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Update May 2017

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Update May 27, 2017

Ramblin’ Man a highlight of summer rock festival season

If you happen to be venturing to the UK this summer and are a lover of rock music, you might want to set a few days aside to visit the Ramblin’ Man Fair music festival at Mote Park in Kent, south-eastern England.  Back for its third year, the festival, which takes place from July 28-30, promises in 2017 to be bigger and better than ever.

Mote Park is situated on 450 acres of undulating parkland at the foot of the North Downs in the Weald of Kent, the ‘Garden of England’.  It used to be a private mansion and estate but was bought by Maidstone Borough Council in 1929 for the princely sum of 50,000 English pounds.  It features a collection of public sports fields, a wonderful lake for sailing, fishing and model boats, and a leisure centre with swimming pools and gyms.  All of this is nestled amongst the hop fields and apple orchards of Kent.

Once a year the grounds give way to the Ramblin’ Man Fair, a wonderful three-day event for all the family and music connoisseurs and the festival could not be more perfectly situated, with plenty of parking areas and easy access by road, rail, or bus services.  The event provides ‘glamping’, camping, and a site for mobile homes as well as giving advice on the varied accommodations in the area.  The fair itself is only a fifteen minute walk from Maidstone town centre.

When it gets to 4.00 pm on Friday, July 28, the doors will open to the main arena which holds over 100 different food stalls offering every kind of cuisine you can imagine.  There are whisky tents, a children’s fair ground, motorbike shows, a wall of death, a fun fair and, perhaps most importantly, huge banks of clean amenities for the Ramblin’ Man audience.  This fair is not just for old rockers but the whole family as well.

Crowds gather at the Classic Rock stage at Ramblin’ Man 2016. (Photo/Colin Mottman Powell).

With regards to the music side of things, there are rock’n’roll bands in abundance with four stages set well enough apart so there is almost no sound bleed from one to another.  And what magnificent bands they have lined up this year too.  From America, the mighty ZZ Top, the funk/rock of Extreme, the prog rock of Kansas and the heavy metal of Y&T, as well as some of the best British bands including UFO, one of the finest bands to ever tread the boards, Rival Sons, Magnum, and more heavy metal from Saxon.

All told, there are over 60 bands that will take to the various stages over the three days, and we must not forget the ‘Rising Stage’ where up and coming bands get to flaunt their stuff.

Unlike any other music festival, it is the atmosphere here that really makes Ramblin’ Man stand out.  Friends are made quickly and easily and the organizers never make the mistake of over-selling it, with crowds kept down to 15,000.  In the amount of space they have, this is not too many people and allows plenty of room to enjoy yourself whilst rambling (sic) from the beer tent to one of the stages whilst eating home-made pie and chips or whatever grabs your fancy.

For tickets, and all that comes with it, please look up the Ramblin’ Man website at

Note: Mott the Dog can usually be found in his kennel at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Nova Park, Soi AR in Pattaya.

With an arched brow, Roger Moore found humor in Bond, life


British actor Roger Moore is shown in this 1972 file photo. Moore passed away Tuesday, May 23 after a short battle with cancer (AP Photo)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) — Sir Roger Moore always made sure to laugh at himself before the audience could.

With a mere arch of an eyebrow, Moore, whose wit was dryer than James Bond’s martinis, could convey a skepticism of his accidental profession, disarming good looks and the suave characters he often played, from Bond to Simon Templar, all while saving the day and charming a scantily clad girl in the process.

Sporting a posh accent and square jaw, Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, looked the part of a movie star and a debonair international spy. But beneath the surface, the policeman’s son from South London, a sickly child and plump kid who always chose a joke over a street fight, saw the inherent ridiculousness of 007 — and left an indelible mark on the role, and a generation, because of it.

“You can’t be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is,” Moore often said. “That’s just hysterically funny.”

A large part of his charm is that Moore never set out to be an actor.  As a teenager, on a lark, he tagged along with some friends doing crowd work on the Vivien Leigh and Claude Raines film “Caesar and Cleopatra” and caught the eye of someone who thought he should meet the director,

“He said I think you should be trained. I said, ‘Oh how wonderful,’” Moore recalled in an interview.  “So I rushed home and told my mother I was going to be Stewart Granger.”

Stardom did not come immediately, however.  Moore toiled as a working actor, in television and films in the UK, and then in the U.S. as a studio contract player for MGM before breaking through in a few television roles, in “Maverick” and then “The Saint.”  The long-running show “The Saint” about the witty and charming romantic hero Simon Templar, many noted, was not unlike Moore himself — and would inform how he chose to play James Bond over the course of seven films, starting with “Live and Let Die” from 1973 and ending with “A View to a Kill” in 1985.

For many, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” from 1977, is one of the greatest Bond films, and certainly the best for Moore — even though praise at the time was almost backhanded.

“Roger Moore is so enjoyably unflappable that you sometimes have to look closely to make sure he’s still breathing,” wrote critic Janet Maslin in the New York Times.  “But his exaggerated composure amounts to a kind of backhanded liveliness.  Though Mr. Moore doesn’t compromise the character, he makes it amusingly clear that hedonism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Moore knew his own shortcomings, and would joke about them readily.  He liked to say that the difference between The Saint and James Bond was in the eyebrow.

“In ‘The Saint’ I did raise my eyebrow,” Moore would say.  “I don’t think I ever raised my eyebrow in Bond ... except possibly when a bomb went off.”

He spent a lot of his time talking about those eyebrows that some critics tried to lance him for, drolly explaining that he had only three emotions — one eyebrow raised, the other, or both.

“A lot of the time, I laugh at myself as a defense mechanism,” Moore said, always aware that his “even features” were both an asset to stardom and an impediment to being considered a serious actor.  There might have been some truth there.  Though well-known, Moore never rose to prestige roles.  Even in his most well-known part, as Bond, he was doomed to always be compared to his predecessor Sean Connery.

Moore accepted this fate with good humor, insisting throughout his life that Connery’s Bond, more macho and a killer, is the definitive and best interpretation.

In fact, most of his accolades, including his knighthood, came from his work off-screen humanitarian with UNICEF, which he found through his friend Audrey Hepburn.

“He does not regard everything as a laugh, but he would die rather than let you see,” said his friend Michael Caine.

But he carried on the act, like a good soldier, throughout his life.  Even recently, when asked what audiences can expect from his well-reviewed one-man stage show, Moore hesitated only to laugh.

“Two hours good sleep,” he said.

Killer artificial intelligence returns in ‘Alien: Covenant’

Michael Fassbender portrays android David in “Alien: Covenant.” (Mark Rogers/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

Sandy Cohen

Los Angeles (AP) - Modern movie culture would have you believe artificial intelligence is out to kill us all.

In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Hal, the AI computer aboard a space flight to Jupiter, develops a mind of its own and turns against the crew.  “The Terminator” makes his mission clear in the movie’s title.  Ava, the pretty-faced android in “Ex Machina,” has a killer instinct.  David, the pretty-faced android in “Prometheus,” also doesn’t have the best intentions for human survival.

“Prometheus” director Ridley Scott, who further explores the cunning side of artificial intelligence in his new “Alien: Covenant,” says, “If you’re going to use something that’s smarter than you are, that’s when it starts to get dangerous.”

It’s been a running theme through Scott’s three films set in the “Alien” universe, dating back to the 1979 original in which Sigourney Weaver battles not only an alien killing machine but also Ash, an android who views his human crewmates as expendable.  “Prometheus” in 2012 introduced David, an earlier android version with a similar lack of scruples about protecting humanity.

Filmmakers have long projected that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity, and some top scientists and tech leaders — including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — share their concern.

Musk, an early investor in the development of AI, told Vanity Fair earlier this year that he worries the technology could ultimately “produce something evil by accident,” such as “a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.”

But astrophysicist, author and film fan Neil deGrasse Tyson said he believes there’s nothing to worry about.  Killer androids may make for fun film fodder, but he doesn’t think they’re an imminent, or eventual, reality.

“I’m completely fearless of AI,” Tyson said, noting that human beings have been inventing machines to replace human labor since the days of the Industrial Revolution, and computers have succeeded in outsmarting people since before Watson beat Ken Jennings at “Jeopardy!”

In movies, artificially intelligent beings might look human, but most real-life robots don’t, he said.  The robots welding parts on automobile assembly lines look like machines, not mechanics.

“The first thing we think of when we have a machine that has capacity is not to put it into something that looks human,” Tyson said.  “Because the human form is not very good at anything, so why have it look human?”

An exception would be “sex robots,” he said, adding rhetorically, “Is this robot going to take over the world?”

For Scott, the possibility of evil artificial intelligence comes back to the question of the creator: Who is doing the creating, and for what purpose?

“Whoever the inventor is, he’s going to want to go the whole nine yards,” the filmmaker said.  “Hence you get the expression of the mad professor who makes a mistake in going too far where the alien is way smarter than he is or the monsters are way smarter than he is and that’s where you get problems.

“But we will definitely go there.... Because what it’s leading to is the question of creation.  And creation, I don’t care who you are, is on everyone’s mind.”

Tyson is also fascinated with creation.  His latest book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” is about the birth of the universe and carbon-based life.

Androids, though, “are just completely pointless,” he said.  And they couldn’t become self-aware without consciousness, something scientists have yet to fully grasp.

“You’re saying we’re going to end up programming this into a machine and then it’s going to decide we shouldn’t exist, when we don’t even understand our own consciousness?  I just don’t see it,” he said.

Besides, if somehow artificially intelligent androids do go rogue, Tyson has a solution.

“This is America,” he said. “I can shoot the robot.”

Feels like the 1st time: many ’77 rock kings still touring

Mick Jones of the band Foreigner is shown performing in this July 3, 2014 file photo. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Wayne Parry

Holmdel, N.J. (AP) - It’s more than a feeling: Many of the rock ‘n’ roll bands that were huge in 1977 will comprise a big part of the summer concert market 40 years later.

Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart are among those launching major tours this spring and summer, even though some of them haven’t had a big hit since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

Concert industry executives say nostalgia acts are still reliable sellers, with satellite and classic rock radio keeping their hits alive.

“The simple answer is that good music is still good music,” said guitarist Tom Scholz, who founded Boston and found immediate stardom with tracks that remain staples of classic rock playlists including “More Than a Feeling,” ‘’Peace of Mind,” ‘’Long Time” and “Don’t Look Back.”  ‘’It’s pretty much still Boston, as long as I’m alive, as long as I can stand up and play.”

To get a feel for how long ago that was, 1977 was the year that serial killer Son of Sam was arrested in New York, when “Star Wars” and “Saturday Night Fever” packed theaters, and when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, died.

It was the year Kiss neared the zenith of its popularity, with the “Love Gun” and “Alive II” albums.  Fellow shock rocker Alice Cooper scored huge airplay with an unexpected orchestral ballad, “You and Me.”  Rod Stewart was on every rock and pop station with “Hot Legs,” ‘’You’re in My Heart” and “Tonight’s the Night.”

It’s easier to list which songs on Billy Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” weren’t major hits than to list the ones that were.  And Foreigner followed Boston’s success of a year earlier to become the new overnight sensation with a debut album that sold 4 million copies, powered by classics like “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold As Ice.”

“I never could have imagined when I set out to create Foreigner 40 years ago, that we’d still be touring around the world and performing the music we love all these years later,” said guitarist and founding member Mick Jones.  “I can’t express the gratitude I feel when fans share stories of how our songs have been woven into their milestones and memories over the years.”

That’s a big part of why classic rock bands remain reliable draws on the concert circuit, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry publication Pollstar.

“The audience that grew up on rock ‘n’ roll are still rock ‘n’ roll fans,” he said.  “They still want to see these acts, whether they have a new record or not.  That’s a big part of the concert business.”

And fans are forgiving (or sometimes oblivious) of lineup changes.  The original singers for Boston and Queen died, Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm left in 2003, and Kiss’s original lineup last toured in 2000.

Aerosmith is the most unlikely band of survivors, given its members’ history of drug use. Yet they’re still out there with all five original members.

“Anytime I can go see Aerosmith, I will go,” said Queen guitarist Brian May.  “I love to take my kids to let them see what it was really like to be in a rock concert and have that spontaneity and danger and passion.”

Update May 20, 2017

Film Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’ brings a return to gut-busting horror

This image shows Katherine Waterston in a scene from “Alien: Covenant.” (Mark Rogers/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - Ah, the siren song of John Denver.  Who among us can resist it?  Certainly, not the crew of the Covenant, a vessel powered by a golden sail cruising through space with 2,000 “colonists” in hyper sleep and years to go until they reach their destination.

But when a shock wave from a solar flare jostles the crew awake, they soon begin hearing a faint transmission of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” emanating from a curiously Earth-like planet.  Such sonic waves would be expected if this was “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but this is the “Alien” universe — no place for sunny ’70s singer-songwriters.  When the antsy crew deviates from their carefully planned mission to seek the transmission’s source, we know it’s only a matter of time until cosmic crustaceans begin bursting forth from bodies.  Take me home?  You betcha.

“Alien: Covenant” is, itself, a homecoming of sorts for a well-traveled franchise.  Since Ridley Scott’s 1979 original — still the ultimate deep-space horror — “Alien” has passed through numerous directors (James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and a prequel reboot, Scott’s “Prometheus.”  That film, more bloodless and brainy, sought to answer questions of origin with some pretty audacious back-story and — there’s just no easy way to say this — eyebrow-less colossuses who created the universe.

In Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” taking place ten years after “Prometheus,” the so-called Engineers are, thankfully, nowhere to be seen.  Back instead are everyone’s favorite extraterrestrials, those acid-dripping drama queens so fond of making a big entrance.  Like some of the alien offspring, “Covenant” is a hybrid: part gory “Alien”-style scare-fest, part chilly “Prometheus” existentialism.  It’s a tall order of thrills and theology that the ever gung-ho Scott, working from a script by John Logan and Dante Harper, comes close to pulling off.

But while “Alien: Covenant” has an ace up its sleeve — Michael Fassbender times two — the sheer number of tricks “Alien: Covenant” pulls out, some of them lifted from the five earlier installments, adds to a general sense of deja vu, which is no doubt made worse by the many “Alien” rip-offs that now adorn our galaxy.  Yet what was once a slithery straightforward monster movie in space has mutated into an impressively ambitious but overly ornate saga.  “Alien: Covenant” has plenty to offer, but unfortunately requires ample study of “Prometheus.”

The captain of the Covenant (James Franco, for a heartbeat) doesn’t survive the shock wave, leaving the uncertain Oram (Billy Crudup) to lead the crew that includes Daniels (Katherine Waterson, our more demure, less imposing Ripley), the imprudent pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Walter (Fassbender), an upgraded model of David, the android the actor played in “Prometheus.”

It’s Oram’s decision to detour for the John Denver-blasting planet, one that initially looks smart. Once through the stormy atmosphere, they find a beautifully mountainous landscape complete with foggy lakes and fields of wheat.  But there are ominous warnings, like an eerie silence because of the lack of any animals or birds.  And who planted the wheat?  When one of the crew members says he’s going to “take a leak,” he might as well be announcing his imminent death.

When things go haywire, the crew freak out and make such poor, emotional decisions that you, as in prior “Alien” films, find yourself rooting for the creatures with bike-helmet skulls.  They might not be pretty, but they’re not foolish.

The “Alien” films have always been where our idealistic adventuring and world-conquering hubris are brutally brought down to earth, even in the deep reaches of space.  That’s why the insertion of an artificial intelligence has been fitting.  The lone human(ish) presence on the planet turns out to be David, who has, ala “Apocalypse Now,” been living a godlike existence, lording over his creations.

Not as intensely mechanical as his newer model, he has clearly developed some unusual glitches.  He quotes Byron, with jealousy.  Like a robot Brando, he sings “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” while trimming his hair.  He’s a kind of frustrated poet who yearns to create like the man who made him.

The scenes between David and Walter have a strange, erotic energy.  David, trying to unshackle his fellow android from servitude, urges him to make music and teaches him how to play a recorder.  “You have symphonies in you, brother!” he encourages.  For Fassbender, an actor capable of precision and madness in equal measure, the dual parts are a feast.

There are moments for Daniels and the Alien, too, as “Alien: Covenant” winds along.  But by the film’s belabored end, the franchise has shed its host.  This is no longer an “Alien” movie, it’s an android one.

“Alien: Covenant,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.”  Running time: 123 minutes.  Two and a half stars out of four.

Ballad beats glitz as Portugal’s Sobral wins Eurovision

Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Iulia Subbotovska/ Jim Heintz

Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — A gentle romantic ballad challenged the Eurovision Song Contest’s decades-long reputation for cheesy, glittery, unbridled excess — and won easily.

Portugal’s Salvador Sobral sang his Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Both) in a high, clear tenor accompanied by quiet strings and a piano in last Saturday night’s extravaganza, which was watched by millions around the world.

Unlike the 25 other competitors who performed on a wide stage backed by flashing lights, bursts of flames and other special effects, Sobral sang from a small elevated circle in the middle of the crowd, an intimate contrast to others’ bombast.

“Music is not fireworks, music is feeling,” he said while accepting the award.

Sobral won in a landslide, capturing 758 points, 143 more than second place.

Runner-up Kristian Kostov of Bulgaria wasn’t short on feeling — his powerful song “Beautiful Mess” was awash in melodrama, the singer appearing almost wrung out by romantic turmoil.

Moldova’s Sunstroke Project finished a surprising third in the 2017 contest with a bouncy, jazzy song called “Hey Mama” in which the female backup singers hid their microphones in bridal bouquets.

Update May 13, 2017

Film Review: In ‘Colossal,’ the inner monsters are literal

Jason Sudeikis (left) and Anne Hathaway are shown in a scene from “Colossal.” (Neon via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - The Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo makes funny, fantastical, Frankenstein-like films that playfully combine small-scale with big-concept.  His 2011 film “Extraterrestrial” is a romantic comedy centered on a handful of characters amid a massive unseen alien invasion.  His “Timecrimes” was about a marriage filtered through a time-traveling murder mystery.

“Colossal,” his second English-language feature and biggest production yet, fuses a traditional rom-com plot — big-city girl returns to her hometown — with a far more monstrous genre: the kaiju film.  It’s a tantalizing prospect.  Who among us hasn’t wondered what if Sally had met Godzilla instead of Harry?  Would “Sex and the City” not have been improved had Mothra been on the loose?

In truth, “Colossal” is a more sly manipulation and inversion of genre.  Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an unemployed New York writer who spends her nights drinking before making apologetic early morning returns to her boyfriend’s (Dan Stevens) luxury apartment.  The more-together Tim, in the film’s opening scene, has had enough.  “I can’t deal with you in that state,” he says.  He packs her bags.

Gloria retreats to her small-town home, crashing at her family’s now empty house, and the movie starts taking the shape you’d expect it to.  Gloria runs into an old friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who cheerfully hires her as a waitress at his bar.  Gloria, again, doesn’t make it to bed until the sun is up, spending nights drinking with Oscar and his pals (Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell).

The mess Gloria — alcoholic and inconsiderate — makes turns out to harm not just those around her, but thousands of fleeing Koreans.  She wakes to see news reports of a monster attack in Seoul.  Later, she realizes with horror that the monster has her mannerisms (a particular way of scratching its head) and there’s a strange coincidence between its regular appearances (always at 8:05 a.m.) and whenever Gloria steps onto a nearby playground.

To say more would risk spoiling the primary pleasure of “Colossal”: watching Vigalondo juggle his outlandish premise with twists both realistic and implausible.  There’s a thrill to riding along with a movie that plays it straight-faced before so readily jumping into the absurd.

But it’s a cheap thrill.  “Colossal” sags under its high concept; its metaphors, not monsters, run amok.  The movie’s kaiju side is merely a fun-house mirror held up to its characters’ emotional troubles, an eccentric mask for a fairly unimaginative story about a young woman trying to get her life under control.

The one-trick act of “Colossal” becomes tiresome even as its leads — particularly an excellent Hathaway — work to find some depth in the story.  Most interesting is the turn that comes for Sudeikis’ Oscar, whose old flame for Gloria is more sinister than you’d expect.  This is the movie’s more clever twist, but it feels less organic than it ought to — just a convenient way to lead up to the required monster melee climax.

Yet Vigalondo remains a tantalizing filmmaker who may well find a story to match his mash-ups.  There’s something in the way his characters’ lives are refracted and manipulated through screens that resonates.  (His last film, “Open Windows,” was about a blogger lured into spying on his favorite actress through his laptop.)  He revels in eradicating the chasm between us and what we watch.

“Colossal,” a Neon release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for language. Running time: 110 minutes.  Two stars out of four.

With ‘Alien,’ ‘Blade Runner’ sequels, Scott looks forward

Film director Ridley Scott. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) – Ridley Scott insists he is not a nostalgic person, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the 2017 movie calendar.  Not only are audiences getting another “Alien” movie, “Alien: Covenant,” on May 19, but also a long-time-coming “Blade Runner” sequel in October.

Scott made his name in Hollywood with “Alien” in 1979.  It was the kind of genre-busting horror that continues to inspire pale imitations to this day. (Including one this year’s Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds space pic “Life.”)  And then, in 1982, his futuristic neo-noir “Blade Runner” gave a new aesthetic to our dystopian future.  It may have confounded most upon its release, but the sublime mind-bender has gained a cult and eventually popular following over the years.

While the titles might suggest otherwise, Scott says he’s more interested in “what’s next.”

“I never look back,” Scott said recently by phone.  “I only look forward and think I’m very lucky to be able to do that.”

In fact, he’s so focused on what’s next that even while talking big ideas about creation and “Alien: Covenant,” Scott was doodling an image for scene 103 of his upcoming John Paul Getty kidnapping film, “All the Money in the World.”

“I can do very good telephone doodles and they actually turn out as storyboards,” Scott said matter-of-factly.  “I’m storyboarding as we speak.  I’m able to do that.  It’s all in my mind.  I think I’ve got a kind of photographic memory.  I was born with it.  You either have it or you don’t.  So that’s been quite useful.”

“Alien: Covenant” is intended to be a sort of bridge between Scott’s original “Alien” and the 2012 prequel “Prometheus.”  Scott has wanted to explore the origins of how that creature breathing down Ripley’s neck came to be and ask the question that “Alien” didn’t: Why would anyone make such a monster?

The question is brought up in “Prometheus,” technically the fifth film in the “Alien” universe, but most people who saw the 2012 prequel left feeling deeply confused.  Scott is well-aware of this and promises there will be some clarity in “Covenant.”

“‘Prometheus’ leaves us with a lot of questions and ‘Covenant’ answers a lot of those questions,” he said.

“Alien: Covenant” brings in a new team, the crew of a colony ship, including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride, who believe they’ve found a paradise.  Of course that turns out not to be the case.

Michael Fassbender’s “Lawrence of Arabia”-loving android David is back too, as is a new android, Walter, also played by Fassbender, and the monster itself.

“We found out that the good old beast was still very popular with the audience, so I decided to re-inject some of his presence back into it,” Scott said.  “It gets pretty gnarly.  I’m very pleased with it actually.”

Scott says audiences can expect some philosophizing and spectacular visuals, including an idea he came up with to solve the problem of how the ship would continue getting and storing power in deep space: Massive sails, about the size of six football fields that can soak up the radiance in space and store it as power.

“I discovered recently that’s exactly what NASA are doing,” Scott said.  “You can make a fabric that is stronger than metal and you can fold it up into a massive box and it will fold away like a good sail on a sailing ship so I apply that kind of thinking and there we have it.  It works.  And then you get it in the hands of the visual effects people and it all looks pretty good.  So we’re going to send it to NASA to see if I can speed up the process for them.”

That the film is being promoted as an “Alien” film rather than a “Prometheus” sequel is confounding to some, including Forbes’ box office writer Scott Mendelson, who points out that “Prometheus” was rather successful.  It made over $400 million worldwide against a $130 million budget.

“They’re selling its relationship to a franchise that is well-known but isn’t insanely beloved.  It’s a geek franchise,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson added that while nostalgia might sell for some, it’s not going to bring in a younger audience with its hard R rating.

Still, Scott has ideas for at least a few more “Alien” installments.

“In answering the question ‘who, why and when was this thing made and for what reason,’ it presents a whole different universe, so the universe starts expanding, which I think is healthy.  Why switch it off?” Scott said.  “What it’s leading to is the question of creation.  And creation, I don’t care who you are, is on everyone’s mind.”

Whether or not audiences will see that expanded universe will depend on how well “Covenant” does.  Closer on the horizon is “Blade Runner 2049,” which is set 30 years after the original.  Scott helped the screenplay and produce, but ceded directing responsibilities over to “Arrival” helmer Denis Villeneuve.

And while Scott might not consider himself nostalgic, he is at least a little excited about one crossover moment: The second “Blade Runner 2049” trailer is supposed to play in front of “Alien: Covenant” showings, which, Scott says drolly, “will be cool.”

Kiss: Alive II – 5 stars

Kiss, the wonderful made up band, started releasing albums 33 years ago and ever since that distant point in time it has been a real rocket ride for both the group and its fans.  First we got the debut album “Kiss” (1974) and later the same year were presented with “Hotter Than Hell”.  Then, in 1975, we were offered “Dressed to Kill”, but none of these releases did as well as either the band or their record company Casablanca had hoped. 

All that changed later in 1975 however with the release of the first Kiss live album “Alive”, which was a smash hit all over the world and especially in America, where it remained on the Billboard Top 100 charts for two years, peaking at number nine.

Over the next two years the band delivered three more studio albums in the shape of “Destroyer”, “Rock and Roll Over”, and “Love Gun”.  In between these recording stints the band would take their amazingly over the top stage show out on the road, but keeping up this frantic pace meant something was likely to break, so whilst the Kiss band members were given a small rest and relaxation period a second live album was created.  This was engineered,  produced and mixed by Eddie Kramer, who had been involved in all the Kiss albums up to this point and also worked with the cream of rock & roll; Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and The Beatles to drop in just three.

An attempt had been made to get the latest Kiss live show down on tape in Japan earlier that year but the results were deemed unsatisfactory so only a couple of songs were deemed good enough for this recording.  Fortunately the shows from the ‘Love Gun World Tour’ at the Los Angeles Forum in August 1977 were also recorded and so were the sound-check songs, the latter meaning the studio engineers had a variety of live Kiss songs to select from but without an audience, so crowd noises were later over-dubbed.

What you get here is a selection from all three sources but it still runs like the perfect live concert.  The band and management’s reluctance to repeat songs from the first live album meant only songs from the three previous albums were included in this set, which in the days of vinyl meant that they covered three sides of the album whilst the fourth was taken up by new studio tracks.

While all this was going on, lead guitarist Ace Frehley had decided to take his ‘time off’ part of the deal a bit too seriously and only actually appears on one song on the studio recordings, and that was “Rocket Ride” which he sang on while also playing lead guitar and bass guitar.  Bob Kulick was whipped into the studio and laid down the other lead guitar parts (uncredited until the re-released version in 1997) except on a great cover of the Dave Clark Five hit, “Anyway You Want It” where Paul Stanley took all the honors.

American rock band Kiss.

But never mind all the sleight of hand, this album is still a scorcher with an adrenalin-charged buzz running right through it.  It opens up with the famous introduction from the MC of “You wanted the best? You’ve got the best.  The hottest band in the world - Kiss” (cue massive amounts of pyro) and then it’s straight into a hard rockin “Detroit Rock City”.  From there on out it’s chocks away and head for the stratosphere with highlights including a thunderous “Ladies Room”, Paul Stanley going totally over the top on “Love Gun” and Ace Frehley showing why he gained cult status as the best glam rock guitarist from another planet.  Beth is extremely soppy but then the girls in the audience all love it.

This is the perfect rock & roll party album.

Kiss Personnel:

Paul Stanley – guitar and vocals

Ace Frehley – lead guitar and vocals

Gene Simmons – bass guitar and vocals

Peter Criss- drums and vocals

Track List:


Detroit Rock City

Kings of the Night Time World

Ladies Room

Makin Love

Love Gun

Calling Doctor Love

Christine Sixteen

Shock Me

Hard Luck Woman

Tomorrow or Tonight

I Stole Your Love


God Of Thunder

I Want You

Shout It Out Loud


All American Man

Rockin’ In The USA

Larger Than Life

Rocket Ride

Any Way You Want It

Note: Review written by Mott the Dog and Hells Bells.  If you fancy a chat about rock music, Mott the Dog can usually be found in his kennel at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Nova Park, Soi AR in Pattaya.

Joss Stone provides intimate evening at Cloud 47

Joss Stone serenades her fans in Bangkok.

Mark Taylor

Acclaimed English singer/songwriter Joss Stone performed a sold out intimate concert in front of just 400 lucky fans in Bangkok recently, the open air rooftop concert being held for charity at the swanky Cloud 47 restaurant.

Part of her Total World Tour, where Stone ambitiously aims to perform in every country on the globe (Thailand marking her centenary show and nation), the March 9 performance was stripped back with just a three-piece band and Stone barefoot in a white summer dress, zestfully making her stunning voice heard immediately on the funky opener “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People”, dedicated to the previous day’s International Women’s Day.

The 400 strong audience at Cloud 47 lapped up the performance by the English songstress.

More uplifting messages were delivered with “Big Ol’ Game” and the reggae flavoured “Love Me”.  A charged up “Super Duper Lover” got everyone out of their seats to dance along while a chatty and feisty Stone bared her Dover soul on music, which built into a flamboyant crescendo from her band. 

The ska groove of “Harry’s Symphony” kept the dance flow going before she expressed her remarkably versatile voice further on a bewitching cover of “I Put A Spell On You”.

Leaving with the ballad “Right To Be Wrong” saw Stone playfully throwing out orange chrysanthemums into the appreciative crowd.  It was indeed an enchanting evening under the stars.

(Photos courtesy Team Joss)

Real-life ‘Rocky’ gets his moment on-screen

Chuck Wepner talks to The Associated Press in his home in Bayonne, N.J. in this photo taken Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Josh Cornfield, Associated Press

Bayonne, N.J. (AP) - Forty-two years after he stepped into the ring against Muhammad Ali as a 40-to-1 underdog, Chuck Wepner’s business card still has a picture of the moment when he knocked down the champ.

For the New Jersey boxer, it gave him brief hope that he could win.  For Ali, it led him to start fighting with a vengeance, eventually taking an exhausted Wepner out with 19 seconds left in the 15th and final round.

For Sylvester Stallone, the overmatched underdog’s fight was a moment of needed inspiration while writing the script for “Rocky.”

Stallone became a superstar and Rocky Balboa became an iconic character.  Wepner reeled off a few more wins and continued his day job as a liquor salesman, while living a hard-partying lifestyle that led to prison.

Tony Perez sends Chuck Wepner to a neutral corner as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (left) starts to get to his feet during the ninth round of their title bout at the Cleveland Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio, March 24, 1975. (AP Photo/Charles Knoblock)

Wepner’s life story has now arrived on the big screen with Liev Schreiber playing the Bayonne Bleeder in “Chuck,” which opened last week in the United States.

“Everyone says to me, ‘Oh, Chuck, finally you got your due,’” the 78-year-old Wepner said from his living room in Bayonne, the working-class town across the harbor from New York where he grew up.

“You know what, I’ve been living large for 42 years.  I fought Ali in ’75, I went 15 rounds, I had him down, and then they made the movie ‘Rocky.’  I was the inspiration.  I haven’t been waiting around.”

Wepner and Balboa’s story share similarities — low-level working class fighters getting a shot at the champ.  But while Rocky went on to beat the Ali-like Apollo Creed in their “Rocky II” rematch, Wepner turned to a life of partying and cocaine.  He pleaded guilty to drug charges in 1987 and served two years of a 10-year sentence.

Like Rocky’s fight with Hulk Hogan’s Thunderlips character in “Rocky III,” Wepner was thrown out of the ring by wrestling legend Andre the Giant at Shea Stadium in New York in a 1976 fight.  Unlike Rocky, Wepner also fought a bear.

Wepner sued Stallone in 2003, arguing that he improperly used his name to promote the “Rocky” films.  Stallone responded that Wepner benefited by making public appearances as “the real Rocky,” but later settled.  A spokeswoman for Stallone said he wasn’t giving interviews ahead of the film.

Schreiber said that it’s hard to look at some of the parallels between Rocky Balboa and Wepner and not think that Stallone was inspired by Wepner’s life.

“But I also know from talking to Sylvester Stallone that he thought the fighter was an amalgamation of several fighters,” Schreiber said, “and that probably the biggest inspiration to him was sort of his own battles as an artist, that was really the inspiration for the character.”

Schreiber, who said he was drawn to Wepner’s life as a cautionary tale of fame and celebrity, said that storytellers often exploit real people to create their narratives.

“And I think that’s OK,” he said.  “I think that’s the nature of art and storytelling.  Some stories stay very close to the truth ... but I think we should also feel the license to expand on some things and express ourselves as fits the person that’s creating the story.”

“Chuck” also stars “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss as Wepner’s second wife and Naomi Watts as his third wife, Linda.  It was Linda who helped Wepner get his life together after he was released from prison and later convinced him to sue.

While Wepner admits he did a bad job auditioning after a night of partying when Stallone tried to give him a part as his sparring partner in “Rocky II,” the last straw was not being considered for a part in the Stallone and Robert De Niro film “Cop Land,” which filmed near Bayonne.

“I sued for $15 million, fuhgeddaboudit, I didn’t get a minute percentage of that,” Wepner said.  “Stallone and I are friends now.  We had to go to court.  That was just business.  I love Sylvester, I think he’s great.  I think his moves are great.”

“Chuck” director Philippe Falardeau said that while there are similarities between Wepner and Rocky, Stallone’s character was “much more low-key, much more insecure.  Chuck Wepner has no insecurities.  He’s so confident.”

Falardeau said that Stallone gave the filmmakers his OK.  Just as important, Falardeau says: As the movie ends with Schreiber’s Wepner and Watts’ Linda walking down the boardwalk, he stops for a Polaroid photo in front of a Rocky statue outside of a Planet Hollywood.

Falardeau said Stallone lent the statue to the filmmakers from his personal collection.

Ancient Roman monument-turned-eyesore gets needed makeover

A view of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome during a special opening for the press, Tuesday May 2. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)

Trisha Thomas

Rome (AP) - The mausoleum of Emperor Augustus, a towering monument when it was built in 28 B.C. but long a decrepit eyesore in Rome’s historic center, is being restored.  The 10-million-euro public-private facelift is expected to be completed in 2019.

The structure, located along the Tiber River, is made up of circular, vaulted corridors with the sepulcher in the center.  It has been covered with trees, weeds and garbage and closed to the public since the 1970s because of safety concerns.

Its restoration is being financed by the city of Rome, the culture ministry and a 6 million-euro donation from the TIM phone company.

Last week, Mayor Virginia Raggi donned a protective helmet and paid a visit.  “I hope the mausoleum will be given back as soon as possible to the people,” she said.

Augustus had the mausoleum built for himself and the imperial family, and it also houses the bones and ash of Emperors Vespasian, Nero and Tiberius, each indicated with a marble plaque.

The structure, originally 90 meters in diameter and 45 meters high, originally featured a bronze sculpture of Augustus on the roof.  Its location a stone’s throw from the Tiber gave it maximum visibility around the city of Rome.

Over the centuries it was used as a fortress, for bullfights and for concerts.  Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, eager to revive Roman imperial glory, restored the area and built a square piazza around it called Piazza Augusto Imperatore, which today houses upscale restaurants and shops.

But the mausoleum itself was shut down in the 1930s, fenced off and left in disrepair.

In the first phase of the restoration, workers cleaned out the garbage and cut back the trees and weeds that grew up inside.  Phase two involves installing electricity and a cover.

The restored mausoleum will have an adjoining museum, elevators and a shop, making it a convenient stop alongside the nearby Ara Pacis altar which received a Richard Meier-designed protective covering a decade ago.

Augustus was 35 when he had the mausoleum built, shortly after his victory in the naval Battle of Actium, where he defeated the fleets of Antony and Cleopatra, consolidating his power and making him the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire.

Guitarist sues to stop use of Jefferson Starship band name

In this July 24, 1987 file photo, members of Starship, from left, Mickey Thomas, Craig Chaquico, Grace Slick and Donny Baldwin, pose outside the Berkeley Community Theater in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Doug Atkins)

San Francisco (AP) - A founding member of Jefferson Starship has filed a lawsuit to stop some of his former bandmates from using the band’s name for upcoming performances and merchandise.

Guitarist Craig Chaquico is asking a judge to prevent a new iteration of Jefferson Starship from using the name in the federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco.  He claims the group has been using the Jefferson Starship name without permission, and has used his image to promote shows through early 2018.

The lawsuit said the band’s members agreed to retire the Jefferson Starship name in 1985 after founding member Paul Kantner left the group.

Chaquico allowed Kantner to use the Jefferson Starship name for several years, but that right ended when Kantner died in 2016, the lawsuit said.

Jim Lenz, a representative for the new iteration of Jefferson Starship, did not immediately respond to an emailed message seeking comment.

The band has gone through numerous iterations, starting out as Jefferson Airplane, which featured Grace Slick singing huge hits such as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” and famed guitarist Jorma Kaukonen.

Chaquico was discovered by Kantner and enlisted the guitarist into Jefferson Starship in 1974.  The group broke up a decade later, prompting Chaquico and other members to form a new group, Starship, which recorded the hit “We Built This City.”

“This case is about tarnishing the legacy of the original Jefferson Starship band,” Chaquico said in a statement.

“We retired the name in 1985 and we agreed that nobody would use the name again.  For this band line-up to tour and call itself Jefferson Starship is woefully misleading to the public and confuses longtime fans.”

Update May 4, 2017

Film Review: ‘Guardians’ returns and it’s better than the first


This image shows Zoe Saldana, from left, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, in a scene from, “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.” (Disney-Marvel via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - In James Gunn’s sequel to his swashbuckling space Western, the Guardians of the Galaxy do their version of “The Empire Strikes Back,” complete with daddy issues but with a considerably more anarchic spirit and enough acerbic interplay among its interstellar gang to make Obi-Wan blush.

The wild whiz-bang of the first “Guardians” and its gleeful upending of superhero conventions was, I thought, not the second-coming others felt it was.  Having sat through a meteor shower of imposingly well-made Marvel products, the too-pleased-with-itself “Guardians” felt to me like an intensely scripted politician trying to smugly crack wise.

When the motley crew of scavengers reunites in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” many of its tricks — the anachronistic ’70s hits, the exotically foul-mouthed creatures — are not the sneak attack they were in 2014.  But that turns out to be a good thing.  No longer so busy advertising his movie’s genre transgressions, Gunn, who wrote and directed the sequel, is free to swim backstrokes through his cosmic, CGI-spiced gumbo.

It’s a soupy, silly spectacle that recalls, if nothing else, the weird, kaleidoscopic design of a Parliament-Funkadelic album cover.  Gunn’s film also shares George Clinton’s goofy extravagance (and includes his song “Flashlight”), and a neon-colored cast with its own Mothership.

There are two types in the universe, Dave Bautista’s muscle-mound Drax declares early on.  “Those who dance and those who do not.”  In the “Guardians” universe, which blithely mocks just about everything, this is close to a mission statement.  Whereas the first film featured Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill on a faraway planet bopping to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” the early scenes of “Vol. 2” find the Guardians battling some giant monster while Baby Groot — the extraterrestrial tree turned sapling (voiced by Vin Diesel) — grooves to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.”

The “Guardians” universe, made up of such ironies and oddities, worships at the altar of incongruity.  Referenced within are “Cheers,” Mary Poppins, Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” David Hasselhoff and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”  It’s the kind of wacked-out tapestry that even Lindsey Buckingham would find head-spinning.

While Quill resembles a classic Han Solo-like hero, his fellow Guardians — Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned Gamora, the caustic, Bradley Cooper-voiced raccoon Rocket, Drax and Groot — are a multi-species band of outsiders.  No two are alike in temperament or genetics.

Though they bicker endlessly, they’re a cobbled-together, multi-species family, just one more likely to trade insults than hugs.  And the nature of family is at the center of “Vol. 2.”  Quill, having lost his mother as a young child in the first film, learns that his father is a “celestial,” or deity, named Ego (Kurt Russell), with a planet of his own creation.  The Guardians meet him after fleeing the remote-controlled pods that pursue them when Rocket steals batteries from Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the High Priestess of the golden-hued Sovereign race.

Returning is Michael Rooker’s excellent Yondu Udonta, who resembles a rejected audition to the Blue Man Group and controls a lethal arrow with a whistle.  He’s hired to capture the Guardians, but his character — who raised the orphaned Quill — plays an unexpectedly emotional role in Quill’s journey into his past.  The effect is similar for Gamora’s sister Nebula, the Guardians’ furious prisoner.  Others are in the mix, too, including a brief cameo by Sylvester Stallone and, more impressively, Chris Sullivan’s mutinying, unfortunately named pirate Taserface.

All of the names, though, are kind of joke, as is much of the plot (batteries?), the planets and, well, the whole operation.  In one scene, an escaping ship shoots through so many hyper-speed portals that their faces go bug-eyed like Looney Tunes characters, maybe revealing the films’ underlying DNA.

But while this “Guardians of the Galaxy” has no earnest belief in its sci-fi theatrics (the credits action scene is largely just blurry background to Baby Groot’s dancing), it believes surprisingly sincerely in its characters’ inner lives, the ones buried beneath their sarcastic exteriors.  “Guardians” takes place further in the reaches of the galaxy than any other Marvel movie, yet it’s the most earthbound.  In the words of David Bowie, another space oddity, let’s dance.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence, and brief suggestive content.”  Running time: 136 minutes.  Three stars out of four.

‘Baywatch’s’ Dwayne Johnson just wants to entertain you

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (left) and Alexandra Daddario are shown in this promo photo for their new movie, “Baywatch”.

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - In 2000, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was trying to break into Hollywood.  He was off to an OK start.  The pro-wrestler already had a following, a role in “The Mummy Returns” and high-wattage charm.  He also had no acting experience, no idea how Hollywood worked, and, besides a few idols in Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, no blueprint for success.

“I couldn’t say, ‘Oh, let me just follow the half-black and half-Samoan actor who was also a wrestler.  Let me follow his path.’  That wasn’t an option, that wasn’t there.  So I was forced to create my own,” Johnson said recently.  “I have an ideology that I always like to share with the inner group, and with some people on the outside, and I’ll share it with you: I don’t just want to play the game. I want to change the way the game is played.”

And he did, becoming one of the world’s biggest movie stars in the process, with a booming production company, a year-round filming schedule, 84.4 million followers on Instagram, 11.2 million on Twitter and a reported $64.5 million salary in 2016 that put him at the top of Forbes’ highest-paid actors list.

“Alone among his generation, Dwayne Johnson has aimed for middle of the road, broad, appealing, leading man status,” said Richard Rushfield, who runs the Hollywood newsletter The Ankler. “While his peers have carved out more edgy, cool, of-the-moment profiles, Johnson has assiduously whittled down the rough edges of his early ‘The Rock’ wrestling persona.”

Simply, the 44-year-old superstar is an entertainment machine and, like Schwarzenegger before him, summer is his main stage.  There’s his pre-summer “Fast and the Furious” movies, which Johnson is credited as helping to revitalize.  The latest is expected to cross $1 billion globally this week.  But Johnson has also proven himself to be a summer draw on his own in leading roles in the disaster pic “San Andreas” in 2015 and the buddy comedy “Central Intelligence” in 2016.  This summer, he’s betting on “Baywatch” as a potential new franchise.

“I love being able to create big movies or TV shows that entertain people, that make them happy. I know what it’s like to earn a dollar.  I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and wonder how you’re going to pay the rent.  I know what it’s like to be evicted.  Money doesn’t fall out of the sky.  So if you’re going to pay for your ticket, that inspires me to want to make a great movie,” said Johnson.

Johnson, who heads up the production company Seven Bucks with his ex-wife Dany Garcia, may be the purest expression of a global entertainer there is, aside from Tom Cruise or Will Smith.  He thinks big.  He thinks globally.  The audience is king.  And he’s going to put in the work to make sure they’re smiling.

It’s that thinking that led him to the “Baywatch” movie.  Johnson was a teenager when the show was at the height of its popularity.  He appreciated the “sexiness” of it, but also considered it kind of cheesy.  Then, about five years ago, he was told it was the most successful television show of all time — an unparalleled global hit.  And that settled it.  Johnson would have to don the red trunks.

The film is not the television show, nor is it trying to be.  There are still red suits, and the babes and the bodies and some of the same names (Johnson is Mitch Buchannon, the role originated by David Hasselhoff), but he says their movie is funnier, raunchier, more action-packed and, well, more self-aware.  The cast includes Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra.

“I always say, I have one boss.  Not the movie studios ... The audience.  The people.  They’ll dictate if there’s another one,” Johnson said.  “And I think we have a good shot.”

Mott the Dog: Goo Goo Dolls wrap-up Asian tour in Bangkok


John Rzeznik croons to fans at the Bangkok Convention Center, February 13. (Photo/Miracle Management)

Mark Taylor

New Yorker rockers Goo Goo Dolls recently finished off their Asian tour in a most welcoming air-conditioned venue on the top floor of the Bangkok Convention Center.  It was the first visit by the band to Thailand and a delight for their many fans here, many of whom have waited since 1986 to see the group perform live on home soil.

Former drummer Mike Malin had departed from the band in 2013, leaving what was felt by many to be an insurmountably large hole in the Dolls’ line-up.   But additional new musicians brought into the ranks have quickly gelled into a very fine professional unit, leaving many not noticing any changes at all, and besides, the main two protagonists are still there.

In Bangkok the band gave a satisfying two hour set packed with 22 tracks, with each one being a real Goo Goo Dolls style hitter.  Their acoustic rock driven program started with the recent “Over And Over”, with the young female fans down the front clamouring to get the attention of poster boy pin up John Rzeznik, a frontman who has managed to keep his stylish good looks throughout his career.  His sidekick, bassist Robby Takac, is an energetic soul who adds the power to the boppy rebel beat and later in the show he took over the vocals for the punk charged “Bringing On The Light”.

Robby Takac pumps out another bassline.
 (Photo/Miracle Management)

It was Rzeznik though who predominantly held court, especially with his acoustic guitar playing on the more subtle “Name” and the ballady “Better Days”, while a jovial heckler couldn’t falter him on the country flavoured “Come To Me”.

From their most recent album “Boxes”, “The Pin” was a standout amongst many of their Stateside hits but inevitably it was group’s biggest hit, “Iris” from 2012, a number one on the American Pop billboard charts, that raised voices all around the packed arena.

A solitary encore of the apt “Long Way Home” saw a snowstorm of confetti and giant white balloons released down from the ceiling rafters, ensuring a mass party atmosphere.  It concluded a refreshing set from one of most inoffensive of rock bands who really know how to please.

Goo Goo Dolls in Bangkok:

John Rzeznik - guitar and vocals

Robby Takac - bass guitar and vocals

Additional musicians:

Brad Fernquist - guitar and mandolin

Karel Tunador - keyboards, saxaphone and guitar

Craig Macintyre – drums

Set List:

Over & Over

Long Way Down


Big Machine

Rebel beat

Here Is Gone

Black Baloon


Bringing On The Light


So Alive




Better Days

Already There

Come To Me

The Pin

Stay With You




Long Way Home

‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ author dies at 88

This 1975 image shows author Robert M. Pirsig working on his motorcycle. (William Morrow via AP)

Hillel Italie, AP National Writer

New York (AP) - Robert M. Pirsig, whose philosophical novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” became a million-selling classic and cultural touchstone after more than 100 publishers turned it down, died last week at age 88.

Pirsig’s died at his home in South Berwick, Maine after suffering from failing health.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was published in 1974 and was based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took in the late 1960s with his 12-year-old son, Chris.

Like a cult favorite from the 1950s, Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the book’s path to the best-seller list was long and unlikely.  It began as an essay he wrote after he and Chris rode from Minnesota to the Dakotas and grew to a manuscript of hundreds of thousands of words.

After the entire industry seemed to shun it, publisher William Morrow took on the book, with editor James Landis writing at the time that he found it “brilliant beyond belief.”

Pirsig’s novel was in part an ode to the motorcycle and how he saw the world so viscerally traveling on one, compared to the TV-like passivity of looking out at the window of a car.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” ideally suited a generation’s yearning for the open road, quest for knowledge and skepticism of modern values, while also telling a personal story about a father and son relationship and the author’s struggles with schizophrenia.

A world traveler and former philosophy student, Pirsig would blend his life and learning, and East and West, into what he called the Metaphysics of Quality.

“But some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality,” he wrote.  “But when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof!  There’s nothing to talk about.  But if you can’t say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists?  If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist at all.  But for all practical purposes it really does exist.”

The book was praised as a unique and masterful blend of narrative and philosophy and was compared to “Moby Dick” by New Yorker critic George Steiner, who wrote that Pirsig’s story “lodges in the mind as few recent novels have.”  Writing in The New York Times, Edward Abbey was unsure how to categorize the book.

“Is ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ a novel or an autobiography?” he wondered.  “In this case the distinction seems of no importance; maybe it never was.  Call the book, as Pirsig himself does, an inquiry.  Therein lies its singular energy and force.”

Pirsig’s response to his unexpected success was to step away from it.  He avoided interviews and took 17 years to complete “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals,” the sequel to his best-seller.

“It is not good to talk about Zen because Zen is nothingness,” he told The Guardian in 2006.  “If you talk about it you are always lying, and if you don’t talk about it no one knows it is there.”

A native of Minneapolis, Pirsig was a prodigy who at age 9 scored 170 on an IQ test and six years later graduated from high school.  Army service in Korea at the end of World War II exposed him to Eastern thought and culture and profoundly influenced him.

He studied philosophy at the University of Minnesota, traveled to India and back in the states honed an enigmatic teaching style at Montana State College and at the University of Illinois, sometimes refusing to grade papers or asking students to grade each other.

At the same time, he suffered from anxiety so paralyzing that one day he was in a car with Chris and lost his way, needing his son to guide him home.

“I could not sleep and I could not stay awake,” he told The Guardian.  “I just sat there cross-legged in the room for three days.”

Chris was killed by a mugger in 1979, and later editions of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” would include an afterword about him.



Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Ramblin’ Man a highlight of summer rock festival season

With an arched brow, Roger Moore found humor in Bond, life

Killer artificial intelligence returns in ‘Alien: Covenant’

Feels like the 1st time: many ’77 rock kings still touring

Film Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’ brings a return to gut-busting horror

Ballad beats glitz as Portugal’s Sobral wins Eurovision

In ‘Colossal,’ the inner monsters are literal

With ‘Alien,’ ‘Blade Runner’ sequels, Scott looks forward

Kiss: Alive II – 5 stars

Joss Stone provides intimate evening at Cloud 47

Real-life ‘Rocky’ gets his moment on-screen

Ancient Roman monument-turned-eyesore gets needed makeover

Guitarist sues to stop use of Jefferson Starship band name

Film Review: ‘Guardians’ returns and it’s better than the first

‘Baywatch’s’ Dwayne Johnson just wants to entertain you

Mott the Dog: Goo Goo Dolls wrap-up Asian tour in Bangkok

‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ author dies at 88



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