"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Minutes to Midnight and your friendly neighborhood . . .

OK, time for something a little different. Last week I bought (actually, downloaded) Linkin Park's newest album, Minutes to Midnight. Various entertainment channels had said this album was quite different from their last couple, showing the influence of a new producer; and that this was not necessarily a good thing. The sound, they said, was quite un-Linkinish, with much less rock-rapping and a lot more melodramatic ballad-ing. There's some truth to this. Overall, Minutes to Midnight generally lacks the constant rage and angst of Meteora or Hybrid Theory. But that doesn't make it a bad disc. There are a few gems, some of which harken back to the band's original style, and some which are just plain good regardless of genre. Bleed It Out is classic Linkin Park, with Shinoda rapping out the whole song and the band bringing aggressive energy to the melody. Leave Out All The Rest and Shadow of the Day are some of the unusual tracks; the first channels some of the 'hard but sensitive' rocks groups like Nickelback or Seether, the second was almost U2-like in its sound and emotional underpinnings (and that is the highest musical praise I can render). Both shy away from the band's normal style, but both are quite good. Linkin Park also decided to enter some new - for them, anyway - musical territory by commenting, quite explicitly, on current political issues. Hands Held High takes snarky swipes at Bush being both stupid and scary, with ominous 'Amens' in the background, and recycles the tired Hollywood line of the rich sending the poor to die in America's wars. The Little Things Give You Away uses more subtlety than sledgehammer, and thus works more effectively. It evokes the image of a Katrina victim, swamped by the storm's waters, staring far up into the sky as the nation's leader watches from the comfortable distance of an airplane. It's powerful and condemning stuff. Most of the other tracks are forgettable material, more a vague hybrid of pop and rock than the true rap-metal that made Linkin Park famous. Overall, it is very different, and I'd say quality throughout doesn't reach that of their previous works; but there's still some great music worth listening to on here.

Just saw Spider-man 3 last night, and I gotta say: the critics were right on that one. It took a long, long time to wind things up to the grand finale, and required a great number of convenient plot twists along the way. I saw way too many introspective close-ups of Peter Parker battling his inner demons, and not nearly enough of Venom beating on Spidey (and I wish they could make Aunt May sound just a little less like 'Dear Abby' with an extra dose of syrup and honey). There were some great visuals and a few good one-liners, but it's certainly the weakest of the three. This series either needs to be laid to rest, or continued with an eye focused more on the comicky fun of the first two and less on marketability.

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