Friday, October 25, 2013

The Police

I'm not sure why lately I've been drawn to post-punk new-wavey music of the late 70s and early 80s these days.  A few months ago, it was Joy Division all the time.

The last few weeks, it's been The Police.  Admittedly, that started by having a sad and listening to King of Pain.  But then a funny thing happened.

I had my player queued up to their box set and after playing through the later MTV-friendly stuff, when they were the biggest band in the world, it switched over to their early stuff, when they were just a couple of young blokes trying to do something new and interesting.

I got stuck listening to Next To You on a loop for about a week.  No joke.  A week.

If you haven't heard it in a while, give it a listen and marvel that this is the same band that did Every Breath You Take.

This morning (tonight?) I woke up one of their earliest songs stuck in my head, one that never even appeared on any of their albums.

It's called Nothing Achieving.   Check it out:

My Daddy's boots don't fit me....cuz I'm bigger than him.
The interesting thing about this song is that it reminds me more of, say, Judas Priest than the band that would eventually make Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.

There's even a pretty ripping guitar solo.

Misreading Sons of Anarchy

I imagine that Alyssa Rosenberg can type very fast.  The sentences flow down to her fingers and spill out on the screen, paragraphs of them.  She is a good writer, that much cannot be denied.

But, to me, she's one of those critics you love to hate.  We have similar tastes, but totally opposite approaches.  She's of the feminist school, whereas I embrace my dudeness.  She looks for the polemical angle, whereas I'm more concerned with the aesthetic.

Lately she's been mad at Sons of Anarchy, mostly because they used an early season school shooting as a plot point rather than a thematic statement.  Me, I'm fine with it.

I don't watch Sons of Anarchy to get some after-school special about how gun violence affects the community.  I watch it because I love the characters and I want to see them go to war with each other.

And I think that's why she misreads BIG TIME a scene from this week's episode.

The set-up:  The Sons are helping a tranny named Venus, played by Boyd Crowder Walton Goggins.  Not only does Venus have huge tits and pokey nipples, back when she was named Vincent, she had a son, now a teenager in the custody of his vindictive pervert mother.  Mom's a hard one.  Not only is she mean, but she's also a child pornographer.

A child pornographer is no match for a biker gang and the Sons rescue the kid, beat everybody up, and are ready to call it good.  But Mom goes off on a huge rant against Venus, cutting deep with the words, and Jax just shoots her.  Bam, blows her head all across the wall.

It's a pretty shocking moment.  I mean, scene-wise.  It's not that shocking that Jax, supposedly "the biker with a conscience," would snap like that.  After all, he's earned that Men of Mayhem patch.

It's not shocking if you watch the show and actually listened to Mom's diatribe.  Alyssa transcribed it so I don't have to:
“You don’t deserve a son,” she spits at Venus. “I had a son once, and he forgot who he was. Deserted his family. Turned into a freak of the fringe. You go ahead. You tell that sweet boy all about his daddy. How much you love him. Want the best for him. It won’t matter. Because when he finds out who you are, he’s going to grow up hating you. Hating your lies. Hating the lie you forced him into.”
If you're familiar with the show's arc, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine Jax's mother saying something like this to him, if he ever mans up and quits the club to raise his family in peace.  Gemma knows how to wield the long knives.

That's why he pulled the trigger.  It had nothing to do with Venus, nothing to do with child porn, nothing to do with any of that.  It was all due to his family dynamic and inner turmoil.

Alyssa thinks this is Jax's motive:
...the viciousness of her hatred of trans people, which has literally become something that Jax wants to shut up forever.
I think that's a drastic misunderstanding of what the show's about.  Jax cares about the plight of the transgendered about as much as you would expect "the biker with a conscience" to:  not much.

Not enough to commit a cold-blooded murder anyway.

I mean, I'm sure harbors them no ill-will, but he doesn't sit by his son's crib scribbling in his journal about trannies, now does he?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

And the Hits Keep on Coming....

This morning (tonight?) I woke up to discover that two out of the three outlets in my kitchen are not producing juice.  The fridge, the coffee maker, the microwave, the stove....all non-functioning.

The toaster, which I hardly ever use, is fine.

No breakers are tripped.  I plug my circuit-tester in and it tells me I have a "hot/ground reverse" which doesn't necessarily mean the hot and the ground are actually reversed but does indicate a problem.

I don't have the time, energy, or temperament to deal with this particular problem myself, so I called the handyman who put in my door.

The earliest he can be out:  Next Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dr. Sleep - The Verdict

I hate to say it....but the sequel to The Shining is quite dull.  The characters are vividly drawn, some of the ideas have merit, and the writing is strong as always, but the plot leaves much to be desired.  It all seems so...contrived.

King had a significant problem when he set down to write this book.  He had some ideas about what he wanted to do with character and theme, but it's quite clear he was making it up as he went along.

It seems like there are several places where he wrote himself into a hole and then cheated by using the magical powers of the Shining to get him out of it.  There are three threads to the book:  1)  Dan Torrance and his struggles with sobriety and finding redemption working at a hospice, 2) a girl named Abra who has the Shining times ten, and 3) a group of traveling monsters who torture and kill kids with the Shining to drink of their powers.

Normally what you would do with these elements is come up with an interesting way for them to collide, the collision creating tension, the tension creates catharsis, and so on.  You know, basic storytelling technique.

But King doesn't bother with any of that.  One day, Abra just started sending Dan psychic messages.  Why?  Because they have the Shining.

One day Abra becomes aware of Rose the Hat, the main villain in the troop of travelers, and in so doing, Rose the Hat becomes aware of Abra.  Why?  Because Abra has the Shining and Rose eats kids who have the Shining.

None of this stuff happens organically.  It's all contrived to happen because if it doesn't happen, there's no book.  And then to make matters worse, it's revealed that --unknown to both of them-- Abra is actually Dan's niece.

Consider:  Back before Jack Torrance took the job at the Overlook and moved his family to Colorado, he had an affair with a woman who turned out to be Abra's grandmother.  Abra's mother is actually Dan's half-sister that he --or his mother Wendy-- never knew about. 

This is not as bad a notion as it ends up being in the book.  In the book, it just seems tacked on and unnecessary, a way to explain Abra and Dan's seemingly inscrutable psychic connection.  But hell, man, why not lead with that?

What if it was revealed after the events of the first novel that Wendy was pregnant with Dan's sister, who grew up never knowing her father or experiencing the horrors of the Overlook?  What if Dan knew Abra was his blood from birth?  Would that have made their story less interesting?

I don't think so.  It would have eliminated the whole "How am I going to get them together" problem, eliminated all the fretting about how inappropriate it is for a grown man to be sending psychic instant messages to a teenage girl, and given Dan a rock-solid reason to want to protect Abra besides the fact that he's an alright dude.

If it sounds like I'm second-guessing the Master, I am.  The more I read of this book, the more it dawned on me that it's writer didn't outline the plot, wrote himself in a corner more than once, and rather than fixing the problem with editing just patched over it with more words.  If he wasn't the Master, someone probably would have pointed this out before the book was published.

And in case you were wondering, the ending seemed rushed and inevitable.  In other words, I didn't care what happened and when it was all over, I was left going, "That's it?"