Hard Rock + Proto-Metal FEBRUARY: ALICE COOPER (Band)

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YEAR OF METAL title

Alice-Cooper-Billion-Dollar-Ba-128358

KISS may be credited for pioneering theatrics in the metal genre, but it was the Alice Cooper Band that really brought the spectacle to rock and roll. Like a Hammer Horror all done up in vaudeville, Alice Cooper the band pretty much embodied shock rock and ran with it, inspiring metal bands since with how to really put on a show.

“I’m Eighteen”

“School’s Out”

“Billion Dollar Babies”

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Hard Rock + Proto-Metal FEBRUARY: BLACK SABBATH

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YEAR OF METAL title

black sabbath logo

So…again with the six song picks, instead of the usual three. As with AC/DC, it would be a shame to just limit three picks to just one era or so, or even pick just one from the Ozzy/Dio/miscellaneous vocalist versions of Black Sabbath. And instead of picking three from each different versions of the band, making the count nine, I just stuck with three from the Ozzy era and the Dio era. Because I’m rather unfamiliar with the Misc. Singer albums, and neither do I really want to be. Maybe I’m missing out on something fantastic by doing so, but something tells me I’m not. Besides…OZZY AND DIO!

Anyway, if you claim to be a METALHEAD and don’t know who Black Sabbath is, you deserve all the poser taunts and kidney punches you’re going to endure. Everything that METAL is, Black Sabbath created, or at least pioneered beyond the limitations from before. Some of which were by sheer accident. That deep, dark sludgy guitar sound, full of power chord riffs that everybody’s copied since? Machine press accident. The self-titled album should be issued, along with the follow-up Paranoid, as part as a Welcome Kit whenever someone decides to become a METALHEAD, as all the basic foundations of METAL are found in those two classics. Even as they ventured into more proper metal territory when Ronnie James Dio took over vocal duties, they remained innovators rather than imitators.

Ozzy Era:
“Black Sabbath”

“Paranoid”

“Children Of The Grave”

Dio Era:
“Heaven And Hell”

“The Sign Of The Southern Cross”

“After All (The Dead)”

::END TRANSMISSION::

Sunday A’La Carte’: February 15, 2015

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radio shack adios

Greetings and salutations, everyone. It is once again Sunday, which means it’s time to dispense with the week’s brain droppings and various other inane babbling that bubble forth from my head. Meanderings, maybe? I don’t know anymore.

I had to work yesterday. I usually don’t work on Saturdays, but yesterday was a bit different as I had to get something done during the week that I couldn’t do on the weekend, nor was I able to do so after I got off work during the weekdays. So, I traded the one day off that I had during the weekend that my place of employment was open—Saturday—with Wednesday to take care of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I also chose Wednesday to do the deed, as that was also Youth Group night, and I figured I would just hang out at my sister and brother-in-law’s place before heading out to the group, then going back to the Victorian in Omaha. Make a day out of it and all. Which meant I worked on Saturday. Which gave me a reminder of why I usually don’t work Saturdays. The call volume was relatively low; it’s just that there was an unusually high number of people who made my brain hurt talking to them per capita. I’m content with my usual Monday through Friday, thank you very much.

That also meant that I had to miss my youngest nephew’s birthday party. The kid turned 5, a monumental year, as that means he has to now go out and find a job, earn his keep and all that. Or, you know, get set to go to Big Boy School soon. One or the other. I brought him his birthday gift on the afore-mentioned Wednesday: a bunch of Hot Wheels cars and a semi trailer set. His favorite part of the gift was the card that had a pop-out monkey inside. I think he played with that more than the Hot Wheels themselves. The 10-year-old nephew came back home from school, we all hung out watching a space documentary series from the History Channel, where I amused them with fun comments with the CGI dinosaurs and referring to solar flairs as “Sun Farts”. The five-year-old spontaneously made up a song about these “sun farts.” My work there was done.

Speaking of space, it looks like the Hubble telescope has finally found God’s emoticon

Radio Shack is finally going belly-up after 94-some-odd years of being in business. I used to work at the Radio Shack in Fremont, Nebraska. It was in the “Mall” there since I could remember, and was the source of my family’s very first computer purchase back in 1985. It was a Tandy 1000, and didn’t even have a hard drive–it booted up with a series of floppy discs. It predated Windows, and came with a complementary copy of the very first King’s Quest. Anyway, Radio Shack was already showing signs of stress fractures when I was hired on back in 2005, starting to emulate the Apple stores rather than be the niche place for gadget tinkerers and other tech geeks of the like. There was talk of eliminating the entire parts and pieces stock and focusing more on cell phones, media players and televisions, before my tenure there ended. Frankly, I’m surprised they lasted this long after that. They will be missed, but because of the parts and encouragement to mess around with electronics. But, we have New Egg and Think Geek for that now, I guess.

In kind of related news, though: the Family Christian book store chain recently filed for bankruptcy as well; however, it looks like none of the 250 stores will be closing. Don’t really know how that works. I am relieved, though, as where else am I going to go to replenish my stock of Testa-Mints?

STUFF I’VE WRITTEN: The Hard Rock + Proto-Metal month of February in this YEAR OF METAL continued with posts for the Scorpions, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin. Also, I picked up a bit on my reading, and thus cranked out reviews of the recent Stephen King novel, and a handful of Doctor Who novels here, here, here and here.

That’s all I’m willing to give for this week, folks. I’m going to do some more writing on other things, do a bit of reading, then it’s off to bed for my beauty rest. Gotta look good for the office, and all that. I leave you now with a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon. Because, why not? Cheers, all…


::END TRANSMISSION::

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO and the Revenge of the Cybermen

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doctor who and the revenge of the cybermenTerrance Dicks
Target Books / Pinnacle Books
1978 / 1989

One by one, their limbs became diseased—they were replaced by plastic and steel! Little by little, their brains tired—computers worked just as well! Locked in a battle once again with these dreadful Cybermen, the Doctor is caught between desperate Vogans, determined to save their planet. Voga, and the Cybermen, determined to destroy it. But the Doctor has one last trick up his sleeve: it is a poison—powerful, plentiful, and deadly. And it is the only weapon humans have against the Cybermen, and the only reason the Cybermen must destroy Voga—the planet of Gold.

This is one of those novelizations of a serial from the classic Doctor Who run, this one being the 12th season four part story Revenge of the Cybermen. The 12th season was the inaugural season for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, and “Revenge of the Cybermen” takes place right on the heels of one of the more classic Dalek stories: Genesis of the Daleks. As a matter of fact, we come in right after the events from “Genesis of the Daleks”, finding The Doctor and companions Harry and Sarah Jane appearing on the deep space Becon station Nerva, apparently a bit earlier than the arrival of the TARDIS (long story, involving Time Lords and stuff). That doesn’t necessarily concern them as much as all of the dead bodies of what is presumed to be the crew of the Nerva Becon littering the corridors from what appears to be some kind of space plague. Seems there are only four survivors on the station, not counting the Doctor and his companions, the only ones to warn other ships from approaching the mysterious asteroid that appeared orbiting Jupiter. Turns out, that’s all that remains of the planet Voga, a planet of gold that was instrumental in the battle against the dreaded Cybermen (gold being the Cybermen’s kryptonite, if I may mix my geek medias, here). Turns out the Cybermen aren’t as extinct as everyone presumed, especially when the Doctor spots and deactivates a Cybermat, the source of the “plague” everyone was dying from in the first place. It also turns out that one of the crew members was acting as something of a double agent between the Cybermen and the Vogans, hoping to pick up some of that sweet, sweet gold for himself. Of course, wackiness ensues when they discover that the Vogans are what you would call distrustful of any other kind of alien being, and the Cybermen decide to put their own plan into motion of blowing up the rest of Vogan.

My particular copy of Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen is the 1989 reprint that Pinnacle Books released here in America, from the original Target Books in the UK. Hence the odd cover and logo style, as I like to use the artwork of the copy that I own/have read. As to the adaptation of the story, I found it to be a rather nifty tale of the Doctor outwitting the Cybermen in classic fashion. I haven’t seen the actual serial that this is based on—yet—but as a Doctor Who story, this one’s a classic. And at only 139 pages, it’s a quick shot of sci-fi goodness. My only real beef is the fact that the back cover blurb refers to the Doctor as “Doctor Who”; I don’t know if this was the decision of clueless American publishers, as I don’t have access to the Target book itself, but I took the liberty of fixing that little faux pas when reproducing that blurb for the purpose of this review. I mean, otherwise I would have been all kinds of fanboy twitchy, here.

You’re welcome. Four out of five TARDISes.

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: The Stone Rose

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doctor who - the stone roseJacqueline Rayner
BBC Books
2006

Mickey is startled to find a statue of Rose in a museum–a statue that is 2000 years old. The Doctor realizes that this means the TARDIS will shortly take them to ancient Rome, but when it does, he and Rose soon have more on their minds than sculpture. While the Doctor searches for a missing boy, Rose befriends a girl who claims to know the future–a girl whose predictions are surprisingly accurate. But then the Doctor stumbles upon the hideous truth behind the statue of Rose–and Rose herself learns that you have to be very careful what you wish for…

There’s a group of Doctor Who fans that are vocal about enjoying their favorite sci-fi phenom when it utilized the “time travel” portion of the concept: The historical stories, that used fact-based history and wove stories around that. And indeed, Doctor Who was originally an educational program that used science fiction as its medium. There were far more historical serieals in the show’s first few years than there have been since. And while I fall more into the “whimsical space travel” category, it’s always fun to see the Doctor interact with various points in Earth’s history. Like he does here in this New Series novel, The Stone Rose.

The Stone Rose was the first novel featuring the Tenth Doctor, and as such it doesn’t exactly catch all of the subtle quirks and nuances of David Tennent’s portrayal as well as future Tenth Doctor novels, mostly due to not having much of a model to go with at the time. That’s okay, because your average Doctor Who fan’s imagination is strong enough to compensate for those oversights.

The story involves the discovery of a statue dating back to Ancient Rome that looks exactly like then companion Rose Tyler, down to the jewelry she was wearing when they found the statue at the local museum. This prompts them to go back to Ancient Rome, mainly to pose for the statue that’s going to adorn said museum so far into the future. But, when they arrive at their destination, they discover that things aren’t exactly as cut and dried as “pose for statue”; while helping a local to find his missing son, they stumble upon the artist that’s producing masterwork statues at a literally impossible pace, his method of which might be behind a bunch of disappearances of slaves, and the publican’s son. Also, there’s the issue of a literal goddess that seemed to have popped up around the time this statue maker got his mad statue-making skills, as well as a slave girl whose method of predicting the future has nothing to do with reading the stars accurately. All this, and the Doctor’s biggest challenge would be not having any pockets on his toga to put his sonic screwdriver in.

Overall, The Stone Rose was, for the most part, an entertaining bit of historical science ficiton. Having the Doctor and Rose interact with everyday Roman society was a nice change of pace, exploring the alien settings of human history, as opposed to an actual alien setting. It always strikes me how different historical cultures and their common ideas about their fellow humans and how they treated them can make anyone in this modern day and age cringe with comparison, if not outraged. It’s easy to forget that, and that part was handled fairly well. It’s when we get to the last bit, when we discover what it is behind everything that’s going on (I won’t spoil things for you), that’s where I’m still not convinced with the outcome. This is why I’m going to give The Stone Rose three and ½ TARDISes out of five. Good amusing story, but not great. Not too shabby for the first Tenth Doctor novel, though.

Hard Rock + Proto-Metal FEBRUARY: Led Zeppelin

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YEAR OF METAL title

led zeppelin

Many a time, when talking about classic heavy metal and the bands that formed the genre, sooner or later Led Zeppelin is going to be brought up. And yeah, their influence is a valid one; though, one could very well argue that they were really more of a blues rock band that had a bit more of an attitude than the era they initially sprung up from. As a matter of fact, Led Zeppelin rocked just as much with acoustic instruments as they did with the patented “wall of guitars” production job that they pioneered. Matter of fact, there’s only one heavy song on their third record, with the rest being acoustic numbers. To say nothing of classical instrumentation, or experimenting with other styles all together. Regardless, Led Zeppelin’s contribution to metal was taking the roots of all rock-based music–the blues–and infused it with a strong dose of power and more than a generous helping of mysteriousness and fantasy.

“Dazed And Confused”

“Heartbreaker”

“Immigrant Song”

::END TRANSMISSION::

Book Review: REVIVIAL

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stephen king - revivalStephen King
Scribner
2014

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing in the yard with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Reverend Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs–including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town. Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of barband rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties–addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate–Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pack beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that “revival” has many meanings.

It’s rather fascinating at times to see how prolific genre-bending writer Stephen King has been since announcing over a decade ago that he was retiring from writing after finishing up the last of the Dark Tower series of novels. This was back in 2002. Not that I’m complaining; when I first read that he was done with writing (mostly stemming from that infamous accident where he was hit by what can only be described as a dumbass) I was morose, yes. But as a writer with delusions of adequacy, I can understand why he didn’t entirely quit his craft, even though he could have, and quite comfortably to boot. Writers just have to write. And turns out, he still has stories to tell. Like this recent foray into urban fantasy horror: Revival.

Revival is a spine-tingling tale involving small-town faith, doubt, and releasing eldritch horrors by way of electro shock treatment. Well, something like that. The story spans a good 50 years, starting with a young Jamie Morton meeting the new minister of their Methodist church, the fresh-faced Charles Jacobs. The good Rev. Jacobs–along with his wife and toddler son–captures the heart of the small Maine town, and soon energizes the sleepy church, both the adults and the youth. Soon, though, Mrs. Jacobs and their little boy die in a horrible accident, prompting Charles Jacobs to take a good, hard look at his faith during the shock and grieving process, where he comes to the conclusion that either there is not God, or He at least is a cruel jerk. This is something that touches little Jamie rather profoundly. Time passes, and a grown-up Jamie is a passable rhythm guitar player, playing in a series of bar bands and sporting a rather nasty drug habit. After being dumped by the country band he was in (that was probably a blessing in disguise, but I digress), he runs into the former Reverend Jacobs working the carnival circuit, presenting a rather dazzling lightning show to an enraptured crowd. Jacobs helps Jamie with kicking the monkey off of his back, then they don’t meet up again until years later, when he’s working as a very successful and talented recording producer in Colorado. A series of incidents occur that leads Jamie to once again seek out his old mentor, where he finds that the now old man not only never got over the death of his wife and son, but developed one doozy of an obsession with trying to find them in the great beyond in a manner that didn’t involve dying himself. And that’s when things get weird.

Revival was one of those books where the title and the juxtaposition of the cover art grabbed my attention and made me curious. It’s been a while since any kind of book did that, let alone a Stephen King book. The blurb on the inner dust cover flap further seeded my interest in reading it, enough so that I bought the hardcover a couple of weeks later, instead of waiting for the mass market paperback to come out. Mind you, I did use a gift card I got for Christmas to a bookstore, at which time the book itself was marked down considerably from the original cover price, but still. I think the last time I couldn’t wait for the paperback release was with his son’s novel, NOS4A2. Irony, I think.

The subject of loss of faith and questioning God’s “goodness” was handled rather well, and in a relatively realistic way. Well, as realistic as one can get with a horror novel, anyway. I’ve had my fair share of loss and have had periods of questioning my faith, but it never really occurred to me to try and Tesla my way past the veil of the space/time continuum. I deliberately left out the most chilling part of this novel, mind you, as the build-up takes the entire span of the book, and the payoff is one of the more satisfying I’ve read this side of a Robert Bloch story.

As both a fan of Stephen King and the urban dark fantasy/horror genre in general, Revival is one of the better ones I’ve read in recent times. I would recommend it.

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