Song of the Day: The Poet and The Muse (by Old Gods of Asgard)

The latest entry to the “Song of the Day” is from the American rock band Old Gods of Asgard. Their song I have chosen is their song “The Poet and The Muse”.

This particular song by the band was created years after the group’s very talented, but self-destructive guitarist Loki Darkens. The song was written by the band’s leader, Odin Anderson with his brother Tor Anderson and drummer “Fat” Bob Balder. It appears in the their 5th full-length album, The Black Rider Cometh, which was released in 1976. It would become one of their more popular songs and was even an inspiration decades later in a video game released for the Xbox 360 by Scandinavian game developer, Remedy Entertainment.

“The Poet and The Muse” plays like a Norse saga spoken to the accompaniment of the group’s music. It tells the tale of the poet named Tom and his beloved who he has dubbed his Muse. The song’s lyrics starts off simple enough about a couple deeply in love but as the song progresses it begins to take on a darker tone. This very dark presence in the lyrics gives the song an almost spooky story told by the campfire vibe which probably why the song became such a hit for the band despite their typical rock sound not appearing in the track until the very end of the song.

Whether the tale of Tom and his Muse is true or not really shouldn’t matter for the song is very good and to beginners to the music scene very easy to learn.

The Poet and The Muse

There’s an old tale wrought with the mystery of Tom
The poet and his muse
And the magic lake which gave a life
To the words the poet used

Now the muse she was his happiness
And he rhymed about her grace
And told her stories of treasures deep
Beneath the blackened waves

‘Till in the stillness of one dawn
Still in its mystic crown
The muse she went down to the lake
And in the waves she drowned

And now to see your love set free
You will need the witch’s cabin key
Find the lady of the light gone mad with the night
That’s how you reshape destiny

The poet came down to the lake
To call out to his dear
‘When there was no answer
‘He was overcome with fear

He searched in vain for his treasure lost
And too soon the night would fall
And only his own echo
Would wail back at his call

And when he swore to bring back his love
By the stories he’d create
Nightmares shifted in their sleep
In the darkness of the lake

And now to see your love set free
You will need the witch’s cabin key
Find the lady of the light still ravin in the night
That’s how you reshape destiny

In the dead of night she came to him
With darkness in her eyes
Wearing a mourning gown
Sweet words as her disguise

He took her in without a word
For he saw his grave mistake
And vowed them both to silence
Deep beneath the lake

Now if its real or just a dream
One mystery remains
For it is said on moonless nights
They may still haunt this place

And now to see your love set free
You will need the witch’s cabin key
Find the lady of the light gone mad with the night
That’s how you reshape destiny

And now to see your love set free
You will need the witch’s cabin key
Find the lady of the light still ravin in the night
That’s how you reshape destiny

Quickie Review: Wolfen (dir. by Michael Wadleigh)

1981 was a great year for wolf movies. There was the excellent An American Werewolf in London by John Landis and Joe Dante’s equally creepy The Howling. To finish off the trifecta of werewolf films for the year there’s Michael Wadleigh’s Wolfen. Wadleigh’s film was a very good werewolf tale that added a bit of Native American folklore to the typical lycanthrope story, but it’s slightly overlong running time keeps it from being as great as Landis’ and Dante’ contributions.

Wolfen takes place in the city of New York and its growing urban jungle of decaying and condemned buildings in the city’s ghettos. One has to remember that the late 70’s and through on the mid-80’s the inner-cities of most of the major metropolitan cities in the US have turned into rundown ghettos rife with drug problems, high-crime rates and unemployment. It is in this setting that Wolfen takes place in. The film used the screenplay co-written by horror veteran novelist Whitley Strieber and his quirky style heavily influences this werewolf story. Strieber’s screenplay mixes together a police procedural, political intrigue, business corruption, race and class relations, Native American lycanthrope folklore and horror. Wolfen tries to combine all these different elements together as well as possible and it mostly succeeds, but there’s times when the film gets dragged down a bit trying to accomplish this.

The cast was made up of mostly new actors (well young and new at that time) with a few veteran actors holding things together. Albert Finney gets the choice role of NYPD Detective Dewey Wilson who begins investigating a series of brutal murders of three individuals whose race, class and personal status brings no discernible clues that ties them together. Joining him in his investigation — which Wilson gradually suspects has some sort of supernatural angle to it — were the very young Diane Venora and Gregory Hines. Edward James Olmos plays a Native American whose knowledge ties to who or what was involved in the killings might be closer than everyone thinks. The performances from all involved were pretty good though Hines comic relief performance was a bit too blackface in its tone and execution. 1981 Hollywood was still not ready to discount such racial stereotypes and it gives Wolfen a certain sense of creepiness and insensitivity. Maybe the screenplay was written just that way to highlight one of the film’s themes of racial and class inequality. If it was then Strieber sure did an excellent job of hammering home the point.

There’s a point in the film where we find out the nature of these wolfen and it does stretch the usual definition of the typical werewolf story. But looking back on it now this version told by Strieber and Wadleigh does lend credence to native folklore about wolves who were cunning as men and who preyed not just on the animals in their territory but hunted men as well. Whether they’re wolves or men in the shape of wolves really is left to the audience’s imagination even after the brief explanation of the wolfen and it’s role in the legends and myths of Native Americans.

The film had very creepy moments whenever the story switches over to be told through the viewpoint of the wolfen. The skewed perspective the camera takes on to signify that we were seeing things through the eyes of the wolfen was disorienting and creepily well-done. Wolfen never really has pure horror moments in the film though in the hands of a director like Carpenter these sequences definitely would’ve raised the level of dread and horror. Wadleigh does a good enough job, but it seemed like he was treating the horror aspect of the story with less attention than it was its due.

Wolfen marks the weakest of the werewolf trilogy of 1981, but thats not to say that it was a bad film. The finished product was a well-done film and its attempt to be very ambitious in its storytelling has to be commended. The fact that the filmmakers and all involved were able to keep all the different themes and genres together without having the film spiral into utter confusion makes it a worthwhile werewolf film. It may have been the weakest of the three films mentioned but it wasn’t by much.

Lisa Marie’s Top 26 Films of 2010

Since it’s awards season and all, here’s my personal picks for the 26 top films of 2010.

(This post has been updated since it was originally posted in order to include two films — Somewhere and Easy A — that I saw after making out the list below.)  

1) Black Swan

2) Exit Through The Gift Shop

3) Fish Tank

4) 127 Hours

5) Somewhere

6) Inception

7) Animal Kingdom

8) Winter’s Bone

9) The King’s Speech

10) Never Let Me Go

11) Toy Story 3

12)  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

13) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

14) The Last Exorcism

15) Easy A

16) How To Train Your Dragon

17) The Fighter

18) Rabbit Hole

19) A Prophet

20) Let Me In

21) True Grit

22) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

23) City Island

24) Made in Dagenham

25) Kick-Ass

26) Faster

27) Nowhere Boy

Anime You Should Be Watching: Aria

I realize that entertainment is very subjective.  One person’s masterpiece is another person’s trash.  Still, there are some anime that are just so good that no matter who you are, no matter what your interests, as long as you’re a fan of anime, you should be watching it.  The first example that comes to mind for me is a well received, yet fairly unknown title called Aria.

Now, I know what some people are thinking.  “Is there a lot of action?  Explosions?  Naked girls?  Blood and guts?  It’s at least fast paced, right?”  There is none of those, but you know what?  You’re still going to enjoy it anyways.  Thus is the power of slice-of-life shows.  There is no action at all, yet you’re left with a big smile on your face after each episode.

The story of Aria revolves around a young girl named Akari who leaves Manhome (Earth) and comes to the Martian city of Neo Venetia to become an Undine, or gondola pilot.  This is obviously modeled after the Italian city Venice, and in fact it is stated that in the realm of this anime, Venice has already sunk, which was the main motivation for the Martian terraformers in creating the town of Neo Venetia.  Much like the real life city of Venice, Neo Venetia’s streets are all waterways.  Of course they have normal walkways, but if you don’t feel like walking, or if you need to move goods around the town, traveling by gondola is the way to go.  When the anime starts, it begins with Akari already being a Single, but they later on show flashbacks to when she first arrived and started out as a Pair.

The terms Pair and Single refer to the gloves they wear.  The gloves are both practical and aesthetic.  When an Undine is wearing two gloves, it both signifies that she is an apprentice, and it’s also because when they’re just starting out, their hands require more protection from constantly rowing.  As a Pair, they are not allowed to carry passengers at all.  As they gain more experience, and as their hands get more used to the abuse that the oar gives, they can go down to one glove, hence the term Single.  Also, as a Single, they are allowed to carry passengers as long as a fully licensed Undine, or Prima, is in the gondola with them.  And obviously, once they reach the rank of Prima, they are fully qualified Undines and can carry passengers on their own.

Life on Mars is a little bit different than life on Earth.  The main difference is that cats are sentient beings on Mars.  They can’t speak English, but they appear to understand it.  Plus, all gondola companies on Mars must be owned by a blue eyed cat.  Akari’s company is owned by one President Aria, who fits in perfectly with Aria Company’s easy going attitude.

And that is a typical scene from the anime.  I know that shouldn’t be entertaining, but it just plain is.  Episodes revolve around such action packed events like delivering the mail, or going to a festival.  In other words, there’s no action at all.  It’s an incredibly serene show and is the perfect complement to watching other anime that ARE action packed.  It’s like a palate cleanser.  As such, I also don’t recommend marathoning the show, or else some of the luster and wonderment of it is lost.

The strong points of the anime are the high production values, which can be seen when viewing some of the lush backgrounds of the places that Akari visits.  It’s obvious that the show was given the proper budget, and that’s probably in no small part to the fact that it was helmed by director Junichi Sato who directed such popular and respected anime as Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu, Kaleido Star, and Sgt. Frog, among others.  Plus, unlike with a lot of anime these days, the decision to animate it didn’t come until after the manga had been running for awhile and thus had already gotten a good following.  Another factor in its high budget could possible come from just good timing.  The first Aria season came out when companies were still willing to take a chance on a show that’s a little different from the usual otaku bait.  Luckily it proved to be successful and it was allowed to tell its full story.

And that’s another strength, is the finely told story that Kozue Amano came up with.  When you don’t have flashy explosions and super powers and naked breasts bouncing around to keep people interested, you had better be able to tell a good story, and Kozue Amano did not disappoint.  When watching the anime or reading the manga, you get the feeling that you’re right there with Akari, and that you’re both exploring and experiencing things together.  It’s that kind of emotional attachment that’s crafted that makes for a good story.

Ultimately, I can’t promise that you’re going to be blown away by this.  Slice-of-life isn’t for everyone, but you certainly would be making a mistake if you didn’t at least give Aria a chance to wow you.  And who knows?  If you go into this with an open mind, you might just find, that for some inexplicable reason, that you have a huge smile on your face at the end and can’t wait for your next adventure in Neo Venetia.

Junichi Sato

Quick Take: Halo: Reach

Sometimes, a full review isn’t terribly useful to people. Quantitative numbers on Halo: Reach from me aren’t particularly likely to sell more copies of the game. But I do think this game is worth discussing; it’s important, in a way. So here’s some thoughts, for which you are most welcome to join me.

Halo: Reach

I was only peripherally aware that Halo: Reach was launching. I mean, it wasn’t marketed, and it’s only a small-time game series… okay, no, of course, I was suffocated by the news. And I was as excited as any casual fan of the series. The problem is… I’ve never been a casual fan of the series. I’ve played thousands of games of Halo between Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and of course, Halo 3 (I only got Halo ODST because it was bundled for free with my new XBox Arcade), and that’s the telling point for me. By the time Halo: Reach came out, I wasn’t as excited for it as I should have been. I didn’t have it pre-ordered, I wasn’t enticed by the Legendary Edition (although I’m not much for collector’s editions of any kind). And the reason why is very simple, and it’s ultimately the most important thing that I can tell you about this game.

I already knew what to expect, and I wasn’t as excited as I used to be. Were you?

By now, Halo fans know exactly what to expect. The game is based around the balanced trinity of grenades, guns, and melee attacks. It is not a cover or tactical shooter, but rather a fast-paced action shooter with players protected by regenerating energy shields. In most ways, the popular multi-player shooter was defined by Halo: Combat Evolved. The graphics are an improvement, the features have expanded, and this is the biggest and best game that we’ve yet seen in the Halo universe. Bungie is run by very intelligent people; the fans don’t want the wheel to be re-invented. They want a new release that fixes perceived problems with previous titles, hands over a whole new slew of maps, re-imagines some of the weapons while leaving other fan favourites in place, and adds a couple toys that we haven’t seen before. In a lot of ways, Halo: Reach is like Madden 11. If you change too much, then you’re not playing Halo anymore, and then what’s the point? Bungie themselves obviously understand this; to go in a new creative direction, they must create a new series.

So what’s my bottom line with Reach?

Well, like all of the Halo titles, it has a surprisingly meaty single player experience. I know that people look at you funny if you even mention the story of Halo: Combat Evolved, but there’s more there than you might expect. It’s at least as elaborate as the story in any Call of Duty title. And the storytelling is done partially through the environments we travel through. Bungie has done a consistently good job of creating beautiful environments scored by epic music. The locations and places are familiar, and yet somehow very alien. It’s an excellent narrative when you bring everything together, complete even with single moments that make you get the tingles. For my money, Halo 2 was the weakest single player campaign, but the story bridged between the set-up in Combat Evolved and the conclusion of Master Chief’s story in Halo 3.

ODST took things to another level, adding more characters to the dynamic. We saw real interaction between characters, even if the player’s character, the rookie, is the typical “strong, silent type”. Reach, I think wisely, took its cues from ODST. We’re treated to an entire cast of powerful Spartan soldiers in their powered armor, with disparate personalities and motivations that make them interesting to us. But Reach also taps into something that we haven’t seen before in the Halo universe. Reach is a prequel. It’s a historical event in the universe, and we already know how things turn out. Disastrously. So woven into the narrative of Reach is a sense of despair. The Covenant is overwhelming. Each move the Spartans make seems like it could be the tipping point, but we’re always knocked back down by the inevitability of it all. It’s rather sad.

Now, from a gameplay standpoint, I had my problems with Reach‘s single player mode. I thought it went on ages too long (although, for me, it seems that I just don’t love Halo the way I used to) and grew tedious. But the narrative quality of the single player was good; far and away better than contemporary rivals like Call of Duty: Black Ops. It took a little time for me to digest the experience, but in the end, I thought that Halo: Reach was definitely worth playing, and makes a fantastic capstone to a series that has really been revolutionary in terms of a genre that is now one of the biggest around.

Oh, and the multi-player is good. I didn’t focus on it here, though, because as I said in the open, it is exactly what you expect. There are new wrinkles – and they’re good ones! – but all it boils down to is this: Do you still love Halo? Then play on!