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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Get Ready...."

I posted back in January that Van Halen had entered the studio with producer John Shanks to record the first album of all new material since 1998's "III", which was the only album recorded with Extreme/Hurtsmile frontman Gary Cherone.  Since that time, few updates have come from the Van Halen compound, but Sammy Hagar told MTV that "It's not going so good. That's what I've heard through the grapevine, that they've already fired one producer, and Eddie and Dave can't be in the same room together. If they can't be in the same room how can they make a record?."  Sammy went on to say that he thought the unflattering comments he made about Eddie may "put a fire under their asses" and push them to make new music for their fans.

Some time later, Van Halen News Desk stated that "Everything is going great and that Van Halen are nearing completion on the new album."  Recently, producer/engineer Ross Hogarth has stated "The whole VAN HALEN record has been recorded and we're all excited," and that "it's the killing side of Van Halen at the top of their game again with Diamond Dave, and the band is on fire."   On July 2nd, stated simply, "Get Ready...", giving further affirmation that new music from the band is coming, and fueling rumors that a single may be released soon; the album is slated for a tentative release in the fall.  It's been reported that the album is in the mixing stages now, and Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti, a friend of Wolfgang Van Halen, got to hear the album played live in the studio.  "What makes it so great is that they took what they could from all their old demos back in the '80s and pretty much did what they could to create songs out of old ideas, so it sounds like vintage Van Halen," Tremonti said. "I didn't hear any vocals — David was not there. It was just the three of them. The music sounded like very authentic, old-school Van Halen."  Tremonti's comments have sparked a lot of controversy from fans on sites like, claiming that the creative energy of the band is lost since they're going through old material, but most fans interpreted the comments to say that Van Halen is using old riffs to inspire the new music, but to give it a vintage feel since the tapes are from the early days.

I've expressed my opinion on that site, and basically I feel that it is exciting that new music is coming from Van Halen after so long, but I find it hard to accept that they'll truly achieve their signature sound without Michael Anthony, original bassist and a major contributor to their vocal sound.  The band allegedly dubbed in Michael Anthony's vocals on their highly successful 2007-2008 "reunion" tour, since they replaced Michael Anthony with Eddie's son Wolfgang.  I'll admit that I've always favored and sided with Sammy Hagar.  Sammy has had a solid career both in and out of Van Halen, and he and Michael have played music together for many years, and currently in their new supergroup Chickenfoot, whose sophomore album is due September 27th, around the same time as the expected Van Halen release.  At one point, Sammy has expressed interest in having Chickenfoot open for Van Halen on their next tour, which would truly be the "Best of Both Worlds", especially if Sam and Mikey joined Ed and Al for a few Hagar-era songs. 

Godsmack frontman Sully Erna was interviewed recently and talked about the competitive side of rock.  "I feel that there are a little bit too many egos out there when it comes to rock music, because everyone wants to swing the big dick, everyone wants to have the belt and think they're the king and they have a bigger draw than anybody. It's silly. Everybody needs to just come down and embrace it for what it is." 

I think if Ed and Dave could drop their egos and embrace just how much it would mean to their fans, a Chickenfoot/Van Halen tour would probably be the highest grossing tour of the decade.  Unfortunately, for fans of either side, or both sides, I think that's just wishful thinking.  For now, I will wait curiously to hear the music that has everyone on the Van Halen side bursting with enthusiasm, but I'm betting on a better album from Chickenfoot. 
I hope, for the sake of Van Halen fans, that I'm proven wrong.

Monday, July 11, 2011

(Where is the) Justice for Caylee Anthony?

The decomposed remains of Caylee Anthony, the 2-year old daughter of Casey Anthony, and granddaughter to George and Cindy Anthony, were found in a garbage bag in a wooded area of Florida in December 2008, nearly 5 months after she was reported missing by Cindy.  It was determined when examining the skull that duct tape had been placed over the mouth and wrapped around.

June 16, 2008 was the last time that George and Cindy Anthony claim to have seen their granddaughter.  Cindy said that they asked repeatedly to see Caylee and were told by Casey that she was busy with a work assignment and that Caylee would be with a nanny, who was later revealed as someone who had never even met Casey or anyone in the Anthony family.  In the days after Casey took her daughter from her parents, who believed Casey to be on a work assignment, she was captured in photos out partying with a boyfriend and seen on surveillance tapes shopping at several stores.  On July 2nd, Casey Anthony received a tattoo from an artist who testified that he had known Casey for years.  Casey told him that her daughter Caylee was with a nanny but when making another appointment she said Caylee would come with her.  The tattoo reads "Bella Vita", which translates to beautiful life in Italian.

On July 15th, George went to pick up Casey's car after he had received a letter indicating that it had been towed after being abandoned at a Check Cashing store.  When he arrived at the tow yard, George and an attendant noticed a foul odor, believed to be that of a decomposing body, coming from the trunk.  Once the trunk was opened, a bag of trash was found but no remains.  Later that day, after having told her parents that Caylee was with a fictitious nanny, she told her parents then that the nanny had kidnapped Caylee who she'd not seen in 31 days.  Cindy called 911 to report Caylee missing and to have Casey arrested for stealing the car and money.  Casey took authorities to where she claimed to drop Caylee off, which was a vacant apartment.  She also told them she worked at Universal Studios but when she was taken there it was found that she hadn't worked there for 2 years.  Casey was arrested on July 16th on suspicion of murder and charged with giving false statements, child neglect, and obstruction of a criminal investigation.  After roughly one month of incarceration, Casey was released in hopes that she would cooperate with the investigation into the disappearance of her daughter, only to be arrested a week later for forgery, fraudulent use of personal information, petty theft for forging $700 worth of checks, and using friends' credit cards without permission.  When Caylee's remains were found in December, the death was ruled a homicide but cause of death was listed as undetermined.

The prosecution alleged that Casey used Chloroform to render Caylee unconscious and placed duct tape over her mouth to suffocate her, and left her remains in the trunk of her car for days before disposing of it.  During the investigation, Internet tracking history revealed Google searches for "how to make Chloroform", "neck breaking" and "death" found on Casey Anthony's computer, although Cindy later said that she had done the searches for Chloroform.  The prosecution focused on Casey's activity in the days when Caylee was missing, partying and getting the tattoo, celebrating her freedom from parental responsibility.  The defense built their case around a photo showing Caylee opening the sliding glass door at the Anthony home by herself, and defense attorney Baez stressed that there were no child locks on the doors.  Cindy and George both testified that Caylee could get out of the house easily but Cindy said that Caylee could not place the ladder by the side of the pool by herself.  Baez alleges that Cindy may have left the ladder out the night before and alleged that Caylee's death was an accidental drowning which was covered up by George to protect Casey from charges of neglect.  The prosecution's closing arguments reminded the jury of the personal items found with the body, including a Winnie The Pooh blanket which matched bedding from George and Cindy's house, and suggested that Casey put the bag of trash in the car as a decoy to throw people off from the smell of Caylee's body.  Lead Prosecutor Linda Burdick's final comments in her closing argument were "Whose life was better without Caylee?", stressing how George and Cindy Anthony were wondering where their daughter and granddaughter were in June and July 2008, the same time Casey was staying at her boyfriend’s apartment while Caylee's body was decomposing in the woods.  "That’s the only question you need to answer in considering why Caylee Marie Anthony was left on the side of the road dead."  She then put up a split screen to show the jury two pictures, one of Casey Anthony partying, and the other of the "Bella Vita" tattoo that Casey got weeks after Caylee died.  Casey Anthony was found not guilty on all charges of neglect and murder, and only convicted of lying to authorities.  She was sentenced to 1 year of jail and $1000 for each of the four counts of lying.  With credit for time already served, she will be released July 17th.

Jurors have expressed that they were sick to their stomach to come to the verdict of not guilty but that they did not feel that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that this was murder, rather than the cover-up of an accidental drowning as the defense alleged.  During the trial, it was determined that Casey Anthony is a liar, as she was charged with 4 counts of lying to police, and that she lied to her family about Caylee's whereabouts.  The nanny "Zanny", who Casey claims to have left Caylee with, testified in court that she had never met Casey and had no connection to the family.  Caylee's body was found in a laundry bag, inside of a garbage bag, with duct tape over her mouth.  The items used to dispose of Caylee and found with her remains (duct tape of a rare brand, one bag from a twin set of laundry bags, missing blanket) came from Anthony home and garage where Casey and her boyfriend had broken into.  Cindy Anthony called 911 twice, first to have Casey arrested for stealing money and a car and then again when she says that Casey admitted that Caylee had been missing for 31 days.  However, Cindy also said in the 2nd call she hadn't seen Caylee since the 8th, which was 8 days longer than George said was the last time they saw Caylee.  Cindy testified in court that it was she, not Casey, who searched for Chloroform on Google on days when she left work early.  If "Zanny" the nanny had never met Casey or the Anthony family, how did Casey know of her name to use and if she had never met the family why didn't George and Cindy ask who she was?  If Caylee had drowned, the duct tape would have been placed over her mouth only to confuse investigators, but why would George Anthony use duct tape from his own garage to cover Caylee's mouth, and a laundry bag from his own garage to dispose of her body?  If Caylee had drowned, but Casey didn't know about it, her partying wouldn't have seemed all that strange, just letting off steam while parents watched Caylee, but why use the story then that the nanny had Caylee which would then obviously be a lie if Caylee was at their house?

There is no sensible reason to believe that Caylee drowned and the Anthony family decided to come up with this elaborate hoax rather than just calling 911 to try to save Caylee.  For me, evidence suggests that Casey Anthony broke into her parents' garage and took the items used to dispose of Caylee's body, killed her and planned on her body decomposing so badly (she had been looking up "death" on Google, which may have given information on how long it takes for a body to fully decompose) that no remains would ever be found.  She planned on blaming it on the nanny, which is why she took police to a vacant apartment but didn't realize she may end up being found and testifying that she had never met Casey.  The lies were told to keep police busy investigating while the body decomposed.  Since she did not testify, as if she would have told the truth on the stand, none of these issues could be discussed.  If this was a simple matter of Caylee drowning, her body would not have been found double stuffed in a bag and with duct tape wrapped around her skull.  The information that Cindy gives in her 2nd 911 call does not match what George says about when they last saw Caylee, which should have been further reviewed.  One side is covering for the other, but it seems as though either Casey or her parents have killed Caylee Anthony and the unfortunate lesson learned from this trial is that lying enough to keep police scratching their heads will create enough doubt to overwhelm any evidence against you.