Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mac Magic

My friend John in LA was born on the last day of the '60s, which makes him 37 today. John, your package is going to be a little late this year, but this post is dedicated to you - hope that'll tide you over...

In addition to being a great writer, teacher and raconteur (not to mention knowing the chart position of any song from the first half of the '80s), John's the one who taught me that Fleetwood Mac aren't just a band - they're a way of life. So here are a couple of Mac-related clips that, I think, are a perfect way to see 2006 out and welcome 2007 in.

First we have FM Mark I performing - all right, synching to - "Albatross."

I love how complete this song feels. All the guitarists (Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer) get to shine, but each solo is a part of the whole, not an opportunity to show off. The song influenced John Lennon when he wrote "Sun King" for Abbey Road.

Speaking of Abbey Road...

Lindsey Buckingham had to fill three pairs of shoes (four if you count Bob Welch), and he did so with incredibly cerebral, intricate playing. This is him on a year-end wrap-up, playing a cover of "Here Comes the Sun" in honor of the recently deceased George Harrison. I wouldn't go so far as to say he makes the song his, but he definitely puts his own stamp on it.

That concludes the first six months of this blog. As Peter Jennings says at the end of this, thank you very much and happy new year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

You are a fluke of the universe

We are, of course, coming up on the very end of the year, and I thought it'd be nice to slow down and do a little deep thinking.

You don't have to be familiar with the poem "Desiderata" to appreciate this. Written by Tony Hendra in his National Lampoon days, it appeared on the Radio Dinner LP, which has been criminally out of print for too long.

Friday, December 29, 2006

My new all-time favorite ad

For years and years, whenever anyone asked what my favorite TV commercial was (which happens less often than you'd think), I'd say that it was the Nissan GI Joe / "You Really Got Me" ad.

But another has taken its place.

I don't speak Hungarian, so I don't have a clue what they're saying, but the bizarro fastballs just keep coming. Bouncy music! Susan Sarandon lookalikes! Vanishing clothing! Mustaches! Bibs! Chipmunk vocals! Sizzling fat! Finger licking! And when it's over, I've got to see it again!

I'm serious - if Jimmy Dean Sausages did a tribute to / ripoff of this ad, they'd be the talk of the nation inside of two weeks.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Back to Sesame Street

My friend Paul from New Jersey got me the Sesame Street Old School DVD for Christmas - how awesome is that? - so here are a couple animated clips from the show to thank him.

The YouTube comments for this make a valid point - what's the educational value here? Were there any kids under the mistaken assumption that caterpillars wear brown boots?

By contrast, here's a clip with a lesson, and that lesson is: don't take LSD.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

O Holy Night

I got out of work early today, which means I'm going home tonight, which means I won't be around for a few days, so I thought I'd better post my final Xmas post now.

Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston duetting on "O Holy Night."

You're rarin' to go already, aren't you? This is one of the more beautiful carols out there, and it really gives a good singer room to let go. And saying Aretha is a good singer is like saying Beethoven was a guy who wrote music. Billy's playing makes it even better.

There's no embedding link, so to see it, you're going to have to click here.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Pine for Jennifer

In the space of four years, WKRP in Cincinnati had two Christmas episodes. One was the old reliable Scrooge parody. Here's the other, in three chunks; Jennifer's the only one with the Christmas spirit, and the only one with no Christmas plans.

Part 1...

Part 2...

Part 3.

Good news - they're releasing season 1 of WKRP on DVD this April. Yep, they've gotten around those confounded music rights one way or another and will pass the good times on to us. What a fine Christmas present.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm trying to rig up these lights!

From yesterday's "Twelve Days of Christmas," we're moving on to "Twelve Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever; the Woodyesque "Hangovizz" makes me smile, and the building furor of the lights guy never stops making me laugh. I also like how this reeks of N'Yawk/Joisey. "Say-ehlvation Aumy," "Gotta make 'em dinnah," "terlet paper"... It's a dialectologist's dream.

I've got two different animated takes on the song, both of them beautifully edited to the beats. One is an anime one.

I'm so ignorant on anime that the only character I recognize is a vague Robin, and that can't be right. I guess I'm more old school. To that end, here's a Nightmare Before Christmas version.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thank God I'm A Christmas Boy

John Denver and the Muppets. Was a human ever better at working with felt? I love his whispering Fozzie's cue to him around 2:09.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Hate Christmas

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street was a big favorite in our family when I was a kid, and it holds up well today. You've got old school Muppets and humans (hi, Mr. Looper!), you've got Bert singing "Make the yuletide gay," you've got cuteness and tears and smiles. Best of all, you've got some great original songs.

Somebody JUST posted the entire show in seven good-sized chunks, but I thought I'd start you off with just a taste and you can check out the rest if you're so inclined. So here's Oscar the Grouch delivering a song only he could deliver with this much panache.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Free Yer Mind & Yer Ass Will Follow, Charlie Brown

A Charlie Brown Christmas has been going strong for 40-plus years and shows no signs of slowing down. This is due in no small part to Linus's monologue from the King James Bible (Luke 2:8-14, for those of you keeping track at home).

Schulz had to fight network executives to keep this in, and I think we're all grateful that he succeeded.

But not as grateful as we all should be to the guys who put together this mashup of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the OutKast song "Hey Ya!" (Tip o' the blog to The Great White Dope for tipping me off.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

David Bowie Sells Out *snort*

Of course I can't leave the every-nine-posts tradition to die, so here's a marvy water ad by David Bowie and friends.

But since we can't abandon the Christmas week theme either, here's his "Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth" duet with Bing Crosby. This came out in 1977, after Bing died; his last words were "Great game of golf, fellers." Not that you asked...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Week at MeTube

You can imagine how many Christmas videos there are on YouTube. The word "Christmas" brings up almost 54,000; "Xmas," over 10,000 more. I can't cover it all in seven days, but I can at least give you a fair taste.

We'll start off slow, with a sentimental Saw Doctors song, "Going Home This Christmas."

The Saw Doctors are an Irish rock band with an extremely devoted fanbase; I myself saw them live six times. They can get a little mawkish, and they're not the same now that they're down to two core members, but this is a nice little ditty that just happens to describe my situation.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


My friend Paul in New Jersey tipped me off about this clip. The Blue Man Group is in the midst of performing when someone in the audience calls for "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

You only think you can guess the rest.

The sound's way out of synch, but it's no trouble following what happens.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I have to admit I'm a big fan of Glen Quagmire, the character on Family Guy who can't not be rude, crude and lewd. Just one look at his half-lidded smile and I'm ready to laugh. Then he talks and that's usually the end of it for me.

Here's my favorite bit of his from this season.

Here's some more of his greatest hits. My personal favorite is at 3:12-3:27.

Allll riiiiight.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chappy Chanukah

Technically it doesn't start till sundown, but I want to wish some of my best friends the very best, and treat all of you to this, broadcast live on the local news circa 1979. I remember seeing it on a Dick Clark blooper program and was quite happy to run across it again.

I like how the camera tries to make things okay by putting the kid out of the frame, and how the kid is having none of that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Braveheart, my ass!"

Good news for Red Sox Nation - as I type this, Daisuke Matsuzaka has reached a preliminary pact to pitch for Boston for six years, the prime of his pitching career. After last year's semi-disappointing finish, I'm already geared up for '07. Just for the sake of comparision, here's maybe the highlight of the '06 season for me.

Watch more MySpace videos on AOL Video

During a mid-August game against Detroit, NESN announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were joined for one inning by the stars of Rescue Me, Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke. This was right after Mel Gibson's arrest and drunken anti-Semetic ranting. So when Leary found out that Kevin Youkilis, first baseman, Greek God of Walks, was in fact Jewish, he had all the ingredients he needed, and he turned out a performance that had Orsillo and Remy gasping for air, they were laughing so hard. Even the fact that the Sox wound up losing couldn't wreck this game.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Whoo whoo!

My friend John in LA hipped me to yet another one of those Internet things that millions of people loved before I'd even heard of it.

It's a local news report out of Oakland, and it stars Bubb Rubb and Li'l Sis.

Check out Li'l Sis's driving skills as they head off into the sunset.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now That's What I Call Music - The Mesozoic Era

This ad was the K-Tel equivalent of "From you, all right? I learned it from watching you!" Which is to say everybody knew the opening exchange in the ad, knew the inflection, and could get a good laugh just by saying it. Any context would do. I was once in a radio comedy troupe, and one sketch involved selling a polka record. We absolutely quoted this ad.

As an added bonus, here's an '70s K-Tel ad.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The '70s Strike Again

I'm thinking this happened in '75 or '76. Don Rickles is doing his usual schtick and breaks into a song called "I'm a Nice Guy." Then Mr. I Shot Shane, Jack Palance, walks in to take a verse. Then sexist tennis player Bobby Riggs. Then tyrannical director Otto Preminger. And then it gets weird.

Seriously, was there something in the flouride in the water back then?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jason Alexander Sells Out *snort*

Before he embodied George Costanza in Seinfeld... before he slapped Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman... Jason Alexander was a mainstay in advertisements. I always thought it was a crime that he didn't win an Emmy for his Seinfeld work, and I'm delighted to say his talent shone through a long time before his scalp did, whether he was advertising Lipton Soup Mix...

...getting money the Western Union way...

...or keeping the hot side hot and the cool side cool with McDonald's.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A reading from the book of David

I've seen David Sedaris read three times; twice, I acted in an official capacity, selling books and such like, so I got to talk with him. No surprises; he's an extremely nice guy. After one gig I went out and got him a strawberry yogurt; the next day I got a thank-you note he'd typed at his hotel room.

I think he's gotten better with every book; Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is not only very funny, it's truly moving in many places.

Here he is on Letterman, reading his essay about the Stadium Pal. If you're not familiar, it's... well, just watch.

Friday, December 08, 2006

26 years ago today

Today's the anniversary of John Lennon's death.

I may have noted before that he's my favorite of the Fab Four, for his wit, his efforts at overcoming his faults (which he did have, don't forget), his kindnesses (the moment in the Imagine documentary where he invites an unbalanced homeless man into his house really did a number on me), and of course his music.

I remember my mom reading the Time magazine with him on the cover, under the headline "The Day The Music Died." I'm glad I wasn't a more devoted fan at the time; I don't know how I would've handled it.

Hopefully better than Paul did...

Okay, granted, it'd be torture to face to press and answer stupid questions after the person who's meant the most in your life was torn from you, but you've got to admit, it should be easy to do better than this. The last comment still haunts Paul to this day, only recently falling to second place on his list of regretted utterances (just behind saying "I do" to Heather Mills).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Birthday Tom Waits

57 years ago today, Thomas Alan Waits was born - according to a set of liner notes, in the back of a cab, but I can't confirm that. He went on to a very idiosyncratic career, and God love him for it.

What's unusual about his music is that he took such a hard left turn in midstream. He started out doing the hip nightclub jazzman thing - here's a good example of that from the parody talk show, Fernwood 2Nite, with Martin Mull and Fred Willard.

Then, in the early 80s, he got married, switched labels and turned out some abrasive, yet somehow soulful, music that was wholly different from what he'd done before, but still entirely Tom Waits. Here's his video for the atypically melodic "Downtown Train," made famous by Rod Stewart's inferior cover.

I prefer the earlier phase to the later one, but hey, de gustibus non est disputandum...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Have THIS your way

Did we all enjoy the WC Fields interlude? Good. Now let's move on to something faaaaaar more juvenile.

The joke pretty much gives itself away in the first ten seconds, but that doesn't make the rest of it any less funny. My personal favorite comes at :45.

Funnily enough, I was always a McDonald's kid growing up. I don't think it had anything to do with Happy Meal quality or movie tie-ins; it's just where our family always went. Oh, except one time we went to Burger King and both my sisters got really sick after eating their onion rings.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sit down, Mr. Muckle!

I didn't see It's a Gift, WC Fields's 1934 masterpiece, until I was in college, but it was worth the wait. One scene in particular left me with tears in my eyes, over and over again.

Fields plays Harold Bisonette ("Bee-son-ay!"), a store owner, and one day...

One of the things I love about this is how politically incorrect it is. We're laughing at a blind and practically deaf man, for heaven's sake. And he's about as unlovable as you can get. I don't know what makes me laugh harder, his question at 2:12 or his action at 4:19.

If you've never watched this in its entirety, do. There's a porch scene that'll have you saying, "Vegetable gentleman?" for days.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Honest John

Here's WC Fields in the movie Six of a Kind, explaining how he came to acquire the nickname "Honest John."

I once saw John Cleese give a lecture where he talked about Fields's genius and showed this clip, obviously the result of long hours of rehearsal. The projectionist screwed things up and showed it without any sound. And it was still very, very funny.

Tomorrow: my all-time favorite clip of WC Fields.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Godfrey Daniel, he's good

W.C. Fields began his vaudeville career as a juggler, and got so good he did indeed perform for royalty and heads of state. He only phased the juggling out because the comedy was even better.

Thank the Lord he had a portion of his routine committed to celluloid - in this case, 1934's The Old Fashioned Way.

We're going to be seeing more of WC in the days ahead, you and I. I'd put all the bits here now, but they take up a little too much time. Besides, I want to build up at least a little suspense...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dirty Dancing: The Harding Years

You'll be glad to know that the folks who made the silent Top Gun didn't rest on those awesome laurels. Here they set their sights on Johnny, Baby, and "the Senator."

Here's a tip: get ready to pause it at 2:40.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Electric Company Sell Out *snort*

The Best of the Electric Company Volume 2 just came out on DVD, and it's number one on my Christmas wish list. Really, the extent to which that show honed my humor as well as my reading skills can't be overestimated.

After the show ended, I saw members of the cast in a few commercials. Jimmy Boyd appeared in an IGA spot, Judy Graubert shilled for Miracle Whip ("Tomato, tomato, tomato..."), and Luis Avalos got to deliver the punchline as a detective in a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad ("His wife'll kill him if he doesn't eat right!")

Here are a couple more, sort of before my time...

Skip Hinnant, the bank teller here, would go on to play Fargo North, Decoder. He was also the voice for Fritz the Cat (it's great fun to hear him say "Go @#$% yourself"), and Schroeder in the original Broadway production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Who knows what happened to Morgan Freeman. But I love how he crosses Easy Reader with the Witchita Lineman here.