Live the Life

Another Weekend Tune

Here is a song that a bunch of old farts might miss if their offspring didn’t share a love of music. The band Coldplay was on my radar because of my boys, but I never really sought them out to listen to.
On a road trip to Pittsburgh a DJ announced that the new Coldplay song was up next. I decided to give it a listen. Little did I know that it happened to be #1 on Billboard. I think it deserves it. Driving beat, great lyrics; it is probably my favorite song from the past few years. I am glad I stumbled across it.
Coldplay’s official YouTube release won’t play in embedded mode. It is worth seeking out, however. The version I am presenting here is Boyce Avenue’s cover version: just two guys with a bass drum, an acoustic guitar and a keyboard loaded with string instrument sounds. Cool.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay (covered by Boyce Avenue)

Blue on Black

Another Weekend Tune.

“Blue on Black” captured my attention the very first time I heard it. I didn’t know who performed it or even the correct title. Eventually I googled the lyrics and discovered who performed it, and was surprised.

Kenny Wayne Sheppard is a fantastic guitar player. Possibly the Clapton of his generation. In the following video he is on the left, black sweatshirt, black bandanna. The lead vocals did not sound like Kenny singing, and it was only when I watched a video of his band performing it did I realize that someone else, not Kenny, was singing. Noah Hunt provides the lead vocals. His voice has a fantastic quality, and I think Hunt is perhaps one of the most talented, yet unrecognized, vocalists around.

The album version of the song is fantastic, but I am presenting an acoustic version here. It shows the talents of both Sheppard and Hunt, and it still rocks. This is also one of the songs that inspired me to want to learn to play the guitar properly.

Here is “Blue on Black” – The Kenny Wayne Sheppard Band.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 (Anthology)

One of the sites I try to visit each day is Every Day Fiction. They publish a single story daily. The story can be from any genre–romance, horror, inspirational–you name it. From the 365 stories published during their first year they have selected 100 of the best and have now made them available in print form.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 is now available for purchase.

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008

The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008

My story “The Journey” is included, which is such an honor. I didn’t think any of my stories would make the cut for this anthology. The quality of stories that Every Day Fiction publishes is very high, and it is a shame they could not include all 365 stories. I just can’t get over the fact that I have a story selected for “The Best of”. When the editors sent me the proof pages for my story, I actually got choked up. Validation that you can write is a very powerful thing. I guess you can blame EDF for encouraging me to keep writing.

If you are so inclined, click on the link above the image of the book and order a copy. They come in hardback and trade paperback.

I am off to order a few copies myself. I plan to present them as a thank-you to some of the people that have supported and encouraged my creativity and quirky weirdness over the years.

Road trip: Bob’s random crap

Whilst on a road trip yesterday to return the youngest to Pittsburgh, I stumbled across a radio station that had me laughing at its concept. Most radio stations these days belong to, or run programming by, companies that run syndicated radio shows. Just about anywhere you are in the USA, you can find a station called “The Mix”, “The River”, “The Classic Rock Station”, etc. and it is mostly pablum with no originality. After all, there had to be a reason why Tom Petty wrote the song “The Last DJ”, right?

I listen to these syndicated stations because I have very little choice. I do tune in Columbus Ohio’s QM96 when I am in range. At least in the morning it seems to have original programming.

The station I had started to listen to while leaving Pittsburgh started to fade out, so I hit the scan button to find some more suitable music for my lonely drive home. I left it on a station that was playing “1985” by Bowling For Soup, because it has a catchy tune and I like the sentimentality of the lyrics. I listen to “1985” when I get the chance because I have had this idea of writing my own lyrics about being sentimental about 1979. I figured it was a station that catered to popular rock hits from recent years and was prepared to hit the scan button as soon as “1985” was over.

My jaw dropped because the next song was “Take a Chance” by Abba. That’s right! Abba!

Next was “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel, followed by “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And just when I started thinking that it was just another classic rock station, they drop in a song from the mid 90’s. I think the god of coincidence also wanted to get a jab in, you know, because I was still thinking about writing 1979 based lyrics for the song “1985”.

“1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins was next. How weird is that?

During the breaks between songs, I learned that the station was called “Bob”. I also learned that they played whatever they wanted to, and that one listener wanted them to “keep playing that random crap.” Needless to say, I had to start keeping track of the songs that they played. Some of the songs were unfamiliar enough that I didn’t know the artist or the title, so I just wrote down lyric snippits. It has been fun looking them up. It seems I have a void in my brain when it comes to early and mid 1980’s alternative music. I was a tad busy with family and work and college. I couldn’t soak in everything. The songs that followed as I drove from Pennsylvania into West Virginia were (in order):

“I Got You” by The Split Enz; “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” by Bob Seger; “Vida La Vida” by Coldplay; “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order; “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder; “Crazy On You” by Heart; “What I Got” by Sublime; “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne; “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney; “Lay Your Hands On Me” by The Thompson Twins; (a song that I could not figure out a title nor artist for) and “Bent” by Matchbox 20, at which point the station faded out, just west of Wheeling.

Now I am fairly sure that “Bob FM” is a syndicated station, and if it is, then it is the most original idea for syndication that I have yet encountered. The idea seems simple. Put every top 100 rock song since 1970 into a player and hit shuffle.  All but one song was familiar to me, and even if I didn’t know the artist or the song title, I was able to figure them out.  For the one song I could not figure out I had written down the lyric snippet “this is how we begin”.

I must say that anticipating what kind of song was going to be played next kept the boredom away for that part of the trip.  I plan on listening to more of Bob’s random crap during the next road trip to Pittsburgh.

Review: Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfiled (2008)

Honestly, I had trepidations about seeing this movie. I had overheard bad reviews, and had also been told good things about it. Surprisingly I was able to avoid any spoilers.

I am glad I did, because as it turns out I really liked the movie. I will do my best not to include any spoilers here.

The style of filming was similar to “The Blair Witch Project”, except better. The theme was big monster in big city. There is one major difference between this film and either “Blair Witch” or every monster movie I have seen–realistic characters. Or at least realistic for your typical movie. I paid attention to minor characters and extras and they seemed to be behaving realistically as well. There were several moments that even made me chuckle because what was happening on the screen was just an extension of how we see people behaving and reacting in news footage. While not every situation rings true, we are shown enough of each character to get a feel for who they are. I could care about these people, where as in “Blair Witch” I had started to wish they would have died sooner.

The conclusion of the movie was well done. It is different from most conclusions we see Hollywood producing these days, thankfully.

The point of view is a hand held camera. There are portions of the movie where the shaking does become annoying, but it seems to be survivable. The production value within the framework of a hand held camera is outstanding. There is also a depth to the film. The attention to details is remarkable. I plan on buying this film when it gets released just to have the pause button available to freeze frame and study all that is happening in some scenes.

I thought I was heading into a movie that Doris accurately described the original Godzilla movie meets “The Blair Witch Project”. It is that, and yet much, much more. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys the monster movie genre.

Go see it!

Review: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

I enjoyed this move much more than I thought I would. I have a soft spot for musicals, and when in the mood I like a gruesome horror flick. This movie was both, and it was very well done.

I guess I was afraid that it would be campy like “Little Shop of Horrors” or “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it didn’t have any humor. It had plenty of humor like any good drama does. Which is my point, I think. It was a drama. The story kept me riveted to my seat even though I was familiar with it.

Perhaps the movie had too much gore for some people’s sensibilities, but I found my self fascinated by how realistic it all looked. I don’t know if they used Computer graphics or if it was entirely makeup, but either way, it rocked!  It was gory, but not over done. For me it was not the blood spurts that made it horrific. It was the situation, the helplessness and the madness, and how a simple, caring man can be taken beyond the point of redemption that really scared me.

On to the acting. Johnny Depp seems to gravitate towards the bizarre. I pray that he is not being type cast because even back when he portrayed Pvt. Lerner in “Platoon”, you could see that he has a talent for drama. That said, I am very glad that Depp chose to portray Sweeny Todd. He was outstanding.

Helena Bonham Carter fit the movie well, but I am afraid that I kept being reminded of her role in “Big Fish”. Perhaps it was the costuming…

The surprise for me were Alan Rickman and newcomer Laura Michelle Kelly. They both were fantastic and seemed to really understand the characters they portrayed.

I completely recommend this movie to anyone that is a horror fan. I also recommend that care be taken when exposing young adults and children to it. View it first, then decide if it is appropriate for the youngster in your life.

Review: I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend

First, I want to be clear that I enjoyed this movie.

Second, I want it understood that I am disappointed in the adaptation of the SF Classic novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

I can understand when a movie changes events from a book because of cinematographic or time constraint reasons, but to change the theme to the point where the title no longer fits, well, I think at that point there should be some obligation for the movie folks to make it clear that it has become a totally different story.

I liked this movie very much.  It had some plot elements in common with the Matheson novel, but not enough. During the first half of the movie, I had high hopes that the movie would be true to the novel.  In fact the first part of the movie was riveting.  Then during the second half the movie inexplicably takes the ending from “The Omega Man”, a 1970’s movie based on I Am Legend, and creates a typical Hollywood ending.  Ugh.  They should have given it a different title and only claimed it was inspired by I Am Legend.

As I have said, I did like the movie.  It is a very good action SF film.  The cinematography is marvelous, and for the most part the CGI is seamless.  I didn’t care for the zombiesque bad guys, but that is likely a personal preference showing through.

What I really liked was the acting.  Will Smith continues to impress me.  He has to carry this movie because for the most part he is the only person on screen.  He does it well.  His portrayal of Robert Neville is wonderful.  He gives us subtle emotions when it would have been easy to go over the top.  He convincingly walks the razor edge of madness and takes us there with him.