As my fingers bluntly stab my keyboard, weighted down by a hangover from sun and loud music, I wonder how I’ll get through today’s chosen topic on Chinese science education without passing out. It wouldn’t be my first afternoon spent with the lopsided grid of a keyboard’s footprint etched into my forehead.
This morning has found me in the blissful yet listless afterglow of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, an annual celebration of everything that brings light into the universe: music, family, friends, sunshine, beer, and deep-fried foodstuffs. It has also found me ready to scrap my topic in favor of a drowsy reflection on what I feel is Edmonton’s most profound and spiritually elevating annual event.
For those who have never attended this magical collective, I hope you have found a similar event – an yearly renewal of your inner chi and a simultaneous escape from the humdrummery of life. Here’s how the dusty reset button of my inner balance was pushed this weekend, and why I recommend a hearty dose of Folk Fest to everyone I know:
One can make it through Folk Fest with very little actual folk music. I hardly ever listen to “hardcore” folk. From Joan Baez’s warbly vibrato to the up-tempo thump of modern Celtic music, I’d just as soon hide under my blanket with an old Muddy Waters record. But more often than not, that lyrical fruit-filling that gives folk its flavor can be found within the pastry shell of a myriad of styles. We watched Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite give folk music the blues; Cody Chesnutt threw folk into funk; the Blind Boys of Alabama raised folk into that holy and delicious confection of gospel. Read more…
Here’s the part where the guy twitching in the hungry crosshairs of 40 tells you how the music topping the charts these days won’t inspire so much as a quiver of his trigger finger. But really, who cares? The purveyors of popular song have no interest in capturing my iTunes money. Just as my parents wondered desperately who on earth would want anyone to Rock Them Amadeus, I can’t fathom why Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”, a piece of simplistic monotony with a Clueless rip-off video, spent a month this summer at #1.
Ever since the end of the halcyon days of 80’s pop, the soundtrack that flipped the pages of my childhood, I have paid scant attention to the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While MC Hammer’s parachute pants flapped in the raucous wind of his success, my high school friends and I were discovering the mystical quests within the grooves of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd records. So I guess I haven’t been hip in about twenty-five years. I’m okay with that.
I’d always been a trifle suspicious of this chart anyway. What is it counting? Sales? Radio airplay? Likelihood of ending up as a parody on Weird Al’s next album? There is actually some math to this madness, and it’s far too complex for my mid-week brain to tabulate without a nap under its belt. But I’ll do my best.
For almost two decades prior to the Hot 100’s debut in the pages of Billboard (yes kids, Billboard was and is an actual magazine. A magazine is kind of like Buzzfeed.com made out of trees), the chart tabulators kept track of three separate stats: the best-sellers, the songs most played by disc jockeys and the songs most played in jukeboxes. That last one was key, as a disgraceful clump of radio stations were refusing to play rock ‘n roll in the mid-1950’s. Billboard had to track what was big with the kids. Read more…
When we last left our heroes (our heroes being those plucky little cannabis plants that were allegedly tugging at the tablecloth upon which the fine china of our fragile society was laid), things weren’t looking good. It was 1937, and the American government had come up with a complicated taxation-punishment strategy that didn’t technically make marijuana illegal, but came close enough.
Where once the plant had been offered up by the medical world for various therapeutic uses, now it was contraband, the stuff of pure evil. It lured young people into a Satanic spiral, driving them to unprovoked violent acts, inspiring unrestrained jazz-orgies and turning upstanding citizens into paranoid, sex-crazed rape-o-trons.
..with great pointy hair.
Along with the demonized wicked weed, the legitimate hemp industry was also kicked in the legislative nads by the Marihuana Tax Act. Back then, no one knew about THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes jam bands sound better than they actually are. All we knew was that cannabis was a drug, and since hemp and cannabis share the same fingerprints, it was all deemed to be bad.
People like to shoo away conspiracy theories, but there was no question that William Randolph Hearst was pumping as much bogus fear-mongering as he could fit into his empire of news-rags. Whether it was because he feared the newly-invented decorticator would make hemp-based paper cheap to manufacture and thus threaten his massive timber investments (which it totally would have), or whether he was truly afraid of the drug’s effects on society, that’s up to you to decide. Read more…
Everyone loves a spinoff. It’s a bankable bet for a TV network: guide viewers of a successful franchise into a new world, either featuring a character from the original or some people who are – they swear – friends of someone from the original (usually aired in what they call a ‘backdoor pilot’ episode of the parent show). Sometimes spinoffs become hits themselves, but it’s more common for viewers to see them for what they are – a money-grab.
George Jefferson was a popular supporting character on All In The Family before he moved on up to his own successful sitcom. On the other hand, Horatio Caine and his sunglasses were shoehorned into an episode of CSI with the obvious intent of establishing him as the lead in the upcoming Miami branch of the show. Me, I’m going with the former’s tactic when I launch my own spinoff site this fall, “1000 Vowels, 1000 Days”.
I found a list of TV’s mutant-children, and felt I would be shirking my obligation as a student of popular culture (meaning a guy who was raised by television) if I didn’t give it a look. Most of these shows I can’t even remember.
The Brady Bunch wrapped up its network run in 1974, the year I was born. As such, I never really got into the show, though I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Florence Henderson’s dynamic she-mullet. I wonder if anyone out there remembers the four spinoffs that oozed from the Brady household: Read more…
Good morning, children of the star-spooged cosmos. How are you? It’s okay, it’s okay. Madame Chakra-Lubowitz knows how you are. It’s her job to know how you are. It’s also her job to tell you how you shall be. And you shall be well. Most of you, anyway. Some of you are screwed. But let’s not dwell on that. Let’s unlock the stars, plug into the planets and Facetime the future through the mystic sneeze-guard of Zodiac truth.
Make sure you check the expiry date of that yogurt before you callously shove it into your face. Also, that person you loaned money to last week spent most of it on microwavable food at Costco, and knew before they’d freed the first alfredo noodle from its flash-frozen prison that they would never pay you back. Take care, for every third quarter in your pocket is going to tumble through a vending machine or parking meter like pit-stink through cotton. Better bring more than you’ll need; it’ll be one of those damn days.
You’ll need this if you even want a hope at that sweet, sweet Mr. Pibb nectar today.
Almost 300 days ago, on a day so distant from the present I can only picture it in sepiatone with crowds rushing about in an undercranked frenzy, their dialog showing up in intertitle cards, I wrote a graduation speech that made use of 150 idioms. When I stumbled onto one of those idioms for today’s article, I felt it deserved a closer inspection. I know what it means, but where did it come from?
Keeping up with the Joneses, for example. Who the hell are the Joneses? The idiom refers to the pressure to maintain one’s status with the status of one’s neighbors. It’s the basis for the sociological problem of conspicuous consumption, concerns regarding materialism, and a particularly funky song by the Temptations. But where did it come from?
Turns out, this is actually a tough answer. It sort of came from here:
Arthur R. “Pop” Momand started up a comic strip by that name in 1913. The Joneses were the never-seen neighbors of the strip’s characters. But the saying may date back to 18th century New York, with a rivalry among the wealthy Jones family and the rest of high society, including the Vanderbilts and the Astors. The Joneses kept building larger and more elaborate villas in the HudsonValley, which caused the other society folk to compete with their own spreads.
I’ll buy the high-society origin story, but there’s no way the saying would have trickled into the common lexicon without the comic strip. Pop culture spreads lingo. It’s the same reason so few of our sports metaphors are polo-related. Read more…
Like any red-blooded North American youth in the late 80s, I spent many a Saturday evening watching four retirement-age ladies talk about cheesecake and humping. I saw an episode of The Golden Girls a few weeks ago and it still made me laugh, which is more than I can say for most of my childhood favorites (I’m looking at you, Mr. Belvedere).
There was a lot I didn’t know about The Golden Girls, and a lot I may have known but forgotten because, you know, twenty years worth of stuff has happened since then. Thanks to Wikipedia’s steadfast commitment to the inane trivia of my childhood, I can share these things with you today.
They used to have a gay cook named Coco.
Though he appeared only in the pilot episode, the original plan was to have the three ladies live with Coco, which would have led to a myriad of wacky hijinks because, well, he’s gay. They dropped Coco in favor of making Estelle Getty’s Sophia character a regular.
The show premiered on September 14, 1985.
This was the 99th anniversary of the day the typewriter ribbon was patented. Now it all makes sense.
All four Girls had jobs.
Contrary to the ashy remains of my age-blasted memory, they did more than sit around and eat cheesecake all their lives. Dorothy was a substitute teacher. Rose worked at a grief counseling center, then at a local TV station. Blanche worked at an art museum, because making her a retired prostitute would have been too obvious. Sophia worked in fast food, and tried to start her own spaghetti sauce company. Also, I think she collected for the mafia in one episode.