Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'd Call it "Ail"

The world's strongest ale, it would seem, requires the world's strongest stomach. Not only is The End of History stronger than whiskey or vodka at 55 percent volume, and not only does it fetch £500 a glass, but it is also sold inside the bodies of dead stuffed animals (how I wish I were making that up). I ask, what could possibly be more appetizing than pouring a hearty libation from the mouth of a dead squirrel?
This sounds like a horrifying preview of what a Ted Nugent Pale Ale would be like.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Time Doesn't Stand Still

Rush came to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC)--a scant mile from my house--Friday night; fortunately, the monsoon-like rains stopped about an hour prior to show time. They are doing construction on the Geyser Road bridge so I was unable to walk to SPAC and was stuck driving. Grr.

Anyway, the tour is dubbed the "Time Machine" tour, and is designed to be a stroll through the Rush ages (kind of like any Rush concert, really), with particular emphasis on the 1980s.

The stage set was designed with a "steampunk" theme. Steampunk, if you are not a regular visitor of Boing Boing, is a sub-genre of science-fiction that imagines the future as it was envisioned in the past, typically in the Victorian era (i.e., when steam power was prevalent); think of H.G. Wells, or the 1960 movie version of The Time Machine (but not the wretched 2002 remake which, coincidentally, was partially filmed in the Saratoga Spa State Park), Jules Verne, or even the great 1960s TV series The Wild Wild West. Basically, this meant lots of large vats, tubes and pipes, and occasional billows of steam. Neil Peart's drum kit, built especially for this tour, was absolutely beautiful, even if it wasn't as sprawling as it usually is. (His epic drum solo also had a kind of brooding sci-fi feel to it.) Occasionally, a stage hand would push a grocery cart on stage and toss a bunch of rubber chickens into a large cistern to the Geddy side of the drum riser. Okay. (It bears mentioning that amongst the Rush faithful, when describing where seats are, they are not stage left or stage right, but rather on the "Alex side [left] or Geddy side [right].)

As for the performance, it was the usual tour de force. They resurrected a few obscure tracks from the 80s that work better live than on record (I'm thinking anything from Power Windows or Hold Your Fire, which are my least favorite of their 18 studio albums. Oh, and after the intermission, they performed Moving Pictures, one of the greatest albums ever recorded, in its entirety. Paradise, really.

They also previewed two new tracks from their forthcoming Clockwork Angels album, "BU2B" (aka "Brought Up to Believe") and "Caravan." The record is apparently a science-fiction concept album; as Neil Peart wrote in the tour program, "these days an 'album' is an abstraction dearer to artists than audiences," which is why they are breaking with the timeworn pattern of recording an album and then touring behind it. I liked the new songs (they are available on iTunes), even if they still seem a little embryonic; they got mixed reviews from the folks I was hanging out with before the show (a friend of a friend is a moderator on and had organized a meet-up of regulars from the forum who, it bears mentioning, had not even been born when I went to my first Rush concert!*)

The band changed the arrangements of a few songs; "Closer to the Heart," tends to be the more protean of their songs, and "Working Man," dating from the pre-Neil Peart era, opened with a kind of reggae arrangement; it was more like "Working Mon." The opening bit of "La Villa Strangiato" sounded almost polka-like!

Unfortunately, I had waited too long to buy tickets, so I had really crappy seats and could not see any of the rear-screen projections, which were apparently very funny. I guess I'll have to wait for the DVD. I did manage to catch the one thart ended the show which went on wa-a-a-a-y too long.

All I can say is that I am glad these guys are still around. The Saratogian review is here. I also heartily recommend the recent Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage.

The complete set list was:

Spirit of Radio (Permanent Waves, 1980)
Time Stand Still (Hold Your Fire, 1987)
Presto (Presto, 1989)
Stick It Out (Counterparts, 1993)
Working Them Angels (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Leave That Thing Alone (Counterparts, 1993)
Faithless (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
BU2B (new--Clockwork Angels, 2011[?])
Free Will (Permanent Waves, 1980)
Marathon (Power Windows, 1985)
Subdivisions (Signals, 1982)


Moving Pictures (1981)
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Caravan (new--Clockwork Angels, 2011[?])
Drum solo
Hope (Alex Lifeson acoustic guitar solo; Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Closer to the Heart (A Farewell to Kings, 1977)
Overture/Temples of Syrinx (2112, 1976)
Far Cry (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)


La Villa Strangiato (Hemispheres, 1978)
Working Man (Rush, 1974)

I wonder if they'll tour in 2012 for the "100-year preanniversary" and play 2112 in its entirety...

*1982, for those playing along at home

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tidal Pools

Looks like another maritime evening; I have tickets to see Rush at SPAC tonight, as a monsoon has swept in from the west (the same one I took off from in Grand Rapids yesterday). Fortunately, I have indoor seats.

The 1980s! "The suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth..." or anyone with a pulse, really.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Write Like

I just read about a Web site called I Write Like that claims it can analyze your prose and tell you what famous author you...well, write like. I suppose I'll be skeptical about it if it likens me to authors I don't like, but claim it's eerily accurate if it likens me to authors I do like. As I write this post, I have not tried it yet.

So let's go live to I Write Like.

First, a little mantra: Not Dan Brown, not Dan Brown, not Dan Brown...

I'll start with some text from Disrupting the Future, the book about revitalizing the printing industry that I co-wrote with Dr. Joe Webb. Who do we, in combination, write like?

I write like
Isaac Asimov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Okay, that's acceptable. I guess I'll have to grow mutton chops. Idea for a mystery novel: Murder at GraphExpo...

So, next I'll paste some random paragraphs from Virus!, a silly science-fiction comedy novel I self-published a few years ago. Who do I write like? (I shudder to think...)

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

ZOMG!!!! That site is utterly brilliant!! The people who developed I Write Like are geniuses!!!

Okay, how about a random passage from It Might Have Been, an unpublished "serious" novel?

I write like
Charles Dickens

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Wow! I love you, Dr. Johnson, and I want to have your babies. (I am not fudging any of this, by the way.)

Okay, how about a boring old printing industry business conditions report I wrote for WhatTheyThink?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Hmm...I think he might take umbrage at that. If he were still alive he'd roll over in his grave...

Okay, one last one. How about one of my silly movie recaps:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Interesting. I've never read David Foster Wallace--maybe I'll pick up Infinite Jest and see if it's a combination of comic recaps of bad science-fiction movies and a printing industry business conditions report. Maybe I've got an idea for my next WhatTheyThink report...

So, basically, I think I Write Like is spot on, and the people who created it are complete and utter geniuses.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I rarely look at the comments on this blog, because I never get any, but it seems I'm world-famous (or something) in Asia. I hope no one is saying anything obscene...

Creative Writing Update

A hot-as-hell holiday weekend gave me the opportunity to stay inside the air-conditioned house and do another long-awaited (by me anyway) Movie Mis-Treatment--this time, the 1954 "eyesore" Killers from Space.

Also, I added the script for Take Offs and Landings to the Fiction page on my proper Web site. This is a stage play currently under consideration by the Theatre Workshop in Johnstown, NY (fingers crossed!), which did a staged reading of my Past and Present Tense last year. I hope I learned from my mistakes!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Ugh. Says

I think they're understating it. Remember that Twilight Zone episode where it got so hot that paintings were melting off the wall? It's getting like that...