Let’s cry.

Today… The opening song to one of the saddest, most emotionally-brutal movies ever produced.

火垂るの墓 – Hotaruo no Haka.
Grave of the Fireflies.

The opening theme is a short, bittersweet composition. Doesn’t even touch the two minute mark.
But if you’ve seen the movie you just can’t help but… Think about it. And get really, freakishly sad.

This movie is based on a novel written by a survivor of the fire-bombing air strikes on Japan.
It’s a small story, about a brother and a sister and how war simply passes over them, destroys their life, throws them around, punches them around and keeps the rest of the populace so busy and afraid that nobody can (or wants to) spare any time caring and thinking about two lost, scared, lonely children.

It’s about hanging together through miserable conditions, about love and trust and bonding.

It’s a movie you watch if you ever feel the need to cry from the depth of your heart.

The entire premise of the World of Darkness is not as depressing as this movie.

And I still love it.
The way pictures and music work together to paint the atmosphere in late-war Japan, sometimes in concert, sometimes by building a stark contrast, is very well executed and manages to touch me emotionally, which few movies do.

As anybody who knows me will know, I do have a tiny, slight militant bend. But this is still one of my favourite war movies, even if it’s the most anti of all anti-war movies.

Highly recommended.

Michio Mamiya – Hotaru no Haka Main Theme [Hotaru no Haka OST] | 1988 | Classical Composition

Let’s all get really sombre now.

Okay, it’s not World War 2 week. It’s War Movie week.
And only because iTunes finally had one of those perfect, muse-like moments where it put on a track I haven’t listened to in a long, long while. For no good reason, either, as it’s something that should be heard as often as possible.

It’s Adagio for Strings, for the magnificent and utterly dark movie Platoon, which tag-line is “The First Casualty Of War Is Innocence”.

The movie itself is a masterpiece. One of the quintessential anti-war movies out there. It’s not as surreal as Apocalypse Now gets, nor is it as long and twisted. But it makes this up with striking imagery and a look at how human minds can snap and how empathy can be filed away until there’s nothing left but the will to survive, no matter the cost, no matter the consequences. It’s a movie about personal horror, about futility and about the limits of human capacity for stress, pain and fatigue. It does not glorify, it does not paint pretty, heroic pictures. It deconstructs. It shows the darkness, the dirt, the grit, the grime.

And for that, it is (rightfully!) commended great recognition and honours.

This piece, Adagio, was not composed for the movie. But it was used for great dramatic and emotional effect.
I still remember the first time watching the movie and being utterly gut-punched by that scene. The pictures, the music and the significance of it all really hit me.
It’s one of the few movies capable of making me tear up.

Listen to it, and let yourself fall into it.
Listen to it in a quiet space with no distractions and just let your mind go… Places.
(And, basically disregard that last statement when you’re feeling blue or down already. Adagio is no upper.)

Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings [Platoon Soundtrack] | 1986 | String Orchestra

Let’s look at a Great Escape.

One of my most favourite movies of all times is “The Great Escape“.
It’s a movie that manages to be uplifting, humorous, dark, oppressive and depressing at the same time. Well, not at the SAME time. But during the same 172 minutes. (I love long movies, too.)

What really helped to make the movie snap together, though, was the soundtrack by the magnificent Elmer Bernstein. It’s about fifty years old now, and it’s still a memorable and well composed soundtrack.

Elmer Bernstein – The Great Escape Main Theme [Great Escape Soundtrack] | 1963 | Orchestral

This must be one of the most iconic pieces of movie music ever composed.
It’s catchy. It’s memorable. And it’s been used (and is STILL being used!) in all kinds of media after the movie came out.

I still hum it myself when I’m stuck at a place I don’t really want to be, and from time to time, someone looks up at me and grins and nods their head in appreciation. And in those moments I know that I’m looking at a kindred soul.

The way it was used in the movie is also very exceptional, as it was mixed into the external soundtrack as well as being used by the characters IN the movie as a method to enhance the mood of certain scenes… Very effective and very well executed. There are movies made decades after this one where this doesn’t work as well as it worked here.

If you didn’t already, I HIGHLY recommend seeing this movie.
If you did see it, see it again. You’ll be surprised how well it holds up.

I must also warn you.
This might be start of “War Movie Week”.

Let’s be tired.

Today, I spent about five and a half hours doing mind-bogglingly tedious and taxing work, just as a favour to my parents.
And while it was, I think, good for me health-wise, it still took its toll on my energy. I just really hate gardens and nature and anything related to it.

Partly also because after I got home I found a new video card for my PC waiting for me, which is about 150% better than what I had until now, I installed it, configured it… And all I see is speed-loss. Which sucks in a major way, as I’m awaiting Skyrim on Friday. And maybe Sword of the Start II will be patched into a playable state too, this month. But it also hit my Deus Ex: Human Revolution FPS, so it means right now I can’t play The Missing Link.

Instead of trying to figure this out today, I’ll shut my PC down earlier than on most days after loading some relaxing music and movies on my iPad. Then I’ll go to bed and try to forget this day ever happened. And hope that tomorrow will present a way to fix the FPS issue. And maybe FINALLY get that writing done I’m sitting on for a few days now. I get paragraphs done, yes, but not in a speed I’m happy with. Which sucks.

While I was browsing iTunes for some relaxing tunes I found something really, really old but really, really good. As a bonus, it doesn’t sport any lyrics, which makes me happy as I don’t have to track them down, re-format them and put them in that stupidly arcane tag here.

It’s something so 80s that even Blank and Jones have to bow their heads in respect.

I give you… Crocket’s Theme from the series “Miami Vice”.

Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme [Miami Vice OST] | 1984 for the original composition, 2002 for the “Complete Collection” album, which I HIGHLY recommend! | …Chill-out Ambient?

This piece of composition never fails to make me relax, cool down and smile.
For some reason I also think about whiskey, crime, dangerous women and fast cars. Really don’t know why.

As a small, added bonus, I will leave you all with a small collection of TV intros for shows which played highly into my childhood and early teens. I’m really hoping to give at least a few of you pangs of nostalgia and fun memories. And if the rest of you curses me into painful oblivion… Well… That’s just a perk of writing this blog.

[Fun fact: The lyrics to this composition are “Suicide is painless/It brings on many changes/You can take or leave it/As you please” – It fit the show perfectly. One of the few good non-British Dark Comedies.]

Those shows made my weekends and even my week-days when I was going through 1st to 10th grade.
Enjoy. :)

Let’s mix it up.

Everybody who knows me, knows that I really love mash-ups. But I also really love mixing genres that most people would say don’t go well together.

Today I’m feeling somewhat under-the-weather, so I’ll share a song with you, that is by a band who exemplify this in a very good way.

I love Goth Music.
I love Jonny Cash.
I kind-of, really like Rockabilly.

It was pretty much inevitable that I would stumble upon Ghoultown at some point in time. I did so, in 2007. Somewhat late, yes. But not too late to be able to grab a copy of their “Tales From the Dead West”. Which is a very atmospheric album all on its own. The mix of goth, country and rockabilly (I prefer to call them gothabilly, even if some people put them under psychobilly and/or horror-rock) goes together really, really well. You can listen to this in the midst of a hot summer as well as on dark, cold winter nights. It just fits.

It’s not the Swiss Army Knife like some Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil CDs, but it’s a fun little piece. And the songs are of a consistently high quality. They can be dripping with dark, western mood, they can be funny and they can be powerful.

And so they make me think of interesting things to write and put into RPG scenarios. It’s uncanny how well western imagery can be planted into different genres without there being a great dissonance (Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica (80s) are the two best examples of this. Also how the Magnificent Seven are based on The Seven Samurai and how Yojimbo also influenced quite a few classics.) Western, as a genre, is deeper than most people give it credit. And even though Germany lacks the emotional and spiritual bond that a US viewership would have with the movies, the really good ones could gain traction even here.

Few are the people who haven’t seen The Good, The Bad And The Ugly or The Magnificent Seven or Maverick, Tombstone and Back to the Future III! And even fewer are the people who haven’t enjoyed the Galaxy Rangers, Brave Starr, Zorro, Lucky Luke (No, I won’t go into the whole Spaghetti-Western thing here. That’s… … Go, read up on it! It’s interesting on its own! Really! – As is the wide array of Western sub-genres. Really. Take a look, ok? ), Kung Fu, Brisco County Jr., Saber Rider (again with Western and Japan) as kids. Or watched Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza or even Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with their parents on weekends. And lately, we had Firefly. It was short, but it didn’t die because it was a bad show. It died because Fox is staffed by a bunch of assholes. … I mentioned Star Trek and the original BSG already, yes?

Western/Country music is also a really deep and interesting field. It’s not all just X-phobic ramblings by racist rednecks and homophobes. There’s some really great stuff in there. Then there are the soundtracks to Western movies. The atmosphere they could built with such a minimal set of instruments and nature sounds was… No! Still IS! …amazing. – If you’ve got an Xbox 360 go grab Red Dead Redemption and just marvel at how wonderful the soundtrack is and how well this game can set the atmosphere. It’s well worth it. And I will get to this music field one day, because it’s simply amazing. It’s the polar opposite of High Electronical Ambient, and yet I love it in many of the same situations.

Enough rambling!

Music!

Today two songs from the album of the day, because I’m nice/I want to torture you. Take your pick.

I chose “Ghost Riders in the Sky” first, because Johnny Cash also covered/played this song. So it was kind of fitting. I also like their rendition very much. It’s a good example of a classic Western tune that is dark and twisted on its own, without any Goth elements to it, and now played with those elements amplifying it all. … I think I want to play some Deadlands now. (And, yes. You can use this article to get into Deadlands and ask me about it read up on it. That’s no coincidence.)

[expand title=”Lyrics”]An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry

Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi yaaaaay
Ghost Riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He’s riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain’t caught ’em yet
‘Cause they’ve got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire
As they ride on hear their cry

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi Yaaaaay

Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky [/expand]

The second song is “Killer in Texas” which showcases Ghoultown’s inherent Goth qualities with a darkl, macabre story set to an almost traditional Country sound which is then accompanied with Rockabilly and Goth elements.

[expand title=”Lyrics”]I’m a cold-blooded killer
my soul is ripped and torn
got the black heart of texas
I’ve got the devil’s horns

cuz I’ve spent my life to bring you harm
drank your blood to keep me warm
moon was full when I was born
I’m comin home, it won’t be long

chorus:
there’s a killer in texas
a killer in texas
there’s killer on the rails

I’m a hell raisin outlaw
out here stealin lives
killed a man for starin
by cuttin out his eyes

cuz I started life in evil’s hands
no way in hell I had a chance
you glorify the deeds I did
forgot about the soul I had to give

train keeps on rollin
my life is ever blowin
like dust across the lone star state
drink one more drink yeah
to wash down our sins
cuz nightfall has come and gone again

I’m a cold-blooded killer
I’m always on the run
just look at me mother
ain’t you proud of your son?

cuz I’ve spent my life to bring you harm
drank your blood to keep me warm
moon was full when I was born
I’m comin for you, it won’t be long[/expand]

Ghoultown – [Tales From the Dead West] | 2001 | Gothabilly