Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'Rainbows'

It's a track on Madness's latest album The Liberty of Norton Folgate. I am unsure whether I have reviewed any of their songs on that album before on here...when I first got around to listening to the majority of it in May 2009, I'd noted which songs were good in general and which ones were just okay.


I'd noted in that post that 'Rainbows' was one of the good ones and "uplifting and inspiring." The whole album is pretty good, actually, and after two years now of the album having been released, I know a bit more about it than I did then. For one thing, I probably shouldn't have said then that some of the songs were as bad as they were (to me in an uninteresting or unappealing kind of way, not a performance kind of way). They aren't bad at all, just not as appealing to me musically. The 'unfamiliar vocals' of 'On the Town' that I'd noted I didn't like came from Rhoda Dakar, a guest vocalist that I believe came from the Bodysnatchers (this is based on memory and I haven't checked it on Wikipedia, mind you). All the songs have special meaning to them.


'Rainbows,' though, to me, stands out. Because the lyrics in the build-up to the chorus begin with "I think today is gonna be my birthday" I have a tradition of listening to this song on my actual birthday. I intend on listening to it today at 11am, and I'm writing this review of it, actually, because today is my birthday.


It's one of those very eager and optimistic songs about taking things in stride and living like the day is your last. Predictably it's in D most of the time.


The verse have this sound to them that makes you think it's the beginning and expectancy of something good coming your way - like the sunny, bright morning before the eventful and unforgettable afternoon. There are no drums - just a constant hi-hat - and a keyboard that fuels this expectancy and early-sunny-morning image. And a bass playing a D note.


Then there's this (also expectant, but almost there) build-up to the chorus, with a dramatic bass drum added in. The bass goes higher. Suggs goes "I think today..."


The chorus is the highlight. What got me was the way the bass starts on F and then comes up to C going A-A#-B-C. Or that's what got me at first anyway. The piano was also great - it made me think of time going by, but good time. The drums are a constant snare beat.


The whole song goes on in this vain - expectant or morning-like verses, chorus build-up, then chorus. There's a bridge that's essentially a piano solo, which is very nice, then back to the build-up.


The lyrics are nothing short of awesome, particularly the ones during the chorus. They help the inspiration and optimism - "I'm sliding down raindows. Out into the wild, uncultivated child. I'm taking in the sideshow, where angels heaven-sent prepare us for the main event."


Unless there are any hidden meanings I haven't clued into, it appears to be about taking everything and going out with nothing to lose, nothing to gain, just to experience the best day ever as optimistically as possible.


That, and the lyrics, are why I listen to it particularly every June 22nd. I listen to it at other times as well, but not usually. The line 'uncultivated child' makes me think of someone who was brought up untroubled by the impurities of living in a man-made concrete jungle of cities and instead was raised in the natural world, making him/her seem younger and less aged. Eternal youth perhaps.


It has the sense of making the listener feel good listening to it.





I give it an A.


Good lyrics, great positive music, and perfect for listening to on my birthday.


Justin C.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Amazing Reunion

Back in November I went through a small phase of watching old movies I used to love as a child, and then writing about my findings on here, and what I think. Today, I watched another old movie I loved that had a profound effect on me every time I saw it.


Paulie.


I am unsure of how I first saw it. I think it was a gift, because I never saw it in theatres. I remember somehow acquiring the VHS of it, the cover of which featured a blue-crowned conure parakeet bird sitting on top of a suitcase, a road behind him and two cityscapes on either side, one being of New York and the other being LA.


Postcards on the suitcase featured the other characters in the film, the most important (to me) being the young girl who is his original and only real owner.


Essentially, the story is that of the bird, Paulie, beginning his life living with a young five-year-old named Marie, who has a stutter. He tells his story to immigrant janitor Misha Belenkoff in the basement of an animal testing lab when he catches him singing 'to Marie'. 
During the story, Paulie learns speech through Marie's speech therapy and essentially helps the young girl out in overcoming her stutter. It's all great until her father, a soldier, returns home. He observes his daughter's lack of friends with other children and her dependence on the bird, and after she almost falls off the roof trying to teach Paulie how to fly (knowing they might be separated while overhearing her father rant about this problem) Paulie is ultimately taken away.


After going through several owners that include a magician, he ends up in a pawnshop where he develops an insulting demeanor and is noticed by Benny, a man who stops by one winter day. Before he can buy him however, an elderly widowed artist named Ivy buys him on the pretense of 'teaching him proper manners.'


Ivy offers to take Paulie back to Marie, but unfortunately she and her family have moved across the country to Los Angeles. They end up beginning a cross country drive in Ivy's caravan from New Jersey westward.


Unfortunately, Ivy begins losing her eyesight, and almost collides with a freight truck while driving through the desert. Advised not to drive again, Paulie and Ivy settle down again as she eventually becomes completely blind.


When Ivy dies from a cat attack (not a feline cat, a tiger or something like that) Paulie finally gets up the courage to fly onward, continuing his journey. He continues westward over the mountains, experiences the sunrise over the grand canyon (something Ivy and her late husband had always dreamt of doing with their caravan) and eventually ends up in East LA. Following a beautiful female conure who he later regards as his girlfriend even though she only repeats what he says, he ends up in a trio of dancing conures trained and managed by Ignacio, a chip wagon guy and guitarist played by Cheech Marin. Unfortunately he can't find Marie in the phone book.


During one of Ignacio (and his band's) performances with the conures, Benny (the man originally from the pawn shop) comes to one of the performances and recognizes Paulie. Stunned, he tries to buy him off of Ignacio, who refuses, so during another performance Benny calls the police with fake felonies on the band and the crowd, and uses the confusion and panic to kidnap Paulie.


Finally in the possession of the bird, Benny vows to him they will find Marie, when in fact he intends on using Paulie for personal gain in get-rich-quick schemes (largely motivated by his high-maintenance girlfriend). Utilizing Paulie to remember the PIN numbers of people who use an ATM machine, Benny steals their debit cards and  drains their accounts to make money. Eventually they come up with a scheme to steal jewelry, but the operation is botched after Paulie flies down the chimney of a house in an affluent neighborhood and becomes trapped.


Paulie is brought to an animal testing lab where he is studied and considered remarkable for the way he can talk like a normal person and considerably has a human level of intellect. However, after the scientist in charge, Dr. Reingold, promises to return him to Marie and then later (erroneously thinking Paulie is asleep) confirms on the phone that he is now the property of the institute, Paulie refuses to cooperate with any more tests and tries to fly away. They capture him, clip away his proper flying wings, and inter him in the basement.


Touched by this story, Misha defies his superiors and Dr. Reingold, quits, takes Paulie, escapes institute security, and buses to Marie's address (which he unwittingly found in a book he was studying about conures after hearing Paulie sing, probably having been put there by Reingold before deciding Paulie was the property of the institute). They arrive at a house where an adult Marie happily reunites with Paulie, and Paulie, his wings having grown back, flying again. The movie ends with all three of them entering the house.


It had a very big effect on me as a child, because it was a story of what might as well be considered a person happily living with his best friend and companion, Marie, a little girl, and then losing her and taking many years to reunite with her again as an adult. His determination to be reunited with his one true companion and owner is amazing and enduring, and he sees a lot of interesting sights along the way (as well as does many diverse and memorable things). It's a big journey, and a long one, full of so many life-enriching experiences, from cross-country drives to being part of a singing act in East LA to petty crime and finally to sophisticated experiments.


I'd even have dreams of having unlimited, memorable, loving fun with someone everyday, then suddenly losing them and having to journey far and wide to reunite with them. Unfortunately I'd wake up before I ever did reunite with them.


It's probably one of the best travel stories I've seen, and it takes a lot of influence from things. I can't name any influences, unfortunately (I'm not that well-read a person) but I know there must be influences from the big classic stories out there written by past legends.


Examining the movie now as an adult, it's no less than it was when I was a child. I like Tony Shalhoub's Russian immigrant character, who has a lot of sympathy and determination like Paulie. Cheech Marin does a great job as well, and Jay Mohr (who plays Benny, and also voices Paulie himself) is remarkable. One of his most interesting lines as Benny is about phonebooks: "They're really expensive, I mean it's not like they drop them at your house." It's exactly like that of course, but his motives were convincing Paulie how important and crucial money is.
It was another one of those things where you'd be surprised at who plays who. I didn't expect the Mexican singer/guitarist/chip wagon owner would be played by Cheech Marin, of Cheech & Chong. Nor would I expect Tony Shalhoub to be in there. Jay Mohr was the only actor in which this was the first movie I'd seen him in. I also figured out that the young Marie is played by the younger sister of Jesse Eisenberg, the up-and-coming actor who stared in Zombieland, Adventureland and The Social Network. She is only a year younger than me.


Now that I'm an older adult who sees things in a more investigative manner, there are things about the film that I wonder about that I didn't entertain as a child, and I have my opinions. The only thing I found not particularly good about the film at all was that some (not most or all) of the scenes were a tiny bit too fast in transitioning to the next. That, and because Jay Mohr voices Paulie as well as acts alongside him as Benny in the film, the voices are almost too similar. I also found that Paulie almost gains a different kind of personality type alongside each character he spends time with; while he maintains a general likableness to him after being with Ivy (he was likable and supportive early on with Marie, and only developed an insulting manner while in the pawnshop and until Ivy took him) he develops more of a worldiness about him while with Ignacio, and almost sounds like a silly, slacker kind of person while with Benny, sometimes being flippant or laughing nefariously. He (expectantly) grows distant and inward after finding out Reingold lied on his promise to return to Marie and is interred in the basement.


The film otherwise is a great travelogue of a conure just determined to forever reunite with his original companion, owner and best, true friend, Marie.


Now, I have a few questions and wonderings. For me it's the time period involved and the time interval. I heard Marie's mother in one early scene mention she is five. I have no idea how old she is in the final scene but she looks like she's 22 or 24. Say it ends in the present day, which is 1998 (taking into account when the film was released). If she is 24 in '98, then the film begins in 1979.
That's an incredibly long time for a parakeet to live, though I'm ignorant of the life expectancy of such birds so I don't know. I was very interested in landmarks and what things looked like, and things like cars did not look anachronistic. Before attributing the time period to 1979, I figured vehicles did look like they were either from the late 70s or early 80s.


What about how the timeline was put into intervals? For instance, say Paulie ended up in the pawnshop a few months after he was taken away by Marie's father. Then he spent a couple of days with Ivy before they drove off, and they spent the next couple of months on the road. It should be a year by this point, or, say, 1980.
Ivy then dies in 1982, and Paulie manages to fly to LA over a few weeks afterward. He meets up with Ignacio in early '83, where he becomes part of an act for his band for the next month or so. That autumn, Benny kidnaps Paulie and they start their petty crime, which continues into '84.


In 1985, they botch that jewelry heist, and Paulie comes to the institute. He cooperates with their experiments over the next few months, and by 1986 he realizes they're not going to return him to Marie, so they put him in the basement by '88 when he stops cooperating and becomes more inward, distant, and otherwise useless for research.
Ten years later, Misha emigrates to the United States and starts working at the institute as a janitor. He hears Paulie singing to Marie, and the whole thing comes out.


Of course, this is just pure estimation, and I'm probably wrong. I doubt they'd leave the bird down in the basement for a decade like that, and the movie probably starts in the early 80s.


Overall, the movie is one of those classics from my childhood that still has a lot of sentimentality to it. I'd definitely recommend it. It's very touching and I love the story. The dynamic between him and Marie is adorable and loving and unforgettable.
It's quite funny, too.


If I rated it, I'd probably give it an A. Great story, great direction, and if it has a lasting effect on someone, like it does on me, then it's definitely a great and classic and memorable movie.


Justin C.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Different Feelings Aren't Good?

This can be considered a further discussion of sorts from the 'point of view vs definition,' though I'm giving more of an argument than an observation.


Whenever someone remarks, in annoyance or amusement, that something is 'gay,' I get annoyed myself and if I can, I tell them that it's insulting and try to explain why. It's usually easy for them to see why.


I'm not saying this based on my sexual orientation - in fact, it's probably more important that I say it when I'm someone who is attracted to females. But I'm still insulted when someone uses the term in that kind of derogative way, because I think anyone, regardless of who they're attracted to, shouldn't be regarded as lower or inferior just because of that.


When I launched that Lijit gadget on here in November 2009, which simultaneously opened up an account for me at the said gadget's blog statistic site, I swiftly observed that the term 'gay' was searched on here. It was the first thing the site registered as a search.
I am unaware if it was searched in an ignorant, childish way to see if my blog was such in derogative terms, or if I regularly talked about sexual orientation, or if whoever searched it was wondering if I was such, in both ways (derogative or attracted to males).


The reason I'm writing about this is because I read somewhere that June was LGBT Pride month. I think so. I'm sorry if I don't have my facts straight. More importantly I'm writing it because I'm tired of people, or my certain friends, using the word in such a bad way.


I have a friend who has a sort of childlike demeanor. The kind of guy who likes American Dad and Family Guy and potty humor. I've probably mentioned him in my transcribed written notes on here. And when he would say something is gay, I'd tell him how it was insulting. Of course he couldn't see why - he 'didn't mean it that way.' Of course he did, he just didn't know how. I ended up reading the dictionary definition to him.


It's a perfect example of point of view verses definition, and how it only serves to make people feel comfortable and secure with the idea that they're right and their ideas are only what apply, their points of view, because it makes them happy. In this case my friend used that word because it humored him, just like it humors every ignorant person who uses it. He'd call the school he graduated from 'Sir Gay,' thus insulting his school, homosexuals, and probably everyone who goes to it. That's a lot of people to insult at once, including me, and I'm not even gay myself.


I'm sure there's lots of people out there that don't intend to be demeaning but use that word jokingly or out of annoyance or dislike because they think there are two meanings to it, one for humor/something lame and the other to define the sexual orientation of homosexuals. Unfortunately they're wrong in that it's really just a degrading slang term based on how people used to view those other people. Unfortunately still, because it's so normal to use the word in such a way, you might as well add it as a second meaning, which I don't think is right. On Wictionary there are several meanings, including this one.


If the word 'gay' is used to mean something is boring or stupid or lame, and it's recognized as a way to describe something as such, then where do you think the meaning comes from? Sure, we can say 'gay' means those things in one way. Then you go on and wonder, how did the word come mean such things? Because in the old days it was not normal or usual or considered right to be attracted to males. It used to be considered a bloody illness, and it was prohibited by law to be such. How can it be against the law to be born something? Therefore people regarded those who were gay as weird or distrustful or retarded or whatever. What if the tables were turned and it was taboo to be straight? I'm sure the world would be a pretty different place then.


Back then, still, the word used to mean 'happy,' or 'colorful, bright.' While I'm not super enlightened about it, perhaps it may be why pride parades use rainbows or bright colors to distinguish themselves in a positive way.


I heard on the radio a short while ago that Harper's government put a law into effect prohibiting same-sex marriage. It is now against the law to act on your feelings for someone in a civil or official manner; people of the same sex can't be coupled legally, which I think is silly and stupid. They aren't any different from people who are straight at all except for the gender of who they love romantically, and love itself is no different either - it's a wondrous, amazing thing everyone should have a right to explore with anyone without constraint. While I have one friend who can be ignorant and close-minded and say things like that, I have a few other friends who are gay themselves. They're great people to get along with.


There's one more thing that gets me on this - those deeply religious people who are so intolerant of others who are different or believe in different things that they end up being cruel and hateful. There are families out there that abhor the ideals of others including those who are gay or lesbian that have children who might turn out to be such. I don't dislike religion in general and I think it's even kind of cool in a way, but there are people out there who interpret religion to such an extent that it ends up not being human. Imagine being a preteen coming to terms with him or herself in a devout Christian family that is intolerant of certain sexual orientations. It must be like Hell - and if I'm not mistaken, all those religious texts - bibles and such - were written by humans, not God or whatever deity is believed in. They were written a long time ago as a set of rules and followings that were very probably written under the ideal that a deity like God would look favorably upon them. If there were a God or deity out there, I'm sure they'd want everyone to be free to be whatever they are, whoever they are, regardless of mental disability, sexual orientation, race, whatever, rules aside.


It doesn't matter who you are, whether you're gay, straight, black, white, man, woman, whatever - you're cool. And nothing should prohibit you from being such.


Justin C.