This. This is the sort of thing that happens when you let me put on the crazy grab bag of stuff that I call music. I get to listening to the Devo album I bought because I figured I liked that one song so why not? Also, you know, stringing out words into alphabetical order like this produces a bunch of interesting other word blocks. Yes, I am thinking particularly of the one that starts “do evolving from glue go God”. But really isn’t the most startling thing about this the discovery that “Are We Not Men?” is not in fact more than fifty percent of the song? No, it is not. Next week: They Might Be Giants’ “Particle Man” unless I get a better offer or maybe consider Sparks’s “Let The Monkey Drive”. also I know what you’re thinking and that strand is ‘now okay pool our pinheads’. Not ‘poot’.
Because sometimes you just run up to deadline and you have to go with what you have and those are always the bits people like best anyway and sometimes I wonder why I go into writing a second hundred words anyway and I just want a hug thank you.
Meanwhile: if you need to score a movie or TV scene and want to evoke mid-80s nostalgia without digging deep you’re going to pick “Out Of Africa”, sure. But what’s the equivalent for other decades? If you just want a wash of mid-90s nostalgia without digging deep then, sure, Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”, or maybe Nirvana’s “Oh Whatever You Have On Hand”. But what about the 70s? The 60s? For the 50s I’d say “Mister Sandman” but that might just be Back To The Future talking. For the 40s there’s Glenn Miller’s “American Patrol”. How about the rest? Yes, start from the 1750s.
Also not depicted: realizing like thirty years after that of course the song isn’t called “Out Of Africa” and you’ve been naming it wrong all this time.
So my love mentioned that one of the special Patreon-subscribers-only episodes of bad-books podcast I Don’t Even Own A Television reviewed a modern Hardy Boys book. It’s one where the Hardy Boys investigate the local hip-hop scene. And you remember the DMV sloth in Zootopia smiling? That stuff happens in real life too. My love told me about this Wednesday and I’m still only in the first half of that smile. And I think, the more you think about it, the more you’re going to start smiling and keep on smiling even through the day as it is. You’re welcome!
The real news, by the way, is that I’ve learned how to make the captions appear outside the wedges with little arrows pointing to them, instead of having to make the text kind of appear more or less on top of a wedge and maybe spill over onto the next wedge and I can’t figure a way to set all the text to be uniformly any color except by fiddling with edge wedge separately, which is stupid. This is a lot nicer to produce even though it’s probably unreadable at the available sizes. Sorry. It did leave me wondering if there’s pie charts then why aren’t there, like, cake charts where you just have easy-to-arrange rectangles of sizes representing portions of stuff and labels that fit on top of those? Except that’s probably how infographics get made, and I don’t know how to do those, because for all that I try to keep intellectually and emotionally youthful what that really means is I play pinball and listen to more New Wave music of the 80s than I ever did in the 80s. Anyway, while I’d like something like that, what’s important is, I found a way to make my computer thing do a thing in a slightly less annoying way than it used to. Ice cream for everyone!
For those wondering: I’m not saying the Nilsson album wasn’t, just saying what the expectations were.
Like five cups left out where someone put a teabag in and then discovered the hotel’s complementary coffee and tea service didn’t include hot water, just two kinds of regular coffee. Also one full cup of coffee-tea hybrid abandoned after two sips.
Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the five dollar bin.
Oh wow this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.
The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1964, rendered by early computer synthesizer.
The daily high temperatures for Schenectady, New York, from the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, rendered as a waltz, as the first album my hand even touched and I wasn’t even trying to make something like this happen. How does this happen? How does this keep happening? $3 and the woman selling it marked it down to $2 before I even said anything and then suggested if I wanted all four copies I could have them for five bucks.
Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the dollar bin.
Wait, how could Allan Sherman have done a riff on the theme to Saturday Night Fever? Is that even possible? Can someone check?
The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1962 – 1965, rendered on xylophones.
Two guys trying to walk back the “White Disco Sucks” label on a Bee Gees album when the customer admitted to liking it although of course not so much as their pre-disco stuff.
Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the two dollar bin.
A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, The Great Race, and Gone With The Wind.
The Belchertown (Massachusetts) Savings Bank 1968 gift to its listeners of select favorite memories from the golden age of radio … oh, I get it, they’re saving these precious memories, that makes thematic sense as a tie-in and oh that’s a lot of Amos and Andy to put on one record but at least they break it up with … good grief Life with Luigi? Was all the non-ethnic-humor stuff from old-time radio unavailable somehow?
The greatest hits of the Beatles, 1963 – 1965, rendered by a string quartet.
That table with all the concert video DVDs that couldn’t look more sketchy if he were underneath a giant flickering neon sign reading “SCAMMER” although hey, he’s got the whole Woodstock ’99 concert this says.
A box just labelled “prog rock” next to two boxes just labelled “Beatles”.
The great news events of 1944 as reported by Morse Code international transmission.
The Who’s Tommy sung by an all-twee children’s chorus for some reason.
An ever-growing bundle of people arguing over what was the best Kinks concept album, splitting off an argument about what was the best concept versus what was the best rendition of that concept, all united by the belief that more people ought to listen to Arthur.
Gene Pitney’s She’s a Heartbreaker, which on the cover explains it includes Gene Pitney’s hit She’s a Heartbreaker, which at least gets one thing clear and understandable in this confusing world.
No, no, this is totally Paul McCartney’s most embarrassing 80s single.
A read-along story cassette book for 3-2-1 Contact? I totally need this except by any reasonable definition of “Need” but look how much of the book is the Bloodhound Gang.
Kid whose family was at the hotel wandering in from the swimming pool to stare at the records and then leave without making eye contact with anyone.
Listen To History: John Cassavetes portrays John Cameron Swayze as the news reporter covering the Zimmerman Telegraph, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and Warren G Harding’s Death in a recreation of how network radio might have covered these events and what exactly is on sale for $6 here? What level of reality is in operation?
Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the miscellaneous bin.
A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Gazebo, and A Face In The Crowd.
A bunch of interview clips the Beatles offered but stripped of all possible context.
The soundtrack to Midnight Cowpoke which turns out not to be the soundtrack to a porn film which would be bizarre enough but this leads to the discovery of “stag party records” that, okay, wait, they’re just music with women groaning? And this was a thing people were supposed to listen to in any context? Play this “sexciting” album in your car? Yes, we know car LP players were a thing but what? And they were still making these late enough in the day they could do an album riffing on aerobics? What the heck is the heck with this? What?
The cast of One Day At A Time sings the greatest hits of Motown.
A two-LP set of The Greatest Hits of Zager and Evans?
Haven’t got any idea what this is but it’s thick in a box of prog-rock covers so amazing I want to get a better look at it without making eye contact with the guy selling them because if I do he’s going to talk about them and I can’t have that much personal contact with someone can I?
A disco cover of the themes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Hole, 1941, and Klute.
Supertramp’s Breakfast In America in the Beatles bin.
The Fat Boys’ You Know, Only One Of Them Is Actually Kind Of Fat, The Most You Can Say About The Others Is They’re Slightly Chunky Or Maybe We’ve All Just Gotten Tubbier Since 1989.
Is it possible that Paul McCartney 80s singles are infinite and there is no most embarrassing one?
The Kinks debate approaching the conclusion that while it is impossible to define what exactly makes something a concept album, having a track subtitled “Part II”, “(Reprise)”, or “Entr’Acte” means you’ve got one.
How To Set Up Your Record Player, an instructional album that seems to present an impossible bootstrapping problem.
All right, fine, Best Buy, I’ll review my stupid purchase already.
Ahem. I purchased recently a 30-pin-USB-to-lightning adapter. When I examined it in the store it appeared to be a thing which existed, possessing definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. When taken out of the store it continued to exhibit these properties to the best of my ability to determine. When opened up and put into service in my car the adapting properties came to the fore. The fore was not included in the purchase, but I was aware of that fact and did not expect it to be. It did not affect my decision to purchase this product.
This was not my first attempt at buying an adapter. The first one ended in a sad failure. That, too, was from Best Buy but I do not fault the store. I fault my sister. She recommended I buy one of those stiff, thick, Otter cases for my iPod when I finally got one ten years after everybody in the world got one. I like the case. It feels nice and secure. But it’s also big. I suppose my sister got it because in her line of work she’s liable to drop her iPhone from atop a horse, who will then kick the phone a couple times, and maybe bite her for good measure. She trains horses and horse-riders, so this is a normal hazard. It’s not as though she has a job at the indie video store still open in town that somehow keeps going awry. The shop has a canter-up window for horse riders, and she doesn’t have a job there anyway.
I know, tender Best Buy review reader, you might wonder at cantering up to a video shop window. Sure, cantering horses can achieve speeds of 16 or even 27 miles per hour, according to the lead paragraph on Wikipedia that I get by typing ‘canter’ in to DuckDuckGo because yes I’m that guy. But if you’re picking up a copy of, say, George Lucas’s computer-animated thing with the fairy opossums or something that kind of got released a couple years back? Strange Magic or something? Well, you need to do something to spruce that up. Lobbing it toward you at speed is just the trick.
So the Otter case is maybe too much case for my iPod. I don’t work with horses and I sidle casually away even from photographs of them. My electronics just have to survive my forgetting I left them in the dining room, to emotional distress that a thick rubber casing actually kind of helps with. I guess it feels like being hugged.
The case is pretty thick and the first adapter I got was a stubby little thing that couldn’t reach the plug unless I took the Otter case off. The case can be easily removed by chisel and dynamite, I assume. I haven’t got the trick myself. But I had to return the adapter, which your computers with their transaction records know full well. See my review of that, titled, “adapter didn’t fit my iPod’s case”, 450 crafted words about my two minutes of ownership of the thing.
Anyway, I needed an adapter that fit the adapter my car already head. For whatever reason my 2009-model car was “iPod ready” with a plug that wasn’t actually USB or any plug known to humanity. But it had an adapter to go from its plug to 30-pin USB that I lost almost right after I bought the car. It would become one of my Brigadoon possessions, appearing for scant moments and vanishing again. But one time I caught it and plugged it in to the car and it stayed there. I might have used my car-to-30-pin and got a 30-pin-USB to Normal USB adapter, and then got a Normal USB adapter-to-Lightning adapter. We throw the word “Frankensteinian” around a lot but this is the time to.
When I learned there was an adapter with a smaller plug that would be more likely to fit my Otter case I was happy. Not so happy as, say, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Closer to how happy I am when it turns out a McDonalds I stopped in has all their Chicken McNugget sauces in pump dispensers so I could put sweet chili sauce on my fries.
If I find anything unsatisfactory it is that when I plug in my iPod the system ignores my podcasts and opens up the music player. It’ll play the first song in alphabetical order that I have, and it’ll ignore all directions. So starting the car will include a moment when I hurl myself at the iPod trying without success to The Electric Prunes’ version of About A Quarter To Nine. This is me overreacting. I mean, I bought the Electric Prunes record of my own free will. But if it weren’t for that then the iPod would play Sparks’s Academy Award Performance. Anyway, I don’t know if the problem is this adapter, the other adapter, the car, or just the iPod being difficult because it has to deal with iTunes all day long.
In short, this adapter is a thing which exists, and which possesses definite properties of mass and length and ability to adapt. We should all be so fortunate.
A lesson for us all, though don’t ask me what we’re learning.
|Album||Albums Away From Writing ‘Year Of The Cat’||Year|
|Zero She Flies||4||1970|
|Past, Present and Future||2||1973|
|Year of the Cat||0||1976|
Not included: Singles.
To close out Me Week, how about some of lists of stuff that I liked?
- Fifteen Things Humanity Got Around To Before The Writing Of ‘Hotel California’ and yeah, one of them’s wrong. Sorry.
- The Hardest Things To Understand In Old Movies to help you out before diving into anything made before about 1998.
- The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields and someone actually gave that a one-star vote! How could anyone not be interested in this? Also it inspired some doubts in my mind.
- What Average People Think Are Rodents Versus What Biologists Think Are Rodents and I know I’m going to be proved right about guinea pigs someday.
- My Reactions To Reading The Grimm Fairy Tales so now you don’t have to read them yourselves, although there’s some great and weird ones in there. Also some alarming ones.
- The Nations Of The World, As Represented In Amusement Park Figures And Art and tell me if it’s not true.
- Hamlet’s To Be Or Not To Be Soliloquy, In Order which I’ve totally got to do in an Open Mike night someday.
- Statistics Saturday: Risk That I Will Correctly Identify A Color By Its Name Alone, a softly despairing plea for words to mean better things.
And because the world is confusing and hurt-y, here’s one more. The Ingredients List For Libby’s 29 oz Can of 100% Pure Pumpkin brings a refreshing calm and sense of place to everything. I hope this helps.
… And then our pet rabbit suddenly joined a British New Wave band. I don’t know.
Been a bunch of mathematically-themed comics on my other blog, by the way. Saturday had a post, with cheerleading and geometry and all that. Sunday had another, complete with quote from the Magic Realism Bot. Please, enjoy, won’t you?
My love and I were listening to Sirius XM’s Cheesey 70s channel, because we had used up the 80s channel and were saving what’s left of the Current Indie channel. They got to playing C W McCall’s “Convoy” and I heard something I never noticed before. Buried there somewhere in the lyrics he sings something about a “chartreuse microbus”. I didn’t imagine it. My love heard the same thing.
And now I’m left wondering: what other oddly-colored vehicles are hiding in the midst of songs everybody kind of knows but doesn’t really listen to? If we poke around “Sweet Caroline” would we find a fuchsia MG-B? Is there a minor verse in “We Didn’t Start The Fire” built around a teal Mercury Lynx? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in “Take On Me” that’s about a khaki Buick Roadmaster, but has anyone checked recently?
Well, at least I was able this week to spoil someone’s theory about what “25 or 6 to 4” even meant, so there’s that.
What’s playing at Karaoke Night:
- Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the first person who got to pick anything, and also everyone else there.
- R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, performed by someone who starts two bars late and has to give up about twenty percent of the words each verse to return to the chorus anywhere near on time.
- Let It Go, from Frozen, performed by someone who loves the song but doesn’t realize that it’s awesome because it’s an incredibly hard song to perform.
- Bill Joel’s Piano Man, sung by everybody when the person who had signed up for it is nowhere to be found when it’s their turn.
- Weird Al’s Yoda, performed by someone horrified there isn’t anything by the Kinks in the catalogue somehow and trying to reconstruct the real words as best as possible in the circumstances, which include nerds crying out to do it “right” with the Weird Al version.
- P F Sloan and Steve Barri’s Secret Agent Man, done by someone who figures if he’s loud enough about the key phrase “Secret Agent Man” it won’t matter that he sings it in a different, yet still previously unknown to humanity, key every time. This someone, dear reader, is me.
- Wings’s With A Little Luck, performed by someone who forgets it has an instrumental break about as long as fourth grade in the middle and stands with wide-eyed terror through three-quarters of it before awkwardly trying to dance, and then remembers the fade-out is even longer still.
- Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, performed by someone who has pretty solid voice control and seems out of place in the proceedings.
- Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, unenthusiastically performed by someone who tries to use the close to say he wanted to do the Wall of Voodoo version, although this explanation gets lost underneath the DJ calling the next singer up.
- Some Kinda Romanticky Gushy Ballad I Guess, from the closing credits to the film Any Given 80s Movie, Which You Could See Any Time, Day Or Night, In The 90s By Turning On Any Cable Channel Including The TV Listings, sung by someone mumbling so you can’t make out the words anyway, but the glurgey music alone brings back great memories.
- A-Ha’s Take On Me, until it gets to the first “I’ll be gone” and the performer’s voice locks up at the high pitch, and she runs off stage and can’t be coaxed back up however much everyone promises it’s okay. Post-karaoke-night discussion focuses on whether that was a deliberate joke, and never reaches a definitive conclusion.
- Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by someone who came in late and also everyone else there.
- Somebody or other’s Unintelligible Hip-Hop Song, performed by a most white guy who is neither hip nor hop, who possessed no idea this would require having a strong sense of cadence and rhythm, and also didn’t realize there were three spots where the verse uses the n-word, something he had failed to establish the necessary policy for well ahead of time.
- Don McLean’s American Pie sung by a guy who realizes twenty minutes in that he’s still not even halfway through, though everyone feels great joining in the chorus.
- Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, performed by someone who picked it just to complain about the reference to South Detroit, also everyone else there.
- Nena’s 99 Luftballoons, sung by someone who just assumed the karaoke machine had the English-language version. Live and learn, huh?
- Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit without any inflection or change in tone, possibly by me because there’s no way of controlling what note my voice has chosen to sing in this time.
- U2’s With Or Without You performed by Ron Mael of Sparks after he found, to his disappointment but not surprise, there isn’t anything of his in the karaoke catalogue.
- Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Little Red Riding Hood done about two octaves low so it sounds 226 percent more pervy than normal.
- Any Given Indie Band’s Song With A Lot Of Whoa-oa-oa-oaaahoos In It, sung by someone using his pretty good voice to do it as if by Fozzie Bear for some terrible reason.
- The Champs’ Tequila, by someone who figured this would be funny and had no idea everyone was going to groan like that when it was announced and now he’s stuck with it.
- Let It Go, from Frozen, as sung by someone who either just came in or didn’t learn the lessons from earlier.
- The Who’s Pinball Wizard, sung by someone snarking about how there hasn’t been pinball since 1982 and can’t be convinced to look over in the alcove where there’s like eight tables and six of them are even turned on. Seriously.
- Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, by someone who was sure she knew the lyrics, and then saw what the karaoke machine has, which was apparently transcribed by YouTube’s automated-worthless-closed-captioning. So the screen’s giving stuff like “Denny footfall rocky cockerel unsteamed chess team brook lamprey snotty beam” and now she has no idea what to do.
- Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, picked by someone who was thinking of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London because he wanted to do the wolf howl part, but recovers pretty well with the DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-doo part and doesn’t look too disappointed by the end of it all.
- The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, sung by someone who once again just assumed he was the last person performing for the night and who is confident this will be funny when he finally is.
- Queen’s We Are The Champions, picked by someone making way too big a deal over the Tigers beating the Rays 5-3 this early in the season.
- George Michael’s Faith, by someone who didn’t realize how tricky the meter could be, but has a friend who jumps on on stage for the last third to guide her through safely.
- The Theme To M*A*S*H, selected by someone who wanted to show off he knew the words to it, and wasn’t thinking how the karaoke machine was going to give him, and everybody else, the words to it anyway.
- Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is just signing itself up to play at this point.
If I’m alone in the car I listen to audio books. I’ve got a lot of them because I don’t have to drive alone in the car much anymore. The current model iPod hides the things it knows to be audio books off in a different application because listening to music files is totally different from listening to someone reading. Fine. But with a bunch of audio book files I haven’t got around to setting the flag that tells the iPod that it’s an audio book, not music.
So. We tried my iPod on shuffle for a change because my love’s iPod that we normally listen to was low on battery and we forgot its cable. We were running about one-third “weird electronic music experiments from that time I bought an album of BBC Radiophonic sound products” to two-thirds “random chapters from Michael Lewis’s The Big Short and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Which apparently is a lot longer in audio book form than I imagined because it just kept coming up. I should probably listen to it sometime.
Yes, it’s annoying that big corporations insist on knowing everything about us. And insist on tying everything into big identity profiles ready to be swiped by hackers or sold to marketers. But at least they repay us by being uproariously bad at guessing what we might want to buy. From a recent Amazon list of suggested things I might give them money for:
OK. Headphones, I can’t really argue with. I’ve got consumer electronics, I’ve got ears. We have a plausible match here.
Nutritional diet for cockatiels. I don’t have a cockatiel. I never have. I can’t get within four feet of a cockatiel without it eyeing me and opening its beak to figure out how it can eat as much of me as possible before I can react. I get enough of that from my friends, I don’t need it from my pets. My best guess: they worked out somehow that my sister had a cockatiel, back during the Reagan administration, and they’re hoping that she still has that bird, that it’s quite old, and that I want to give my sister pet supplies for Christmas. We don’t have that kind of relationship. She takes care of horses, so her wish list consists of incomprehensible pieces of horse gear that, based on the price, are made of high-grade americium lined with platinum, plus some e-books. I buy the e-books.
Lightning cable. Can’t argue that much. I did buy an iPod Touch over the summer, and of course it can’t use any of the estimated 28 USB cables we already had around. Well, the iPod Touch came with this cable, but I’ll lose that one eventually. They’re just premature here.
Mendini Clarinet. Just … no. Amazon, I hate to break this to you, but woodwinds? Me? I’ll have you know I played violin from third to like seventh grade. I can’t say I was the best violin player in the world, just the best one in my elementary school. I was able to always hit the notes you get by just running the bow across the strings, and I was often able to hit the notes you get by putting your fingers on the strings before running the bow. So if you need a scratchy, nearly-in-key rendition of Jingle Bells, the Theme to Masterpiece Theater‘s Non-Challenging Opening Bits, or the musical Cats’s Memory, well, find me a violin and give me some time to warm up again. But a clarinet? Rank foolishness, that’s all there is to it.
Though looking at it … this does seem like a pretty good deal on a clarinet, doesn’t it? Except according to this a three pound bag of cockatiel food normally retails for over one hundred twenty-five dollars and sixty-nine cents and they’re marking it down to ten bucks? Of all the things they think I might buy, they’re putting that alleged fact on the list?
I know people worry about my health. Sometimes I even consider worrying about it too. But to give an update: after a couple days of rest and Aleve and therapeutic twitching and whimpering, my back no longer feels like it’s been hit by a truck picking a fight with me in a bar. It has advanced to the point that it feels like the truck saw me, and then slammed me against the wall. Then it called in a hitman. The hitman then rushed over, sized me up, and composed an EP-length album that went triple platinum. Then the triple platinum discs were grabbed and smacked against my spine repeatedly. While this is still generally fitting the description of “hit by a truck”, being slugged repeatedly by decoratively-sculpted chunks of platinum is a much better sort of truck hit than before. And, not to brag, but I have walked up and down several different flights of stairs since Thursday. Things are looking up, although I must admit, I’m not looking with them because that kind of hurts too.
If you want to be a comic performer, broadly speaking, there are two paths to take. You can be Groucho Marx or an accountant. The Groucho Marx approach has obvious advantages: you go out looking funny and anybody paying the slightest attention knows you are trying to be funny. The audience is readied to laugh. The accountant is tougher: you go out looking utterly unexceptional and trust that, maybe, the audience will notice you’re being ridiculous. The accountant style is more likely to go over people’s heads. The audience might not understand they’re expected to find this funny. But it’s also the kind that gets critical acclaim. And discovering something that’s accountant-style funny is wonderful; it feels like being let in on a secret.
(Yes, I’m aware that Groucho Marx hated the greasepaint-mustache, looking-to-be-funny look he wore. He felt going out looking deliberately funny encouraged audiences to be skeptical, and would rather have gone out looking like an accountant. But by the time he could have cast off the vaudeville look, he was too famous for it to ditch it entirely.)
So this brings me to Bob and Ray. Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding were mostly radio comics, with some television and other ventures. I want to say the best way to describe what they did was that they did SCTV, but for radio. I trust that SCTV is a recognizable reference around these parts. However, what’s got me doing a Bob and Ray Week is that I discovered a friend had not the faintest idea what I was talking about when I referred to them.
So here’s a sample. In 1959 and 1960 they performed Bob and Ray Present the CBS Radio Network many installments of which survive thanks to the magic that lets old-time radio survive. This one is from the 12th of October, 1959; it’s tagged “Guess The Name Of This”.
It is theoretically possible that I have this embedded below. However, Archive.org’s “embed” feature is really badly screwed up, and its help page is utter gibberish. I recommend that if you want to see something explained in a way that explains nothing to anybody. It may be easiest to just download the MP3 and play that in your preferred MP3 player than deal with this mess. In any case it’s file number 77 in this collection, titled “591012 Guess The Name Of This”.
Anyway, this is a fun episode to try out. I think it conveys well the Bob and Ray spirit in which you might, if you’re not listening, not even notice something ridiculous is going on. We get some lovely predictions for the future, and a Name That Tune-style contest that goes subtly awry. The sense of subverted normality is strong here. It won’t be for everyone, but for the people it is for, it’s perfect. Also the episode is only twelve minutes long, so it’s easy to try out. (Most episodes of this particular series are fifteen minutes; I’m not sure why this one is short.)
I’m going ahead and guessing you want to know how the 80s Night came out. For me it was more dignified than the actual 1980s. It involved less weeping and much less Destro on my part. I was never in the running for the 80s Costume Contest. I did dress pretty much as I did in the actual 1980s, what with finding a shirt and a pair of pants that fit and wearing them around the correct limbs and segments of my torso. The contest was won by a women who came in a sweater so blue and puffy that it broke through previous cognitive barriers to find new yet somehow vintage colors of blue and textures of puffiness. It challenged well-known conceptual theories of blue puffiness. Everyone was outclassed, but I was outclassed the most.
Besides the costume contest there was music. If it weren’t for the music the night would just be people wearing unfashionable clothing, staring at each other, and wondering if the hipster bar wasn’t supposed to be closed that day anyway. It was and for some reason it wasn’t.
Still, running alongside the music was dancing. My love was happy to dance. I was willing to go along but am at rather a disadvantage. My love has learned such sophisticated dancing skills as “how” and “when to”. I’m still working on the part of dancing where I don’t look as though I’ve been pulled out of bed, stripped to my underwear, and shoved out onto an unfamiliar podium to give the State of the Union address. It is strong but faces great challenges if we are to remain great.
There was probably some point when I should have learned dancing. I guess when I was a teen and going to parties. Here I have to plead higher priorities. When I was in high school it was most important that I spend every Friday and Saturday night watching The Wrath of Khan. And, you know, while I was doing all that the movie didn’t change one bit. It would go on not changing for like fifteen years after that, when I was busy with other stuff and they released DVDs. I did as much as I could. I had similar results on Saturday and Sunday nights with The Search For Spock.
But my heroic sacrifice means I’m stuck for what to do when dancing. I understand that I should be moving my body, both wholly and in parts. Some part of me understands, for example, I should do something that coordinates with the movements of my love, who’s dancing in front of me. The obvious thing is to do what my love is doing. This could be in mirror — my love moves left, so I do too — or in rotation — my love moves left, so I move right. This leads me to think about the kinds of symmetry operations that are valid in dancing partners. How do they vary with dancing quartets, or trios, or arbitrary large groups of people dancing around a circle? Are they necessarily discrete symmetries or are continuous ones allowed too? This is what happens to people you let grow up into mathematics majors. By the time I’ve worked it out the DJ has finished with the Pet Shop Boys for the night.
But I’ll carry on trying anyway because I want to be a good sport. My basic move is what I learned from doing the step aerobics move on WiiFit. I don’t want to unnecessarily brag about my abilities there, but in two and a half years of daily exercise on that I got “perfect” scores on their two-and-a-half minute step aerobics literally more than four times.
None of this should imply that I raise my hands, by the way. I grant it’s theoretically possible to raise my hands above the level of my pockets while dancing. I don’t believe the rewards could be worth the risk. If I raised a hand how would I know someone wouldn’t try to shake it, or hand me the leash for a pack of werewolves harnessed together as sled dogs, or try to high-five me, or something? No, I’ll just be over here, shuffling at the steady beat of WiiFit Step Aerobics whatever the song’s beat is, circling around my love until I get dizzy and fall down. It’s what I can do well.
Weekend events to celebrate the Fourth of July:
Fireworks Spectacular. The attempt to confront Lisa with her self-centeredness sprawls out of control. Featured side-fights include arguments about who was driving who to that concert in 2005, every remaining issue from Junior Year in the Suites, a squabble that somehow compares Babylon 5 to Star Trek: Voyager, that dispute about the duck pond from two years back, and who told Terry’s mom about the tablecloth after all. Scheduled to begin Friday at 9 pm. Reverberations may last for months, or longer. It depends how long it takes people to start speaking to one another again.
Music Endurance. Once more challengers attempt to turn off Johnny Rivers’s Secret Agent Man instead of kind-of-grooving all the way through it. The last successful Secret Agent Man-stopper was in 2008, so, maybe we’re due? Friday at 10 pm.
Washington Crossing The Delaware Reenactment. The lawsuit about who owns the usufruct of the oars for the reenactment boat was finally settled. The estimated seven Revolutionary War Reenactment groups agreed to have the case mediated by a Court of Oyez and Terminer re-enactors. They’ve been waiting literally since the 1947 State Constitution. That’s the document that asked if we even had oyezes around anymore. They’re some of the more re-enactor-ish groups you can find. The court ruled in favor of hitting with an inflatable squeaky mallet the first person who said “usufruct”. This they revised to anyone saying “usufruct” who wasn’t in the Court re-enactors. Jeremy couldn’t stop giggling. Anyway, now they have all that sorted out and it’s only a little over six months late. Also moved to no river anywhere near the Delaware watershed because that was just too controversial too. Cancelled, due to bad weather.
Annual Doubleheader. Joining the regular debate between “semimonthly” and “bimonthly” is the traditional July treat of “biannual” versus “semiannual” versus “biennial”. Phyllis has promised this will be the first year she doesn’t get into a frothing, screaming fit where she cries out “what would you people make of `centannual’ anyway?” Organizers promise the event will be worth seeing anyway. We don’t buy it either. Punch and small, flavorless sandwiches to be served. Good chance someone will be punched, too, so there’s that. Saturday, 1 pm.
Marching Band. So, funny story. You remember how nobody remembered to arrange a Memorial Day parade until the last minute? And we had to lean on Jeanne to call in some debts with the high schools to put together a respectable marching band? And because of the texting mishaps they started out on Eight Street instead of on Eighth Street? And they started marching a half-hour before everyone else was ready to go? Well, they’ve been spotted on the outskirts of Edmonton. We’ve texted as many of them as we can to tell them to stop and we’re putting together a potluck to raise money to get them back home. Saturday, 7:30 pm. Bring your own sheet music.
Geography Bee. Identify the capitals, populations, economic bases, and interesting features of nations of the world. (This world.) Or try to come up with plausible-sounding alternatives. Championship rounds include making up plausible-sounding countries out of whole cloth. Championship awarded to the person who can compose the most plausible-sounding yet unrealistic continent which isn’t Australia. All are welcome. $4.65 entry fee because the Geography Club has too many 35-cent pieces hanging around. Cloth available $0.65 (city-states and small island countries) to $3.65 (regional powers). Eighth Not Eight Street High School. Sunday, 2 pm.
Grouse Hunt. Hourlong contest to celebrate the diverse set of things people can grumble impotently about. Celebrity categories to include: the roads, newspaper comics pages, piles of things in the corner, record stores, picking your seats when you buy movie tickets, newspapers, how many layers of packaging there are around bananas somehow, those cars where the dashboard instruments are in the center for some reason instead of in front of the steering wheel, and Freestyle. Pitchforks provided, although not the good kind they used to sell in hardware stores, back when the hardware stores were any good and they didn’t have metal detectors even on the entrance doors for some reason. Sunday, 5 pm.
To-Do: Check that this is all happening in the United States. Or the Philippines, we heard that was a thing once. Maybe Liberia? Some of them probably celebrate the fourth as something other than the fourth day of the month, right?
Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:
- Poor Cinderella, 3 August 1934.
- Stopping The Show, 12 August 1932.
- Silly Scandals, 23 May 1931.
- Mask-A-Raid, 7 November 1931.
- Mysterious Mose, 27 December 1930.
- Sally Swing, 14 December 1938.
- Dizzy Dishes, 9 August 1930.
It’s usually stupid to turn a cartoon character into a live-action one. Most cartoon characters, at least the beloved ones, are things that don’t make sense in live action: wisecracking rabbits and talking mice and brilliantly stupid moose and the occasional giant robot or so. As a moving illustration that works fine. Somehow the unreality of a drawing that changes by itself makes the unreality of a teapot with a personality make sense.
And yet there’s Betty Boop. After a couple of cartoons she settled down to being a stylized but still recognizably human figure. She would get into quite some surreal and bizarre situations. But she could also host quite mundane situations, things as easily photographable as singing until she melts the heart of a skeptical audience. Of the cartoon stars of the early 1930s she’s one of the few who could plausibly be played by a real-live person. And so she was.
So this week’s First Betty Boop entry is her first appearance in live action, in a short released the 26th of December, 1931. Mae Questel, who would voice her most of her animated run, also plays her in real life. Rudy Vallée, whose voice would grace several of her cartoons, appears as the host of the short as well.
The short is a bit of a strange one, and I apologize the best copy I can find of the whole thing is split into two parts. Betty Boop only appears in the second. I also apologize for the ethnic humor of the first musical/comedy act featured. I don’t know who “Henry Whitewash” is supposed to be, and I can’t find much in my meager vaudeville or early-movie references. I don’t know if his was an actual vaudeville or early-movies act or something made up so later generations watching the short could feel uncomfortable. His bit takes to about 5:20 into the video to wrap up, though, and give way to Rudy Vallée singing to a troubled couple.
The short falls into that strange genre of the Abstract Concept Court, in this case the Court of Musical Justice. (Compare it to the Court of Responsible Car Operations in beloved Mystery Science Theater 3000-featured short X Marks The Spot.) I’ve actually seen several shorts along these lines. The strangest was 1943’s Heavenly Music, actually a heavenly court in which a then-modern crooner (Frederick Brady as “Ted Barry”) was tried for his earthly crimes against music. He won an acquittal by insisting that all the major lines of his music could really be traced back to respectable dead white composers who were on his jury, such as Bach and Beethoven and the like. In this case, the judge is Rudy Vallée and the jury his Connecticut Yankees, but the general line is the same. Modern music is accused of wrongness, but that’s all right, because it turns out to be swell stuff.
The short, and its genre partners, seem almost designed to train undergraduates majoring in cultural studies on how to read the motives behind a text. Modern music is openly charged with corrupting the morals of the nation, just as charged by the older folks in the audience. One imagines they came into the theater just to take a break from yelling at clouds. But the young get the satisfaction of their music actually being played and being defended and acquitted. The defense isn’t all that great — it amounts to “aw, c’mon, it’s not that bad, and besides it can be fun” — but it’s enough to get grampa off your back. It’s hard not to notice Paramount Pictures trying very hard to cuddle up close to the music those kids like without seeming to approve so much that their parents and grandparents complain. Only the movie ticket revenue may bridge the generation gap!
This is one of only two live-action appearances Betty Boop made. I don’t know why there aren’t more. The character doesn’t require anything more than a dress and a wig to perform, and is obviously able to carry off “show off a musical number” shorts. Possibly they worried about over-exposing the character, although it’s hard for me to see how a couple of live-action shorts added onto a dozen animated shorts a year would do that. As it stands, it’s the start of a stunted branch in a character’s media presence.
Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:
- Poor Cinderella, 3 August 1934.
- Stopping The Show, 12 August 1932.
- Silly Scandals, 23 May 1931.
- Mask-A-Raid, 7 November 1931.
- Mysterious Mose, 27 December 1930.
- Sally Swing, 14 October 1938.
While there’s one more “first” Betty Boop to include, the above review of first appearances — of her character design, of the short-lived revision in the late 30s, of her character as someone named Betty Boop, of her as protagonist — brings me to the final of the really compelling “first Betty Boop cartoons”. This would be Dizzy Dishes, the 1930 short that’s credited as the original appearance of Betty Boop.
She’s not named, although come to it nobody in the cartoon really is. She’s also not the protagonist; she comes in at about two minutes forty seconds in, and spends a minute on-screen, as the waiter-protagonist gets distracted from his mission of delivering spot gags set in a cabaret. She sings, with the protagonist — usually identified as Bimbo, and I suppose that’s as good a name as any — taking some or all of her “boop-oop-a-doop” refrain from “I Have To Have You”.
Plot and characterization are not the primary focus of an early-30s Fleischer cartoon, which is why we never really get a clear answer why Bimbo is so reluctant about delivering the roast duck to the demanding customer, who looks to me like Disney’s Pegleg Pete, with a couple early hints of Bluto worked in. The Internet Movie Database claims the character is Gus Gorilla, which is believable enough, and that he’s voiced by William Costello, who would be the first animated voice of Popeye. Delivering six minutes or so worth of gags are the focus and that’s done fairly well with an opening string of demanding customers and Bimbo’s attempts to keep up (watch how he handles a demand to make two bowls of stew).
I hate to say it, but Betty Boop’s appearance slows the proceedings down, though they do recover their odd and occasionally nightmare-fuelish bent (the roast duck lays an egg! And it hatches!) soon enough. Soon enough Gus Gorilla loses his patience, and goes after Bimbo, and I am kind of on Gus’s side here. It all ends, as any great early-30s cartoon will, with a resolution that makes you go, “wait, what?”
Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:
- Poor Cinderella, 3 August 1934.
- Stopping The Show, 12 August 1932.
- Silly Scandals, 23 May 1931.
- Mask-A-Raid, 7 November 1931.
- Mysterious Mose, 27 December 1930.
When Betty Boop first appeared here character design was, frankly, hideous. She was some sort of humanoid dog and the canine ears and such just did not flatter her. Within a couple cartoons she had taken on human form and, with only minor variations, the character model she’d stick with through nearly a decade of cartoons and then seventy or so years of licensed merchandise.
But she did have a character redesign after all, good for a handful of her final cartoons in 1938-39. Sally Swing, released the 14th of October, 1938, was the first of these. She isn’t radically changed. Her head shrinks and she gets somewhat taller, moving a slight bit away from the rubber-hose animal style of her origins in dim, distant 1930 and approaching, though not reaching, the soft-but-realistic bodies that the non-comic characters in the Fleischer Studios’ Gulliver’s Travels or the Superman cartoons would take on.
As the title might suggest, though, Betty isn’t quite the star of this cartoon. The storyline suggests this is meant to be an introduction to the new character of Sally Swing, who looks to be an attempt to do for bobby-soxers what Betty did for flappers. After an appealing introduction to the University and Betty Boop’s Examination Room, the story settles on Betty trying to find a suitable leader for a swing dance and what do you know but the hall’s washer-woman — voiced, a Betty Boop Wiki claims, by Rose Marie (the claim sounds plausible to me) and resembling, Rachel Newstead’s review at Orphan Toons shares, the Lois Lane the Fleischers would animate in a few years — is Sally Swing, perfect for the part.
And so the cartoon dissolves into several minutes of Sally Swing leading the band, and spot gags of the kind that feature most in musical cartoons like this: the band not quite falling apart into chaos, onlookers being swept wholly up in the music, sourpusses having no choice but to get in on the fun. It’s a fun cartoon, and pretty appealing. It’s curious to me that Sally Swing didn’t get an appearance in another cartoon, though. She certainly seems able to support the kind of plotless music-feature cartoon that this is an example of. On the other hand, there’s also not much about this that Betty Boop couldn’t do, if she dressed the part.
So I’m left wondering: why bother redesigning Betty Boop in a cartoon that seems meant to introduce a successor? Was it just so she’d look less awkward standing next to the 1938-design cartoon mistress? Having introduced a plausible successor, why not use her in other cartoons? Even if Sally Swing proved to not be as popular as Betty Boop, wouldn’t it take more than a “backdoor pilot” cartoon of this kind to tell? Or did she, on screen, disappoint in some way not obvious now? Or was she just lost in the trouble and trauma — a move to Miami, and the attempt to make full-length animated movies — of the studio at the time? There’s something missing in Sally Swing’s story.