America’s demise

America will be destroyed by stupidity and hyper-partisanship, a glorification of ignorance and brutality, and a complete inability to see opponents rather than enemies.

On the other hand, I hear the Foo Fighters will be releasing a new album in November, so there’s that.

Yes’ ‘Heaven and Earth’ disappoints

I’m a Yes fan. I have all the albums and saw them live in 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 2004. I think the three-album run of “The Yes Album,” “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” in the early 70s is the single greatest run of any band ever.

The band has a new album out called “Heaven and Earth,” and… well… it’s just not very good. And that’s even with the bar set at “hey, the old guys have made a new album” level. (2009’s “Fly From Here” was better.)

Some of the blame lies with the new guy, Jon Davison, since he co-wrote many of the songs. While he does sound eerily like Yes’ classic lead singer, it’s more like a tentative Jon Anderson, as if Anderson was suddenly a little embarrassed to be in front of a microphone.

The songs are listless, lifeless and, even though most are shorter than Yes’ classic works, seem needlessly long. They never rise above a bored kind of midtempo “hey we’re just laying down the demo” vibe. In fact, they sound like the outtakes plastered across the Rhino reissues a few years back.

Producer Roy Thomas Baker apparently opted for a more “live” studio feel, but the guitar solos, drumming and bass work all sound like the band intended to come back later and record it “for real.” Geoff Downes on the keyboards doesn’t seem too interested in providing much more than background filler. And the classic core of Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White are obviously sleepwalking through the sessions. Howe’s solos sound like he just did one take and called it a day.

I had heard that production work in L.A. was rushed as the band was hard up against some scheduled tour dates… It makes me wonder if the reason this album sounds so unfinished is because it’s, well, unfinished.

The Moon and The Boy

I was all of five years old, and my grandparents had let me stay up late to watch.

I was already a space nerd, read as much as I could about the space program, knew all about the Mercury and Gemini missions, had written fan letters to the astronauts and even gotten a few replies, had a closet full of space and rocket toys… and now, there I was, lying on my stomach in front of the TV console, watching grainy images of the first men walking on the Moon.

Was it any wonder I grew up loving science fiction seeing as how I was living it? Seeing as how I was growing up as the human adventure in space was just beginning? Seeing as how I was born not long after mankind had managed to take a leap off our planet and into orbit for the first time?

I still remember vividly those images on that TV screen. I remember not moving from that spot on the floor for a long time, entranced by watching something that had never ever happened before in all of human history, watching something that a thousand years from now might be the only thing for which America is remembered… Neil and Buzz landing and then walking on the Moon.

What a triumph for a dream thousands of years old to be made into reality by technology and guts and know-how and imagination and romance and science.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Monkey business is good business for the box office

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is emotional, epic and engrossing, and well worth the ticket price. What’s more, the story is so good you don’t really have to see it in 3D.

While it does have the requisite amount of spectacle for a summer movie, it’s about so much more that just the visuals. There’s a real, honest-to-goodness, emotionally wrenching aspect to the film, especially in a callback to the previous installment that happens about halfway in.

It made big bucks over the weekend, so it’s a rare example of critics and audience agreeing on a smart summer movie with substance.

The next installment is already in the works, and you can consider me already in line.