Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ypres


A week or two ago I was listening to someone speak and heard mentioned that all the civilizational ills that currently befall us can be traced back to World War I. Everything – modernism, socialism, communism, totalitarianism, post-modernism, you name it. If it’s having a detrimental effect on society today, you can rest assured it found its birth in the Great War of 1914-1918.

Interesting, I thought. This I’ll have to check out.

So I’ve been casually reading up on the First World War. Not a big burning desire, just want to fill some gaps, especially after learning how big those gaps of knowledge are. Among the numerous potholes of null information I’ve manifested is the city of Ypres. I’ve heard of it in passing, and how it played a role in WWI. No – I’ve read it. I’ve never heard the word “Ypres” spoken, so I had absolutely no idea how to say it.

Not to go into too much detail (since I don’t know even “much” detail), the Belgian city of Ypres was the sight of two major battles. German forces decided to outflank French fortresses aligned north-south against their border by sweeping over them through Belgium, violating the smaller county’s neutrality. This brought Belgium’s ally, Britain, into the conflict. The German war machine stopped at Ypres, surrounding it on three sides. The British and French forces held the city (the “Ypres salient”) and attacked the German lines just beyond, over and over and over again, during the course of two battles. The use of poison gas sparked the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres.

But, that’s not what I want to write about now.

What I want to ponder is, how does one pronounce “Ypres”?

Well, at work the other day (and thus having no access to Youtube, or speakers for that matter), I did a bit of googling. And I found out that the word is somewhat open to interpretation.

In a Monty Python sketch, we’re assured it’s pronounced

EEP.

Yep. Eep.

British troops back then were a little wittier. They called the city

WIPERS.

Ha. Y-prs. I like that; fits with my sense of humor.

In actuality, it’s pronounced halfway between

EEP-PRuh

and

EEP-PRAY

Almost as if you’re going to go full “EEP-PRAY” but stop short as soon as you starting on the “AY” part.

Those of you, unlike me, who’ve taken French will have this down. Us other troglodytes may find it a bit harder.

I’m firmly in the EEP-PRuh camp, at least in my head, when I’m reading my World War I book.

Carry on.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Malcolm Young


1953-2017

This was not completely unexpected. Malcolm’s health deteriorated sharply about three years ago. His premature battles with dementia forced him to leave AC/DC back in 2014, leaving his nephew to fill in for him. But I don’t think anybody suspected the end to come so soon.

He was not a flamboyant guy on stage, but he wrote half the music with his brother Angus and was said to be the “brains” behind the band. I took a cue from him when I played in bands 1986-96, echoing that similar to Malcolm Young, my job as rhythm guitarist was to write half the songs and make all the other guys on stage sound good. It was a good lesson, well learned.

Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and, later, Rush, AC/DC was a main influence on me in my early teenage years, especially when I plugged in my electric guitar the first couple hundred times. To this day I can probably play from memory 40 or 50 AC/DC songs, all riffs from the fingertips of Malcolm. The most phenomenal thing about them is that, though they’re not exotic chords in obscure time signatures, they all stand the test of time. It’s not embarrassing to listen to an AC/DC song from forty years ago. In fact, give me any random hard rock CD released in 2017, and I can guarantee you can find a riff or two that could’ve been found on one of Malcolm’s home demo tapes.

Difficult to pick a song to tribute the man with. He was a shadowy figure, ceding the spotlight almost entirely to his younger brother. But this song, “Gone Shootin’” has been in my mind all day today. I like the rhythmic interplay between Malcolm and Angus, particularly in the outro around the 4 minute mark:




Rest in peace, Mr. Young. You may not have led the squeakiest, cleanest of lives, but the music you created made millions of us feel awesome and will live on for, well, as long as people strum electric guitars. And that has to count for something.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Greatest Year in Cinema



So 1977 had Star Wars, Close Encounters and Smokey and the Bandit.

So 1979 had Alien, Mad Max, The Amityville Horror and the first Star Trek movie.

I say that 1978 is The Greatest Year in Cinema. If you were 10 going on 11, like I was, had a bunch of weird crazy friends, like I had, and had these movies piped into your house via that newfangled cable TV thing, like they were at mine, I offer up:


Capricorn One

Damien: Omen II

Dawn of the Dead

Halloween

Gray Lady Down

The Fury

Force 10 from Navarone

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Convoy

Hooper

Jaws 2

Superman

Laserblast

The Medusa Touch

Good Guys Wear Black

The Manitou

Magic

Coma

Piranha

The Swarm

Watership Down

… aaaaaaaaand …

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes


From the creepy to the cool to the campy, it’s all there. I’m lucky to have been around back then, for all those hours and hours and hours of fun. Often confusing and sometimes downright puzzling, but in the end, when all is said and done as they say, just good ol’ fun.