I Phoned The Zoo But The Lion Was Busy

It was my sister-in-law's birthday yesterday. As the good brother-in-law I called to wish her a happy birthday. I called the house - they had already left for dinner. So, I called her cell phone. I dialled 514-555-5555 and a man with an East European type accent answered. My brother screwing around.
"Hey idiot," I said, "put your wife on the phone."
"Who ees dis?" The voice replied.
"Quit screwing around, I have to go, I want to wish her a happy birthday."
"Whoareyew, why areyew calling?"
Hmm... I think I got the wrong number. That's why I always send emails.
Wrong Number


Van Halen

In 1974 the band Van Halen was formed in Pasadena, California. Their debut and self-titled album launched to huge success in 1978 selling more than 10 million copies. Van Halen's success in the late 70s and into the 80s launched an era in rock music, knock off bands known as hair metal bands, playing a so-called candy rock that never reached the success, mastery or quality of work of the originators.
Van Halen

The band is made up of brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Eddie, the innovative and incendiary guitarist, has made the band's sound instantly recognizable. Alex has been playing drums since the bands inception right up until present day. Bassist Michael Anthony, joined the brothers in 1974 and played with them until 2006 when Eddie's son, Wolfgang, took over.
Van Halen's history is defined by two distinct eras, The David Lee Roth era from 1974-1985, and the era of Sammy Hagar that ran from 1985 to 1996. Post 1996 was relatively insignificant for the band - a failed album with Gary Cherone as lead singer in 1998 was followed by a greatest hits package in 2004 entitled Best of Both Worlds which featured their two original vocalists and nothing from Cherone.

Van Halen was hugely successful in their early years, the David Lee Roth bookend albums with, his first (Van Halen) and then last (1984), sold 10 million apiece. The six albums with Roth sold a total of 34 million copies, while the four with Sammy Hagar on vocals sold 15 million. Hagar was not a bad addition to the band. It was however, a different band with him. With Roth they were Van Halen. With Sammy they were Van Hagar. With Cerone they were a joke. 'Gary who?' you might be asking. Consider Cerone to be the George Lazenby of rock music.

Van Halen Album Sales

With David Lee Roth:
Van Halen 1984
Van Halen (1978) 10.3 million copies sold
Van Halen II (1979) 5.7 million
Women and Children First (1980) 4.3 million
Fair Warning (1981) 3.4 million
Diver Down (1982) 4 million
1984 (1984) 10 million

With Sammy Hagar:
5150 (1986) 6 million
OU812 (1988) 4 million
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) 3 million
Balance (1995) 2 million

With Gary Cerone:
Van Halen III (1998) 600k

While not the best selling of their albums, years later Diver Down is many a fan's favourite VH record. Filled with five covers and seven originals, as many as six tracks were released as singles.

Van Halen OU812
5150, named after Eddie's home studio, was Hagar's first recording with the band and their third best selling album of all time. The album featured some hard rick tunes but also signified a change of paths for the group as the disc contained love songs and ballads. Hagar's second foray with the band, OU812 provided such hits as When It's Love and Finish What You Started, but did not have the impact of the earlier release. The debate of Roth vs Hagar was quickly put to rest. While with Hagar the band published some top 40 hits, with Roth, they became Rock Gods. The band's earlier works with Roth are today considered classics. Sales continued to dwindle with Hagar's third album on the mic. The band took a hiatus from the studio for four years. Following Balance the band put together one more studio album.

Best Van Halen Songs (in order of release date)

Runnin' With The Devil - Van Halen
Jamie's Cryin' - Van Halen
Dance the Night Away - Van Halen II
And The Cradle Will Rock... - Women and Children First
Jump - 1984
I'll Wait - 1984
Panama - 1984
Hot For Teacher - 1984
(Oh) Pretty Woman - Diver Down
Why Can't This Be Love - 5150

What is your favourite Van Halen Album? Song? Video?
Van Halen made their mark early on with radio airplay. Their albums Diver Down and 1984 took full advantage of the early MTV days and the fledgling Much Music, promoting the band to their best sales in years. Amongst their most renowned videos was 'Hot for Teacher' from 1984. The theme of the students lusting after their teacher, appealed to a new generation of Van Halen fans who were captivated by the video. The David Lee Roth directed video 'Hot for Teacher' received heavy airplay on MTV.

In 1988 the band released Finish What Ya Started from the album OU812. A good song, not quite amongst their ten best. The video itself was noticed perhaps for the incredibly beautiful women. The acoustic guitars and vocals set it apart from the usual Van Halen fair. Considering I watched the video for the third time this week, perhaps it is all about the hot women.


Overzealous Censorship - When a Cock Isn't Really a Cock

The boys over at Hockey Trade Rumors are doing a real fine job. I visit the site every so often to check out the latest rumours from the hockey world. I hate the pop up adds and the team lineups are not up to date but, the site is updated regularly for content by the hosts and the contributors. Leading up to free agent frenzy or the trade deadline you may find some news of worth. The site's automated censor though, is just a bit overzealous. The headline that should read "Devils Haven't Contacted Hitchcock About Coaching Job" is, well, cock free. Ken Hitchcock's name has been censored by an automated and stupid censor gun. Censorship gone wild. I posted the screenshot just in case they decide to update the site. I couldn't find a search box so I am wondering what happened to Cory Pecker and Bill Quackenbush.  
Hockey Trade Rumors 


Blue Screen of Death

Not since I dumped my Windows 98 operating system have I seen the blue screen of death. Windows XP has offered a stable environment for the last number of years and I have avoided upgrading to a newer version. Windows 7 is getting better reviews than Vista but I am waiting, for now. I did try Ubunto and Mint but only as a temporary measure while combating system errors and viruses. Now, how do you deal with the 'Driver IRQL not less or equal' error?

Blue Bud Screen of Death
I almost hired a technician this week. I actually had one on the phone. My computer has been spontaneously rebooting, freezing or just not loading. Reminds me of David Letterman's Top 10 Least Popular New Car Options, Intermittent steering. By CD-ROM was not being recognized so I could not reload any fixes from the disk. I was lazy and called a technician. The spark went off in my brain though, and I said, what the hell am I doing? I can fix this. Every couple years or so my PC gets hit by a failure or a virus. I can usually fix it. If I can't, I get help from Mike O.
I ran through the usual steps, various anti-virus and malware scans. I ran the checkdisk options as well as the system file checker. But of course, SFC requires the original Windows discs, which of course requires a working CD-ROM. So, therefore the call to the technician. My BIOS was detecting the CD-ROM, Windows was not. The tech told me that I need a new disc player. A money grab on his part? Ignorance? If the BIOS is detecting the player, than it has to be a registry error.
Instead I thanked him for his time and told him I would call back to book an appointment (like, never). I then went to the nearest over-priced store that I could find with the poorest selection of CD-ROMs. At least I found two employees who knew what they were talking about. The first guy I spoke to knew about brands and features, the second guy knew about installation and repair and confirmed to me that the CD-ROM issue was likely in the registry. He did tell me to buy the player and said to just return it if I get mine working.
Blue Boob Screen of Death
Back to the Driver IRQL error. Several sources on the intergoogle provided several different possibilities. Some claim it is a hardware issue (RAM), some claim it is a driver issue (Nvidia).
While I have been able to stabilize the system from continuous rebooting, and I do have my CD-ROM working, a few more steps may be required. Most importantly, I CAN POST AGAIN! First, I will have to check for any conflicts or errors with my drives, specifically the nvidia driver. This could be done through Hardware Properties in System category in the Control Panel. Next I will run Memtest. Memtest is an open source program that is designed to test and stress test RAM for errors. To use it you must create a bootable disc so that you can run it at restart. Ultimately my goal is to backup my hard drive so that I can reinstall my operating system.

Llorando - Crying

From the 2001 film Mulholland Dr., the haunting and beautiful Llorando. Rebekah Del Rio sings this rendition of the Roy Orbison song Crying. This song was a jaw-dropping, show-stopping moment of the film. I have not been a fan of David Lynch. While he has done a terrific job with Wild at Heart and The Elephant Man, as well as the masterpiece The Straight Story, I find the moods of most of his other films disturbing and after watching Inland Empire, I vowed not to see another. Lynch has also had tremendous success with Twin Peaks and of course Blue Velvet while making his mark with Eraserhead. This version of Llorando, as the story goes, was initially recorded without Del Rio's knowledge. Years later, Lynch used the exact same version for Mulholland Dr.


Book Review: Raymond Feist's A Kingdom Besieged

Raymond E. Feist's latest release A Kingdom Besieged launches the final story arc called the Chaoswar Saga. A Kingdom Besieged is also the first of the final three novels in his Midkemian universe coming almost 30 years after the publication of his first, and arguably best novel, Magician: Apprentice.

A Kingdom Besieged
I have compared this series to the Star Wars saga in the sense that we already know what is going to happen and Feist had lately pigeon-holed himself into completing the entire story in a set number of books all the while filling in the gaps. Another problem that has surfaced stems from Feist killing off his best and most original characters. His last few books were far from his best, A Kingdom Besieged is a great read and a return to the Feist of old.

In many ways A Kingdom Besieged is a return to form for Feist. There are what I would call the 'oh no he didn't moments'. And yes, he did find a plausible loophole to raise the dead without it coming across as contrived. Almost. I will avoid any specific spoilers. A Kingdom Besieged is Feist's best book since those of The Serpentwar Saga. 

In his earlier books Feist's characters were so well thought out we recognized that REF was writing about people he knew personally. Those characters were close to him. Later, the new characters seemed foreign and their stories communicated as if they were being repeated and not a topic known first hand. This perhaps reflects on a rushed development process or, perhaps, someone running out of ideas. Feist always had success with developing rich characters that would leap off the page. Even some of his regular characters had lately seemed foreign to him. 

A Kingdom Besieged Book One of the Chaoswar Saga
The story picks up with the mighty army of Kesh marching into the Kingdom of the Isles, capturing towns and killing its residents. Initially Kesh's plans appear to be to recapture the land lost centuries before to the Kingdom. At the same time Pug, the most powerful magician in the world, recovering from the loss of his family, discovers increased turmoil in the Demon world. 

A Kingdom Besieged
The novel is faster paced than some of his more recent work. Perhaps Feist can be excused for a few lapses as, after nearly thirty years and more than two dozen novels his story is coming to its conclusion. With two more novels to go, the author will be challenged to match his best work. The next novel, A Crown Imperilled, is set for a spring 2012 release. While the final book, Magician's End is expected in 2013.

If you haven't read Feist before, A Kingdom Besieged is not the book with which to start. With limited character building the new reader will be left confused. The story though is quite good and there are enough twists and cliff hangers to perk your interest. Feist also managed to clear up some of the plot that didn't make sense in the last book. All of the Midkemian series are of the historical fantasy-adventure variety. The Riftwar series, contained much political intrigue. His Serpent War series, while still steeped in historical fantasy, took on a theological theme in this polytheistic universe.

Feist remains one of my favourite authors. A feat he won with his first four novels. His world of Midkemia is  the most detailed and interesting literary world since The Lord of the Rings. His novels MagicianSilverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon, along with the Empire Trilogy he co-wrote with Janny Wurts are numbered as his best works to date. (Click here for my review of At the Gates of Darkness)


Andrew Gold Goodbye

Talented singer and versatile musician and songwriter Andrew Gold died on Friday at his home in Encino California at the age of 59. Gold was undergoing cancer treatment but died suddenly from a heart attack.
Gold was perhaps best known song for the Golden Girls TV show theme "Thank you For Being a Friend". Gold got his start playing with Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. He later recorded with James Taylor, Jackson Browne, John Lennon and Paul McCartney backing them on their solo projects.

Gold had success on his own starting with his debut 1975 self titled album. He went on to release nine albums. His biggest hit came with the storytelling song "Lonely Boy" which climbed to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.

Andrew Gold - Goodbye