Archive for May, 2008

Rush in Rio

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

One of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in quite a while is the opening part of the Rush in Rio DVD. The Brazilians treat these guys like the World Cup champion team just for showing up, and they rock out to “Tom Sawyer” they redefine the term “the crowd goes wild.” It’s quite something to see Brazilians getting religious about their favourite Canadian band. And not just the guys – the girls too!!!

Don’t you agree that this is one of the most amazing things you’ve ever seen on YouTube?

Lonely weekend in Pompeii

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Well, Naoko and Zen are in Japan now. Last Wednesday I left work promptly at 6:00, rushed home, we had a dinner together, Zen and I did the last of his online homework, he did it really really well, so I gave him some presents – a frame for his 400 metre swimming certificate, and a die-cast car I got from one of the big global banks at a recent event, a nice ’55 Chevy Thunderbird or something like that. They took a cab at 10:30 to the airport for their 1:10 AM flight. I did some tidying up and stuff, went to sleep late. Thursday and Friday were pretty normal days – I went out with a colleague and a friend for drinks on Thursday night, on Friday I got home late and watched something or other on TV. Saturday I hung out at home in the morning tidying, then headed downtown. Bought an AC adapter for my pedals so that I don’t have to fiddle around any more with batteries, also got a guitar chords book, and also the Pink Floyd at Pompeii DVD, which is cool. It contains the director’s cut (yuck) as well as the original movie (better). Nice to see these guys as young men. Can see parts of it on YouTube, but it’s better to have the real thing. Classic. While downtown I spent a lot of time walking around the Peninsula Hotel mall. What a strange place that is. Not only are there lots of guitar shops and tattoo shops in the bottom levels, but upstairs there are some strange shops – “To Mega Therion,” a shop specialising in black metal (and Iron Maiden), as well as a shop nearby that sells magic supplies (a la Diagon Alley?). Took the bus home, made myself dinner, watched Pink Floyd at Pompeii and an episode of Space:1999. Read up on the Wikipedia, and all sorts of other nonsense, before going to sleep at 2:00. Sunday, more tidying, some work, a swim, more Space:1999, and who knows what else. Made lots of noise – played the guitar real loud, and blasted my Sunn (0))) CD “Flight of the Behemoth,” also played the acoustic for the first time in ages. The chord book is really great – I’m learning tons of new cords – alternate fingerings mostly for cords that I already know – which is always interesting. Will probably go to sleep late-ish tonight as well, not so great.
One interesting thing – I’ve moved my guitars. I put the acoustic in easy reach, next to the fish tank, so that I won’t forget or neglect it again. Good. I’ve also put my amp up on the shelf next to the TV so that I don’t have to stoop to adjust it any more. Wow, why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? The apartment has become much more “guitar-friendly.”

DVD review:



Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii – Great, great, great, great!!!! I was looking for this, didn’t expect to find it in Singapore, but sure enough Gramophone near the City Hall MRT station had it. This DVD contains the “Director’s Cut” as well as the original concert film. Basically the Director’s cut features lots of extra visuals, including computer graphic recreations of Pompeii, the exploding Vesuvius, and other things like NASA shots of rockets going up into space, space walks, images of suns and stars and moons and planets, all the usual things you’d expect of someone depicting a “space rock” band. It also has some extra bits from the studio in Paris when they were recording “Dark Side of the Moon.” The Directors Cut starts out with space and planets animated instead of the big zoom-in to the arena in Pompeei of the original film. Not really an improvement, although it’s nice to see something different I guess. Cool to see a grand piano in a roman ampitheatre. Gilmour and Wright shirtless, Waters and Mason in black. Integrates black and white studio shots with colour live stuff from Pompeii. Guys walking over steaming earth, awkward cuts to Wright and Gilmour screwing up their Echoes lyrics. Mason flips his drum stick. Broken drum heads on his kit – 8 drums and 5 cymbals. Racks and racks of amps – one shot goes behind them and we see the cameras and crews that face the band. Back of amps all say “Pink Floyd. London.” Shots of the London Underground, clock going backwards, empty platform. Throwaway film experimentation. Pink Floyd’s psychedelic breakfast at Abbey Road studios as Nick goes weird about apple pie, Roger’s veins as he tries out weird keyboard sounds. Talking about over-using equipment. “It’s like saying ‘give a man a Les Paul guitar and he’ll become Eric Clapton.” Did Clapton play a Les Paul? Constructing the “On The Run” sequence with sequencers and keyboards. “Careful With That Axe Eugene” with wild lava flows and screams. The and eating oysters. “There’s the danger of becoming slaves to the equipment, it happened before. Can’t hide behind equipment.” Saucerful of Secrets – Waters smashing cymbols with toms, Wright attacking his grand. Fly on Waters’ arm – smashes gong that we see on the cover art – all of the guys thin and trim and gangly in t-shirts and jeans, barefoot sand getting into the effects pedals. The band talks money and economics, “rock is not dying like they say,” and there’s still money in it. Wright doing piano parts in shades fo r “Us and Them” as camera sweeps around. Gilmour “we’re not a drug-oriented group. You can trust us.” “One of These Days”, mason on toms on ctymbols, weird geographic CG. Slow-mo on Mason as the song kicks into high gear, all you see is him, no Gilmour solo or Waters screaming. Mason loses a stick, then pulls a new one out. Nice butterfly logo on blue long-sleeve shirt. Keyboard too high in the mix. Interesting quotes about how well they’ve learned how to get along, “we’re happy together.” That wouldn’t last. While the others are chatting, Gilmour pulls a perfect “Echoes” guitar solo. “Mesdomoiselle Nobs” with the wailing dog – Wright holding the dog, who sings on cue, Gilmour on harmonica, Waters on guitar (although it sounds like a bass) Address the topic of arguments and in-fighting by claiming that they have the same sense of humour and lust for money. “We can still combine our interest. That’s when it breaks down, when one person finds that wheat he’s doing isn’t interesting, thinks he can do better by himself,” says Mason. Then shifts to Gilmour noodling on the guitar, gives a big beautiful smile when he notices the camera. “What would rock ‘n’ roll be without feedback?” Gilmour plays heavy, thick guitar solos on “Brain Damage,” they obviously were never used since the finished product is much more relaxed. “Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun”, Mason’s purple butterfly t-shirt – he has two? “Echoes” in studio – Gilmour stops singing – is he being a prick? Images of Roman erotica, humans cavorting with fauns. Closing “Echoes” – sunnyday Pink Floyd with other backdrops.  TERRIBLE computer graphics bit (1:23:35).  DVD extras. Generally not great, although there is some good stuff.  Three posters, one of which calls the show “A Zappaesque musical pastiche.”  Three newspaper articles from the day.  Five “covers of bootlegs” pages with two on each page, so 10 covers.  Four previous covers.  Four albums’ with graphics, two songs’ lyrics (why only two? why bother?), one 24-minute interview with directore Adrian Maben that was very interesting.  No voice of the interviewer, questions appear as banners.  He explains some of the reasons why there were so many wanky graphics and things, he complains that “you are always unsatisfied with something, you never get it right,” and I think that even after 30 years he’s ruined his chance to “fix” his mistakes.  But he didn’t have much to work with – apparently the rushes were lost, so he couldn’t add any material from 1972 into the film, so he put 2003 stuff in.  Big mistake.  I read on the Wikipedia that the shots from the studio in Paris that was supposedly of them recording “Dark Side of the Moon” was actually faked – the band had already finished recording the album and were mixing it.  Other fake shots were done on a sound stage somewhere.  You can tell which ones they were because there are no ruins of Pompeii, the band are squeezed together, and Rick Wright is beardless.  But at least they try.

The “Beastie Boys” made a funny tribute to this movie for the video of their song “Gratitude.”  Cz-Cz-Cz-Czech it out!”

Raunch ‘n’ Roll

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

What a week. Today Naoko and Zen went off to the airport to catch their night flight to Osaka, it was Naoko’s last day at work. The day for me has been hectic but not too bad. Yesterday was an easy Tuesday-after-a-long-weekend. Monday was Vesak Day (the Buddhist Christmas and Easter all rolled into one) and we did cleaning, tidying, homework, and Naoko’s friends came. Sunday Zen and I went to see “Speed Racer” while Naoko bought gifts for her family in Japan. We had lunch at the ramen shop on Orchard, then went home and bummed around. In the evening we watched “The Castle of Cagliostro,” so it was a double feature day. Saturday I got a haircut and Zen played with his chums, then we went to Kodomo Club, his last for a month. After that we went to the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, then went to CHIJMES for dinner. After some guidance from Zen, we settled on Harry’s in the fountain pit behind the chapel. Their menu is different from their normal shops and I had a yummy Blue Cheese Burger. Mmmm… mmm! Took a bus home, then watched Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

DVD reviews:


Rush: R30 special edition – I listened to a lot of Rush between the ages of 12 and 17. In real time terms, that meant the “Moving Pictures,” “Signals,” “Grace Under Pressure,” and “Power Windows” albums. Of course, I also listened to the local classic rock station, which meant that I heard all of the albums before that as well, including Side A of “2112″ many many many times. And since those days I can count the number of Rush fans I have met on one hand. Having gone many years without paying them much attention, I was happy to see that they’d put out this cool set: it’s a live CD and a live DVD of their 30th anniversary tour. There is also an additional DVD that shows a lot of archival footage, which means you get to see Rush haircuts and stage gear throughout the decades; the set also comes with two guitar picks, one signed by Geddy Lee and one signed by Alex Lifeson. I use these picks to play guitar. Rock and roll!!! The live DVD was filmed in Frankfurt in 2003. It starts out with a weird animated sequence that is full of either three-part objects or motifs from their album covers – the dalmation from Signals appears both solo and in a herd of charging dalmations (?!?). Those Rush guys sure have a wacky sense of humour. Some of the parts were quite Monty Python Terry Gilliam-esque, which is nice, especially the segueway from the Starman “whoa, sorry dude” to the man with the bowler hat from the Hemispheres album cover. Albums covers include Caress of Steel man, Power Windows kid, Fly By Night owl, Presto rabbits, Signals dalmation becomes dalmation herd, Counterparts nut and bolt, toys thingy, farewell to Kings mannequin, Moving Pictures’ moving pictures, starman jumps out of painting to enter Hemispheres cover. Then three dinosaurs hatching from eggs saying “hello, Hel-lo, HELLO.” Then the Jerry Stiller intro on the screen where he talks about Lars, Dirk, the Professor. “I hope they play Bangkok… nahhhhh, they never play Bangkok.” Funny stuff. Then out pops the band for a medley of their really old old old songs from their first six albums: “Finding my Way,” the first song from the first album, “Anthem,” the first song from the second albume, “Bastille Day,” the first song from the third album, “A Passage to Bangkok,” the first song from the second side of the fourth album, “Cygnus X-1″ the last song on the fifth album, and then “Hemispheres,” (also known as “Cygnus X-1 Book 2″) which is the first song on the sixth album. A lot of symmetry there. The whole time they showed pictures of the musicians as young men, and Jerry Stiller rocking out to “A Passage to Bangkok.” That is followed by “The Spirit of Radio,” and the first time you hear Geddy Lee singing. The three guys look great for fifty-year-olds! Strangely, Geddy Lee now finally looks his age, as he looked fifty-something even as a thirty-something; Alex Lifeson is a bit heavy and balding, although he finally has a haircut that doesn’t look awful. From some shots you can notice that he’s got a big bald patch at the back of his head. Neil Peart is a bit heavy, and a terminator behind his kit pounding out any complex rhythm with machine-like precision. It’s just amazing to behold, although a little creepy too – he almost never shows any emotion at all. He has a cool kit adorned with stickers from different album covers – these guys are serious about their iconography!! Meanwhile, Neil and Geddy look like they’re having the time of their lives – Geddy is wiry and animated, bouncing his right leg with the beat, Alex has that slack-jawed mindfulness of what he’s playing, just an amazing musician. Geddy plays a Fender Jazz bass most of the concert, Alex plays several Paul Reed Smith guitars, a red Gibson SG, a gold Gibson Les Paul, and for Xanadu a white double-headed Gibson SG that has a six-string and a 12-string guitar in it. Cool stuff!!! Alex’s side of the stage is full of amps, Geddy’s has… laundry dryers spinning. They spin and they spin and they spin. There’s also some sort of a vending machine up there. The concert goes on with plenty of mid-career classics like “Force Ten” and “Subdivisions.” Also some new songs that I’ve grown to enjoy like “Animate” and “Earthshine.” During “Red Barchetta” There’s a great top-down shot of Neil throwing his drumstick up in the air and catching it, then you see him head-on turn the stick 180 degrees and carry on playing (39:20). They must have planned that drumstick toss shot and installed a special camera just to pick it up. I wonder if there’s not a bit of post-production work there. Still, it’s a great moment. “Roll The Bones” is a cool song, with some groovy animated skeleton (think Jason and the Argonauts) rapping along with Geddy. “The Seeker,” a cover of the Who song is good fun. Then they go into “Darn That Dragon,” a weird animated bit that shows angel rabbits, dragons selecting TV shows, popping their own fire-breath popcorn, then a great show of an animated bobblehead Rush “featuring Dirrk, Lerxst, and Pratt” (i.e. Geddy, Alex and Neil). There’s a star alert, a dragon is attacking the city, Rush intercept in their Cygnus X-2 Rockership, the dragon tries to burn down the asbestos factory, bobble heads sweat, he burns down the Rush Merchandise stall. This means war!!! They fire “the ultimate weapon,” the dragon trips over the metro and falls onto the high tension wires. Bobble heads bobbing in tune with the music, which changes with every scene to another high-powered Rush early classic. Great great stuff that phases into “Tom Sawyer.” Cool. Alex singing along on “Between The Wheels,” which they dug out of the vaults, chest hair popping out of shirt (1:10:00). Slack-jawed while soloing, then thumping body to keep the vibrato going. Mystic Rhythms very cool to watch – there’s so much going on between Neil’s two hands and two feet. This, of course, leads in to the 9-minute drum solo that is really soooooo boring to listen to on the CD, but quite captivating to watch on the DVD. For example, there is one part where he’s tapping out on the drums, and then reaches up to tap an electric xylophone pad. He repeats the same pattern several times, always managing to hit that same little pad again and again, playing with his head turned the other direction, meaning that he’s playing blind!!! I’m not a fan of drum solos, but this one was quite amazing to watch and study. The highlight was when the drum kit rotated 180 degrees (while Neil stayed still), to show a big bass drum with the starman logo on it. Cool. After that there’s a bit of an acoustic set – “Resist” and the Yardbirds classic “Heart Full of Soul” – before the big moment of the concert: 2112!!! The intro seems like it was recorded, as the stage was cast in darkness, then when the guitars come in – light! Here the band’s eccentric sense of humour gets the better of them and for a brief moment there are pirates onstage swashbuckling. Who swashbuckles any more these days? Geddy also has a stuffed parrot on his shoulder, which just looks out of place. But it’s a great song, and Alex is playing a gorgeous black Les Paul… The band plays two more covers during their encore, “Summertime Blues” (a la the Blue Cheer version) and “Crossroads,” as well as the very appropriate “Limelight.” Lovely. DVD 2 is divided between interviews through the ages, and classic live recordings. There’s a 1979 one with Geddy only that is tres serious. He’s talking about how the band recorded “Hemispheres,” and is mentioning “Permanent Waves,” which is a “non-concept” album, a first for the band, that they were getting ready to go into the studio for at the time, but wasn’t fully formed yet. It’s a windy day and his hair is blowing all over his face, but I got to learn that the band is really into Yes, and especially their drummer, Bill Bruford. The next one is in 1981 and is with all three. Neil Peart is really serious but still a good sport, Geddy is wearing super ugly glasses and smoking cigarettes (?!?), while Alex nearly doesn’t speak at all and seems really awkward. One “funny” point that was made was how during the recording of “Caress of Steel” recording sessions they took a night off and went to see Yes play, and after that they didn’t want to finish the album (it ended up being one of their worst-selling records). There were interesting “Artist of the Decade” interviews, that shows Alex finally speaking up more, and also a Juno awards Hall of Fame induction that has a serious Tom Cochrane talking about the band, with video messages from Mike Myers and Sebastian Bach and The Barenaked Ladies. Then there is the “Vapour Trails” interview from 2002 with Alex and Geddy that was done after the band had come back together following Neil Peart’s dual tragedy (his daughter was killed in a car wreck in 1997, his wife died of grief a year later) to record and tour again. An interesting point of Geddy’s is that on this album he was playing his bass more guitar-like while Alex was playing his guitar more bass-like. The interview sets are followed by great archival footage. “Fly By Night” looks like it was recorded on the set of Hilarious House of Frightenstein. “Finding My Way” is very Led Zeppelin. “In the Mood” is very Led Zeppelin and very embarassing (lyrically). “La Villa Strangiato” is fantastic virtuoso musicianship, much like 2112 or Xanadu. “A Farewell To Kings” is set in a forest and a castle before switching to a “stage” environment. Geddy Lee is wearing this awful bathrobe over his regular clothes, very yucky. The clothes of that era were terrible, making you appreciate how these good these old guys look wearing jeans onstage. There are more recent live shows, such as Toronto Rocks in 2003, and even a soundcheck. Hey, why not throw in everything? The fans will sure be happy.


An Inconvenient Truth – No, this is not Jane Austen or Merchant Ivory, this is Al Gore. The big, sweaty man has come back and traveling the world with his message, he’s also staring intently at the screen of his Mac Powerbook. He does one thing very well in this movie: he shows that industry is producing a great deal of CO2, and then he correlates a rise in CO2 with a rise in average global temperatures; this is part of the here and now, the world today. He also paints interesting scenarios of what this might mean for the world, any of which is very scary indeed. But as he disingenously points out, thousands of peer-reviewed scientific reports have been written to prove that global warming is a real phenomenon, while none have been written to debunk it. In other words, there was no reason to make this film, other than to give a voice to the scientific community by a well-known non-politician (since there are no longer any well-known scientists). More interesting to me is the structure of the film and the way it influences (or manipulates) the viewer. One scene where he is hinting that the last devastating global crisis that the world faced was the one that Winston Churchill warned about in 1932 is followed after a long pause by one where he talks about losing the White House to George Bush. He is juxtaposing mentions of Nazis with comments on the current Washington administration. Sneaky, or just plain brilliant? He also makes his story even more personal by finding ways to make relevant to the narrative two family crises: the car accident that nearly claimed the life of his son and the cancer that robbed him of his beloved sister. While I’m not sure what they have to do with global warming, it does make the story tender. And when Al shifts from being a sad sack “the next president of the United States” to being an inspirational firebrand, you know that the film is over.


The Castle of Cagliostro – Great action film about that lovable thief Lupin the Third and his buddies Jiggen, Goemon and Fujiko. The baddies are superbad – they are the Monaco-like royal family of the tiny European kingdom of Cagliostro – and somehow Lupin outwits them all. Of course, he also marches into danger and allows himself to get beaten up. But, like Mifune Toshiro in Yojimbo, he outsmarts the bad guy, who gets dealt with in a very oddball way. Of course, Goemon and Jiggen are barely in the film, and some of the brushes with death are really just too close to be believed (hey, I know it’s an animated film but there’s no reason to out-deathdefy Indiana Jones), but it’s still a pretty good film. This time I watched the dubbed-into-English version, the voice of Lupin was done by my old high school classmate David Hayter (who calls himself Sean Barker, the character he played in his only feature film, the Guyver 2), who also does the voice of Solid Snake in the North American version of the Metal Gear games. Of course, he sounds exactly how I remember him from 1984…

Movie Review:


Speed Racer – The previews for Speed Racer made it look a lot like a video game, and of course that what it really was in the end. Hard to believe the same minds that made The Matrix also made this. Sure the stylistic thing about having everything in garish neon is something a bit novel (although it reminds a lot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but it only works in one scene when the people get out of their cars and kick some ass using only their fists to punch and their legs to kick (resist the urge to think to yourself “oh, in these movies everyone knows kung fu?). The racing scenes needn’t be paid close attention to, since they are almost completely incomprehensible – do these barelling motorcars obey any of Newtons laws of physics? Nonetheless, I saw it with Zen and he liked it. In fact, when Speed Racer wins the race [spoiler alert... oops, too late], Zen was so happy, he jumped out of his seat and reached over and hugged me with joy. And that made it all worth it.

CD Review:

Boris: “Smile” – Please see My Big Bad Boris Page for a review of this CD.