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Rave Ups: Complicated Shadows – The Life   Music of Elvis Costello

Rave Ups: Complicated Shadows – The Life Music of Elvis Costello

By Matt Moeller in Blog on September 3, 2010

This Biography on Elvis Costello was written by Brit music journalist Graeme Thomson and published in 2006.  Thomson is no stranger to the music biopic as he has written books on a couple of other luminaries such as Kate Bush and Willie Nelson.  He has also written for Esquire, MOJO, Maxim, Rolling Stone, and Time Out magazines. This book brought me along on a journey through Costello’s recorded output and shined a light on his background.  The book has its weaknesses just like any, in particular my major complaints would be it wasn’t detailed enough and it was a pretty straight chronological reporting of his life up to 2004.  The major setback for the author was his inability to land an interview with the subject of the biography.  Even though the book suffers from not getting some imput directly from “the horse’s mouth” per say, he does a pretty good job reconstructing Costello’s history through other source material.  He then very resourcefully and resoundingly relies upon interviews with the other characters in Costello’s life and the deep catalog of established interviews and other material published over Costello’s then 30 year career in the music business.  The author focuses quite a bit on Costello’s the countless live shows and tours he has ventured on throughout the years, and although the information is much appreciated it gets a little heavy when he brings up slight set list changes that happened between dates. The book very happily enlightened me to many aspects and happenings in Costello’s life.  I had always been a very cursory fan of Elvis since first hearing his music in the later 80′s, but I had become more and more interested after continuing to hear new and compelling compositions from him throughout the years.  Through this book I was able to re-experience his music from the beginning and give myself a depth of knowledge to what was going on in the background while all this wonderful music was being created and performed.  Among the aspects of Elvis’s life that gets a lot of coverage (much to his chagrin) is his romantic life.  From Elvis’s failed first marriage to Mary, to his high-profile affair with Bebe Buell, and beyond to his unofficial marriage to former Pogue Cait O’Riordan and finally up to date with his current wife jazz pianist Diana Krall.  Now, I’m totally understanding to his personal right to privacy in these matters but you have to understand that the friction from these relationships makes up the majority of the emotional backbone to his music. Other great focuses are his surprising influences (Country-Western), his professional relationship with Stiff Records co-founder and eventual manager Jake Riviera, his early public abrasive-ness including his bout with the media in 1979 after an incident in which a drunken Elvis uttered some offensive racial slurs to members of the Stephen Stills band. Overall in the face of a few short comings it is an insightful and enjoyable read which I would suggest to any one who considers themselves of Elvis Costello fan. Usually I would follow a book review up with a playlist to highlight the music covered in the book, but because of the wealth of great material I will be posting a series of playlists split by distinct eras.  Stay tuned.


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The Wrasslin' Top 5 #1: Invasion Angles

The Wrasslin' Top 5 #1: Invasion Angles

By syxxpakk in Blog on August 23, 2010


Temperance

Temperance

By David Bird in Blog on August 12, 2010

Writer: Cathy Malkasian, Artist: Cathy MalkasianPublished by Fantagraphics, 2010Temperance is an unusual book, but easiest enough to describe. Pa is the leader of a group of refugees, and he organizes them to build a walled community called Blessedbowl, in order to save them from the enemy. From the beginning we know this isn’t true. “Pa” is no ones father and there is no enemy. He is an abusive, angry, selfish man, who exploits his followers, isolating and abandoning them in the walls of Blessedbowl, which they are taught is a great ship floating on a sea of fire. This illusion is kept alive by a follower named Minerva, who feeds them stories of Pa’s great battles and of his need for them to keep ready for the great final battle. She keeps this story and community going for thirty long years.But what Temperance is about is far more difficult and interesting question. Malkansian was a successful animator before turning her hand to graphic novels and her first book, Percy Gloom, was nominated for an Eisner and won her the Russ Manning Award (the Eisner award for best newcomer). Her visual storytelling is very strong, unquestionably, but it was how she chose to tell her story that I found most interesting. Once walled in the city Minerva struggles to keep her husband Lester together, a hero to all, the reality of his past forgotten. Except when he drinks. Then half remembered events come back to haunt him. Temperance is the story of fear, the unity it fosters, the exploitation it can lead to, and what we will do to protect ourselves. How Pa came to be what he is, and exactly what he is, is left unsaid. Why people followed him is only implied. Rather than proscribe how we should react, Malkansian is confident enough to leave us enough space to interpret what we see ourselves, even if it doesn’t bring us to a pat conclusion. I myself am still wondering, for example, whether Penny and Minerva are meant to be the same person.A remarkable book.This blog has been syndicated from David Bird's Eponymous Blog.

Absolute Planetary Vol. 1 & 2

Absolute Planetary Vol. 1 & 2

By David Bird in Blog on July 29, 2010

Writer: Warren Ellis, Art: John Cassaday Published by DC/Wildstorm, 2011 I don’t know how many times I’ve read through Planetary. As the later issues were delayed, every time a new one was imminent, it was time to read them all through again. This week I read it through again. The occasion? The release of the new Absolute editions. The first volume was originally released five and a half years ago and was going for three hundred dollars or more. It was reprinted this month, thankfully, for the release of the second volume. Self-described archeologists, the Planetary group, led by Elijah Snow and his field team, Jakita Wagner, the Drummer, and Ambrose Chase, scours the world, searching for and saving its lost history. They’re not looking for Roman coliseums. They’re looking for secret cities in Africa, monster islands, Chinese ghosts, 19th century moon launches. A secret history of the world. Their enemy is the Four, a group led by Randall Dowling. The Four of made a Faustian bargain for control of this world and are closely following Snow, trying to steal away not only his finds, but all of humanity’s potential. Planetary is two things. First, it is a survey of the twentieth century’s popular culture. Comic books, pulps, B movies, radio dramas, and genre novels are all seamlessly integrated into one complete story. In that sense, Ellis and Cassaday are engaged in their own archeological adventure, digging through our heroes and archetypes. Second, it is a Wold Newton-like attempt to tie all these various stories into one broader story. The Wold Newton family was a creation of SF writer Philip Jose Farmer, tying together various popular and pulp characters together into a shared universe. Farmer did this by writing fictional biographies. Ellis does this by creating stand ins. He can’t use trademarked characters so instead of Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, for example, we get Alex Brass, who looks exactly like his pulp antecedent. I know these two things sound pretty much like the same thing, and they are closely related, but one speaks to intent and the other method. As a series Planetary has been almost universally praised. There are some who think that the second half isn’t as good as the first, but I don’t think that’s true. There is a shift in tone, certainly. The first half sets everything up in a series of stand alone stories. In the second, the stand alone stories are pushed back as the main story arc drives the series. It does have a different feel to it, but it’s not a drop in quality. Others have complained that the series epilogue was something of a let down. A techno-talkfest in which very little happens. Well… it was. But it was also written to clear up a plot point for the fans. Fans who would have complained if it hadn’t been written. The only problem that stood out to me was a trivia detail--Drummer refers to something that happened in the Adirondacks as having happened in the Rockies (these two mountain ranges are as far from one another as Southend-On-Sea is from Odessa)--but even I’m not that pedantic. Well, I guess I am, but I admit it’s trivial. Points for that, right? The Absolute editions themselves are beautiful. DC targets the collectors market with high quality, oversized hardcovers with dust jackets and slipcases. Both volumes are a little light when it comes to extras, and the crossover stories are not included, but the principle story is here in its entirety and Cassaday’s art, coloured by Martin, is really enhanced by this treatment. Absolute editions are not cheap. After taxes, these go for about a hundred each in Canada, but I paid half that by going online and looking for a good deal. If you have any interest, look for them now before someone is asking three times as much. This blog has been syndicated from David Bird's Eponymous Blog.

Honour Where Its Due

Honour Where Its Due

By David Bird in Blog on July 30, 2010

When Steve Gerber died a couple of years ago, the Eisners were on the horizon and I wondered why he wasn't in the Hall of Fame. I made a few inquiries, but eventually decided to file the whole thing away for next year. Well, a couple of years pass, my comics blogging has been in decline, but sometimes good things happen to good people and this year Gerber was inducted. The event, as live blogged by the Beat: The first winner is Steve Gerber, his daughter Samantha and writing partner Mary Skrenes accept. Steve was a wonderfully witty and intelligent guy who was interested in everything from ancient history to politics, says Skrenes,. “He read constantly blog and news feeds and comic books and watched the news. The only person he could have a real conversation with was Mark Evanier. Mark was a really good friend to Steve and now keeps Steve’s blog alive. Also, Billingham gave Steve a van when his beloved Subaru couldn’t be repaired any more.” She also thanks the Hero Initiative, which was a big help to Gerber in his last days. Samantha Gerber mentions that Mary has been there for her and she calls her all the time. Very touching. “My dad was a fabulous writer and what a genius he was and what he created. To me, he was just my dad, and that’s what I miss.” In--perhaps only marginaly--related news, Gil Kane's work is being celebrated in a new blog, Kingdom Kane. Well worth checking out. Kane himself was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 1997, three years before he died. I don't know why he isn't better known, or perhaps more widely celebrated. He was an incredibly influencial artist and was promoting the graphic novel concept as early as 1968. This blog has been syndicated from David Bird's Eponymous Blog.

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures

By David Bird in Blog on July 2, 2010

Writer: Kathryn Immonen, Art: Stuart ImmonenPublished by Top Shelf, 2010Moving Pictures has moved from the Immonen’s website to a beautiful new paperback edition from Top Shelf. The story centers on an interrogation of Ila Gardner, a Canadian in Paris during the Second World War, by a German agent, Rolf Hauptmann. Throughout it readers are given a series of vignettes, illuminating Gardner’s life and her relationship to Hauptmann. Throughout the war Germany looted the rest of Europe, stealing its art treasures. She works for a French museum, cataloging and preserving works of art. He works for the German government, essentially cataloging and appropriating the same art.Some people have raised the question, what would a Canadian be doing, living free in France during the war? Canada joined the war against the Axis as soon as it started, and Allied countries interned their German citizens. Shouldn’t she be interned? Maybe the Germans would have interned her if she were in Germany, I don’t know, but as a citizen of an Allied country, living in another Allied country, what would be the point? Far more important is the fact that she has no papers. She gave them to another Canadian woman, who had lost her passport. Now Gardner is a non-person. Trapped. Uprooted. A reality mirrored in her fears and apprehensions: If the world can turn into this. If we can turn around and find entire schools full of children gone. Towns emptied overnight and no one saw a thing… Then tomorrow we may wake up and find the rain has ceased to fall and the wine has all gone sour and we do not recognize our own faces. If today is possible then anything is possible and nothing matters.Throughout the book Kathryn Immonen strives to capture that ambiguity, the efforts of a person trying to do what’s right when all of their touchstones have deserted them. Stuart Immonen’s art, on the other hand, is all sharp lines and contrasts, solid blacks and negative space. Yet he too brings out the story’s rich subtleties.I told someone, having read it online, that this book should make everyone’s ‘best of’ lists for 2010, and reading it again only confirms it. An early pacesetter for best of 2010.This blog has been syndicated from David Bird's Eponymous Blog.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

By Greg in Blog on June 1, 2010

I am officially obsessed with this trailer and anticipating this movie's arrival! Next to Inception, this may be my most anticipated.The first trailer that was released a lil' while back...

Oh, The Horror! #52: Carnival of Souls

Oh, The Horror! #52: Carnival of Souls

By Greg in Blog on May 31, 2010

I love this movie. I really really do. And I really appreciate it the more I see it and the more I think about it. I remember thinking this movie was just bizarre when I saw it the first time but the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. Carnival of Souls, directed by Herk Harvey in 1963, is a horror cult classic. It is a very low budget film, being filmed with the budget of $33,000 and without much use of special effects, it's really the atmosphere and the use of mood that really helps this film pop.The film follows a young woman named Mary Henry (Candace Hilligross). She mysteriously survived a car accident in which her friends all died when their car sunk in a river after a drag race. We get an indication that Mary has changed since the accident as she decides to leave town and become an organist for a church at Salk Lake City. It is through her travels that we start to see her dilemma: she starts seeing a creepy looking man staring at her. As the movie goes on, Mary finds herself going crazy when whatever turn she makes, this spooky looking man just keeps popping out and walking towards her. It also gets even stranger when Mary starts walking around and tries to interact with people but instead is ignored, people around her being unable to see or hear her.There isn't too much to say about the plot. It is a relatively simple story but Harvey, who also plays the spooky spectre dude, does a great job in building tension and using simplicity to actually get you uneasy. There's some wonderful scenes throughout the movie of the Man just looking at Mary, just standing simply next to her with a small smile on his face that is so effectively creepy that you just can't help but enjoy this film. The music also helps too. Now there are some errors in this film, that mostly being sound errors. There are times when Mary's fingers on the key boards of the piano doesn't match the music playing nor when she's running does the sound of the clicking heels match, but those small little ticks adds some weird charm to this already weird film. Man, do I love these creepy old black and white horror movies. I watch films like this and just get inspired.

Oh, The Horror! #51: The Strangers

Oh, The Horror! #51: The Strangers

By Greg in Blog on May 17, 2010

This film being Bryan Bertino's first theatrical directorial prosper shows a ton of promise within the horror realm. The movie stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman (glad to see he's still getting some work) as a couple dealing with their relationship after James (Speedman) proposes to Kristen (Tyler) but sadly gets a rejection. The two drive off to their summer home where it is awkward between them. When things finally start to look a bit better for the two, there's a knock on the door. "Is Tamara home?" asks a young woman at the door. After being sent on her way, James' character decides to take a drive in order to clear his mind while Kristen's character stays at the house... but she's not alone. "Is Tamara home?" girl shows up again and is then followed by a creepy man wearing a mask quietly stalking Kristen in the house. There are little subtle moments that add to the creepiness of this wonderful scene. Before James left, Kristen mentions that she was out of cigarettes, no cigarette in sight for her to smoke. After James leaves, Kristen is noticeably tense and picks up a cigarette not realizing it wasn't there before, adding a slight bit of uneasiness watching. Things also start to be revealed to have been misplaced and you see that creepy man standing somewhere in the background, still like a statue. Yeesh. Definitely my favorite scene in this whole film. When Kristen starts to realize something is wrong, she calls James back home and soon after starts to get terrorized by three different strangers, all making it seem pretty clear they're out to kill her. When James finally returns, he's added into the danger when he finds his car smashed in, and phone missing, leaving the couple vulnerable.The performances of the lead cast I felt were very strong and really added a lot to the overall film. Bertino also has a wonderful idea on how to build up tension and creepiness extremely well, a craft that seems to be missing in a lot of horror these days. Bertino adds just a right bit of pace, music, sound effects, and jump scares that's easy to get someone uneasy. Despite everything that's going for it, the film falls flat. The story could be a lot better and although you're finding yourself tense and hoping the couple make it out in the end, you're left wondering to yourself, "What's the point of all this? Why am I watching this?" While the pace of specific scenes are superbly used, the overall pacing of the story seems very off and is a bit discouraging. It makes me think about how much I enjoyed Vacancy over this film.Overall, if you're interested in seeing specific tense rising scenes, Bertino's clearly shows he understands the craft. You can check it out for that. If you're looking forward to see a solid story, something that will shock and get into your head, I wouldn't recommend this. I will say, though, this film does a lot better job in actually scaring you than the recent Saw and Hostel films. While you can see this film as a slasher film and there is some gore, its the uneasiness that works well and places itself in a higher position that the torture-porn films with almost to no substance.

Inception Trailer

Inception Trailer

By Greg in Blog on May 8, 2010

New Christopher Nolan!!!

Apologies and a Street Fighter Video

Apologies and a Street Fighter Video

By Greg in Blog on May 8, 2010

Man, I haven't been keeping this blog up to date for quite some time! Apologies for some of my readers. I've been so damn busy with school this semester, especially due to one class where we had to put on a show where I played the Devil, mwahahahaaa!!! Boy was that a freakin' blast. Working with everyone on the ensemble was just a wonderful blessing. I plan to post some pics/videos here when I can.For now, I'll post this fan film Street Fighter video I just stumbled onto it. Bloody bleedin' awesome!

Point Blank and The Hunter

Point Blank and The Hunter

By David Bird in Blog on May 1, 2010

(NOTE: There is some spoilage here. Not a lot, but you're forewarned.)This past week I was watching one of the great movies of the 60s, John Boorman’s Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Keenan Wynn; an adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter. Marvin was one of Hollywood’s last tough guys. It’s a type of actor you just don’t see any more. During the 70s they were slowly displaced by the action hero, a friendlier, more widely appealing character. Sure they sometimes played comedic roles (Paint Your Wagon and Cat Ballou were two of Marvin’s better known ones), but they didn’t have jokes, or little kids to play off. They were tough guys. Irony free. This movie starts with him being betrayed by his wife and partner and being left for dead in a cell of the abandoned Alcatraz. Comic readers will be familiar with story from Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, an adaptation of the same novel and one of last year’s most successful graphic novels. I was one of maybe two people - I am sure I saw a less than happy review somewhere - who had any reservations at all. I just couldn’t get past having already seen a better version. As a director Boorman brought together the noir of the 40s and 50s with the experimentation of the 60s and 70s. As an actor Marvin embodied an implacable force - a demand for justice and retribution. My problems with Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter actually began with the cover. The girl looks too big and her body, visually cut in half by where Parker is sitting, seems askew. Trivial, maybe, but it left me starting the book thinking something might be… hinkey. My biggest problem with the comic, however, stems from something that probably isn’t even Cooke’s fault. I haven’t read Stark’s novel and I assume the differences between the film and the comic originate in the source material. In the movie Walker is betrayed by his wife and partner, who are also having an affair. In the comic, and presumably the novel, Parker was intending to betray his partner himself, but the partner got the drop on him, forcing Parker’s wife into the plot through some rather implausible circumstances. The difference? Where Walker was a victim, Parker is just a loser. An angry, driven loser, but a loser just the same. It takes the wind out of things. Why should I even care? Given that the book has the skills of one great cartoonist on display on every page, its definitely worth a look, but I can’t recommend it without reservations - unlike the movie, a classic every crime fiction fan should have in their library.This blog has been syndicated from David Bird's Eponymous Blog.


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Playlist:  Deep Blues Part 2 – Chicago & Beyond

Playlist: Deep Blues Part 2 – Chicago & Beyond

By in Blog on May 1, 2010

As a companion to my review of Robert Palmer’s book Deep Blues, I present part two of  two playlists.  Check out the first part via this link.  This playlist features music from Chicago and early Electric Blues artists including a few connections to early Rock N Roll and R&B.  The playlist is in pseudo chronological [...]


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Rave Ups:  Deep Blues by Robert Palmer

Rave Ups: Deep Blues by Robert Palmer

By in Blog on May 1, 2010

First of all, this book first published in 1981 was not written by Robert Palmer, the singer that brought you the hit song “Addicted to Love”.  The Robert Palmer that wrote this book was a distinguished music journalist from the 1970s to the 1990s.  He covered music for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, [...]


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Playlist:  Deep Blues Part 1 – Mississippi Delta to Chicago

Playlist: Deep Blues Part 1 – Mississippi Delta to Chicago

By in Blog on May 1, 2010

As a companion to my review of Robert Palmer’s book Deep Blues, I present part one of  two playlists.  Check out the second part via this link.  This playlist features music from the very earliest Delta and Country Blues artists with just a peak at the connection to Chicago.  The playlist is in pseudo chronological [...]

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