disney World.  There are many attractions gone from my day, mostly from Tomorrowland (Mission to Mars, People Mover, Skyway to Fantsyland, Rocket Jets, Submarine Voyage, Adventure through Inner Space, America Sings Circle Vision 360, and more).  There are many newer attractions I never got the chance to experience. I have not been east of Utah, so that Park is not one I am familiar with.  In the 1980’s there were very few non fast food type places, from what I understand that has changed.  I have fond memories of going with My Great Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends during those years.  Since I left Southern California, they added a new park to Disneyland and there are Disneylands all over the world.


Six Flags Magic Mountain

This park was the closest to my hometown of Oxnard, California.  It was less than an hour drive to this park.  My family first went here for my brother’s fifth birthday in 1976.  It was more a thrill ride park than Disneyland.  It stated with its own in house characters, after it was purchased by Six Flags in 1979 it moved more towards Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes characters, at least for the area dedicated for the smaller kids.  Between the ages of 12 and 17, I preferred Magic Mountain.  I was even thrilled to find out they filmed the Wally World scenes of National Lampoon’s Vacation there. As a 12 to 17 year old, I had few vices, but thrill rides were among the ones I had.  Magic Mountain was known for its thrill rides.  There is also a category of rides where you spin around in a circle in various ways; I called these rides spin and pukes. In the eighties they had concerts that were free with admission to the park.  Bands that played were Flock of Seagulls, Cheap Trick, Quiet Riot, Berlin, and more. Since I left they have branded a section of the park as DC Universe and renamed many of the rides after DC superheroes.  The concerts from what I heard were toned down after gang issues in the 1990’s.  In August of 2014 they closed the Colossus, one of the largest wooden roller coasters down for a refit.  Like with all of Southern California, I have not been back since 1985. 


Knott’s Berry Farm

Of the top three Amusement parks, I considered Knott’s Berry Farm number three.  When I left, it had not licensed the Peanuts characters for it younger kids’ section.  It had Montezuma’s Revenge, a rollercoaster that was a single loop de loop that repeated multiple times forwards and backwards.  It was a decent park, but was not as thrilling and teen oriented as Magic Mountain or as family oriented as Disneyland.  Since then, they have done more with the old west theme and the kids themes with Camp Snoopy.  From what I have been able to find out lest that 30 percent of the attractions from my day are still there.  Knott’s also did concerts and teen events during my day.  There were a number of good thrill rides including the roller coaster called the Corkscrew, which has since been replaced.


Universal Studios Hollywood

In the 1980’s, Universal Studios Hollywood was called Universal Studios Tours.  It was mostly the Tour ride with a couple of live shows.  At the time it was a tier two Amusement Park.  Since 1985, the expansion of the Lower lot, in 1991, it has grown to become the fourth of the Southern Californian Tier One Amusement Parks.  When I went at 17, I was not impressed.  This was after years of Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knott’s.  From what I understand that has changed considerable in the close to 30 years since. 


Busch Gardens, Van Nuys California

I only went once to the Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, California.  It was in 1974.  We went with my paternal Great Aunt and Uncle.  I believe we went, because it was the only Amusement Park with a beer garden.  This must have been difficult for my father who was 3 years sober at the time.  There were some attractions, but they were tier two or three variety stuff.  The gardens and the bird sanctuary were fun, but not what a 6 year old would find fun.  I have very vague memories of the place and would find it hard to describe the rides.  The Amusements closed down in 1976 and the whole park closed in 1979. 


Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon

Enchanted Forest is just south of Salem, Oregon.  It has always been a kid’s oriented place, especially under 10. It was opened in 1971 and the family who built still owns it.  I went at 10 or 11, so for me it was a little cheesy.  It does not have the money behind it like the other parks mentioned here, so it may not be as polished.  It is a still fun little park.  It is more like the smaller parks found in the mid west and east coast.  During the 90’s to early 2000’s next door was a thrill ride park called Thrillville USA.  That has since closed.  I did not visit Thrillville, hence why it does not have its own entry. Enchanted Forest does the best on the budget they have, which is still fun.  I remind folks I have only been once.   


There you go my history with Amusement Parks based on a Park to Park basis.  That Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Podcasty Goodness

As we enter in the last quarter of 2014, I realize there are a few podcasts I have not covered yet. A few of these I discovered this year and others I just forgot to include them.  This will be the shortest of the Podcast write-up articles.  That is because most of the really good stuff has been covered earlier on the blog. 


The Disney, Indiana Podcast

The Disney, Indiana Podcast is hosted by husband and wife team Scott and Tracey Morris.  As the title implies they are podcasting from the state of Indiana.  They offer listeners residency to the imaginary town of Disney, Indiana.  I even have an address and it is 1957 El Camino del Zorro, Disney, Indiana.  The show is about all things Disney: the parks, the resorts, the cruise line, Disney proper, Marvel, Pixar, the Muppets, Lucasfilm and many more divisions and properties of Disney.  From time to time they present audio from Park attractions and music from anything under the Disney banner. They have a great time with each other, the subject matter, and the show.  They are a fun Bi-Weekly podcast.


The Alton Browncast
http://thebrowncast.libsyn.com/ (The first 49 podcasts)
http://altonbrown.com/altonblog/the-alton-browncast-podcast/ (The succeeding podcasts starting with episode 50.  Lat episode was episode 59, launched December 5th, 2014)

Alton Brown from Food Network had a podcast on the Nerdist Network.  His last show was in June of 2014.   The show returned in October with a new feed.  He started with multiple segments then became an interview show.  He does not just interview Chef and television personalities.  He has interviews with people in the culinary world with unique and interesting perspectives.  The show is worth a try to anyone interested in cooking and food.


Christiana Ellis/ Space Casey/ Nina Kimberly the Merciless/ Shallow Thoughts

I have mentioned Christiana before as a panel member of The Beyond the Wall Podcast and the Consumption Podcast.  I had encountered her before with her Podcast novels in Podiobooks and her Shallow Thoughts podcast.  Nina Kimberly the Merciless is a Fantasy Comedy podcast Novel and Space Casey is Space Opera Comedy.  She is known for her irreverent humor and definitely is a fan of Monty Python.  Warning eating and listening to Christiana can be hazardous to your health.


The Worlds of Abigail Hilton/ The Prophet of Panamindorah

I mentioned Abigail Hilton’s Guild of the Cowry Catchers podcast of that series of books.  I forgot to mention the first set of books she podcast set in the same world as Cowry Catchers.  The Prophet of Panamindoroah is a young adult style trilogy where as Cowry Catchers was a mature audiences series.   Most folks discover this first.  Sorry I forgot to mention the first series.  They are very different, but same world and same author.  The Worlds of Abigail Hilton Podcast releases two shows a week.  The first is an old but not forgotten piece of podcasted short fiction.  Her second podcast of the week is discussion, fan feedback and personal updates.  Abbie is thoughtful and interesting.


Comic Book Central

Comic Books Central is a podcast about what its catchphrase says it is, “Where Comic Books come to life.”  It is an interview show with folks who have brought Comic Book Characters to TV or Film in either live action or animation.  The host is Joe Stuber, also from the IndyCast.  He interviews actors, producers, directors, and show runners of these adaptations.  He has interviewed Erin Gray, Lou Ferrigno, William Katt, Stan Lee and many more.  A good deal of it is centered on the 70’s and 80’s TV and Film, but he has covered more including the Marvel Films and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   It is a great interview show.


1951 Down Place

1951 Down Place is a Hammer Horror film podcast.  Its hosts are Derek Koch, of Monster Kid Radio and formerly of the Mail Order Zombie podcast, Scott Morris, of the Disney, Indiana Podcast, and Casey Criswell of Cinema Fromage, Bloody Good Horror, and the Instomatic Podcast.   Hammer Films are films produced from Hammer Studios in the U.K.  They are mostly known for Horror from the 50’s to the 60’s.  Derek and Casey are the old veteran fans and Scott is the newbie.  They discuss a new film every month.   As of October of 2014 they have covered 37 films.  It is wonderful discussion of everything that made Hammer interesting.


Radio Free Nerdcore
http://radiofreenerdcore.com/

Radio Free Nerdcore is from Jeff “DJ Switch” Sorensen of the Dangerous Kids Podcast.  This podcast is about Nerdcore, Nerd flavored Hip-Hop, and Nerd/Geek music in general.  It includes interviews and music with folks involved in the Nerd/Geek music community.  Switch usually asks his guests to give the audience a top ten list of their favorite Nerd/Geek songs.  It is great stuff and from time to time Switch learns something new.  The joy of discovery from him is fun to experience. One learns that the host loves this variety of music.   


Geek Remixed: The Podcast/ Geek Remixed

Not covering this podcast was huge oversight.  Bobby Roberts, of Cort and Fatboy Show and Welcome to That Whole Thing, uses the moniker of Fatboy Roberts for his remixes.  He remixes Television, film, and Video game themes.  He also has done a few mash-ups as well.  He did a podcast from August to November of 2012 that ran down the whys hows and whatfors of his process of making that music.  It is informative and he even includes what versions of what songs he used to mix his work.  I have both the link to the podcast and his music here.   UPDATE:  The Podcast has been taken down, as have several songs from the Geek Remixed site. 


Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men

Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes try to explain the convoluted and wonderful continuity of the X-Men.  They start with the Silver Age and move forward. They also have a YouTube show Rachel and Miles Review the X-Men where they do video reviews of most of the X titles. They are fans sharing their love of everyone’s favorite Uncanny Mutants and all their various offshoots.  If you are a old hand or a novice, if you love the X-Men this is for you.  


The Neverland Podcast
http://neverlandpodcast.com/

Jeremy Shields' Disney-centric Podcast, but he cover all things young at heart: Superheroes, 80's and 90's cartoons, and more.  Word for the wise, I have guested on the podcast.  Jeremy is a great host and made me feel so welcome I tried his podcast out as a listener.  It is good general fun for those who are children of the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Check it out is it a fun listen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mainstreaming

Nerd/Geek music in nothing new many can point to Tom Lehrer and Weird Al Yankovic as antecedents to the current Nerd/Geek music movement.  There are musical acts that are considered mainstream that have huge Nerd/Geek followings.  It is not just Pop Culture Nerd/Geek followings, but also Music Nerd/Geek followings.  Also some musical genres and sub-genres owe good deal to their Nerd/Geek followings as well.  I will start with the genres then go into individual bands.  I will by no means cover all the possibilities.  I hope to get to a good selection of what is out there.



Progressive Rock

Progressive Rock AKA Prog Rock has had a serious Nerd/Geek following.  First its experimental style attracts the Music Nerds/Geeks.  Some bands use a good amount of Fantasy and Science Fiction imagery in their music as well.   Since Nerds/Geeks are thinking people and Progressive Rock is a thinking person’s musical genre, it is a match made in musical nirvana.  Bands that would fit this are Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Primus, and Dream Theater.


Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal itself may not seem nerdy/geeky, but some bands are notorious with their horror, comic book, Science fiction, popular culture, and fantasy references.  Anthrax wrote a song about Judge Dredd and Iron Maiden wrote a song about the 1960’s show The Prisoner.  Heavy Metal is full of Comic Book fans like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Scott Ian and many more.   The Power Metal sub-genre is full of fantasy imagery everywhere in the songs.  Do not forget the album covers, many fantasy artists worked on a Heavy Metal album or two back in the day. There are also quite a few fans in the genre of Horror in all it forms.  Monster Kids would definitely be at home here.  Bands that would fit this would be Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, White Zombie, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and more.


New Wave

New Wave, specifically that from the 70’s and 80’s, has not just influenced Nerdy/ Geeky music, but also Nerdy/ Geeky fashion. Bands like, but not limited to Modern English, Depeche Mode, Boomtown Rats, Thomas Dolby, Elvis Costello, and REM have given various styles.  Quite a few Nerds/Geeks still rock the horned rimmed glasses and skinny ties Elvis Costello made fashionable.   It also helps that most of the older members of the nerd/geek community were in their teenaged years during this period.  In some ways the modern hipster has stolen much of his style from this genre.  Musically this is also a vast and diverse genre, New Wave begat New Music which begat Alternative.  For a time the term Progressive Music was used for these styles. 


David Bowie

David Bowie may not be a Nerd/Geek; however he inspired many of them and inspired a diverse group of genres.  Without Bowie there is no Glam, Glam Metal, New Wave, Goth, New Romantics movement, Alternative, Grunge, and others that do not come quickly to mind.  Bowie worked with Science Fiction imagery first with Space Oddity then with Ziggy Stardust.  Bowie also is an Actor who starred in various Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, The Prestige, and The Hunger.


Queen

Queen’s Nerd/Geek following is for numerous reasons.  First, they are popular among music and theater Nerds/Geeks for their theatrical and operatic styles both musically, lyrically and performance wise.   Second, their two forays into film Soundtracks are Nerd/Geek classics, Flash Gordon and Highlander.  Both are in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  Third, their style changes for song to song, Operatic one, then ragtime, and hard rock on another.  This would happen on the same album.  They worked within Rock, Jazz, Ballads, Funk, Operatic, Punk and anything they could think of.  Freddie Mercury had an amazing versatile voice with a huge range.


Ronnie James Dio

Here I mention Ronnie James Dio and not his band Dio.  Why?  That is because it is all of his work including the various bands he was in: Rainbow, Elf, Black Sabbath and Dio.  Ronnie was not only the vocalist, but lyricist.   He liked Fantasy and injected it into as many songs as he could get away with.   He loved the Sword and Sorcery imagery.  Many cite him as being one of the pivotal people in bringing those themes into Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.  He was not the first or the last, but still was very influential.


Rush

Rush has a Geek/Nerd following, because of their musical mastery and their lyrical theme.  Music Nerds/Geeks love the tight musical style the trio made famous.  Their lyrics follow Sci-Fi and Fantasy themes as well.  Recently they did their first concept album in a Steampunk setting.  With songs about Inter-Galactic Empires, Robots, Mystical Quests and Necromancers how would Geeks/Nerds not love them? 


Devo

Devo’s aesthetic and their absurdist humor have always appealed to Nerds/Geeks.  They were weird for weirdness sake.  To this day they are the epitome of Nerd/Geek New Wave.  They delight those into synthesizer, Art, and just plain weird.  Nerds/Geeks who felt weird just for being themselves felt a kinship to Devo. 


Talking Heads

Talking Heads were part of the original Punk movement of the early to mid 1970’s.  Their style became more closely associated with New Wave.  They were an Avant-Garde Art band.  They had some of the similar absurdist predelictions that is found in bands like the B-52’s and Devo.  Their being a little out of left field made them fun and again made them resonate with Nerds/Geeks. 


Muse

Muse has its Nerd/Geek followers for multiple reasons.  They are like the band that writes soundtracks for movies that do not exist.  They are hugely reminiscent of Queen.  For Music types, their delving in musical influences as diverse as Telestar by the Tornadoes and Ennio Morricone, which was just in one song, shows knowledge and skill.  They can go Pop, Dub-Step and Operatic.  Their lead singer does not have Freddie Mercury’s range, but no one does.  He does very well with the range he has.  Muse is part of a new generation of Progressive Rock acts.  Like Queen they straddle Prog Rock and Pop. 


Weezer

Weezer came out during the heyday of the Alternative Rock scene of the early mid 1990’s.  With songs like Buddy Holly and In the Garage, they proved their connection to Nerd/Geek Culture.  They were Nerds/Geeks.  They were not going to hide it.  They somehow gained a mainstream audience without alienating people like themselves.  They from time to time would tap into influence like Talking Heads and other bands mentioned here.


Oingo Boingo

Oingo Boingo in all its various incarnations has been known for being weird, strange and a little dorky too.  They wrote and performed the title song for the John Hughes Nerd/Geek classic film Weird Science.  They love California kitsch including Mexican Day of the Dead imagery.  They started as a musical theater group in the vein of Frank Zappa and Spike Jones.  If that isn’t Nerdy/Geeky, I do not know what is.  They have been known for their Halloween concerts.  Danny Elfman, the lead singer, went on to be a big soundtrack composer on projects the Nerd/Geek community love like Batman (1989), Beetlejuice, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Simpsons, The Flash (1990), and Tales of the Crypt.


The Barenaked Ladies

The Barenaked Ladies are a alternative band from Canada whose style is very folky.  They are included here for a few reasons.  They created the theme for Nerd/Geek TV show the Big Bang Theory.  They mentioned Aquaman, X-Files and Akira Kurosawa in their song One Week.  They also do not take themselves too seriously on and off the stage.  Songs like If I Had $1,000,000, Enid, Be My Yoko Ono, Brian Wilson, One Week and Pinch Me show this silliness and playfulness.


The B-52’s

They have kitschy 1950’s/ 1960’s style.  They are known for their tongue and cheek approach to lyrics, the B-52’s are definitely well loved among Nerd/Geek types.   Their penchant for B Movies and alien invasion motifs are popular in the Nerd/Geek community.  Their music is also retro to the late fifties and early sixties as well.  With the bee hive hair dos and almost novelty type songs they have a fun irreverent energy.


They Might Be Giants

They Might Be giants have been known to cover Nerdy/Geeky subject matter in their songs.  They covered the 1950’s song Istanbul (Not Constantinople).  In recent years, they have recorded many Children’s songs including songs for the Disney Junior show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  They are also known for the Malcolm in the middle Theme, Boss of Me.  Their humorous and unconventional style has made them big amongst Nerds/Geeks.


The Misfits

This iconic punk band is known for Horror imagery in their album covers, merchandise and songs.  The Misfits are considered the progenitors of the Horror Punk genre.  They also were known to appear in makeup with horror themed costumes.  Musically they are reminiscent of fifties and sixties rock, but sped up.  Horror Nerds/Geeks gravitate to this bands iconic style and imagery. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rush & Me Part III

Welcome to the third installment of my Rush and Me series.  This is the final of the write ups of Rush’s studio albums.  This set goes from Power Windows (1986) to Clockwork Angles (2012).  This also includes the period I stopped listening to the band’s newer work.  It lasted from Test for Echo (1996) to Snakes and Arrows (2007).  I had heard these albums, but they had not resonated with me.  This also corresponds with the time I was in a volatile relationship.   This era also includes their first and only, at this time, collection of covers.  Warning these are my impressions and opinions, they are by no means the only way to interpret these works.


Power Windows (1985)

This was the fourth Rush album I owned and the first given to me as a Christmas gift.  It has a special place for a handful of reasons.  First it came out during my senior year of high school.  It was also the first year that I had lived in Oregon full time.  Having a new album from my favorite band during what was a journey into both familiar and unfamiliar territories was great. The album prior to this may have been considered the first album Rush tackled some political themes, they did the same with this one.  Many of those themes still hold up today.  The first song Big Money talks about the corruption seen in multinational corporations.  Grand Designs covers the superficiality of the music industry of the mid 1980’s.  Manhattan Project, my favorite song on this album, is about the beginning of the Atomic era and all of its implications.  It is a beautiful insightful song.  Marathon is about running a marathon; it tries to evoke the feeling and intensity of that activity. Territories is about the toxicity of nationalism in a world were globalism is increasing.  Middletown Dreams deals with the monotony of being a suburban middleclass cog in the great machine and the desire to break out of it. Emotion Detector deals with people’s emotional fragility and how we need to work to be better to each other. Mystic Rhythms is about the unknown and the mystical and how we will always have knowledge that is out of our reach.  Overall this is a great album and it has sentimental meaning for me.


Hold Your Fire (1987)

This was the first of the two albums release while I was in university.  This was still in the heavy synthesizer era, although their last album from that era.  It has one of my all favorite songs on it. It is also the band’s final album with Mercury.  Force Ten starts with a rapid fire drum beat at the beginning reminiscent of a barrage of bullets.  The song uses storm terminology as a metaphor about personal turmoil.  Time Stands Still features Aimee Mann, formerly of Til Tuesday on backing vocals.  The song talks about not missing the important moments, but also not dwelling on the past either.  Open Secret is about being oblivious to the obvious in one’s life.  Second Nature is about how humans have more in common than they give credit and we need to work together than work against each other.  Lock and Key is about keeping the instinct for violence in humanity locked up.  Mission is about those with creative fires and that it is not always easy as some believe. Mission is my all time favorite song by the band.  When I heard it at the age of 19, it sang to me my very being.  Tai Shan is a wonderful homage to Chinese music and culture. This was a good album, for Mission alone it holds a cherished place in my heart.


Presto (1989)

Presto was the first album on Atlantic and it was also a return to a more guitar oriented sound.  It also was the start of more experimenting with different bass guitar sounds and styles, like funk.  Show Don’t Tell is about how sometimes trusting people can be a bad thing, so do not believe everything you hear.  Chain Lightning is about watching weather phenomena.  The Pass is a song about suicide and how it is not a noble decision in the least.  War Paint is about the need of young people to try to impress each other with colorful plumage in the mating dance.  It covers the subject of trying to conform to a group’s concept of beauty.  The song, Scars, talks about all kinds of scars, physical, emotions, personal, societal, and those scars upon our environment as well.   Presto, the song is about illusions of all kinds, especially those involving one’s self.  Hand Over Fist is about the conflict of wanting to be part of a group and wanting to be alone or an individual.  Superconductor tells of the music industry’s propensity to manufacture an image for its artists like a packaged product.  This was an album that I enjoyed; stylistically it was closer to the style I liked from the band.  I have always felt it was a prelude to the next two albums.


Roll the Bones (1991)

This is the first album from the nineties proper.  It includes their first attempt at rap and playing with a funkier sound which was also heavier than before.  They play with Jazz in this album as well.  Dreamline is about being young with all the possibilities open to you.  Bravado, the second song, deals with pushing past failure, especially when it is not an option. Roll the Bones, the titular song, is noted for its section of rap and funky bass line. The subject matter is about taking chances in life; some things are worth the gamble.  Face Up concerns overcoming one’s own self created obstacles, those we put in our own ways.  Where's My Thing? (Part IV, "Gangster of Boats" Trilogy) is their third instrumental piece. This time they tackle Jazz and Funk elements and style in this song.  The Big Wheel handles the ideas of mortality, the search for love, and whether or not a higher power exists.  Heresy covers the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and all the wasted time on an ideology that failed.  It also talks about the backlash of consumerism in those nations and the wasted time on the Cold war.  Ghost of a Chance talks about how the odds to find love are astronomical, but still worth it.  Neurotica handles the subject of informational overload and confusion.   You Bet Your Life is about how the best laid plans go askew and how you need to adjust.   I love Roll the Bones, it is definitely in my top ten list of Rush Albums. 


Counterparts (1993)

Counterparts came out after the Grunge movement hit the mainstream.  Rush incorporated Grunge and Alternative Rock styles in this album.  The band, in their desire to constantly evolve reflects the times in their music.  Animate is about the dualities found in our culture, male and female, yin and yang, and so on.   Stick It Out covers sticking up for yourself and holding onto your convictions. It also has some of the hardest most brooding guitar work that Alex Lifeson has ever done.  Cut to the Chase works with the concepts of making a positive choice or the selfish one.  Nobody's Hero handles the concept of heroism and what makes a hero.  It looks into the idea modern society has lost what it truly means to be a hero.  Between Sun & Moon is based on the poem "There Is a Lake Between Sun & Moon" by Pye Dubois.  This song leads one to contemplate the mysteries of our world using the various imagery of sun and moon worship.   Alien Shore is about the weird dichotomy of being different sexes, genders, nationalities, races, and ethnicities.  The Speed of Love is about love in its various incarnations.  Double Agent has a light, but also sinister feeling.  It is a moody song, it plays on opposing moods.  Leave That Thing Alone, this is the fourth instrumental song from the band.  It shows the band funk and Jazz influences and showcases the rhythmic expertise of Neil Peart. Coldfire starts as a conversation between to people in a relationship trying to balance love with reason.  Everyday Glory is about stepping up and making things better in our world.


Test for Echo (1996)

This was the first new Rush album I did not buy in over a decade.  This is during my losing touch with their newer music.  This period lasted till Clockwork Angels.  I bought it over ten years later.  To review it here I re-listened to it.  I have only heard it a few times before this.  When I tried to listen to it in 1996 it did not grab me.  Also at the time my musical tastes had changed.  I myself was redefining them.  Test of Echo, the titular song, is collaboration with Pye Dubois.  The song seems to discuss our media and brand saturation juxtaposed with images of street thugs.  It presents the idea of crimes are turned into a media spectacle.  Driven is about being driven by an internal drive, but also about driving on the road.  It also tries to show that sometimes you cannot control your own drives.  Half of the World is about the things that divide humanity and whether or not is good to be so divided.  The Color of Right talks about how being right and being good are not always exclusive to each other.  Totem runs the gamut of various spiritual beliefs then discussed how those concepts are used and abused for profit and by the media.  Dog Years plays on how dogs’ lives are fleeting and how we should live for today ourselves.  Virtuality was written at the beginning of the online revolution that the explosion of internet use that started in the later nineties.  It covers the possibilities of this innovation in regards to relationships and interpersonal connections.  Resist is about never giving up, it is also about positive resistance.  Limbo is Rush’s fifth instrumental track, there are vocal, but it is done for effect with no words.   Carve Away the Stone is about peoples self imposed burdens and overcoming them  The songs that speak to me are Driven, Half the World, Totem, Dog Years, Virtuality and Resist.   Over all a decent album, but it still did not grab me as others did. 


Vapor Trails (2002)

This album is some what controversial.  The band was not happy with the compression of the released version of the album; in 2013 they remixed it and re-released it. I will review the remixed version as this is the band’s preferred version.  It is also the first album released in the 2000’s.  Vapor Trails is the second of the Rush albums in the hiatus.  I had heard the badly compressed version a few times when I was playing chauffer for a friend who driver’s license was suspended.  My impression was it was rockin’, but did not trip my trigger.  The album starts with the bombastic One Little Victory.  The song seems to be about youthful attitudes and that a small amount of success can fuel the youthful.  Ceiling Unlimited covers the fleeting of a moment but that anything is possible.  Ghost Rider is an autobiographical piece; in 1997 to 1998 Neil Peart lost his wife and then only child within a year of each other.  After his wife’s funeral he took a long sabbatical and rode his motorcycle around North and Central America.  He chronicles this in a book called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.  This song of the same name chronicles his healing journey in song.  Peaceable Kingdom is about how we wish for peace, but human nature seems to lead to the opposite.  The Stars Look Down is about the uncaring universe for humanity’s point of view.  How It Is talks about the depression after a huge loss, once again covering the subject after Peart’s losses.  Vapor Trail, the titular song, is another song about Peart’s period of exile.  Secret Touch is about the dissonance between modern humanity and the natural world.  Earthshine seems to convey how perceptions can confuse reality.  Sweet Miracle is about how the natural world is more miraculous than any supernatural world.  Nocturne looks like is about the ethereality of dreams and imagination.  Freeze (Part IV of Fear) is the fourth of the Fear series.  It covers the fight or flight response to fear.  Freeze is also how fear causes us to stop and lose momentum.  Out of the Cradle is about the constant motion of the circle of living from birth, life and death form generation to generation.  The songs that speak to me on this album are One Little Victory, Ghost Rider, Peaceable Kingdom, Vapor Trail, Secret Touch, Earthshine, Sweet Miracle, and Freeze.   After re-listening to this it is a good album, overall I want to love it.  However it still does not speak to me like many of the other albums do. 


Feedback (2004, cover album)

This album is a collection of cover songs that were influential to Rush from the 1960’s.  The first is the Blue Cheer version of Summertime Blues.  The song is highly influential to most Hard Rock acts that followed them.  Next is Heart Full of Soul by the Yardbirds.  It is one of the first Rock songs to be influenced by eastern musical styles.  For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield follows with its topical lyrics about protest and revolution.  The Seeker originally from the Who is a song questioning so-called spirituality.  With the themes of other song lyrics written by Neil Peart, this fits in the same philosophical bent.  Mr. Soul first released by Buffalo Springfield which handles the contradictions in life.  Seven and Seven Is from the band Love is about the fear of growing up.  The next song is the Yardbirds’ The Shape of Things.  The final song is Cream’s version of Robert Johnson’s Classic Crossroads.  Overall the song reflects Rush’s 1960’s influences.  Even though this album came out during the hiatus, I was a fan.  I wanted to hear their take on the music of their early influences.  


Snakes & Arrows (2007)

I bought this album a few years after its release.  It is the last of the Rush albums I feel disconnected to due to the off period. Far Cry is a driven powerful and rocking song.  Heavy licks engage you at the beginning.  It seems to be about getting back to something after a setback.   Armor and Sword starts out like some of their work from the late eighties with the very atmospheric style in the guitar work.  The song appears to be about our personal psychological defenses, how they help and sometimes hurt us.  Workin’ Them Angels is a play on the phrase working the angles.  The song is about working through pain and one’s past.  The Larger Bowl (A Pantoum) is about the conflict of how if we are all human why do we allow are differences to outweigh our connectedness.  Spindrift is an intense song.  Its words describe conflict through metaphors about nature. The Main Monkey Business is an instrumental from Rush.  This has a very Middle Eastern flavor to it, or that is my personal perception.  The Way the Wind Blows is about how after a thousand years we are fighting almost the same god awful holy war and how it is such a waste.  Hope is another instrumental the second on this album.  Hope has a country feel with the beginning section on an acoustic guitar.  Faithless is about not depending of religious or spiritual guidance, because it can mislead.  Bravest Face talks about the darker side to our idealized version of our world.  Good News First is a poignant song about how we can change our perspective.  Malignant Narcissism is the third instrumental piece on the album.  It has a funky hard driving bass line.  We Hold On is about continuing when people want to just give up.  The songs that speak to me are Far Cry, Workin’ Them Angels, the Large Bowl, the Way the Wind Blows, Hope, Malignant Narcissism, and Good News First.        


Clockwork Angels (2012)

Clockwork Angels is the first complete concept album by Rush.  This is not just one side, but the whole album.  It is a Steampunk tale of Crown City and the Watchmaker.   It is a story of an existential crisis about faith.  The first song Caravan is about moving past things that drag you down.  BU2B is about the downfalls of blind faith and it being such a nasty trap.  Clockwork Angels talks about the downfall of blind trust in higher powers and that doing so one gives up some of their personal power.  The Anarchist is about being the outsider and about how some folks are unable just to accept what they are told as to be fact.  In Carnies the protagonist finds himself in a Carnival show.  The song is about good and evil, it is also about be careful what you wish for.  Halo Effect covers the concept of being smitten by what seems to be a good thing when in fact it is not.  Seven Cities of Gold opens with a funky baseline and goes into a hard driving riff.  This song seems to be about the aimlessness wandering in the wilderness and how the reality of a locale does not always live up to the fantasy we create about it.  Wreckers is about how things can be deceptive, somethings may seem harmless when they are not.   Headlong flight continues with the theme that our journey makes us who we are and we should never wish to change it.  BU2B2 talks about the loss of faith and belief, it also is about persevering though such a crisis and finding the will to move on.  Wish Them Well appears to be about how all you can do with toxic people is go on your way and wish them well.  I serious love this song, it sings to me and my recent experiences.  The Garden looks like it is about how we need to keep doing the right things regardless of the bigger picture which is always going to be unknowable to us. Thematically the songs cover a range, but also they fit with in the story the band is trying to tell about the protagonist’s journey.  Musically this album runs the gamut with some orchestral arrangements, hard rocking songs, acoustic parts and even a piano.  They are pushing themselves to broaden their sound and their possibilities. This seems to me to be a complete album, but Wish Them Well is my favorite song due to my personal history.


Fear


This is not an album but a series of songs that cover the subject of Fear.   The songs are: Part I: "The Enemy Within" (from 1984's Grace Under Pressure), Part II: "The Weapon" (from 1982's Signals), Part III: "Witch Hunt" (from 1981's Moving Pictures), and Part IV: "Freeze" (from 2002's Vapor Trails).  Enemy Within covers how fear from within effects us.  Weapon is about how others use fear against us.  Witch Hunt is about fear being used to stir hatred and fear in others.  Finally Freeze is about fear and the fight or flight instinct and how fear can stop that instinct in its tracks.  It was originally envisioned as a trilogy, but Neil Peart took it one song further.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Children's Ward Terror

{Author's Note: I decided to present a poem from my University days.  This piece I consider my best in poetry.  Mind you, I have only written a handful over the years.  Essays and prose are my preferred formats.  This poem is also about my being 3 to 6 in hospitals.  I spent a good deal of time in them back then.  I hope folks enjoy this}


Those days I remember
They were alright,
With the scent of antiseptic
And baby formula flooding the air.

I had been there before,
My Doctor understood
How I felt.
The playroom was not enough
I had to run,
Go fast as possible
On my two feet.
I could not stay in one place.
The grown-ups did not like it,
My running in the hallways
Or having fun.

When I ran the halls alone
I was the one who counted.
I would race anyone,
It did not matter
If they were on foot
Or in a wheelchair.
It was just those of us,
Those who had the same need.
The Nurses scolded us.
They told us,
“You will wake the babies.”
We did not care about the babies.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Podcasting's Loss

Around August 17th news came out that Podcaster and Podcast Novelist, P.G. Holyfield, was losing his battle with Cancer.  He had a variety that is quick and nasty.  Wednesday, August the 20th he passed away. On my Facebook page,  I posted a tribute.  It included many quotes I had written about him from here.  Before I post it again here, there is a Go Fund Me page to help with the care of his family now he is gone.  He left behind three little girls.  Here is the link for that: 
http://www.gofundme.com/pgfund

Now the tribute:

I never met P.G. Holyfield, and I do not think we have corresponded either. However his Murder at Avedon Hill was a very influential full cast podcasted novel. I loved the Tolkien meets Agatha Christie vibe. I loved his two podcasts from SpecFic Media., Beyond the Wall, a Game of Thrones podcast and Consumption, a general pop culture podcast. 

In my various Podcasting oriented blog articles on The Recovering Ubergeek blog, I mention Mr. Holyfield. First in February 22nd, 2013's Fun with Podcasting I said this, "Chooch and Viv can be heard on SpecFic Media’s Beyond the Wall Podcast (http://specficmedia.com/podcast/btw/), a Game of Thrones round table discussion Podcast. P.G. Holyfield is the moderator and it includes Chooch, Viv, Nuchtchas, and Christiana Ellis."

In July 17th, 2013's More Fun with Podcasting I wrote up the Beyond the Wall Podcast.
"SpecFic Media’s Beyond the Wall Podcast
http://specficmedia.com/podcast/btw/
http://www.youtube.com/user/SpecFicMedia

This is a Game of Thrones round table discussion Podcast. P.G. Holyfield is the moderator and it includes Chooch, Viv, Nuchtchas, and Christiana Ellis. They cover each episode each week. They go into in depth discussion of the characters and plot points. All but Chooch have read the books. Chooch being the newbie gives a fresh perspective to the show. They do not take themselves too seriously. There is also a video version on YouTube. They only podcast during the regular run of the show. They usually have a pre-season and a post-season episode as well. They include clips from the show they are discussing. They have fun with interesting polls in which they audience can participate. For instance how many Freys are mentioned or shown in an episode. If you enjoy Game of Thrones, you may have a good time with Beyond the Wall from SpecFic Media. During the regular Game of Thrones Season, they are on a weekly schedule."

In November 13th, 2013's Podcasty Goodness I wrote up about P.G. Holyfield in general mentioning Consumption and Murder at Avedon Hill.
"Murder at Avedon Hill/ Tales of the Children/ SpecFicMedia/ P.G. Holyfield
http://www.pgholyfield.com/maah/
http://www.pgholyfield.com/maah/maah/the-podcast
http://www.pgholyfield.com/maah/tales-of-the-children
http://specficmedia.com/

P.G. Holyfield started with his fantasy murder mystery Murder at Avedon Hill. The he continued with Tales of the Children an Anthology that covers the deities of the Murder at Avedon Hill Universe. Two or so years ago he founded SpecFicMedia, which started with the Beyond the Wall Game of Thrones podcast. He also is a host on the new panel show Consumption also on SpecFicMedia. Holyfield’s fiction is very moody and atmospheric. He was very capable of fusing Mystery with Fantasy without either genre suffering any issues. He is a wonderful host and worth the listen."

His work was a bright beacon through a very dark time in my life. I am sad I will never be able to thank him in person. I still am thankful I found his work and was able to spread the word. Buy his book. I can never show enough appreciation for this gentleman.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Reading Guide

As many have realized my blog comes in various flavors.  There are my very personal articles that cover my personal journey of recovery.  I have my Pop Culture and Me articles about my history with a particular part of popular culture. My opinion pieces about the state of things are another kind of work I have written.  Then finally we have my pop culture pieces and recently my playlists.   Here I am going to provide a few lists of the articles on my blog based on their content. The lists will be in Chronological order of the articles’ release.  Unlike other pieces this one will change as I write more. 


Pop Culture & Me



My Personal Journey Articles

State of Popular Culture Articles



Comic Book Articles

Shazam It
A League of My Own
Uncanny Metaphors
Comic Books & Me
Shazam Surprise Surprise
Animation & Me
CrossGen Comics
DC Comics & Me
Marvel Comics & Me
Marvelously Disneyfied
New 52 Pick Up
Grim & Gritty
Marvelously Obscure


Disney Properties Articles

Uncanny Metaphors
Star Wars & Me
Disney & Me
Amusement Parks & Me
CrossGen Comics
Marvel Comics & Me
Marvelously Disneyfied
Marvelously Obscure


Music

Wham Bam Thank You Glam 
Composite Rocker
Nardcore WTF
Jerry's Kids
Rush & Me
Holidazed
Heavy Metal & Me
Weird Al & Me
Rush & Me Part II
Geek Chic Playlist
Rush & Me Part III
Mainstreaming
Country for Outsiders
David Bowie & Me


Podcasting

Podcast Excellence
Fun with Podcasting
More Fun with Podcasting

Miscellaneous

Plastic Freaks
Fang Me
Fantasy Schmantasy