Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jury Duty

Off to the south side I go to fulfill my civic duty. Will I be chosen? Will it be a juicy case? Will it completely screw up the rare visit from my Australian sister-in-law, her infant daughter, my wife going back to work after 4-months of leave, my 3-month old starting part-time daycare, trick or treating with friends and my older daughter's 3-year birthday? Which are all in the next few days? Tune in later to find out!

Thanks, jury duty! You keep my life exciting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

West Memphis 3 On the Way to Freedom?

Almost fifteen years ago, three Arkansas teens were ridiculously convicted of sacrificing three small boys in a supposed Satanic ritual, mostly on the basis of a wrangled confession from one of the three defendants (who happened to be a retarded drug user) and also the testimony from supposed ringleader Damien Echols, who was far too smart for his own good and naive enough to believe that telling the truth would ring right with the court. The documentary "Paradise Lost" basically portrays the case as the epitome of justice miscarried. It's tragic that these three guys ended up either in jail for life or on death row with no evidence supporting the conviction and with all signs pointing to the trial as an ad hoc witch hunt.

Well, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but sometimes they do make it all the way around. It's just been reported that DNA evidence doesn't show that the three defendants were even present at the scene, and that the alleged Satanic mutilation was actually the work of animals. And now one of the murdered boys stepfathers - surprise surprise, though not the stepfather some suspected - has been circumstantially implicated thanks to those same DNA tests.

Of course the prosecutors are sticking by the case. But the case is running away from them. I once spoke with the filmmakers behind "Paradise Lost," and they were hopeful something like this would happen. That was over a year ago. Maybe by this time next year all this nonsense will be over and done with and the backwoods morons responsible for railroading these three finally hone up to the extent of their mistakes.

Snoozing with Dylan

I've seen a lot of big shows lately - Springsteen - and smaller shows - Drive-By Truckers - so I wasn't in the mood to see another one on my night off. But it's hard to pass up Bob Dylan, because you never know when you may not have another chance. Still, I had low expectations, and he didn't really rise too far above them. In fact, it marked the second time I actually fell asleep at a Dylan show, something that's not happened at any other of the thousands of shows I've caught.

Was Dylan boring? Not really. But he was a drag as he croaked his way through recent stuff and a few unrecognizable classics. Ironically, listening to him speak-sing stuff like "Highway 61," serviceable but nowhere near what he used to be able to pull off, did make me want to go home and listen to the real thing. The songs are strong enough to survive the singer.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Van Halen

I saw Van Halen last night, and they were awesome (review here). But below is an example of a less than awesome night, when the keyboards of the encore "Jump" were played back at the wrong speed and the band attempted in vain to adjust.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Josh Ritter

Lots of acts pay lip service to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen - how could you not at least profess to like them? - but Josh Ritter may be the only young act whose songwriting does justice to his clear influences. The guy's some kind of prodigy, his songwriting literary in the best sense, but as a performer Ritter really sets himself apart from all his po-faced and pretentious peers. Ritter was all smiles at the Park West last night, as he always is, and he looked like he was having an even better time than his fans, as he always does. You can see him in action below. It's all great stuff, but my money's on "The Temptation of Adam," about two missile silo operators in love, one of whom contemplates initiating World War III from the safety of his shelter just so he can be stranded with his sweetheart forever.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead D-Day

As promised, with only about a week's notice, Radiohead just officially released their new album straight to the internet, for free. And it's pretty good, too. This will do nothing but help bands like Radiohead. This will do nothing but hurt acts like, say, Madonna. And it will make absolutely no difference to 90% of the rest of the major label acts on the planet, who make a relative pittance from record sales, anyway.

Some questions: how will this affect indie acts, who do make some cash on CD sales? Also, is this album still copywritten? Even though it's free, is it legal to trade?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wither NBC Comedy?

After spending a summer looking forward (however passively) to the season premieres of both "The Office" and "30 Rock" - shows that overcame huge hurdles and proved they worth investing one's half hour in - we've been bummed by the sub-mediocrity of the eps that have aired so far. "The Office" seems unable to sustain 60 minutes, and the "super sized" episodes broadcast so far have been big unfunny drags. As for "30 Rock," last week's season two premiere was terrible and patronizing in its lame shilling for Jerry Seinfeld's poopy looking upcoming animated movie, not to mention NBC's other TV properties. If "The Office" sucks again this week, it's three strikes and out. We'll give "30 Rock" a couple of more weeks, but I secretly hope it, too, fails to live up to its high standards. Our nightly TV time is a premium, and there are three hundred other shows and movies on DVD I'd rather be watching were what's being broadcast anything less than totally compelling.

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg claims it's a coincidence that his "Eastern Promises" reunites him with "A History of Violence" star Viggo Mortenson. If so, that's some coincidence, since "Promises" features Mortenson is a sort of flipside version of his "Violence" role, as a hitman with a heart of gold (maybe) but also the will to calmly thaw a frozen corpse with a hair dryer, remove the teeth, and snip off his fingertips.

The movie itself isn't really of a piece with Cronenberg's past works, "Violence" aside, nor, for that matter, is it as good as "Violence." But the homoerotic subtext is intriguing, as is the introduction of Russian prison tattoos as a sort of living history. The film also features one of the most daring and vicious fight scenes I've seen in a while: Mortenson, nude, fending off two Chechen mobsters in a London bathhouse.

The only real distraction this time out is Cronenberg's compulsion to show gore, specifically two gaping slit throats whose visual impact is almost comedic. The director impressively refrains from fetishising the mob, but showing blood less in this case would have been more dramatic.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

James Blackshaw

It's not often I go out to a show just for the heck of it (barring big ticket spectacle). But James Blackshawis one heavenly guitarist, and I had to see and hear him in action. I caught him as an opening act at another show and even made it home to see (a terribly unfunny) episode of The Office. When the guy was playing it was like the rest of the world tuned out. Truly moving stuff, even if the young British guitarist just sat there, legs crossed and concentrating.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Speaks for Itself

It's like living in an alternate reality.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I don't consider Genesis a guilty pleasure because I don't feel guilty about listening to them. I even kind of like their shitty '80s stuff, not all of which is as shitty as you may remember it (or may have tried to forget). One reason I'm willing to forgive the indulgence of the ongoing reunion just for the sake of reunion is that the band apparently genuinely likes one another. No feuds here; the reunion was fueled by friendship. Oh, and money. Tickets were over $200 a piece. I got two (I didn't pay). When ticket prices are that high I spend a large part of the show fantasizing what I would have spent on all that cash instead of a concert.

As for the show, the band did a surprisingly great job of balancing its proggy '70s stuff with the poppy '80s stuff, and when they played they latter they often went with the "long" album versions of songs like "Mama" and "Domino." The ballads were perfectly understandable in this case: they had to win back the women bored by the prog excesses.

What made this arena show unique was the way it ended. Usually the hit parade means stick around, but in Genesis' case it meant leaving early. I can't defend "Invisible Touch" or the unctuous "I Can't Dance," even if sitting through that pain would have been rewarded with a run through the pretty "Carpet Crawlers," one of the best songs of the Peter Gabriel era. Oh, well.

Because I Love Him

Apropos of nothing, save perhaps the arrival of a new record.