Saturday, April 30, 2011

Videos from the High School Years: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (1981)

From the Police's 1981 album, "Ghost in the Machine", "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" was the first single. The video was shot partially on location and in a recording studio, but it's mostly the band hamming it up for the cameras. Who knew that two years later, they would release their last studio album? The video comes from the Police's VEVO channel on YouTube:

TheCoolTV: MTV as it used to be, but without VJ's

Earlier this month, WXXA, the local Fox affiliate, changed the programming on their digital channel (Time Warner channel 423 in upstate NY) from Untamed Sports to TheCoolTV. Apparently Untamed Sports wasn't generating sufficient ratings, and/or the contract expired, so it was jettisoned in favor of----are you ready?----an all music channel!!

For those of us who have griped and complained about how Viacom, MTV's parent company, has allowed MTV and its sister networks (VH1, CMT, et al) to deviate from the niche upon which MTV was founded 30 years ago, now there is a full-on 24 hour music channel. So far, from what I can gather, TheCoolTV doesn't have on-air talent. It may not need it. Now, all that's left to be done is to let people know it's out there. WXXA isn't exactly promoting the channel, that I know of, so I guess it's up to folks like me to put the word out. Classic rock, current pop, rock, gospel, you name it, it's there. Give it a look, then tell your friends. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Orly Taitz

Who is Orly Taitz, you might ask? If you haven't been reading the papers, Ms. Taitz is the self-admitted leader of the "birther" movement that has stubbornly, obsessively, questioned the legitimacy of President Obama's eligibility to run for President in 2008. Nearly 2 1/2 years after Obama, then a junior Senator from Illinois, defeated Arizona Senator John McCain to become the first African-American elected to the White House, the "birthers" have insisted that Obama wasn't born in this country, but rather in Kenya.

On Wednesday, President Obama produced a long-form live birth certificate from the hospital in Honolulu where he was born. Ms. Taitz, unsurprisingly, found an excuse to continue her mindlessly obsessive campaign. She claims that in 1961, any hospital would have used "Negro" instead of "African" to define the future President's racial origins.

Ah-ha! Therein lies the root of the "birthers"' campaign. It bothers Ms. Taitz and her supporters, which now includes last week's Weasel, Donald Trump, that an African-American was elected to the highest office in the land. Welcome to the 21st century, jabronies! It bothers them even more, I'm sure, that Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was defeated in her bid to become the first female Vice President. Of course, we'll hear from her again in short order, as she's more likely to gain the GOP nod for 2012 than a bandwagon-jumper like Trump, unless McCain gets back in the hunt for a rematch.

The President is aware that the "birthers" won't go away, always looking for excuses to continue a losing battle. It's obvious now that the longer they persist with this fool's folly, the more likely it is they'll sabotage Obama's chances of re-election next year, just by keeping what really is a non-issue at the forefront, ahead of more important concerns.

To Orly Taitz, we present a set of weasel ears and a simple message:

Get a clue, get a life, and go away!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Videos from the High School Years: Who's Crying Now? (1981)

Being raised on country music, I was not at all familiar with Journey or any of the other A-list bands of my teen years until I transferred to Troy High for my junior season in 1979. Journey's 1981 album, "Escape", was my introduction to the San Francisco-based quintet, and "Who's Crying Now?" was the first single off the album. Most fans will point to the bouncier "Don't Stop Believin'" as the more popular track, but this is a little softer on the senses.

Canthelpit uploaded this live recording, taped at the Summit in Houston in 1981.

Phoebe Snow (1958-2011)

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow passed away earlier today at the age of 58. Remembered for her 1975 1-hit wonder, "Poetry Man", Ms. Snow was later a member of Michael McDonald's New York Rock & Soul Revue.

Ms. Snow had suffered a number of blood clots in recent years, and it was complications stemming from those issues that led to her passing.

In memorium, here is Phoebe Snow's "Poetry Man".



Rest in peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Videos from the High School Years: The Gambler (1978)

Kenny Rogers scored a mammoth crossover hit with "The Gambler" in 1978. It hit #1 on the Billboard country chart, but peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 (pop chart).

Kenny made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show in 1979, and did "The Gambler" in a skit with a Muppet made specially for this particular scene. There's no lip-sync here, folks. Uploaded by dteeps42 to YouTube:



"The Gambler" also spawned a series of TV-movies for NBC. It's amazing how one song can become a franchise all by itself......

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Videos from the High School Years: Watching the Wheels (1980)

"Watching the Wheels" was the last single released from John Lennon's last studio album, "Double Fantasy", and was on the charts in the summer of 1981, shortly before I graduated from high school. While there isn't an official video for the song, xSpiritfirex created a video montage in tribute to Lennon set to this song. "Wheels" was Lennon's way of explaining what he'd been doing between albums, as it'd been 6 years since his last album before releasing "Double Fantasy" at the end of 1980.

Videos from the High School Years: It's Still Rock & Roll To Me (1980)

"It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" was the 2nd single off Billy Joel's 1980 album, "Glass Houses", after "You May Be Right" and before "Sometimes a Fantasy". The video is courtesy of Billy's VEVO channel on YouTube:

Easter Theatre: Easter Is...(1974)

Easter Is.... was the follow-up to 1970's Christmas Is...., and the 2nd of three animated specials featuring Benji and his dog, Waldo. I barely remember seeing it in its entirety when it first aired (most sources say 1974, and that's what we'll go with until evidence proves otherwise). Singer-actress Leslie Uggams is heard as a schoolteacher. We reviewed the other Benji & Waldo cartoon, 1970's City That Forgot About Christmas back in December. EncoreVisions uploaded the entire special to YouTube:



Rating: None. As I said, I barely remember seeing it, if at all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Videos from the High School Years: Cool Change (1979)

The Little River Band never made an actual video for their song, "Cool Change", but disturbedangel0522 came up with a brilliant montage to accompany this classic. Enjoy.



Word has come down the pike that there are plans for an annual get-together (the organizer calls it a "fake" reunion), starting in the fall. Hey, the heart's in the right place......

Videos From the High School Years: All Over the World (1980)

Electric Light Orchestra's "All Over the World" was one of the hits from the "Xanadu" movie soundtrack. Unfortunately, all I can offer right now is the audio track, with the single sleeve appearing on your screen.......

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Donald Trump

I meant to do this last week, but, caught up in the preparation for the class reunion, I decided to hold off. Then again, it really doesn't matter.

Donald Trump, real estage mogul and reality-television star (The Apprentice), now believes he wants to be the next President, and threw his hat in the ring for 2012. All well and good, except that to call attention to his campaign, Trump has decided to embrace the dreaded "birthers".

"Birthers" are these paranoid, mostly Republican, conspiracy theorists who believe President Obama wasn't born in this country, despite documentation that says otherwise, produced in Hawaii, where Obama was born. Just when you think these jabronies are quietly slinking away, hopefully never to be heard from again, along comes Trump, adopting them as a cause celebre, feeling that his name, money, & notoriety will help their cause, and, in return, they can help him win the GOP nomination. I don't think so. Trump has no political experience, and his only asset is his well-established rep with the media.

Not all of Trump's business ventures have been successful. Remember the United States Football League (USFL), back in the mid-80's? Trump owned a franchise, but watched the league sink into oblivion within 3 years. Trump tried to start his own airline, perhaps in answer to Richard Branson's Virgin Airways. Trump Airlines, dare I say it, crashed rather quickly. Asking this man to be the "leader of the free world", when he conceivably is a personification of a lot of what other countries hate about us, is asking for trouble.

Let's just skip to the ending, as "Hellboy" might put it. Trump will not win the GOP nod in 2012. By this time next year, he'll be dropping out of the race after losing almost every primary. The American people can already see this man for what he really is, a shameless self-promoter who will do anything just to be on TV, including having himself & his son be royally embarrassed by the Manning brothers in a cookie commercial during the Super Bowl. He's not Presidential material, no matter what he and his fair-weather "birther" friends will tell you. He's just a well-groomed weasel. End of story.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Notes from the reunion

Last night was a special night. The class of 1981 at Troy High----well, a good chunk, at least---gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy to mark 30 years. We had a graduating class that swelled close to 450, if I remember right. I think, though, we had about 20% of that, or, roughly, about 80 people, between alumni & guests, in attendance.

As I wrote before, our previous gatherings have taken place at Thanksgiving, but this time, it's a week before Easter, and the Hilton was a perfect location, considering that many of the alumni grew up in the Beman Park and/or Sycaway sections of the city. There were a couple of people who had committed to attending, then had to cancel at the last moment for either economic reasons or scheduling conflicts. Those things will happen. For those of us who were there, we all had a terrific time. Some are already calling for the next reunion to be in 2016 (35 years), rather than wait for the 40th anniversary in 2021, due largely to the fact that we didn't have a 25 year reunion in 2006, and I discovered I wasn't alone in being upset over that oversight.

Anyway, the food was fantastic (even though I scrimped a little as I'm dieting, trying to bring my weight back down to where it was in school), and I would not be at all surprised if we come right back to the Hilton next time.

Did I dance? No. I didn't have a date, and most of us, it seemed, preferred conversation to dancing, anyway. I must've posed for a dozen pictures before the night was over, which would be a personal record. In my mind, I was kicking myself for not being prepared and purchasing a disposable camera in advance. Oh, there were some available, but I would've felt better using my own. Instead, a friend loaned me her digital camera for a brief moment so I could snap a couple of pics.

Like I said, it was a great night. I'm going to be dreaming about it all week long.

Videos from the High School Years: Whip It (1980)

I promised I'd find the videos, and we're starting at #10 with Devo's "Whip It".




Thursday, April 14, 2011

The High School Years: My personal Top 10 songs

I promised you I would give you a list of my favorite songs from my high school days. Here it is. It'll take a while to post the videos.....

10. "Whip It" (Devo, 1980). The first hit single from Mark Mothersbaugh and his crew proved that Akron, Ohio wasn't just the home of Firestone tires. 31 years later, they're still going strong, as they have a new CD on the way.

9. "All Over The World" (Electric Light Orchestra, 1980). From the movie, "Xanadu". It took Olivia Newton-John 4 years before she tried another movie, but this ELO hit was the best of the three singles off the soundtrack.

8. "Cool Change" (Little River Band, 1979-80). Not exactly sure on the year, but what I do know is I fell in love with this ballad.

7. "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" (Billy Joel, 1980). You do see a pattern, here, don't you? From "Glass Houses". Compared to later works, however, this falls out of my personal top 10 of BJ favorites.

6. "Watching the Wheels" (John Lennon, 1980). 3rd & final single from "Double Fantasy". I have to say I liked this better than "(Just Like) Starting Over".

5. "The Gambler" (Kenny Rogers, 1978). I tried to sing the chorus of this song as I walked through the halls between classes, but I never could sing on-key to save my life.

4. "Little Jeannie" (Elton John, 1980). I wonder how many guys requested this song back in the day, dedicated to the "Little Jeannie"s in their lives.....

3. "Who's Crying Now" (Journey, 1981). This is what introduced me to Journey, as I was unfamiliar with them before this point. (Edited, 4/26/11)

2. "Copacabana" (Barry Manilow, 1978). No, I never went to the disco. I can't dance all that well anyway because of two trick knees that will end up getting put to the test anyway at the class reunion. However, I seem to remember seeing Barry on The Muppet Show, doing this song in a hilarious skit with some Muppet monsters playing some of the characters in the song.

1. "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (The Police, 1981). Off "Ghost in the Machine". A friend had introduced me to the music of The Police a year or two earlier, and after hearing this one on the radio, I picked up the vinyl single and played it to death. The gender-reversed cover by Shawn Colvin a few years later is just as good, too.

Honorable mention: "Keep on Loving You" (REO Speedwagon, 1981); "Coward of the County" (Kenny Rogers, 1981); "Open Arms" (Journey); "Too Much Time on My Hands" & "The Best of Times" (Styx, 1980); "I Believe In You" (Don Williams, 1981); "Midnight Rodeo" (Leon Everette, 1979); "Lonesome Loser" & "The Night Owls" (Little River Band).

The videos will be up soon, effendis.......

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Musical Interlude: '74-'75 (1994)

For me, this is class reunion week. It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since I graduated from Troy High, but it is.

Our 10th & 20th anniversaries were celebrated on Thanksgiving weekend in 1991 & 2001, respectively, but the organizer of this year's party decided to push it up to the Spring, a week before Easter. I can't fault the logic, to be honest with you. This allows the alumni to bookend a week plus of vacation to spend time with family & friends still here in the city, starting with the reunion this Saturday, and Easter 8 days later.

Bearing this in mind, I thought of the Connells' one-hit-wonder from 1994, "'74-'75", as an appropriate video to post up, since the song is also based on the artists' remembrance of their high school days. Lrickyutah uploaded the video to YouTube:



The only other song I could think of that would fit would be the Statler Brothers' "Class of '57", and I'll see if I can find a video before the week is out. Meantime, I'm compiling a list of my favorite songs from my high school days (1977-81), which I'll post between now & Saturday.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

The headline caught my attention when I picked up the New York Daily News this morning. Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet, a 4-time nominee Academy Award nominee for Best Director, had passed away at 86 from lymphoma.

While Lumet had never earned an Oscar for his work, 10 of his films had earned nominations overall, with 4 winners, including 1976's "Network". Lumet's resume also included "12 Angry Men", "Serpico", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Prince of the City", and, surprisingly, the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, "The Wiz", which starred Diana Ross & Michael Jackson. Lumet also directed the comedy, "Just Tell Me What You Want", with Alan King. Lumet had also directed a number of television programs, including the original version of You Are There, and it was Lumet who selected fellow icon Walter Cronkite to be the anchorman for the show.

You can count on the Academy posthumously rewarding Lumet for his work with an honorary Oscar next year. How he was repeatedly denied during the course of his career is an amazing mystery.

Rest in peace, Sidney. You've earned it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Manny Ramirez

The 2011 baseball season is a week old, and already, one of its more controversial figures has decided to hang 'em up rather than risk being forced to the bench by Major League Baseball.

Manny Ramirez wore out his welcome in Boston & Los Angeles in the last three years with his antics. His rep as one of the game's most feared sluggers was now being offset by a glaring knack for less-than-stellar play in the field. He served a 50 game suspension while with the Dodgers for using performance enhancing drugs in 2009, and the Dodgers traded him to the White Sox last summer. Ramirez signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason as a free agent, and was reunited with former Boston teammate Johnny Damon. However, that reunion lasted just 5 games, as Ramirez left the Rays following Wednesday's game. Word got out that Ramirez failed another test, and was going to be hit with a 100 game suspension, which would've put him on the shelf until August. That prompted Ramirez to decide that, at 38, it was time to walk away.

For all of that talent, which made Ramirez a legend in NYC as a youth, why take the shortcut and use PEDs in the first place? Why does anyone do that anymore anyway? MLB is still cracking down on the offenders. Did Manny think they wouldn't get him a 2nd time? One wonders if the PEDs aren't the only drugs he'd been taking, if you catch my drift. The drama that drove Ramirez out of Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and now, out of MLB altogether, is likely to keep him out of Cooperstown, too. If guys like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, & Barry Bonds aren't going to be voted in, Manny won't, either.

The Rays said Ramirez left "for personal reasons". Would that we could believe it, but with Ramirez's history, there had to be more to the story, and sure enough, that other shoe dropped earlier today. We have a parting gift for Manny. A pair of weasel ears, for wasting all that God-given talent and making bad career decisions, like taking PEDs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On the Air: Tough Enough (2011)

10 years ago, Vince McMahon & WWE entered the reality TV business with Tough Enough, which aired on MTV from June 2001-January 2003, and then was revived briefly as part of Smackdown from September-December 2004. Following is a clip from the initial series, in which Triple H addresses the first crop of recruits, which includes current announcer Josh Mathews.



Mathews didn't win the competition, but is the only one left of those who were given contracts. The winners, Maven Huffman & Nidia Guenard, left within 4 years time. Chris Nowinski was forced into retirement in 2003 after suffering a concussion, and currently heads the Sports Legacy Institute. The only other alumnus from the MTV run is season 3 co-champion John Hennegan, now known as John Morrison. Current WWE Champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin was a runner-up in 2004, and has parlayed his run, coupled with his reality show past, into a very successful stint with WWE, like him or not.

Now, Tough Enough is back, this time on USA, where it launched on Monday after Raw. Starting on April 11, the series will be the lead-in to Raw, despite the fact that it isn't rated TV-PG like its WWE brethren. To prepare fans for the relaunch, WWE had elicited comments from Mathews, Mizanin, & Morrison:



Now, take a look at the 2011 model in this sample, uploaded by landofthethundercats:



Even if she doesn't make it all the way to the finish, Rima Fakih, the reigning Miss USA, will likely land a contract because of McMahon's obsession with media crossovers, headlines, and ratings.

By the end of week 1, one contestant, Ariane, has already been eliminated. Michelle, from what I understand, is the wife of Survivor alumnus John "Johnny Fairplay" Dalton, who has been in TNA in the past. Christina is the sister of current WWE Diva Alicia Fox. No one expects either Michelle or Christina to be around at the end, though, but we'll know for sure once this ends in three months time. Unlike MTV, which only replayed each episode once per week, then went to marathon mode near the end of each cycle, USA and sister network SyFy will air repeats on the weekends, and in SyFy's case, Tough Enough will, for at least the first week, be a lead-in to Friday Night Smackdown, which would be a nice change from the horror movies that usually fill the pre-prime time hours on Fridays.

Tough Enough is the only reality show that I've ever cared to follow. With Stone Cold Steve Austin in charge, it won't be boring, you can bank on that.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A weasel in a dunce cap (someone's won both awards this week)

"The mind is a terrible thing to waste."---United Negro College Fund slogan.

For the first time ever, one man has been bestowed with both the Dunce Cap Award and the Weasel of the Week honors, and that one man could only be Vincent Kennedy McMahon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the WWE.

Earlier this week, McMahon, 65, issued an edict declaring that his Connecticut-based company would no longer be known as World Wrestling Entertainment, but rather, the name would be shortened to the familiar WWE acronym. McMahon considers "wrestling" to be a dirty word, and perceives his talents to be "superstars" & "divas", not wrestlers. Talk about causing undue embarrassment to your employees, especially the ones who've been in the wrestling industry for years!

For all of the chair shots that McMahon has allowed himself to take on the air over the last 14 years, and the critics will point to those chair shots as being part of the root cause for the diminishing mental faculties McMahon has demonstrated in recent years, McMahon has lost sight of reality, preferring to operate in a myopic pocket universe where he thinks he knows what is best for his company's future. That stubborn disconnect with common sense is what drove his son, Shane, out of the company at the end of 2009. Vince's wife, Linda, stepped down as CEO to make a failed run for the US Senate last year, but reportedly is giving it another go for the Senate in 2012.

Meanwhile, Triple H (Paul LeVesque), one of McMahon's top stars, is already transitioning into an office position, having taken on an advisory position while recouperating from injuries last year. His wife, Stephanie (Vince's daughter), has scaled back her duties as Vice President in charge of Creative, spending more time at home with the couple's three daughters. You would think they would've tried convincing Dear Old Dad to begin a transitional period himself, one that would lead to him passing the baton to them when he feels he can't continue. That should've been done 3-4 years ago, rather than have McMahon continue to embarrass himself, the family, and the company on national television. At best, WWE needs a fresh voice at the very top of the corporate ladder, but for now, those voices are being muted. Not good. 2 years ago, McMahon told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that he would never die or retire. And, therein lies the problem. In that one interview, McMahon told the whole world that he has lost touch with reality.

The only analogy I can think of that might fit Vince McMahon is that of the comics icon, the Batman, and his alter-ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight blurred the line between his two identities long ago. In real life, Vincent Kennedy Mcmahon has blurred the lines, as well. As "Mr. McMahon", a modern day JR Ewing, if you will, he's grown increasingly insane over the last decade. I've said more than once that the real McMahon may in fact be the same way. His decision to excise "wrestling" from his company's name, dishonoring the memories of his father & grandfather in doing so, only reinforces that belief, and will only add more voices to the chorus calling for McMahon to finally step down and retire. He has 5 grandchildren who will one day inherit a company that is in danger of losing its identity, if but because the man in charge can't bring himself to re-embrace reality.

If it was ever possible for a weasel to wear a dunce cap, well, this is the closest thing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: Bad, Bad Man (2005)

With Wrestlemania 27 taking place tomorrow, I thought I'd drop this in.

John Cena released his only (to date) CD, You Can't See Me, shortly after Wrestlemania 21, and the first single off the album, "Bad, Bad Man", features Cena's real-life cousin, Tha Trademarc, who'd later bolt for TNA to do some work with Kurt Angle. The video is a parody of the classic 80's series, The A-Team, which became a feature film last year. Cena is Hannibal Smith, Trademarc is Murdock, and DJ Bumpy Knuckles is a dead ringer for Mr. T as BA Baracus. Unfortunately, the narrative intro is not included in this clip, uploaded by Spidermann21 to YouTube:



As you could probably tell, this was sanitized, erasing the f-bombs Cena & Bumpy included in the lyrics.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rockin' Funnies: Rappin' Rodney (1983)

The late entertainer Rodney Dangerfield conquered movies & music in the 80's. His role in 1980's "Caddyshack" gave him a new generation of fans, and like so many other artists of the period, Dangerfield took advantage of the early years of MTV to make a music video for the title cut on his 1983 album, "Rappin' Rodney".

Some of Rodney's pals from his Miller Lite beer ads, including ex-NFLer Bubba Smith, have cameos, and the guest stars also include Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello), and, as an executioner, Pat Benatar. TaterMySalad uploaded the video: