30 November 2006

Tool: 10,000 Days

It's been a long time since I last did a record review. Who knows, I might just do it again.

But finally I did get around to listening to this, and for the two of you who read my blog who might be interested, I thought I'd reveal my thoughts on it, hopefully without boring you all too much.

For those who don't know, Tool are a prog (metal?) act from Los Angeles. They've been around for years, and their album Ænima is rightly regarded as a classic.

But that's not all. Tool are a full-blown multimedia experience.

Their videos are (mostly) fully illustrated/animated by guitarist Adam Jones and vary from stop-motion animation to straightforward marionation and animation.

Their live show is usually a colourful affair as well.

As Taj wrote in a previous comment, this particular CD has been influenced by the likes of Meshuggah and Fantomas, and certainly, they're excellent places to start if you want to get a feel for where Tool are going with this.

And while I've never really got Meshuggah, I get Fantomas.

(Don't worry, Taj. One day Meshuggah will make sense to me.)

King Crimson are another good reference point.

The first thing you have to notice about this CD is that it is encased in what has to be the greatest packaging for a CD ever. It is a cardboard pack with two lenses that operate in conjunction with the booklet as a fully-functioning stereoscope. Jones and Alex Grey were responsible for this.

(Note - Tool have refused to have this CD go out via iTunes. Not surprised - if you get this CD without the packaging, you are being seriously ripped off)

But where Lateralus caught them going in a "song" direction, 10,000 Days sees them going back in a majorly prog direction.

First track Vicarious is in 5/4 before a few time changes.

Second track Jambi has a talk-box guitar solo - yes, I also mentally envisaged Peter Frampton on The Simpsons.

You have to wonder just how good is the rhythm section of Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey as they are rock solid throughout the whole thing. In fact, Carey's drumming is superb throughout - not a single fill and paradiddle is wasted, and there are a whole stack of them.

Time changes abound all over the place. Not a single song clocks in at under seven minutes - well, a couple do, but they're there to build for actual songs.

It doesn't have the moodiness of Ænima or the Eastern feel of Lateralus, but each song makes sense in the broader context.

The whole thing builds up until the two-parter Lost keys (blame Hofmann)/Rosetta stoned which is the piece de resistance of the whole CD. Rosetta stoned steals the whole show, in fact - the climax to the tune kicks in at the 8.20 mark or thereabouts. What's that I hear - some nice programming?

Oh yes, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan is singing about a bad trip. Did Chancellor (who's British) play the doctor in Lost keys?

Unfortunately they nearly ruin this with a bolt on bit at the end. And after this, they do get moody - a bit like Lateralus' closing moments.

The programming in Intension is a nice touch as well.

You know, if they'd stopped the CD after Rosetta stoned, you'd still have a 54 minute album of amazing music, climaxing with this tune at the end.

But anyway, I'll give it 4 stars. It is a truly bloody amazing package.

21 November 2006

Happy birthday to The Two Percent Company

Happy birthday to The Two Percent Company.

I came across their excellent series on the incredibly questionable Allison Dubois at the start of 2006 and it got me a-blogging again after 8 years off.

Their rants are consistently entertaining, and their turn of phrase is always well chosen and often quite amusing.

If you haven't yet, you must go back and read their series on Allison Dubois from end-to-end.

Then add them to your feeds.

Happy reading. And I promise that it is good. Oh yes, it is that good.

16 November 2006

Tweedledum and Tweedledumber

It's election time again in the State of Victoria, this Saturday. Which means that we have to vote again.

And may I just say that it is heating up.

Now it has, believe it or not, been many years since I voted informally. I have voted properly in at least the last two state elections.

And each time, I went for the little parties - the Greens and the Democrats before my preferences found their way down the ballot paper, first to the ALP, (in most instances) and then the Liberals.

This time around, the politicking has been brutal.

And I for one want to vote informally again.

Allow me to demonstrate my predicament:

1. The Democrats are dead. Doornail dead. So preferencing these guys early on is not so much of a big issue. And the best part about this is that it doesn't matter where you vote, because they are equally dead everywhere. So I'll put them up the list, because I still think that if they got their house in order, they'd be a force again one day.

Ain't gunna be this election, though. And that's the easy one.

2. Prefencing higher up in my vote for a local member of the Legislative Assembly (lower house) is likely to be the Greens again. But this is going to be even more interesting now that the Legislative Council (upper house) is a vote by proportional representation. This time there is a real good chance that the Greens will end up with the balance of power. And I hope that they do.

3. Following on from that is a plug to my good buddy Gurm Sekhon who is running for the seat of Richmond in the lower house. As a Greens candidate. And he stands a damn good chance of geting this, however...

4. In some seats, the ALP and the Libs have done a preference deal. WITH EACH OTHER!!!! How can it be allowed that the two major political parties can freeze out the minor parties like this? It is an outrage.

I'm actually quite disgusted at this act of bastardry. Gurm stands to be humiliated at the ballot box because the major parties fear the Greens in Richmond.

And unfortunately that leads to this...

5. It is more than likely that my preferences on my ballot sheet (cause I live in a pretty safe Labor seat) will trickle down to the majors, no matter how I number the boxes. So I have to think about in which order I'm going to put my lower preferences.

6. It goes without say that Family First, the CEC and the other crazy nutjobs will get my lowest preferences.

So the question is, in what order do I number the boxes next to the Labor and Liberal candidates?

The problem that I have in this particular instance is that I haven't been greatly impressed by the quality of either side. On Liberal's side, there has been references to all sorts of things that happened under the current Bracks government. Some of these have been criticism from the Auditor-General's office. This is particularly hypocritical given that the previous Liberal government under Jeff Kennett sought to close the Auditor-General's office down and replace them via public tender.

Labor aimed a particularly well-aimed shot across the bow of Ted Baillieu as a former director of real estate company Baillieu Knight Frank (now Knight Frank Australia). During his time with Knight Frank, the Kennett government unfortunately used this company as the agent for the sale of land that used to house schools. Which means that Baillieu is an easy target. The one thing that bugs me about Labor's approach in this election is their willingness to attack Baillieu personally at every turn.

And that has me wanting to number Liberal ahead of Labor this election.

It is simply wrong, wrong, wrong to play the wealth card in the quite nasty way that Labor have been doing. Labor ads have played up public information about Ted Baillieu's investments in such a nasty way.

And they do not have clean hands themselves. Labor ministers such as Justin Madden and Mary Delahunty have populated their register of interests with such transparent and honest descriptions such as "Madden Family Super Fund" instead of actually writing the names of the investments themselves.

Baillieu, on the other hand has paid the price for neatly populating his form with all the companies he owns shares in (which is quite a lot).

Conflicts of interest?

Well this won't be sorted out until someone passes a law that forces members to place their investments under administration by a neutral third party in a blind trust as soon as they're elected to parliament.

But I can tell you this much - until Madden, Delahunty and anyone else on Labor's side portray their financial affairs with the same kind of scrupulous openness that Baillieu has, they are in absolutely no position to point the finger.

Until then, this sordid stuff stinks. Just imagine if you had to defend your personal investments when applying for a job.

Thank God for minor parties. (The ones that don't suck, anyway)

This blogger declares an interest of sorts - he will be handing out How-To-Vote cards in the electorate of Richmond where he will be helping Greens candidate Gurm Sekhon get elected to State Parliament this weekend. Even if you plan to vote for one of the major parties, put the Greens First on your ballot paper. What's the worst thing that can happen - one gets elected? More power to democracy, I say.

09 November 2006

Whatever happened to sportsmanship?

Folks, I must be the last guy to notice this, but Australian sportsmanship is amongst the worst I have ever seen.

A series of events has piled up over the past few days to lead me to this sad conclusion.

1. Brendan Fevola

Firstly, and this is best discussed in this excellent post by Greg, is the mental picture that one has of Carlton full-forward Brendan Fevola losing his mind in a pub in Galway, grabbing a barman who refused to serve him any more beer and putting him in a headlock.

Fevola was on the end-of-year junket known formally as the "International rules" series that is used to be played between a team of Irish amateur gaelic footballers and a team of professional Australian rules footballers from Australia.

Fevola then went on to play the race card in his defence - a somewhat bizarre and undignified rant about the Aboriginal members of the team copping a sledging everywhere they went. Never mind that this is no excuse for assault.

The AFL immediately sent him home. At least they did the right thing here. But more on the AFL later.

After doing a runner to Scandinavia, he has since returned to Ireland to be formally given an 'adult warning' by the Garda. But that's not the worst thing. At the end of the home-and-away season, Fevola was talked about as a future skipper of the Blues. Ain't gunna happen now, buddeye.

After Fevola calms down and pulls himself together, the resulting interview titled, 'Why my brain finally walked out the door,' should make ratings history for the network that manages to land it.

2. Willie Mason and rugby league

After Fevola's indiscretions, we then had rugby league forward Willie Mason punch someone on the rugby league field in a test match between Australia and Great Britain.

This was bad enough, however, Mason showed some initiative of sorts by claiming as a defence that this was a pre-emptive strike, and that had he not punched, he would have been punched. Fortunately, he was disciplined by whoever the tribunal/judiciary body is that deals with international rugby league matches and given a ban. For 1 game.

Mind you, rugby league is not a good example. Punching is routinely overlooked in rugby league, leading to lenient sentences being handed out and cries of inconsistency. Also, the administrators of this particular sport seem to take some misanthropic delight in playing up this gladiatorial aspect of the game.

Australian coach Ricky Stuart put it best when he said this:

"I see this is a part of football. The media promote it. Our marketing promote this. Tell me you won't see Willie Mason on the TV again dropping this bloke. We're talking about tribal war here . . . that's what gives our game the X-factor.

"That's Test-match football. That's what makes our game so different to every other footy code and every other sport. I don't condone violence but don't put it in the papers, don't put it on TV. Don't promote it."

When rugby league's hypocrisy can be laid so starkly bare, it's no surprise that players such as Mason get so ridiculously out of control.

3. The second "International rules" "football" "test match"

And on the subject of thuggery, getting back to "International rules" for a moment, the events of the second test match on the weekend in Dublin between Ireland and Australia had to be seen to be believed.

During the week, the media played up comments by Australian players that the match was to be a "square up" after one of the Irish players was suspended for kneeing. That's right. They were getting "square" with a player who wouldn't even be taking to the field.

The Irish coach has called for future series to be scrapped, calling the Australian players "thugs" in the process. Irish administrators have referred to "thuggery". About the only people who appear to think that there is no issue here are the Australians who do not seem to understand what the fuss is all about.

The odd thing is that Australian coach Kevin Sheedy appears to think that (a) the Irish were the aggressors in the first and second test match, and (b) this sort of "physicality" is actually part of the game.

Now, I'm not sure what planet Kevin Sheedy thinks that the rest of the world is these days, but he was certainly watching a different game to the rest of us.

The object of the game is to get the ball from one end of the ground to the other and score goals. Sheedy appears to think nothing of what seemed to be the unstated aim of the Australian players to knock as many Irishmen unconscious as they could.

To further hammer home the disconnect that appears to exist between the GAA and the AFL, we have representatives of the GAA, none more strident than Sean Boylan the coach who has said that he nearly didn't take to the field after half time, and that the series will not continue on his guard.

The GAA's president Nicky Brennan agrees and has called for the series to be axed.

On the other hand, the AFL's Mike Fitzpatrick seemed blissfully unaware that anything untoward had actually happened, although he admitted to being "uneasy" about the events that took place in the first quarter.

If uneasy was all he felt, queasy is how I feel.

4. Champions trophy presentation

The Australian cricket team have had this happening for some time.

Whether it's Glenn McGrath picking out his "bunny" for the series, Shane Warne doing his bit for the reputation of straight white males everywhere or whoever else getting sent home a bit of nocturnal silliness with alcohol.

The Australian cricket team have relished their "arrogant" reputation for some time. In fact, one (I forget who) seemed to think that this was a good thing: "It shows that they fear us."

Great. What it shows, dickhead, is that they don't think of you as a bunch of good blokes.

After winning the final, the trophy was presented to them by a local politician and senior national cricket administrator. OK.

What happened next was astoundingly stupid, even for this team of geniuses. As they shook hands with the VIP, one of them apparently said, "Hiya buddy!" before they physically shuffled him off the podium so they could showboat with the trophy in front of the camera.

The Indian media went berzerk. The Indian cricketers, even the softly spoken Sachin Tendulkar were amazingly critical, and the Australian players themselves didn't seem to know what they even did wrong.

In a sign that this kind of disrespect is not thought of terribly highly on the sub-continent, one of the locals painted their goat green and gold and wrote the name Damien Martyn on the side, after the cricketer who did the shoving of the official. Ricky Ponting, Australian captain is also said to have manhandled the official.

So what has caused this epidemic of poor sportsmanship?

It appears that you haven't made it in the world of Australian sport unless you are acting like the world's worst moron.

Is it insecurity? These guys have all left school and found that the nerds that they beat up at school are truly running the world.

Personally, I blame Lleyton Hewitt and Anthony Mundine. They were the first of this current wave, and they deserve to be carpeted for it. Mundine at leats gets away with it because boxers are at least, thank you Muhammed Ali, are supposed to act like complete tools.

Lleyton Hewitt, on the other hand, just don't get me started.

Listen. John McEnroe was a complete dill. He might have been a phenomenal tennis player, but he acted like a tosspot. And yeah we loved it, but we weren't looking at the tennis. We were looking at him acting the goat. And the crowd egged him on, too. People still wander up to him in the street and yell at him, "You cannot be serious!!"

And so it will be with this lot. And we won't remember them as the great sportsmen that they might be. We'll remember as this bunch of idiot frat boys, instead.