Adama on Militarized Police

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Adama from Scyfy’s Battlestar Galactica says, “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.” As John Edwin Mason writes, “God bless the screenwriter who wrote these lines.” Hat tip to Paul Hsieh.

That’s Captain China to You

captain-americaA Chinese film reviewer for Douban.com wrote of Captain America: The Winter Soldier that the hero’s enemy “is the very country he loves and protects. To love one’s country isn’t the same as loving one’s government: This is the main draw of Captain America.” This translation comes by way of Warner Brown’s article for Foreign Policy (via Edward Gresser via James Pethokoukis). (I checked the original in Google Translate, which produced a bit of a jumble, but the translations seem to roughly square.) Of course, Captain America’s enemy in the film is not the “country he loves”; it is instead a corrupt group controlling the country’s government. By defeating that group, Captain America saves his country. Hopefully that message is appealing to Americans and Chinese alike.

Pipe Guy and the Internationalization of Culture

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

According to Statistic Brain, 490 million people use YouTube every month, and they spend a collective 2.9 billion hours watching YouTube videos. That works out to around six hours of video watching per active person per month, on average. I think it’s safe to say that most of those hours are spent on entertainment.

Of the many remarkable things about YouTube is the way it lets people share their artistic talents with a worldwide audience in a way never before possible. No doubt you’ve heard of Psy, but have you heard of Lim Chang Jung—in my view a far better artist? His music video has over seven million views despite not being English friendly. A self-made comedian makes hilarious videos through his MediocreFilms; his “Cell Phone Crashing at the Airport” has over eleven million views since December. The latest video I’ve enjoyed is a musical performance by “Pipe Guy,” an Australian who plays cleverly arranged PVC pipes. His video, only a few days old, has over a million views.

And to think: I am one of the last human beings ever to be born in the pre-Internet age.

To Make Much of Time

Image: Eva Rinaldi
Image: Eva Rinaldi

I never knew until this evening that Robert Herrick (1591–1674) wrote the poem, “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.” Here is the first and last verse:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying. . . .

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

Nicole Perlman’s Marvel-ous Adventure in Writing Guardians of the Galaxy

Image: Ewen Roberts
Image: Ewen Roberts

Boulderite Nicole Perlman has exactly one credit to her name at IMDB, but it’s for co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy, a film that made $94 million its first weekend. Not surprisingly, she how has an announced second credit, for Black Widow. Time has out a remarkable article on how Perlman broke into the “guys’ club” of sci-fi script writing. Congratulations to Marvel for recognizing her talent. What caught my eye is that Perlman has also written biopic screenplays about Richard Feynman, Neil Armstrong, and the Wright brothers—I hope somebody funds those films, because I’d love to watch them.

See Guardians of the Galaxy

Image: Mingle Media TV
Image: Mingle Media TV

How could a movie featuring a talking raccoon, a walking tree, a green lady, a overly-literal hulk, and a guy named “Starlord” be any good? The latest Marvel outing makes such a film work with Guardians of the Galaxy by blending silly humor with heartfelt drama and plenty of action, featuring great actors, and hiring a great effects crew. Sure, the premise is a little thin—the story revolves around a small magical rock—and the universe is sometimes mind-numbingly complex. But at its heart Guardians is a buddy film, and the friendships work. The Associated Press reports the film will earn an estimated $94 million on opening weekend. Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak told the AP, “[F]or Marvel to have four films this year [including Guardian] open with over $90 million is amazing. It’s unprecedented success.”

Fans of Harry Potter More Likely to Overcome Bigotry

Image: Jan Arkesteijn
Image: Jan Arkesteijn

“Kids who identify with the hero of J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels hold more open-minded attitudes toward immigrants and gays,” reports Pacific Standard (hat tip to The Week). This is hardly surprising, given the strong anti-bigotry themes of the books. Incidentally, I discuss the various themes of the Potter novels in depth in my book, Values of Harry Potter—which would make a spectacular gift for the young reader in your life.

What if Colorado’s Democrats Infringed the Right to Have Sex the Same Way They’ve Infringed the Right to Bear Arms?

Constitutional scholar Robert Natelson spoke at a Pro Second Amendment Committee banquet in Grand Junction March 23. I’ll release his entire speech soon. In this segment, Natelson compares the right to have sex with the right to keep and bear arms—and he points out that the majority of Colorado’s Democrats hypocritically protect the former while infringing the latter.

Natelson said:

Ask yourself, what would be the reaction of the Colorado legislature’s majority to a proposal requiring a background check before anyone could exercise the Constitutional right of nonmarital sex?

What would be the reaction to a bill saying that the eager couple even had to pay the fee for the background check?

What would be the reaction of Speaker Ferrandino or Senate President Morse to a bill stating that the eager couple was limited to “fifteen rounds,” so to speak?

Absurd, our legislative leaders might say? Indeed not. Natelson points out that the annual number of deaths due to sexually transmitted diseases is comparable to the number of violent deaths involving firearms.

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Go See Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dark Knight Rises, is extraordinary, showing that a “comic book” movie is capable of intellectual and adult themes as well as stunning action sequences. These are real people, some of whom happen to wear masks, not caricatures. I highly recommend it; indeed, I intend to see it at least one more time in theaters.

I do recommend that you watch the first two films first, as the final film continues aspects of those stories. Particularly, the first film, Batman Begins, sets up the “League of Shadows” conspiracy, while the second film, The Dark Knight, explains why Batman took the blame for another’s evil. (I’m very glad that the third film rectifies that injustice.)

I am glad to see that many have resisted naming the recent atrocity in Aurora in a way that invokes the film. Neither the film nor any of its creators deserve that association. Indeed, one little way of giving the perpetrator what he wants is to make that association; he obviously targeted the release of the film for symbolic purposes. We ought not fulfill any of that thug’s wishes.

I’d like to thank the Westminster Police Department for having an officer at the local theater. “We want people to know they can come out and have a good time,” in safety, one officer said.

Christopher Nolan, director of the film, writes on the web page for the film:

Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.

Thank you for the sentiment, Mr. Nolan, and thank you for your fine works of art. Please keep doing what you do best: make great art.

Track Review of Rush’s Clockwork Angels

Finally I am ready to offer my track-by-track review of Rush’s new album, Clockwork Angels.

For my general take on on the album, see my review for The Objective Standard. I think this is a terrific album, perhaps the best of Rush’s career. Anybody who’s remotely a Rush fan should buy it and give it a listen, and then another.

However, I recognize that Rush’s music is not as accessible to non-fans as is the typical rock album. Most hot singles today come and go. They have a fun riff, some fun lyrics, and people enjoy it, for about three months. And then it disappears, nobody cares about it, and few listen to it again.

Rush’s music is different. It’s more sophisticated, lyrically and compositionally. It requires multiple listening sessions to even fully “hear” a track, to notice its structure and texture. Not as many people will spend the time to listen to Rush’s music, but those who do often fall in love with it, and keep listening to it year after year.

In a hundred years, most rock bands of today will be forgotten. A few will be remembered. Rush will be among them.

That said, as with any album (by Rush or anybody else), I like some of the tracks more than others. My goal here is to rate the tracks. Those who just want a taste might want to purchase the best tracks individually.

As I discussed in my TOS review, this is a “concept album” in the sense that the songs tell a story, chronologically, of a man’s life in an alternate “steampunk” universe. You can’t understand the significance of some of the lyrics outside the context of that story. However, as Geddy Lee has said, each song is meant to stand on its own musically. Thus, while I strongly suggest that you buy the entire album and listen to it as an album, you can also enjoy tracks singly. Here my purpose is to suggest which are the strongest tracks.

Best Song: “Clockwork Angels”

I regard the title track, “Clockwork Angels” (the third track on the album), as the best song on the album. At 7:31 minutes, it’s the longest track, and it offers a range of styles within it.

Lyrically, the setting of the song is the Crown City. The protagonist of the story, a simple farm boy, is visiting the city for the for the first time, and he is dazzled by what he sees. The description that accompanies the lyrics offers his perspective: “I had seen many images of the city before, and Chronos Square, but nothing could convey the immensity—the heaven-reaching towers of the Cathedral of the Timekeepers, or the radiant glory of the Angels. . . bathed in the brilliant glow of the floating globes.”

In the beginning we hear chants and some vapory-sounding guitar. I imagine the cart rolling into the city. Then some really bold, rhythmic guitar takes over.

At the minute-eight mark, the song takes a slow turn. When I first heard this, I was disappointed; I was hoping for a more rocking track. But I think the idea is that the protagonist is a little taken aback by what he sees, and he’s trying to take it all in. The lyrics accompany: “High above the city square / Globes of light float in mid-air / Higher still, against the night / Clockwork angels bathed in light.”

Then at a minute-twenty-nine the song takes off, and this is where I start to really love the track. It is glorious, it is pounding, it is intense. Geddly Lee drives with the bass.

At two-sixteen, the song relaxes into the the refrain, ending, “The people raise their hands [toward the Angels] — As if to fly.” That takes us close to the three-minute mark. From there the song mostly builds on variations of the same material.

But then at the four-fifty mark, the song takes a very different turn, sounding loose, almost drunken. This lasts for nearly a minute. It’s a peculiar section, and I don’t love it musically, but I think what’s going on is that the protagonist is starting to let some of his disillusionment show through. The lyrics go, “Lean not upon your own understanding” / Ignorance is well and truly blessed”—hardly an inspiring thought.

But then the song recaptures its positive, uplifting spirit, its spirit of wonder. It is quintessential Rush. And I love it.

Best Tracks

Several other tracks join “Clockwork Angels” in comprising the album’s best.

“Caravan” opens the album with the clanging of train bells. The opening lasts for nearly forty seconds, and then the song takes off with a bass-driven, off-beat riff. It’s great. Then at a minute-ten, the song offers its powerful refrain to the lyrics, “To the distant dream of the city / The caravan carries me onward / On my way at last.” It’s some of Rush’s best music.

“The Anarchist” is great, rollicking rock. To get an idea of why I think it tops the list, listen in at the 2:50 mark. The interplay here between Lifeson’s guitar and Peart’s pulsing drums is just magical. And then at 3:05 Lee’s bass joins the conversation more strongly.

“Carnies” begins as just another hard-rock song. But then at 0:57 it sprouts wings, and then at 1:22 it soars into this airy, contemplative space. I love the song’s mix of pounding rock and sweet melody.

“The Wreckers” has a pretty weak opening, but at sixteen seconds it begins an intriguing interplay between strummed guitar and bass. My understanding is that, in recording this, Lee and Lifeson switched instruments. This is followed by a wonderful, soul-wrenching refrain at fifty-eight seconds: “All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary / ’Cause sometimes the target is you.”

For pure, driving hard-rock genius, “Headlong Flight” is a must-purchase. Plus, I love this song lyrically: “Some days were dark . . . / Some nights were bright / I wish that I could live it all again.”

“The Garden” closes the album perfectly. It is far and away Rush’s best “slow song,” carried by acoustic guitar and Lee’s soulful voice. The refrain (at a minute-twelve) is beautiful musically and lyrically: “The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect. . .”

Second-Tier Tracks

Look, don’t get me wrong, I love all the tracks. But these are relatively weak ones, in my book. Of course, Rush’s weaker tracks are still loads better than most bands’ best tracks, so this is relative.

I enjoy “BU2B,” and it’s a good hard-rock song, but to me the music just isn’t quite as compelling and interesting as with other tracks.

“Halo Effect” is a fine slower song, but nothing about it makes me want to tag it as top-tier.

You can tell right away that “Seven Cities of Gold” is going to be a groovy song. I like it quite a lot, but it seems too repetitive to me, and little about it stands out. I have to say, though, that there’s some fantastic bass work starting at the four-minute mark; Lee grooves out.

“BU2B2” is more of an interlude than a song. It ably conveys the protagonist’s sense of anguish at this point in his life.

I quite like “Wish Them Well” musically and lyrically, but it’s not a stand-out to me. The theme is that you can’t get caught up with those who wish to tear you down.

The Album

By my reckoning, then, a person could get the “best of Clockwork Angels” by purchasing seven of the tracks.

But, as noted, even the relatively “weaker” tracks are still pretty good.

Plus, the album artwork is exceptional for this album, and it also tells more of the story than is revealed in the lyrics.

So there are several good reasons to get the entire album, even if you’re not a lifelong Rush fan.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank the guys of Rush for making this album. It’s amazing, and arguably Rush’s best album ever. I’m impressed by their long-lasting passion and drive to make the best music they possibly can.