ELW Photography #5

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July 31, 2020

I was just thinking how we were told back in January to write out the full 2-0-2-0 when dating important docs. Who knew that it would be almost exclusively applied to receiving unemployment benefits.

My Dear Readers: Updates from New York City. July ends. USA continues to deny the impact of Covid—19 despite the largest recorded drop in its economy in history!

If you reside outside of North America you may have heard about how poor our safety net is here. This is showing up now during this unprecedented crisis.

I only glance at the headlines each morning. It takes until late in the day to realize how much more our country has slid in the eyes of the world.

New York City has sport once again with its expensive corporate stadiums empty. Overpaid athletes are playing with piped in crowd noise.

Several athletes in baseball are now sick. Games are getting postponed. I think baseball should cancel the season.

No Broadway/ Off—Broadway theater. No museums. No movie theaters. Broadway and Hollywood had both reached their commercial summit. I do not believe this will happen again.

If we have cinemas the interior of those spaces will have to be reinvented along with Broadway and Off—Broadway theaters.

Personally, my fear is that America will be vunerable like never before to a new authoritarian reality. Already the President floated the proto-fascist notion of delaying the Fall Election. This never happened in America before this con man took office.

People are waking to see how much damage has been inflicted upon regular people over decades of blindly adding police to streets. This has resulted in the brutality seen in recent days.

The people were empowered to fend off the awful notions of power hungry office holders. Our struggle for greater Democracy will continue.

With such heavy issues hovering over us I refuse to conform to the reactionary nature of certain friends and family. I just read “Twilight Of Democracy” by the historian Anne Applegate, seen below in the picture, argues strongly for Democratic ideals. She is hopeful Americans will reject the anti—democratic platform of Donald Trump.

Highly Recommended to everyone who cares about Democracy.

My photography is an outlet to express what I see daily to counter the ugly forces at play in today’s world.

Despite it all I am having a lovely Summer. What else can I do? November will be chilly. And by then our biggest Election will be upon us.

Museums

5th Avenue from E. 86th Street to E. 103rd is called Museum Mile. There are several along this route on the East Side. The Museum of the City of New York, The MET, The Guggenheim and The Jewish Museum are my favourites. I took pictures of their facades over the past three months. Devoid of crowds. A silence. Mourning? Will they come back as strong as before the shutdown?

The Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and The Jewsih Museum are seen below:

Candids

Another component of taking images on walks are the people you see in moments. So distracted are these strangers that I could not resist capturing them in time. What follows are the first results of my observations.

August Arrives Tomorrow

Major League Baseball attempted to start a shortened season but finds itself in a bind now that the Miami Marlins team is ill with Covid—19. Then the Phillies were struck then the St. Louis Cardinals.

All of the hot spot states are only beginning to require masks and think about shutting down again.

The Republican party is making this crisis a partisan issue; their leader floats proto—fascist ideas daily.

Here in New York City while we have settled into our Phase 4 lives a new month starts tomorrow!

What will it bring? Will we learn?

Until next week Dear Readers!

Stay in good health.

Wear a mask.

Album Cover Art In Our Digital Age

Since the 1960s the covers of long-playing records have undergone many changes.

Before the Beatles and Stones most records were just simple photographic images of the band leaders or crooners of the period.

During the 1960s when the counter-culture movement arrived albums underwent a major alteration.

The new artists had album covers that were more than just their mugs in close-up.

Before I continue let me be clear about what the cover of a record means to me.

I think covers are a canvas to be used to draw in would be listeners. It does not have to be literal or easy to understand.

After decades of releases before the internet we have thousands of covers to gawk at in pleasure and disgust.

The images can excite, enlighten, and become stand alone pieces of art.

In some cases they can also offend certain sensibilities.

The Beatles’ infamous butcher cover was censored by their record company upon release.

Capitol records pulled this album from circulation after distributors complained the cover image was revolting. If you can find this album with the offending picture it’s worth a lot today.

Guns N Roses biggest seller, “Appetite For Destruction” had its cover banned.

It featured a cartoon image of a flower girl being raped by a robot.

Guns N Rose’s original art got banned by their label. The cross and skull art is the cover now.

The aforementioned covers became highly valued on the market for collectors.

Their rarity increased the value of original prints. Digital representation of album art will never be valuable.

Many classic (old) rock groups hired artists to paint, photograph, and collage their cover art.

Roger Dean, Derek Riggs, and the firm Hipgnosis are good examples of why artists commission painters, graphic designers and illustrators.

The progressive rock group Yes compiled a catalog of music along with covers by Roger Dean.

His dreamscapes were colorful, fantastic, and surreal. This fit well with Yes’ music.

Fragile by Yes features the above art by Roger Dean to promote a greener planet.

Derek Riggs painted the first 8 Iron Maiden album covers.

His art became instantly part of the band’s image.

Each cover features the mascot Eddie, a decaying corpse reanimated back to life.

The art collective Hipgnosis was hired by British art rock icons Pink Floyd.

The indelible photographic elements are imprinted on the memory of any classic rock fan forever.

Their cover images include a cow for Atom Mother, a flying pig for Animals, and a prism for Dark Side of the Moon.

The records pictured above included extras you cannot enjoy digitally.

Styx and Pink Floyd had posters within their sleeves.

One more artist I want to mention is Michael Doret a designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

He has created logos, album covers, magazine covers, and art for various brands in media, advertising, and sports.

The illustration he created for Kiss in 1978 was so eye catching the band worked with him again in the 21st Century!

Rock N Roll Over by Kiss was the last album in which all four original members performed. Ace Frehley had no writing credit.

Sonic Boom was released in 2009. The art is sort of a follow up to its 1970s predecessor.

On vinyl the album was issued with vinyl platters in six different colors.

The Rock N Roll Over album was reissued in 2015, complete with a sheet of full color stickers replicating the cover art.

The art is the original size meant for public view when it’s on a physical item.

Digital cannot transmit how vivid these covers actually appear.

Many albums have gatefold sleeves. This means they open up to show a two panel artwork.

Queen used an image by scifi illustrator Frank Kelly for News of the World in 1977. A two panel gatefold is featured.

Today album frames are sold as a means to display album cover art.

There are many examples of art for record covers. I have covered a few of my favorites for this article.

Keep in mind none of this art looks great in digital form. In physical presence you must stop and stare.

Record albums are cherished items. The extra goodies inside like posters are really cool too.

To be fair, digital music files can show the art. It’s tiny and trapped under the glass of your smart device.

MP3 files can become corrupted. I have had to stop my PC many times due to bad playback.

Records force you to take better care of your music.

It is much more of an experience to play an album on a turntable. You value it more. And the art is for keeps!

TOOL’s Fear Inoculum

Each new decade begins with a clearing out of the sounds that animated it. Following the 1980’s metal stampede record labels embraced Grunge. This was the early 1990’s.

Then bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains were on top. Following their short-lived reign came a sight & sound nobody saw coming.

Industrial. Heavy. Nuanced. Not really traditional metal nor hard rock—alternative metal?

TOOL. The name was mono-syllabic. The logo was cool. The sound was enigmatic to its core. Songs were long. The vocals did not come in for two minutes! Their videos used animation of the stop-motion kind; thematically dark.

The first four albums have amassed three Grammy awards; sold millions of copies; topped the US chart twice. Then for unknown reasons the band disappeared from the music scene entirely.

13 Years later since their last record something truly amazing happened—TOOL’s social media page lit up with a post announcing a new record. The music listening public did not forget this band. The response has been quite large.

Legal problems and label disputes aside, the band’s music appeared on digital streaming services for the first time.

“Fear Inoculum” carries the band forward nicely. The running time on the digital format is 1 hour, 26 minutes.

The 10 tracks are formatted with 6 epic songs and 4 instrumental passages that form a type of connective tissue that support the lengthier songs.

This is an expertly crafted record. The band’s consistent sound serves the listener well.

Going underneath the surface of human physiology to dig deep into unanswerable questions of spirit and mind are TOOL’s strength as musicians.

I have the digital album on Amazon Music Unlimited. The vinyl version of this record is to be released this Fall. The CD had innovative packaging.

A 4X4 screen built into the three panel cardboard sleeve contains exclusive video images. It comes with a speaker and a cord for recharging the screen. The price for the CD was $30. Amazon sold out in minutes.

This is a review of all the tracks on the digital streaming format.

On the day of its release the band uploaded all eight of their music videos to YouTube for the first time! Click here for their channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wUo-29zS7m_Jp-U_xYcFQ/videos

inoculum – a substance (a virus or toxin or immune serum) that is introduced into the body to produce or increase immunity to a particular disease.

“Fear Inoculum” opens with Buddhist chimes. Opening with this title track is an explicit mission statement. Fear is a disease/malady that will be reduced.

Maynard James Keenan’s laconic style of vocals have lost nothing to the years. His delivery makes you listen closely. The lyrics are among the best this band has ever delivered.

The music throughout is hypnotic. The length of each track will not matter if you allow yourself to tune into the depth of meaning here.

“Pneuma” literally means breath. In theology, the soul or vital spirit. The lyrics exemplify what it means to live. We must become our best selves over a lifetime.

At 11:53, it’s one of the longest tracks here.

At the 7:30 mark comes a theramin driven instrumental passage that is quite beautiful.

“Litanie contre la Peur” is the first of the four short instrumentals that act as connective tissue/support for the six epic tracks contained on the album.

It translates “Litany of Fear”. A relaxing depth takes hold by this point that will not let go until the end.

“Invincible” (12:44) opens with the sounds of tapping on an empty water jug. The guitars have a nice timber here. Evoking the mythical search for everlasting youth with the “chasing of Ponce De Leon’s phantom”.

A warrior’s lament. Reflecting on the epic of battles fought. Trying in vain to remain relevant as a soldier in our new age. “Tales told of battles won, things we’ve done, Caligula would grin.” Now time is bearing down on the pawns (tools?) of war.

“Legion Inoculant” (3:06) is a phase shifting instrumental that drifts into and out of distant sounding voices that struggle to be heard.

“Descending” (13:30). Opens the second half of the record with sounds of waves crashing on a beach. This invocation that we can rouse ourselves from a self inflicted sleep before it’s too late.

The lyric repeats”Falling is not flying”. Each of these six epic tracks have instrumental passages that are sweeping and understated.

The drone of guitars snarl into spiral patterns of harmonic riffs. A wake-up to our “wanton slumber” to “mitigate our ruin”.

“Culling Voices” (10:05). This track describes being in a state of psychopathy— a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.

A melancholic track with great pathos into the psyche of “imaginal interplay”. The voices in our head are misleading. The repeated refrain of “don’t you dare point that thing at me” allows its listener to fill in their own blanks.

“Chocolate Chip Trip” (4:48). A connective instrumental. Out of left field is TOOL’s default position. A quirky buzz of beats and repetitive keys.

Those culled voices are being scrambled up into something else. The percussion and keys are quite hypnotic.

Realigning the synapses perhaps in its dive towards the final epic contained here.

“7Empest” (15:43). The band is obsessed with the number 7. It appears in some way on each of their 5 albums. The music reflects the lyrical meaning. Starting off slow with those Buddhist chimes mixed into the riffing it builds into the promised fury.

An examination of the mind gone off its hinges. A tempest in a teapot. TOOL takes the most cliche of metal ideas bending it toward the meaning needed to fit this inoculation of fear. “We know your nature…Calm before the torrent comes.” The ‘We’ is authoratative.

At 4:30 we get the most furious sounding riffs on the album. This rage up is the most straight-forward of all the tracks. It harkens back to “Sober” on their debut record, “Undertow”.

After eight minutes it churns and wends around you with guitars blazing. Like the abstract serpent on the cover art it twists and turns beautifully. You never see it’s eye. But the musical storm is omnipresent. It cannot be controlled.

The album closer is the final instrumental. A gentle outro to the proceedings of the past 90 minutes! “Mockingbeat” (2:05).

The final pitch from left field. Artifice or real bird sounds, voices, constant chirps all culminate in a soundscape you are not prepared for based on the previous 9 tracks. But this is what TOOL are all about. After the final chirp it’s over.

TOOL fans will love this record. For the new listener it may take awhile to get into this epic. After 4 listens, I love it.

The group’s line-up includes drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James KeenanJustin Chancellor has been the band’s bassist since 1995, replacing their original bassist Paul D’Amour.

Top L-R: “Undertow” (1993); “AEnima” (1996) on Zoo records.
Middle: “Lateralus” (2001) on Volcano records.
Bottom L-R: “10,000 Days” (2006); “Fear Inoculum” (2019).
Both also on Volcano records.

TOOL is on tour this October & November in the US with Killing Joke opening. For all dates and ticket info go to http://www.ticketmaster.com

Tue • Nov 19 • 7:30 PM Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Sneak Peak Of The Future

I love music. My parent’s had records and a victrola when I was a kid. There was a piano in our house. It’s still there. I should have been more vocal about wanting lessons on piano and guitar. I was the youngest of three boys. I wanted to be a rock musician.

In my childhood anything expressed in an artful way or generally non-conformist method was simply called weird. Unfortunately this allowed truly visionary artists like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Pattie Smith to slip past me. Then there was Devo.

A group who dressed alike to make a point about conformity, consumerism, and politics. I saw them on Saturday Night Live. I was not buying records yet. In matching jumpsuits with the name of the group in bold block letters they seemed so….weird. There is that blanket word of dismissal again!

Following decades where I listened to every major rock group on the planet I re-discovered the aforementioned artists like they were new. I found out why their look and sound seemed so outside the norms.

After decades of dominance by the guitar then electric guitar Devo’s music placed the guitar outside the groove. Replacing it with the new technology of the synthesizer. The synth would be at the core of this music. The recording industry labeled this sound New Wave or Post-Punk. I do not think Devo were ever really pigeonholed by their fans.

Thanks to David Bowie and Iggy Pop, the group from Akron, Ohio who met at Kent State University where they were students got signed by Warner Brothers records.

In early 1970, Bob Lewis and Gerald Casale formed the idea of the “devolution” of the human race after Casale’s friend Jeffrey Miller was killed by Ohio National Guardsmen firing on a student demonstration.[1].

They believed that succumbing to a group think mentality the culture was de-evolving. Hence the name Devo.

Devo consisted of two sets of brothers, the Mothersbaughs (Mark and Bob) and the Casales (Gerald and Bob), along with drummer Alan Myers.”

I began listening to the 6 records the band made with Warners because of Record Store Day 2019. Each year the music industry’s record labels put out a list of titles to feature as exclusives to celebrate independent record stores around the world.

Warner Bros decided to issue a box set of all 6 Devo albums on color vinyl. I have been listening to the digital versions of each release. These are new records to me. I must admit after being such a static listener of guitar oriented music the sounds made by this group were fresh. I literally fell back in love with the pure joy of finding something that excitited my ears, my mind, and my heart.

The first 2 records have been my focus for now. I think it stood out with their approach to their art. Appearing like aliens from The Twilight Zone sent to observe life on earth, the music of Devo satirized our conception of gender, power, and work. I argue they were presenting a sneak peak of the future.

If you missed it like I did you were doomed to just go along with the crowd. Arguably most of us did just that in the 1980s. Punk or Metalhead? Freedom of Choice or conformity of a new tradition? Each record raised these questions of what direction society might take.

The title of their debut had the audacity to be a Q & A. Seen below are the first 4 albums on the Warner Bros label. A fem but masculine male framed in the whiteness of golf, a straight laced image. The answer was a defiant No, We Are DEVO.

Challenging our norms right from the start with songs like “Mongoloid” and “Jocko Homo”. The first of these two songs was about a man with Downs Syndrome who fit into society because he “wore a hat, had a job, and brought home the bacon”. A theoretical critique describing how those who might be perceived as different must find a way to fit into the proscribed norms of the day.

The latter song title refers to de-evolution. Humans are ape men. The call and response track is anthemic. The band’s artful delivery back in the 1970s were often seen as a new form of fascism or clowning or both. But I think Devo was being clever in presenting their satire and opinions as a new form of music that a listener could find on their own terms. The questions are interesting. We may never have all the answers. But we have in our hands this unique artform.

On “Freedom Of Choice”, seen below the third record from left to right included “Whip It” which became their biggest hit, peaking at #14 in America. The song is a sincere cynical laugh at the cockeyed optimism of Americans. All our problems can be solved if we just simply whip them. The whip is a loaded symbol of repression and brutality used here as the over simplification of universal problem solver.

Making fun of all the self-help tropes of the day (still in use today) are the lyrics:

Get straight
Go forward
Move ahead
Try to detect it

Listening to their music for the first time (except “Whip It”) I could understand what they were trying to say. In a lot of ways we were getting the future in preview. A world where a selected group would make the majority feel like the world is beautiful and we just need to conform to be happy.

Confronting the ideals of gender on its debut.
What is tradition?
Freedom. No.
Freedom of Choice.
Duty Now.








The hats were called Energy Domes. It became a trademark of sorts. This was their Freedom Of Choice attire.

Devo made videos at a time before the launch of MTV. Their clip for “Mongoloid” made use of stock footage to create the first video that used the art technique of collage. I would argue that this is part of what makes Devo a worthy candidate for the Museum Of Modern Art as well as the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. The latter institution failed to induct them again this past year.

To see Devo’s videos go to their Official YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP9nU4BsAXsr8mQ1PIZVScg

Devo in my opinion were a kind of prologue to our new century. Their theory of Devolution is seen in the ‘smart’ screens that have us in their grip daily. Societal behaviors are changing. We have regressed into a culture of looking down, sticking to the tribe, and thinking we just have to be optimistic all the time.

  1. Paul Vermeersch: A brief history of Devo, Part 1, October 21, 2014, retrieved August 4, 2015

Rock Stars At Home/ Book Review

Elton John with his wardrobe; a fan made doll in his likeness is perched on his shoulder.

In this new hardcover from Apollo publishing, the domestic lives of rock stars are exhibited. This is a nicely laid out coffee table affair with fine photographic images of many of the world’s most famous music stars from the past 50 years. A total of 176 pages. Lists for $24.95.

For the fan and non-fan alike. The histories of various properties like Cotchford Farm, former home of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne which became the estate of then Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones. The material within is quite a page turner. You get to find out what became of their homes after they died or whether they just left to live elsewhere.

There are essays by:

  • Chris Charlesworth (Melody Maker; Omnibus Press).
  • Eddi Fiegel (The Telegraph; The Guardian).
  • Colin Salter (The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock).
  • Daryl Easlea (Music Journalist and author of Books about Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel).
  • Bryan Reesman (Entertainment Journalist).
  • Simon Spence (BBC, NME) music journalist and author.

A survey of stars including Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Prince, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Keith Moon, The Allman Brothers, Noel Gallagher, Debbie Harry, Barry Gibb, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Freddie Mercury, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.

The material presented here is well organized. Essays precede each group of artists. Titled in order of appearance: Through The Keyhole, Psychedelic Suburbia, The Laurel Canyon Scene, Haunted Houses & Magic Mansions, All Aboard The Starship, Punk Digs & Dives, Out Of View, Islands & Exiles, Riot On Sunset, Last Known Abode, Musical Playgrounds, Mysterious & Spooky, and Colorfully Enhanced Cribs.

You begin to glean solid knowledge of the reasons why these people bought these homes and decorated them. The number one reason why some of these stars sought remote places was privacy. To escape the adoring public; to escape the press. Some of them would stay in the same home until their deaths like Jimi Hendrix did with his London flat. George Harrison’s widow Olivia still lives in their palatial estate. The birdseye view of this home is worth the price of this book alone.

Speaking of public museums you realize that some stars have a lot in common even if their musical expressions were different. Elvis, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix all had homes that would open to the public as historic places of interest after their untimely deaths.

The Eagles, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Carole King were neighbors in Laurel Canyon, Ca. This is an amazing time capsule of a very unique period of time where so many creative people could afford the homes that existed here. This is an example of a time when famous people had an open door too. They did not have walls.

Frank Sinatra and Keith Richards both eventually built walls in their very different places of residence to keep out intruders. Bob Dylan would move after fans discovered his then unknown residence in the town of Woodstock, N.Y. Mr. Dylan then sought seclusion. Chuck Berry like Sinatra (Twin Palms) named his estate. Berryland was open to the public until a massive fire destroyed it. This survey relates a lot of interesting stories like this throughout its pages.

Did you know that in the 1950s’ throught the 1970’s a lot of artists opened their homes to public viewing and parties. And that John Lennon’s murder in 1980 led many of these artists to close their homes as a result?

I can highly recommend this book as the type of treasure you can pick up for an insightful and fun tour of homes and people you may not have had access to otherwise unless you go to Graceland or Paisley Park. There is such a wealth of tidbits throughout that you will never get bored.

The misfits who began careers in music never expected to become wealthy. The galaxy of stars in this book represent a small sample of those who did well.

You realize in the end home is where you feel safe and comfortable. This book will make you feel this way and so much more!

Exclusive Funko Pop!

All the retailers that carry the Pop! collectibles offer specific items that are only sold by each outlet. There is currently a George R.R. Martin pop at Barnes & Noble only. This is a B & N exclusive. There is a sticker on the front of the Pop box to indicate this status.

Retailers began exclusive packaging on things like Blu-rays a while back. To increase traffic they started to offer items you could not get online. The treasure hunt aspect of finding a desired item enabled retailers to get some folks away from just clicking their mouse at home.

The demand for certain releases across the collectibles landscape has been quite eye-opening. Last month Amazon offered pre-orders for the new Queen Pops. Now they are only offering third party sellers for them. And the prices can become insane.

If you are lucky to live in a place where there are lots of choice you can usually still find them at a reasonable price.

For exclusives you should check online to see what items are being released. When visiting retailers you can browse through to find their exclusives. Always look for the sticker that says Exclusive.

My local B & N had a Hermione Granger Pop that was an Exclusive from a Funko Pop Convention! The price was $14.95. Cool item.

FYE will have an exclusive Freddie Mercury Pop! A diamond glitter pop styled after the rock icon’s stage wear on Queen’s Rock N America Tour in the summer of 1982 in support of Hot Space. This turned out to be his final US appearances.

Hot Topic carried an exclusive Bellatrix Lestrange pop, a villain in the Harry Potter series.

Store to store; region to region. These factors decide what figures you will find in your local shops. My closest B & N loves Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and the video game Fortnite. These are heavily carried.

Check out your local places first. Then branch out to see what you can find elsewhere.

A B & N Exclusive!

A Hot Topic Exclusive!
FYE Exclusive!

Next Blog: Rock Stars At Home/Book Review

Evan’s Gate/For The Misfits

A picture of yours truly at the TimeWarner Center in New York. 
An exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s art for auction at Southeby’s.

Introducing my blog.

Following 13 entries I decided to create this formal welcome.  For everyone who has ever felt like a misfit.  Perhaps you are living in a part of the country that puts you in the political minority;  you dress differently than what is proscribed; you love music that hardly ever touches the mainstream;  you read a lot;  history is not your story.

I was born in Manhattan in the 1960’s.  My parents are college educated lifelong New Yorkers.  They are still married.  All four of their children including myself were never left wanting.  We are all adults now.  We were middle class.  Our parents were never out of work.  We never went hungry.  Each kid was made to feel loved every day.  I have 2 older brothers and one younger sister.  Raised in The Bronx.  The neighborhood was quite suburban as it was the northernmost part of the city bordered by one of the largest parks. 

We had our struggles.  Politics, music, books, art, and history were all a part of life.  This was not an elite way of life.  A big city has many more resources at its disposal to educate people.  Of course when you are a kid you cannot fully appreciate what it all means.  Then you grow up.  Every day you have more joy than sorrow because you have critical thinking skills that will see you through.

Today we have technology.  If you can write and think critically about a variety of topics and ideas you can blog.

My education was not easy.  Kindergarten through grade 12 in public schools that became increasingly too crowded did not help.  Early exposure to college was great.  I moved away from home for the first time. I was eighteen when I entered college.  My graduation did not happen until decades later.  The politics of the times was not to my liking so I dropped out.  When I did graduate college I was an adult.  My degree was in media studies.  This is my credential for writing about topics ranging from our current media age problems to our political turmoil.  My undying passion for heavy music stems from my dislike of the system.

I am a misfit.  Being gay does not put you into the mainstream.  Things are way better today.  But multitudes of people sacrificed a lot to make it happen.  People who do not fit neatly into the schemes of others are championed here.

Heavy metal music, LGBTQ life, mutlicultural politics, banned books, art, and critiques of our all too powerful media companies are all a  part of this blog.  I love discussing these things.  This is my outlet for protest and greater understanding.  

I hope you will enjoy reading and responding here!  We may be misfits to the outside but here we all fit together.

The Vinyl Record/An Appreciation

Following decades in which there were shiny compact discs a funny thing happened to music.  It went virtual.  No physical presence.  Just lists of albums and songs on several internet platforms.  Music was let loose from solid state records to be transformed into bits of data read by a computer.

iTunes offered thousands of songs for 99 cents.  For about 5 years I loved it.  Then I switched over to Amazon.  Today every digital platform offers flat rate subscriptions for listening to music.  Today I utilize the digital music to decide what to add to my new vinyl record collection!

This is my lifetime hobby.  I appreciate all forms of music.  The record was dominant during my formative years.  Record shops and stores were all around.  There are still shops but the large chains of Tower, HMV, and Virgin have vanished.  Simply put: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.  After several years without vinyl I have a much deeper appreciation for the presence of a physical format.

Records are designed with art on the front and back covers.  Sometimes the inside has decorated sleeves or inserts with liner notes, photos, credits, and lyrics.  Each time you open a new title there is a wonderful element of surprise at work.  And the gleaming new surface of the record has yet to be played.  You feel so much a part of the experience.

Today the fun of collecting records has been enhanced by new technology.  For example, most new titles are pressed on 180 grams of vinyl.  Much sturdier elements than past eras.  This gives much better reproduction of sound.  Not compressed like a digital file it allows the music’s deeper tones to resonate more on playback.

A lot of the classic records of the rock era have been re-issued.  Many of these titles are being pressed onto colored vinyl.  On certain releases you can get red, blue, green, white, purple, yellow, and the rest of the spectrum.  There are even records that have a mixture of different colors.  A novelty to be sure but fun nonetheless.

The range in price is very wide for records.  One of the best web pages for information is disc cogs: http://www.discogs.com .  The site offers an enormous archive of releases plus price information.

Records always make me feel young.  I was a kid when I purchased my first record from a local shop.  The format allows you to seek out great independent shops that exist online and in local communities.  For a guide to where the record shops are in your area go to Goldmine Magazine’s site: https://www.goldminemag.com/record-store-directory.

Future blogs may include more record reviews too.  And now that the holidays are upon us there are a lot of new records!  This includes The Beatles White Album, The Police catalog (5 classic rock albums in all),  Barbra Streisand’s Walls, and  Greta Van Fleet’s debut Anthem of the Peaceful Army.

Life is good at 33 1/3.

vinyl

PhantomFashion 30/Art Review

This year Phantom of the Opera turned 30!  To celebrate theater’s longest-running musical the Museum of the City of New York has a 30 day exhibit of 30 phantom masks that were custom designed. There is a silent auction for each piece.  It runs from October 30th until November 30th.

Visit BroadwayCares.org/Phantom to bid. And now here are some of my favorites in this unique show:

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As you can see they are each one of a kind creations.  Above we see a L.A. inspired mask with palms, sunset, and phantom style graffiti.  Below is Zang Toi’s wonderful white feathered accents perfect for masquerade.

This charitable endeavor was made possible by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Bank of America and The Phantom of the Opera.

Visit broadwaycares.org, http://www.mcny.org, Facebook.com/MuseumofCityNY for more information about this exhibit.

Film Review/ Bohemian Rhapsody

BH***Spoiler Alert:  If you have not seen the film and want to be surprised do not read***

A cinematic telling of Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury’s life with an Oscar worthy performance by Rami Malek ( Emmy winner for Mr. Robot) is sure to please die hard fans while enlightening the naysayers.

This is a chronicle of Queen’s meteoric rise to fame, especially in America where a multitude of rock groups were touring in the 1970’s.  What made them so special?  Surviving members Brian May and Roger Taylor advised the production and   Anthony McCarten’s screenplay weaves quite a spell.  Showing us the extremely hard work, surprising lack of confidence, and spirit it takes to pursue this kind of life.

The Bulsara family emmigrated from Zanzibar to India then eventually settled in the United Kingdom.  They fled a political uprising that targeted muslims and their strict Zoroastrian faith.  Young Freddie Bulsara follows Smile, a club band started by guitarist Brian May, played quite well by  Gwilym Lee  and drummer Roger Taylor, a very nimble and quite handsome  Ben Hardy.   The bassist, John Deacon is portrayed by a perfectly understated  Joseph Mazzello.   Freddie offers his services to the lads who are quite reluctant at the sight of the bucktoothed Parsi immigrant.  Then he sings a verse from the Smile song “Doing All Right” which blows them away.

Being Freddie’s vision, he invites his mates to the house where he announces his decision to pursue rock music.  His parents,  Jer (Meneka Das) and Bomi (Ace Bhatti) are surprised that he has re-christened himself Mercury.  His girlfriend, Mary Austin, played beautifully by Lucy Boynton, encourages him to take more risks.  His father tells him: “good deeds, good words” is the parsi way.  Naturally he cannot understand why his son would turn his back on the education given him to become a pillar of society.

Off they go into the studio to record.  Then they meet EMI records executive Ray Foster ( Mike Myers) who is a hardass that hates the campy Freddie.  He wants another ditty like “Killer Queen”.  He gets the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” instead. He quips, “nobody likes opera”.   A riotous scene that sees our lads beginning to believe in themselves.

There are tender scenes in the film where we can see Freddie’s offstage reality.  Especially with Mary,  whom he plans to marry.  Still too young to face his true nature, he comes out as bisexual, then  Mary bluntly tells him he is actually gay.  This heartbreak will affect the rest of his life.  The ballad, “Love of my Life” was written for her.  The paradox of his life—a gay man pining for a straight existence.

The brilliantly shot concert sequences show Freddie translating their studio creations into live highlights while going through changes, especially when he finally shows up in cropped hair and moustache.  This clone look was his way of coming out.  He trusted audiences to understand his point of view.  Extroverted only on stage; introverted otherwise.

By film’s end the fantasy he had been living collides with reality.  After attempting to leave Queen behind and falling on his face, Freddie begs forgiveness.  The Live Aid concert is looming.  His mates are told of his limited future by Freddie himself.  His mortality is kept private.  The performance at Live Aid is one for the ages.  As a band, Queen rekindled the magic they had prior and surged forward to fight to the very end.

 

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.