Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ranking Al #165-151

Alright, let's finally get this list started.

165. "Gotta Boogie"
(Original; from "Weird Al" Yankovic, 1983)
As much as I hate for the bottom song on my list to be an original, I just can't escape the fact that this is my least favorite song in Weird Al's entire library. The joke is too juvenile for me--a guy's got a "boogie" on his finger, and the song has a boogie beat, and as surprisingly fun as it is to hear boogie music done on an accordion, it's just a nothing of a song. The definition of filler.

164. "I Was Only Kidding"
(Style parody of Tonio K.; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
I find very few things tiresome about Weird Al, but at the top of that very short list is songs like this, where he gets angry and sarcastic about relationships. I'm probably taking it too seriously, and the jerk in the song does get his comeuppance in the end, but I just find it tasking. What this also comes down to is the music itself, which I don't much care for. Not my kind of stuff. I do love that Al does these style parodies, where he showcases his musical tastes by writing a song in the style of another artist or a group. I haven't heard much by Tonio K., but it really just sounds like he's not for me.

163. "Young, Dumb & Ugly"
(Style parody of AC/DC; from Alapalooza, 1993)
As Al's style parodies go, this is one of the times where he didn't nail it. It's meant to be in the style of AC/DC, but I don't think you'd get that just from listening to it. Al doesn't capture the sound that made AC/DC special, particularly in the Bon Scott and very, very early Brian Johnson era. He doesn't even try to nail Angus Young's signature guitar style, which is too bad, because I think he could. He's a very talented mimic. One of Al's strengths--one of the things that elevates him from "just a parody artist"--is his ability to deconstruct and reconstruct so many musical styles. But this one just sounds like a generic heavy metal song, with Al's vocals particularly strained.

162. "Toothless People"
(Parody of "Ruthless People" by Mick Jagger; from Polka Party!, 1986)
Not much going for this one, but to be fair, the original song just isn't very good. Didn't even crack the Top 40. In fact, the song was such a non-hit that Al almost didn't record the parody, but felt it would be insulting to Mick Jagger after having asked his permission. Nothing much to say about it, except that my Dad sure thought it was funny back then. (My Dad was the only person in my life who really thought Weird Al was as funny as I did, and listening to Al with him is part of my warmer childhood memories.)

Aside: anybody else here like the movie Ruthless People? One of my favorite comedies, but no one seems to remember it much these days.

161. "She Never Told Me She Was a Mime"
(Original; from Alapalooza, 1993)
This one starts off kind of dull and then fades into the background. It's just filler built around the premise of mimes being annoying, but I don't hate mimes like most people seem to, so I never really found this one funny.

160. "Stuck in a Close with Vanna White"
(Original; from Even Worse, 1988)
Same criticisms as the previous entry, minus the stuff about mimes. It's just silly, but not in a good way.

159. "Alimony"
(Parody of Billy Idol's cover of "Mony, Mony" by Tommy James & the Shondells; from Even Worse, 1988)
Al's vocal performance on this song is great, but I've never cared for either version of "Mony, Mony," and this version--in which a guy complains about the debt slavery he's in because he owes so much alimony--has really lost its humor in a world where MRAs misogynists make the same arguments with passionate seriousness.

158. "Girls Just Want to Have Lunch"
(Parody of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper; from Dare to Be Stupid, 1985)
Al's label demanded he record a parody of the Cyndi Lauper hit, and you can hear in the final product that he did so quite begrudgingly. It's a joyless parody, purposely song in an annoying vocal style, and the lyrics are kind of mean-spirited. Al himself hates this song, so I feel like that's a blessing to shove it near the bottom of this list.

157. "Good Enough for Now"
(Original; from Polka Party!, 1986)
This sort of falls into that "Al says horrible stuff about women and even though it's part of the joke that the song's narrator is horrible, Aaron is still uncomfortable with it" category. Al does nail the sound of country love song sound, complete with its often bizarre, honest lyrics. One line does genuinely make me laugh: "You're sort of everything I ever wanted."

156. "Addicted to Spuds"
(Parody of "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer; from Polka Party!, 1986)
Another so-so parody of a so-so song, this one focused on a guy who can't get enough of potatoes and the foods made from them.

155. "She Drives Like Crazy"
(Parody of "She Drive Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals; from UHF, 1989)
The original song was inescapable for several months--my Dad particularly dug it--so I guess it was inevitable that Al would do a parody. It doesn't really add anything, though, except for the very, very tired comedy trope of the terrible woman driver. (Pretty much the only time I thought that kind of thing was funny was when Bob Newhart did it.) I hate the original, and except for Al's falsetto delivery, nothing much is interesting about this one.

Aside: I do enjoy Kermit the Frog's version of the song, but it's impossible for me to not like Kermit singing anything.)

Note: we've now passed the songs that I will flip past every time I listen to their respective albums. While the next few aren't favorites, they don't actively irritate me.

154. "I'll Sue Ya"
(Style parody of Rage Against the Machine; from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
Al gets the sound of Rage Against the Machine right, and it's a funny idea to juxtapose that music with a song about frivolous lawsuits, but I think it's funnier in concept than in execution.

Aside: I tend to bristle when people bring up the woman that sued McDonald's over the hot coffee in 1992 as an example of a frivolous lawsuit. That coffee was 190 degrees; she had third degree burns and then lost 20% of her body weight while spending eight days in the hospital getting skin grafts. She was partially disabled for a couple of years. That doesn't sound frivolous to me.

153. "Phony Calls"
(Parody of "Waterfalls" by TLC; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
It replicates the sound of TLC's smash hit. Unfortunately, I've never cared for TLC. And I don't think prank phone calls are that funny, so this doesn't really do much for me.

152. "I'm So Sick of You"
(Style parody of Elvis Costello; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Weird Al finds the trope of a man stuck in a terrible, hate-filled relationship incredibly funny. It works in this song, though, because he gets the sound of early post-punk Elvis Costello exactly right (a sound I love), and this is pretty much as nasty as Elvis Costello generally is to me.

151. "The White Stuff"
(Parody of "The Right Stuff" by New Kids on the Block; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
The original song was pretty prevalent among my generation--my cousin loved them in a big way--and I admit, "The Right Stuff" has a weirdly addicting beat. I prefer Al's version, because you don't have to listen to any of those kids singing. This one's more cute than anything--a man extolling his love of Oreo cookies--but it's cute in a nice way.

Boy, can you tell that Polka Party! and Off the Deep End are my least favorite Weird Al albums?

Until next time.

Last Night's Rebels Star Wars'd So Hard, You Guys

RuPaul's Drag Race finally premiered its new season last night. But the other most exciting thing on TV for me last night was the first season finale of Star Wars Rebels.

Spoilers and such coming immediately.

The whole thing was this exciting explosion of... I don't know how to say it, but... Star Wars-ness. Kanan's duel with the Inquistor. Imperial Star Destroyers. Grand Moff Tarkin. And then, right towards the end, the appearance of other Rebels besides the crew of the Ghost, which is probably the first step towards really uniting the individual cells and starting a concerted campaign of rebellion.

That group of Rebel ships coming out of hyperspace excited me alone, particularly with the season's second appearance by Senator Bail Organa. But then... then this.

My dreams for this show come true: Rebel coordinator Fulcrum is, in fact, Ahsoka Tano.

Ahsoka freakin' Tano!

Ahsoka is back!

God, I love Ahsoka. She's one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time, and here she is, in the leadership of the rebellion against the Empire. I am so disgustingly happy about this.

But then... since the Inquisitor and General Kallus have failed to get the Rebels under control... this.

Darth Vader, y'all. Darth Vader.

So far, Vader's appearance on the show amounted to a single cameo in the very first episode, in which he charged the Inquistor with tracking down "the Children of the Force," aka Force-sensitive youngsters who could be trained to as Jedi and cause problems for the Empire. But now, here he is again, in the flesh, not saying a word, but dominating all with his presence and that rasp.

Is Vader going to be regularly on Rebels? And if so, will James Earl Jones voice him, as he did in the premiere episode? God, this is exciting to me.

And the parallel here... Anakin on one side, Ahsoka on the other. The master and the apprentice.

I can not wait for season two!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Muppet Mondays

I love that someone put this together.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Song of the Week: "You Are Not Alone"

Leonard Nimoy released five albums between 1967 and 1970. I didn't really realize that until I heard him interviewed on a Chicago radio show (Brandmeier, maybe?) and they asked him about it. He laughed it off as not exactly an old embarrassment, but as a sort of "Ugh, why did I think that was a good idea?" sort of thing. He had a good sense of humor about it. The host asked him if he'd ever heard William Shatner's cheese classic The Transformed Man, and Nimoy laughed harder, saying he hadn't realized Shatner had also had an album. "If it was as good as mine were," Nimoy joked, "they should have burned it."

I have all of Nimoy's albums, and while I don't share his assessment, I do think that as a singer he's a terrific actor. I don't think they're embarrassing, but they can be very earnest and Nimoy's vocal range almost doesn't exist. His first album, Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space, sees Nimoy in character as Spock, doing space-themed songs. His second album, The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, continues this, with one side as Spock (including the kinda stupid song "Highly Illogical" and a dialogue between Spock and Nimoy examining their differences--real Birdman kind of stuff), and the second side as Nimoy (performing covers and the infamous/wonderful "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins"). This theme was dropped for albums three through five.

After reading Nimoy's autobiography I Am Spock back in the nineties, I was interested in his struggle to maintain the character of Spock; it sounded intense and alienating, as he used the persona to distance his inner life from the demands of fame, but also needed to be in character all the time to a certain degree, to the point where he admits in the book that he was too often detached from his home life, as it took him most of the weekend to cycle down and just be Dad. In that respect, his first two albums--cash-ins though they are--represent a sort of attempt to address Spock himself and separate Spock in his mind. (In I Am Spock, he even writes in-character and has conversations with him, using the character's logic to explain ideas and, in the process, examine himself.) To quote the Vulcan: fascinating.

So, as a tribute to the man, this week I present "You Are Not Alone," from his first album which is, in my mind, kind of fantastic. It's sincere in the way only the late 1960s are.

Goodbye, Mr. Nimoy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

On the Other Red-Gloved Hand

I've already talked about how I would incorporate the Miles Morales Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I'd really rather see something like that than getting rammed with yet another version of Peter Parker and yet another telling of his origin.

(As an aside, the guy who prompted that first post--the guy who is really against using Miles and who asked for a reasonable-sounding pitch for introducing the character into the MCU--has gone on and on--to the point where I almost unfollowed him--about how it makes no sense to do Miles "before" Peter. I think that's pure bullshit at this point. Dude, Peter Parker's been around since 1962. He's a major media property. People have been aware of his existence for a very long time. He's starred in something like seven television series. There have been 5 movies about him in the last 13 years. I think people get his deal, and I think something new is not a threat.

Look, people go to see these movies because they're good and they're fun and Marvel finally realized that superheroes are not a genre but characters who can exist in any genre and anyone can enjoy them... not because they hew closely to any source material. I know this is hard for a lot of fanboys to deal with, but probably upwards of 90% of the audience for these movies doesn't read comic books and won't care how exact something is. If it makes sense as a story unto itself, people will dig it, and that's what makes discussing films with comics fans such a drag most of the time: because they want to talk about whether or not Aquaman has blond hair as though it affects anything.

The guy's argument was "it would be like doing a Flash TV series with Wally West instead of Barry Allen, it makes no sense!" Now, I get what he's trying to say: Wally was inspired by Barry's Flash to become the Flash, and Miles was inspired by Peter Parker's Spider-Man to become Spidey. But I don't think you need to bother with those things. I think that if you don't know it wouldn't matter. Hell, show Miles watching an episode of the old 60s Spider-Man cartoon if you have to go the inspiration route. But if a guy develops spider-powers in a cinematic universe with no Spider-Man in it, does it really matter at all if Peter Parker ever existed? Does it matter? Really?

Dude, no one minds that Jay Garrick doesn't exist on the Flash series, do they?)

Anyway.

Anyway.

I'd still love for Miles to be Spider-Man in the MCU more than anything, but one thing I'm also willing to accept: what if we just, you know, bring back Tobey Maguire?

One of the great frustrations for me is that Sam Raimi never got to finish his series of films, mainly due to Sony's impatience and their attempts to force characters in there that didn't belong there. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies are still the definitive adaptations for me--even with the problems in the third movie--because he really got the tone of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko early run. His Peter Parker was an overwhelmed kid who was trying to do his best in a world that was throwing everything at him that it could.

(Another aside: how I relate to Spider-Man depends almost entirely on his wisecracking. If he's doing it in that way where he's trying to appear tough but is actually covering for how scared he is--as in the Raimi movies--I feel for the guy. If he's an arrogant, sarcastic jerk--as he is in too many media, including a lot of the recent comics--I hate him. I've not seen either of the Andrew Garfield movies, but the little bits I've seen on TV make Spider-Man look like a fucking prick.)

So, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man left me hanging, and, you know, if we could work him in as MCU canon and just sort of say he's been there and there just wasn't a need to talk about him before... I would have zero problems with that. In fact, I'd be quite enthusiastic for it. Let's say Peter stopped being Spider-Man for a while in order to concentrate on working out his relationship stuff. He figured Iron Man could handle everything, right? Hell, if you want to shove him into Civil War so you can have that unmasking moment everyone wants, doesn't it make sense to use Tobey Maguire, since the audience would actually already know him? Maybe the whole registration furor is what brings him back.

Bring back Tobey. Bring back Kirsten Dunst. Bring back Sam Raimi. Bring back Rosemary Harris and JK Simmons! Let's make the MCU movie Spider-Man 4. Let's just continue the damn thing and not have to go through the damn origin again and pretend those damn Marc Webb movies never happened. Let's give Spider-Man his slightly dorky sincerity back. That gee whiz of the Raimi movies fits in much better with the MCU than too-cool cynicism.

Otherwise, it's Miles all the way for me. I'm sick of new Peter Parkers. This is like a damn Clone Saga. Miles or Tobey Maguire, that's all I'll be excited over.

I'll probably get neither.

But as far as I'm concerned...

Friday, February 27, 2015

This Week in Neat-O

:: Everything You Never Knew About The Making of Conan The Barbarian

:: This week's trailers: Simon Pegg in Kill Me Three Times (red-band trailer); Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, which looks like over-the-top fantasy epic gorgeousness.

:: 12 Spock quotes to live your life by.

:: Rats remember acts of kindness, and then reciprocate.

:: This Is The First Baby Wooly Rhinoceros Ever Discovered

:: You might remember Nick Acosta's "Star Trek in Cinerama" from last year. Now he's taken photos of the original Enterprise model from 1965 and composited them into scenes from the movies, and they look fantastic.

:: How The Universe Is Saying Goodbye To Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015

Sad news today that Leonard Nimoy has died from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I knew he was sick and that he had been admitted to the hospital recently, but it's still a blow to me. Leonard Nimoy was one of the teachers of my life. I found him, no pun intended, fascinating. His autobiographies, his interviews, his artistic and spiritual sensibilities... and he played my favorite fictional character of all time. In many ways, Spock taught me how to think and taught me--and still teaches me-- how to feel. Often, when I try to calm myself from my constant anxiety and sadness and anger and restlessness and turmoil, it's Spock I try to emulate. Leonard Nimoy portrayed this in a way that's so important to me.

I am saddened by his death. Very saddened. Today I will weep, unashamed, without dwelling in my sorrow.

Farewell, Mr. Nimoy. Thank you for everything. Thank you so much.

There is a lovely write-up in the New York Times.