We're a geek couple living in PA with our two boys -- Milo and Otis -- who are short, orange, and furry. Oh, and they're the cats we're bookended by! We love music, movies, TV, comics, books, and comic cons. And, from time to time, we'll share our thoughts on these nerdy things.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for March 16, 2018

[ASIA] -- Geoff Downes, John Wetton, Steve Howe, and Carl Palmer were already famous individually for playing in some of the biggest prog-rock bands of the 70s. And the sound they created in the early 80s as the four-piece called Asia owed more to the 70s than the New Wave that was taking over the radio. Still, their eponymous debut album was released in March of 1982 -- 36 years ago! -- and spawned two huge hits. Besides the hits, other songs on this album also achieved considerable radio play. Asia's sound was slickly produced yet still muscular, likely due to Palmer's steady percussion and Wetton's driving bass. All these elements propelled the album to great success, including peaking at #1 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. Asia's music was majestic in scope -- you have to play at a grand level if you choose to name your band after a continent -- and I still feel something magical in the opening chords of just about every song on this album. Hel, I still have my original vinyl copy. I can't tell you how many times I tried to draw the serpentine dragon from this album cover, but I can tell you that I no longer have any of those attempts.

If you'd like to sample some tunes from this album, you can read and hear more after the jump.  

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for March 9, 2018

[Don't Throw Stones] -- I've been focusing on records rather than themes for the last several Flashback posts, and I wanted to continue in that vein. But picking this week's feature took a little longer than usual. Yeah, it's from March 1980, so you might think I would have stumbled across that quickly. But I don't run through the decade in chronological order until I find something. But when I finally stumbled across this week's record, it was a B-side that struck me. Don't get me wrong: I like the singles from this record, too. But the B-side holds the stronger memory for me. Anyway, this week's record is Glass Houses, Billy Joel's seventh studio album. It was released on March 10, 1980, so it is 38 years old this week! Glass Houses features Joel's first Billboard #1 hit, and the album itself peaked at #1 on the US Billboard 200. If the videos for this record's top singles were your first introduction to Billy Joel, you might have been confused by his reputation as a pianist. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for March 2, 2018

[Saint Julian] -- I discovered Julian Cope in 1987. By that time, he had released two albums with his second band, The Teardrop Explodes (1978-1982), and three solo albums. That third solo album, Saint Julian, was released in March of 1987. Given my crash course in Cope's musical output, I can say Saint Julian was the most directly rock'n'roll record that Cope had recorded up to that point, his previous ventures being more of the neo-psychedelic vein. In keeping with the new musical attitude, Cope even tried to embrace the role of an 80s rocker, wearing leathers and adopting the arrogant posture of a "Rock God." And as much as I enjoyed my brief exposure to the earlier material, Saint Julian record reached me on several levels the other records didn't. I'm not saying it was deeper than his prior work, but I do feel it was better crafted. Or, maybe, I just think it was better because it resonated so much with my gut. If you would like to sample this 31-year-old record, then read and hear more after the jump.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Still Alice

So while I was away on vacation awhile ago I actually read a book. A whole book. Front to back. Those who know me know this a rarity. I have a pile of books as tall as me to read but I just never choose them. But I was determined. My mother and sister both read this book and liked it and Alzheimer's is quite close to my life, so it was probably destined that I would read it.


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alice is a middle aged, professor with 3 children and a loving husband. She notices some small changes in her memory as the book starts. It all seems nondescript except that we, the reader, know where we are headed. Her problem comes to the forefront when she goes out for a run in her neighborhood, where she has run for years, and she can't remember how to get home. This section is written to show how terrified Alice is and we, the reader, feel it. I am pretty sure my breathing became shallow and my heart was pounding.

Alice decides she needs to see her doctor. After discussing all options as to what is going on, Alice chooses to see a neurologist. It is at this appointment that all she fears comes true. Alice is definitely having a memory problem that needs to be tested. After testing they confirm she has early onset Alzheimer's. She has the markers and her children should be tested to see if they are also carrying the marker for early onset Alzheimer's. It was at this point in the book when I realized that I know some people in my life that should have this blood test to look for the markers - if they so choose.

We all know what's coming next but I have to tell you, reading it was heart breaking. The first time she doesn't recognize her daughter I just burst out crying. Then when she can't remember that she needs to go to the bathroom, I was just as embarrassed as she was. Alice is strong but there is no strength to beat Alzheimer's. They try a clinical trial (fake trial in the book) but it does not work. Then we find out that Alice most likely started her onset waaaaay earlier than anyone thought. So medicine and any clinical studies were actually not going to help.

The most amazing part of the book though is when Alice is fully ensconced in Alzheimer's but she creates a support group for other patients. She is determined to be as normal as possible. She then gives a speech about early onset Alzheimer's and I could hardly get through this section. Her mind is fully there, she has things to say, she has opinions, she has feelings but Alzheimer's just keeps taking it all away.

I am grateful that the book does not end with her death or even with a sad ending per say. Obviously having Alzheimer's is sad but by the end of the book Alice doesn't seem sad. She seems stronger than ever. One can only hope to be as powerful as Alice with or without Alzheimer's.

Overall I am torn on the book but perhaps not for the reasons you think. The book is amazing but is it awful at the same time. It is so well written that you are in Alice's head and feeling the terror she is feeling. You feel like you are losing your mind when you read some sections but just like Alzheimer's does, you don't know it. So this terrible feeling is just because the book is written so well.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has Alzheimer's in their life. It gives you such a different perspective and teaches you to not forget (no pun intended) that Alzheimer's patients are still viable human beings with feelings and lives.

I give this book 4 paws

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Various and Sundry Movies

Recently we have caught up on some movies we hadn't seen when they were released. They were on commercial TV, Encore or a DVD. Here are some reviews:

Kingsmen: Secret Service (DVD)
Clive Owen was awesome. The main boy and the girl were really good. Samuel Jackson was interesting. I liked the "twist" of the movie. Other than that, I hated the movie. The ultra violence was just waaaaay too much for me. I actually compared the church scene to a horror movie. It was just too over the top.
1 paw
Dangrdafne would never watch again

Elysium (Encore)
Jodie Foster looked amazing. I liked the connection of Matt Damon and his friend. Again this movie was way too violent for me but even more than that, I didn't like that it was violence at the expense of a story.  I just could not get invested.
1 paw
Dangrdafne wouldn't watch again

Oblivion (commercial TV)
I always like Tom Cruise movies. I like Tom Cruise. I LOVED this movie. All I remembered when we decided to watch it was the name and that Tom Cruise was in it. I didn't even remember that Morgan Freeman was in it (a wonderful surprise). The music, sounds and story were incredible. I was completely invested in what was happening and could not take my eyes off this movie. When it was near the end, we both said "I think we'll buy this in Blu-Ray." It was just so interesting and different and intriguing to me.
4 paws
Dangrdafne watched it again the next night and has watched in pieces any time if on TV - can't wait to see it without commercials (although she did enjoy the lack of cursing on the TV)

Maleficent (DVR from Encore)
Gorgeous. Beautiful. Angelina Jolie was perfection as was the girl who portrayed young Maleficent. Elle Fanning was lovely. I really disliked the actor who portrayed Stefan, he was waaaay off to me, the only weak link to me. I loved this take on Sleeping Beauty. I loved that this movie lives my mantra "Because Nice Matters." I loved that the true love wasn't at all what you thought it would be and that made it even more beautiful.
4 paws
Dangrdafne can't wait to watch this again and I have a few times


I actually wrote this post last year and never posted it. I have a new list of movies that I will have to write up and then I would like to try and post right after I actually watch the movies :)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for February 16, 2018

[Alternative Religion] -- Time to take all y'all to church. Or, rather, The Church. You see, on February 16, 1988 -- thirty years ago today! -- these Australian rockers released their fifth studio album, Starfish. Although they had four other records to their credit (I nearly forgot about three of them before I wrote this post), this was the first one that made Americans take notice. And, boy, did we notice it over here. Starfish went gold in the US, launched a big hit single, and two of its songs were featured on that 80s television phenomenon, Miami Vice. The Church never equaled the success of this record, though they released new music fairly consistently up through 2017. It's a nod to the fact that most one-hit wonders have quite the catalog of music, much of it known only to their most fervent fans. Well, come on in. The Church service is about to begin. What are our hymns this week? Read and hear more after the break.    

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for February 9, 2018

© Olga Bogatyrenko ID 3802666 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

[Love] -- It's not often that February 9th falls on a Friday. It's not all that rare either: It happens, on average, every five or so years. So, I'm taking advantage of this particular occurrence to celebrate my wedding anniversary. You see, it was 18 years ago this very day, with snow on the ground and a slight chill in the air, that I exchanged wedding vows and rings with a woman I had met five years prior at an X-Files viewing party. Yes, even though I met her well after the 80s, I am still inclined to mark this occasion, our 18th wedding anniversary, in songs of the 80s. Specifically, love songs of the 80s. Now, there was no shortage of such songs, but I can select only three for this Flashback post. What tunes made the cut? Will they be sweet or sassy? Read and hear more after the break.  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Big Little Lies

No lie, I am still around ... I just haven’t posted in a very loooong time
I am sorry for that but I hope to change that this year

I have watched a ton of shows lately but nothing that compares to Big Little Lies on HBO! It affected me so much that I put off talking about anything else until I got my new iPad and could write about it for you.

Seriously if you are looking for an amazing story, incredible cast, acting beyond belief (watch those kids closely), great writing and a mystery that leaves you breathless, please check this out.

There are some very difficult scenes to watch and there is language and sexual situations but please don’t let that deter you, they are necessary and it makes the show even more amazing.

Reese Witherspoon is superb in this show but really, the whole cast is. Here is a quick synopsis of the show:

Based on the same-titled best-seller by Liane Moriarty, "Big Little Lies" weaves a darkly comedic tale of murder and mischief in the tranquil beachfront town of Monterey, Calif. Amidst doting moms, successful husbands, beautiful children, and stunning homes exists a community fueled by rumors and divided into haves and have-nots, exposing fractured relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors. Told through the eyes of three mothers -- Madeline, Celeste and Jane -- the series' narrative explores society's myths regarding perfection and its romanticization of marriage, sex, parenting and friendship. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley star as the three prominent "mothers of Monterey."”

You have to insure that you watch the show without distractions, every scene and word means something and everything ties together... everything. Of course, David E Kelley wrote the show, so that should tell you a lot. He loves details and his words are all important and revealing.

It is only 7 episodes and it does cover the whole book (disclaimer: I have not read the book). I think it is best binged but some of the scenes are rough so a little break between the episodes is also advised. 

When the show ended I really felt like I was losing some friends. While I have a quiet life, I really can imagine that this is real life for some people and I think that is also what fascinated me. I also loved that this was a female centric show and being HBO it allowed for freedom to show what needed to be shown. Last piece of advice, just watch the show. Don’t overthink it, don’t try to solve it, just watch. It all unfolds so brilliantly.

I give Big Little Lies 4 paws and a tail up!!!!  


Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for February 2, 2018

[The Power (Light) of Earth, Wind & Fire] -- I don't know if the kids these days remember, or even know, but back in the 70s and early 80s, there was a little band called Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF). Now, this little band wasn't really so little. I mean, here is the personnel listing for their eponymous 1971 debut album, and here is the list for their 1983 album, Powerlight. Building from a funk foundation, they blended R&B, soul, jazz, disco, and even early electronica among other musical styles into a force to be reckoned with. And they had a horn section, The Phenix Horns, that was the envy of the industry. For example, after catching EWF on tour, Phil Collins brought The Phenix Horns in for several Genesis and even solo tracks. Speaking of EWF on tour, they were known for elaborate stage shows. I remember Earth, Wind & Fire in Concert, a 1984 TV movie that showed their Oakland Coliseum concert which had been filmed in December 1981. During the performance of "Jupiter" (the song starts around the 47:50 mark in this video), they staged a battle with an evil Darth Vaderish entity. I don't think that video is quite the same show I watched, but you'll get the idea. Anyway, in February 1983, EWF released their 12th studio album, Powerlight. The record buying public responded powerfully, lifting the album to #4 and #12 on the US Hot Black Albums and the US Top LPs & Tape charts respectively. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for January 26, 2018

[What's in a Name?] -- 80s artists showed great creativity in their music. Some of these artists, however, displayed an excess of creativity in branding their work. And by "excess of creativity," I mean they showed, perhaps, poor judgement in choosing a name. So this week's flashback honors a few of these appellation-challenged acts. Whether confusing, silly, or just plain stupid-sounding, these bands ruled the charts -- or at least left an impression -- for a short time. What acts have I singled out for their interesting monikers? Read and hear more after the break.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for January 19, 2018

[Songs and Stories] -- By the middle of 80s, the members of Hüsker Dü looked more like clerks and accountants than hardcore punk heroes. Of course, very few accountants could match drummer Grant Hart's heroin habit, but that's a story for another time. This story is about what the band released on January 19,1987: Warehouse: Songs and Stories. It was the band's sixth and final studio album. Seems the band dissolved while touring in support of this record, which was originally released as a double LP in vinyl. When re-released on CD, however, all the tunes fit on a single disc. Hüsker Dü was never a band to tear up the charts, but they were one of my favorite college years discoveries. And this album holds a special place in my heart. What have I chosen to feature from its massive list of 20 tracks? Read and hear more after the break! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for January 12, 2018

[Lou's New York] -- On January 10, 1989, Lou Reed's 15th solo album, New York, was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. I say unsuspecting because 1989 was not a year Lou Reed fans were expecting a stripped down, back to basics kind of record. First off, we're talking about 80s, a decade known for excess in production and instrumentation. Secondly, Reed's previous two studio records, Mistrial (1986) and New Sensations (1984), featured large ensembles that included horn sections. Horns! I mean, Randy and Michael Brecker played trumpet and saxophone respectively on New Sensations! New York, by contrast, was largely guitar, bass, and drums. But the leaner, simpler arrangements gave Reed's lyrics more room to breathe, so all those sewery corners of New York City hit your senses all the stronger.

The album's 14 songs clocked in at just under an hour. Which of those tracks have I selected for you this week? As usual, you can read and hear more after the jump.  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Golemchik by William Exley

Golemchik by William Exley

I picked up this quick read about a month ago, but it had been sitting in my to-read pile that kept growing over the course of December and its holidays.

The book's cover definitely deserves its place in my collection of indie books. The first three pages are a bit ... Well, I was a little confused. Why are these kids carrying so much stuff if they're not going to do anything with it? And where did it go after that meeting?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Jupiter Jet #1

Finally read JUPITER JET #1 by Jason Inman, Ashley V Robinson, Ben Matsuya, etc. This issue was a little origin story and it sets up a cracker of a mystery! JUPITER JET was Kickstarted in early 2017, but now it's being published by Action Lab Entertainment and the first issue came out in December 2017.

JUPITER JET is a 5 issue all-ages comic book series. For more info, and some preview pages, pop on over to PopCultHQ’s write-up (Blast Off w/ Action Lab’s JUPITER JET #1 by Jason Inman, Ashley Victoria Robinson & Ben Matsuya; October 2017).

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday 80s Flashback for January 5, 2017

[...But Seriously] -- It's the first Flashback of 2018! This weekend, we recall an album released on November 24, 1989: ...But Seriously,  Phil Collins' fourth solo studio album. This record was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, sitting in the #1 album position for multiple weeks in both the US and the UK. In fact, it was sitting atop the Billboard 200 this very weekend in 1990.

"Wait," I hear you protesting. "Why are you talking about 1990 in an 80s music post?" Well, you have to remember that here on the Friday 80s Flashback, we consider the 1980s to comprise all years between 1980 and 1990 inclusive. My Flashback, my rules. And Phil Collins was a fave artist of my mother, who passed away unexpectedly last October, so you have to expect him to pop up here from time to time. And, yeah, I'm a fan of the man's music, too.

...But Seriously spawned six singles, all of which charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Which ones have I selected for this week? Read and hear more after the jump.