Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

A piece of Mister Parker’s Band

November 17, 2008 2 comments

Steely Dan is a musical duo with, so far as I can tell, no equals.  For starters, how many multi platinum-album groups are named after a dildo?  Or rose to fame on songs of historical and mythological themes?  Or even tributes to other musicians?  Here’s something to get your Monday Morning going…  (You might want to minimize the video and just listen)

But if you like Steely Dan, you’re used to people saying; “Who?”  Their music is rigorous – it demands a lot from the listener.  An acquired taste, don’t you know.  At least, every Dan fan has said something like that over the years.  So I totally cracked up at this link sent in by Lucas, The Onion: Donald Fagan defends Steely Dan to friends.

Hey, Don, I know exactly where you’re coming from, man.  Except for all the drugs and stuff.

(And here’s a mythological reference, considerably more laid-back than the previous example)

Categories: music, Reviews

Monday Morning Music: Deodato’s Zarathustra

October 27, 2008 1 comment

I’m re-watching Sagan’s Cosmos, and the first episode had a snippet of a somewhat jazzed-up Also Sprach Zarathustra.  Which reminded me of my favorite version of that theme, by Eumir Deodato.  I had it on stereo cassette in my hopped-up VW back in ‘77, pushing the boundaries of safety and sanity on back roads of East Tennessee:

Let this one play while you get ready (the video is quite superfluous) and hit the week with rhythm and verve, baby. 

Categories: music, Reviews

Movie Review: ‘Man On Wire’

October 24, 2008 Comments off

A documentary film?  Yes, but much more.  A heist movie?  Yes, a really good one, excitingly told, but much more.  Also a privileged look into the human soul of art in the face of death, Man On Wire does all three these things well in just 90 minutes.

It is the story of Phillipe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  Journalists demanded to know ‘Why?’ but there simply is no ‘why’.  We meet a full cast of people who carried off the heist right under the noses of the authorities, stringing a steel cable between the towers so the artist – no other word applies – could throw open the perception of human boundaries farther than anyone could imagine.  That was his gift to the world. 

The movie does not mention 9/11 and that is entirely fitting.  The WTC was itself an extraordinary achievement and how wonderful to associate it with an artistic triumph instead of one of humanity’s darker moments.  That is a different story, one full of heroism that overshadows evil, which deserves its own telling.

Seriously, see this movie, in the theater if you can and on DVD again later.  I don’t need to worry about building up expectations too high – it is moving and funny and exciting and beautiful.  (It will be showing tomorrow night and Sunday, 25 and 26 October, at the Historic Normal Theater if you’re in town)

Categories: Movies, Reviews

Monday Morning Music: “American Experience”

October 13, 2008 2 comments

American Experience: It’s difficult to imagine a more emotional piece of music only 43 seconds long…

Tonight’s episode is about Richard Nixon.  The episodes I’ve seen so far have been just stunningly excellent.  The whole Presidents series Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush is available as a set.  I hope they also do Eisenhower, Kennedy, Clinton, Bush II and someday… Obama.

Categories: music, Reviews

Monday Morning Music: Theremin Crazy

September 29, 2008 4 comments

What’s a theremin?  Sure, it may sound like a vitamin-enriched hot drink for flu relief, but it’s actually a rather futuristic musical instrument invented by a Russian of the same name.  It has the distinction of being the only musical instrument that is played without being touched: the performer moves his or her hands within an RF field, which feeds back to the instrument as an astonishing range of sound.  Here’s a thereminist playing Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”.  Watch how the performer moves his hands:

If you have heard the original vocals it’s almost impossible to hear this version without being struck by the resemblance to a particular human voice.

I’ve often wondered, if you showed the outre video of the original song to an audience back in, say, 1920, what would they make of it?  How much of the virtue we find in a given work of art is universal, and how much contextual?
(HT Lucas, who finds the damndest things)

Categories: music, Reviews

Any Major Dude Will Tell You

September 8, 2008 Comments off


Categories: Reviews

Movie Review: Wall-E

June 29, 2008 2 comments

Just on impulse I Shanghaied MrsDoF to see Wall-E this afternoon.  After all, it’s from Pixar, and they did Incredibles, which I thought was wonderful.  And it got a somewhat over-the-top review from one of the ScienceBloggers I often read. 

The movie is about a lonely robot, the last of his kind left behind on Earth to clean up the environmental mess.  He encounters another robot dropped off on a reconnaissance mission, and attempts to make friends with her.  Because, though neither robot is humanoid, there isn’t any doubt about the expressive gender of either one.

And watch out for this chick, Wall-E!  She packs a punch.  But they establish a relationship amid the mountains of trash, and all goes well until Wall-E presents her with a little green plant, and then things go terribly wrong…

The movie is fine for kids and adults won’t be bored.  Aside from the awesome Pixar animation, I enjoyed the tribute references to other science-fiction movies and stories.  The ship’s computer is so clearly HAL, only more bad-tempered.  And see if you can spot the brief reference to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Categories: Movies, Reviews

Larry Gonick’s new comic(s)

June 18, 2008 Comments off

I’m a huge fan of Larry Gonick and his Cartoon Guides… to the Universe, to Physics, to Sex, to Statistics, to Chemistry, to… well lots of stuff… he is truly a Renaissance man.  And to borrow a phrase from his Cartoon Guide to Non-Communication, “Now this:”

Dear Fans,
I’ve just launched a new comic strip, Raw Materials, on the Discovery Channel’s web site. It’s a li’l 4-panel number that features four budding scientist-type kids. Check it out!

Yea!  But wait, there’s more… while hunting up the graphic to use for this post I found out he already had two other comics I didn’t know about; Commoners, and Kokopelli and Company.  All three, just now added to my sidebar Comics links.  Enjoy!

Categories: Reviews

Surviving the unthinkable

June 11, 2008 Comments off

Mother Jones magazine interviews Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable; who survives when disaster strikes, and why.  Here’s an excerpt:

“…citizens are not prepared for attacks because there is a bias against the public by nearly every expert and government official. In emergency preparedness, there is this belief that public will panic, that the public is not to be trusted, that there will be looting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with very smart, knowledgeable Homeland Security experts who are essentially tasked with saving your life who do not trust you with information. They just don’t. They kind of dismiss the media and the public in one fell swoop. A lot of the time you see a warning, in the subway, or in a movie theater, the main thrust of the warning will be to not panic if there is an emergency. To listen to directions. Now that’s a waste. They could have given you information, but you can see their expectation that you’re going to screw up…”

Ripley turned up some surprises while researching the book, and has an interesting take on the psychology of terrorism and those who imagine themselves as possible victims of terrorism.  Check it out.

Categories: Books, Reviews

Movie Review: Iron Man

June 1, 2008 2 comments

Back in college a friend and I were discussing an issue of Swamp Thing, a comic series about a scientist who was turned into a tortured monster by exposure to fire, chemicals, and immersion in a swamp.  The theme of the series was nothing important; only humanity and what makes us human.  He was writing a paper about it and we were making a couple Xerox copies in the library.

The librarian overheard our conversation.  He asked what we were working on, and he said; “Waste of time.  An utter waste of time” and walked away shaking his head. I wondered if he would have said the same thing about Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a similar, though smaller treatment of the theme of humanity.

Believe it or not, some comic books are not about themes of intelligence or humanity or identity or anything like that; some are just for fun.  Mostly that describes the series Iron Man, though it does have its philosophical moments.  The basic idea is that a self-absorbed genius billionaire inventor and arms manufacturer is captured by hostile forces, and escapes by building himself a high-tech suit of armor.  Inspired, he returns home to build a much better suit of armor and becomes a superhero.

Occasionally really great movies result from turning comics into movies, and this was one of those times.  The story has been updated from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but all the characters were done exactly right.  Robert Downy, Jr. made a perfectly reckless and obnoxious Tony Stark; you really don’t mind him being beaten up by terrorists. But of course you don’t mind him returning and kicking their asses, either.  And the final battle between Iron Man and his brute-force evil counterpart was pure Marvel Comics, exciting and improbable and funny (but don’t look for scientific accuracy if you want to enjoy it).  If you have ever read and enjoyed an Iron Man comic book, you’ll probably like this movie.

The movie was in the new Wehrenberg Galaxy-14 super-mega-monsterplex theater out by Farm & Fleet.  I must say that Wehrenberg theaters has done a better job of building theaters than GKC; we were able to enter and leave easily, the theater itself was small and comfortable and we were within good viewing distance of the screen, the sound was excellent and yet we could not hear other theaters, and all the facilities were, if a bit glitzy, very nice.  We often go see movies at the beautiful art-deco Normal theater downtown and I had gotten to hate multiplexes.  But I didn’t mind this one. 

Is this a “guy” movie?  Well sure, but MrsDoF went with me and we had a lot of fun.  Afterward we went to Carl’s Ice Cream for burgers and onion rings and talked about the movie – a good date.

Categories: Movies, Reviews