Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

My friend, Kasey Lansdale, has a new single out, "Good Girl." I've known Kasey for more than 20 year (egads!) and could embarrass her with stories about how she snubbed Neil Gaiman or entered her pet hamster in a beauty pageant. But I won't. Instead, I'll say that she's one heck of a singer and this new song has killer hook in the chorus that will become a earworm for many, many folks.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Lindsey Sterling.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

"Carol of the Bells" is one of my favorite Christmas carols, but honestly, I hate most versions of it. I'm not a fan of vocal versions and instrumentals are mostly iffy. My thinking is that if there aren't extensive bells involved, then it's not really "Carol of the Bells," is it? I make a rare exception for Lindsey Stirling's cover, though. It has that jes nes se qua, I don't know what, that just feels right. So yeah, this one's a keeper.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Kristin Chenoweth.

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Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Well, the holiday season is upon us once again. Rather than knock you out of the Whamageddon pool or inflict Mariah Carey on you, how about a little tropical seasonality, with Kristin Chenoweth's version of "Christmas Island" to get things rolling? Yeah, that sounds good to me.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Kim Wilde.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Kim Wilde's one of those 80s singers I never really got into, but always tended to like her stuff when it came on the radio. That said, I have no memory of "The Second Time (Go For It)." It sounds like typical 80s album filler, or perhaps the second single off an 80s B movie soundtrack. As for the video, damn. I have no idea what's going on here. Is this some kind of Max Max/Streets of Fire riff? Is she trying to out-Duran-Duran Duran Duran? Kim pit-fighting with a mummy? I hope she made her saving throw against Mummy Rot. Yes, kids, the 80s were weird.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jorge Ben.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance episode 7

Episode 7: Time to Make... My Move

Obligatory Plot Summary: The Dousan Gelfling Rek'yr drops Rian's group off within sight (distant sight) of the Circle of the Suns, a distant mesa jutting up from the Crystal Sea. Rian's group has to outrace a sandstorm to reach it, and only survive because stone golem Lore carries them up the steep cliff walls. At the top, they find the Heretic and Wanderer, a Skeksis and Mystic, living together. They're both absolutely bonkers, and through an equally bonkers puppet show, explain how they're two halves of the same being and were exiled for suggesting Skeksis and Mystics should get along and work together to figure out a way to rejoin into a single being. The Heretic reveals that he created Lore, and removes the magical crystal, reverting the golem to an inert pile of boulders. The pair inform Rian that to defeat the Skeksis, he needs to retrieve the Dual Gglaive, a magical sword hidden in the Caves of Grot. Speaking of the Caves of Grot, the Skeksis Emperor promises the Arathim Ascendancy (giant hive-mind spiders referred to as Spitters) they can return to their ancestral home in the Caves of Grot if they defeat the Stonewood clan's Gelfling army. The Spitters promise to do more than that. Elsewhere, Hunter (remember him?) captures Rek'yr and his crew, demanding to know where Rian is. Rek'yr resists the torture, but one of his crew panics and tells Hunter that Rian is at the Circle of the Suns. At Stone-in-the-Wood, Aughra shows up to try and talk Maudra Fara out of a frontal assault on the Skeksis. Fara rejects Aughra's counsel, and the next thing we know, Princess Tavra (captured by the Skeksis several episodes back) shows up, wrapped in a cloak. She throws open the cloak and hundreds of tiny Spitters swarm the Gelfling army, latching onto the sides of their faces and mind-controlling them. Completely overwhelmed, the zombie Gelfling army marches off to the Skeksis dungeons. Back at the Circle of the Suns, Hunter shows up abruptly and kicks everyone's ass. Hup brandishes his spoon and charges Hunter, who declares the Podling "cute" before flinging him with bone-crunching force against a distant wall. At the last moment, Archer, the Mystic counterpart to Hunter, shows up and peppers the Skeksis with arrows. Gravely wounded, Hunter grabs Princess Brea and flees.

Musings: There's a lot to unpack here. More plot is crammed into this episode than almost the rest of the episodes combined. The return of Hunter is welcomed, as things always pick up when he's around, as long as he's a puppet and not CGI. Archer shooting him, and apparently shooting to kill, or at least severely wound, was a striking sequence even if expected. Archer, of course, suffered every wound he inflicted on Hunter, and if the Skeksis dies, so does the Mystic. Speaking of, the origin story the Heretic and Wanderer share is not the one from the movie. In the original film, the alien urSkeks cracked the Crystal of Truth in a misguided attempt to rid themselves of evil elements in their nature. In this telling, they were doing nothing of the sort, but rather experimenting on the Crystal itself when things went blooey. That's... significant, to say the least. In light of that, the urSkeks, and Skeksis and Mystics after them, are very much a metaphor for invasive species, which can arrive and utterly disrupt an ecosystem causing the extinction of many species. And disrupt they do--in promising the Caves of Grot to the Arathim, the Emperor intends for the Spitters to destroy the Grottan tribe, then subsequently die themselves as the Darkening--the corruption spreading out from the Crystal--has taken root in the Caves of Grot and are tainting all life there. And while I'm on the subject of Grottans, Deet's casual mention that she has two fathers serves the simultaneous purpose of conveying that homosexuality is an unremarkable reality on Thra, whilst simultaneously causing the heads of "Think of the children!" bigots to explode worldwide. The things I really didn't like about this episode were 1) Gelflings didn't create any of the magic that Princess Brea discovered in and around the throne room. Lore, and everything else, was planted there by the Heretic, 2) the introduction of the magical weapon that can save the good guys from the unstoppable evil. I mean, even the name, "Dual Glaive" evokes memories of the similarly-named Glaive from the 1980s fantasy movie Krull. As it came out not long after the original Dark Crystal I'm certain the name isn't a coincidence. So next episode we're going to get a quest for the Grail... or whatever. What started out as a clever, funny and inventive episode fell back into serious fantasy cliche territory very, very hard. This series continues its bipolar tendencies, as it goes from soaring heights to deep, deep pits of drek at the drop of a hat. I would sincerely appreciate some consistency.

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Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

After a few days of nearly perfect weather, the skies have turned overcast and gloomy, and everything's damp and cold. This calls for the bossa nova/samba/tropical rock fusion of Jorge Ben's "PaĆ­s Tropical." Alas, the weather forecast promises it's going to get colder before it gets warmer. Maybe next week I'll go with the Beach Boys...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Oingo Boingo.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance episode 6

Episode 6: By Gelfling Hand...

Obligatory Plot Summary: The Chamberlain arrives at Stone-in-the-Wood and demands the Gelflings serve his needs. Instead, they hide and throw rocks in open defiance. Terrified, the Chamberlain flees. Rian and his party catch up with the Skeksis coach conveying the "volunteers" as well as Brea, Deet and Hup to the Castle of the Crystal. The rescue doesn't go that well until the stone golem, Lore, arrives and starts ripping the coach apart. The Skeksis flee in terror. Rian convinces the freed Paladins of the Skeksis' evil. They then spread out across the land to warn all the Gelfling tribes. Despite the panic of the Skeksis seen thus far, things go differently at the Castle of the Crystal. Despite overwhelming numbers, the Gelfling guards' rebellion against the Skeksis is crushed off-camera. All the Gelflings, including Princess Tavra, are imprisoned in the dungeon. Many of them are drained of their essences. The Chamberlain arrives warning of the Stonewood tribe's open rebellion. Rather than fear, the Skeksis celebrate not having to pretend to be benevolent rulers anymore. Aughra meets with the Archer about Hunter. The Archer tells her he cannot kill his counterpart, but Aughra responds he must find a way. In Ha'rar, Princess Seladon burns her mother's body as a traitor (apparently, cremation is a huge insult in Gelfling circles) then summons the Maudras from the other tribes to crown her the new All-Maudra. The others point out that any of the Maudras may be chosen All-Maudra, and Fara of Stonewood challenges for the title. Seladon initially accepts the challenge, but later reneges, forging a new, Skeksis-inspired crown and declaring herself All-Maudra. Fara and the Drenchen Maudra flee, while the remaining Maudras bow to Seladon. Elsewhere, at the edge of a great desert called the Crystal Sea, Rian and the rest pause to rest and mourn their lost friends and family. Their songs attract the attention of a Dousan Gelfling tribesman, Rek'yr, arriving the next morning on the back of a giant, flying manta ray. He agrees to transport Rian, Deet, Brea, Hup and Lore not exactly to the Circle of the Suns (which is their goal), because that place is supposed to be cursed/haunted/a bad place to be, but at least within shouting distance of it. The others in their group depart to organize resistance against the Skeksis. Ominously, Hunter shows up as the party departs.

Musings: Okay, I thought some of the sets inside the Castle of the Crystal looked familiar, and now I'm certain of it. Some of the passageways in this episode are definitely Moya's corridors from Farscape redressed. I don't mean the actual sets from that science fiction series--it was filmed in Australia, after all, and the sets were broken down after the show was prematurely cancelled following season four. But the passages are of the same odd teardrop shape, which leads me to believe they pulled the original blueprints and adapted the design for a more fantasy-leaning setting. Which doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I notice details like that. Like most episodes thus far, this one's a mixed bag for me. The Skeksis seem inept and hapless early in the episode, to the point where one wonders why the Gelflings haven't risen up and slaughtered them before now. Then we turn around and have the castle guard uprising put down without the Skeksis so much as breaking a sweat. This inconsistency is maddening. We saw the Chamberlain suffer pain from simple rocks being thrown at him earlier. We've seen a Skeksis stabbed back in episode 2 when Rian and Gurjin were captured, and while the wound wasn't fatal, the Skeksis was clearly in distress. Yet here we have an entire detachment of highly trained Gelfling warriors defeated without much effort? It's inconsistencies like this that keep throwing me out of the show. If the Skeksis are so powerful, they shouldn't be driven off by thrown rocks. Likewise, if the Gelfling warriors are legit, then the Skeksis should've suffered serious wounds putting down the rebellion. This show seems to exist in binary: Everything that happens is either all or nothing.

The scene between Archer and Aughra was interesting. This is the first time the duality of the Skeksis/Mystics is alluded to. Although those of us who've seen the movie have already figured out that Archer and Hunter are a single being, split, Star Trek-style by at transporter accident into separate physical forms, it's nice to see that fact coming into play in this narrative. The scene with Rian, Deet, Brea and Hup in mourning was nice. Lore is interesting, as the stone golem has imprinted on Deet. I'm wondering if this will come into play in the future. Rian and Deet make goo-goo eyes at each other briefly, and I had a huge problem with this. Rian lost Mira just a few days before, and watched as the Chamberlain drank down the last of her essence. To have him in a budding romance with Deet in episode 6 is just icky. The Dousan are interesting additions to the series. As aerial nomads, I wonder how the Skeksis would be able to conquer them. Curiously, Rian shares that they're the only Gelfling tribe forbidden from serving as guards at the Castle of the Crystal. I wonder if there's payoff for that in the future, or if it's just a throw-away line. The flying manta ray is cool. Although it's a muppet, it's still composited into the scene and that use of CGI remains distracting. It's not as bad as the landstriders roaming in the distance (the landstriders compositing bothers me more than it should) but is still an issue. Seladon has also dropped any pretense of being a nuanced, complex character. She's a power-mad villain at this point, which still doesn't jibe with the more complex character she was initially presented as, but I've come to expect these inconsistencies.

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