Friday, November 21, 2014

Band Review: Busy Living


Busy Living is a pop punk band based in Central Wisconsin.

Although the pop punk designation feels very appropriate, I did hear other influences. At times the introspective sadness of the lyrics reminded me of some of the emo bands I have been listening to, but the music did not, feeling more determined and energetic. Some of the tunes verge into hardcore, but not consistently. At various times I thought of Touché Amoré and Science.

Their album How an Ending Feels was released on October 28th. While it is not a concept album, there is a strong theme. There is regret for the past relationship, and some self-recrimination for its loss, but part of that failure is also geographical. He could not make the West Coast work for him, and needed to return to his origins. There is a general understanding that this is how it needs to be, despite the pain involved with that.

I don't know how autobiographical it is for any of the band members, but if a return to Wisconsin was needed, and they are all there now, then it is logical that the things that need to happen can happen now. Maybe this is the right launching place and time for the band.

There is an ending, but it is not the ending. At least it shouldn't be.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Band Review: Professor Shyguy


Professor Shyguy creates music that you could classify as Chip Pop.

I have reviewed one Chip Tunes composer before (Ben Landis), and was completely unfamiliar with the genre previously, so this is still pretty new to me. There are two things that stood out.

One is that with Professor Shyguy there seem to be more non chip elements introduced - at least it does not sound all 8-bit. Because of the beats and melodic features there is more of a dance/electronica feel. This in no way detracts from the game influence, as various songs reference games like World of Warcraft or Minecraft. (Well, I think they do, but that is also unfamiliar ground for me.)

The other thing I noticed was that in club music there is often a lot of sampling which may not be the reason for the monotony, but I suspect it doesn't help. There is a note in his Facebook bio:  "Composing every note, no sampling, all original."  Perhaps that is why the music sounds fresh.

There is a fair amount of collaboration. If you click on the Facebook music link you will get an album that is not all Professor Shyguy. He is on many of the tracks, but often working with others. It is still a good introduction, so I recommend checking that out and also the video for "Guilded Love - A Song about The Guild and World of Warcraft", available on the main site.





Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And Phil


We love Phil. We love Ty Burrell too, but we love Phil.

Yesterday when I mentioned Jay being unusually nice to Phil at Disneyland, I did not give the context. Phil, "the king of roller coasters" started feeling really ill after the Indiana Jones Ride. Jay told him that this was a result of aging, when the fluids in your ears thicken up, and you can't take the motion anymore. Jay said he needed to take a Dramamine to get on his swivel chair - doubtless an exaggeration, but a good explanation for why the only attraction we saw Jay participate in was Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

Phil tried to tough it out for the Matterhorn, but after Big Thunder Mountain Railroad he had to admit he was ailing to Luke, in a touching and funny scene that ended with Phil sending Luke off to Space Mountain, knowing that they could find other things to do together. It could have been bittersweet, but all was well when Claire realized that Phil had a fever. His nausea was the result of a flu bug going around the office, so roller coasters could still be okay in the future, and also, he and his coworkers should get cups instead of just drinking out of cartons.

There are two things that make that plot line resonate. One is that as we were on the hotel shuttle to the park one morning, an older (62?) gentleman was talking to someone else about how he used to like Space Mountain, but a few years ago he felt really sick on it. He went to his doctor and the doctor told him some people get calcium deposits in their ears when they get older, and it can result in vertigo symptoms.

My sisters and I looked at each other: it was true! Technically Jay's issues sounds more like Meniere's Disease, and the man on the bus more like Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo.


One of our greyhounds would sometimes have flare-ups with his vestibular apparatus, so I know the drill. But also, apparently it does not happen to everyone. That is good news for us. I love rides.

None of us appear to have age-related vertigo yet, but we have experienced illness in the park. Not flu; colds.

Julie started feeling it coming on toward the end of the trip. I felt it about two days later. We are both getting over it now, and Mom seems to have it, though she was not with us, and though it does make her feel dizzy (but she is older than us). The really weird thing about this is that Maria, as the kindergarten teacher, is usually patient zero whenever anything works its way through the house.

I suppose it raises a second question, of whether we are now too old to ride in airplanes without getting sick, because I got sick on our last trip to Disneyland. I thought it might have come from swimming in the pool. On Wednesday my throat started feeling scratchy, and on Thursday I had no voice.

I was really cranky that morning. Not being able to talk is no fun. I mean, you can write notes if it is really important, but usually for me it's just wanting to make jokes and smart remarks, and there is a pain in not being able to do it, but a lack of significance to them that makes trying too hard to get them out inappropriate.

However, it was not just being sick. We'd had a really late night Wednesday, which led to us oversleeping Thursday, which threw off our whole schedule. We were going to go to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, but we decided to start there for lunch. I didn't really want to go there at all, but my sisters did and it was their birthday.

When we finally got to the park, we went to Cars Land to ride the Radiator Springs Racers, and that was the longest line. (Still is.) So we waited and waited in the hot sun, and it was really annoying. Why couldn't we have gone in the single rider line? But they didn't want to get stuck with strangers.

Finally we got on the ride, and it was great, and then we went on other rides which had much shorter lines, and I felt a lot better. I still couldn't talk, but what I need was motion. The way the morning had gone gave me a pretty long delay before being flung or pulled or going zoom anywhere, but that's what I really needed.

This was a stressful trip for me financially. It was probably irresponsible to go, but a part of me wonders whether we will ever be able to afford another vacation again, in which case it is even more important that we went. (And yes, we are still trying for Italy in March. That is one reason I am writing up such a storm.)

For all the guilt and worry, there was so much joy and pleasure and exhilaration. Leisure is necessary. Work is important too, but without breaks, it's drudgery, and sometimes I forget how easily I turn to being a drudge. Which I suppose means that when my solution to escaping the drudgery is working even harder, that there is some irony there, but at least the writing harder part is something I like.

The networking part has been interesting. Some people have read the screenplay, or at least part of it. There have been a lot of favorites on the tweets, which I hope means they also click on the link, but it's at least supportive, and some very kind things have been said. (It does worry me that none of the five people who bought my book have said anything about liking it.)

I do feel some support, and also, it has still been really great remembering all of the bands and friendships, and the projects I was able to back when things were feeling financially better for me. So maybe I will do a round of asking comic book creators to check it out also. I don't know.

I've essentially decided to focus on the writing for now through March. If at that point nothing has happened, then I need to start looking for a different day job. I hate the thought of it, but I need to occasionally be able to visit a theme park. I need to have things to look forward to. Everyone does.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Modern Family and Disneyland: Jay


Other than our great affinity for the park and the show, there is another reason I think about that episode a lot.

I generally watch shows that I am the only one at home who watches. We are all joined up on sitcoms now, and we all watch "Jeopardy!" together, but otherwise there is no one to discuss the shows with. Sometimes I would want to, and I would visit the forums at Televisionwithoutpity.com.

The site is closed now, but honestly the forums were often disappointing depending on the show. Sometimes they would be cliquish, and if you weren't either a regular contributor or really apologetic about barging in on their party, they would shun you. Sometimes a forum would be mainly innuendos. Also, sometimes, the forum was mainly comprised of hate watchers, who really just watch so they can post about everything wrong with the show. "Modern Family" had a lot of hate watchers, and they hated the ending of the "Disneyland" episode.

There is a story that Jay is recounting through the episode of a time when he took Claire and Mitchell to Disneyland when they were kids. It was supposed to be a family trip, but he and his wife had a fight because he accidentally taped over an episode of "Dallas" so DeDe didn't go. While at Disneyland he decided to get a divorce, but the last thing they did was "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" and somehow it convinced him to stay. Also throughout the episode, Claire and Mitchell tease him for crying then, which he brushes off as it being the greatest president, and his first robot.

As he wraps up the story, Gloria calls him from off screen to come join her in the Jacuzzi, and Jay smiles and finishes by saying that the universe rewarded him, so the forum posters were disgusted by this dirty old man.

While it is clearly not all there is to their relationship, Jay does enjoy having a hot wife, and he enjoys having the money where they can have a Jacuzzi and things like that. It was still clearly not all that he meant. It was cute to see him once more in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", one child on either side, and in-laws and grand kids surrounding. It was even better to see him hold his children closer, and to see them think it was weird but then settle in and enjoy it.

More than that, and I probably wouldn't have even noticed if we hadn't watched the episode multiple times, it is cool to see how content Jay is in the park. You don't see him go on a single ride, but he steps in and grabs Lily when she is running, kissing her on the top of her head, and then he offers his help to Mitchell. He tries to make some points to Claire that she is not hearing, but he also throws in a silly joke, and is listening to her. He is also really nice to Phil, who is often seen to get on his nerves. And he finds a way to take care of Gloria's feet despite her best efforts. Jay loves and enjoys his family.

It is not hard to imagine that in the real world situation a divorce would have led to the kids being with the wife, and growing apart from their father. He might have remarried earlier, and gotten a similar relationship to the one with DeDe and ended up with at least one other ex, and a more fractured family.

He does say that staying might not be right for everyone, but that it was right for him. It is also widely acknowledged that Jay is not a perfect father, but you do see him often rising to the occasion. The family has its rough patches, which is normal, but they also love and enjoy each other. Maybe it would have gone over better if he had said, "and things worked out", or something like that, but ultimately I take it as that staying with DeDe was hard, but he felt he needed to so he did it, and it had been worth it. There was still going to be a happy marriage in his future, and his kids, and good family times.

I like the episode a lot. It's part of a show that I like in a place that I like, so there is good synergy there.  Hate watcher would probably be happier if they focused on something they liked instead.

However, if anyone wishes to talk about shows at any point, I am open to that. Current sitcoms we watch are "Modern Family" and "Big Bang Theory", as well as reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond", along with some "Golden Girls" and "Designing Women". We have a lot of love for "My Name Is Earl" too, but my sisters have only seen Season 1, and I have only seen through Season 2. For older sitcoms, I am on my own in my love for "Scrubs" and "News Radio".

I will not only discuss "Jeopardy!" episodes with you, but answer questions about my own appearance.

For current dramas, I am alone in my love for "Grimm", "Person of Interest", "Once Upon A Time", and "White Collar". We all loved "The A-Team" equally, and I would not mind reminiscing over "The Scarecrow And Mrs. King", "Going To Extremes", "Twin Peaks", or "The Young Riders". I can discuss my past love for "Law & Order: SVU", followed by my growing contempt for it, but then I gave up on it, rather than hate-watching, and I feel that was for the best.

And, as long as I'm putting it out there, in addition to quoting a lot from the three sitcoms we have in common and "The A-Team", we also tend to quote and reference the following movies frequently: Dodgeball, The Birdcage, Outrageous Fortune, Spaceballs, and As Good As It Gets.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Disneyland, Modern Family, and child safety tethers


There are two sitcoms that my family and I watch together: "Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family". (We also enjoy reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond" in case anyone wants to judge.)

The episode that really sold them on "Modern Family" was "Disneyland". I had liked the show since seeing "Fizbo", so would watch it sometimes on my own, but when I saw the Disneyland episode I knew they would appreciate it, so I got them to watch it and we built on that.

My sisters and I just got back from Disneyland Friday night, and of course we quoted and referenced the episode a lot. (We quote a lot of pop culture things pretty regularly.) It occurred to me that I could write some things about the trip through the lens of the episode.

If you haven't seen it, one of the subplots is that Lily is going through a running phase, and Mitch and Cam try and use a "child safety tether" (leash) to keep her from getting lost in the park. Mitchell is especially embarrassed about this, so he does take her off, and she bolts. Jay catches her and he solves the issue by putting her in high heels, which ties in nicely with his subplot with Gloria, for whom he buys slippers to get her out of the horribly uncomfortable high heels she wore.

I admit that the first time I saw a child on a leash, many years ago, I was taken aback by it, thinking it seemed a little dehumanizing for the child. However, I never judged any parents harshly for using them. Kids do take off with no warning, and I can see the point in hindering that.

That was strongly reinforced in the park on our first day. Waiting in line for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, a family ahead of us had one child start toddling off a few paces ahead. This is not that unusual, but then the child ducked under the rope to the outside of the line, which was easy because of his short height. Then the child kept going. The park was very crowded that day. The father stepped out of line and pursued the child. It did involve some running, but nothing terrible happened at that point.

Shortly after, while we were heading to lunch at the Village Haus, I noticed a child whom I would guess was between 18 and 24 months who was running a little ahead. I thought she might be pursuing one adult, but she went right past, and I realized I could not figure out whom she belonged to.

We have often had funny things happen because kids don't notice where they are. I have had little children slip their hands into mine, thinking I was Mommy, and on one trip another kid wrapped herself around Julie's legs waiting in line for the Alice in Wonderland ride. (Yes, apparently everything happens in Fantasyland.)

The thing is, normally the parent is nearby, and watching, and maybe they are apologetic or embarrassed or maybe they think it's really cute, but they do know what is going on with their child, and they are there when the child looks up and realizes that the person they are touching is NOT MOMMY.

I could not find anyone who was looking for this little girl. As if to make it even more obvious how vulnerable she was, her pants fell down a little, I think indicating a recent diaper change. She was able to pull them back up, but she was starting to panic, and starting to go faster in the opposite direction.

I was not sure what to do. Fortunately, I was not the only person who noticed. I know someone told a park employee, because he came up near me and I heard him say "What missing child?" I knew the answer to that question. I pointed her out and he said something like "Got it" and I said "Good", which doesn't sound exactly right.

I guess I meant "Thank you" because I was grateful that someone with some official capacity and training could handle it, but it felt very business-like considering that I heard the worry in his voice when he asked himself "What missing child?" and I know how many emotions I was having about it.

One very real (and probably unfair) emotion was anger at her parents. How could they let her slip away like that? Realistically, it was probably something simple that could have happened to anyone. So I don't judge leashes. That's not to say that the high heels idea wasn't ingenious, but it's good to have options.

For the Gloria side of it, I have to say that even though I have always worn sneakers in the park, a while back I started having Plantar fasciitis symptoms. I could no longer wear my traditional $12 shoes and had to start looking for shoes with support. I noticed that my feet held up much better this time. So even if cheap sneakers are better than high heels, good sneakers are better still. I've mainly been using New Balance.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Band Review: Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson is a rock and blues guitarist from PortlandOregon.
 
The pieces I have been listening to have been instrumental, and it has been interesting for me to hear how much emotion has come through in the music alone, with no help from vocals.
 
"Amends" is very moving, whereas "Find My Way" and "Underline" are considerably funkier. I don't have a good adjective for "Lightswitch". It's amazing, but that doesn't really describe anything. It's clear that Johnson is really good at what he does; does that describe the song? No, you just need to listen to it.
 
That obviously is not a huge selection, but it is a very beautiful and impressive slice of work.
 
I enjoyed the video of Johnson playing on his site. Someone who knows how to play guitar would probably get more out of it, but I got a sense of the fun of the song, and it was interesting to see how the visual went along with the audio.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Band Review: Valey Ventura

Valey Ventura is a composer and scriptwriter, is working on an organic gastronomy book, and an integral figure in Ventura Street Records. This review will focus on the music.
 
I have been able to listen to three songs, "Just Me", "Forgotten", and two versions of "Sun Down California".
 
There is a sort of sneer in the delivery of the music. It's in-your-face, but not hostile. I wouldn't be surprised to see it described as skater punk, but she self-describes as Indie - Pop. Perhaps it should be pop punk.
 
(The lyric video for "Sun Down California" incorporates a very respectable record collection in which I mainly noticed punk and emo.)
 
It looks like there are plans to shoot a regular video for "Sun Down California" and there is a talent search in place, so for more information on that visit https://www.facebook.com/VenturaStreetRecords.