Lazy Sunday XLVIII: Culture

A paradox of blogging is that the more I write, the more difficult (at least some weeks) it is to think up a good theme for Lazy Sunday.  Part of the problem is that the earliest editions often featured very broad categories; thus, the proliferation of “Part II” posts throughout.

Of course, that’s probably a problem for me, the writer.  You’re just looking to scan through a list of hyperlinks while enjoying your pre-church coffee (or—given my tardiness posting of late—your post-church nap).  Such is the nature of the relationship between creator and consumer—thirty minutes put into crafting a blog post equates to about thirty seconds of skimming.  But it’s worth it to have your eyeballs (eww…) for those thirty seconds!

On that note, I’m dedicating this week’s Lazy Sunday to matters of culture.  In compiling this short list of recent pieces, I came to realize that I way overuse the “culture” tag on my blog posts.  In my defense, I do so because I see most issues as cultural (or, even more deeply, theological and philosophical), rather than merely political or economical, in nature.  The major political battles we’re fighting in the West today are, at heart, about culture.

Read More »

Milo on Generation Joker

Earlier this week, I finally had the opportunity to watch Joker, the movie that DC got right (I also watched black-and-white indie film The Lighthouse, which I also heartily recommend).  It’s one of those films that has stuck with me, as I keep contemplating its title character’s woeful arc.

That’s unusual for a superhero movie.  I’m not a film snob, and I enjoy the action-packed, high-gloss hilarity of [insert Marvel Cinematic Universe movie here].  But I’ve usually forgotten most of the details of those superhero movies by the time I get home from the theater.

Joker is different.  Indeed, I wouldn’t even call it a “superhero” (or even a super villain) movie.  Yes, it’s the origin story of the The Joker, Batman’s greatest rival.  It does follow some of the tropes of the standalone superhero flick:  the discovery of the character’s powers (in this case, a 38 Special and mental illness), his utilization of those powers, and his full acceptance of his new role.

But it’s more than a superhero flick.  It’s the brooding, angsty cry of a generation.

Read More »

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

It’s been an artistically fulfilling weekend.  First there was the play (I’m sure readers are tired of reading about it) in which I performed.  After three successful performances, my girlfriend and I took in the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert.  Classical music is even more enjoyable when you get to wear jeans.

The SC Philharmonic’s energetic conductor, Morihiko Nakahara (a show in himself), didn’t pull any punches with this year’s B&BJ program.  It was, essentially, “Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,” as I remarked to my girlfriend.  Morihiko always tosses in one piece of weird modern classical music, but after enduring young composer Jessie Montgomery‘s 2016 tone poem “Records from a Vanishing City,” it was straight into the classics:  Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the so-called Pastoral, rounded out the first half of the concert.  Then it was into the thundering “DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUH, DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH” of the Symphony No. 5 in C Minor after the break.

Everyone loves the Fifth Symphony, with its iconic opening theme (the first in symphonic music to make a rhythmic idea the theme, not a melodic one).  But for my money, the bucolic beauty of the Sixth takes the cake.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday XXXIX: A Very Dokken Christmas Series

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart wrote a series of hard rock album reviews for Orion’s Cold Fire, photog’s excellent blog.  This week, my students have their big Christmas concert, with all the spectacle and merriment that involves.  In that spirit, I thought I’d dedicate this Lazy Sunday to my reviews of Dokken’s first three albums, which you can read in full at Orion’s Cold Fire.

  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part I” (Review on OCF) – This review looked at Dokken’s Breaking the Chains, the 1983 version (there was an earlier version in 1981 that was a demo, of sorts, for the band).  It’s a solid album, but not nearly as good as their next two.  The single title track, “Breaking the Chains,” is a fun and catchy little mid-tempo rocker, though.
  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part II: Tooth and Nail” (Review on OCF) – If I’m not mistaken, Tooth and Nail is the first Dokken album I ever heard, after learning more about the band in The Rageaholic’s Metal Mythos: DOKKEN video.  It’s a great album, and it saved the band financially.  In one of those classic stories of artists getting screwed by major labels, Dokken was around a million bucks in debt after the release of Breaking the Chains and the subsequent tour, even though it was a hit record.  Tooth and Nail‘s title is no accident, as the band really did drag themselves “straight to the top” (to quote the title track).  This album got them out of debt—and on the way to hair metal superstardom.
  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part III: Under Lock and Key” (Review on OCF) – Released the same year yours portly was born, Under Lock and Key would see Dokken at their best.  The album opens with the one-two punch of “Unchain the Night” and “The Hunter” (“Unchain the Night” starts with an instrumental introduction that sets a powerful, mysterious tone before cranking into high gear), and it’s all awesome from there on.

Christmas music it ain’t, but it sure makes for fun rock ‘n’ roll.  Have a Very Dokken Christmas!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Hard Rock Reviews on Orion’s Cold Fire

Every year my school puts on an over-the-top Christmas concert, which is just eight days away (yikes!).  Since Christmas is the most important holiday of the year (second only to Easter in its theological significance for Christians), my belief is that we should honor Jesus’ birth with an epic rock concert.

We do all the heartwarming holiday classics (including the best Christmas song ever written, “O, Holy Night”).  We also will take a timeless 70s or 80s hard rock classic and either a.) put it into a medley of Christmas tunes and/or b.) change the lyrics to Christmas ones.  For example, one year we took Dio’s “Holy Diver” and linked it to “Joy to the World.”  We then changed the opening lyric of “Holy Diver/You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea” to “Merry Christmas!/You’ve been down too long in the Arctic Sea.”  And so on.

Anyway, in the spirit of the Christmas season, I thought I’d dig up a real deep cut:  my review of Rainbow’s Down to Earth that I wrote for Orion’s Cold Fire, when I was contributing to photog’s website more regularly.  Once I started on this year of blogging, I lacked the time to do these reviews, but I’ll hopefully write some more this Christmas (if photog will have me).

This TBT features two posts:  the post on this blog about the review, and the review itself as it appears on Orion’s Cold Fire.

Enjoy, Merry Christmas, and rock on!

—TPP

Post on The Portly Politico Linking to the Album Review

Blogger photog has graciously agreed to publish some of my short music reviews on his blog, Orion’s Cold Fire. Specifically, I’m contributing reviews of classic hard rock and heavy metal albums, genres that I believe represent the artistic and technical pinnacles of rock and roll.

My first review, of Rainbow’s 1979 album Down to Earth, is available now on OCF. Check it out—and rock on!

Review of Down to Earth on Orion’s Cold Fire

Linkhttps://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/12/19/the-portly-politicos-review-of-rainbows-down-to-earth/

The good folks at Orion’s Cold Fire have generously allowed me the opportunity to contribute to the site.  I write primarily about politics, economics, and history at https://theportlypolitico.wordpress.com, but as a “semi-pro” musician (and a full-time music teacher), I enjoy occasionally critiquing music.  The purpose of this feature is to review classic 70s and 80s-era hard rock and heavy metal albums.  Why such a specific genre and time period?  Essentially, I believe this genre represents the pinnacle of rock music.  With its confluence of blues, acid rock, country-western, and all the other distinct musical “flavors” of the mid-twentieth century, rock and roll reached its greatest artistic and technical summits during the “classic rock” era.  I’ll write further about that contentious claim at a later date; but now, let’s boogie!

When considering an album to review, I more or less use this criteria:  does it sound like hard rock/heavy metal?  Have I listened to it enough to comment upon it?  And does it rock?  That’s not the best criteria, as it predisposes me to writing glowing reviews of every album, but there you have it—the highly unscientific approach I take to writing about music I generally love.

All that aside, my first album review for Orion’s Cold Fire was a no-brainer:  1979’s Down to Earth by Rainbow.  This album perfectly encapsulates the direction of rock music at that crucial turning point between punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Down to Earth was the first and only Rainbow album to feature Graham Bonnet on lead vocals, who replaced legendary metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio.  Rainbow’s guitarist and mastermind, Ritchie Blackmore, was notorious for sacking musicians on a whim, so most of the album’s personnel was wildly different than even the previous Rainbow release.

Regardless, this album rocks.  While he’s no Dio, the songs on Down to Earth are uniquely suited for Bonnet’s vocals—probably because he wrote the melodies after the band had already recorded all of the tracks.

The album’s big hit—and Rainbow’s first hit single—is “Since You Been Gone,” a Russ Ballard-penned tune that strikes the right balance between rock and pop.  The chorus is catchy as the flu, but like any good hard rock song, the pre-chorus build really sets up the triumphant release of the chorus beautifully.  Listen to the bass and guitar after the line “Your poison letter, your telegram” and you’ll see what I mean.

That said, my favorite tracks are the opening and closing numbers, “All Night Long” and “Lost in Hollywood,” respectively.  Musically, they rock, and “Lost in Hollywood” passes what I call the “drive test”—I drive much faster when listening to it.  It also features some of Rainbow’s signature neoclassical embellishments, pointing to the rise of neoclassical metal.

Lyrically, they’re fairly depressing commentaries of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, not to mention the Sexual Revolution.  “All Night Long” is sung from the point of view of a jaded, lonely rocker, searching the crowd for a babe to spend the night with him (the most poignant line, from the third verse: “I know I can’t stand another night on my own”).  “Lost in Hollywood” describes a man so dedicated to rock, he’s lost the woman who makes it all worthwhile.

There are some less memorable tracks—the neoclassically-inflected “Eyes of the World” is a commentary on humanity’s rapacious capacity for violence and waste, but is a bit ponderous; “Makin’ Love” has its moments, but is forgettable—but, from start to finish, Down to Earth is as good an introduction to classic hard rock as I can conceive.  Crank it up!

Cybertruck

Last week, troubled electric automaker Tesla announced Elon Musk’s latest brainchild, the Cybertruck.  The Cybertruck—the name of which I am sure is meant to evoke the dystopian sci-fi genre cyperpunk—features a rolled steel and titanium exoskeleton that looks like a Nintendo 64 polygonal rendering of an automobile.

It’s unorthodox design aside, I honestly can’t make up my mind on whether or not I like this vehicle.  Last week I lamented the new electric Mustang, not because it is electric, but because it’s a hatchback.  The title of that piece was “New Mustang is a Sign of the Times,” and my point was that everything awesome seems to be deteriorating.

Does the Tesla Cybertruck fit that trend?  Is it a horrible monstrosity?  Or is it a daringly original vehicle?

I’m not sure.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday XXXVI: Best of the Reblogs, Part I

Last week’s posts had me diving into the blogs of some good friends.  Friday’s post featured blogger and musician friend fridrix’s Corporate History InternationalWednesday’s post looked at the writings of another blogger friend, Bette Cox.  And I daily read the blogs of photog (Orion’s Cold Fire) and Nebraska Energy Observer.  Indeed, one of the joys of blogging is discovering other bloggers’ work (I almost forgot Gordon Scheaffer‘s excellent history blog, Practically Historical).

In the spirit of these intrepid citizen journalists and commentators—and the cheeky fun and intellectual grit of their blogs—I thought I should pay homage to the posts that, when I’m struggling with writer’s block, helped me slap together some daily content.

I’ll be presenting these posts in chronological order in which I initially reblogged them, so if you don’t show up these week, Internet Friends, don’t worry; you’ll make it up here eventually!

  • Reblog: The Falling Down Revolt” –  This post examined photog’s “The Falling Down Revolt” essay, one of the most trenchant pieces I’ve read this year.  The issue that photog address is what dissident blogger Z-Man calls “anarcho-tyranny“; that is, the state in which all manner of violent and property crimes occur unmolested, but law-abiding citizens get the shaft.  The tiniest infraction gets convicted if you’re the average American citizen, but if you’re an illegal immigrant or a welfare-moocher of a certain background, you skate.  Police are ineffective at catching the real bad guys, so they ding you for rolling through a stop sign with no traffic on the road, or the government comes after you because you’re eight bucks short on your taxes.

    That situation leads to frustration among society’s straight-man.  Why do rule followers get the brunt of the state’s terrible force, but criminals blatantly break the rules, and get off scot-free?  It’s a recipe for an awakening.

  • Reblog: New White Shoe Review for You” – This piece reviewed fridrix’s review of a book about Wall Street during the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.  It’s a fantastic review, and I recommend you check out it and fridrix’s other writings at Corporate History International.
  • Reblog: Of Grills and Men” – One of the most important bloggers in both the manosphere and the traditional Christian Right today is Dalrock.  I featured Dalrock on one of my lists of excellent dissident writers.  The occasion for this post was the infamous Gillette ad in which men were portrayed as toxic abusers and advocates of kid-on-kid violence.  Yeesh!  Get woke, go broke, as they say.

That’s it for this week.  Enjoy the waning hours of your glorious weekend!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Corporate Grind II: The Return of Corporate History International

It’s been a golden week for reblogging, as some of my blogosphere buddies continue to generate some amazing content.  It looks like I may have to do another Dissident Write feature soon (here are I and II).  Armistice Day always brings out the best material, too.

As we head into the weekend—mercifully free of professional obligations—I’m pleased to note the revival of my buddy fridrix’s blog, Corporate History International.

Read More »

World Space Week Starts Today

It’s been a long but productive week for yours portly.  Readers will notice that, other than my recent #TBT features (yesterday and last Thursday’s posts), I’ve been mostly silent on the impeachment circus.  My general policy in this age of media perfidy is to withhold comment until the real facts have been reported.

The way everything is shaping up, my gut instincts—that there is nothing to claims that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses, defined constitutionally as “high crimes and misdemeanors”—seem validated.  Of course, that won’t stop the Democrats from expending months of energy, treasure, and rhetoric on banging the drum of impeachment.

In general, I’ve been trying to expand the focus of the blog, moving away from strictly writing about politics and politics-adjacent issues to more general interest topics.  My little piece on Saturn from a few weeks ago was enjoyable to write, and seemed to garner some positive feedback.

As such, I was excited to see that today marks the beginning of World Space Week.

Read More »