Friday, October 30, 2009

Dual-theme "Weird Al" Yankovic Songs

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article


Weird Al is probably currently the best-known parodist of long-time longevity. He made his mark in the early 80s and continues even now. This blog item is mostly about his parodies that capture music from one song and integrates lyrics and visuals of his vision from another song. Viewing and listening to such music videos can be somewhat discombobulating. You might be pulled in two directions of what to pay attention to, especially if you are familiar with both cultural aspects you see and hear. The following links take you to Al's mostly dual-theme music videos.

"The Saga Begins"
Music from "American Pie", visuals & lyrical creations from Star Wars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEcjgJSqSRU

"Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies"
Music from "Money for Nothing", visuals & lyrical creations from Beverly Hillbillies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4SDhrTPOiI

"Hey Ricky"
Music from "Mickey", visuals & lyrical creations from I Love Lucy (with closing bars of the I Love Lucy theme song)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZlLQLFq_H4

"Jurassic Park"
Music from "MacArther Park", visuals & lyrical creations from Jurassic Park (with guest appearance by Barney the dinosaur)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh4zvQfDhi0

"Yoda"
Music from "Lola", visuals & lyrical creations from Star Wars (videos created by Al fans)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub0nykvHRuc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOPsfaQRcbk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMpDHEVaI1k (added feature—Legos)
Weird Al himself performs the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxaFhHCMMuc.

"Bedrock Anthem" and "Spy Hard" have slightly different flavors of dual themes than the aforementioned songs.

"Bedrock Anthem"
Per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedrock_Anthem, this song is a "parody of 'Under the Bridge' and 'Give It Away' both by the Red Hot Chili Peppers". Visuals & lyrical creations are mostly from Flintstones cartoons.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtV_nQKhkdY

"Spy Hard"
Combination of title Die Hard and James Bond features (introductory credits with implicitly-nude women silhouettes, similarity to theme songs from Goldfinger and Thunderball)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7KMMxAQp8I

Medic-Al—At one time, I had planned to write a separate blog item regarding Al and medical-theme songs, however, I have encountered only three blatant ones thus far. Although this article is about dual themes, I hope my inclusion of these video references (which I ran across while rooting around for dual themes) manage to tickle your funnybone.

"Living With a Hernia" (parody of James Brown's "Living in America")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8Ow1nlafOg ("Living with a Hernia")
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeoHcB9_wss ("Living in America")

"Like a Surgeon" (parody of Madonna's "Like a Surgeon")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=notKtAgfwDA ("Like a Surgeon")—note reference to the Three Stooges starting about 0:10.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s__rX_WL100 ("Like a Virgin")

"Pancreas" (Al creation that sounds like a combination of Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice"; visuals & lyrical creations pertain to the pancreas.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqDBB0no6dQ

SNL's Virtual Reading Skit a Possible Influence for E-Readers

[This article originally posted to http://thewritejob.blogspot.com/2009/10/snls-virtual-reading-skit-possible.html
on October 21, 2009]

Several years ago, there had been a skit on Saturday Night Live that pushed a product for purposes of virtual reading. The skit opened with someone wearing virtual-reality visors, holding a book-size object. After sweeping an index finger from the top of a virtual page to the bottom, simulating reading, the actor made a motion with the hand or finger as though turning a real page. As the product preceded Kindle, it was entertaining and funny. Unfortunately, despite combing google for information and videos, the only reference I have been able to locate regarding the skit is at http://m.gawker.com/site?sid=gawker&pid=Comments.detailed&section=Allpost&commentid=355159&targetId=Gawker-355159.

Sat, 16 Aug 2008 01:27:30 All she needs is a headset and it would be just like the "virtual reading" sketch on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.

In any case, I find it interesting that Kindle seemed to have become a case of life imitating art—the use of a paperback-size device to read books. It might be only a matter of time when e-readers become the reading media to tote for killing time with, replacing paperbacks, newspapers, and magazines. Speaking of which, a not-Kindle is making its appearance to the world—Nook, from Barnes & Noble.

Nook news ("Barnes & Noble E-Reader Puts Heat On Amazon")—http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/retail/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=220900002

Kindle review from CNET (result from youtube search for view count, uploaded November 2007)— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAf4vxGEOAo

Tongue-in-cheek thought from Anonymous:
"If you get a Kindle, you can use your books for kindling."

Same Song Titles, Different Songs

[This article originally posted to http://thewritejob.blogspot.com/2009/10/same-song-titles-different-songs.html
on October 10, 2009]

Over time, there have been well-known pop/rock songs with identical song titles but very different tunes and lyrics. I've created the following paragraph that has such song titles. If you know more than one version of each song (bolded), which version do you think of first?

Sherry and I talked on the phone today. She told me her best long jump the other day was her personal best. Within minutes of that jump, though, she had started to hurt like crazy and began crying from the pain. She then experienced an out-of-the-body sensation—viewing herself climbing a stairway to heaven. She wondered, "What's going on?" Fortunately, she recovered by the evening. During the conversation, she also mentioned her roommate Sara decided to act more like a lady and less of a tomboy, hoping to find somebody to love who might be more inclined to love her back.

"Sherry" by the Four Seasons (1963) is undergoing a revival from the current Broadway play Jersey Boys. The version by Steve Perry/Journey (1984) is actually named "Oh Sherrie", but on the radio, "Sherry" and "Sherrie" sound the same. Interestingly enough, it was difficult to find Steve's actual song's name on the web—both "Sherry" and "Sherrie" spellings appeared. The background for the song origin is at http://steveperryfanclub.homestead.com/DickClarkInterview.html.

The Pointer Sisters and Van Halen's "Jump" came out in 1984. Both songs received tremendous airplay for both radio and music videos. The Pointer Sisters' song name is "Jump (for My Love)"; however, I don't recall the entire title referenced on radio. In addition, the song as sung emphasized "jump", helping to reinforce just one word as the song title.

"Today" by the New Christy Minstrels (1960) and by the Jefferson Airplane (1966, from the Surrealistic Pillow album) sound totally different from each other yet appeal to the listener with similar sentiments of love. (Both versions are available to listen to at www.imeem.com; however, the New Christy Minstrels version requires registration—a reasonably painless process.)

Patsy Cline's "Crazy" has been well-known since 1961; maybe additionally helpful for its popularity was that Willie Nelson wrote it. Another version has been making the rounds recently, particularly in the youtube circuit—Gnarls Barkley (2006). Do a youtube search for "crazy gnarls barkley" and see video links. If you want to drive yourself more crazy, do the same search using patsy cline, then willie nelson.

"Crying" and "Cryin" sound so similar when spoken that it helps to clarify which song is which. Roy Orbison released "Crying" in 1961, and Steve Tyler/Aerosmith released "Cryin" in 1993. "Cryin" has received a recent revival on this season's American Idol. (Strangely enough, "Cryin" also appears as "Cryin'" and "Crying" in web searches.)

The Parade Magazine Personality Parade for Sunday, October 4, 2009 mentioned "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin (1971) and the O'Jays (1975)—two distinctly different songs. The title reminded me there was yet another song titled "Stairway to Heaven"; it doesn't sound like either Led Zeppelin's or O'Jays' version. Preceding the both of them, Neil Sedaka's bouncy version came out in 1960.

"What's Going On" seems to be a song in its own category of identical song/different song. "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye (1971) is well-known and has been around a long time. Another song has the words "what's going on" throughout, but is titled "What's Up", by the 4 Non Blondes (1993).

Four songs that name Sara—three of which are identical titles—are noteworthy: "Sara" by Fleetwood Mac (1975), "Sara" by Bob Dylan (1975), "Sara Smile" by Hall and Oates (1975), and "Sara" by the Jefferson Starship (1985). Of interest is that three of these songs came out in 1975, and none of four songs are spelled "Sarah".

Three different songs titled "Lady" have been hits—by Styx (1973, 1975), Kenny Rogers (1980), and Lionel Richie/Commodores (1981).

This year, "Somebody to Love" recently bubbled to the surface on TV. In the spring on American Idol, there was a mention of Queen (1976) and Jefferson Starship (1966) versions. In September, the TV show Glee broadcast the ensemble singing the Queen version.

Note: I have accompanied each song title with its release year in parentheses as spotted in google search summary results and/or web pages. Another source has been http://swisscharts.com.

Cross Words Over Crosswords

[This article originally posted to http://thewritejob.blogspot.com/2009/09/cross-words-over-crosswords.html on September 30, 2009]
I'm a casual crossword-puzzle doer. I work on the LA Times one that my newspaper carries on Sundays, the one in the weekly Onion, and the monthly National Geographic's. I'm not a fanatic over solving entire puzzles. I'm somewhat proud if I complete somewhere between 80% and 100%, but don't fret too much if I'm able to complete only 10 words. High and total completions don't occur often.

In working crossword puzzles, I don't do web lookups, I don't use a thesaurus, and only occasionally look in a dictionary. As another indication of my casual methodology, I use a pen. Oh, sure, I letter in answers that turn out incorrect, then do a somewhat messy job of striking out the wrong stuff. At least I've learned to be a bit conservative and initially skip over words I think I might be wrong about, returning later.

Crossword puzzles seem to have evolved from the ones I used to encounter way back. Or maybe it's because I'm not seeing the types I used to work on. No longer do I see the following kinds of clue helpers:
  • Two words
  • [foreign language]
  • Abbreviation
  • Plural
Puzzles these days seem to assume some exposure or schooling in very elementary Spanish and French, life experiences spanning back to the 70s, and/or convenient researching via dictionary, thesaurus, Internet, .... I've seen a couple of common clues and/or answers appear in several puzzles. Puzzle makers seem to love ENOLA (as in Enola Gay) and any part of COUER D'ALENE. (Even though I studied some French in the past, I always have a tough time spelling the not-heart part of the term without looking it up.)

Anyway, one puzzle had some clues that I considered irritatingly inadequate; it was an LA Times one (August 30, 2009), themed Organ Transplant. (OK! I'm sure I couldn't create nice-looking, diagonal-axis symmetrical puzzles like those elegant ones I pen in. I'm aware that there are software puzzle creators that make the tasks easier for human creators. I just don't take puzzle solving seriously enough to want to dive in to create any.)

The following list shows the position, the answer, the official clue, and my opinion on a better clue. (Yes, I finally reached the close-in-look part of this blog item!)
  • 41A, answer: TATTOO
    Clue: Body language
    Better clue, IMO: Inked body expression

  • 62A, answer: PLUS
    Clue: Furthermore
    Better clue, IMO: +

  • 87A, answer: ENDORSE
    Clue: Back
    Better clue, IMO: Recommend

  • 31D, answer: TOO
    Clue: Overly
    Better clue, IMO: Also

  • 37D, answer: ATON
    Clue: Hardly
    Better clue, IMO: 2000 pounds

  • 49D, answer: ANTS
    Clue: Farm workers
    Better clue, IMO: Picnic "guests"

  • 56D, answer: SIDEB
    Clue: Cassette half
    Better clue, IMO: Single's second-choice song

  • 91D, answer: DARTS
    Clue: Dashes
    Better clue, IMO: Pub target game

  • 96D, answer: GLASS
    Clue: Calm water metaphor
    Better clue, IMO: Window material

  • 102D, answer: JIM
    Clue: Dandy dude?
    Better clue, IMO: Diamond or Slim
In case any reader now feels like working on an LA Times crossword puzzle, visit http://games.latimes.com/index_crossword.html?uc_feature_code=tmcal.

Homophones—Hear There Everywhere

[This article originally posted to http://thewritejob.blogspot.com/2009/09/homophoneshear-there-everywhere.html on September 16, 2009]
Homophones are dissimilar words that sound the same. Their incorrect usages are especially pervasive on the web—in comments sections in articles, blogs, and forums—where people share their opinions. Professionally written articles tend to have fewer instances of incorrect homophones.

Note: I cribbed various definitions from http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Listing misused homophones below, somewhat sorted regarding the ones I seem to encounter most frequently—YMMV:
  • its (singular possessive adjective), it's (contraction for "it is")
  • to (toward), two (2nd number), too (also)
  • your (possessive adjective), you're (contraction for "you are")
  • there (location away), their (plural possessive adjective), they're (contraction for "they are")
  • whose (possessive adjective), who's (contraction for "who is")
  • here (location near), hear (to aurally sense)
  • site (location), sight (view), cite (to quote or attribute)
  • roll (bread shape), role (person's function)
  • wait (to spend time), weight (gravitational pull)
  • strait (example better here—strait jacket, dire straits), straight (example better here—straight arrow)
  • rite (ceremony), right (correct, make correct, political leaning)
  • hair ("crowning glory"), hare (long-eared rodent)
  • hour (division of time), our (plural possessive adjective)
  • air (Definition needed?), heir (recipient of property, usually blood-related), err (make mistake)
  • birth (a beginning or to cause a beginning), berth (a space allotment)
  • wear (clothing or to put something on self or to erode), ware (item)
Listing near-homophones below (homonyms, if you agree with the assertion at http://www.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules/affect-effect-grammar.html). They lost me with the second sentence. "Homonyms are words that similar, but have very different meanings. Other examples of homonyms are two/to/too, accept/except, and there/their/they're."
With increasing popularity of text messaging, people are not only uploading thoughts wherever or whenever, using multiple choices of tools, they're adding more homophones in the form of newer abbreviations. A couple of examples are "U" for "you", and "UR" for "you're" or "your".

Some Wordplays Placed in the Wicked Play (and Other Wicked References)

[This article originally posted to http://thewritejob.blogspot.com/2009/09/some-wordplays-placed-in-wicked-play.html on September 6, 2009]
Wicked was written by Gregory Maguire in 1995 as a prequel-type story to L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. In Maguire’s story, three of the main characters bear little resemblance to how they appear in Wizard.
  • Galinda (Glinda)—the Good Witch—is vain, self-centered, and rather ditzy.
  • Elphaba—the eventual Wicked Witch of the West—is misunderstood and can’t seem to catch a PR break.
  • Elphaba’s sister Nessarose—the eventual Wicked Witch of the East—is "tragically beautiful" at the start.
In 2003, Wicked became a Broadway musical and won several Tony awards in 2004. The book and musical greatly differ from each other. The book has lots of grimness and darkness; lots of characters die. The musical has lots of comedy, camaraderie, and joy. (Various references for Wicked are at the bottom of this blog item.)

The music is stunning—wordplay is evident in several prominent songs written by Stephen Schwartz. I have selected songs that indicate the cleverness of ambiguity.

For Good
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.
The beauty of these words "for good" is the possible double meaning—permanent change, or improvement.

Defying Gravity (near beginning and end)
I hope you’re happy.
Elphaba and Glinda sing "I hope you’re happy" to each other—at first, very sarcastically. By the end of the song, they sing very tenderly and sincerely to each other.

I’m Not That Girl (Elphaba singing this fairly early in the play, then later, Glinda singing the reprise)
She who's winsome, she wins him.
The use of "win" in two places so close together makes for light-touch wordplay. The song itself reveals a yearning the two girls each have for Fiyero at different times, when he apparently has chosen the other girl. (The lyrics are graceful for expressing unrequited and/or lost love.)

As Long As You’re Mine (Elphaba and Fiyero)
I'll make ev'ry last moment last.
This line makes nice use of "last"—a noun meaning the final moment, and a verb meaning to extend time.
Somehow I've fallen,
Under your spell,
And somehow I'm feeling,
It's "up" that I fell.
The excerpt includes words pertaining to physical direction in a discombobulating way—fallen, under, up, fell.

The Wizard and I (Elphaba)
I'll be so happy, I could melt!
The expression is amusing because of it sounding like normally hopeful anticipation, but coming from the future Wicked Witch of the West, it sounds like an unintended death wish.

Wicked wikipedia URLs:
musical—http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_(musical)
book—http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked:_The_Life_and_Times_of_the_Wicked_Witch_of_the_West
Lyrics—http://www.stlyrics.com/w/wicked.htm

Incidental to discussing the three girls above, I’ve sprinkled a few related thoughts.

I listed some of the characters and arrows to indicate general attractions to each other (my observations):
Nessarose -> Boq (future Tin Woodman) -> Galinda/Glinda -> Fiyero (future Scarecrow) <-> Elphaba

My short descriptors for some other characters:
  • Wizard—blowhard
  • Mme. Morrible—carpy dame
  • Dr. Dillamond—eventually baaaa...
  • Cowardly lion—when grown, tail end cameo
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