Thursday, August 27, 2009

5 Favorite Concert Moments

I've seen a lot of shows. My very first was Frank Zappa at Stabler Arena in 1979. I was 15. It was an amazing show. Since then, I've seen The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Yes, Kansas, Todd Rundgren, The Tubes, and far too many others to mention and even a few I'm sure I've forgotten.

Of all the shows I've attended, here are five experiences I'll never forget.

5) Metallica, 08/07/1989 at the at the Stone Balloon, Newark, DE

I've always envied people who got to see huge acts in tiny venues. Well, this was my experience with a huge act at a tiny venue.

I thought maybe it was a misspelling or something- perhaps this was a Metallica tribute band or similar. I called the club and they confirmed that it was, in fact, the real deal and Metallica would be playing at the Stone Balloon.

The Stone Balloon was not a huge place. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but the legal capacity for the venue had to be less than 400. So when I saw an ad in a local music magazine boasting that Metallica was playing there, I called a friend, and he and I drove immediately from the main line in PA to Delaware to get the tickets - to ensure our place at this historic event.

That night, I experienced one of the loudest concerts I'd ever been to. I hung out with Pauli Slivka (Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' bassist) right in front of the sound board. He and I took cigarette butts and jammed them in our ears to lessen the barrage.

I think Slayer opened for them that evening, but it was all about Metallica for me that night. I couldn't have asked for a better set and a more memorable setting.

4) The Tubes, Summer, 1989 at the 23 East, Ardmore, PA

The Tubes were on a small club tour with another lead singer after Fee had left the band. Now, for some, this would be a disappointment, but the core of the band, Bill Spooner, Rick Anderson, Roger Steen, Vince Welnick, and Prairie Prince - drummer extraordinaire - was intact. I'd pay almost anything to see Prairie play and to hear Bill Spooner croon. (That's Spooner in the pic.)

They played an amazing set list that night, including Pimp and Brighter Day from the Young and Rich album. Hard to believe, but Fee was barely missed.

At one moment, during I Don't Want to Wait Anymore, Bill toasted the crowd, guzzled a 12 oz., subsequently vomited behind his amp, and came in on the vocal without missing a beat- like it had been choreographed.

Afterward, I went backstage and was chatting with the band. They'd seen my band, Love Bomb, on the schedule to appear in the club later that month and wanted to know who and what it was. When I told them it was my band, they asked if we did any covers of their stuff. When I said I hadn't, Roger Steen asked, "What, does our stuff suck so much?" We had a good laugh. At least, I did.

Bill invited my band to come and record at his studio in San Francisco. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in an earthquake and we never got the chance to do so. C'est la vie.

3) Jane Siberry, 5/4/1988 at the Chestnut Cabaret, Philadelphia, PA

I'd caught Jane on MTV's 120 Minutes when she released the single, One More Colour, from her debut album, Speckless Sky. I thought she was terrific. So, imagine my surprise when I arrived one night at the Chestnut Cabaret to see a friend's band, only to walk in Jane playing live. What an unexpected surprise.

During one song, a boisterous number with a rich Latin feel (Very Large Hat, perhaps?), the band broke down into a simple quarter-note piano part. Jane came out looking like Jackie-O with the tight sleeveless dress that ended just above the knee, white gloves, and a pill-box hat. She started waving both arms back and forth with the beat, then broke into Petula Clark's Don't Sleep in the Subway. The rendition was flawless and I was floored. Then, when the song was over, they went back into the loud frenetic Latin number as quickly as they had come out of it.

I will never forget that.

2) Chris Whitley, 10/24/92 at the Chestnut Cabaret, Philadelphia, PA

I'd seen Chris with his entire band at the Trocadero in Philadelphia just six months earlier. He was touring in support of his first album, Living With the Law. That night at the "Troc," the turnout had been good and the show was great. The live versions of his tunes were spot on.

My guitarist, Sean, and I had a serious love affair going on with Chris's first album. So when we heard he was playing again so close, it was a no-brainer to go see him.

On this night at the Chestnut Cabaret, though, there were few in the audience - maybe 50 - and Chris took the stage alone. He came out with National steel Dobro and a gadget called a Stomp-box. What ensued was one of the most intimate nights of music with an amazing artist that I've ever experienced.

Chris stomped out the beat on his stomp-box while he did solo versions of every song on the Living With the Law collection, with the exception of one tune: Dust Radio. Dust Radio was Sean and my favorite song at the time and we - and the other 48 people in attendance -simply wouldn't let Chris leave without playing it.

He came out for the encore and apologized, saying that he couldn't pull it off without the band. We begged and pleaded for him to do his very best and that we would be satisfied with any rendition of the song. He relented and started playing.

I know that the parts of the arrangement he couldn't play were imagined by all of us as we swayed back and forth to the stripped down, but magical version he gave us that night.

What an amazing show.

1) King's X, 8/12/2009 at the Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA

I've seen King's X 5 or 6 times now. And every show has been great. In addition to being a kick-ass bass player and having the best voice in rock and roll, DUg Pinnick (see photo) is the pinnacle of charismatic front men - he knows how to entertain a crowd. Ty Tabor is one of the greatest guitar players alive: watching and hearing him play is mind-blowing.

I'd seen a set list online before the show and knew what to expect: along with 4 songs on their set list from their latest album, XV, the band had chosen a broad selection of material from most of their albums.

I attended the show on the 12th with my brother and two other friends. I knew my brother - also a huge King's X fan - would be happy that the band was planning to play Summerland, his favorite King's X song.

My favorite King's X song is Goldilox, a track from their first album that Ty Tabor had written. My brother loves that song, too, but unfortunately, it wasn't on the set list I'd seen before the show. It's not a song they do live very often. We've only seen them do it once before in the early 90's - and my brother and I certainly had no expectations of seeing it that night.

So, as is usual, the band was incredible. We had front row seats just behind the "cabaret" seating (a few tables and chairs immediately in front of the stage) and right in front of DUg, so our view couldn't get much better. The band played Summerland and my brother was ecstatic.

Then came the moment. DUg turned the mics out to the audience, the house lights came up, and Ty started playing the opening guitar part of Goldilox. My brother and I were in disbelief. Then, DUg motioned for the audience to start singing. 300 + people in attendance started singing every word of the song as the band played softly in the background.

DUg came off the stage and stood in front of my brother and I - a mere 2 feet away - and we all continued to sing. "I'd like to know your name and I must know who you are..."

At the end, DUg said, "The hit that never was." Someone behind me yelled, "It's a hit to us." Another yelled what we were all thinking, "Thank you for writing that song."

Sigh. Yeah, I can go in peace now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 5 Movie Bad Guys OF ALL TIME...

I have an updated version of this article...

Yes. Hannibal Lector is truly one bad dude. So is Darth Vader. And Annie Wilkes. And the Alien. And Pinhead. And, no doubt, Hans Gruber is someone we love as a bad guy. But these choices are all-so-very predictable. If I hear the fava bean quote one more time, I may be the one cracking open the Chianti.

So, for my choices, I've gone off the beaten path to call attention to some truly bad-ass characters that most folks don't know about. There are no block-buster film villains on my list. You may even have trouble finding one or two of the flicks that feature these villains.

So without further ado, may I introduce to you...

5. General Bethlehem, The Postman (1997) Directed by Kevin Costner.
Will Patton turns in an amazing performance as the Napoleonic General Bethlehem, a self-imposed ruler of what once was the northwestern United States, now a post-apocalyptic, disjointed remnant of a once-great nation. The tyrant Bethlehem leads his army across the region, raping and pillaging, taking whatever he deems necessary and forcing small towns into submission through fear, intimidation, and military might. This character is someone you absolutely love to hate. The movie drew small audiences and critics panned it, most having yet to forgive Costner for Waterworld. IMHO, this movie, however, is great - made all the better by Patton's interpretation of General Bethlehem.

4. The Interrogator, Closet Land (1991) Directed by Radha Bharadwaj.
When it comes to playing the villain, few excel like Alan Rickman. Who can forget his performance in Die Hard as Hans Gruber? Or his role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - a performance that all but saved the film from being a total loss?
In 1991, though, Rickman starred with Madeleine Stowe in a little-known film called, Closet Land. For the most part (with the exception of one or two scenes with extras) it's just the two of them in one room. Stowe plays the author of children's books who's accused of having secretly inserted subversive messages into her work. Rickman plays the interrogator who, in turn, tries to be both good cop and bad cop to elicit a confession from Stowe's character, the victim. It's difficult to imagine a film that can draw you so far in and devastate you so deeply with only two actors on the screen the entire time. Stowe's performance is incredible, but it's Rickman who steals the show in this one, earning his spot on my list.

3. Frank, Retroactive (1997) Directed by Louis Morneau.
James Belushi is not the archetypal villain. I mean, isn't this guy a comedian? Heck, Frank thinks himself a comedian, too, though, so why not Belushi as a villain?
In this low-budget, sci-fi, time travel movie, Belushi is unforgettable as Frank, the big-mouthed, gun-totin', womanizing, Elvis-wannabe, bad-ass, Cadillac-driving Texan. Stereotype? You bet. And Belushi nails it.
A female cop has car trouble and is picked up by Frank, a small-time hood working the black market in technology. When Frank starts to suspect his wife of having an affair, things turn violent and the off-duty cop finds herself in the middle of it all.
Meanwhile, one of Frank's customers has stumbled onto a method for time travel. This all leads to the cop trying to change the outcome of Frank's rampage- over and over again, each time the outcome being worse than before.
I'm a big sci-fi and time travel movie fan, but it's Belushi's hard-core performance that makes this particular film work so well. Yeah, there's an attractive female lead and a compelling story, but you won't take your eyes off the marvel that is James Belushi's portrayal of Frank.

2. Moke, Stick (1985) Directed by Burt Reynolds.
Hunh? A Burt Reynolds film? HEY! Don't knock it 'til you've tried it! Burt plays Stick, an ex-con who vows to go straight, but gets wrapped up in a deal with one of his friends that goes bad - real bad. Suddenly, Stick finds himself a fugitive, not only from the law, but from the bad guys, too.
The lead thug for the capo is Moke, an albino cowboy with a serious attitude. All-around nice guy and stunt man Dar Robinson tackles this role. (That's Robinson in the photo, goofing around with Reynolds on the set.) I don't know if it's the creepy white eyes, or the gravelly voice, or - whatever - but Moke is intimidating in a really uncomfortable way. You get the feeling that he's just in a bad mood - always. The guy just doesn't ever smile.
This movie features a great scene where Moke is falling backwards to his death after falling from a balcony, and he shoots upward at Stick the entire time he falls - hardcore evil to the very bitter end. It's one of the best stunts Robinson ever did. The film industry lost an amazing individual when Dar died. Trust me, Robinson makes it worth the view and you won't regret seeing Stick.

1) Loren Visser, Blood Simple (1984) Directed by Joel Cohen.
In this debut film from the Cohen Brothers, M. Emmet Walsh plays the unscrupulous private detective, Loren Visser. Visser is hired to kill an adulteress and her lover, but he double-crosses and murders the husband who hired him instead. When Visser fears he may have been discovered, he decides to wrap up loose ends by killing the man's wife an her lover after all.
The twist here, is that the lovers begin to suspect each other of having killed the husband, and they are blind-sided by Visser, of whom, they knew nothing. This is an amazing modern take on film noir, and you simply have to see it if you are a film fan. Walsh will give you a new appreciation for his talent. This film actually features two amazing character actors: Walsh, and Dan Hadaya, another guy who's played his share of great villains onscreen.

One last honorable mention has to go to the truck driver in Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971). We never see the guy, but he terrifies us. Kudos to Spielberg for pulling that one off- oh, just like he did with the shark. ;)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My top 5 favorite War movies OF ALL TIME.

Again, my list, not yours. I didn't include "Apocalypse Now" "Platoon," or "Full Metal Jacket" on my list. I think they're all a little over-rated and that it's cool to like them. Personally, I have others that I prefer.

I also didn't include POW or concentration camp movies, war satires, or pre-20th century war films as I think there are enough of those films to warrant their own categories.

So, without further ado...

5) Hell's Angels (1930) Directed by Howard Hughes. Staring Jean Harlow, Ben Lyon, and James Hall.

This epic that was way over-budget -being the most expensive film ever made at the time - has some of the greatest dog fights ever put to film. Unlike many of the CGI scenes we see today, these were real men in real flyng machines, doing some of the most amazing stunts, ever, in a war movie. Surprisingly, the effects stand up well, almost 80 years later.

The first two acts are, admittedly, pretty dull, but the last 30 minutes of this film - the flying - make it worth the wait. Check it out if you haven't.

4) The Dirty Dozen (1967) Directed by Robert Aldrich. Starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine, and Telly Savalas.

I've seen this movie more times than I can count - I watched it every time it was on television when I was a kid - and I still love it.

Lee Marvin is perfect as the commander of this dysfunctional bunch of anti-heroes. I love the rhyme they memorize to remember the different steps of their operation. Another of my favorite scenes is the war-game.If you don't know what I'm talking about, then rent this winner. You won't be sorry.

3) The Longest Day (1962) Directed by Ken Annakin. Starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Robert Mitchum.

This is the original "Saving Private Ryan." While its presentation of D-Day is less gut-wrenching, it still does a great job of telling the horrors of that day.

There's a lot more here, too, about other activities the allies were engaged in to help make the invasion successful. Probably one of Wayne's better films, and certainly his best war movie.

2) Band of Brothers (2001) Various Directors, Produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Starring Damian Lewis, Donnie Wahlberg, Ron Livingston, others.

O.K. I know it's not a movie, technically. But I own this mini-series on DVD and have watched it several times.
I love the characters - many of which are based on real-life heroes - and the story-telling. The effects are incredible, as is the cinematography, the editing, and the soundtrack. If you get the chance, be sure to see this.

1) Saving Private Ryan (1998) Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, and Matt Damon.

Bravo. I've never seen a movie that so realistically portrayed the horrors of combat. I felt like I was there on Omaha Beach that morning over 60 years ago and the things I witnessed horrified me. I just wanted it to stop. For me, "Saving Private Ryan" has set the standard by which all other combat films will be measured.

One other film of note worth mentioning is, "The Guns of Navarone."

Next up: My top 5 favorite Spy films OF ALL TIME.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite Science Fiction Movies (OF ALL TIME!)

I had to throw in that "OF ALL TIME" bit just for kicks (imagine the cavernous echo as you say it). The reality is, my top fives change with my mood, so don't hold me to this forever. After watching the fiasco that was the Oscars last night, I've decided to write my own lists of top five movies, by category. To start off, I'm listing my top 5 favorite SCI-FI movies- OF ALL TIME.

I'm intentionally leaving alien movies off my list for another category: Alien Movies. (Well, duh!)The same is true of '50s sci-fi movies, time-travel movies, apocalyptic movies, and one-guy-kicking-everybody-else's-butts movies. These all warrant their own categories.

Now, keep in mind that these are MY top five, not yours. So I really don't want to hear about how I couldn't possibly leave "Star Wars" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" off my list. I did, because they simply don't make my top five. I like them, but quite frankly, I think they are two of the most over-rated movies, OF ALL TIME.

So here they are, in reverse order, of course, with a brief description and rational as to why they made my list.

WARNING: SPOILERS may exist beyond this point! (Darth Vader is Luke's dad and Spock dies.)

5) Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, M. Emmett Walsh, Daryl Hannah, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, Joanna Cassidy, William Sanderson, and the late, but great Brion James.

"Blade Runner," based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is the tale of Rick Decker, an L.A. cop in the future who is hunting down and terminating a group of genetically-engineered "humans" who have returned to earth to meet their creator after having escaped from a deep-space work colony and having killed their keepers.

A lot of people say this is the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. I will admit, at the time it was released, it forever changed the way we would imagine our future. Of course, Ridley Scott changed the way we looked at space travel with 1978's "Alien," too.

My only real criticism of this film is, like 2001, it has some really tedious moments where the pacing is just a little too slow. Also, the studio ruined the film by adding Decker's ridiculous narration to help people who "didn't get it" understand what was happening. I won't watch any version other than the director's cut for that reason.For just about everyone in the cast, this film showcases their best performances on film. (Excepting Walsh and Olmos who have done other work that is even better.)

One more thing- Ridley said it: Decker is a replicant. Get over it. (When you stop and think for a moment, he had to be, or the unicorn at the end doesn't make sense!)

4) The Matrix (1999) Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano.

The Matrix tells the tale of a future Earth that has been over-run by machines. Unawares, most humans are tied into a giant network where the energy their body innately generates is used to power the machine world. These humans live out their lives in a computer program where they believe life goes on as it always has.

This movie blew me away the first time I saw it, and it still does. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this film, except that the sequels which followed it were far beneath the same level of story-telling that this first film achieved. The special effects in this film are awesome, too, but the story is unparalleled in science fiction movies.

3) The War of the Worlds (1953) Directed by Byron Haskin. Starring Gene Barry and Anne Robinson.

Based on H.G. Wells novel, this remains my favorite film version of this story. I loved Steven Spielberg's version, too, but it still takes a back seat to this 50's sci-fi classic. (Yes, it will be on my list of top 5 favorite 50's sci-fi films OF ALL TIME. Sheesh.)

The story basically revolves around a Martian invasion of Earth. All of mankind is doomed as the Martians move from one city to the next in indestructible hovering machines, destroying everything in their path. Man can do nothing to stop them. Even our most powerful weapon - the atomic bomb - has no effect on them and cannot penetrate their defensive shields. In the end, as our heroes are huddled in a church awaiting their own death, it is the microbes and the Viruses on earth to which the Martians succumb.

The acting in this film is over the top, but there are some indelible scenes and the story - which gives a nod to the Divine as the ultimate savior of mankind - is just great. Even the special effects still stand up to today's scrutiny. Great- and chilling - stuff.

2) The Fifth Element (1997) Directed by Luc Besson. Starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Brion James, and Chris Carter.

Without a doubt, several of the reasons I love this film are the art direction, production design, soundtrack, and the costuming.
I've always been a big fan of Bruce Willis, too, who puts in a great performance as Korben Dallas, former space marine turned cab-driver who is down on his luck. Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich lands in his cab, literally. Dallas must help Leeloo, the Fifth Element, complete her mission: to save Earth from a fast-approaching moon-sized ball of evil.
Jovovich is terrific in this role, having created a never-before heard language for her character, adding to her overall believability. Chris Carter adds the comic-relief as an over-the-top radio personality, and Oldman puts in another great bad-guy performance as Zorg, the guy in league with the approaching evil.

I love the sets, the costumes, the music, the special effects, the story- shall I go on? This is simply one of the greatest sci-fi films OF ALL TIME.

1) Planet of the Apes (1968) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and Linda Harrison.

Deep-space pioneer Captain George Taylor finds himself stranded in the distant future (the 36th century or so) on a planet where humans are primitive and mute, and the Apes (Chimps, Orangutans, and Gorillas) are the higher-evolved beings who treat humans like animals. Of course, we learn in the end that Taylor isn't really so far from home, but that he is actually still on Earth, just in a distant and twisted future.

In addition to the incredible make-up effects created by John Chambers and his team, this film is raised to a level all its own by the social commentary, the great time travel story, and Heston's incredible performance. I never tire of this movie, or its sequels that expand on and explore the paradoxes of time travel like no other films have ever done before. They also deal with a post-nuclear apocalypse that, at the time, fed on my fears of nuclear war being a real possibility.

Admittedly, the sequels aren't as good as this first film (although I consider "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" to be the second half of the first film), but they do build on the mythology and raise the ultimate question of, "What came first, the chicken of the egg?"
And I love the dialog: "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" How can you beat that?

So that's my top 5 sci-fi films OF ALL TIME. Next up: My top 5 war movies OF ALL TIME.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Happy upcoming birthday, Mr. Matheson.

I recently wrote a post about John Llewellyn Moxey, a director who'd directed several of my favorite films, but a name that I'd been unaware of until recently.

Well, as an aspiring director and screenwriter, one would think I'd have a favorite screenwriter. Well, I don't know that I have just one, but one I've recently become aware of is Richard Matheson.

Matheson was born on February 20, 1926 in, of all places, New Jersey. He was raised in Brooklyn and started writing fiction as a child. Eventually, he would write the sci-fi classic, "I Am Legend," the source for Vincent Price's 1964 classic, "The Last Man on Earth," which Matheson also wrote the screenplay for, 1971's "Omega Man," starring Charlton Heston, and the more recent, "I Am Legend," starring Will Smith, released in 2007. All three of these movies are great, (Price's still being the best in my mind), and I own all of them on DVD. For this contribution alone Matheson is in my list of favorite screenwriters.

Yet over his career, Matheson has written a number of other highly-regarded horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories and screenplays - many of them on my list of great movies. In 1956, Mateheson started his screenplay writing career with the adaptation of his novel, "The Shrinking Man" into the "The Incredible Shrinking Man," a film being remade in 2010.

In the early 60's Matheson wrote several classic episodes of "The Twilight Zone," including, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," the episode featuring William Shatner as a passenger trying to warn others of the gremlin on the wing! Matheson also wrote for Shatner again in an episode of "Star Trek," in which Kirk is divided into two halves, called, "The Enemy Within."

Matheson continued to write for television and the screen throughout that decade until he wrote the screenplay for Steven Speilberg's "Duel." I own this classic on DVD and still love to watch that dirty old oil tanker chase down Dennis Weaver in the desert.

After writing several episodes for "Night Gallery," another show I own on DVD, Matheson penned, "The Night Stalker," the made for TV movie directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. Isn't it odd how things like this coincide? Again, as I mentioned in my tribute to Moxey, this is a classic I own. Matheson also wrote the follow-up, "The Night Strangler," available on the same DVD with "The Night Stalker."

In 1973, Matheson was the brain behind my favorite Dracula movie, "Dracula," starring Jack Palance as the evil Count. I love the end of this movie- which I won't spoil for you here.

Another unforgettable contribution of Matheson's was 1975's "Trilogy of Terror." The third installment of that trilogy was the story in which Karen Black's character was chased around her apartment by an animated Zuni fetish doll. This has come out on DVD while I wasn't watching and I hope to add this to my collection.

Then, in 1980, Matheson wrote the screenplay for "Somewhere in Time," the love story across time starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves. My wife and I love this movie, own it, and have been to Mackinac Island several times, including our honeymoon.

Since then, his work has continued for television and the big screen with teleplays written for "Twilight Zone," "Amazing Stories," and the "Outer Limits," and screenplays written for "The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)," "Jaws 3-D (1981)" and others. His novels were the inspiration for 1996's "What Dreams May Come," 1999's "Stir of Echoes," and of course, 2007's blockbuster, "I Am Legend."

So again, without even realizing it, I've found myself the owner of at least seven movies on DVD and several television episodes on DVD that were all written by or derived from the works of Richard Matheson. Wow.

Here's to you Mr. Matheson. If you are still with us, and I hope you are, may you enjoy a wonderful 83rd birthday on February 20th. I plan on watching several of your films that day just to celebrate.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mmmmm, Sushi

I love sushi and would eat it several times a week if I could afford it. In addition to trying several places near my home, I try to have sushi whenever I visit another place. I've had sushi in Stamford, Hartford, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, Phoenix, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and places I can't even remember. Every restaurant does it a little different.

I love Maguro (Tuna), Sake (Salmon), Tai (Red Snapper), Sea Bass (Suzuki) and Hirame (Fluke or Flounder). I eat these either as Nigiri-zushi - that is, the fish served on a ball of rice - or as Sashimi, which is the fish by itself; no rice, etc., just the fish. My favorite listed here is Hirame, topped with delicately sliced scallions and ponzu sauce.

I also enjoy several types of Maki-zushi which is usually called a "roll." There is also Temaki-zushi, or TekaMaki which is referred to as a "hand roll." The difference is that a "roll" is cut into several pieces (generally 4 to 8) and a "hand roll" resembles an ice cream cone made of seaweed, or Nori, the actual name for the sheet they use to roll sushi. I do not care for the TekaMaki or Temaki-zushi as it is heavy on the Nori, a taste I don't care for much on its own.

Rolls, though, in which the Nori is well balanced with other ingredients, can be fantastic.

Often, restaurants develop their own custom selection of rolls. I even have a roll named after me at a particular sushi restaurant. My favorites are the Shrimp Tempura roll (topped with eel sauce, please), Spicy Tuna roll, Salmon Skin roll, and my favorite of all, Spicy Scallop roll topped with a thin slice of lemon. The "Bobby Roll," is a spicy scallop roll topped with lemon and alvacado. Mmmm, Bobby Roll.

I was recently at a restaurant where they made a spicy scallop and lobster roll in a white Nori wrapper. It was amazing.

Another favorite of mine is Tobiko with quail egg. They make a small cup by wrapping a narrow sheet of Nori around a rice ball, then fill the cup with Tobiko- that is flying fish roe - and top it off with the yolk of a quail egg. Sound gross, doesn't it? The first time this was presented to me, 4 grown men deferred to one another, none having the courage to try it, myself included. I gave in and tried it.

I can't put into words how amazing it is.

I've also had baby octopus, regular octopus, fresh and sea-water eel, squid, jellyfish, Tomago (scrambled egg), Ebi (shrimp), mackerel, seared albacore, oysters, white tuna, green mussels, and even Uni (sea urchin). Some of them I've liked very much (seared albacore) and others, not-so-much (Uni).

I've also found that actually knowing something about what you're eating sometimes impresses the chef. On more than one occasion, I've had special dishes prepared and presented to my by the chef, free of charge: oysters on the half-shell, jellyfish, sashimi appetizers, baby octopus, and more.

I remain open to trying new things and expanding my palate. I even hope to someday try Fugu, the flesh of the poisonous puffer fish. Eat your heart out, Homer.

For more info about Sushi, check out:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finally, free from The Village.

Patrick McGoohan
19 March 1928 - 13 January 2009
Actor, Director, Writer, Husband and Father.

To many, Patrick McGoohan was the guy you loved to hate: Longshanks, King Edward I in "Braveheart," the Warden in "Escape from Alcatraz," Richard Devereau in "Silver Streak," or perhaps one of the arrogant villainous characters he played in "Columbo."

In reality, Patrick McGoohan had a long, varied, and impactful career as an actor spanning nearly 50 years, in which he played both villains and heroes. In addition to those titles I mentioned above, other highlights from McGoohan's film career include "A Time to Kill," "The Phantom," Cronenberg's twisted "Scanners," "Mary, Queen of Scots," "Ice Station Zebra," and even 1955's "The Dam Busters," in which he had an uncredited role as a guard.

Patrick McGoohan also had a long and rich television career as an actor and director. There were the unforgettable appearances on "Columbo," but he also starred in several series, including "Rafferty," "Danger Man," and of course, "The Prisoner."

Some consider "The Prisoner" to be the pinnacle of McGoohan's career. If you're not familiar with "The Prisoner," then you've missed out on one of the most unique social commentaries ever made, in addition to a really well written and crafted sci-fi drama that remains one of the greatest legacies of McGoohan's career and of the sixties.

Here's the story in a nutshell: A bond-like spy resigns in anger over an incident that remains unexplained. While packing to escape to some tropical locale on holiday, our secret-agent man is overcome by some noxious gas.

When he awakes, he awakes in a perfect replica of his home. But this version of his house is no longer in London, but in some unknown place - a quaint little community called, The Village.

The Village is a bureaucrat's paradise. Run by Number 2 (a role played by a new special guest each week) The Village is an inescapable prison that is operated by an unknown geo-political force.

An unseen No. 1 orders No. 2 to extract information from our hero, who is known to us only as No. 6. Ultimately, No. 2 is to discover the reason for No. 6 resigning in the fashion that he did. But No. 6 doesn't know who runs The Village and simply won't cooperate. Is it operated by his previous employer or is it run by the "other side?" They want information. They won't get it. Yet with every new episode, No. 2 and his Village cronies devise some new method to derive the information they want. When the new No. 2 fails, he is replaced by another, new No. 2.

This goes on for 17 episodes in all. Many of them are simply great. There are only one or two in the bunch that don't measure up to the overall caliber of the series. No argues that "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" is probably the weakest episode, mostly because McGoohan isn't in it. They have another actor stand in for him who supposedly has No.6's intellect transferred into his body. Scheduling conflicts forced the production to come up with this cockamamie scheme to account for McGoohan's absence.

Some of the more memorable bits of the series are the huge underground domes that make up parts of the facility, the white, spinning, spherical chair in No. 2's office, the Rover - a large white sphere that chases down escapees - and The Village itself, which is the real life resort town of Portmeirion, in North Wales.

Two of the guest stars who play No. 2 are Leo McKern and Patrick Cargill, both stars of the Beatles' "Help," one of my all-time favorite movies.

The whole "The Prisoner" series is available on DVD - in 5 sets or one Megaset. You can watch the actual episodes online at

While I may remember Mr. McGoohan mainly for his role in "The Prisoner," it would be unfair to sum up his career in one role. He brought a lot of hours of entertainment to millions as many different characters. There are many who would be envious of his career and his life.

Mr. McGoohan, hopefully, someday, we'll BCNU.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Moxey, wherever you are.

It’s rare that you find a director who is behind more than one or two films that you consider to be your favorites. For me, there are a handful of directors responsible for more than one film in my collection. Terry Gilliam is a personal favorite, having directed four films in my collection: “12 Monkeys,” “Brazil,” “Fisher King,” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” (“Time Bandits” is on my wish list.) I own seven of Spielberg’s films: “Duel,” “Raider of the Lost Ark,” “Hook,” “Jaws,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “War of the Worlds.” Oh, I also own the Night Gallery pilot of which Spielberg directed one of the segments. I own four of Robert Rodriguez’s films: “Spy Kids (1, 2, and 3),” and “The Adventures of Shark-boy and Lava-girl.” My kids love those movies. Or how about Christopher Nolan’s work, “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” “Memento,” and “The Prestige,” of which I own three and have a fourth on my wish list.

But how often is it that you own several of a director’s works, admire and wish to own several others of his catalog, and not even know the guys name or realize you liked his work? I discovered such a director this week and am ashamed to have not been aware earlier of this master’s volume of work. Maybe it’s because most of his work was for television?

John Llewellyn Moxey has 92 directorial credits on IMDB dating from 1955 to 1991. Some of those credits are for numerous episodes in a series. So in reality, he has well over 100 director credits. He has directed nearly 20 episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” six episodes of “Magnum P.I.,” 10 episodes of “Mannix,” (one of my all-time favorite series, by the way), seven episodes of “Mission Impossible,” (another favorite), seven episodes of “The Saint,” and one or two episodes for numerous other television series including, “Hawaii Five-O,” “Charlies Angels,” “Jake and the Fatman,” “Matlock,” and “Miami Vice.” There are many others, too many to mention here, but if you are interested, check out his IMDB entry.

I am certain that I’ve seen several of the episodes he’s directed. In fact, I’m collecting the “Mission Impossible” series. But it’s not his serial work that has drawn my admiration. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, we had some great Saturday afternoon movies, many of them old sci-fi movies. I have only recently discovered that several of those great movies – movies I either now own on DVD or am looking to purchase on DVD – are the work of Mr. Moxey.

In 1971, American households were entertained with the ABC Movie of the Week. There were some great movies that came out of this – all discussion for another entry. But one of them was a film called, “The Last Child,” starring Michael Cole of “Mod Squad” fame. This Moxley-directed story is about a fascist America in the near-future where families are limited to one child per household. A young couple is pregnant with their second child – the first having died – and they are on the run from the authorities. “The Last Child” is a great film in the tradition of all great sci-fi chase movies. I am desperate to find this on DVD somewhere.

The following year, Moxey was credited with directing the fantastic television pilot movie, “The Night Stalker.” This remains an all-time classic featuring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, the unrelenting reporter who stumbles across the most bizarre and creepy stories imaginable. The pilot has Kolchak in Las Vegas where he follows the clues to discover a real live vampire preying on the young women of Vegas. I own this on DVD.

Moxey's next directorial milestone was 1973’s Genesis II, a new Gene Roddenberry production about a scientist preserved in suspended animation who awakes in the distant future. There he discovers two warring cultures, each claiming to be the good guy. It’s up to him to discover which side truly holds the hope for Earth’s future, and which hopes to enslave Earth’s remaining inhabitants. I own this on a bootleg DVD and I hope, someday, it will be released professionally.

Another favorite directed by Moxey, that I also own on DVD, is “Where Have All The People Gone?,” a great sci-fi film made in 1974, starring Peter Graves, best known for his role as Jim Phelps on “Mission Impossible.” In this film, a family on a camping trip is protected from a cosmic event while exploring a cave. The unexplained event kills most of humanity, and the family is left to investigate what happened while they try to get home. Along the way are gruesome discoveries, crazed survivors, and ravenous wild dogs. It’s just great!

So, in terms of my level of appreciation for his directorial work, Moxey’s a guy who’s right up there with Spielberg, Gilliam, Rodriguez, and Nolan. I already own three of his films, several of his television episodes, and seek to own more if I can find them. I’m also going to go back and see which of his other films I can find on Netflix, etc. It is very likely that I will discover some other films he’s directed that I will like as much as the one’s I’ve already seen and own, or desire to own.

Before yesterday, I never knew Moxey's name or had any idea that he had directed so many of my all-time favorite films. I’ve had hours of enjoyment watching the product of his work and have never been able to acknowledge him – until now.

Thanks, Mr. Moxey, for your great film work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inspired by Facebook

I was on Facebook this morning when I noticed an old friend had written something very interesting on someone's wall. My friends said that he felt he should rename Facebook, "Pastbook," as it had allowed him to re-connect with so many old friends or acquaintances.

That very same friend was the drummer in my first band, my college roommate, my housemate - my very best friend in the whole world. But as it tends to do, life got in the way and before I knew it, 6 or 7 years had gone by since we'd last spoken.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I hadn't tried to get in touch with him. I had moved to Phoenix, AZ, and he'd moved to a small town in the Poconos. I was busy with a growing career and building a family. He was busy with the things in his life, too, and without intending to, we just lost touch.

Until I signed onto Facebook, that is. Facebook had allowed me to reconnect with my friend from the past.

In general, I think the whole social networking thing is a waste of time. But our company is exploring new ways to leverage social networking as a new revenue channel or mechanism to increase traffic through out existing channels. So, I signed up on Facebook to become aware of what it was offering. I was afraid Facebook would be as convoluted a mess as MySpace is, but to my delight, I found Facebook was a much more elegant and - for lack of a better word - mature experience.

In addition to my "research" though, I've begun connecting with old friends and keeping better tabs on my more current friends. Connecting with those old friends has stirred a lot of memories. I've often threatened to write a book about all the crazy things that have happened in my life and with the stirring that has happened, I am even more encouraged to do so.

But then it occurred to me, I could just start telling all those old stories here, on my blog.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Finally arriving.

For some time now, I've been trying to come up with a theme for a blog that will encourage and compel me to write more often. The problem is, my interest in one thing or another waxes and wanes. And once my interest in a particular topic has waned, I find it difficult to return to that blog and write new entries.

At first, I started with a blog that centered around my ideas about certain passages of Scripture in the Bible. And as much as I am intrigued by the Bible, I found myself frustrated when - with one or two exceptions for which I am grateful - my wife and sister seemed to be the only ones reading it. My ideas are legitimate and worthy of discussion, I'm sure, but just because you build a blog, that doesn't mean anyone will come. (Thanks for nothing, Costner.)

Then I started a blog about the little restuarants around my work place where I go for lunch. I thought I'd review their menus, service, etc. After all, I love food and what could be better to write about. Then the economy took a bit of a down-turn. We tightened our belts a bit to pay off some debt and I started packing my lunch. Humph. There goes that idea.

I thought a blog about home repair might be the ticket. I spent all that time working in a home center, going to home and hardware trade shows, selling hardware wholesale, and remodeling two - no, make that three - houses. This is something I know about! But I just don't have the time to dedicate to becoming THE online authority on hardware.

I then created a blog to reach out to Kevin Spacey (yeah, that's right, the actor) and ask him to read a screenplay I'd written for him. Surely, this is the best way to reach him, right? Sigh. My phone still isn't ringing, nor my email inbox a-stuffing.

So I figured, I'm just gonna start a blog and write about whatever I'm in the mood to write about on any given day. No theme, except Bobby's ramblings, rants, ponderings, annoyances, etc. Surely, someone will take interest in that. This is, after all, ME that I'm talking about ;)

Let me anticipate one of your first questions: Why the name, "Big Nasty Brain?" It's an inside joke.

Two years before we were married, I had taken Krista - my then fiance - to meet the clan: my Dad, Stepmother, and my brother and his family. That was no small feat as my brother lived on the Keewenaw penninsula on Michigan's famous Upper Penninsula (UP).

So as to not retrace the path by which we had come entirely, I plotted a return course to Pennsylvania that went through Sault Ste. Marie, MI, across the border into Canada, along the northern shore of the Georgian Bay (part of Lake Huron) and across the Manitoulin Island to the small town of South Baymouth. Once there, the trek continued across the bay on the Chi-CheeMaun ferry to Tobermory, ON. From there, we traveled to Niagara Falls, and back into the U.S. near Buffalo.

In 1995, we were married, and my wife Krista and I honeymooned on Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was a blast, and on our first anniversary, in 1996, we asked some friends, Mike and Laura D., to stay on Mackinac Island and then travel with us to visit some of the great places we'd been to during that first trip to Michigan.

We'd spent 3 or 4 days on Mackinac Island with the D's and decided to head north from there to Whitefish Point and visit the shipwreck museum there. That afternoon, we travelled to Sault Ste. Marie (our joyous day interupted only by a speeding ticket) and we discovered the Lockview restaurant across the street from the Soo Locks. It was a Friday evening and their special was all-you-can-eat whitefish, prepared however you like: broiled, pan fired, batter dipped, or cajun. We've been back many times since.

The Lockview Restaurant
The Lockview Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, MI

After an amazing meal, we wandered to our hotel on the Canadian side. Once we were checked in, we decided to play Scrabble before bed. I was tired and feared that I wouldn't play well, but everyone was up for it, so who am I to say no?

Now, I do fancy myself a fairly good Scrabble player. I love word games, like Boggle, etc. But I rarely find an opportunity to use all my letters in a single turn and get a Bingo. So when it does happen, I am rather pleased. That night I was able to spell out 'Podiatry.' Michael looked at it and sounded out, 'Poh-dee-at-ree.' "Hunh?" he asked. I explained what podiatry was - and how it was pronounced- and was awarded a butt-load of points.

Being tired, not of the game, but from the day, I leaned back and sighed, closed my eyes for a moment and ran my fingers through my hair. And that's when someone - I'm pretty sure it was my wisenheimer wife - responded to the word I had played and my subsequent actions with, "Awww, is the big nasty brain tired." All with a perfectly sarcastic and patronizing tone.

After a howl and a good laugh from the others, it instantly became my nickname. Bnb, for short.

So there it is. The story behind the name of this blog. Let's hope this one sticks and I'll actually write something once in a while.