Do bee good and swing it too

I was going to write an intro for this cartoon describing this time that an old roommate who loved Khatchatourian’s “Sabre Dance” was playing the song and a little mouse in the kitchen started running across the splashguard and tightroped across a gap to the stove via an electrical cord, but this cartoon doesn’t feature “Sabre Dance” so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

This cartoon features a boogie-woogie version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov. The original piece is from an opera called The Tale of Tsar Saltan, during the part where a magic swan turns the prince into an insect so he can go visit his dad, and also during a part where he “stings the two evil sisters on the brow, blinds Babarikha (the instigator of the plot to trick Saltan at the beginning into sending his wife away), and in general causes havoc at the end of the tableau.” Well then.

This cartoon doesn’t have any of that, or even any swords or mice on tightropes, but it’s still pretty nice to look at.

The host with the most

The other older gentleman besides Jacques Pépin that is keeping me cool and calm during this global case of the sniffles that has wiped out over three-quarters of a million people on the planet (so far) is someone Benny found while looking for some YouTube crafting videos. Like Monsieur Pépin, this fellow has a smooth voice, he’s very open to letting you experiment with the techniques he demonstrates, and he seems to like young children. Folks, if you haven’t met him already, I’d like to introduce you to The CrafsMan.

He may have other things in common with our friendly chef from Lyon, but it’s hard to tell for sure because The CrafsMan is a man of mystery. I believe he lives somewhere in Louisiana, and he is married to a lovely woman, and he may or may not still have a regular day job of some sort. Other than that, he’s an enigma. A smooth, yet fuzzy, enigma.

There also seems to be no end to his interests and expertise. Do you want to learn how to:

? The CrafsMan has got you covered. If for some reason watching someone make cool crafts makes you feel pressured and inadequate, you can just listen to The CrafsMan talk about some of his favorite things. If all you really need is some ASMR to calm down and The CrafsMan’s normal videos make you laugh too much, heck, he’ll read you some Frog And Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. Eventually, you’re probably going to find yourself imitating The CrafsMan. It’s okay. Lots of other people do it too, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

I don’t know how we’d ever get to meet him in real life, but that would be such a neat thing. I imagine him coming over to Benny’s workshop and examining all of the boxes and drawers and things, and they could talk about different kinds of tape and rubber hams and maybe the baby skunks would come out to meet him, and … oh mercy. I need to calm down. CrafsMan, if you ever read this, know that you have a place to stay in LA when things get safe again. In the meantime, keep on steady craftin’.

Took away the sun

I think I’m going to take a few days here to talk about some wonderful older gentlemen who have been keeping me from the pit of despair during this pandemic. Older gentlemen don’t stick around forever, and sometimes I forget that. Today I’m going to talk about the one we just lost.

I had to wait a day here before writing anything about the passing of Trini Lopez from COVID-19, because that post would have just been a long string of curse words and I don’t think Trini would have liked that.

My friend J9 and I saw him in concert in Palm Springs last year, and for anybody who might be saying, “Well, he died from COVID-19 because he was an old frail man,” I need to say that you are a big bag of poo. Also wrong. That concert was the peppiest, happiest show I’ve been to in quite some time, and not just because J9 and I were seated at the same table as a nice older lady who kept making jokes about cocaine and also surreptitiously paid our bar tab.

During his set, Trini talked about growing up in Texas, and about taking over the Crickets from Buddy Holly, and getting a record contract with Reprise, and about a billion other things in between singing all his hits and exhorting us to get up and dance, which we all did with much enthusiasm. I danced with such abandon that I almost careened into a table. J9 and I had been laughing before the show that we were probably going to be the youngest people at the show, which is a situation we’ve found ourselves in many times together, but we absolutely were not the youngest people there by a long shot. I almost just wrote “… and Trini kept up with the youngest of them,” but that sounds pretty condescending and it doesn’t convey the reality of the situation. He wasn’t keeping up with anybody. He just was doing his thing like he had always done, and we were trying to keep up with him.

And now he’s dead. Just like that.

If you’re not taking this COVID stuff seriously because you think you’re too young and healthy, shut up and take it seriously. RIP, Trinidad. And thank you for the uplifting tunes.

Published in: on August 12, 2020 at 6:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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Scenes from childhood

I worked at a music publishing company for a long time, and while it wasn’t much like this cartoon, there were a couple of similarities. We published a lot of pop songs that were based on classical pieces and folk tunes, but the difference was the writers didn’t try to hide the songs’ origins. If Krazy had just called his tune “Hot Daydream,” I don’t think the ghost of Schumann would have been so quick to torture him with the piano typewriter here. Art builds on the past, and as long as that general framework is acknowledged, I think we’re good. What do you think?

Inspiration date

I’m glad Fancy Notions’ ten-year anniversary is tomorrow (or maybe even Thursday) and not today because today I am pooped. Toby Rix and his toeterix are making me feel a little guilty about being exhausted when all I did was sit in a chair and type and go to the file room and then the copier and then back to the file room et cetera et cetera, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Maybe if I keep watching him I will get energized:

Nope. I might be a little more exhausted now, even. If I weren’t so close to expiration I’d call you an inspiration, Toby. I’ll try to get it together by tomorrow.

via Rare and Strange Instruments
Published in: on March 13, 2018 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A funny thing happened on the way to the Apocalypse

I recently realized that I didn’t make part two of my “I found this bit of information while searching for some other information” list that I started in July while on a research job. That research job is now complete, and I’d rather think about anything other than the news today, so let’s finish this thing up.

  • There is a photo of Captain Kangaroo at the summit of Mount Everest; his grandson Britton put it there
  • Gary Busey was the last person killed on the TV series Gunsmoke
  • Westinghouse made a clothes dryer in the ’50s that played the song “How Dry I Am” when the load was finished
  • Robert Ardrey and Ashley Montagu were well-respected 20th century anthropologists with conflicting theories about the nature of aggression in humans. Ardrey believed aggression was innate, and Montagu believed it was learned. Perhaps less well-known: Ardrey was also a Hollywood screenwriter (credits include The Three Musketeers and Madame Bovary), and Ashley Montagu’s real name was Israel Ehrenberg but as a young man he changed it to “Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu” for some reason
  • There is no music composed by Beethoven (the human) in any of the Beethoven (dog) movies
  • “Stars and Stripes Forever” is only ever played by a circus band as a signal to personnel that a life-threatening emergency is happening and they must evacuate the audience
  • Mark Twain’s childhood hometown of Hannibal, Missouri is also the hometown of the voice of Jiminy Cricket, Cliff Edwards. Edwards died a penniless drug addict three and a half miles away from where I am writing this now
  • Singing trio The Andrews Sisters became estranged from one another in the ’50s, and Patty Andrews’ husband Wally is frequently cited as the reason for the estrangement. After LaVerne died, Patty and Maxene briefly reunited but soon separated again for reasons unknown. Upon Maxene’s death, Patty reportedly became quite distraught and Wally fell down a flight of stairs, breaking both wrists
  • A new species of iguana was discovered on Fiji after herpetologist John Gibbons watched the Brooke Shields film The Blue Lagoon and noticed some unusual specimens lurking in the background
  • 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg was extremely superstitious and in particular suffered from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). He died on a Friday the 13th shortly before midnight
  • There is a Scottish variant of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain” called “O Ye Cannae Shuive Yer Grannie Aff The Bus.” The song allows for you to shove your uncle Willie, your aunt Maggie, and even your paternal grandmother off the bus, but your maternal grandmother is not to be shoved off the bus
  • All-American kitsch favorite PEZ candy was invented in Austria; PEZ is a shortening of the word “pfefferminz
  • Watch this:

That ruthless but stylish pimp is none other than kindly Gordon from Sesame Street.


The Marks of maturity

I’m back at work on a research project, and somehow found myself looking at a lot of “Daisy Bell” videos on YouTube this morning. If you are asking, “What is ‘Daisy Bell’?” I’m not going to make fun of you, because it’s a rather obscure title for what I thought was a pretty well-known song.

If I tell you, “It’s ‘Bicycle Built For Two’,” and you still look at me uncomprehendingly, I still will not make fun of you. If I go on to tell you, “It’s the song HAL 9000 sings in ‘2001’,” and nothing yet registers, I still will not make fun of you.

I hope you are not a young person with a beard who is sitting there with that bewildered expression, however. Because if you have a beard, I will think you are older than you actually are, and when I show you this video and you ask me, “Why is that potato wearing that hat?” I will make fun of you. I know it’s not fair, but that’s what I’m going to do. You look old enough to know better.

Answer me

It’s not as prevalent as it used to be, but there’s a thing in pop culture called the answer song. An answer song, usually recorded by another artist, is a response to a previously recorded song. “Southern Man” is followed by “Sweet Home Alabama.” “Work With Me, Annie” is answered by “Roll With Me, Henry,” which is ultimately answered by “Annie Had A Baby.” If you want to get dark, there’s always the song “Little Blossom” (a song from the point of view of a neglected child who eventually gets killed by her drunken father) and the ensuing, if unimaginatively titled, “Answer to Little Blossom” (sung by the father who is now in prison and expecting to get the death sentence).

The song “Boy Named Sue” already has a kind of weird and terrible answer song (look it up; I’m not linking it here), but I think I found a better one, lost pet notice-style. Friends, meet a bitch named Richard:


“Bitch” using the classic definition, of course. I’m sure she’s a very sweet pup.

Cuba libre

While it is true that my current job preparing and correcting old film soundtrack spreadsheets has sapped a little of my energy of late, it is also true that I am finding my previously evaporating reservoir of pop culture minutiae to be refilling at a healthy rate. Interesting things keep popping up in the least likely locations.

Take, for example, the song “Rum and Coca-Cola.” I’ve heard this chirpy little song from the ’40s a billion times and hardly given it a second thought. I say “hardly” rather than “never” because I know I gave it a second thought the first time I realized that the lyrics had something to do with a mother-daughter prostitute team, but still:

Working for that yanqui dollar sounds so sunny and relaxed when sisters from Minnesota sing about it, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the other day I was looking this song up on the ASCAP website and saw Morey Amsterdam listed as a co-writer. Morey Amsterdam? Little sarcastic Buddy Sorrell from The Dick Van Dyke Show wrote “Rum and Coca-Cola”? Wow. Neat.

But it got better. Morey Amsterdam didn’t write “Rum and Coca-Cola,” but he did hear “Rum and Coca-Cola” when he was on a trip to Trinidad, and when he came back to the States he told some cute young girl singer that he wrote it and she could use it in her nightclub act.

The cute young girl singer did use it, and after it became quite successful for her, she started making arrangements for it to be published under her own name. Morey got mad, the girl probably said something like “I know you didn’t write this song, you dope, and I’ll tell everyone if you don’t split the copyright with me” and they eventually agreed to share the songwriting credit.

By the time the song hit the charts, the original songwriter in Trinidad found out about Morey and the girl taking credit, and he was mad. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would want this guy mad at me, because his name was Lord Invader. I am not making this up. Some of Lord Invader’s pals in Trinidad were named The Mighty Growler and Attila the Hun. Also Macbeth the Great and Lord Of Iron. Not a bunch of guys to fuck around with.

Lord Invader came to New York, and instead of raining hellfire and bees down upon Morey and the girl, he filed a lawsuit. Things got very complicated with a bunch of other side lawsuits, but eventually Lord Invader won. Unfortunately, he very quickly spent all the money from the settlement and died quietly while Morey and the girl bought the rights to the song, and today if you look up “Rum and Coca Cola” on the ASCAP website, you will see Morey Amsterdam, the girl singer, and some other random guy I’ve never heard of listed as the writers.

Now, this whole thing makes me mad, and I will never look at this bookmark


with the same amount of zesty zilliness I once might have, but at least now I know the truth. Lord Invader, I salute you.

Ain’t it time we said goodbye?

Benny has a much better David Bowie story than I do, but this is my blog and not his so I’ll tell you my dumb David Bowie story now. It’s not really a story and it’s not even about David Bowie.

My high school freshman year best friends Mona and Laura and I had been trying to figure out how to get to Santa Cruz without asking our parents to drive us. It was a bit of a long haul from Sunnyvale to Santa Cruz, and there was no way our parents would just drive us there without expecting to hang out with us, and that was simply not acceptable to us freshman year of high school. Mona’s mom, maybe. She was a “cool mom” and generally let us alone when we got there, but she still wasn’t too enthusiastic about driving us all of the time. It might have been her who found the solution to our problem, come to think of it. Greyhound.

Yes, Greyhound had a bus that took us straight from Sunnyvale to Santa Cruz, and it was cheap. The first time we took it, we could not believe our luck. Why didn’t we do this all the time? What a deal. Freedom. Fun. The bus. Anyway, the first time we did it the ride was uneventful, but the second time one of us wound up sitting next to a bleach-blonde woman in her mid-thirties. This lady started talking to us about music, and then she said, “Oh hey? Do you know David Bowie?” This was 1984. Yes, we knew David Bowie. “I’m his ex-wife.” Angie Bowie.

We all said our “wow, how cool”s and then there really wasn’t anything further to say. She made some vague comments about how she could probably get us backstage at his next show, but the whole thing just seemed a little off. I think Mona got her phone number out of some sense of politeness, but we never called her, and I don’t remember us taking the Greyhound to Santa Cruz after that. I’m not sure if it was really Angie Bowie on the bus or if it even matters. Mona is dead now and Laura doesn’t talk to me any more, so I have this dumb memory just kind of clattering around in my head without anybody to share it with. Like I said, it’s not really a story but I wanted this memory to stop clattering around so I wrote it down here.

Anyway, here’s a song not written or performed by David Bowie and not about Angie Bowie as far as I’ve been able to tell, but I couldn’t get it out of my head last night when I found out David Bowie died. Please enjoy, preferably not on a bus with someone who’s going to make you feel uncomfortable.

Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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