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Happy 14th Birthday Luna!

Happy Birthday to Lionheart’s Moonage Daydream, whom we call Luna. At 14 years old, she’s two years past the average lifespan of her breed (giant schnauzers live for 10-12 years), so I’m extremely happy she’s still here.

Age is definitely taking it’s toll. Her hearing is going. Her vision isn’t what it used to be. Her hips are fragile, and sometimes she can’t rise if she’s laying down. She moves slower. Eats slower. She barks when the other dogs bark, sometimes not knowing why, and even facing the wrong direction from the object the others are barking at. And saddest of all, occasionally it seems like she’s in pain.

But then she smiles, gets enthusiastic when I come home, tries to run after the other dogs when they play (a sort of hobble-run at this point), and otherwise shows signs that she’s not quite done with life yet. And her last vet checkup earlier in the year there was nothing abnormal wrong with her, just the expected decay of a venerable, elderly dog.

So here’s to Luna, squeezing every last drop out of the time she has left. She’s been getting table scraps all day and will probably get some special treats later, too. Because at this point, she’s earned the right to be spoiled!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 entertains and expands the MCU

A little late to the party, I know, but I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 last night. I had read nothing about the plot, no spoilery articles, and was thoroughly entertained. So I intend to offer the same courtesy with my write up.

One of the joys of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was how the characters were so clearly drawn, distinct personalities. The sequel does not disappoint in that area. Some of the characters get new roles—the image above shows Yandu and Nebula with the Guardians. But they’re still the same characters, with the same motivations, even if evolved.

As with the first movie, although the Guardians are based on Marvel characters who, well, save the galaxy, this is really a science fiction/space opera fantasy far more than a “superhero” film with capes and cowls. One criticism is that since we know the characters, it’s not quite as fresh and surprising as the original. Yes, we know who the guardians are now, but that doesn’t mean this movie is weak. The direction, the acting, the writing, and the production values are all extremely high. There are moments that look a bit overly “computer animated” to me, but in general the effects are excellent, the action is exciting, and the plot holds up. Even the four (yes, four) cut scenes in the credits are entertaining. If you enjoyed the first one, Marvel movies, or science fantasy in general, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be a fun ride.

 

New Star Trek Trailer Promises Enticing Discovery

All it takes is a quick search of my blog to discover that I’m a bona fide Trekkie (for those wondering, a Trekkie is like a Trekker, but less pretentious about it). So here’s a brief glimpse into the mind of a Trekkie, regarding the first forthcoming new Star Trek series in over 12 years, Star Trek Discovery, which will air on CBS All Access in the USA, and Netflix worldwide:

First, excitement: Yeay! Star Trek is tailor made for television (literally, that’s where it started, not as a movie franchise).

Then, trepidation: The last series, Star Trek Enterprise, was terrible. That’s not my opinion, that’s a mathematical truth. I hope this one will be better. Also, while the pilot will air on CBS’s network, the rest of the series will only air on their streaming service. I understand their reasoning, that Star Trek is a name franchise that can help them launch their service, but there’s that trepidation that maybe the reason is because the network has little confidence in it.

Next came cautious optimism: Brian Fuller, who did many good episodes of Star Trek in the day, and has been the show runner for some great series, is going to be in charge. And they’re bringing back Nicholas Meyer, who co-wrote and directed two of the very best original cast movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Followed by disappointment: Fuller had to bow out, due to his duties show running Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

And now, during the CBS Upfronts (basically, presentations to advertisers), the released the first trailer for the new Star Trek series:

I have to say, I’m impressed by basically everything except the last lines in the trailer (an entire species engineered to sense oncoming death? Hmm…). The production value and the acting all looked good. We have a glimpse at the plot and the ships and some of the aliens. As “teasers” go I feel adequately teased. I’m interested.

I was also happy to hear that CBS decided to buy 3 more episodes, and they’re even going to have a companion interview/discussion show (“Talking Trek” or something) to accompany it. The fact that CBS is literally putting their money where its mouth is suggests to me that they are, in fact, confident in the show’s quality.

We’re going to have to wait until Fall to start watching the show, but at this early stage, I am back to cautiously optimistic. And definitely hungry for more.

Fell on Black Days — Goodbye Chris Cornell

Like many of us, I was stunned to read that Chris Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room, after a show. It is being investigated as a suicide. Everyone is shocked, everyone says what a sweet guy he was. And he was undeniably talented.

I started playing live in the Orange County clubs in the early 90s, when grunge ruled. I remember reading an LA Times interview from that era, where Chris Cornell said he saw Soundgarden as a bridge between classic bands like Zeppelin, Floyd, and Sabbath, and post-punk/goth bands like bauhaus, Joy Division, and The Cure. I think I formed a crush on him from that interview, because even though I didn’t sound a thing like him vocally, or write songs like him, that’s what I wanted to do, too. He clearly had his demons, but expressed them so beautifully, as in one of my favorite Soundgarden songs, “Fell On Black Days:”

I never met Chris Cornell. I never met Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, or Lane Staney, either. Four voices that helped define the grunge sound in the late 80s into the 90s, who articulated their demons in a way a whole generation could latch on to, who inspired me in those days. All of them gone now.

I wonder if he was thinking about the fact that May 18th would be the 37th anniversary of Ian Curtis of Joy Division’s suicide. Another influential young musician swallowed by his darkness.

Maybe Chris Cornell’s final influence can be to remind people that even if you’re successful, even if you’re loved by family and friends and masses, that won’t protect you from the darkness within. Hopefully rather than copy cat suicides (assuming that this is a suicide), he will inspire people feeling the same pull to get help. God knows his music helped me to feel on days when I felt numb. Maybe he has one final gift to give us, for when we fall on black days.

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. And thank you for the music.

Comic book movie marketing

Today, a comic book movie that I’m really looking forward to is coming out. I’m not going to get to see it immediately, I don’t think, but it doesn’t matter. Trailers, retail tie-ins, word of mouth, you name it, has kept it in the public eye for probably most of the two years or so it’s been in production.

I am of course referring to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of the first one (which was excellent), I doubt you could walk outside your house in a major metropolitan region of the United States without seeing a poster, or turned on your TV without seeing a member of cast being interviewed or talked about.

But hey, did you know that there’s another comic book movie opening in just under a month?

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, you definitely do. You’ve been waiting for this movie a long time (maybe even decades). You follow the official promotional accounts on social media (maybe even following Gal Gadot as well), you’ve watched the trailers, maybe even seen one of them in front of one of the few movies they’ve been shown.

But if you’re not? And you don’t know a Wonder Woman fan? Maybe, maybe not. The fact is, the Wonder Woman movie isn’t being as heavily promoted as other tentpole movies. The article points out how Warner Brothers put up more than ten times as many YouTube shorts and promotional clips for Suicide Squad as Wonder Woman. The trailers aired before more movies, etc. One can argue that Wonder Woman is a bigger name than Suicide Squad. Fair enough. But Warner Brothers is already promoting the Justice League harder than Wonder Woman, and that movie won’t be out until November. Why?

Over at Grok Nation, they have a discussion about some possibilities. I have my own guesses. I think they’re scared to put 100% into promoting the movie, because they’re still not sure that a woman can open a comic book movie. I’m sure there are smart people at Warner Brothers aware of the irony that by not promoting the movie to the same level of other superhero films they are only increasing the chances it won’t perform as well. But obviously, those people aren’t the ones winning the argument.

As a fan, I know it’s coming, I talk and write about it, I’m very excited. I hope that others feel the same. I am not paid by Warner Brothers to promote their films (as my review of Batman v Superman makes clear…) I just want to see great stories with my favorite characters. And I know how much is riding on this Wonder Woman movie (far more than is riding on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which is all but guaranteed to make all the money in the world). If this movie fails to live up to commercial expectations, it will confirm all the naysayers and their sexist attitudes. Marketing doesn’t guarantee a hit, but it helps. And it’s too bad that Warner Brothers is too worried to put the same effort into Wonder Woman as their male-led films.

I hope Wonder Woman is a great movie. I hope that it’s thoroughly entertaining. And I hope that one way or another, everyone who would enjoy seeing the movie finds out about it.

Happy 2nd Birthday Drax!

Almost in spite of himself, our youngest dog, Drax the Destroyer, has reached his second birthday. It’s particularly tough to get pictures of Drax, because he acts as if pointing a phone at him is an invitation to leap on you. So enjoy the one above with Reilly, who turned three not long ago. I like the size comparison, because so many people think a dog that’s 26-inches tall at the shoulder and about 75 pounds is a “big” dog. Relative to a teacup poodle, certainly. But not compared to Reilly!

I’ve spoken about his personality in other posts, so suffice to say now that he’s an “adult” dog, he’s just become more of himself. More diva, more of a bully, more full of energy, more in-your-face. But also more intelligent,  devoted, more cuddly. They say that giant schnauzers are “not for the first time owner” and Drax embodies that warning. He’s a whole lot to handle, and an out of control Drax is a disaster waiting to happen. But then he turns around and acts completely sweet. In those moments the frustration with him melts away and I’m grateful to have him in my life.

So happy birthday little dude, and may you have many more to come!

Warner Brother drops first Justice League movie trailer

Warner Brothers has just released the first official public trailer for the forthcoming Justice League movie. Previously, only some Comic-Con footage was put together and subsequently released (some of that footage appears here too).

As a huge fan of DC’s Justice League who felt fairly ambivalent about the fate of the DC Cinematic Universe after Batman v Superman: Let’s See How Dark We Can Go, As you might imagine I have thoughts. In no particular order:

• One of my criticisms of many of Zach Snyder’s films is that they’re so focused on the stylized visuals that pacing and plot and dialog and everything else suffers. I think he mostly avoided that pitfall in Man of Steel, but I think Batman v Superman not so much. This is an incredibly stylized, over the top trailer, which isn’t a bad thing, but it makes me wonder if he’s able to rein in his tendencies toward excess or if he went “full Snyder.”

• Clearly, they wanted to show that there’s more quips in this one. “No really, this isn’t as dark as Batman v Superman! Honest! Even though every single scene takes place against a gray or night sky, this is a lighter movie!” The thing is, BvS was so dark that being lighter is an incredibly low bar.

• I think it’s silly that they didn’t at least tease Superman’s appearance. I guess seeing Lois Lane is as much as we get. Yes, I know that they don’t want to give it away for people who saw BvS and don’t know what’s coming. But seriously, Henry Cavil is listed as one of the stars of the movie, all the pre-Justice League art showing the Justice League included Superman, I don’t think a tease would have been out of place. Maybe that’s for the second trailer.

• This trailer has managed to do one thing that is admirable and not easy to do: make Aquaman look cool!

• It doesn’t, however, really give any indication of who the enemy that both Batman and Wonder Woman allude to is. We sort of got an idea from some of the excess crap from BvS (that should have been cut) but it could have been clearer. Maybe that’s for the second trailer, too.

Overall I think the trailer set out to introduce the team members we’re not as familiar with yet, and it did that in a stylish way. I’m still not sure that this movie is going to be as good as I hope it will be, or if we’re looking at another grimdark Batman v Superman, just with extra wisecracks. We’ve got until November 2017 to wait to find out, with perhaps one more trailer before then…

Happy St. Paddy’s Day and other stories

I’m not Irish. Not even distantly. I don’t drink much. I also can’t say I feel the need to celebrate St. Patrick converting the pagans (“driving the snakes”) out of Ireland.

I do, however, think Ireland is absolutely gorgeous. We have an Irish wolfhound. I have Irish friends, and love Irish contributions to art and music:

You thought I’d pick a U2 video, didn’t you? Not this gothboy. But the Virgin Prunes came out of a “gang” of friends founded by Bono and Gavin Friday (Gavin is one of the Virgin Prunes singers), and the guitarist is The Edge’s older brother, so it’s not that far removed from U2, socially and geographically at least.

So I’m not really the party for St. Patrick’s day type, but I’m celebrating what I love about Ireland, my Irish friends and tastes, and wishing all those who do celebrate it the best. I think I’ll even put on a Green Lantern shirt today, to have some green on me. And those of you who follow me on social media already know, I recently bought a “green oceanburst” Gibson Les Paul. So they’re you go. You who party for St. Patrick’s Day have fun partying, and I’ll have fun serenading my Irish wolfhound with a green guitar while wearing a green shirt.

Happy Third Birthday Reilly!

Our Irish wolfhound Reilly turns three today! And we’ve literally been there for almost all of it: we randomly happened to be visiting his breeder the day he was conceived, we picked him up from said breeder as soon as he was weaned, and he’s been with us ever since.

Three is a interesting year for a wolfhound. They’re fully grown and no longer a puppy, but while three is still young, for a giant dog, it’s possibly half way through their short life. Yes, it’s the tragedy of giant dogs that that the larger they are, the shorter they live. While six may only be middle aged for a medium sized dog, for a wolfhound it may be approaching the end. Thankfully, Reilly comes from a line bred for health and longevity, and they routinely lived ten years and even longer.

And we’d like a long time with Reilly. He’s nervous—which can be challenging when dealing with a dog that is person-sized. But despite his skittishness he’s friendly to a fault and loves everyone, just as an Irish wolfhound should do. People are often taken aback by a dog that’s head, when he holds it high, is almost four feet high, but he’s got a sweet personality, he’s truly a lover not a fighter. Although when startled, he does have a low, deep bark that can shake the floorboards.

For his birthday, he’s gotten (and given!) lots of love and kisses, and of course there’s gonna be a meat treat this evening as well. He’s generally extremely well behaved, but bring meat near him, and his manners go out the window—and he’s tall enough to counter surf with the best of them…

Happy Birthday, Reilly, you have brightened our lives, our other dogs lives, and hell, even our grumpy cat likes you!

My birthday and my song

Today is my birthday—so I thought I’d give you all a present. As it happens, this year my birthday falls on President’s Day in the United States, and what could be more appropriate for President’s day than a protest song against the president?

The song is called RESIST, taken from the hashtag #resist that has gained favor. I’ve posted a lyric video for the song on YouTube:

And the song is also available on the Ember After Bandcamp page, Soundcloud (observant readers may have seen a crazy number of bot posts to my blog from Soundcloud—sorry about that. The machine uprising is real, folks) and the following services:

Apple Music: https://itun.es/us/Mb-8hb?i=1207165275
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/resist-single/id1207165030

It will eventually be everywhere (Spotify, Google, Amazon) but they take more time.

I haven’t been all that political here on my blog, because I don’t want to just add to the noise. But music, well, that’s a different story. I hope you like the song, and please share the song far and wide.