Holy Cross, Adam West (The Ongoing History of New Music)

I live by a set of immalleable valuables

– Adam West, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

When you decide once and for all that you’re gonna be what you want to, and not let anybody stop you, the next step is pretty simple: have a little understanding, dig in and fully commit to it.

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Take for instance, the 1960s Batman live action television series, which is incredibly campy, has some pretty silly moralistic themes, and an ever present sense of humour. Over the course of three seasons and one film, Adam West and Burt Ward managed to seep their way into the lives of countless North Americans. They owned their terminology with the constant string of “holy …, Batman,” referring to every piece of tech as “bat (insert equipment name),” placing graphics over sound effects during fist fights, and the never-ending flirtations between Batman and Catwoman. There were other constistent tropes of the series, but Batman never broke ranks.

Except for last year, when DC finally decided to revisit those characters and create an animated film voiced by Adam West and Burt Ward. In the film, we see many of the characters playing off of the tropes which made the show ever-so popular and memorable.

Playing off what we loved about that TV show was a smart move on the part of DC, and as I finish off this introduction, I’ll tell you why. We know the stories are tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t stop them from being entertaining and expected. As audiences have evolved and humour has changed over the decades, it was necessary for DC to acknowledge that in their story, breaking some walls along the way but never knocking the foundation.

Syndicated For Your Listening Pleasure

And Adam West has owned his persona ever since – by always willing to demonstrate this campy quality which has made him much beloved.

Which brings me to another hero for the ages.

Someone who had humble beginnings as a radio disc jockey, but a personality much greater than the sum of his core job responsibilities. One of my personal heroes and someone who I can only hope to emulate in my much broader tastes of all art forms, fellow Canadian and downright cool guy, Alan Cross.

Alan Cross is the originator of The Ongoing History of New Music (TOHONM), Canada’s longest running radio show documentary.

The purpose of the show is to explore the alternative rock world, which is a vast thing, believe me. Cross profiles artists, explores genre changes, looks at themes of culture and politics, and always always provides a well researched show.

Over the course of it’s hundreds of shows some of my favourites have been about the definition of indie rock, the evolution of punk, and the history of Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band I never cared much for, at least until Alan Cross taught me different.

It all started with Cross hosting an afternoon show on CFNY-FM, better known as 102.1 the Edge, then a morning show, and eventually moving back to an afternoon show in 1993. This is when he took on the additional project of TOHONM. As his career evolved, Cross took on different roles and moved around, but he never quit the show, not until he officially left Corus Entertainment in 2011, TOHONM was cancelled as Corus owned the show.

A Different Tune

After that happened, Cross started another program called The Secret History of Rock, which was produced by Astral Media. It lasted for about 100 episodes and was pretty cool. Then in 2014 Cross decided to go back to Corus and TOHONM was revived once more. Unfortunately neither TOHONM nor The Secret History of Rock are widely available for download, the first because of music licensing issues and the second because Cross is looking for global syndication.

But that shouldn’t matter, because you can listen to recent episodes of TOHONM on the Edge’s website and Cross has a series of audio books on The History of Alternative Rock, which are pretty cool.

This guy seriously knows a ton about music. I’m recommending him to you because if you know nothing about music, he’s a fountain of knowledge, and if you know tons about music, I can assure you that you know nothing compared to Alan Cross.

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Just saying.

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Will listening to Alan Cross change your musical life? Maybe.

But I will commit this to you, if you listen to him, and I mean really listen to what he says, you’ll realize that he is a lot like Batman. A geek at heart, with an immalleable set of values when it comes to work ethic, and keen sense for information. Plus he’s pretty funny too. I think he could teach you a thing or two about the arts, for sure – and I’ll commit that theory to vinyl.

Tim!

Court of Cowls (Scott Snyder)

I like comic books – Always have. Always will.

The surface reason is pretty straight forward. I really appreciate a good narrative, and because I’m fascinated by visuals, comic books can’t be beat when it comes to pulling off a spectacle of visuals and for providing that sense of satisfaction. Correction, I probably shouldn’t call it satisfying, instead I should call it gratification, because the nature of the comic book is a continuing story. Gratification is something we are thankful for, while satisfaction is a feeling of enough.

You see, dear readers, the comic book by its very nature never finishes, so you cannot experience the fullness of pleasure, you’re left wanting.

This is great for sales, when a book has a strong story and great visuals. Less so when the book isn’t picked up. After all, the comic book industry is perpetually dying.

The Batman Writer We Deserve

If you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight yet, I’m sorry to hear that. It came out almosta decade ago and it’s probably one of the best comic book based movies of all time, if not the best… possibly sharing the limelight with Iron Man no.1 and the first The Avengers movie for my top picks.

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Anyways, there is this great scene at the end of the movie wherein the newly appointed Commissioner Gordon gives a speech at Harvey Dent’s funeral. He describes Batman as a dark knight, a watchful protector, what the city of Gotham deserves, but not what it needs. The city needs a white knight in shining armour, flawless and serving as a beacon of hope. The city doesn’t deserve a flawless hero, but Batman is willing to become the villain in order to help his community rise up out of the darkness. In fact, Batman is flawless in that he is a true hero, he loses his parents and the love of his life, but he continues forward as a warrior for justice. But Harvey Dent is very flawed, and when the chips are down, he reveals that he is capable and willing to go to The Joker’s level, becoming Two-Face.

Now, let’s talk about Scott Snyder.

Scott Snyder is known for his comic book writing skills, having worked with DC and Vertigo on various books – American Vampire, Detective Comics (part of The New 52 relaunch), Batman, and Swamp Thing.

A lot of people have said that Snyder’s work on Batman has been exemplary, and I would tend to agree. I recently read the hard cover volume of The Court of Owls, and was pleasantly surprised at how well he was able to combine new storytelling with flourishes of what came before.

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Scott Snyder is the Batman writer we deserve, because he spent five years working with artist Greg Capullo to give a new perspective to Batman, respectful of what preceded, but willing to explore. This is something that all comic fans really want to see, and it’s a difficult line to walk.

 

I think he was able to accomplish this by building upon key moments and seeing the story through to whatever direction it took. Kind of amazing when you stop to think about it. Even his twists and turns on The Joker is one to remember.

Disney and Stephen King VERSUS Detective Comics

Scott Snyder attributes a lot of his writing to an early exposure to horror writer giant Stephen King and later when he was able to work for Walt Disney World after he graduated from university.  He describes it as such 

All the things I ended up writing about, those things that are deeply frightening to me—fear of commitment and growing up, fear of losing loved ones, the wonder and terror of falling in love—all of it was constantly being played out all around me in this weird, cartoonish, magnified way at Disney.

Which tells me that he deserved to write for Batman, and we deserved to have him. Not to sound like a broken record, but yeah – a labour of LOVE is what it comes down to friends. And this is why Scott Snyder is this month’s featured author for my 5 L’s of Language post. His massive love for the subject material he writes about comes through no matter what. And this is something you too should take to heart.

No matter what the occasion or the reason, always be headed towards you purpose and be authentic in your feedback, if you can do this, you’ll be like Batman. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

A Non-Comical Book, Err Film (Batman: The Killing Joke, review)

Sexuality is a complicated thing, dear readers. People of all sexual orientations exist in this world – heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, polysexual, pansexual, and transexual. And those are just the baseline, it gets more intricate then that. Which is a difficult thing to address because we have so much cultural material out there that mostly address heterosexuals, and to a lesser extent, homosexuals.

Every other persuasion gets considerably less attention.

Now, I’m writing about this challenge as a straight white male, so I realize my opinion is pretty limited, and that I am quite privileged in my perspective, but I will mention this, I have no idea how the actual percentages shake out on this sexuality matter.

Regardless, when we are reduced to our sexual motivations, that sucks. And not in a good way. Especially when it comes to art.

 

 

 

Batman: The Killing Joke (2014)

Cast: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise
released on blu-ray August 2, 2016
***** 5/10

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IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%, Audience Score 56%
The Guardian: N/A

Sam Liu is a Chinese American animation director, artist, and designer. He has directed several animated superhero films at both Marvel Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. I could list the heavy CV of films he has had a hand in, but it’s rather exhausting to look at, so let’s just take my word for it, okay?

As Bob Dylan once sang, the times, they are a changin’.

And this story probably didn’t need to be retold, especially the way it did, but before I tell you about the story, I’ll give you a bit of background first.

Batman: The Killing Joke is an adaptation of a rather slim graphic novel of the same name, which was originally created by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland in 1988, and which was itself also an adaptation of another story from the 1950s called The Man Behind the Red Hood which originally served as an origin story for Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker.

It has been widely lauded as one of the greatest Batman stories of all time, and has been critically reviewed as the definitive Joker story. It is a story describing both how The Joker came to be and for him to prove that anyone can sink into madness.

The flashbacks show a failed comedian and his very pregnant wife, and the comedian eventually decides to work with criminals to steal from a playing card company. It’s adjacent to his former work, which is a chemical plant. But his wife dies in a household accident, and he is forced to help the criminals anyway. The criminals dress him up as The Red Hood to implicate him if cops arrive. Cops do arrive, and then Batman. The comedian escapes from Batman, but is flushed out the chemical was pound lock – this turns his skin white, his lips red, and his hair green. He loses his sanity.

In the current timeline, The Joker invades the Gordon’s home, shoots Barbara (Batgirl), and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. He then subjects him to sexualized images of his naked and bloody daughter, ridiculing him, and parading him through an abandoned amusement park. His hope is that Gordon will go insane just as he did, but this does not happen. Then Batman arrives, fights The Joker and proves to The Joker that he is the only insane one. The comic closes with Batman attempting to rehabilitate his foe, and The Joker responding with a joke that insights laughter from both parties, then the comic ends with an empty panel. Leaving the question of what happened to the reader.

It was a powerful story for the time, and still an interesting read, but Alan Moore has admitted that it lead superheroes down a dark road, and that while he wanted to show that comic books could be anything, all it did was darken the industry, and it hasn’t really recovered since. He regrets having written the story.

Now, let’s get to the update. Without diving too much into it, the new animated movie adds a prologue to help introduce us to Batgirl, even showcasing her challenges with a villain of her own, and a strained relationship with her mentor. The villain is sexually attracted to her, and of course gets in her head, which has Batman take Batgirl off the case. The story eventually shifts to a sexual tryst between Batman and Batgirl. Then Batgirl intervenes in the case anyway, and she ultimately resigns from crimefighting. Thus setting up the rest of the movie, which is a beat for beat repeat of the original story.

And so the story shifts the motivations of Batman and Batgirl, while removeing the weight of both The Joker and Gordon’s role in it’s outcome.

Pros: When the story sticks to the source material, it is engaging and an interesting account of both The Joker and his role with Batman.

Cons: We didn’t need to see a sexualized Batgirl. And we definitely didn’t need to see a 30 minute prologue story, when Batgirl should have gotten her own feature length animated film. Also, the animation is quite bad in many places.

Runtime1 hour 16 minutes

Points of Interest: Mark Hamill had retired from voicing The Joker, and would only come back if this story was adapted for film. The movie received a limited theatre release a week before it dropped in stores and online; the last time this happened was with the 1993 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

The fact that Alan Moore didn’t want his name on this adaptation might have been considered a sign that DC shouldn’t have green-lit this story, but that’s the perpetual struggle with comic book publishers, it’s a constantly dying industry, and they have to do something to inject life back into their business. And so an adaptation of an almost 30 year old Batman story was made into a movie. You can watch it, but I’m not sure that it’s worth it.

 

 

 

I really wish this movie didn’t turn out the way it did. I mean, the original story is interesting and noteworthy for a morality tale and cross-examination of Batman and The Joker as they relate to each other. And yes, Batgirl does plays a victim role in the original story, so it’s not like it’s the most brilliant piece of writing ever, but man did they screw up the adaptation with that prologue. It went from being an interesting story to something completely different. It just doesn’t mean the same thing with those changes. A story reduced to sexual motivations, and unnecessary sexualization of a female character.

Tim!

Smokin’ Astroturf (Cracked)

On the more morbid side of things, I’ve been thinking about mortality quite a bit this past week. But with good reason my friends. It just seems like the music industry has been taking hit after hit over 2015. We saw the passing of Scott Weiland, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, B.B. King, and not even a month in 2016, and David Bowie leaves us too.

It’s hard not to ponder life, death, and what comes after, especially after a major player in the music scene lost his battle with cancer on Sunday. Someone who represented the arts and anachronisms of today well before we smartened up, rather well.

I was fortunate enough to find a copy of his 25th and last album, Blackstar, when I heard the news on Monday. And so I’ve decided to review David Bowie’s last gift to the world all throughout this week, in anticipation of my Melodic Monday post about it next week.

The only way to properly send off a music legend, and someone who I always associate with the positive side of 1980s pop culture. The movie Labyrinth.

He was a shining star in that movie.

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It’s moments like these, that my mind starts to race. As it should. Because I wonder if I’m living my life to the best of my ability. There is a reason there are so many quotes and memes about the importance of following your dreams and a life half lived.

Because mortality is a real concern for everyone. No matter who you are, you will one day die. We all have that in common. Rockstars and actors are no different, their deaths are just more exposed and common knowledge.

So not to hammer the point to much, but I’ve been thinking about mortality, and my life, what to do with it. Ways I want to better myself, increase my knowledge, life experiences I need to have before I leave the mortal coil, etc.

*Which is kind of a hint for what I will be writing about in tomorrow’s Timely Thursday post, dear readers.*

What does this have to do with Wisdom Wednesday though, Tim, you ask? Well I had to decide what kind of wisdom to impart on you art makers, art shakers, and art takers without giving you something contrived. But it hit me pretty hard once I did a little digging.

Life is tough, but people love their numerically themed instructional blog posts, and I know of a place on the internet that gives wisdom, is a hell of a lot of fun, and can be incredibly inspiring, not unlike the musical heroes we lost this year.

I think I might have eluded to an interest in satire before, right? And an interest in comic books?

Well have any of you ever heard of Cracked magazine? It was this kind of awesome satirical humor magazine that came about in the late 50’s and lasted until the mid 2000’s before it finally transitioned to an exclusively online brand.

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I received my first copy on a camping trip with my grandparents in 1992, the year Batman Returns came out, and just before I had to got back to school after summer.

This was the issue I read cover to cover, over and over. I suspect it had a lot to do with developing my tastes in satire, comic books, pop culture, and human behaviour. You see, this was also around the time (within a year) that my grandpa had his stroke, almost died, and lost his ability to walk, speak, and use his right arm. He eventually gained most of his walking mobility back, but his speech has been limited for over 20 years, and he still can’t use his right arm.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. My point is it had an effect on me.

Cracked now regularly churns out blogs and vlogs – poking fun at and simultaneously addressing the hard issues of life. I’ve linked to some of my favourite numerically themed instructional blog posts.

5 Things That Have to Happen Before You Fix Your Crappy Life
6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person
8 Ways To Make Yourself A Better Person (With Ben Affleck)
4 Lifehacks For People Who Haven’t Discovered Adulthood Yet

Because comics, literature, and pop culture are all interesting forms of art, Cracked should feel right at home to most, if not all of you. And believe me when I tell you, I haven’t even shared the best stuff they churn out.

If you’re really itching for more theories, you should watch a few episodes of their YouTube channel. Start with this episode from the After Hours series.

Until tomorrow my friends, I hope your evening is grand and I’ll see you tomorrow with something timely.

Tim!

Sometimes Its About Whiskey and Cake (July Talk, July Talk review)

Apparently music writing is something that cannot be taught. Well at least that’s what I read in a review of a book titled  “How to Write About Music” which was edited by the same person that wrote the review.

We all understand that the digital landscape has changed things significantly, to the point that anyone with 7 bucks a month and an internet connection can speak their mind, and literally anyone can stumble onto their work. That’s both a terrifying and fascinating prospect.

But the lady who wrote the article makes some good points, and I enjoyed it, so I want to write about my take on what she shared.

So what did I learn from this article? Some good things in fact.

  1. Listen to music normally before you approach it critically. That makes sense, you can’t really discuss an album until you’ve experienced it.
  2. Put it on repeat, but don’t get trapped in your seat. If you over-think it, you’ll probably give a false impression of how you really feel. However, if you listen one time you might not appreciate hidden details.
  3. R&D is everything, just ask Batman. By researching you learn what the music is about, what the perception in the media is, and how you feel about it all.
  4. People like stories and storytelling is easier. Well potentially. But if you do come up with a framework, you can progress along quicker.
  5. Embrace the darkness. Err, I mean editing. Embrace the editing. What, another Batman reference? You are going to spend a lot of your time reading and rereading what you’ve written, moreso than writing. But more than that, you will be rewriting your work.
  6. Do not succumb to timeline pressures. Writers aren’t going to have much of an advantage over anyone at this time, because of downloads and the like. Write a thoughtful evaluation because its useful, not because you need to be first.xzibit-meme-generator-first-line-so-i-made-a-lame-comment-on-your-post-p-fbfb45

Now that I have those tips and tricks under my belt, I think its time to tackle my first album review. Because I can, dear readers, and because I think its time to start expanding my reach and my breadth.

July Talk – July Talk
released October 15, 2012
******** 8/10

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I like Peter Dreimanis’ voice. Its distinct and also reminiscent of Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Americana, and whiskey. All things that I love in equal proportions.

Incidentally, and while doing a little research, I learned that he didn’t used to sing when he played. In fact, he only began to embrace that musical ability after he decided to form July Talk with Leah Fay (co-frontman, frontwoman?), Ian Docherty, Josh Warburton, and Danny Miles back in 2012.

What makes July Talk even more distinct is the pairing of Peter’s vocals with Leah’s vocals right beside him. She carries an angelic weight so slight that if you were to reach out for it, it would disappear.

I’m not one to fawn over an album too often, but when I like a musical act, I find generally that the tracks will work together. July Talk doesn’t easily give me that comfortable satisfaction though.

It seems with every track I have to work and listen through it very carefully because while their “vision” is familiar throughout, the content shifts ever so subtly. With lyrics like “if you want money in your coffee, if you want secrets in your tea” it is hard not to smile at the whimsy they offer up so quickly in Paper Girl. Then they’ll switch gears and jump into a track like My Neck – A track that has amazing chords woven into it’s chorus and feels like it’s ripped out of a bad TV show from the 70s, hints of sexuality and tired violence. But its oh so captivating.

And have you watched any of the music videos for their singles? Go do it now! They refuse to put colour into any of the videos, and it makes them more special for it. It reminds me of painting as a teenager, so much angst and emotion, but you don’t need colour to appreciate it.

You know what, I’ll just link to them all here. 1 2 3 4 5 6

You’re welcome.

You’ve probably heard Headsick at this point in history though right? That’s another one of my favourite tracks. I think it combines a nice mix of their indie, garage, punk, and pop sensibilities all in one place. And have I mentioned their voices… So good!

You should also consider visiting Leah on twitter she is pretty fun to follow @whiskeyandcake

If you ever have an opportunity to check them out live. I highly recommend that experience as well. I personally saw them this past July and rank it among my favourite live acts. Convenient and poetic right? Also it was one of the first dates I took my current belle on, and I think that’s pretty neat.

So what did you think? I hope you enjoyed my post. I look forward to hearing your feedback. My goal here is to share music that is currently in my queue or whatever is hot off the presses and on the top of my mind. For instance, I may just be giving some feedback on EODM next week, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

And that’s all the theories I’ve got this week.

Tim!