Practice, practice, practice…

Girl Learns to Dance in a Year TIME LAPSE – YouTube.

This is a perfect example of something I’ve written about before – practice. Practice is what makes you good at something. A willingness to put in hours of practice is the key to doing anything well. Don’t want to work at it? Fine, you’ll never be great at it, period.

 

To boldly go…

Whats the future of Star Trek after “Into Darkness?”.

For the record I really enjoyed STID, much more than ST09. ST09, while I eventually warmed up to it, did not feel like Star Trek to me (and I still really haven’t gotten over the whole business about them not bothering to actually build an engineering set – I mean, come on, you go to the trouble to cast Simon Pegg as Scotty, which was a great casting move, and then all you can do about an engineering set is stick some decals on some tanks in a Budweiser brewery?). STID was much more Star Trekkie, as far as I’m concerned, but I do agree with the central point of criticism in the piece above – What’s up with a Star Trek story that mostly takes place on earth?

On a very cynical movie studio level I get it. The biggest money maker in the old Trek franchise was The Voyage Home, which was all about Kirk, Spock, etc. traveling back in time to save Earth from destruction by some impossibly powerful probe that had come to talk to some whales, who were extinct (Honestly, I get annoyed when I call someone and they don’t answer, but I’ve seriously never considered blowing up their house over it.). The thing is, while that movie is fun, it’s the least cinematic of all the Trek films. It’s an episode of a TV show that was blown up into a film. Search For Spock had the same problem.

Here’s the breakdown on the original cast ST films:

  • ST:TMP – Too cinematic. It’s a beautiful film, and utterly confusing and boring. 
  • ST:TWOK – Almost no one will argue that this is anything but a perfect Star Trek film. It’s cinematic, it’s fun and it bears rewatching because the performances of the actors are perfect and the story just plain works.
  • ST:TSFS – It’s an episode, and the plot is almost entirely an excuse to resurrect Spock after he’s killed off in Khan.
  • ST:TVH – It’s an episode that works on the same level as Trouble With Tribbles or Shore Leave. Lots of humor, dumb story, but well made and worth seeing.
  • ST:TFF – Ugh. Just ugh. Dumb story, and everyone looks awful. Not to mention so many continuity problems it just gets embarrassing.
  • ST:TUC – Lots of people disagree with me, but I thought The Undiscovered Country picked up right where Wrath of Khan left off. Well cast, well acted, well directed and it felt like a movie, not an episode.

Here’s the interesting thing – what felt particularly Star Trekkie about STID wasn’t the story. That seemed like it was a generic Hollywood action flick that could have been a vehicle for ST or Iron Man or Jason Bourne. What felt Star Trekkie about STID was the way the actors handled their characters and their interactions with each other.

I think Paramount has made an error in judgement about the Star Trek franchise. The secret to success with it isn’t to make it not be a Star Trek movie, but to make it be a great Star Trek movie. Wrath of Khan was a very successful film that utterly and completely lived within the lore of Star Trek. Likewise of the TNG film, First Contact. And that doesn’t mean you bring back a well known character from the old TV series or get involved in stunt casting.

Star Trek, at its best, has always been about bigger ideas. Wrath of Khan was about growing old. The Undiscovered Country was about letting go of hate and prejudice and being able to embrace change. What was STID about? Bad guy blows stuff up, kills some people, gets caught, turns out he’s not the only bad guy. Really? Here’s the funny thing – we’ve already seen that movie, last year. It was called Skyfall, and it was much more interesting then because even the silly trope of how M made Mr. Silver into a villain had tremendous depth to it.

So, I do hope that Paramount makes another ST movie with this cast (and not a TV show – because I really don’t think another ST series can compete on a quality level with the likes of present day TV drama), but I’m equally glad JJ Abrams will be too busy with Star Wars (he really cannot make that franchise any worse) and can only hope a director and writers are engaged who respect the source material – and who don’t think their audience is as dumb as Paramount thinks we are.

Thoughts about Ray…

Ray Manzarek: Xs Exene Cervenka, John Doe remember a friend – latimes.com.

I unabashedly love the Doors. Always have. I never connected to most of the music that came out of the Summer of Love. But the first time I heard the Doors I heard something I connected with. I think, even at a young age, I knew that the grit and mystery in their music represented the world a lot more accurately than the music of their peers did.

My Doors fandom is, honestly, what led me to engage with punk and metal later on. The first of the UK punk bands I got into was The Stranglers, who were unabashedly and obviously picking up where the Doors had left off. There was a much, much more direct relationship though between X and the Doors, since Ray Manzarek was directly involved in the creative process that brought us the first four X albums, Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under The Big Black Sun and More Fun In The New World, sitting in the producer’s chair for all four records.

Sitting here in 2013, in a world where punk rock is much more mainstream and accepted than it was in the late 1970s, it probably seems strange to a lot of people that Ray Manzarek, musical leader of a pre-eminent 60s group, would be involved with (pause for dramatic effect) a “punk” band. But what I don’t think people realize is the gap between the world of late 60s rock and punk rock are musical cultures separated by about three or four actual years.

To put this into perspective, these days major artists, like U2 or Green Day, make a new record about once every four years. Until the late 1980s it was much more common for an artist to make a new record every year, so even though the Doors had been dormant since 1973 (Krieger, Densmore and Manzarek kept working together as the Doors for a couple of years after Jim Morrison’s death – and even considered replacing him, with the most well-known candidate for the job being Iggy Pop), Ray Manzarek was still active in the LA music scene at the point when he connected with X. Musically, X certainly had much more in common with the Doors than they did with the biggest hit bands of the mid-70s (ELP, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac).

Personally, I’m so glad the silos that music has been cordoned off into in the past 25 years or so didn’t exist in the mid-70s. If you read the linked article it’s obvious that Ray’s experience was crucial to X getting it right with their first four LPs. He fit in with them well, and his presence in the room made their music better.

Stay off of autopilot…

I highly recommend you watch this… now.

Face it folks, the difference between great and average in MLB is whether or not you get caught…

http://deadspin.com/looks-like-mickey-mantle-used-to-cork-his-bat-489467933

Little rituals…

I’d probably get way more sleep if I didn’t play in bands.

I’m not talking about the infrequent gig that keeps me up until 3 in the morning.  No, this is about rehearsal, practice or whatever you want to call it.

When I have a band practice that goes well I’m so keyed up afterwards that it takes me literally hours to wind down enough to be able to sleep.  It’s utterly worth it though.  I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to know cool people who are fun to play with.  Most grown-ups don’t play at all.  Ultimately, I’ll probably live longer.

And I’ve developed little rituals too.

After a few hours of playing my ears are toast.  Sometimes they are physically hot from all the airwaves that have moved through them.  So, I never listen to the radio or music from my iPod on the drive home.  If practice went well, and I’m in a good mood, I’ll listen to a favorite comedy record.

Tonight’s selection – Patton Oswalt – Finest Hour.  If you haven’t heard this record, get it.  I’ve been a huge fan of Patton since he was a random, raging, obscure comic telling jokes only nerds and English majors got.  In the past few years he’s become a master, and this record is pretty close to being a perfect comedy album.  It’s so funny, listening to it while driving is probably hazardous.

I picked Patton tonight because it’s sort of seemed like this past week has belonged to the dude.  His comment about the Boston bombings are still, so far, the most compassionate and intelligent things I’ve read about the whole mess.  Then the producers of Parks & Recreation released this clip of Patton improvising for 8 minutes straight:

They told him – talk for 8 minutes, and it’s comedy gold.

Then, later the same day someone shoots me this:

 

 

CollegeHumor’s Favorite Funny Videos

Wow.  Just wow.

Anyway, as George Carlin once said, I have no ending for this, so I take a small bow.

The Onion nails it again…

After all, when something awful like this happens, you’re not thinking about getting the facts right, or adhering to the basic standards of reporting, or providing people with the correct information they desperately need in a time of crisis, or respecting the families of those involved, or treating human life itself as sacred, or acting like professionals, or thinking about anything other than the amount of page views your story will attract on the internet. You’re not thinking about any of that stuff, at least I’m not. To dwell on all that stuff would just be crass.

via This Is A Tragedy—Does It Really Matter Exactly How Many People Died Or What Any Of The Details Are? | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

 

Is instant anything worth bothering with?…

Separating Social Media’s Fact From Fiction Amid Crisis : NPR.

Heard the above segment on Talk of the Nation in my car earlier and started immediately thinking – Why would you ever assume that instant information is valid or valuable?

Is instant coffee any good?  Worth drinking?

Are instant mashed potatoes any good?  Worth eating?

If you answer yes to either of the above questions you’re either just being contrary or are a truly disturbed individual.

So, operating from the premise that instantly prepared things are generally of pretty inferior quality, why would we assume instantly prepared news would be anything but an inferior product?

Why would anyone be surprised that the majority of news they get via Facebook and/or Twitter would be anything but the information equivalent to Sanka?  Since I love to beat analogies into the dust, why not extend this to 24-Hour Cable News programs or “Special Reports” on TV or radio in the heat of a disaster or other crisis?

As a society we seem to have turned into Veruca Salt.  Not the mediocre alt-rock band of the 90s, mind you, I’m talking about this character:

 

We seem to have forgotten that patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s vital to making good choices and good decisions.  Acting on instant information is, after all, likely to produce instant-quality actions.

We’ve become a culture that ingests unrefined data.  The only TV reporting I saw on the tragedy in Boston yesterday was the hour or so I caught at the gym, and it truly did not matter which network that “reporting” was coming from.  Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and the broadcast networks were spewing equally unfiltered, unedited data, and then the talking heads on all the networks were vomiting forth ill-considered speculation and opinion to try to fill the space.  A brief perusal of my Twitter feed came up with exactly one post that wasn’t cringe-inducing, and that was Patton Oswalt’s brilliant statement.

The difference between what Patton said and what pretty much everyone else seemed to have to say was pretty startling.  I’ll give Mr. Oswalt some credit.  He may be a comedian, a professional clown, if you will, but the nature of his brand of stand-up comedy is that it’s thoughtful and deeply considered.  So, this is a man who is in the habit of stepping back from a situation, looking at it and trying to get to the most honest and commonly understandable thing about it.  In contrast, the punditocracy just gushed out raw, poorly thought out sound bites.  The social media universe was just cluttered with people flailing, saying dumb, emotional things and then repeating the dumb emotional things that other people had posted.

If you spent the day and evening consuming the instant-news from the TV and interwebs yesterday you probably felt like shit when you went to bed.  My son came out of his room at about 9 pm last night all wound up over the bunches of bombs that had been found (that turned out weren’t) the Saudi Arabian guy who was arrested (who wasn’t) and a half-dozen other things that were flying about online and on TV that in the light of the morning all turned out to be little more than rumors.

To my mind there are a couple of pretty awful results of the constantly connected, instant-consumption info world.  The first is that 24-hour, non-stop tragedy online and on the cable news channels distorts the reality of the world.  What happened yesterday was horrific and tragic for the people directly involved, and it was pretty scary if you lived in or were visiting Boston.  But beyond that relatively small segment of the population, what happened yesterday didn’t really have an actual tangible impact.  Sure, anyone who heard about it felt empathy and sorrow for the people the explosions actually really happened to, but unless you deliberately engaged yourself in following it via the web or cable news you could have quite easily gone about your normal business and even had a pretty good day.

If you did let the info shit-storm consume you though, well then I bet you had a pretty terrible day.  Probably didn’t sleep very well, and probably woke up fearful and uneasy this morning.  The same thing happens on days when there is no tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon.  CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. pick something every day to beat on over and over and over again.  Fiscal cliff anyone?  Sequester?  Pick your political story or scandal de jour.  They are all made out to be the end of the world, because the end of the world sells more ads.

When I was a child the world was no less interesting or infested with newsie stuff than it is now, but you could find out, basically, what was going on by watching Walter Cronkite for a half hour right before dinner.  Walter was great, but he was no genius.  The days’ important events can still be basically summed up in about 20 minutes by any halfway intelligent news copywriter.  By stretching those events into 24 hours of non-stop reporting their importance in the lives of you and me get distorted and magnified.

The second bad thing comes of that distortion and magnification is that we make choices based upon our perception of reality, and if our perception of reality is distorted by the way the news and interwebs magnify and overemphasize the dangers we face we’ll make stupid choices. Dumb, uninformed citizens are bad.  Dumb, frightened, uninformed citizens are dangerous to themselves and to society as a whole.

The phrase I found myself saying a lot in the past day or so is “consider the source.”  When you choose to get information from a TV network, a newspaper or online source, consider the motives of that source.  And stop being surprised when instantly produced products are bereft of quality.

RIP, Roger Ebert…

This is one of Ebert’s strengths; he doesn’t review films in a way that’s too academic or inaccessible, he writes film reviews like a guy who loves the shit out of movies and knows how to rage if they don’t love him back. I will never feel as passionately about anything as Ebert does about how much he hates this movie about a kid traveling around the world looking for parents. I love how important movies are to Ebert. I love how serious he takes his craft. I love that he sees bad movies as a personal attack. And I love the glee that he surely felt when he wrote this review.

via 4 Randomly Hilarious Pieces of Found Comedy on the Internet | Cracked.com.

Roger Ebert has loomed large in my life.  As a kid movies were absolutely my favorite thing.  The old Alameda Theater ran $1 matinees every Saturday when I was growing up, and I went almost every weekend from the age of 9 or 10 on.  Most of the time the films they showed were bad to mediocre.  Occasionally they were just resoundingly dreadful.  But I loved the experience of sitting in that great old art deco theater, spending the afternoon watching stories flash by on the screen.

Most afternoons I’d walk home from school and tune in to Dialing for Dollars on KTVU, where the host, Pat McCormick gave away money to people who called in and tried to put a brave face on presenting what were never better than average, overplayed films.  On Saturday nights I almost never missed Creature Features, hosted by Bob Wilkins.  Again, most of the films were pretty bad, but every now and then a classic would sneak in.

Throughout high school and college given a choice between doing almost anything and going to the movies I’d choose the movies.  As I grew up I became a fan first of Roger Ebert as a TV-based critic alongside Gene Siskel on Sneak Previews, which I rarely missed an episode of.  Later on I discovered Ebert’s written criticism and as an aspiring critic myself I studied his work intently.

I couldn’t describe what made Ebert’s criticism great any better than the Dan O’Brien quote above.  Most critics, whether they’re writing about films, music, books, art or architecture approach their criticism from behind a lectern.  They are the all-knowing experts on art and write down to their readers.  Much as I enjoyed Gene Siskel’s sparring with Ebert on Sneak Previews, this is why he was never my favorite critic.  Siskel came across as professor Siskel.  Ebert wrote from the seat next to you in the theater.  In every way he was a guy who primarily went to see films because he really, really loved the experience of seeing a movie in a theater.  He wanted to be entertained, and reserved his worst and most scathing criticism for those films that were insulting to the audience they were aimed at.  The worst offense a filmmaker could make in Ebert’s book was to make a film that failed to transport the audience out of their seats and into the experience.

When I started writing music criticism I consciously kept this perspective in mind.  I always wrote as a fan.  Thanks Roger.  I will truly miss you.

Everything wrong with the structure of MLB, in a nutshell…

2013 Payrolls And Salaries For Every MLB Team.

  • New York Yankees $228,995,945
  • Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909
  • Philadelphia $159,578,214
  • Boston $158,967,286
  • Detroit $149,046,844
  • San Francisco $142,180,333
  • Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250
  • Texas $127,197,575
  • Chicago White Sox $124,065,277
  • Toronto $118,244,039
  • St. Louis $116,702,085
  • Washington $112,431,770
  • Cincinnati $110,565,728
  • Chicago Cubs $104,150,726
  • Baltimore $91,793,333
  • Milwaukee $91,003,366
  • Arizona $90,158,500
  • Atlanta $89,288,193
  • New York Mets $88,877,033
  • Seattle $84,295,952
  • Cleveland $82,517,300
  • Kansas City $80,491,725
  • Minnesota $75,562,500
  • Colorado $75,449,071
  • San Diego $71,689,900
  • Oakland $68,577,000
  • Pittsburgh $66,289,524
  • Tampa Bay $57,030,272
  • Miami $39,621,900
  • Houston $24,328,538

A-Rod will be paid more to play in 2013 than all of the players on the Houston Astros combined.

Oh, and the taxpayers of Miami should find Jeffrey Loria and Michael Hill and extract a pound of flesh from each of them.