Music Monday: Ladies Of The 80s

This morning’s spin class was a themed ride, and I was going to be going regardless, but this certainly seemed like a fun theme that I was looking forward to. The set list started out with The Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited” and it was a solid selection to kick things off.

“It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls was up next and I can understand why it was included, but I could have lived without it. Pat Benatar would have been a much better selection in my opinion. Let’s just go with “We Belong” which is slower, but would have made for a good hill climb.

It really isn’t much of a Ladies Of The 80s theme without some Whitney Huston and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is a great selection.

My memory of this morning, which is just a few hours ago is already spotty. Madonna’s “Material Girl” or “Like A Prayer” was included somewhere. Either one was fine.

A remix of “Flashdance” by Irine Cara was included on the list which was good enough but I think “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne would have been a good, if offbeat, choice.

A remix of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was included, an obvious choice, but I didn’t care for the remix, and I also think a different song would have been a better inclusion.

Tina Turner does a great rendition of “Proud Mary” but I never cared for the song regardless of who is singing it (Credence Clearwater Revival, Ike & Tina, Solomon Burke). The fact The Go-Gos did not get included in this morning playlist was a crime.

“Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson was a great choice. Actually, a whole class around the Rhythm Nation 1814 album would be fun.

“Conga” by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine was declared the favorite song on the playlist by the instructor. It was so fast I had difficulty keeping up.

“Cold Hearted” got the remix treatment, but I think the original version by Paula Abdul was good enough to be included as is.

The cool down song was The Bangles “Manic Monday” and was a decent selection for that spot on the playlist.

While my playlist doesn’t quite match up with what was offered up this morning in class it was a good set, a fun theme and I hope there are more of these in the future.

 

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Take A Good Look – The Definitive Collection (DVD)

Ernie Kovacs was a comic genius. His work in the early days of television helped stretch and define the medium by using a mixture of live and filmed segments along with special camera effects. Where technically his influence is undeniable, it was his humor that was so engaging and is still relevant today.

At times absurd visually, others wordplay, and sometimes the most obvious visual pun, Ernie Kovacs was a master of wringing humor out of any situation. It was this skill that enabled his game show “Take A Good Look” to work. You could see “Take A Good Look” as a send-up of the popular show at the time “What’s My Line?” in which a panel of celebrities attempt to guess what line of work a contestant does, or what it is that makes them stand out in some manner. “Take A Good Look” follows a similar format, but with Kovacs’ humor.

Clues are often only tangentially connected to the person the panelists are trying to guess the identity of. And that’s part of the fun.

Over the course of the series a number of notable panelists showed up regularly, including Cesar Romero, actors Ben Alexander and Hans Conried and of course Edie Adams (almost always making some sort of grand entrance). Others who showed up include Jane Wyatt, Mort Sahl, Jack Carson, and Carl Reiner. There is a surprising amount of regularity with the panelists, but they aren’t the focus of the show so it does not matter.

“Take A Good Look” focuses on two things – Kovacs’ humor and (mostly) ordinary people who did something newsworthy. There was a reporter who had recently won the Pulitzer, the woman who spent her honeymoon in a bomb shelter, the championship boxer, a baseball pitcher who pitched a perfect game (one of several baseball guests on the series), and many others. A number of these people come from the sports world, but some are just…. wacky.

Over seven discs we get a lot of bizarre and wonderful examples of Ernie Kovacs humor. You will laugh. A lot. If you order through Shout Factory (quickly) you can get a copy of “Private Eye, Private Eye” Kovacs’ take on the spy genre. I wish I had gotten a copy of this to review because the thought of Kovacs taking on the spy genre is certainly intriguing.

I have talked about Ernie Kovacs a few times and each time I have the opportunity to watch something of his I will take it. I am not old enough to have watched his stuff when it was first broadcast but certainly old enough to know his influence.

This DVD set is a must-own for fans of classic television humor.

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Turning Girls Into Boy Scouts?

It was recently announced that Boy Scouts of America would accept girls into the Cub Scout program starting with the 2018 program year (essentially the beginning of the school year). Additionally, for older girls, they will now have an opportunity to earn the highest achievement in Boy Scouts – attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

When the news broke, like many others involved in the scouting program, I wasn’t surprised. This has been a discussion for a while. You may not realize it, but young women have been part of Boy Scouts since 1971 when the decision was made to open up the Explorer program, a division of Boy Scouts that would eventually become Venture Scouts.

Did you even know that there is more to scouting than Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts?

The history and evolution of Explorers and Venturing is a little murky, and I don’t claim to know a lot of it, I know enough that girls or young women have been part of the Boy Scouts of America organization for quite a while.

So what’s the big deal?

Let me start off by saying that “girl” is the term I am going to go with for the rest of this post, rather than “young woman” because this is Boy Scouts and I am not meaning to degrade anybody, simply streamline my text.

If having girls in Boy Scouts is nothing new why is this an issue? Why hasn’t this happened already? Where does Girl Scouts fit in?

Rather than post some initial reaction, I wanted to let the news digest a little and offer up my thoughts in less “rushed” manner. I wanted to think things through a little.

Cub Scouts has been, operationally, a “family” organization for some time, at least as long as I have been involved. And maybe it is just the local council I am part of. While girls are not eligible to attend overnight camp or register for day camp, siblings have been welcome to various scouting events such as “day at camp” or pack outings.

Because many families have more constraints on their time making the organization more family friendly has been a priority for some time, and it has largely been a success. The move to include girls in Cub Scouts is a natural one, and frankly I am all for it.

My initial enthusiasm with regards to the news, however, was almost immediately tempered with trepidation as to how it will be implemented. If done poorly it could turn a lot of people away from scouting.

There is still the obstacle of integration with regards to  summer camp. The camps we have gone to have female facilities. During winter camp some of the boys have had their mothers attend for the weekend. Summer resident camp and winter camp have been staffed by female Venture Scouts. It is not unprecedented to have some mixed gender, but as a program there is going to need to be a bit of overhauling of the facilities and operations.

Incorporating girls into Cub Scouts is one thing. Another very crucial part of the announcement was there would be a way for girls to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.

I’m sure there are people who are not happy with this decision to include girls, and the Girl Scouts are mad, but I can certainly see why many girls want to join. There are benefits to the Girl Scouts, and my older daughter participated for a few years but ultimately felt that it was lacking the goals and purpose her brother was enjoying in Cub Scouts.

Opening up the rank advancement to Eagle Scout to girls is a big deal. It should be noted the announcement did not say that Boy Scouts would become Boy & Girl Scouts. Instead it says there will be a program for girls using the same curriculum the Boy Scouts use.

Heck, the announcement even says that Cub Scout dens would be segregated by gender. Don’t expect that to last too long.

There has been girls involved in the Boy Scout program for decades. This move is a natural extension of the program to fully include everybody who wishes to participate.

Are you against this move? Tell me  why you think this is a bad move on the part of Boy Scouts of America (and keep in mind they did try to work with Girl Scouts to incorporate the program but were snubbed). Are you worried about integration? Do you think Girl Scouts is good enough? Do you think this waters down the Boy Scout program and the rank of Eagle Scout?

I would really like to hear from you.

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Arrowheads (PC)

This is a title we have been looking forward to in our house for some time. Ciaran got to play this at the Penny Arcade Expo last year and has regularly asked about it since, which is unusual because he likes video games, but is very picky.

Arrow Heads is a combat arena game where the players take on the role of birds and attempt to take each other out with arrows. Well, that’s the basic premise. Players pick their archer which can be customized and enter into one of several arenas to battle three other opponents (computer controlled or human). The first to get 10 kills wins the match.

Maybe it is my computers, but I couldn’t get any of the various controllers, wired or wireless, regardless of manufacture, to work properly. For this version of the game I wound up sticking with the keyboard and mouse, a combination that Ciaran found frustrating so he told me he would wait for the console version to come out (scheduled for the first half of 2018).

Operating the bow is a bit of a combination of skill and luck. There is some deliberateness to the method of aiming and pulling back the bow – the longer it is held back the better the shot. Of course you need to be constantly on the move in order to not get shot yourself, so aiming is certainly not a static affair.

Adding to the mayhem are the special items that fall from the sky or pop up on the battle arena. Things such as bear traps, or barrels of explosives. Yes, shooting a barrel of explosives next to an enemy will kill it. Oh, and the Tesla coils. And rocket grenade arrows.

Complete matches and get some bird seed. That bird seed is currency to unlock customization options. Mostly aesthetic in nature they do provide a good incentive to keep going (in addition to the addictive nature of the game itself).

What I like about Arrow Heads was not just that it was a different take on arena combat, but it feels like a spiritual successor to Power Stone. Or maybe a cousin. Maybe the crazy uncle that took too long to get off the couch to show Power Stone how it should be done if dealing with ranged weapons. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Whatever the case is, this is a ridiculously fun … I wanted to say “brawler” but it isn’t, it is more shooter than anything but that really doesn’t describe it.

Arrow Heads also has an mode where players need to fend of wave after wave of bear. Because, why not.

Designed to be multiplayer, this is not an online only affair. Again, because I was having issues with my controllers (I know I need to get a newer PC) we did not get much of the local multiplayer in. Still it’s a game that scratches a certain itch. It’s “arcadey” and light-hearted, easy to pick up and play with a “just one more round” feel to it.

My son is going to wait for the console version to come out before playing again. I am not.

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Justice League: Action – Superpowers Unite (DVD)

 

“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.”

Kevin Conroy provides the voice of Batman but “Justice League: Action” is not a continuation of the previous DC animated series. What we are resented with is a new series that takes the bigger stars of the DC comics universe and pairs them up with a rotating cast of supporting heroes. The Justice League is already established at the onset of this series, and a number of heroes are simply introduced, join the action and the plot moves along.

The various “episodes” are 11 minutes long, which means two of these segments are broadcast per actual half hour episode. The first four segments (or episodes if you want) are connected in one overarching story and horribly provides the command that provides the series with its title.

A number of notable guest stars show up in various guest roles. There’s Patton Oswald, Gary Cole, Sean Astin, Mark Hamill, John Cryer, Tara Strong, and more. The presentation is much more lighthearted than older viewers might be expecting. And rather than having a specific universe to deal with, “Justice League: Action” simply allows for various stories to be told and whichever heroes are right for the task are featured.

Some of the heroes get a very abbreviated origin introductions, but for the most part we are thrust right into the action. And that action comes quickly. With the shortened episode length there isn’t a lot of time to mess around with sub-plots or character development. It is almost as if DC is trying to completely reintroduce the Justice League to a new generation that already knows a lot of the characters but only peripherally.

While this isn’t the whole of the first season, it is a decent chunk – 26 segments, or episodes, depending how you want to look at it, spread over two discs. The whole of the series is pretty light-hearted, with minimal losses if any. Humor is present in “Justice League: Action” but it isn’t jokey (like “Teen Titans Go”).

This is an enjoyable series but it doesn’t scratch the same itch that previous DC comics animated series does (such as “Batman: The Animated Series or “Justice League”). “Justice League: Action” seems to be more of a “family” series, not one primarily aimed at older viewers. And in that Warner Brothers animation has succeeded.

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Porky Pig 101 (DVD)

Starting off with “I Haven’t Got A Hat” this five disc collection features every Porky Pig cartoon from his debut in 1935 on through 1943’s “Porky Pig’s Feat” – which means there are a lot of not only black and white cartoons here, but several less politically correct ones. For example “Westward Woah” features Native Americans poorly and probably wouldn’t get made today. Porky kicks a dog at the end of “Porky’s Romance” and “Wholly Smoke” is a bizarre short which could be said to be anti-smoking but it’s just weird and racially insensitive.

Porky looked quite a bit different in the early cartoons than how we think of him. In a way you could think he was modeled after W.C. Fields initially – at least for the physical appearance. Much larger than we see him today, Porky was initially a sidekick, but it wasn’t too long before he was starring on his own. By the time of Porky’s Duck Hunt we have a much more familiar outline for the character.

So, yes, there are 101 shorts on here, almost all black and white, all starring or featuring Porky Pig, and spanning the years 1935 to 1943. This should tell you just how busy the Warner Brothers animation studio was at the time. There were several big names and this collection does a good job focusing on this one, but there are so many shorts that have yet to see a modern (last 40 years) broadcast let alone a home video release.

Lets take a look at some of the shorts that are new to home video – such as “Africa Squeaks” which features Porky on an expedition into Africa. yes, the natives are caricatures, which is probably why it hasn’t been shown much. “Porky’s movie Mystery” is a parody of the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan franchises, themselves culturally insensitive inherently and this doesn’t really rectify that. Will modern audiences get the gag of the F.H.A. sign in front of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in “The Coy Decoy”? That same cartoon features a series of literary gags, one of which is Daffy Duck pretending to ride the book Black Beauty only moments later to be riding an “Aunt Jemimah”caricature of a black woman.

 

Besides having 101 cartoon shorts gathered here, some for the first time on DVD, there are some special features that certainly make this a collection animation fans will want. There are some audio commentaries by a variety of people. There are 14 commentary tracks, each one worth listening to, though some are more informative than others. Two shorts are presented with some storyboards showcasing how they evolved from concept to finished product, which would have been nice for even more of them. Finally I don’t know where “Porky’s Breakdowns” was originally from, but it is just one gag that lasts just under 2 minutes and is not a regular short – perhaps shown internally? Whatever the case is, it’s certainly not for young kids.

I could list all of the shorts but that would be pointless. You are not going to pick this up based on the listing of 101 Porky Pig shorts. You want to know if this is worth it. Even if you are not a Porky Pig fan, and I generally count myself among that crowd, Porky Pig 101 is very much purchasing. Having this many quality shorts in one place, and to have them presented in a way that fans will appreciate is certainly worth applauding. I can only hope Warner Brothers eventually decides to release their whole catalog this way.

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Mickey Mouse: Merry & Scary (DVD)

While we aren’t getting Disney animated shorts with the same frequency as we used to, there are at least we are getting something in the way of Mickey stories. There is a new series in an animation style that older fans are certainly are going to have to get used to – the style seems to be much more John Kricfaluci than Ub Iwerks.

The running time for each episode of this new series is pretty short, almost as if these should have been theatrical shorts but instead are being presented for television. This is fine, really, though I would like to see more theatrical released. For this (relatively new) series two specials have been produced. One is Halloween themed and the other Christmas.

“The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular” has Mickey, Donald and Goofy attempting to tell a scary story, only to fail miserably. Them Mickey decides to tell the story of little pie thieves who get their comeuppance. This is a newer special and runs the length of a regular half hour show if you include time for commercials.

“Duck The Halls” A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special” which was initially broadcast last year. Here the focus is more on Donald who should have gone south for the winter bet instead decides to stay and enjoy Christmas. Ducks and winter don’t necessarily mix so Donald gets into trouble and his friends need to bail him out.

Special features are pretty short, just a few episodes of new “Mickey Mouse” series, but certainly enjoyable.

There are not a lot of Halloween specials, and Christmas specials are far too plentiful. What I like about this home video is that we get a much different take on the Christmas special, and the Halloween special is actually pretty good. Mickey Mouse fans should look into picking this up.

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The Bells (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 12)

After the success of Street Hassle, Lou Reed went back to the studio and found himself in a collaborative mood. The opening number “Stupid Man” was co-written with Nils Lofgren, who would a few years later join the E Street Band, furthering the connection between Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen. The second song is a bit of a jam, credited to all of the musicians playing on it. “Disco Mystic” is a mostly instrumental song with only the title repeated. It’s sort of an arty statement, but one of the weakest Lou Reed put out.

“Disco Mystic”

The Bells finds Lou Reed experimenting further with his sound. He tries out a few different vocal intonations, some of which are effective, though some come off as whiny. Lyrically, despite the misstep of “Disco Mystic” the stories and characters on The Bells are certainly vintage Lou Reed. “Families” is an excellent example of this. Had he not stretched his formula too far, the song would be great.

“Families”

I can’t tell if The Bells is over-produced or if the songwriting and performing are just “off” or if everything was rushed to get another album out capitalizing on Lou Reed’s recent success. Whatever the reason, there is enough in here to like for Lou Reed fans but The Bells is not one of his best albums.

 

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Phamily Foto Phriday 10-6-17

Even though it was a busy week I don’t have a heck of a lot to share for some reason.

Let’s start off with last week’s swim lesson. That’s Ciaran giving Tevye a piggyback ride in the pool before the lessons started.

There was the first grade soccer game – and it was so mismatched that Xavier and a couple of his teammates went and played for the other team.

Then we went on a three mile hike around Discovery Park with the Cub Scouts.

And cross country. Here is Ciaran pouring on some speed at the finish.

For some reason I don’t have Dela. Here’s August coming in at the end.

One day Tevye decided to wear his super hero cape to and from school (but not at school).


For the pack meeting it was “game night” and we brought a few games (Stratego, Simon’s Cat and Exploding Kittens) but Ciaran managed to find a game of chess to jump in on.

 

 

 

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Three Things That Have Made Me Laugh Recently

Tevye (age 3) and August (age 14) were having breakfast. They are sitting at the table in a way that I can not see them. I hear some sort of sound, almost like a fart, but it could have been a rumbly  tummy or something else.

I ask “Who was that? You okay?”

Tevye, without missing a beat says “It was Augie.”

He then proceeds to make more farting noises.


Towards the end of spin class the instructor acknowledged that it was a difficult session. He turned the lights low and told us all to take a moment for ourselves and said,”Feel where you are. Literally, not figuratively.”

I knew he meant it the other way around, but his comment brought to mind a classroom full of people on spin bikes feeling themselves up.


Some members of the household have been using “Ciaran” in place of a curse word.

“Shut the Ciaran up”

“What the Ciaran is going on?”

“That’s a Ciarany excuse.”

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