Friday, April 27, 2012

Smoke Signals 2: Sports, Movies, SMG, and me

Welcome to Smoke Signals my mini blogger on my blog. Just a bunch of random thoughts I've had recently.

-My Facebook at work is not working, everyone else at work has working Facebook. I even downloaded Google Chrome to see if that helped. It didn't. Our IT guy was on my computer today. I wonder if he did something to it.

-As readers of my blog know, I have a crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar. Just found out she and her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. are expecting their 2nd child soon. Which may but the damper on a second season of Ringer. But for now who cares. Congratulations!

-The NFL draft started yesterday. The Ravens had the 29th pick overall. They ended up trading out of the first round for more draft picks. It makes sense, it makes real good sense, but I kind of wanted the Ravens to draft someone in the first round. I watched the whole thing waiting for it. In the end it was a good move and hopefully we will get some good players.

-The Baltimore Orioles who were projected to be a terrible team with at least 100 losses are now in a tie for first place. Now this doesn't really mean much right now since they tend to do good right out of the gate, liek last year they started 6-1 but soon started to fall badly. However this year seems to be different. Their pitching staff is pretty damn good. And they are getting the clutch hits they need. They are 5-1 against The Toronto Blue Jays who were supposed to be a good power this year. They are 0-3 against the Yankees and 1-2 against the Angels, so we shall see. May will be a big month for them. But now it is fun to watch this team.

-I have a zit. At the age of 38. WTF is up with that???

-My family pet Bonnie is not doing to good. She has not been eating alot the last 24 hours and threw up about 6 times last night. I still blame me letting her go out to eat grass. But she is old and she is showing it. Someday I will write a blog about my adopted cats Bonnie and Clyde. Just pray for her.

-Today April 27th is the last Friday before the Summer movie season starts. It's always seemed to be a weird movie day. Releasing a film a week before the first Summer Blockbuster knowing full well that you will be getting killed in your second week is always interesting to me. I will be writing a Summer Movie Rememberance blog sometime this summer. Should be fun.

-Maybe I will write it next weekend after I get back from the Mighty Marvel Movie Marathon. 6 Marvel Comics movies in order in one day, concluding with a midnight show of The Avengers. Starting at 1130am and going til about 230am. Should be interesting.

-I love watching my kids grow up and start to develop their personalities. I also see a lot of me in my kids. Recently Noelle started making up stories on her own and reading them to us. I used to do the same thing when I was a little older then her. In fact I wrote a lot of them down. I had written like 3 books, all about 33 pages long with illustrations, and my mother typed up some of my short stories and laminated them. I hope we can do something similar for Noelle.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Just a real quick follow up to the blog I wrote on Monday. Discovered yesterday that White Marsh has opened a second theater for the Mighty Marvel Marathon. And who got a ticket? This guy! So one of my opportunities has opened up and now I have put my money where my mouth is. Can't wait.

TOP 105 R.E.M. SONGS OF ALL TIME (63-43)

Welcome to part 3 of my 5 part list of the best 105 R.E.M. songs of all time. Again to re-iterate this is my list of favorites in my order. If you have a different take by all means let me know what you think in the comments section. Again I will have about 5 videos in here as well. Let's move along:

63. LEAVE: From New Adventures in HI-FI: This is one of those songs where when I first heard it. I hated it. The beginning was too much with some every electronic music which I am usually not a fan of. But when I got In Time the best of REM, on the second CD they had a different version of the song and I loved this new version. Gone was the electronic part. But begrudingly I went back and listened to the original one again and voila I liked it. 

62. SITTING STILL: From Murmur: More classic early REM. Just a fun little song. 

61. DISCOVERER: From Collapse into Now: The first track from what turned out to be REM's last studio album is a catchy grabber of a song that actually makes an appearance in the last song of the album. Blue (which was #81).

60. SWAN SWAN H: From Life's Rich Pagent:  Another great song from a great album. This one is pretty interesting and is one of their slower songs. Still good though. 


59. STAND: From Green: One of REM's more popular and well known songs is the epitome of peppiness and goofiness. It was also used as the theme song for the long ago sitcom Get A Life starring Chris Elliot and Brian Doyle-Murray.  But is definitly one of the songs most people remember REM did.

58. LOSING MY RELIGION: From Out of Time: This is the song that made REM. This was by far their biggest hit, another of the songs they are mostly known for, and it is grossly misunderstood. It is not an anti-religion song. Listen to the lyrics. It's about losing yourself, not your faith or religious beliefs. Losing My Religion is a Southern term. The video however made it out to be a song about losing the literal religion, that may be where some of the confusion comes from. Regardless, this is the song that propelled REM into the stratusphere and sent them on an incredible journey that most bands would love to have. In the end it is not one of favorite songs, but it is tolerable.

57. TRY NOT TO BREATH: From Automatic for the People: Love this song. A song that tries to be dark and depressing ala Everybody Hurts, but is actually a song about hope. And one of the neatest songs out there.

56. UNTIL THE DAY IS DONE: From Accelerate: One of the songs that slows the speed of Accelerate down, but is another glorious soft song full of hope.

55. SWEETNESS FOLLOWS: From Automatic For The People: The last three songs are a pretty good group to listen to in one sitting. A good retort to Everybody Hurts that is absolutely wonderful.

54. BEAT A DRUM: from Reveal: Another great song to go with the three previous. Another soft hopeful song that REM has been known for. Has kind of a Summery feel to it to go along with the album being called the Summer album.

53. IT HAPPENED TODAY: from Collapse Into Now: What I love about this song is that the actual singing is only about 2 minutes long, and it's a great catchy song. But what nails it for me is the Minute and a half of just music and humming. The Mandolin that was so prevalent in Out of Time makes a reapperance here as well.

52. SUPERNATURAL SUPERSERIOUS: from Acclerate: This was the first song in a really long time by REM that was played on the radio. I remember hearing it on 98 ROCK a number of times. This in turn helped Accelerate get REM back on the charts. It also is a fun song that has some rememberances of going to camp when you were younger.

51. LIFE AND HOW TO LIVE IT: from Reconstruction of the Fables: Like much of Fables I did not like the songs until I started listenting to it more. This one is a good old fashioned rocker, very REM-esqe and I am still surprised at myself for not liking it more when I was younger.

50. SO. CENTRAL RAIN: from Reckoning: "I'm sorry, I'm Sorry..." While a good old fashioned Southern rock song, it is also an apology to a scorned loved one. So. Central Rain is one of their classic songs that when you hear it know immediately that it is REM. It is also one of their first ever televised songs.


49. RADIO FREE EUROPE: from Murmur: Their first ever single. Their first ever song that made REM storm onto the scene. At the time it was an Indy wonder. Now it is one of their best songs that epitomizes who REM was.

48. EXHUMING McCARTHY: from Document: REM has always been a political band and this song is another one of their political songs. Though not has overt has Ignoreland or Revolution, this one in a peppy no nonsense way tries to let everyone know that McCarthyism is still around. They even dip into history and pull out a section from one of the McCarthy hearings. "Have you no sense of decency sir?"

47. THE SIDEWINDER SLEEPS TONITE: from Automatic for the People: With it's title it is supposed to make you think of The Lion sleeps tonight, though both songs are nowhere close to being near each other. This song though is a fun one that would have probably felt better suited for the more fun out of Time then the contemplative Automatic For The People.  But there it is, and it is a nice palatte cleanse for the more slower album that is Automatic For the People.

46. BANG AND BLAME: from Monster: The second single from Monster after What's the Frequency Kenneth? This one is one of their classic rockers but without as much electricity as What's the Frequency Kenneth? had. The chorus is a little earwormy, but it has a good opening and is a great fun rocker.

45. DRIVE: from Automatic for the People: The first single from what I still think is their best album leads you right into their contemplative state of mind that the album is mostly about, it also differentiates itself from their previous album Out of Time.

44. MORAL KIOSK: from Murmur: Moral Kiosk is a quirky song that keeps the upbeat tempo of their first album in tact in a fun song that will also earworm you as well.

43. WORLD LEADER PRETEND: from Green: A truly amazing song, a deep song, and one you won't stop thinking about.

That's it for this countdown. Sorry for the delay. Hopefully the next one won't be as late.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Missed Opportunities

Before I get into today's blog. Let me say that I do not like the new blogspot set up. It's cluttered, too much going on, needs to be simpler. I am not a professional blogger who has time to take a look at all the nuances it offers. I just want to write down my damn thoughts. Ok enough bitching.

Today was another in a few missed opportunities that while not life changing would have been fun. I missed out on getting tickets for the Mighty Marvel Movie Marathon. Now I am a huge comic book fan and it has been fun recently with all the comic book movies out there. And you have to give Marvel credit their movies seem to be far better then DC's. They have created a whole universe that reminds you of their comic universe and it is very cool. So far 5 movies have been released in the Marvel Universe with the 6th The Avengers opening up on May 4th, 2012.

Now I had heard about this marathon about a month or so ago. Movie theaters starting at 11:30am on Thursday May 3rd will be showing all 5 movies leading up to the midnight showing of The Avengers. All of it was 40 dollars. Course you would be sitting in a movie theater from 1130am-230am. And that was one of the things that had me hemming and hawing about if I should do this or not. That is close to 14 hours in a movie theater.  I did not know how they would do food their, if they would let us bring things in or were we at their mercy. Plus I could not really take two days off in a row from work, so I would get home around 3-315am and have to get up at 530am and help get the kids ready for school and then go to work for 8 hours with very little sleep. In the end I think a once in a lifetime feel came to me and decided to get the tickets. So I sign up today, all sold out. And it is only at this one theater near me and only one theater is doing this marathon. So no new showings will open up and there are really no other theaters it appears that will be doing this in the area. So I missed out because I hemmed and hawed to much. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me, though it is a little different secnario.

As you may or may not know I am a huge REM fan. They broke up last year and I was Ok with it. They had been around since the early 80s, their later stuff was good, but no where as good as their early stuff. I guess about 3-4 years ago they went on tour to promote Accelerate, which was their next to last album. But it turned out to be their last concert tour. They were going to play at Merriweather Post Pavillion which is in Columbia, Maryland which is near me. Their concert was also going to be in June, about two weeks before my birthday, unfortunately it was also going to be on a Wednesday or Thursday night. I told my wife I would kind of like to go for my birthday present, but I guess I did not push it enough because I did not end up going. REM had a blog I read and they gave the playlist of their concert and I was so pissed at myself because it was an awesome playlist. But at the time I did not know it was going to be their final concert. I was hoping that in a few years they would tour again and this time I would make sure to go. To late.

Is my life any worse for the wear? No, but still I think it would have been two events that would make great stories, or at least good blog entries.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Space: the Forgotton Frontier

Got an email from my sister today. It was about the declining health of my Grandmother. The only one I have left. But after letting me know some news, she switched gears on me and told me she was lucky enough to see the Space Shuttle fly over her school on it's way to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I thought that was kind of cool and it got me thinking about Space, and my own encounters with the Space Shuttle.

I remember the first time it launched, back around 82 I believe, maybe before. However my friend Michael Leavitt was either over my house to play or we had a sleepover that night. I think he just came over to play because I don't remember having too many sleepovers. Anyway we were playing the boardgame Clue on my dining room table in the house I grew up in when my folks called us into watch the launch of the first Space Shuttle. Space had always fascinated me and soon after that I subscribed to the space magazine Odyssey. It mesmerized me and excited me because I always loved space and space exploration. Found it fascinating. Still do now a days though there really is not too much of it going on.

Another Space Shuttle memory. I was in Middle School playing intramural touchball which was a very cool sport that was a combination of many sports that I don't think exists anymore. Anyway my team was awesome and we were playing on one of the lower fields of Dumbarton Middle School. When someone noticed something in the sky. It was a giant plane carrying the Space Shuttle. It flew over us to destination Florida I guess but it was a massive sight. Then 1986 happened.

I was still in Middle School at the time when January 28, 1986 happened. This day alone is probably what sent the space program reeling and it has never recovered. On that day the first teacher ever was going to rocket into space for a full shuttle mission thus giving ordinary people a chance to go into space. However tragedy struck and the shuttle exploded soon after liftoff killing all on board. The Shuttle missions were shut down for at least a year and a half while investigations went on. Now I was in the cafeteria when the rumor started circulating. Apparently one of the teachers was playing the launch in their classroom. Me and my buddies heard rumors that such a thing happened but we had no proof. So we started talking about how that was impossible. And that it never happened. Then we found out for sure it did. I don't think we got out of school early, but I remember going home and watching the constant replay over and over again.  I also recall on February 1, 2003 when Shuttle Columbia exploded as it was returning from space. I had it on with my wife in our apartment. I think we were on our way to her folks house for a visit when we put it on.  So I have lived through 2 shuttle disasters.

Now the Shuttle is gone. No more missions. And to be honest the missions were boring routine things. Nothing exciting like going to the Moon or Venus or Mars. Just orbiting the earth. And I guess that is fine, but the fact is we have not landed on the moon since the early 70s and we have a few robots and satelites visiting other worlds. But no real talk of of re-visiting the moon or going to Mars. And Space has now become boring. Our space program now is hanging on by a thread because of the situation in Washington and many people saying it is a waste of money to go explore Space when there are so many other problems to solve on Earth. I get it, I do. But we are explorers. Always have been. The Geeks and Nerds are the hot things now, and yet we cannot get money to explore or build new spacecraft. Or even look into new forms of fuel or types of travel so we can explore Space. And the excitement of space exploration is disappearing fast. Soon we will never do any exploring of space and that is sad.

I love space, I love Earth also, but I also believe we should get back to Space being the Final Frontier. Someplace mysterious and scary, and dangerous. I would like to see humans on Mars or Titan. I would love to see more exploration of our solar system. 2014 is going to be huge when we get our first views of Pluto which to me is still a planet, scientists be damned. That is exciting stuff man. i'd like to see more pics of Mars or Mercury, or Titan, all of which have satelites exploring them. I love space and hope that there are enough people out there to get us jumpstarted back on the space highway. Maybe when the aliens come in December 2012 we will then decide, hey maybe we should keep exploring space. Science fact is as interesting as Science fiction.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Greatish Performances: Antonio Banderas in Spy Kids

Welcome to the second blog in my Greatish Performances section. The first one was a few years ago and focused on Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka. As a reminder this is a blog about a performance, not a review of the movie.

Spy Kids was a fun family film that came out at the tail end of the 90s. Directed by Robert Rodriguez of El Mariachi fame and starring his go to guy Antonio Banderas. Antonio has always been known as kind of an intense actor, starting in movies that filmed overseas and soon he made his way here and married Melanie Griffith, and I think unlike alot of other hollywood couples they are still together.

Anyway Antonio plays Gregorio Cortez a father of two kids and loving husband to Ingrid. The secret is that Ingrid (played by the still hot Carla Gugino) and him were spies who were given an assignment years ago to kill each other, instead they fell in love and got married. Then retired from the spy biz and had kids. Living off of their riches and acting as consultants to other spy agencies. However they still have enemies and he and Ingrid have to downplay their "spyness" thus their kids find them weak parents. But one case gets their motors going again, but they get captured and their kids who now know the truth have to save them.

It's a very unique and cute story, but it is Antonio's deft use of humor from the way he talks to the way he moves and reacts to things that make this film a classic and his performance greatish.

Some of the good stuff. When he was a spy early in his career he had a mustache much like the one in the pic above. He is now clean shaven, but when he is required to go spy he slips on a fake mustache. When Ingrid wants to go on an assignment with him, she whispers seductive things to him and you watch as his resolve melts away. Opening and closing the car door for his wife is one big flourish, over exagerrated in a fun way.  His deft comedic timing with lines and improvs shows that he is a top flight comic actor. He allows anything to happen to him, including having his face smooshed against a glass wall. And just his pure joy that radiates from him during the film proves that he was having the time of his life playing this charming yet goofy role and having the acting chops to do both at various times so that you realize when he is charming, he's not acting charming he is charming, and when he is goofy, it's not just to mug to the camera the goofiness comes out of the situation and the type of person he is.

It's a shame that his role decreases in the other two Spy Kids films he was in. However, the final climatic battle between him and the bad guy in the second film is the one time in that film where he appears to recreate the fun and goofiness he had with the character in one of the all time funniest final battle scenes. In the end Antonio Banderas is a killer action actor, killer dramatic actor, and a truly hilarious comedic actor. I hope to see more of that in the future.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Top 105 R.E.M songs of all time (84-64)

Blog # 2 of the best REM songs of all time. Again this is my list, my choices, my order. If you do not agree or have a comment please let me know. I will again be adding 5 videos and little comments on the next batch of songs. Here we go...

84. LOW: From Out of Time: Considering Out Of Time was a trippy up tempo album, there are a few lower key songs. This is one of them.

83. UNDERTOW: From New Adventures in Hi-Fi: Another guitar charged feedback style song, but kind of a funky tempo and some good guitar licks.

82. MONTY GOT A RAW DEAL: From Automatic for the People: One of R.E.M. 's best aspects is their bizarre songs. This one about Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal fame. But as bizarre as it is it's quite an entertaining song. Hear for yourself.

81. BLUE: From Collapse into Now: The last REM song on their last studio album is a haunting spoken word song with background vocals by Patti Smith. It also has a repeat of the beginning part of Discoverer which was the first song on the CD giving it a Full Circle feel.  Has some great lines including "3AM Halloween night had enough to drink to have my own party" Haunting.

80. DISTURBANCE AT THE HERON HOUSE: From Document: Another strange little ditty that again is fascinating.

79. ME IN HONEY: From Out of Time: The second duet with Kate Pierson of the B-52s from this album may not be as well known as Shiny Happy people. But is just as peppy.

78. WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH?: From Monster: The first single from Monster was a guitar heavy rocking pounding song. The band did it because after two slower albums in Out of Time and Automatic For the People, they wanted to get back to some rocking music. Hence this song. It refers to an incident in New York City in 1986, where news anchor Dan Rather was the victim of an unprovoked attack by one or two assailants who, between beatings, would ask, "what's the frequency, Kenneth?" The previous statement was from Wikipedia.

77. HARBORCOAT: From Reckoning: A good early song from the band. Took me awhile to warm up to it, but again when I got older liked it alot.

76. ANIMAL: From In Time: The best of REM: A new song to go with one of their greatest hits compilations. This is a raw rocker with Michael Stipe screeching "I'm an Animal..." and it works. A rough and tumble song.

75. KING OF BIRDS: From Document: "100 Million birds fly away..." a great visual in one of these underrated songs that not a lot of people would have heard about. But is a very intense longing of a song. And it's brillant.

74. CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE: From Fables of the Reconstruction: Fables of the Reconstruction is REM's 3rd album and the original cover had both Fables of the Reconstruction and Reconstruction of the Fables. Most prefer Fables as do I, but either title is approriate. Anyway Can't get there from here used to be lower in the countdown, but the more I listened to it compared to some of the other great songs off the album it got pushed up to 74. A poppy, peppy song that is pretty good.

73. I DON'T SLEEP I DREAM: From Monster: A fantastic rocker off of a mediocre album. Worth it also to hear Stipe's higher register in his singing voice.

72. YOU ARE THE EVERYTHING: From Green: REM has always claimed never to write love songs, but I find that hard to believe considering some of the songs on this list. Of course they may have wanted to distance their indie love songs from mainstream, and this one is a good example.

71. THE LIFTING: From Reveal: I love this song. So unique and another good example of what makes REM unique, strange songs that have you wanting to keep listening to them.

70. NIGHTSWIMMING: From Automatic for the People: This is one of my friend Ellyn's favorite songs. Now I like it a lot, but there are 69 other songs I would like to listen to. But that being said. A bittersweet song about the loss of innocence and getting older while trying to hold onto your past. A very sweet song and part of in my opinion REM's greatest album. Can't beat it.

69. GARDENING AT NIGHT: From Chronic Town: REM's first mainstream album was Murmur, but before that there was Chronic Town that only had 5 songs on it. This is one of them, and there is one other one which I reveal later. This song is the first look at what REM would become, unlike some of the other songs on the album this one is the most like REM.

68. WELCOME TO THE OCCUPATION: From Document: Another great early rocker that started to show the more mainstream of REM. Great song.

67. TALK ABOUT THE PASSION: From Murmur: The Second single from theirdebut album is another sweet song.

66. THE WAKE-UP BOMB: From New Adventures in Hi-Fi: An in your face, explosive song that starts strong and never let's go. Good Rocker on a great album.

65. COUNTRY FEEDBACK: From Out of Time: When I first heard the song. I hated it. I was never a big fan of feedback songs. But as per the course with me the more I listened the more I loved it. And to me it is one of the quintessential songs that proves that REM is southern rock at it's best.

64. DISAPPEAR: From Reveal: Much like Country Feedback. I hated this song upon first hearing it. But again once I got past some of the feedback/background noise it is actually a very haunting song that digs into your brain and may freak you out a little bit.

That's all for now!

Smoke Signals Holiday Edition: EASTER

I am Catholic. Maybe not the best one in the world. But still, I am Catholic and we are in our Holy Week. Maundy Thursday is today. (The day of the Last Supper), Good Friday is tomorrow, and Easter Sunday is Sunday. Now I love holidays, and Easter is a holiday. It may not be my favorite holiday, but I still have great memories of Easter's past. So what I plan on doing with my Smoke Signals around the holidays is give you some memories of past holidays. Look for my next one to be 4th of July. So here we go, some memories of Easter Past.

-One of my more recent memories is of getting confirmed. I was never confirmed as a teenager, at that age I was still feeling my way around my religious beliefs, and kind of rebelling since I did not like going to church or CCD. When I met Dawn (my wife for those who don't know) her family was highly religious and as we were planning our wedding one of her wishes was to be married properly in a church. Not just to appease her parents but because she wanted to. And yes I wanted to also. My vision of marriage always included a church service. But in order to get married in a Catholic church, I had to get Confirmed. They have adult confirmation called RCIA. So I went through that for 6 months or so. We get confirmed at midnight mass for Easter. So I went through the process, my stepmother was my sponser and my wife and family cheered me on. My mother threw a pre confirmation dinner for us with Lasagna, and not only was Dawn's family there but so was my Grandmother. So all in all a nice memory.

-Going to a lot of midnight masses for Easter. Some were so startling and interesting with most of them starting in complete darkness and then a lone light appearing and low music and things started getting brighter and louder as our Lord was risen. Amazing!

-My parent's always liked to hide our Easter baskets and they were clever. Once, it was in the oven, once in the Fridge, once OUTSIDE. I try to bring that same feeling I had to my kids, they are still young, but they will probably start getting into it more.

- They also not only gave us candy and eggs, but we got small presents as well. I remember one year I requested a Voltron metal action figure. Got it to.

-As I got older and before kids and marriage I usually worked on Easter Sunday. Not everytime, but a few times. I remember once when I was a bagel baker. I was in at the shop at 3am on Easter Sunday to make the bagels. So about 6 am the sun was starting to rise and we opened later on Sunday so I was still the only one there. I remember looking out our front door. It looked onto York Road and a bank across the street. In the grass in front of the bank was a rabbit. no joke. I dubbed him the Easter bunny. Kind of cool. Though Bunnies are normal in that neighborhood, it was still kind of cool.

-Speaking of bunnies, you know it is Easter when a giant pink Bunny can be seen on top of the roof of the Mary Sue candy warehouse. You can see the bunny off of I-83.  Bizarre.

-When I worked for WLIF 101.9 LITE FM. I had to work the Bunny Bonan-zoo at the Baltimore Zoo. Always a lot of fun. Easter Egg hunts, candy. It was great.

-We dyed eggs. I always remember it being fun, but I had gotten away from it. Last year my wife and kids and I decorated eggs. Hopefully we can do it again. Always did it the day before Easter.

-When I was in Kindergarten we had a class pet. A bunny named Benjamin. All the class got to take him home for a weekend. I was lucky enough to get him on Easter weekend.

-My Grandmother used to have bendy bunny figures out for the kids. I remember playing with them a ton when I was little. I've been able to get some to my kids and hope they enjoy them as much as I did.

-My Easter movie has always been Monty Python and the Life of Brian, which is a satire of organized religion. Hilarious. This year I hope to get the kids into HOP a great Easter movie about the Easter bunny. Noelle and I saw it in the movie theater when it came out last year and we both enjoyed it.

-One year Easter fell on my sister's birthday and she wanted to celebrate by having us go with her on a boatride buffet down the Potomac in DC. Was awesome, except for the fact I was sick as a dog.

That's all I remember for now. Hopefully next year I will remember more. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TOP 105 R.E.M. SONGS OF ALL TIME (105-85)

It's been months since R.E.M. decided to call it a day. Since then I have been working diligently to pick my favorite R.E.M. songs of all time. I finally settled on 105. I know it's an odd number but it works for me. Over the next two weeks I hope to countdown from 105 to 1 on this blog. When I am done I will also be posting the link to my Youtube playlist of the Best R.E.M. songs of all time.

For fans of the band this is my list. I listed them in order that I like them. Some of their more popular songs are not in my list or may be high up in the 90s or 80s. This is my list. You are absolutly welcome to disagree with my list and to make your own as well. I welcome it. Please leave comments on my blog if you would like.  These are my favorites that span all their albums, from their main albums, to Dead Letter Office there collection of B-sides, and their Best of Albums as well since some of these albums had new songs or songs that were never released in a mainstream R.E.M album. Some were parts of movie soundtracks but were eventually collected on some best of albums. I also plan on posting maybe 5 videos of the songs for this blog, some may be life performances, the actual video that was played on MTV, or just fan films. (I would pick 5 songs from 105-85 to post on this blog). I will also make some statements about the songs, nothing to insightful and also some will be no mre than a sentence or two. So now without further adieu: Here is the 105 best R.E.M. songs of all time. DAY ONE. 105-85.

105. WINDOUT: From Dead Letter Office: Not a real well known song of theirs. Vintage early REM as their early stuff was a little more rocking. Actually appeared briefly in the Tom Hanks movie Bachelor Party.

104. REVOLUTION: From In Time: The best of REM: During their Monster tour they played this song at sound check every night. One of their highly political songs. It rails against the Republican Party of the mid 90s in a very Monstery rock way. Surprised it did not make it on to Monster. Originally appeared in the Batman and Robin soundtrack.

103. AT MY MOST BEAUTIFUL: From UP: UP was their first post Bill Berry album after he left the band and only one of maybe 2 good songs on the album. Still ok REM is better then any of today's music.

102. IMITATION OF LIFE: From Reveal:  Reveal is known as the Summer album and one of the main reasons is this song. A peppy cheery sunny upbeat summery song about an earlier time when we were kids playing everyday during the summer. This song was one of their bigger hits. Especially overseas where it was number 1 in Japan for weeks. 

101. STRANGE CURRENCIES: From Monster: Said to be "a lazy rewrite of Everybody Hurts". This is untrue in my opinion. This song is not as depressing as Everybody Hurts and also does not have the same melody either. It is it's own creature and a pretty good song on a mediocre album.

100. SEVEN CHINESE BROTHERS: From Reckoning: A song that took me a while to realize I liked it. When I originally got into REM back in High School. I did not like this song. But I guess age and time came into play. When re-listening to every album to find the best songs I found myself enjoying this song.

99. MR. RICHARDS: From Accelerate: After a few weak albums REM released Accelerate and the rock was back. I'm not sure if the Mr. Richards is refering to a real person but it is a song talking about how great it is that this Mr. Richards is being punished for something. But it is a very energetic song much like the rest of Accelerate.

98. WEST OF THE FIELDS: From Murmur: Some early REM pops up on the chart. West of the Fields has an irresistible earworm with it's chorus of West of the Fields repeated. The way Michael Stipe does it keeps it in your head and you find yourself singing the chorus at inopportune times. Damn earworms.

97. POP SONG 89: From Green: This almost did not make it in. I like the song, but there was something about it that made my skin crawl and make me want to skip it. But I started thinking about it and replayed the video while compiling my playlist and decided that it is a classic REM song. One of their more well known songs, and was sort of a changing of the guard. This was the first track from Green which was their first album from a Major Label (Warner Brothers). Kind of stating hey we have a sound we are a good band and we now want the world to know who we are.

96. CATAPULT: From Murmur: A pretty good early song from REM with some fun hooks.

95. RADIO SONG: From Out of Time: Even filmmaker Cameron Crowe who loves music as much as he loves film knew this song fit into his early 90s film Singles. The rap at the end is a little cheesy for me, but overall a good song.

94. NEW TEST LEPER: From New Adventures in Hi-Fi: An interesting song on one of REM's most underrated albums. The name alone does not give much hope, but it actually is a very entertaining song.

93. FRETLESS: From In Time: The Best of REM:  An underrated and mostly unheard song from REM, that was originally released on one of the greatest Movie Soundtracks for Indie Rock fans of the 90s Until the End of the World. A slightly depressing song, but still the fullness and emotion of Stipe's voice pushes the song into really good territory.  See for yourself;

92. HOLLOW MAN: From Accelerate: Accelerate was a fast moving speedy album, and that was one of it's great things, but every once in a while you wanted to slow down. And this song helps you do it.

91. FIREPLACE: From Document: A very quirky song with a terrific hook. Not a well known song but a slight departure from REM.

90. IGNORELAND: From Automatic for the People:  Another political song from REM. This is more a look back at disgust at the Republican party over the past few decades, but much like Revolution is a kicking rocker with good guitar work by Peter Buck.

89. NEAR WILD HEAVEN: From Out of Time A nice quiet song from their best selling album. Good love song.

88. ME MARLON BRANDO MARLON BRANDO AND I: From Collapse Into Now: From their last studio album. An ode to the greatness of Marlon Brando with some great hooks and back up vocals from Mike Mills (who I will discuss in future editions of the Best of list)

87. HYENA: From Life's Rich Pagent: Don't let the image of an ugly Hyena stop you from listening to this rocking song from one of their greatest albums of all time. Good beat and groove. Good old country rock!

86. HOUSTON: From Accelerate: A great political song about Hurricaine Katrina. "If the Storm doesn't kill me the Government will gotta get that out of my head." A Haunting line from this song with a haunting guitar riff at the beginning.  Fantastic song.

85. SUPERMAN: From Life's Rich Pagent: Combining two of my favorite loves, REM and Comic Books (kind of) Superman is a great song with a peppy beat. See for yourself. "I am Superman."

That's it for day one. Hope you enjoyed it and will be back for day two. Coming soon!

"The Ship Sinks" A look back at Titanic directed by James Cameron

You never know when inspiration will hit you. I was packing orders today at my job when I realized that James Cameron's Oscar Winning film Titanic is being re-released today in 3-D. A week before the 100th anniversary of the actual sinking of Titanic. I then started to think about the film and this jumped out of my head.

The movie is ok. Oscar Winning? Not quite? But from a historical standpoint this film is pretty cool. First the negative. The story is pedantic. Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic. Poor Boy meets Rich Girl. They fall in love, tragedy hits, the end. A story that has done thousands of time. Except what made this different was the fact that it was on the Titanic and it really looked like the Titanic. Chalk that up to the obsessive James Cameron who is one of the best, albeit frustrating, directors of our time. Is obsessiveness is what made this film sparkle. The attention to detail he put into everything, including using the same kind of silverware, sheets, and towels that were on the real Titanic. He looked at the blueprints of the Titanic, looked at pictures, even did some underwater exploration and nailed the accuracy of the time and the ship. And that needs to be applauded.

Is it obsessive? Sure. Was it neccassary? Probably not. But it elevated a fairly sub-standard film into an interesting piece of Historical Fiction/Non-Fiction. There was no Jack and Rose on the Titanic, but the Titanic did sink. Molly Brown played incredibly by Kathy Bates was there. And many of the other characters are real people. The ship's captain played by Victor Garber was there as well. But you add some fictional characters since you don't really know the history of some of the people on board and you got your self some Historical Fiction/Non-Fiction.

Is the accuracy what lead the film to be, until recently, the highest grossing film of all time? Of course not. It was Leonardo DiCaprio and the Celine Dion song. It was a good old fashioned love song. And what made the film a smash was the love for Leo. Though for me I liked to see the Kate Winslet nudity. (yummy. I am a bad boy). Leo is an excellent actor, Kate Winslet an excellent actress. And maybe this film is what helped them move to the next level. Didn't help Billy Zane's career, unless you count his appearance in Zoolander.

I saw the film weeks after it came out. I saw it at the Senator theater here in Baltimore and it was good, excessively long, but still good. I loved the future scenes with Bill Paxton and Gloria Stuart, I teared up a bit at the end when Rose was reunited at the bottom of the sea with Jack and all the other dead guests of the Titanic. Yes I despised the overplayed Celine Dion song, which was tough because I was working at Lite FM 101.9 at the time and they played it ALL THE TIME!!! But I loved the historical accuracy of the ship. Being a history major of course I would like that. I own it on video, but have never gotten the DVD or Blu-Ray. Will I ever? Who knows. I would prefer to own the documentary Cameron shot of his exploration of the Titanic with Bill Paxton. Saw it on PBS once and it was excellent. Am I going to see it in 3-D? No way. I don't like 3-D and in general don't like the movie enough to pay to see it int he theater. (Though Kate Winslet naked in 3-D. HMMM. Dirty boy.) Do I think it will make a lot of money this week? No. I think Hunger Games and American Reunion will step up. You also still have Wrath of Titans as well.  It was a different era. Everyone has the movie on video, DVD, or Blu-Ray. I just don't see it. Would I be surprised if it did well. Yeah kind of. But anything is possible.

Oh and for all you people who are yelling at me for not putting up a spoiler warning about the ship. It's history. You can't spoil that! Sheesh.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Double Dose of SMG please

My wife all ready knows this. I have a huge crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar. I guess it came from her days on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but in my days before I became a kept man, I used to cut her picture out of magazines and tape them up in my room at my mothers house where I lived for about 6 years after graduating from college. Then around the same time I started dating my wife Sarah disappeared from view. Buffy was over, her movie career was not one of the best. So she got married to Freddie Prinze Jr. and had a baby girl. Then she went in mom mode around the time that I got married and had a daughter to. I never saw any of her movies she made after Buffy, though I am sure sometime in the next few years I will be watching the Live Action Scooby Doo's because my kids may become interested in them.  So last year I was excited to hear that she was coming back to TV albeit on the CW. Originally CBS was going to air it, but ended up just producing it and sold it to the CW. What might have been if it had a major network backing. However RINGER appears to be getting cancelled after one season. And I'm ok with that.

It took me a while to warm up to RINGER, but now with the end in sight I have new respect for it. Because it reminds me of a Noir Novel. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger or big surprise like a lot of books do that get you to come back for more. Or get you excited to read the next chapter. As the weeks progressed on the show the story got crazier and more intricate, and more addictive. Despite all that it did not appear to me like they were throwing stuff on a wall to see what makes it stick. They had a plan and each crazy twist makes sense in the end when you view the story a few eps from the twist. It keeps your interest and makes you wonder what will happen next and how can this end happily for everyone involved.

At it's heart it is a revenge tale. (POSTING SPOILERS RIGHT NOW!!! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!)

Siobhan and Bridget are twins. And they are both played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yummy!! They had a falling out a few years ago over the death of Siobhan's son who Bridget was taking care of and accidentally was killed in a car accident in a car driven by Siobhan's estranged baby daddy Dylan. (Yes that IS awesome) Siobhan has never forgiven her sister and moved to New York where she fell in love with a married man and stole him from his wife. His name is Andrew. He is played by Ioan Gruffaud who played Mr. Fantastic in the two Fantastic Four movies that were released a few years ago. They got married and are living the life of the rich. And Siobhan hates it. So she starts having an affair with her best friends husband Henry (Kristoffer Polaha). Siobhan then starts planning a caper that would destroy Andrew and also maybe kill Bridget as well.

Bridget meanwhile has been hitting the bottle hard and working as a stripper in Utah. (YESSS!) She witnesses a murder and FBI agent Machado (Nestor Carbonell from LOST. He with the pretty pretty eyebrows) gets her to testify against the man who did it. A crime boss named Mcowey. But at the last minute she panics and runs to New York to try to patch things up with Siobhan. Siobhan greets her with open arms and tells her she forgives her. They take a trip to the Catskills where Andrew and Siobhan have a vacation home and Bridget and Siobhan go out for a ride on a boat. Bridget exhausted from running falls asleep. When she comes to Siobhan is gone and she is in the middle of the water in a boat. Believing Siobhan has comitted suicide Bridget returns to land and decides to disappear by becoming Siobhan. She convinces everyone that she is Siobhan and soon discovers that Siobhan's life has not been all Champagne and Roses so she goes out of her way to try and repair Siobhan's life. She tries to get Siobhan and Andrew to be happy again and in the process she falls in love with Andrew. She tries to repair Siobhan's relationship with Andrew's daughter who hates Siobhan for breaking up their family. She immediately puts an end to the affair Siobhan had with Henry and tries to get her best friend to like her again.

However while trying to fix up their new loft which is being built. Bridget discovers a man who wants Siobhan dead and starts shooting at Bridget. Bridget gets the upper hand and kills the gunmen. Now she has to discover who tried to kill Siobhan. So Bridget starts digging more into Siobhan's life and discovers all kinds of wild and crazy things. And everytime she discovers something something else even weirder pops up and Bridget has to make sense of it all.  Then we discover that Siobhan actually faked her death and has travelled to Paris for some reason that has slowly been getting revealed.

There are a ton more of side storylines with the other characters that pop up in the story. Including the kidnapping of Siobhan's best friend, Andrew's daughter charging that her teacher has raped her, Machado trying to put McOwey away without Bridget's help. Bridget's sponser Malcolm (Mike Colter) is put in danger by McOwey to draw out Bridget, Andrew's possible Ponzi Scheme, The re-apperance of Andrew's ex-wife,  Siobhan's pregnancy and what her scheme is towards Andrew and Bridget, Henry trying to get his father in law to invest in Andrew's company. Mysterious people, murder, double crosses, big money, gunplay, and more. It is more than a soap opera it is a modern day Noir story. And I can't get enough of it.

Well Dylan if you love it so much why are you ok with no second season? To be honest after everything that has happened in this show, I do not know how you can have a second season without it seeming like a re-hash of the first season. The pretending to be your twin story has now been done, and where do you go after all of this? Is it possible that they had ideas for more seasons? Probably since networks tend to not give just one season to a show. They like to see that if it becomes successful that it can sustain multiple seasons.  But what you get with Ringer is a finely crafted Noir Novel with a true beginning, middle, and hopeful a fulfilling ending. With only 3 episodes left we shall see what happens. I will get back on in a few weeks to let you know if I was happy with the ending or not.