Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews!

Sunday Chuckle: Too Many Mikes

Hi!  I’m Mike!

Some people call me LeBrain.  Some of my friends in the radio community call me LaLoofah.  It doesn’t matter, I’ll answer to those, but I’m a Mike.  Always have been, since I was born actually.

As readers generally know by now, my radio friend Craig over at 107.5 DaveRocks has nicknames for most of his listeners.  He also likes to claim that he has “only 3.5 regular listeners” according to the last surveys.  I’m one, and there’s another one named “Ass Kisser Mike”.  Sometimes people mix the two of us up.  I’ve met Ass Kisser Mike.  He’s a really nice guy.  We actually met recently at a protest.  (You can read all about that here.)  At the time, I jokingly said that we should take a picture together to prove we’re not the same person.  However there was a lot going on and we never took the picture.

Fast forward to the April 12 2017 instalment of the Craig Fee Show.  Another Mike called in, a new Mike.  Craig feigned disbelief, he couldn’t have three callers named Mike out of 3.5 listeners, could he?  This led Craig to start the rumour that I and Ass Kisser Mike are the same person.  Fake news!  He also speculated that Ass Kisser Mike’s righteous beard may be fake.  And of course, I could not produce a photo of the two of us together.

I assure you, my faithful readers.  LeBrain and Ass Kisser Mike are two different people.  One day I’ll get a photo to prove it!

Not an actual photo of LeBrain and Ass Kisser Mike

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Accidental Courtesy (2016)

ACCIDENTAL COURTESY (2016 PBS)

Directed by Matthew Ornstein

I’ve done it, and you have probably done it too:  Getting in an argument online with a total stranger over racially charged politics.  We live in new times.  It’s the era of Trump, Trayvon, and Mike Brown.  We live in the years of racial profiling and travel bans.  Just when we think we’ve made amazing strides including the first black US president, we seem to be heading backwards just as fast.

Daryl Davis is a musician.  Most notably, he was the keyboardist in Chuck Berry’s band.  He’s played with B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Platters, and knows all the greats.  He’s a very talented but also intelligent and compassionate man.  Upon watching Accidental Courtesy, I wondered if music really is his first calling.  It seems that Davis’ true talents may just be sitting down and talking.  “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting,” says Daryl.

Although this movie is about a musician, it’s not about the music.  Music does play a small role.  The first time Davis experienced race-related hate, he was the only black child in an otherwise white marching band, and didn’t understand why things were thrown at him.  He thought, maybe they were playing the music poorly.  His parents had to explain to him, “They don’t like you because of the colour of your skin.”  Life was never the same after that.

Accidental Courtesy isn’t about his music career, but about what Daryl Davis has done with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.  Since 1990, Davis has sat with various members of the KKK, both high ranking and rank-and-file.  Very few people can rival Davis for his knowledge of the Klan’s history and practices, so much so that Klan members have even approached him to learn.  Over long periods of time, after truly and sincerely befriending Davis regardless of his race, 26 Klansmen eventually turned in their robes to him and gave up the Klan.

It’s bizarre to see men who don’t believe in the mixing of races show up at Davis’ wedding to a white woman, to celebrate with him.  His friendship with them trumped their belief system.  It’s strange to see a black man invited into a KKK home, and vice versa.  It’s certainly unusual to see a fully robed KKK wizard sitting and shaking hands with a black man, simply enjoying conversation and company.

In the film, Davis also sits with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who seem less moved by his “person to person” method of combating hate.  They prefer to use a bigger stick.  What was surprising is how much flak he took from representatives from Black Lives Matter in Baltimore.  Here, he was mocked by two dropout activists for “only” converting 26 KKK members since 1990.  What was especially shocking was that the Black Lives Matter reps refused to continue to the conversation.   To them, he was worse than a white racist; to them he betrayed the cause.  All these white supremacists were willing to sit down and shake hands with Davis, but Black Lives Matter gave him the most difficult time.  They actually got up from the table and berated and belittled him before cutting the conversation off completely.  He was even treated with more respect by the KKK leader who refused to acknowledge the holocaust and said that blacks should be grateful to whites for freeing them.  It’s troublesome to think on what that means.

Certainly not everyone approves of the methods of Daryl Davis.  But in this day and age of social media, it’s more important than ever to talk.  Not online, not on Facebook, Daryl advises.  In person, where people can get to know each other, see each others faces and expressions, actually get to know one another.  Talk to each other, instead of talking at each other.  In this film, Davis asks questions, but rarely lectures.  Davis’ technique is simply to ask what makes people tick.  “How can you hate me when you don’t know me?” is a good opener.  He finds out what makes them think the way they do.  There is always more to the story than appears on the surface.  There is always a root cause.

Some felt Daryl did more harm that good with his methods.  Some feel he has betrayed his own people.  But, as Daryl says in the film, whites and blacks and people of all races must share America together.  That’s why we have to talk and figure out how to co-exist.  If he could convince an Imperial Wizard to hang up his robes, that is one small step to making the world a better place.  Black Lives Matter and the Southern Poverty Law Center have their own methods.  That does not negate the inroads that Davis made, just by talking.

There doesn’t seem to be much accidental about Daryl Davis’ courtesy.  It’s all very much on purpose.  Davis has a rich tapestry of friends behind him, some of whom have given up on hate.  If they can, why can’t everybody?

4/5 stars

#560: Seize the Day

GETTING MORE TALE #560: Seize the Day

It started in early 2008.  It probably really began much earlier than that, but January 2008 was when I knew something was very wrong.

Jen and I were looking forward to getting married in August.  She was still living in Brampton, and coming to visit me in Kitchener on weekends.  Things seemed fine, until they weren’t.  She seemed tired a lot.  She slept a lot of the days and was up until late in the night.  She seemed depressed.  Then one day I noticed something really, really odd.

We used to enjoy playing Nintendo Wii all the time.  Her favourite game was called Find Mii.  It was a simple “Where’s Waldo” style of game.  You had to find certain people in crowds.  Jen was the master of Find Mii.  I saw her finish the game a few times.  She was unbeatable and had several winning strategies.  There was one level where you had to choose a particular Wii character, and then a few levels later, you would have to identify that person in a crowd scene.  It made sense to pick a character who stands out in a crowd, like one with a colourful hat.  When Jen hit that level she picked the most generic character to find later.  I thought that was odd.

Find Mii

“Why did you pick that one?” I asked.  “That will be hard to find in a crowd.”

She didn’t answer.  She didn’t even notice I was speaking.  I just sat and watched her.  She continued playing.

When she got to the level where she had to pick out the character she had chosen earlier, she was very confused.

“What?” she said.  “I didn’t pick anybody yet.”

“Yes you did,” I answered.  “Don’t you remember?  I thought it was strange that you picked such an ordinary looking character.”

“No I didn’t…” she answered but there was worry in her voice.

I had my suspicions.  I got with her parents and we eventually talked her into going to see the doctor.  She was very resistant.  I can understand this.  Nobody likes finding out there is something wrong with them.  It’s frightening.  But so is watching someone you love suffering.

Nobody was particularly surprised when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.  It fit what we were seeing.  What I had witnessed was what the doctor called an “absence seizure”.  I call it “zoning out” because that’s how it looks to an outsider.  It looks like someone has completely spaced out, staring at nothing.

I thought, optimistically, that a neurologist would put Jen on some medication and she would be OK.  Most people are.  I had a friend who also had “zone out” seizures, but when he took his medication he was fine.  When it comes to Jen’s health I always try to be optimistic.  It could, after all, have been a whole lot worse.  Unfortunately my optimism was misplaced.  This was not going to be an easy fix.

There have been so many ups and downs since that day in 2008.  From the happiness at finding a neurologist, to the despair of side effects and pills just flat-out not working.  From people who don’t understand and mock epilepsy, to accidents and injury.  There have been so many.  These incidents have taken their toll not only on Jen, but on me.  People forget that the role of the supporter is no easy task.

As 2008 went on, the wedding loomed closer.  Jen prepared to move to Kitchener and start her new life with me.  One of her former co-workers at Brampton Transit thought epilepsy was terribly amusing.  “Wouldn’t it be funny if she had a seizure at her wedding!” one said, not knowing she was overheard.  As if getting married and moving wasn’t stressful enough!

But we made it.  We had an awesome wedding, and no seizures.  We were very fortunate to be surrounded by the best of family and friends.

Jen moved to Kitchener and three months later had full time employment with Research in Motion, aka Blackberry (before they went tits up).  She worked really hard and was very proud to get that job, and rightfully so.  One of the perks to working there (of many including a custom R.I.M. Monopoly board that we treasure) were their company concerts.  They had thrown private parties featuring Aerosmith one year, and the Tragically Hip another.

Their next employee concert wasn’t a private one, but still free:  U2.  U2 had signed a big endorsement deal and were on TV every night advertising Blackberry phones.  Jen was very much looking forward to seeing U2, but with their light show, could she even go at all?  Imagine her heartbreak when her doctor told her it was very unwise to go and see U2 in concert.

Concerts in general were a problem.  She hasn’t been able to go and see one since we saw Russell Peters early in our marriage.  We tried to see the Trailer Park Boys too.  As soon as cameras started flashing, she had a seizure.  She was taken out in a wheelchair and we didn’t see the rest of the show.  Movies were also impossible.  We had to leave The Muppets before the show even started.  It has been difficult getting used to what we can and cannot do with her epilepsy.

She cannot drive.  But she has to get out and have a life.  Staying inside all day is a sure recipe for depression.  She does her best.  She takes busses, taxis and Uber.  Unfortunately seizures can happen anywhere.  Over the last few years I have received dozens upon dozens of phone calls telling me that my wife had a seizure on a bus.  Off to the hospital we go, where we’d wait several hours for a discharge.  Now, if she is able, she tries to insist on not being taken to the hospital.  They cannot do anything for her there.  We know this from experience.

Unfortunately seizures on a bus sometimes mean falling on a bus.  Jen has had so many injuries from seizure related falls over the years:  concussions, twisted ankles and knees, and a fractured knee.  She’s no longer able to walk without assistance.  When on a bus, she has to fight for a disabled seat.  If she’s not seated on a bus, it’s not safe.  And too many entitled children (and adults) refuse to move for her.  A couple weeks ago she was told to move from the accessible seat to make room for a bloody shopping cart.  An inanimate object.  It is frustrating.  When she falls, it is heartbreaking.

One evening (December 11 2011) after a bus seizure, one of those entitled kids (old enough to know better) thought he needed to take pictures of my wife on the stretcher for his friends.  He is lucky that I don’t believe in physical confrontation.  If I did, there would have been two people on stretchers.  Jen’s mom said, “What is that kid doing?”  I went over to speak with him as he was walking away.

“Hey!  What are you doing?” I shouted.  He ignored me and continued to walk away.  “Hey you!  What do you think you’re doing!” I repeated as I followed.  For a second time he ignored me.  Once again I shouted, “You, taking the picture!  What do you think you’re doing?”

“Taking a picture for my friend,” he answered.

“Why, because it’s really funny?” I asked.

“What do you care?” he retorted.

“That’s my wife!” I said.

“I didn’t take a picture of her face, why are you being rude?”

Rude?  Seriously?   “I don’t care!” I yelled.

“Fuck you,” the little disrespectful dink said, and walked away.  I returned the sentiment, but I could not believe it.  I’m the rude one?

When she’s taking public transit now, we have a routine.  When she is out on her own, she texts me every 30 minutes to check in so I don’t have to worry.  When she can’t get somewhere because of an emergency vehicle with flashing lights, she can text me and we can figure out what to do.  Aside from the falls and injuries, we have had some scares.  I once witnessed her almost wandering straight out into traffic while picking her up from work.  She’s had her shopping bags ripped off at the mall.  She’s had people point and laugh because they think she’s walking around dazed from drinking too much.  We have had to develop thicker skins.

What about all the doctors and specialists?  Her first neurologist couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and dropped her as a patient.  Finding a neurologist is hard. There are no neurologists here in Kitchener.  You have to go to Mississauga, London, or Toronto.  Eventually we did the only thing we had left to try:  Go to an emergency room in Mississauga where they have neurologists, tell them this girl keeps having seizures, and she needs to see one.  It was her family doctor who instructed us to do this.  Of course emergency didn’t want to deal with that, but that was the only option we had left.  They changed their tune when we told them that she had a seizure right there in their waiting room.  Now we have a new neurologist, and he is in the process of putting her through a battery of tests.  Surgery is the option on the table, but there is a medication we haven’t tried yet that we are going to ask for:  medical cannabis.  That might be the miracle cure we are still hoping for.

In the meantime, we continue to fight on.  We take inspiration from figures like Prince and Neil Young, both epileptics who overcame their illness to perform for millions on stage.  We try to find the humour in life.  We have to.  We don’t have a choice in the matter.  With that in mind, I’ll leave you with some of the epilepsy moments we have been able to laugh at.


When Jen comes out of a seizure, her senses all seem enhanced.  Her vision can be like looking at the world through binoculars.  She can see incredible detail and very vivid colours.  After a seizure the world seems vibrantly bright.  And unfortunately for her, sometimes the first thing she sees after a seizure is my face.  So I can’t help but laugh by some of those post-seizure observations she’s made:

  1. “Wow, your beard is WHITE!”
  2. “Your nose is pointy…and triangle shaped!”
  3. A variation of the above, “Your nose is pointy…and tear-drop shaped!”

I have a glow-in-the-dark Albert Einstein T-shirt that I love.  One night after a seizure, it was glowing away in the dark.  That’s when she observed, “Your tummy is glass…on fire!”  I guess that’s what glowing Albert looked like in the dark!

We will continue to fight this disease, and we will continue to try and see the light side of things.  It’s the only way.  If we didn’t try to laugh at it, it would have beaten both of us by now.  That’s not going to happen.  We have worked and fought way too hard since 2008.

In the meantime, we will continue to raise awareness.  Do you or your kids have any articles of clothing with flashing lights?  Do you take flash photographs in public?  These things can, and will, trigger a seizure.  Try to be mindful of your surroundings and the people around you.  And please, if an epileptic asks you to stop taking flash photos, just turn off your flash.  Don’t tell them to “fuck off” because “that’s not my problem”, as we have been told recently.  Be a good person, and do your good deed for the day.  Do your part to stop a seizure before it happens.

http://epilepsyontario.org/

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Paul Stanley (1978 solo album)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 16:  

  Paul Stanley (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we know that Paul Stanley was capable of pretty much running Kiss by himself.  During much of the 1980s, Gene Simmons’ participation in Kiss had a severe drop.  Paul took the reins and the band more or less sounded like Kiss.  With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Paul’s 1978 solo album was also very Kiss-like.  Of the four, Paul’s album had an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  His solo songs sound very much like his Kiss songs.  Co-producing with Paul was Kansas producer Jeff Glixman.

Paul had an “ace” in his pocket, so to speak.  On lead guitar was shredder Bob Kulick.  Previously, Bob auditioned for Kiss but was squeezed out at the last minute by Ace Frehley.  He also played ghost guitar on the studio tracks of Alive II.  Now he was out of the shadows on Paul’s album, and his work here absolutely stuns.  It’s a feedback-laden monster of rock.

Paul’s songs are often overblown, and usually loud.  “Tonight You Belong to Me” is one such track:  melodramatic, riffy and loud.  It rocks hard.  It has loads of hooks, killer playing, and lead vocals that slay.  Few singers could touch Paul Stanley in his prime.  If that riff sounds familiar, the Hellacopters ripped it off for the intro to a song appropriately titled “Paul Stanley” (from 1999’s Grande Rock).

“Move On” is upbeat, Kiss-like rock and roll augmented with female backing vocals.  It’s the only song that Kiss played live on their 1979 tour.  It probably fits that standard Kiss mold better than any other tune on the album.  “Ain’t Quite Right” brings things down with a dark acoustic ballad, quite different from past songs Paul has written.  Its sad sound was fairly new territory for an upbeat rocker.

Hold on tight for “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me”.  If this song was covered by a pop-punk band (pick one:  Sum 41, Blink 182, any of that ilk) it could be huge today.  It’s loud, brash and incredibly rocking, but Paul outsings any punk-pop upstart.  When Paul released his solo One Live Kiss album/video in 2008, “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me” was one of its highlights.  Kudos must be given to drummer Richie Fontana for kicking it in the nuts.

One of rock’s most legendary (and hardest hitting) timekeepers plays drums on the massive “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  You don’t associate Carmine Appice with Kiss, but there he is one of Paul’s songs.  It’s a bombastic arrangement of electrics and acoustics, and one of Paul’s most devastating tracks.  Carmine turns it from “stun” to “kill” with his dominating presence.  At 5:26 this is the longest song on the album and as close as Paul gets to epic.

Side two is just as vigorous as side one.  “It’s Alright” has a bright shimmer, plenty of hooks and guitars.  It easily could have been a Kiss classic.  “Girl if you want me to stay satisfied, girl if you want me to stay for the night, it’s alright.”  Sure sounds like Kiss to me.  The guitars have a very “rock and roll” vibe, a classic progression.  Paul has a knack for riffs like this, and “It’s Alright” is one of the best.

Paul’s single was the schlocky piano ballad “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)”.  Fans will either love it or hate it.  It’s a song that could have been an AM radio hit on a 70s light rock station.  Lionel Richie could have recorded it.  The guitar solo cooks, and that is all Paul.  He handled all the guitars on this song.  Love it or hate it, it was the second most successful solo Kiss single after Ace’s “New York Groove”.

As the album draws to a close, “Love in Chains” hits hard with punchy drums and choppy guitars.  But it’s just a jab, compared to the closer “Goodbye”, which finishes things off with a flourish and hot riffing.  There is a cool descending guitar part, a superior chorus, and some seriously cool and busy bass by Eric Nelson.  “Goodbye” is a brilliant closer, and it held that slot on Paul’s 2006 solo tour.

Paul’s was the second shortest of the solo albums (only Peter’s being shorter), but it packed more punch than any except Ace Frehley’s.  Everybody has their favourites, and Ace’s album is always held in high esteem.  Ace stepped out of his box and delivered.  Meanwhile, Paul stuck to what he does best, and nailed it.  It’s a “safe” solo album, but lethal when it clicks with you.

5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/22

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Gene Simmons (1978 solo album)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 15:  

 Gene Simmons (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Given Gene’s demon persona, certainly some fans would have expected his solo album to be the heaviest and darkest.  Imagine their shock upon finally hearing the finished disc!  Musical flights of fancy and whimsical songs dominate Gene’s record, as the demon was determined to do something very different.  His album has the most guest stars, the most diverse songs, and the most split of personalities.

Even the “evil” sounding choirs that open the album are more whimsical than demonic.  This soon gives way to a guitar riff, and the first song “Radioactive”.  The audio compression gives it a disco-like beat, but “Radioactive” is a rock and roll track.  It is one of the songs featuring guests Joe Perry and Bob Seger, not to mention a slew of backing vocalists.  It’s also the one track that Kiss played live on tour in 1979.

The demon sounds like he’s prowling for ladies on “Burning Up With Fever”.  If you’re wondering about that funky bass line, it was played by Neil Jason.  In a surprise move, Gene didn’t play bass on his solo album, only guitar.  This lends the whole LP a funkier-than-expected sound.  This plus the ample backing vocals almost makes Gene Simmons sound like an R&B/rock hybrid from time to time. “Burning Up With Fever” is a bad tune for a sexed-up demon, but not one of his finest either.

Some of Gene’s solo songs were oldies that predated Kiss.  Others were of more recent vintage.  The folksy ballad “See You Tonite” sounds like one of the older tunes.  It’s a good one; good enough that Kiss recorded it live in 1995 for their MTV Unplugged appearance.  In a strange twist, some of the best tunes on Gene’s solo platter are the ballads.  Jeff “Skunk” Baxter played on this one and “Burning Up With Fever” as the cavalcade of guest stars continues.  Even Katey Sagal (Married With Children) sings on the LP.

“Tunnel of Love” and “True Confessions” are two of Gene’s non-descript exploits, fairly ordinary songs given a huge boost by the larger than life production (by Gene and Sean Delaney).  The backing vocals are immaculately arranged.  “Tunnel” features Joe Perry and Donna Summer.  Helen Reddy sings on “True Confessions”.  Unfortunately these two songs are more notable by who appears on them rather than how good they are.

Gene was dating Cher at that time, so it’s not really a surprise that Cher appears on “Living in Sin” (as the groupie on the phone).  This side two opener has a bit of that rock and roll spirit missing on other songs, though very corny.  The ballads on side two are better.  “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide” has some of Gene’s best singing, showing off that high falsetto.  Gene couldn’t get the Beatles to appear on his album, so he did the next best thing and had Mitch Weissman and Joe Pecorino from Beatlemania sing on “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide”.  This melancholy song is one of Gene’s most ambitious.

“Man of 1000 Faces” is big and bombastic, orchestrated for maximum impact.  It has more in common with Destroyer than anything else Kiss has done, but even more overblown and bombastic.  It also suits Gene’s persona perfectly.  “I can put on any face, you won’t know me but it’s no disgrace.  The king of night, he understands!”  Then “Mr. Make Believe” is laid back and acoustic, and also another fantastic song.   Gene’s ability with ballads should not be understated.  “Mr. Make Believe” is the most Beatles-esque of Gene’s solo tracks.

“See You In Your Dreams” is a remake of the Kiss song from Rock and Roll Over.  Apparently Gene thought it could have been recorded better, but the more basic Kiss version is much more appealing.  Rick Neilson from Cheap Trick plays guitar on it, but Michael Des Barres’ backing vocals are obtrusive and irritating.

And that leaves only the final track.  Some stop playing the album before track 11, others consider it an indispensable part of Gene’s solo statement.  But there it is:  “When You Wish Upon a Star”, the song whose lyrics meant so much to Gene that he recorded it for the last track of his album.  It was not intended as a joke, but many see it as such.

Gene’s solo album can’t be dismissed as garbage, not with the great tunes it has (especially the ballads).  However it’s so scattershot and just plain strange that it’s hard to really just enjoy.  It’s interesting to study and dissect.  Not so much fun to play in the car.

2.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/20

#559: Hotel Hobbies

GETTING MORE TALE #559: Hotel Hobbies

For a lot of people, the greatest day in their lives is the day they got married. Perhaps it can only be topped by the birth of a child. I don’t have any kids, so for me, the greatest day of my life really is the day I got married: August 31 2008.

I thought it was going to be tough competition though. August 30 2008 was a pretty fun day, so much so that I honestly didn’t think the wedding day itself could top it.

The 30th began early. The wedding was in Mississauga Ontario, an hour’s drive away. My best man Peter picked me up in his silver Camaro kit car, with a Corvette engine. Peter doesn’t own it anymore (it became a money machine) but my God did we have some good times in that car. That thing ran so low it felt like your ass was scraping bottom.

Before checking into the hotel, we had to take part in a bachelor ritual, that being lunch. Wings at Hooters! It was my first and thus far only time at a Hooters and it was pretty much everything I expected it to be. All the clientele inside were male. The waitress took our order with her leg up on our table. The wings were greasy goodness, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth the stop at Hooters. That’s the real reason people go to Hooters, right?

Peter warmed up his GPS and we headed off to the hotel. We didn’t have anything special planned. We wouldn’t need a dinner – the wings and leftover wings took care of that problem. We didn’t need to go and buy anything for the wedding at the last minute. But we did have some work to do.

Peter had a hockey bag with his PS2 in it, and all the accessories needed to play Rock Band: Two guitars, microphone, and drum kit. I brought some of my favourite wedding related movies: Old School, Wedding Crashers and more. We had a fun night planned for when Jen and her maid of honour Lara arrived. We just needed to set it all up.

We hit a snag right away. Those hotels really like to make sure you have to pay for all your entertainment. They don’t want you to be able to bring your own. Remember back in the good old 90s, Peter and I rented a VCR to record American TV shows in a Frankenmuth hotel room? It wasn’t as easy as that anymore.

These new hotel TVs didn’t have any RCA jacks, or anywhere we could plug in the PS2. We sat there baffled, two guys (one an electrician!) who had spent decades hooking stuff up to TV sets, and we didn’t know how to proceed. Admitting defeat was not like Peter.

We needed an RCA to coaxial adapter. Unfortunately finding such a thing on a holiday Sunday in Mississauga wasn’t going to be easy. We began making phone calls: Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. Nobody knew what “RCA to coaxial” meant so we once again warmed up the GPS and headed down Dixie Road looking for stores.

As predicted, Best Buy and Circuit City had nothing, and the staff there looked at us as if we had stepped out of a time machine asking to use their telegraph machine. Our best bet wasn’t going to be one of those big chain stores specializing in HDMI. We ended up finding the adapter (for around $50) at a small mom & pop style tech store, but we did find it! Back in the Camarovette, back to the hotel.

Problem #2: those hotels really, really don’t want you to hook up your own entertainment. We couldn’t easily disconnect the coaxial cable. It had a protective metal sheath on both ends protecting it from tampering. You couldn’t even unplug it. Not without some tools, sweat and effort. I was ready to give up, but as turns out, Peter just doesn’t go anywhere without his tool kit.

He had that cable ripped out in no time and protective sheath removed. Before too long we had beaten the system and were playing PS2 right there in the hotel. Perseverance!

Jen and Lara arrived, as did Jen’s whole family from Ottawa. They all went out to a nice dinner together, but Peter and I were still recovering from our Hooters wings coma so we stayed in. I think Jen’s cousin Joey would rather have been playing Rock Band with us!

When they came back from dinner, our night really began. And it was an absolutely blast. Four best friends in a hotel room with chicken wings and video games and movies. We are simple people with simple needs. Those needs involve pretending to play drums to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” while someone else pretends to play guitar. Song after song, we had so much fun that night that my sides hurt from laughing.

By the time we all realized we needed to call it a night or be too tired to get married the next day, it was a completely successful evening. I wasn’t at all nervous. I was so hyped that I was strangely calm. I couldn’t wait to get married. No cold feet here, not when I knew so many awesome people had my back. I went to bed that night thinking, “This has truly been the most fun night of my life. There is no way tomorrow can top it.”

Of course, the wedding day did top it. The only thing better than a party for four was a party for 100 of our closest family and friends.

Planning on a road trip involving a hotel stay? Then be like Peter and come prepared. If you can’t hook up your Playstation to a hotel TV like we did, then you might need some tools!

REVIEW: Stryper – Fallen (2016 Japanese import)

STRYPER – Fallen (2016 Frontiers, Marquee Japanese import)

As far as this writer is concerned, Stryper are the reunion kings.  Their 80s output featured fantastic singles like “Calling to You” and “Free”, but many of the albums were uneven and not as rocking as you knew they wanted to be.  Since their heavy-as-hell (pun intended) comeback album Reborn (2005), Stryper have been off the leash.  It seems they gave up trying to fit in to any specific mold and are just trying to be true to themselves through their music.  2016’s incredible Fallen could be the pinnacle of the reunion era.

Unabashedly Christian, the opening track “Yahweh” happens to be one of the most potently epic slices of rock I’ve heard.  A choir sings “Yahweh, Yahweh…” while lead wailer Michael Sweet spits out of his words as few singers in metal can do.  His range is still remarkable and he has lost none of his lung capacity.  There are Maiden-esque riffs, latter-day Metallica grooves, and some seriously epic solo work by Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox.  And that’s all in just the first 6:21 of the album.  It’s strange to say, but you could compare “Yahweh” to similar epic tracks by Ghost.

“Yahweh” may be the most impressive track on a very good metal album, but it’s certainly not the only one.  The cool descending riff that accompanies “Fallen” bites into your flesh, while Sweet’s chorus lifts the ceiling.  There is also material that sounds like old school Stryper, such as “King of Kings”, “Big Screen Lies” and “Pride”.  These songs boast big and classic sounding choruses and riffs.  Stryper even snuck in a Black Sabbath cover (not their first) of “After Forever”.  The words fit Stryper like a leather studded glove:

Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone,
Open your eyes, just realize that He is the one,
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate,
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes, I think it’s too late.

A lot of people forget how Christian that particular Sabbath lyric is!  Very amusing how much flack metal took from the church in the 80s, all the while “After Forever” dated back to Master of Reality in 1971!  Granted, I’m certain that most Catholics wouldn’t appreciate the line “Would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?”

Whether you are a believer (it’s not a requirement) or just a worshipper at the altar of St. Halen, Stryper serves up plenty of hot metal on Fallen.  The modern grooves of “Heaven” and “Let There Be Light” are two that should appeal to many, and long time fans of Stryper will go bananas for the emphasis on melodies and choruses.  And Stryper didn’t forget their ballad fans, either.  “All Over Again” is a typical bombastic Stryper ballad, but not with the extra saccharine they used to utilize in the 80s.  And if that is too bombastic for you, check out the acoustic version included as a Japanese exclusive bonus track.  I think I prefer the bare acoustic version, but I’m also getting tired of getting acoustic versions as my Japanese bonus tracks.  It seems the go-to bonus track lately has been the acoustic version.

Rest assured, Stryper have not Fallen.  Quite the opposite. They continue to soar on mighty wings of metal.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: I’ll take “Swingline” for $100,000 Alex

Remember the film Office Space?  The character of Milton had a special Swingline stapler that was important to the storyline.  It was a one of a kind red stapler.  Swingline didn’t make a red stapler; it was painted as a special prop for the movie.  Due to popular demand, Swingline today finally sell an official red stapler inspired by Office Space.  I have one myself.

Sometimes-contributor Thussy was looking for a new red Swingline stapler on Amazon.  Check out the price on the last one!  (Free shipping, though….)  #fail

Guest WTF Search Terms: Trailer Park Boys edition

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXV: Trailer Park Boys edition
Guest shot by Thussy

Thussy Boy back with another WTF Search Terms…this time to celebrate the release of Season 11 of one of the funniest shows on Netflix right now.  Let’s get two birds stoned at once.   Here is WTF Search Terms: Trailer Park Boys edition.

10. fifty shades of piss

Piss jug alley: “These are your father’s urine containers, Ricky.”  The ironic thing is I need to piss really bad now.

9. trailer park boys kareoke cab

As far as I know it does not exist but I must see this if it does.  [It was a scene in Out of the Park: Europe, in which they meet NHL star Esa Tikkanen — LeBrain.]

8. what episode is the trailer park boys where they go to Denmark

Third episode of Out of the Park season 1.

7. in tpb europe do they throw up

It sure fucking looks like it.  They were probably hammered.

6. trailer park boys europe wheres randy and lahey

They are rehearsing for a play at the Blandford recreational centre.

5. trailer park boys remake rush music video

From Live in Fuckin’ Dublin.  Shot for shot remake of “Closer to the Heart”.  It is amazing.

4. the green bastard bubbles

Hands down probably one of my favorite episodes of the show right up there with Conky.  The Green Bastard – Parts Unknown!

3. thank santa’s tits tpb

Favorite quote from the show, and definitely one I use.

2. what episode of trailer park boys does rick turn trailer to hockey rink

That would be Episode 5 of Season 8. “What do you think Orangie, look how much wet there is.  You fuckin like that don’t ya.  You want to get in there and swim your gold little tits off I bet.”

1. why wasnt jay rock or lucey on tpb season 11

J-Roc just felt like his time on the show was at an end.  Lucy quit when Mike Smith was arrested for domestic violence (The charges were dropped).  Funny thing is it came out after that she actually told the producers of the show she was planning on quitting a week before Mike Smith got arrested.  I think she used it as an excuse to leave.


Thanks Thussy for another WTF Search Terms!

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi – Teaser Trailer “Just Breathe”

“Reach out…what do you see?”

Balance has been a major theme in Star Wars stories of late, from The Force Awakens to Rebels. Looks like this will play out in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

REY!
LUKE!
LEIA!
KYLO!
FINN!
POE!
BB-8!
R2-D2!
PHASMA!

Set your hyperdrives to December 15 2017.