Archive for July, 2006

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Random Notes

July 31, 2006

I think I might have to nail a schedule down for this thing for when to post. I guess I don’t that often just because I figure I should put a half week or so in between them. If I just posted something every time I had a new idea, then I would probably get bored too quickly. Seriously, how often does anyone even read this? In any case, material to post isn’t an issue. I have three reviews completely prepped for posting that are just waiting in the queque, more on the way. I suppose I could just post them all when I’m done, but once again, things would get out too quickly.

I think what I will do is post a new entry every monday and thursday, except for this coming week when I will just do one on Tuesday for the sake of it being at the beginning of August. Then I can’t see it really mattering too much what time I post them, but I might as well just be on a schedule. It’s more comfortable that way.

Uh… Among other things, my birthday is coming up soon (just thought I’d let you know, so you could sit on your couch and not give a flying fuck about some dude you don’t even know and what day he was born 🙂 ), and that means more CDs and stuff. So I will likely do more reviews. If I get any new games, I will most likely review them too. You can see the game reviews I make from my gamefaqs page which is linked from the left sidebar under “My Game Reviews.”

I realize that I seem to be reviewing only things that I like. Well we will just have to make a few new rules to stop all the bitching. I review what I feel like reviewing, and nine times out of ten, it’s an album that I like. I’m a complimentary guy, what can I say. This is mostly because I listen to shit that I like. So quit your bitching, all you picky people, and realize that I have good enough tastes and guessing ability to be a smart shopper/listener. Most of the time what I’ll do is an album that I recently aquired/is new, so just keep that in mind.

Uh… I guess expect something on Tuesday. I’ll give you a little hint type thing. It’s a solo album from a member of a certain band that may be making a comeback soon.

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Bruce Lee: Ultimate Collection

July 26, 2006

Bruce Lee: Ultimate Collection

Not too long ago, I was browsing the Barnes and Noble DVD section when I came across this. I was excited, I’ll admit it. Slapping the word Ultimate on the front of a DVD collection, especially one that has Bruce Lee in it, can really mean a lot. To me, DVDs are not to be bought often. They are better as a birthday gift or a christmas gift in my opinion, and with that a DVD collection can grow more steadiliy and strong. But even if it meant paying the full price of fifty dollars, I just felt I had to have this. The buyers remorse was brief. Yes, I feel bad about spending that much money when I could have gotten it for so much cheaper, but hey, it’s Bruce Lee. Lord only knows he would have jumped out from a bush and killed me while I was on the way home if I didn’t buy it, and a gift card covered most of it anyway.

The DVD collection covers five movies which are said to be Lee’s best. The movies included are The Big Boss (Fists of Fury), Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection), Way of the Dragon (Return of the Dragon), Game of Death, and Game of Death 2. I already owned The Chinese Connection and Enter The Dragon, but none of the other four movies. But I had no idea that The Chinese Connection was the same thing as Fist of Fury. Either way, I’m still a little mystified at how Enter The Dragon was not included, but that was actually better for me, because I already owned it. In any case, Bruce Lee is only said to have made six movies, and now I have them all. With that, sitting down and watching these movies has become something of a really fun experience, and just as mystifying and awesome even after watching them time after time.

I have noticed that all of the films are generally very high quality, not only with visuals but also with sound. Apparently the quality has been enhanced twofold for this box set, and I’m only seeing a few problems here and there. One is how Bruce’s cat calls are a little out of synch with his mouth in some of the later movies. I don’t know if any of these such situations actually involved sound recording after the fact to go along with the footage, or if this is the way it always was, or if I’m just hallucinating, but if that’s the biggest problem with quality, this is a pretty solid DVD collection. Once again, I’m hazy as to why Enter The Dragon was not included. I’ll only complain so much because it meant I was getting more of my money’s worth, but it’s just absurd to not include such a classic. The special features are kind of interesting too. I haven’t checked all of them out, but what I have seen is some cool movie stills, edited and original movie trailers, some interviews with people on Bruce, etc. It’s all pretty good.

Anyway, as far as the movies go, some are absolutely great and some are only okay. If you do not wish to spoil yourself on some of the movies which you have not watched, don’t read ahead. But if you don’t mind and think you will probably be just as suprised upon seeing them, by all means, read right ahead. I don’t think me telling you what happens in these movies will really hamper your enjoyment anyway.
The Big Boss (Fists of Fury): 9/10

This is the first movie that Bruce Lee ever starred in, and it’s a doozie. Quite a knockout, for his first. And you can tell it’s his first too. Like his other movies, this screams seventies, but no one is really wearing bell-bottoms like in some of the later films. The writing is pretty good, but there are some deliciously bad parts that make the good parts better and are worth the laugh. Bruce himself plays well, but this is sort of before he began to gain dominance over his surroundings, at least as far as acting goes.

The premiss is classic. Kung-Fu expert Cheng is escorted to an industrial Chinese town by his uncle so that he has a place to work and raise money to help his sick mother. Some distant relatives already live there, and the family consists of what seems like ten male factory workers, a little kid, and a really hot cousin, who seems to have her eye on Cheng. Yeah, maybe they’re not actually relatives, I’m not sure, but it seems to me like everyone in the movie is supportive of Chengs relationship with the chick, so maybe the uncle is really more of an “uncle.” Anyway, Cheng has already taken a vow never to fight again for some reason, and a necklace of his seems to be the reminder. But his strength helps out in his new job, which apparently involves packaging and sending blocks of ice that look like they have surfboards in them which they don’t know are filled with cocaine.

But it just so happens that the management is a little shakey and abusive in this factory, and it also just so happens that problems start to arise just as Cheng arrives. So when people start disappearing and the boss acts as if it’s no big deal, the concerned workers start to take matters into their own hands.

Just a heads up, there is a lot of killing in this movie, and it is very much a tragedy type of film, but there is so much ass-kicking that it’s worth it even if you don’t understand that this is just what Bruce always does. There is a lot more weaponry in this movie than your typical chopsaki flick. These guys go at it with chains, knives, shivs, poles, whatever is on hand. And this actually still keeps the fighting cool, even if the environment is more gritty and less natural. The storyline kind of trudges along, and the best martial arts comes in at the end when Bruce has started to ignore his vows and fight for justice even if it is dangerous. But even if it is a little slow, the story is interesting, and sort of a first.

This is Bruce Lee’s first film, so some things need to be established. What you will notice about Bruce at this point is he doesn’t have the utmost confidence like he typically does. A lot of what you see is him kind of sitting and thinking to himself, gee, why can’t I fight right now? But midway into the movie when his antique necklace is smashed, he starts to get angry, and the zoom-in on his angry face lets us know that someone is in for a world of pain. Then he says to his enemies who are picking on his factory worker friends, “come on! I’ll take any of you on!” And then he starts sleeping with women. That’s the Bruce we know. Of course, this is also the start of the mans career, so the story is classic and an indication of where the actor and martial arts specialist will go in the future. Once Cheng finds out about the drugs, and the killing, and the lying, we see that Bruce really does have a desire to help the common good and serve justice, and here his path is paved.
The best is saved for last, because the amount of martial arts in the last half hour or so is surprising even to someone who has seen the most relentless of chopsaki movies. And the final battle with The Big Boss himsef is phoenomenal. I won’t spoil too much, but it’s just fantastic. The Big Boss is a great movie. It’s a great martial arts movie even if theres a lot of blood, it’s a quickie, it’s a first, it’s a lot of fun. There are very few problems with the movie, and it is an interesting look at the beginning of Bruce Lee’s career, where things can only get better anyway.

Fist of Fury (The Chinese Connection): 9/10

This is really the paralell to The Big Boss in many ways. Bruce still looks very young here, but instead of the movie taking place in a modern setting, it takes place around 1900 or so in China. Bruce Lee plays Chen, the most skilled student of a renowned Chinese martial arts school, and he is very distraught over the recent death of his master. But of course, as you can guess, Chen has a hunch that his master was really murdered, and he’s furious. And as fate has it, the same Japanese school who is later identified as the culprits shows up and starts to poke the buttons of the schools inhabitants.

You see, to me that’s just a really bad idea. It’s a bad enough idea to get anywhere close to the building that Bruce Lee is in when he’s angry, and it’s worse to actually go into that building, poke him in the face a few times, and make fun of his friends. At that point, you know he’s going to kick some ass. You can see it in his eyes. That’s another new thing about this movie. You know how I mentioned before how Bruce Lee had not quite “established dominance” yet in The Big Boss? Well, he has that dominance here. The look on his face is just so obviously empowered and confident. Bruce knows he could take down anyone, and that look of confidence is great and really adds to the experience.

As far as the story goes, it’s kind of slow, but also very interesting. It goes along at a slow pace, but there are enough twists to keep in interesting, and you actually come to care about the characters by the end. The only problem is, there isn’t a whole lot of martial arts between the few big fights in the movie, and even those are short lived. Except the last few ones, which are very cool. That is obviously a staple of Bruce Lee movies; the best and most interesting battle always comes last. This time it’s with a guy who kind of looks like Michael McDonald from Mad TV, except with a beard. It’s a good’n.

Really, this movie is a vital part of the Bruce Lee library, even if the action is somewhat short lived. This is the last movie before the American industry sort of took him in and started making his movies on a bigger budget and bringing some American actors into the scene. That said, this is vintage Bruce Lee. And it is the only vintage Bruce Lee, so I find myself coming back to this movie time after time. Yes, The Big Boss could probably be considered vintage, but it is also his first movie, so it’s really not an in between kind of movie. You think of it as classic, but not quite vintage.

If anything, the movie is worth it for the final frame, pretty much the most badass five seconds ever contrived by mankind. I won’t say exactly what happens, but the screen goes black and you hear something, and you can’t help but giggle. What action there is in this film is just fantastic and very cool, and it’s a great movie, and not just a great kung fu flick. It actually has some character to it, and it is exciting to watch time after time.

Way of the Dragon (Return of the Dragon): 8/10

Anyone who has heard of this movie really knows the premiss. Bruce Lee visits Rome to help out some friends who are being harassed by a gang, some stuff happens, la dee fricken da,

BRUCE LEE FIGHTS CHUCK NORRIS.

Really, the rest of the movie doesn’t even matter when you think about it. When this came out in the early seventies, I can guarentee that all the people who went to see this movie only saw it for that reason. Yes, the rest of the movie is full of other pleasent and awesome surprises, but the entire movie leads up to the fight, and you know how it ends even before you see the movie, because it is a Bruce Lee movie. I mean, come on. Even then, the first time you see the fight scene, you are still blown away.

I probably saw this for the first time a little before every single person in America was telling jokes about how awesome Chuck Norris is. You know, like how he impregnates a woman every time he lifts a finger, or how his tears cure cancer or something like that. Well, he is awesome, that much is true. I saw Delta Force II, and christ, that ones really impressive. It doesn’t get more awesomely hokie and badass than that, as far as 80s action movies go anyway. But then I hear people arguing about who is better, Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris. It’s a difficult debate that rages on all the time. I’ve even found myself in a fair share of these arguements. I usually refer those people to this movie, but then they get all flustered and talk about how it wasn’t a real fight, and how in real life, Chuck Norris could kick Bruce Lee’s ass. If you want my opinion on it, it’s really a matter of versatility. Yes, Bruce Lee is stronger than Chuck Norris. I’m sorry, he kicks higher, punches harder, and jumps farther. But can Bruce Lee gun down fifty Iraqis with a submachine gun while swinging on a vine over alligator infested lava pools while having sex with a veluptuous woman?

PROBABLY.

If not, he could deffinitely nail thirty or fourty. Bruce Lee is better physically, but he doesn’t quite have the driving, aiming, or piloting ability that Chuck Norris might have. You just have to ask yourself, do those things really factor in to who is stronger? In my opinion, they don’t. That’s why I ordered that Bruce Lee poster that should be coming in the mail soon. That’s why I bought this collection.

At any rate, yeah, the movie is good. If the last battle was with a different person, the movie might get an seven, because the story is kind of slow and there is a lot of down time. But the action is great when it is around. There are some great fights between some foreighn fighters and Bruce Lee, and some of his flat out slickest moments ever are in this movie. But once again, a lot of the movie is spent sort of exploring Rome and such. That’s okay though, because there are a lot of comedic moments in the movie to make it worth it. But once again, they could have seriously just put the Bruce vs Chuck scene on a movie that was twenty minutes long and it would have still been good. That scene is the flat out greatest Bruce Lee fight scene ever. The only arguement you could make against that is that it is only the best one on one Bruce Lee fight ever. But that’s just being picky.

It’s a great flick, and it is really the first Bruce Lee “flick” there was. It’s got a pretty cool story, the same awesome Bruce we know and love, some cool comedy, lots of cool action scenes, and of course the classic ending battle. Call it a tad gimmicky, it’s still a classic.

You know what, while I’m at it, I’ll also cover the only Bruce Lee movie not included in the collection, Enter The Dragon. Even if it’s not included, I can’t pass this one up.

Enter The Dragon: 10/10

At this point in his career, Bruce Lee was really a larger than life figure. The movie very much reflects this condition, and you could almost describe it as a larger than life movie. While it may be a little hard to not point out flaws in the movie, this is truly the classic Bruce Lee experience. It is his most popular movie for a reason, and although it is a bit gimmicky in some respects, it encompasses everything good about martial arts movies and hits all the best chimes that it possibly could. And no one isn’t going to deny that it is a tad gimmicky, but it is nonetheless a classic and respectable film that really lives on.

The plot is actually seems pretty typical, but in reality, there wasn’t too much like this at the time. An entrepraneur named Han is holding a martial arts tournament on his island off the coast of urban China, where he already has a martial arts school of his own. The festivities are enjoyed by many people from many places, and the guests are pampered to the utmost, treated to fine dining, luscious surroundings, and women too. But under the surface, Han is a villain. He makes and smuggles drugs, enslaves people, and is even a full out cold blooded murder. Lee plays a martial arts expert who’s sister just happens to be dead by the hand of Han’s croonies, so he obviously jumps at the opportunity to join the tournament and help to bring Han to justice.

Lee himself is of course spine tinglingly badass. Some of his lines are priceless. The “boards don’t hit back” line is classic. He still does amazing things, and he is still out front in the majority of the movies most exciting fight scenes. The anger on his face after he deals the final blow to O’Hara, Han’s lead man, is so great that I keep my video copy of the movie fast forwarded to that part at all times. The other characters are believable if not a little unlikeable. Williams and Roper are the two American fighters who end up being the best buds of Lee during the movie. You need to keep in mind that this was actually an American movie, so it has Bruce talking in English for the first time. Is this good? Yeah, I think it is. I might chuckle a little when he says “mawshull awtist,” but it’s good to hear his actual voice as opposed to any dubbing. But the downside to the fact that this is a major movie with a high budget is that major actors are included as well. Yes, John Saxon may be a good actor, but he is no martial arts expert, and this fact is exemplified by an utterly laughable double kick near the beginning of the movie when a small team of ninjas tries to take him down while he is out playing golf. Typical American actor, right? Thankfully, his character, Roper, is fairly likeable and has some good lines and a good set of ethics to drive his character, even if he is a compulsive gambler. Williams is the stronger character of the two, and he is played by Jim Kelly, an actual martial arts expert. He is much less gimmicky of a person for how gimmicky his character is, but he has actually won some martial arts awards and had his own school at one time. He also featured in a 70s movie that I’m dying to see.

His role as a black martial artist is a little novelty though. Instead of being a serious master of his trade, he is made out to be more of a prankster and babe magnet, which is fine. It’s more badass that way, but it is noteworthy that his character might not be able to be taken completely seriously.

There are a lot of other characters in the movie, most of which are actual martial arts experts. Even some of the shorter scenes feature people who are skilled in the arts, and they all have different styles to boot. That said, the action in this movie is almost unparalelled to this day. Some of it may not be extremely exciting, but it’s very realistic and very rugged. Like every Bruce Lee movie, people die in this one. Lots of people. But the action is never meaningless, and there is always an objective to push the movie forward, although sometimes it doesn’t seem to be revealed to the viewer until a later time. Either way, every moment of the movie means something, because it all leads up to action or sneaky mischief on the part of Lee, so nothing ever gets dull. That is a quality that is not really present in any other Bruce Lee movies. I guess the fact that this is an American movie did help it out somewhat in that respect, because the directing, story, and imagery are all superior to prior Bruce Lee movies. Granted, Bruce Lees experience with the American industry was short lived but ultimately worth it, because this is what it produced.

The story is very good, but once again, to fully appreciate this movie, you have to understand that it was made in the early 70s and things are bound to be a tad gimmicky and stereotypical. It is vital to take in this movie as it is presented, and the story needs to be treated as such too. Almost every scene can really be appreciated in some way, due to action, story progression, or even just a witty remark. There is a reason this is a classic, and it is the quintissential Bruce Lee experience. If you are going to pick this up, make sure you get the special edition, which comes on either VHS or DVD. These editions include more great scenes that were cut from the final edit of the movie, as well as an informative and cool interview of Bruce Lee on his career and life in general. This is an essential to anyone who likes action movies.

Game of Death: 5/10

To be fair, it’s hard to expect a Bruce Lee movie to be good if he wasn’t alive during most of it’s making. But even then, Game of Death really disappointed me. Bruce Lee died midway through production, and the fact that the people finished it sort of puts a pain in my stomach. The movie is done so poorly that I almost can’t see it having been better if he was alive during most of it. I guess I was expecting doubles, yes, but I was expecting much more actual Bruce Lee than there was. Like, maybe a few more action scenes.

Whatever. I can only really expect so much given those facts. I don’t want to say too much except it is truly a horrible movie. What seems to have happened is, Bruce Lee died and to compensate for the fact that the primary character is just gone, they signed on a bunch of second rate American actors to make it all better. NO. These actors are horrible, and if they were there when Bruce was, they would only detract from him. The entire prospect of them being there is still ridiculous, and Chuck Norris is even credited in the opening credits. That was enough to let me know the entire movie was BS, and a complete disrespect to Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris was NOT in this movie. A sample of Way of the Dragon was in fact used at the very beginning of the movie (poorly, too!), and apparently they felt Mr. Norris should be given credit. I trust he has killed some of the higher ups by now for disrespecting him by putting him in this thing, and also for disrespecting Bruce Lee himself.

I tried to watch it. I really did. But their attempts at hiding the fact that Bruce Lee isn’t around is almost as horrible as the likes of movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space. The funny thing is, I love bad movies. I would eve go so far to say that I ADORE bad movies. I live to stay home on Sunday nights and watch bad flicks from the fifties and sixties, maybe a Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff flick. Attack of the Killer Shrews is renowned as one of the best bad movies ever, and it might be my third or fourth favorite movie ever. It may not be completely serious or respectable, but you will never find me smiling more during a movie. Even with all that said, I hated this. Or at least most of what I saw of it.

I turned on the movie and proceeded to watch it with a friend. What I noticed right through the first scene is that the stunt double that is meant to be Bruce Lee isn’t really so much a stunt double. He’s in every scene, and he’s supposed to be Bruce Lee all the time. They hide his face underneath sunglasses, or most of the time by just showing the back of his head instead. I found this funny, but I was expecting it to be only the case for some of the scenes, while others might have Bruce Lee himself. Nope, that’s not the case. All but one scene in the movie has the double, but I’ll get to that one scene later. In one of the first scenes, the double is sitting in a chair talking to a businessman. He is shown in the chair, but because the directors found it necessary to show his face, some old footage of obviously different quality is shown instead, just of Bruce Lee’s face. But in one shot, a photo of Bruce Lee’s face is simply superimposed over the stunt doubles head. The effect is flubbed so horribly that we laughed pretty hard. Because I do love those kinds of shots. Once again, I live for bad movies.

But it got me thinking. Do I want to see a bad Bruce Lee movie? No. No I don’t. To even pretend that someone else is Bruce Lee is sacrilegious and to do that sort of shot is too. This is not the kind of movie I want to see, as a Bruce Lee fan. So I proceeded to fast forward through the movie, looking for scenes that actually had the Bruceinator in them. Some other stuff happened in the movie that really doesn’t matter. I guess Bruce Lee get’s shot in the face, which you and I both know isn’t even possible (his face deflects bullets anyway). Also, there was some heart pounding motorcycle scene which I had no desire to really watch. And so I found myself looking at a shot of Bruce Lee himself in a yellow suit, full body, so I knew it was him for real.

The last scene is amazing. It’s what makes the rest of the movie worth it. If it wasn’t there, the movie would just get a one out of ten. But it is, and it’s one of the best action sequences I have ever seen. It is a string of three fights, and all of them are absolutely astonishing. The first fight is an amazing nunchuck battle which features some of the best weapon handling I have ever seen. The next scene is Bruce Lee fighting a Judo expert, and it is one of the few rare times you will see Bruce get knocked onto his back (and he doesn’t take that one lightly!). But the final scene is what is worth waiting for. It is a fight against special guest Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Yeah, you heard me.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

That's Lew Alcindor Kareem Abdul Jabbar, somewhere up in the stratosphere.

I was a little skeptical at first, and I originally thought that there could possibly be another actor by the same name. Nope. I dropped that idea pretty quick when I actually saw him. For all of you who aren’t familliar with the man, he is basically a black giraffe who is really good at basketball. He towers over Bruce. He must be at least seven feet and a few inches tall. He really is the man when it comes to basketball, if there ever was one. Sort of like Michael Jordan before he actually came around. And his gigantic stature and tremendous range make for a very unique fight that is a classic to watch. Yep, the last twenty minutes of this movie are a real doozie, and even though the rest of the movie is crap, it’s all worth it in the end. And the fact that Bruce Lee doesn’t talk through any of it at all makes it all the more mysterious and classic.

So yeah, the movie itself is horrible, but once again, it’s okay because of the last scenes. This movie is worth buying just for those scenes alone, and I find myself coming back to the movie just so I can fast forward to the end for the awesomeness. I guess this is okay in the collection just because it’s got that content. I’m glad I have the movie anyway.

But I am also confident that Bruce Lee will someday rise from the dead and kill the people who made this movie.

Game of Death II: N/A

I decided to not even give this one the time of day. It was made after Bruce Lee died, which is just ridiculous, honestly. To start a movie and finish it after the key player is gone is one thing. But to not even try to pretend you care about the actors integrity and just make a movie starring him after he’s dead, well that’s just absurd. And as far as the story goes, Lee dies midway into the movie anyway. Word to the wise for all movie directors and script writers; don’t kill of the main character if he is going to be the incentive for people to go to the movie.

I’ve heard he isn’t even in this one for more than five minutes. I skipped to the end, pretty much, and I saw some fight scenes at the very beginning too. The ending fights were pretty cool, but it’s just not Bruce Lee at all, because he just isn’t there. The cheap disguising is done for the double once again. The only worry I have here is that he actually is in a few fight scenes that I missed because I didn’t even bother to fast forward through this one so much as just skip the scenes. I suppose I will have to go back and check for that kind of thing eventually. But once again, I’m too pissed at Game of Death to really give this one a full watch. I think it would pain me too much. We’ll see. But I refuse to rate it even if I do watch it, because it just isn’t a Bruce Lee movie. The only reason this is worth having is because it is considered a Bruce Lee movie, even if it isn’t.

Well, there you have it. I’m very glad I bought the box set, because I got two fantastic movies that I didn’t own before, one I did own before, and a movie with a supremely badass fight sequence in the end. And it’s all in high quality with great sound, some special features, and trailers, etc. It’s a good movie experience. Once again, I don’t really get the entire Game of Death thing. It’s my opinion that they should have just made a movie full of all of the mans rare footage including the fight scene, just so that peoples time wouldn’t be wasted. I can only give this the score I’m giving it because Enter The Dragon isn’t in it, and that’s the quintissential Bruce Lee movie. But that did work out better for me, I suppose. But if you buy this box set and a copy of Enter The Dragon, that’s a 10/10 purchase. So if you are interested in Bruce Lee and wouldn’t mind paying some dough for this, that’s a good way to go.

I guess I have many idols in my life that I look up to, but Bruce Lee is one of the really truly special ones. Besides the fact that the man is supposed to be one of the nicest people you could ever meet, just watching him on these films is amazing. And he wasn’t just a gimmick. The man really was a martial arts expert, even if people tell you the movies make him out to be stronger than he really is. That’s just a flat out lie. When it comes to Bruce Lee, what you see is what you get. When you watch The Big Boss or The Chinese Connection or Enter The Dragon, you are watching evolution. This is the example that any human being concerned with physical ability should look up to in some way, because this kind of skill, strength, and finess is not a great feat just for a specific industry, but is also a leap forward for mankind. There will probably never be a man like Bruce Lee again, and that is okay. I am content watching these films and knowing that he lived a happy life and is still an inspiration to us all.

Have a nice day, motherfucker.

"Have a nice day, motherfucker."

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For the love of all that is holy, I promise that this summarizes with the utmost perfection the greatest aspects of mankind.

July 21, 2006

Massive street cred to whoever put the footage together.

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Air – Talkie Walkie

July 18, 2006


I have been experiencing a real dreaming issue lately. Most of the time, at least during the school year, I wake up to the sound of my alarm clock and I feel as if the last two minutes of dreaming were much more aware, like I was waiting for something. Maybe I have an internal clock for that kind of thing, or maybe it just seems more vivid because it is right before I wake up. But in any case, I wake up and feel like crap, but I walk it off on my way to the shower and I try to recap back into reality after I check for centipedes in the tub. Right now it’s summer, and I no longer wake up on a schedule, or take a shower on a schedule or what have you. So I end up just gradually waking up and feeling like crap for about ten minutes. I’m told that people actually have good dreams, but I’m hard pressed to believe it. For a while I was very interested in something called “lucid dreaming,” where you are aware of when you are asleep and you can end up controlling your dreams to the point where they are vivid and extremely enjoyable. I gave up on that after realizing that dreaming makes me feel like crap now, so why should it change if I know I’m in a dream?

So the best thing I can do for myself these days is just close my eyes and daydream. And I mean really daydream. Not just some brief thoughts about what you are going to do a few hours from now. I mean a specific image of some place that is far away from where you are, or maybe even non-existant, where the things of dreams actually happen. Where things actually work out the way they do in the movies, and where life is fair. Those are the best kinds of daydreams that can make an otherwise boring train ride just fantastic. And the best environment to daydream in is with music. That way you have a much better basis to daydream off of, other than just the hum of an air conditioner or the sound of passing cars. My problem is that I don’t have a decent pair of headphones, so I’m stuck with uncomfortable ears to daydream with. Not good.

Anyway, this is the kind of album that I really wish I could hear in my dreams, as opposed to yells, screams, and the hum of insects and all that other bull. It’s just a very satisfying and surreal listen, and I really need this kind of album every once and a while. I’m told that it is sort of the halfway point between Moon Safari and Air’s second album, but it seems to also be the concensus that Moon Safari is ingenious and the second album is bad. I bought Moon Safari not too long ago, and it’s pretty good. But in my opinion, it’s a little gimmicky. There are some songs I like on it, but the ones like Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch The Stars just don’t stick with me in any ways other than being clever in using some cool sound effects that you can hear utilized well elsewhere. I think this is just miles above Moon Safari, in that it is more tame and less spacey, and with that more specific in what it is trying to relay. You would think that Moon Safari would be the better dreaming music, and maybe some of it is, but I don’t like my dreams to be open ended. I almost never remember them, but when I do, I want the images and feelings to be very precise and very memorable. While Moon Safari sort of lets the mind run free, it doesn’t do too much to stimulate it.

What kind of image are the artists trying to convey with this album? I have a nagging suspicion that it has something to do with Japan, judging by the names “Cherry Blossom Girl” and “Alone In Kyoto.” But even then, this is just a guess. The entire album is dreamy enough so that you could make an arguement that individual songs are meant to take place elsewhere, like, say, on a rocket. But Japan isn’t a bad place for daydreams. It’s foreign, it’s weird, it’s far away. Then again, I have always wanted to go there anyway. That’s a nerd thing, by the way. It’s sort of a phoenomenon that no one can explain, but if you are a nerd, you have some nagging desire to go to Japan for various reasons which I will not list here.

The album starts off on a good note, sort of a middle ground between positive and negative with Venus. The piano and clapping make for very good songwriting and a lot of creativity. This is ambient music, there is no doubt about it, but the typical ambient music or intelligent techno is usually refrained to samples and synthesizers, so this is a good example of a band that feels that it should not be restricted, and be more creative or even playful with it’s presentation. This is sort of the blueprint for the rest of the album, most of which is relaxing electronica.

You need to keep in mind that this is a french band. That’s not bad, not bad at all. In fact, it shouldn’t matter at all what the nationality of the band is at all. But when people hear “French,” especially a lot of Americans in the midwest and bible belt, they get the wrong ideas. The words that might come to mind to them are grossly unfair and a little silly when you think about it. “Surrender,” “cheese,” “seaside chateau” (well, that one’s a good one), etc. Theres nothing wrong with the fact that Air is a French band other than the fact that they might get some eyebrows raised at the fact, because you don’t think about French bands too much. These guys are very talented, but I’m of course going to get a little annoyed when I hear more of a “surfing on a wrocket” as opposed to “surfing on a rocket.” Or “you will loove it anyway.” But that’s something you gotta get over. I wouldn’t have even minded if the band spoke in their native tongue, because French is quite possibly the most beautiful and elegant language there is. It’s sort of the Rammstein complex. When you hear Till Lindemann singing in English, it’s just not as badass.

Anyway, that’s just me nitpicking, and I do that a lot. Most of the songs here are really good. Surfing on a Rocket is actually a great song, and it really has great image potential too. I’m thinking of what the song title says, sort of at night hovering not too far above some big city like Tokyo or Bangkok or Los Angeles or something. Cherry Blossom Girl is the song that stands out to me the most on this album though. While the song stays comfortably ambient, it is also melodic and sophisticated enough to keep from being too soul-less, like many songs on Moon Safari were. Yes, they sounded wonderful and happy, but they didn’t really have any personality. This is a lovely song, and I won’t deny that the accents in the vocals actually do help out here. The smooth, romantic call “Chelry Bloosum Gerl” is lovely, and the better side of the accent issue. Once again, the Japan image is coming to me with lots of blurred lights in high definition.

This is atmosphere music, there’s no doubt about that. Many of the tracks are not that strong when you look at them as a whole, but you could easily inject them into the soundtrack of a movie in various places, and the great thing about this album is that it covers a lot of ground, so much that it probably could be a feature film soundtrack. The ambience is present in every track, but in different places. The ending track, Alone In Kyoto, is one of the disks more powerful endeavors, and it was used in the fantastic film Lost In Translation, one of my favorite movies ever. But once again, lots of the tracks are much more specific in their mood and still end up being joys to listen to. Universal Traveler is one of these such tracks, and with it’s completely relaxed post-modern tinge, it is the perfect backdrop for a bus ride on it’s way out from suburbia, possibly to the city where the happy-go-lucky Alpha Beta Gaga is playing. Seldom does whistling play in so well. You can even HEAR the crowd in the back of this one. The artists do not even spare your immagination on this one, and they pretty much get across what they want to say without any words. That is the mark of truly talented songwriting.

Ambient music is almost always created with a few things in mind. The music should be electronic, it should be relaxing, and it should float along on a wispy foundation of moderninity. This album breaks and follows all of those rules at different points, and yet it ends up being much more interesting to me than bands of much more respect in the genre like, say, Boards of Canada. This album tells me that electronica can be mixed with flat out pop to make something nice. And it also tells me that a wandering mind is fine, but if it wanders in idol grounds, that’s no good. The mind should not necessarilly be tested in it’s free time, but it should be given small samples of different situations in the form of daydreams. It goes without saying that a mind that is just wandering in no particular direction will only wander back to something that the mind has already seen, but if something else is entered in the mix, things can get more interesting and you can actually go somewhere while you are relaxing. In the same way, I like to try out different kinds of foods when I am out to lunch, if nothing else because the typical comfort food like cheeseburgers and fried chicken is also kind of without meaning.

So yeah, it’s not perfect, but it is a compelling listen. And it touches on many different relaxing mindsets that are fun to expand on when you are half asleep. I really wish I could dream the kinds of images that these songs show me, because then sleeping could really be more interesting. But hell, this might be the kind of thing that I really dream, and I just don’t know it. It’s nice to have this combination of dreamy and vivid sounds, and I think that this is an idea that I have scarcely heard touched on so well.

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Intro: Ridunkulous Experiences

July 14, 2006

Hey, it’s red_atm from metrapticurean. I decided that it was time to move to another host for all my posting needs. For a few reasons, actually. I started to realize that the word metrapticurean wasn’t interesting enough. Beyond that, the site was just giving me troubles and the theme was this testing default theme that they gave me. It’s time to move and spruce things up.

The name is better now, in my opinion. I was thinking of places that people like to go that have good names, and a lot of times, the name has nothing to do with the subject at hand. So I grabbed a dictionary and started to pick out random words. Lunar caught my eye at first. But it’s too wimpy. Too touchy-feely. I wanted some words that were both sophisticated and tough. “Experiences” popped out at me right away. It can apply to pretty much anything, and it is sophisticated too. So to put a word with that would be tough. It would have to be close to opposite of “experiences.” I wanted a word that sounded really manly, but also sort of curious so that it would draw attension.

Ridiculous?

Nah, it’s not weird enough.

WAIT.

Ridunculous. It’s catchy, and it’s mysterious because it’s not a real word, like metrapticurean. But it’s not weird enough. Hey, let’s add a k and it’s fine. It sounds like something that cool guy from college would have said, doesn’t it? It’s okay. You don’t have to answer that, because it does. And as if “ridunkulous” wasn’t cool enough in the first place, when you pair it up with “experiences” you get a little sex in the middle. And who doesn’t like sex? The only thing better than sex is s Ex.

I’ll still be doing the exact same stuff I did before, which is primarily reviewing music. With any luck, this host will be better and I will be able to pick out a good theme and things will be less testing. Within the next week or so, I’ll be uploading previous posts and figuring the site out. It should be a lot cooler when I’m done with it. Also, hopefully more people will come around, because honestly, no one wants to go to a site that has “blogspot” in the name. Heck, I really don’t want to have “wordpress” in the url, but it’s way better than blogspot. I wouldn’t even call this a blog site really. It just sounds too stupid. I have a better word than that now anyway.

-Red

EDIT:

Wow. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for what feels like less than an hour, and the site has practically done everything for me. This is very, very good, I gotta say. At this rate, absolutely everything there is to clear up should be cleared up in a matter of just a few days.

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Thom Yorke – The Eraser

July 12, 2006

Thom Yorke’s first solo album is very much a broken blessing. It is good, yes, and it actually pretty close to the kind of thing I was expecting. It is said that one of the main themes of The Eraser is to forget the past and to put things behind you that you care not to remember anymore. I can fully relate to this issue, and I often end up punching myself for things that I did even when I was a little kid, or even over things that haven’t happened. So how do I deal with it? I hold my breath and move on. Thom Yorke seems as stressed a person as any, and I’m assuming that he does the same thing, but when you have a creative drive for creating music, why not utilize this medium to help the problem? The disk by no means completely quenches my thirst for more Radiohead material because it is not like Radiohead at all, but in the context that this is at least written by the key player in the Radiohead experience, it is very pleasing for whatever reason.

Radiohead has sort of been in limbo (yeah, whatever.) since Hail To The Theif came out. That may have been Radioheads most diverse and varied album. When you try all sorts of things at once, where do you go next? Well, it’s not that this is too much of a journey off of Radioheads work. It is being released in the off month of Radioheads tour where they are test driving new material for release. But that doesn’t stop the fact that there hasn’t been a Radiohead album since 2003. Fans are getting jittery, considering the band has never had a three year break before. So this is a good treat, deffinitely. And the really special thing about this album is that it’s clearly nothing that could have been released in the context of Radiohead. It is very electronic and dreary and quite honestly doesn’t have material that can be played with a full band.

It’s a record to loose yourself in. I’m sure it was sort of that way to make too, as most of the samples and effects are simple and obviously synthetic. It is clear that effort went into making this album, but not that much. What I have gathered is that Thom Yorke had begun to learn how to work with his computer much more on making music, and the album is more of a result of many ideas that were put together or expanded on. In fact, parts of the title track aren’t even his ideas. The piano sample was done by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead a few years ago, and I can almost picture Thom Yorke tapping a beat to go along with the tune created by the sample somewhere near his laptop. And then perhaps him looking at his laptop and understanding what he should do.

Like Thom himself says, “solo album” makes it seem like he was more detatched from the band than he was when he was writing it, and “side project” almost makes it seem too miniscule. But to some extent, this is a minor release. Yes, it has been getting the attension as if it was a major label album, and almost seems like it is in some ways. But it is very much a side project. At least I think it is. It is what Mr. Yorke completed in his spare time, and while the music is very good, it need not be too harshly critiqued, because the mans work is clearly most concentrated on Radiohead. So this album is more of a treat than anything. But what a treat it is. Just as the band starts to drift back toward guitar driven pop, this is released on the exact opposite of that spectrum.

But the album is anything but refreshing. It’s themes are varied, mostly because they are various ideas pooled into an album. Sometimes harsh memorys are discussed. Other times, releationships. And there are even some important current events to be heard in the lyrics, involving the war on Iraq and the environment. But then again, it is also nice to hear a track that is just about rain. A lot of what this album shows us is that Thom Yorke is not exactly the only necessary member of Radiohead, and that the rest of the band is what makes ideas that everyone has come out in a more refined way. Of course, ideas are flowing from Thom constantly, but not all ideas are good for the band. So this is a collection of the ideas of Thom Yorke exclusively that are not able to be covered elsewhere. If the album had a mouth, it would surely tell the listener that these are some issues that need to be gotten out of the way so that other more important things can progress. This is essentially Thom Yorke putting all of his cards out on the table and getting personal. And his out-in-front vocals are great for that kind of creative environment.

If you are a curious Radiohead fan who wonders if this would be for you, I have a feeling it would. Radiohead fans are wired in a certain way so that they are very openminded. A majority of the bands songs are nothing like anything else the band has made. So these people ended up being pleasently surprised in a myriad of ways when Hail To The Thief came out. By that point, the band had traversed the musical globe, so to say. They had done the guitar pop, the electronic, and everything in between. And a lot of other branching styles too. The Eraser is not an unpredictable listen like Hail To The Thief was, but it plays more in a way that the listener will not be suprised (but still will be amazed) by what comes next.

The sound of the album is very melancholy and confusing. And very negative in many ways, too. The writer is skilled enough to know that the listener does not want pessimism necessarilly, but more a vague summary of what is going on at the moment. All hope is not lost, but there is a point where things need to be fixed. But when you don’t think about all this jargon so much, the songs are very individual and enjoyable, if not a little unnerving. Analyse is what you would think to hear during that impossible math test you took in high school that caught you way off guard. Atoms For Peace is what the introverted loner hears when he decides to turn his life around. Cymbal Rush is what the prisoner hears in his last moments. It can all be very disturbing, but there is a certain degree of beauty even in the more sad parts of the album. But there are more straightforward tracks too. Harrowdown Hill, the albums first single, is a knock-out. Fans will come to understand and love the vocals immediately. Black Swan is a funky toe-tapper that speaks of failure. It is a little difficult to tell who “you” is in this song, but the simplistic “this is ****ed up” is a call that even non-fans will understand. And my personal favorite, And It Rained All Night, has the vocalist almost spelling out for you what is trying to be relayed, and that is a comfortable break from the pretty open-endedness of the typical Radiohead song.

The Eraser is not to be mistaken for a replacement for a Radiohead album. In fact, it is nowhere close to the quality of a Radiohead album, but no one was expecting it to be. It’s a quickie, it’s enjoyable, and it is a good way to tide over fans until the real prize is recieved. It’s not perfect or even a great piece of work, though it is consistant in quality. The bottom line is, this is the result of Thom Yorke taking bits, pieces, leftovers, and even trash and sculpting it into something beautiful. And if this is where Thoms mind goes when it’s not on schedule, I’m not worried at all about his future in songwriting.

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The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

July 9, 2006

Having heard and thoroughly understood the Raconteurs first (and possibly last) album, I have not actually heard any material from band member Brendan Benson or both members of the Cincinatti band The Greenhornes. So when I’m telling my friends that I got the album from “Jack White’s new band,” I feel a little silly and left out. Because the band is obviously not Jack White’s new band. “New” describes the band as being more than just a one time thing, and there is no word on whether or not this is actually true. But I honestly don’t think I’m the only one who would describe this as Jack White’s new band, because he is clearly out in front the most, and the most well known member of the new superband too. I’m pretty sure no other member of the band sings here at all, except maybe for backup vocals. But what I’m trying to say is, I’m going to talk about the album heavily in relation to the work of Jack White, because he is the one that I am familliar with. So if you want a completely balanced review or you are sick and tired of Jack White’s antics, I reccomend you redirect your browser.

Anyway, I’ll come out and say that this is probably nothing you haven’t heard before somewhere. The entire album is heavily reminiscent of the sixties and seventies, and you could probably dig up some of your parents vinyl that at least vaguely has the same kind of elements. In fact, I was a bit shocked when I heard some of the layerd backup vocals that are a trademark Beatles thing. And the effects Jack throws onto his voice during Blue Veins is very John Lennon esque. I mean, this is a band that isn’t afraid to say that they haven’t forgotten the good old days when you could wear clothes like they do on the cover. But with that said, the album actually covers a whole lot of ground, and it doesn’t sound tired like you would expect an album with this much old-timer influence to be.

The big catch is obviously that Jack has now temporarily left Meg White for a full band with some serious talent. It’s actually still very unnerving for me to not hear Meg’s relentless pounding, and instead a more controlled beat with lots of bass and a few guitars to help it out, and a lot of cool effects and a less raw production. Is that good? Well… Jack seems to think that it is very obvious that it is good. With all due respect, if you do the math, there is no way that this isn’t good. But when I think about it, the real catch with this band is that Jack White is writing music with someone else. White Stripes fans will love this, of course. That isn’t even a question. The curious thing is, in my head, I can lay Meg’s drumming over almost any individual track and it would sound like something the White Stripes would have written. But at the same time, not exactly. The sound is less raw and tough, and that’s a downside to some extent. But the upside is that these songs are clearly being performed in the medium they should be performed in.

I said before that the album covers a lot of ground. It seems that I take pride in reviewing a lot of albums that are diverse. Yes, this album covers a lot of ground, but I would hardly call it diverse. There isn’t any genre switching so much as a heavy variance within the one genre, which is pop/rock. But you never hear the same thing twice on this album, and that is very good. I was actually shocked at the tune Broken Boy Soldier and it’s eastern tinge, and in that song you can actually hear Jack White struggling to break away from his White Stripes mode when he flips on the distortion for his voice. The single, Steady As She Goes, is solid, as is my personal favorite track, Intimate Secretary, reminding us that garage rock revival might not have just been a small phase. There are also a lot of classic pop tunes like Hands and the happy Yellow Sun. There really isn’t too much bad on this album, but there are a few flubs. Level is a tad annoying, the vocals on Together turn an otherwise instrumentally solid piece a little sour, and Can We Call It A Day is just bad. But that’s to be expected. The disk isn’t perfect, but no one was expecting it to be.

I’m sure there is a certain question going through everyones mind. Is this album better than any White Stripes albums? Well, considering I’m a diehard White Stripes fan, I’m probably not the one to answer this question, but I will. It’s better than Get Behind Me Satan, and it’s almost on par with s/t. And I’ll admit, it’s taking a little while to fully settle in, but it’s getting there. It seems like the band worked really hard to make the disk likeable to it’s listeners, and that is good.

The fact of the matter is, this is just really good quality pop. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And it was really a joy for me to listen to, and the instrumental complexity is something I have been waiting to hear, whether or not it is good for Jacks songwriting escapades. There are some points where I wonder how much is really Jack White and how much is really the rest of the band. Because the quality here is just so high above Jack Whites other recent material that it makes me wonder how he could get so much better on a songwriting level without the help of the other band members. I mean, it’s a given that the other band members have written a lot of the music too, and that Jack White in fact only co-wrote most of these songs. So that question can be answered only by the release of another White Stripes album or another Raconteurs album. At this point I am indifferent to which happens. It’s a good, enjoyable disk that forecasts future success, and that’s all I could have possibly asked for.