Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Music Talk: Aya. Hard Rock's Missing Princess.

You know I just realized something. In all the years that I've been writing on this blog, not once have I talked about my love for music. So, let's remedy that right now. So yes, I love music. I like a bit of everything but my preferred genres are Rock music (all flavors of it), Metal, and video game music (shocking I know). In middle and high school, I considered myself something of a rock music aficionado. I mean, how could I not? I played the guitar some, I watched the music TV channels all the time (before they started to suck), and I listened to the radio all the time. Oh yeah, I was awesome. But then I went to Japan as an exchange student for a semester and discovered just how much of a dumb, dumb little boy I was. The trip was...well, mind blowing is a phrase that comes to mind. And I mean that in the best way possible. Seriously, Japan, I freaking love you.

Anyway, while I was there, I was exposed to a lot of Japanese Rock music. Of course, I wasn't completely ignorant of Japanese popular music. This was the early 2000's, back when Japanese Anime and Manga was really starting to become mainstream in the west, and a lot of anime that was released here maintained their original Japanese theme songs (which bizarrely was a novel idea at the time). So, as far as exposure goes, that was my first taste. But none of the artists and bands I discovered on the trip had any presence whatsoever in the states that I was aware of, not even in anime. Artist like hide, Glay, X Japan, Luna Sea, J. Malice Mizer, Christ, it was like discovering a whole new universe. Why wasn't this awesomeness popular in America? But anyway, after I got home, I scoured the internet for any Japanese rock music I could. Eventually, I came across an artist that blew my mind even more. Why? Becuase, while a lot of popular Japanese rock music leans towards Glam, this chick was playing pure, unadulterated Grunge. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Hard Rock's missing princess, Aya :

Flowers In the Battlefield
Album cover.
Originally from Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, Aya was first inspired to pick up the guitar after attending a concert of the American band, The Ventures. Eventually, she made her way to Tokyo, where her first big break came after she was invited to audition for a band at a Pop Music vocal contest. Although she won, the songwriter they were gonna work with died and their debut never happened. Aya was close to giving on being a musician...and then she discovered that she was damn good at songwriting. So good in fact that, by the time she was discovered and signed to the record label BGM Japan...she already had 30 songs ready to go. Her first single, Hands, was released to the public in 2001. Her first album, A Flower In The Battlefield was released one year later. Later in 2003, Aya released a Seven track Mini-Album called The Forbidden Song. Although a huge critical success, The Forbidden Song's time in the spotlight was short-lived. When in 2004...something a bit more exciting happened. That year, Aya released her best album to date. Baghdad Sky. Why is it her best? Just listen...

Yeah....don't tell me that's not awesome. So where did she go from here? Well, she kinda dropped off the face of the earth. No really. No one knows why, but Aya went radio silent in 2006 and didn't reemerge until 2015 when she announced her new band, Cruel She (or She Cruel, I dunno, I've seen it spelled both ways). Although no new album has been announced, the band has performed at Clubs in Japan and even has a Youtube Channel with some demos, and even one new song, ANGELICA . (among other things).
Aya is everything I LOVE about rock music. Her music is guitar driven, heavy and feels so real that you could reach out and touch it. That last one is hard to explain but think of the feeling you get when you're listening to, say, Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, or The Doors' Break on Through To The Other Side, and you'll see what I mean. As for her style, well, as I said, it's very reminiscent of Grunge, but I don't think that it fits perfectly within that label. Becuase while Aya has plenty of hard songs like Prisoner (see the first video), she has just as many slower, more melodic songs like Shadows on The Road.  Regardless, Her style is one that you don't really see in the American mainstream anymore. Hell, come to think of it, you don't even see it in Japan all that much. But that's what I love about her music, she doesn't care about trends or what's popular, she does what she wants.

If you're wondering where you can get ahold of her music...well, unless you live in Japan, you can't. So far as I've been able to find, all of her CD's are currently out of print and only one of them, Baghdad Sky, is available on Itunes...the British version of Itunes. And its not even the full album. Keep in mind, however, I haven't been able to access the Japanese version of Itunes, so I don't know if her music is on there or not. Your only hope is Ebay or go on to Amazon and hope to god someone is selling her CDs. Also, "Aya" is a very common Japanese name, so unless you know the title of the CD you want, she's gonna be hard to find.

Regardless, if you have the chance to obtain any of her music, do it.

And that's gonna be all for now, Dear Readers. I'll see you next time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Short Book Showcase: Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Before we get started, I just want to let you all know that I do have another editorial up on Creators.co/ Now Loading. If anyone wants to read it, you can find it here:
https://creators.co/posts/4212650





Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
As you Dear Readers know, I love Speculative Fiction, especially Fantasy Literature. But that doesn't mean that I read it exclusively. I will occasionally reach into my bookshelf and pull out something by Falkner, T.S. Eliot, Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Izumi Kyoka or whatever. But for whatever reason, I keep going back to is my copy of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa short stories. For those who don't know, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was a Japanese short story writer from early 20th century. He's one of Japan's most influential writers, pioneering the short story form in that country. During his lifetime he wrote about 150 short stories which range from the beautifully bleak Rashōmon to the tragic yet hysterical Horse Legs.      

I must admit, Akutagawa is one of those authors that's really hard to talk about. Not because I don't understand his work, I do. But he's hard to talk about because, well, because of his relative obscurity in the west. And the fact that his work is so soul-crushingly depressing sometimes that talking to people about it makes them look down at their feet uncomfortably and quickly change the subject. Or to put it another way, it's like explaining Hemingway's The Battler to someone who only reads disposable, factory produced garbage like Fifty Shades of Grey.  They will listen to you for maybe a few sentences before shaking their heads and saying "Sounds boring. I don't want to read that." *sigh* exchanges like that make me fear for the human race.

Joking aside, I adore Akutagawa's work. Sure it's depressing and sometimes more disturbing than anything I've ever read from a western author. But it's dark in that meaningful thought provoking way that stays with you long after you've put the book down. Thankfully, if you want to get into his work, most of it is in the public domain here in the states, but I personally would start with Penguin Classics' Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories (pictured above) which was expertly translated by Jay Rubin. It collects some his most well-known stories such as the aforementioned Rashōmon, In a Bamboo Grove,  Hell Screen, And some lesser known stories like The Story Of A Head That Fell Off, Green Onions, and The Life of A Stupid Man. 

That's all from me today, Dear Readers. I'll see you next time.
          

       

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Namine Ritsu & IA: Liar (Duet)





Music Video I cobbled together because I was bored. Its nothing special really, but I hope people like it all the same.



see you later everyone.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life Update and a new article.

Hey guys, happy Valentine's Day. I'm sorry about the lack of updates. My motivation for doing anything right now is on a roller coaster ride and I'm coming down after the 1 millionth loop da loop. That and I'm in the middle of looking for a job. But, as per-usual, I haven't had anything resembleing success; further proving my theory that corporate America hates my guts and wants nothing to do with me out of principle (kidding). To be fair it's not all bad news, I did manage to write another article for Now Loading (Movie Pilot's video game e-magazine), and this one actually got selected to be on the front page of the site and on their Twitter Feed. Which honestly I wasn't expecting and is the kind of little gold star I need, but rarely get these days. Even if didn't get paid for it, but I can figure that out on my own time. 


That's all I have this week guys. Thank you for reading. I'll see you next time. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Gofundme campaign update.

This is going to be a short one today, guys. Before I start, though. Can someone in the comments below please tell me if the Gofundme widget I set up off to the right side is showing up for them? I can't see it on my end for some reason and I don't really know how to fix it. If somebody does, please let me know. 
For those just joining us; last year, a very dear friend of mine, Luna Peregrino (Aka AkiAznGirl, Aka Lunar_Princess) was on the verge of becoming homeless because her Husband suffered a severe back injury and couldn't work full time. He was the sole breadwinner of the family, as Luna suffers from a hodgepodge of mental disorders--including PTSD, agoraphobia and severe depression among other things--and this makes face to face interaction almost impossible for her. Let alone find and maintain a job. They have applied for financial assistance like disability but that won't be of much help to them anytime soon. Thankfully, both of them are receiving treatment, and her husband is on the steady road to recovery, and they have been able to stay in their apartment for the past couple of months thanks to the intervention of a mutual friend. But I started a Gofundme campaign to help them out as well.      

The Gofundme campaign has been a mixed bag. On the one hand it's raised a total of $620 so far, but on the other....on the other hand it's kinda stalled there. Not because of a lack of trying, I've shared this thing on every social media page I can without penalty, and I've done so more times than I care to count. I even put up flyers at every public place that allowed it. Would you believe that a Publix Grocery Store would allow a flyer to be put up in their break room, but not my local public Library? I'm not making this up, I went into my library and asked if it was ok to put a flyer up on their public bulletin board and the lady I spoke to said no because it wasn't related to my County and the campaign was asking for money. And yet hanging on that same bulletin board was a flyer for the mobile game Pokemon GO. Nope, that's not hypocritical at all. 

I had better luck getting the word out by asking some Youtubers and Twitch Streamers to share the campaign with their fans. I didn't ask them to go out of their way or anything, most of them don't know me or Luna after all. But it didn't hurt to ask. One of them (I will not name who) lectured me for being irresponsible for my trouble. Granted, at the time I didn't do a great job with the campaign name or the descrption and probably gave them the wrong impression, but whatever. But a few of them did retweet it (Thank you so much PushingUpRoses, Linkara, Boogie2988, Becky Boop, Sakura Tsubasa, TwistedLoveStory and Deadman Inc). 

And this leads to today. I spoke to Luna the other night...and it turns out they might be forced to move out at the end of this month after all. This isn't set in stone, not yet, but it's worrying. y'all, Luna has attempted suicide in the past, and if they lose their apartment, they will be forced to move back in with her parents. Sadly, her and her parents are not on the best of terms (to be polite) and don't have much money either. They also don't have internet access, which is bad because all of her close friends (myself included) don't live anywhere near her and we are afraid that if she loses that connection to the outside world, then the worst will happen. 
I know I've said all that before, guys but now it's down the wire. I don't like asking for money, but if you have any to spare, please send it to the Gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/helping-a-dear-friend
If you can't donate, then please share the page on social media. 

Thank you all for reading this. 
I'll see you next week. 
                                        

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Youtube Channels you should check out: PushingUpRoses.

Before we get started, I just wanted to let everyone know that I have another article up on Movie Pilot/Now Loading. You can read it here: https://creators.co/posts/4188587   I hope you all enjoy it.

Anyway, When I did the first post showcasing a Youtube Channel, I said that gaming channels on Youtube were a dime a dozen, and that's still true. But what I didn't say was that not all of one of them are hyperactive weirdos shouting oddly hilarious obscenities into a Microphone for 20-30 minutes. No, there's actually a rather ginormous chunk of them dedicated to analyzing and reviewing games as well, and this one, in particular, is one of my absolute favorites. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Sarah Wilson, better known to the internet as PushingUpRoses:



PUR.
Formerly of Channel Awesome (Aka That Guy With the Glasses), I first discovered Roses about a year or two ago after I stumbled upon a small Let's Play of a game I like, an RPG called Wasteland, that she did with another Youtuber, Lazy Game Reviews. When I first saw the video I didn't think much of it, and then some time after that, her Alone in The Dark video (see above) showed up on the sidebar of another video I was watching. I gotta admit, her tattoos, multi-colored hair, and ghostly goth look on the thumbnail drew me in (I always did find the goth look attractive). That and Alone in the Dark is one of those games I'd always been curious about, so I figured why not. I liked what I saw, so I checked out the rest of her Channel and, well, there ya go.

As far as content goes, Roses' videos range from Let's Plays, reviews (obviously), to videos spotlighting such things as where former game developers are now forgotten female game protagonist, and Top Ten Sierra Adventure Game Deaths. The last of which might give you an idea of the kind of humor her videos tend to lean on, which I think is pretty cool. For me, though, what makes Roses stand out from other gaming reviewers on Youtube is both her intelligence and the fact that the bulk of her content covers a genre that's not really given a whole lot of love on Youtube, the Adventure Game. She doesn't need to yell and excessively cuss to get her point across; just a well-written, articulate and sometimes funny review, like her review of Sanitarium, or her uproarious review of Curse of Monkey Island.

If video games aren't really your thing, well recently Roses did begin to branch out and review old and somewhat obscure animated TV shows and films. The most recent video of which covered...David the Gnome...hm. And here I thought I was the only one who remembered that.

Anyway, to sum it all up, Roses is a great content creator and I feel she deserves more attention. If you all feel the same after reading this, then go take a look at her channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCTNXqhWPba9Xh8gx0EKOtQ   


And that's it for me this week, Dear Readers.
See you again soon.