Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Years Eve And Lil Wayne Too

Some New Year's Eve parties and an upcoming show:

Dec. 31:
Randy Balsano and Triangle at Judy's Rocks.
Butt Roxx at AJ's Bar and Grill.
Zona Jones at Whiskey River.
Todd Howard and Tightrope at Dylan's.
Paper Plains at Luna Bar and Grill.
Still Cruisin' at Madison's.
Sweet Root at The Hub.

And of course, on Jan. 5 [2010], hip-hop star Lil' Wayne appears in concert with The Money Crew, Sean Garrett and Lil' Flip at The Ford Arena in Ford Park.

The Real Sherlock Holmes

Another cool article from Alex Knapp:

“I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me.”
– Sherlock Holmes

I am a huge, huge fan of John Varley, and I regularly read his commentary and reviews on his home site. However, I admit that I was a little dismayed at one of his latest commentaries, in which he completely dismisses the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film, sight unseen:

"Now I’m going to outdo myself and review a movie that hasn’t even been released yet. Now comes a movie even more dreadful in its concept than either of those loathsome things, a movie that almost makes me nauseous to even think about. Why? Because it is obvious from the trailer that they have turned Sherlock Holmes, one of the most cerebral characters in literature, into a rock-‘em sock-‘em action hero. In less than three minutes we see Holmes in a bare-knuckle fistfight, using things that resemble nunchucks, overpowering someone with some sort of kung fu moves, in a sword fight, firing a pistol in at least three different scenes, and in mortal combat with a hammer-wielding giant. We see explosions. We see a hair-raising fight on the precipice of an unfinished bridge. We see… Oh, I can’t go on."

What’s wrong with all those things, you ask? Nothing, in and of themselves. It is even possible that this will be an okay action-adventure film. But not with Sherlock Holmes!!

I have seen variants of these comments ever since the first trailer came out, and I have very strong opinions about it. I am a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have read all of Doyle’s stories on multiple occasions, and have also enjoyed a number of the non-Holmes versions. I love Sherlock Holmes, I always have. So to Mr. Varley and all of the other folks complaining about an “action hero” Holmes, I can only say this:

What Holmes stories have you been reading?

Doyle’s Holmes is a fighter! In our very first introduction to Mr. Holmes, the story “A Study In Scarlet”, Watson describes Holmes as “an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.” In “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,” Holmes is on the losing end of a stick fight. In describing his fight with Moriarty in “The Adventure of the Empty House”, Holmes reveals that he was able to defeat Moriarty in combat thanks to his knowledge of Baritsu. And there are several action scenes in the Holmes stories, such as this one in “The Red-Headed League.”

"Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized the intruder by the collar. The other dived down the hole, and I heard the sound of rending cloth as Jones clutched at his skirts. The light flashed upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes’s hunting crop came down on the man’s wrist, and the pistol clinked upon the stone floor."

Another revealing exchange about Sherlock Holmes’ physical prowess is this scene in “The Sign of Four”, which features Holmes’ exchange with the Boxer McMurdo:

“Very sorry, Mr. Thaddeus,” said the porter inexorably. “Folk may be friends o’ yours, and yet no friend o’ the master’s. He pays me well to do my duty, and my duty I’ll do. I don’t know none o’ your friends.”

“Oh, yes you do, McMurdo,” cried Sherlock Holmes genially. “I don’t think you can have forgotten me. Don’t you remember that amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?”

“Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” roared the prize-fighter. “God’s truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o’ standin’ there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I’d ha’ known you without a question. Ah, you’re one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.”

Now, I’ll grant you–Doyle’s Holmes did most of his fighting “off-screen” with little bon mots like “if it weren’t for my knowledge of stick fighting, I’d be a dead man…” but I don’t mind seeing it on-screen. It’s true to his character.

“It is cocaine, a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”
– Sherlock Holmes

I’m also pleased to see that the movie isn’t trying to class Holmes up. Doyle’s Holmes is a self-described “Bohemian” and rampant drug abuser. Watson, on more than one occasion, describes his utter horror at Holmes’ housekeeping, describing him as “the worst tenant in London.” On more than one occasion, Holmes and Watson have to break into other people’s houses, and Holmes is described as being able to rather easily pick locks.

What is NOT true to Doyles’ Holmes is the popular TV and movie portrayals of him–which turned him into a classy, upper-class gentlemen. Holmes was not a “gentleman.” He wasn’t passive. He didn’t wear a deerstalker cap. He was great friends with the working class and while he had a lot of upper-class clientele, it’s clear that he didn’t care much for most of them. Doyles’ Holmes was more like an artist–a messy, drug addicted, self-absorbed, dirty fighting genius. I, for one, am looking forward to watching a screen adaptation that actually comes close to the Holmes that I’ve read about.


Holmes Haters

Great article here from Devin Faraci:

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are engaged in a mad chase up the river Thames. Their quarry is on a boat ahead of them, and as they pass by the many bridges of London, Holmes screams down to the men belowdecks to put more coal in the fire, as they must catch up. Just as Holmes' boat is about to get the bad guy, a tug blunders between them and they have an exciting near miss. Finally, Holmes' boat pulls up behind the bad guy boat and he and Watson raise their pistols. When the bad guy raises his hands, they shoot him. After he falls they realize he had just shot a blowgun's poisoned dart at them, and it barely missed, passing just between the two friends.

This isn't a scene from the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes but rather The Sign of Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's second Holmes novel, published in 1890.

There's a steady stream of Sherlock Holmes haters out there, and while I didn't find the movie transcendent by any means (I gave it a 7 out of 10), the complaints about the film's perceived lack of faithfulness to Doyle's creation kind of get on my nerves, especially when they come from folks who haven't seen the movie or folks who are obviously not familiar with the original stories.

Of course, being familiar with the original stories isn't necessary; I have read only a handful of Holmes stories myself. But coming out of Sherlock Holmes I found myself fascinated by what did and didn't come from the canon, so I began doing some research, and I found the film to be surprisingly accurate and faithful.

First of all, it's worth noting that Doyle himself didn't take the Holmes canon all that seriously. He wrote this things to make money, and his relationship with his creation was cantankerous enough that he killed Holmes off just to quit writing stories about him (Holmes, of course, came back to life when the fans complained enough. Every weird aspect of modern fandom - the continuity hounding, the fans making demands of the creators, fanfic, all started with Sherlock Holmes). The Holmes stories can be hard to reconcile, as Doyle never bothered keeping track of the details. For instance, Holmes is initially introduced as a guy who only studies stuff that would impact his criminal investigations, but as the stories went on he was retconned into being a connoisseur of the arts as well as versed in ancient languages, none of which would be of much use when tracking a murderer. In A Study in Scarlet Holmes goes so far as to say that he did not know the Earth revolved around the sun, as it had no bearing on solving a case.

The Sign of Four is one of a number of times when Holmes uses a pistol. In that same novel Holmes' bona fides as bare knuckle boxer. He introduces himself to a prize fighter like this: "The amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison's rooms on the night of your benefit four years back." McMurdo responds by saying, "Ah, you're one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy." (thanks to Wikipedia for pulling that out)

Watson also makes mention of Holmes' talent with a sword, although he never uses one in the canon. He does use martial arts; in The Adventure of the Empty House, the story in which Doyle resurrected Holmes, the detective tells Watson how he defeated Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls - using the Japanese martial art of 'baritsu,' which is probably just a misspelling of the real martial art of bartitsu. It's fair to say that your familiar deerstalker cap-wearing Holmes (a note: he never wore a deerstalker cap in the books, although in Hound of the Baskervilles he does wear a hat with ear flaps) never busted out any karate.

Of course your familiar deerstalker cap-wearing Holmes fought the fucking Nazis. Basil Rathbone is seen as the quintessential pop culture Holmes, but his Universal Holmes movies eschewed the stories' Victorian setting and moved the action up to the then-modern day, World War II. In Sherlock Holmes in Washington Holmes is essentially a spy, and he's all mixed up in a case about missing microfilm. Obviously other Holmes films took plenty of liberties, but most of those are dismissed as parodies; the Rathbone Holmes, though, is widely considered the Holmes, and most images you see of the character are based on this guy. Who fought Nazis in World War II.

Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes actually does a remarkable job of being in canon. You can pinpoint where in the stories it takes place, as it depicts Watson moving out to be with his eventual wife, Mary Marston, who met during the events of Sign of Four. Holmes' wardrobe and personal style are also closer to the original stories than any previous version; Holmes lived as a Bohemian given to depressions (and drug use) between cases, and he also dressed in the height of fashion of the day - he was something of a dandy. Rathbone's Holmes had a stodgy air, while Robert Downey Jr's has a more faithful anti-authoritarian vibe. Obviously this doesn't make the film good, but it's all part of the care that went into making it fit into the canon.

The place where Sherlock Holmes gets away from the stories is the scope of the adventure, as well as the tone of the tale. While Ritchie et al may have brought the characters back to the original vision, they've certainly been set into a story that has more to do with the pulps of the 30s than the penny dreadfuls of the previous century. I think this is a valid sticking point for those who are purists, although I don't think it's any worse than transporting Holmes to World War II or ignoring canon altogether to depict his CGI-enhanced adventures as a teen. Whether Sherlock Holmes works for you as a movie on its own is one thing, but the film's faithfulness to canon can't be faulted - only your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes can be.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best Of SETX 2009

Here we go - my list of personal favorites of the best in everything in-and-from Southeast Texas for 2009.

SETX Entertainer Of The Year 2009: Jesse Dayton [above]. [What a year for Jesse! Not only is he the best country singer from SETX, he's also the man behind Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures AND Banjo & Sullivan.]

Best SETX Song 2009: "Zombie A-Go-Go" by Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures [Jesse Dayton].

Best SETX Album 2009: "4 Life" by Bun B and UGK.

Best SETX Rock Artist[s] 2009: Drachen.

Best SETX Country Artist 2009: Jesse Dayton.

Best SETX Hip-Hop Artist[s] 2009: Bun B and UGK.

Best SETX Blues Artist 2009: Johnny Winter.

Best SETX Psychobilly Artist[s] 2009: Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures [Jesse Dayton].

Best SETX Festival 2009: TIE - The Spindletop Film and Music Festival, and the Connect The Dots Music Festival.

Best SETX Band Reunion 2009: Mayday.

Best SETX Reissue 2009: TIE - Johnny Winter/Janis Joplin Woodstock Experience.

Best SETX Sports Team 2009: The Spindletop Rollergirls.

Best SETX Media Personality 2009: KBTV FOX 4's The Rapping Weatherman [Nick Kosir].

Best SETX Artist 2009: Keith Carter.

Best SETX Writer 2009: Jane McBride.

Best SETX Political Guru 2009: W Joe Deshotel.

Best SETX Pin-up photographer/model 2009: Laura Urban LaBove.

Best SETX Ninja 2009: Jody Ross Nolan.

Best SETX Pirate 2009: Cassie Simer.

Best SETX Web Site 2009: Connect The Dots - http://www.ctheds.com/

Best SETX Radio Show 2009: Big Dog 106's Homegrown Show.

Best SETX Television Show 2009: KBTV FOX 4's "Good Day."

Best SETX Indoor Venue Since The Vortex Closed 2009: The Star Bar.

Best SETX Outdoor Venue 2009: The Art Studio Inc.

Best SETX Place For Breakfast 2009: The Early Bird Cafe.

Best SETX Eatery 2009: The Zydeco Louisiana Diner.

Best SETX Coffee Lounge 2009: The Barking Dog.

Best SETX Books/music/dvds/cafe 2009: Barnes & Noble.

Best SETX Movie 2009: "Noble Things."

Best SETX Performance in a Movie 2009: TIE - Jesse Dayton as Captian Clegg in Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" [above] and Tracy Byrd as himself in "Noble Things."

Best SETX Song Heard in a Movie 2009: TIE - Captain Clegg & The Night Creatures' "Transylvania Terror Train" in Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" and Banjo & Sullivan's "Dick Soup" heard in Rob Zombie's "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Murder Of The Orient Express

It's the end of the line for one of the world's most classic forms of travel, the Orient Express. Established in the 1880's, the Orient Express rolled from London or Paris to Istanbul.

The iconic train makes it's last run today.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Steampunk Music

From MTV:

"And, of course, where would any self-respecting subculture be without its own music? While there's been much debate on the issue, steampunk-related music usually has orchestral characteristics, à la Rasputina, or it could also have a Tom Waits-esque metallic, gritty sound. A lot of steampunk bands offer amalgamations.

"Groups like the aptly named Vernian Process combine Victorian-themed lyrics with old-world instrumentation recreated on synthesizers to create old-world instrumentation while using Victorian-themed lyrics. "I [chose the band's name] because of Jules Verne, father of the genre and the process," the group's Joshua A. Pfeiffer said. "Vernian Process is like the process of making steampunk music."

"Another great example is Dr. Steel, a hip-hop steampunker. Draped in a white lab coat, clad with ironworkers' goggles, he uses technology to promote a message of peace via strict control. Fans are promised a Utopian Playland and sublime entertainment if they become a member of his "Toy Soldiers" fan group.

"Abney Park are probably the most visually mainstream band in the genre. With beginnings as a goth act, Abney found their calling as steampunk "airship pirates," and are happy with the musical vagueness of that designation.

"You can't really pigeonhole all steampunk as a music genre," bassist Daniel C. said. "We can do a Victorian [acoustic] music set or we can do our live [electric] set; two completely different sounds, but the focus is considered steampunk."


Looking For War Against Christmas In All The Wrong Places

One night at the bookstore, customer says to me "Merry Christmas" and I say "And a very happy Christmas to you."

"Don't you mean MERRY Christmas?" he asks.

I smile and say "Certainly sir, a very merry Christmas to you."

"What, they won't let you say CHRISTMAS in this store?" he asks.

"I did say Christmas," I reply. "Twice."

"Yeah, but the store doesn't really WANT you to say Christmas!" he said. "Everyone's AFRAID to say CHRISTMAS!"

I point to a large sign right behind me hanging above my head. In large red letters, it reads "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

"I don't think that's a problem here," I say with a smile. "We even have a selection of gift cards that say 'Merry Christmas' right on them - and a wide variety of Christmas books. Would you like to see them?"

"Go to HELL!" he said.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2010 Grammy Award Nominations

Announced 12/02/09

Song of the Year:
Beyonce, 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)'
Kings of Leon, 'Use Somebody'
Lady GaGa, 'Poker Face'
Maxwell, 'Pretty wings'
Taylor Swift, 'You Belong With Me'

Pop Duo or Group With Vocals:
Black Eyed Peas, 'I Gotta Feeling'
Bon Jovi, 'We Weren't Born to Follow'
The Fray, 'Never Say Never'
Daryl Hall and John Oates, 'Sara Smile'
MGMT, 'Kids'

Best rock album:
AC/DC's "Black Ice"
Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood's "Life from Madison Square Garden"
Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown"
Dave Matthews Band's "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King"
U2's "No Line on the Horizon"

Best rap solo performance:
Drake's "Best I Ever Had"
Eminem's "Beautiful"
Jay-Z's "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"
Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Nite"
Mos Def's "Casa Bey"

Album Of The Year:
I Am…Sasha Fierce (Beyoncé)
The E.N.D. (the Black Eyed Peas)
The Fame (Lady Gaga)
Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King (Dave Matthews Band)
Fearless (Taylor Swift)

Record Of The Year:
"Halo" (Beyoncé)
"I Gotta Feeling" (the Black Eyed Peas)
"Use Somebody" (Kings Of Leon)
"Poker Face" (Lady Gaga)
"You Belong With Me" (Taylor Swift)

Best New Artist:
Zac Brown Band
Keri Hilson
Silversun Pickups
The Ting Tings

Best Country Song:
“All I Ask For Anymore” (Trace Adkins)
“High Cost of Living” (Jamey Johnson)
“I Run To You” (Lady Antebellum)
“People Are Crazy” (Billy Currington)
“White Horse” (Taylor Swift)

Best Country Album:
The Foundation (Zac Brown Band)
Twang (George Strait)
Fearless (Taylor Swift)
Defying Gravity (Keith Urban)
Call Me Crazy (Lee Ann Womack)

Best Pop Vocal Album:
The E.N.D. (The Black Eyed Pease)
Breakthrough (Colbie Calilat)
All I Ever Wanted (Kelly Clarkson)
The Fray (The Fray)
Funhouse (Pink)

Best R&B Album:
The Point Of It All (Anthony Hamilton)
Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics (India.Arie)
Turn Me Loose (Ledisi)
Blacksummers’ Night (Maxwell)
Uncle Charlie (Charlie Wilson)

Best Rap Album:
Universal Mind Control (Common)
Relapse (Eminem)
R.O.O.T.S. (Flo Rida)
The Ecstatic (Mos Def)
The Renaissance (Q-Tip)

... more to come.