Sunday, 24 August 2014

Top 10 Hair Metal Songs

I'm not feeling well. That's my excuse. Totally.
(Pic : whatculture.com)

Chicken pox is, as you would expect, surprisingly serious in adults (2014 : the gift that keeps on giving). Obviously I'm grumpy and irritable at the moment, but there are even worse side effects. The delirium caused by body temperature swings and corrupted flesh has obviously convinced me hair metal is any good.

10. Poison – Nothing But A Good Time
                        

If there's one thing you can say about hair metal it's that it's "fun". It's strange that such an upbeat song would start with "Not a dime, I can't pay my rent", but it perfectly captures the blue-collar weekend hedonism that was a signature the scene in the 80s.

9. Alice Cooper – Poison
                        

The last thing I need right now is a song about being painful to touch and poison running through veins. If I could run a cheese grater over me right now I would. Alice Cooper almost faded into obscurity during the early 1980s, but suddenly pulled a rabbit out of his hat with this one, which was a commercial success.

8. Mötley CrüeGirls, Girls, Girls
                       


I think this might be about strippers and a celebration of the female anatomy, somehow. A strip club is pretty much the only place you'll hear it nowadays. Now you could certainly say it's degrading but it's something of a signature of this particular band considering their reputation. And then you you realise Nicki Minaj is doing stuff like this.

7. Skid Row – 18 & Life
                      

Skid Row never really deserved to be associated with the fluffier side of hair metal as they were one of the more "serious" bands. This is a tale of teenage delinquency turned lifetime regret – not necessarily accidental murder, but the general cycle of poverty.

6. W.A.S.P – Wild Child
                     

A massive slice of hair metal cheese and, yeah, I suppose a guilty pleasure. Many people have often tried to figure out what the acronym W.A.S.P actually means. "We Are Sexual Perverts" appears to be the favourite. Something inside me really, really wishes for a "speed wobble" at the start of the video.

5. Twisted Sister – We're Not Gonna Take It
                     


"WHADDA YOU WANNA DO WITH YOUR LIIIIIIFE!?" Who cares what it means? I guess that's the point.

4. Mötley CrüeKickstart My Heart
                     

In 1987, the band's bassist, Nikki Sixx, was declared clinically dead after a drug overdose. In a last ditch attempt to save his live, paramedics gave him not one, but two adrenaline doses directly to his heart. The result was this uplifting celebration of sobriety.

3. Guns n' Roses – November Rain
                     

Apparently this took almost 10 years to write and perfect and feels like it lasts 10 years to listen to, accompanied by an epic video which is often considered to be one of the best. It's probably the last "great" hair metal hit.

2. Van Halen – Runnin' with the Devil
                    

This was produced in 1978 – long before "hair metal" really came into being. Van Halen obviously laid a lot of the groundwork for what was to come. Despite the controversy the song's title caused, it was about how the rock and roll lifestyle can catch up with you and is superficial. It's actually kind of funny, ironic and cool that David Lee Roth was working as a paramedic in the 00s.

1. Ratt – Round and Round
                   


This one has the right mix of cheese, sleaze and catchy hooks. It also has one of the strangest music videos of the period - a dinner party where everyone has dead eyes and communicates in one word grunts and hand/head signals. Precisely how Ratt got into the attic isn't explained, but if Ratts were playing in my attic I'd be going up there with a meat cleaver. Turns out the butler did it.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Top 5 Robin Williams Films

(Pic : Al Jazeera)

2014's turning into an absolute fucking corker!

Bill Hicks died on my late mother's birthday 20 years ago, now Robin Williams died on mine which makes this, admittedly, rather funny in itself. If I didn't have such a black sense of humour I probably would've gone the same way a long time ago. To round off the death of laughter I was also a huge Rick Mayall fan. Based on that family track record, if you're a legendary comedian I would be wary of December.

The manner of his death was obviously a great shock. There's been enough said on that and I don't want to go there myself.

Anyway, Robin leaves one hell of a legacy behind and will probably be remembered as one of the greatest and most prolific comic actors of the last century. Just take a look at this list. Everyone will have their own favourite works, so it's worth noting my own appreciation....the one's I've seen anyway.

5. Bicentennial Man (1999)

                                

Based off a Pinocchio-type Issac Asimov novella, this is one of those films I like but every else seems to dislike. It's sentimental to the point of visual diabetes, but trying to turn a robot into a human sounds like something I would try to do and there's something appealing about an inter-generational love story. Not only does the suit that Robin had to wear look unbelievably uncomfortable, but he managed to do quite a lot with a poor script.

4. Hook (1991)

                      

A sequel to Peter Pan sounds like a really bad idea, but I think they managed to pull it off. If it didn't have big personalities like Robin and Dustin Hoffman aboard though it would've sunk without a trace. I suppose Robin was a big kid at heart, and this film – a celebration of the freedom of youth and the child's imagination - has become something of a cult classic amongst people my age despite the bad reception at the time.

3. Good Will Hunting (1997)    
  
                      


Eccentric and troubled genius with trust issues is told to pull his head out of his backside and allow himself to be saved by love. The real world doesn't work like that, of course, and if it wasn't for the incredibly high quality of the acting and script this would've been as sentimental as Bicentennial Man. In terms of his acting ability this was arguably Robin's best performance and showed off his range (comedy, improv, drama, tragedy) perfectly.

2. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

                     


It's unclear how much of this was actually true or not, but as the old saying goes, "The first casualty in war is the truth". The US military is, of course, serious business and won't tolerate comedy of any kind. Who best to stick it to the man than a comic actor with NO INDOOR VOICE. Apparently the every single one of the radio broadcasts was ad-libbed by Williams demonstrating his quick comic mind. It did have something of a bittersweet ending as I suppose you could say the "bad guy" won.

1. Mrs Doubtfire (1993)


                    

The role Robin will be remembered for. It's still funny now and seems to get funnier every time I watch it. Divorce is obviously another very solemn and serious topic, but what the hell? It's not perfect script or story wise and is very, very silly – I mean getting divorced because of a party!? Also I didn't get why the Miranda character didn't cotton on to the impersonations over the phone despite being formerly married to a very talented voice actor. Durrr! Though I suppose in the end it was all a mask, wasn't it?


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers

A serious game on a serious issue - all the more relevant at present.
(Pic : peacemakergame.com)

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the few topics I won't touch on "the other blog". There are plenty of good reasons why.

It seems you can't express an opinion on it unless you fanatically back one side over the other in the PR war. Even hinting that either side might be in the wrong or in the right - under differing circumstances at different times - makes you either Adolf Eichmann incarnate, or a cheerleader for war criminals and genocide.

I suppose the closest I'll come to expressing a view on it is that both sides are permanently locked in a cycle of revenge; one side to the point of devaluing human life based on ethnicity and religion, the other being pig-headed extremists with no sense of self-restraint.

So perhaps Israelis and Palestinians have something in common after all.

It's a conflict that, at present, looks as though can only end either with mutual annihilation, or both sides uniting behind a common threat or common cause. Ideally, that cause would be a permanent two-state solution. Until that unlikely event, "Come, friendly asteroids and fall on the Holy Land."

A few months ago, I took a look at government simulation game, Democracy 3.

Along the same lines, in 2007, ImpactGames released a simulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict called Peacemaker. It was pay game but has was released as freeware in 2013 (available here), which is all the more pertinent due to the present military bombardment of Gaza.

The wider goal of the game is to promote peace and impart a deeper understanding of the difficulties facing both sides – and the wider world - in coming up with a solution to the conflict.

As a player, you choose to be either Israel or the Palestinian Authority. To avoid losing, as Israel you have to prevent a Third Intifada and as Palestine you have to prevent a Fatah-Hamas civil war. Anything else that happens – including the creation of a two state solution - depends on your immediate response to randomly generated events (tank attacks, terrorism, arrests and assassinations) and domestic policy decisions.

The frequency and impact of the events depends on which of the three difficulty levels you choose. You do well by building trust amongst your opponents (i.e. Israel – granting more Palestinians work permits; Palestine – denouncing armed rebellion). The key to full progress and "winning", however, is to carefully balance your decisions to avoid tipping things excessively in favour of the extremes (on both sides).

For example, if you're Israel and you respond excessively to a terrorist attack (to avoid looking weak to voters), you risk more reprisals, which lead to more extreme measures, and you eventually lose. If you're Palestine, showing weakness provokes militants into thinking you're unsuitable to lead "the struggle" – so they end up taking matters into their own hands and digging you into a deeper hole.

All of your hard work over several in-game months can be undone by a single incident or a single revenge attack.

It's not 100% accurate and doesn't have all the nuances of the conflict, but it's pretty damn close and I could see how it would be a useful tool in education, or anyone else for that matter who wants to put themselves in the shoes of decision-makers and get an idea of both sides of the conflict.

Of course, in real life it's not a game and there's only one difficulty setting.


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