Category Archives: Media

The Guinness Brothers; All for the Craic

The internationally touring Irish musical duo The Guinness Brothers have been spreading the craic* from pub to pub and festival to festival over two continents for the past seven years. Consisting of Colm Kelly on vocals, guitar, and harmonica, and Roddy Carreira on vocals, mandolin, banjo, and occasional percussion, The Guinness Brothers really are the life of the party.

Based out of Albufeira, Portugal (though Colm originally hails from Kildare, Ireland), they are consistent performers at Irish Pubs, weddings and events at a nearly non-stop pace throughout Europe and the United States.

I naturally met Colm on his first trip to Pensacola as a performer at McGuire’s Irish Pub. Sometime later Roddy came along with him and brought the full Guinness Brothers experience to McGuire’s. One of the most immediately noticeable features of a Guinness Brothers show, as well as a Colm Kelly solo performance is that Colm has a natural gift for working a room and amping up a crowd. With Roddy beside him, they create a power team of sarcasm and debauchery that will have any festival ground, reception hall, or bar entertained and actively involved with all the antics they bring with them.




A Guinness Brothers show is more than a musical performance; it really is a party. The boys don’t want the audience just sitting and listening as each songs fritters by, but instead in the age-old Irish tradition they want you to be a part of the show, to interact, dance, sing, shout out responses and play along for the fun, or the “craic” as is said in Ireland.

Their sets include a wide variety of musical styles from Irish Traditionals, pop, rock, country and more, all of it delivered in the distinct high energy fashion that is a staple of a Guinness Brothers show. On top of all that, the boys are also known to boldly take requests from the audience. Even if they haven’t rehearsed the requested tune before, they’re likely to give it a shot anyway, and fake their way through it, all for the craic. It’s a bit of game to them, a challenge to which they’re eager to rise.

Speaking of games, as an audience member you might find yourself drafted into any number of games such as “left-hand drinking” during which the audience is only allowed to drink with their left hand. If someone is caught drinking with their right hand they’ll be called out, asked to stand up and down their drink all in one. This becomes a lot of fun as the audience begins to call each other out as the night goes on, and of course all for the craic.

In 2019 The Guinness Brothers released a live album appropriately titled Live Craic, a twelve song set including Irish favorites such as Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, and Rocky Road to Dublin as well as classic rock and popular covers like Folsom Prison Blues, Thunderstruck and Take On Me, with a half dozen more.

The album does a great job at capturing the spirit and the vibe the duo produces with Colm’s signature fast, percussive acoustic guitar rhythms and Roddy’s bright and lighthearted mandolin standing out ontop of the mix. Their rendition of The Wild Rover especially gives a sense of the back and forth banter the two are known for engaging in between and even during songs.

Their interpretation of the traditional reel The Moving Cloud is particularly demonstrative of Roddy’s proficiency with playing Celtic melodies. That and his dynamite mandolin lead on Whiskey in the Jar really helps to ground the disk’s versatile song selection in the Irish musical tradition from which the duo emerges.

While Live Craic is a good listen its only drawback is that you don’t get the full experience of all the antics of a Guinness Brothers live show. How could it? So, the only way to rectify this is to download this album now and make sure you catch the Guinness Brothers live at one of the various venues in which they perform throughout Europe and the United States.


* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, “craic” is a traditional Irish word for fun, joviality, or living comedy. It’s derives front the same root from which we Americans get the idea of “cracking jokes.”


I Was Featured in London Celtic Punks Web-Zine

The London Celtic Punks are an informal club based out of London, dedicated to the promotion of Celtic-Punk music.

Recently the editors of their web-zine found my Pub Songs on Palafox ep, seemed to like it and decided to write me up a little review.

Go on over there and read it!





Friday the 13th and the Ghost in My Backseat

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and this evening, I had my weird Friday the 13th experience.

I was on my way home from dropping off my daughter at her school dance. As I was turning a corner I saw for a brief flash in my rearview mirror the image of a ghastly woman as if she was sitting in my back seat. She had a sort of bluish illumination with two dark eyes with blackened mascara-like smears running down her face. Nothing too original, but it did cause me a split second’s release of adrenaline. The best part is that I know exactly what I saw and why.

Yeah, kinda like that!

For uncertain reasons in the Western world and especially the United States when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday it is believed to be an unlucky day.

I grew up with this superstition and believed in it to whatever degree young children can believe in anything they have no ability to understand and no reason to believe other than the influence of their peers. The fact that I was a very young child at the beginnings of the extremely successful Friday the 13th movie franchise has shaded my view of the event in a particular light for me.

I’m not unique in this, these days Americans particularly see Friday the 13th as a scary and dark day, a sort of reverse holiday similar to Halloween without the costumes or trick-or-treating. It comes with its own myths and urban legends. Much like the Santa Claus at Christmas of the Easter Bunny in spring, the murderous hockey mask clad and machete wielding zombie Jason Vorheese from the Friday the 13th movies is and for a long time to come will be in the future attached to this spooky unholiday. This really is a testament more to the quality of the marketing of the franchise than the quality of the movies themselves that even as I child I found to be more funny than frightening, but I still love them. Jason lives in mythology alongside classic legendary supernatural evils like the Headless Horseman, Dracula, or Frankenstein.

There’s a fair amount of speculation regarding the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition, but no one really knows for sure. The number 13 has been considered an unlucky number for hundreds of years. This is so prevalent that most hotels do not even host a 13th floor. The numbers on an elevator will often go straight from 12 to 14 because many people are afraid to rent a room on the 13th floor. It might seem crazy, but it’s true.

The superstition of 13 being bad luck seems to have arisen during the middle ages and is assumed to have come from the story of the arrest of Jesus after the Last Supper when He and His twelve apostles were present equaling thirteen.  Similarly, the fact Jesus was crucified on the following day; Friday made that day a particularly infamous part of the week, one which Catholics and Orthodox Christians still consider a day of fasting. These two beliefs combined seem to be the origin of the superstition; two unlucky points occurring at once although the origins of Friday the 13th being especially unlucky didn’t seem to arise until the 19th century.

In the 20th century authors such as Maurice Druon in his novel Le Roi de fer (1955), and John J. Robinson in his book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry (1989) postulated a connection between this superstition and the day on which the Knights Templar were arrested on charges of heresy by King Philip the IV of France, Friday the 13th of October 1307. This was echoed in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), and other books, memes and papers since then. Although this is one of my favorite hypotheses, the evidence to support this being the origin of the superstition is dubious at best. It’s more likely a combination of reasons.


In my car, as quickly as the ghastly woman had appeared in my rearview mirror she was gone, but I could still see the impression of her eyes. They were spots of dirt with what appeared to be smeared finger print running down the glass. As I was turning the corner the setting sun passed directly behind me for just a brief moment. The sun’s rays reflected off of the mirror in a manner framing the fingerprints in a glow and accentuating the smudges. Then my lizard brain took over and assembled this into an image I could make sense out of based on the fact I’ve been thinking about Friday the 13th and creepy stuff all day. When my daughter gets home from her dance we plan on watching some scary movies.

Human psychology is such a fascinating subject.


Midsommar, a Poor Rewrite of the Wicker Man

When I first learned about the movie Midsommar, I was excited to see it, but I was skeptical that it would be another modern rewritten and renamed reproduction of the Wicker Man. I’m not talking about the 2006 abomination starring Nicolas Cage. That was awful. I’m talking about that original 1973 British masterpiece starring Edward Woodward, and Christopher Lee.

Unfortunately, it was just a rewritten Wicker Man, and not good one.

The plot is very simple. An exchange student from Sweden decides to take some of his American college buddies home to take part in the Midsummer festival in Hårga, a reclusive Swedish commune. After a long, drawn out and obvious setup, Hårga is revealed to be a murderous, psychedelic-infused pagan cult as the guests start disappearing one by one, culminating in a grand holocaust at the end. In and of itself, as a Wicker Man rip-off that sounds like it has some promise.

Promise broken.

Midsommar failed on every level. The movie just didn’t make any sense and was full of plot holes and consistency errors, but the worst part was the awful pacing that rolled along like cold molasses. Scene after scene was just long, slow and drawn out, I suppose intended to create suspense, but instead created boredom.

If you could keep conscious through the slowest scenes, then you had to struggle through the lack of a compelling narrative. Once the main cast arrives in Hårga they indulge in eating psilocybin mushrooms, as is the custom of the village, and from then forward the cinematography is filled with psychedelic visuals rather than strong and original plot points. Actually that was the best part because other than visually, Midsommar also failed to deliver any psychedelic sensation thematically or philosophically. It was all just superficial like so much else in Midsommar.


The neo-pagan cult of Hårga was also poorly developed. There was no sense of a convincing philosophy at work that could compel a community to collectively engage in mass murder. The villagers followed a scripture consisting literally of crayon scribbles made by a severely deformed product of inbreeding. There was nothing more than a hack-job of mediocre imagery and costuming that came across as if it was cobbled together by someone who spent all of about thirty minutes researching paganism on the internet. It seems like they just ran with the most superficial aesthetics. In the Wicker Man, the paganism seemed sincere, and living. In Midsommar, it just seemed like post-Woodstock communal hippie LARPing.

The scenes that were clearly intended to be the most bizarre and mind-blowing or frightening more often came off as cheesy. The most noteworthy in this way was the breeding scene which almost came across like a bad comedy routine. Judging by the laughter from other audience members, I was not alone thinking this.

From beginning to end, Midsommar is a hack-job. The little that was good about it was done far better in the Wicker Man forty-six years earlier. All that was rewritten into that plot was poorly developed and thrown together, boring, or unintentionally comical. Not making any sense, especially after a post-viewing deconstruction is not the same as being mind-bending, or psychologically thrilling; it’s just poor writing.

My final ruling is that Midsommar is nothing more than a long, slow, half-baked rip-off of the Wicker Man without any of the charm or cultural depth. It’s not scary, not creepy and not a thriller, psychological or otherwise. And it tried way too hard to be all those things.


Motley Crue’s The Dirt Movie is a Wild Ride

The Dirt hit Netflix several days back and it’s pretty killer. I’ve only watched it four times since then.

To say “the book was better” is pretty cliché even if it’s true, but I have to respect the process and the logistics involved in making a film of this scope. It’s difficult to fit a 428 page memoir into an hour and forty minute movie. It’s probably even harder than fitting a 20 year career (at the time of publication) into a 428 page memoire.

I have to say I didn’t have a lot of high expectations for this movie. It’s easy to be cynical. Band biographies are often hit or miss and I didn’t care for some of the updates I saw of The Dirt as it was being produced.

Upon the first viewing, my concerns were mostly squashed. It’s a fun ride through the debauchery and maturing process of one of hard rock’s most notorious and most popular bands. Aside from a few minor timeline issues and some soft-balling of major tragedies, I can’t much complain.

I can easily forgive the timeline issues, as I said above it’s a 20 year career reduced to less than two hours. What more can we expect? We’re even afforded a scene when manager Doc McGee arrives in which guitarist Mick Mars informs us it didn’t actually happen that way. The Dirt acknowledges from within that there’s only so much time to make the important points and still have an entertaining movie.

The Dirt really captures the spirit, the attitude, and more than anything the personalities and the differences between them of the members of Motley Crue as I came to understand them over the more than three decades I’ve been a fan.

We get to see Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) as the dark, angry, creative force that he was and to some extent still is today.

There’s Tommy Lee (Colson Baker) as the young, naive, goofy, party animal he was always known to be.

Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) is as he was the rakish, blond, southern Californian playboy.

Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) is the older, grumpier, dry, no time for bullshit guitar slinger struggling with his crippling degenerative arthritic condition.


Highlights from The Dirt include a scene wherein the early pre-Motley Crue three-piece arrives at a party to try to recruit singer Vince Neil, and the stark contrast between the dark, grungy borderline punks, and the blond, glam rocking lady’s man is almost comedic.

Tommy Lee’s narrated scene on “a day in the life” of a drummer on tour would probably be almost unbelievable for anyone who hadn’t kept up with the reported antics of the band throughout the 80s and some of the 90s. Still, it’s among the funnier parts of the movie.

And of course, the tour with Ozzy Osbourne poolside scene when the Oz snorts a line of ants which is so infamous even The Family Guy had a segment about it is one of the more memorable and entertaining parts of the film.

However, it’s the soft-balling of two major tragic moments that bothers me the most for a movie that is supposed to be a tell-all expose of the best and worst of the Crue’s career.

For starters;
Vince Neil’s tragic car wreck that killed Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle is presented in a far less incriminating light than the actual accident. In the movie it appears as if it was little more than a silly conversation that distracted Neil, causing him to drift into oncoming traffic resulting in a wreck that ended the drummer’s life and stopped Hanoi Rocks in its rise to fame. In reality Vince Neil was very drunk, speeding at 65 mph in a 25 mph zone and swerving around a fire truck when he crossed into oncoming traffic and hit two other vehicles, killing Razzle and permanently crippling the two people in the other vehicle. It was an avoidable tragedy for which Vince only spent 19 days in jail.

Secondly;
Bassist, primary songwriter and visionary of the band, Nikki Sixx’s overdose in the movie is also a gloss job. The movie doesn’t shy away in the least bit from the crippling heroin addiction that nearly killed him. Well, technically it did kill him for about two minutes, but the paramedic managed to get his heart pumping again. Missing from the story is the reportedly cavalier attitude with which he injected the deadly dose. Also missing were the other prominent actors in the scene. It’s fairly well known that Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and drummer Steven Adler were at the party, but the movie completely leaves this out except for a brief shot of a figure strung out on the couch who resembles Slash. It’s a significant point considering it was Slash’s girlfriend Sally McLaughlin who performed mouth-to-mouth on Sixx before the ambulance arrived. Maybe these details were left out of the movie to avoid infringing on the reputation of the other band, but their image as heavy heroin users is well established in Slash’s self-titled autobiography anyway. On top of that, The Dirt didn’t mind depicting Van Halen’s David Lee Roth using cocaine in the band’s party pad earlier in the film.

The Dirt skips almost everything regarding the Crue’s time in rehab, but I didn’t mind because as Vince Neil says in the film “you don’t want to see any of that shit.”

They also skim through the John Corabi years as if it took place over little more than a few months, but since most real Motley Crue fans don’t care much for that period it’s fine. In fact, I can’t name a single song from that album. The main problem is that The Dirt completely neglects Vince Neil’s solo career as if the only thing that happened to him during that time was the tragic death of his daughter, Skylar.

The Dirt is a great ride, and a damn good biopic. It delivers well on the best and worst of Motley Crue’s history. It touches the perspectives of all four members of the band, as well as their manager Doc McGee and it experiments with nontraditional styles of story-telling, with fourth-wall breaking segments, cross-narration, comedy, and very candid representations of some of the darkest points of the bands lives.

Any fan of band biopics should enjoy The Dirt.

Star Trek Fleet Command Could Have Been Great. It Isn’t

Star Trek: Fleet Command is a player versus player (pvp) game designed by Scopely for mobile game play. I have played it almost daily for over a month at the time of this writing. Simply put; Star Trek: Fleet Command could have been a great game. It Isn’t

If you choose to play this game be prepared to pay a lot of money, or advance extremely slowly to the point of standstill.

The first 10 to 15 levels are really fun. There’s a steep learning curve, but the basics are easy to grasp in a short amount of time. The pvp aspect is more fun than the missions and really makes the game, and that at least improves as you exceed level 15.

Unfortunately once you advance past the 15th level the resources required to advance become harder and harder to obtain to the point of impossibility without spending several hundred dollars just to be the least bit competitive or no longer progress at all.

I’m not opposed to spending money on a game if it’s good and I get real bang for my buck, but Star Trek: Fleet Command is designed to milk players of their cash without delivering any real satisfaction. The packages available in the game aren’t particularly helpful and don’t really improve the game play much if at all.

After buying one package and using it to level up your ships, officers or station you just get stuck at another level until you’re willing to shell out even more cash for an even more expensive package. I’m at level 17, with some seriously good pvp stats, and I’m stuck again after spending more money than I care to admit.

Once you buy a $4.99 package it disappears forever and you can only buy the more expensive packages. Eventually, it seems only the $99 packages remain. This kind of intentional milking of players is unethical, especially since the money spent doesn’t really improve the playing experience.

This review is about genuine disappointment. When other players have complained and left the game, I kept playing and hoping to prove them wrong. I’ve played through and paid through some of the worst sticking points in the game. I endured the insane number of bugs in the beginning. I fully embraced the PvP aspect to the point I have some of the best PvP stats for my level than many other players I encounter. But at this point I’m just done.

It’s not fun anymore. The reward isn’t worth the grind. The sales aren’t worth the cash.

I won’t be uninstalling the app immediately. I might give it another week, but not another dollar. I’ll probably do a couple maneuvers or something to see if anything changes, but if this game does not improve significantly soon. I’m gone forever.

Star Trek: Fleet Command is the worst pay to win game I’ve ever encountered. It’s nonstop frustration because of the in game cost vs resource availability is horribly skewed. What makes it worse is the potential this game had for being great. It’s not a great game.

Update:
After about another month of checking in, the game never got any better. I did delete the game.


The Return of the Jedi is still a Great Movie

Tonight I’m watching Return of the Jedi with the girls.

You know, this movie takes a lot of flack, but when I was 8 it was the movie I was the most excited about seeing.

I saw Star Wars in the the theater before it was called “Episode IV”when I was three and no one knew what to expect, especially a toddler.

I didn’t even know The Empire Strikes Back was a thing until I saw the movie poster outside the theater some time before going to see it at the age of five.

But Jedi, I hassled my dad every day for months about going to see it until he threatened to not take me if I kept asking.

Return of the Jedi is the climax of the series. Even though it doesn’t have the high adventure of “A New Hope,” the introspection of “The Empire Strikes Back” and the Ewoks are kind of stupid, it’s still an amazing third act of one of the best epic dramas of western civilization.


A Critique of the Garden of Eden Story in Genesis

The “Garden of Eden” story in the Book of Genesis has always bothered me. It’s not a matter of criticizing this bit of religious legend because I disbelieve in it or the religions which claim it as their own. I’m pretty alright with most forms of the Abrahamic strains and the values they champion in society. I just find this to be poor story telling.

The Earth Always Required Tilling
In Genesis 2:5, God had created a barren Earth, with no vegetation because no rain had yet been sent and no man had yet tilled the soil. God then creates man (2:7), and then God, Himself plants a garden and causes every sort of good and edible plant to grow and then places man in that garden to “till it and tend it” (Gen 2:15).

God Knows He’s Dealing with Humans
In the middle of the garden, God placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:9). We can only assume that there was a purpose for God to place the two trees so near each other, but the document never explains if there is any reasoning for this.

God then says; “Of every tree in the garden you are free to eat; but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for as soon as (in the day that) you eat of it, you shall die (Gen 2:16-17).”

Context and audience should be of utmost concern in a narrative in order to understand the intent of God’s instruction. God was talking to a man, and the following verses where God creates a woman to be his companion assure us that it was a male human He was addressing.

And humans die. It’s just what we do.

Despite the standard theological stance that Adam and Eve were created immortal, the document of Genesis never actually makes this statement.

To a human; “If you eat that, you’ll die!” would logically be understood by a human to mean that it is toxic in some way and will kill them within a day or so.

It does not however coincide harmoniously with a statement such as; “I know I put that tree right smack in the middle of your smorgasbord, but if you eat from it I’m going to kick you out of the garden, make you work like a slave, and THEN after 900 years you’ll die.” So God is not quite being fully honest about his intentions or plans involving the man who is being expected to trust Him.


The Serpent is Punished for Telling the Truth
In Chapter 3 verse 1, the shrewd (arummim) serpent shows up, and asks the woman; “Did God really tell you not to eat the fruit from the trees in this garden?” And the woman explains that it is from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that the humans are not allowed to eat or even touch because they will die.

The serpent says; “You are not going to die, but god knows that as soon as you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will become like divine beings who know good from bad.” Once again it is a human being addressed here. It is a fact that death is a natural part of the human condition and Genesis does not suggest otherwise.

So with full consideration for the participants in the dialogue of the storyline we can address the statements being made in proper context.

First of all when asked if it was true that God had forbidden them to eat the fruit of the garden, Eve answered that if they even touch it they would die. This is obviously an inaccurate statement and the serpent informs Eve of such.

The truth turns out to be precisely as the serpent states it; the fruit does not kill them, it opens their eyes to the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, modesty from immodesty. These are all traits valued by civilization.

There is no evidence for a rational accusation of deception on which to indict the serpent. On the contrary, the only information we have on him is that every statement he makes in Genesis can be substantiated within the text.

The story does not tell us whether or not the serpent knew how God would react to their eating of the fruit. This seems like a vital plot detail to be left out if this was how the author intended it to be understood.

But God does react, doesn’t He? Upon finding Adam and Eve clothed in modesty because they ate from the tree of knowledge and now were wise like gods, the man’s integrity automatically collapses as he blames his wife.

God then confronts Eve and she alleges that the snake duped her. This accusation has no merit. All of the serpent’s statements have been solid, but God does not even take a statement from the serpent. Instead God just curses him.

Still there has been no explanation as to why God put that tree in the garden in the first place if he didn’t want humans to eat from it.

There is a mighty intelligent reptile in this story, though. Perhaps the tree was there for the animals to eat and learn good from evil, but not for humans?. How else could the serpent have been so wise?

Are the Curses Really Curses?
The next thing God does is curse the woman with painful childbirth and then the ground with difficult tending. Here we see elements from an ancient fertility cult. It’s fairly common in most indigenous religions and philosophies to see a connection between agricultural cycles and female reproduction, so it is a natural connection to make between more difficult childbirth and more difficult farming.

However, this unfortunate obstacle only requires human ingenuity to develop agriculture in order to overcome it. Tilling the soil is something that the ground required anyway (Gen 2:5) and something Adam was doing already (Gen 2:15).

The discovery or invention of agriculture is the main driving force for civilization and necessarily leads to food surpluses, vocational specialization, the market, economics and an overall higher standard of living. It’s difficult to view this as a bad thing. But then it’s also difficult to see acquiring knowledge of good and evil, morality and immorality as being a bad thing.

God says; “by the sweat of your brow you shall get your bread to eat until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you shall return (3:19).”

This curse does not really imply that death is anything new. It sounds more like the type of thing that might come during a breakup or a domestic dispute; “You’re going to work lousy job’s your whole life! You’re nothing but dirt anyway! You came from dirt and you’re always going to be dirt!”

Certainly none of this should be taken literally. I think it was never intended to be anything more than a deeply thought-provoking story to teach community values through proto-historical metaphor and allegory. It’s just poor story telling.


How to Learn to Play the Guitar

Learning to play a musical instrument can be one of the most rewarding pastimes a person can pursue. Among the myriad of instruments to choose from, none is more popular and accessible in Western culture than the guitar. The best method to learning to play the guitar is to secure formal lessons from a qualified and experienced instructor. The following points can be used along with such lessons or in place of them until such lessons can be obtained.

Acquire a Quality Instrument
The most vital aspect to learning to play any instrument is to have regular access to it. Fortunately guitars are very accessible and can be obtained at affordable prices from retail stores, pawn shops, and private sellers. Due to the nature of being a stringed and fretted instrument it is important to pick up a quality guitar. Learning the guitar is an experience that causes a certain amount of discomfort in the hands and fingertips for beginners. A poorly manufactured or damaged guitar can make the learning process even more discomforting and discouraging; making it more likely that beginners will give up the process before they experience any improvement. For this reason it is vital to have a quality guitar. These can be acquired brand new for as little as $100 at retail.

Acquire Educational Material
Educational material can be acquired at nearly any music store that deals in guitars, or from the internet. Many of these come in the form of books, some also contain audio disks, or DVDs. What a beginner is looking for is material that explains all the basics: the names of the different parts of the guitar, names and numbering of strings, fingers, tuning, and general care. It should naturally also contain examples of several open chords, barre chords, and at least a few progressions, and scales. If the material also contains examples of well known classic tunes, consider it a bonus.

Learn Chords
The foundation of guitar playing is rhythm, and chords are essential to playing rhythm guitar. The easiest chords to learn for a beginner are A, E, and then D. Any quality beginner material should contain these chords as well as many others. The internet is also full of many helpful sites that give this information away for free.

Learn Progressions
Progressions are a series of chords in a specific key that form the basis of songs. Many popular tunes are built upon progressions with as few as three chords. One such progression consists of the above mentioned chords, A, D, and E. This progression can then be built upon with other chords to create even more complex tunes. Understanding progressions is invaluable to learning to play or write songs.

       

Learn Scales and Theory
Music theory is vitally important to the process of actually understanding how and why music works. This includes how chords are formed, how progressions are made, and how melodies function. At the outset of learning music theory, one needs to learn scales.

Practice, Practice, Practice
“Practice” seems like an obvious bit of advice for anyone looking to increase their abilities, but one might be surprised just how many people expect to become the next Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton overnight. It’s just not going to happen like that. Practice at least one hour every day. Begin each practice session by warming up with something familiar. Once you are warmed up and in the musical state of mind, move into something new, or something you are still learning. You will certainly see improvement.

Jam with Other Players
Fortunately for new guitarists, their chosen instrument is so popular that other guitarists are typically abundant in any town. When looking to learn or improve your skills as a player, nothing can replace the experience gained by jamming with other players. It doesn’t necessarily matter if these players are more experienced than you, although that certainly helps. Even a guitarist with twenty years experience can learn something from a newbie with less than a year of playing. This is because playing music is such a personal experience that we all bring ourselves into the process, find our own licks, tricks, and techniques. We all have our own style, and even with limited experience we can actually wind up teaching our instructors, or learning from our students.

Once you’ve been playing regularly for six to twelve months with consistent practice you’ll start to become fairly proficient in the fundamentals. You should be able to play through a handful of songs, and should have some strong riffs and leads down. From here forward you’ll be progressing toward a level of proficiency that or maybe even join or start one of your own. Many great guitarists began working professionally without much more time behind them.

Happy playing!


Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story opened this month and everyone who has seen it has an opinion about it. Here is mine.

BEWARE: Here be minor spoilers!

I’ve heard multiple detractors say no one wanted this movie, that Han Solo is not a particularly popular character. It seems these critics consider The Clone Wars cartoon series as the standard by which they measure their appreciation for the Star Wars universe.

To be clear, I saw the original Star Wars when it was just called STAR WARS (no episode IV or subtitle) in the theater when I was three years old. Han Solo is my favorite character in the entire Star Wars universe. I have always wanted a Han Solo focused back-story in a spin-off since before the prequels were released, so I was eager for this film to be produced, released and to be sitting, popcorn in hand in a dark theater hoping they didn’t screw it up. I love the Star Wars universe, but I think the Skywalker/Vader, Jedi/Sith, Rebellion/Empire storyline is kind of played out, and I’d like to see explorations into other storylines, lineages and professions. The universe has so much to offer, why get bogged down with one family? Solo, I think was a good first step in that direction.

Like many Star Wars fans, I had a lot of concerns about this movie. Reports of production problems with fired directors, harsh criticism of the cast’s acting abilities and the need for scene reshoots were so dismal that I was genuinely concerned this movie would be a total disaster. I was confident however; if Episode I, The Phantom Menace didn’t ruin the franchise we’d survive any misfortune that might befall us with Solo.

I was worried that Alden Ehrenreich couldn’t pull off the character of Han Solo. Han’s persona is so entrenched with Harrison Ford’s depiction it makes for some rather large shoes to fill. Similarly, I was concerned that Lando Calrissian couldn’t be duplicated by Donald Glover or anyone else. Billy Dee Williams IS Lando, after all. Those worries were assuaged, I’m glad to say. Both actors did great jobs depicting their roles. I didn’t have any trouble believing Ehrenreich was Solo, and Glover’s Lando was spot on.

Solo is essentially a space western, and like a good western it’s all based around a train heist. It delivers the scenes and answers to questions we’ve had for four decades such as how Han found his way into the smuggling racket. We learn Han’s origins as an orphan, forced to steal to survive in the shadowy underworld of Corellia. We see Han acquire his surname almost like a mobster’s nickname because he is a loner; none of this “House of Solo” nobility from the now (thankfully) de-canonized Legends which I always thought detracted from his roguish nature.

Criticism

The movie did have a few drawbacks. I thought the first ten minutes on Corellia were a bit cartoony, but that didn’t really diminish the story. I would have liked to see a closer friendship and working relationship between Han and Lando before Han obtained the Millennium Falcon, and I would like to have seen him win the ship in a different manner than as depicted, but alas the writers and producers didn’t call me and ask for my pre-production opinions on the matter. Similarly, the initial meeting between Han and Chewbacca didn’t go exactly as I had imagined it, but it was one of the best scenes in the movie. The Kessle Run is something I always envisioned taking place much differently and at a time well into Han’s career as a smuggler rather than at the beginning, but the way it was depicted worked just fine.

A major disappointment in the film comes when the chief of Enfys Nest who gave our protagonists such trouble during the train heist, killing two of the major supporting characters turns out to be a teenage girl leading the incubation of the Rebellion. It’s not a particularly compelling plot twist, and it’s not very believable. It’s all too much Wesley Crusher for me, and it ruins an adversary with a lot of potential. Besides, she was responsible for the deaths of two of Tobias Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson) friends and rather endearing characters, and it’s never even addressed.

The worst character in the movie is without a doubt Lando’s droid L3-37 who is a rather accurate portrayal of the bothersome and trollish sjws she was modeled after. She added a level of cringe reminiscent of, but not as severe as Jar Jar Binks. I could have done without her character altogether and was glad when she was removed from further screen time.

         

Other reviewers have complained that Ehrenreich’s Solo was not as dark or grumpy as Ford’s, and that’s true. It’s what I would expect. This is a Han Solo who is a good ten years younger than Ford’s initial introduction of the character. This Solo is just entering a life of smuggling and piracy that would without a doubt offer plenty of opportunities for the disillusioning experiences that would turn the cocky and ambitious twenty-something year old Solo into the more selfish, and cynical thirty-something year old Solo we meet at the Cantina on Tatooine in Episode IV. Time and experience, especially in crime syndicates can change a man.

Solo is a good movie. Not a great movie, but the only Star Wars movie that comes close to being great since The Empire Strikes Back was Rogue One. It’s going to continue to be hard to measure any new Star Wars flicks up next to the originals. There will never be another Star Wars at that level, but Solo was a fun ride nonetheless. It was better than the prequels and the follow-ups so far, and I think well deserving of a place in the Star Wars canon.