Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guns N'Roses, Chinese Democracy - Give it a chance


I'm probably about as unbiased as they get when it comes to Guns N'Roses, so what follows is my humble, half-assed review of the newly released Chinese Democracy.

I was never a big fan of Guns N' Roses back in the day when they were big. Back when everyone and their dog liked them. I can't put my finger on any specific reason why I didn't like them. Maybe it was Axl's voice... or that goofy swaying back and forth thing that he did while singing... or maybe the head scarf... I don't know. I just didn't like them.

Appetite for Destruction album coverIt wasn't until (many) years later when they more or less disappeared that I started to enjoy a few songs from Appetite for Destruction. I even got one of the Use Your Illusion albums, although I can't recall if it was 1 or 2. Mind you, the only reason I did get it was because I forgot to return the card to Columbia House so they wouldn't send it to me. Once I had it, curiosity got the best of me and I kept it.

A year or two ago, I won 2 tickets from a local radio station to a GNR concert here in Ottawa. (Why do I win things that I could care less about? Why not a million bucks??) I went to the show and I actually enjoyed it. The head scarf was gone, but Axl still did that swaying thing. Thankfully, it wasn't enough to ruin the show for me.

Which brings us to the long-awaited Chinese Democracy.

I picked up a link to the GNR site via Twitter, where the entire album was streaming for all to listen to. I slapped on some headphones while I was at work and listened, as I worked away during the day.

The first time through was "meh". A couple of hard-edged GNR-like songs and some really different songs, quite unlike the GNR that I knew.

By the third or fourth listen, the songs started to grow on me. So much so that I went out yesterday and bought the CD. I probably could have found it online somewhere and downloaded it, but I'm a firm believer in paying for what I like to listen to.

The reviews of Chinese Democracy have been mixed. The comments on those reviews are also mixed. I'll use a common quote from many of them: "This isn't Appetite for Destruction". Words could not be more true. I'm sure that anyone who expected it to be that is disappointed.

I've read many references to possible influences throughout the album; Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, U2, and even Roger Waters and Elton John. I have to include Queensryche among them. They're all there -- some more obvious than others. But realistically, is it even possible these days to write a new song without having it compared to the style or sound of any existing or past bands? How can any musician or song writer not allow the music they listen to influence their own music?

Anyway, as I alluded to above, this isn't an instant "I love it and gotta have it" album -- at least it wasn't for me. I think that anyone who dismisses this album as crap after one listen, or based on hearing one or two tracks on the radio, is really missing out (aside from those who never have, and never will, like Axl Rose's voice)

But for those of you who don't mind Axl, give this album a chance. Put aside the fact that the name of the band is Guns N'Roses. Pretend it's a new band. And then listen to the entire album, more than once. Or twice. Open your mind and listen to what this album has to offer. There's some good stuff in there. Accept it for what it is -- don't knock it for what it isn't. And if you still don't like it, you can go back to your other bands dishing out the same old canned formula.

The stream is still active here.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Waaaait a minute... who posted that last post?

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to my new guest contributor here on Katzenjammer -- the lovely and talented Misty! No, she isn't some kind of secret alter ego buried deep within my brain, she's real. ;)

Now you'll actually have something interesting to read instead of my usual rants about crappy car dealership service, waiting in line at Future Shop at midnight, or how to make microwave Kraft Dinner (the KD info is still the most popular post here)

Welcome Misty!

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Sexiest Man Alive? Please.

Having been invited to guest-blog on Katzenjammer, I find myself faced with the formidable task of choosing a topic on which to write. Now that the bloom is off Obama and Britney hasn’t shaved anything in months, the obvious choices are gone. And so, esteemed readers of Scott’s blog, I have opted to write about what I feel is the most pressing issue of the day (if only to my own estrogen-coloured perspective): the naming of Hugh Jackman as People magazine’s sexiest man alive.

While I certainly wouldn’t boot the Aussie actor out of bed for eating crackers (or, more likely, vegemite), there’s a part of me that isn’t quite sold on him landing in People’s top spot. Realistically, I know he was chosen because he has a movie to promote (Baz Luhrmann’s Australia) and was probably the least likely of Hollywood’s hotties to turn down what industry insiders recognize as the “black cat” of tabloid titles (see footnote below); free press as the world’s sexiest man, after all, also means free press for an artsy, over-budgeted movie that appears to have all the audience appeal of a National Geographic special on sea cows. But even ignoring that glaring fact, Jackman just doesn’t feel like the right man for the job in this day and age. He’s just, well, too pretty.

I feel like we are finally at a place where we should feel comfortable recognizing the less obvious sex symbols of our time without apology or explanation. Forget the life-sized blow-up dolls with more wattage in their smiles than their brains. I want to see the guys who read Wired, can restore my harddrive in a pinch, cook a mean lasagna, and probably had Puppy Chow thrown at them as children. Give me your nerds, geeks and thoughtful fanboys with comic-book collections and secret lives as virtual circus performers on Second Life. Capped teeth and cologne-ad bods are for the unimaginative!

So how about it, People? Would a little realism be so much to ask? Let me be the first to throw out the names of Michael Cera, Hugh Laurie and Kevin Smith for next year’s title. They may not start a flashbulb frenzy on the red carpet, but they can be every bit as sexy – if not more so – than the guys whose appeal lives and dies on their catalogue looks and ability to tear phonebooks in half. Like my good friend Judge Judy once said: Beauty fades, dumb is forever.

* FOOTNOTE: A pop cultural institution since 1985, People's "sexiest" title has gained a dubious reputation for bringing personal and professional plagues upon its winners. Since the award's inception, more than half its honourees have experienced post-win relationship meltdowns, career flame-outs, public backlash and ugly run-ins with the law. One of the genetically gifted men, 1988 cover boy John F. Kennedy Jr., died in a plane crash.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Midnight Line-up for Gears of War 2

Future Shop, Halifax, Nova ScotiaGears of War 2 for the Xbox 360 is due for release later today. Future Shop and Best Buy were holding midnight release sales for an hour to let gamers be the first to get their hands on the game.

I've never stood in line for the release of any game before. The only time I ever got in a line-up early for anything was Pink Floyd tickets way back in the 80's. Anyway, even though I didn't expect to have any trouble finding the game later today, I decided to go to Future Shop tonight just for kicks.

The doors were supposed to open at 11:59pm. I left home at around 11:20pm, and after hitting Timmy's for a coffee, I arrived at Future Shop at around 11:30pm. I didn't expect a long line-up since this wasn't like a new release of Halo, and I wasn't disappointed. I estimated that there were around 20 people waiting. They had a BBQ going with hotdogs and drinks in front of the store. No idea if they charged for them. They also had a chalk drawing of the Gears of War logo on the sidewalk. The few employees that stood outside all had Gears of War T-shirts on.

I sat in the warmth of my my truck, drank my coffee and had a smoke.

About 10 minutes later, I saw two other cars drive into the parking lot, so I decided it was time to get in line. If I counted correctly, I was 17th in line.

People talked mostly about the game, or its predecessor, Gears of War. I have never played the original game. Others talked about the Sens vs Flyers hockey game from earlier in the evening.

At around 11:50pm a cop car pulled into the parking lot slowly and drove past the front of the store watching us as they talked on their radio. A few people made jokes that they sent a lady cop to deal with large crowd of guys hanging around outside Future Shop after closing hours. Not quite sure why that was funny since she was the one with a gun. :)

She started to drive away and then came back and rolled down her window to speak with one of the employees. One of the guys in line said he saw someone staring out the window of a house that backed onto the parking lot. We figure they called the cops because it looked odd that 25 guys were hanging around outside Future Shop just before midnight. :)

She drove off, content that there were no shenanigans going on.

Just before midnight one of the employees told us all that if we had a pre-order, we could go straight to the customer service desk. A few minutes later, they started to let people in 5 at a time.

About 5 minutes later, some of the first people that were let in started to come out, with their purchases in hand. One of them made a comment that he had waited 2½ hours. I guess he expected more people. Sucker. :)

By 12:10am, I was in the store. The aisles were all blocked off with caution tape to keep people at the front of the store, where they had the display set up with the games, the "bonus" Gears of War figurines, along with Xbox Live Points cards, controllers, and other miscellaneous Xbox 360 hardware.

I picked up a game, the free figurine and headed to the cash.

I was back in my truck and on the way home by 12:15am. As I drove off, the last of those in line were on their way into the store.

I'm sure it wasn't as exciting as any bigger selling game, like Halo, but it was kinda cool. I don't know if I'd do it again, especially when stores like Best Buy are guaranteeing stock on the first day, or they'll give you a $20 gift card.

My curiosity has been satisfied.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dreams, memories, and deep thoughts

I had a dream the other night where something funny happened and I actually laughed out loud, waking myself up. I asked my wife the next day if she heard me -- she didn't.

Anyway, the point of this is that in my dream, I was visiting a fictitious location that I had visited once before, in a previous dream. At least I think I did.

It got me thinking... did I really visit this location in another dream, or did my brain simply create this memory of being there before?

Then I started to think about it even more. How often are recurring dreams actually a recurring dream? And how often are they a fictitious memory created by your brain?

Did that make sense?

Of course, if you tell someone about your recurring dream on more than one occasion, then they are in fact separate instances of the same dream. I mean, there's no way for your brain to plant a memory in someone else's brain.

Seriously.

That's just crazy talk. ;)

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