Saturday, February 22, 2014

Columbine by Dave Cullen book review

I believe that it was when the Red Lake school massacre happened that I first learned about Valeen Schnurr and her experience at Columbine. She was interviewed on TV as part of the coverage of the latest incident and her story both inspired me and made me want to know more about the Columbine shooting. Over the next days I dove into the net and among all sites I found Dave Cullen's the most informative. At some point, if he had not already, he announced an upcoming book and I waited probably years for it.  When it finally came out, I immediately snatched it.

Columbine, is the result of research based on interviews with the survivors, news reports, the official Columbine documents and more. As one can immediately tell it is well-researched and thought out. Although it is a five-parter I felt it more like it had just two distinct parts: a first one describing the eve of and the attack proper; and a second where we get set of alternating chapters in which Cullen contrasts the shooters' path to the attack with the unfolding aftermath of the massacre. The shooters' path draws heavily from their recovered journals and schoolwork to gain insight into their motivations, preparations leading to the shooting and mindsets.

The survivors path describes their way to healing . These chapters in a way have the survivor community, rise up to the tragedy and negate the harm done by the shooters. Case in point, the rallying of survivor Patrick Ireland.

For what appears to be a 'first' we get the inside story from the assailants, as the killers wanted us to know and took pains to leave a trail. In part, this scheme would later be followed by the perpetrator of the Virgina Tech shooting. Of all the major documents known to exist what we still have missing are the infamous basement tapes. Since these have officially not been released, we only get the snippets  that Time magazine managed to get access to years ago.

During his reconstruction of the events Cullen, takes his time to put to rest many, if not all, of the most pervasive  conspiracy theories and myths surrounding the shooting, such as the third shooter, the Trenchcoat Mafia and the bullied outsiders. The Bernall/Schnurr library incident is also thoroughly examined. Although there are a few inescapable blanks, Columbine results in a solid coherent account.

When I finally got my hands on this book, I finished in about a week and it answered all my questions and more. Totally recommended.

5 stars

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Metal Evening

As I write this I'm listening to Yngwie Malmsteen's 2009 album Angels of Love. I find it a bit unusual, since metal music is supposed to be loud and powerful. Then again, I'm not really one to talk since my experience with the genre is small and to say the truth, it is mostly limited to this man and his music. I like what I hear.

My intro to him was through the music of Castlevania, back in 2008, when listening to some mp3s. Someone at the Castlevania Dungeon posted that Dwelling of Doom sounded just like YM's Music Far Beyond the Sun. I immediately checked that out and saw that it was true to the point of almost identity. I was hooked. Through eMusic I began to gather some of his tracks and not long after, some six or eight months,  I was delighted to find on his site he was coming to town.

The very day tickets went on sale I was first on line at my local Ticketmaster booth and I believe I bought the first couple of tickets, for me and a friend, townwide. I had to see this man in action. Wouldn't I go see Paganini play if I had the chance? Oh, and this is not a flippant remark. Both are virtuous on their instruments, compose and stretch the possibilities of each to 'impossible' reaches and have a loyal following. The Swede openly admires the Italian and it doesn't feel like a stretch imagining the Italian giving at least a knowing nod and wink to the Swede's play.

When the day came and I got to the venue I began to have some second thoughts as a row of imposing Marshall amps lined at back of the stage greeted the fans. Maybe I should've brought some earplugs. The people there were expectant and well-behaved. When the man finally appeared on stage there was a surge forward from the crowd and the tall fan behind me used me as a battering ram to open his closer to the stage. For a while I felt as lifted off my feet and feared that I might suffocate. In the end the push forward had the positive effect of placing me in the seventh to fifth row with a great view. I got separated from my friend for the rest of the evening.

I had prepared beforehand by going to the online forums and had found out by a poster who had listened to Yngwie in Argentina, that he positioned himself to the left (his) of the stage. I aimed for that and... success!

In regards to the performance, the venue's acoustics  were subpar. The first thing I noticed was an unpleasant after-screech for the highs. Got over it quick, but these never quite left. For a while I got fixated on the bass player and thought how lucky he was to be on stage as part of a great band. As for Yngwie, the thought that struck me other than his playing was: he's pompous! But in a good way. The leather pants that quite don't fit, the hair, the mid-kick, the guitar back roll, the teeth and backward shred... more than anything, I believe this is a kind of fanservice and that he has fun doing it. He could just stand there and riff, but he obliges and we love him for it. During the concert he went through a fair amount of picks which he threw to the crowd as they were spent. Sad to say I did not get any. The selection was good, including all the mainstay suspects. I was hoping for the 7th Sign, which is one of my top three, but it was not included this time around. When he pulled a cover on Mozart or someone, the audience cheered in recognition.

In regards to the rest of the fans, a great many of them watched all right, but through the filter of their (then) crappy phones. It was frankly surprised by the number of glowing screens, but I guess that this is here to stay. Well, why not?

There are times when one feels as being a part of a larger whole. This was one of those times as one could feel the energy sweep over all of us and while it lasted, a sense of oneness. Cheesy? Perhaps. But I'm sure you've felt it before.

When it was over there was a noticeable number of parents waiting outside the venue for their underaged kids. I guess they did catch some of the music as it was loud enough for them to listen. Now,  loud it was. My ears, especially the right one, were ringing and felt as if clogged. I was begining to wish that I should've stayed with my mp3s. Volume control! Next day the after effects were worryingly still there, but began to lessen as time went on. Flash forward to present day, on a checkup with the ears & throat doctor, he told me I was none the worse for the experience.

An evening  to remember.