Monday, June 30, 2003

Song of the week:

by Styx

Mirror, mirror on the wall
The face you've shown me scares me so
I thought that I could call your bluff
But now the lines are clear enough
Life's not pretty even though
I've tried so hard to make it so
Mornings are such cold distress
How did I ever get into this mess

I'm snowblind, can't live without you
So fine I just can't get away
Now I'm snowblind, snowblind, snowblind

Harmless and innocent you devil in white
You stole my will without a fight
You filled me with confidence, but you blinded my eyes
You tricked me with visions of Paradise
Now I realize I'm

Snowblind, can't live without you
So fine I just can't get away
Now I'm snowblind, snowblind, snowblind

Mirror, mirror I confess
I can't escape this emptiness
No more reason to pretend
Here comes that same old feeling again

Snowblind, can't live without you
So fine I just can't get away
Won't you throw me a lifeline
I'm going down for the third time
I'm snowblind, and I can't get away

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Well, if that happened in a movie, I wouldn't believe it

My friends and I watched P.T. Anderson's Magnolia last night. I swear, that movie gets better every single time I watch it. I tried to write a review of it just now, as I've tried to do in the past, but I can't do it. There's just too much there to say; to cram it all into a review seems impossible. Perhaps my own emotional attachment to the film is too great: after all, it sits at #4 on my 100 favorite films list. I can't see myself reviewing The Silence of the Lambs, either.

After the movie, we broke out the coolest board game ever that isn't Clue: HeroQuest. Or, as I described it to a friend of mine, "Dungeons & Dragons, except not shitty." That game rules. We played only one quest, and we all got our asses kicked. I've rarely had that much fun losing.

I'm working on something that I'll post here, probably before the weekend's over. It's something of a non-fiction piece that I've wanted to write for years now. The first part is done, so you should be seeing it before Sunday's out.

He said, "It's all in your head."
And I said, "So is everything," but he didn't get it...

Wednesday, June 25, 2003


So right now, I'm watching The Godfather Part III, which I've actually never seen before. The Godfather? Seen it a dozen times, gets better every time. The Godfather Part II? Incredible. So now I'm watching the third one. I'm 49:21 into it as I right this. And may I just ask....

What the fuck?! HORRIBLE. And everyone seems to know it -- Pacino looks bored and pissed off. Diane Keaton looks like she wants her agent's head on a platter. And Sophia Coppola is the worst actress since...ever. The only one who looks like he gives a damn is Andy Garcia, and he's got nothing to work with.

This is why sequels are a bad idea. Sometimes, you get a good one, like...well, The Godfather Part II. But most of the time, you get this.

In more pleasant news, I bought Evanescence's Fallen today. I won't bore you with a big long review, but I'll just say that it kicks a healthy amount of ass. And no matter what "Bring Me to Life" may make you think, they do not sound like Linkin Park at all for the rest of the album. In fact, a couple of songs -- "My Immortal," "Hello" -- get into a Fiona Apple/Tori Amos vibe. And I'll say this: this chick can sing, my friends. Oh yes.

It's my birthday tomorrow. Hoo-ah.

Leave the gun. Take the cannolis.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Song of the week:

"Driving Sideways"
by Aimee Mann

At least you know
You were taken by a pro
I know just how you feel
She talked a perfect game
Deflecting all the blame
You took the jack and changed the flat
And got behind the wheel

Now you're driving sideways
Taken in by the scenery
As you're propelled along
And your companion will not help you to navigate
For fear she may be wrong

And you will say
That you're making headway
And put it in overdrive
But you're mistaking speed
For getting what you need
And never even noticing
You never do arrive

Cause you're driving sideways
If you roll down your window
You'll see you're where you don't belong
And you companion will not help you to navigate
For she may be wrong

And you're powered by the hopeful lie
That it's just around the bend
And when this, by default,
Comes screeching to a halt
Let's hope that you know what to do
To start it up again

Driving sideways
Hitting "scan" on the radio
So she can sing along
And she'll sit, thinking you're going to handle
Until she's proven wrong
Until she's proven wrong
Until you prove her wrong


Paul Thomas Anderson used this song on the soundtrack to his film Magnolia. It's in the scene where the Solomon brothers fire Donny. God, I love that movie.
Jumping the shark: the thrilling conclusion

Okay, now I remember what I was talking about.

See, the whole "jump the shark" thing came to me because I found an old cassette tape in one of my desk drawers (of course, not the tape I was looking for, but whatever). It was a tape I'd found in a rental car back at my old job, and it was just a mix tape someone had made of a bunch of songs they liked.

It had Red Hot Chili Peppers, Harvey Danger (who remembers them? come on, don't be shy), and some other stuff, not all of it good. But on side two, there were three songs from the Offspring. Specifically, from their album Americana.

Now, I liked the Offspring. They were a loud, brash, punk band from California. Their first two albums, Ignition and a self-titled release, but didn't come to prominence until their third album, Smash, in...1994? That sounds about right.

The album featured a little ditty called "Come Out and Play (Keep 'em Seperated)" that instantly became a huge hit. I mean, when the song came out, you could not get away from it. It was everywhere. The next single, "Self Esteem," was a huge hit as well. The songs were loud, with a taste of punk flavoring, but featured killer pop hooks -- the Eastern-style bass line of "Come Out and Play" and the "la la la la" chorus of "Self Esteem" embedded themselves in your brain and would simply not go away.

I got Smash as a Christmas gift well after its release. While the remainder of the album wasn't as adorned with pop hooks, it's still awesome, and Smash is listed on my 100 Favorite Albums of All Time list (which I'll post here someday if I feel like it).

One of the cool things about the album was its sense of humor. The record opens with a deep-voice narrator telling you that it's "time to relax" with "a glass of wine, your favorite easy chair, and -- of course -- this compact disc playing on your home stereo....Music soothes even the savage beast." And then the drums kick in and the guitars scream into the punk anthem "Nitro." It's hilarious.

A few years later, the Offspring returned. Now signed to a major label (Sony/Columbia...doesn't get much more major than that), they released Ixnay on the Hombre. Now, Ixnay is a good album. Very good, in fact. But there were some warning signs -- "shark bait," if you will.

For one, the humor which had been lightly sprinkled throughout Smash was dealt in much heavier doses this time around. Some of it was very funny -- after the last song ended, the CD continued to play in silence. Thus, the listener waited for the hidden track, only to hear, after about ten minutes, Larry "Bud" Mellman (from the Letterman show) yelling, "Maybe you guys should try heavy metal! Kiss my ass!!" and then the CD ended. That is funny. But some of the other tries -- a song called "Don't Pick It Up," for example, with tired Saturday Night Live references and insipid lyrics -- were not.

Plus, the second single was a track called "Gone Away," and is your typical ode-to-a-lost-loved-one power ballad. Now, there's wrong with these songs in and of themselves. But it was so radically different -- so commercial-sounding, so bred for radio -- that it just smelled like trouble.

And trouble arrived in 1998 with Americana. Suddenly, the comedy became the main focus of the band's material, as evidenced by the first single, "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." Sure, it's funny the first time, but it gets old really fast -- "Oh, see, he's white, and he's trying to be black. Ha ha ha! Aren't white people FUNNY? Ha ha ha!" There are some good songs on Americana -- some very good ones. But the focus was on the jokes, and none of them were very funny (oh, a parody of "Feelings" all about hate instead of love, aren't we the comic geniuses). <>Americana sent the Offspring hurtling right over the shark.

Their next album, Conspiracy of One, was more comedy, but it still wasn't funny, and this time, none of the songs were good. Too bad.

Well, Smash still kicks ass.

Oh, and if you see my dad
Tell him I slit his throat in this dream I had

Monday, June 16, 2003

Jumping the shark

I love that phrase: "jump the shark." It's so useful, so original. An all-purpose catchphrase.

For those of you who don't know, "jump the shark" is a term referring to the exact moment when something -- generally a television show, but the term has extended to the world of music as well -- reaches the point where you realize that it's never going to be the same, that's it all downhill from here.

The phrase has its origins in an episode of Happy Days, in which the Fonz donned a pair of water skis and jumped a shark in the Pacific Ocean (still wearing his trademark leather jacket). At this moment, every Happy Days fan knew, deep down, that it was over. The show continued to plod along for a time afterwards, but it wasn't the same.

There's a website devoted to jumping the shark (I'll let you exercise your own little grey cells and try to figure out the address -- I'm sure you can do it youself without my help), and even a book titled Jump the Shark. The book is a fun, entertaining read, even if I disagree with some of its "jump the shark" moments.

For example, author John Hein asserts that the point of no return for The X-Files was the release of the film, Fight the Future, between the fifth and sixth seasons. For me, the show jumped a year later, during the first two episodes of season seven, "The Sixth Extinction" and "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati." In these episodes, Mulder contracted a brain disease that was revealed to be alien in origin, gave him telepathic and telekinetic powers, and alterted his DNA to make him part alien. Also, Scully finally crossed to the dark side and admitted in the existence of extra-terrestrial life, the evil Cigarette-Smoking Man revealed that he was Mulder's father (which had long been suspected by everyone -- Mulder included -- for a long time), and Mulder spent the majority of the second episode in a coma, dreaming of a life where he lived in suburbia and banged Mimi Rogers all day. And as if the blatant homage to The Last Temptation of Christ (did I mention that?) wasn't obvious enough, we even got Mulder in a full-blown crucifixtion pose, complete with brain surgery scars as a crown of thorns.

None of it made much coherent sense, and the events directly lead to Mulder's abduction, Scully's pregnancy, and the horrendous mess that was the eighth and ninth seasons.

But that's just my opinion.

Now...what was I talking about? I got sidetracked by The X-Files thing....


Ah, screw it.

"Hail to the thief! Hail to the thief!"
But I'm not!

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Three updates in one day. Yeah, baby.

Exposure, Scene 3

Back to the house. Kyle is putting some things away. As he’s walking past, he sees the photo. He picks it up and looks at it.

From behind him – JACK: “I hate that fucking picture.”

Kyle turns around, wearing different clothes. (Flashback.)

KYLE: “It’s not bad.”

JACK: “I look like a douche.”

KYLE: “It’s not that bad.”

JACK: “You look like a douche, too.”

Kyle chuckles and puts the picture down.

JACK: “Have you talked to Sarah recently?”

Kyle freezes for a millisecond – it’s barely noticeable. “...Not since the weekend, when we went bowling.” Pause. “Why?”

JACK: “She’s just acting weird lately. She’s…distant.”

Kyle doesn’t respond. Jack shakes his head.

JACK: “It’s probably nothing. You know me – always inflating the little things. Mountains out of anthills.”

KYLE: “Molehills.”

JACK: “Whatever.”

From off-screen, we hear the voice of Sarah: “Kyle?”

Kyle snaps back to the present.

KYLE: “In here, Sarah.”

Sarah enters. She looks around.

SARAH: “You cleaned up? Jesus. You know, sometimes I think our relationship is a cover for something.”

Kyle fixes her with a half-angry glare.

She laughs, crosses to him and puts an arm around his shoulder. “I’m kidding, Kyle. Nothing wrong with cleanliness.”

KYLE: “Right next to godliness.”

SARAH: “You talk to Brandon?”

KYLE: “Yeah. He’s coming. Bringing Reggie.”

SARAH: “Who’s Reggie?”

KYLE: “New guitarist.”

SARAH: “Ah.”

KYLE: “Where’s your brother?”

SARAH: “Locked in that cavern he calls a bedroom. Working on some new story, doesn’t want to leave. He’s coming, though.”

KYLE: “Are you sure?”

SARAH: “He said he was.”

KYLE: “He said he was coming last year, too.”

SARAH: “He won’t miss it this year. He can’t.”

KYLE: “Yeah.”

They look at the picture.

SARAH: “I miss him.”

KYLE: “So do I.”

They look some more.

KYLE: “He said I looked like a douche in that picture.”

SARAH: “Well…”

Kyle gives another glare. Sarah laughs. Kyle does, too.

It comes alive, and I die a little more
As promised...

Metallica, St. Anger: The Review

St. Anger is a fifty-megaton detonation right in your face. It's the sonic equivalent of being punched in the stomach repeatedly for an hour and fifteen minutes. (And I mean that in a good way.) The album is simultaneously a harkening back to the raw energy and fury of their early works and a bold step into the future. And it might just be the best thing they've ever done.

The rhythm and blues experiments on the Loads? Gone. The sleek, crystalline production of the black album and ...And Justice For All? Not here. Ballads? Yeah, right. St. Anger's eleven tracks hit with a unified, primal force the band has never reached before -- there aren't even any trademark Kirk Hammett guitar solos to break the tension (that's right, no solos at all, but you won't notice). Just seventy-five minutes of old-school, in-your-face fury.

The technically excellent, if slightly sterile, atmosphere of previous records is traded for a sound that suggests the band simply standing around a mircophone playing the songs. It's a revelation. There are a few tradeoffs to this -- the bass guitar (played by producer Bob Rock, current four-stringer Robert Trujillo not having joined the band until after recording completed) is often lost in the roar of the drums and guitars, and the drums (the snare especially) have an odd, metallic ring to them that can be distracting occasionally. But in exchange, the emotions and power of these songs are driven directly into the listener, undiluted by radio-friendly sweetening.

St. Anger is the most collaborative effort might by the band to date (Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and producer Rock share songwriting credit on all eleven songs), but it truly shines as a showcase for legendary frontman James Hetfield. His lyrics bite and snap with energy not seen in a long time, effectively chronicling his battle with alcoholism "My lifestyle determines my deathstyle," he growls on the opener, "Frantic." The titular deity of the album's title track is sought as a method of channeling his rage constructively; as a masterful counterpoint, Hetfield draws references to some of their more violent earlier tracks: "Fuck it all and fuckin' no regrets / I hit the lights on these dark sets." On "The Unnamed Feeling," easily the record's highlight and one of the best songs the band has ever recorded, he moans, "I just wanna get the fuck away from me...I wanna hate it all away."

Hetfield's voice is a far cry from the last few albums -- slick double-tracking and crooning harmonies are tossed aside in favor of just letting the man sing the songs. It's a techinque that reminds me quite a bit of Nirvana's In Utero, where Kurt Cobain just stepped up the mic and screamed. As on that album, Hetfield's voice is delightfully unpredictable, wailing from growl to howl to shriek and back again. Sometimes, he overshoots his boundries, and when he does, he voice shatters with piercing emotion. It might not be MTV-sweet, but it's powerful as hell, and damn near moving at times.

I would say the album is a step back on track, but I don't think they were ever off track to begin with. I'll say that St. Anger is a fully rewarding experience, in every way. Metallica's gone through a lot in the last three years, and this their response -- an extended middle finger and a fist in the face. It's absolutely beautiful.

Memo to Godsmack, Mudvayne, Slipknot, and all the other "nu-metal" bands out there: this is how it's done.

Rating: *****

It's out there right now. Go get it. It even comes with a free bonus DVD featuring video of the band in rehearsals, playing all the songs from the record. So go on. You'll thank me.
The Wait

It's out there. Right now. In boxes, on shelves, in display cases. Wrapped in cellophane, marked with a price tag. Waiting for me. As I wait for it.

St. Anger. Brand new Metallica.

The clock on my computer says it's exactly 1:00 AM as I write this. That means I'll have the CD in my hands anywhere from ten to twelve hours from now.

Too long.

Metallica is my favorite band. Have been since the first time I heard "The Unforgiven" over eleven years ago (at age eleven, I may have been too young to understand what James Hetfield was talking about, but it hit me like a ton of bricks just the same). When I first started playing bass guitar six years ago, the first song I learned from start to finish was "Enter Sandman." I named my band the Disposable Heroes, after the Metallica song. I seriously considered spending five to six hundred dollars on a five-string bass solely for the purpose of playing "Sad But True" and "Carpe Diem Baby." The subject of my junior year English research paper? Metallica. (No, seriously.)

Three years ago, my friend Stephen and I drove all the way up to Dallas to see a Metallica concert where the lead singer wasn't even there, and I still loved it. It featured the most incredible, transcendent musical experience of my life: Metallica playing "Master of Puppets," with bassist Jason Newsted (my musical idol) on lead vocals. They hit the break about halfway through, and instead of playing the bridge, the singer from System of a Down (who had performed earlier in the day) stepped out, lyric sheet in hand, and they performed "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" in its entirety...and then went right back to "Master of Puppets" without missing a beat. Awe-inspiring.

I love Metallica. When they dropped their death-metal stylings in favor of Zeppelinesque blues and AC/DC swagger on the Load and Reload albums, a lot of the "true Metallica fans" (which I found to be a euphemism for "annoying douchebag") called them "sellouts" and said they were "soft."

Not me. I loved both of those records.

When they went after Napster, fighting for the rights to their own copyrighted works and trying to stop internet piracy, a bunch of those "true Metallica fans" and others called them "greedy" and said they only cared about their money.

Not I. I agreed with Lars and the band 100%. Still do. Not because they're Metallica, but because they're right. (After extensive debate on this topic with a number of people, the only coherent pro-download argument seems to be this quasi-hippy notion that "music should be free, man." Whatever.)

The last seven years -- from the release of Load to the present -- have been the most complicated, trying, and emotional times in Metallica's history. I've stuck with them. Since Reload in 1997, I've waited for a new album. I've waited through Garage, Inc., the album of covers (which I loved -- "Loverman," baby). I've waited through S&M, the experiment with the San Fransisco Symphony Orchestra (which I loved even more, and the DVD of which is playing on my television as I write). I picked up the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack to get "I Disappear," which, admittedly, is not one of their best efforts. But I liked it. And it was new Metallica. I had to have it. It was like crack. That was three years ago, and it was a small, weak hit.

A whole kilo of pure comes in just hours. I'm almost giddy. This is like Christmas Eve.

When I do get the album, a full review with be forthcoming right here on this page. See you then.

If I close my mind in fear,
Please pry it open.
And if my face becomes sincere,
And if I start to come undone,
Stitch me together.
And when you see me strut,
Remind me of what left this outlaw torn.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Work on my script continues. Here's scene two, which takes place one year after the first. Enjoy (I hope).

Exposure, Scene 2

We see THE HOUSE from the outside. It’s daytime.

Inside: A montage of a young man cleaning the house. This is Kyle – we recognize him from the photo in the first scene.

As he’s cleaning, we spot that same photo, sitting on a table.

As the montage ends, the telephone rings. Slightly out of breath, Kyle answers.

KYLE: “Hello?”

The person on the other end is Brandon, whom we also recognize. He’s sitting at a computer while using a speakerphone.

BRANDON: “Hey, man.”

(Intercut with the two of them.)

KYLE: “Oh, hey.”

BRANDON: “You all right?”

KYLE: “Uh, yeah.”

BRANDON: “You sound out of breath.”

KYLE: “Uh, no.”

BRANDON: “You’re not cleaning the house up, are you?”

KYLE: “…No.” He reaches over and wipes off something else. “What do you need, man? You’re still coming, right?”

BRANDON: “Sure, yeah. You need me to bring anything?”

KYLE: “No, no, I’ve got it covered.”

BRANDON: “Cool. Hey, you did say I could bring someone else if I wanted, right?”

KYLE: “Yeah.”

BRANDON: “Okay, good, cause I told Reggie he could come.”

KYLE: “You’re bringing Reggie?”

BRANDON: “Yeah.”

KYLE: “Awesome.” (pause) “Who the fuck is Reggie?”

BRANDON: “Huh? Oh, he’s our new guitarist. The rest of his family went to Vegas without him, so I figured he could hang with us.”

KYLE: “No problem.”

BRANDON: “Cool. See ya in a bit.”

(end on Brandon)

He pushes a button to hang up. He swivels in his chair, revealing REGGIE sitting on a couch behind him.

BRANDON: “See? No problem.”

REGGIE: “I don’t know, man. I mean, they’re your friends; I don’t want to get in the—”

BRANDON: “Dude, shut up. You won’t be in the way. It’ll be cool. They’re cool people. Don’t worry about it.”

REGGIE: “Okay.”

Brandon’s satisfied with this. He turns back to his computer and starts typing.

REGGIE: “So what is it you guys are getting together for, anyway?”

Brandon’s eyes travel up to a shelf, where a copy of that same photo sits. His eyes focus on Jack.

BRANDON: “Long story.”

I plan on playing either Brandon or Reggie, for the curious.