Monthly Archives: November 2012
I will admit that I had never heard the name Haruki Murakami or 1Q84 before Big Al over at the Feed Your Headcast mentioned he was reading it. *On a quick side note…do yourself a favor and check out Al, Dan and Scott’s podcast* After Al name checked the book I decided to take a break from all the rock memoirs I have been reading and give 1Q84 a turn. After all, I was reaching the bottom of the barrel…hell, I even read Tommyland by Tommy Lee (that may explain my need for something different…and better).
The book is a massive piece of work at over 900 pages. The story is set in Tokyo in the year 1984, only it is just a little ‘odd’…it seems that our heroine has slipped into an alternate/parallel reality. The novel follows two separate protagonists on a year long journey to find each other. Aomame is our heroine with a dark side…she is an assassin of abusive men. She is the one that realizes she is not in her normal world. She calls this reality 1Q84…’the Q is for question mark’. Our other hero is Tengo a math teacher by day and an aspiring writer by night. When he agrees to take on a ghostwriting assignment his life starts to spiral out of control.
Over the course of the year our hero’s stories converge and we are introduced to wonderful characters and many strange connections that tie them together. You have a dangerous religious cult, a dyslexic girl that has a fantastical story that she claims is true, a rich woman that runs a home for abused women and her homosexual ruthless bodyguard, the leader of the cult with seemingly super-natural abilities, a grotesque private investigator and the mysterious ‘Little People’.
The novel is massive and many things are touched on by the author – how any kind of zealotry by parents can damage children; the cruelty some men inflict on women; the need for certainty with life and death (and the after-life) that can lead to dangerous religious organizations – but the major theme running throughout the novel is the yin and yang of good and evil within everyone and in the universe itself. No person, or thing, are totally good or totally evil. One of the characters in the book distills these thoughts to this passage…”The most important thing is to maintain the balance between the constantly moving good and evil. If you lean too much in either direction, it becomes difficult to maintain actual morals. Indeed, balance itself is the good.”
The first two thirds of the book blow by in an exhilarating pace. Easily the most engrossed I had become in a work of fiction in a long time. It is a true page turner. Just watching how the author expertly weaves his tale of love/fantasy and entwining our characters lives was half the fun. But the last third of the book is as slow as they come. It seemed as if the author lost his rhythm and struggled to find a pace after the frenzy of the first two thirds of the story. The last third of the book was when I started to really note the repetition of the seemingly endless descriptions of food preparation and the details of clothing either being put on or taken off. I was thinking that most of this should have been edited out, but maybe the author was trying to tell us something about our most mundane actions in life. But it only came across as a senseless bunch of words. 900+ pages and our author leaves so much unresolved. The ‘Hows and Whys’ of 1Q84 never get explained to us…pretty much just like life. And that just might be the author’s point.
Rating? If I could just review the first two thirds I would give it 4 out of 5 stars…but I can’t.
Rated 2.5 out of 5
The Zappa Family Trust recently worked out a deal with Universal Music to release Frank Zappa’s back catalog on CD, many have been remastered using the original analog tapes. This marks the first time the catalog has been available since Rykodisc re-released the catalog in ’95, but none of the Ryko remixes are being used in the new batch. The new releases are also available on iTunes which should make Frank’s music more accessible to the next generation of freaks. All of these are good things.
Over the years Gail Zappa has also been throwing out special releases of her late husband’s work through the Family Trust’s own website, Barfko-Swill. Those releases have been very hit or miss. I have found that they are overpriced as well…48 dollars (plus shipping) for a three CD set!!?? Some are excellent documents of what the ever evolving musician was doing at the given time, but others offer slight variations of already released material. But the biggest complaint I have with Gail and the ZFT is their lack of information about their releases. The descriptions are usually one or two sentences with no real information at all…one never knows what is on the discs until the package arrives in the mailbox. Think of it as Zappa Roulette…sometimes you get lucky, but mostly you are just disappointed. These things are not so good.
So you can understand that when Gail announced that the ZFT was starting a new series called Road Tapes I was excited, but I tempered my excitement with extreme skepticism. True to form the only information you got from the website was an image of the cover and the following ‘description’…Get your ticket to ride! First stop Vancouver. House lights go down, Curtain goes up. You sit down and listen up. Get on the bus. You could make out from the cover picture that this road tape was from August 25, 1968 at Vancouver’s Kerrisdale Arena. No mention of track list, how it was recorded (multi-track, soundboard, audience tape), sound quality, how many discs are in the release…typical. But the price tag of 15 dollars got me to once again play Zappa Roulette.
I am glad I did. This may be my favorite release from the ZFT. The recording is an excellent soundboard recording in mono on this two CD set. Vocals can get a little ‘hot’ every once and a while, but for the most part they are well mic’d as are the instruments. In 1968 peace and love, hippies, straights, freak-out music was very much still the norm in rock music and this set should show everyone how far ahead of their piers Frank and the Mothers of Invention actually were. Beautiful powerful intricate music is presented right next to ‘freak-out’ showmanship and that might be followed up with a straight up reading of do-wop music.
The 20 minute sequence of ‘The Orange County Lumber Truck‘ is one of the highlights. This instrumental medley of some early MOI classic songs/themes is just so good. Frank’s guitar solo over the top of the tune is rock and roll perfection. In fact, all of the guitar work is sublime…just over look a few flubs here and there (hey, it is a live recording). Another highlight is the intro to ‘Help, I’m a Rock‘ that morphs into ‘Transylvania Boogie‘.
Frank’s deadpan wit is on display during the talk between the numbers. When I listened to this set I tried to imagine what the audience must have been thinking during this concert…it is just not your standard music of the day. Hell, the band covered a classical piece by Edgard Varese for the first encore…very much freak out music. I can only guess that the audience went away entertained, but some of them probably became fans for life.
The Zappa Family Trust picked a total winner to kick off this series. Keep the price affordable. Give me just a bit more information. And above all, keep giving the fans quality product like this. I can’t wait to see what is coming next.
Rated 4.5 out of 5
Road Tapes Volume 1: 25 August 1968, Kerrisdale Arena, Vancouver, B.C. (Zappa Records, 2012)
- The Importance Of An Earnest Attempt (By Hand) (3:44)
- Help, I’m A Rock into
- Transylvania Boogie (9:30)
- Flopsmash Musics (4:50)
- Hungry Freaks, Daddy (3:59)
- The Orange County Lumber Truck (20:57)
- The Rewards Of A Career In Music (3:29)
- Trouble Every Day (5:08)
- Shortly: Suite Exists Of Holiday In Berlin Full Blown (9:29)
- Pound For A Brown (3:13)
- Sleeping In A Jar (3:23)
- Oh, In The Sky (2:42)
- Octandre (7:40)
- King Kong (10:17)
You want to see some truly scary stuff? Real-life scary? You must watch the documentary Paradise Lost and all it’s follow up films. They are fascinating and brutal movies about the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Tennessee and the subsequent railroading of three teenagers for the killings. Labeling the three Satanists because they listened to heavy metal music and one the prosecution labelled the ringleader had an interest in the occult..he had checked out books on the subject from the local library.
I watched the original movie (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills) back in the late 90’s and I came away from it not totally convinced that the teenagers were innocent. I was 100% positive that the Memphis police department was as incompetent as could be, at least on this case. They saw black clothing, heavy metal and interest in Aleister Crowley and decided that these boys did it…no need to look any farther.
I will not go over the case here (it is all in the films), but it became clear that the convicted had nothing to do with the masochistic murders. Many a celebrity felt the same way. Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Natalie Maines were all very vocal in calling for a new trail for the boys who became known as the West Memphis Three. Henry Rollins put together a benefit album with funds going to help out with the legal bills. After 18 years in prison they were finally released in 2011.
This memoir is heartbreaking, nostalgic and above all a story of survival against injustice and the brutal existence of life on death row. Damien grew up dirt poor and pictured himself as a misfit. He expresses that ‘the world is against me’ vibe throughout the book and tends to give off contempt for humanity, which is understandable with what he has been through. He comes across as a narcissist. What I mean to say is that Damien does not seem that ‘likable’, but being self-centered is not a crime.
The book is highly entertaining with the recounting of his upbringing, the trial and his years in prison. He is a capable writer until he forces the poetic pseudo-intellectual babble. He writes endlessly of magik (yep, spelled with a ‘k’), winter and his patch-work religious philosophy.
Here is an example of his cumbersome passages…
Everyone puts on their Sunday best and pays tribute to religion’s slaughterhouse and then dines at the cannibal communion. People put their backs to the stone in the field and push until their entrails rupture, and they drag their meals from the earth with bleeding hands. Education is foreign to the sunburned beasts of burden, and the painkiller comes in black-labeled Tennessee bottles.
Okay, in fairness the whole book is not like that…but when he goes off on one of those ‘I must be a writer’ sections it is flat out dull. The book is insightful to the life of a death row inmate and the brutality of guards and hapless, often mentally impaired prisoners. I found the case summary written by David Jauss that was included at the end of the book to be an excellent overview on the trial, subsequent appeals and new evidence.
Rated – 3 out of 5 Stars
My parents are pissed. My red state Facebook friends are pissed, with some of them raving and drooling like Donald Trump. My ‘liberal’ friends are doing the ‘Ha Ha, We Won’ dance. The right-wing fat-cats are wondering how much you have to spend to buy an election.
And what about me? I try to give off the air of being apolitical, but in reality I am a pro-gay marriage, tax the churches, decriminalize (and tax) marijuana, pro-woman’s rights, fuck the banks, fuck the oil companies kind of a guy. I have to say that I am not sure Obama is my guy…after all he really didn’t prove it to me with his first four years. But I am 100% sure that Mitt was not the president for me. As a ‘little guy’ I felt he would not be looking out for me…or my family…or the micro-small company I work for. He just seemed to be a silver-spoon shape-shifter that would bend his ever elastic political positions to buy himself a few more votes.
There. I have said my piece. Now for the next 30 minutes turn up the computer speakers and come drifting back…