A few thoughts about David Bowie

david bowie

David Bowie, 1949-2016

The death of a celebrity is not something I would usually write about. However, David Bowie died today at age 69, and I’m deeply saddened by it.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, Bowie was an ever-present talent. From his starchild Ziggy Stardust persona to the Thin White Duke, he was ever changing in style. When New Wave hit the airwaves in the early 80s, he was already there with Scary Montsters.

He was one of the handful or artists that inspired me to learn to play guitar and try to write songs.

Bowie will live forever. He gave us decades of music, from folk to classic rock to avant garde.

Honestly, I have nothing poignant to say, no epiphany to share. I loved the man’s sense of style and his music. My favorite album by Bowie is Hunky Dory. If you’ve never listened to it, check it out.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through – “Changes”

You will be missed starman …


New Batman v Superman Trailer is Basically the Entire Movie

Honestly, I thought about writing my thoughts about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I think my fellow Reynolds School of Journalism classmate Kyle Wise echoed many of my thoughts. Like The Force Awakens, I want a good movie. If J.J. Abrams is keeping the secrets of Star Wars a little too close to the vest, Warner Brothers seems to be doing the opposite with Dawn of Justice.

Source: New Baman v Superman Trailer is Basically the Entire Movie

Will anticipation kill The Force Awakens?

Star Wars fans waited in anticipation. The trailer for the new Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace, was going to premiere in theaters. First, rumors spread that the trailer would be attached to Wing Commander, also a 20th Century Fox film. Then, the rumors, and later confirmed reports, placed it in front of Meet Joe Black.

The anticipation for this new trailer in November of 1998 was huge. I went to see Wing Commander hoping to see the trailer. Instead, I saw a bunch of trailers to movies I didn’t care about. And I had to watch Wing Commander.

Phantom Menace Darth Maul

In retrospect, Darth Maul was still a badass!

As a New York Times article reported at the time, people bought tickets to Meet Joe Black, watched The Phantom Menace trailer, and left before Brad Pitt ever walked on screen. Also, the response to the trailer was incredibly positive.

Now, of course, everyone says they knew The Phantom Menace would stink – a sentiment I still don’t exactly agree with. The Phantom Menace is a weak film, but still has a lot to offer. Roger Ebert wrote a very positive review of the film, stating:

What [George Lucas] does have, in abundance, is exhilaration. There is a sense of discovery in scene after scene of “The Phantom Menace,” as he tries out new effects and ideas, and seamlessly integrates real characters and digital ones, real landscapes and imaginary places. We are standing at the threshold of a new age of epic cinema, I think, in which digital techniques mean that budgets will no longer limit the scope of scenes; filmmakers will be able to show us just about anything they can imagine.

And while it’s easy to look at Rotten Tomatoes and see all the negative reviews, most of them are in hindsight. A review written a decade after The Phantom Menace has its value, but it fails to represent the zeitgeist of the era in which The Phantom Menace was released. Looking back at the reviews featured on Rotten Tomatoes, a pattern emerges, especially in reviews from the time the film was released, the mixed reviews included some that hated the film and others that loved the film.

Kylo Ren the force awakens star wars

You see Darth Maul had a double-edged light saber. Kylo Ren has a broad-sword-style light saber. Originality has no end!

Yet, here we are again, 16 years after The Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars film made without the input of George Lucas, is being released in a few weeks. Fans on YouTube and on online forums have praised the trailers. The anticipation grows. Many fans have said this will finally wash the bad taste of the prequels out humanity’s collective consciousness. However, I believe fan reaction will be similar to the prequels. At first, there will be excitement. Then, derision.

I worry that fan expectation will ruin the new Star Wars films.

Star Wars has become something bigger than a series of movies, with books, comics, toys, video games, and pajamas attached. It has become a religion for many. Fans have built an expectation of what they individually believe Star Wars should be. If Jesus came back today, would he be accepted by the gun-worshiping conservatives, who out of one side of their mouth worship him as the Prince of Peace, yet walk around fanning the flames of violence? Or would Jesus, who taught that the Jewish law would last forever, be accepted by liberal Christians who believe in multiple paths to God? The point is this – Star Wars cannot please all fans. Many, nearly all, fans I read on the Internet, say the new movies need to be more adult because Star Wars needs to mature with them as they get older.

Bullshit! Are fans who discovered Star Wars in the late 80s or early 90s really saying that Star Wars needs to mature at the rate they mature? I was there, May 1977, at my local theater. I was eight and wanted to see this new movie. It was like a born again experience when that little ship was chased by that gigantic triangular star ship. For me to say that Star Wars needs to be in line with my near-50 mentality and exclude everyone else is a sign of religious zeal and not a love of the films.

And for those who somehow think Rogue One is going to be the adult Star Wars film, I have one word: Disney.

I appreciate the anticipation for The Force Awakens. I’m not writing this to say that I think it will be bad. I like a lot of what I’ve seen in the trailers. I want it to be an amazing experience. However, it is being made by Disney, which is mainly in the business of branding. And the signs are there that this is a film made to meet “fan” expectation. Nearly every scene in the trailers mirrors something from the original trailer. Hell, the poster shows that we are getting a new, improved Death Star. It was good enough for two movies, why not three? Screw originality!

And I like J.J. Abrams, but his theatrical films have been derivative at best. Mission Impossible III was good, but it was a sequel. His Star Trek films run from the very entertaining, but stupid, first film and the atrocity that is Star Trek into Darkness. Neither film had much respect for the 40-plus years fans had invested in the characters. Elements like Khan and tribbles were thrown in, not to please fans, but because the general population knows those things, and not much else. As a matter of fact, both of Abrams’ Star Trek films demonstrate a clear disrespect for fans, who don’t represent enough money to cater to, and the general public, which the films seems to believe are too shallow to want any real emotions in their movies.

But, in his defense, Abrams had little to do with the writing on those films. In the special features for Star Trek into Darkness, he seems professional about the process of making the film, yet never shows a real enthusiasm toward the series. With the Star Wars series, he seems more involved, not just as a filmmaker, but as someone who loves the galaxy far, far away.

I sympathize with the anticipation fans are showing toward the new Star Wars films. As fans, we have been told almost nothing about the new film. I hope everyone involved knocks it out of the park, pleasing critics, fans, and kids.

And by the way, if you are not watching Star Wars Rebels, why not? The animated series is pure Star Wars, yet introduces new concepts and ideas. It’s geared toward a young audience, pre-teens and early teens, yet has compelling stories, great action, and wonderful characters. At 47, should I be embarrassed that I’m watching something on Disney XD? I don’t think so. It sucks me into the adventure every time. Hopefully The Force Awakens will do the same.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Presenting Infecto!

infectoImmunize Nevada is a “coalition of individual, business and organization partners committed to improving and protecting the health of children, teens, adults & seniors in Nevada,” according to its website.

A friend of mine on Facebook who works for the advertising agency handling Immunize Nevada, posted a picture of the blue germ above and offered a $25 Amazon gift card to whoever came up with the best name for this mascot, who will appear in videos and promotional materials.

I saw some of the entries on Facebook and, while very clever, were incredibly long or too tied into other well-known intellectual properties.

I came up with Infecto, which won, I believe because of its simplicity. I’m happy to help out.

So what did I spend my $25 Amazon gift card on? I picked up Shout Factory‘s excellent blu-rays of Escape from New York and the Roger Corman “classic” Death Race 2000.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wood hands at the Lear

Lear theater Reno wooden hands

The Lear Theater is about a block away from my apartment on 1st Street and Ralston in Reno, Nevada. After years of inactivity, I’m glad to see it finally being used.

When they put up these giant wooden hands, however, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It looks like they are about ready to grope a giant set of wooden breasts.

Strange things amuse me. I’m a very, very lonely man.

Michael Lucido’s raccoon fort invades downtown Reno

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown renoLet me start this post by saying that I’m back in Reno and I couldn’t be happier. I spent the last ten months in Massachusetts and endured one of the worst winter’s on record. An aspect of Reno I missed is the City’s interest in local artists and businesses.

As I walked past 1st and Arlington, heading to get a cup of coffee, I saw this artwork by Mike Lucido, which he has titled Raccoon Fort. It’s a three-sided painting, apparently commissioned by the city of Reno, featured on a city power box (or whatever it is).

I vaguely recall Radcliff Raccoon’s political run for Reno’s Trash and Sewer Connoisseur.

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown reno 3My son, 15, and I walk past Raccoon Fort frequently, and it always gets a smile out of both of us. Lucido’s style, not that I’m an expert, is rooted in a cartoon style, reminding me a lot of old-school Warner Bros. — especially Tex Avery and Robert McKimson. And I can’t help but see some John Kricfalusi tossed into the mix. But then, I’m a John K. fan, so I think of Ren & Stimpy when I’m watching Interstellar.

This simple piece of art reminds me why I enjoy Reno.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Album Review: Hand.Cannot.Erase by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson Hand.Cannot.Erase Released March 3, 2015 Kscope Music

Steven Wilson
Released March 3, 2015
Kscope Music

Joyce Carol Vincent died when she was 38. She died with the television and heat running in her London flat. Two years later, her body was discovered, the heat and the television still running. It would be easy to write-off Joyce as some recluse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She had friends. She had family. Everyone just forgot her.

It is this sad story that Steven Wilson uses as his concept for Hand.Cannot.Erase, an album about loneliness, the fading of relationships, and the hope of getting together with family. While Wilson isn’t telling Joyce’s story, in the biographical sense, he is presenting the basics as little pieces of his protagonist’s life.

You can be someone’s child. You can be someone’s best friend. You can be someone’s sibling. And you can be forgotten. Maybe you want to reconnect with friends and family, but “the years pass by like trains.” That’s the message of Hand.Cannot.Erase.

It took me three weeks to find this album. Yes, I could have ordered it on Amazon, paid a few extra dollars for shipping, and had it in a few days. That’s not what I wanted though. I wanted to get that little thrill that comes from picking up something new and unknown, going home, and listening to it. I had to travel 20 miles to find and Björk’s new album Vulnicura.

The is a gorgeous sounding album. As a multi-instrumentalist, Wilson is amazing. Wilson boldly displays his influences, with 70s progressive rock taking center stage. While most of the music is very good, if not excellent, much of it also seems familiar. “3 Years Older” sounds like Wind and Wuthering era Genesis with a little Yes thrown into the mix. “Regret #9” features a Moog solo that sounds like something from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. “Home Invasion” sounds like King Crimson. I found myself doing these comparisons a lot throughout the album.

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Wilson’s voice is fine, but unspectacular. It doesn’t stand out like a Jon Anderson or John Wetton, but neither is it grating. Fortunately, the album features Ninet Tayeb’s lovely voice on “Routine,” and Katherine Jenkins does a great spoken word performance in “Perfect Life,” my favorite track on the album.

If it sounds like I didn’t care for Hand.Cannot.Erase, that’s not the case. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Rarely does musicianship of this level get a chance to shine. Wilson’s talented and, as a whole, this is a very good album. But I do think it is getting too much praise by reviewers. The songwriting is not always strong and many of the songs sound a little too much like Wison’s influences.

And I recommend it, especially if you enjoy ambitious music. Wilson isn’t making a pop album or a set of dance tunes. He’s presenting a concept album about a regular human being who died and was forgotten. In a musical era where it seems like we are in a race to the bottom, I have nothing but respect for what Steven Wilson is doing in Hand.Cannot.Erase, even when the end result is less than perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.