Jukeboxparables

Movie Review: Avatar

Posted in Film & TV by jukeboxparables on December 30, 2009

What. I’m reviewing Movies now? No, not really but Avatar is worthy of an attempt. More of a rant probably.

So people have been raving about James Cameron’s Avatar, especially the 3D screenings. So what It’s like? I’ll start by saying; I now know how cinema goers must have felt watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977. It is honestly that BIG of a leap from everything that’s been released recently. It makes George Lucas’ last effort (Revenge of The Sith) almost laughable in its effects and most certainly in it’s scope.

This was my first experience with this ‘new’ 3D business as opposed to the shoddy blue/red cardboard glasses of the 90’s. The latest technology (My screening was in an Event Vmax 3D cinema) retains colour and is completely engaging rather than the distraction of old.

Anyway onto the movie; I saw the teaser trailer of Avatar on it’s release and immediately sent the link to a few friends. I wanted to go along with the story, but there was something off about the trailer. I made the call then; It was either going to be the best or worst movie of the year. So I thought I’d shake off the hype and wait a bit after it’s release before watching.

Browsing over some reviews from various critics and endless forums. The world has become a league of critics hasn’t it. This movie is like that movie, it’s stolen plot pointers from movie X, Y, Z.

“Ferngully” and “Dances with wolves” has been sited again and again.

Which one of those movies was set on another planet? Which one had mech-warriors and mercenaries hired by a dying planet (Earth) to mine minerals and then turn it into an all-out war between planets/races? And most importantly which one of those introduced the MAIN plot trigger of this movie. The idea of Avatars? Amazing new Science that lets humans remotely drive bodies of half-breed Na’vi (the native race on Pandora) that are 10ft tall?

I must have missed that bit in “Dances with wolves” where Kevin Costner goes to sleep in a Teepee and remotely controls a 10ft Wolf in his sleep which he then uses to battle his own race?

My point here is; James Cameron makes us feel and believe wheel-chair bound Jake Sully when he sheds his chair, climbs into the Avatar control pod and then awakes in a foreign alien body. He awakes disoriented, humans desperately trying to control him. But it’s too good to be true, not only is he a 10ft tall blue super strength alien, but he can walk. He can run!

Somehow we’re engaged in this? A triumph for the director and the writing.

“Oh but cmon it’s; Protagonist turns to Natives, learns their ways… joins them and has inner conflict” It’s Last Samurai, Ferngully, Pocahontas, Lawrence of Arabia, Dances with wolves, Point Break and say The Fast & The Furious.

I hope I just highlighted my disdain for base-plot comparisons. If you reduce yourself to that level, as many people do how could you possibly enjoy cinema ever again? Every episode of Star Trek across all series and movies is then basically the same. Every Prison movie, every war movie, every love story. Why watch both the Shawshank Redemption and The Great Escape? same movie. Why watch Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now? same movie. Why watch anything with Meg Ryan?

My long-winded point. It’s ALL in the details and Avatar is a movie of fine combed detail, the scope of the world James Cameron has created. Pandora and it’s culture, it’s biology, it’s people. It’s totally compelling. Anthropologists would be proud.

I found myself not wanting it to end.

Every time Jake Sully awoke from his avatar pod. Leaving the world of the Na’vi behind; a world of running amazing speeds, jumping from tree to tree in amazing bio-luminesence forests, flying on winged dinosaur-esque creatures whilst dodging waterfalls only to find himself almost hung-over and back in a wheel chair, back in dreary corporate military reality. Completely tied down as a slave to modernity. It all somehow felt familiar.

Perhaps Cameron was aiming for something deeper? Is the link Sully shares with his Avatar our link with our dreams? Or perhaps it’s a metaphor for our day to day lives with respect to our distant human history. Once upon a time we freely roamed the plains and the forests of Africa, in fear of lions, in the hunt for buffalo, in awe of the night sky and the magic of the jungle. Running as fast as our feet would take us.

That was so long ago that it doesn’t seem real. As I’m stuck here in this chair, at this laptop bound. Back to reality.

Bravo James Cameron.

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2009 Triple J Hottest 100!

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on December 25, 2009

Yes another list! But get voting in the biggest music poll on the planet: Triple J’s Hottest 100

Here’s my 10 votes, culled down from 30 or so. Making the cut from 15 was rather difficult!

Animal Collective – My Girls
Big Pink, The – Dominos
Bluejuice – Broken Leg
Cribs, The – Cheat On Me
Flight Of The Conchords – Carol Brown
Kasabian – Fire
Metric – Gimme Sympathy
Phoenix – 1901
Red Riders – Ordinary
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll

And my vote for #1 for this year goes to Phoenix – 1901.

Lists Lists Lists!

Posted in Music by jukeboxparables on December 20, 2009

Is it just me or has every music / movie etc site published a ‘best of’ list in the past few weeks? It’s kind of annoying, but on the other hand it is coming to the end of the decade, so we’re seeing best of yearly lists which have been blogged about yearly of course but not many of said websites were around in 1999 so I guess it’s free market for the ‘best of decade’ lists.

Yes I’m going to cave, but I’ll do it all in ONE post. This being my uber best of music best of the decade list!

Top 10 Best Albums of the decade (in no order)
#At The Drive In – Relationship Of Command
#Tegan & Sara – The Con
#Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
#The Libertines – Up The Bracket
#Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman I’m A Machine
#We Are Scientists – With Love And Squalor
#The Cribs – The New Fellas
#Thom Yorke – The Eraser
#Muse – Absolution
#Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Top 20 Best Songs of the decade (in no order)
#The Strokes – Hard To Explain
#CSS – Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
#Thursday – Signals Over The Air
#Arcade Fire – Intervention
#Tegan & Sara – Nineteen
#Bloc Party – This Modern Love
#Death From Above 1979 – Blood On Our Hands
#At The Drive In – Pattern Against User
#The Drones – Jezebel
#The Cribs – Be Safe
#Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
#We Are Scientists – Lousy Reputation
#Babyshambles – Fuck Forever
#Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down
#Band Of Horses – The Funeral
#Sonic Youth – Or
#HARD Fi – Hard To Beat
#The White Stripes – 7 Nation Army
#Muse – Stockholm Syndrome
#Phoenix – 1901

Top 10 Best Albums of 2009
1. Johnny Foreigner – Grace And The Bigger Picture
2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
3. The View – Which Bitch?
4. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
5. The Cribs – Ignore The Ignorant
6. The Maccabees – Wall Of Arms
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
8. Metric – Fantasies
9. The Veils – Sun Gangs
10. Sonic Youth – The Eternal

EDIT:: I’m editing my top 10 albums of 2009. I’ve bumped into a bunch of albums much too late that have blown me away. So I’m changing my mind, yes I can do this. Above is the now the revised list! Next time I won’t jump the gun early! :p

In the case of Songs of the decade, I could probably just as easily choose a different 20, oh well. I’ve gone with this!

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Reflections on the death of the Microsoft PC.

Posted in Random by jukeboxparables on December 19, 2009

So this is going to be a nerdier post than normal but bare with me it’ll only be short! Just last week I bought my first MAC. There’s nothing extraordinary about someone buying an Apple product of course except for the fact that I’ve long been the Microsoft/PC devotee. 21 years to be exact.

Here’s one of the first PCs I remember using It was a couple of years old at the time but it intrigued me never the less (I was only 5 though). The IBM 5150 released in 1981. I’m pretty sure it was running MS DOS 4.0 at the time.
IBM 5150

Between use of an Apple II at school and a hand full of other IBM’s along the way including an XT (8088) and then AT (80286) and onwards to a 386. All ran various versions of MS DOS up to 5.0 and then eventually 6.0 and the big leap to Windows 3.0 from various dos-based menu/manager apps like DOS’ XTree gold. Windows 3.0 was obviously a benchmark, later versions 3.1 and 3.11 building on it.
Windows 3.11

When Windows 95 came out I was on a 486 DX2 66 at the time. The whole while Apple had been doing their own thing arguably competing with Microsoft. Probably through selling their wares to Schools, but then again no one beats cramming a product down your throat like Microsoft. Between Windows 95, 95+, 98, 98se and probably up to Me if you were into gaming MACs just simply couldn’t keep up simply because the major gaming companies at the time were making their hits for the PC and that thing called the Internet and Online gaming had taken off.

By this time I’d owned a swathe of home-built Intel based PC’s. One thing you learned to do systematically just like waking up in the morning and going to the bathroom was to CLEAN-INSTALL Windows every few months and tweak every little thing to get it to run sweat. It was kind of like owning an old shitbox of a car that you loved because you knew all its creaks and faults and knew what had to be done to get her to get you home.

Sure I’d used other brands during this time, Apples OS and Unix/Linux ports but as a kid you go with the flow and don’t really think outside the box. So Windows stuck.

I remember having conversations with mates/gamers circa the early/mid 90’s about the future of PC’s and ‘how awesome’ it’ll be say… in the year 2000 when MS release their OS of the era and computers will take 5sec to boot and be stable and perfect and fast, at the time we literally had to wait 2-3min for bootups. What I didn’t realise is I kind of held onto this view post 2000. Windows Me came and went and then we got XP and Vista. I stuck by XP and built my last PC around it a few years back. Simply because Vista was a pile of crap.

It wasn’t all Microsoft’s fault, I’d also used an array of FUCKING TERRIBLE laptops over the years from major companies to smaller ones, most of these just weren’t put together that well. I’ve actually got a Toshiba laptop kicking around that’s about 5years old, I clean-installed XP on it (you’ll note that the specs of said laptop are 3+years advanced of XP being released so it should nail running XP right?) Boot time = 6minutes. I shit you not (and thats tweaked, nothing on startup!)

Fast forward to a few weeks back. It’s the year 2009, my PC is 3yrs old and was setup perfectly back when. No clean-install/formats this time round just various MS Service Pack updates. I’d been putting up with a bunch of strange errors for months, like the PS2 ports not recognising my mouse (you had to enter windows, reset and then they’d come online)

Boot time of my uberspec Windows PC in 2009? Well by the time you got rid of the waiting Icon it was bordering on 4minutes. I KNEW how to solve all this of course the patented clean-install that I’ve literally done 100’s of times over the last 2 decades (I’ve never been a fan of MS disk defrag)

And then it hit me, THIS IS NONSENSE. Instead of coding better, learning how to allocate memory properly to make a sleek world killing OS Microsoft have just gotten worse. Upgrades in hardware should have yielded speedier and more stable computers, instead they’ve yielded sloppy programming. Clean-install? FUCK THAT. I shouldn’t have to do it, NOT ANYMORE!

I of course was aware Apple made a stable OS, they’ve been the staple of design firms with photoshop/photo import employees (not to mention Video editing) for the last decade or more. I’d never liked the things but when Apple switched to an Intel based package awhile back I slowly started to take notice.

Purchasing an iPhone a few months back and being astounded at its native OS (running 1month without being switched off, no errors, no lag, not 1 error) really made me start to look at Apple differently.

Windows 7? I’m not falling for it Microsoft, not this time. It’s the same deal, you’ve had 20years to give me something solid and you’ve failed. According to a few sources Microsoft still has something like 85% of Market share. I suspect theres a lot of oldschool computer users out there exactly like me setting up their PC’s to run sweet and then dealing with ‘cute’ quirks you can iron out. But you shouldn’t have to, really. It’s basically 2010 damnit.

Sure my MACBOOK PRO still has it’s new computer feel, but after using friends MACs which are years old and still run like clockwork I’m sure this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It’s a total class act of a machine. Brilliance.
Apple Store New York

Wow 6months of oblivion!

Posted in Random by jukeboxparables on December 2, 2009

So I haven’t updated this thing in awhile, mainly because I’ve been busy as hell with work and the like. Twitter has taken over in the Inane rants department… sure it’s only 140char but it requires a lot less effort (read time) than updating a blog and stringing proper thoughts together.

Anyway, I initially promised myself this blog wouldn’t be about me and rather about all external things that are interesting but this might all be changing in the next few months. It just MIGHT turn into a travel blog of sorts.

Travel to where? Well tickets are not yet booked but the crazy plan as it exists so far is;

Japan (2weeks) -> Roadtrip across the USA (2weeks) + detour to Canada -> NYC (1week) -> England (6weeks)

Rather than being purely tourist-y I want it to be more about the culture and vibe of certain places. A seedy underbelly tour if you will, although naturally there will have to be a few tourist like stops. Mostly I want it all to revolve around certain cultural historic moments/places (mostly in the genre of Music) all of which will involve a shit-load of planning! So that’s what will be happening the next few months!

Will it happen? I’m hoping so It’s been on my mind for years… Will this blog become the ultimate daily updated music travel disaster blog? Perhaps. Time will tell!

Review: Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Posted in Music, Review by jukeboxparables on December 1, 2009

sydn

Ever since I decided I’d start reviewing music on this blog, Daydream Nation was in the back of my mind. Why? Simply because the mere prospect of trying to put this album into words is a salivating challenge. I’ve long thought that words are inadequate to describe music, which seems like an obvious thing to say. But not many albums out there truly convey the shortcomings of literary prose more;so than Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.

What is Indie?, What is New-wave?, What is No-wave? And what about that much used Umbrella term to seemingly describe everything since the 1980’s –Alternative? Most people you speak to would attribute different meanings (or at least bands) to those categories, some of which you and I would vehemently disagree with. You don’t really have to have a debate with them about it because It’s all summed up by one band on one album.

In 1988, Sonic Youth released their fifth studio album; Daydream Nation. In retrospect it’s been given shiny reviews and has a long list of accolades appearing on many ‘must have’ and ‘best of’ lists over the decades. The album was not an immediate success however as their label at the time went bust and the album was out of print for some time.

What’s going to make describing this album well so darn hard is that I feel an almost nostalgic need to delve into the history of the band, the ‘scene’ and happenings surrounding the band not only in 1988 but from their inception, if anything to highlight their growth from their self titled debut EP in 1982. But I’m going to put the burden on me; I’ll try and review it without going into all that.

But what I will delve into briefly is references; Daydream Nation connects together various themes from an expansive artistic world (the band’s various influences) weaving them into a complex magic-eye decorated woolen sweater. When you let your ears blur ever so slightly; things begin to jump out at you.

“Teenage Riot” is the opening track, it was also the bands first single off the album. It’s allegedly about an alternate dream-world where the lead singer of Dinosaur Jr; J Mascis is President. It goes on to give a nod to The Stooges track “We will fall”. It kicks off with this slow, clean slightly haunting yet completely disarming guitar riff with lyrics being delivered by bassist Kim Gordon in a spoken word stream of consciousness style. And then suddenly it picks up as if a strong gust of wind has filled the sails and the boat is on it’s way.

Everybodys talking bout the stormy weather, And whats a man to do but work out whether its true?
Looking for a man with a focus and a temper, Who can open up a map and see between one and two

Third track “The Sprawl” has particular influence alluding to influential author William Gibson’s SCI-FI Trilogy (the trilogy features famed book Necromancer) Amongst other things Gibson wrote the short-story Johnny Mnemonic (later adapted to film) The 3rd book from the trilogy ‘Sprawl’ is titled ‘Cyberspace’ Gibson coined the term and the resounding theme is one of a world in the near future where dark corporations rule and technology via AI becomes something sinister.

By the time you reach fourth track “‘Cross The Breeze” you start to feel a shift in your mood, your overcome by this kind of up-beat numbness; It’s a combination of the previous tracks working on your psyche and the intro guitar picking of this one. It’s an urgency to do something profound, but alas your caught in a siren song of sorts. It’s all akin to something like being in a mosh pit, staggeringly drunk, falling over and just not bothering to get up again, watching yourself get trampled in slow motion; you’ve ceased to care. The Intro’s repeated heavy 8-chord attenuation coming like blows to the head. Then it all ‘seems’ to clear up and all you hear is Kim Gordon incessantly repeating “I Wanna know…” That memorable 8-chord repeating thud comes back towards the end and leads into a sweet clean outro only outdone by track “The Sprawl” before it which can’t be described without going into passe’ metaphors about use of illicit substances. It’s really …that good.

Track five “Eric’s trip” is a nice break from the previous two songs (all 15minutes of them.. almost) in that its short and to the point, leaving your head time to recover; the ending line being one of note. It’s hooks are out-done by the following track however. The 7minute:33sec “Total Trash” Sonic Youth don’t let up for long. This isn’t a pop album, use your head. Concentrate.

If anything though. By the time you’ve reached the end of the eighth track “Providence” you either begin to see the ultimate brilliance of this album or you’ve been lost in it all and you see its downfall, more on that later. On the track in question, Mike Watt; Iconic bassist of the mid 1980’s band Minutemen (amongst various other projects) is heard calling Thurston Moore and leaving a late night phone Message. This message is blended into the track’s eerie echo piano intro and layered with what is apparently the impromptu recording of one of the bands amps in melt down amongst what sounds like recorded wind distortion/interference. The amp’s valves have given all they can and will never make music again. It’s actually my favourite track on the album.

[Mike Watt]
“Thurston! Watt! Thurston! I think it’s ten thirty, we’re calling
From Providence, Rhode Island. Did you find your shit? You gotta
Watch the motin’ Thurston, your fuckin’ memory just goes out tha window.
We couldn’t find it in the van at all, we wonderin’ if you looked in
That trash can. When we threw out that trash, man, was the bag in
Your hand, did you dump it? Call later. Bye.”

I did say the intro piano sounded eerie but that’s not quite right. The track captures a desperate sort of sentimentality. It’s at this point you realise your listening to the avant-garde. And now to that downfall I was mentioning earlier. It’s more of a paradox than anything else. Daydream Nation, or any other brilliant album that pushes the boundaries in such a way can never really be given a 10/10. It’s completely inaccessible to the average-joe music listener. The musician in me say’s who gives a damn, such people don’t deserve to listen to this because they won’t appreciate it. I think Art should be hung on a wall for all to see sure, but the question remains can a piece of art with references and themes so deep really be as appreciated and engaging as say; the traditional pretty picture? It all depends on the listener of course.

Rating: 9.2/10

Tracklist:

1. “Teen Age Riot” – 6:59
2. “Silver Rocket” – 3:48
3. “The Sprawl” – 7:42
4. “Cross The Breeze” – 7:01
5. “Eric’s Trip” – 3:49
6. “Total Trash” – 7:33
7. “Hey Joni” – 4:24
8. “Providence” – 2:42
9. “Candle” – 4:59
10. “Rain King” – 4:39
11. “Kissability” – 3:09
12. “Trilogy (The Wonder – Hyperstation – Eliminator Jr.)” – 14:04

Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation
Released: 1988
Label: Enigma