Thursday, June 9, 2011

Effects Pedals (guitar)

Living in a city where you don’t really have the opportunity to be super loud and not a complete asshole at the same time doesn’t leave you many choices in regards to experimenting with guitar amps and effects.  You wind up playing guitar unplugged or an acoustic or you pay your scarcely earned dollars for a rehearsal space and even that has it’s issues. You’ll find yourself nestled between The Bro-Metal bands and the Teen Angst Punk Rock played by 38 year olds and their bass and kick will boom and echo through your half assedly sound proofed room.

However, once in a blue moon you wind up at the rehearsal spot alone because the rest of the band bailed on practice and this gives you an opportunity to crank the amp and play whatever the hell you want to.   For me that was an opportunity to once again pull the effects out without having to worry if anybody but myself can keep time with it or hear the nuances I do.   I used to play with effects a lot and then I think as a result of writing more songs at home, the effects started dropping off one by one.  Instead of a whole board turned on at once, I now just use one or less at  a time.  I don’t know if it’s old age or that all the bands that knew how to use the effects effectively are all 10years defunct and so I’m uninspired by those types of sounds.  Regardless, things just weren’t the same.  The excitement of discovering a new combination of sound or rhythm was lost on me and the one piece that I did like with the tremolo/delay/wah combo I tend to use often, actually sounded better with just a little overdrive and reverb.  

Did I grow out of It or has my writing just developed into something different that no longer benefits from heavy usage of boss pedals.  I’m more into thinking about what will accentuate the dry guitar part as opposed to what will send it to the freaking moon.  It makes sense since most songwriters tend to become more Country or Bluesy as time goes on, maybe I'm due for this transition.

Monday, June 6, 2011


So I caught Red Dawn over the weekend.  I’m not particularly sure how I felt about this movie when I saw it many years ago but i recall enjoying it even if it wasn't amongst my favourites or even particularly interesting.  Watching it today however, I was able to catch on to the more propaganda elements (which I’ll attach below from an article by some dude that wrote a book on pentagon involvement in Hollywood) or realistic parts of the flick; Stuff like rounding up the citizens known to have firearms, which makes perfect sense now but at the time i orginally saw this, didn't even register.  While watching,  I wondered how many people watch this movie now and are able to separate the US invasions and subsequent insurgencies or if they still just think it’s a bunch of anti-westerners looking to lop off an infidel’s head.   I guess we’ll find out when the remake hits theaters.  

Plot-wise it’s classic evil Russian of the 80’s and their south of the border allies, invade America fantasy.  Red Dawn concentrates on this small Colorado town and the high school insurgent group “Wolverines” that take them on.  The movie makes use of a lot of stereotypes, re-education camps, slaughter of civilians as retaliation, the sovietfication of the po-dunk town, the KGB prescence.   What I missed when I saw this in the 80’s was the larger scope of this war.  I always felt it was silly that the Russians would invade some high school in the middle of nowhere but I guess watching it alone in my living room allowed me to actually pay attention when the downed Fighter pilot gave them the run down on the nuclear attacks and the wider scope of the invasion that made it seem more plausible.    My main issue with the movie today is how they sort of cut it like a teen movie.  Down to the montage of their successes as they go from kids in the mountain with rifles, to an actual fighting forces with heavy weaponry and fighting strategies….each success ending with a shot of their name “Wolverines” spray painted on a wall or damaged tank.  Pretty much every major detail besides the skirmishes exist in a vacuum.  They just sort of come up when it’s convenient as opposed to being alluded to, much less shown in the flick.  They could have done much more, especially in regards to the traitor amongst them.  Another thing I noticed was the 80’s style score, it’s a bit creepier than the more orchestral scores of today and not overbearing like action flicks of today, i do admit they made a lot of obnoxious sound choices though.

Ok now on to the special report: "How the 80's Programmed Us for War" by David Siorta 
White House strategists and Pentagon propagandists use information and imagery as strategic weapons, and they are well aware that the most valuable of those weapons is cheery childhood nostalgia. They also know that in a country where almost half the population was born after 1979, some of the most compelling of those youthful memories come from the schlock that was originally stockpiled in the 1980s basement.
And a lot of it plays into the ideological agenda of the Pentagon. "Young men of recruiting age cited movies and television as their primary source of their impressions about the military, so [movies and television] are very important [to the Pentagon]," an army spokeswoman told PBS, citing the Defense Department's extensive surveys of youth attitudes. "It's an opportunity for [kids] to see what the possibilities are and to see what being a soldier would be like."
"Red Dawn" is a classic invasion flick, but with a deliberate twist for recruitment-age teens. It tells the story of youngsters from the fictional town of Calumet, Colorado, who call themselves the Wolverines and who go rogue by mounting a preposterous guerrilla resistance against a massive Soviet assault on the American homeland. To further sex up the adolescent appeal, "Red Dawn" cast '80s teen heartthrobs such as Thompson, Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and, yes, Charlie Sheen, in the lead roles.
The film starts out with the bedrock provisos of militarist paranoia, including key pillars of eighties Vietnam-related revision:
-- Anti-gun-control extremism: One of the film's first scenes shows a Soviet thug pulling a gun from an American corpse as the camera pans across a pickup truck bearing an NRA bumper sticker that reads, "They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers." Later, the Soviets are able to hunt down American resisters through the secret master list of gun owners that the U.S. government allegedly keeps (one of the longtime conspiracy theories among gun enthusiasts).
-- Retaliation/revenge on countries that defeat the United States: One of the kids' fathers is shown in a concentration-camp cage, yelling to his son to "Avenge me!" by killing as many enemies as possible. His scream could be the name of every back-to-Vietnam flick from the 1980s.
-- Backstabbing politicians: The film shows Calumet's mayor as a cowardly and conniving Soviet collaborator who does nothing while his constituents are rounded up and murdered. Additionally, the mayor's son (also student body president at Calumet High School) presses the Wolverines to surrender and later betrays them. Taken together, "Red Dawn" argues that politicians are all weak-kneed, corrupt, and traitorous.
-- United States as embattled underdog: In the same way adult politics, media, and entertainment in the eighties tried to recast the U.S. military as a yellow-ribbon-worthy under- dog helping supposed "freedom fighters" in Latin America, rescuing POWs from Vietcong, and liberating Kuwait from the supposed Iraq behemoth, "Red Dawn's" Wolverines are positioned as outgunned insurgents scratching their way to victory against the Russian colossus. "The message of 'Red Dawn,'" its director, Milius, said, "is to liberate the oppressed" -- the "oppressed" somehow being America, the most militarily dominant nation in human history.
Soon after fleeing to the woods for some good old-fashioned Unabomber-like survivalism (including drinking deer blood as a male-bonding exercise), the Wolverines come upon a fallen U.S. pilot who articulates a few more paranoias of eighties militarism:
-- Stealth terrorists are already among us: "The first wave of the (Soviet) attack came in disguise as commercial charter flights," says the pilot in an eerily prescient vision of a 9/11- like onslaught.
-- The need for a militarized southern border: "Infiltrators came up illegal from Mexico, Cubans mostly," he continues.
-- Weak-kneed western allies justify the United States spending more on the military than all other nations combined: When the kids ask if Europe is going to help stop the Soviet invasion, the pilot says that Europe is "sittin' this one out -- all except England, and they won't last very long."
Recall that four years before this film was released, Ronald Reagan had given voice to many of these theories, saying "the Soviets and their friends are advancing" and chastising the Carter administration for "failing to see any threatening pattern." It was propaganda in its most literal form.
In 1997, after reports that "Red Dawn" was one of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh's favorite films, MGM/United Artists vice president Peter Bart revealed to Variety that when his company first considered the movie's script, the studio's CEO "declared in no uncertain terms that he wanted to make the ultimate jingoistic movie." The studio subsequently recruited Reagan's recently departed secretary of state, retired general Alexander Haig, to serve on MGM's corporate board, "consult with ['Red Dawn's'] director and inculcate the appropriate ideological tint." Though the screenplay's first draft strived to lament the tragedies of war, Bart recounted how the studio "demanded to know why [it] should try to remake 'Lord of the Flies' when it could instead try for 'Rambo.'"

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