Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't Stop Believin'

Dont stop believing - Journey

Stumbled upon this profile from the Los Angeles Times that's been reprinted on more than a few websites today, by Chris Willman, about (of all things), the Journey classic, "Don't Stop Believin'." Willman begins:
There's an old pop aphorism that goes: "Don't bore us -- get to the chorus." By that yardstick, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " should be one of the most boring and unsuccessful rock recordings of all time.

Structurally, it's a mess: Surely one would get tossed out of songwriting school for a tune that follows its opening piano riff with a verse, a guitar arpeggio, a second verse, a bridge, a guitar solo, a third verse, a repeat of the bridge, another guitar solo . . . and then, 3 minutes, 20 seconds in, when the song is ready to fade out, one of the most unforgettable choruses in rock.
Despite this, the song has incredible staying power, and is nearly ubiquitous--it shows up on movie/TV soundtracks of all flavors; in sports arenas; karaoke bars; Broadway; many, many youtube covers...
"There is an odd form to the song as well, because it's almost like an A-B-A-B-C pattern," [Jonathan Cain, Journey keyboardist/song co-writer] says, perhaps understating the true nuttiness of the song's structure. "So there's that chorus they hadn't heard before at the end. But we knew we wanted to save it. It's like a wave about to happen -- the anticipation of something happening, a change in your life," Cain said

That sense of tension and eventual anthemic release may have given the song more staying power than a song that gives away all its goods in the first minute.

"Don't Stop Believin' " has become the top-selling digital download of a track not originally released in this century, selling 2,803,000 units since online single sales began to be tracked in 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
2 million downloads...that ain't chump change. The whole story is pretty interesting--oh, but I should've warned you at the beginning of this post, once you start reading about the song, you won't get it out of your head all day. (which is why I didn't warn you, honestly...why should I be the only one?)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Sandman's 500th (and his 1st)

Mo is not only the most feared closer in baseball, he's the most feared hitter in baseball, walking 33% of the time. Not since Babe Ruth have the Yankees been blessed with a player that dominates as both a pitcher and hitter. (from Respect Jeter's Gangster)

The expression on Jeter's face when K-Rod pitched to him at the beginning of his at-bat (2 on, 2 out, with Mariano Rivera waiting for his 3rd career at-bat) was enough to make any Yankee fan laugh, but the laughter turned to gleeful hysterics he (eventually) was intentionally walked to bring up Mo for a quick third out. Why? 'Cuz one of the most feared closers working today enabled Mariano to work him to a full-count and then drew a walk, adding an insurance run to the Yankee totals, and giving Mo yet another statistic: 1 RBI (or, as Big League Stew noted, 2,296 behind Aaron). Not to overload this post with quotes, but...I laughed out loud (only funny because it's tuh-rue) at Craig Calcaterra's comment:
Francisco Rodriguez gave it up, which in some cosmic way illustrates the vast gulf between those two pitchers in my mind. How do you walk Mariano Rivera? Nerves is all I can think, and you can bet your ass that if the situation was reversed, Rivera would never have walked Rodriguez, because Rivera's body temperature runs at a constant 57 degrees.

Rivera (the other #42) then went on to do what he does best: sending batters to bed, earning his 500th save in the process.

His reaction? After hugging every teammate and coach, he had to go speak to the press. He was nothing but class, of course. "I don't play for the records, I play for the Yankees."

He's simply the best.

Monday Movie Wrap-Up

One of the things that was bugging me about this blog just before that breather, was the number of TV shows/movies/books I was talking about/reviewing (not that many of these are real reviews, just blurbs) about. But it's something to talk about, and I've been told they're occasionally helpful. So I'm going to restrict myself to a weekly (maybe bi-weekly) post about some of the movies I've watched over the past week--unless there's something mind-blowingly great or so freakishly horrific that I think warrants it's own post. I do not promise that these are exhaustive lists of what I've watched, for those keeping score at home, there's one movie I watched last week that I'm reticent to admit I've seen in public.*

First up is Kenny, a tremendously funny, very endearing film about a portaloo** plumber. Kenny's one of seemingly ever-increasing number of mockumentaries. It's so well made, however, I kept forgetting that it wasn't a documentary about a very real person. Kenny is an everyman of sorts, fairly content with his lot in life, who has a certain pride in his work--which is unfathomable to just about everyone he comes into contact with--clients and family, particularly the latter. Whether addressing the camera or those he interacts with, Kenny comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a decent dose of common sense and a very quick wit.

The comedy kicks into high-gear when his employer (Splashdown) sends him to the International Pumper and Cleaner Expo in Nashville, TN (Kenny refers to it as "Poo HQ"). Kenny just wanders around and riffs on the exhibits and products. But there is a real story here, it's not just a collection of toilet humor (pun intended), and one with a lot of heart.

Grade: B+/A-

The Life of David Gale wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and while it wasn't shy about it's anti-capital punishment agenda, there was enough of a plot that you could ignore it. Not a fantastic plot, but a decent one. Here's the set-up, reporter Kate Winslet is assigned to interview David Gale (Kevin Spacey), a former professor/anti-capital punishment activist, in the days before he's executed by the state of Texas for a rape/murder. Gale claims to have been framed, of course, and Winslet soon finds herself in a race to find the framer(s) before he's executed.

It's a decent movie, with a can see it coming a mile-away "shocker" ending. Not the best work I've seen from Spacey, Laura Linney, or Winselt--it's probable that it's the best I've seen from Rhona Mitra, who was able to hide her accent capably. A good way to kill a couple of hours, but little more.

I toss this out for those who've seen it: Roger Ebert said in his review, "I am sure the filmmakers believe their film is against the death penalty. I believe it supports it and hopes to discredit the opponents of the penalty as unprincipled fraudsters." Which made me happy to see I wasn't alone in thinking this. What did you think?

Grade: C

I only sat through 1408 because it was on at work, and I had little choice. Not a horrible horror flick, and Cusak owns the screen throughout as a skeptical writer who's out to debunk a myth about a haunted room. Really not sure why he agreed to this (other than to help fund some of his smaller, worthy, projects). Not terribly bad for a horror flick--overly gross, a few legitmate thrills, and the plot does move in a few unexpected ways. Samuel L. Jackson is capable the few moments he's on screen, and the movie does answer the question I'm sure someone has long been asking, "How would Mary McCormack look with brown hair?"

Grade: B- (a lesser actor than Cusak would've earned it a C- at best)

Lastly, we have Inkheart, based on what I'm told is a really good novel about a man who's able to bring characters/things from books to life just by reading aloud. Fraser (the reader in question) has to use his ability to save his family (and the world) from some escaped fictional villains.

It was a fast-paced movie that tried really hard to be great. The book's obvious love of words, novels, and the realm of the imagination are on fully display for every viewer (which is just a little like "a free ride when you've already paid"). This is one you can sit down and watch with the kids (and you'd probably be better off doing so than watching alone).

There are a few beefs: the villains are mostly too cartoonish and bumbly to take as a credible threat, the plot meanders a bit, and Fraser's the only guy without an accent (making him stick out like Costner in Sherwood Forest).

The movie makes a couple of significant departures from the book. One I could spot from reading the back of the novel's sequel, another I was told about (a significant supporting character from classic lit is replaced with another significant supporting character). Both are very understandable and forgivable if you think about this as a single movie with budget restrictions, not the beginning of a franchise.

Grade: B

* it was PG-13, so spare me the obvious jokes. Unless they're really funny.
** translated into American: port-a-potty

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thought for the Lord's Day - #40

The greater God's gifts and works, the less are they regarded. The highest and most precious treasure we receive of God is, that we can speak, hear, see, etc.; but how few acknowledge these as God's special gifts, much less give God thanks for them. The world highly esteems riches, honor, power, and other things of less value, which soon vanish away, but a blind man, if in his right wits, would willingly exchange all these for sight. The reason why the corporal gifts of God are so much undervalued is, that they are so common, that God bestows them also upon brute beasts, which as well as we, and better, hear and see. Nay, when Christ made the blind to see, drove out devils, raised the dead, etc., he was upbraided by the ungodly hypocrites, who gave themselves out for God's people, and was told that he was a Samaritan, and had a devil. Ah! the world is the devil's, whether it goes or stands still; how, then, can men acknowledge God's gifts and benefits? It is with us as with young children, who regard not so much their daily bread, as an apple, a pear, or other toys. Look at the cattle going into the fields to pasture, and behold in them our preachers, our milk-bearers, butter-bearers, cheese and wool bearers, which daily preach unto us faith in God, and that we should trust in him, as in our loving Father, who cares for us, and will maintain and nourish us.
- Martin Luther

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Would You Like to Play a Game?

I could really use some recommendations for some computer games to play while I'm at work, Free Cell and Spider Solitaire can chew up the time just fine, but I could use a little variety, but when I go looking at game sites, I'm just not seeing anything that grabs my attention.

I'm not looking for something very involved (like say, World of Warcraft), I'm not looking to invest hours into something complex. Just a little distraction. Nothing web-based, either, I need something for those times I can't connect to the Internet.

Any ideas?

Behind Already!

So much for a post a day, eh? Will try to do two today to make up the debt to my Blog Karma.

I did add a few links to the blogrolls on the right on Friday, so it wasn't like I did nothing to this place between errands and dental work.

Have a pleasant weekend, ya'll.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Sign of Life (no promises regarding the intelligence thereof)

Clearly, it's been awhile since I've done anything around here, and the layer of dust on my Blogger account is thick enough to choke a marmoset.* Initially, it wasn't a planned silence or anything, just something that happened. Then it steamrolled into a cessation of microblogging (and other activity) on Facebook and other InterWeb haunts.

Much to the consternation of at least a few loyal readers/friends/non-donors. I do appreciate those who've written/IMed/nagged about my silence, sorry, folks...am back.

A few days ago, I figured a month off was a good, round timespan, and I'd get back into action today. When I made that call, I hadn't really taken into consideration the fact that I had a wisdom tooth extraction scheduled for the 24th, and am in no mood whatsoever to write anything today (and I did have something in mind). Oops...best laid plans of Mus musculus and Homo sapiens and all that...

I do have most of a plan in place to get at least a post up a day until at least Aug. 26th (that date will become clear, D.V., the day before), which should take care of the general malaise I seem to have developed towards this little project. We'll see how that goes.

Thanks for reading :)

* not that I've tried, mind you--PETA, call off your lawyers.