Monday, February 27, 2012

Lucy Lawless, Arrested... Battles On

Lucy Lawless took on Shell Oil and created an "awareness" that hopefully won't go away anytime soon. She obviously created a massive "hole" in the oil company's plans to continue drilling in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska as Shell Oil managed to "dig up" an old ad that the actress did for them OVER 20+ years ago! This is precisely the reason that this story MUST be told in the United States of America! The story has NOT been broadcast here in the US on any major network— cable or otherwise! The questions we should now be asking are: WHY IS THIS ENTIRE STORY BEING SUBDUED IN THE US? and... WHY AREN'T THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF OFFSHORE DRILLING? How is it that Shell Oil was allowed to slip their "agenda" under the radar? We have a few theories here at UPBEAT... First of all, Shell Oil is a publically traded company. This means that ALL information about the company, including any/all plans are PUBLIC DOMAIN according to the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As citizens of the USA, we are each entitled to ALL information having to do with Shell Oil. But, NOTHING has been reported by our so-called "free press" in terms of broadcast television. Why is it that we have been left in the dark? Here are some names that all of you need to become familiar with: David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch— the two brothers still with Koch Industries— are also affiliated with the Koch family foundations. 

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is all about … lining the pockets of their funders like the oil industry magnates the Koch Brothers and Big Oil companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP... all while ignoring what is actually important to American families.  

The Koch brothers held their annual meeting in Coachella a few weeks PRIOR to the Shell incident. According to reports from our source, the theme was removing Obama from office: Republican supporters led by secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers have pledged to oust Barack Obama from power— by stumping up a $100million (£63million) war-chest. David and Charles Koch, worth a combined $50+ billion [quite possibly much more], have been joined by 300 of America’s wealthiest businessmen in promising the cash to stop Obama from being re-elected. They met at the conservative brothers’ annual three-day Californian retreat, where they gain pledges for non-profit groups that share their world views.

Who else you ask? Broadcasters like Rupert Murdoch benefit greatly from federal giveaways. Holding frequency licenses worth fortunes, they're now receiving free slices of a digital spectrum valued at up to $70 billion. Likewise, cable TV conglomerates— with Malone's TCI in the lead— continue to expand under the protection of federal regulations that place severe limits on the power of municipalities to charge franchise fees fo the use of public rights-of-way. While lauding the "free market," Murdoch and Malone rely on the federal government's aid in their quest for media monopolization... giving them the ability to LITERALLY control the US broadcast media highway... 

In walks Lucy Lawless, a television pop-culture icon, with a dream and a deeply rooted compassion for saving our future as well as the future of our children. Unaware of the back story that we have been uncovering layer by layer, Lucy Lawless' genuine concern for our environment and the children who will inevitably be responsible for cleaning up a mess comprised of corporate greed and selfishness, was taking a stand to educate Americans as well as the rest of the world about the very REAL dangers posed by off-shore drillng. She wasn't committing any crimes; she was simply following her heart. 

The occupation of an Arctic-bound Shell drill ship by six Greenpeace activists including actress Lucy Lawless ended after police climbed the ship’s drilling tower and arrested the group. The protest was into its fourth day and the activists had spent 77 hours on top of the 170 ft. drilling tower. "This chapter has ended, but the story of the battle to save the Arctic has just begun," said Lucy Lawless, before being arrested. "Seven of us climbed up that drillship to stop Arctic drilling, but 133,000 of us came down." She continued, "We will continue to stand in solidarity with the communities and species that depend on the Arctic for their lives until Shell cancels its plans to drill in this magical world, and makes the switch to clean, sustainable energy." 

Despite the fact that the charge of "unlawfully being on a ship" was available, prosecutors have chosen to charge the protestors with the more serious crime of burglary. Are they SERIOUS? What on Earth would Lucy Lawless have stolen from a ship so old that they might just as well be using the Titanic to drill? Greenpeace insists that no property was taken or damaged during the occupation. The activists entered the Port of Taranaki at 6:30 a.m. on February 24th, scaled the drilling tower of the Shell drillship the Noble Discoverer and then set up camp. The ship was preparing to leave port for the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska where it is scheduled to drill three exploratory oil wells this summer.

Over the course of the four-day occupation, more than 135,000 people sent an email to Shell executives telling them to cancel their plans to drill in the Arctic. Thousands of people tweeted messages of support to Lucy and the activists using the hashtag #savethearctic, which also featured on banners hung from the drillship. Celebrities like Jared Leto and the official Beatles twitter page posted several messages to their followers as well. 

UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate was the first to break this story and began pushing it along to every blog and US news outlet available as well as their own subscribers. UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate currently reaches over 23 million exclusive subscribers/clients in both daily and weekly syndicated news feeds. 

"We did what we came to do," said Lawless. "Together we sent a clear message to Shell that has echoed across the globe— it's time to draw a line in the ice and say: enough."

Shell is the first major international oil company to make exploitation of the Arctic a major focus. If the Noble Discoverer strikes oil this summer, other global oil giants will quickly follow and spark an Arctic oil rush. The company has a very tight window in which to drill for oil. Freezing temperatures, extreme weather conditions and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges, and make an Arctic oil spill virtually impossible to contain and clean up. Even former Shell Oil CEO and founder of the non-profit Citizens for Affordable Energy John Hofmeister, warned that this year, Americans are likely to pay the highest average price for gasoline in history, but cautioned that the U.S. could not rely on tapping the strategic oil reserve to solve the problem. So the question remains? Why is Shell so determined to drill off-shore?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lucy Lawless— Championing The Planet

Television Icon Lucy Lawless [who we ADORE and SUPPORT here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate]— star of mega-hit shows like Spartacus and Xena, Warrior Princess [as well as a rather impressive array of film roles]— has boarded a Shell contracted oil drillship to prevent it from leaving Auckland, New Zealand for US waters off Alaska. The 43 year old mother of three joined Greenpeace activists to climb onto the vessel in a dramatic early morning protest. She says that Shell’s exploratory oil drilling program threatens to devastate the fragile Arctic environment and speed up global warming. Speaking from the ship she said: "I am here today acting on behalf of the planet and my children. Deep-sea oil drilling is bad enough, but venturing into the Arctic, one of the most magical places on the planet, is going too far. I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world without these extraordinary places intact or where we ruin the habitat of polar bears for the last drops of oil." Lawless, who once worked for a mining company and then quit once she discovered the destruction and safety risks that it posed, understands all of the dangers/threats that can and DO occur with off-shore drilling of this nature. And YES, she IS more than qualified to speak out on the subject!

What shocks all of us here at UPBEAT is the lack of public education and knowledge on this issue. It has continued to be "covered up" by elected officials and corporate lobbyists under the guise that is "creates jobs". True and untrue. How, you ask? Because the long-term risks and jobs that are created are to salvage and merely "attempt" to save what is left of the Artic.. this "short term" fix or Band-aid for fossil fuel, merely serves to feed the careless greed of companies that are NOT held to any specific testing standards or rules whatsoever. This is not about helping us... it's about feeding the never-ending gluttony of the oil company "suits". Learn. Research. Read. Knowledge is POWER. This is not only about this generation it is about generations to come! 


The Noble Discoverer, scheduled to drill three exploratory oil wells this summer in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, was blocked from leaving the port of Taranaki for its 6,000 nautical mile journey by Greenpeace New Zealand activists who boarded the vessel and occupied the drilling derrick, equipped with enough supplies to last for several days. "We've taken action today to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic, where this reckless company wants to exploit the melting ice to make billions more in profit," said Greenpeace US Deputy Campaign Director Dan Howells. "Shell must keep the Noble Discoverer in port, or risk a catastrophe in Alaska worse than the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico."

Shell is the first major international oil company to make exploitation of the Arctic a major focus. If the Noble Discoverer strikes oil this summer, other global oil giants will quickly follow and spark an Arctic oil rush. Earlier this week, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved Shell’s Oil Spill Response Plan for the Chukchi Sea. It included devices for cleaning up a spill— including capping and containment systems and ice deflection barriers— that Shell openly admits have NEVER been properly tested except in contained laboratories or essentially on paper. Shell has a very tight window in which to drill for oil. Frigid temperatures, extreme weather conditions and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges, and make an Arctic oil spill virtually impossible to contain and clean up. According to a senior official at a Canadian firm that specializes in oil-spill response, "There is really no solution or method today that we are aware of that can actually recover [spilled] oil from the Arctic."

Total estimated Arctic oil reserves would satisfy just three short years of current global oil demand, but would both contribute significantly to carbon emissions and pose a grave risk to the local eco-system. Numerous scientific studies show that through energy efficiency and clean energy, global energy needs can be met while leaving the Arctic untouched and safe from a virtually uncontainable oil spill disaster that would cost BILLIONS more to "attempt" to contain than it would save in terms of helping with meeting oil consumption deadlines. "Companies like Shell are taking advantage of the Arctic sea ice melt to drill for the fossil fuels that continue to drive our climate crisis," said Howells. "We need to cut our dependency on fossil fuels, and use the trillions set to be invested in dirty oil to ramp up the vehicle efficiency and the rollout out new clean technologies. That way we can protect the Arctic, fight climate change and spark a bonanza in green jobs." Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

IAMDYNAMITE— Irresistibly Explosive

Exploding with thunderous beats and crunching power chords, IAMDYNAMITE establish themselves as a two-piece rock and roll force to be reckoned with on their debut LP SUPERMEGAFANTASTIC. Armed with a single guitar, a basic drum kit and locked-in harmonies, the energy from the duo burns through speakers and electrifies off the stage whenever IAMDYNAMITE unleashes their unprecedented brand of noise. Recorded at Willie Nelson's famous Pedernales Recording Studio with super producer Matt Noveskey, IAMDYNAMITE's charged drive coalesced into the 10 tracks of dirty blues-rock crowd-pleasing scorchers found on SUPERMEGAFANTASTIC.

It would be reasonable to suspect a band who borrowed their name from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche might just be yet another pretentious act arriving on the scene but, when it comes to the rock and rhythm duo IAMDYNAMITE, it would be safer to assume the exact opposite. In truth, the choosing of the name might just be a perfect example of the band's playful and self effacing sense of humor. At first listen it becomes clear, IAMDYNAMITE, with their thunderous beats and crunching power chords, are actually the anti- pretentious and with American cynicism at an all time high, the timing of their arrival could not be more perfect.

Armed with a single guitar and basic drum kit, IAMDYNAMITE have quickly established themselves as a rock and roll force to be reckoned with. The musicianship is solid, the tunes are irresistible and infectious and their energy on stage has been appropriately described as "feverishly fun". The band's distinctive sound is influenced, in part, by what Drummer Chris Phillips calls "the power rock of the 90s", while Guitarist/ Lead Vocalist Christopher Martin points to "strong melodies and lots of energy" as a primary focus for the songwriting. Though some may assume a band made up of only two instruments might be rather limited, the big explosion of sound they bring to the stage has inspired more than a few critics to observe, "IAMDYNAMITE are two guys who sound like five". Add it all up and there can be no doubt, the fuse has been lit and IAMDYNAMITE are ready to explode!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Doors LA Woman— A Dark Storm

"People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend." —Jim Morrison

The Doors’ career was indeed a peculiar one. Few bands have travelled as deep into the darkest corners of rock as The Doors and few have managed to live to tell about it. Beginning as a fairly standard Los Angeles R&B and blues band— their cover of Them’s Gloria was always a live highpoint— they entered the national consciousness as a pop group, thanks to the catchiness of singles like Hello, I Love You and the raw brooding unbridled sexuality of singer Jim Morrison. As time went by— which it did in LSD-slowed rapidity in those days— The Doors evolved into something far more complex, all baroque and improvisational with lyrics about lizard kings and oedipal murder. Morrison understood the power of the experience and pushed the psychosexual boundaries as far as he could. If the sixties was a time of liberation and sudden surging sexual freedoms then this frontman was going to see how far he could take them. Essentially, a Doors concert experience became a slice of surreal performance art, the unexpected was always expected. Morrison’s behavior became more extreme, and he was well on the path to becoming a rock legend, being arrested, and finally, just before the release of this album, retiring from live performance and moving to Paris. There he died, in the summer of 1971, just weeks after this album’s release. His grave has been a flame to Morrison fans ever since.

L.A. Woman, the album he left behind— the last record by The Doors with their original singer (since then they’ve worked with everyone from Ian McCulloch to Ian Astbury; and they even, according to Astbury, tried out Iggy Pop)— is, perhaps surprisingly, one of their best. Of its 10 tracks, six are regularly featured on compilations and three or four are certifiable classics. The title-track is a rocker so brilliant it forms the chassis of Billy Idol’s White Wedding, and is the speediest epic The Doors ever put on vinyl; elsewhere, there’s the gorgeous, tumbling Love Her Madly, and the grungey The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat). And, of course, this set houses that favorite of backpacking European students everywhere, Riders on the Storm, which dominated American FM radio in the 1970s and continues to do so.

With Morrison at the helm, the band was constantly on the cutting edge of genuis disguised as madness. Morrison was someone with a high IQ who was bored of the sedentary life. He was taking his influences from places in culture that the previously more lightweight world of pop had rarely looked. Modelling his hair as a tribute to Alexander the Great, he answered probing journalistic questions by referring the integrator to heavyweight books from dark philosophers like Nietzsche. Even his leather clad look a mixture of pony and snakeskin was extreme, His classic "...think of us as erotic politicians" quote instantly defined him and the band and their music— it was quite safe to say that there had never been another rock star like Jim Morrison. 

Perhaps this album’s quality shouldn’t be a shock, though: with a stripped-down yet full sound, a developed mysticism tied tightly to the band’s brand of rock, and confidence born of having been a functioning unit for several years, all the ingredients were in place for a brilliant end product. And, with its harder edge, its hindsight-laden sense of imminent loss and its sheer dirtiness, L.A. Woman comprises a brilliant bridge between the floral madness of the 1960s and the tougher decade to come. This 40th Anniversary Edition features the first official release of She Smells So Nice, a fast blues in the style of Got My Mojo Working, plus never-before-released alternate versions of songs familiar from the original album. So, if you don’t own it already…

You see, in the beginning there were the blues, and at the end, too, so it was for the Doors. No one knew that L.A. Woman would be the final testament of Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore. Recorded at the end of 1970 and early 1971. L.A. Woman is a gritty, exhilarating ride and, like all the Doors' output, at times wonderfully flawed, brutally honest and helplessly indulgent. This 2-CD 40th anniversary edition includes the original album remastered, plus previously unissued alternate takes of familiar album tracks, studio banter and, from the vaults, She Smells So Nice, an unearthed distorto-blues. Rolling Stone writer David Fricke's liner notes and the photos of the Doors (augmented by bassist Jerry Scheff and guitarist Marc Benno) recording in the tightest of confines, together as a band, add to the legend. 

Immediately evident is how much Scheff's bass lines, funky and full of attitude, propelled the reinvigorated (and for the first time, self-produced) band. Krieger's clean, restrained pentatonic runs and eerie electric slide offer counterpoint to Morrison's sexy growl and Manzarek's hypnotic, defining Vox organ and electric piano lines. Cars Hiss By My Window is a totally relaxed gas. Love Her Madly, The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) and especially the title track remain instantly irresistible. Mid-album Lizard King moments are forgettable, but persevere for the slinky salve of Riders on the Storm and the insider's glimpse offered by disc two, lovely moments of Morrison improvising lyrics and coming up with the thunder sound-effect idea for Storm.

Even now safely separated by 40 years from the Doors original inception on the scene they seem strange and out of place, a brief burning presence eon the music scene a band who influence has been enormous and who star burnt so bright and so briefly.

And that before you even get to the lyrics. Before only Dylan had really got into the world of surealistic messages and strangeness— but Morrison took it one step further with his somber poetry dotted with references to sex and death, infanticide murder doom and gloom, insanity, sexual innuendo and the apocalypse. There was nothing remotely boy meets girl about these songs although they even managed to touch on that as well albeit in a twisted and strange way. They may have been erroneously been lumped in with the hippies but there was nothing peace and love and flowers in your hair about the Doors, their songs oozed a dark passion when others where all skipping along with sweetness and light. The Doors were definitely riders on a very dark storm and Morrison’s lyrics were stuffed full of fantastic dark images and ideas reflecting the true nature of the times when young men were getting sent out to fight an insane colonial war in Vietnam that they barely even understood.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brad Smith— No Blind Melons

It's been a while since we last heard from Brad Smith's solo project, Abandon Jalopy. However, since AJ's 2002 debut, 'Mercy,' Mr. Smith hasn't been just sitting on his keister the entire time, as he's been busy getting his recording studio, Studio Wishbone, up and running, producing other acts, as well as recording and touring with Unified Theory and a reunited Blind Melon. But now, it's time for Smith to return back to the Jalopy, as a long-awaited sophomore effort, 'Death and Joy,' has been released. "The first Abandon Jalopy record, I think I played three shows in Seattle," recalls Smith. "They all went really well, so I figured, 'Okay, I'm going to do this.' But then Christopher and I formed Unified Theory, so I put AJ on hold. After Unified Theory disbanded, I got into producing for a few years, and then we made another run at Blind Melon with a new singer in 2007. It kept me from standing on my own as a singer and songwriter. But after Blind Melon ended the second time, it left me with a lot of songs on the burner and something to say. 

So I coaxed myself— 'Come on, Brad, get the Jalopy out of the garage!' It seems as if there were always reasons not to pursue AJ, but at this moment, I'm like, 'I've made a record, I'm going to tour, and the chips are going to fall where they may.' I've been writing songs since I was 16. I don't have a 'race car' like Shannon Hoon to sing them anymore, so it's time for me to step up."  The result is an eleven-track recording that certainly picks up where AJ's debut left off. With Smith handling vocal and bass duties throughout, the album also features contributions from Blind Melon's guitar tandem of Christopher Thorn and Rogers Stevens, as well as guitarist Kevin Haaland (who has played with Brooke White and other 'American Idol' artists) and drummer Jimmy Paxson (who is a member of Stevie Nicks' band). And for Smith, several tracks certainly stand out.

"I wrote this song called 'Death and Joy,' and it's about family and growing up, and realizing that life is one of those spots right in the middle of death and joy. You're not always elated, and you're only dead one time. So life is really like all these little small things that at the time, don't seem to really mean that much. I just had an epiphany about what life is, and it made me relax and appreciate what is happening right now, with me and my family and upbringing." "'I Won't Be the Same' is definitely about Shannon [Hoon, Blind Melon's original/late singer]. I don't think there's any mystery there. I have a feeling that for each of my AJ records, there's going to be one song on there about Shannon, just because I think about him every day. Especially in a studio and writing scenario. Back in the Blind Melon days, I would always write songs and would hear Shannon singing my songs in my head as I was writing them. It's one of those things that shaped me as a young writer, and I can't get away from it. I'm always thinking about him, so there's going to be at least one song on every record about how much I miss Shannon, or at least one little thing that was really important to me during those years with him." 

And another song that holds a special place in Smith's heart is "Love Has A Way," as Hoon's daughter, Nico Blue Hoon, joined Smith in the studio. "She sang the background vocals on that. Her voice is so sweet. She comes out to California and visits Kim [Smith, Brad's wife] and I every summer. She's so big now— she's 16 and beautiful. And she's starting to ask me questions about her dad. I feel like I can tell her stuff about her dad without overstepping or being too sensitive about how it's going to affect her for the rest of her life- she's a young lady now. So I can tell her all these endearing things about how important Shannon was to me, to Blind Melon, and as it turns out, the world. While she was here, I had just finished writing 'Love Has A Way,' so I asked her to sing with me. It was a great moment." From here on out, it appears as though Abandon Jalopy will be Smith's main musical focus. 

"This is my second record in ten years, and I plan on releasing these pretty regularly now. I have enough confidence, I feel like I have enough to say. I like the idea of being completely independent of other band members. This is something I want to leave behind for the world. It might be an overly romantic view, but it's really the only thing that I have to contribute to the world that's worth anything. When you get older, you start thinking about, 'How are you contributing to the world or society?' Abandon Jalopy is probably my best foot forward thus far, in that regard."

With further recordings and live dates on the horizon, this Jalopy has plenty of fuel left in the tank. "'Abandon Jalopy' is such a fitting name for my project, because I keep stalling and not wanting to face myself. Abandon Jalopy is one of those phrases that makes me feel like I should go out there and work on 'the car,' and finally get it off the ground and running."

WrestleMania XXIX Set to Land in 2013

WrestleMania XXIX Set to Land in 2013

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the WWE (NYSE: WWE) announced that its annual pop culture extravaganza, WrestleMania XXIX, will come to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 with events throughout the New York/New Jersey region. Governor Christie was joined by WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, New York Football Giants President and CEO John Mara, New York Jets Chairman and CEO Woody Johnson, NYC & Company CEO, George Fertitta and WWE’s Senior Vice President of Special Events John Saboor to make the announcement at a press conference held earlier on February 16th. WWE Superstars John Cena®, Triple H®, Sheamus®, Mark Henry®, Brie and Nikki Bella™ and special guest Dwayne "The Rock®" Johnson were also on hand at MetLife Stadium for the historic announcement.

"We are excited to be hosting WrestleMania XXIX in the great state of New Jersey," said Governor Chris Christie. "Having WWE’s preeminent international event here will strengthen both the regional and local economies and continue to showcase MetLife Stadium as a world-class venue for sports and entertainment. Fans will travel from around the world to enjoy and participate in the WWE’s biggest event of the year."

A week-long celebration, WrestleMania has generated more than $200 million in cumulative economic impact for its past four host regions. The 2013 event will mark WrestleMania’s fifth trip to the metropolitan area with past visits in 1985, 1986, 1994, and 2004.

"WWE would like to thank Governor Christie, the New York Jets, the New York Giants and NYC & Company for rolling out the red carpet to host WWE’s biggest event of the year," said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO. "We look forward to making history and adding MetLife Stadium to the rather long list of impressively iconic venues that have hosted WrestleMania."

"When WrestleMania comes to town, related activities will occur throughout the New York and New Jersey area, but we are looking forward to hosting the main event," said New York Jets Chairman and CEO, Woody Johnson. "We are confident that both the Superstars and fans of WWE will feel at home in MetLife Stadium."

"WrestleMania has long been considered one of the most successful sports entertainment events in the world," said John Mara, President and CEO of the New York Giants. "We are absolutely thrilled to welcome the highly-anticipated 29th installment to MetLife Stadium." WrestleMania Week activities will occur throughout both the New York/New Jersey region including: the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony; WrestleMania Axxess, WWE’s interactive fan festival; The Make-A-Wish Pizza Party hosted by John Cena; Monday Night Raw; the finals of the WrestleMania Reading Challenge and various other community-based events.

"NYC & Company looks forward to partnering with New Jersey on another world-class event in the tri-state area," said NYC & Company CEO, George Fertitta. "We invite all of the WWE fans to visit New York City for its unparalleled shopping, dining, cultural and entertainment options across the five boroughs that will surely make WrestleMania Week an unforgettable experience."

The pay-per-view event will be televised in more than 100 countries and 30 languages. In 2011, a sold-out crowd of 71,617 fans from all 50 states and 30 countries converged on the Georgia Dome for WrestleMania XXVII. This year WrestleMania XXVIII will take place on Sunday, April 1st at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, FL. The main event will feature the highly-anticipated match between John Cena and The Rock.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vaura— An Expedition Into Foreboding

It's been said before that Stanley Kubrick seemed like a classical composer who created films instead— that the images played out more like arias and overtures than a matinee movie. The inverse of that is probably the only way to approach Selenelion, the debut LP from Vaura. Less a collection of songs and more like an expedition into an elegantly foreboding universe, the eleven tracks that comprise the latest release from Wierd Records sound as if they were each crafted to evoke unearthly scenery and monolithic events. From harsh wild distortion and aggressive screams to cold and shimmering clean guitars and vocals, the spectrum of sound on Selenelion is both varied and also atmospherically cohesive. Thunderous drums, droning synthesizers, percussive metals, acoustic guitars, and perfect vocal arrangements that sometimes approach ritualistic plainchant recall artists like Ulver and Swans. Vaura's particular blend of brutality and romantic melodicism can be attributed in part to the stylistic mesh of musicians: Kevin Hufnagel, Toby Driver, Josh Strawn, and Charlie Schmid also play in Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Kayo Dot, Secret Chiefs 3, and Religious to Damn. 

Selenelion was recorded and mixed by Colin Marston of progressive black metallists Krallice, and signals a nod for Wierd Records to the roots of founder Pieter Schoolwerth who is also member of the seminal noise outfit bloody minded and a totally continuing, cerebrally... almost  perpetual supporter of acts like Locrian. 

The album title refers to a horizontal lunar eclipse: the moment at which the sun and the eclipsed moon can be seen at the same time. With song titles referencing everything from an Etruscan demoness to a Luciferian take on the conversion of St. Paul, and with artwork by the German photographer Alexander Binder, the unifying thread is an unmistakable sense of a shadow-drenched enigma. "Drachma" refers to the coins that bought passage for the dead into the underworld, suggesting that everything following that track is part of an Orpheus-like journey. 

But repeated nods to the occult literature of Jorge Luis Borges, in particular to "The Aleph" and "The Zahir," two stories that deal with infinity and vision, suggest that beyond the the dark hallucinations there is also a serious meditaition taking place on the limits and paradoxes of seeing. Approaching such subject matter by way of something as invisible and intangible as music, Vaura invites the avid and sumptuous listener to share in a completely visceral, yet intimate ceremony of almost insanely tempting  sensuality, depravity and a totally necessary destruction. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 54th Grammys— Tragedy and Wins

British R&B-soul singer Adele swept this year's Grammy Awards with six awards, including the top three awards for album, record and song of the year. But her wins were somewhat overshadowed by all of this year's tragic losses— Whitney Houston, Etta James, Amy Winehouse... and so many more. I wondered if singer/songwriter Don McLean was sitting somewhere in his home knowing that the lyrics to his infamous song, American Pie had been playing out throughout this entire year.

In the autumn of 1971 Don McLean's elegiac American Pie entered the collective consciousness, and over thirty years later remains one of the most discussed, dissected and debated songs that popular music has ever produced. A cultural event at the peak of its popularity in 1972, it reached the top of the Billboard 100 charts in a matter of weeks, selling more than 3 million copies; and at eight and a half minutes long, this was no mean feat. But this was no ordinary song, either: boldly original and thematically ambitious, what set American Pie apart had a lot to do with the way we weren't entirely sure what the song was about, provoking endless debates over its epic cast of characters. And these controversies remain with us to this day. But however open to interpretation the lyrics may have been, the song's emotional resonance was unmistakable: McLean was clearly relating a defining moment in the American experience- something had been lost, and we knew it. And we know it today as much as we did back then.

The 54th Annual Grammys were undoubtedly filled with magical moments but perhaps one of the finest moments was Jennifer Hudson's moving tribute to Whitney Houston. Hudson, I believe, was the perfect choice for the tribute as she had also suffered several losses in her life and truly understood the meaning behind the words to I Will Always Love You. 

The evening began with a prayer for and tribute to Whitney Houston. "There is no way around this," host LL Cool J told the crowd in the Staples Center and TV viewers after an opening number by Bruce Springsteen. "We've had a death in our family. So at least for me, the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman that we loved. Although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed by her musical spirit." LL Cool J said. And then producers played a clip of Houston singing from a past Grammy show.

The next moving performance came when Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys took the stage together to pay tribute to the late Etta James. They performed a beautiful piano and guitar rendition of Sunday Kind of Love before presenting the first Grammy of the night— best pop solo performance— to Adele for her emotional single Someone Like You. "My life changed when I wrote this song, and I felt it before anyone even heard it. I just felt it," Adele said in her first acceptance speech. "Seeing as it's a vocal performance I need to thank my doctors I suppose who brought my voice back." Adele also understood the deeper pain involved in experiencing a loss, albeit not a tragic death.

The 54th Grammys was destined to be a somber look at our collective mortality. Whether or not we are famous and talented musical performers or not, we will inevitably shed this mortal coil for something known or unknown, depending on your theological perspective. But I would prefer to end this commentary with what would have to have been the most experimental [and somewhat tedious] moment of the evening- which was Nicki Minaj's eclectically symbolic performance art which I think even Lady Gaga wouldn't have been able to translate. As far as anyone could tell— it involved an exorcism, elaborate stained-glass CGI, a large group of both male and female monks, a really creepy priest and levitation, but alas... no raw meat... at least none that we noticed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston— Moments in Time

Grammy Award-winning singer and actress Whitney Houston died at the age of 48 in a Los Angeles hotel room, setting off an avalanche of tributes. Police say she was pronounced dead late Saturday afternoon in her fourth floor room of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Investigators say an attempt was made to resuscitate Houston after emergency personnel rushed to her room.  Police say the cause of her death has not been determined. Houston's death comes on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, where the six-time Grammy winner had gathered with hundreds of artists for Sunday's program. The executive producer of the Grammys, Ken Ehrlich, announced that Grammy award winning singer Jennifer Hudson will pay tribute to Houston during Sunday's broadcast. Houston sold over 170 million albums and singles, making her one of the world's best-selling artists.  Her self-titled debut album, released in 1985, sold 25 million copies worldwide. Her talent took her from music to movies, where she starred in hits like The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. She was married to singer Bobby Brown from 1992 to 2007. They have a daughter. 

Whitney Houston's musical prowess was not fluke. She was inspired by a host of singers, including her mother Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick, and Houston's godmother Aretha Franklin, who expressed shock at Whitney Houston's death. Whitney left her immutable mark on a generation of music lovers and singers, and she will always be recognized as one of the most talented artists to leave their mark on the world. Her tragic death will no doubt bring many tributes over the next year, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone filling the void she leaves behind. 

It’s hard for a lot of us— to understand just how successful Whitney Houston was, in every conceivable way, at her early peak. Sports and pop culture writer Bill Simmons once summed it up thusly: "Young Whitney was like LeBron [James] crossed with Tiger [Woods]. Actually, you can't even compare her to anything. Let's say you rated a young female singer from 1 to 50 in five categories: likability, attractiveness, singing voice, pedigree and stage presence. Young Whitney was a 50 in all of them." By age 25, she’d had seven #1 hits and released two albums that went on to sell over 20 million copies combined in the US— and she hadn’t even had her biggest success yet. She seemed destined to go down as one of the immortals, one of the greatest, most beloved pop performers in the history of recorded music... the path was there.

Few could ever deny that the greatness of her peak still ranks her as one of the most important solo performers of the last 40 years of popular music, her musical catalogue providing us with countless pop classics and her voice—that soaring, supernaturally powerful voice, which defined all the greatest aspects of divadom for so many music listeners— touching the hearts and lives of millions and millions of fans, including such sworn Whitney devotees as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga.

All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate are deeply saddened by the passing of Whitney Houston. The details of her death are insignificant. What matters more than anything is what she gave each of us with her presence, her voice and the numerous memories that each of her songs resonates within. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends and so many who loved her. I can personally recall the first time I heard the song "I Wanna Dance with Somebody"... it was uplifting, fun and it even had meaning... because, let's face it... not only do you want to dance with somebody... but somebody who loves you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Wrestlers vs. Zombies— A New Twist

George Romero has always been one of of my heros for years. He literally reinvented the horror genre with his black and white cult classic, Night of The Living Dead. And now, the "living challenged creatures" are back with a vengeance. Zombies are killing it. Not just on your game console or your local movie screens, but  they've take over television with Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Walking Dead comics on AMC. Though zombies have been a part of popular culture for almost half a century, there’s simply no doubt that they are currently a prevalent topic of entertainment and media coverage these days. It’s as if a virus was released into the media back in the 1960's that is spreading and taking hold of more creative properties every single year.

"Let’s do a horror movie," the screenwriter says to the producer.

"Does it have zombies in it?" replies the producer.

Sensing that his next paycheck is in danger if he says no, the screenwriter happily smiles and says "Yes! Yes, it's all about zombies! Why would you assume it wasn't?"

Why do zombies continue gaining popularity? What on earth is so lovable about them?

Frankly, nothing is lovable about zombies. Zombies are dead people who should be flat on morgue gurneys or buried six feet underground. They’re bluish-pale, vein-y, leaking bodily fluids from all their orifices, and (I imagine) they smell like unflushed wet feces stirred into old hamburger that’s been sitting out for a week. They shouldn’t be walking around, but they are, and it’s disgusting. To top it all off, they want nothing more than to consume living human flesh, which basically means you and me… and maybe the dog. There is no reason that any sensible person should like zombies. Yet the sales numbers prove it; we don’t just like zombies, we LOVE them. Resident Evil Afterlife debuted this weekend at #1, earning $43 million. The 2009 film Zombieland took in $24 million during its opening weekend. The Dawn of the Dead remake took in $102 million worldwide before leaving theaters. And the reason the DotD remake got a green light was because the zombie-deviant film 28 Days Later exploded in America after a more modest release in England. However, I can say with the utmost confidence and tenacity that the next zombie film will be far more successful than the last.


Because The Franchise Shane Douglas has masterfully infused professional wrestling into the world of the undead. That's right, professional wrestlers will be slaying zombies in such gruesome ways that even Rob Zombie [the last name says it all] will find himself having to look away as the plot thickens and the blood spews into rivers of pure unbridled evil. shot "for the fans"

But we cannot do any of this without YOUR help. This film is being shot "for the fans"... that's rhe Franchise is starting a REVOLUTION and he's including each and every last one of you!

I, Bridget Petrella, am  just  one of the primary producers on this one-of-a-kind-project [until the sequel, of course]. Camera Bartollota and Cody Knotts are two of the most imaginative, thought-provoking producers/filmmakers I've met in a LONG time. They are fearless. When I asked Cody what had inspired him he was very candid, "I had this a story that I concocted in my head, but I never really attempted to put it into the movie because I figured there's only so much time. You just have to think, 'Okay, we have to push very hard in a short period of time as we're merging two types of fan favorites.' I think everyone can relate to that. I didn't really want to get into too much back story because I just thought it might bog the movie down. A lot of times, I see movies and I think, 'Yeah, we really do get it, you don't need to explain it all." 

Camera simply laughed and confessed to me, "What is anyone's motivation? They're insane, obviously." And I'm right there with them, no straight jacket and no safety net. Sometimes, people just have to channel the insanity and let it take on it's own form. Watch the footage and be prepared for a totally new horror genre, something NO ONE else on this planet would EVER attempt! The Franchise Shane Douglas is planning on taking the current versions of pro-wrestling back from the dead... LITERALLY! 

The Conformity From Which I Run Screaming

I have been studying human behavior for years now (not professionally mind you, it's merely a hobby), and I've got it all down to an art form. I'm so good at it now that I can look at someone as they walk pass... and in approximately 60 seconds, I can tell you a  lot about that person, from issues they had as a child— to relationship problems they are having at the moment. With that in mind, my words gain substance. In my observations of humans on an individual basis and as a larger mass, it becomes highly apparent that conformity is rampant in society. Most people are sheep. Everyone is conforming! Even the so called non-conformists are conforming to their own set of rules. Even "rebels" eventually conform just watch a few primetime soaps— and you'll see exactly what I mean. The bad boy eventually, after meeting the "good girl" of his dreams, decides to become respectable, give up his evil, manipulative ways— and much like the Grinch— grows a heart of gold and becomes the corporate executive of a massive conglomerate with a TON of additional perks. 

Apart from television characters... everyone does it eventually and in my opinion it is a major problem with society as we know it. It is something that needs to be stamped out. It is because of this conformity that the world is in such a mind-boggling state. There is only one way to have true freedom in life and that is to make your own choices, on your own terms, for you and only you. Now I can hear you saying, "I do make my own choices..." But ask you really? Yeah, yeah you're still saying YES. But I'm gonna rock your world a bit— you see, when you buy a product because you've seen it on TV or if you go to a night club or a restaurant or movie because a friend told you it was spectacular... then, in essence, you are conforming. If you read a story on the web and just blindly believe what most of the articles say (and trust me 70 to 80% of the world does just that), then you are conforming. If you feel that everything has to be ordered, you are conforming. 

We live in a world controlled by nature. Humans are NOT better then nature. We seem to think we are at any given moment, primarily because we are by our very nature, ego-driven, but we aren't. Things are sometimes chaotic for a reason. It balances out the rest of the perpetual marketing crap we get to swallow each and every day. The only way to do things and live life in a free and uplifting manner is... well, simply by drawing your own conclusions and forming your own opinions— based on your own research. Instead of just accepting things people say, do a little research into the topic. If it's a news story, read all the sources of that story you can get your hands on and make up your own mind as to what is the most logical of events.

Buy products because you have had experience with them and you know for a fact that they work. Don't allow yourself to be brainwashed by clever ad campaigns put together by some 21 year-old in the MTV fashion of the week clothing and a reversible baseball cap. Do what you believe in. Trust in yourself and what your mind and your instincts tell you. Listen to that "inner voice". It's tough... even for me, but we have to start somewhere.