Category Archives: music

Oh, Hole!

sleeping_around

I’ve been busy with a lot of writing in the past few days that I found it difficult to do much writing on my spare time. This is the gift of Twitter. It scratches my writing itch without sitting down and investing too much thought in it. Not that my diatribes in this Website take so much time and thought, but it’s just not very efficient writing stuff out in this format.

I just finished watching “Hit So Hard, The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel.” I’ve occasionally enjoyed Courtney Love, but I always liked her band’s sound, and I’m guessing a lot of that comes from Patty Schemel’s drums. It’s a decent documentary which touches up on the history of the band, spends a bit of time on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, goes into Kristen Pfaff, homosexuality, the whole getting kicked out of Hole, and never really gets too deep or preachy when it comes to Schemel’s struggles with drugs. Quite frankly, I think the documentary loses direction and forgets what it’s trying to say. I don’t really know who to recommend it to unless you’re really into Hole, Nirvana, Patty Schemel or curious about the whole drug thing.

Not grunge, but the death of Scott Weiland still bums me out. Chris Cornell, another person who was not quite grunge at the time, especially when they opened for Guns N’Roses, was found dead in what appears to have been suicide. He may now have had issues with drugs, not the type of drugs that killed Weiland or Pfaff, but Ativan, something that was prescribed to him to treat anxiety disorders and depression. Now I don’t mind drugs, prescription or otherwise. But I don’t like demonizing certain drugs while pushing others. Don’t use that; take these instead. Don’t take heroin; get a prescription for Oxycodone instead. I think if we just step back, stop demonizing drugs and drug users, and look at what we’re all doing in terms of what’s legal highs and what’s not, we can all be a safer, more responsible society. It may not have prevent all drug overdoses, be it legal drugs or otherwise, but I’m sure it would cut down sad stories.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I will miss you, Gord.

Larva

Saw the Tragically Hip play the last date of their Man Machine Poem tour online. Thank goodness for the CBC for streaming the show for free online, especially for expats like myself. It was a bit of an odd online experience, as I was watching and messaging to my friends online during the show. I imagine it was like that for many Canadians around the world, a collective experience for one of the greatest acts the world doesn’t know.

I’ve been listening to the Hip since I was a teenager and I saw them play in Winnipeg during their Phantom Power tour back in 98. I have always admired Gord Downie’s ability to meld the Canadian experience with history, grief, love and hope. I believe whoever wrote Prime Minister’s Trudeau said it best, “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.” The band never exploded south of the border the way Canadian pop acts often do. They’ve done concerts, played in Woodstock, and was even featured in Saturday Night Live, but they just didn’t take off. The Tragically Hip was a band that it seems only Canadians truly got. I tried explaining this to my wife, and how acts like Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber are not what Canada is about. And that often music acts like them take away from the soul of what is actually good and substantive Canadian music.

It was great to see the band play but ultimately it was sad knowing that this could very well be the last time Gord Downie plays with the band. Back in 2012, he talked about dealing with his wife’s breast cancer, and how it takes a toll not just on the person afflicted, but also to the people helping them through it. His wife recovered but her struggles have influenced the band’s album ‘Now For Plan A.’ And now Gord has been diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer. While the show was a celebration of the band’s history, it was also a sad farewell to a great artist. It was Canada saying goodbye to a dying man, a dying man that we love.

I still have not recovered from my mother dying from cancer. I can talk about the subject lightly and even joke about it now and then, but it is still a sore wound. I’m sure most people’s lives have been touched by the disease in one form or another. I myself have given up to the fact that I would probably die from cancer myself. The show over the weekend is a celebration of life in the face of inevitable death. However, it is also a reminder that cancer, death, will take away all of the beautiful things in life, all of them, and that we should appreciate them while we still have them.

Hug your loved ones, watch your favorite band, go out and play sports, do things while you still can. Love and appreciate things while you still have the chance. I guess that was the big take away from the weekend. And as a Canadian, I’m glad to have known the beauty that is the Tragically Hip.

You really missed out, America.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When People Die Around Me…

Maurice_Riddick

A relative just died a couple of days during another relative’s funeral. See, it’s moments like this that keep me listening to Elliott Smith.

That right there is my problem. Instead of genuinely expressing grief over a loved one dying, I make a joke about Elliott Smith. Someone who wrote the most touching songs about depression, someone whose songs I still listen to to this day, and who he himself died of the most tragic circumstances. Two of my sisters called me about the tragic news, and I did it again, I reacted by making jokes, not about Elliott Smith, but I tried to be lighthearted about the situation nonetheless.

See if I come across a tragedy, I joke about it, don’t talk about it seriously, then I keep it bottled up inside until it gets all black as ink. Then later when it gets too much or when it hits me at a bad part of my day, it comes out through my art. Instead of processing things and talking about it like a normal, functional adult, I keep it inside… that or write entries about it in a site that won’t be seen by people who actually matter in my life. This is why when I asked, “was he sleeping?” after hearing an old relative died, the other person was not sure whether I was being serious or was it another set-up to a bad joke.

If everything is all smiles, no one gets it when you’re being serious.

Anyway, back to what happened. It’s really sad, but both people were a little older and though the first death was kind of expected, the other one, though I kinda expected due to his age, it took everyone by surprise due to circumstances. Death sucks. I realize that one should expect the passing of older people, but knowing this doesn’t make things any easier. I’m still grieving over my mother passing away. I can only imagine how others are feeling right about now. I know this gonna numb me for a while. I haven’t been that close with both people in the past few years, but both have been really there for me and my family back when we really needed their help. We kinda owe them. I owe them. And in the face of such kindness and generosity, the least I could do is feel really bad over their passing and take it a little bit more seriously. Listen to ‘Either/Or’ and just keep to myself.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anime STP Marvel Sadness

terry_fox_cloud_text_blur

I saw an ad for a show that promises anime style oil and acrylic paintings that reinterprets Greek myth and biblical stories. Intrigued, I went and was sadly disappointed that it had nothing but giant renderings of nude anime women. Hard as I try, I couldn’t find any connection with biblical and mythological themes. It’s as if the show description is describing a totally different set of works.

I try not to be too harsh on criticism, but I walked away from the show thinking I could do better. So I started messing around with anime style drawing, this time dealing with Canadian themes. I figure I’ll try to make ten posters or so, see where that takes me.

Scott Weiland passed away a few days ago. The news hit me hard because I was still kinda hoping he would get back with Stone Temple Pilots, despite his solo work has been amazing and his album with the Wildabouts was promising. I remember him being interviewed by Howard Stern when STP got back together and Sterb was talking to them like they were children who couldn’t get along, and in the process of bickering fail to see the bigger picture. I had hopes back then, but even during the interview, I could tell that they were still pretty unhappy and that Weiland was still pretty much on drugs.

Then years passed and STP fires Weiland, replaces him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, and even had Slash and Duff McKagan, Weiland’s old band members from Velvet Revolver, play with them at MusiCares. It’s almost like a collective F***you to Weiland who obviously needs help. What annoyed me more, aside from never really liking anything Linkin Park put out, is Chester Bennington dying his hair and dancing around like Weiland. I know you’re a fan, but we can tell you’re not Weiland, dude. Sammy Hagar didn’t prance around like David Lee Roth when Van Halen took him in.

And now Weiland passes away, everyone tweets out condolences and what an honor it was to have worked with Weiland. You know, the guy that STP is suing and is being countersued by. .. the guy that Slash and McKagan fired as well. I’m sure it must’ve been difficult working with the guy. Even Weiland admits that he has a bit of an ego. As for the drugs, he surrounded himself with people involved in it. Heck, Weiland and Tommy Black from the Wildabouts were arrested on drug charges, and their guitarist, Jeremy Brown, died presumably due to drugs. The guy was difficult, but he needed help. He wasn’t just a difficult band member, he was also someone’s son, husband, and father. Now he’s passed away and everyone’s tweeting roses about him. I wonder who it really serves, talking nice about someone after it’s all too late.

Stone Temple Pilots was Scott Weiland. Without him, I wish they’d just call themselves Talk Show.



I don’t like what Marvel is doing with some of their beloved franchises. It’s been written about in many outlets but Marvel is slowly killing IPs that do not belong in their studio’s cinematic universe.

I’ve never been too excited watching the Marvel movies. I think the X-Men films, especially the First Class film was far superior. Even the upcoming Civil War film is not very exciting, especially since the movie is based on a book with a dumb premise and characters acted uncharacteristically. But what annoys me is not so much the push for the Avengers characters, after all, it attracts a new generation of readers, but the almost aggressive effort to push out the X-Men from existence. Just look at what happened to the Fantastic Four.

To recap, back when Marvel didn’t make movies, they licensed their IPs to film studios. Two notable and very successful IPs were the X-Men and Spider Man, whose licenses are held by Fox and Sony respectively. The licenses were giant money makers for the studios, and even to Marvel at the time who gained benefits despite movie studios taking all of the risks. But then Marvel decided to make its own movies starting with Iron Man and continuing with members of the Avengers. The movies were very successful but due to licensing agreements, they don’t have control of characters that the other studios continue to own, at least in the cinematic world. The Avengers cannot have stories involving the Fantastic Four or members of the X-Men.

So what’s Marvel to do? Well, what they appear to be doing is killing off the X-Men. I’ve been a regular comic book reader since the late eighties and I know that the X-Men basically was Marvel’s bread and butter in the nineties. Without them, Marvel wouldn’t exist as a company. The Avengers books were gathering dust on shelves. Iron Man was “Ol’ Shellhead.” But now that Marvel is more interested in the movie-making business, they are actively trying to devalue properties which they don’t have full control of or just creatively try to put a spin on characters which puts them in IP limbo. They made a new Spider Man. Not Peter Parker, but Miles Morales. As exciting a change as that may seem, it puts the control of the Morales character into question. Does Sony own the Morales Spider Man license or just Peter Parker?

But what’s worse is that with the rejiggering of the Marvel Universe, they killed off many of its popular X-Men characters (Prof. X and Wolverine) and made all mutants impotent. A fictional substance, Terrigan mist, is killing of mutants and activating the powers of a superhuman race called the Inhumans. Unpopular with readers, the Inhumans have been getting a push in the comic books and now have a movie scheduled to be made in the future. Kill off the mutants and replace them with Inhumans. Good job, Marvel. Even making Cyclops, a character that was never attractive to many fans, the leader of the X-Men seem like it’s designed to turn readers off. In the X-Men movies, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the mutant offspring of Magneto were played by different actors in the Avengers film. To spit at the X-Men movies, Marvel retroactively makes the two characters non-mutants, thus delegitimizing the Quicksilver and the Scarlet With of the X-Men movies for no apparent reason.

This is all nerdspeak, but what annoys me about the whole thing is that Marvel is now letting the movie business dictate the world of its comic books. In the process, it’s spitting at fans who have grown to love characters that have sustained the company for many years. I would argue, that they are sacrificing a medium that is more creative and exciting for a world that it is very lucrative but ultimately shallow.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Killing (Mostly) Women in Song

bird

They’re a tad misogynistic (and a wonder that rabid feminists haven’t attacked them yet), but I’ve always been fascinated by murder ballads. It’s almost akin to the Aboriginal traditional of passing their culture and tradition through storytelling. Only in the case of murder ballads, it’s immortalizing a tragic event through song. What fascinates me is that while tribute songs will often reference an event, either directly or indirectly, murder ballads will use what many might argue are morbid details of an event and put them into song.

Two of my favorites are Tom Waits’ version of “The Twa Sisters,” which I believe was an old English tune, around the 1700s…

…and the murder of “Poor Ellen Smith,” here sung by the Kossoy Sisters. Apparently, the song was based on a real case back in the 19th century. It would have been forgotten had it not been put into song. My favorite banjo player, Frank Proffitt, did a cover of the song as well. But here he sings another murder ballad.

Again, Rose Connolly was probably based on an old Irish case. But if you didn’t know that, you’d assume Frank Proffitt just made a confession into a song, or he just fantasized about murdering a women, to which everyone in the room applauds to.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like Ghosts

Winnipeg_Jets_strip

So the Winnipeg Jets are out. We barely made it in the playoffs. I was hoping one win would at least legitimize our team being included the playoffs, but being swept by the Ducks kinda says it all. We weren’t ready for the playoffs at all. I’m a little bit disappointed, but following the Jets, I kinda expected something like this going in.

Looks like Keith Olbermann is also in the camp against Mayweather. I hear ya, Keith. But before you generously label Pacquiao as the better man, let me remind you that he is part of what keeps his home country poor, a “governor” who doesn’t know a thing about politics, someone who was used by former president Arroyo, another president whose years were plagued with corruption and fraud.  He’s one of the most absent congressman in the country. But when he’s not training or promoting fights, he’s voting against women’s rights and contraception. There’s no good man in that ring on Sunday.

An old episode of This American Life introduced me to the wonderful musical stylings of Jo Carol Pierce. In an episode titled “Teenaged Girls,” she talks about suicide and her relationships with men and Jesus. Rennie Sparks also tells the story about a girl growing up and dealing with peer pressure. She’s one half of The Handsome Family band which many people would know from the opening theme of True Detective. It’s great radio if you could find it, an enlightening look at the fairer sex, some awkward tales of growing up, all without getting too unsophisticatedly feminist about it.

Now I’m off to get my period.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Drawing Alone

Trees

 

The problem with art compared to music is that artists usually work alone. Its very nature lends to being lonely. Art is for the loner. Just look at movies with artists. They’re often portrayed as misunderstood, loner geniuses.

Despite music having its fair share of loner-type musicians, music by its nature is more social, musicians get in a group, they get to form bands. Artists get to spend time by themselves. Despite artist groups and shared studios, the process of creating great art is often solitary. Even if a person is making art in the same room, what’s hung on the wall is often from one person alone. This is not the same as music. Great music is often the product of a collaboration; the combination of people’s talent in a band.

I regret not having that form of camaraderie. I regret not taking guitar-playing more seriously.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s talk K-pop, Musicals, and Street Cred, Yo!

prepubescent

 

Whenever someone mentions the word “Zorro” to me, the first thing that comes to mind is a prepubescent Asian boy wearing make-up.

A problem with K-pop is that it’s all basically manufactured. Real artists are rare, and the songs, the dance, the clothes, are all engineered products. And while the banner is that of a musical, it still runs into the problem of men in K-pop which Abigail Covington over at the A.V. Club eloquently explains:

“The biggest problem with K-pop’s boy bands is that they are as equally manufactured as the girl groups but much less convincing. Manufacturing charm is feasible. Manufacturing sex appeal is a no-brainer. But manufacturing grit (a relatively necessary quality for men if you are working within the heteronormative boundaries of a conservative culture like South Korea’s) is nearly impossible. It always turns into cheese. ”

And cheese is exactly what you get, especially when Korean music companies manufacture hip-hop. While the west makes stars out of people with a bit of, for a lack of a better word, “street cred,” here it seems they make stars out of anyone with good looks and a ton of choreography. There is no grit, just “cuteness” and clothes that were carefully chosen by a fashion coordinator. How clueless could a person be about grit and rapping when they have to pay Coolio to be a hip-hop teacher for a day? (http://noisey.vice.com/en_ca/blog/bts-american-hustle-life-coolio-k-pop-hip-hop-school) Isn’t the medium supposed to be an expression of truths and real life experiences?

I’m not saying that western music is immune to such corporate products, after all; I’m from Canada, the country that produced Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber. It just amazes me how some people buy into it.

Anyway, back to “Zorro.” Aside from the lameness of incorporating K-pop into the production, I notice that the recent local musical productions have been on properties and stories that are all already long established in people’s psyche: Three Musketeers, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Dracula. It seems like the only way to get musicals in here is to have it already be popular in other mediums. I don’t think local productions of “Chicago” or “Dreamgirls” would have been made here if they weren’t already popular years ago in film. Not many people know Jennifer Holliday. They do know Jennifer Hudson. And this is not a condemnation of local tastes, but rather the unwillingness of production companies to trust their audience and their own musical talent. They fail to truly believe that a musical production would succeed by its own strengths. Instead, there has to be familiarity or a gimmick. In both cases they both appear to be cynical marketing crutches.

I don’t think there would be a local production of “The Producers” anytime soon, which is probably for the best. I wouldn’t want prepubescent Asian boys playing Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,