Monday, October 31, 2011

Spook Rock: Thriller (1982)

The title song from Michael Jackson's 1982 album is probably ringing in the ears of Dr. Conrad Murray during his trial, and he's probably seeing a good chunk of this video, directed by John Landis ("The Blues Brothers", "An American Werewolf in London") in his dreams, too. Vincent Price contributes a spoken word poem, billed as a rap, his first such recording since he'd contributed to Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare" 7 years earlier. The video debuted on MTV in the winter of 1984 as the last single from the album, this after Jackson had already collected a truckload of Grammys & American Music Awards for earlier singles, including "Billie Jean", "Beat It", and his duet with Paul McCartney, "The Girl is Mine", which was the first single released in December 1982.

Uploaded by Jackson's VEVO channel.

Nearly 30 years later, people are still doing the "Thriller" zombie dance. Some things never get old.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spook Rock: Ghostbusters (1984)

Ray Parker, Jr., before 1984, was known mostly for R & B/pop crossovers like "You Can't Change That" & "A Woman Needs Love", recorded as "Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio". In 1984, Parker cemented his status in pop culture with the theme to "Ghostbusters", which would turn out to be his most successful hit, period. Parker hasn't been heard from much since then, though.

As you can see in clips from the movie, interspersed in the video, Slimer was introduced in the movie, leading to his (its?) becoming the team mascot in the subsequent cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters (1986-91). The video features cameos not only by the film's stars (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, & Harold Ramis), but also by the likes of Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, Danny DeVito, George Wendt (Cheers), and Al Franken, who back then looked suspiciously like he might have been separated at birth from Rick Moranis (who appeared in the movie as lawyer Louis Tully).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spook Rock: The Legend of Wooley Swamp (1981)

The Charlie Daniels Band ventured into supernatural territory for the 2nd time in 1981 with "The Legend of Wooley Swamp", which was a track off their "Full Moon" album. Mybourbon uploaded the following video, taken from an appearance on PBS' Austin City Limits.

Of course, this wasn't Charlie's first ditty dealing with horror themes. That would be the classic "Devil Went Down to Georgia", which was released a couple of years earlier. Here, though, is the tragic tale of Lucius Clay and the three brothers that wanted his buried treasure.......

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dunce Cap Award: Tim Larsen

Mr. Larsen is a Republican Congressman from Connecticut who is proposing that Halloween, which has been October 31 for seemingly forever, be switched to the last Saturday in October. Why? Why mess with tradition?

In Mr. Larsen's defense, he's trying to make it easier for parents who have to race home from work on a weekday and take their kids out trick-or-treating before it gets dark, then have dinner and retire early to go to work or school the next morning. If Halloween is moved to a permanent slot at the end of October, which for example would be October 27 next year were this lame idea be signed into law, then the families have all day to celebrate, rather than have it on a weekend two out of every 5-6 years.

Connecticut Governor Malloy is against the idea, and rightfully so. Where Mr. Larsen fails is in not recognizing that some elementary schools might still have Halloween parties during the school day when it falls on a weekday, as it will for three more years before it reaches the weekend again in 2015, barring the passing of Larsen's legislation. On a weekday, kids are more apt to save some of their candy and other "loot" to bring to school the next day either for snacks or to share with classmates. The proposal, its detractors will say, is another example of government micromanaging and meddling where they don't belong.

Assuming Mr. Larsen is himself a parent, I can see his point, but if he succeeds, what's next? Deciding that all other holidays have to be on weekends, too? To paraphrase the famed author, Ray Bradbury, something stupid this way comes, and for Tim Larsen, it's a dunce cap, for assuming he is championing parents everywhere when he really isn't. Sometimes, you just don't mess with tradition without risking consequences, and Halloween is a tradition that should be left well enough alone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spook Rock: Don't Drink the Water (1998)

Many a horror story has been set in the dark, dank swamps. So it makes some sense to classify the Dave Matthews Band's 1998 hit, "Don't Drink the Water", in our "Spook Rock" category, especially with the CGI effect of Matthews still being able to sing despite his head being severed (a device that has previously been used to some effect by the likes of Thomas Dolby, among others), and with the video being set in a swampland somewhere. What surprises me is how this hasn't been used in too many horror movie soundtracks! Uploaded via Matthews' VEVO channel:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spook Rock: Everlasting Love (1989)

"Everlasting Love", the 1st single from Howard Jones' 1989 CD, "Cross That Line", had nothing to do with another song by that title that had been recorded by a number of artists. On the other hand, Jones decided to have a little fun by centering the video around a pair of mummies wandering through England in the then-present day. Uploaded by Luiscmckl:

Now, who says mummies can't fall in love?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Jace Lankow

Oh, I'm sure you've all heard or read about the streaker that disrupted Thursday's UCLA-Arizona game on ESPN. The guy gets on the field dressed as a referee and blows his whistle to halt play. Chaos erupts soon after.

In the aftermath, 10 players from the two schools were suspended for a fracas that took place at the end of the first half, but the biggest loser was the clown who had the lack of stones to try this stunt. Jace Lankow now says he did it in order to get on the TV series, Wipeout, which, coincidentally, airs on ESPN's corporate cousin, ABC. Lankow, a student at Arizona, scammed his way in by using a fake access pass, and had just about everyone fooled. Now, understand that the game aired opposite the 2nd game of the World Series, so there was little chance of anyone actually seeing Lankow's little stunt. Lankow's been charged with a Class 6 felony for criminal impersonation, since he masqueraded as a game official, and that carries with it a sentence of 18 months in jail. It can be cut down to a misdemeanor, which may be the only thing that saves Lankow from further embarassment and enables him to fulfill his dream of getting on Wipeout or any other reality game show.

Oh, by the way, Arizona won the game, 42-7.

I would suggest that Lankow does the time, though not quite the maximum, but I don't see him getting on TV any time soon. To do that says he's getting rewarded for his stupidity. In college, you're supposed to be finishing your education and building a reasonable career. Lankow represents the perception that some of these guys haven't much better to do between classes. Well, as a sports fan and a game show fan myself, I have some nice prizes for Lankow. A Dunce Cap and a pair of weasel ears.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Panic Season has begun

It happens every year. No sooner does the fall television season begin than people start speculating about which show is going to be cancelled first. I've come up with a name for it. Panic Season, as in, how soon before network suits press the panic button to cancel underperforming shows?

The first victim of the new season was NBC's The Playboy Club. After all the hype, and the predictable whining from the Parents Television Council and like-minded groups about its content, ignoring the fact that it was airing at 10 pm (ET), when children aren't likely to be watching, Playboy failed to attract enough viewers to merit sticking around, much to the disappointment of Playboy founding father Hugh Hefner. Only 3 episodes aired, but consider the competition. CBS had the revival of Hawaii Five-0, in its 2nd season, and ABC has Castle. Factor in Monday Night Football on ESPN and Raw on USA, and you have a formula for disaster. Those considering hindsight have now said that Playboy should've been targeted for cable all along, instead of broadcast television. Putting it on NBC was sure to attract the wrath of the PTC and other moral watchdog groups.

NBC also tanked the American adaptation of the British series, Free Agents, which had Hank Azaria ("The Smurfs", The Simpsons) in a lead role. Luckily, both NBC casualties are presently available On Demand from your cable system, at least for the time being. Catch 'em if you can.

Meanwhile, ABC was banking on a revival of its own, relaunching Charlie's Angels. But the first mistake came when the series was plugged in on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays, where the original series was a ratings champ for much of its run. Also, the format was completely rehashed with the new Angels not being affiliated with the police at all, unlike the original series. Co-star Minka Kelly may've been the only other selling point, if but because at the time of the relaunch's official announcement, she was dating New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter. The couple split right before Angels went on the air, and there went any real chance of the new version gaining any foothold, even though one of its executive producers, actress Drew Barrymore, co-starred in two feature film versions of Angels a decade ago.

Two weeks ago, MTV2 brought back Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors after a year's hiatus, during which time the promotion had long since completed production on seasons 2 & 3. The network stubbornly and stupidly kept the tapes in the vaults until they decided it was time to bring the show back. I reviewed the start of season 2 over in Saturday Morning Archives, and, admittedly, not much has changed. MTV made a similar mistake 4 1/2 years ago with Wrestling Society X, withholding episodes for a year before airing, then cancelling the show after about 2 months. This tme, rumors state that Masked Warriors may be saying "Adios!" after tomorrow's broadcast, further proof that "Empty-V" just doesn't care what their audience thinks. They're better served farming out Masked Warriors to corporate cousin Spike TV, so they can enable crossovers with TNA Impact Wrestling, which could certainly use the help, as would LLUSA.

The future isn't so rosy for another wrestling promotion, either. Micro Championship Wrestling, airing Wednesdays on TruTV, has gotten buried in the ratings, but then, that was to be expected opposite baseball's post-season tournament. The ratings for MCW, featuring Hulk Hogan, are far worse than Impact's on Thursdays on Spike, and Hogan's a prominent presence there, too. What does that say about the supposed power of Hulkamania in 2011, pilgrims? Anyway, Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter has speculated that MCW may also end up being cancelled.

In virtually every case, one part of the problem has been scheduling. It's either the wrong day or the wrong channel. In the case of LLUSA, it's a case of a network refusing to properly service the program's core audience and treating them with apathy and disrespect. I've often said that TNA often trips over its own shadows, but it seems they're not alone in doing that. Spike might be wise to pick up MCW, considering that co-executive producer Eric Bischoff, like Hogan, is employed by TNA, should TruTV (a TimeWarner network) go ahead and cancel the show.

Programming television never has been an exact science, but it wouldn't hurt if the people responsible for these decisions actually did a little more research into the products before taking a risk on being second-or-third guessed.

Pete Rugolo (1915-2011)

The name might not be too familiar to most of you, but any follower or fan of classic television certainly is familiar with the work of composer-arranger Pete Rugolo, who passed away earlier this week at 95.

Rugolo is best known for composing the pulsing score of Quinn Martin's seminal 60's drama, The Fugitive, but his television credits include other series, such as Thriller, Felony Squad, Family, and Run For Your Life, the latter of which is represented in the following video:

Rugolo also was a jazz musician, and produced or arranged for a number of artists, including Harry Belafonte, in addition to his own works.

Rest in peace, Pete. They have a spot for you in a recording studio in Heaven.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maybe he should start reading the papers.......

It's one thing to be a fan of a celebrity, but in this day and age, some people think that isn't enough anymore.

Earlier this year, I handed out a pair of weasel ears to a 60-something fellow for his outrageous plans to stalk WWE diva Maryse Ouellette. Now comes a 46 year old man from Chicago who traveled to Los Angeles to meet, and, according to him, perhaps kill, actress-singer Selena Gomez (The Wizards of Waverly Place), who is old enough to be his daughter. Like, I don't know if this fellow has the funds to buy newspapers or magazines like People, else he'd know that Ms. Gomez, 19, is currently dating Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber. Nothing says "look, but don't touch" better than reading about celebrity couples in the gossip columns. Sure, she's attractive and famous, but you treat her the same as you would someone in her age group closer to home. If she's spoken for, brother, move on. There'll always be someone else.

Not surprisingly, there is a restraining order out against the man, who reportedly threatened some passers-by the other day, attempting to scratch their eyes out. For what? Because he thought they looked at him funny? Predictably, it's been said that he's mentally ill. That's been taken for granted too often these days, given all the cases where defendants are using insanity as a defense. Oh, give me a break. Seems to me that the guy exhausted all of his options for finding someone at home that might be more compatible, and then hitched his wagon to someone like Selena, whom he sees on TV and finds to be what he thinks is the ideal mate. It's nice to dream, dude, but if that's all you're doing with your free time, you've got to open your eyes and take a closer look at what's out there.

What is wrong with doing a little research? If you can't buy the morning paper, they've always got a reading copy at the local library. Celebrity magazines? Ditto. If our Second City Stalker is legitimately psychologically impaired, well, I honestly don't know, short of therapeutic treatement, what would be a solution for him. You know the phrase, "there's plenty of fish in the sea"? It definitely applies here.

Rockin' Funnies: Bedrock Anthem (1993)

It happens that "Weird" Al Yankovic was in town tonight on his Alpocalypse tour, so I thought I'd throw this nugget of joy in.

Al pays tribute to The Flintstones while sending up 2 Red Hot Chili Peppers hits, "Give It Away" & "Under the Bridge", and tweaking the intro to Blind Melon's "No Rain" video, to create the riotous "Bedrock Anthem". Uploaded by Al's VEVO channel:

Monday, October 17, 2011

And, then, there were two: World Series 2011

On Wednesday night, the 2011 World Series will commence in St. Louis, with the Cardinals, the National League Wild Card winners, returning to the Fall Classic for the first time since their last championship run in 2006. Written off as a non-contender in August, the Redbirds scrapped their way into the post-season, then knocked out the top two seeds in the NL, Philadelphia & Milwaukee, en route to the Series.

They await the Texas Rangers, AL champs for the 2nd straight year. The Rangers were bridesmaids last year, losing to San Francisco, but let's hope they've been paying attention to what has happened over in the NL over the last couple of weeks.

There is a pattern that favors the Rangers, however. In 1972, the Cincinnati Reds were the first victim of Oakland's 3 consecutive World Series titles, followed, of course, by the Mets & Dodgers. The Reds would return and win 2 straight Series of their own in 1975-6, beating Boston & the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers, in turn, would win 2 in a row over the Dodgers (1977-8), before Los Angeles served up a receipt in 1981. Baltimore fell to Pittsburgh in 1979, then came back and won it all in 1983. The Red Sox had to wait 18 years after blowing a 3-2 Series lead to the Mets in 1986 before upsetting St. Louis in 2004. The Cardinals, of course, came back in '06 and beat Detroit, and any hope of a rematch between the Tigers & Cardinals was dashed on Saturday when Texas advanced.

Before I forget, when the Giants won it all last year, it was 8 years after losing to the Angels in their last Series appearance. The idea is that the losing team has come back to win it in their next attempt. That pattern fits Texas like a glove. They may not have enough quality starting pitching, but they do have offense, led by Josh Hamilton and ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz. They also have a premier closer in Neftali Feliz, and actually entertained the ridiculous notion of making Feliz a starter in spring training this year. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes of common sense thinking in Ranger management, particularly in team President Nolan Ryan, who knows a thing or twenty about pitching, of course.

The biggest worry for St. Louis at the start of the year was whether or not Albert Pujols would re-up after his contract expires. This is one slugger that the Yankees don't have any room for on their roster, and the only reason they'd covet him would be to block other AL teams from picking him up. Petty? No, just business, but in this case unnecessary. You'd think the Busch family would gladly pick up the tab on another long-term deal, maybe even give Pujols some sort of sweetheart deal that would allow him to remain in the organization in other capacities after his playing days are over. They may just do that if Pujols can lead the Cardinals to another championship.

This postseason run has also allowed the spotlight to shine on an emerging star in David Freese, who was huge in both series wins over the Phillies and Brewers. He's a man to watch as the Series progresses, as he gives the Cards an extra power bat to go with Pujols and Matt Holliday.

This Series will go the full 7 games, as Texas will not go away quietly, the way Detroit did in '06. In fact, following the pattern I referenced earlier, I think the Rangers will win it all, and Cruz will add a Series MVP to his ALCS MVP trophy, much as the Phillies' Cole Hamels won LCS & Series MVP's 3 years ago. Oh, yeah, one last thing. Cardinal fans shouldn't lose much sleep. Pujols will stay in St. Louis after all.

Of course, I could be wrong.......

Spook Rock: Dancing With Myself (1981)

Have you ever wanted to see a zombie slam-dance? Well, Billy Idol delivered with the video for "Dancing With Myself", which was originally recorded in 1981. Uploaded by EMI's VEVO channel to YouTube:

Enough said.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to price yourself out of the market in one easy lesson

One year ago, after three years of preparation, fund-raising, and prayers, the Troy Community Co-Op opened shop, reviving the Pioneer Food Market on Congress Street. On October 15, 10 days after a well-advertised birthday celebration for the store, Pioneer Food Market has gone dark again.

The warnings had been issued in the press over the summer. The Co-Op was losing money and weren't sure how much longer they could go on. Not enough people had invested in the Co-Op in the first place. The Co-Op had asked a membership fee well in excess of $100 per person prior to opening the Pioneer last year, perhaps overestimating the consumer base. Not only that, but ordinary items like breakfast cereals, familiar brands like Golden Grahams, for example, were priced higher than they would be at the larger, more established supermarkets like Price Chopper or Hannaford, or even Walmart. Organic foods are always more expensive, but Pioneer was asking customers to pay upwards of $6 per jar of organic peanut butter, for another example.

Troy is regarded as a college town, with three colleges (RPI, Russell Sage, & Hudson Valley) situated in the city limits. It's also a blue collar, working class town whose residents mostly couldn't afford to lay out $100 or better to sign on to the Co-Op. If the Co-Op was serious about working with the community, they would've lowered the membership fee to a much more reasonable level. $20-$30 would be a decent starting point, one would think. $100-$150? Unreasonable, as if the Co-Op expected most of the consumer membership to be comprised of college students & state workers.

Pioneer also had items that other stores just don't carry. There are lesser known brands of soda, for example, that my brother would routinely purchase when visiting. Now, he'd be hard pressed to find someplace that had those same items. Another Co-Op, like Honest Weight in Albany, would be likely, but a mainstream market? Not so much.

So, where to assign the blame? Is it the consumers, for not giving the store an equal opportunity, opting to stick with the familiar, rather than the neighborhood market they've wanted for so long? Or is it the management, for creating unrealistic expectations after a 3-year struggle to get the project off the ground? Or could it be a little bit of both? Pioneer didn't buy a lot of advertising space, but one example of their risky sales approach came when they started taking orders for organic Thanksgiving turkeys at $4.19 per pound. That poster went up about 2-3 weeks ago. I'm not sure if they had any orders placed when the store closed.

Now, it's back to wishing & praying that someone else can fill the space, this time with a more traditional market serving as a neighborhood alternative to the big boys. On the surface, depending on how the closing of Pioneer is played in the local papers, it's just business as usual in downtown Troy, where small businesses routinely open and close within a year or two. However, the work that went into renovating Pioneer, getting it ready, shouldn't go to waste. It's now just a question of who's willing to step up and fill the void.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Celebrity Rock: People Like Us (1986)

Before he joined the Blues Brothers, even before he became a TV icon as blue collar breadwinner Dan Connor on Roseanne, John Goodman made one of his first movie appearances in 1986's "True Stories", written & directed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

The soundtrack CD that was released was a de facto Heads album, rather than use the same songs, but performed by the cast instead of the band. Byrne had lobbied his label, Sire Records, to use the cast performances, but the label opted instead to have the Heads record the songs themselves. As it turned out, the Heads got two hits out of the CD, "Love For Sale" and the riotous "Wild, Wild Life". Goodman, performing as "The Country Bachelor", knocked one out of the park with his rendition of "People Like Us", commanding the stage as if he were a hardy veteran, his vocals in sharp contrast to Byrne's version on the CD.

Uploaded by bookr98:

I think Byrne realized he had a potential hit on his hands, but the label suits disagreed. Who was right? You be the judge.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worst. Raw. Ever. (10-10-11)

Let me just preface this by saying that Monday's installment of Monday Night Raw spoke volumes about the creative deficiencies plaguing WWE. There are plot holes so big, you could have Hornswoggle drive a toy truck through them. Yeah, it's that bad.

Storyline wise, they picked up right where they left off the previous week, with most of the personnel off-camera, staging a "solidarity rally", unified in an effort to force Triple H out of power. The embattled COO was first out, but there were no announcers, not even ring announcer Justin Roberts. This way, you could hear a lot more of HHH's theme song, especially if you're a Motorhead fan like he is.

This entire angle is on a grander scale than the machinations of Vince McMahon in ousting his daughter, Stephanie, as GM of Smackdown 8 years ago, but taking less time, largely because the writers they're employing now are not being trained to understand wrestling psychology, and that flaw is working against McMahon now. Like Stephanie back in '03, HHH took a stand, declaring he wouldn't quit, not that we ever expected him to. Realisticially speaking, he should be the one running things now anyway, not the fossil that won't go away. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

John Cena, Sheamus, & CM Punk all came out, and opted to stand by their boss, with Punk noting that he was the one who started this need for change in the first place, but not the way it's going now. HHH then pitted old rivals Cena & Sheamus against each other with himself as the ref, and Punk, like a kid in a candy store, doing commentary all by himself, plus doubling as timekeeper. This lasted less than 10 minutes before Chairman Wackjob himself, 66 year old Vince McMahon, came out and called a halt to the proceedings. Punk, Sheamus, & Cena departed, leaving HHH all alone with his father-in-law.

In a stunning reversal, McMahon announced that the same Board of Directors that had ousted him as chairman in July, now had rescinded their support of HHH, if you will, citing "financial concerns" over the walkout. Total BS, I say. Executive VP/Talent Relations John Lauranitis, uncle of Rams star James Lauranitis, was named acting GM. The fans booed, and rightfully so. Before the hour was up, they had more reason to, when Lauranitis decided to "fire" Oklahoma native Jim Ross in front of friends, fans, & family, the 2nd time that this had happened to Ross in 6 years. Sources say this wasn't in the script, but it is typical of McMahon's myopic attitude, especially when it relates to Ross, regarded as the best announcer in the business. No one came out to go to bat for Ross, and Lauranitis used Ross' involvement in the walkout against him. A typical heel move, of course, but this is where the writing team screws up royally. Let me explain.

Rightfully, if you craft the story properly, Ross has an option to pursue legal action for wrongful termination without due cause vs. Lauranitis, and, more specifically, McMahon, who has orchestrated the entire mutiny against his own son-in-law. Like I said, this was on a larger scale than when he sabotaged his own daughter's administration 8 years ago, and is evidence that McMahon refuses to do right by his audience, only throwing them bones when it suits him, and not them. At 66, he should be retired, and letting HHH & Stephanie run the company as they see fit, which, in this writer's opinion, might be more of a back-to-basics approach.

You would have a case against McMahon, citing the fact that he is unfit to run the company at the present time, because, in terms of storyline, he's taken too many chair shots over the last 20 years, and it's affected his mind. Over the last 10 years, McMahon has grown progressively more insane in character, and it's a fair bet to suggest that in reality, as his creative skills are diminishing, McMahon is unwilling to walk away from the business that he helped return to the mainstream in the mid-80's. That makes him no different than the likes of Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and the over-the-hill gang in TNA, who don't have clue one, either. McMahon doesn't want to be shown to the television audience as being weak, but that comes with old age, and he has to accept it. Period. That means he has to accept the fact that the story as it is presented now is wrong and full of holes, and requires immediate repair.

The solutions are easy, but McMahon refuses to consider them.

1. Get rid of the current staff of writers. Most of them are guys who failed in Hollywood, though that cannot be said for actor Freddie Prinze, Jr., who at last check had checked in for a 2nd tour of duty with the writing team. Since Vince refuses to allow these folks to learn any history as far as the business is concerned, they're hopelessly adrift. That has to stop.

2. Give the agent-producers the added assignment of composing the show. Former Freebird Michael Hayes, until recently, was head writer of Smackdown, before being promoted to a front office position earlier this year, along with his Raw counterpart, Brian Gewirtz. I say, get rid of Gewirtz, and have Hayes, along with fellow retired grapplers Rick Steamboat, Arn Anderson, & Mike Rotundo, take over the writing. These guys have to lay out the matches for the wrestlers anyway, so let them go the extra mile!

At this point, Vince McMahon has no choice. What he's building toward now is a likely singles match vs. Triple H for Wrestlemania 28 in Miami on April 1, but McMahon's the biggest fool for taking that tack. He never wins at Wrestlemania (0-4 as a wrestler, 0-2 as a manager), so this would be no different. Instead of waiting until April to likely say goodbye, he should be doing so now.

I used to be more interested in watching Raw on Mondays, but now, not so much. I'll still tune in, but it's not a priority anymore. Besides, at this time of year, football's more compelling.......

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Musical Interlude: I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band)(1972)

I used to go to the clubs in the neighborhood on the weekends to see some up-&-coming bands, or even the "weekend" types, play, just to get out of the house for a couple of hours. Amazingly, not a one tried to cover this 1972 classic by the Moody Blues. "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band)" would have fit for some of the cover bands, I'm sure. 

Now, admit it, pilgrims. Some of you might've caught yourselves standing in front of a mirror, lip-synching this song while rehearsing for that day when you'd finally get to indulge your inner rock star.......

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spook Rock: Men In Black (1997)

Will Smith, fomerly known as the Fresh Prince, released his first solo CD, under his own name, in 1997. The first single was also the theme to the hit movie, "Men In Black", co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, whom you'll see in the intro portion of the following video, an intro that was often edited off when it aired on MTV back in the day.

With Columbia releasing the 3rd "Men In Black" movie in 2012, some ten years or so after the last film, let's take a step back in time, and revisit "Men In Black". The bit with Will trying to teach a CGI monster how to dance is worth the price of admission alone!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Al Davis (1929-2011)

He was to his team, the Oakland Raiders, what George Steinbrenner was to the New York Yankees in baseball. As the primary owner, he made himself the face of the franchise off the field. Al Davis, some said, may have been behind the times, but few questioned his desire to see his team succeed. Earlier today, Davis passed away at the age of 82. As of press time, the cause of death is unknown.

Davis was both the head coach and general manager of the Raiders in 1963, then became commissioner of the AFL until 1966, when he stepped away from the job and returned to the Raiders, opposed to the eventual merger with the NFL, which took place in 1970. Davis has had his share of litigous issues with the NFL, including a suit over anti-trust laws in the 80s while the team was based in Los Angeles. Massachusetts born, Brooklyn bred, Davis was played up in the media as a maverick who bucked the system.

Critics have said that part of the reason for the Raiders' decline in recent years was linked in part to Davis' unwillingness to make necessary changes, that the "vertical game" he cherished so much had changed in so many ways such that his version had become rather passe. After posting a 6-0 record within the AFC West last year, though missing the playoffs, the Raiders are in the thick of the AFC West race this season, having beaten the Jets before losing to New England over the last two weeks. The rest of the current campaign will likely be dedicated to Davis' memory, and it's assumed that his son, Marc, will take over day-to-day operations of the ballclub.

Rest in peace, Al.

Baseball's 2011 Final Four is set

Tonight begins the semi-final round, if you will, of Major League Baseball's playoff tournament, starting with the American League Championship Series.

Detroit at Texas: The Tigers needed 5 games to eliminate the Yankees, leaving the tabloid media to point fingers at certain Yankees stars for failing to deliver. I honestly didn't think the Rangers had enough pitching to complement their offense vs. Tampa Bay, but they did. However, the Tigers are another story entirely. Are we looking at a possible rematch of the '06 World Series? Maybe. Detroit does have a stronger starting staff than Texas, and mid-season pickup Doug Fister, acquired from Seattle, proved his moxie in outdueling Ivan Nova in Thursday's finale vs. the Yanks. The Rangers certainly don't want to see Justin Verlander 3 times in this series. Then again, twice may be too much. The Pick: Tigers in 6.

St. Louis at Milwaukee: There is history here between these two clubs. In 1982, when the Brewers were an American League club, Milwaukee hosted its last World Series, losing to the Cardinals in a thrilling 7 game series. This year, the Brewers held off the Cards to win the Central Division title, and in order for St. Louis to be rematched with the Tigers in the Fall Classic, they have to get past Milwaukee. Chris Carpenter checked Philadelphia on 3 hits in a complete game shutout Friday to get to this point, and will likely pitch game 3 at home. Milwaukee has the best home record of the remaining teams, which may not be much of a difference maker, but it does give them a bit of an edge. These are not the run-happy Cardinals of the Whitey Herzog era, but they may have to do some running in order to keep pace with the Brewers. The Pick: Brewers in 7.

Then again, I could be wrong.....

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Dunce Cap Award: Hank Williams, Jr.

On Monday, country singer Hank Williams, Jr. appeared on Fox & Friends and came up with one of the lamest analogies in known history.

Williams, noting that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had met for a round of golf recently, likened the meeting to the prospect of Israeli President Benjamin Natanyahu having a chance encounter with the late German dictator, Adolf Hitler, as if to say, something like that shouldn't have happened. What's wrong with putting party loyalties aside in the name of sports, Hank?

The reaction was swift from ESPN, which took over Monday Night Football a few years ago. Williams recorded the theme and video intro for the series back in 1989, but, just a month into the season, the song was pulled prior to Monday's Colts-Buccaneers game. On Thursday, Williams & ESPN agreed to part company, just a month into the 23rd season of their "partnership". However, each side has their own take on the controversy. Williams is claiming his right to free speech is being compromised. ESPN simply decided it was time to move on. Who's really right here? It doesn't matter.

Now, I can't be certain of where Williams' political loyalties lie, but he clearly suffered from a case of foot-in-mouth disease, however unintentionally it might've been. ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, didn't want to be caught in the political firestorm. Similarly, AFLAC dismissed comedian Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of their duck mascot earlier this year for joking about the disasters in Japan, so you really can't blame Disney/ESPN for making their decision. Come Monday, we'll know how they'll replace Willaims at the top of Monday Night Football. Maybe they can borrow Faith Hill from NBC, and...!

Anyway, Williams gets a Dunce Cap for his misguided comments. He may not have his "rowdy friends" tuning into ESPN anymore, but what else are they going to watch? NASCAR season's almost over......

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weasel of the Week: "John Doe"

Pranks are supposed to be harmless and done in jest. Try telling that to the players of an Ohio high school football team.

After Washington Court House High defeated McLain High, 26-0, a 16 year old student who was ineligible to play in the game entered the handshake line with his teammates, wearing a studded wide receiver's glove. Allegedly hidden in the glove was a sharper object than the studs worn on the outside of the glove. Something along the lines of a thumbtack. 27 McLain players had to be sent to the hospital for tetanus shots. Now, what kind of fool would do something like that?

Worse, after being contacted by the police, the suspect's mother has said she would hire a lawyer to defend her son, a classic case of a clueless parent turning a blind eye to a hateful stunt. We don't know what the kid's motivation was, we don't know if he had any grudges against anyone from McLain. What we do know is that this brand of unsportsmanlike conduct merits a set of weasel ears for this nothing happening teenager. As a bonus prize, maybe he & his mother should be more willing to help pay the cost of medical bills not covered by the insurance of the victims' parents.

A McLain player questioned the illogic of the stunt, dismissing it as silly and stupid, and questioned the motivation of the "Thumbtack Kid". He ain't alone.

Charles Napier (1936-2011)

Hollywood is mourning the passing of character actor Charles Napier at the age of 75.

Napier was a regular presence in movies and on television between the 60's and 90's. His television credits include a starring role in the short-lived Oregon Trail and a recurring role on B. J. & The Bear, in addition to guest roles on shows such as The Rockford Files, The Dukes of Hazzard, & The A-Team. According to his bio on Wikipedia, Napier succeeded the late Ted Cassidy in providing the growls for The Incredible Hulk (Did you really think Lou Ferrigno did his own growling?) after Cassidy had passed away during the series' run.

Napier's film credits include a memorable turn as country singer-truck driver Tucker McElroy in "The Blues Brothers", and later co-starred in "Rambo: First Blood, Part 2". Cartoon fans will remember him as General Hardcastle on Superman: The Animated Series and, later, Justice League. More recently, he had a role on [adult swim]'s Squidbillies until Cartoon Network replaced him with a soundalike actor. One of his earliest roles had him on the original Star Trek in the episode, "The Way to Eden".

Rest in peace, Charles.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Most of us wouldn't have home computers, or discovered the World Wide Web, without the vision of Steve Jobs. The co-founder of Apple Computers passed away Wednesday at 56 after a 7 year battle with cancer.

Just weeks ago, Jobs stepped down as Chief Executive Officer of Apple, turning the job over to his hand-picked successor, Tim Cook, while Jobs was appointed Chairman. Jobs had taken a leave of absence at the beginning of this year to deal with his ongoing struggle with cancer. He'd had a liver transplant just a few years ago, and was undergoing other treatments. In recent years, Apple had introduced the iPod, iPad, and other popular devices that are common in today's society. Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak launched Apple in the late 70's, and Jobs had returned to the company as CEO in 1997, taking the company back to the top of the industry.

Sadly, word has just come down the wire, and, ironically, posted on an iPhone, that the dreaded Westboro Baptist Church has decided to stage a protest at Jobs' funeral, claiming he "didn't give God the glory" and "sold sin". Leave it to those lunatics to use Jobs' passing to extend their 15 minutes of demented infamy. What Jobs did for Apple and its consumers isn't for Rev. Fred Phelps and his flock to judge, but they feel it's up to them, regardless of what anyone thinks to the contrary. Forgive them, then, for they know not what they're doing anymore.

Rest in peace, Steve. God is with you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spook Rock: Somebody's Watching Me (1985)

Among the popular themes in modern horror movies are fear & paranoia. That is, someone thinks they're being stalked, but don't know by whom or why, and end up jumping at every shadow that comes along.

Thus, it is sort of appropriate that Rockwell's 1985 1-hit wonder, "Somebody's Watching Me", falls into our Halloween playlist. It's not the first song in the 80's to use this theme, and you can imagine that there have been others since. What helped "Somebody" race up the charts was the chorus, sung by an uncredited Michael Jackson, who was returning to Motown to help his old boss, Berry Gordy, by giving Rockwell, Gordy's nephew, a helping hand. In this case, I guess no credit was really necessary.

Uploaded by RockwellVEVO:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly, 10/3/11

In the wake of the Hell in a Cell PPV, Monday Night Raw Supershow was presented from the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana on Monday. The ending was one of the most bizarre in the history of the series.

The evening began with former World Champion Randy Orton disposing of Drew McIntyre after an RKO. McIntyre had the offense in the early part of the match, but became just another victim. Orton added a 2nd RKO post-match, just for emphasis. Before he could leave the ring, however, Orton was confronted by current champion Mark Henry, who'd bested Orton at the PPV. A short brawl ensued, and Orton eventually had to be escorted back to the dressing room. He would not return.

Henry then dismissed John Morrison rather quickly, kicking out of Morrison's finisher, Starship Pain (a split-legged corkscrew moonsault), then hitting his own finisher, the World's Strongest Slam. Henry added a 2nd slam post-match, but then declared in a promo that he was done with Orton----for now. Big Show will be activated from the disabled list and will be Henry's next challenger.

Next up, a small group of heels, led by US champ Dolph Ziggler and his manager, Vickie Guerrero, held an open forum, continuing their issue against COO Triple H. Ziggler, Guerrero, Jack Swagger, Christian, Cody Rhodes, David Otunga, and new WWE champ Alberto Del Rio, all aired their complaints, and Del Rio in particular was holding HHH responsible for the Miz & R-Truth, again circumventing their "firing" two weeks ago, attacking him, along with CM Punk, John Cena, and some officials, after the PPV main event had ended. Triple H came out, and made it clear that the whiners would have to "shut up and fight" in a 12-man tag later.

For the 3rd straight week, Kelly Kelly & Eve Torres were matched against Natalya Niedhart and Beth Phoenix, only this time with Phoenix having copped the divas title from Kelly at the PPV. The bout barely got off the ground before Kelly ended up on the floor and began brawling with Phoenix. The ref couldn't control it and called for the bell. Kelly was uncharacteristically angry over losing the title the way she did, since Niedhart had a little something to do with it, clocking her with a mic behind the ref's back.

Santino Marella returned from the DL to quickly defeat Jinder Mahal. Marella mocked Mahal's promo by speaking in complete gibberish. Marella had let his hair grow out and lost the unibrow that was his trademark. A cobra thrust ended Mahal's night in under a minute.

The 12-man tag saw Cena, Punk, Sheamus, Mason Ryan, and tag champs Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne defeat the mutineers in a very long main event that lasted nearly a half hour thanks in large part to two commercial breaks during the match.

The finale of the evening saw the wrestlers and referees gathered at ringside as Triple H returned to hear their gripes. He'd told Executive VP/Talent Relations John Lauranitis to be there, but the former Johnny Ace was nowhere to be seen. Then again, Punk & Cena didn't return, and Orton was long gone. The basic theme was that the chaos over the last couple of months has created an unsafe working environment. Phoenix spoke for the women. Christian spoke for some, if not all, of the men. Head ref Mike Chioda, who has been with WWE for several years, represented the referees. Jerry Lawler returned and spoke his piece, but in the end, everyone voted for "no confidence" for the COO, and left him all alone with the audience to end the show.

Easily, one of the worst endings in the series' history. That's all that needs be said, really, and the blame lies with in absentia chairman Vince McMahon, who is manipulating the entire sitch in the shadows. You know he's going to be back, probably no later than next month. Where they go from here, no one knows. And that is the saddest part of it all.

Classic TV: The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961)

Back in the day, reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show were inescapable in syndication, so I can say I have seen most, if not all, of the episodes of the series during its 5 year run (1961-66). When my good friend Ivan Shreve announced he was hosting a blogathon over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, I was only too happy to offer some commentary.

The focus of the series was actually in two parts. One was the writers' office at the fictional Alan Brady Show, where Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) was the head writer, working with Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) & Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam), and in turn answered to Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon, ex-Leave It To Beaver), who had to endure Buddy's relentless barbs & insults about his lack of hair. Brady himself (Carl Reiner) didn't appear too often, else it would've taken away the focus from his writers.

The other half of that focus was on Rob's home life with wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and son Richie (Larry Matthews), and neighbors Millie & Jerry (Ann Morgan Guilbert & Jerry Paris). One had to wonder if Rob was the luckiest guy on the planet, considering how hot Laura was. The plots were driven by conflicts either at work (deadlines for important shows, mostly) or at home.

One of the funnier bits in the series run came from this rendition of "I Am A Fine Musician", as performed by Rob, Laura, Buddy, & Sally. Gwert9876 uploaded this clip to YouTube:

As I noted earlier, the series became a regular presence in syndication throughout the 70's & 80's and well into the 90's before being picked up by different cable outlets. After the show ended, Rose Marie moved into a steady gig as a panelist on The Hollywood Squares. Richard Deacon & Morey Amsterdam would make frequent appearances there, as memory serves. As we all know, Mary Tyler Moore marked the 40th anniversary of her own solo series last year, which was an even bigger success, lasting 7 incredible years. Dick Van Dyke would return first with The New Dick Van Dyke Show, marking its own 40th anniversary this year, but then reinvented himself as a dramatic actor, most notably in the 90's crime drama, Diagnosis: Murder. More recently, Van Dyke, teaming again with son Barry, went back to the detective wellspring with a series of made-for-TV movies under the Murder 101 title, this time playing a college professor, but it really wasn't all that different from Diagnosis. Those movies are shown every few weeks on Hallmark Movie Channel.

When you think about it, when Mary landed her solo series, she borrowed the formula from The Dick Van Dyke Show, substituting a TV newsroom for a comedy writers' office, for example, and found the magic was still there. The best ideas, then, never grow old.

Rating: A.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spook Rock: Superstition (1986)

Most folks, when they think of the song, "Superstition", think of the original funk classic recorded in 1972 by Stevie Wonder. The song has been remade at least twice, most recently by actress-singer Raven-Symone for the movie, "The Haunted Mansion", in 2003, but before that, the late blues guitar icon Stevie Ray Vaughn and his band, Double Trouble, served up this tasty rendition. Watch for Stevie Wonder's quick cameo at the end of the video, which comes from StevieRayVaughnVEVO:

Enough said.

Weasel of the Week: Stuart Snyder

To hardcore cartoon fans, Stuart Snyder, programming director at Cartoon Network and Boomerang, is public enemy #1. Over the course of the last 4 years, Snyder has experimented with placing live-action programming on CN in an effort to compete with Disney Channel and its sister network, DisneyXD, as well as industry leader Nickelodeon. The biggest difference is that Disney Channel & Nickelodeon have always been a mixture of animated and live-action programming from the very start! Snyder's misguided thinking is that he feels the need to jumpstart his channel's ratings by copycatting what the other guys have been doing, and, well, he's failing!

Nickelodeon has been around for more than 30 years. Disney Channel came into existence in the 80's. Cartoon Network arrived in 1992, followed by Boomerang in 2000. Snyder doesn't care that he continues to alienate his audience with the continuing intrusion of live-action programming. Some series, such as Dude, What Would Happen? & Destroy, Build, Destroy, have been successful. The first live-action, ongoing series, Out of Jimmy's Head, which had cartoon elements, fell victim to the 2007-8 writer's strike, and was flopping, anyway. The Othersiders, which amounted to a cross-section of The X-Files and Scooby-Doo, was a dismal failure. Their 1-hour dramas, Tower Prep & Unnatural History, bombed. The message was sent, loud & clear, but the only one not listening is Snyder, who stubbornly presses on.

Now, he takes his campaign to Boomerang. It's not enough that the 1992 animated Addams Family is on the schedule, starting tomorrow. While the 1973 series languishes in the vaults, Snyder has decided to add the original live-action series with John Astin (who reprised his role as Gomez Addams for the 1992 cartoon) to the line-up, along with that other spook-com, The Munsters, which didn't have a cartoon follow-up or any prior toon connection. Munsters will air twice daily at 2 & 7 pm (ET) for this month, and this is only because TBS, which has previously been home to both sitcoms, doesn't have room for them now. That can be blamed on TBS' programmers insisting on airing more contemporary series in double-play (back-to-back) blocks and not breaking from that format beyond the baseball playoffs.

The bottom line is, Snyder doesn't give a rat's butt what we old school toon fans want or think. That puts him in a class with business weasels like Vince McMahon & Knicks/Rangers owner James Dolan, whose selfishness gets in the way of business. It also gets Snyder the dreaded double whammy of a dunce cap and a pair of weasel ears for being insensitive to viewer concerns. Screw the ratings. When it comes to Boomerang and Cartoon Network, as the viewers have already proven, what they say goes. It's just too bad Snyder doesn't get the message.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Friday Night Lights" comes to Troy High

"The waiting is the hardest part...."---Tom Petty, 1981.

Troy High School's football team was supposed to have their home opener 2 weeks ago vs. Averill Park. It wasn't so much the installation of lights at Edward Picken Memorial Field that was at issue, but an additional change to the field, replacing natural grass with Field Turf, the artificial surface popular with major colleges and some pro teams. Tropical Storm Irene passing through in August delayed the process, but it wasn't alone. Most construction projects in the area are never completed on time for one reason or another, even if weather isn't a factor.

On Friday, the Flying Horses finally got to play in front of the home crowd, facing off against Bishop Maginn, with first place in the Southwest Division of Class A on the line. Everyone expected a tight, close game. Instead, it was over about halfway through the 3rd quarter. Maginn used an onside kick on the opening kickoff, hoping to catch Troy off guard. That worked, but not for long. The Troy defense induced a quick 3-&-out, but Maginn did the same when Troy took possession. Not long after that, it was the Raheem Felder-Daquan Holmes show. Felder ran for 3 touchdowns and added two TD tosses to Holmes, who also returned an interception 45 yards for another score. Maginn finally found the end zone halfway through the 4th quarter, but by then, it was over, and some folks were already headed for the exits. Troy moved a step closer to clinching the division with a 48-7 blowout win.

If you believed the local press before the game, you'd think there wouldn't be an empty seat in the building. However, the bleachers on the visitors' side of the field were sparsely filled. The game was broadcast on local television, which might've contributed to the available seating. During the 4th quarter, a fight broke out on the Troy side of the bleachers. I don't know exactly what prompted the fracas, but what I do know is that security was doing its level best to keep people from standing at the fence before the bleachers, obstructing the fans' sight-lines, throughout the game.

Renovation isn't quite complete, and won't be for a while yet, as they may need to create a walkway to get to the field. The tennis court is right next door, and also looks in great shape. The only knock is that they could've started the renovation immediately after the school year ended in June, so it would've been ready for summer practice. Then again, as I said before, most construction projects slow to a crawl for reasons known only to those involved, mostly scheduling conflicts getting in the way.

Troy High has long exorcised the ghosts of its winless teams from 1979-80, when the team was so bad, it couldn't execute a goal line offensive drill at a pep rally. Based on their showing on Friday, not only will they reach the Class A Super Bowl, they may just run the table all the way to Syracuse again. They're hungry, focused, and confident. For the opposition, that's a scary equation to overcome.