Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I guess it's more of a figurative title

Picking up on a theme we started with the last's confession time! I am a sucker for good movie titles. This explains why I've watched The Ghost and the Darkness more than once. I'm not really sure what exactly entails a good movie title. It has to hit me in just the right way. This is exactly what happened with Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.

I originally came across this movie while researching Zhang Yimou, director of big hits like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. I had seen and enjoyed both of those films so I figured there was a good chance of Riding Alone being of equally high quality. I was disappointed in unexpected ways.

Don't get me wrong, the movie was quite good. The story focuses on Gouichi Takata, a man estranged from his son for several years. The first scene of the film depicts Gouichi learning the news that his son is in the hospital, dying of liver cancer. Gouichi's daughter-in-law gives him a sample of the film his son was creating about the Chinese Nuo opera Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, hence the title. Gouichi decides to complete the filming of the opera to earn the forgiveness of his son.

So we have a standard journey of self-discovery, right? Well, sort of. Gouichi doesn't do much riding alone and although he travels thousands of miles in the relative comfort of modern transportation. Instead Gouichi embarks on a journey fraught with...well, inconvenient setbacks, such as language barriers, arrested actors, prison regulations, other people's estranged sons, other people's estranged sons running away, and so forth. In the end, Gouichi realizes that he needed to forgive himself as much as he needed his son's forgiveness.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Three Dog Night

Let's start out with a confession: I am a sucker for a good guitar riff. Thus my off-and-on relationship with groups like ZZ Top and Rage Against the Machine. They have some awesome riffs, heck, even Rage's overall message isn't bad, at least it addresses issues that most people are afraid to address; although I thought the same about Michael Moore and he turned out to be just a liberal with a camera...but I digress...despite the music any time the vocals come in I want to stop the song.

With that background in my mind we'll get down to the topic at hand. Namely Three Dog Night. If you don't what I'm talking about you'd better go to Youtube and look up some of their songs. I recommend Joy to the World as a starting point.

One of the things I like the most about Three Dog Night is their lyrics. They cover a whole gamut of styles and range from the absolutely ridiculous to the surprisingly profound. Check out some examples:

From Play Something Sweet:
"Play somethin' sweet, play somethin' mellow
play somethin' I can sink my teeth in like jello"
"Play somethin' sweet and make it funky,
just let me lay back and grin like a monkey"

These lyrics are the kind of thing that make you wonder what they were smoking back in the '60s and '70s. I mean really? Who uses rhymes like those?

From Never Been to Spain:
"Well I never been to heaven
but I been to Oklahoma
Well they tell me I was born there
but I really don't remember"

We see some improvement here. There's no atrocious rhymes (although they later rhyme Oklahoma with Arizona) and the meter flows very well. But still, what are they even saying?

From Black and White:
"The ink is black,
the page is white.
Together we learn
to read and write."

Ah yes, the activism of the '60s shines through. Does anybody make music like this anymore? I honestly have no idea. True, the lyrics are rather simplistic and this is their only good analogy, but the song as a whole makes an excellent and relevant point.

From Sure as I'm Sitting Here:
"Don't gotta look for God,
He's just sittin' here.
And I think he's got a plan
but it's not too clear."

Maybe it's just me but these are some of the most profound lines that I've heard in a mainstream song and they're hidden away in one of the silliest sounding songs. This is the kind of thing that makes me enjoy Three Dog Night. I'd elaborate but I don't fully understand it myself.

By the way, my interpretation of the lines: firstly I see a parallel here with 1 Kings 19 or Elijah's experience on the mountain, waiting for God's presence; it's not a huge event, it's in the quiet whisper, the stillness because God is just sitting here waiting for us to stop hurrying around and notice him. Secondly, I see a warning against trying too hard to understand the will of God. Too many people create their own interpretations of what God wants but how are we as mere humans supposed to fathom something like that? It's not clear to us, but it's clear to God and we just need to put our trust in Him.

I hope you at least enjoy the music.