- Attic Space: Dream Theater by Bill Braun
- The Nitwit’s Nitpicks: Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen by John Klima
Through the long day
the Copernicker keeps to his burrow,
in the dead of lunar night
to say his New Month prayers
under a full Earth.
“Lord of the Universe,
how long our shared exile?
The great swirled globe suffers in Your absence.
Do I imagine, or is it even now
more gray, less green?
Have mercy on Your children.
Restore Your presence to Your planet.”
The tourists stare;
Crazy guy, living here,
to still believe in Earth.
It starts like a virus
Burrowing into your skin,
Eating you from within
A sentient little thing
You never notice its presence
Till the pain grips you
By your red pounding heart
Yanked out of its crust.
The arteries and veins
Let go with a pop
Separated from their lifegiver,
Collapse like old bones
Crisp and dry, bound
For the bonfire, you fly
Petals fall lazily like snow;
Moments freeze-frame in gold.
On a path painted with blood,
He follows the dark twisted road
Carrying his black carving tools,
Tears falling to the ground
Like sodden old breadcrumbs,
Marking his way from her
Lying in the womb of the cold,
Indulgently carved out in stone.
As life ebbs gently from her throat,
She smiles and sighs in quiet repose.
I woke up today
only to find
my organic operating system
had been sponsored by
-and tried valiantly-
but couldn’t think
without first seeing logos
flash before my eyes.
(The leeching madness began to crawl
and I could feel its many tentacles
branching through my brain.)
I thought I was alone in this misery
before I made a few phone-calls
and realized all my friends and neighbors
had experienced the same phenomena.
But they didn’t seem to mind
and that only complicated the problem.
I can finally prove
the neighbor’s apartment
is filled with
whirling recording devices
and bleeping gizmos
of every make and model.
Lens etches the crime
Replay sells latest Game Cube
Say Cheese, OJ-san
Dream Theater by Bill Braun
Take a deep breath, let it out slowly.
Concentrate on breathing.
Imagine a brilliant white light above you.
Focus on this light as it flows through your body.
Allow yourself to drift off as you fall deeper
into a more relaxed state of mind.
Now, as I count back from 10 to 1 you will feel more peaceful.
You will enter a safe place where nothing can harm you…
If you need to come back, all you have to do is open your eyes…
The idea behind Scenes From a Memory is reminiscent of such previous endeavors as the Who’s unforgettable rock opera, Tommy and, on a less dramatic score, Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. There is a story that needs to be told. Whether that story is fictional, factual or mythical in nature, it is a story that is expressed with the accompaniment of wonderfully written music. Some may argue that the musical score was written to accommodate the lyrics, while others insist that the lyrical story line was created afterwards to fit the tone and mood of the end result. Either way, it’s the chicken or the egg. And to be honest, who really gives a shit. If the final product is something that can be played again and again, with the same satisfaction each time, that’s really all that matters now isn’t it?
Although Scenes From a Memory doesn’t come off as being anything new, a true lover of music has got to appreciate the thought and effort that was put into this haunting tale of love, betrayal and murder. As you page through the insert that comes with the CD you begin to understand the extreme care that went into this project. It reveals to the listener the individual characters that play vital roles in unfolding the mystery that began in 1928, which involved a young woman named Victoria Page. It also encompasses a chronological key that, through the clever use of italics and bold printing, breaks down the boundaries between a past that cannot exist without the present.
The cast of characters revolves around the innocent and youthful Victoria Page. A girl struck down in the heat of passion and confusion of love’s struggle. Throughout this tale Victoria is torn between her husband, the “wayward man,” Julian Baynes, and Julian’s brother, Senator Edward Baynes; referred to as “The Miracle,” and “The Sleeper.” The listener is provided a first person point of view through the unwilling eyes of Nicholas, the poor soul who must resort to the unique talents of “The Hypnotherapist” in order to unravel the haunting mysteries of the past (or more importantly, the past life of Victoria Page) before they become the madness of his future. It is through Nicholas’ dreams and hypnotic remissions that the story unfolds (“Now it is time to see how you-Nicholas/Victoria Page-died. Remember that death is not the end, only a transition.”) and eventually comes to fruition.
Not wanting to say too much about the actual story, nor the tragic ending that ensues, I will say that its images will remain with me for years to come. Not because of the who, what, where or why of it, but because of the means in which this tale is told. I wish to God there were more bands out there with the inclination, or should I say daring, to tackle the methodology of creating a musical composition that is so epic in nature; an uninterrupted combination of riveting story telling and mood setting musical intricacy. Metropolis Part 2-Scenes From A Memory is everything that a good book and great film have to offer.
Adding to the success of this endeavor is the companion DVD that was recorded live during the last show of Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory tour. It’s called Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York and it becomes quite clear early on that the band spared no expense when it came to having the opportunity of relating the story of Victoria Page. Actors are incorporated to fill the roles of the key players, aged video footage is added to give a sense of the past and an astounding female choir is used to provide for the authenticity of its original recording. The style of this final concert leaves me with a sense of a more modernized version of the rather successful Operation: Mindcrime tour that the band Queensryche provided for audiences around the world in the late 80′s.
For those of you not sold on the idea, or those that are familiar with the concept but just aren’t sold on the fact that a band like Dream Theater could pull it off, let the facts speak for themselves. Dream Theater isn’t your typical fly by night, we’ve got a one hit single that’s overplayed on the radio, kind of band. They’ve been creating music for over 15 years with no end in sight and have the talent to show for it. The creation of the band began in 1986 while John Petrucci and John Myung were attending the Berklee School of Music when they stumbled upon the raging talent of Mike Portnoy. From there, as they say, the rest is history.
However, not unlike many of the bands in existence today, Dream Theater has had its share of transitional band members, most often in the area of the keyboard player. Yet the original trio of guitar, bass and drums has not shown any signs of weakening. Just the opposite. I feel that they have finally reached the status, strength and recognition that they have worked so hard to achieve. And working hard is what this band is all about. Take a chance the next time they come to your town on tour, swallow a thirty-dollar ticket and see if you don’t get your money’s worth from the moment they get on stage to the last chord played on John Petrucci’s guitar. In the case of their last tour, promoting the CD Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, those “moments” add up to about three hours of playtime with, oh, let’s say maybe a ten-minute break. Keep in mind that these are guys who spent their time fine-tuning their talents at one of the most reputable schools for musicians. They use their instruments, and they use them well.
In closing, I will say that Dream Theater is a band that is highly talented, yet they display a form of music that, for many, may take some getting used to. That’s not to say that it’s not worth giving them a try. Really any of their CD’s would be a good place to start, but if your interested in experiencing something that doesn’t simply fit into the single category of musical entertainment, then by all means run out to your local music store and purchase Metropolis Part 2-Scenes From A Memory. Then, when you get back home, pop it into your CD player; lay down on your most comfortable couch, and
close your eyes, begin to relax.
Take a deep breath, let it out slowly.
Concentrate on breathing…
(words in italics modified from Dream Theater’s lyrics)
Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen
by John Klima
With the hardcover publication of Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen, you’re not just getting the trade edition in a more permanent form. It’s not even a signed, limited edition. You’re getting something along the lines of 50,000 extra words, which almost doubles the length of the book. Basically centered on four previously separately published novellas, the hardcover’s added text lends more flesh to the bones that made up the trade edition.
The main premise of the additional material in the hardcover ties to the information laid forth in the novella, “The Strange Case of X.” The person in question, ‘X,’ is mentally trapped between our world and Ambergris, and therefore sequestered in a mental institute. As the reader turns pages from the end of ‘X’ to the beginning of the Appendix, we learn that ‘X’ has escaped…or at least gone missing. His caretaker-almost more of a curator-has discovered quite a number of things in ‘X’s cell. The items include radical political newspapers, manuscripts from ‘famous’ Ambergris authors, stories from ‘X,’ and more; all of which comprise the Appendix. The Appendix is truly a testament to VanderMeer’s skill. It is meant to be a collection of articles, stories, and notes written by a wide variety of people. The tone and tenor of each piece is completely different from one to the next. They truly read as if different people had written them. One of the pieces, “The Cage,” is perhaps one of the strongest pieces VanderMeer has ever written. Thoroughly researched and exhaustively gone over, the Appendix is worth every penny.
To be fair, not everything in the Appendix makes for enjoyable reading. The Glossary, as glossaries are wont to do, is not something to read from start to finish. Although, it is fun to see where one entry leads, often cross-referencing things that don’t make sense until a third or fourth entry is read.
And here’s a warning: there is an encrypted story. A mind-boggling series of numbers (for example: 126.96.36.199) that refer back into the main text by page, paragraph, line, and finally word number. Until the last paragraph, which refers to something else entirely. To think that VanderMeer took the time to code this in the first place is astonishing. The story that unfolds isn’t as enjoyable as the process of decoding it (at least for me, I love a good problem to solve), but it’s a small price to pay in light of the other items in the Appendix.
Add to this the lavish illustration, the interesting choice of typefaces, and you have a beautiful book that I would expect from a quality small press. Did I mention that this was print-on-demand? It’s hard to believe, when you look at the book, that you can produce something so beautiful with print-on-demand.
And it didn’t hurt to fill the pages with VanderMeer’s amazing prose.