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SOUNDTRACK: KASENETZ-KATZ SUPER CIRCUS-“Up in the Air” (1968).

katzReading about bubblegum music has led me to a fascinating trove of information.  Like that most of the songs were written by two guys who “created” many of the bands.  Most of these bands have a revolving cast live but had the same band on record.  The two creators were Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz.

In 1968, Kasenetz and Katz created a “supergroup” which consisted of members of their “Super K Production.”

Their first album was hilarious, because according to the inner gatefold cover’s liner notes, the “supergroup” consisted of 46 members. However, the album cover itself only shows 33 members (plus Kasenetz and Katz in tuxedos) while the individual inner cover photos total 37 (excluding the non-existent St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, whose photo is represented by a white block). To add to the confusion of the actual number of participants, the LP package came with a page of stamps with each member of the “supergroup”, including their names and the individual group he or she represents. The members of The Teri Nelson Group (except Teri Nelson herself) are shown as INVISIBLE BAND on the stamps. Side 2 opens up with Music Explosion leader Jamie Lyons announcing the individual members of the newer or lesser-known groups. Some of the names mentioned do not coincide with the members shown on the stamps.

Hilarious and crazy.  This song “Up in the Air” comes from the supergroup’s second album in a year.  They renamed it “Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus” and the roster was reduced to five groups: The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express and Music Explosion, with the other groups replaced by Shadows Of Knight (who had just been acquired by Super K and signed to Buddah’s Team label) and White Whale label group Professor Morrison’s Lollipop (formerly the Coachmen of Nebraska). Despite these representations, the tracks were actually recorded by studio musicians with lead vocals by Ohio Express lead vocalist Joey Levine.

That’s a lot of setup for an amusing almost novelty song.

There are two different guitar lines. One playing high notes and the other playing a melody).  Thumping bass and drums enter and then the song shifts to a groovy bassline and vocals that seem sped up.  And the lyrics are sort of political.

I don’t read poems by Poe
Look at Palooka Joe
Watch the Ed Sullivan Show
I love Governor Reagan

There isn’t a real chorus, just a repeated final line about Governor Regan (pronounced “Reegan” for some reason–like “Regan,” the King Lear character).

Don’t dig Joe Pepitone (la la la la la)
Or talk on the telephone (la la la la la)
One thing stands all alone
That’s my governor Reagan

Hail, Hail, hail our leader!
[Clavichord solo while backup singers chant “Hail Reagan, Hail to the Chief”]

Reagan was governor of California at the time.  The creator of the site Bubblegum Reviews asks, What is Reagan actually being criticized for here? He hadn’t actually done much to damage American democracy at that time.

Some may say he’s the Gip
Some say he’s lost his grip
I say that he’s a pip
He’s my Governor Reagan

A man who has so much hair
A man that is not all there
A man who just loves the chair
That’s my governor Reagan

More from Bubblegum Reviews:

The song seems to be making fun of him for having an inane persona derived from his good looks and movie career (“he’s the Gip”/”so much hair”).  It also denigrates him for having a feeble intellect or a weak grasp on sanity (“lost his grip”/”not all there”).  His supporters are equally dimwitted: instead of reading poetry, they look at Palooka Joe.

According to Wikipedia, “in Reagan’s campaign, he emphasized two main themes: “‘to send the welfare bums back to work,’ and, in reference to burgeoning anti-war and anti-establishment student protests…’to clean up the mess at Berkeley.’”  In one incident, his actions led to the death of one protester and the blinding of another;

[WHAT?  HOW DID THIS GUY BECOME PRESIDENT?]

later, he sent out the National Guard to occupy Berkeley.  It may have been his anti-protest stance that rankled with Levine et al. — youthful revolt seems to have been something people in the music biz were generally in favor of, even if they weren’t particularly interested in what was being revolted against. This autocratic approach to free speech may also be what’s behind the song’s implication that Reagan demanded unquestioning fealty (“hail, hail, hail the leader”).

How timely.

Is this a bubblegum song?  It’s hard to say for sure.  Kasenetz & Katz wrote most of the biggest bubblegum songs so they knew what they were doing.  Maybe they were trying to branch out.  It’s really nifty. I’ll have to listen to more.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

You Can Be Right and Kind At The Same Time,
or: Why Would You Hate a Part of Speech, Dude?

I was really looking forward to seeing Jonboat again.  He has been this looking figure–billionaire, astronaut, husband of the most beautiful woman in the world, father of Triple J.  And we know very little about him besides that.  And WOW does he make an impression.  Sort of.  Actually, he doesn’t make any impression except on Belt’s psyche.

This section begins with a bit of a misdirection: Belt picking up a magazine at the White Hen because astronaut Jonboat was on the cover. Flipping through, he couldn’t find the article (typical of big glossy magazines) and wound up looking at an article about the famous chef Clem.

Clem (I’m guessing inspired by Emeril?) was eggplant shaped with arms like noodles–he looked like a combination of Ringo Starr and Yasser Arafat–he seemed all wrong and yet he looked fantastic.  This was because everything in the room was custom made just for him.  He was measured for an oven, molds were made of his hands for his knives etc.  Somehow the objectively handsome assistant looked unfit in the room because everything fit Clem.

I love the librarian joke that Pang shouts at him: You think my name is Marian? (and a wonderful discursive joke about this not being a library).  But Belt didn’t buy the magazine because he needed money for Quills.

This is all a set up to say that Jonboat looked in his office as if every inch of it was measured to fit him.

As Belt walks in, Jonboat says “Hey, you,” and holds out his arms for a hug.  It take a second before Belt realizes he’s talking to Fondajane who is next to him.

There’s some playful banter between Jonboat and Fon.  And yet I can’t decide how to read this.  Is Jonboat a pedantic jerk or is he fun and good at teasing?

She says “As the kids say…Now we’ve come to the part where I make my exit.”  I love that Fon either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the kids actually say.  Jonboat suggests they say, “I guess that’s my cue [to leave].”  But Fon retorts that that was two eras back.  They gave that up for their name and out: “Fondajane: out.”  Jonboat says that he never heard of it: “Jonboat: incredulous.”

When Belt tries to interject into the banter, Burroughs pats his arm to tell him to keep out of it.  As Fondajane leaves she says she has to meet Robbie bin Laden for dinner. This story’s skirting of 9/11 with lines like this is fascinating and I wonder if there will be any kind of payoff, or if it’s just reminders of the slightly-off timeline.

Finally Jonboat turns his attention to Belt.  He gets out his business gear (he is there to sign the contract for Triple J) and Belt notices a cure running on top of a globe.  Jonboat is trying to train it to walk on four feet, but it is disposed to walk on two–a sort of glorious defect.

The cure is really cute.  Even for Belt.  Belt starts to get uneasy–so much so that Burroughs steps in his line of sight to avoid any trouble.  Belt is surprised and dismayed that he didn’t just want to hold it, he wanted to squeeze it–and he imagined in some detail what the experience would have been like. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY-“Goody Goody Gumdrops” (1968).

19101910 Fruitgum Company has a great, bizarre name.  Especially for a band that released such poppy songs.

I thought I knew most of the bubblegum hits just from casual awareness of them.  I was quite surprised how many of these chart-hitting songs I’ve never heard before.

I don’t think I knew this one before, and I quite like it.

The opening verses are quiet, almost dark, with just a chugging guitar and a stomping drumbeat.

It segues into a chorus that is really catchy (of course).  I really like the chord change from “goody goody gumdrops, my heart is doing flip flops” to “gee what love can do.”  It feels like perhaps a minor chord introduction.  There’s even some mildly interesting drum patterns in the middle.

The return of the opening verse brings back a slightly darker mood before the return of the joyful chorus.

It feels like it slightly defies the conventions of the pure bubblegum song.  Maybe that’s why it only got to #37.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

Coffee with Honey

Part IV of the book is called Compound. In it, Belt visits the Jonboat housing compound (they took over most of a cul-de-sac).

There’s a few interesting revelations here, and a remarkably lengthy discussion of a sexual practice that I don’t think I’ve ever seen discussed–certainly not at length–in a book before.  But overall this section does what I like best about this book–have lengthy passages that don’t move the plot along but make me laugh at the ideas and the extent to which Levin is willing to stretch out an idea.

Part IV Section 1 is called “New Modes of Fascination.”

As Belt wakes up his pillow is talking to him.  This is new.  Or, not new exactly, but unusual.  Indeed, the pillow is mad because Belt hasn’t talked to it at least six years (and it’s grumpy because of it).  There’s not much more with inans in this section (aside from a false interaction with a bracelet at the compound), but it’s probably important not to forget about them.

One interesting idea that the pillow suggests is that it can talk with books.  Belt wonders why he never talked with books.  Or had he?  Was the book reading the words to him as he held it or did books have other things to say besides the words on the page?  That idea must be tabled for now.

Belt runs into his dad who is standing in the kitchen acting like he’s had a stroke. He’s acting very strangely, frying up a huge pack of bacon and getting grease on a Jonboat shirt.  There’s a nice call back to Belt smashing the frame that held the Jonboat Says t-shirt.  For this is the shirt that Clyde has.  Clyde essentially believes that he blacked out and smashed the frame but doesn’t remember doing it.  he finds this disturbing because he distinctly remembers why he wanted to do it, but is concerned that he blacked out and doesn’t remember that part.  Belt does not put his mind at ease with the truth.

Belt also learns that his father never really liked Jonboat–he wasn’t rubbing it in by buying that T-short–rather it was … overcompensation because he felt bad that he didn’t like belt’s new friend.  This made Belt feel very good about his dad and they even shared a lengthy, sincere hug.

This week’s reading had several sections that I just loved.  The don’t advance the plot.  They are long-winded, almost set-pieces.  And each one delights me.

Like when Belt decides to sweeten his coffee with honey. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y&T-“Mean Streak” (1983).

In the early 1980s Y&T had a couple of albums that made it onto my radar.   This one, Mean Streak, had this song which I liked enough. It’s got some cool riffs and Dave Meniketti’s raspy but distinctive voice.

I remember liking this song, even though I really had no idea what was going on in the lyrics.  The chorus where everyone sings “mean streak” behind his lyrics was certainly the catchy selling point.   But this is hard rock more than metal and is not really my thing.

I may have bought this album, but I know I have the follow up In Rock We Trust, which was more poppy (and they were more pretty).  I had forgotten all about “Lipstick and Leather” yet another cheesy pop metal song about, well, lipstick and leather.

People who were fans of Y&T (like Posehn) were die-hards, but even listening now I see why I never really got into them, even if I liked them for a bit.  Maybe it was a California thing.

[READ: January 2019] Forever Nerdy

S. got this for me for Christmas after we saw Posehn on a late night show and he talked about his nerdy obsessions, including Rush.  It seemed like an obvious fit.  And it totally was.

Posehn is a few years older than me, but if he had lived in my town we would have totally been friends (except I would have never talked to him because he was older).  Anyhow, we had more or less the same obsessions and the same nerdy outlook.  Although I was never really picked on like he was so perhaps I was a little cooler than he was.  Although I never smoked or drank when I was in high school so maybe he was cooler than me.

Things to know about before reading this–Posehn is a vulgar dude–there’s not much kid friendly is in this book.  Also this book isn’t really an autobiography exactly. I mean it is in that he wrote it and its about him, but if you were dying to find out fascinating stories about his crazy life, this book isn’t really it. I t’s more about the things he was obsessed with–in true nerdy fandom.

Although, Brian, what nerd doesn’t have an index in his own book? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TINY CHEF MISH MESH ALBUM (2018).

What is The Tiny Chef?  I just heard about him a few weeks before getting this album.  According to his site:

The Tiny Chef has been cooking up amazing plant-based food and has wanted his own cooking show for the better part of the 90’s and 2000’s. He’s excited to work with Rachel, Ozi, Adam and the rest of the internet to spread his recipes and cooking style. He also firmly believes that children should learn how to cook and is hopeful that kids watch his cooking program. In his free time The Chef enjoys playing endless games of Uno and he loves to play his tiny banjo.

Rachel, Ozi and Adam are animator Rachel Larsen (who worked on Isle of Dogs among many other projects), writer/producer Adam Reid (The Adventures of Barry & Joe: Obama and Biden’s Bromantic Battle For The Soul of America) and cinematographer Ozi Oshiro (also Isle of Dogs).

Each video shows The Tiny Chef making something and singing to himself in an adorable mumble (he has a good voice, it must be said).  And thus, they released The Mish Mesh Album with all of the proceeds going to adopt “SWEET PEA” the Scottish Highland cow at The Farm Sanctuary.

I was happy to contribute my $5 and was happy to learn after the fact that:

We have definitely covered the $38 it costs to adopt and sponsor sweet pea.

I also love the modest goal that they set.

So the album consists of The Tiny Chef singing these Christmas songs in his own humming style:

“Mingle Mells” “O Come Al Ye Faithful” “Meck the Malls”  and “The First Noel” all have minimal cute/cheesy background music.

But the rest are all acapella:

“Frosty” “Good King” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Mish Mesh” “Here Comes Manta Maus” (is a little jazzier withan “oh yea” at the end).  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” “Smighlent Might” “Tiny Drummer Chef” (he really gets into this one, rolling his rs during the rum pa pum pum).  “Last Mish Mesh” is incredibly long and probably outlives its welcome, just like the original.

The rest of the songs are a minute or two and are sweet and adorable.  Sometime I wish he sang more mumbles and fewer almost lyrics, but that’s the Chef’s way.  It’s a delightful addition to the holiday listening and I hope it’s available again next year.

[READ: December 22, 2018] “Returning to the Problem”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Lim describes this story as “A fiction-poetry-essay-memoir frankenstory sparked to being by torture rendition sites and a tossed-off comment by Tom McCarthy on the destruction of the Death Star.”

This story started out in a weird way–as if it was a poem with gaps between lines and right justification.  You instantly want to read it differently.

The story (which is not all in verse) is also in several numbered parts.  The crux seems to be that he wants to write about the Immigration Act of 1965, which a footnote says is thought to have been more symbolic than consequential–“an antidote to the country’s embarrassment during the Cold War of not being the beacon of democracy it professed to be.”

The story has a refrain that is as powerful as it is awful: (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 18, 2016] Barenaked Ladies

2016-06-18 22.36.35Why have we seen Barenaked Ladies so many times?  Because they unerringly put on a super fun show.  Whether it is headlining their summer extravaganzas or even playing at our lowly Balloon Festival [*I was taken to task for calling this festival lowly, please see the end of the post for an update], their sets are fun and they always give their all.

Their set seemed really short this time–although it was the same number of songs as previous summer sets.  Sometimes it feels like they are stuck playing the same songs a lot.  They absolutely have to play a few songs–“$1,000,000,” “Brian Wilson,” “Big Bang Theory” and of course “One Week” and at least one or two new ones.  And yet they do a good job of pulling out some unexpected songs.

And they really mixed up the stage show this year.  In the past, they have started big and ended with some acoustic songs.  But this year they started with a small acoustic set. (more…)

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april16  SOUNDTRACK: JEREMY MESSERSMITH-Tiny Desk Concert #158 (September 19, 2011).

jeremyI had never heard of Jeremy Messersmith before this show (the blurb even comments how it’s a shame more people haven’t heard of him since he is so sweetly poppy).

He looks a bit like Buddy Holly although my first though when he started playing was that he sounded not unlike Belle & Sebastian.  But there is more to his music than a simple reduction like that.

Messermith plays five songs (FIVE!).  For the first three he has a four piece behind him–big jangly electric guitar, a cello and a drummer accompanying his really nice picking style.

In “Toussaint Grey, First in Life and Death,” the electric guitar is mostly picking as well.  It’s a gentle song and you can really hear his voice well.

In “Knots” the tempo picks up with bigger drums and louder electric guitar.  I also love the picked cello as a bass guitar (this is the song that reminded me so much of B&S).  But by the end it is wholly his own (the falsetto note at the end is great).  This song is super catchy.  I love the break in the song when the drums kick in again.

For “Violet” the cellist switches to keyboards and the guitar plays some big jangly chords.  The chorus is great once again–super catchy and poppy.  Even better, there’s some great background Bah bahs and then other oohs of harmony.  But it’s the switch to an even higher note at the end of the bah bahs that totally had me hooked.

For the final two songs it’s just him and the cello.  His picking style on “A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard” is wonderful.  His voice sounds like someone although I can’t quite place it, but I love it.   The song is sweet and delicate.

Before the final song “Tatooine,” (which is about Star Wars obviously) he says that Steve Earle was in not too long saying that now songwriters write songs for nerds, and so this one is for the nerds.  The first line is “twin suns of Tatooine taught me everything I know.”  Pretty nerdy alright.  It’s just him and the keyboard on this, and the song is perfect this way.

I’m really looking forward to hearing some studio version of these songs.  This Tiny Desk was quite a find.

[READ: March 12, 2016] “Hygge”

I have read several stories by Dorthe Nors and I’ve found most of them a bit odd.  And so was this one, which was translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra.  I’m not even sure what the title means.

I’m unclear about a lot of things in this story.  How old is the narrator?  He is at an old folks’ home with a woman named Lilly. She has made the place nice for him (cleaned the dead leaves off the windowsill and put the budgie under its cover so it can go to sleep).

They’d had a fight earlier–she’d said that thing about his face–but she was trying  be nice now.  And she wanted everything to be cuddly.  Her hand was “inside the waist of my trousers.” (more…)

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feschukSOUNDTRACK: THE ART OF TIME ENSEMBLE with MARTIN TIELLI–Korngold: Source & Inspiration (Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON, January 30, 2009).

aotimeAfter seeing The Art of Time Ensemble yesterday, it was quite serendipitous that I would have a show from them (featuring Martin Tielli) to post about on the following day.

This concert is the third in the Art of Time’s “Source & Inspiration” series. Two years earlier the first concert focused on composer Franz Schubert.  The previous year’s concert focused on Robert Schumann. This time the spotlight was on the 20th century Jewish composer Erich Korngold–a composer of European pedigree who became well known for his wonderful Hollywood film scores.

This concert featured Korngold’s Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano as the ‘source’ as well as new songs inspired by this work from Martin Tielli, Danny Michel and John Southworth.

This recording is only 8 minutes long because there’s only two Martin Tielli songs. “Lied Two” (the German word for song is lied (pronounced leed) so Martin called his “Lied Two.” And “Moglich” which translates into “possible.”  Both pieces are played with by the orchestra.  Martins sings.

The more dramatic of the two would be “Moglich” with his loud whispered “Relaxxxxx at the end.”  For more information about the show, you can click on this link.

Full Program & Repertoire:
Suite Op. 23 for 2 Violins, Cello and Piano Left-hand
Erich Korngold
i.Praeludium und Fuge
ii.Walzer
iii.Groteske
iv.Lied
v.Rondo-Finale

INTERMISSION
Athabasca
Adventures of Erich Korngold
—John Southworth
The Sailor Song
Island

—Danny Michel
Lied 2
Moglich
—Martin Tielli

Performers
Andrew Burashko, piano
Danny Michel, singer
Erika Raum, violin
Stephen Sitarski, violin
John Southworth, singer
Martin Tielli, singer
Winona Zelenka, cello

[READ: November 22, 2015] The Future and Why We Should Avoid It

The title of this book made me laugh so I set it aside to read it.  Little did I know that it would be so very funny that I put aside other things so I could finish it.

I hadn’t heard of Feschuk before.  He has written two previous books (How Not to Completely Suck as a New Parent sounds pretty good) and writes mostly for MacLean’s magazine.

As you might guess from the title, this book looks at the future, and Feschuk’s predictions are uncanny.  For instance, I brought the book home and decided to look at it in the bathroom.  And the introduction states quite clearly:

By now, life should be awesome and leisurely and you should be wearing a spacesuit and high-fiving your wisecracking robot sidekick.  Except instead your dishwasher is broken, your god-damn iTunes won’t sync up and right now you’re reading this book on a toilet in your bathroom instead of where you should be reading it–on a toilet in your hover car.

Too right, too right. (more…)

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armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

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ageSOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT-Live at SXSW, (March 21, 2015).

cbsxswI enjoyed Barnett’s single “Avant Gardener” a lot.  Then I got a little sick of it (I love WXPN, but man they can overplay a song).  And yet I still like Barnett’s wordplay and her sense of melody.

I was really psyched to hear how noisy her latest single “Pedestrian at Best” was.  When she played the NPR SXSW showcase, a night in which she played exclusively songs from her then unreleased new album, I did not expect her to be so rocking.

But she really embraces the noise.  The sharpest, clearest sound in this show is Dave Mudie’s ever present snare drum–a cracking sound that keeps the beat and the song steady while Courtney thrashes away on her guitar and Bones Sloane’s low bass thuds along.

The set is short, and Barnett seems genuinely delighted at the size of the crowd.  They run through 8 of the songs of the new album, and they sound great.

  • “Elevator Operator” a great opener, familiar sounding but new.
  • “Pedestrian at Best” noisy and rocking–she has a ton of fun with this.
  • “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” is a bit mellower
  • “Depreston” a slow song with great lyrics.
  • “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” a bratty fast rocker with Barnett slurring her lyrics in a fun way.
  • “Aqua Profunda!” a song about swimming in Melbourne.  2 minutes long which she describes as “stupid.”
  • “Dead Fox” super catchy and poppy.
  • “Kim’s Caravan” closes this short show with a long song.  It starts slow and moody, But Barnett starts wailing on her guitar by the end.

It’s kind of a shame that the show is only 36 minutes, but it’s a great way to get in, play some great songs and get out leaving us wanting more.  I hope the full length rocks as much as this show does.

You can watch her whole set at NPR.

[READ: March 20, 2015] The Age of Earthquakes

I saw this book at work and could tell just from the typeface that it was a Douglas Coupland book (he is that much of a brand).  I was a little thrown off by the other names on the book as I’ve never heard of them, but it is clearly a Coupland production, even if he is alphabetically second.

I’m not even sure what the other two authors contribute (or who they are), as the book is so clearly Couplandy.  Of course, having said that, the majority of the book is pithy aphorisms about the age of technology and the future.  So truly any one could have said them.

There is something kind of staid and conventional about Coupland writing about the craziness of the future and all that.  He’s been doing it for decades now.  But I found this book enjoyable.  Not mind blowing (although some ideas are pretty fascinating), not life changing, but enjoyable. (more…)

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internetSOUNDTRACK王蓉Rollin-小雞小雞(Chick Chick) [RONG “ROLLIN” WANG-“Chick Chick”]. (2014)

chickchickDon’t call it a novelty! You must watch it.

Is it a kid’s song?  I have no idea.  But it is mesmerizing.  I have now watched it about a half a dozen times and somehow it gets better each time.  Not as awesome as Babymetal (who are Japanese), but awesome in a wholly different (Chinese) way.

So far it only has 8 million views, the number must be increased!

[READ: November 15, 2014] The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Although I have been a fan of McSweeney’s from the very beginning, I have never faithfully read their online Internet Tendency.  Of course I have read the often circulated ones, and a few years ago I said I would read the old posts from the beginning (I didn’t).  Now I discover that in the years since I said that, the Internet Tendency has 283 pages of archives (with something like 30 entries per page).  Get moving on that.

Having these best pieces in a book form is nice, as is anything with “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” printed on the cover.  Since I haven’t read all 8,000 entries, I can’t say what qualifies as the best.  Although I have to wonder if some of these were picked more for their contributors than their actually bestness.  (Take a look at some of the heavy hitters represented below).  Regardless of how these were chosen, it is an excellent collection of funny stuff.

When I finish reading all of the online pieces (in about two years), I will have more authority to say if these 50 are the best, but in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy this very funny selection. (more…)

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