Welcome to the Sound and Light Show

Sort of a diary for myself ... but you can read it too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The rest of my January Atlanta trip

I spent the rest of my time in Atlanta visiting with the 'Bowser-Kyles'.

'Beaner' and 'Buddy' took my to the impressive Georgia Aquairium.

'Bowser' took me to an incredible International Farmers Market.

The extended weekend was fun and relaxing; watching the rare occurance of snowfall in ATL, staying in to cook food and drink wine, getting the fireplace roaring, playing Wii and Guitar Hero, catching some football playoffs, going out for brunch, catching up with close friends and the best part, playing with and getting to know 2 1/2 year old 'buddy' a whole lot better.

I also got to catch up with my friend 'Blacktain America' who just moved to the ATL from the PIT. It was his birthday Sunday night when I spoke to him and he was heading out to a club to hear legendary house dj Kai Alce perform. I'm sure it would have been a great time but I opted to stay in and relax.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How I spent MLK day.

I just got back yesterday from another quick visit to Atlanta to see 'Beaner', 'Bowser' and 'Buddy'(formerly known as 'Jamhands'). The trip was a spur of the moment decision, with me buying the plane ticket Thursday afternoon and flying down on Friday. Frequent flyer miles - gotta love 'em.

The whole thing started last Monday when 'Mr. Kyle' e-mailed me about him thinking about going to see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in concert on MLK day. I simply replied, 'what if I flew down to ATL and went to the show with you?' ... and then the rest fell into place.

Visiting the 'Bowser-Kyles' is always a treat (I'll get into more of that later) but this trip was topped off with the chance to go and see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's all new, all 45rpm record DJ performance.

Back in 1999, the two collaborated on a live mix album called Brainfreeze, which was then followed in 2001 by Product Placement. Both albums featured them only using 45 rpm records (7 inches). Now they are touring with their most recent collaboration, entitled The Hard Sell:

This was the opening video that they showed at the concert to start things off. AS you can see, the film explained, in a great parody style of old grade school instructional filmstrips, the history of the 45 RPM single, the technical difficulty of mixing 45s (smaller surface area, they spin faster), and exactly how they were going to pull off this feat: using eight turntables going into four mixers, with effects processors and guitar foot pedals, allowing them to loop passages and sustain tones.

I own a DVD of their Product Placement tour which shows tons of concert footage so I sort of knew what to expect ... but seeing one of these legendary '45 only' shows live is something else entirely.

Unlike its two predecessors, The Hard Sell didn't strictly rely on only funk and soul records. This new set was extremely varied, going from kitschy (a robotic 4 on the floor "Rock Around The Clock" or a doo-wop "Eye Of The Tiger") to romantic (The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You" overdubbed with audio samples from the movie Casablanca) to Afro Latin / Brazilian Carnival Music. They even threw in some trashy electro, 80's metal and some more modern Rock and Roll ala the Foo Fighters and Metallica. Of course they still played a lot of funk and soul but it was scattered about in between the more eclectic segments. At one point, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist started recreating early 90's rap songs (songs from De La Soul's '3 ft High and Rising', Digable Planets, the Pharcyde) using only the original records and samples the songs were created from. It was incredible ... mostly a seamless performance, there were a few missed cues resulting in the old 'shoes in the dryer' sound, but the glitches made you remember that it was all live. They also just started this tour so I'm sure they are still learning what works and what doesn't.

But for close to two hours, Shadow and Chemist never stopped moving. When they weren't flipping through boxes to find the next 45, they were cueing one up, or looping another, or fiddling with the mixer. They even ended the show with a little performance using portable turntables hung over their shoulders so they could move around the stage.

Here are some videos that better explains what we experienced:

From the ATL show:

Steel Drum interpretation of The Doors

'Psychedelic' part where they stopped using the 45 adapters and let the records spin off center

The wide array of source music made it feel less focused than the all funk and soul sounds of Brainfreeze and Product Placement. This worked against them too at some points with a few segments feeling too long and showy and not that interesting. The crowd would seem to lose interest and start talking. (they didn't call it The Hard Sell for nothing i guess). I assume this song selection was an intentional move away from what's expected of them at this point though ... expanding what the audience has come to expect from an all 7" show. I really enjoyed this more eclectic mix and had a huge grin on my face when they played the Gilligan's Island theme set to the tune of "Stairway To Heaven". Ha.

Oh and Kid Koala opened up for them. Yeah, could you pack any more turntablist talent into one room for one night? I've seen Kid Koala about 4 times now but this was the best I've ever heard him play; more rock and roll, blues and reggae ... and he of course did his signature psychedelic juggling of double copies of Katherine Hepburn singing 'Moon River'.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Memory Foam Mattress

I recently purchased a Queen Size Memory Foam 10" Mattress for myself this Christmas. Not one of the really expensive ones but a cheaper knock off brand from overstock.com. I had previously been sleeping on an old mattress that I bought at least 8 or 9 years ago. Wow. The difference in comfort is amazing and I am sleeping better than ever now that I switched.

What is even more amazing is how they shipped the darn thing. It was shipped rolled up and vacuum sealed so that it was only about 1/3 the size of the full mattress. Fed Ex basically just dropped it off on my front porch so it was just sitting there in it's plastic lined, vacuum pouch when I got home from work. After opening the Mattress shipment it needed to sit for a full 24 hours to fully expand to it's original size. It reminded me of those little toys you used to get when you where a kid where you placed them in water and they grew to 10 times their original size.

Anyway ... I couldn't be more satisfied with this purchase. The feel of the memory foam vs. a spring mattress is definitely unique but I don't think I'll ever want to go back to sleeping on a regular mattress again.

Monday, January 7, 2008

HD or Blu Ray?

Blu Ray has just won quite a victory in the High Definition format wars the other day with Warner Brothers Studios committing to producing its newest line of high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format.

The company said on Friday that it would abandon the competing HD-DVD format in May and distribute all film and television discs in standard DVD or Blu-ray.


The war is far from over but it's not looking good for HD DVD anymore.

I have already bought a Toshiba HD DVD player and my HD film library consists of a few films (Planet Earth Series, Casablanca, The Shining, 2001 Space Odyssey) ... I'd hate these items to be worthless someday.

but then again ... if Blu Ray wins I'll just have to go out and get a Playstation 3.

Oh darn. :)

Movies I watched in 2006 ...

While we are at it ... here is my list from 2006.

2006 watched films

Some of my favorites:

The Devil and Daniel Johnston - Great documentary about a manic depressive musical genius.
Dogtown and Z-Boys - Flawless documentary film by Stacy Peralta about the 1970's Zephyr Skating Team. Nice narration by Sean Penn too. Oh ... and an incredible soundtrack.
Elizabethtown - Cameron Crowe does such a great job of translating all the eccentricities of a family to the screen.
Junebug - Great original character with great character development. No cliches here. Amy Adams shines.
The Last Laugh - a 1925 silent film with superb filming techniques such as long shots and difficult crane maneuvers.
Alice - a Jan Svankmajer film telling the story of Alice in Wonderland using tons of bizarre and surreal stop motion animation mixed with live action.
Nightwatch - A Russian Fantasy/Thriller part Science Fiction tale about vampires and the fight between good and evil with tons of superb special effects. Plus the most creative use of subtitling ever scene.
Roll Bounce - 1970s roller-skating coming-of-age comedy. Enough said.
Three Extremes - 3 stories by Japans top Horror/Thriller directors including Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Gozu) and Chan Wook Park (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance)
The Squid and the Whale - Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach, who was co writer of Kicking and Screaming (1995) and The Life Aquatic, the film is semi autobiographical about his dealings with his parents divorce when he was younger.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Movies I watched last year ...

The people over at The Internet Movie Data Base website have set up a nifty little system where you can store and rate all of the movies you have ever watched. You can then further store your list into any subcategories you want such as years watched, genres, want to buy, etc.

I've taken advantage of this system over the years to list the movies I've watched ... categorizing the films by the year I viewed them.

Now that we are into 2008 I can take a tally and it looks like I watched about 187 movies in the 2007. The full list can be viewed here.

Movies that topped my 'watched in 2007' list:

2001: Space Odyssey - Of course, last year wasn't the first year I saw this film ... it probably shows up on my list every year. It's on here because I bought the HD DVD version of the film at the end of the year. The ultimate Light and Sound show.

Angel-A - Just when Luc Besson said he may never direct again, he comes up with this beautiful film (6 years since his last directorial effort). The cinematography is brilliant and the acting is captivating.

Everything is Illuminated - Liev Shreiber's Screenplay Writing and Directorial debut is refreshingly original and surreal. I have never read the book the movie is based on but the film just shines with it's imagery and the Ukrainian broken English spoken though out the film is priceless.

Idiocracy - This is definitely not that great of a film technically speaking, and it barely makes my top viewings of 2007, but the subject and content is hilarious and hit's home in so many ironic places. This plus the fact that the movie is so damn quotable. Idiocracy is Mike Judge's (creator of Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill and the movie Office Space) look into the state of America 500 years into the future where everything in life has been dumbed down because of the laziness of our people.

Curse of the Golden Flower - This was the last film in Yimou Zhang's trilogy (the other two being Hero, and House of Flying Daggers) and was hated by critics. This film was my favorite in the trilogy. Taking place during China's Tang Dynasty, the movie focuses less on dazzling wire-fu fights of the previous films and more on the grand cinematography of epic war battles. Critics called the fight choreography unimaginative and the color palette too bright but this is what drew me in. I thought the film was beautifully shot and the vibrant colors breathtaking.

Playtime - 1967 French Jacques Tati film. Another one I have seen before 2007 and a film worthy of repeat viewings year after year. I reviewed the film here when describing 5 of my favorite films of all time.

The Prestige - I just like the way Christopher Nolan (and his brother Jonathan) tell a story ... and where else do you get to see David Bowie acting as Dr. Nikola Tesla?

The Shining - I bought this one on HD DVD last year also. The pale color palette of the film never looked so detailed before ... and the brilliant score has never sounded more haunting ... worthy of repeat viewings, blah, blah, blah.

Honorable Mentions:

Volver - I have a thing for Pedro Almodóvar movies.
Shortbus - Softcore where you actually care about the characters.
El Topo - The genius (or madness) of Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Diggers - Written by Ken Marino from the sketch comedy show The State
Children of Men - Reminded me of greats like Blade Runner and Brazil.
This is England - Growing up in England in the 80's. Enough said.
Tom Petty, Running Down a Dream - Clocking in at 4 hours long and I never got up once.