Sunday, May 28, 2017

Song of the Week: "I'll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)"

Every song I could think of this morning was kind of sad or dour. It's raining softly and dark, and somehow this song came into my head... and it sounds cheesy, but the rain's stopped and it's lighter. So that's the magic of Muppets, man. This is my favorite song from the wonderful (and apparently underrated) Muppets Most Wanted, and it's the official video, which replaces Matt Vogel's performance as Constantine, the World's Most Dangerous Frog, with the song's composer, Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, hamming it up in a 70s/80s-inspired cheese fest. Have a brighter day, everyone. Son's even brighter since I started writing this!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Autobiography of a Frog, Part V: May the Force Be with Me

That was a brief, 8-month depression and anxiety break from this series, but I'm back on it now, and pardon my language, but look how fucking happy I am about it!

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, and since I left off at the beginning of May 1977, what better time to just do some of this stuff and keep rediscovering the old life?

So, as we begin May, the 10th sees the passing of Joan Crawford, the 17th sees the election of Menachem Begin in Israel, the 23rd sees the announcement that scientists created insulin in a lab, and for four consecutive weeks America watched David Frost interview former president Richard Nixon, including Nixon's assertion that "when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

And, of course, on May 25, there was this:

You can't really understate Star Wars' impact on pop culture and on filmmaking, and because of this one movie, I got to be a kid during a fantastic age of science fiction and fantasy flicks. Some of my friends who are a little older than me have some great stories about what it was like to see it as a kid or a teenager, but it also impacted those of us who were too little to have even seen it when it first came out. After all, I have no memory of the world pre-Star Wars. This movie affected the way I expect stories to be told, the way I played as a child, and even some of the ways I view the world... even my views on morality and spirituality can be traced back to this.

I'll have a lot more mentions of Star Wars, probably in every single one of these entries... for now, here's a link to my favorite piece from the score, "Princess Leia's Theme."

The day after this, George Willig climbed the South Tower of the World Trade Center. And the day after that, Space Mountain opened in Disneyland.


And that same day, Smokey and the Bandit opened. Fun flick. Other fun stuff from the month: Marvel published that KISS special that had drops of the band's blood mixed into the ink (it's actually a really fun special; dopey, but in that science-fiction-meets-glam-rock-in-an-arcade 1977 way which is my aesthetic), and one of my favorite Harlan Ellison stories of them all, "Jeffty Is Five."

Also around this time was the quintessential Runaways album, Live in Japan; the best album by one of my all time favorite bands. This one captures the original line-up of the Runaways at their hardest rocking and their peak of perfection. Just a perfect album, with the perfect, most appreciative audience.

And not that you asked, but my favorite Frank Frazetta painting, Kane on the Golden Sea, is from around this time.

June... not off to a great start. On the 7th, Miami-Dade County, Florida votes overwhelmingly to repeal gay rights. Thanks for nothing, Anita Bryant. God, I can't believe we're still fighting this fucking battle with you stupid bullies on the anti-gay side. Get over it, it doesn't affect your life at all.

And then on the 10th, James Earl Ray escaped from prison for three days. (Also, the first Apple II went on sale. Insert stock snarky take on the evils of corporations. Here's a commercial for the first one. That's a trip back in time.)

On June 12, the Supremes disbanded. I mean, this month, man... I think y'all were going to see Star Wars over and over in part due to how depressing the news must have been at the time.

Was there anything good? Well, Boston's "Peace of Mind" is one of my favorite songs. That song always makes me feel terrific. And there's a fantastic novel by Robert Mayer called Super Folks, one of the wittiest novels I've ever read, a deconstruction of the superhero mythology that pre-dates Watchmen by a decade, On June 15, Spain had its first democratic elections in 41 years! On June 26, 200,000 protesters marched in San Francisco to protest that hatemonger Anita Bryant. And on June 30, women were integrated into the Marine Corps. Not bad.

I feel the need to point out that I eventually did get the whole "footwear" concept down. That's my Grandpa Sage in the picture.

And now. moving into July, clearly the most important thing going on July 1, 1977, is that Liv Tyler, the perfect woman, was born. (I'm a huge fan, I'm being hyperbolic because I adore her, I don't need your unasked-for, buzz-killing comments about "not really" and "eh, not a fan," I do not care. Let me have fun and you can go be a prick somewhere else. Make your family deal with it for a change.)

But also, three days later was my first Fourth of July.

Here I am with my baby-faced Dad on the Fourth, just after he'd been through Basic Training. As you can see by the painting, this is still at my Grandma and Grandpa's house in Woodridge.

July 7th saw the release of The Spy Who Loved Me, a film often cited as the late Roger Moore's finest Bond film. I don't really agree--I find that at age 40 I don't really care so much about James Bond anymore, and I find this one a little dull--but I do absolutely love the theme song, "Nobody Does It Better."

Another song I love from 1977: "The Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric. One of my very favorite songs from the Stiff Records catalog of post-punk greats. Golly, is it already post-punk? Here’s something I didn’t know: Nick Lowe plays bass on this track, and Ian Dury plays drums. Not bad. This thing is just perfect. And remember, kids: If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck!

Meanwhile, on July 13 (the day the Ethio-Somali War began), the New York City Blackout occurred. 25 hours without power, and it was partly responsible for the explosion of hip hop music (because a lot of people who couldn't otherwise afford it got their hands on some professional equipment and started experimenting).

And on July 17th, I turned a year old.

My first birthday came with an official portrait, man.

Well, what can I say? I loved frosting. And you see that plate with the fireman on it? Well, look at what I found in my baby book:

My Mom saved one of the napkins! That was a cool and unexpected find.

I love this picture of me and Grandpa Sage on my first birthday. This was in their finished basement. The carpet and the wood paneling never changed when we lived there, either. We even kept that oil lamp that you can see on the right, and the old-timey sewing machine that it sits on top of. We kept that stuff when we moved, too, although I don't know if anyone has the sewing desk anymore. Man, I can still smell the finish on it. My sister and I used to play and watch TV and listen to records down there. Oh, you can’t see it, but there was track-lighting, too.

And then, two days later, on July 19, I spoke my first word. Recorded for posterity, what was that word?

Seems very fitting to me.

That's all for this installment. When next you join me, hopefully in less than 8 months, my second year on Earth begins...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Star Wars

It's been an at-times difficult relationship, but I still love you and probably a day doesn't go by that I don't engage with you on some level.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Muppet Monday

What the hey, let's get some Muppets here again.

This is a sketch that appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on October 13, 1968. It features a character named Little Girl Sue (mainly performed by Jim Henson) and some monsters. It's a little clumsy in its execution, but I like the sentiment, and I think the monster-in-multiple pieces is really neat.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Song of the Week: "Same Drugs"

Chicago's own Chance the Rapper has a music video for the single "Same Drugs" from my favorite album of last year, Coloring Book. There's a little bit of a Muppet Show influence to this one. I'd love to see this guy perform something on Sesame Street.