Monday, February 24, 2014

Mr. Springsteen And His Shows

Yes, I know it's been over a month since my last post.  What can I say, I've been busy on various fronts and that focus comes at a price.  Besides, when you download a new official Springsteen show every couple of days, there goes the weekend, baby!

So, as I write this, there have been 11 official releases from Springsteen South Africa/Australian tour.  Out of those, Springsteen has elected not to put up one of the nights (2/16/14), at least not yet. The theory from fans is that Springsteen admitted on stage that he was a little buzzed that evening, and the show, one of the longest in awhile, was not exactly up to his standards.  Of course, this just makes that night a holy grail among fans, many of whom enjoy the idea of sloppy as much as perfection.  I have no doubt that some enterprising taper will eventually throw that night into the morass known as "the internet", but I do hope B.S. reconsiders and puts out an official version.

Meanwhile, anyone even vaguely interested in this nonsense should check out at least one of the shows. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, since the set lists vary drastically night by night, so your best bet is to peruse the set-lists and make your choice off that.  Born in the USA fan?  One night he does the entire album.  Darkness On The Edge Of Town devotee?  Same deal.  Sound quality is more or less equal (tho some nights feature a LOT of crowd) so that really isn't an issue.  Here's the official website...

http://www.store2.livenation.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Store.woa/wa/artist?sourceCode=FANWEB&categoryName=Live+Downloads&artistName=Bruce+Springsteen

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuff I Like!

Ahh, Amazon, how you fulfill me... here are a few of the latest and greatest goodies to pass over the MV transom...

ROCKPILE: Live At The Rockpalast: An imported CD/DVD of an early 1980 show by the late, great Rockpile.  Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams owed my rock and roll world back in the day, and this concert is pretty much the boys at their best.  Think a dab of rockabilly combined with a dollop of 60's rock, amp it all up to 11 and there's Rockpile.  The band broke up WAY too soon, though the principles went on to storied solo careers.  But there are always archival releases like this to remind us of past glories...

DAVE EDMUNDS "Alive": Speaking of storied careers, this is the first new Edmunds material in years.  Unfortunately there are only five new tracks combined with some goodies from previous releases, but the old stuff is only old if you've heard it before, and most of the songs are from Edmunds' more obscure releases.  The new stuff shows he hasn't lost a step, and here's hoping for a full-on new CD soon...

STOP YELLIN': Ben Pivar And The Horror, Mystery and Action Adventure Films of His Universal B-Unit.  Well, the book's subtitle kind of says it all.  Pivar produced dozens of movies in the 30's and 40's, but is perhaps most remembered for his contributions to the Mummy series and "The Brute Man", one of the more disturbing movies to emerge from the 40's.  Not because of the subject matter, per se (standard serial killer stuff), but because the star was Rondo Hatton, a sadly deformed man who evidently piqued Universal's interest after he appeared in a Sherlock Holmes movie.  This 500+ page tome absolutely tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Ben Pivar, and since you probably didn't want to know anything, some might call all that overkill. Me, I found it a fascinating slice of life from the trenches of 40's filmmaking with some Barton Fink overtones.

SPRINGSTEEN Live: Well, he's finally doing it.  Evidently every show from Springsteen's upcoming tour is going to be released 48 hours post-concert to an eager Bruce-loving world.  That's the good news.  The slightly less advantageous news is that the concerts are being distributed (at first anyway) through a system where you have to buy a 2GB memory stick either at the concert or from Springsteen's site for $40, which will them allow you to download Mp3 medium-resolution concerts from the internet.  Want more concerts, you gotta buy more memory sticks. Want higher resolution flac files, forget it (for now).  Look, I'm not gonna bite the hand that's finally giving fans what they've been clamoring after for decades, but here's hoping a non-memory stick, high quality downloadable version is hot on the heels of this initial effort!

ADDITIONAL INFO HOT OFF THE PRESSES!  Turns out Springsteen is also offering Mp3s and flac files from his website for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively.  FANTASTIC.  Now I wish I hadn't jumped in and bought a wristband already (*sob*). 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tranquility The Series!

So my long gestating television project was finally announced last week in the various trades by my friends at Bell Canada.  Here's how the Hollywood Reporter put it:

Other police dramas being hot-housed by... (Bell Canada)... include Sonar Entertainment teaming up with Double Nickel Entertainment and Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica) on Tranquility, a sci-fi series about a troubled ex-cop with a new gig on a moon colony.

The wonderful thing about a blog is the ability to "augment" this release with a tad more detail.  First of all, from the world of "sometimes you just have to persevere," I've been fussing with Tranquility off and on since 2005.  It began when the two principles involved with Double Nickle, former DC publisher Jenette Kahn and her partner Adam Richman, approached me with an idea from writer/editor/director Stewart Schill.  We developed a pitch for a series that year, but the world was not ready for Tranquility... yet...

But the project stuck with me, and as time passed it felt like there was more of an appetite for science fiction in the television world.  Aside from the change in the market, I had hatched some new story thoughts that expanded the original Tranquility world beyond the initial pitch.  Jenette and Adam and Stewart liked the fussing and so it was time for "take two."  And this time the folks at Sonar Entertainment and Bell Canada came on board.  I hesitate to get into too many more details about the show itself, but suffice to say there is more going on than your standard "troubled ex-cop" tropes.  I mean, it's on the moon, for cryin' out loud.  There will be mystery and heart and action and surprises galore...

And I will continue to report as developments ensue!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homefront?

The title doesn't make much sense in context, but regardless, Homefront the movie is a solid action movie written by Sylvester Stallone (!), directed by Gary Fleder and starring Jason Stathem and James Franco.

Stathem plays "Broker", an undercover DEA agent who takes down a bunch of biker/meth dealers and winds up on the surviving biker's hit list. For reasons not really explained (though Broker's wife died off-camera a some point), Broker quits the force, packs up his 12 year old daughter and buys a ramshackle house in rural Louisiana.  Evidently the DEA has an amazing pension plan because Broker no longer has to work and spends most of his time puttering around doing home-repairs and charming his daughter's grade school teacher.

But.  There's ALWAYS a but.  When daughter Maddy gets in a schoolyard fracas with a bully, daddy Stathem is confronted by the bully's annoyed parents and employs his DEA/ninja skills to settle things.  Except slamming a guy to the ground and choking him in front of his wife and son doesn't have the placating effect he hoped.  Turns out the wife's brother is "Gator" Bodine (James Franco), yet another meth dealer with a cadre of goons, and he doesn't take kindly to this newbie roughing up his relatives.  He's probably sore because people make fun of his name.  Anyhow, a series of tit-for-tat confrontations escalate until... well, I won't get into spoilers, but there's a lot of beatin' up and shootin'.

That sounds pretty routine, but there are a couple of things going for Homefront.  First, it's very well directed by Gary Fleder, who eschews CGI stuntwork for more grounded fisticuffs.  Cars don't magically fly over other cars and bodies actually obey the laws of physics.  It's also very well acted by Stathem, Franco and Winona Ryder as a meth head (!).  And finally, the story actually leaves room for characters to evolve in slightly unexpected ways.  In real life, sometimes it actually IS possible to apologize and put things behind you without a half dozen suicidal machine-gun toting dudes coming after you.  At least I hope so (sorry I flipped you off, guy who cut me off in traffic!).

But again, I don't get the title. I've read that this was originally going to be a Rambo sequel, and a story about a soldier from overseas coming home to fight local bad guys, well, then Homefront makes sense.  U.S. based DEA agent retiring to U.S. based meth region and getting into fights, not so much.  Oh well.  Too bad there's an old Burt Reynolds movie called "Gator" because that's a great title...  


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nebraska Is A State of Mind...

...and "Nebraska" is also a really good movie from director Alexander Payne and writer Bob Nelson.  Yes, it's WGA "screener season" again, my chance to catch up on some great movies from the comfort of the couch. Yes, back cover of screener DVD box, I understand that movies are meant to be seen on the big screen... now leave me alone!  Get off my lawn!

Which is sort of the tenor of Nebraska... Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly, verging-on-Alzheimers fellow who becomes convinced he's won a million dollar Publisher's Cleaning House-type sweepstakes.  But he needs to get from his home in Billings Montana to the sweepstakes office in Lincoln Nebraska to collect it.  Woody's wife and adult kids know it's a scam, but finally his son David (Will Forte) takes pity and humors Woody by giving him a lift.

It's a pretty classic set-up for some father/son road-trip bonding, but Woody makes Wilson the volleyball look like a chatterbox. So that doesn't exactly work out.  Then a pit stop in Woody's hometown leads to encounters with family and old friends who actually believe the million dollar story, leading to new adventures in greed and avarice.

Nebraska the movie is less about big laughs (though there are a couple) and more about those knowing smiles of recognition. Awkward family encounters, pointed silences, secrets unwittingly (or maliciously) revealed... twist those moments one way and they're tragic, twist them just a little the other and you have this movie.  Writer Bob Nelson has an ear for awkward dialogue and a great comic sense of timing.  There's a bit involving an air compressor (!) that is pretty darn funny.  And believe me, people have tried to make air compressors funny before!

You need to settle in for this one, let the moody black and white photography draw you in, but once you're there, Dern is amazing as Woody and June Squibb as his long suffering (but hardly passive) wife Kate is great, too. Good stuff!

    

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Shark Alley The Novel

My buddy John Goins is a man of many talents (bass player for the legendary punk bank "The Cleavers", poker player extraordinaire in the legendary Nugget casino in Reno) and now he's added "excellent novelist" to the list.  His first novel, "Shark Alley", is now available from Smashwords for the ridiculously low price of $2.99, and it's well worth checking out.  A clever Western set in San Francisco's Barbary Coast, it's like a cross between Bonanza and The Wild Wild West, with great characters and lively twists.  I was hooked from page one!

Here's the official description:

SHARK ALLEY: San Francisco 1877: An insane ex-Confederate Colonel is murdering members of the famous Barbary Coast Squad. "Shark Alley" follows Detective Inspector Nick Lockwood as he pursues the evil Colonel Tobias before Lockwood's hidden past is revealed.

This gets my whole-hearted, five star, thumbs-up, multiple smiley-face recommendation.  

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376669

Saturday, November 30, 2013

On The Passing of My Father...

My father Eric Verheiden passed away on November 14 after a long struggle with prostate cancer.  He had recently turned 87 years old.  He is survived by his four sons and six Grandchildren, and he's resting alongside his wife Caroline, who passed away in 2008. 

Dad was born on Oct. 24, 1926, son to Amy and father Eric Senior.  My dad's dad was a logger in Oregon's timber industry and an accomplished amateur painter.  There were two sons, Eric and younger brother Hans, and the family was living in a small home in Portland Oregon when the depression hit.  A hard life became even harder when Eric Sr. was killed in a logging accident in 1933.

But the family persevered.  Classified 4F because of a heart murmur, my father worked in Portland's shipyards during the war.  His mother Amy worked in a cannery while attending to Hans, who had contracted polio and spent many months in the hospital.  They did not have an easy life by any means, but I honestly can't remember my father ever complaining about those days.  If anything, he would remember life in the 30's with fondness.  Buying used Doc Savage pulps for a nickle each from a nearby bookstore.  Working in a hardware store for 10 cents an hour and learning all about tools.  Fixing up on old car and rolling around the neighborhood.  

(Actually, I do remember one complaint: he washed dishes to pay for his tuition through college, and he hated souffle days because those pans were almost impossible to clean.)     

Dad graduated from Oregon State University -- he was an electrical engineer by trade and worked his entire career for Portland General Electric, the utility company that (still) delivers electricity to a big chunk of Oregon.  Early in his career, my dad designed the physical power poles that carried lines into various rural areas.  He was especially proud of one of his more elaborate constructions and took my then pregnant mother on a bumpy ride to check out his handiwork.  Not long after, yours truly was born prematurely...

For a long time Dad was the guy who would put together the crews on snowy/icy/stormy days to repair downed power lines.  Later he rose in the ranks of management and was involved in figuring out budgets and the "business of business" that kept the lights on.

My dad was proud of his work, but I think he was most proud of the freelance articles he wrote and sold to various utility/power company journals back in the day.  Most of these sales happened when I was still just a tyke and something about his delight and pride over those articles clearly registered in my four year old lizard brain.  So go ahead, blame my dad for my so-called writing career.  Trust me, he won't mind.

My father met my mother at the Oaks Park skating rink (it's still there, in "The Oaks" amusement park in Portland), where they shared an affinity for roller-skating and dancing.  He was 19 and she was 16, sparks flew, and they were married three years later.

Next thing you know, kids! They had a couple of "parenting" policies that seemed natural at the time but which I now, looking back, think were actually quite progressive.

1): If the kids needed anything "educational" (books, magazines, tuition), they would do whatever they could to provide it.  They subscribed to both local papers and dozens of different magazines, everything from the news weeklies to Road and Track and National Geographic.  I grew up in a house where reading and learning were as natural and routine as our morning bowl of Cheerios.

2): As long as his kids got good grades, there were never any "bed times" or "be home by 11" edicts.  We all kept crazy hours, but two of my brothers graduated with PhDs (Math and Physics), a third retired early from Microsoft, and then there's me, the Hollywood bum.   So I guess the system worked okay for us.

I have endless fond memories of growing up in (then) rural-ish Oregon.  We had a small house on one and a half acres of land, plenty of room for four boys and nearby friends to build forts, tree-houses, dig "holes to China" and other non-internet related activities.  When we were still kids, my parents invested in a small power boat and we spent many Summer weekends on the Willamette and Columbia rivers, water skiing and crashing through the wakes of passing big ships.  We rented trailers, dragged them behind our old station wagon and drove to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and many other vacation destinations.

Frankly, we made "Leave It To Beaver" look like an episode of "Sons Of Anarchy."  My parents didn't drink or smoke and I can count on one hand the number of times they had an argument.  No "horrors of childhood" stories here -- if any of us screwed up later in life, it was our own damn fault!

My Dad was an Eisenhower Republican, which led to the occasional (ahem) argument, but after the prosperous Clinton years and the not so prosperous Bush-2 years, he switched to Democrat and never looked back.  My father and mother were not particularly religious, and my father especially loathed the so-called Moral Majority and "social conservatives."  One strong memory, from when I was six or seven years old: my father had invested in the "Time-Life Series on Religion", a six volume set.  He didn't feel it was right to let his lack of religious interest influence us, so he decided he would read us a chapter a night from the books so we could make up our own minds.  That lasted two nights.     

Dad probably would have kept working for PGE until 65, but when early retirement deals were offered to older employees in a round of cost-cutting, my Mom encouraged him to take the deal and he retired at 59.  He later said it was the best decision he ever made (well, second to marrying my Mom).  Unlike some fellows who miss the hurly-burly of work, Dad was liberated and did much traveling/bike-riding/backyard sitting with my mother, until she was afflicted with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.  It was an especially brutal combination, and despite having resources to do otherwise, my father insisted on caring for her by himself through her entire illness, a 24/7 job.  He was devastated when she died and she was never far from his thoughts in the years after.  They had been married for 59 years.  Then Dad's younger brother Hans died on Oct. 17, 2011, after struggling with the after-effects of polio all his life. 

My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer early on and struggled with the disease for nearly 17 years.  Actually, I'm not sure "struggle" is the right word.  He had a radiation treatment at the beginning, then started a regimen of medications, but only really started to manifest symptoms this year.  His doctors were perplexed (in a good way!) by his condition... there were times when Dad's PSA (prostate specific antigen) score soared into the 100's, this when a 10 is considered cause for alarm, but his doctors noted that they could only treat symptoms, not a number, so as long as he was feeling okay...

That finally ended this Summer, and when Dad's oncologist recommended hospice care in late August he took it with his usual calm demeanor.  My father wanted to stay in his house until the end, and with the help of some amazing caregivers and the hospice workers, he got his wish.  To a person, the caregivers were astonished by my dad's good cheer and graciousness.  He was always worried about the burden he was putting on them.  Our family was with Dad as much as possible, but his caregivers Steve, Gary, Norma, and Nikki (who was there with me and my younger brother when my father died) were amazing.

I could go on, and may in future installments, but that's what comes to mind a week and a half after his funeral...