Feb 07 2014

February Potpourri: Crooks, Books, and Hooks

Published by at 11:00 am under Books,Columns,Television

banshee-lucas-968x431

Unreality Magazine’s Paul Tassi recently discovered and wrote about the testosterone goodness that is all things Banshee – Cinemax’s hyper-violent Friday night drama set in a sleepy li’l Pennsylvania town – and I wanted to chime in with my very own enthusiastic thumbs up. (Not that it’s needed …) I’ve been with Banshee since its humble but bumpy beginnings. I was there when faux-sheriff Lucas Hood (pictured above) killed his first baddie with a bottle of steak sauce. Through the mouth. I wanted to assure you that the show – now in its second season – only keeps getting better.

And bloodier.

Despite all of the gunplay and fisticuffs (there’s at least one bare-knuckled brawl that’ll knock your socks off in every episode), what keeps me coming back isn’t the action: it’s the characters. They’re just all so … so … so … broken. These are deeply flawed individuals. Severely traumatized. Immeasurably unfixable. In fact, one could argue that’s precisely why their fights are so bad: when you’re this low on the food chain, all you can do is fight back with everything you’ve got.  They come out kicking and scratching and swinging for dear life.

Whether it’s Sugar (the town barkeep who knows where to bury a few bodies) or Job (the computer hacker who can’t decide which gender he’d rather most be) or even Gordon Hopewell (the district attorney who’s not above bending a few laws if it produces the desired results), each and every one of Banshee’s resident misfits will do what it takes to serve and protect their own interests … and, in that uniquely odd twist of fate, each and every one of them are exactly who you’d want to have in your corner were your back against the wall.

You hate yourself for it.

That’s the Banshee way.

There’s so much more worth exploring. If you haven’t yet discovered the show, then (as they say) you’ve no idea what you’re missing.

takeshi-kovacs-movie-506

Richard K. Martin’s Takeshi Kovacs Novels

I don’t read much hard sci-fi.  Even worse, the hard sci-fi I do read I don’t do very timely. I’ve always been a s-l-o-w reader, which (confession time!) is why I hated doing it back in school. It’d probably take me twice as long to read the average novel as the next person – I “think” too much when I read – but I still get it done.

Anyway, I don’t know if any of you who ‘game’ the future also read the future, but, if you do, you’ll probably be interested in what Richard K. Morgan has done to his particular land of tomorrow. (FYI: I’ve read that his novels have been optioned as films, but I don’t believe anything has come from transaction.) He’s created a character named Takeshi Kovacs – essentially a soldier of fortune whose skills are available to anyone with a line of credit – and he’s placed him in a distant future wherein consciousness can be swapped from body-to-body, so you’re borderline immortal right out of the gate. But there are limitations, and those limitations of course is where these stories take off.

I just finished Broken Angels, and I’d imagine it’s probably the kind of sci-fi many of Unreality’s readers might enjoy. It’s hard to explain the story – the nutshell: Kovacs is hired to protect a pair of science types in their quest to open a Martian wormhole.  There’s just so damn much going on in the text, context, and subtext. You’ve got the military, dueling galactic corporations, a lingering space war, fallen civilizations, ‘stargate’-style technology, and even cybersex makes an appearance. There’s just so much going on in its 400 pages to talk about that it blows the mind.

Blew my mind, for what that’s worth.

def-leppard

Rediscover Def Leppard … By Way of Bluegrass

In one way or another, I think many of us online today are products of the 80’s.  We love 80’s movies.  We love its TV.  And, for my tastes, there’s no better band from the 80’s than Def Leppard. Having listened to them regularly since On Through the Night (1980), I know that most people came to them a few years later when Pyromania (1983) screamed up the charts worldwide.  Later releases like Hysteria and then 1992’s Adrenalize only continued to cement their legacy.

Fast forward to 2013: Def Leppard staged an impressive mini-residency at Las Vegas’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (been there, stayed there), where the band undertook recreating Hysteria track-for-track to a live audience.  (FYI: it’s available on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray for interested patrons). Plus – like any good blokes would – they played songs from their catalog, several of which they did with merely acoustic guitars, light percussion, and vocals, which always sounds killer.

Anyway, I was doing some internet searching the other night while reading up on the boys in the band when I happened across something that I just love. See, one of the things I’ve always argued that makes music such a universal experience is that you can take a particular ‘sound’ if you will – think Def Leppard – and then adapt that sound for another audience entirely. Little is lost in the translation from one musical genre to the next.  When it done right, the end result might even force you to discover something fresh, something familiar, yet something brand new about the experience.

So – without further ado – I’d encourage all of you to open your iTunes portal (or Amazon, if you prefer) and search for “Pickin’ on Def Leppard.” It’s a 2005 album which takes a handful of better hits and transforms them into bluegrass numbers.  It may not be Joe, Rick, and Phil on instruments, but it’ll tug on your heartstrings nonetheless.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s been done before. It’s a gimmick. Or, maybe, I’m not gonna listen to bluegrass, you twit.

But if you’re all a product of the 80’s like the rest of us then it’s your responsibility to carry on that legacy. Go and hear what Pour Some Sugar On Me might sound like for the Grand Ole Opry crowd. You just might like what you hear.





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One response so far

  • Mike M

    I started a few weeks ago watching Banshee based on your review of the first season, and I gotta say, THANKS!! One awesome show. I don’t have Cinemax and I had never heard of this show until I read your article. I have also caught a few other shows and movies I did not know of based on what I read here and on Better than Bacon. Keep up the good work!

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