Monday, August 27, 2012

Zack, Lego Maniac

  I remember easily when LEGOs (not the scam-mail-rich city of Nigeria but the plastic interconnecting blocks) were simply a few varieties of size.  In the mid-'70s, I remember LEGO created a few characters as people, so you wouldn't have to build your own.  A space-set and a castle-set, as well as a train-set were around with specialized blocks to create a space-ship, lunar-car, train-cars, etc.  Seemed a bit over-the-top at the time, as you could build these things pretty well anyway but then.. it got out of control.

LEGO block specifications.

  LEGOs (loosely from the latin, "To assemble") started building all sorts of "sets" with specialized, one-purpose-only sets, complete with building instructions for the creatively-challenged.  I still enjoyed creating Voltron from basic design, (though I have to admit, I used a knock-off of the late '70s called "Lock Blocks" as there were tons of variants that were almost exactly the same.  LockBlocks were just oh-so slightly larger by a quarter-millimeter or less so they wouldn't fit with LEGOs to avoid lawsuit). 

This is just crazy, almost.

  LEGOs owners would make expansive playset stop-animation armature films in the '80s and now there's hundreds of playsets, video-games, and even theme-parks and small cities of LEGOs.  The playsets and sets are very expensive.  I remember a selection of blocks might have run $20 for 1000 blocks or so.  The "Ultimate Collection Millennium Falcon" LEGO set has 5195 pieces and costs a whopping $499.  That's a lot for a bunch of plastic that doesn't do anything.  Indeed, I'd be so afraid to play with it, it'd just sit on a shelf somewhere out-of-reach for all eternity.  Good luck dusting that thing, ladies (guys don't dust unless they like sausage inserts or are nicely asked by ladies).
  I partially blame Zack the Lego Maniac.  LEGOs created a character boy that was really into LEGOs, but mostly the playsets.  The catchy jingle was pretty cool to hype-up the LEGOs sets.  It was around this time that LEGOs were turning their designs to a playset-only company, because there was hella money in it.  Very wise of them, in a way.  They could charge 10 times what the actual LEGO blocks cost..


   What I don't understand is why people just don't buy a model of that ship instead of assembling a cheap-looking block version?  The model might run $25 for the same size, and look a LOT better.  Some of those model kits by Revelle are amazing, and some are snap-n-go designs for the glue-challenged.  So what is the lure here with these LEGO sets?  It eliminates the original design of LEGOs: pure creativity.

Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome

  When I was young, back in the before time, while I tell the Tell...


  So yeah, when I was like 8 years old, back in 1978, there were a scant few playsets out there.  Some LEGOs with wheels, some with some specialized shapes for radar antenna or whatever, a drawbridge for the rather expensive Castle-Set, but for the most part, there were NO special blocks.  If you wanted the Space Battleship Yamato to seek revengence against the Comet Empire with the help of the Fiery Pheonix of G-Force (narrated by Don Pardo), you had to build them from the basic 6 block shapes.  With time and effort, they'd look pretty realistic.  I remember quite a few battle royals of Voltron versus RoBeasts that were quite spectacular back then, with the occasional Starvengers or GaiKing helping out, or some Robotech action.  I built these epic adventures all with basic LEGOs and it was fun as all heck.  Note* all of these fighting robot series made Transformers look pathetic, yeah, I grew up with Japanese robot shows and Dungeons & Dragons, thanks to Darren Hennessey (a brilliant writer btw) and yes, you should click the links to expand your anime knowlegingses).

Robot battles from homemade working remote-control toys ala Rock'em Sock'em Robots in Japan

  I didn't mind it.  To create a Voltron fighting robot took about 2 hours or so from start to finish.  The thinking involved was half the fun to create it.  I learned symmetry makes stability.  I pretty much worked the upper torso separately and attached the legs later-on.  Balance was the key so it's actually stand-up solidly, and I learned about making the feet more structurally sound and wider than a single block or two.  Good fun, and I'm sure gave my parents a break as I'd quietly hum a song or two building away.
  Now, just about every LEGO creation is from a set.  It comes with all the pieces you need, then reverse-engineered for the tards that have absolute zero creativity.  Steering from the lengthy instruction manual yields horrific results, and you cannot really build other things with it lest they look like something Tim Burton would devise for a doll all deformed and patchwork.  I find the new stuff vulgar and doesn't help the creatively developmental side of children whatsoever.  Booooo.

Tim Burton's line of "Tragic Toys"

  Now I got into a debate with a few people at work.  I find most of them to be mentally underdeveloped so a debate is often difficult as they can't formulate why the sets are better than the basic generic blocks, stating, "It's just better.  You just don't understand."  They can't explain why, probably because they never had the generic blocks yielding creativity, just merely instruction.  Sad, really, these empty folk.  Perhaps they just lack speech centers of the brain?  "It just bet-ter."  Sigh.  Empty.

Stupid anime maid girl covered in goo and all happy about it.  Silly, crazy girl!  Tsk tsk!  Is that drool?

  So, I decided on my own to try to guess why it might be "Bet Ter.  Ug-n-ug!"  Since I am a super-genius, I took both sides of the argument.  Now, on my original side, it's quite obvious making designs of awesomeness by way of just basic, generic blocks stimulates creativity a lot.  No question there.  Some logic is involved as well, and a bit of structured thinking. 

Inexpensive costume at a ComiCon
   Now if you have a set, with instructions, it'd probably help you to construct IKEA-like furniture, with a tiny bit of creativity involved, but a lot of structured, follow-the-rules thinking.  You can't really stray from the instructions unless, again, you want Tim Burton toys.  It gives the kid a sense of direction, such as to follow a recipe or series of instructions for an end-result.  There's a tiny tiny bit of creativity involved, but it's a lot like in the 1970's paint-by-numbers oil-based kits.  The painting kits were for beginners, and I had a few growing up in the early '70s I must admit.  The end results were okay, but not great, mostly due to pallet offerings (I think you had only like 12 colors per-set).  These usually ran about $2 at the time with a hyper-low-quality brush or two, stunk to high-heaven with chemicals and the canvas was usually about 5x8 inches or so.  Interestingly, it never made me a better painter.  Never helped.  Nope.  I doubt it helped anyone, its robotic instruction didn't lead to intelligent design, like "connect-the-dots" didn't lead to great drawing for me either, though I have a knack for cartooning even still despite it by doing things on my own.

Being a rock guitarist never got me the girl.. sigh.

  So!  By doing the soul-less logic-thrust of "sets" by LEGO, you can probably get your follow-the-instructions down pretty good early-on in life.  You might even end-up being a good technical writer or mathematician.  By using the LEGO generic blocks, you probably will be better with art or theoretical science or programming or perhaps a musician, catering to the creative sides of things.  Ultimately, however, the sets are too cold and stoic for my tastes, and heck, the reason I myself would make things would be to make my own toys since my family was lower-middle-class when I was a kid and couldn't afford a bundle of toys for me like some parents.  The neet thing was I could then disassemble them and re-assemble a new toy the next day no problem!  

Kids can't play with ridiculous playsets that don't work.

  I find a lot of people without creativity and it saddens me, their hearts are confused of art and imagination.  Some of them take a lot of psychotropic drugs to "open their minds" to things.  Guess it might work for them, I dunno.  Shrug.  Still, I want these "LEGO sets" to go away, but it's making the LEGO company billions of dollars so I guess it helps 'em out.  Interesting there's no "Occupy LEGOs" to stop thier huge money scheme, or "Occupy Apple" or "Occupy Starbucks" for that matter.  All three companies overprice their low-quality stuff to no end.  Apple uses 16-bit audio, prevalent of the early 1990's, Starbucks uses low-quality discarded coffee beans tainted with rat-droppings then burnt heavily to kill the bacteria for cost effectiveness and homogenization, and LEGO takes a $1 plastic mess and sells it for $500.  Ah well.

Throwing money down the toilet.

Shrug.  I am ambivalent of these LEGOs.  If you have kids, buy a set or two, but also buy them several thousand free, generic blocks and show them how to build other things: a house, R2D2, God, Shirley Manson, a car, the economy, Ginger Lynn, whatever.  This way you get the best of both worlds. 

Keep building, Doozers!

Fraggle Rock movie coming in 2013 officially.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lost the Plot

  Getting my hair re-awseomeized at my barber yesterday by a young lass named Miss Courtney we got on to talking about motorcycles, as I'm an avid fan of various motorsports for the sheer fun of it and all that goes with that hobby, I mentioned I was helping a friend pick-out a Triumph.  "What's that?" she asked.  I explained it was a motorcycle. 

Iconic Triumph T100 "Tiger" 1973

  Clearly she is not a motorsports fan, as the famous Triumph Tiger was used famously by Ted Simon in the famous, Jupiter's Travels where in 1973 got on his dual-purpose motorcycle (the last until Triumph re-opened 10 years later.. motorcycle companies do that from time-to-time..) without knowing how to ride at all, went entirely around the world, famously, often where there were no roads from north to south and then back north again putting on some 79,000 famous miles (quite an adventure).  Ah, but not everybody reads, else she'd know my 2005 Honda Superhawk has history as well, it's nomenclature from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became standard reading decades ago as well. 

"The Fonz" and Richie Cunningham played by Henry Winkler and Ron Howard

  I explained instead that the bike was used by The Fonz.  She didn't know who that was.  I explained, "You know, from Happy Days.  The FONZ!"  Nope.  Nothin'.  I sang a few bars of the famous Rock Around the Clock by "Bill Haley and his Comets" (1973), then later, Prat & McClain's Happy Days theme (as this was from seasons 3 onward to season 11 [yes, 11 seasons].  The show ran for 11 years from 1974 to 1984, increasing in ratings slightly every year on ABC, and it was pretty much all everyone watched on Tuesdays at 8pm for the whole of America, as few had more than 3 channels until 1984, with fairly popular spinoffs of Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy and the semi-dreaded and far less-popular, Joanie Loves Chachi, Out of the Blue, and Blansky's Beauties (and an animated series). Nope.  She explained she was born in 1992.

Henry Winkler as The Fonz "Arthur Fonzarelli" on his signature Triumph TR5 Trophy

  I had to ponder this for a moment, and then a moment more.  Kids around age 21 never had Happy Days except in syndication, nor Knight Rider or any other of Gary Larson's nighttime TV shows.  No Greatest American Hero, ALF, A-Team, Airwolf, The Fall Guy, Family Ties, Gimme A Break, Golden Girls, Hart to Hart, Hill Street Blues, M.A.S.H., Kate & Allie, Moonlighting, Miami Vice, Perfect Strangers, Remington Steele, St. Elsewhere, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Night Court, Three's Company, Alice, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, 21 Jump Street, V: The Series, Who's The Boss, Punky Brewster.  Nope.  None of those.  Instead, she probably grew up with shows like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, American Idol, House, E.R., Chicago Hope, Dawson's Creek, and Beverly Hills 90210, as well as a barrage of reality shows that just stunk. 

Gary Coleman and David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff on a TV Guide promo for Diff'rent Strokes and Knight Rider

  I got to realize that TV made a right-turn somewhere and I nearly missed it.  TV in the '60s through the '80s to include Patty Duke and Leave it to Beaver onwards to Good Times and All in the Family and Little House on the Prairie to the '80s shows I mentioned all focused on Good can triumph over Evil with perseverance and determination.  Morals were taught and shown are superior.  The Good Guy will win eventually.  Dating was to court a lady properly.  Profanity was creative with terms like "Way to go, Lazer-Brain!"  Sex was implied and if happened rarely, tasteful with a turning off the lights of a married couple in jammies and cuddles.  Now it's depicted raw, rude, and without grace or form, and often with an ultimatum.  It's as if Lawful-Good TV became Neutral-Evil TV with Chaotic-Evil antagonists!

  TV shapes America, unfortunately.  Kids are affected by it, and the pranks depicted on YouTube.  Girls have become quite advanced in the way of adult intimacy due to the internet, more-so that I remember in high-school where I'd carry books to a girl's class, often getting a quick smooch to the scandal of the waiting teacher, Mrs. Snoot complete with horned-rimmed glasses, arms folded, and the class going, "WoooooOOOOOoooo!"  Very '80s.  Back then, I was a renegade by doing such, getting to class a few seconds late or just on-time, but teachers wouldn't scold me much because I was an A+ student in just about everything in all honors-level-classes, and I retained the knowledge (unlike a lot of high-school kids).  Most important class of high-school?  Typing.  Hands-down.  Who knew?!

1971 IBM Selectric-II typewriter popular for students learning to type in the mid-'80s

  Morals today have disintegrated.  It's like everyone has had a touch of the One Ring from Tolkien's epic tale and looks like a Ralph Bakshai character gone corrupt.

Frodo Baggins being corrupted by The Ring in Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings

  It's a shame, really.  It even is reflected in today's music.  Whiny and pathetic like 2 year olds who never grew up mentally but only physically.  The tearing-down of the American tradition of marriage, a pillar of strength now distorted by the gay-Nazis who want to somehow justify their psychological damage they refuse to heal by way of acceptance in some way, in any way, to just belong to something like a pathetic Harley rider who waves at everyone who rides by.

  I don't know if America has lost it's sense of "right".  I'd almost hand it to the Mormons, but they seem to often be only nice to each other, not such infidels as myself.  That, and they believe in a magic top-hat and that Jesus (ie. Ioshua) moseyed to the "Promised Land" of Utah.  Ever been there?  'Nuff said.  Promised Land?  I'd say Michigan.

Actual Michigan girl smiling for the camera

  I can only hope there'll be a Renaissance of sorts to bring back family traditions, but economic woes often preclude that, making both family members work and minimizing the family structure, but on a side note, men don't beat the living crap out of their wives Muslim-style anymore either, and personally, I find that a good thing.  Check out how men treated their women in the mid-'40s.  Very Palestinian.

  So can we get back to morals?  Hard to say.  TV demands culture as our personal teachers for kids and adults alike.  Lets us think immorality is the new morality:  how can we one-up each other for benefit?  It's all retro-grade for me, as if we're back in the Dark Ages.  With such improvements in Society, there's so much more unimprovments.  Americans have been trained to belive by Apple Inc. that low-fi is the way to go, because it's easier to use and you don't have to put the time-in to learn it.  Anyone remember how we'd change our config.sys and autoexec.bat files to get your DMU and IRQ settings right to get the sound-card to work for your new game?  Took a long time, and the rewards were worth it.  People don't have the patients for that anymore, to learn something valuable.  To play an instrument.  To conjugate a verb.  To research offline.  To solve a differential equation.  To write a poem with a typewriter. 

  Well, very few, anyway.  It's not all dead, it's only mostly dead.

  I suspect two courses, though I know there's an infinite shade of gray to consider.  Either we have a resurgence of Good in media, starting with cinema (there's been a few Good Guys Win coming out in the last 5 years) or we become a Mirror Universe and destroy ourselves (and/or enslave Vulcans under Empress Sato, or whatever).  It feels like that's where I've ended-up, and my so-called "rebellion" is so mild it's considered "charming" and "cute".  Let's hope we flip-back.  It starts with consumption.  Watch feel-good movies and TV and maybe Hollywood will save us?  They're our guides despite religion.  Damn shame but it's the truth of it, as it affects the masses on a continental level.  Religion is so scattered with technicalities, none of them can seem to team-up and fight Ming.


  I have hope for Good to triumph!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jefferson Starship


  So on a whim I went with a co-worker who looks a lot like Geoffery Holder of Live and Let Die and various 7-Up commercials at the tiny venue of "The Stargazer" which is set-up like a mid-'60s Vegas lounge, complete with large tables and candles and cognac to see Jefferson Starship.  Many remember when they were Jefferson Airplane (such songs as White Rabbit, and Don't You Want Somebody to Love) and later as simply Starship (We Built This City on Rock and Roll) though Starship was a solo project by a disgruntled keyboardist in the '80s.

  We got amazingly good seats, sitting back a bit at about 15 feet or so.  I ordered nachos and a Blue Moon beer before the show (we were early) and then later a Hennessey cognac for the actual show.  New singer Cathy Richardson is absolutely amazing and during the song, Jane played a cowbell with a backwards drumstick.  Nicely at first, exploring the space as it were, then started wailing on it, damaging the stick, then eventually placing the cowbell on the floor and beating the living hell out of it on all fours (well, threes anyway, as she was using the stick as a war-club, wild-eyed, hair akimbo).  Wow.  Just, wow.  It was worth the 30 bucks just for that.  I had to stand in awe and slow-clap, mouth agape.

  The remaining members of the band are ancient at best.  They had several technical problems as they used guitars without locking-nuts causing out-of-tune guitars every song which the techie had to replace constantly, switching out to backup-guitars and then back again, re-tuning each time.  Poor choice for this altitude and humidity, vintage Rickenbacker and Fender Stratocasters, but whatever.  Tone was good for the most-part.
  A bit overwhelming, the hippie-anthem band.  Most songs were anarchistic in nature, revolving around revolution against any form of government and embracing witchcraft and hippie-culture en-masse.  Personally, I'm not a fan of such extreme libertarianism, and felt a bit out-of-place.  I like a little structure, being Neutral Good and all.  Still, impressive fractals animated the screen behind the band in psychedelic amazement throughout.

   Didn't like the old-man singer David Frieberg who vocal-solo'ed at age 73 looked more like age 93 and sounded like 1003 as he couldn't hit one note, or the guitarist Slick Aguilar who spent 15 minutes solo'ing over Guitar Gently Weeps, The Beatles-cover which was, quite honestly in bad taste from another guitarists' point of view.  Overly self-indulgent, often playing three notes over and over to the drunken joy of the ancient audience (I was an infant to these other 70-year-olds attempting to fat-dance).  Feedback happened quite a bit as well, and yes, guitars went out-of-tune during the songs as well.


  Still, Cathy Richardson is brilliant and carries the band through.  She has intense passion and is just downright a great singer.  Not a good singer.  A GREAT singer.  Good job.

  And, of course, White Rabbit...

Thanks Mike!  You're opinion is penultimate!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Maiden Musings


  During the concert, I've had time to gather my wits and let my ears stop ringing somewhat.  There were a lot of unusual happenings during the Iron Maiden concert in Denver last night.  One of my biggest concerns was the mysterious organ player to whom Bruce Dickinson was announcing, "He has the gift of the second sight, he is the chosen one.."  The individual looked like Ozzy's dad, or maybe Benjamin Breeg's dad (aka Eddie's father, aka The Courtship of Eddie from Iron Maiden's Father).  He appears during the song Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.  This morning I've done exhaustive research to determine who the HECK this guy is!

  During the sequence, Bruce is dressed up like Sinister from the X-Men to add to the confusion and concern.

  One could quote from the story, The Monkey's Paw to which one reads, "Be careful what you wish for.."  Well, I needed to know, and.. horrifyingly, I found out...
  Apparently, the character is known as, The Count.  There is no reference to any Iron Maiden song involving him whatsoever, and I consider myself an Iron Maiden expert (compared to most) and a fan, having unreleased albums, songs, parodies, etc.  The Count is actually Michael Kenney who started with Iron Maiden back in 1988 during the 7th Tour of a 7th Tour.  He's Steve Harris' bass guitar techie and has played live keyboards since then. 

  Eventually he was upgraded to primary keyboardist starting with the next album No Prayer for the Dying and has been so ever since.  He's the unsung, unknown, secret Iron Maiden 7th player (hence the 7th son).  I knew they had studio keyboardists but I never knew it was always him.  If Steve Harris vouches for him then he's okay in my book, as Steve on bass is the nicest guy and lets the crowd play with his bass in between sets.  Iron Maiden generally loves their fans and is real cool about everything.  Interestingly, Eddie never messes with him.

  So now that that's settled.  I was quite amused that Bruce Dickinson called-out a guy smoking weed in the audience, chastising him and pretty much telling him he was an idiot for being doped-up, " won't even know when the set is over.  You obviously don't care about the music."  It's true.  There's very few that smoke pot in concert venues these days (except for the genre of reggae, where I think it's required).  I remember in the early '80s there was a haze.  Being in their late 50s and 60s, it's nice to see they're saying no to drugs, as does Rush.  It's not that they're setting an example or on some clean-living kick, it's just that they're wiser now (unlike David Lee Roth recently in Denver.. who, by the way, is an expert dog trainer as he let us know three times, though doesn't have any bumper stickers on his truck [though personally, I'd have a Diver Down bumper sticker if I were him]).  Iron Maiden like Rush has most certainly "been there, done that" and through experience have decided it was a bad choice.  One could argue it opens mental avenues, but then again, one could argue it closes them.  Imagine if The Beatles didn't smoke hashish when they made a pilgrimage to India in February of 1968!  One could argue it would make their future albums such as Let it Be, The Beatles, and Abbey Road would not be so good, but if you listen, those three albums weren't all that great compared to 1967's Sergent Pepper, Revolver, and Magical Mystery Tour which, yes, was before they went to India to which after was all peace, love, and understanding to some degree, and honestly, probably started around 1964 after A Hard Day's Night.  Maybe drugs in India are more potent?  Regardless, they've learned the error of their ways and their music was very good last night.  Harmonizing three guitars is no joke, live.

  Another concern I had was Eddie being in the form of General Custer.  The flag Eddie was carrying had a star pattern that had four corner-stars in the American flag blue field, followed by a circle of stars inside.  Doing some research, I found out that Iron Maiden (again, being a thinking-man's metal) was using none-other than the Colorado joining the Union flag of 1877!!!

  This occurred right after the Battle at Little BigHorn to which General Custer and his men of the 7th Cavalry Regiment were slaughtered one year later in Montana.  This actually makes sense, as a reincarnated Eddie could assume the body of Custer after his death, waving the flag of Colorado.  Of Custer's attitude and pride, he'd probably think his defeat was still monumental in the colonization of Colorado and that his efforts led up to Colorado being the 38th state.  It's appropriate that Iron Maiden chose this, as, yes, they were in Colorado for this tour, and yes, it's around the time of the death of General Custer, and it fits when he comes out at the song of Run to the Hills.  You don't see other bands getting it that right, now do you?  Well done, sirs!

  Eddie was anamatronic throughout most of the set. 

  Pretty much the concert of the year.  Enjoy the song, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (live)...


The Iron Maiden

  Went to see Iron Maiden at the Comfort Dental Amphitheater formally known as Fiddler's Green (why corporations need to own then change the name of venues is beyond me, and rather pathetic.  Why not keep the name and add, "sponsored by" at the end of it?)  Ah, well.   Iron Maiden can neither be fought, nor sought.

  The opening band was pathetic: Coheed and Cambria.  One sole girl with blue hair, probably age 16, danced alone, looked around, and surrendered and hid to our glowering head-shakes.  The lead singer brings out a double-neck Epiphone and fails at it so badly I wanted to punch him in the mouth-face.  The band made me actually angry at their bad songs and concepts.  They finally gave-up and played Dio's "Heaven and Hell" to the interest of the crowd before escaping.  They suck forever.

  I got tickets on a whim at the last minute.  I've seen them every time they've been in town since 1988.  I wasn't impressed with a lot of their newer material, though it's pretty good stuff, it's a bit heavy.  Their latest album was very good, however, The Final Frontier, not to be confused too much with Star Trek V.  I had seen the setlist on the BluRay release En Vivo! but I wasn't too much of a fan of that.  America was stiffed with the Somewhere Back in Time tour, only getting one show in Los Angeles before Europe got to see a rehash of their albums from 1984 to 1988.  When they arrived two years ago, they played a very modern setlist which alienates older fans a bit.  Iron Maiden has a lot of albums spanning from 1978 to present.  Twenty-five full albums and seven compilations, all but two studio releases going gold or platinum.  They've been very successful, overall, and most of the band members haven't changed much, though there's been a few shake-ups.

  Iron Maiden is what's known as a "thinking man's metal".  Concepts are often war-oriented, such as the Crimean War of 1853.  The artwork is always top-notch with hidden little references such as Dr.Who's Tardis or Blade Runner "cafe" in the background or some such.  Often, Death or a Black Cat hang-out in the background, and a symbol of a circle with a few points coming off it which is the artist's "signature" symbol.  The band also touches base with pro-religious themes, and the main character on every album is "Eddie" who's sort of undead but trying to defeat Satan of his doings on earth.  The musicians of the band are legendarily good, and the singer, Bruce Dickinson, flies his own Boeing 777 to each concert and is a bronze-medalist fencer.

  The setlist was not of their new material, however.  Instead, they treated us to a bit of their Flight 666 tour.  This is excellent, and the songs were played masterfully, particularly the song Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, complete with an actual church pipe organ ensemble, Phantom of the Opera in its entirety, and The Clairvoyant.  They brought back their Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour set, complete with Nicko the drummer encased in a block of ice, and the pyrotechnics were top-notch.  Eddie himself (20 feet tall) makes two appearances, once as General Custer and plays Janick Gers' guitar for a while, and later as the disintegrated Eddie from Seventh Son circa 1988 with laser eyes.  Quite a performance.  Janick also is covered with the Union Jack so he can't see by mischievous Bruce Dickinson and has to play blindfolded for The Trooper.  Video footage of The Prisoner from the famous BBC show was also shown during the eponymous song. 
  1. Doctor Doctor (UFO song) - Iron Maiden always plays this over the intercom before they start 
  2. Encore: Churchill's Speech
  3. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song from Life of Brian)  - always played over the intercom at the end

  Overall, very good.  Solos were extended as they should be and done tastefully.  Crowd was energetic and Bruce had them engaged.  All good fun and at points, pretty epic!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Star Trek vs. Star Wars


   A fetching lass asked me to blog about which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars.  To be honest, I was surprised.  Space Command nerds such as myself as well as computer geeks have argued the point since 1977 onwards with quips such as, "Okay, you have the Enterprise versus an Imperial Star Destroyter..." or.. "Darth Vader confronts Spock and.."  Classic mixing of supposition of two entirely different universes.  Non-nerds will wave it off, but such debates spark imagination and creativity, and honestly, this stuff is what makes new technologies, eventually.  Those that don't consider such possibilities usually have an empty stare in their souls, shaking their heads at such fluff and flight of fancy to focus on more practical things, like their bills, kids, and their tan Camery base-model.  Empty folk having empty kids.  It'd be nice if they could all be eliminated as they're boring and what I deem, "unworthy of life" but, hey, we need a slave-race of dummy-automatons to make up for the tax deficit.  Weep for those with no soul, my friends.  For them, we give football and MMA (aka non-mixed martial arts aka teen-Judo + white-belt-level kick-boxing).
  So, enough of these jeers, on to the debate!  I spent a few days considering it, and it's a matter completely of preference.  Ultimately, I came down to whether one enjoys military-strategy or action-fable genre.  Sometimes the two overlap, for instance, there's sometimes some good action in Star Trek, and sometimes there's some good strategy in Star Wars.  On the rare occasion the genre has an equal level of both, it's explosively good, such as Star Trek's Wrath of Khan or Star Wars' Empire Strikes Back.  The 1980's was a very good decade for movies!

  The Star Wars universe focuses on classic fable-telling.  Indeed, the original trilogy plays on good versus evil, nicely clear-cut.  There's some WW-II elements, and some growing-up right-of-passage goings on, as well as some son out-grows the father eventually, with just a tiny hint of religious mysticism to keep you engaged.   Some ancient stories are based on the original Star Wars movie of 1977 and it grips the audience with just the right amount of tension.  I saw it in the theaters about a dozen times when it came out, as did most people at that time.  Mobs would jam the theaters, often people would get hurt trying to get a ticket for the first year.  There was no orderly entry, it was that amazing.  Music created "Disco Star Wars" offshoots, and John Williams' score was topping the charts on mainstream Billboard Top 200.  It was overwhelming.  Kenner Toy Company was making millions.  Nothing of this magnitude had ever been seen or accomplished, and nor never since to this day.  It played on all of our dreams of epic adventure where the good guy gets the princess and saves the day from the evil empire with Eryl Flynn elements of storytelling such as Robin Hood or America versus Hitler, overwhelmed and out-matched, yet still the rag-tag fugitives save the day, and the universe from tyranny!  Amazing!  The film kept playing continuously for 3 years, slowing ending up the final year in matinee cheaper theaters that played second-run films until its sequel, Empire Strikes Back came out, and then Star Wars was back in the main theaters again for another 2 years along with Empire.  Eventually by 1982 it stopped playing until 1983 when the final movie in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi (I remember getting the poster for Revenge of the Jedi and some similar playing-cards, its original working title).  All three movies came back into the main theaters again.

  The Star Wars saga was not that bad, a bit corny at times, and scientific physics were sometimes ignored which caused some scrutiny amongst educators.  The concept of a light saber aside from a plasma torch is still not even possible to this day.  It was good fun, and at my age of 7 to 14 it was pretty freakin' awesome a time to have those 3 movies and right up my alley.  The trilogy taught appearances are deceiving by way of Yoda and later the inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor that the Emperor's pride ignored as he felt his empire was far too powerful for such a pathetic bunch of losers to threaten.  It taught that good can triumph over evil with perseverance despite the odds, as most '80s movies did, and well.  Ah, it was a good time.
 Honestly, for 7 years, it was pretty much the trilogy that set the standard for all other sci-fi movies, and a heck of a lot of B-Movies were conceptualized from it.  All except one genre...

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (Saavik being chastized for failing the Kobayashi Maru test)

  Star Trek started way back in 1966 and was on-par with the highest quality sci-fi movies of its time.  Special effects were on-par with movies from 8 years earlier in the case of Forbidden Planet (1957) from which, in my opinion, was where it was based on.  Forbidden Planet is a very good movie for its time and considered in the top 100 and sometimes the top 10 best conceived science fiction movies of all time.  I liked it.  I put it in the top 30 for sure. 

Forbidden Planet special effects wizardry 1957
   Star Trek as a series of movies and TV series is very encompassing.  It has a very very large fan-base, more-so than Star Wars, arguably, with more die-hard fans than you'd expect.  There are clubs by the thousands across the country that are officialized.  Some consider it a religion much more than Star Wars' "The Force" concept of ether-psycho-kinetic-powers (later turning out to be Mitichlorians or STDs passed down from generation to generation, you pick).  Star Trek is a lot more slow and pondering like a chess game where Star Wars is a lot more like checkers.  Sure, checkers is fun, but there's minute strategy in it.  Star Trek is almost pure strategy.  Re-watching the original series, the military internal conflicts amongst the officers is just like when I go to work every day and for the last 20 years.  Sometimes, officers "pull rank" when subordinates won't budge as a last-ditch desperate effort to get their way.  Decisions are made very carefully.  Lives are lost and lamented over.  Political maneuverings affect players.  I'd say Star Trek is a thinking man's military sci-fi.  If you admire the maneuverings of battles of the US Civil War or Patton's musings during WW-II, then this is your sci-fi. 

World War II bomber cockpit reminiscent of The Millennium Falcon

  I find Star Trek the original series more realistic, and the computer graphic update two years ago give it a fresh, un-kiddy look with no toys on strings ala 1930's Flash Gordon serials.  Modernized it makes sense, and I can see it appealing to military members that have to deal with tough conflict decisions and the emotional and tactical impact those decisions make, often for-life on a permanent basis.  Star Trek makes you think, "What would I do in this situation?"  It's also very boring at times, especially for those without patients with ADHD.  Kids won't get it.  There's no Jar-Jar Binks for the kiddies, or Ewoks for the young ladies.  It's math-strategy of submariners by way of Run Silent Run Deep circa 1958.  For about 20 years or so, it went away, its impact still affecting America and the world, then Star Trek finally got it's turn in 1979 spawned, ironically by Star Wars, the pretentious film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Trying to push the CGI envelope at its time, it was silly, but people arrived in droves.  It got a lackluster review and so a second movie, spawning a trilogy came out, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  This movie borrowed some Star Wars elements based on earlier foes from the original series and it was a complete success and is considered, like Star Wars to be on-par as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all-time.  Star Trek II, III, and IV as a trilogy did quite well in the theaters and rivaled the Star Wars trilogy nicely, employing strategic and a few comedic elements as well.  A few more movies came out and we all thought it was done, and a nice finale but then...

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Klingon officer Chang considers espianage)

 The Next Generation started up in the '80s and was wildly popular but a lot slower than before and with a get-along crew that rarely conflicted with each other.  I found it boring but hey, that's me.  Eventually the show picked-up the pace and got from okay to really good, and some fantastic episodes such as The Inner Light and Chain of Command that were just stellar (no pun intended).  This TV show spawned two more series off of it around the same timeline and both did pretty well and got good nerd-cred. 
  The Star Trek franchise had a lot more episodes than the three Star Wars movies.  All combined, to include motion picture releases, is somewhere near 900 episodes altogether to Star Wars' mere 7 at this point, with a mild nod to the several dozen crappy 2-minute Clone Wars cartoons, Droids and Ewoks in the '80s as well, (though Star Trek had a nice animated series by filmation with the same voice-actors of the original series as well).  About a ratio of 10 to one.

Star Wars: Droids circa 1985

  At my age, it's hard for me to take recent releases of Star Wars seriously.  Lines like, "I'm a girl!!!  You got a problem with that?  Hmph!" and Jabba's stinky nephew/son Rotta is just too geared for a 3-year-old ala Shrek.  It's not that it's bad per-se, it's just .. well, I've grown out of it.  I'm not 7 years old anymore and I don't watch baby shows which is what the Star Wars franchise has become.  The second trilogy was a let-down to not just me but most of Planet Earth as a whole, even taking a jab at it in several movies such as Fanboys, "He's dying of cancer and he can finally see The Phantom Menace before he dies as a pre-release because he won't survive the acutal release.. but what if it sucks?"  Subtle point.  At this point, I'd say George Lucas was lucky when he hit the nail on the head with the first three in 1977 but hasn't made anything remotely good since.  Now these movies are not awful, they're just not .. great.  There's dozens of repeated reasons as to why I'm not much of a fan of the new stuff that millions have already mentioned.  You know the reasons.  Everyone does by now.  Sad, really.  Disappointing.  All of it after 1983.  Few can argue it.  Some die-hards try to make take up the defense, "Oh, well you were 13 years old back then.. these new movies are geared for 13 year olds!"  No sir.  No they are not.  No 13 year-old liked the movies either.  It was geared more in 1997 for 3-year-olds.  It went from late-teens getting the girl and the guy with the cool get-a-way car in 1977 to babies.  Sorry.  Don't like it.  It smells of "I need money for toy sales" too much.  Yuck. 

Clone Wars (film) 2008

  NOW.. there ARE some elements of the current Star Wars universe that are pretty okay, and sure, I can be entertained by it.  It's expanded quite a lot as it went downhill from 1981, and there's a bit more intrigue.  There's a huge selection of universe-based stories out there, some George has made canonical, which is neet, and I mean really, who doesn't want a light-saber or an X-Wing fighter?  Heck, I still want one!  You'd be nuts not to!  Cool as shite!
  Star Trek was reboot to fill the teen-Star Wars gap in 2010.  George didn't deliver and Paramount and JJ Abrhams saw the hole and filled it.  Star Trek re-release with its surprising psedo-science and minimal character development with goofy special effects and tactics that just don't make sense really takes care of where the original Star Wars trilogy left-off.  I found the film to be fun but a bit of a goofy flop.  The strategy is that of an 18 year-old buying stocks.  Dump your engine into the gravity-well to make it go away?  Yeah, that's not gonna work, kids.  Take an Astronomy 101 course in college.  Luckily, it was geared for 16-year-olds so it might invoke some interest of the older material.  Few younglings these days have the patients though, but then again, hasn't that always been the case throughout time?  There's still some of us old enough to sit through Twelve Angry Men (1957) for the strategic climax, or Dark Passage film noir circa 1947.  Sadly, Fox Television kills any good shows, like the excellent Firefly series which like Star Trek sprung one triumphant final-episodic film.  Hollywood has to think we're not that dumb.  Why not some future-noir like Blade Runner again?  Why do sci-fi movies have to be so stupid these days?  No more elegance or grace, it's just boom bang kablooey like Pluto Nash.  Sigh.  Sure, the new Star Trek solves the gap for Star Wars and the new Star Wars solves the gap for Mister Rogers Neighborhood but what fills that needed gap of the original Star Trek? 

Ewoks cartoon talking about the joys of friendship circa 1986

  So.. overall, both universes are good in their own ways.  Some elements of each are better than others, and some, such as Jar-Jar, are just deplorable (sorry Ahmed Best, nice try, I loved you in The Electric Company though).  Personally, overall, I'd say Star Trek wins for complex story, realism, gripping concepts and scandalous subject-matter (try watching Let That Be Your Last Battlefield).  Good clean fun can be had out of Star Wars but unlike the masses, I go to the movies not to be entertained and to not think, but to THINK and therefore BE ENTERTAINED!!!


Over and out.