Many times in my life, I’ve been asked, or have indirectly heard, the question “What’s good music that really pumps you up? For when I want to work out or get going for the day?” Heard that question asked several times in several different ways. My usual answers? Pantera, Sevendust, Metallica, to a lesser degree 3 Doors Down and Paul Oakenfeld – and let’s not forget Tchaikovsky.
The suggestions in the answers to that question have a similar tone to me; intense, passionate, fierce, without needing to be angry or enraged, or any other similar negative feeling. Sure, a lot of pump-up music involves anger, but it’s not needed to get your blood going, at all.
Daft Punk proves this remarkably well in their soundtrack to the new movie Tron Legacy. What I like most about this soundtrack more than most is that the artist takes a creative turn while keeping the core of what they do intact. I’m used to Daft Punk as bizarre, mostly lighthearted, with beats that usually entice a house party or rave. They’re consistently fresh in their melodies, and they continue that powerful trek here.
The album is very dark, very intense, and very emotional. “Nocturne” is a brief song that sounds like a funeral scene, and tunes like “Overture”, “Armory” and “Recognizer” set the tone for the album as a whole; intensely passionate and gruesome, but with brilliant harmony. Daft Punk seems to take themselves more seriously than ever before, and you can hear it. And it’s brilliant.
The most traditional-sounding Daft Punk tracks are certainly “End of Line” and “Derezzed.” It has an old school sounding tempo, with sound bytes that you could swear were taken out of the video game Galaga, and brings you back to the time of the original Tron in that sense.
The execs for Tron either gave Daft Punk generally free creative reign, or they told them to write a strong set of songs that balance the Daft Punk we know with the Daft Punk that they want to create going forward. If you like tough, competitive-sounding symphonic instrumentals with a touch of that funky Daft Punk touch, then the soundtrack to Tron Legacy is right up your alley. It’s as inspiring as it is moody.
Good to have you back, boys.
It’s never fair when you’re given the world, and are expected to live up to it.
A year ago now, we lost a King, a leader, a sensation and most importantly, a seemingly wonderful human being. I can’t imagine being the center of the world’s attention, and then on top of it going through such trouble, despair and confusion. While still being all of that, for earth to see. We all like to jump to conclusions, judge as soon as possible, and with that judgment tear people down like moldy old wallpaper. The second something isn’t what we imagine it to be, when it’s something we can’t understand without tearing down our own walls of perfect image, we condemn and destroy it.
I may be wrong. This man may have been a sexual deviant, a double-crosser and a disgrace to generations worldwide. We’ll never really, truly know if he was. What we do truly know is that he showed the world nothing but love, dedication and endless talent that we ate up and later chewed out when it tasted a little funky. I myself have dealt with emotional issues, heartache and awful depression. Letting the world see not only that, but how I’d deal with that, is a trauma none of us could ever begin to imagine. He dealt with his issues with physical changes, interactions none of us gave any time to listen to or understand (including myself, absolutely), and decisions that were questionable at best.
I was having a panic attack once. I was in financial distress, dealing with more uncertainty than I’ve ever experienced, and dealing with losses I never thought I’d have to. If the world saw my reactions to that, and knew nearly every last detail of it, I might have changed myself and made bizarre relations as well. I nearly lost my world; and when you want that world back, and you don’t know how to, you don’t always know your own reason. All you know is, you lost something and you want it back. But you don’t want to be hurtful to anyone, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself either. Well, to err is human, and there’s no margin of error when the scale is that large.
This man gave us every last drop of all he had to give. His talent, his creativity, his ecologic intelligence and passion, and even a good deal of his sanity. Yes, as we’ve all violently pointed out, he had his mistakes and character decisions that made him far, far from perfect. But are you? Am I?
He pleaded with us, with so many of his songs and lyrics within them. He tried to get us to listen. And of course we didn’t, myself included; he practically lived in obscurity and financial demise for years before he gave his final breath. The same market of journalists, TV hosts and press that glorified his imperfect mistakes and actions all of a sudden felt compassion and loss, and gave their best words. In the world’s best example of not knowing what you have until it’s gone, we lost the Polaris of the entertainment world. Had we heard him out a little better when he begged us to, maybe he wouldn’t have led such a life of inner misery and with such a lack of self-understanding.
He had everything there was to have, absolutely everything – and I can’t imagine he realized much of any of it. He paid dearly for trying to go back in time within his own life, with his home, with choices he made, and he knew it. Still, he died wondering if the world ever even gave a damn about him beyond what he gave and gave until he literally no longer could.
…I take that back. I saw his final documentary that hit theaters last year, and he had all the heart and talent he ever did, and it made it that much sadder to know that never got a chance to develop again. While he should have known better in some way, he paid the price of being cast off too soon.
Do we owe his spirit an apology? Who knows. Should he have shown remorse for his own trouble? Yes, and he did plenty of times. It’s an altogether tragic, sad and confusing loss of one of the best entertainers and activists we’ll ever witness. And if you scoffed at that last statement, I certainly can’t blame you, but I can’t help but understand and even relate a little to someone as in need of help as they were profitable in their deserved success.
He said it best in his own words, which is cryptic and even more melancholy to listen to now:
Like A Comet
Blazing ‘Cross The Evening Sky
Gone Too Soon
Like A Rainbow
Fading In The Twinkling Of An Eye
Gone Too Soon
Shiny And Sparkly
And Splendidly Bright
Here One Day
Gone One Night
Like The Loss Of Sunlight
On A Cloudy Afternoon
Gone Too Soon
Like A Castle
Built Upon A Sandy Beach
Gone Too Soon
Like A Perfect Flower
That Is Just Beyond Your Reach
Gone Too Soon
Born To Amuse, To Inspire, To Delight
Here One Day
Gone One Night
Like A Sunset
Dying With The Rising Of The Moon
Gone Too Soon
When his sunlight began to dim, we shut our blinds well too soon. I absolutely hope the anguish you felt in this lifetime is long gone wherever you are now. Rest in peace and quiet, Michael Jackson.
This is a post I’ve been avoiding a bit, just because I wanted to spread myself apart from music everyone who’s ever known me knew I loved. I don’t want to come off across bias. But then again, I know I’m not bias, you’ll learn I’m not bias, and I shall write about the feelings and emotions of any album I damn well please.
Death Magnetic. In the eyes of most, an album that landmarks Metallica’s return to their heavy metal roots. In the eyes of some, their best album in 25 years. In the eyes of others, another disappointment after decades of other disappointments. Metallica’s been in a position no other heavy metal band has ever been in; they’ve tested the depths of their limitations time and time again, ever since their beginning. They always refused to make a duplicate sound, and when that ventured away from thrash metal, people called the band ‘sellouts.’ Which is ridiculous, ignorant and absolute nonsense, considering everything they do is for themselves, and taking risks in their careers that may potentially alienate everyone that’s ever heard them, like in Load and ReLoad, is an idea that is the polar opposite of selling out. Metal fans have more of a fear of change than any genre ever created, and their strict and thorough guidelines as to what constitutes metal makes them about as unforgiving as the people that beat them up early in their lives and made them this angry in the first place.
But I digress. If there is an album to call Metallica ‘sellouts’ on, it’s Death Magnetic. It’s the first time any of us have ever seen them go backwards in any sort of sense; so backwards, in fact, that producer Rick Rubin forced them to listen to their masterpiece of 1986, Master of Puppets, over and over again until they returned to their 23 year old frames of mind. If that isn’t proof that Rick believed this was Metallica’s last stand in their career, nothing is. It was a hail Mary; a last chance; otherwise many would see Metallica as a band whose glory days ended twenty years ago. Of course, other fans like myself enjoyed any sound Metallica made and felt grateful for it.
What made this album amazing, near-perfect and true is the fact that while yes, they did go back and revisit, it was a reminder to the band as to another aspect of what they were all about; “Metal Up Your Ass.” They ventured, from country ballads to irish folk songs to symphonies and everything in between, and returned home with their decades of knowledge and experience to make this album. It can be considered a Greatest Hits, because it’s everything in one; I hear the punk presence that they first introduced from Kill ’em All, I hear the thrash of Ride the Lightning and their inspiration Master of Puppets, and the commercial/mainstream monster licks similar to Metallica, or ‘The Black Album’ in there as well. But it doesn’t end there; the “ballads” of the album, The Day That Never Comes and The Unforgiven III have a strong resemblance to melodies and harmonies of the Load era. All that’s missing is the ugliness of St. Anger, which was little more than an ugly time in their lives that had to be created, let out, and left there.
The opening song, That Was Just Your Life, has the dark openings similar to previous other first tracks like Battery and Blackened. It’s brutal, ugly, angry and violent, and damn near knocks you out of your chair if you’re expecting anything less. Broken, Beat and Scarred is a clear narration of the personal and professional troubles James and the boys have gone through, and while it too sounds like an angry release similar to St. Anger, the song structure, solos and non-trash can drumming makes the fury of the song much more enjoyable. All Nightmare Long is my personal pick for ugliest track; it literally sounds like a nightmare, and has one of the most incredible solos guitarist Kirk Hammett has written in years. The album even has its first true instrumental since 1986’s Orion, entitled Suicide & Redemption, which consists of one of the heaviest, moodiest jams I’ve ever heard. The closing song, My Apocalypse, might be the most brutal of them all; to me, it sounds like something Slayer or early Megadeth would write.
The album has all the fury every Metallica fan has ever needed; it has a lot of comparisons to their early work, of course, but at the same time it sounds nothing like it; it’s got the experience, the battle-worn trials and tribulations of their lives and careers, and the messages created in the aftermath. It’s Metallica coming home after a long, hard, havoc-wrecked battle, and creating some of their best work yet. They’re nearly 5o now, with wives and children, but no matter how much they experimented and traveled, they’re the same Metallica we know and love, and Death Magnetic has the feelings and sounds to make it an instant vintage classic. Well done.
I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
I write my best when I write either autobiographically, or when it’s about something I love, but always when it’s without fear. I have topics in my head I want to go further about – and more of it will include baseball – but I wanted to erase the rest of the fear I have inside me to write without looking back.
I wrote the following piece when I was 16. I wrote it before I’d forget it, and I’ve never been more grateful of my own writing than I am of this piece. It’s allowed me to remember what I knew I wouldn’t otherwise. It’s a personal story, and it’s about the day I died. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I’m proud of the way I wrote it as a high schooler, and posting it publicly will allow me to prove to myself that writing without fear is a task I really am going to defeat. Some things have changed – I don’t go to Children’s Memorial Hospital anymore due to lack of insurance, and their desire for me to go to Northwestern when I get a PPO again, and the health of my body has greatly improved, though now I have diabetes.
Nevertheless, the experience changed me more than I ever thought anything could. And I’m thankful for that. On this day, I’m not sure I saw Heaven, but I saw something that keeps me agnostic and not atheist.
I looked at the clock with fearful eyes. 8:30 a.m. Sitting on the uncomfortable hospital bed, with my mother, father, aunt and maternal grandfather, a moment seemed equivalent to a lifetime, and a time that would determine my future. The coldness that crept up my back from the open hospital gown upon my shoulders matched with the sheer terror running through my veins. As I continue to sit and wish that I’d live through the day, my name is called.
I gaze up at the nurse, as the Anesthesiologist and two other nurses take the bed and, as I am slowly wheeled away towards the room of Fate, I wave goodbye with one hand and wipe my tears with the other. Minutes later, I would be unconscious, unaware of the instruments that would hopefully save my life. My organs were getting eaten up by clogged toxins and my digestive tract was destroyed. As a result, my liver is that of a sixty-five year-old alcoholic, and my pancreas, of which only two-thirds exists now, was the worst my surgeon, Dr. Superina, had ever seen, and took out my gall bladder because it was so destroyed. A piece of my small intestine is now my digestive tract. My Fate was uncertain and anything would have been amazed, for this has never happened before.
The next day, I gained full consciousness and was laying in a small room with about five other kids and teenagers (I was being taken care of at a children’s hospital downtown) with my family by my side. I was told how frail and pale I was, and the IV’s and machines in me kept me from comfort along with my weaknesses. My mother and sister fainted at my poor sight, for it was quite depressing. I was quickly regaining my strength and got moved out of critical care, and was starting to walk and get my strength back, I probably would have gotten out in a week.
However, Fate had other plans in store for me. The morning of October 2nd, during the usual 4:00 am X-ray, the X-ray showed that there was a black liquid in my lungs and it was causing me to breathe unevenly. I was rushed down to intensive care, as the liquid began to come up. Three emergency nurses shoved a large oxygen mask upon my pale face, and as it went up against the liquid, it got caught halfway in my throat and I could not breathe for about two minutes, when I finally got a rush of strength and shoved the nurses away, as I allowed myself to breathe once again. Anger and fear overcame me and I caught myself screaming vulgar things at the resident in charge of putting the mask on me, and my father, who was there that night/morning, had no idea and tried to rationalize everything. After about five minutes, a middle-aged woman who appeared to be a nurse calmed me down and told me to breathe into a smaller, softer mask, and within seconds I was unconscious once again, which, as I found out later, was a drug-induced coma.
Later I was told of everything that happened to me when I was in the coma, though some of the things are now mental blocks because if I was ever to repeat them, both me and the listeners would just be thrown back way too much. Just to give a few examples, my fever hit a deathly-high 106 degrees, I had a ventilator to do my breathing for me and my body was entirely infiltrated with IV’s, pick lines and other contraptions to keep me going. From what I have been told, it was like something you’d see in a horrific movie. Doctors, nurses and residents alike would stand there twenty-four hours a day, in shifts of course, watching me like a stopwatch. Days would pass, and I would not budge, or get any better at all. In fact, for weeks I got worse every day without the success of the medical staff. At one point my only hope was the prayers and thoughts of many throughout the country, awaiting the day where I’d wake up and be a normal teenage kid again. Fate was cruel throughout that whole month of October. You hear about such frightening things happening to children and adults everywhere, and you’re just lucky it isn’t you, and you figure it never will be. The next thing you know, Fate has you on His waiting list.
Those long nights when I was on my deathbed got even longer and colder, and the days, though sunny, did not shine on us. My entire family flew in from all over, and though it was the first time in many years they were all in the same place, the reason for this was all that was on their minds. My uncle would hound the doctors and strongly attempt to get answers, the answers no one would ever know. No one knew what would happen to me, or even if I would live through the hour. It was a living nightmare for everyone, and the shock of it all evenly matched with the throbbing, hasty beats of their hearts, bleeding for my agony. God, along with the cruelty of Fate, was all that we could all look to for a miracle.
One day, in the last week of October, that miracle came. My parents, along with my paternal grandfather and his second wife, were all in my little ICU room, which only had two curtains as walls. My father and grandfather were reading the paper, my grandma’s second wife was watching TV and my mother was washing my feet. It was early in the morning, and the sun was out, doing its usual attempts to cheer my family up. This morning the sun could take the day off and relax, for that morning, I had done more than it ever could have. I opened my eyes, and slowly, yet fearfully, gazed around the depressing scene around me, unaware of what happened and what was presently going on. My mom felt the strength begin to surge through me and screamed with delight, and relief at the same time. Fate lost the fight, and Death was cheated greatly, and looking back on it, it’s amazing my family, especially me, all went through such agony and suffering to be as healthy as I am now. It’s as if it were one horribly bad dream.
One thing will never leave me, however, and that is the one sight I saw during my coma. Only for an instant, I remember a light. It was a bright white light, and I am convinced it was Heaven. Robert Plant would be let down, there was no stairway . . . there was no direction whatsoever, just a warm white light, it was very comforting and entrancing. It was as if it were a drug; it was almost irresistible but in a good way, like something you cannot get enough of but a welcoming emotion . . . it’s out of this world, in multiple definitions. It’s something that I’ll have with me for the rest of my life, and it’s something that changes your whole perspective of life and how you live . . . ever since then I’ve been happier, stronger and friendlier than ever, for now I know how precious life really is. It’s a story for the ages.
That last week of October, for me because I was then conscious, were the darkest days by far. Though the morphine numbed the agonizing pain I would otherwise feel, it kept you up all night. The machines going off, telling you that one other thing is wrong with my already novel-long list of disabilities. I’d lay there and watch the young residents relax and try to have a good time mingling, despite the deathly ill kids around them. The residents couldn’t have been above thirty, and they seemed to be very good friends, maybe more. I remember just blankly gazing at them, with weary eyes, wishing I could be just as alive and happy as them. They were smiling and looked so colored and healthy, yet at the same time efficiently doing their jobs. There were those few residents who just wanted to get the job done and go home, but for the most part they were great. They didn’t talk to me, for they did not want to disturb me, though little did they know I couldn’t get more disturbed. The ventilator covering my pale, tired face made me unable to talk anyway.
Another amazing this about all of this, was how I was completely in the hands of the doctors, nurses and residents. Just a couple months before, I was able to walk, talk, breathe and be a normal kid. I had everything going well for me; a good, well-paying job at the Village Market, a longtime girlfriend I loved dearly, and a group of friends who always knew how to have a good time. Now, as I slowly looked at myself, I realize all that could be gone forever, and I could give away at any given moment. Life can take away all your worldly possessions and your God-given abilities in an instant, without being able to do anything about it. It makes you wonder if you’re next.
As yet another prayer had been answered, I very quickly regained my strength, and floored the doctors once more. Just days after I woke up from my coma, Dr. Superina ordered my ventilator to be taken off, for I was able to breathe quite well on my own. That black liquid I had the moment was disappearing just as quickly as it entered my lungs. I was once again able to slowly feel the life in my arms and legs, and move them from the spots they would be at days at a time. My voice, my singing voice I cherish so much, was becoming less and less hoarse and got stronger and more powerful with the rest of me. Straining physical therapy got my blood fueling through my body like the healthy kid I was once destined never to be. My physical trainer just happened to be a young, beautiful woman with a sweet personality and determination to get me back on my feet, which helped me all the more.
I recall walking in a circle along my entire floor, and getting the cheers from the residents and nurses, which just made my day and made me even tougher. A day or two later, I’d be walking down to the basement to eat at McDonalds or sit in the cafeteria and talk to everyone I knew, smiling constantly, knowing how blessed I was. I’d laugh if I saw someone I knew from ICU that would pick their jaw up from off the floor, seeing me walking and talking again. It made me feel on top of the world, getting that warm feeling of life back in my veins and bones. Machines and IV’s disappeared, including morphine, and I felt more of a human than a guinea pig. Like they say, the best things in life aren’t things.
Once November came, the doctors basically said they had no use to keep me anymore, and on the 3rd of the month, I was discharged. The anticipation and pure glee from knowing I could go home after five long, dark weeks was too much. My mom and I would chase down doctors and residents so we could get cleared and go home, and the delighted looks on their faces to see me better again gave me the strength to continue fighting to normality again. It is a life-changing experience to know, and see, dozens of people strive to do all they can for you, and make sure you’re alright. I got attached to them and vice-versa, and it was hard to say goodbye and the “thank you”‘s I gave could never add up to the caring everyone had for me.
I continue to go to Children’s every couple of months for checkups from everyone, and the responses I get are better and better, for my health continues to progress. To know that at one time they were working overtime because of me, and now just sitting back and talking to me most of the time, amazes me at how sick I really was, and how well I’m going now. The relief is more than words, and those days last fall will never leave me. The affection I received, blended with the white light I felt in my coma and the trauma I saw and felt in ICU, changed me forever. I am a totally different person nowadays; I’m much happier and more social, my esteem is boosted because the gut I once had from my organs is gone, and people know how strong-willed I really am. These days are the best I’ve ever had, and may ever have, and I’ll never forget the days where it was all almost over.