Monday, June 20, 2016

A note on Father's Day

In the face of current social and political situation, and because it was Father’s Day when I started putting this down, I wanted to share some impressions of my dad.
I don’t believe my dad ever said a disparaging word about any individual or group.
If he reads this, he may write back to say, “Oh, I’ve had a lot of cross words with people in my time.”
But I don’t believe he ever carried that disagreement out in front of his kids. If he had a Horrible Boss, we never knew about it.
This attitude extended to strangers, too, whatever the race, nationality or religion. Now this could be an easy attitude to have in the whitebread world I grew up in, mostly in small towns where there might be one Native American family. Or the one Asian kid in school, the result of either marriage or adoption: most of us never bothered to ask. But we also had lived in Council Bluffs, an Iowa suburb of Omaha, at the time that riots broke out there following the assassination of Dr. King. But I somehow managed not to have heard about that until I read it in a book a few years later.
No matter the condition, my father, and my mother, too, never warned us about “those people,” whoever “those people” might happen to be. That’s not to say we were not exposed to people's’ prejudices. I had a 5th grade teacher who very seriously advised us that we should never a black person. Why? Because our children would look white, but their children would look black, and be unhappy. And although this was a public school, that teacher had us start the day reading from a set of cards with Bible verses.
Years later, when I was trying for a grad school internship with an entertainment museum in Hollywood, it was an uncle who sent a letter warning to my parents that I would be stepping into a cesspool of gangbanging and drugs. They just sent the letter along with no comment. This was an uncle who never left Riverside County except to drive or fly back to the Midwest. And who knew at the time I would be settling in the peaceful Eden of the Chicago area.
Our parents were not the type to lecture us on morality, or our opinions. They made sure we got to Catechism every Thursday, but they gave us our best lessons by living they way they wanted us to live.
As an Army Reservist, my dad always had a rifle in the house. But it wasn’t something he paraded around to show how it would “protect” us. As befits military protocol, it was a weapon that he kept disassembled, in a case well out of reach, which he only took out to clean and polish before doing his duty one weekend a month and two weeks of camp in the summer. Though I will admit that after retiring from the Reserves, he took up Civil War re-enactment and attached with an artillery unit. He didn’t keep the cannon at the house, but he got to make the long road trip to buy gunpowder. What my ramble is leading to, I guess, is that my father taught me, by his example, not to hate anybody.
A lot has changed, I’ll admit, in the rural towns where I lived; summer jobs I used to do for seed corn plants are now done by migrant workers, or more machines. Some of my high school classmates I’ve connected to on Facebook post invectives against outsiders, against people who are different, against the President, and for their guns—although there are others who, I must point out, have built business and personal relationships across several former barriers. I find myself in a modern world where people from all over the world and with different personal orientations, need to work together, or who can make friends with people anywhere else in the world, even if it the superficial friendship of a Facebook like.
Listing the different kinds of people I know would get too close to the hypocritical “some of my best friends are…” territory. Let’s just say there are people who know me well enough that I can ask my stupid questions borne from curiosity about other cultures and lifestyles.
When I called my father today, I told him (and my mother) about how wonderful our two children are. I said, “if we have raised our children right, it’s because we only knew one way to raise them: the way our parents raised us.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Return of Musical Cheese! Sept 12, 2012

Here we are with a new semester at good ol' WIIT, the voice of Illinois Institute of Technology. The little radio station that could now has a new board and all us DJ's have had to go in for re-training.
I discovered that this board is much easier to use than the last one,  as long as I don't try to do anything fancy, like try to put phone calls on the air. The two CD decks will start playing when you hit the "on air" button on the board. And best of all, they have another deck for digital media: Flash drives, USB drives, etc. We are even closer to realizing my dream of being able to bring in all my music for a show on the half-a-postage-stamp sized chip in my cell phone. However, I can't crossfade between songs on the same flash drive yet, but I can still alternate between the flash drive and my CDs.
And I discovered that the class I'm taking this semester will actually run the entire alloted length of the class: right up to 9 p.m. Luckily the guy waiting to train me did wait until I could get my CDs out of the car. After about half and hour of watching me, he decided I was good to go.
So we have a "practice" run of the Musical Cheese Show. With no real special segments or anniversaries to mark, just running though my usual selections: Once-hit songs that are now obscure or sound outdated, modern hits that just plain sound "cheesy," and the occasional novelty record thrown in, too. 

Musical Cheese Practice Show: Sept 12, 2012 on WIIT 88.9 FM

Twilight Zone, Golden Earring 1982
Pop Muzik, M 1979

A little instrumental break here:

Hawaii Five-O theme, Ventures 1969
Peaches en Regalia, Frank Zappa 1969 (LP: Hot Rats)
Baby How'd We Ever Get This Way, Andy Kim 1968 (Another of the Brill Building songwriters who occasionally stuck out on their own, Andy had a bigger hit with "Rock Me Gently" in 1974, but is best known for writing "Sugar Sugar.")

Some Classical Gassers:

Hungarian Rhapsody (Dueling Pianos), "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Soundtrack 1988, featuring Daffy and Donald Duck.
Pal-Yat-Chee, Spike Jones with Homer & Jethro, 1950
Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker), Parliament, 1976
Rocket Man, William Shatner, 1979 Science Fiction Awards (If you can't get down with the Shat-man, you can't claim to be playing Musical Cheese!) 
White Bird, It's a Beautiful Day, 1969
Woo-Hoo, Rock-A-Teens, 1959
Makin' Our Dreams Come True, Cyndi Grecco, 1976
("Schlemiel! Schlamozl! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated")
Hot Rod Lincoln, Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders, 1959 (Itself an answer song to another "Hot Rod Race" song, this is best known in its 1972 cover by Commander Cody)
I've Been Everywhere, Hank Snow, 1962 (Originally written by an Australian, with all Down Under place names!)

Maybe I'll feature songs that reference super-heroes each week:

Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down, 1999
What's the Name of This Funk (Spider-Man), Ramsey Lewis 1976
Galaxy, War, 1976

A selection whose cultural importance I labored hard to explain:

Solfeggio (Song of the Nairobi Trio), Robert Maxwell 1953
The Teddy Bears' Picnic, Edison Symphony Orchestra 1908
I Wanna Rock, Cab Calloway, 1942
The Happy Whistler, Don Robertson, 1956 (There's just something oddball about any instrumental hit. Whistling songs even more so)
No No Song, Ringo Starr 1974 (As it turned out, there were still some substances Ringo couldn't say "No No" to when he recorded this. But he got better.) 
We Have All the Time in the World, Louis Armstrong ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service" Soundtrack) 1969 ("What a Wonderful World" is probably the most overplayed song of this century. But you can't go wrong with this, the last song Satchmo recorded!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Musical Cheese II: The saga continues!

Now, I don't know how long I'll be doing this little broadcast from the studios of WIIT. There may be a job coming down the line that keeps me from coming in for class, who knows? The next podcast could be my last!

So I learned a few things after last week's opening salvo. First, the Virtual DJ software on my Windows netbook is by default expecting a soundcard installed with two outputs: one for cue and one for air. So whenever I dropped an MP3 track on one of the cue decks, a channel on the song playing on air would cut out. Finally found the configuration to acknowledge that there's just the one stereo output. Now if I can just figure why the plug feeding the sound board only plays the right channel (I tried my headphone in the jack, that's pure stereo). For the sake of this podcast, I tracked the right channel into both ears.

My topic for the broadcast came to me after watching the Grammy Awards the previous Sunday. Another slate of Best New Artist nominees that by legend would never be heard from again. Checking the lists of previous nominees and winners, that see that isn't so much the case today as it was in the 1970's. I think Christina Aguilera has gone on to better things after her win. But there were some nominees so obscure that they didn't even have a Wikipedia article about them yet. But I still found an MP3 of the J's with Jamie, so their mark on internet posterity may yet be made. And I should have known when putting together a playlist of Best New Artist nominees, I'd be rutting out the greatest piece of musical cheese ever recorded!

Note: "Johnny Get Angry" by Joanie Somers reminded me that it's one of a very small group of pop hits to use a kazoo. The only other ones I could think of offhand was "You're Sixteen" by Ringo Starr and "Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish–which was not really a "pop" hit. But once again, the Internet comes to the rescue!
And yes, the Ace Frehley version of "New York Groove" starts out draggy. A previous DJ had messed with the pitch control of the CD deck and not set it back to normal. I tried to speed it up a little bit in GarageBand.

And of course, all the songs below have links to purchase a copy for your very own on iTunes, or another source if possible!

Playlist for Mark McDermott's Musical Cheese Show #2, February 15, 2012 on WIIT:
Pushin' too Hard--The Seeds (1967)
New York Groove--Hello (1975)
New York Groove--Ace Frehley (1978)
I Was Made for Lovin' You--Kiss--12" single (1979)
The Way of Love--Cher--Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves (1972)
Acid Queen--Tina Turner--Tommy Soundtrack (1975)

Special Feature: Select Best New Artist Grammy Nominees:
Let's Not Be Sensible--The J's with Jamie (1963)
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah--Allan Sherman--My Son the Nut (1983)
A Walk in the Black Forest--Horst Jankowski--Hard to Find Pop Instrumentals ii--(1965)
The Shape I'm In--Johnny Restivo (1959)
Afternoon Delight--Starland Vocal Band--Super Hits of the 70's v. 18 (1876)
Hey Deanie--Shaun Cassidy--Super Hits of the 70s (1978)
Feelings--Morris Albert--Super Hits of the 70s v. 17 (1975)
Rock On--David Essex (1974)
59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) - Feelin' Groovy--Harpers Bizarre (1967)
Joanie Sommers--Johnny Get Angry--Hard to Find 45s on CD Vol.5 (1962)
Steal Away--Robbie Dupree (1980)
Whispering/Cherchez La Femme/C'est Si Bon--Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band (1977)

What a Difference a Day Makes (Disco version)--Esther Phillips (1975)
Rock and Roll--Boswell Sisters (1934)
Jolly Fellows Waltz--Peerless Orchestra (1904)
Tumbling Tumbleweeds--Sons of the Pioneers (1934)
Matchbox--Blind Lemon Jefferson (1927)
Mule Skinner Blues--The Fendermen (1960)
Itchy Chicken--Los Straitjackets--Viva Los Straitjackets (1005)
Who Listens to the Radio--The Sports--Mushroom Evolution Concept (1978)
Sex (I'm A...)--Berlin--12" single version (1983)
I'm on Fire--5000 Volts (1975)
Sometimes A River--String Cheese Incident--One Step Closer (2005)
Highway 40 Unplugged--Brak--Space Ghost's Musical BarBQ
Gone, Gone, Gone--Charlie Feathers--single (1967)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Back in the Booth! My Musical Cheese show

It's something I've awaited for 25 years. I had promised myself that, if by some chance I got myself affiliated with a school or college with a radio station, I would get myself an air shift!

And that one-class certificate course I'm taking at Illinois Institute of Technology is my ticket.
Once I knew I would be going to the downtown campus for a class, I signed up to do a radio shift on WIIT-FM, broadcasting from the campus center on State St.
The orientation was pretty quick and easy. Now mind you, the last time I played music on the radio was before the station at Bowling Green U. had any CD players installed. Now at orientation, the Tech Director asks "so, is anyone going to be bringing CDs?" Turns out most people just bring a laptop with DJ software installed. And they have turntables, but due to the problem of theft, I would have to provide head shell and needle for two Technics 1200 turntables. The guy says they've got a grant for new equipment that will be installed starting in March, but for now we're "stuck" using a board from the 1970s. All right by me, I started out on boards from the 1950s.

For a while, I've highlighting my favorite obscure, silly or otherwise annoying old songs when I hear them on iTunes, and tagging them as "Musical Cheese." So that's the title of my new show. Featuring the stuff your parents forgot about when they said music was so much better in their time. So watch for my show to contain bad 70s earworms, unusual or obscure tunes from through recording history, and some of the comedy stuff that we played the crap out of back in the 70s. Hey, everything old is new again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My weekend vinyl pleasures

In trying to keep up my little space on the web, I thought I'd go through my playlists that won't get posted: my vinyl listening.
This weekend, while pounding away at the keys, and not wanting to be distracted by putting on the TV, I just dug out some LPs. Got the ION turntable plugged into the computer anyway, and was intending to screen all my vinyl to start listing them on GEMM. I am admitting right here, in my scramble to leave no penny unturned, I'm discussing my listening with an affiliate link to the iTunes store.
Iggy Pop, Lust for Life (1977) remains, how shall I put it, "timeless." It's title track is a tribute to Iggy's long career as a heroin addict that would never get airplay if recorded today. It was used in its proper context in the movie Trainspotting, then was appropriated by clueless advertising execs for a cruise line's TV campaign. How Family-friendly! iTunes
Renaissance, Novella (1977). Even if you've had it with Prog Rock, this is a slightly refreshing package, made different by having a female lead singer in Annie Haslam, and a greater emphasis on classical and European folk elements over rock, though sometimes it's every bit as bombastic as Emerson, Lake & Palmer.iTunes
David Bowie, Alabama Song (1980). From Kurt Weill and Bertoldt Brecht's Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny. Apparently this was pushed out in 1980 as a way to hasten the end of Bowie's contract with RCA. Bowie sure sounds like he could do justice to the material. My German import 12" had it backed with Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam." I got it for the "B" side, "Space Oddity," but found it was a 1980 re-make. Whose orchestration sounded a lot like "Mother" by John Lennon.iTunes

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Hobbit Condensed

Some months ago, the cartoonbrew blog posted a YouTube video that had unearthed a long-lost pilot for a Howdy Doody cartoon film series, made on spec for "Buffalo Bob" Smith and NBC by animator Gene Deitch ("Tom Terrific" among many others). That film was thought lost for many years until someone unearthed a copy and posted it to YouTube.

Now another long-lost film has resurfaced, this one with a slightly bizarre history. But it offers insight to the weird world of movie making. The link below has the actual YouTube, and I am encouraging you to visit the fun that is Cartoon Brew to see the video. But the condensed version of this condensed version is this: in 1964, when J.R.R. Tolkein was just another fantasy author on Ballantine's backlist, the author's estate sold the movie rights to "The Hobbi" to a producer named William Snyder, who had done some work with Deitch and had picked up Deitch's Oscar for his cartoon "MONRO" in 1961. Snyder pitches Deitch on the project, he works up a screenplay, and makes a pitch for a full-blown animated venture to 20th Century Fox, which turns them down flat.

Meantime, by 1966, "Lord of the Rings" has been issued in paperback and Tolkein is now a cult favorite. J.R.R.'s estate gets a bigger offer for "The Hobbit," and prepares to let their contract with Snyder expire within a month, so they don't have to pay him anything.

Snyder notes that the contract only stipulated that he deliver "a full-color film adaptation of 'The Hobbit'" by deadline time. No mention of how long it had to be, nor how GOOD it had to be. So Snyder tells Deitch to tear up his script and produce a quickie animated version on one reel of film within 30 days. Which he does. Note that the movie is not so much animated as it is a still life with camera pans. But Snyder delivers a film, Tolkein's estate learns a valuable lesson about Hollywood contract, and "The Hobbit" and the whole "Lord of the Rings" trilogy passes through several hands over the next 25 years, briefly emerging as a made-for-TV cartoon and an odd bit by Ralph Bakshi, before emerging full-blown with Peter Jackson.

I'm just glossing in details. Click the link below for more of the story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There's something you don't see every day

At least not even in my relatively upscale neighborhood. As the wife and I were driving past Ogden Avenue, right on the border between Downers Grove and Westmont, we saw the lot of a car repair shop that had parked on its lot corner: a Mercedes, and Jaguar, and... a Rolls Royce.
Now I'm not sure that I've ever seen a Rolls on the road at all before, let alone in a repair shop. This is in spite of the fact that the shop is located across the street from a Bentley dealer.
According to what I know, and I'll admit that sometimes isn't a lot, the urban legend goes that whenever a Rolls "fails to proceed" (they never do such commonplace things a "break down," yew know), a factory representative will arrive nearly instantaneously to effect repair. It certainly wouldn't do for the silver Lady to be seen in a common breakdown yard sharing space with some tawdry German hussy, or even, >gasp!< a Hyndai.
Well, the car was gone the next day, though the Jag was still there.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Whadya got when ya got no lights?

So two weeks ago we suffered through a major blackout caused by the storm through Downers Grove that was only later defined to be a Tornado. While we only lost a few tree branches, not even the worst storm damage our trees had suffered, parts of the village were ripped up pretty good. The park near us had so many downed braches being pushed to the sidewalk, it looked for a while like you could pretend to be walking along the tops of the trees in a rain forest. Until the leaves started to wither away, revealing the ugly torn branches underneath.
What we did have back at the ranch was a power outage that lasted just over 24 hours. This is longer than we've ever been without power in our Chicago area dwellings. For the most part, any storm usually knocked us out for an hour. So we just figured we wouldn't need to take extraordinary measures to save our refigerator, like buying bagged ice, until it was too late. Besides, many of the nearest stores were also still without power.
Well, we mostly ended up tossing leftovers and opened packages. The guides we consulted said anything in a chest freezer was probably good for up to 48 hours, but I'm the one taking those chances here.
We did discover what resources we still had available while we had no electricity.
  • Landline Phones. Sure, the cordless sets in our house were knocked out. Luckily I still had one ole fashioned receiver plugged in, in the basement.
  • Cell Phones. We weren't foolish enough to try and get a signal during the actual storm. But of course our cells had enough juice to take us to the next day, when we could still drive to work and plug in the phones to recharge there.
  • Hot water. You don't think much about it, but a basic gas water heater depending on a pilot flame has no electrical components. Hot showers all around!
Of course we can only be happy about these amenities because it was not humid and in the 90s after the storm hit. Even after the power came on, we went out to eat until the refrigerator could be properly sorted through. I was surprised to find stores and eateries along the main drag on Ogden Ave. were still without power. I can imagine the seafood department workers at Jewel or Dominick's getting called as soon as the power went off: "Get in here! If we don't have power in 20 minutes, we have to start dumping the scallops! Then the clams!"
One thing we did discover, with a couple of kids in the house, was the need to keep kid drinks around with a longer shelf life. In fact, the power finally came back on while I was at Jewel, picking up juice boxes, cans of evaporated milk, and those asceptic containers of Horizon Organic Milk, and just for a change, some "Almond Milk." Plus a Sam Adams Summer variety pack for Daddy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hiding out and Hanging out

So, I'm still not Wi-Fi enabled and mobile. But I expect to be shortly. And I'm thinking now of locations to hide or hang out while wasting time surfing the net doing my important writing.
My detached garage has no electricity, though it might be within reach of my Mac Mini's Air Port. But let's say you just want to go someplace away from the usual coffee shops and just sit in a quiet spot?
Here is:
#1 College Extension Campus Buildings
My current temp assignment is at the "Naperville Campus" of Northern Illinois University. A nice big, recent building along one of the many Corporeta lining the tollway. During the summer its practically empty except for the occasional seminar. You can be it's Wi-Fi enabled. And it has plenty of lounging areas besides the classrooms. Pretty much anyone can walk in, and there's a small cafe, too.
Now I haven't tested the Wi-Fi, and it may be you need to be a registered student to access it, so you might be SOL if you want free internet, or have a data plan handy. And while there are a few of these "Campus" buildings in local downtowns, I'm thinking a lot of them are a bit of a drive from anybody's residence. But of you really need a few hours of peace and quiet, here's a possibility.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Monday, April 04, 2011

Another "rediscovered" Warner Brothers wartime cartoon

Another Warner Brothers military film rediscovered: The Cartoon Brew site discusses this film:

Much lesser-known than the Pvt. Snafu, cartoons for the Army, the Grampaw Pettigrew character was thought to have been created by the UPA studio for Navy training films, but Brew researchers found the first of these was definitely Warner Brothers, probably Frank Tashlin directed, definitely Carl Stallings music.

Start of the cartoon has some rather limited animation, though it carries the precautionary tale well: a bomber pilot so focused on his bombsight while diving toward his target, that he forgets to check his altimeter, and blam! To we who are many years removed from the war, the sequence evokes the Rebel X-Wing pilots trying to sight that thermal exhaust port on the Death Star. If only that pilot had trusted The Force.

The other half of the film is said Grandpa (an aircraft mechanic?) lecturing the audience about carelessness. One gets the impression that someone higher-up might have thought Pvt. Snafu getting killed in humorous ways from his own ineptitude was taking the vital message they wanted to convey too lightly.

Side note: "Grampaw Pettigrew" was created by Robert Osborn, who illustrated thousands of posters and other educational materials for the Navy. There's an appreciation of him here:
He main educational creation was a screw-up Navy pilot named "Dilbert," which soon became the slang term for screw-up throughout the Navy, and which Scott Adams has said was where he got the name for his comic strip from. Another trivia trifecta for today!

Visit the image or link below to view the footage:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Three topics you should never bring up in polite discussion

Religion, politics, and Superman vs. Flash.

DC Universe: The Source » Blog Archive » Who’s the Fastest?

Probably should add to that:
Hulk vs. Thing
Thor's hammer (unstoppable force) vs. Juggernaut (Immovable object)