Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Boo!"s And "Woo!"s

Yeah yeah, I've been a quiet, streaky blogger so far this year. Guilty as charged. I've been having a difficult time getting myself into a regular writing mindset for a while now, largely due to free-time issues (like, not having very much of it). That said, I am matching my 2008 output to date, so maybe it's a seasonal thing. Who knows, maybe I need to look into this Twitter thing.

Just kidding.


* Even though the exhaust system is brand new and the car had been running better than it had in a while over the last few weeks, I'd been having a bad feeling about how this year's E-check was gonna go, so I made sure to get it out of the way extra early for a change. That was probably one of my better ideas: not only did the Beretta fail, it completely BOMBED the test. From the near-hysterial reaction of the lady at the testing facility, it seems that my hydrocarbon exhaust level is about, uh, four times over the normal limit, suggesting that I am not far off from blowing unburned fuel right through my tailpipe. Even better, my CO levels are nearly twenty times where they should be. This is no longer a Chevy Beretta, people, I am now driving the fuckin' Deathmobile. I take a grain of comfort in knowing that my friend Andy will be so proud of my size 30 carbon footprint that he might give me a plaque or something.

Needless to say, the limit has finally been reached and the Deathmobile is now on its farewell NE Ohio tour, as I have about 4 months until the current tags expire. Said tags will not be renewed, nor will the Deathmobile be repaired again. Believe me you, I'm a bit incensed that I blew that last grand on it getting the power steering and exhaust systems fixed in December and January, but we (ultimately) live and learn. The question now becomes what do I do about transportation after the end of July? As of right now, I'm leaning strongly towards "new (used) car," and away from "take over Sarah's car and assume remaining payments."

Assuming I go with the former option, I'm going to need to step up the Amazon sales on my end a bit, if nothing else, while also increasing my currently-depleted level of savings over the three couple of months to reach a place where I am comfortable parting with a decent-sized down payment and setting up some attendant financing. More details and strategies as they emerge...

* Frustratingly, the obtaining of a permit for our new water heater has stalled completely. We have called the company that installed the goddamned thing twice in an attempt to get some idea of what to do or how to get a permit, and we have not been called back either time. Finally sick of waiting, I contacted the Willowick Health Department in an attempt to go straight to the top, only to be told that someone would be in contact with us. Of course, said someone has yet to call.

* My 2008 income taxes were e-filed earlier tonight. The results are about par for the course: I get a whopping 7 bucks from the state of Ohio (and that is only after declaring the substantial amount of dental work I had done last year), while the Feds soak me for 111. Grrr.


* Dad is back at home again and independently mobile, with a voice and demeanor that is slowly strengthening ... though I wonder if it will ever sound anything like it used to.

* Somehow, we followed up a miserable January at Record Den with the best February sales figure we've had since our re-opening in 1998. It looks like March is going to be close, maybe just a shade off target, which is still better than we thought we'd have any right to be considering the way everything in this country has allegedly gone to Hell. We are pleased and delighted with these results, but also wondering if maybe we are finally becoming the only game in town at long last.

* Our friend Dave Lynch was in town last weekend, and to herald his visit, Sarah and despite a water disaster with the worktub that soaked a part of the living room carpet a couple days previous, we managed to get the condo tidied up to an extent it hasn't been since last year. Now the onus is on for us to keep it that way.

* Opening day for the 2009 baseball season is exactly one week away.

* I still have not set up my new PC yet as I have bogged while backing up stuff on this old one. Still, this rates as a "Woo!" because this new baby is going to kick this old one's ass right off the planet. 4 gigs of memory. Need I say more?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Truly "Bigger Than Jesus"

No discussion of popular music in the 1960s (or the 20th Century, for that matter) could be complete without mention of The Beatles, and this week marks the 45th anniversary of what could arguably be considered the very height of Beatlemania.

On Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart for the week ending April 4, 1964, the Fab Four achieved a level of dominance never seen before or since as they staked claim to the Top 5 positions on said chart, while placing an incredible seven other songs ("I Saw Her Standing There," "You Can't Do That," "All My Loving," "Roll Over Beethoven," "From Me To You," "Do You Want To Know A Secret," and "Thank You Girl") at various slots down the list.

Below is a look at that week's Top 10 as it was published:

As you might have noticed, the Beatles singles listed above originated from multiple distributors, not just Capitol Records (the label they had signed to just before the hysteria had started, and their U.S. home ever since). Facing a stone wall of skepticism or outright hostility from the U.S. record industry, band manager Brian Epstein had scattered several Beatles singles among a handful of smaller independent labels over the second half of 1963 in persistent efforts to get a foothold in the U.S. market with no success at all. Then, as now, if you had an insufficient promotional budget to spend fostering radio airplay, your releases simply would not get on the air, and the labels that chose to work with Epstein had little or no national promotion budget to speak of.

Epstein's efforts at the time may have been viewed as a failure, yet they paid off wildly when the band became a known entity in America seemingly overnight. Thus, when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" went supernova in January of 1964 (with five million sold, it ultimately became the best-selling song of the decade), there was plenty of older Beatles product available to record stores who found themselves swamped by overwhelming demand for anything Beatles-related. Such was this demand that even cash-in novelty records recorded in the days and weeks following the band's Ed Sullivan Show appearance began to show up in the record charts as well in the form of "We Love You Beatles" by The Carefrees, "A Letter To The Beatles" by The Four Preps, "My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut" by Donna Lynn and "The Boy With The Beatle Hair" by The Swans.

While managing to nail down the Top 5 slots on the Hot 100 is an impressive enough feat, one has to look beyond this amazing one-week snapshot to see just how stupendous the Beatles were in the first half of 1964. While they released their most epochal works down the line a ways, they would never again completely dominate culture like they did that spring. For starters, that mind-boggling roll call of twelve singles listed simultaneously on the Hot 100 would actually increase to an unbelievable fourteen entries on the April 11 chart as "There's A Place" and "Love Me Do" entered the fray alongside their dozen predecessors.

The April 4 chart may have been the only time the Beatles would control the entire Top 5, but their domination of the Billboard singles chart extends for months either way: on April 4, the band had now owned the entire top 4 for two straight weeks and the entire top 3 for four straight weeks (since March 14). If that wasn't enough of a stranglehold for you, consider next that the Fabs had also reserved the top 2 positions on the Hot 100 from February 22 to April 25 (1o weeks) and held down the number 1 spot with one song or another from February 1 though May 2 (14 weeks).

Oh, it gets better: The Beatles kept at least one song in Billboard's Top 10 from to January 25 to June 20 of that year (22 weeks solid), and managed to keep at least one hit in the national Top 40 for 39 consecutive weeks -- from January 25 (the week "I Want To Hold Your Hand" rocketed from #45 clear up to #3) all the way through to October 17 (the week "Matchbox" tumbled from #17 to #52, opening a nearly two-month period when no Beatles songs impacted the U.S. Top 40 ).

Lastly, and perhaps most incredibly of all, by the end of 1964, the Fab Four would amass 15 million-selling records in the U.S. (over 9 singles and 6 albums), and the total sales of these releases combined amounted to over 25 million records sold ... by one band in one year.

When Pets Attack

20080319 01
It's always fun in a disconcerting way to watch as your rascally, cuddly, lovable furball pet instantaneously transmogrifies into a fuckin' terminator.

Sarah was holding Moe as we talked in the office yesterday afternoon while it rained steadily. Sarah noticed a flutter of motion by the window and spied a pigeon who had just landed on the sill to escape the miserable conditions. She mentioned it to me and then asked Moe if he could see it, lowering him slightly so that it was in his sightline.

At first, he didn't seem to process it, but once he did, it was like this electric current just shot right through him. He immediately did that "turn to jellyfish" trick of his and squirmed out of Sarah's grasp and, in one motion, fell to the floor and then sprang straight for the window (which is about chest-high to me).

BWAP! The window was, of course, closed, and Moe flew face-first right into it. The surprise of this impact knocked him back down to the floor into a tangle of wires, but he barely noticed. In another spring-like motion, he threw himself back at the window. BWAP! Same result. Down to the floor he went again. Duh.

By this time, Sarah and I were pretty much incapacitated with laughter, while the pigeon, who probably watched its life flash before its eyes, took off in a hurry once it realized it was not going to be Moe's dinner.

One can almost imagine the thought processes involved in these few seconds of action:

Moe: purr purr ooo I wuv you guyz so much I just love being fussed over and cuddled and the center of attent-HOLY SHIT A FUCKEN BIRD!!! YOU ARE DEAD, BIRD!! DEAD!!! I AM GOING TO FUCK YOU UP RIGHT NOW!!!




Pigeon: oh. heh. lol. *flies away*

Moe, of course, spent the rest of the afternoon keeping a very watchful eye on the windowsill. I tried to impress upon the boy that even if the window had been opened, and there had been no screen in it, he would have possibly nabbed the Mr. Pigeon in a flying tackle, yes, but then it would have been a 20 foot drop to the sidewalk afterward.

I don't think he cared.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Wubbulous World Of Dr. Seuss

I think everyone knows by now that Google is always putting up different stylized logos on its homepage to commemorate holidays and special events. This morning, the following logo went up to mark the 105th birthday of Dr. Seuss:

Dunno about you guys, but I think this one is a keeper. :)

Some extra links, should you have the time:

Dr. Seuss's Seussville

Dr. Seuss Went To War: A Catalog Of Political Cartoons

American Art Archives display

Some videos available for streaming:

Green Eggs And Ham

The Lorax

The Zax

The Sneetches (Part 1 and Part 2)

(Youtube): Everything Is Amazing, Nobody Is Happy...

Comedian Louis C.K. sits down with Conan O'Brien and offers up some thought-provoking commentary on modern society with a dose of laughs.