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Hey, What happened to CD-a-Day?!

I moved it. I've opened a dedicated blog called Disk-a-Day, at http://disk-a-day.blogspot.com. I'll still post here once in a while, but I felt it was time to put all those posts in one spot, for solidarity's sake. If anyone cares, please come by and read. I've gone back to the beginning, adding and cleaning up the old posts, and soon, we'll hit brand new material. So go catch up, revisit, and just plain support the new home. And come back here for ninja's, pirates, and robots once in a while.




Hiya kids. In case anyone was wondering, I've moved my CD-a-Day posts onto a dedicated blog, disk-a-day.blogspot.com. Go check it out!

As for this here blog...well, I'll keep it cool, random, and fun. So dig this:

I've got an infatuation with ninja's these days. They're back kids. Remember how the 80's were inundated with ninjas...Sho Kosugi and his peeps owned the Dino Di Laurentis studios back then. American Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja 3: The Domination were my faves. I was recently turned on to another one called Pray for Death, which went the whole way and starred Kosugi-san as the lead, a family man who has to revert to the old ways to bring down some local garbage that killed his wife and wounded his son. Epic!

Last year or so, a new ninja epic came out that brought it all back, but I didn't see it in the theaters. I waited for the DVD release, and while I would have loved to see it in the theaters, I can say it was worth the wait. Behold!

That's Sho Kosugi, the old man narrating the trailer at the beginning. And he is still, even more so, a badass! This flick is WAY over the top, as in buckets of (CG) gore gets spilled when this skinny little dude defects from his ninja clan over a girl. Like the best of ninja movies, this is action for action's sake, and I really enjoyed it.

I am so taken, in fact, that I've been revisiting the best ninja's of old...that is, the digital kind. Particularly Joe Musashi and Ryu Hayabusa, of the videogames Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, respectively. I'm two levels away from finishing this one:

Yes, you saw right...you fight the Statue of Liberty. You fight. The Statue. Of. Liberty.

In fact, going back to the old Sega Genesis came Shadow Dancer, level 3 sees you climbing the Statue of Liberty and fighting on top of it. So, is Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 an homage, or a one-up. You decide.

And lets not forget the ninjas that don't wear hoods. In Japan, there was a little movie called Jubei Ninpucho: The Wind Ninja Chronicles. I knew it by the dumbed down name, Ninja Scroll. Whatever the name, it kicks some serious butt, although there are two too many scenes of an explicit sexual nature for me to heartily recommend. The action and ending, however, are amazing. They also made a 13-episode series which followed the further adventures of Jubei. Apart from some questionable animation in the middle (quality, not content), this too is a killer foray into the ancient ninja lore.

I recently finished a TV series called Basilisk, about warring ninja clans in old Japan. The story is a tragedy, about star-crossed lovers bound by custom and politics. It's good, but extremely melancholy. They made a live-action film which I actually prefer, called Shinobi: Heart Under Blade. The trailer is in Japanese, but you get the idea:

There's always my favorite techno-ninja - The one, the only Snake Eyes!

Sometimes friend, always rival Storm Shadow is no slouch either, but you've gotta dig a cat that never says a word, truly speaking with his actions. The above is from a little one-off called GI Joe Resolute, which kinda trivializes Snake and Storm's long-running relationship from the comics. Still, fun stuff!

Such is my infatuation with the secret shadow warriors that I just today bought a little b-grade flick for $4, titled, simply, Ninja:

Ho-ho, man! Have the ninjas already jumped the shark, just as they're resurgence is beginning?! Well, my friends, you could say that, but if anyone is going to jump a shark, or say, hi-five a shark, it'd be a ninja, or at least the associate of one.

So, what is it about the ninja? Is it the costume, the secrecy, or the martial prowess? Is it the seemingly mystical skills, the whacked-out weapons, or the ability to run silently across rooftops? All of the above, my friends. Ninjas are both cool and paradoxically, ridiculous. They defy period-placement, and demand total suspension of disbelief whenever they're presented. They represent both the best, and worst, of Japanese pop-culture tropes. THAT'S what it IS about the NINJA.

My top 10 (yes, I can list ten!) favorite ninjas, not in order accept #1, because he's reading this:
10: Wins-Without-a-Knife Wayakuma from the movie The Flying Guillotine.
9: Joe Musashi from Sega's Shinobi games
8: Dr. McNinja
7: Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden
6: Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe
5: Rikimaru from the Tenchu games
3: Ibuki from Street Fighter
2: Joe Armstrong from American Ninja
1: Sho Kosugi from BEING A REAL NINJA!!!!

So, take your favorite katana out of the closet, wrap a black sash around your head, and sneak into your neighbor's yard to plant smoke-bombs, because I'm declaring September Ninja Month. This year. It'll change, like leaves blowing on the wind, like the sun setting across Kanto Plain, like cherry blossoms swirling around Kasumi from Dead or Alive (Did not make the list because she's physically IMPOSSIBLE!)

And if you don't have a suitable or practical katana, ask this guy for advice:

"IT'S TAPE!!!"

bonus list: Top Ten Not-Really-Ninjas:
10: Batman
9: Spiderman
8: Italian Spiderman
7: Daredevil
6: Strider Hiryu from Capcom's Strider games
5: Grey Fox from Metal Gear Solid
4: Raiden from Metal Gear Solid
3: Olga Gurlukovich from Metal Gear Solid (I sense a theme)
2: Vampire Wolfer and Fire Slicer from Axe Cop
1: Optimus Prime (He turns into a truck. I guarantee he could sneak up on you.)


CD-a-Day: Gorgeous Gluttons Edition

Coldplay: A Rush of Blood to the Head

When I played with Marie Haddad, we once covered "Politik", the opener to this sophomore effort. I liked our version...prettier and sparser than the original, to be sure. Listening to the album again, I was reminded why Coldplay was able to maintain their roll after Parachutes, but also reminded that there is a sound they refined and subsequently clung to that may be their undoing in the long run.

The reason Marie, a piano player, was able to cover "Politik" so well is because it is piano-driven, as are most of the songs on Coldplay's albums after Parachutes. Once the band was big enough to tour with a piano, singer Chris Martin-Paltrow never went back to guitar-centric tunes, in effect limiting Coldplay's sound because limits had been removed. Irony is so ironic.

Another change that would come back to haunt them was extending the length of all the songs. Eight of the Eleven are within seconds of five-minutes long, mostly longer than that. There is a reason they call it 'pop', and brevity is one of those reasons.

Of course, my tendency towards progressive and metal influences makes a five-minute song seem short, but I recognize the change Coldplay went through. They are a band that needs to have self-imposed limits. Their talent is abundant, and their fame overwhelming. They can do whatever they want now, and maybe that's the problem.

BTW, I do really like this album, but there aren't any standouts for me. It's telling that I had to look up the name of the CD even though I've been spinning it in my car the last couple of days.

CD-a-Day: Down the Hill Edition

Coldplay: Parachutes

There is a line is the movie "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" where a couple meat-head friends are razzing each other over a game of Mortal Kombat, and one of them says "You know how I know you're gay? You like Coldplay." So, I guess I'm gay. I'll tell the wife.

I do indeed like Coldplay, and this album is why. It is their best by far, which is a shame as they're five deep, including an ill-conceived live album released after their second outing. (Too soon.) Still, I do enjoy the entire oeuvre, even if people want to call them a poor man's U2 via Radiohead circa The Bends. OK, well I called them that just now, but whatever.

Parachutes has soul, plain and simple. The soul of young musicians struggling, or at least not fattened by the sweet buffets of success. There is some desperation in the songs, and that not to make a marketable album, but a desperation to convey depth and emotion through song. There is less confidence, less bombast; and in the case of Coldplay, less proves to be more.

When I hear the breakout hit "Yellow", I am always reminded of the day I heard it on the radio as I was driving down the summer dusk-soaked 8 freeway, coming home from a cable installation job in Alpine. The window was rolled down, sleeves rolled up, and sweat was drying on my brow. The air was crisp and smelled of pine with a tinge of diesel. A full workday was behind me, the promise of rest ahead just beyond the drive. It was the kind of moment that causes me to reflect on all the good in my life, and even the bad that I've survived. Despite the simplicity of the tune, and the similarity it has to many modern hits, how can I not love it to this day?

CD-a-Day: Answer Yourself Edition

Clem Snide: End of Love

Less repetitious, a bit more live. Four or so years between albums can be a good thing, though I realize that there was a CD in between. I don't have it. This one I'd likely not have apart from the wonderful music department we have on campus at work. Which begs the question: What rep thought that Clem Snide would be a good idea to send to a videogame company? What shall we put a Clem Snide song on, hmm? The next Mortal Street Kombat Fighter? That would be...interesting, certainly.

The title track is good. I was also intrigued by the song "Jews for Jesus Blues". Eef Barzelay is Jewish himself, and I wonder if this was written from experience or cynicism. Both, maybe? The next track, "God Answers Back" kinda pissed me off, but that is because I didn't like what he had to say. That's between Eef and God, I suppose.

This disk is much more mature than the Ghost of Fashion, and I'm glad for it. It's still unlikely that I will decide to spin this anytime soon. Another disk made for my iPod to shuffle. I also imagine that Steve would love it...maybe I should send it to him?

A Pleasent, Moving Surprise: Mary and Max

Once in a long while, a movie or comic or piece of music will sneak up on me, and I catch it cold, with no preconceived notions. I LOVE those times. In today's internet driven world, it's so unlikely and uncharacteristic to actually discover anything. I get why people attend things like the Sundance Film Festival, and to a lesser extent Comic Con: To discover things as the creators intend; Unmolested by hype machines.

This is one of the reasons I'm learning to love my Netflix account. While I was immediately drawn to the convenience of filling my queue with favorites like Fright Night and Drunken Master, for very little risk I can sample some films, both foreign and domestic, that I might never have the chance to see in theaters, or have never even heard about. Such was the case tonight, when Shandree and I decided to watch the Australian animated feature Mary and Max.

Now, the four star rating on Netflix was enticing, and so was the cast: Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Eric Bana are the "stars" of the film, lending their voices to the most outspoken of the characters. Also, I'm a sucker for all forms of animation, and Claymation in particular seems to lend itself well to more character driven pieces. For films that excel in the style, I'd recommend anything from Aardman of course, but also try to track down the Adventures of Mark Twain, a truly creepy and deep film that has one of the most frightening sequences in any animated feature I've ever seen. (Watch the clip here)

You can follow the link above to see what Mary and Max is about, but I'd like to recommend that you view it cold like I did. But be aware: While this film is animated, it isn't a children's film, though like many adult-oriented animated films, it is about being a child, or at least being child-like. I was profoundly moved by the relationship that Max and Mary develop, and the end, while perhaps an emotional manipulation, works because it makes sense in light of the whole.

CD-a-Day: Post Comic Con Edition

Clem Snide: The Ghost of Fashion

Rookie Card played with Clem Snide once. I asked that we do it, thinking they'd be a good match with us because of their similar "country" roots and "cleverness". Adam kinda disagreed, but got the show anyway. I can't remember if the show went well, but I seem to remember being kinda bored by Clem Snide's set. I'd only known Clem Snide for their song "Moment in the Sun", which was used as the intro to the NBC dramedy "Ed". Great song, but the rest of this CD is hit-or-miss.

Singer Eef Barzelay is pretty whiny, and spends a lot of time repeating lyrics, presumably to impart their importance or said cleverness, but by the fifth time I hear "Tonight I Feel Like Elvis Longing for His Long Lost Twin", I'm leaning less toward "clever" and more toward "contrived".

Then, there's songs like "Moment in the Sun" and the opener "Let's Explode" that just need to be heard. So hear them, but beware the hype. Neo-folksters may cry the Second Coming of Dylan, but I'm not convinced.

CD-a-Day: Proving It Edition

Chevelle: Vena Sera

It's a Chevelle album, and probably the best one in my collection. Wait, did I say that about the last one, too? I don't know. I do know that I'm tired of writing about Chevelle, but I'll likely still give them a listen from time-to-time. For now, I'm done.

Comic Con starts tomorrow! I usually listen to Matthew Sweet this time of year, on the way to the show. But next on the docket is Clem Snide. Blech. Also, I realized that if I ever want to write professionally, I need to stay on top of this, if only to tell myself that I can do it, even if not very well. Sometimes if you want to make an omelet, you have to break wind. Or something.

Short Story: Good News, Bad News

Here's a short story I wrote last year. After I finished it, I figured it could be a good first chapter in a larger story, but I never continued...pretty standard. It's a Super Hero story. Sorta. With Comic-Con coming next week, and certain older exploits being revisited by those in the know, I figured now was as good a time as any to post it here. (No one else would publish it) Enjoy!

Good News, Bad News

Rick pressed his thumb to the electronic lock, and heard the familiar ka-click as the bolt slid back, allowing him entry. He grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it open, a gentle ‘woosh’ accompanying the motion as the cooler air of the room met the warmer air of the hallway. Letting the door close quietly behind him, Rick slid into the office space. It was the only occupied area on the 40th floor of the Beasley building in the middle of Downtown San Diego. In fact, the whole of the floor was dedicated to the one office.

Rick stepped silently over hardwood floors, his boots gently moving heel-to-toe with athletic grace. He’d been listening to U2 on the way over, and whispered the chorus to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” under his breath. Indirect lighting gave the office a warm glow, and allowed the window overlooking the bay to sparkle with the evening lights of the city.

Sitting alone at the large round table in the center of the room was Commander Dare, looking out over the city. He slumped in his chair a bit, his large arms crossed over his chest. The strains of Beethoven emanated quietly from the surround-sound system, the speakers well hidden within the walls. The holographic projector above the table was on standby, a translucent green globe floating in mid air, the Windows Next logo orbiting like a flat moon.

“Hey, Dare,” called Rick casually. “Whatcha’ doin’ here so late?”

“Hello, Thunderous.” Commander Dare’s voice was deep and, well, commanding. “I was just going over some of the older files, getting things in order.”Read moreCollapse )
Chevelle: This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)

More of the same by Chevelle, which I'm OK with. They seem to have gotten their harmonies down by now, and hooks are a bit more clever. Opening track "The Clincher" is a winner, and secures my ears for the duration.

I am getting done with them by now. Short doses is fine, but the CD's do all sound the same. I realize that I probably couldn't tell you what song went with what album at this point, apart from the stuff off the first album, and that's because of the specific production choices.

I wonder if Hard Rock isn't dead? I mean, these kids pounding away are nice boys, by the look of it. Clean cut, handsome. This stuff is fun, but safe, I guess. But is that so bad?


I saw a video today which was a faux gangsta'-rap tune about being a dad. It made a joke out of caring for your kids and wearing khaki's and being out-of-shape and emotional. (Well, I don't blame them about the khaki's. (They're terrible)) It was put out by some church, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's insulting. Instead of encouraging, which I hope was the intent, it makes men who choose to be fathers out to be weak and uncool. (((It's the exact opposite of the other thing I can't stand, which is macho arrogance.))) It was like those "Swagger Wagon" commercials, preying on the fears of the middle aged afraid of losing youthful rebellion, and defining exactly what that looks like. And it looks like sitting around, watching TV to define you. And liking what people tell you to like; faux gangsta'-rap, perhaps. Or this? Or what?!