Goodbye, Syd.

Posted by prla1983 on July 11, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

In these moments, words can't do justice to feelings, so I'll be brief.

Just learned that Syd Barrett (born Roger Keith), founding member of Pink Floyd, and one of the most influential musicians in the British scene of the 60s, has died at the age of sixty.

Personally, I can only thank him for what he's done and regret this loss.

Shine on, you crazy diamond! How we all wish you were.

R.I.P. Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

Book Review: "The Long Walk" ~ Stephen King

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King is pretty much hit and miss for me despite writing really well every time. When all is said and done, though, "The Long Walk" is a hit. Well, most of it, yeah.

In this, King is actually writing under the pen name of Richard Bachman. In the Signet reprint, there's a cool introduction by King himself explaining the importance of being Bachman in which he sheds some distinct light on this particular matter. Funny how he never meant for people to know Bachman was really King and that once the word got out, it meant Bachman's death, back in 1985. This and other early manuscripts are then really what Bachman's wife found hidden away in the attic of the Bachman's residence in New Hampshire. Meaningless and made up but interesting. Personally, I don't find much of a difference between King and Bachman, but then again this is the first Bachman book I've read.

As for the story itself, it takes a very good premise and uses it to muse about life and the meaning of it all. One hundred boys have been drafted for The Long Walk, a yearly event where you can't stop walking literally for the life of you. If you stop, you're warned. If you don't get moving, you're warned a second and a third time. Then you're no longer warned. You're history. The last man standing is proclaimed winner and takes the Prize.

"The Long Walk" reminded me of "Stand By Me" except it's inherently more gory. King suceeds in progressively turning sanity into insanity as time goes by and the boys each reach their ultimate stages of resistence much in the same way that you sense the crazyness going on in "Apocalypse Now". It's there, you can feel it, everything becomes more and more outworldly as time washes by. Where King in my opinion doesn't quite succeed is that the plot drags a bit in the middle and the end though surprising can be frustrating. If I got it right, that is.

A good book but by no means essential King.

Book Review: "Digital Fortress" ~ Dan Brown

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After reading "Digital Fortress" I've finally read all four Dan Brown books to date and I find myself in a love/hate relationship with this author. I couldn't care less about the hype surrounding him because of "The Da Vinci Code". But despite having a great gift for writing engaging and suspenseful prose, for me Brown always loses himself three quarters of the way in. In other circumstances, it's falling in old boring clich├ęs. Here the plot just becomes a laughing stock for anyone who's even remotely computer-savvy.

In "Digital Fortress", two different plots are interleaved, one happening at the NSA headquarters wherever that is and the other happening in Seville, Spain. None is believable, both are page-turners. Being the first of Brown's books, it seems this is the blueprint for what was to come. Inevitably someone dies in the prelude. Inevitably there's a hot chick with brains. Inevitably there's the innocent smart guy who has to figure out all the riddles and gets to keep the broad in the end. Meanwhile, some mean vicious assassin is repeatedly fooled along with his master, until they're eventually defeated. World is saved, all is well again, until the next adventure.

Put in perspective, this was still my second favorite Dan Brown book, following "Angels & Demons". There's that something in his writing that makes me come back but inevitably I reach the end in frustration. "Digital Fortress" was no exception, and even more so because it was really good until a certain point.

DVD Review: "In The Flesh: Live" ~ Roger Waters (2001)

Posted by prla1983 on July 09, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Some love Waters and hate Gilmour. Others do it the other way around. I say love them both, because honestly together they've done some of the best music ever. In "In The Flesh (Live)" we get a great taste of the Floyd legacy, performed by incredible musicians who make this DVD as indispensable as they come.

Starting out with the unavoidable "In The Flesh" and naturally flowing into more "The Wall" material (including what is probably the most heartfelt rendition of "Mother" I've ever seen), I think this show really starts to shine with "Dogs". You can't really tell this is a 17-minute epic, because it just flies by. What really struck me was Jon Carin's voice, the keyboard/guitar/lap steel player who just sits up there quietly doing his thing until this point and here unleashes a powerful, forceful tone. The musicians are all top notch, from the incredible stand-ins of Doyle Bramhall II (this guy is just spot on) and the classy Snowy White, to a brief appearance of Norbert Statchel on sax for "Money" and "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun", well... the list goes on. The background singers are beautiful and sing just lovely. The perfect backdrop for all that's going on around them.

The solo Waters songs also get appropriate treatment, with highlights for me being "Amused to Death", "Perfect Sense" and "Each Small Candle". Finally, many probably agree that the highest moment of this show is undoubtedly "Comfortably Numb" with Bramhall and Snowy White trading back and forth parts of one of the best guitar solos ever laid on track.

Technically, the image quality is excellent, and the soundtrack is crystal clear. I have absolutely no objections to the technical merit of this release. My only complain is the lack of extra material, which includes only an 18 minute documentary about this tour plus some stills and biographies of each band member. I'm still giving this 5 stars based on the sheer brilliance of the show itself, though.

This is an absolutely must-have DVD. Period.

Book Review: "Diary: A Novel" ~ Chuck Palahniuk

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I'm one of those who comes into Palahniuk straight from watching the "Fight Club" movie. Considering the dialog on that is probably one of the things I like the most about it, checking out the source sounds like a reasonably enlightened step to take.

So I picked "Diary" by chance. I have bought "Fight Club" a long while ago but for one reason or another never really started reading it. Now that I've gone through "Diary", I have a hard time making up my mind about Palahniuk. Do I hate the way he writes? Or is he a genius? The thing is, the back cover synopsis kinda misled me. I went expecting one thing and got another. What I expected? A diary of someone at the bedside of her comatose loved one. What I got? A tangled mass of disturbing thoughts and past recollections collected in an unstructured way, like someone pouring her heart out, psychological blood and guts.

"Diary" is disturbing and confusing. I get the sense that confusing the reader is one of Palahniuk's trademarks, I just don't know if I like it. This is definitely no page-turner and in the end it didn't leave a lasting impression on me. Palahniuk's prose reads and sounds like a drone saying a lot of truth, but in a mindless way, like an intravenous pump of very real surrealism.

A confused review from a confused reader of a confusing book.

Album Review: "10,000 Days" ~ Tool (2006)

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Because Tool have this tendency to release their albums five years apart and because there's also this other tendency of producing masterpieces, turns out the anticipation prior to each release reaches fever pitch. Perhaps "10,000 Days" has disappointed some people, and it certainly puzzled me for the first couple of days, but now I'm pretty sure this is quite simply "just" another Tool work of art.

As usual, the album is broken down into segments, groupings of tracks even if it all naturally flows from start to finish and it's over before you know it. "Vicarious" starts off powerful, great riffing and in a sense it reminded me both of Aenima, Lateralus and even A Perfect Circle mixed together. It segues naturally into "Jambi" which is another powerhouse of a track, including a most excellent talk box solo by Tool's guitar player Adam Jones.

I had some hard time trying to intuitively make sense of the "Wings For Marie"/"10,000 Days" segment that follows, but it was just a matter of turning the volume up a notch and letting myself get involved in the eerie atmosphere of these tracks. Beautiful, just beautiful. And moving.

From here, highlights for me are definitely "The Pot", old school Tool again with a great riff and "Right in Two", a beautiful slow song which showcases Keenan's amazing capabilities. The rest of the band is at the very top of their form as well. The music tends to revolve around Jones' guitar, which is versatile as always, but Justin Chancellor really does a great job with a lot of unconventional and powerful bass lines. As for Danny Carey, what else to say, this guy is simply one of the best drummers out there these days.

It's still too early to say whether this can be Tool's best album ever - and does it matter? - but it's already obvious that they did not disappoint at all. This band has undeniably been on a constant progression and refinement of their craft with each release, this one being no exception. The test of time will tell how good this album really is. Certainly one of the best of 2006.