Fire In The Sky

Woke up late this Sunday….tired and weary……..need an energy boost……go to Youtube.com, search for guitar fest and find G3 (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai & John Petrucci) live in Tokyo, hammering on the Deep Purple classic Smoke On The Water. Energized now, you too can do the same, just don’t be blinded by Billy Sheehan’s bright, blood red leather pants!!

Guess Who? That Funny Bird

The post about Popeye & Olive got me thinking about all the other cartoons I loved as a kid. All of you who, when young or even now, remember this loony character who went into mischievious antics at the drop of a feather. Woody is also famous for that one of a kind laugh, which is often immitated but never ever has anyone been able to duplicate it. I used to watch Woody Woodpecker as a kid in Kuwait, but can’t ever remember seeing an episode since we moved back to India, until very recently.

I must protest to Cartoon Network. My two nephews watch all these nonsense cartoons that couldn’t hold a candle to the red & blue bird. There have been very few cartoons in the last decade or so that are worth watching. Sometimes there is nothing like a good cartoon to bring back traces of your childhood & innocense and can banish all your adult worries & stress, even if only for an hour or so.

One of my favourite episodes of Woody Woodpecker is the one in which he goes to a restaunrant for lunch. The waiter there (a cat??) sees in the paper that there is $100,000 reward for the capture of a woodpecker. He dreams of the money, motorcars & women. So he sets out to capture our bird friend. When the waiter approaches, Woody asks “Can I have a Menu?”. “A menu?” asks the waiter, to which Woody replies “Yeah, M-E-N Men, Y-O-U, You. MENU!!”. Simpley hillarious and typical Woody. My sister & I used to mimic this dialogue a lot when we were much younger…..we don’t do that anymore.

The Towers

When I think of my childhood, I ofcourse think about the 11 years I spent in the city of my birth – Kuwait City. The capital city of the tiny country of Kuwait, currently has a city population of 32,500 and a metro population of well over 2 million. One of those 2 million used to be me, living with my parents & my sister in a tiny apartment in an area called Darwahza. The times I spent there will forever be embedded in my mind as some of the happiest & innocent moments of my life. Among one of the images & memories that I hold deeply in my heart, are the Kuwait Towers – the most famous landmark of the city & the country. Completed in 1979 (a few months before I turned 3) the three towers were built for multi-purpose operations.

The main tower is 187 metres high and serves as a restaurant and water tower. It also has a Viewing Sphere which rises to 123 meters above sea level and completes a full round turn every 30 minutes. The second tower is 145.8 metres high and serves as a water tower. The third tower houses equipment to control the flow of electricity and illuminates the two bigger towers. I will forever remember my one & only visit with my dad to the revolving restaurant in 1986, towards the end of my family’s life in Kuwait (we left for India the following summer). The view of the city, the revolving movement held my attention that I begged to stay back and just take it all in.

A Fan? How Many Years?

I was talking with a colleague at work about the different bands that we like and I was thinking aloud about which were the bands that I have been into the longest. That took some thinking and I was mentally going through my list of songs & albums and decided that it deserved a post. So here it is, in descending order, the bands that I have been a fan of (I’m not including bands that have disbanded but artists who have died are included, provided that they have a considerable amount of recorded material) :

Band / Artist No. of Years Year which I first heard them

  1. Bon Jovi – 21 – 1986
  2. Europe – 21 – 1986
  3. Scorpions – 20 – 1987
  4. Van Halen – 20 – 1987
  5. Deep Purple – 20 -1987
  6. Bryan Adams – 19 – 1988
  7. Def Leppard – 19 – 1988
  8. Neil Young – 19 – 1988
  9. Eric Clapton – 19 – 1988
  10. AC / DC – 19 – 1988
  11. Aerosmith – 19 – 1988
  12. Metallica – 18 – 1989
  13. Alice Cooper – 1989
  14. Warrant – 18 – 1989
  15. Poison – 17 – 1990
  16. Iron Maiden – 17 – 1990
  17. Jeff Healey – 17 – 1990
  18. Queensryche – 16 – 1991
  19. Megadeth – 16 – 1991
  20. Rush – 15 – 1992
  21. Pearl Jam – 15 – 1992
  22. Joe Satriani – 15 -1992
  23. Yngwie Malmsteen – 15 – 1992
  24. Steve Vai – 14 – 1993
  25. Alice In Chains – 14 – 1993
  26. Crash Test Dummies – 14 – 1993

These are the longest that I can think of. Among my current favourites, the Barenaked Ladies are 9 (1998). There are other bands that I like, but I either own just a few songs (like Ozzy, Judas Priest) and or never bought any of their albums (Led Zepplin). And oh, I took off Guns n’Roses cause they haven’t put out stuff since 1993! That is too long!

Home Sweet….Now Someone Else’s Home

I was planning on writing this post at the end of August but somehow it slipped my mind. August 24th marked the one year anniversary of the selling of our family home in Thrikkakara. Our house & home for 19 years and a couple of months. 19 Years might pale in comparison with my mother’s parents home of now oh, 45 years or so, but it’s a big deal to me. One need not think anything else of it other than the fact that, it was my home! My dad used his hard earned money, earned while living in a tiny 2 bedroom (about the size of a cardboard carton) apartment and working in a bank in Kuwait City. From infancy till the age of 11 I lived in Kuwait and coming back for good to India, meant living in a large house where I had my own room!

How important was your room for you when you were growing up? It was my sanctuary! I created a whole world in there, dreamt my dreams in there and wept my tears of anguish in there. It’s the place where I wrote my stories & composed my lame ass poems & songs. It’s the room where I spent most of time in. It meant so much to me, more than just four walls, an attached bathroom and a bed can ever mean.

the chase online download When I think of my room, I think about the posters of football & tennis players that I plastered all over the walls. Then it was my favourite rock bands & artists. I remember an aunt telling me that she liked the way I had placed them; I used to measure the distance of the posters’ edge to the ceiling and to each other. I can’t believe that I was that detail oriented. I remember the pain I felt when in 1995, they all had to be torn off as the walls were being painted just in time for my sister’s wedding! I also remember asking my dad if I could paint the walls black! You can guess what he replied! My room was the comfort zone I seeked when times got tough, when the outside world was ganging up on me. The place I went to hide, to leave the fucking world behind.

I have burried a few best friends in the ground next to the house enclosed by the walls. And before you have all weird images coming to you mind, I mean the animals I was lucky enough to have as pets. First there was Lassie – a puppy I only had for a few days. She was an energetic furball of pomeranian & alsatian mix. She knocked down a can of kerosene in the garage and drank it and died later. Then there were the two cats – brother & sister pair Chocolate & Lollipop! I know, I know, so sue me I was 12 at the time. The white cat Lolli died a year later and we had the male Choco for three years and I cried a heck of a lot when each of them died.

And then there was Shawny, the one I still think of everyday. She roamed the grounds within the walls of our property like a proud landlord. She ran to me with all her might when I called her. I got her in 1995 & lost her in 2005 when she died and she too is buried there next to a tree. I left a big piece of my heart when we finally moved from there last year.

Hey Stoopid – Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper released Hey Stoopid in 1991 and this album along with Welcome To My Nightmare are the two quintessential Alice albums. Well, for me atleast! I consider this album to be a classic, although I am surprised that it didn’t do as well as I used to think. But most hardcore Alice Cooper fans think that Hey Stoopid had better songs than his 1989 smash hit Trash. The album has guest performances from guitar gods Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore & Slash and also Nikki Sixx & Mick Mars from Motley Crue. Lyrical themes involve strictly drug use/addiction and love/sex. The opening track & title song, Hey Stoopid, is about dumb people who contemplate suicide or a druggie who thinks that narcotics is the answer. The emphasis on ‘Stoopid’ is to show how dumb the singer thinks the two characters are.

Love’s A Loaded Gun is about taking revenge against a cheating lover, with a really cool chorus and some killer guitars. The implication is about killing the cheating woman & the guy she is sneaking out to see; having watched unseen from afar, the protagonist, shoots both of them. Snakebite is about sex and sleeze Alice style. Burning Our Bed is a song about a broken relationship. Dangerous Tonight is a song about sex, or like I would put it, the deflowering of a virgin. My favourite song on the track, lyrics wise, is the ballad Might As Well Be On Mars about estranged lovers and a man pinning for his former lover, but who has moved on in her life, that the guy might as well be on another planet.

Feed My Frankenstein is the most well known of the songs, the video having been heavily promoted on MTV & Alice singing the song in the film Wayne’s World and it being included in the soundtrack album. It features a hot, molten guitar solo from Satriani. This is another favourite Cooper track for many. Hurricane Years is about wild times. Another song about sex & love is Little By Little, while Die For You is a wonderful track about lost love and how the singer would have given up everything for the love of the woman. The sleeze returns in the form of Dirty Deeds, while the autistic character/ alter ego ‘Steven’ in the album closer Wind Up Toy, who appears in an Alice song after a 15 year gap. “Daddy won’t discuss me, oh what a pain I must be, Mommy couldn’t stand having such a wind up boy, doctors want to check me, Poke me and dissect me, What do they expect? Feelings from a wound-up toy?

With such a collection of great heavy rock tunes, I would have have expected it to be a huge hit but I consider it a classic. Here’s Hey Stoopid.

Wooden Board & Coins

Carroms is the indoor game loved by millions and being played in several homes, especially during the rainy season as outdoor games & passtimes might prove tricky with the downpour. My office has given is three carrom boards (one for each floor) in order for us employees to kill time and as the first step to bring some recreational activities in an otherwise dull environment. They have proven to be a hit, since we have no other distraction, other than restricted internet access and that too only from the supervisory level onwards. Hence everyone is wanting to have a turn at the carrom board.

Ofcourse I went and played a couple of games, although my carrom skills are very, very rusty having not played in over 7 years or so. This brings back memories of my cousins & I playing this game over several rainy days or during the late evenings when there were nothing else interesting to do to kill time during out sumer holidays. Ah, those were the days. Then when I was 21, I met some of my cousins from Scotland for the first time and some of them liked playing carroms a lot! I remember particularly my cousin Sreeharshan aka Skibby, who is about 12 or 13 years younger than me, and who used to pester me every two hours by asking “You wanna play kaaarrrrroooooms?”

And I would always indulge him and play a few rounds. Once he even told me that we should have brough the carrom board with us….we were in a movie theatre along with some other relatives watching a Malayalam movie and he was bored!

Cujo

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After waking up this morning, I walked zombie like to the wash basin, splashed my face with cold water and brushed my teeth. As coffee was being made, I switched the tv on, flipped channels until I reached HBO and saw that they were showing the 1983 hit horror movie Cujo. How many of you remember this movie, the one that put me off dogs for a couple of years and Saint Bernard’s for several more? Cujo, the titular character of Stephen King’s 1981 best selling novel, is the bitten by a rabies infected bat while he was chasing a rabbit into a cave. The dog becomes infected and, succumbing to the disease, goes on a rampant killing spree. He kills his owner’s neighbour and then his owner. A lady and her son who comes for repairs on their car to Cujo’s owner’s farm, also find themselves being attacked by the dog. Their car breaks down at the farm and over a stretch of three days they fend themselves against the attacks of Cujo, who hits the car doors with his massive head, blood dripping all over him and cracks the windshield and door windows.

The boy begins to fade as dehydration, thirst & hunger and the scorching heat nearly kills him (in the novel, he dies) and his desperate mother screams for him to stay awake. A police officer comes to investigate at the farm and he too falls victim to the rabid Cujo. The lady comes out of the car finally and attacks Cujo with a shattered baseball bat and injures him. Thinking him to be dead, she carries her son into the house and is able to revive him with water and using CPR, only for Cujo to come crashing into the house. But as he leaps, she reaches for the gun she took from the dead policeman and shoots Cujo to death.

This is one movie which stays in your memory even as the years passes by – I remembered the scene in which Cujo dies & the lady carrying her son into the arms of her husband and Cujo attacking his owner very well, despite never having the movie since 1986 or so.

And I think it’s going to be a long, long time

William Shatner spoofs the 1972 hit song “Rocket Man” (written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin & sung by John) at the Science Fiction Awards in 1978. Only Shatner can pull this off in his impeccable narrative style. Ironic also that for an actor most famous for his role as the Captain of an adventures & exploratory crew, he is singing this song about a lonely astronaut in space who misses the Earth & his family.

Song for the day – “Rocket Man” – WILLIAM SHATNER

Bewitched by Ms.Montomgery

There always is one woman for every guy, and for quite a lot of girls & women as well, who will always be the epitome of the perfect woman. No matter how many years have passed since that woman was first seen, she grows more and more beautiful as the days go by. For some it’s Marylin Monroe or Bo Derek or Raquel Welch. For me it has always been Elizabeth Montgomery – the late star of the technicolour sit-com Bewitched. She was one of the most cutest & beautiful woman to ever have graced this planet. You can’t say that she was my first crush (atleast on tv or the movies) but prehaps pretty close to it. I remember watching her in my much younger days when I was in Kuwait.

They have been showing reruns of Bewitched on Hallmark for a few months. I tried to watch some of it at night just to gaze at the lovely Montgomery. For those of you who have seen the series, she has the most adorable twitching of the nose that you could ever hope a woman to have. That trait of hers is enough for any guy to fall in love with her. This show was a huge success during its eight-year run from 1964 to 1972 and remains popular through syndication. She was born in Los Angeles, California, she was the daughter of actor Robert Montgomery and his wife, Elizabeth Bryan Allen. Montgomery made her television debut in her father’s series Robert Montgomery Presents, and her film debut in 1955 in The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell.

Montgomery received five Emmy Award and four Golden Globe nominations for her role as “Samantha” the loving wife & witch who tries her best to have a normal human life with her husband and ward off the tricks of her devious & humourous mother, who loves to irritate her son-in-law. Montgomery received five Emmy Award and four Golden Globe nominations for her role as Samantha. She received Emmy Award nominations for playing a rape victim in A Case of Rape (1974), for her portrayal of the notorious Lizzie Borden in The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), and for her role as a strong woman facing hardship in 1820’s Ohio in the mini-series The Awakening Land (1978). She also made a chilling villain in the 1985 picture Amos, playing a nurse in a state home who terrorized residents Kirk Douglas and Dorothy McGuire.

Her final acting role was in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series untitled “Showdown,” in which she played a barmaid. Elizabeth Montgomery died of colorectal cancer on May 18, 1995, at the age of 62. She died just eight weeks after being diagnosed with the disease. At the time of her death, the media widely reported that she had ignored the symptoms of her illness until it was too late, as she was caring for Robert Foxworth, who had had hip replacement surgery. But for me Elizabeth or Samantha will forever live in my heart as the ideal woman who a guy can pine and yearn for. She will forever “bewitch” me!

Blast from the past

Boy is that a face from the old days. Ricky Schroder, one time child star and could have / should have been a huge deal in Hollywood, that’s who. He was born in 1970, so that makes him 37 years old now. You would have seen an 8 or 9 year old Ricky in his Golden Globe Award winning role in The Champ co-starring with Jon Voight & Faye Dunaway (1979). He next came into the limelight as a tv star, playing the role of ‘Ricky Stratton’ in Silver Spoons about a father & son reunited after many years and discovering what it means to be a family.

I next saw him in the 1988 movie Too Young The Hero, based on the true life story of Calvin Graham, the youngest person to ever enlist in the Navy (age 12). A few more years would pass before surprise, surprise I saw him on NYPD Blue all grown up. He stayed with the show for 3 seasons, also was in Lonesome Dove series, Strong Medicine and in a few episodes of Scrubs. It seems that at one time he moved to a ranch in Colorado instead of living in Hollywood but has since sold it for $29000000! Starting this year Ricky will be appearing in 24.

Symphony In The Sky

What a day it has been! I spent the morning at home and watched some tv for the entirety. Then I decided to head out to my old office at Thoppumpady and give some of my former colleagues a surprise. I had also been getting a few complaints from my kids saying that I was not visiting and that I was forgetting about them. Not true, I think about them a lot, but I hadn’t been to see them in over 2 months or so. So I guessed that a visit was in order. By 2:30 I was in a bus headed out to them. I spent some time with many of my favourites from my time there and I was very happy to see them. I do miss them a lot but it is the nature of this life that you can’t spend your time with everyone.

I spent my time talking with them and letting them in on what it is that I do in my new job for about 2 hours. I had to leave after that and was happy that I did get to see quite a few people. I left the office with Aneeja & Renju and Aneeja got into the same bus as me and we chatted for a bit. I went to Cafe Coffee Day and had an Orange Frappe to cool down and relax and enjoy the evening.

By 6:45, Anil came over and we went to Bay Pride Mall for a bit before heading out to Malabar House roof top garden bar for some drinks. As we down 5 rounds each (brandy for him and vodka for me) the skies opened and we were treated to a tropical rain storm of biblical proportions. It really was something. The thunder and lightning accented the mood of the evening and I quite enjoyed sitting there and taking in the effects, the wind blowing in my face and the overall feeling of something beyond human control. Something that can cause a lot of destruction and death but I was lost in the beauty of it.

Song for the day – “Bittersweet Symphony” – Lukas Rossi (as sung in Rockstar : Supernova)

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Coolest Car Up For Sale

Did you that KITT was for sale? The coolest car that was ever made, KITT (short for Knight Industries Two Thousand), the car that was made for the cult tv series, Knight Rider, is to be sold. Restored to its debut-season glory, the modified black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am is offered at $149,995 at a Dublin auto dealership.

Johnny “Vette” Verhoek of Kassabian Motors has had the car on display for about a month. Although, ofcourse, it cannot achieve the 300 mph speeds that KITT reached, soar 15 metres in the air or throw smoke bombs, key features of the star car are intact. Perhaps most important, the red scanner light on the nose glows and makes a humming noise.

Wouldn’t that be cool, to be the proud owner of KITT and show it off to everyone who can see? What a wonderful conversation piece that would be? “You know that car that David Hasselhoff drove and had as his partner in fighting crime? I drive it now.” And watch the amazement & envy of people as they ask you tons of questions about it. Man, that would be cool! So where is my wish for a $1000000?

Lean Green Ninja Machine

There has been a lot of publicity about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that has caused some controversy among old time fans of the TMNT franchise. If you grew up during the late 1980s to early 1990s or were a teen during that time, there is a good chance that the green ninjas had a huge effect on you. They were everywhere, so to speak. Even here in India, the movies were selling out or being rented by thousands & thousands of kids from all available movie rentals & stores. I remember two families fighting over who would get the last available copy of the first TMNT movie at a video rental store in the city! There were cakes made in the shape of the cool dudes for any kid who was celebrating a birthday (I almost got one for my sister, but she was turning 23 or 24 and didn’t like the comic heroes).

My cousins and I were huge fans of the foursome and we saw the first & second movies numerous times. We laughed at the jokes, debated as to who was the coolest turtle (it was hotly contested) and shouted ‘cowabunga’ and slapped hi-fives all around whenever we said that and provided good fodder for poking fun at ourselves years later! But no question, TMNT is a huge part of my younger days and I am still a huge fan of it.

A few years after we say the movies, they started showing one of the cartoon series on cable over here. Even though a few years older, I started watching them on a regular basis during the early evening time slot that they were showing it at. I think I saw the third movie, and definitely their least popular, a few years ago, although it was actually made in 1993. My original Turtle fever had died down but I was still nostalgic enough to watch it twice in a weekend. :)

Then a few weeks ago, while flipping channels I saw the 2003 started cartoon series of TMNT, which is even better than the cartoon series I had seen years back. I started watching it almost every weekday, as it is the perfect time for me – right after I wake up and have my coffee and breakfast. I have become a fan again and was looking forward to watching the new movie – only that it is a computer generated one and first impressions are that I am not too pleased with the way that the lead characters look. But we’ll see!

But wait : one of the songs that is closely associated with TMNT is “Ninja Rap” by rapper & el stupido Vanilla Ice, from the second movie. For my embarrassment, read the following : When I was 15, my cousin Suraj and I recorded a tape of us singing songs, making jokes & fake news, with sound effects no less,  and pretending to be a new radio station with djs and all. One of the songs I sung or rapped was “Ninja Rap” (with really loud & energetic shouts of “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go”) with altered lyrics since I didn’t have the originals. I still get hell for it now, 15 years later.

GO NINJA GO NINJA GO!

The Goonies

If, like me you were a young kid between the ages of 9-15 during the latter half of the 80’s, chances are that you were affected by the movies The Goonies when you saw it and are still nostalgic about it. This is one movie that brings back such memories. Steven Spielberg wrote the story and Chris Columbus created the screenplay based on it and it was directed by Richard Donner, who was behind movies like The Omen, Leathel Weapon & Superman (how can you go wrong with that combination?)! The Goonies are a band of kids bent on rescuing the Goon Docks in their hometown of Astoria, Oregon from demolition and they attempt to do that by finding the lost treasure of One-eyed Willie, a pirate. Mikey finds the map in his father’s attic and it leads to a tunnel in a rundown restaurant, which is also the hideout of a criminal family called the Fratellis. Once the Fratelli brothers find out what the kids are after, they and their mother also go in search of the treasure for their personal gain. One of the Goonies, Chuck, befriends the third Fratelli brother, Sloth, who is deranged and deformed but friendly to the kids. The kids have to dodge various booby traps laid by Willie and his men in the tunnels.

At the end of the tunnel they discover an old pirate ship, which houses the treasure and the skeletons of Willie and his band of pirates. As they fill their pockets with the treasure, the Fratellis reach them and steal the loot from them. A dynamite is lit, mistaken for a candle and the cave starts to collapse. The Goonies dive into the water and swim for safety. A search party led by cops finds them on the beach and they apprehend the Fratellis with help from the strong Sloth. Fortunately for them, a small bag of jewels and gems was not taken away from Mikey and they can use the money from selling it to save the docks from being demolished and made into a golf course. Willie’s ship is lost into the ocean and Chuck says that Sloth is going to stay with him & his family from now.

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The film stars child actors Sean Austin (who has managed to get a decent career for himself even as a grown up) as Mikey, former child superstar and now where-is-he Corey Feldman as Clark aka Mouth, & Josh Brolin (also in Hollow Man). Joe Pantoliano is one of the villainous yet comedic Fratelli brothers. The movie was a big hit and is now also considered a cult favourite with numerous references in other movies & tv. 8 outta 10!