birthday

#416: A Day Off

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GETTING MORE TALE #416: A Day Off

I’m taking today off from blogging.  It’s my birthday!  So I’ll be opening stuff like this, while you are hopefully enjoying a nice day off, too.

I deserve a day off!  I’ve been posting here almost daily for three and a half years!  I’ve accumulated almost 1600 posts in that time, so I’m sure you won’t hold it against me.

In the meantime, you can check out the past birthday related posts.  I’ll be back tomorrow with more rock!

Thank you Aaron for the gift…whatever it may be…well, it could be a bomb but it’s not ticking!  I will be sure to update you all with photos of whatever musical treasures await me today.

Best,

LeBrain

Gallery: LeBrain Birthday Bonanza (including Food Porn)

First up to bat, my good buddy Aaron, (who as you all know loooooooves Mastodon) decided to rectify the situation that I didn’t yet have their latest album Once More ‘Round the Sun. Which I can tell you, is awesome. Mastodon have a lot of what I liked best in metal, and this album lives up to the hype. I’m really into track 6, “Asleep in the Deep”, which has a very cool chiming Voivod-esque riff.

Proceedings got off to an unofficial start yesterday at noon. We do a monthly lunch out at work regularly, and this one fell on the Friday before my birthday. My co-workers bought me lunch at Beertown, which was very very good. Above, some beer & cheddar soup, as well as some lovely truffled sweet potato fries.  I also had some battered calimari.

Jen and her mom always gets me the best T-shirts.  Above, two Big Bang Theory T’s, the infamous Walter White, and a spiffy Led Zeppelin swearshirt that will definitely be worn to next year’s Sausagefest.

They also bought me Transformers.  FansToys are making some absolutely astounding G1 Masterpiece-class Dinobots right now.  Scoria aka Slag is a beautiful, heavy figure.  He looks great next to MP Grimlock and MP Prime.  If you like Grimlock, you will love this figure.  Thank you to Jen’s mom for this amazing figure.  I will definitely be getting Swoop.  Jen also got me the new Generations Skrapnel/Shrapnel and Reflector, which I also like a lot, for a Scout-class figure.

We went to Mother’s Pizza for dinner tonight.  Thanks Dad!  I had the small “Grandmother’s”.  It tasted a lot like I remember it tasting almost 30 years ago.  It had lots of olives and mushrooms, which I topped with double cheese.

Neil DeGrasse-Tyson’s Cosmos on Blu-ray is an absolute treat.  Thanks Jen.  I hope you don’t mind watching the whole series, over again with me!  She also picked up Paul Stanley‘s Face the Music, which I hear is a great read!  And who doesn’t like jellybeans?

 

Thanks everyone for all the birthday wishes.  It was a great, laid back day!

Part 306: Happy Birthday to Me

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 306: Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday!

20 years ago…20 YEARS AGO!…I was hired at the old Record Store. It wasn’t 20 years ago today; I don’t remember the exact date. But it was mere days before my birthday, two weeks at best. I was given some money for my birthday, and I remember the exact CD that I bought on July 19, 1994. It was Rush. Chronicles.

So here’s a confession, something I’ve never admitted to here before. Privately yes, but not publicly. That Rush Chronicles that I bought 20 years ago today was my first Rush album. Ever.

I was pretty late to the Rush party. I didn’t really start to pay attention to them until the 1990’s. Growing up in the late 1980’s, in my age group, none of my friends liked Rush. As far as I could tell, nobody liked Rush. They simply were not in my hemispheres. I had seen their music videos on Much, but for the most part I didn’t like what I saw. A funny looking guy, keyboards, a guitar player wearing a tie…I overlooked Rush.

I did like one song. “Subdivisions”. That song was undeniably cool, with that slick synth part as the main hook. This song, I dug. Way more than “Tom Sawyer”. Way more than “Red Barchetta”. Definitely more than “Time Stand Still”, which I considered an embarrassment at the time. “Subdivisions” stuck with me, through highschool, through university. I decided I needed to get it, so I finally started exploring the Rush repertoire. And I started with Chronicles.

I would have got it sooner, but I didn’t have the money. Now I had money, a staff discount, and access to hundreds of used CDs in great condition. I had arrived in my own musical paradise!

I was soon enthralled with Chronicles.  Many songs that were new to me were quickly becoming favourites: the new-to-CD live version of “What You’re Doing”.  The silly but instantly likable “The Trees”.  Most of all though, “Red Sector A” from Grace Under Pressure.   For a brief while, this song unseated “Subdivisions” as my favourite Rush track.

On this day, I’m going to extend a hearty virtual handshake to the man who gave me a chance at that job, the owner-founder of the store. He did it just because he knew my dad, and my dad asked him to help me out. He didn’t have to, he didn’t even ask for a resume. He just asked me to come down one afternoon and talk. That one talk irreversibly changed my life, and I look at that moment as the end of one life and the beginning of another. It was one of those proverbial turning points.

Thank you.  Now, I’m off to party!

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MOVIE REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey (2008 blu ray)

Happy LeBrain Day! It’s my birthday. Sometimes on my birthday, I like to just spend an afternoon watching a favourite movie. This is one.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, from the 2011 Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Blu Ray Collection, Warner Bros.)

Once upon a time, when the year 2001 seemed aeons away, director Stanley Kubruck (Dr. Strangelove) contacted author Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End) to discuss making “the proverbial good science fiction movie”. Both were sick of films that passed for science fiction, but were actually monster movies set in space, or just replaced  science with fantasy.

The result was 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film, and a companion book of the same name which is actually a completely different animal. The film — striking, innovative, visually engrossing, ambiguous, and scientifically solid — is as good today as it was in 1968, even if many of the “predictions” of the film have failed to come to pass.

Separated into four chapters (The Dawn Of Man, TMA-1, & Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite) complete with intermission, 2001 has no dialogue for the first quarter of the film. Beginning with a blank screen (and “Atmospheres”, by Ligeti), this is a film paradoxically anchored by both music and silence. The screen changes to the Earth rising over the moon, and the sun rising over the Earth (an important clue and recurring symbol) accompanied by “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. We are then introduced to a tribe of pre-human apes (Australopithecus, perhaps), starving and on the verge of extinction. Other tribes are stronger and out-competing them for territory and resources. There is no dialogue, but the barking of the apes, yet that and the scenery speak volumes. Suddenly one morning, the game has changed: a mysterious black monolith has appeared. The apes are drawn to it, and soon find that they are now able to compete with predators thanks to a new discovery: weapons.

MONOLITH ACTION FIGURE!The second chapter, TMA-1, begins with what Clarke has called “the longest jump-cut in history”.  We see that humanity has evolved into a space-going race. Orbital weapons platforms orbit Earth as a shuttle is making way to an under-construction space station. “The Blue Danube” plays as the spacecraft dance in calculated perfection. Our first main speaking character, Dr. Heywood Floyd, arrives on the station and we are given some tantalizing clues as to why he’s made this trip: Rumours of a plague outbreak on the moon. Yet this is just a cover story. As Floyd makes his way to the moon in another beautifully choreographed sequence, we learn that a magnetic anomoly was discovered in the crater Tycho (named after astronomer Tycho Brahe) — Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1, or TMA-1. This discovery is potentially so important, that the cover story was created to keep everyone far away from Tycho.

We see that TMA-1 is another black monolith.  We see echoes and ripples of past events lead to another jump forward in time.  Midway though a mission of discovery to Jupiter, helmed by David Bowman (the perpetually young Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Star Trek’s Gary Lockwood).  Their ship, the Discovery contains three sleeping astronauts and the most famous computer of all time, H.A.L. 9000.  H.A.L. was flawelessly voiced by Stratford Ontario resident Douglas Rain.  His eerie voice and Kubrick’s perfect framing shots help create the creepiest computer character ever seen.

HAL 9000The seemingly dull, sleepy daily routine is soon shattered.  H.A.L. has detected a flaw in the ship’s main antenna.  It will fail, unless one of the astronauts goes outside and repairs it.  The antenna is their only link to distant Earth.   H.A.L., who controls the life support and every function of Discovery, then begins to show signs of what humans call stress — he makes an error, and acts strangely. Yet no 9000-series computer has ever failed, or found to be in error.  The chapter closes with H.A.L. singing the old song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”, surely one of the most haunting scenes in cinema.

After an intermission, Discovery finally arrives at Jupiter and its true mission is revealed. This section too has no dialogue, bringing us full circle to the way it began. David Bowman once again must venture outside the ship, and find out how the mysterious discovery on the moon relates to Jupiter.  Perhaps even how it related to our millenia-dead ancestors.

What follows is one of the most baffling and strange sequences in movie history, one which will require a few patient viewings to appreciate. The beauty of this final sequence is that there is no right or wrong interpretation. While on the surface it may appear to be a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour followed by a bizarre dialogue-free encounter with a being that seems to have no bearing on reality, it is Kubrick’s inventive way of showing the audience something that is beyond anyone’s imagination. Like the audience, David Bowman and humanity have come full circle.

2001_0004Lacking in what modern audiences call “action”, lacking typical space sound effects (there is no sound in space!), lacking dialogue for most of the movie, and lacking any sort of warm human characters (except maybe H.A.L. who is not human), this movie was a challenge to watch in 1968 and is still a challenge today. It is, however, a piece of art that transcends its genre and is a landmark in film making. Kubrick, always a visionary and always breaking through boundaries of what could not be done in film, outdid himself and made a science fiction film that still has not been topped over 40 years later. Nobody has made anything this epic, this beautiful, this deep or this scientifically sound since. The special effects — all practical effects and mostly in-camera, as CG did not yet exist — still stand up today. No movie buff will ever forget the rotating Discovery set that allowed one character to be seated while another seemingly walked on the “ceiling”.

Sure,we don’t have a moon base. We haven’t sent anyone to Jupiter. We do have a space station. We have created computers that can beat the best humans at chess and Jeopardy. This is not that far off. If they had named this film 2031: A Space Odyssey, we might be in the right ballpark. In the end, the year does not matter. You never see modern Earth in the movie anyway.

The blu-ray release is loaded with special features and has a beautiful transfer in 2.20:1, as Kubrick shot it and intended it to be. Both Dullea and Lockwood provide an audio commentary. There are documentaries about Kubrick, about the predictions of the film, and about the effects. The only thing missing is the vintage 1966 Arthur C. Clarke lecture from the first issue of the DVD.  I still have that DVD copy because I like that old 1966 footage of Clarke.  He’s my favourite author.

2001: A Space Odyssey is, without any doubt or any argument in my mind, the greatest science fiction film of all time. With Kubrick and Clarke now both gone, I doubt we will ever see anything like it again. 5/5 stars is meaningless, since this movie was (for its scale and stature) first, and the best, against everything in its genre.

I’ll rate it 200 billion stars, one for each star in our galaxy.

Sh*t LeBrain’s Dad Says: Gene Simmons’ Beard

Happy birthday Dad!!

We were in Kincardine, Ontario, on Queen street, or “the main drag” as my dad calls it.  We were in this crappy clothing store called Sandy’s that’s not there anymore.  But this time, they had a Kiss T-shirt for sale!  I never saw any cool band shirts in Kincardine before.  We spent much of each summer there, and when I was younger the place seemed kind of dull.  Finding a Kiss shirt there, well obviously I had to get it.  It was 1992, a Revenge shirt.

My dad asked, “Did you find a shirt, son?”

“Yep,” I answered.  “This one is cool, because it has the new Kiss member on it.”  [Eric Singer]

“Yeah,” my dad said with a disapproving smirk.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that bearded guy before…”

BEARD

Part 78: GUEST SHOT! Meat on LeBrain

Normally I wouldn’t post something so self-glorifying, but I won’t edit a word out of any of my guest shots.  This one comes from the infamous Sausagefester, ex-record store alumnus, and music connoisseur, Meat.  He sent this to me by surprise this afternoon, so I had to post it.   Enjoy.

RECORD STORE TALES PART 78:  Meat on LeBrain

Today is Lebrain’s 40th birthday.  Today seems like a good day to give you all my thoughts  on the man…the myth…the legend…Michael Ladano.

I would have first met Mr. Ladano in I believe late 1998 or early 1999.  I was working at a record store and really didn’t know anyone at other locations.  Since there was a fair amount of phone activity between different stores, it was inevitable that our paths would cross.  I kept hearing about the manager of another store that was something of a music aficionado, and the biggest Kiss fan in town.  Considering myself of the same ilk, and a long-time Kiss fan myself, I was looking forward to the inevitable.  I don’t remember the first conversation we had honestly,  it was probably some sort of inquiry about an Anita Baker stock transfer , but anyways,  I do remember the first time we talked about Kiss.  I remember his genuine enthusiasm hearing that I had seen Kiss on the last tour with makeup (Creatures of the Night) and the first tour without makeup (Lick it Up).  He proceeded to tell me that Ace Frehley was not actually in the makeup on the first aforementioned tour (something I already knew) and a bunch of other obscure Kiss facts.  Needless to say we immediately hit it off.  We worked together only once at his location.  He actually has a better memory of that one shift (Meat’s memory is randomly hazy…gee I wonder why) but I do remember that the shift literally seemed to go faster than any shift I had worked previously.

[LeBRAIN’S NOTE:  I do remember that night very well.  I remember driving Meat home, talking about Metallica’s medley of Mercyful Fate tunes.  As it happens, I had that tape in the car, so we rocked it!] 

I am lucky to know many guys who are self-proclaimed and ordained-by-others as music experts.  The mighty Tom has been mentioned in this blog before.  Others include Scottie Geffros…Scott Hunter and more.  Michael Ladano trumps them all in both knowledge and actual music collection.  No one loves music more than LeBrain.  I certainly disagree with a lot of music that Ladano loves, and have been very vocal to him about that, but I guess that’s just part and parcel with being “LeBrain”.  But most importantly, Michael Ladano’s greatest trait is simply being himself.  If there is someone who is more truly sincere and kind, I have not met them.  No one treated complete strangers better during his record store days than Mike Ladano.  No one loves his wife or significant other more than Mike Ladano.  The truth is  everyone likes Ladano.  As a matter of fact, there are only a very, very select few that I know that don’t like him.  Literally a few select people that all hang together and work together. Not-coincidentally these people are sincerely some of the worst people I have ever encountered in my life.  Truly lacking character, substance and kindness of any sort, they should be ashamed of themselves.  It says something that only the worst people in the Tri-Cities are the select few that don’t like him.

I really enjoy this blog Mike and try to read every entry.  Even old Meatdogs can learn new tricks, and I appreciate reading and learning about musical artists, bands and albums that I thought I already knew everything about.  Your love of music is infectious and impressive,  but not as impressive as Mike the friend, the person and the husband.  Is this blog-entry just alot of over-blown Maudlin? Of course it is. If anyone I know deserves Maudlin, its Sir Michael Ladano.  Remember, when the rest of you are sleeping comfortably at night…LeBrain is rolling in his sleep anticipating the upcoming Kiss and Darkness albums.  You gotta love the guy.

Meat

Intermission: Pranks 2.0 “Thussy Boy”

I’m not in a record store anymore, but in so many respects, absolutely nothing has changed.

I went out to get a sub at lunch.  When coming back, I stopped at my office to check my email before heading to the lunch room.  I found the guilty party taping my mouse down to the desk using heavy duty yellow labels.  Here is the photographic evidence.

And here is the guilty party attempting to escape.

Ahh well, it’s his birthday today.  I can’t be too mad.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY THUSSY BOY!