Bookended by Cats was named after Milo and Otis. They are the short, orange, and furry brothers who, upon entering our lives in 2003, often bookended us on our couch. And who are we? We're a geek couple living in PA. 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, July 28, 2023

Friday 80s Flashback for July 28, 2023

[Don't Cry, It's Only Been 40 Years] -- I celebrated the 40th anniversary of Asia's debut album last year, so I have to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the release of Asia's second studio album, Alpha. Now, Wikipedia marks the album's release date as August 12, 1983, while Album of the Year has the date as July 26, 1983. I tend to side with AOTY, but even if Wiki has it correct, that date is only next month. Bottom line: 1983 to 2023 is forty years. Let's celebrate!

For their second outing as a band, Asia shed the progressive rock elements that had propelled the first album's sales and instead focused on pop-rock sounds and a polished production. Critics – who must have been disappointed with this shift away from prog rock trappings – penned mostly lukewarm, and some downright harsh, reviews. Despite such critical protestations, Alpha was commercially successful. In the US, it peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200, and it reached the #5 position in the UK. Both singles were top 40 hits with "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" reaching #10 and #34 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as charting in the top 25 of the Mainstream Rock chart. 

Also despite what critics say, I love this album. I still have my original LP as well as the 45s for both singles. Maybe my love is due to being in my teens and not knowing any better, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Or, I suppose, the ears embrace what the ears embrace. When I was younger, I thought this record started strong with the intro to "Don't Cry" – that little bit of piano and a simple guitar line that eventually gave way to an explosion of drums and searing guitar all supported by atmospheric synths. Perhaps that was the production and mixing that made it all sound ... bigger ... but I was impressed. Now, even though I feel a bit of a letdown when the verse starts and there is a palpable shift from that epic intro to standard pop rock fare, I still unabashedly love this song. There are no lyrical breakthroughs to be found on this album, though "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" has just enough schmaltz and arrogance to still come across as achingly sad. But for some reason, the multitracked vocals for the choruses of these songs still seem to genuinely touch me. I don't care what they are singing, I just like how it sounds when they do sing. 

Or maybe I'm reluctant to examine the lyrics too closely lest I find they now make me cringe. 

Anyway, let me know what you think of this album. You won't hurt my feelings if you dislike it. But you might make my day if you remember it even half as fondly as I do. 

FlashbackAlpha (July 26, 1983)

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

DC League of Super-Pets


You can find this on HBO Max....errrr Max... hmmmm sounds like a dog's name... that's appropriate :)

Anyway, we dove into this animated movie recently. I was excited for it and while it was good, I wasn't as blown away as I hoped to be. I did love that Krypto was voiced by Dwayne Johnson "The Rock" and Ace was voiced by Kevin Hart. This match up was perfect for their characters and they both were perfect in the roles.

I loved the created family aspect of this movie of course and the fact that it was animals becoming the family made me even happier. Overall though it was lacking something or maybe it had too much of nothing. 

I am interested to know if kids liked this one. I wonder if they got some of the actual comic book references or if it was all over their heads. I am not sure if this movie is for kids or adults or just comic book readers or maybe that's the problem, they didn't know who to make the movie for in the end. Well that makes it sound terrible and it wasn't that but simply put I doubt I would watch it again.

2 paws

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Good Omens - Season One

Amazon prime is where you can find this Neil Gaiman goodie. 

Although I wasn’t as enthralled as I expected through the first two episodes, it did find its footing with me as it went along. I felt like I was watching Monty Python and while I like some of their shows, there are some parts I don't like and I worried about this when it first started. But I hung in there and as I said, it did get better for me and I ended up enjoying it.

The kids were incredible and I feel like they had to really push themselves in their roles as they had very difficult tasks and stories to move through. I adored the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley and I am sure this is why so many of my friends love this series ;)

I would definitely caution anyone who is easily offended religiously and possibly even generally. This is quite a heavy story and covers many controversial topics. It think overall though it can lead to many good conversations about religion, good and evil and what it means to be a human being.

I have never read the story that any of this is based on but I know Neil Gaiman is a brilliant storyteller so I know we will be watching season 2.

3 paws

And don't forget to check out The Hillywood Show's pardoy of Good Omens on YouTube after you watch the first season!!

Friday, July 14, 2023

Friday 80s Flashback for July 14, 2023

[In A Big Anniversary] -- One of my favorite albums was released on July 15, 1983. 40 years ago this week. That album was an energetic release by a Scottish band. An album pulsing with guitar licks that mimicked bagpipes. I am, of course, talking about The Crossing by Big Country. It was the band's first studio release, and it reached #3 in the UK and #18 on the US Billboard 200. I'm pretty sure that the bagpipe trick had something to do with the album's popularity. I mean, it was a pretty neat effect. According to a few fan boards and Wikipedia, guitarists Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson achieved the effect with the MXR Pitch Transposer 129 Guitar Effect and the e-bow, which is something of an electronic guitar pick.

"Fields of Fire" was the second single off The Crossing, but it was probably your first taste of the band; I mean, if you were living in the US in 1983. If so, like me, you heard this song before you heard Big Country's debut single, "Horizon Home" (which didn't really chart, so that might be another reason you missed it until you got a copy of the album or cassette). Anyway, back to "Fields of Fire," the music video really hammers home the song's lyrical context of war and fantasy. You can also check out the band's live Top of the Pops performance. Considering singer Stuart Adamson's sad end, I like seeing him enjoying himself. Also, I can't get enough of some of the dancers in the audience. 

Of course, we have to talk about the song that is synonymous with Big Country. I know, and you know, that song is "In A Big Country." It was the third single off Big Country's debut album, and it was their best charting release. The thunderous drum intro (in the extended mix), the exhortation to "come up screaming," and, of course, those delicious guitar licks all combined for a truly special hit single. It reached #17 on the UK Singles Chart and #3 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks in the US. It also peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in Canada. Um, did anyone else notice that repeating occurrence of 17 and 3? That wasn't just me, right? OK, anyway, the band will be forever known for this song, and that's not a bad legacy for an 80s act. 

Supported by "Fields of Fire" and "In A Big Country," as well as appearances on many of the top music programs of the day, The Crossing ended up in the top 25 of several countries, including peaking at #3 on the UK Albums Chart and #18 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The 1983 LP had 10 tracks, and that's the playlist I'm featuring in the embedded YouTube video. Both the cassette release and the 1996 re-issue had four extra tracks, but not the same bonus tracks. The 1983 cassette release included the (Pure Mix) (or '12" Mix') of "In a Big Country." So, if you cannot get enough of that song, there's an extended version for you.

FlashbackThe Crossing (July 15, 1983)

So, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Tales of the Jedi


Animated shorts on Disney +

I am sure for deep dive Star Wars fans these would be met with joy. I however would say I made it through them. I didn't hate them, I didn't love them. 

One of my main issues was the animation itself. It was odd to my eyes and brain. I wouldn't say it was bad animation just odd.

I also had a hard time placing the people in the shorts. Meaning I didn't know who they were without looking up the cast and even if the short told me the people, I didn't know the timeline for where it all fit. So as I said earlier deep dive fans probably got a lot out of these, I had a harder time with them.

2 paws for me but 4 paws for fans

Friday, July 7, 2023

Friday 80s Flashback for July 7, 2023

[A 40-Year-Old Breakup Record] -- Yazoo (or simply Yaz in North America) formed in 1981 when electronic musician Vince Clarke, fresh off the success of Depeche Mode's debut album, teamed with soul singer Alison Moyet. Their debut album, 1982's Upstairs At Eric's, had been a big success, particularly in the UK – and in dance clubs. Mute, their record label, was anticipating the duo's sophomore release. 

Unfortunately, Clark had not considered Yazoo as a longterm project, and he was ready to walk away in favor of something new. 

Even though he was talked into doing a second album, rather than repeating his one and done move as with Depeche Mode, it seems he wasn't really into it. Per Moyet, "...even as we began the second album we knew that it was over, he had already decided he didn't want to work with me anymore" [The Quietus, May 2011]. So, not only is You And Me Both, released 40 years ago this week, the duo's second and final album, it is also something of a breakup record. Clarke and Moyet had grown estranged and they ended up recording most of the album separately, rather then working together in the studio. They even announced the band's breakup before You And Me Both hit record shops.

The strange thing is that they had more time to work on the album, so it seems more planned and polished than their prior record. This was another point of contention because, while Clarke embraced the opportunity to plot and plan the work, Moyet's background had been in punk and pub rock, so she preferred the more spontaneous process associated with their debut album [see notes #4 and #5 on the wiki article].  

Now, I did not know any of this in 1983. In fact, I didn't even know there was a Yazoo until my college years. And when I finally discovered Yazoo in 1986-1987, it was probably from doing audio archeology – that is, digging back from Clarke's then current band, Erasure, and finding his prior recordings. And after You And Me Both found its way into my life, it landed itself firmly as one of my favorite albums of the early 1980s. The album released only one single, the excellent "Nobody's Diary" which peaked in the #3 slot on the UK singles chart. But other highlights include "Softly Over," "Walk Away From Love" (which really should have been a single), and my personal favorite from the album, "Mr. Blue."  

I still have a vinyl copy of You And Me Both. It was a birthday present from my early peer group at Penn State. And by early, I'm thinking they gave it to me in 1987.

Let me know what you think of this synthpop gem!

FlashbackYou And Me Both (July 4, 1983)

And that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One


I have already written about the first episode of this series awhile ago but now we were able to watch the whole first season on You Tube. Maybe not the best way to watch any series but it did the trick and we were able to enjoy this amazing series overall.

Anson Mount seems like he was born to play a Star Trek Captain. He is perfection to me and I really enjoy his take on Captain Chris Pike. He is engaging, funny, deep, thoughtful, strong, soft, and a great Dad figure to everyone. 

Every actor was perfect for their casting and I am in love with all of them. I would love to be friends with them all, especially Uhura portrayed by Celia Rose Gooding. She is effortless and beautiful and an amazing homage to Nichele Nichols' Uhura but also all her own woman.

I love the humor that is imbedded in the stories, I do wonder if some of it was ad libbed or if it was all actually scripted. Each episode gave each character a front row seat but each character was a part of their story. Even what seemed an oddly paced episode 8: "The Elysian Kingdom", it turned out to be one of our favorite episodes.

As with all Star Trek there is always deeper meaning and ways to connect their stories to either our own lives, the world around us or the universe at large. I always feel that Star Trek stories come from deep history for each writer and it is akin to storytelling in olden times. Stories you would tell around the campfire and would be passed down through every generation. 

It is true that Brainwise might have caught a few more things than me due to his deep history of Star Trek knowledge but it didn't detract from me loving this series. He would fill in the information and sometimes it would trigger a memory for me of watching the original series or a name would ruminate and remind me of something I had seen. 

The filming/cinematography of this series is beyond incredible. You feel like you are in the stories and the lighting at times just adds so much depth to the story in front of you. I love that we laughed as much as we cried and rejoiced as much as we were heart-broken.

I remember being so blown away by that first episode, and yes we watched it again and it held up, that I was so happy that the next 9 episodes were just as good. It is not a spoiler to say that it is nice to know who won't die, since they have to be around for The Original Series episodes :) That allowed us to dig in deep to the stories and see the growth and laying out of the history for all the stories to come.

4 paws and a tail