Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Great Song, Horrible Video: David Gilmour's "Blue Light"

When Pink Floyd's David Gilmour released his solo album "About Face" in 1984, I was all about it.  I had the cassette and listened to it until the tape twisted in my Walkman beyond all attempts to repair it.  With the exception of "Blue Light", the album is pretty horrible and didn't age well at all.  It's all the crap you hate about Pink Floyd (slow, over wrought) on a slightly smaller scale.  "Blue Light" is great though.  Recently, I went to listen to it on You Tube and found its official video.  Great song, horrible video, man.

Possible Reasons This Video Is So Horrible:
  • "Oh man, this video thing will never take off.  If the record company wants me to do one, fine.  Just don't bug me about it."
  • Gilmour was possibly dating/screwing the choreographer at a local dance school?  Maybe? What's up with the dancers? 
  • Someone who really hated the lyrics wanted to make the video as "feminine" as possible to get back him.
  • The UK, man. If you have to film a video there, best to wait until the sun comes out.  
What do you think? Why is this video so horrible?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This And That: WKRP In Cincinnati Ediition

You remember that show "WKRP In Cincinnati"?  I do.  I liked that show.  I watched it because it was funny and because Loni Anderson almost always wore plunging necklines.*  And honestly, the turkey episode qualifies for legendary TV in my opinion.  As a Who fan, I also remember the episode about the trampling that happened at the Who concert.  Anyway, I've come across a couple of things related to "WKRP" that might interest the one or two of you who swing by this blog.

Somebody has taken the time and Herculean effort of cataloging every damn song used in "WKRP" in a downloadable Google spreadsheet.  Check it out - it's truly amazing.  It lists the season, episode, song, artist, context of the song's use, and links to the song for every. Gahdamn. Song.  All praise to whatever nerd put this together; because it is not only an important archival component of some good TV, but a great snapshot of rock from the late 70s-early 80s.  Check it out and school yo'self.

At the end of "WKRP", did you try to sing along with that rowdy song at the end?  I loved that song.  Couldn't make out a word of it, but it didn't stop me from enjoying it.  Turns out there were no words or meaning to parse out - it was all nonsense.  I think the decision to not alter the place holder lyrics is brilliant, cutting edge comedy.  (At least it feels like it for that time.)  It makes me appreciate the show so much more.

You have a cat lover in your life?  They do exist.  Show them this customizable "purr generator".  It's pretty neat, and I suspect with headphones it would be great white noise for sleeping.  Best part is you don't have to have an actual cat.

I think that about does it for now.  Talk to you guys later.
* - Now that I'm older, I know that Bailey Quarters was where it's at.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Checkin' Out A Podcast: Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History"

I've been listening to Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" podcast off and on throughout the years.  I'm making my way now through the episode called "The Celtic Holocaust".  I've listened to vast swaths of his "Blueprint for Armageddon" series (about World War I); have never listened to them all from start to finish.  I learned a lot; particularly about the leadership - both political and military - in Europe at this time.

Should you listen to "Hardcore History"?  Let me break it down for you.
Who should listen to it?

  • If you've already listened to everything you can from the vast, amazing NPR podcast empire
  • If you need a break from hi-larious pop culture podcasts like "How Did This Get Made?"
  • If you're a history buff (duh)
  • If you're over 40 - literally or spiritually
  • If you have a super, super long road trip and are looking for something fairly stimulating with some substance
  • If you value good production quality
Why "Hardcore History" sucks:
  • Old Dan could really benefit from an editor.  His podcasts meander off point often; or more accurately, his attempts to burnish larger points and themes so much that buries the actual key points.  He really struggles with making points in a concise, efficient way.
  • His episodes are not organized particularly well.  For example, in "The Celtic Holocaust", he starts with this massive preamble that is sort of baffling and long winded, talks about the perspective he'll be taking in this episode, goes into the first Gallic Wars, contrasts the Galls and the Romans, speaks briefly about terminology ("Galls" vs. "Celts" - I still don't know the difference), talks about other Gallic/Germanic tribes and how they were perceived by their neighbors, reasons Julius Caesar cites for preemptive war with the Celts, Celtic governance, blah blah blah blah and a million (interesting, but not clearly relevant) tangents in between.  Bear in mind we're not even close to the primary topic, and I'm two fucking hours into this episode already.  He desperately needs a more logical organization to keep his episodes on track.  And he should shift his focus to developing ancillary materials that can be downloaded from his website for all the other crap he wants to talk about.  "The Art of Manliness" podcast is excellent about this - you can read a transcript and check out other show notes that help immensely with getting the most of that podcast.
  • Dan Carlin is a war fetishist.  That's the only way I know how to describe it.  He is pretty good about covering other topics of a given time period (economics, politics, sometimes sociology, etc), but it's all within the context of conflict.  He always begins and ends with a war or conflict.  As a former junior high history teacher, this drives me nuts.  This is why most folks find history excruciatingly boring.  War is often presented as moving pieces across a board, and while Dan Carlin is not completely guilty of that, it is an element of his presentations. History, in my opinion, is the study of people and patterns within the context of a given time.  It is not the study of warfare.  I don't mind listening to a podcast about war, but I think I'm the exception.  Dan could afford to go out on a limb.  Here are some ideas for him:  the American Depression, the Colombian Exchange, the Black Plague, the Warsaw Ghetto riots.  In fairness, I bet he mentions these at some point in his podcasts.  But it's only in passing.
  • His podcasts are too.  Goddamned.  Long.  "The Celtic Holocaust" is 6 hours long!  I think he can easily gut them; at a minimum, he should release them in 1 hour increments. 
Why "Hardcore History" is great:
  • It is very obvious within the first 15-20 minutes of a given podcast that Dan Carlin is enthusiastic about his topics.  He is well read and speaks with much passion.  Although his podcasts must require an immense amount of work, you don't get the sense that it is a problem for him.  It's clear he loves what he's doing; it's obvious he labors over details.  He is consumed by his subjects.
  • Dan Carlin has a strong sense of self.  He's not trying to be funny or zany.  He'll tell you he's not a historian ("I've no reputation to protect" he says several times in "The Celtic Holocaust".) and he has a clear point of view.  He is excellent at presenting multiple viewpoints on a given topic, but he will take a position and it won't feel like he's got an axe to grind.  There is no ego apparent in what he says or how he says it - he's just a dude who really, really likes talking about world history.
  • The production value is quite great for this show.  If your podcast sounds like it was recorded in your garage, I don't care how good the content is, I probably won't listen to it.  I also like that his podcast is not interrupted by ads/endorsements, nor does it have any awful musical themes.  It's a straightforward, no bullshit podcast that is easy to listen to.
  • His "Hardcore History" are among the most popular made.  So he's got that going for him.
"Hardcore History" is not for everyone.  In fact, it's probably not for you.  His ponderous, meandering episodes and their overly serious delivery can be a bit much.  But I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it.  In fact, it's one of my more favorite podcasts even though I haven't finished but one episode.  He covers enough that I haven't heard of to keep me interested, and it makes long trips shorter.  I dig "Hardcore History" warts and all, but your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ukulele Fever!

I've been going crazy about ukuleles lately.  I've been into them for years - before I got my first one from my wife as a birthday gift in 2009 or so.  But it's getting out of hand.  I've been looking at a lot of ukuleles, and the dangerous thing about that is you can get a pretty decent ukulele for less than $50.  Heck, I just had to retract a bid on eBay for a Kala ukulele because my senses came back to me in time before the auction ended.  (Good thing that seller was so cool about it.)  I don't know if I can resist the Outdoor Ukulele much longer.  I love the idea of a weather proof uke for biking, camping, kayaking or any other outdoor mayhem I plan to indulge in this summer.

The interesting thing about pining for another uke is I'm absolutely delighted with my beloved Bushman Pineapple Jenny (the aforementioned "birthday uke"), and I don't really think I'll find one that sounds, looks and plays as well for less than $150 or so.  My ukulele is sounding and looking even better since the top has gotten fixed.  There are nicer sounding/looking ukuleles out there, but not only can I not rationalize having one that expensive, I'm just not interested.  Still, don't be shocked if I show up on vacation/at your next shindig with something other then the Pineapple Jenny.
It seems appropriate that my wife sign my uke.
I think it looks pretty cool.

So let's summarize this entry so far:

  • I really like ukuleles
  • I'd love to get another one
  • I don't really need one; not sure I really even want one because the one I have is pretty neat
  • Don't be surprised if I get another one
Solid writing, not contradictory or confusing at all.  Let's proceed.

I decided to take my uke nerdom a little higher.  I'm currently in ukulele lessons with Sarah Flint.  I wanted to learn about transposing keys as well as scales for doing leads.  The part about transposing took literally less than 10 minutes.  In classic Matt Zink style, I was over thinking it.  I'm working on the scales right now - they're basic blues scales.  After learning the fingerings for the scales, I recorded some basic 1-4-5 chord progressions in different keys with my four track and just play  over that.  My leads still sound like ass at the moment, but man has it been fun playing them.  It's easy to get excited about practice.

In addition to lessons, I've been whiling away my time Googling for songs to play, so that's been fun too.  There's plenty to learn, and if the chords are right but in the wrong key, now I know what to do!!1!1!

I'm still crazy about my Kala U-Bass too.  I play it every day.  And while Bessie waits for her new bridge, I've put away my electrics and have only been playing my U-Bass since I got it in January.  I played it in public for the first time on March 8th at an open mic at a local pizza joint.  It sounded freaking fantastic coming through that P.A.  And since it is so small, it's pretty effortless to play.  This means because I didn't have to think about playing so much, my harmony vocals sounded a bit better.  And of course, people were very curious about it - how can something that small lay down such a huge bottom end?  It was a great experience.  I still need to upload some audio for y'all.

Okay - that's about it for now.  Thanks for taking this ukulele trek with me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Requiem For A Shopping Mall

Check out this video.  I'm totally transfixed by it.

This seems like the perfect swan song for a shopping mall.  The ghosts of kids festooned with concert t-shirts (The Cars, The Police "Ghost In The Machine", Iron Maiden, etc.), bandannas tied around their knees, and Swatch watches on their wrists hang around in the doorways of long gone stores like B.Dalton, Pac-Man Palace, Spencers, and Orange Julius.  I'm glad the Golden Age of Shopping Malls is long past, but I'd be lying if I didn't feel a bit of nostalgia for those days.  It's true - I was a huge fan of Glendale and Castleton malls in Indianapolis - I was a child of the 80s.  While Castleton mall is still thriving (as far as I know), Glendale mall was converted into classrooms for a local school and an extension for the Indianapolis Public Library.  Like some sort of reformed criminal, Glendale is far more useful to society in its current form.  I have to believe that Castleton probably doesn't have too much time left.  Money keeps moving north to the suburbs and Amazon loves crushing bricks and mortar.

Let's not shed a tear for the death of this shopping mall.  Let's have a moment of silence, then get out before the mall cop hassles us.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Songwriting 101: Billy Bragg's "The Home Front"

"Songwriting 101" is a semi-regular feature in which an outstanding song or songwriter is showcased for lyrical excellence.  This time around, I'd like to look at Billy Bragg's "The Home Front".

"The Home Front" tends to organically pop into my head every time we have a mass shooting like the one in Florida.  (No, not that one; the more recent one.  I know - it gets hard to keep track of.)  Note that there's nothing in the lyrics that says anything about gun control or guns at all.  I think it comes to mind because Bragg does a phenomenal job of capturing the cowardice and nostalgia of our conservative friends and neighbors.  Again, he doesn't even use the word "conservative" in this song; and he is singing about his English countrymen. But it is easy for me to imagine two guys in their late 50s/early 60s lamenting the state of current affairs over the fence dividing their yards in their gated community.

I live in a very conservative state.  I know the mindset well - fear drives the decision making and overall worldview of many conservatives.  Even those who at one time had a distaste for Donald Trump now back him because "what if Hillary was in charge?"  W.W. II battles are the folklore they return to time and time again for inspiration; Vietnam, not so much.  Our nation's creation myths are as vivid as the Bible's, and they are used to prop up outdated and demonstrably disproven ways of governance.  Ideology becomes a useful blinder when you don't want to leave your comfort zone, or if you want to preserve your slice of the metaphorical pie for yourself.

"The Home Front" also works on a more personal level.  Domestic bliss is not all it's cracked up to be in this tune.  Flight becomes the fantasy that overcomes the rain in this song.  I find  myself rooting for the "lonely child" in this song.  I want him to run far, far away.

Yes, this song is easily adapted for the cowardice and lack of vision currently overwhelming the good people of this country.  You just have to tweak a few words here and there:  change "cheap beer and overtime" to "cheap gas and Polar Pops", for example.  I absolutely love the imagery in this song - further evidence that a few carefully selected details carry the message more vividly than the wide angle shot.  Read it and see if you agree.

"The Home Front" by Billy Bragg

Father mows the lawn and Mother peels the potatoes
Grandma lays the table alone
And adjust a photograph of the unknown soldier
In this Holy of Holies, the Home
And from the TV an unwatched voice
Suggests the answer is to plant more trees
The scrawl on the wall says what about the workers
And the voice of the people says more salt please

Mother shakes her head and reads aloud from the newspaper
As Father puts another lock on the door
And reflects upon the violent times that we are living in
While chatting with the wife beater next door
If paradise to you is cheap beer and overtime
Home truths are easily missed
Something that every football fan knows
It only takes five fingers to form a fist

And when it rains here it rains so hard
But never had enough to wash away the sorrow
I'll trade my love today for a greater love tomorrow
The lonely child looks out and dreams of independence
From this family life sentence

Mother sees but does not read the peeling posters
And can't believe that there's a world to be won
But in the public schools and public houses
The Battle of Britain goes on
The constant promise of jam tomorrow
Is the New Breed's litany and verse
If it takes another war to fill the churches of England
Then the world the meek inherit, what will it be worth

Mother fights the tears and Father, his sense of outrage
And attempts to justify the sacrifices
To pass the creed down do another generation
"Anything for the quiet life"
In the Land of a Thousand Doses
Where nostalgia is the opium of the age
Our place in History is as
Clock watchers, old timers, window shoppers

U.S. Premiere Of Concerto For Ping Pong

At first, I thought this was just sort of novel/nifty.  Then I listened to it.  It's great - nice build up and drama.