Sunday, February 26, 2017


         Totally not bogus.
         The co-star of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure seriously knows how to shoot. It is as though this exciting new franchise is based entirely on Keanu's remarkable marksmanship. Go on YouTube and you can find him being badass at a range.
          Also what gives this movie verisimilitude is the director, Chad Stahelski, who used to teach Jeet Kune Do, the martial art invented by Bruce Lee. (Lee's fans will thrill to a scene in a maze of mirrors referencing his best film, Enter the Dragon.) Stahelski worked as Keanu's stunt double in the masterpiece The Matrix, then became the stunt coordinator in the two sequels. If you think a stunt man can't direct, think again. This movie is flat-out beautiful. To Kill a Mockingbird it ain't. But it has color, sound, and motion to an incredible degree. John Wick: Chapter 2 is an action movie with a black belt.
          You don't have to have seen the first one to appreciate it. After you've seen this sequel, you'll probably want to, though. It's about an assassin who can't retire due to a blood debt. When an Italian underworld higher-up wants his sister offed, Wick (Reeves) travels to Rome to do the job, and then faces the repercussions while trying to get back at the guy who drew him in.
          Video game-like action abounds. Keanu flips hired goons all over the place and unloads clip after clip without missing a shot. Partly what makes it so interesting is to know that he's 52. Like Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise, he defies age phenomenally. College courses have been taught on the sheer variety of his movies: he started out as a goofy stoner in Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli mold, but quickly moved on to such disparate films as The River's Edge, Point Break, and Little Buddha.
          Another draw to this film is the opulent look of the underworld, and the interesting characters which fill it. Ricardo Scamarcio brings terrific believability to the role of the bad guy who makes Wick have to go back to work. Ian McShane, sturdy in everything he does, is perfectly cast as the mafia king who lives by a code of rules strictly enforced for moral purpose.
          As if all this wasn't enough, we also get a couple of really cool bodyguard-types out to get Wick--an actor named Common playing a character called Cassian, and one Ruby Rose as a mute woman who kicks major butt incredibly well.
          But wait, there's more. None other than Laurence Fishburne, he of Matrix fame, plays a lovable baddie from whom Wick seeks help. And even in a brief appearance, John Leguizamo makes an indelible impression as the one guy who can fix Wick's busted car.
          Violent as hell, and well worth the hype.

Starring Keanu Reeves,
Ricardo Scamarcio,
Ian McShane,
Ruby Rose,
Claudia Gerini,
Lance Reddick,
Laurence Fishburne,
John Leguizamo
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Written by Derek Kolstad
Runtime 122 minutes
Rated R

Thursday, February 23, 2017



So here's what's goin' on: First I wrote books, then I was asked to be in a band, then was told, "This is YOUR band." I named us CrowMag, wrote a buncha songs, got a couple on the radio, got divorced. That put the kibosh on shit for awhile. Time passed. Planets spun. CrowMag's guitarist said from afar that I should meet his brother. I did. We hit it off. With my new lyrics and his banjo-sounding guitar, we traveled back in time and became Howlin' Stew and Muddy Ross. Then he introduced me to his drummer friend, whose neighbors get to hear us at least once a week without ever having to pay a dollar. First we were Mothers Without Masters, because that's a badass name. But then the drummer, Chris, aka T-Bone Sculley, said--and Tamson, aka Muddy Ross, agreed--that actually we should be Stew and the Sleazebags. And I like that one for two reasons: 1. It starts off with my name, which is a totally awesome thing to happen, and 2. it ends with Sleazebags. Dayy-um. Me likey.

Now then, what we need is better recording ability. Plus probably a bassist. And just more practice. But, what we have here so far does give a sense of the sleazy majesty.

HEAR ABOUT YOU is unique for us because it's the one time that T-Bone picked up a guitar followed by Muddy sitting down at drums. It was a spontaneous moment. Almost a minute in you can hear something like, "You play drums?" "It's been awhile." Then I stepped in with some lyrics, and the result is real purty. What a privilege to play with these Sleazebags. I love it. Enjoy!



Lightnin' Stew - Words, vocals
Muddy Ross - Guitar
T-Bone Sculley - Drums



Chris Sculley - Drums
Tamson Ross - Guitar
Lightnin' Stew - Words, vocals

Wednesday, February 22, 2017



Tamson Ross - Guitar
Chris Sculley - Drums
Stewart Kirby - Words, vocals

Sunday, February 19, 2017


          Hit and miss.
          The trailer didn't look half bad. The premise being that the 5,500 mile-long Great Wall of China was built over the course of 1,700 years to keep out, not only invading hordes of regular folks, but also big weird monsters that attack every sixty years. When two European mercenaries, William and Tovar (Damon and Pascal, respectively), in search of legendary black powder, are caught by Imperial forces, only their great skill assisting in the fight against the monsters can save them--but for how long?
          Not one of the better Matt Damon roles. Usually he picks excellent material. But the character here is pretty thin, and not very likeable. Nor unlikeable. Just kind of not there. He also seems to slip in and out of a lukewarm Irish accent.
          The film does border on annoying by putting the Damon character at the forefront in China. There's no real reason to do it. And he's lacking. He doesn't even seem like a super-great archer whose amazing skills would be of invaluable service to so many other excellent archers who've spent their lives training to fight the monsters. When William and Tovar put William's amazing skill on display, it's done in such an impossibly silly way, no one could take it seriously. Not to give anything away, but the demonstration is dumb enough to be cringe-worthy.
          The monsters look all right. Vaguely resembling green lizard-like wildebeests, they charge around in vast numbers at great speed showing alarming intelligence. Like insects, their job is to feed the queen. And their chief quality is greed. The greed of the monsters seeking to invade China is the film's primary conflict.
          And just in case we can't figure that out, Westerners are there. Trying to get that precious black powder to use as a weapon. For killing and stealing.
          Willem Dafoe reminds us yet again of his remarkable acting skill. He plays a European dude who came to China looking for black powder twenty-five years earlier and never left. Also, Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae is interesting to watch because she's a beautiful woman and also a military leader.
          Yet in the big picture the problem with The Great Wall is that the story has a message. Instead of being organically-driven with original characters, it's controlled and forced. Six writers were required to meet the intended product, and because none of them were surprised, neither are we.

Starring Matt Damon,
Tian Jing,
Willem Dafoe,
Pedro Pascal,
Andy Lau,
Hanyu Zhang
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Written by Carlo Bernard,
Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy
Based on a story by Max Brooks,
Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Runtime 103 minutes
Rated PG-13

Friday, February 17, 2017


If there's one thing TV taught me growing up it's that extending a thumb and saying, "Aaaayyy!" is really cool. But wait...perhaps you don't remember the Fonz? Ah, that's because you're half my age. And that means you're like most of the people I see every day.

I happily confess it does seem a tad askew. Most of the people I work with are twenty-five, give or take a couple years. My band mates are also twenty-five, give or take a couple years. A lot of the women I go out with are half my age, too. Being me is like being an incredibly bald vampire. (Nosfera-Stew. Gonna Nosfer-rockyou!)

Keep in mind, when the eighty pound bags of concrete mix need lifting, I lift two or three at a time. Not the norm. When a forklift needs more propane, I never take the truck across the street for a freshie. I carry an empty on my shoulder and walk back with a full one because it's fast and easy. For me. I'm the guy who initiates the arm wrestling and I'm the guy who wins. Quickly. I see people every day who are younger than me, but look and act aged.

And it's not like I'm tagging along with the band asking them to let me hold the tambourine. It's my fuckin' band. Again. Even with paltry recording devices and no bass player (so far), we straight up rock.

What makes my going out with women half my age particularly special is that I don't have any money. I'm just super rich in everything else. I could totally be interested in women my own age and older. Usually the problem is that they're done with men. Might be because they never met me.

Not one particle of my being waits for money. Pining for validation motivates me not in the slightest. I don't write to pay my bills. I already pay my bills. I never dream or aspire or hope. I simply do. The experience is the payment.

I don't own a TV. Not owning a TV is something else TV taught me. I don't passively watch inferior shit, I actively create superior shit. Knowing exactly where to put just the right comma splice, too.

Anyway, been pretty busy. But I haven't remotely forgotten about the ongoing story. Chapter 11 in THE GOLDEN CITY is in the works. Before drinking deeply of that next chapter, I want to thank you for checking in with a hearty "Aaaayyy!" because I appreciate the time you spend with me here in this devout and ad-free zone of the energized mind.

Much obliged.

Thursday, February 16, 2017



Stewart Kirby - Words, vocals
Tamson Ross - Guitar
Chris Sculley - Drums

Sunday, February 12, 2017


          Constructing loads of laughs, this tangential sequel to The Lego Movie toys with the gravelly-voiced Dark Knight loner.
          Admittedly, the quality of the content defies expectations. Yet unlikely as it seems for a movie consisting of Lego figures to be so good, it nonetheless is.
          The problem is that Batman (Arnett) blocks relationships. He needs to connect, build bonds with others. When he's done fighting crime for the evening, he zaps himself a late dinner and jams on his guitar all alone, but what he really needs is someone close to give him a fat beat so he can grab a mike and lay down his sick flow.
          Enter Barbara Gordon (Dawson). As the new Commissioner of Gotham City, she notices that Batman hasn't done a very good job because he keeps having to capture the same villains. Over and over again.
         Meanwhile, the Joker (Galifianakis) has a foolproof plan (this time) to lay waste to the good people of Gotham and thereby really tick Batman off.
         The story, however, is effectively immaterial to the experience. What makes it work is the jokes. And what makes the jokes work is the quality of Arnett's voice coming through a self-obsessed super-macho Lego toy. You have to see it to get it. It's just a great juxtaposition. Again, totally surprising, yet totally effective.
          Voluminous references to past Batman incarnations contribute throughout. Chiefly, homages to the '60s TV show strike the right note. Not everyone will remember the Bat Anti-Shark Spray utilized by the Adam West portrayal, but it works either way. Ditto references to the show's theme song.
          When Bob Kane created Batman, he based his character on a amalgam of two main sources: Sherlock Holmes and Zorro. Specifically Douglas Fairbanks as Zorro. Conan Doyle's Holmes (wrongly credited with deductive reasoning when in fact it is inductive) results directly from the first literary detective, Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, a character obsessed with darkness and the night who was basically a reflection of Poe himself. Zorro, on the other hand, is an early-California Robin Hood. And Robin Hood is a member of the aristocracy who lives on the fringe as an outlaw fighting corrupt and false authority. Therefore, when we see the words Dark and Knight together, we are looking at the combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Robin Hood.
          And so, even though it is easier to write and seems at first blanche more visually appealing to give the hero gadgets than to have him solve crimes, the one true vision of Batman which we have never seen eschews the tech in favor of detecting and pits him against unjust ruling functionaries as a champion of the downtrodden, and not merely a lackey of the privileged.
          That said, the toy movie has merit. Worth checking out.

Starring (the voices of)
Will Arnett,
Michael Cera,
Rosario Dawson,
Ralph Fiennes,
Zach Galifianakis,
Jenny Slate,
Conan O'Brien,
Doug Benson
Directed by Chris McKay
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKennon,
Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington
Based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Runtime 144 minutes
Rated PG


Thursday, February 9, 2017


Song about a work ethic.


Every time I watch TV
Every time I watch the tube
I never do see me
And I don't care about you
Me I'm gonna get rich
So ya better understand
'Cause doin' this here shit
Ain't part of my life plan
I'm much too much for any task
So don't you ever even ask
Better gimme gimme gimme
Gimme a raise
Before I quit
Before I quit
I wanted a job
I wanted me a job
But this one here's for shit
Said this one here's for shit

I'm overqualified
Too overqualified for you
I'm overqualified
So overqualified that we're through

I'm gonna show up late
If I show up at all
If I'm there that's great
If I'm not don't call
Me I'm gonna get rich
So ya better understand
'Cause doin' this here shit
Ain't part of my life plan

I'm overqualified
Too overqualified for you
I'm overqualified
So overqualified that we're through

Sunday, February 5, 2017


          Hunter S. Thompson, aka Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism. In his Hawaiian shirt, white bucket hat, and aviator glasses, long-stemmed cigarette holder in hand, he became a bona fide pop culture hero, an "action figure for the underground" who wrote himself into stories as a larger-than -life character and found himself prisoner of a fictional persona.
          The 1978 BBC Omnibus production Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision captures Thompson's awareness of his own myth taking over. "I'm an appendage," he says, within moments of vehemently lamenting accidentally dropping a baggie on-camera. "I'm no longer necessary, I'm in the way."
          Of the several documentaries available for viewing, the above is the seminal source worth hunting down. It's so good, in fact, the 2006 HST tribute Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride uses clips from it seemingly about half of the time. Released in the year following Thompson's suicide, the film features the writer's famous actor friends singing his praises, lamenting his loss, and recalling the feature films Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), starring Bill Murray as Thompson, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), starring Johnny Depp as Thompson's effectively indistinguishable alter-ego, Dr. Duke.
          Narrated by Nick Nolte, the most notable aspect of the film is the inexplicable inclusion at the start of a snippish Gary Busey unintentionally revealing his prima donna side. Amusing as this is to behold, it has nothing to do with Hunter Thompson, and only serves to warn us how swinish the production proves.
          He catapulted to counterculture fame in 1966 with Hell's Angels, his straightforward and excellent account of the legendary outlaw motorcycle group as an embedded reporter. His masterpiece, however, was published a few years later. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas showcases his fictional counterpart, in quasi-journalistic literary style, on a "savage journey into the heart of the American Dream."
          Thompson's "writer as cult figure" status took root during the Psychedelic era when a surreal, stylized approach toward taking the Establishment to task was the gestalt of the younger generation. BBC's 1978 Gonzovision stands out because it was made at the tail end of those times, still part of the scene, yet removed enough to reflect back.
          Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008) also merits inspection. In an especially interesting chapter of his life, Thompson ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado in 1970 as the "Freak Party" candidate. He shaved his balding head completely so that during campaign speeches he could point to the other guy and say, "Unlike my long-haired opponent..." And he actually came within a hair's breadth of winning.
          Decadent depravity freely feared and loathed online.

Friday, February 3, 2017


In the beginning, there was CrowMag, and that was good.
Then there was divorce, and that was bad for a lot of reasons, including the breakup of the band.
Time passed.
And there came into being a new alignment:
Howlin' Stew and Muddy Ross.








Howlin' Stew - words, vocals
Muddy Ross - guitar, backup vocals