Psychedelic Furs, Made Of Rain (2020) A (On Time!) Review

Back in the 1980’s, one of my favorite bands was The Psychedelic Furs. Their music was post-punk/new wave but they seemed to steer a course uniquely their own, with hits including Pretty In Pink, the song which became the basis/title to a John Hughes directed film…

Here’s one of their biggest hits and one of my favorites, Love My Way (love the drumming toward the end of the song!)…

And here’s the absolutely haunting and lovely The Ghost In You

The group seemed to build steam, becoming better and better and more popular with each new album. Then came their 1987 album Midnight To Midnight, which I personally loved but which others seemed to feel was a big drop in quality for the Furs, as well as embarrassing for the images they used (specifically, all that flashy leather) on their album cover and interiors…

Midnight To Midnight

While I loved the album, their subsequent follow up albums, 1989’s Book of Days and 1991’s World Outside, also in my estimation pretty damn good works, seemed to show interest in the Furs and their music was in decline among the general public. Neither album -at least that I can remember- made much of a splash and after the World Outside release, it seemed the Furs were done.

Lead singer/writer Richard Butler would go on to release two albums under the Love Spit Love moniker and, again, I liked them but yet again they didn’t seem to make many waves with the public.

The Psychedelic Furs, however, reformed and continued touring and, while doing so, Richard Butler and company decided they didn’t want to simply keep repeating/singing the old standards. They developed an itch to create a new album with new songs.

So an astonishing twenty nine years after the release of their last album, The Psychedelic Furs last week released their brand new album Made of Rain.

Made of Rain

Frankly, I was both astonished and pleased with the new material.

This is a strong album which is very much filled with the Furs’ best type of songs: At times morose, mysterious, and heart-felt.

One song in particular just blows my socks off, No-One

Just… wow.

While I feel that song is the highlight of the album, there are plenty of other great tunes to dig into, including The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll and Don’t Believe.

The album sounds like it could have been released in/around the time the other wonderful Furs albums were released. Yeah, I guess you could take that as a backhanded compliment: Jeeze, have they progressed any in all these years?

It isn’t a backhanded compliment, though. When picking up a Furs album, one expects a certain sound and tone and this album has it in spades.

A critic noted this album was like David Bowie’s Blackstar, a magnificent new work which neatly fits into and compliments the others.

While I hope this isn’t the last we hear of new Psychedelic Furs works, it shows that when Butler and company got together and decided to do something new, they didn’t just rest on their laurels. They came back with a beautiful, wonderful new work which proudly sits among their best.

Highly recommended, especially for Furs fans like myself!

There’s So Precious Little To Laugh About These Days…

I mean, just a little while ago we found out the U.S. economy posted its worst drop on record and almost simultaneously our “beloved” “President” Trump, via twitter, mused about delaying the elections in spite of a) having absolutely no authority to do so and b) he’s been making it a point that his internal polling shows he’s doing wonderfully versus all those other -no doubt- “fake” polls which show him heading for a pretty big fall.

Which begs the question: If he was doing so well in his internal polling and all those other polls are wrong, surely he wouldn’t want to delay the election, given he’s heading for a win, amiright?

But let’s move past politics and the economy and focus on the truly important things, specifically this wonderful list I found at comiclists…

Seriously guys, you couldn’t think of a better place to put the balloon opening?

Within that link you’ll find fifteen examples of comic book based toys with mightily inappropriate …uh… elements.

A couple of my favorite examples (click the link to see the rest!):

Uh huh…

Then there’s this one…

Yup.

Seriously guys, you couldn’t think of a better place to put the balloon opening?

Coronavirus Diary 20

So over the weekend and at the behest of the wife, we headed down to the Florida Keys to a place her brother and his family were renting to go for a quick boat ride and have a mini-birthday party as several family members have their birthdays coming up.

We have all been religiously social isolating so there was no danger -at least I hope!- to interact between with their family for the day.

When we got there, they had already for the most part gotten their boat ready. Very soon, we headed out into the waters and our first stop was a sandbar very close to the place they were renting.

My brother-in-law noted the sandbar was pretty empty this early in the morning (10 am) but would get very crowded very quickly so we stopped there and swam.

Nearby -but far enough away, social distance-wise- arrived another boat, making it a whopping two boats in total on the sandbar at that hour.

These boaters had something which, during the course of the day, I’d see quite a bit of: Donald Trump flags. I didn’t take any pictures, but they kinda looked like this image, something I found via a Google search:

Hundreds of boats in 'Trumptilla' parade from Jupiter to Mar-a ...

We hung out there maybe an hour or so before taking off to another couple of places. For my wife, it was a trip down memory lane, revisiting homes/apartments that back in the 1980’s and as youngsters they visited on weekends.

The area, my wife noted, had changed considerably. There were far more homes and buildings now, something that is sadly predictable, but for me what was head-scratching was seeing all those Trump signs.

Mind you, it was not a universal thing, but it seemed this enclave/area sure does have some very vocal Trump supporters.

Perhaps the most ironic sign I spotted that day was this one, seen on the balcony of one of the homes we passed by (pardon the language):

Amazon.com : ERT Donald Trump Flag 3X5 Foot - 2020 Trump President ...

I mean, what do you say about something like this? We saw what appeared to be a the owners of that property, a kindly looking elderly couple who waved at us as we sailed by and I, being a soft-spoken liberal-type who respects others’ opinions wanted to do nothing more than to shout at the top of my lungs:

Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?! Is there anything that Trump says that ISN’T bullshit?!?!

…breathe deeply…

…breathe…

Ok, so we politely waved back.

I may vehemently disagree with their opinions but, hey, it’s a free country. At least so far.

Anyway, I point this out not to get too political but to show the power of messaging, something I’m going to get to right now.

When the day was done -and throughout the day we very strictly maintained our distance from everyone- and returned back to my brother-in-law’s place, we again passed by that sandbar we started on earlier and the scene had changed considerably.

Again, I didn’t take any pictures, but looking through some random pictures I’ve found via a Google search, the sandbar now looked something like this:

Restrictions on Boating Events in the Florida Keys Mulled

Very full, very crowded, with little social distancing and, again, plenty of Trump flags.

As I said, this, to me, is an example of the power of messaging.

In this case, the wrong messaging.

For months Donald Trump and his administration has been downplaying the danger of Covid-19 and, clearly, there are many folks down there in this part of the Keys who sure do seem to have taken that message to heart.

If I were an evil man, I’d say: The hell with them. If they get sick, its on them.

And yet…

The house my brother-in-law rented has a dock and is on the waterway. A beautiful house across the water from his, he told me, was owned by a 90 year old man who passed away very recently.

Cause of death? Covid-19.

Granted, the man lived a very long, hopefully full life, but the reality is his passing was due to this virus, a virus that many out there on the waterways seem to, based on what we saw them doing that day, simply refuse to believe it is a big deal.

The worst thing about it is that the consequences of these peoples’ actions not only affects them. If even one of boaters on that sandbar on that day had Covid-19 and spreads it to others there, when they leave the sandbars and return to their homes, they eventually will likely be interacting with family, large or small. They may go out shopping, perhaps for groceries, perhaps for other supplies, and they will be near strangers or friends.

Hopefully, when they do go out, they wear masks, but… what if they don’t?

And, further, what happens when they’re in their homes, among their family?

Scary times.

Scary indeed.

Please, please, please… Don’t just think about yourself and your own comfort.

Please think about others.

Sketchin’ 102

Here we have Louise Brooks (1906-1985) the actor who perhaps most embodied the female sexuality -and hedonism!- of the Jazz Age…

Ms. Brooks’ movie career lasted between 1925 and 1938, with perhaps her best known role being in the 1929 film Pandora’s Box.

I highly recommend checking out her biography on Wikipedia (you can read it here) which presents the good -then very bad- times she went through in her life, only to be rediscovered in the 1950’s and, hopefully, spending the rest of her life from that point in more pleasant circumstances.

A fascinating lady, a fascinating life.

Corrosive Knights, a 7/23/20 Update

Weird how things seem to fall into place, at least time-wise.

I finished reading/revising draft #4 of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series on 6/22/20 (I wrote about that here!)…

Now, one month and a day later, I’ve just finished the reading/revising of Draft #5 of Book #8. While a full month and a day have passed, in reality it took me a little less than three weeks to do the read-through/pen & ink revision of the novel.

There was one full week I didn’t work on the book because I was traveling and there were a couple of days I transferred some of my revisions of this draft to the computer, which I will now do with the rest of the book.

I know its going to come across as self-serving, but I’m freaking so proud of the way this book is coming together. I genuinely feel like it may be one of the better novels in this series, and that’s saying quite a bit because I felt like I was done with it -excepting an Epilogue book- after Legacy of the Argus!

In fact, my original intention way, way back when I was finishing up Legacy of the Argus was that the next novel would indeed be the “Epilogue” story I’ve already pretty much written.

However, and forgive me for repeating myself, I found the “Epilogue” story was rather… slight. Like only 50 pages or so long versus my usual approximately 200 pages long novels (these are printed with 10 point lettering -quite small- and single spaced. Word count is often in/around 80,000 – 100,000 words).

So at first I tried to expand on the Epilogue story, fiddling around with some stuff that, frankly, led nowhere while managing, at least for a while, to waste precious time.

That’s the way it goes sometimes, though: You put your energy into something and it just doesn’t pan out.

After many months of hard work I realized I was spinning my wheels. Luckily, not all was not lost. In this process I wrote a couple of new introductory pieces, pieces I would wind up also discarding but which began pointing me in a positive direction.

It was that spark, a side road from where I was, that proved to make the whole journey worthwhile.

Now, a year plus later, those bird-crumbs have led me to create a novel that, while still not quite done (I figure I’ll need at least two, possibly three more drafts to complete it), is something I’m extremely happy with.

So, starting tomorrow, its time to put away my red pen and sit behind the computer and put all those revisions I made on paper into the novel’s Word file.

Once done, its time to print the whole damn thing up and give it another read-through.

We’re getting close, folks, and I can’t wait to get this out to you!

30 Rock Reunion (2020) a (Almost On Time!) Review

I’m a fan of the 30 Rock TV show.

I feel the show, which ran from 2006 to 2013, was for the most part ingenious.  The humor was at times both razor sharp and extremely silly, off the wall and charming.

If you haven’t seen the show, and you’re into half-hour comedy shows, I can’t recommend you check it out highly enough.

But whatever you do, skip the one hour “return” of 30 Rock that aired last week Thursday, July 16th, and which is available to be streamed.

While ostensibly a “reunion” show, it was really an extended commercial for NBC’s Peacock service, another of the voluminous online services in which you can find old shows paired with some new ones (I imagine those you can see if you pay).

Thus the 30 Rock reunion featured plenty -too many!- commercials for the Peacock service, though at least we were treated by appearances by people who will be in some of those new shows (yeah, they were mostly shilling for their series).

While seeing some of the faces proved a surprise (If you’re going to waste your time seeing this turkey, I might as well not SPOIL some of the faces that show up), the reality is that they were all there, it became depressingly clear, to shill and make a buck.

So commercial/promotional heavy was the show that several NBC networks decided they wouldn’t air it. While we did get to see it here, my daughter, who lives in Texas and is a fan of the original show, found it wasn’t airing on her local NBC affiliate.

Curiously enough, we watched it with her via FaceTime (why the hell not?), which, because of Covid-19, is the way this episode, like the Parks and Recreation reunion episode which aired a few weeks back, were also made.

When all was said and done, my daughter, like us, was quite disappointed.

That’s not to say the whole thing was an unmitigated fiasco.

There were a few very funny bits sprinkled about here and there throughout the one hour runtime.  But, as the cast were filming from their homes and I suppose they didn’t want to bum out everyone because of the whole Coronavirus situation (let ’em be bummed out by the extreme commercials, amiright?!), the reunion episode’s conceit was that the various characters had moved away after finishing their show-within-a-show so Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon had to reach out to everyone as there was interest in reviving their old show. So Liz gets to talk to them all via some kind of Zoom-like service.

Thing is, you’d literally have one or two minutes of the cast you came to see talking to each other before they would transition into the damn Peacock commercials.  While sometimes it worked, when you’re talking about going on and on and on for one hour doing this you can’t help but feel like you’re being slammed over the head with the pitch versus enjoying a “reunion” episode of a beloved series.

Yes, the commercials became that freaking irritating.

Even Tina Fey seemed to know things were dangerously close to being too much and tried to make a -quite literal- “wink wink” joke in the end out of the too many commercials we’d sat through (plus, there was one mildly amusing joke where Kenny literally loses his soul when also pitching some Peacock nonsense).

Sadly, it was a little too little, a little too late.

Perhaps one day next year, when hopefully we return to a more normal world and Covid-19 is in the past, the cast of 30 Rock will come back once more to make a more appropriate reunion episode instead of a one hour commercial with a few jokes sprinkled within it.

Please guys: Don’t leave us with this sour taste in our mouths as the very last 30 Rock episode ever.

On the lighter side…

Lots of too grim news out there but I found this one piece of news -pretty much fluff, but I enjoyed it- and figured why not present it here.

Written by Ben Arnold and presented on Yahoo UK, we have:

The Matrix cinematographer says Stanley Kubrick advice caused “soul numbing” sequels

The article concerns Bill Pope, a veteran cinematographer who worked on the original The Matrix and its sequels and, despite saying some very unflattering things about working on those sequels, is nonetheless back for the upcoming fourth Matrix film, due to be released… well… I guess like so many other things, we’ll see.

Anyway, when talking about making the original two sequels to The Matrix, Mr. Pope doesn’t hold back any punches. From the article:

“The Wachowskis had read this damn book by Stanley Kubrick that said, ‘Actors don’t do natural performances until you wear them out.’ So let’s go to take 90! I want to dig Stanley Kubrick up and kill him.”

That last bit really made me laugh.

But on a slightly more serious note: I suspect all directors are unique in how many “takes” they make of the scenes within their films.

I read somewhere (wish I could remember where, so take my memories of this for what they are: Memories) that Alfred Hitchcock would essentially create his entire films on paper first, including detailed illustrations of each scene and where the camera is and where it goes.

So much so that when the movie Rear Window was made, the film’s editor supposedly acknowledged all s/he had to do when putting the film together was to clip out the front and back end of each sequences (ie, the clipboard and director yelling “Action” and then the end where the director yells “cut”) and put what was left between together one after the other and, voila, there was the film.

So much work was done in preparation for filming, in fact, that Alfred Hitchcock himself noted (again, if my memory is correct) that once they actually got the cameras out he felt that was the “boring” part of making the film. The creative part, which he enjoyed the most, was actually constructing the film on paper and providing that illustrated roadmap of each scene/sequence through to the end.

Stanley Kubrick, on the other hand, was well known to be super fastidious about making his films. Indeed, he was known to, as noted above, take many, many repeats of individual scenes, trying to get the acting “just right” and often wearing down the individual actors. In fact, its been reported that Shelly Duval was well on her way to suffering a nervous breakdown while filming The Shining.

Clint Eastwood represents yet another type of director. From what I’ve read, he’s very much a quick shooter when making his works, having a very minimum number of “takes” of each scene and moving along rapidly to the next scene.

At times this seems to work fine but at other times there is a rough quality to his work, especially more recently, that may not please viewers.

Regardless, its a fun article and I love the quote they offer!

Coronavirus Diary 19

So over the past week I had to do some *gasp* flying.

Frankly, I wasn’t all that happy about doing it but, in this case, it kinda had to be done. My daughter, who lives in Texas, has been holed up in our home for the past 3-4 months, hoping to ride out the COVID-19 situation, but finally it was time for her to return.

We worried her car -unmoved in all that time- might need some care and, frankly, she had to be closer to her work. Granted, she now works at home as her work is on the computer, but still, she wanted to get back to her home rather than remain in ours.

I guess we could have rented a car and made the trip that way, but that would have taken at least two and more likely two and a half days of driving to get to her city. Too much versus the 2 and 1/2 hours it takes to make that trip by plane.

But, of course, we were quite worried about the whole flying situation.

To have a group of people locked into a sealed aircraft for that time… to walk through the airport and be around so many others who could conceivably give you the virus…

…truly, its a frightening thing.

Luckily, the trip to Texas proved a breeze. There were very few people on the flight and, luckily for us, the aircraft needed to balance out the passengers throughout the airplane and my daughter and I got an unexpected and very welcome bonus: We were upgraded to first class!

Everyone on the airplane, I’m happy to report, were wearing masks, though the lady to my right and past the aisle did bring a Wendy’s hamburger meal on board and ate it. Airlines I don’t believe serve any foods during these times, offering you a small “goodie” bag with pretzels, a small bottle of water, and a small hand-sanitizer package.

Anyway, the lady removed her mask to eat but otherwise kept it on during the trip.

No huge problem.

But on the way back…

The flight was much more filled and, as my incredible luck would have it, I managed to get seated next to an asshole (for there is no other way to describe him) who a) would wear his mask over his mouth but not nose now and again (not always) and, after I took a small nap, I awoke to find he had his mask completely off his face.

Originally he was seated in the middle seat while I had the window seat. No one took the seat by the aisle so he moved there before the flight took off so we had some distance between us but not the recommended 6 feet.

Frankly, when I saw him without the mask I was enraged. I thought maybe he just finished eating his in-flight snack and would put the mask back on (it was dangling from his ear) but, no, he didn’t put it back on while watching some movie on his smart phone.

Finally I had enough and told him to put his damn mask on. Thankfully, he didn’t argue the point and did so right away.

Still, for I don’t know how long I had this total stranger sitting near me without a mask.

How risky is it for me to catch Corona when I have a mask on and the person near me doesn’t? Check out this handy dandy chart:

Ladies and gentlemen, if that wonderful fellow passenger had COVID-19 and wasn’t wearing his fucking mask while relatively close to me and even if I did have my mask on, the possibility of transmitting the disease to me is listed as… high.

Now, the guy wasn’t coughing nor looked sick at all, so I’m hoping -and that’s all I can do- that he wasn’t sick nor transmitted anything to me, but it is infuriating to see people take this illness and the very real danger of catching it so damn cavalierly.

Which brings us to this wonderful article by Gino Spocchia and presented on the UK’s Independent:

Ted Cruz caught on commercial flight without mask

Here’s the evidence:

Ted Cruz, for those that don’t know, is a Senator from Texas. He’s another of those very hard right-wingers who, based on this image, thinks he is above everyone.

At least the fool who sat beside me came on the flight with a mask and put it on when I told him he needed to.

In that photograph, I don’t see Ted Cruz with any mask at all, even one dangling from his ear.

It will be a long while before I fly again.

Hopefully, by that time people will finally realize the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation and finally, finally begin to take proper precautions.

Not just for themselves, but for everyone around them.

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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