April 17th, 2012

Ranking UHF

This is a tough one to write – not because I can’t put the songs in favored order, but because I want to write about the movie!  …which I suppose I could do, but it doesn’t fit in this series.  The official title of this album is “UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff.” It includes a few things that were in the movie, but the bulk of it is like any other album. Seven of the songs aren’t even in the movie, and a couple of the tracks aren’t even songs. I’m going to do two lists from this one.

The first list is the “extras” list:

  • Gandhi II – The audio of the Gandhi II movie commercial in UHF. “Don’t move, slimeball!” and “I’ll have a steak, medium-rare” are the highlights here.
  • Spatula City  – Commercial in the movie that is so great I’m just going to link to a video of it.
  • Let Me Be Your Hog – They couldn’t afford the song they wanted for a particular scene, so Al wrote this as a bit of filler.
  • Fun Zone – An instrumental song used as the theme to Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse in the movie.

The second list is the song ranking list:

9. Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet near Mars – Pretty much what the title of the song says. Reminds me a lot of the Slime Creatures from Outer Space song from a few albums back.

8. She Drives Like Crazy – Spoof of FYC’s “She Drives Me Crazy,” about how bad a girl drives. Kind of a “meh” song for me, partially because he does such a good job approximating the FYC singing style that it’s not terribly enjoyable.

7. UHF – All about TV, used as the theme song for the movie.

6. Spam -Spoof of REM’s “Stand” that exceeds the original, I feel.

5. The Hot Rocks Polka – I really like this concept: it’s one of Al’s standard polkas, but it only uses Rolling Stones songs. Neat! I’d love to see him do a Beatles polka.

4. Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies – Spoof of, well, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. Al didn’t want to title this track this way but was forced to. It was an odd thing for the label to make him do, but they figured no one would know what song it was based on. Who knows? I’ve heard plenty of stories about how music labels wouldn’t know their heads from a hole in the ground.  Anyway, this one’s about the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, if that wasn’t evident from the title. “That little Clampett got his own cement pond” is just one of many great lines. Fun fact: Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits gave Al permission to use this song on the condition he be allowed to play guitar on it.  Al has talked about how it ended up being kind of difficult to get it all worked out, because Knopfler had played the song live so many times that his solos sounded different than the release track, which is what Al was after.  I think it ended up okay.

3. Isle Thing – Another TV song!  This one about Gilligan’s Island and is just a hoot.

2. Generic Blues – The only blues song you’ll ever need. My wife is a choir/music teacher at a middle school, and she’s in the middle of a series on teaching the blues. I gave her this one to use as an example in class and according to her it meets all the criteria. I figured I did those kids a favor.  Apparently B.B. King counts this among his favorites as well. I love that.

1. The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota – This right here is my answer to the question, “What’s your favorite Weird Al song?” It’s a folk song about a family taking a road trip to see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota (based on an actual thing in Darwin, MN). I love the story of this stereotypical middle-of-the-country family taking this trip, one of a grillion that they’ve taken (fun fact: all the other attractions mentioned in the song are based on real places, too).  While this might not be the Al song I’ve listened to the most, it’s still my favorite. My only wish is that he would’ve included an Abe Vigoda/Minnesota rhyme in it somewhere. A missed opportunity, that.

I highly recommend the movie, as it is just silly fun. Al does for movies and TV what he’s been doing for songs, but it isn’t just a series of spoof scenes – there’s an actual plot and everything! Plus, you get to see a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards doing a proto-Kramer schtick with a lot of fun moments.  This movie is easily in my top 20, and might even be top 10, I’d have to think about it.

January 13th, 2011

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is on the Abbey Road album, and was 100% written by McCartney, he called it “the corny one.”  The term “pataphysical” came from a Parisian club called the Pataphysical Society, which was actually a drinking club.

I don’t know that I’ve ever “discovered” a TV show on my own – you know, just stumbled onto it and found out it was great.  Most shows I love I started watching them because of a friend’s suggestion.  I didn’t start watching Seinfeld until its third or fourth season (thanks, Dave!), and I never saw an episode of Firefly until it was off the air and on DVD.  I sorta picked up Scrubs and Arrested Development on my own, I guess, but for the most part I find shows because I hear enough people say enough good things about them.

I tend towards sitcoms and sci-fi and not much toward dramas, whether courtroom or otherwise.  I did make it through three or four seasons of Smallville, which was more drama than sci-fi, so maybe that counts.

I tried the original CSI for a while, but didn’t stick with it.  I kind of liked the technical aspects (even though I knew they were ridiculously sped up for the sake of the show), but it was pretty gross and the characters didn’t really stick with me.  I took my failure to stick with it as a sign that procedurals weren’t really for me.

When Megan and I started dating, she told me she really liked Bones and wanted me to watch it with her.  I didn’t know anything about it at all, but agreed to watch an episode with her, of course.  It turned out to be a procedural and it also turned out to have some really gross after-death medical stuff in it… but I was surprised to find out I liked it.  A lot.  The characters really resonated with me, and I wanted to see what would happen to them.  Megan and I started on Season 1, Episode 1 and kept on from there.  We started with Netflix, but pretty soon I just bought her the seasons as we got ready for the next one.  We finished Season 5 in time to start watching Season 6, airing currently.  (Note: Bones is the tie-in to the title of this entry, as the crew could easily discern Maxwell’s use of a silver hammer in killing his victims.)

I hate waiting a week (or two, or five) for the next episode.  In some ways it’s so much better to have a finished product – there’s a lot to enjoy, you can watch at your own pace, and you can see the storyline from start to finish.  It’s like a really long movie.  Of course, if the show is really good, it can be sad that it’s over, knowing there won’t be any more episodes (the aforementioned Firefly, Arrested Development, Wonderfalls…), but it can also be sort of a good thing.

One of the few shows I was allowed to watch growing up was ALF. For years afterwards I had fond memories of the cat-eating alien.  A couple of years ago I bought the entire run of ALF on DVD. The first two seasons were as great as I remembered. The third season was… just okay. The fourth season? Awful. Just awful.  There’s an instance of a show that should have stopped after two seasons, apparently.  So, yeah, more Arrested Development is a thing most fans want, me included.  But there’s a part of me that is sort of glad it ended when it did.  As it is, there’s this almost perfect package of the show.  If it had gone on longer, it might have gotten lousy, like so many shows do (you are required by law at this point to mention The Simpsons, and how it isn’t as good as it used to be, and about how the fourth season was the pinnacle).  Jerry Seinfeld famously decided to end the show while it was still wildly popular and very good.  There’s debate on whether or not that was a good thing, but I tend to agree with him.

It’s probably safest for me to only find good shows once they’re off the air.  That way I can enjoy them for what they are and don’t have to worry about them messing it up in the future.  The downside is that once I start liking a show, I want to devour it.  Megan and I would watch an episode or two of Bones a week, whereas on my own I probably would have watched a season in two weeks or less.

So what are some of your favorite shows?

December 15th, 2009

For You Blue

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”For You Blue” is on the Let It Be album and was 100% written by George Harrison. The song was inspired by Patti Harrison, and George said, “[It’s] a simple twelve-bar song following all the normal twelve-bar principles, except it’s happy-go-lucky!”

Back in September I started something I’ve been wanting to do for over (and you have no idea how weird it is to me to think it’s been this long) twenty years. I couldn’t exactly tell you what started the urge in me, but I suspect it was a combination of the Ninja Turtles and Bruce Lee that first got me interested in martial arts. There was something almost graceful and certainly beautiful about the way masters of the various arts could disarm, disable, and defeat their foes, and it appealed to me from the get-go. I have a vague recollection of borrowing a movie from a friend that was about a “Kung Fu Finger Book,” (this is most likely it, but who knows?) a movie that had everyone fighting over some sort of book that apparently contained instructions on a deadly form of kung fu that apparently involved fingers. Pretty much the only thing I remember about the movie is that people were constantly asking other people if they knew where the kung fu finger book was, seconds before a fight broke out.

Regardless of where the interest sprouted, I never had the opportunity to study any of the arts. The closest I got was writing a paper on the rise in popularity of the martial arts in America, and borrowing The Tao of Jeet Kune Do from a friend’s dad who studied karate. I didn’t really understand the book back then, but I knew it was way awesome that Bruce Lee had invented his own martial art.

The more years that went by, the more any idea of studying a martial art seemed silly. Sure, I knew that old and older people still practiced, but they had started young and I, like Luke Skywalker, was too old to begin the training.

I met a fellow named Gary in the improv troupe, and found out pretty soon that he had a Tae Kwon Do studio, but it took me about three years to talk to him about it. We met for lunch early in September and talked about what all was involved with a fellow my age starting out, and he not only convinced me to give it a try, he pointed out that there was a class that was held at the Community Center at my very own church. Huh. I’ve never been one to notice things.

I checked on it, and sure enough, the next sessions were to begin in two weeks. I signed up, figuring the worst that would happen would be that I’d hate it and be done with it. I didn’t figure anyone got beat up in their first couple of classes. When I showed up, I was given a white belt, which I soon figured out meant “guy who has paid for classes.”

It was a little surreal, that first class. I was being taught things that I already knew, at least to some degree. I would never say that I learned a martial art by watching movies, of course, but I did learn some things about martial arts – terminology, philosophy, the fact that you bow to your sensei, that kind of thing. Actually doing those things, though? So weird.

Tae Kwon Do has the belt system, like many martial arts – White to Orange to Yellow and on up. My teacher explained it to me early on that the belts were kind of like grades in school, with a black belt being similar to graduating from high school. The degrees of black belt past that were analogous to college, grad school, and beyond. Each belt requires the learning of specific skills and these are incorporated in a form, a series of skills performed in sequence. The form we were studying in this session was 28 moves long.

Now, I felt I was understanding the moves themselves -not that I could perform them that well – but it turns out I was foiled by something I didn’t know I’d have to deal with: memorization! I could not remember the sequence of moves for the life of me. If someone called them out, I could perform them semi-correctly, but left to my own devices I quickly became a statue, frustrated at my inability to remember the series.

It was when I learned that we were learning a form that I experienced what can only be described as rebellion. See, although I never met Bruce Lee, I had learned some things from watching his movies, reading his books, and reading about him. See, he wasn’t just a movie star, he changed martial arts in a lot of ways. His philosphy, the aforementioned Tao, was that a fighter shouldn’t memorize forms, a fighter should gather moves from whatever worked. So he might take a kick from karate, a grapple from judo, and a punch from boxing and mix them into his Jeet Kune Do (which means “Way of the Intercepting Fist”). He was very very adamantly against students learning forms. Even though I wasn’t in Jeet Kune Do and never had Bruce Lee as a teacher, it was a tenet I had grown to accept over the years, a viewpoint that made a lot of sense to me. Yet here I was, learning a form. It was surprising to me how much that bothered me. I guess, though, in one sense, I shouldn’t have let it bother me, what with the fact that I never really learned it…

I was the oldest white belt in the class, and only one of the two youngest people was a white belt. The other one was an orange belt, and the day he chose me to practice a move on, I was reminded of the episode of “Seinfeld” where Kramer was taking karate. Elaine discovered he was in a class of kids, which explained why he was “dominating the dojo.”

The class ran for two months. On the last day we took our belt test, with the assurance that we had already earned our belts, this was just an exhibition. If our teacher didn’t know we were capable, he wouldn’t let us take the test, he said. Since I couldn’t remember the 28-move sequence, I took some comfort in that. On the flip side, though, I also felt like I didn’t deserve the belt upgrade because I couldn’t perform the sequence.

The next session starts in January, and I am planning to sign back up. I enjoyed 90% of the classes, and didn’t mind the workout I was getting while in the class. I think it could eventually be a thing I really like, but I’m also planning to take it a step at a time and see how it goes.

I’m still going to feel a little guilty when I watch Bruce Lee movies, though.