When Dream and Day Disunite

When Dream and Day Disunite

Jul 27


That’s an eleven-minute video, but just watch it, okay? Or if you must watch only a part, start from the 4:00 mark and see the cool soloing.

On an instrument-by-instrument basis, there isn’t a better rock band in the world than Dream Theater.

I’ve been boycotting Dream Theater for the past few years because the band dismissed its founding (and my favorite) member, Mike Portnoy. Someday I will come around and listen to the material with the new drummer, Mike Mangini, who by all accounts is doing quite well. I also suspect that Portnoy will be back with the band some time, maybe in the distant future, but eventually. Maybe I’ll loosen up then.

Bands change members, especially metal bands and progressive rock bands, and DT is a progressive metal band, so of course it’s doubly vulnerable. It’s been through three (excellent) keyboardists, for one thing, but the lineup had been very stable for a long time, through the band’s best stretch of albums. And I did not take kindly to the decision by the band to move on without its creative heart.

Their recorded output is enormous, and I only own a few albums and a couple of official bootlegs, so I think I’ll take this time in the interim to relax my boycott a little and fill in my collection of pre-Mangini DT.

James LaBrie, the lead singer, is probably the weakest link, and the only member of the classic lineup you wouldn’t put in the top twenty at his instrument.

Mike Portnoy is an unbelievable, versatile, expressive, thoughtful drummer. Easily one of the best, perhaps the second best in rock and roll, behind Rush’s Neil Peart.

John Petrucci is one of the underpraised guitarists. What always blows me away about his playing is how effortless hemakes it look.

I imagine that John Myung on bass guitar is, now that Portnoy isn’t in the band, the musical center of almost everything the band does. He must now the sound of DT (I wouldn’t know because I haven’t heard it!). And what a player!

And Jordan Rudess on keys is the best in the world. There was a point in the past few years where he surpassed Rick Wakeman.

Such an amazing collection of musicians. I’m thinking of them this morning because I received in the mail two official bootlegs. One is Dream Theater performing Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast album in its entirety, live in concert, and the other is Dream Theater performing Metallica’s Master of Puppets album live in its entirety. Two amazing performances.

Stream of Consciousness: Grammys

Stream of Consciousness: Grammys

Feb 09

Performance: The quality of an AC/DC performance hinges on Brian Johnson’s ability to sound semi-close to his records, something he doesn’t always pull off. But he did it this time. Angus seemed a little lackluster, but I’m cutting him slack because he’s like seventy. I was curious about who was on rhythm guitar and it turns out it’s Stevie Young, a nephew of Angus and Malcolm, so that’s cool.

Best new artist: Please, not Iggy and not Sam. Ugh. It’s Sam. HE SUCKS! Man, would I have loved to see Bastille get that, but it’s amazing enough that Bastille was nominated.

Performance: Jessie J with Tom Jones doing “Unchained Melody.” I hate this song. I don’t have issues with the singers. I just hate that song. Fast-forwarding.

Best Pop Solo: It’s a great field. I’d vote for Taylor’s “Shake it Off.” It goes to…Pharrell for “Happy (live).” Ah well.

Performance: Miranda Lambert, “Little Red Wagon” or something like that. She’s hot, but this just isn’t my cup of tea. I’m going to let this play while I get a snack.

Best Pop Vocal: Please, anyone but Sam. Dang it.

Performance: Kanye. Kanye is a songwriting, producing genius, but he really can’t sing or rap. Pretty good performance tonight. I like this. “You’re not perfect, but you’re not your mistakes.”

Performance: Madonna. OH MY GOODNESS LOOK AT THOSE LEGS. The song isn’t great, and her singing has been better, but this performance is sizzling.

Best rock album: I already know Beck won this because I saw it on Twitter. Not a bad choice. I would rather it had gone to U2.

Best R&B Performance: Well here my prejudices show. I don’t know any of these songs. Beyonce and Jay-Z take it, and I have no meaningful comment.

Performance: Ed Sheeran with Herbie Hancock, ?uestlove, and others. Good performance. And a really good song. These guys really laid it down.

Peformance: Wow, what the heck? ELO doing “Evil Woman.” That’s a curveball I didn’t see coming. And now Ed Sheeran rejoins him and they do “Mr. Blue Sky” together. This is EXCELLENT. Geez, that really was great.

Performance: Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani. This is…well, it’s okay so far.

Performance: Hozier. Ugh. I haaaaaate this song. I’m fast-forwarding. Ah heck. I was fast-forwarding and I saw Annie Lennox. Now I have to go back and watch the whole thing. Eh. It was okay.

Best Country Album: My hormones want Brandy Clark to win this. And…Miranda Lambert. I can live with that.

Performance: Pharrell. Yeah. It’s fine.

Performance: Something about domestic violence, introduced by the President. I’m fast-forwarding over this too. It’s a bit melodramatic for me.

Performance: Katy Perry. Sorry. I like her but I can’t get into this song or this performance. This is this year’s version of last year’s same-sex marriage moment with Macklemore and Queen Latifah. I think there’s a way to pull this off in a sincere, effective way, but the Grammys haven’t found it yet.

Performance: Imagine Dragons. They were one of the buzziest bands after last year’s ceremony. This is fine.

Performance: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I’ve already heard them perform this together (I think it was on Jon Stewart). Gaga basically holds the song together while Tony does his usual thing.

Performance: Usher. It’s okay.

Performance: Eric Church. Also okay.

Performance: Brandy Clark. This is more like it.

What happened to the awards?

Performance: Kanye, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney. This actually works well. I’m enjoying this.

Performance: Sam Smith with Mary J. Blige. I hate this song. I’m fast-forwarding over it.

Performance: Juanes, “Juntos.” This is kind of cool.

Album of the Year: Please, please, please. Anyone but Sam Smith. Wow, Beck. Totally unexpected.

Performance: Sia. She was a disappointment on SNL. Okay, this is bizarre but it’s really, really cool. I am not a fan of that dancing stuff she keeps employing with this album, but the singing with her face to the wall? Very neat. The stage set is cool too. And what a finish. Wow.

Song of the Year: “Stay with Me.” Bleah.

Dave Grohl reads a thank-you to David Letterman. That’s kind of cool.

Performance: Beck. With no turntables and a microphone. Is that Chris Martin singing with him?

Record of the Year: Please not Sam Smith. Suck! Aw suckity suck suck.

In Memoriam: Andrae Crouch. Pete Seeger. Big Bank Hank. Gerry Goffin. Paco de Lucia. I didn’t know about Paco and Big Bank. Gotta Google those.

Performance: Beyonce. She’s great. But this is just okay. I think the Grammys these past two years have been stricken with a bad case of the Seriousnesses.

Geez. That was a huge waste of time, and the show basically sucked. It had a few good moments, but all in all it was kind of a yawn.

Your Precious Time Slips Away

Your Precious Time Slips Away

Jan 09

I’m sitting in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in a space that once, in my glorious youth, housed one of the best standalone movie theaters in town. It was as close as you could get to all the good stuff in town without going into Waikiki, which most of us who live here generally try to avoid. When the big movies opened on this island, they opened in Waikiki or at one of the two nearby standalones, and this was the better (less storied) theater. Smaller, but not a zoo. I saw Back to the Future in the theater that used to be right where I’m having a glass of iced tea. I work here a lot lately, and my writing partner and I often meet here to go over our work (or just write), and it always makes me a little wistful.

My uncle is visiting for the week, and tonight is the big dinner with the whole family, which is basically my parents, my sister, her two kids, my uncle, and me. We used to be a huge family, but that’s changed with this current generation. Sorry, mom and dad.

My mom made reservations at a hotel restaurant. I generally like hotel restaurants, as overpriced as they usually are, and I’ve been to this one as a chaperone for a school event, and it’s right in the area where I’ve been spending my working hours lately, so that’s convenient. My parents offered to pick me up at home (I live between their house and the hotel) but I reminded them that I usually work in cafes now, so I’d just meet them there.

Doing the Friday 5 this week, or as much as I can get in before I have to head over there.

  1. What’s a song that reminds you of your parents?
    This one’s a challenge because my mother’s from Japan, and while she likes a lot of popular, older American songs, they tend to be of the Perry Como variety, while my father is fonder of the pre-British-Invasion stuff like the Four Seasons and the Fifth Dimension. So a song that reminds me of my mom is “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” (You know the one: “What is a youth? Impetuous fire! What is a maid? Ice and desire…). A song that always reminds me of my dad is just about anything Fifth Dimension, especially “Age of Aquarius.” A song that reminds me of both is perhaps “Cupid,” a song I once had a lengthy argument with them about, while in the car on a late-night ride home. It was the number one song on pop radio in Hawaii at the time, and I expressed surprise when my dad hummed along with it when it came on the radio. My mom thought I was crazy for insisting it was a new song; I said this had to be a new version of some old song they knew, but they insisted that it was exactly the song they knew. They turned out to be right.
  2. What’s a song that makes you think of food?
    “Eat It” by Weird Al comes to mind, but “That’s Amore” always makes me want to eat pizza.
  3. What’s a memorable song from a movie soundtrack?
    Oh, man. There are so many. But one recent extremely memorable song is REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment,” which plays over the closing credits of Grown Ups 2, which I have reviewed in this space and wasn’t a very good film at all. But it sounded to my ears like a classic REO rocker, and for some reason I’d never heard it! It’s on the same album as “One Lonely Night,” a song I hate. It’s an excellent, excellent choice for the closing credits, one that I think says something about Adam Sandler’s mindset in making the movie. I had a similar experience with Soul Asylum’s “Misery,” which plays over the closing credits of Clerks 2, another movie that’s not very good even though I love Kevin Smith. In fact, the choice of this song to play over those credits is genius, and it helps me see the film as something other than what I think most people see. I plan to write an essay on this someday, so enough on that for now.
  4. What was your favorite song from 2014?
    I have a whole post dedicated to this topic coming up soon, but I’ll spoil the list and say “Invisible” by U2 is easily the best song of the year, but there are a couple of great songs off the new Foo Fighters album totally worth several spins.
  5. What are your favorite songs for when you’re behind the wheel?
    If it’s a long drive, “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band. I’m also fond of “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Roll with the Changes” by REO Speedwagon, “Come Sail Away” by Styx, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, and almost anything by the Eagles.

Okay. It’s 5:14 and the reservation is for 5:30, so I’d better get going.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Meme

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Meme

Jul 14

Bunch of memes to end the weekend.

Sunday Stealing:

One Thing …..
that makes you smile:
Puppies.

that makes you cry:
Expressions of kindness.

that you love to do on the weekends:
Sleep in.

that you do for only yourself:
I’m going with swimming at the beach, even though I haven’t done much of that since the end of January.

that you have in your underwear drawer that’s NOT underwear:
Cobwebs. I don’t put my clothes in my dresser anymore; it’s only got clothes in it that I haven’t worn in years, plus a few spiders.

that you do before going to sleep:
Set the alarm.

that you do within the first 15 minutes after waking:
Check my phone for messages and notifications.

that’s in your purse:
I don’t have a purse, but in my backpack there is a phone charger, among a few other things.

that you actually LIKE to clean:
I like washing my hair after a swim.

that you DETEST cleaning:
Ah. Windows.

that other people would find odd about you:
I hate getting food on my hands, so I eat potato chips from the bag in a peculiar way: usually with chopsticks.

that you would buy if I handed you a $100 bill:
Food first, since this has been a Weekend of Extreme Frugality.

that you feel you HAVE to do before you die:
There’s one thing that leaps to mind but I think it’s inappropriate for this space, so I’m going with publish a novel.


I changed my mind. I feel like writing, but the memes don’t really interest me right now, and there isn’t anything on my mind worth jotting down here. Maybe I’ll just type whatever I’m thinking for a few moments.

My former boss gave me Season 1 of The Newsroom for Christmas and I finally got around to watching the first six episodes (of ten). It’s quite good. I’d seen Alison Pill in a few things before, but I had no idea she had this in her. She’s the frenetic center of a great cast, including Jeff Daniels and a surprising Sam Waterson. Looking forward to finishing the season, then watching it again with the commentaries. Then probably getting myself Season 2.

The new Yes album was scheduled to be released July 8, but Wikipedia says July 16, and Amazon says July 22. So darn. I’m really looking forward to it. The last album was great, one of my favorites, and this one’s got a new singer. Sometimes a thing like that is what a band of old guys like Yes needs in order to jolt it into something fresh.

I’ve had the same two Netflix DVDs in my possession since the middle of March. I decided, when I rejoined the service a couple of years ago, that I wasn’t going to stress about getting my money’s worth, because that’s what ruined the experience for me the first time. I don’t want this concept of getting my money’s worth to dictate what I will watch or when I will watch it. Just having access to the service is worth the few bucks per month it costs me, the way you pay for the availability of cable television even when you don’t watch it. Still, four months is kind of ridiculous. I finally just ripped both movies (Tiger Eyes and About Time) to my laptop and I’ll watch them sometime this week (then delete them, of course). Time to get past this stasis and get something new in my mailbox. Satisfaction (with Justine Bateman) and Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) are up next.

I recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (I read Looking for Alaska a couple of months ago) and look forward to Shailene Woodley in the main character’s role in the film. Green is a good writer, but boy is his style ostentatious. I’m re-reading Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, one of my favorite books, and it is reminding me of what I want to accomplish as a writer. It’s funny, because my writing partner made me read Looking for Alaska, so I made her read Criss Cross. Neither of us likes the other’s book nearly as much as the one we each recommended.

Almost 1:00 in the morning and the laundry is finally done. About to hit the sack. Here’s to a good week.

Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-NOW

Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-NOW

May 06

no words strong enoughSometimes this is how I listen to music: something makes me think of a song. I want to hear the song. If I know it’s in my iTunes, I’ll play it. If something else in that artist’s list looks good, I’ll play that too. More often, I scroll down the artists list and add stuff to the queue (via the wonderful “add to up next” feature). Since the artists list is alphabetized, it often looks like the playlist of an alphabet-themed radio program, the sort new DJs at KTUH often liked to put together. I’d often be in the record library, looking for cool stuff for my program, and another DJ would come in, and I’d say, “Who’s this on the air?” And the other DJ would say, “That’s Keri. It’s her first show. She’s doing an alphabet show.”

One of the personal blogs I most enjoy is by the pseudonymed ThirtyWhat, who jumped into the Friday 5 sometime last year and has been the top of my must-read list ever since. She had the crappiest of years, and as you know, most personal blogs are their best when someone is really going through awful stuff. She’s much happier now, which is of course preferable, even if it means the blogging is not as gripping. It’s okay; she’s a really good writer so it’s all cool.

ThirtyWhat misattributed the lyrics to a Santana song as being by Steve Winwood, the irresistibly singable “I’m Winning.” I had to give it a listen, so into my iTunes I went. Listened to it twice, then to Santana’s “Europa,” which is of course that band’s best song. Then I did the scrolly thing and played some Sara Bareilles, Sarah Jarosz, Savatage, and Scorpions. And then I just stayed there.

When the Scorpions’ Blackout album came out, I was just making the switch from top 40 AM pop radio to FM rock, as I have documented in this space a few times. The local rock station played a LOT of songs from that album, and I bought it the next year and listened to it until I could sing along with the whole album. It’s probably one of the finest albums of its genres; I’d put it up there with Pyromania and that’s about it. From beginning to end, it is just endlessly listenable. The Scorpions’ proclivity for slower songs puts it a notch below Pyromania (I don’t like slow songs in this genre nearly as much as fast songs), but a slow Scorpions song is almost always ten times better than a slow Def Leppard song (exception: “Foolin'”), and you can’t even compare the soloing. I keep forgetting what a musically skilled band the Scorpions is.

I’ve had that album stuck on repeat for a few days, and am listening to it right now. It’s been thirty-two years since the album’s release and boy do I feel old.

I met with my writing partner yesterday and got very little done. I am behind on my paid writing and that’s making it hard to think of anything else. So the first draft of my novel is still not quite done. I’ll finish it sometime this week. Meanwhile, articles on work-life balance and team-building need to get done!

Holiday Distress

Holiday Distress

Dec 21

I’ve been silent lately mostly because I have so much to say and don’t think I ever have enough time to get it all down.  And that’s a self-defeating approach because the longer I wait, the more I’ve got to say, and the more time I need.  I’ve decided just to get a little down every day until I think I’m caught up.  What follows was begun almost a week ago; I’m going to just wrap that up and go into whatever the next thing is that leaps to the forefront.

# #

I should say, for the benefit of real-life friends who might happen to be reading this, that what I’m about to scribble in this space is not a complaint.  And it’s not about you.

This time of year is stressful for just about everyone, for students especially, but for their teachers as well, and even for those of us who have nothing to do with academia.  It’s the closing of a year, and closing time is always hectic.  It’s a season of obligation, and obligation can be stressful, even when we submit to it willingly and with love.

Gift-giving is a financial stress; there’s almost no way around that.  It can also be a relational stress.  Then, of course, are the stresses that come with the whole family togetherness thing.  I love my family dearly, but getting together with it can be majorly stressful.

Despite it all, I love the season, and I love the gift-giving, and I even love most of the familial togetherness.  I like the parties, and the lights, and goodwill toward men.

But man: the whole social aspect of it is the real stress, which I can say now that my career has allowed me (usually) to spend the kind of money that satisfies my gift-giving preferences.  I realize I’m super-super blessed to be more stressed by the (mostly free) getting together with loved ones than by the financial burden of gift-giving (‘though believe me: it’s not entirely stress-free), but the full awareness of that blessing doesn’t subtract from the toll it exacts, which is significant.

I had two friends visiting from the mainland last week, two friends I would have spent as much time with as possible.  If either had been available every day for two weeks, that’s what I would have wanted to spend.  In this case, it was one evening with one friend and two evenings with the other.  Then I had a writers group meeting.  And then a NaNoWriMo Thank-God-It’s-Over get-together, and a social send-off for one of my bosses, and there’s something else in there that I’m forgetting.

That’s a lot of socializing, and boy is it a drain on my energy.

I’ve just deleted three paragraphs’ worth of expounding on why it seems easier to socialize with people I barely know than with people who know me very well.  I felt like I was reasoning myself in circles and could no longer figure out what I was trying to get at.  Perhaps another time.

The main point is this, though: The extra time spent socializing at this time of year means even more alone time required than usual, and time seems to be in such short supply in months beginning with D.  It is perhaps another reason January is so much the better month for me.

# #

I am determined not to wait forever this year to compile my best-of-2013 music selections.  I don’t know why I always (always!) drag it out into the new year.  It annoys me that I do this.  So I’m setting a deadline of this coming Friday.  I am writing four lists: an overall best-of, a best-of metal, a best-of non-metal, and a best tracks.  The best tracks thing is just about done; I’ve been pretty good about keeping track all year of the songs that really did something for me.  Albums are just harder to keep straight, partially because they require so much more time to listen to, but also because there’s more to remember about each one.  Ask me about Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and I’ll have ten things to say about the one track.  Ask me about The National’s <i>Trouble Will Find Me</i>, and without some time to give the album another spot-listen, the best I can come back with is something like: it’s overall a better album than <i>High Violet</i> but doesn’t have lyrical highlights for you to hang onto.  Which isn’t enough, really, to base my year-end thoughts upon.