Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cover vs. Original: Chris Isaak/H.I.M. "Wicked Game"

The contrast between these two versions couldn't be more yin and yang. Chris Isaak, replete with eerie guitar riffs, haunting vocals, and a mellow pace, carved out a worthy niche for himself with this early 90s rock classic. Like sipping a nice scotch, his song is smooth, yet jilting. Always appropriate for a week-in-review wind-down on a chilly autumnal Sunday.

Scandinavian hard-rock maestros, H.I.M(His Infernal Majesty), were inspired by Isaak's ingredients for smooth and creepy, and reshaped the song with a serious injection of anger and excitement. It was during a particularly hard-hitting spin class back Atlanta when the werewolf first heard this song. It has forever been branded one of the great adrenaline inducing songs to load onto your iPod for an effective visit to the gym. Almost disqualified from any recreational listening on this account, H.I.M. gets massive credit for boldly taking a classic and moving into a an entirely new sphere of  existence. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Silly Saturday: Inspector Clouseau

Sorry. I was out of pocket and incommunicado yesterday. Hence, Funny Friday is Silly Saturday this week. Peter Sellers command of various European accents and mannerisms is a genius nearly unrivaled. This scene never gets old. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gulf May Avoid Direst Predictions After Oil Spill

The usually sensationalistic and doom-and-gloom NY Times has an interesting article speaking to the diminishing impact of the gulf oil spill. 

"Yet as the weeks pass, evidence is increasing that through a combination of luck (a fortunate shift in ocean currents that kept much of the oil away from shore) and ecological circumstance (the relatively warm waters that increased the breakdown rate of the oil), the gulf region appears to have escaped the direst predictions of the spring.
While its findings were disputed by some, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported several weeks ago that the oil was breaking down and dispersing rapidly, probably limiting future damage from the spill.
And preliminary reports from scientists studying the effects on marshes, wildlife and the gulf itself suggest that the damage already done by the spill may also be significantly less than was feared — less, in fact, than the destruction from the much smaller Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989."

Why do we frequently assume the worst of things? During the weeks following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, you'd think we were on the edge of some sort of apocalypse. The event was tragic and there is no question that damage was done on several levels to a variety of stakeholders. It wasn't a pretty picture. But nothing seems to have permanently ruined the gulf and life seems to re-asserting a degree of normalcy.

This past June, the werewolf was visiting his mother's sister and her family in Los Angeles. Despite being a wonderful lady in many regards, the werewolf's aunt is ever-fearful of the world and blinded by the goggles of myopic liberalism. During drinks around her table, she said the topic of the gulf oil was spill was too upsetting to her and her teenage son, who will live a world that the treacherous oil companies are destroying. She huffed, puffed, and launched into a incoherent screed blaming  President Bush and bemoaning the scale of destruction, than forbade further discussion of the topic. Last spring, this blog assumed that spill would have a ripple effect across multiple segments of the economy and that the ugliest legacy would be in reactionary legislation. However, nothing on either scale has come to pass.

Is life generally so good that we need to manifest our fears through these sensationalistic tragedies? Is it the only outlet the hard-wired memories of how tough life was for our forefathers, where mortality was brutal, food was scarce, and everything a cause for fear, to have a collective freak-out every-time something goes amiss? Has life become so decadent with increased life spans, easy food, cheap cloths, solid shelters, and easy access to basic health-care that we have lost all sense of scale and proportion to what a tragedy really conveys?  Are we psychologically ruined by the 24 news cycle and it's intrinsically pessimistic coverage style?  A dozen potential concepts surface when given thought, but still, humans and the earth are resilient and tough. We need to collectively grow some balls and worry about the really scary crap out and applying some common-sense to reinforcing society's social institutions. Here's to looking on the bright-side.

AC/DC: Rock N' Roll Train (Studio)

Formulaic, hard-hitting, loud, and very compelling all aptly capture this gem from AC/DC's Black Ice album. Head-bopping is a must. It's the humble and consistent execution of simple genius like this that keeps AC/DC on top of their game during these twilight years.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Castrating a Great Brand: Land Rover Gets Lost In India

According the the folks over at AutoblogGreen, Land Rover's new Indian ownership, the Tata Conglomerate, has no idea how to handle the luxury automotive marquee they've added to their stable of car companies. Tata, in a fit of true boobery, plans to re-invent Land Rover as the new green machine. This has "retarded" graffiti-ed all over it. The only thing that should be green about a Land Rover is the classic English green-paint heavily associated with the brand's heritage and the hope that someone can figure out how to turn the company profitable. Land Rover's are about taming, traversing, and conquering exotic and hazardous environments with class, elegance, and English sophistication. Nowhere does this brand even remotely align with the meek and faux-sensitivity hyped by urban-dwelling effete liberals who pride themselves on pretending to care by over-paying for a crappy car to impress their shallow friends outside the yoga studio. The Japanese have already gifted the American consumer with the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and forthcoming Nissan Leaf. The American tax-payer is picking up the bill for the doomed Chevrolet Volt on this front. Cutting costs, improving efficiencies, and leveraging technology can all be smart and strategic business moves, if executed in the proper context. However, turning a brand upside down and negating its heritage is a messy way of committing business seppuku. Is Tata looking to build a successful car business or just ruin a great British brand?

The irony was not lost of the werewolf, when the former colonial subjects acquired two jewels of the British automotive industry. However, the double-irony truly rests in the fact that Britain's alpha colonial progeny, the United States, punted Jaguar and Land Rover to the more backwards and confused colonial offspring in India. Land Rover and Jaguar's have been dregs for years, not on account of style or design, but on account of crappy reliability ratings. The answer is so simple, if Tata, or any automotive giant was serious about re-igniting these brands, just building a car that works on a regular basis would do wonders. Somehow, that simple message seems to be lost on everyone who ends up owning these brands. It looks like Land Rover and Jaguar will end like the British Empire, with a weak yelp, as opposed to a glorious roar.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spiked Milkshakes, making a come back.

The world we live in may be going to hell-in-a-hand-basket, our nation is poorly led and on the road to perpetual indebtedness, Islamo-Fascism still plagues our security paradigm, Paris Hilton is a coke-head, but it looks like gourmet spike milk shakes will help ease the collective journey down to Hades' realm. Celebrating the small stuff makes it all a tad more tolerable. According to this piece from the NY Times online,which is exploring this emergent adult milk shake trend,
"Where the original fusion boom of the 1980s had chefs ransacking Asia, now the place to find inspiration is over on the kids’ menu. Ice cream. Plus liquor. Together. In a big glass. Could there be a better emblem of the sort of juvenilia-with-a-wink that defines the current food aesthetic?"
"As anyone who has survived a frozen mudslide could tell you, the spiked shake is anything but a new idea. But it seems to be experiencing a sudden uptick in ubiquity, respectability and, here and there, craftsmanship."
Updated culinary nostalgia is a legitimate and acceptable escape hatch. While most chicks may eventually wear such indulgent drinks on their buttocks and thighs, getting occasionally loaded on a few old-school milkshakes  could be an incredibly liberating way to recapture reckless innocence of my early teenage years spent haunting Johnny Rocket's on Melrose and Ed Debevics on La Cienaga in the Los Angeles that defined my youth.  Indulgent ice-cream, whole milk, some egg yolks, and a nice smooth hit a bourbon sounds like a perfect concoction and meal-substitute.

The questions remains, will the mixologitsts are gourmands find a way to eventually include bacon in the mix? There rests the real challenge.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Rolling Stones: Can't You Hear Me Knocking (Studio)

This song has an epic opening and some incredibly fun lyrics. When fired up on the home stereo system, to compliment a few stiff cocktails, it is usually indicative of some fun unpredictable gallivanting to come. It is also one of those classically reliable juke-box songs that can re-invigorate the room in the dive-bar you invariably find yourself ensconced in.

The official lyrics of the opening are

Yeah, you got satin shoes
Yeah, you got plastic boots
Y'all got cocaine eyes
Yeah, you got speed-freak jive   

"Speed-freak jive".... inspirationally suggestive of something lascivious. However, I always thought the second line said "nasty boots..."

Unions Have No Shame

Nothing would inspire the werewolf to indefinitely forsake professional car-washes more quickly than to learn that they have been unionized. If the macro-circumstances weren't so pathetic, this NY Times article on the steel workers' union attempt to strong arm the dudes that wipe down your car into a union would be somewhat funny. However, it isn't funny and it is freakin' disgraceful. First of all, the fact that the steel workers are out there footing the bill to try and agitate the mostly illegal Mexicans workers who are the backbone of LA's car-washer workforce show how desperate and fakakta the unions have become. This is nothing more than a racketeering attempt to squeeze struggling small business owners.

The national unemployment rate is cresting 10%, consumers are afraid to spend, employers are terrified to invest capital in hiring, and the American public has the overall confidence of an awkward pubescent dweeb at his 8th grade sock hop. How out of touch can the unions really be? These guys have out-lived their structural usefulness in an era of heightened consumer awareness and expectations, and via their greed have clearly demonstrated that they are impediments to American recovery.

One car-wash operator states the obvious ramifications in the article.

"Mr. Crestall said the unionization push would hurt everyone. “Having a union will mean higher wages, and that will lead to higher prices,” he said. “That will mean fewer consumers coming to carwashes, and fewer jobs for these workers.”
This lame micro-push is just a regional symptom of larger flaws in our governance structure and understanding of how leverage markets to betterment of all participants. Who knows if this push will succeed or not, but believe me you, this wolf's wheels will never be touched by a union member. (This acknowledges that his wheels were born of union hands, but that was beyond my control.)

The irony will be when the proponents of real corporate social responsibility (CSR) understand how adversely unions impact cost and operating structures, and ditch de-couple themselves from out-dated left-wing ideology for the potential third-way benefits that the concept of CSR can offer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reconsidering "Quantum of Solace": Jack White & Alicia Keys "Another Way To Die"

I spent the last several weeks working through all of the Bond films in chronological order. It made for a great time and I reckon' that some enterprising film professor could construct a class around that theme given all of the advances in technology, script evolution, and social attitudes that are well captured in each of the films. However, designing a course that cool and stimulating would be asking too much from modern higher education methinks.

Bond reels, regardless of overall quality, bring different redeeming assets to the table. Some have incredible opening sequences or title tracks, some have plots that are halfway worthy. Most have a decent sense of style. However, that is the subject of another screed.

It's funny what stays constant and what evolves as time marches on. Sean Connery still reigns supreme, while Roger Moore, with a handful exceptions, becomes almost unwatchable. Although it is well known in most circles, there is little doubt that Daniel Craig is nipping at Connery's heels for top dog in the Bond pantheon. Yet, since Connery set the stage and standard so well, toppling him from his perch will be near impossible, even for a man who executes the role with as much grit and talent as Craig.   When I was a whelp, I used to love the Roger Moore films, especially Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me. The defect in that judgement can be chalked up to the ignorance of unrefined youth and an obtuse obsession with space lasers and a Lotus that transforms into an attack submarine. Now it is challenging to sit through those films without to aid of some bourbon or gin. The acting is non-existent, and the plots ans writing are thinner than low-grade toilet paper. Lazenby benefits from a one of the best Bond babes, Diana Rigg, and Dalton and Brosnan get passable grades for their respective contributions, although Brosnan's film felt like video games at times towards the end of their implementation.

Casino Royale changed my whole understanding of the Bond universe and re-ignited my passion for the series in ways that even surprised me. Initially, I didn't like Quantum of Solace on account of its frenetic action sequences, which can induce an epileptic fit, if watched with too much focus. However, upon a second reviewing, Quantum really has a great plot (for the most part), and builds substantially off of the expectations established by Casino Royale. Having been introduced to a new global force, "Quantum" and leaving the sub-plot of Mr. White open, the audience is excellently ingrained into a compelling story arc. Sadly, MGM bankruptcy leaves the future of the franchise and its production schedule in doubt.

All that being stated, Alicia Keys and Jack White do a decent job with the title track, "Another Way To Die." Strong, innovative, and appropriate, it isn't the best Bond title song, yet, it gets better with each listening.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nifty New Cooking/Foodie Blog "La Petite Bouche"

For all you epicureans out there, the blogosphere birthed a new blog late last month that is certainly worth your time. I highly recommend you all drop by La Petite Bouche. Sadly, this confirmed bachelor hasn't a speck of culinary talent beyond mixing a smooth, liver-eroding Old Fashioned, and grilling a decent pedestrian steak. Sometimes we have to live vicariously through the talents and gifts of others. The question begs, will La Petite Bouche cater my next party? Kudos on launching the blog and sharing your wonderful cooking gift with us all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It Sucks to be to you, Gordon Brown.

According to Bloomberg, former Labour PM, Tony Blair, has declared support for current Tory PM David Cameron's economic reform platform in his newest book, "A Journey." As the white night of the "New Labour" movement back in the day, this is an interesting pivot for Mr. Blair and will likely serve as a catalyst to move some volume of his book off the shelves this month. Personally, the werewolf is a Thatcherite at heart when it comes to British politics, although, I came of age politically in the era of Blair. Despite some misgivings about his feel-good brand of reformed Labour, he is slick, smooth, and well-heeled. That counts for something in this age of lowered expectations. That being said,what's really really amusing in the article is Mr. Blair's attitude toward his former ally, the drab and dull Gordon Brown.. Blair states it bluntly in this passage.

“I had a feeling that my going and being succeeded by Gordon was also terminal for the government,” Blair wrote. “I discovered there was a lacuna -- not the wrong instinct, but no instinct at the human, gut level. Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero. Gordon is a strange guy.
"Strange guy" seems to be gentle code for prune juice induced flatulence in human form. Using clinical terms like terminal, is evocative of unwanted lumps and heinous medical conditions. Classic move from the team Blair in effectively knee-capping Gordon Brown on one more level. The eternally boring and prickly Brown will likely retort in his forthcoming memoir. His words, or lack of ability to embrace the subtle and smoothness of his rival, will likely vindicate Blair.

There is no doubt that Gordon Brown is the prima dona of failed British politicians and douche bag extraordinaire, but having completely alienated your own party and the left-wing Liberal-Democrats is no small fait accompli. Wow.