Tele-gone.

Bart Simpson: You should treat yourself. You work hard for us, or at least you’re out a lot.
Homer Simpson: You’re right. I have been acting like Telethon Jerry Lewis, when I should have been acting like rest-of-the-year Jerry Lewis.

The Simpsons, “Million Dollar Maybe” (1/31/10)

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The art goes WAY back, but this is from 2004. Well, the 2011 Muscular Dystrophy Telethon has come and gone. If you were with me on Twitter and/or Facebook during the show, you pretty much have my opinions. After all, I nearly doubled my total Twitter output. (To be fair, it’s a new account.) However, I wanted to get in a few extra thoughts before I let it go for good, and perhaps clarify a few of my tweets besides.

  • I'm not sure of the date of this photo. I'm guessing it was the late 70s. I realize that, given what I’ve seen on websites everywhere in the past day or so, many, MANY people feel that Jerry Lewis was screwed over with regard to his hosting of the telethon this year. Given that both MDA and Jerry have been kind of tight-lipped about the details, this is a debatable point, but I’m thinking that they’re right. Yes, Jerry is 85 years old and won’t be around forever, but between May and a few weeks ago, this telethon was to be his swan song, a genuine passing of the torch to someone else. As a result, the notion at the beginning of the show that Jerry “retired” felt disingenuous.
  • The final tote from 1977. A lot of people are also calling bullshit on the fact that the donation total for this year—which never appeared on screen but was instead reported the next day—was over $61 million. I’m willing to accept that figure as more or less accurate, even if the final take winds up being somewhat less (it always is). I’m thinking that a lot of the corporate sponsors and other groups (e.g. firefighters) pushed extra hard this year, thinking that it was Jerry’s last year, and trying to ensure that he’d go out with a big bang. Next year will be a different story; that’s my guess.
  • There are several elements of the previous telethons that were missing from this year. One of the things we didn’t get was an array of “old-school” performers coming in and doing their thing. I’m willing to bet that a lot of today’s adults were first exposed to people like Norm Crosby, Freddie Roman or Henny Youngman through the telethon. Their heyday was over but there was still some respect for their brand of performance. Stars who were on the way up and down came by. Take a look at this clip from 1968, the first year of the “Love Network”, when the telethon appeared on four stations. Joan Crawford—who may be a little drunk, I’m not sure—comes out and reads a rather maudlin poem. I don’t remember this appearance, but I do remember when the telethon ran multiple phone numbers on the screen so that everyone’s phone call would be local:

    or, check out Jerry’s reunion with Dean Martin in 1976, as orchestrated by Frank Sinatra. There’s a bunch of unscripted clowning going on that could only happen here:
  • The other thing that happened back then was, Muscular Dystrophy was very mysterious and absolutely untreatable, never mind curable. So the focus of the telethons then was more of a “pity these poor children and let’s fund a cure” mindset. As the years wore on, the focus moved into “look at the good your money’s done”, with the short films showing all kinds of Science Going On Here. But I still remember one film they showed when I was a kid, in the early 70s. A YouTube search didn’t turn it up, unfortunately, but it went like this: an older gentleman, sitting on a stool and with a black background, starts talking about Muscular Dystrophy. It quickly becomes clear that this guy is Muscular Dystrophy, personified. He says stuff like, “I am Muscular Dystrophy, and I hate people, especially children. I love to make their limbs shrivel up.” Next we see a small child sitting on the floor, playing with a toy. This man walks over to the boy, tousles his hair a bit, and walks off. A few seconds later the kid lays down and dies. This film absolutely scared the shit out of me. If I’d had an income, I’d give it all to MDA just so the guy wouldn’t touch me and make me die. 
    • As a side note, I also mention this story from a couple of years later: I was in fifth grade so this would have been in 1974. I woke up one morning and, as I got out of bed, I fell to the floor. My thigh hurt and wouldn’t support my weight. I couldn’t walk! I worked my way down the stairs and tried again. I still couldn’t walk. It actually went through my head that I might have Muscular Dystrophy. The guy from the film came by in the night, touched my leg and now I’m crippled. I’m eleven years old and I’m going to be in a wheelchair; soon I’m going to die. By the end of the day, my leg had loosened up enough for me to walk, if still in a bit of a gimpy fashion, and I figured that I really wasn’t at death’s door. So that’s my story of how I beat Muscular Dystrophy, I guess. (In retrospect, it was probably a Charley Horse, but how I got one in the middle of the night is anyone’s guess.)
  • Let me say something about the acts that were on during the telethon this year: really, none of them were all bad. Some of them were weird, but Jerry would have some weird stuff going on at about three, four in the morning too. I could have done without the Singing Tampon act called VocaPeople, but this is the sort of thing you get from the telethon. But it’s what comes in between the acts that holds the whole program together, and the four people who’d teamed up to replace Jerry just weren’t getting it done. Everyone simply handed off to the next act without linking anything together. And it was pretty clear that Nigel Lithgoe was cashing in a lot of American Idol chips.
  • Abbey on the telethon with Jerry in 2008. She's been the National Ambassador for four years, now. The best on-camera personality throughout the show? It was absolutely Abbey Umali, the 12-year-old MDA National Goodwill Ambassador. Her clumsiest moment was probably when she tried to identify 7-Up as her favorite soda, but even that came off as a little charming.

So with Jerry’s untimely removal from the show, I think we’ve lost an important part of show business in general. It’s not as though Jerry was going to hand the reins to someone else who would continue in a similar tradition, but I think that, with this event, we’ve been given an actual date for the end of this particular brand of showmanship, and we’re all the poorer for it.

Jockomo Feena Nay

My spy boy told your spy boy
Sitting on the Bayou
My spy boy told your spy boy
I’m gonna set your flag on fire

Talking ‘bout hey now (hey now)
Hey now (hey now)
Iko iko ah nay
Jockomo feena ah na nay
Jockomo feena nay.

—“Iko Iko”, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, 1953

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I got spoiled because I couldn't remember Harley's name and I wanted a picture of Harley and Annie together. I’ve really been enjoying Treme, the series created by David Simon and Eric Overmeyer. Locals may remember David Simon as the guy who came up with The Wire and Homicide: Life in the Street, both of which were set in Baltimore. In addition to the music—and there’s a lot of music, even if you don’t necessarily hear most of the songs in their entirety—there are lots of stories going on that don’t necessarily intersect to any great extent.

(And let me just say that in doing some of the research for this piece, I accidentally spoiled myself for the most recent episode, which is still in my DVR and I haven’t seen yet. I’m going to blame you for that, for the time being.)

Among all this music, a specific phrase keeps popping up in lyrics. For the slower-witted among you, it’s “Jockomo feena nay”. Now I’d heard it many times in the song “Iko Iko”, of course, and as long as I’ve heard the song I figured that it was a bit of nonsense lyric, a chunk of filler; kind of like singing scat in jazz. Or, as my high school friend Joe put it recently, “I just thought it was a cool song!” (Joe was the guy who turned me on to The Doors. Yeah, he was that guy in high school. Anyway, he gets a pass because of this.) The song “Iko Iko” (as noted above) was written in 1953 by James Crawford, and at the time was just called “Jockamo”.

But as I started hearing the lyric popping up in other songs, it slowly dawned on me that this phrase might actually mean something. So I did some research, from which you now get to benefit. Everybody wins!

In addition to being a great dramatic show, Treme also has the advantage of being educational. One of the things I learned is that, come Mardi Gras, there isn’t just one parade in town, the way there is on, say, Thanksgiving in New York City. It’s more like a whole series of them all over town, and they go on forever. The whole city is a parade.

Albert Season 1Among the paraders are the Mardi Gras Indians, who are actually several groups (which call themselves “tribes” or even “gangs”) of African-American Carnival revelers. They dress up in very elaborate outfits that are heavily influenced by Native American ceremonial garb. There are nearly 40 of these tribes, and most of them belong to one of two groups identifying themselves as “Uptown” or “Downtown” Indians. Once dressed, they will march out on the streets on Super Sunday, which for them is the Sunday prior to the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19).

About a hundred years ago, competing tribes who encountered each other in the street could conceivably erupt into violence, however this has generally reduced to verbal taunts about the quality of each others’ costumes. But as a result of this violence, certain paraders were given specific roles. The first one out is the Wild Man, who wears a horned hat and literally acts wild. His job is to clear the crowds in advance of the others. (This character wasn’t seen in Treme because he’d died in the storm; we did see his memorial service.) The Spy Boy goes out next, and literally spies out to see if other tribes are in the area. Next comes the Flag Boy, who is always in visual contact with the Spy Boy. The Flag Boy literally carries the tribe’s flag, and is the standard-bearer of the group. Last is the Big Chief, who always far outdoes the others in costumed elaborateness.

From all this we get the story behind Iko Iko. Most people know the version by the Dixie Cups, but it turns out that they were mostly just fooling around and didn’t realize they were being recorded. The producers added backing tracks and bam! Instant hit. But this is why the lyrics they’re singing don’t make a whole pile of sense (“My grandma said to your grandma…”). The song itself is about a collision between two Mardi Gras Indian parades, during which the Spy Boy threatens to burn the Flag Boy’s banner.

Bitch, please. I'm Bob Weir. Part of the problem of deciphering the phrase “Jockomo feena nay” is that all spellings are approximate, and that there are numerous interpretations. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead once said that “Jockomo” derives from a Swahili word meaning roughly, “If you don’t like it, that’s your problem”, or possibly even “Go to hell”. Some have theorized that it’s a corruption of the name “Giacomo”, which they then suggest is Italian (or French) for John or Joseph. Unfortunately, it’s Italian for “James,” so that’s clearly wrong.

The fact is, the words have been used for so long that they’ve become more or less meaningless, since the original words have been swallowed up in time and repetition and garbling. The two strongest theories that follow from this take a broader meaning from the phrase itself rather than an attempt to break down individual words. Thus, “Jockomo feena nay” can mean (loosely), “It doesn’t matter what the Big Chief says” (i.e. “it’s all good”), or, perhaps more appropriately—especially in context of the song—“Don’t mess with us”.

As it happens, offBeat Magazine interviewed Crawford in 2002 and asked him about “Iko Iko”. During the interview, he said:

Crawford: It came from two Indian chants that I put music to. ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them. Really it was just like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” …a phrase everyone in New Orleans knew.

Interviewer: Listeners wonder what ‘Jock-A-Mo’ means. Some music scholars say it translates in Mardi Gras Indian lingo as ‘Kiss my ass,’ and I’ve read where some think Jock-A-Mo was a court jester. What does it mean?

Crawford: I really don’t know. (laughs)

So now, if you’re like me, you’re even more confused than you were when you thought it was just
a nonsense lyric.

Ah, well. Jockamo feena nay.

Book ‘em, Danno.

Miller: Everybody knows that Steve McGarrett only takes orders from the governor and God – and occassionally even they have trouble.

Hawaii Five-O, “Cocoon (Pilot)” (9/20/68)

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Since this week marks the 51st anniversary of the fiftieth state to join the union (which may make mine the first generation not to have a state added in their lifetime), I thought I’d do a little breakdown of one of the most dynamic sets of opening credits ever to hit the small screen.

Opening credits were considered pretty important for a long time. With some shows (e.g. Patty Duke, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Star Trek), the credits were a means of entry for the new viewer: “Here’s the setup; now you know all you need to know to understand the conceit of the show.” Others (e.g. I Love Lucy, Donna Reed Show, Lost in Space) were just billboards for the stars of the show. Nowadays, they just cut into the potential commercial/storytelling time, so they’re either very brief (Community, Parks and Recreation) or nonexistent, running entirely over the opening scenes (later seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, and I noticed last night that The Soup runs ALL of its credits during the beginning of the show).

Hawaii Five-O was different, though: It provided the billboard for the stars but also let you know that HAWAII was one of the show’s stars. Let’s take a look at the opening sequence, which (other than the show’s cast) changed very little throughout the show’s 12-year run. Remember that the show  had a “teaser,” which provided the early setup for that week’s story. From the teaser they’d do what they call a “smash cut” to the opening shot:

OK. Ready to do some breakdown? Let’s go. The credits, incidentally, were created by director Reza Badiyi, who also designed the credits for the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Big Wave! This shot was also used as the "bumper" from the show into the commercials. We’d get this shot of the wave and the show’s title would emerge from the curl. This was the first ten seconds of the opening credits, which ran nearly a full minute. It was originally used in a 1967 film called Surfari, about which even Wikipedia knows nothing, but I can tell you that among the cast is a guy named Skipper Fats, playing himself. (You’d think that a guy with a name like that would be a natural to play Alan Hale Jr.’s role on Gilligan’s Island, wouldn’t you?) From here we go to several shots of the water, then a couple of aerial shots of Hawaii, including a quick look at Diamond Head. 90-Aloha_TowerAnother one is a sweeping fly-by view of the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  The shot at left is from the credit sequence; the shot at right is a more recent ground-level view. 50alohaTourists can take an elevator to the tenth floor to get a 360-degree view of Honolulu Harbor and Hawaii in general. After this, we’re treated to a fast zooming-in shot of the top balcony of the Ilikai Hotel, upon which our star, Jack Lord is standing.   As we close in on him standing in that penthouse balcony, there’s a quick reverse angle and the zoom continues from the other side as he turns around to face the camera. He gives you only the barest hint of a smile, and if it weren’t for a breeze blowing his hair, you’d think that it was a freeze-frame. 5-O Upside down carFrom here we do a swing-dissolve to a shot of a car passing under the camera, Hawaii_Five-O_5-0_Jack_Lord_Steve_McGarrett_title_creditand the camera turns to follow, essentially turning the image upside-down (this image was a screen shot I got from YouTube, and it was the best I could do).

After this are perhaps the most iconic shots of the entire bit.

 

 

 

The cover text reads:  "Vigor and languor on glowing tropical isles, Hawaii, 50th state, in color". Elizabeth Logue running down the beachThe next shot is a young Hawaiian lady running down the beach, and she appears to be pulling a clip or some such out of her hair. This would be model Elizabeth Logue, whose real name is Elizabeth Louise Malamalamaokalani White Logue. Just sayin’. She was the poster girl for Hawaiian tourism starting back in 1960, and she was also Miss Air Force ROTC 1959, but most Americans probably first saw her in the photo to the right. This is the October 8, 1965 issue of Life Magazine. (Hover your mouse over the photo to see the cover text.) Can’t get enough of her? She’ll be back.

Lady Columbia represents all grieving mothers. Another quick series of shots of water, and we do a bunch of what the Hollywood folks call  jump-cuts, zooming in on the “Lady Columbia” statue at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as “Punchbowl National Cemetery”. It got the latter name because of its location in Punchbowl Crater, which was previously used for human sacrifice. So, human sacrifice in a cemetery…that’s pretty efficient. Lady Columbia is standing at the top of a stairway (as can be seen in the longest shot of the sequence), on the bow of a ship, holding a laurel branch. Mel, in his Baby Surfer days. One of the cool things about this sequence is that the jump cuts are synchronized with the drumbeats.   From here we go to a quick series of shots: Anything with the black bars to the left and right is a screen shot I nicked from YouTubea profile shot of a girl looking up, who appears to be Elizabeth Logue again (I’m not positive but it looks like her), then a boy looking at the camera. The boy, incidentally, is named Mel Kinney, and he’s 13 years old in that shot.  In later years, it appears he became kind of a big deal in the sport end of surfing. Then there’s a VERY dramatic shot of  Ms. Logue, positively rocking the head-turn toward the camera. I’m willing to bet that millions of men, Here's Mel Kinney again in 1996, at the age of 41. from 1968 through 1980, used that shot as their one and only reason to take their families on a trip to Hawaii, just on the off chance that a Rocking the Head Turnhot Hawaiian chick would turn and look at them in just that way, with exactly that expression.  Hell, she died in 1988 and I’d probably still go to Hawaii hoping I could nail her. (UPDATE: As you can see from the comments section, I've heard from a relative who notes that Ms. Logue is still alive and well and living under a different name. Also see my follow-up comments about how a little extra research confirmed this and how this mistake apparently propagated.)

 

 

 

 

Fish-eye planeWe’re next treated to several images of a jet airplane through a fish-eye lens. I think this is mostly because United Airlines was the carrier that flew the cast and crew back and forth from the mainland. Whenever you see a plane in the show, it’s always obviously United; however in the credits you can’t really tell. On the other hand, this theory of mine is not original; I got it from here:

 

This is from Mad Magazine's satire, "How-Are-Ya, Five-O?" which appeared in March 1971. I actually remember reading this the first time it appeared, although I don't remember "Catch-All 22," which was in the same issue. Go Figure! After the plane shots, there are several quick still shots of a sunset, zooming in and out, again in time with the music (no screen shots because I couldn’t be bothered), and next we see a close-up shot of a Hula dancer’s hips:

50hips

The thing that always fascinated, yet bothered me was the fact that this shot ran for a few seconds, then did a freeze-frame, then another freeze-frame almost immediately, then continued on till the end. It wasn’t in time with the music and seemed to have no real purpose. Why were those freeze-frames in there, dammit? I have no real answer except: because this shot appeared during a scene in the pilot, and the freeze-frames happened there, too. There were a couple of times that the pilot used this technique, and in each case it was for no apparent reason. Here’s a bit of trivia: The hula girl’s name is Helen Kuoha-Torco, and according to her, the brief scene in which she appeared took 16 hours to shoot. She later became a professor at Leeward Community College but has since retired. And we only know all this because the shot came from the pilot, where her face can be seen, too.

Tops Restaurant,

More zooming: several repeated zooms on this red neon sign, which my research tells me was once called Tops Restaurant. Tops is not to be confused with another place called Tree Tops Restaurant, which appears to still be around. I was unable, however, to find out what’s there now.Blue Police Light Tops, however, does appear to elicit some fond memories in people, and I’ve even found a few obituaries of people who worked there, so apparently it held some measure of fame. Whether that’s because of Hawaii Five-O is another matter. From the Tops Restaurant we do yet another zoom, on a blue police light. This is the really old-style light, where the reflector rocks back and forth rather than spinning 360 degrees. Nowadays they’re equipped with strobe-style lights, so they don’t even rotate anymore, more’s the pity. At this point, by the way, we’re at the 41-second mark and haven’t seen anyone in the cast besides Jack Lord. All of that changes now, as we get:

James MacArthur

James MacArthur running down a hallway and freeze-framing as his credit appears on-screen. “With” and “as” are a Very Big Deal in Hollywood contracts, for what that’s worth. (Update: Merry just reminded me of something I forgot to mention: James MacArthur’s mother was very famous, and appeared in a Season 4 episode. Go do your own research.) After our first view of Danno, there’s a closeup of a pair of hands loading a revolver and spinning the chamber. If you look carefully, though, you may notice something’s not quite right. Good luck shooting those bad guys. The spot in the middle of the cartridge is where the gun’s firing pin strikes the cartridge. All of the cartridges have depressions in them—which means that these bullets have already been fired and the gun is therefore being loaded with spent shells. Oh well.

Zulu as Kono Next up: Zulu as Kono! It’s a pretty cool shot of him charging up a gangplank, and again we get the freeze-frame as the graphic pops on. It’s probably the most action we ever see out of this guy during the series, as he spends a lot of time just standing there stock-still and spouting his lines. This shot is also from the pilot. Zulu’s real name was (I’m not making this up) Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauh, so it’s small wonder that they called him “Zulu”.

 

Kam Fong as Chin Ho A quick blurry shot of police lights, and we get our last credited cast member: Kam Fong as Chin Ho. At this point, with “Zulu as  Kono” and “Kam Fong as Chin Ho”, you have to think that the producers are just screwing with our heads. And, maybe they are. Kam Fong appears to have done this shot specifically for the credits, given the way he does a full-body turn to face the camera. He kind of rocks it, too, but not like Elizabeth Logue. Although he plays a Chinese type on the show, he was a Hawaiian native, and ponder this for a minute: he was at Pearl Harbor for three days straight after the attacks on December 7, 1941, and he lost his entire family in June of 1944 when a couple of B-24s collided and rained down burning debris on his neighborhood. He re-married and had four more kids before he and his wife died within six months of one another in 2002. And his second wife predeceased him, so he was widowed twice. That’s kind of harsh, even for an arbitrary universe.

Motorcycle shot Finally, we get to the last shot, which is a night view of the street looking back from the seat of a police motorcycle, again freezing when the graphic appears. According to Wikipedia, this street is in Waikiki, and the motorcycle is heading west. But it’s Wikipedia, so do with it what you will. This shot is also used in its entirety during the closing credits of at least the first season; later on they switched to the shot of the locals in the outrigger canoe.

 

For those of you who aren’t aware, CBS is bringing the show back this fall (Kono is a woman! Chin is being played by Jin from LOST! The title will have a zero instead of a letter O!). I’m not sure why, but my feeling is that if they just leave the theme music intact, that’s going to be half the battle to success. At any rate, I’m trying to think positively.

Finally: while several of the pictures are screen shots I grabbed, a bunch of the pictures came from a site called BigBob.com, and I’m not even sure that Big Bob remembers that those pics are there, since they’re not linked from his home page.

So there you have it: a very lengthy, almost scholarly, view of the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O. Did I spend too much time on this post? You bet your ass. But tell me what you thought anyway.

Sixty-to-One Ratio

First Soldier: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
King Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.
First Soldier: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?
King Arthur: It could grip it by the husk!
First Soldier: It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

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When I was in college and working at the now-dearly-departed WBAU Radio, I got to be pretty good at producing short pieces for broadcast. I had a slightly different approach to the task from that of my colleagues, however: while most of them would create several discrete pieces and then piece them together into a coherent whole through editing (and remember, this was the days of magnetic tape, razor blades and splicing tape).

I was very good at editing tape, but I didn’t like to do it if I didn’t have to. So my approach was often to work with as little editing as possible, doing everything as though it were live and on-the-air, but with the safety net of knowing that I was not, in fact, broadcasting.

It looks like an 8-track, but it usually only held two tracks and was better designed. This one looks pretty short, maybe about 20-30 seconds in length. So I’d set up the music on turntables, reel-to-reel deck, instant-start tapes (called “carts”, short for cartridge), and I’d mix the whole piece as I went along, starting and stopping music or sound effects while reading my script into the mike. This wasn’t always easy, especially working with the carts, which were usually designed to fast-forward in order to re-cue themselves. When they did that, they’d often stop with a THWACK that the microphone would pick up. This meant that I had to stop the carts manually as I started something else. And, if I screwed up my recording, I’d have to wait for the carts to re-cue before I could take another pass at recording. Not a huge pain, but a pain nonetheless.

I was also remarkably self-critical when it came to my broadcasting work. Often I’d record over thirty takes and then settle on number seventeen as the one that “sucks the least.” But one rule that seemed to hold true was that, no matter how long the piece was that I was recording (unless it was an entire show for later broadcast), I maintained a 60-to-1 ratio of time expended-to-air audio. So, a thirty-second piece would take me a half-hour to cut. A sixty-second bit would take me an hour. The 60:1 Rule seemed to be immutable, or at least tolerated only small variations.

Flash-Forward to this century:

A couple of weeks ago, Wife wanted to work on a project with some of the students in her school. The theme was War, and she wanted to make a video. I wasn’t sure what kind of video you can make that would involve a bunch of sixth-graders, but I had a few suggestions for her, including something that looked like this:

This, specifically, would be a little ambitious for ten year-olds (especially the French at the end) and obviously you couldn’t use the same gags, but you get the idea. Wife liked the idea of doing some kind of lip sync, however, and started looking around for songs that she could use. Some of the songs she thought about were John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Edwin Starr’s “War”, Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love”. She showed the students a set of lyrics for each song and they selected “Where is the Love”.

Over a few days’ period, she put together some kind of concept for the video: that it would start with a news broadcast, that there’d be a mock UN Summit, war protestors, kids getting drafted and a few other odds and ends, interspersed with images from historical conflicts. And anything that wasn’t an historical image would feature the kids lip-synching to “Where is the Love”.

Ah...no. Different kind of Flip Video. Better, thank you. She then borrowed a Flip Video camera and shot the students in these varied situations, often letting the same place stand in for assorted locations. For this four-minutes-and-change video, she shot most scenes twice, about forty clips in all. With that, plus the historical footage, there was plenty for us to work with when it came time to edit the video.

The big problem was with several of the kids who, despite knowing that they wouldn’t be heard on the finished project, wouldn’t sing. Not at all. There’s no lip synch if there’s no lip movement at all, you know? And at the point where Wife brought her raw material home for us to work on a couple of evenings ago, there was going to be no opportunity for reshoots or pickup shots, or inserts, or anything else. Whatever we had as far as the kids, was what we had.

So Wife and I sat down and downloaded the clips to my laptop. Then, using the Windows Live Movie Maker, we stitched together a video that, in most places where the students are on camera, they actually look sort of like they’re singing.

We started working at around 9:00 PM. A little after 1:00 AM, we had a finished video. 3:49 for the song, 12 seconds for the intro and outro video. Total elapsed time including breaks: just a shade over four hours.

The 60:1 Ratio lives on.

The Right–What’s That Stuff?

Gus Grissom: The issue here is monkey.
John Glenn: What?
Gus Grissom: Us. We are the monkey.
Deke Slayton: What Gus is saying is that we're missing the point. What Gus is saying is that we all heard the rumors that they want to send a monkey up first. Well, none of us wants to think that they're gonna send a monkey up to do a man's work. But what Gus is saying is that what they're trying to do to us is send a man up to do a monkey's work. Us, a bunch of college-trained chimpanzees!

The Right Stuff (1983)

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Those of you on the East Coast know that, since the weekend, the weather’s been pretty miserable. This, in turn, has made Spring Break pretty miserable. Between Wee One getting sick and the crummy weather and other family-related events, this meant that the day trips that I was considering taking the family on were looking more and more remote. So when the weather broke yesterday and Wee One, for a change, didn’t sound like she’d just escaped from the TB Ward, I said The Hell With It and decided to take her down to Our Nation’s Capital.

Naturally, there was a fly in the ointment. Shortly after I’d made the decision, Wife called. She was off in Eldersburg on a scrapbooking jaunt, and her school called. A change we’d made to our Direct Deposit hadn’t worked and the school system issued her a paycheck instead. If we wanted to see it before Monday, I had to go and get it from the school, which is at almost the polar opposite of the city from where we live. I put Wee One in the car and we hit the Beltway. Forty minutes later, we had Wife’s paycheck in hand.

Clearly, this photo was taken on a Sunday. Now, I didn’t want to drive around DC with a payroll check, so I figured that depositing it would be the best option. Also, it was getting close to noon and we were both hungry. So naturally we headed to the Bank of America located at Caton Avenue and Washington Boulevard. “Naturally” because, diagonally across the intersection from the BoA is Baltimore institution Polock Johnny’s. Usually I go to the PJ’s at Lexington Market, but I haven’t been in that part of town in awhile. So this was a nice break for both of us. (Having said all that, the Lex Market dogs are a little cheaper, but the fries aren’t Boardwalk-style. So there’s a tradeoff there.)

From Morrell Park, we were finally ready to head south to DC. I hadn’t been to the Air & Space Museum in awhile, and I thought that Wee One would get a kick out of it, especially since all I told her was that we were going “to see a spaceship.” This, naturally, led to about four thousand questions, all of which I deferred.

Kings Park Class of 1981 might remember the field trip we had to DC sometime in Junior High, when we went to the Air & Space Museum, which had opened very recently and only the center atrium was open to the public. There were some aircraft hanging from the ceiling and a few other goodies at floor level, including the original Air Force footage that spawned this:


Six Million Dollar Man Intro
Uploaded by pezhammer. – Sitcom, sketch, and standup comedy videos.

mccall_horizontal_mural_detail Too bad that’s gone, now. The huge mural to the right of the entryway is still there, though. Incidentally, Robert McCall, the artist who painted this mural and at least one other in the building, died just a few weeks ago.

Anyway.

Checking out the Hubble Wee One was suitably impressed by pretty much everything she saw there, but she was especially taken with John Glenn’s capsule and the Apollo 11 capsule which were on display, especially once I was able to show her, using other models around the museum, how this six-foot cone was all that was left of the huge (363 feet tall) rocket that propelled it into space in the first place. She was also taken by the mockup they had of the Hubble Space Telescope, especially inasmuch as they’d recently discussed it at school. We spent nearly three hours wandering this one museum, and of course when it was time to go, we had to stop in at the museum’s gift shop. She wanted to pick up some freeze-dried ice cream (which is available in several Smithsonian museums, but when you buy it from the source, that’s a little different) and a couple of other souvenirs. I, however, had one more exhibit in mind.

If you go into Air and Space, go into the gift shop and, at the back, there’s an escalator to a lower level of gift shop. Go almost to the back of that and you’ll see this:

enterprise

This was the original filming model of the Starship Enterprise from the first Star Trek series. The plaques to the lower left of the photo contain pretty much all the information you’ll see at the Smithsonian’s webpage devoted to the model. So now Having said that, it’s pretty cool to see regardless. If you go around to the other side, you’ll see very little ornamentation below the saucer section; in fact there’s a hatch in the forward connecting pylon and another in the bottom section, to give access to wires and such for controlling the lights on the model. (This is also the reason we usually see the Enterprise traveling from left to right on screen.)

Amazed to be here! Wee One, who thinks Captain Kirk is dreamy (and that Denny Crane is creepy, go figure), was totally enthralled by this, possibly more than anything else she saw the entire day. She knows that Star Trek is fictional, so no fantasies shattered here. I told her that this was the filming model for the show, showed her the access hatches and stuff, and did a mini-lesson on matte shots. This was a great way for her to end the day.

Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the episodes that she’s seen are the Remastered Series, and that the Enterprise that she’s been watching is entirely CGI. It’s bad enough that Santa Claus, et. al. are on the verge of crumbling for her.

Behind the Scene


[after seeing the movie "Naked Lunch"]
Nelson: I can think of two things wrong with that title.

The Simpsons, “Bart on the Road” (3/31/96)

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So I’m sure most of you have seen this video, which is one of your more recent bits of viral activity on the Internets:

It turns out that there’s a little bit of a story behind this guy who kind of reminds me of the “This Is Bob” commercials for the male enhancement product that you’d see all the time on Nick at Nite.

Most of you know this guy as “Edward Hill”, which is kind of peculiar for a guy in Russia, but don’t be dopey: of course that’s just the Anglicization of his Russian name. The song he’s singing—and he is singing; I’ll get back to that in a moment—is called “I Am So Happy To Be Back Home”.

It turns out that Edward is singing in a specific style, called vocaliz. Vocaliz is singing without the use of words. It’s essentially the musical version of pantomime. He’s supposed to be carrying across an attitude, or an emotion, without actually saying anything. It’s kind of like singing Scat-style in jazz, except Scat is meant for the human voice to approximate different musical instruments.

I have to presume that there is room for improvisation in the vocaliz style, otherwise Ed wouldn’t be having such a hard time lip-synching. I showed the video to Wee One yesterday and she couldn’t understand the point of the lip-synching in the first place, after awhile I had to tell her to just accept it that this is how a lot of TV shows were done, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

I think that one of the reasons that most people are so “WTF?” about it is the combination of Ed’s looks, plus the TV performance, plus his rather resonant voice which is probably better suited to opera than a TV performance and really, who listens to opera anymore these days? But the other end of it is that there’s a certain “otherness” to it; that while it’s got some American-esque elements to it (e.g. the set and the color temperatures), it’s still a very Russian thing going on. If this guy had appeared on our television sets at the time he was a hot item (and apparently the song was quite popular in its day), we’d still wonder what the hell had gone wrong.

But that’s more of a xenophobia thing. We’re comfortable with Scat but not with vocaliz. Let’s move a little bit farther afield:

While it sounds like a couple of guys covering an old Bonnie Tyler song, it’s a technique called Siberian Throat Singing, which is meant to convey the song along with a sense of power (both symbolic and physical). It’s got a cousin called Tuvan Throat Singing (Tuvan being part of Siberia), which concentrates on pronouncing the melody as correctly as possible. This clip above may actually be a little closer to the Tuvan style, especially inasmuch as they’re harmonizing in places.

Weird? Yeah, kind of. But nonetheless also kind of cool, especially when you learn the back story.

Giant Eel-Birds of Regulus V of a Feather, Flock Together

Beth: This is just like that episode of Star Trek when they entered a parallel universe where everything was the same except they were all on heroin.

Dave: There was no such episode.
Jimmy: Geek test! 

Newsradio, "Coda" (4/21/96)

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I've made no attempt to cover up the fact that I'm a bit of a Star Trek nerd. 

When I was in tenth grade (this would be around 1978), I went with a friend to a Star Trek convention. We didn't stay in the hotel, but instead took the Long Island Rail Road in to Manhattan each day of the convention, which I think was in the Pennsylvania Hotel (of "Pennsylvania 6-5000" fame), across the street from Madison Square Garden. This was one of the first conventions, so there wasn't a lot of dressing up, nor had William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy quite bought into the whole fandom phenomenon yet. But we did get to meet Grace Lee Whitney and James Doohan, and I also got to meet with Isaac Asimov, twice. I had the sad opportunity to share with him the recent death of a mutual friend. And we saw several episodes on the big screen, which was pretty cool. 

Anyway. I remained a fan of The Original Series, and enjoyed The Next Generation once they got their act up to speed, and Deep Space Nine, and to a lesser extent, Voyager and Enterprise. I've seen all the films, and I even took the time to watch TOS over the last few months to see the remastered episodes with the new special effects. Fun!

But I'm not really the kind of guy who wears his green-blood-pumping heart on his sleeve about it. I don't have a "Starfleet Academy" sticker in the back window of my car (in collegiate typeface); I don't have a cosplay outfit stashed in my closet somewhere; and unfortunately for me, that one trip thirty-plus years ago was my only convention. I'm a Trekker, not a Trekkie. (The difference? I met Grace Lee Whitney and James Doohan. A Trekkie would have met Yeoman Rand and Scotty.) 

But it was a pleasant surprise when I sent an email to several of my co-workers a day or two ago, and one of them, who coincidentally has a desk quite close to me, sent this reply: 

"Ka-CHU! (Not a sneeze but Klingon for “Impressive!”) Thanx"

I wrote back: 

"I may be a nerd but I'm not so nerdy that I speak Klingon."

I heard him laugh at his desk when he saw the reply and he turned to me, then showed me his coffee mug with a Trek Nation-type logo on it. He told me that he didn't dress up or go to conventions, but he is a fan, and we chatted for a couple of minutes about it. 

Then I said to him, "I think this is pretty bad, though: I got all jazzed because the first house I bought was numbered 1701." It took him a few seconds to get the importance of that number (you either get it or you don't), but he laughed again and said, "No. Really?" I told him it was practically the biggest selling point.

Losira

Awhile later he said, "I've got you beat." He picked up a photo on his desk of his family, and pointed to one of the children. He said, "This is my oldest daughter. Her middle name is Losira, from the episode "That Which Survives." 

He told me that he'd always liked the name, but his wife begged him not to make it her first name, so he compromised and made it her middle name. 

(Parenthetical tale: in 2003 a friend of mine took me to see the play Nunsense at the Lyric Theater. This particular tour starred Kaye Ballard, Georgia Engel, Mimi Hines, Darlene Love and Lee Meriwether. Naturally I thought it was all kinds of cool that I was going to see yet another Star Trek actress in the flesh. I didn't share this story with my co-worker, though.)

So not only does this young lady have a middle name that derives from an alien character on Star Trek, she has a middle name that derives from an alien character from the THIRD SEASON of Star Trek. 

He wins.

Priorities

Dick Gregory: Michael Jackson is a perfect reason as to the greatness of this country. Where else can a poor black boy from Gary, Indiana grow up to be a rich white man?

–Comedy Central Presents: The NY Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner (2001)
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I really didn't want to do this topic, but what the hell. 

Chevy_Chase Does anyone remember Chevy Chase doing the Weekend Updates in the first season or so of Saturday Night Live? For months there was a running gag centered around the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco: "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead." "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still valiantly holding on in his struggle to remain dead." The gag was a response to months of NBC News tossing in "Franco's death is imminent" references every time they had a slow news day. 

This is what we're dealing with, with Michael Jackson all over again. But the difference is, it's not really Michael Jackson dominating the news that's getting to me. It's Michael Jackson overshadowing Farrah Fawcett.

Let us turn back the clock a little bit.

When Princess Diana was killed in the car crash, we went through the same kind of wall-to-wall coverage. Diana's death was sad and all; nobody likes to see someone die, especially before their time. But in the end, enough was enough. And about a week later, God gave the press a karmic wedgie and Mother Teresa died. And even though, in any given weekend, Mother Teresa did probably a metric shitload more for the poor and hungry than Diana did in her entire life, the Diana funeral coverage overshadowed the Mother Teresa coverage. 

In fact, I have a memory of a conversation I had with someone during which I noted how sick I was of all the Diana coverage. I said something like, "Mother Teresa's death isn't going to get half the press that Diana's getting." She shot back, "Well, I guess we'll see when Mother Teresa dies." That's when I broke it to her that Teresa had died the previous day. End of conversation. 

Farrah Fawcett Poster So anyway, this is what we're dealing with this time around: Farrah Fawcett died last Thursday morning. Absolutely every thing I've heard or seen in the press centers around what a wonderful person she was; how sweet she was and that she was a decent actress who tried to play against type; the relationship she had with Ryan O'Neal and so on how she'll be missed and all that. Everything–absolutely everything that I've seen–has been positive. Even the iconic poster (which, oddly, I didn't have on my wall) has a story behind it which describes how wonderful she was throughout the photo shoot. Apparently, the suit was one of the last things she was photographed in that day. A whole day of being photographed and she still managed to break out a smile as dazzling as that. Seriously, that's a professional at work. 

Michael Jackson Then and Now Now, a brief look at Michael Jackson. A talented performer, to be sure, but also a very troubled person. And when you looked at the coverage, there was certainly a mixture of the good and the bad. The "Thriller" album, the plastic surgery. The Moonwalk, the allegations of molestation. Neverland being constructed, Neverland being thisclose to foreclosure. "Black and White" the song, Black and White the skin tone. And the comments from people on websites didn't run a gamut, it was more like polarization. Saint and sinner, good guy and bad guy. He'll be missed, he should burn in hell. And yet, this is the figure who gets the attention, the one who gets the coverage. He was nothing if not controversial, this much is universally accepted. But he–and his behavior, whether crazy or bad or whatever, is what gets noticed. 

Nice guys finish last, even after they die. 

Make it Part of Your Turkey Day Tradition

From "The Indians in the Lobby", Season Three:

From Season 2's "Shibboleth":

Also from "Shibboleth", immediately afterward:

And don't forget the football. I'm pretty sure this is what the Titans (seen in blue, here) and the Lions (seen in yellow & black) game is going to look like.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.