Tuesday Tunes (flashback): December 8, 2009

Another one from the archives of Music Memoirs, this one from December 8, 2009.

Let’s do a winter word association, music style: I give you some words and you tell me the artist, song etc that you first think of.

snowflake:  This is going to sound weird, but the first thing I think of is that my friend Donna (one of my inspirations for starting this online journaling thing before it was called blogging; another reason this is not a blog) chronicled her very long struggle to conceive.  When she went through IVF, the little fertilized eggs they implanted in her were her “snowflakes,” and for the early stages of her pregnancy, she referred to her soon-to-be daughter as her snowflake.  And when I think of Donna and music, I always think of Stryper.

bitter:  The bitterest song I know is Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen.”

cold:  “Cold Gin” by Kiss. Ace Frehley wrote this, but in the early days of Kiss, Ace wasn’t very confident in his singing, so Gene Simmons sang it, even though Gene doesn’t drink. Ace re-recorded it for this year’s covers album, Origins, Vol. 1, maybe the last album I bought in 2016 before I had to switch into austerity mode. It’s a pretty dang good album, and Ace’s cover of his own song is a highlight. What an infectious riff.

snuggle: “We’ll snuggle close together like two birds of a feather would be.”

kind:  “Cruel to be Kind” by Nick Lowe.  A very very good song.

tree:  Wayne and Wanda, of course.

dark:  One of the greatest albums of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon.  I’ve waxed poetic about it in this space before.  Its greatness really cannot be overstated.

long:  Huh.  I wouldn’t have predicted this, but the first thing that pops into my mind is Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Long Time Gone.”  I can think of twenty songs with this word in the title, but this is the one I think of first.  Not really going to complain about that.  David Crosby’s lead vocals on this are some of his best.

candy:  I can’t think of anything once I think of Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy.”

special:  I have this 80s playlist in Spotify, and I spent some time adding stuff to it last night (it’s up to about 160 excellent songs).  Somehow, when I first created the playlist three years ago, I’d forgotten to include .38 Special, a band I totally loved when I was in ninth grade.  So I added some of my favorite songs by them while riding home on the bus last night.

I may have written about this before, but I got my first paying job in ninth grade, so I thought I might be able to go to my first rock concert, now that I’d be able to pay for it myself.  .38 Special was going to play, with Golden Earring opening, and I wanted so much to go!  I presented my case to my father, but I knew I was going to get a no.  It was on a school night.  My dad said he respected that I was trying to pay for my own entertainment, and all the details were in order except that he couldn’t let me go on a school night.  My parents had been consistent my whole life about school nights, so this wasn’t a shock, and I actually kind of understood.  I was prepared for no and no is what I got.  It was fine.  I saw Rush in concert a year and a half later, and I’m still proud to say that was my first show.  I think of .38 Special as almost my first concert.

Review: Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted (2015)
The usual Muppets with Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey.  Directed by James Bobin.

We’re doing a sequel! That’s what we do in Hollywood
And everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good!

We’re doing a sequel! How hard can it be?
We can’t do any worse than Godfather Three!”

muppetsClearly, I am going to have to revisit The Muppets, the much-heralded Muppetational return to the big screen that I only felt so-so about, because Muppets Most Wanted made me feel all the things I hoped to feel in that film, but did not.  This is a Muppets movie through and through, one to give every fan hope for a potentially limitless future in these post-Henson, post-Oz years.  Everything is here: cameos galore, sight gags, tributes to classic films, stupid puns, awesome puns, new Muppets, old Muppets, huge musical numbers, memorable songs, and massive self-awareness.

The film picks up right where The Muppets left off, with Kermit, Piggy, Scooter, Fozzie, and Gonzo wondering what they should do next.  The answer, of course, is a sequel, and they immediately launch into a new song, “We’re Doing a Sequel,” with help from Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.  And the Muppetness just keeps going.  The company meets with its new agent, Ricky Gervais as Dominic Badguy (“It’s pronounced bah-jee.  It’s French”), who promises sold-out houses in all the major cities in Europe.  Although Kermit is reluctant to commit when the Muppets have been out of practice for so long, his friends see dollar signs and adventure, so he goes along with Dominic’s plan.

mostKermit bears an uncanny resemblance to the world’s most-wanted international criminal, and a mistaken identity situation (an old Muppets standby!) lands Kermit in a Russian gulag (administered by Tina Fey wonderfully affecting the worst Russian accent in movie history) while his doppelgänger disguises himself as Kermit, assuming an uncharacteristic hands-off management style his friends welcome, even while they’re puzzled by it.

I only have a couple of quibbles with this film.  First, there’s not enough Kermit, because of that mistaken identity situation.  The bulk of the action, by necessity, must follow the Muppets with their fake leader, which means that even Kermit’s scenes in the gulag are less than satisfying, because of course Kermit is at his best when he’s with his friends.  Also, there’s really not enough of the old Muppets (although there is a surprising vocal solo line from Lou Zealand), something the film is aware of and even comments on.  That’s pretty funny, but it doesn’t fix the problem.  With all the exploding, they couldn’t find a quick line for Crazy Harry?

wantedThe songs are somewhat less than awesome, and while my expectations are unreasonably high, that bar was set by the Muppets themselves–where is there a less-than-awesome song in The Muppet Movie?  The exception is Miss Piggy’s “Something So Right,” with an assist by Celine Dion and solo lines by most of the Electric Mayhem.  That one is unusually pretty for a Piggy song, and easily the soundtrack’s highlight. 

The film does almost everything else wonderfully, including a Muppet Show opening in Spanish.  If that doesn’t bring a wistful tear to your eye and a warm laugh, I question your American-ness, sir or ma’am.  And there is a reflective moment when Kermit, who has always hinted at a deep-rooted sadness and longing beneath his layer of green optimism (it’s what makes him so wonderful, that depth of character that Mickey Mouse and his friends never seem to pull off), expresses hurt and disappointment when he realizes his friends didn’t notice he was missing for so long.  Oh, Kermit.  How do you keep forgiving us?

Honestly, I can’t think of a recent movie that takes me so effectively to my childhood, that hits all the buttons exactly in the right way.  This is what we call the Muppet Show.

9/10
91/100

Friday 5: It’s Time to Play the Music

From here.

  • How do you feel about honeydew and other melons?
    I am no fan of melons, honeydew or any other. However, I was at a hotpot restaurant with friends last year and watermelon juice was on the menu, and it was one of the tastiest, most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had. I’ve since made it at home. So I am rethinking my feelings about watermelon, which I still don’t really like. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make any since since watermelon juice is basically pureed watermelon with a little bit of sugar and maybe some lime juice.
  • How are your little piggies?
    Very clean since I just washed my feet, but slightly sore because I went for a very long (like, four hours in duration) walk this evening. Now that I’m mostly working in a cafe close to home, I don’t get a lot of walking done in the normal course of the day, as I used to when I worked in a Chinatown office. Now I have to take myself on actual walks.
  • What kind of experience do you have with scooters?
    When my friend Arjay took a semester off while we were in college, I borrowed his moped. If you’ve never ridden a moped, you should give it a try. It’s unbelievable fun. And you’d think that it would stop being so after you got used to it, but it never did. Later, when I first got out of college and couldn’t afford a car, I bought a used moped and drove that for about a year. I would often just go for rides, especially late at night and early-early in the morning, because it was a fun way to get fresh air and get some thinking done. I know why motorcyclists love their wheels so much, and I have wanted to own a motorcycle ever since my moped experience in college.
  • What animal frightens you most?
    I do a lot of swimming in the ocean, and of course there are sharks out there and down there, but I never think about them, so they don’t really frighten me. What really frightens me are box jellyfish, which invade Oahu’s south shores every month, ten days after the full moon. I keep an eye on the calendar so I know when jellyfish days are, but sometimes I forget, and once you get it into your head that you don’t know whether the day you’re in the water is a jellyfish day or not, all the fun is taken from the experience, and you’re kind of in a hurry to get out. The lifeguards put out warning signs, but I’m usually in the water hours before the lifeguards are on duty. *shudder*
  • Apples, celery, and walnuts dressed in mayo and served atop a bed of lettuce are popularly known as a Waldorf Salad. What’s your favorite salad with a name?
    If it’s on the menu, I get pretty excited about a good Cobb salad. Those hard-boiled eggs! Yum. However, few dining experiences rival a good Caesar Salad, prepared at your table, by someone who knows what he or she is doing. Oh my goodness. I have a good Caesear Salad story to tell about when I was at UH-Hilo, but I’m saving that for another time, so I’ll just say now that R is the pickiest eater I know, and she doesn’t like dressed salads. Since you normally have to have two orders for a table-made Caesar, in all the years we dined out together, I never got to order it, and it’s one of the very few complaints I ever had about her particular eating preferences. I still don’t think I’ve ever had one while on a date. That might be a good goal for next year.