Skankin’ Pickle Day

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Skankin’ Pickle was a California ska band that performed some rather … interesting songs. One of them is called “You Shouldn’t Judge A Man By The Hair On His Butt!!(Yes, really. Clink the link.) In it, the lead singer proffers that despite outward appearances, well, you shouldn’t judge a man by the hair on his butt. The lyrics are surprisingly sophisticated in places, like “Don’t be fooled, always be fair, this man just might know that E equals m c squared.” But the lyric that always struck me was “Don’t be fooled and change the station, this man just might know that negative b plus or minus square root b squared minus four a c all over 2 a is the quadratic equation.”

I was reminded of this song today in algebra class as today’s topic was quadratic equations and the quadratic formula. I learned a lot today, but I was also writing almost nonstop throughout class, to the point that the quart of water I usually finish by the end of class wasn’t even half gone when I packed up. But because of algebra class, I’ve had this song stuck in my head all day.

Schoolwork is finally starting to quiet down to a dull roar after the screwiness that surrounded my trip to California last month. This week I have another take-home algebra quiz due and a twice-postponed biology quiz scheduled for Wednesday. Around that, I would like to get a head start on the new homework assignment for algebra instead of falling behind like I did with the one I turned in this morning. It’s due on the 25th, so I have some time, but I’d prefer to do the homework as we cover the material in class.

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Well, That Fell Through

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I had plans to come back today and tell you about the wonderful adventures we went on today, except that when we woke up neither of us had much energy, and our plans would have completely sapped us on a show day, so in the interest of doing the show we’d already programmed, we stayed home.

As our listeners discovered, the plan was to go to the Bullock Museum downtown and see the “Pride & Joy: The Texas Blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan” exhibit that’s only there through tomorrow. My wife is a tremendous SRV fan and the plan was to go see the exhibit this morning and then do an all-SRV show this evening.

She’s fine with missing it, so I’m okay with it. But I wish we’d have known about this sooner than the final weekend so we could have planned better.

The SRV show went on as planned, though, and we had a good listener count for doing a single-act show.

The station is in the process of testing a Discord server as a chat client, and so we were in there as well as the station’s IRC channel tonight. Neither one of us had ever used Discord before, but so far we both seem to like it. Not sure what this is going to mean for the station in the long run, but for right now, we’re inviting listeners to join us over in Discord and let us know what they think about it before making any decisions about its future place with our station.

I really hope to do as little as possible tomorrow. I’m pretty drained from today, even though I didn’t do much. The heat is such that our air conditioning unit struggles in the later afternoon and evening to keep the apartment as cool as we like it. At some points it got up to 78, which is very warm for us. I think the heat has got us pretty worn out, even though we’re not out in the middle of it very long.

An Overdue Celebration of Music

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Tonight I got a show on the air that I should have gotten on the air a month ago.

On Friday, April 7th, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the members of the Class of 2017 – Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, and Yes. It is my custom to do a special Roots of Rock broadcast that showcases the music of the new class either the week (night, actually) before or the week after the induction ceremony. This year, however, thanks to family emergencies, family vacations, personal illness, and a return week to advertise the special show, I only got to it this evening.

For Electric Light Orchestra, I chose “10538 Overture,” “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Turn To Stone,” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” I knew all of these songs well but the first, and it came advertised as the spiritual successor to “I Am The Walrus” by the Beatles. It did not disappoint.

For Joan Baez, I played “We Shall Overcome,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Forever Young,” “Diamonds And Rust,” and “Please Come To Boston.” I knew most of these, although the majority of the songs that I played were live versions that I wasn’t familiar with. Joan is almost as well known for her stirring renditions of other writers’ songs as she is for her own work, and that was reflected in the song list for this set.

For Journey, I selected “Lights,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” “Open Arms,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” and “Girl Can’t Help It.” Journey is not my favorite group – there’s something about their music that I find somewhat depressing – but I cannot deny that they deserve a place in the Hall. “Open Arms” is my least favorite Journey song, but I really like “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” so I wanted to be sure I got both of those in there.

For Pearl Jam, I opted for “Even Flow,” “Daughter,” “Better Man,” “Hail, Hail,” and “Last Kiss.” I knew all of these well but “Hail, Hail,” which was why I included it. I enjoyed it greatly.

For Tupac Shakur, I went with “I Get Around,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Dear Mama,” “California Love” (featuring Roger Troutman), andChanges” (featuring Talent). I have to admit, I was the most impressed with this set. I’d never heard Tupac before – my musical tastes were very narrow when he was alive and recording – and I never got around to hunting down his music. The thing that surprised me the most is that I bought his Greatest Hits album expecting a great deal of profanity – every song on the album is double labeled as Explicit – but with the exception of a single racial epithet on the final track and a “hell” tossed in there for good measure, the rest of the songs I played were completely clean, and the subject matter was incredibly complex, and all were very easy to listen to. My playlists are usually randomly generated, but I’ll be glad when the algorithm picks a Tupac song for me to play.

For Yes, I had to kind of punt, since the Hall of Fame website didn’t provide an “essential listening” section in their biography as they did with the other artists, but in the end I put “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Heart Of The Sunrise,” “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” and “Leave It” on the air. There were some recommended songs that I didn’t have in my collection, but two of them took up an entire album side – Yes is progressive rock, after all, and that sort of thing is not uncommon among prog rock artists – and I didn’t have enough time left in my show to put them on. “Roundabout” clocks in at eight and a half minutes, “I’ve Seen All Good People” comes in at six and a half, and “Heart Of The Sunrise” is over ten minutes long, so I’m glad that “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” and “Leave It” came from the MTV-friendly era of Yes’ career, otherwise my show would have been longer than my allotted three hours. As it was, everything came in right on time.

I love putting this show on the radio every year. Because of my format – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists only – this is the only time that I can add new artists to my library. There are still some earlier inductees that I don’t have yet, but hopefully that will change over time. Once I fill in all the blanks, though, these induction ceremonies will be the only opportunity I will have to expand my library. I like sharing the new class with my listeners and am always thankful when a new inductee comes up in subsequent shows.

Incidentally, while the photo that leads off this post is not mine, I have a model of the Hall of Fame & Museum exactly like it. For those curious, the Hall of Fame itself is in the cylindrical section behind and to the left of the main building; the rest of the building is the Museum. Somewhere in that museum, enshrined in a leather-bound book and available for public viewing, is my name, as are the names of all other charter members of the Museum. That might go a long way toward explaining why I chose the musical format that I did for my radio show. I’ve been in there since day one.

Confessing a Weakness

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I love music. My earliest memory is of me standing in the middle of the bench seat of the family station wagon singing the chorus to Don McLean’s “American Pie” at age two. I started piano when I was 7, drums when I was 8, had a failed experiment as a saxophonist in sixth grade, spend a month trying to teach myself electric bass, and owned a guitar in the hopes that I would eventually learn to play it (I didn’t). I’ve done (and won awards for) musical theater. I would practice a song for months before singing it at karaoke, back when I was able to do karaoke in a bar that wasn’t filled with smoke. Music is in my blood and always has been.

These days my musical expression has been limited to the two radio shows that I do each week. I’m in complete control of one show’s playlist, and have creative consultation rights to the other show, which is in actuality programmed by my wife. I haven’t been behind a drum kit since I was in my 20s, I haven’t seriously played piano in well over 30 years, and I can’t remember the last time I sung anything, even to myself at home, alone.

So along comes something like this video (sorry, folks, I’m too cheap to pay for the subscription that would allow me to embed video) that absolutely blows me away.

Choir! Choir! Choir! is a community choir in Toronto, and when they do a production, they do it big. They gathered over 500 people to sing “Space Oddity” to mark the death of David Bowie, and pulled in over 2,000 singers for a performance of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” in three-part harmony.

The video that I linked is of Choir! Choir! Choir!’s performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Fifteen hundred people gathered together and were led by Rufus Wainwright (the performer that did what is likely the best known rendition of the song, from the Shrek motion picture soundtrack) in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of what is already a hauntingly beautiful song.

And therein lies my weakness.

I read what the video was all about beforehand and had already started crying just thinking about how beautiful this video must be before I ever hit play. It starts out with the choir gathering at the Hearn Generating Station in Toronto, an introduction to the newcomers participating with C! C! C! for the first time, and then Rufus Wainwright took the stage and the single accompaniment of an acoustic guitar began the song. Rufus began the song, as I’m so accustomed to hearing him sing, but soon the choir joined in, and the beauty and power of 1,500 people singing this supremely gorgeous song just overwhelmed me. I was sobbing while listening, barely able to see the video through my tears.

And it’s not just music.

Sad tale of a dog or cat that has a happy ending? Tears. The story of someone that overcomes significant obstacles to reach a long-standing goal? Tears. The underdog wins the ball game? Tears.

I’m very prone to crying. I know I should be more in control of myself, but sometimes I just can’t help it. I wish I knew how to turn it off sometimes, because it can happen at the worst possible moment (for instance, I was in a bardic competition in the SCA a few years back and started crying uncontrollably while performing a song I wrote).

I suppose the alternative is to just stop feeling emotion at anything, and that’s really not an option. I just wish I had a better poker face when I’m overcome with emotion.

So anyway, there’s my confession, but really, the thing you should take away from this blog post is that video I linked. Take the time to watch it for yourself. It is really, really beautiful.

The Insidious Power of Music

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I was having an okay day this morning. I got up with the alarm, I did my vitals and my meds and my breakfast, and I went back to sleep for a short little nap. Got up, dinked around on the computer, then went to go lie back down. The second nap was thanks to lack of something to do.

While poking around on the computer I managed to uncover a YouTube video of the extra tracks CD from the Genesis: 1976-1982 box set. This featured a lot of songs that I hadn’t heard before as we as some that I knew about and had heard before. So after my wife went to work, I cued it up.

I forgot one detail – this period of time includes music that Phil wrote about the breakup of his first marriage, and a lot of the songs that I was familiar with evoked feelings of loss, depression, desolation, and pain. Naturally, those were the songs that stuck in my head because of my familiarity with them.

My mood took a nosedive after that. I was sure that I was in everyone’s way, that I was a bother, that I should just keep to myself and stay quiet today while I silently suffered.

It wasn’t long that, against my better judgment, I reached out to a couple friends of mine and started to turn myself around. I’m better now – a bit lonely, perhaps, but I have a movie on (Guardians of the Galaxy for the umpteenth time) and I’m starting to come about and be productive with my day.

But I need to remember how much those particular Genesis songs affect me and have a ready counter to the mood they inspire whenever listening to them again. And I should likely be ready to reach out to others tonight as it gets later. I have a feeling that the evening might be a little rough on me.

Drawing a Blank

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At three separate times today the subject for today’s blog post crossed my mind, and just as quickly exited before being stored in even short-term memory. This stuff was popping up in the “hey wait OOH SHINY” part of my memory, and I am certain that that is the medical term for this phenomena.

I could write about one of my favorite comic books coming to life this week in AMC’s Preacher. Forewarned that the series would not be mirroring the comics in any way at all, and that material from the comics wouldn’t really start showing up until episode ten, I went in clear of expectations. I was not disappointed. The pilot episode was darkly funny, action packed, brutally violent and gory and just downright weird – which is precisely the spirit of the comics themselves. I have high hopes for this series.

I could write about what they’ve done to poor Steve Rogers in the comics. The internet kinda blew the doors off this one – screw spoilers – and collectively grabbed their torches and pitchforks over the plot twist that they say has been planned for two years and hinted at since 1940. I’m not going to even honor this development by naming it in this blog. What they’re doing is absolutely wrong. There are little kids with Captain America plastered all over their bedrooms crying their eyes out over what they’re doing with him in the comics. You can tell me they’ll retcon this just like they retcon every ludicrous storyline that’s ever done in the comics, and I’m certain they will, but the damage is already being done to the core audience. Rethink this course of action, Marvel, before sales figures force your hand.

I could write about one of my fellow DJs who at this very moment is possibly on stage with his band Super Mega Everything competing for the chance to play the Haight Ashbury Street Fair in San Francisco later this year. This is a huge deal for a NorCal band and would put them in front of thousands of attendees. I really hope it goes well for him and his band tonight. He’s a really decent guy and this would be an excellent opportunity for him to broaden his fan base.

I’m pretty certain what I intended to write about isn’t any of those things, to be honest, but they’re what’s popping into my head now, so this is what you get. Lesson learned: when inspiration hits, don’t put it off – sit down and write.