Monday, October 30, 2006
Tying things together
After much delay, Friday it was finally time for the bachelor-party of one of the last remaining bachelors among my friends.
(Excuse me while I vent some disappointment: yes, I know it was three weeks after he got married, but lets be honest, out of a list of fifteen people only four were able to make it on the first date. Then more stuff happened to one of the organizers, they decided to postpone the party until after the wedding, giving all those on the list more than a month to make arrangements for the new date. Meanwhile, I got even more involved than I already was, and let me assure you: I wasn't exactly thrilled to have to arrange another change in the schedule, because only the same four people would be present on the new date. So then we pushed the whole thing back from three in the afternoon to seven o'clock, and automagically the number of participants went through the proverbial roof. Seems to me some people could not be arsed to make some effort for a friend. Nice friends. Anyway—)
Like I said two and a half months ago, I had a great idea, and that idea got executed. We organized a workshop "esoterisch kantklossen", as that was an activity that the ex-bachelor mentioned for every other bachelor-party. Some research had led us to a nearby club of lace-enthusiasts who gave non-esoteric workshops on elementary schools, so that would be about the right difficulty level. A couple of phone calls later everything was set, including the new age touchy-feely new age crap. So if you can't picture ten adult men working away on friendship-bracelets, the website of kantkring De Waaier will be updated soon with some pictures.
The ladies who gave the workshop had a great evening, we had a great evening, everything went down smoothly despite the messy way it all came together, but what's more important, our ex-bachelor had a great time. Mission accomplished.
Coming Thursday, my brother will be leaving for Australia, and after that he'll be visiting New Zealand, the States and England (I think). All in all, he's planing to say away for more or less a year. To celebrate that, we had a family diner yesterday, and I can't quite recall the last time it was so gezellig.
And while I was at my parents' anyway, I took the opportunity to visit the latest addition to my small circle of friends and the proud parents. The little guy is doing fine, and I think I got drafted for some babysitting late February. We'll see about that.
On a final note, I'll be in Italy (Florance and Rome to be precise) from November 12 until 18. W00t for holidays.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Two out of three ain't bad
Do you know the feeling when you desperately want to like something, but however hard you try, you can't? I've got that problem with Meat Loaf's latest album, Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose.
The album kicks of with the title track. Since it leaked out in May, I've listened to "The Monster Is Loose" quite a lot, and although it's different from everything Meat Loaf has done before, I liked it from the start. It's different, and that's not a bad thing. It's heavy, the bridge is great, lyrics are a tad on the weak side, but over all, great song.
If "Blind As A Bat" doesn't get released as a single, something's wrong. Probably the best non-Steinman track on the album, with a strong chorus. I have two quibbles with the song, one being that the last two chorus repeats start to drag, and the other is that there's a section in the bridge that not only borrows the words from "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad", but also the phrasing. It's annoying, but I've learned to accept it.
"It's All Coming Back To Me Now" is the first of seven Steinsongs. It's a boring take on great song, nowhere near the previous versions. If it "was always supposed to be a duet", as mr. Loaf is wont to claim, why is Marion Raven doing little but echo his lines in the chorus? Her voice doesn't do it for me either. Nice try, but no cigar.
Track four, "Bad For Good" is great, but lacking. Where Jim's version had a sense of urgency, and lots of piano, this version plods along but never seems to get going, and lots of Brian May who sounds out of place and barely any piano. It's a good alternative take on the song, but it never reaches it full potential.
Diane Warren's "Cry Over Me" has no place on a Bat album. Bland power ballad with a horrid vocal melody in the pre-chorus (
It's so easy for you-ooo-ooo-ooo / to feel nothing for me-eee-eee-eee)
Steinman's third song on the album, "In The Land Of The Pig, The Butcher Is King" went over the top to see what's on the other side. It's fucking brilliant.
The next two songs go together. "Monstro" is nothing but a bombastic intro that could have been on any gothic metal album. It segues into "Alive" which is good enough, but nothing special. Especially the choruses sound like something Bon Jovi would do, and I could've done without the choral take on the chorus after the solo.
On to "If God Could Talk". What, you mean He can't? This must be one of the most pointless songs ever.
Go on and turn the page / Before your lonely world collides Collides with what?
Tonight even God knows, baby, that ain't right Hello? It's God we're talking about, right? You know, big guy, beard, created the heaven and the earth, omnipotent, omnipresent and, wait—omniscient! The Guy knows everything! Stupid, stupid song which should have been rejected on the title alone. Bat out of Hell. If God could talk. Whatever. The music's forgettable too.
The fourth Steinsong is another recycled one, "If It Ain't Broke Break It". It first appeared on the soundtrack of MTV's Wuthering Heights, where it was a short, heavy ditty with just guitar, drums and vocals. Then, on the 2005 "Hair Of The Dog Tour", it was incorporated in the song "Only When I Feel". That version didn't make the album, and now it's the original beefed up with some more repeats of the chorus and a horn section. Nu-metal lite with horns. Now I think I've heard it all. I still prefer the previous versions, although it's by a small margin.
If "What About Love" had been on Couldn't Have Said It Better, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. The song's good enough, and Patti Russo sounds great. But does a song about finding
someone heaven send for you belong on a Bat album? Does a love song about giving yourself to someone belong on a Bat album? I don't think so.
The final songs are all Steinman. "Seize The Night" is good, but not spectacular. It doesn't soar like the Dance of the Vampires demo. It isn't as majestic as the Tanz version. Still one of the better tracks though.
To me, this version "The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" sounds like country-pop. I'm not sure it works for me, just as I'm not sure about Jennifer Hudson, who gets to wail through the last half of the song. It isn't bad, and that's about as positive as I can get about it. I'll take the version on Wuthering Heights over this one any time.
The booklet says that "Cry To Heaven" is the epilogue. Which would explain the lullaby vibe I get from it. The song is short, just under two and half minutes, but it still manages to get two things wrong: the Irish flute/Titanic crap that's going on and that last note. Bummer, 'cause I like the song.
Vocally, Meat Loaf sounds great. Better than he has done in a long time. At times, the production is big enough, but often it fails to excite. For me, the highlights are "Blind As A Bat", "Bad For Good", "Land Of The Pigs" and "Seize The Night". Obvious lowlights are "Cry Over Me" and "If God Could Talk". If He could talk, he'd say,
What, in My name, were you thinking?.
As a Meat Loaf album Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose is great. I'd rank it near Welcome To The Neighborhood and Bat Attitude, below the other two Bats and Dead Ringer. As a Bat album, it fails. The basic formula for a Bat album is simple: songs by Jim Steinman, vocals by Meat Loaf and fantasy art on the cover. The two previous Bats proved that a full on collaboration between Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf works. This Bat proves that without Steinman's direct involvement, all you get is a patchy collection of songs.
I really wanted to love this album, but I can't. But I can't hate it with a passion either. Mostly, I'm just indifferent. And to me, that's a sad conclusion.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It'll shine when it shines
To tell the truth, getting The Shining of the list of books by Stephen King that I still have to read wasn't a priority. In fact, ever since finishing the Dark Tower saga and all related books, all books on that list don't seem to be a priority. Or maybe it's just because many of these books on the list have been turned into a particularly bad movie. Whatever.
I picked up The Shining in a second-hand bookstore in Antwerp because a) it was there, b) it was cheap, and c) I was in need of a book. At the speed I was going through my spare book for the trip, it wouldn't make it to the end. I was just enjoying it a bit too much.
Because of a rule I made up, I'm only allowed to watch a movie based on one of King's books if I've read it. That does prevent me from watching "Christine" and "Pet Sematary" again, and "Misery", "Firestarter", "Cujo" and more for the first time. It doesn't protect me from "Carrie", "Children of the Corn" (parts one thru whatever), "Dream Catcher", "Sometimes They Come Back (… Again, For More)", "Maximum Overdrive" and all that other crap. It does allow me to watch the few movies that I do want to see ("The Green Mile") or that are exceptions to rule ("Shawshank Redemption", "Stand By Me"), by actually being quite good. But mostly, I'm absolutely not impressed by movies based on King's work.
So now that I've read the book, I'm not quite sure I want to watch the movie. (And yes, I know it was aired on friday the 13th, but I wasn't quite finished yet). But that's quite another story.
- Stephen King — The Shining
Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Sam here says…
"Swim with Sam" by a balladeer is based on the book Held van Beroep by Adriaan Jaeggi. And while they aren't the first ones to do that (Springsteen, Iron Maiden, Dylan, Bowie, Metallica, etc. etc.), they are among the select few that made me actually read the damn book.
And unlike the previous times I wasn't ploughing through many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—like Dante's Inferno or Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner—but I found myself speeding through a upbeat, if not funny, novel.
Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Blessed be His Noodly Appendages) that I'm not in highschool, and that I don't have to write a bookreport. That would have delayed this post at least another week, since I don't have my copy with me at the moment, and it would have bored the living daylights out of me. And trust me, you don't want to read that. If you really want to know what the book is about, you could either read it yourself, or check out some bookreport.
I've plugged everything that needed plugging, so I'll leave you with the first sentence:
- Adriaan Jaeggi — Held van Beroep
Laten we vooral dankbaar zijn dat onze voorouders van grote gezinnen hielden, anders waren we allang uitgestorven.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
One flew over the Curlews' nest
Let's just get this over with. I wanted to make some deep, insightful commentary about two of the reasons I keep reading Maarten 't Hart, but I can't seem to get it down. In summary:
One reason is a recurring theme in his work, his religious upbringing and his revolt against it. Although I'm not religiously affiliated (anymore), I do find it fascinating to see how religion and some stuff written some two thousand years ago can completely overtake otherwise perfectly normal people.
The other reason is a recurring (autobiographical) character. While reading "De Ortolaan", I started to realise that I do have some quirks in common with this guy. "Een Vlucht Regenwulpen" confirmed this. So it's either that, or another recurring theme: being hopeless with women.
- Maarten 't Hart — Een Vlucht Regenwulpen
In deze ruimte heb ik de zomer gevangen.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Doing my bit
It's Keep Space for Peace Week. Space is for aliens, not weapons, dammit!
Also, today is "Day Against DRM". Down with DRM, dammit!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
For the want of a better title, the post was post
There's a cubic shitload of things that have happened lately. And that is exactly why I haven't been much around here recently.
Two weeks ago, two of my friends became parents. Thirteen weeks too early. The little guy (and I really do mean little) is doing great given the circumstances, but he scared the living daylights out of me. For about a week my mind was in a state of, ehm, well, let's just say it was off doing things. Last sunday I paid the little fellow and the proud parents a visit, and that seemed to have set my mind more at ease.
As you might have guessed, entertaining my, what is it, two, three readers here was the last thing on my mind.
Yesterday, two other friends got married. Now I truly am the last Mohican. After getting myself a haircut and a tie to match the rest of my outfit, I was off to Gouda. The actual wedding at the historic city hall had the right tone, the service in the church was just that, a church service. In his sermon, the preacher spent a lot of time talking about verse 11 and 12 of 1 Corinthians 13 (Nederlands, English), and all I could think about that if he'd strip God from his talk, all he said could just as well stand on it's own feet.
After the church was the reception, which I skipped. Instead I walked around a bit more, and had dinner with (again) two other friends. The food was great, the beer went down all right: our own pre-party wasn't bad all. After dinner was the party, with some more beer, a song which can't have been good for the other guests, and a lot of talking. I went home with the last train and a rose.
After sleeping in for a bit, the usual stuff happened: nothing much worth mentioning. Tonight I went to see Wende live in concert, and just as the first time, it was great. Absolutely fanfuckintastic.
That's all for now. I hope to resume with the regular
programming whining shortly.