Paul McCartney - Off the Ground: I haven't read George's review of this one yet but I did see the header claiming this is the real comeback album or something like that. I don't see it: it's really a generic early-to-mid '90s adult-contemporary album with some hooks but little genius, or even little distinctive of Macca. The last two tracks are really good, and "Biker Like an Icon" is pretty good. The first three tracks blow; "I Owe It All to You" rips off "Letting Go" in the chorus. Favorite song might be "Mistress and Maid", if just for its wonderful undulating long-breathed chorus melody. Flowers in the Dirt appears to have been a welcome bridge from '80s AC to '90s AC. The result is better than Press to Play, at least.
Paul McCartney - Paul is Live: Where Tripping the Live Fantastic had a heaping portion of Beatles songs, it's getting ridiculous here: a few Wings hits, a few from Off the Ground (all of which are improved, by the way; of the "first three tracks blow" actually only one of them blow. Nothing could be done for "Peace in the Neighbourhood", already one of the weakest on the album) -- that is, except for a few McCartney notables this album is all about the Beatles. (Looking ahead to Back in the U.S. the balance isn't as bad, maybe because there's more space.) It's certainly entertaining, and makes you set aside the tracklisting so you can welcome the songs one by one. There are a few studio tracks stuck after the encores, inobtrusive all and, in the case of "A Fine Day", some of the finest music on the disc.
Ultravox - Systems of Romance: I don't actually have this and have never heard it but this is a reminder to myself to download it.
Herbie Hancock - Perfect Machine: Well this is an interesting little album. First things first: this is not jazz. It's basically an electronica-R&B crossover with lots and lots of synthesizers (Hancock is credited with eleven of them) and heavy funk, disco, and techno influences. The jazziest it gets is a brief reworking of "Maiden Voyage" drenched in drum machines and vocoder. That aside it's pretty fun overall, with Bootsy Collins contributing some nice basslines. If you're going to sample a track, the title one is good, although it bears no R&Bness, being strictly electronic. Hear that and "Obsession" and you've got the idea for this album.
Jelly Roll Morton - Last Sessions: A victim to my vinyl habit. I only played it once and thought it was boring -- this is obviously not a very well-thought-out opinion. I'll try to listen to this at the computer in the future.
Gluck - Iphigénie en Aulide (Anne Sofie von Otter, José Van Dam, others; Monteverdi Choir; Orchestre de L'Opera de Lyon/John Eliot Gardiner): One of those works that are more satisfying to read about than to listen to. It's not awful but I dislike operas that have like 35 tracks per disc comprising one- and two-minute arias and choruses. You're also stuck listening either with libretto in hand or totally blindly, as the label didn't see fit to include a synopsis in the booklet.
Monteverdi - Eighth Book of Madrigals (Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini): Basically short "cantatas", although they're not called that, often with two or three discrete parts to a madrigal (as with Bach's toccatas, with their several "movements" each). This stuff is absolutely killer for the first half of the disc before your tolerance for Renaissance/early-Baroque vocal music wanes, but if you refresh your spirit you can dig the rest. There are few less than good parts in the 75-minute disc, really only two or three unenjoyable tracks.
The Charlie Brown Christmas Special: Somehow I've made it 33 years without seeing any Peanuts specials (read the strip maybe a few dozen times, never funny, clever, or profound) and I guess this one is like Rudolph or Frosty or A Christmas Story or the subjunctive mood in that you had to have been raised on this stuff from a young age or else you don't get the appeal. This really is an elaborate way to say "Jesus is the reason for the season", and the final scene at the doghouse is appropriately heart-warming, I guess. Just underwhelmed, that's all. There are maybe 15-20 minutes of music in the special, and most of it is repeated: how do they spin out a whole soundtrack album? Is it any good? (Oh, there is one thing in Peanuts that always cracks me up: the "Psychiatric Help" desk.) (Yes, I know the strip isn't meant to be funny.)
Curse of the Demon: (Watching it again it's not so bad. I was looking at it purely as not just an M.R. James adaptation, but as an adaptation of one of my favorite of his stories. On its own merits it beats the Bela Lugosi Dracula -- but then I didn't enjoy that one much.) ... (Rather loosely) based on M.R. James' story -- one of my favorites -- "Casting the Runes". It's really not all that good, although when the second half gets going it's entertaining enough. There's an interesting dynamic not in the story by which Karswell is exposed as an open black magician from the start -- and there's much more interaction between him and the protagonist -- this is especially important in the final scenes. TBH I watched this just because of the James connection, and to see how the adaptation came off. Not that bad, but not that good. Apparently Stonehenge has runic insciptions, even though it was built like 20,000 years before runes were a thing.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters: Actually a pretty good documentary, and not just to laugh at the gamers -- everybody here has at least one really geeky pursuit, taken to disturbing levels. Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe even look like villains and heroes (the latter like a cross between Brett Kavanaugh and the beardless Commander Riker, while the former is just detestable on every level). Brian Kuh is a much bigger piece of shit than he came off in in a YouTube clip I watched (and posted somewhere below, and which is presented out of order): in the YouTube he's just a giant dweeb; in the movie he's a devious toady. (Being under Mitchell's wing makes him his protégé, by the way, not his prodigy.) Anyway you connect with the characters -- and the movie ultimately has the desired ending -- if we just remember we're not all that different from dorks playing Donkey Kong. (The only females in the whole movie were the players' wives. More than Brian Kuh my biggest LOL was "that ape is very, very cunning...")
Out of the Past: Actually put on my watchlist back when I was first taking recommendations, but never got around to until now because the plot was supposed to be more complex than I was at any given time willing to handle. But I guess "complex" doesn't necessarily mean "convoluted" -- I found it much easier to follow than the first half of Blade Runner (though it took a second viewing to really get it). There was a My 600-lb Life episode with this guy Steven Assanti, who was an irritating 800-pound puke who used everyone around to get what he wanted (mainly food and painkillers), and could always slime his way out of anything and could start crying and promising to do better on command. This is who Jane Greer reminds me of. Manipulative little b###h. But then, she's purdy and most guys would gladly be strung along. They must have gone through a carton of cigarettes in this movie. Further recommendations welcome. They wore some awfully short ties then.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut: This is something of a mystery to me: my sister was under 17 at the time and my parents sure as hell weren't going to take me, but I saw this movie in the theater regardless. (It was something of a miracle that I was allowed, in sixth grade, to watch a TV-MA show airing at ten PM on a school night when I wouldn't be allowed to watch MTV for another year!) This is badly dated, and not just in the pop culture references: there are outmoded gags ("kick the baby", throwing up on Wendy) and characters (Big Gay Al, Shelley Marsh) all over, and it's basically South Park 1.0 on the big screen, the way it was pretty early in the show's run. (I doubt they could make a movie of the current South Park.) At the time I thought the musical numbers were funny, but viewed now they're too many and too much. Maybe most obnoxious was that all the kids were shitting on Canada for months just because of this movie. I actually like the first few seasons of South Park almost more than the middle ones, but that -- and this movie -- could just be nostalgia.
Roma Aeterna and Plato: Damn, the Crito kicked my ass, so I've gone back to the Apology (still Plato, but easier Plato). For a time I was scared I would quit classical literature since I could rarely summon the will to put the work in so I've read maybe half as much, if that, as I ought to have for the last month or two. But I got some in today, and I guess that's my New Year's resolution. I've made it before.