Friday, December 25, 2009

Year-end Fun-AT-tix and More Same Song Titles

Fun-AT-tix is my wordplay on phonetics, but I'm also using the base syllable "phon-" to talk about homophones. (I wrote about homophones in a previous article.). I wanted to use "fun@tix", but I have a feeling the blogspot would have an issue with the "@" sign in the article title.

The first part of this article is about homophones in year-end holiday songs and/or their lyrics. (Well, the words completely or closely approach homophones anyway.) I think a lot of songs are probably so popular and ingrained in many of us that we don't consider the possibilities of different spellings of words. I've listed some songs below for rumination. (Christmas-song midi files are available at

Note: People who are poor spellers or ESLers might consider NOT looking to this article as a learning tool for correct spelling. :-)
  • Santa Claws Is Cumin to Town (Sandy Claws has been done to death.)
  • Gin Gull Bells
  • Sy Lent Knight
  • O Holey Knight (also spellable as O Wholly Knight)
  • O Little Town of Beth La Hem
  • A Way in a Manger
  • Hark the Harold Angels Sing (The actual title makes me think of Shelly Fabares' Johnny Angel from 1962.)
  • Rudolph the Red Knows Rain, Dear
  • Angels We Have Herd on High
  • Joy to the Whirled

One holiday song that has long mystified me for title strangeness has been Angels We Have Heard on High. The title appears ONCE in the entire song, yet "Gloria" is sung repeatedly, extendedly (glo, o-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o, ree-yuh) and often. In talking about "Gloria", I'm now revisiting songs that have the same titles but are different songs ("Same Song Titles, Different Songs"), for which I wrote an October article. In keeping with the holiday theme for now, the following songs fulfill both holiday and non-holiday categories:

Gloria by Van Morrison/Them (1963) is actually titled rationally; there is no doubt who or what the main thought is—"Glo-ree-a. G-L-O-R-I-A, …" and on and on and on. Laura Brannigan's version (1982) has "Gloria" throughout the song, also leaving no doubt as to the topic name. As for Angels We Have Heard on High, "Gloria" gets a lot more air time than the actual song title's words. I say rename the song to Gloria and really confuse people!

Joy to the World
Joy to the World by Three Dog Night (1971) dominated the rock and roll airwaves and took over JTTW consciousness for awhile. In one Christmas special I saw many years ago, a group of elderly people were introduced to sing Joy to the World. Instead of the religious version, they launched into "JER-I-MY-AH WAS A BULL-FROG, WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE, …", etc. Wish I could remember what the show was or could easily find it on youtube. Hilarious and entertaining!

Auld Lang Syne/Same Old Lang Syne
Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg (1980) is a bittersweet song that actually contains a pastiche of Auld Lang Syne as delivered by most bands on New Year's Day (popularized by Guy Lombardo).

Now, on to the rest of Same Song Titles, Different Songs, Part 2—non-holiday songs.

Candy Man/Candyman
For people who hear the song and pay less attention to whether it is one word or two, aurally, it's three sound memes—can-dee-man. The notable versions are from Roy Orbison (1961), Sammy Davis, Jr. (1972, song used in original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Christina Aguilera (2007), and Aqua (1997, song AKA Lollipop, not to be confused with Chordettes' Lollipop from 1958 or Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop from 1964).

Both the Association's version (1966) and Kool and the Gang's version (1985) are slow, with love and devotion lyrics. The Association version indicates a silent sufferer, however, contrasted to KATG's version of public pronouncements.

Neil Sedaka (1965) and Bobby Hebb (1966) both sing of rain and pain, then of love. Two very different styles for similar themes, Neil's is very melodic and Bobby's has jazzy arrangements.

Color My World
Two songs with the same song title could hardly be more different from each other. Petula Clark's peppy, horns-laden version from 1967 contrasts with Chicago's slow, flutey version from 1970.

Peggy Lee (1958) might have the best-known version, also popularized by the McCoys (1965) and Rita Coolidge (1973). Recently, Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert separately recorded and released Lady Gaga's version.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Gadgets to Inspire or Not

Over the years during the holiday season, I have smiled bemusedly at gadgets hawked on TV as prospective gifts. Thoughts that popped up in my mind have usually been one or more of the following:

  • Really? A saucepan would work, and most people already have one.
  • Gee, another appliance to take up shelf, cupboard, or drawer space.
  • Does that gadget really work?
  • [price, usually ending in .99] sure seems like a lot for what that thing is supposed to do.

Gadgets in the past that trigger one or more of my above thoughts include the hot dog cooker, hamburger cooker, butter melter, toaster-sized deep fryer, and rotisserie. I admit I succumbed to having bought a deep fryer and a rotisserie (different times). The deep fryer is long gone, it never seeming to have delivered goods as expected. An additional concern was what to do with the excess oil. I donated it so long ago, I don't remember much about the oil or device anymore. As for the rotisserie, it had great promise, especially for roasting turkeys under 10 pounds. The key is "10 pounds". Almost NEVER have I found such a peewee turkey in a store.

My most recent turkey experience with the rotisserie was maybe two years ago, when I trimmed some turkey body parts to make it weigh under 10 pounds. The cooking process was underwhelming. The turkey was eventually too big around to gracefully fit in the rotisserie cavity, circumference-wise. After some time of the turkey rotating and roasting, the meat contracted lengthwise but its girth expanded, which exposed the imbalance of my insertion of the spit into the turkey. (Spit—funny name for the turkey immobilizer, as spit also means to eject [something] from the mouth—also, the action's output.) The meat began bumping and thumping the window door until the cooking time finished (whirr, thud, thump, whirr, thud thump, ...).

My roast method now includes placing the turkey on a turkey lifter that's inside a 16-inch diameter cake pan, parking a meat thermometer in it, than roasting according to recommended time and temperature for its weight. (I admit, I also own a pair of poultry lifters , which I have used occasionally but forgot to last month.)

Two electric versions of products I saw advertisements for recently were an electric cookie gun and electric wine bottle opener. They are real products, but they make me think of the gag gift Spencer's used to sell—the electric fork. Anyway, I can't see myself foregoing elbow grease to get electric versions of a cookie gun or wine bottle opener.

Anyway, as I was in my local drugstore waiting for my photo order for outgoing greeting cards, I used the half-hour wait time to browse a merchandise area for gadgets. I felt I hit some sort of jackpot. Not only were these items amusing to me, but they neatly fit into the 99¢-effect pricing, which I blogged about in November.

I am omitting urls for the products I have listed below, as readers, if they want to acquire additional details, should research to satisfy their own satisfactions, including finding product reviews and price comparisons. For many of the products, the premises and/or prices leave me speechless and commentless.

Point 'n Paint
(wholesale distributor, IDEA Village; $19.99)
The package states "No tape" and "Paint entire room in less than an hour". (Please, no heckling about the text case.)

Save a Blade Automatic Razor Sharpener
(distributor, Exceptional Products Inc.; $19.99)
The package says "up to 200 shaves from a single blade".

Emjoi Tweeze (distributor, Tristar Products, Inc., $19.99)
This item comes with 2 AA batteries. The packaging states "Easily removes facial hair except eyebrows".

Touch N Brush Hands-Free Toothpaste Dispenser
(distributor, Allstar Products Group, Inc.; $19.99)
No electricity. No batteries.

Set of 12 Bottle Tops Turn Your Drink Can Into A Bottle
(Tele Brands, $9.99)
Packaging states "Snap top onto standard cans" and "Keeps Carbonation Longer".

One Touch Hands Free Can Opener
(distributor, Harvest Direct; $19.99)
You place the unit on top of a can, after ensuring that you have inserted 2 AA batteries ("sold separately"), then press the button. The opener walks around in a circle. Actually, I used to own an electrical can opener, which had long ago departed for the great scrap heap in the sky. Can't say I miss it. Besides making do with a hand-crank opener occasionally, I see that many cans these days have pull tabs, further reducing the need for using an opener.

Emson Egg Genie
(distributor, Emson; $19.99)
With this appliance, you can cook up to 7 eggs at one time. Eh, I always thought a saucepan was versatile enough.

The hamburger cooker of yore seems to have evolved into two newer types to reflect a more recent selling of hamburgers—the "slider". The gadgets I ran across were the Big City Slider Station and the Chicago Slider. (I think previous name attempts have been "mini-burger" and Burger King's "Burger Buddies". )

Chicago Slider
(distributor, East West Distributing; $19.99)
This gadget makes four square burgers and uses electricity. Scoop meat into the cavities, close the clamshell lid, cook.

Big City Slider Station
(distributor, Harvest Direct; $19.99)
This gadget makes five round burgers and uses a stove top. Scoop meat into the cavities, press down with its mating part, cook.

As I have all the equipment I think I need now, I'm short of cabinet space for new gadgets, I'm skeptical of them working, and I prefer to spend the money on other items, I hope Santa isn't inspired to bring me any of the items I recently spotted and listed. Maybe I'll ask for things not available in stores or online. Can't tell; otherwise, wishes might not come true. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Color N R Lives

Colors make their ways into many facets of our lives. They have strong associations with moods and emotions. They also appear frequently in names, particularly surnames. When they're associated with specific nouns, they often conjure up images.

Color first names don't seem common. Blanca, Blanche, and Bianca are all variations of foreign words for white (feminine). Notable names include actress Blanca Guerra, fictional character Blanche DuBois, and actress Bianca Jagger, Mick's ex-wife. Other color first names include Gray, as in Gray Davis, former California governor, and some Reds, as in Red Skelton, Red Adair (oil-well firefighter whose given first name is Paul), and Redd Foxx. (OK, so Redd has two d's.) Color surnames are a lot more common—Black, White, Gray, Green (and Greene), Brown, Blue, Gold, Golden come to mind.

Moods and emotions have numerous color associations—Blue Monday, blues music, having the blues, purple with rage, red-faced (rage, embarrassment), green (envy), yellow (cowardice), ashen (shock), white (fear, shock), gray day (somber day), black day (depressing day), Black Friday (3 definitions), black heart (negativity)

Green is versatile for associations besides mood or emotion (envy). It also has associations for the following characteristics: green around the gills (nauseated), green (inexperienced), greenhorn (noun form). Related to characteristics, we often differentiate figures and teams by colors of clothing or uniforms. Depending on whom you're favoring, color can become a positive or negative visual stimulus. An archetype for clothing color association is hat color—white vs. black. In the case of white and black hats, they even have iconic positive and negative connotations.

Moving on to color and "people", color-associated characters or personas evoke images, such as the following examples: Blue Meanies, Jolly Green Giant, Yella Fella, White Knight, Black Knight, Blue Santa, Brown Santa, Bluebeard, Blackbeard, blueblood, Blackhawk (helicopter).

At this point, I am segueing to "colorful" comic book characters. For those who want to reach back to their inner child, comicvine offers great revisits to favorite names in addition to the colorful ones I've listed as follows: Blackhawk, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Green Goblin, Silver Surfer.

In a similar vein about comic book characters, there are several who do not have "green" in their names, but appear green-themed—Loki (Thor's brother), Cobra, the Incredible Hulk, J'onn J'onzz (Martian Manhunter), Brainiac, and Brainiac 5.

A pastel color with associations—some of them characters—is pink: the singer Pink, Pink Lady drink, Pink Lady apple, Pinky (of Pinky and the Brain) , being in the pink, pinky (finger), pinking shears, pinko, and pink elephant .

BTW, a pink elephant is not related to a white elephant.

The economic association with colors contrasts with the electronic association:

  • Economic—black (positive numbers, good), red (negative numbers, bad)
  • Electronics (car batteries)—black (ground), red (positive voltage)

Related to electronics and color is the resistor color code—BBROYGBVGW (black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, white), for which acronymnfinder lists several mnemonics.

Silver, and especially gold, are metals (noun) and colors (adjective) that connote value, desirability, and other positive characteristics:

  • Silver screen, silver spoon (born with a silver spoon, IOW, a great orator)
  • Heart of gold, pot of gold, golden parachute, golden rule, golden years, streets paved with gold

Economics and politics are closely associated. Green is tied to both economics (greenbacks) and politics (environmentalism as a movement, reuse, recycling, etc.). Red, blue, and purple connote political leanings if shown on a map of the US, especially around election times.

Orange u glad to read about color associations here?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 99¢ Effect and Other Saver Thoughts

My article started out about pricing with regard to saving, particularly how 99¢ is such a popular price, a price ending, anyway. As I "scribbled" my streams of consciousness—besides 99¢—thoughts also included tenths of cents still anachronistically attached to gasoline per-gallon prices, coupons, before/after price changes indicated in print ads, sales taxes that no advertiser includes, and baked goods pricing.

As the seasonal buying rush is spiking around this time, this might be an appropriate time to discuss the psychology of pricing at 99¢. Dr. Robert Schindler, Professor of Marketing at Rutgers has been cited as an expert about the pricing psychology. A couple of papers specifically address 99 as price endings, which you can find links to at his faculty website. An educational resource that splits the pricing psychology is at Ohio State University Extension "Fact Sheet". The paper discusses use of 99¢ rather than $1, and 49¢ rather than 50¢. As for news, blog articles, and forums regarding 99¢, googling for 99 cents effect will yield lots of results for those mildly curious to those who want to turn in a research paper for a grade. (No, I'm not listing all my sources I ran across. Students need to do their own finding and sifting.)

One topic related to 99¢ that has intrigued me over the years has been the price of gasoline. I'm not attuned to non-US prices, so I'm just talking about stateside per-gallon listings. It's had that pesky decimal point to indicate tenths of a cent per gallon for as long as I can remember—let's say when gas was under 49.9¢ a gallon. Even when it's risen to over $4.00 a gallon, and has receded to currently over two and under three dollars (I know, mushy spread—so my article doesn't risk becoming obsolete overnight), the stations insist on keeping that nine-tenths of a cent price appendage. I say, kill the fraction of a cent pricing and be done with it! Don Boudreaux's blog article from 2006 discusses gasoline pricing in even closer detail than just the nine-tenths cent.

Coupons! With this economy, I sense a lot more people are using them. It can get exhausting sifting through piles, deciding which ones to save, which to use for which trip, how to sort them so they don't expire before getting a chance to use them. Sunny side up—good value coupons for items you use AND go on sale at the same time! Not so sunny—coupons for items you can't find, are the wrong packaging, expire about a week before you remember you had them, and have expiration dates a day before you regularly shop. (And you momentarily didn't extend your mental calendar out far enough.)

One thing that I've always viewed wryly is the newspaper or store trumpeting the aggregate value of coupons in the packet I just received. "Save $90!" "$199.40 coupon savings!" These statements never come with estimated purchase totals if you truly bought all the items required to save as much as they claim. Hmmm, who would buy EVERYTHING in the advertising packet anyway?

Markdowns and markups get such different treatments in print ads. If an item's price goes up, and it's a fresh ad, you never get to view the "before" price. If a hardcopy print ad (or menu) price goes up, there's usually a huuuuuge splotch that obliterates what the former price was. But you know it went up! In contrast, if a print ad shows a price decrease, the older price is visible, with a wimpy, usually horizontal or diagonal strikethrough, then the new price listed nearby. Mustn't miss the potential savings!

What about a menu price decrease? I'm guessing it happens infrequently. If price decreases occur, I think eateries print up new submenus. Maybe they create new dishes with more customer-friendlier prices. Lots of discount coupons have been appearing in the newspaper and mail as well. And more and longer happy hours.

Advertisers seem to almost always ignore state sales taxes as they entice us to spend. The oddest and imho, most dishonest ads I find are the ones that practically declare you can buy an item for the exact price they advertise. The ones that most come to mind are fast food, cars, and services (utilities). Only $49.99 a month! Only $9.99! Only 99¢! Okay, maybe "Only $1!" Right.

Another advertising strategy I find entertaining is the breaking down of price per unit. Something that's only so much per month can get quite expensive when extended out to a year. Say you get cable for $29.99 a month (special deal?). (There's that pesky 99¢-effect pricing again!) Well, in a year, that comes to $359.88 a year. If they advertise it as a per-day cost, it sounds a lot less costly—98.6¢ a day, less than a dollar a day! It's a bit interesting to me that not more companies are pushing daily-cost unit-pricing instead of monthly-cost. Maybe that's coming. Oh, let's also remember about taxes that go on top of the advertised prices.

Speaking of per-unit pricing transitions, remember when cakes and pies sold by the whole units? They still sell them that way, but it seems they've gotten so expensive that the new units are by the slice. In the case of cakes, cupcakes have also become unit pricings. Ahhh, cupcake prices have now approached the price of what whole cakes used to cost. (A way to return to less expensive cakes is to bake and frost your own.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Menu, From a Language Perspective

Being someone who thinks about the English language a lot, I often think of associative terminology. In my topic about Thanksgiving Day food, I'm putting a twist on it and injecting some flavor into the discussion, language-wise. Turkey is at the top of the food list. For vegetarians and vegans, skip reading "turkey", or discontinue reading this article. Other items are (from the top of my head) potatoes, sweet potatoes (sometimes interchangeably called yams), cranberry sauce, dressing (aka stuffing), gravy, and pumpkin pie. What about veggies? They'll roll onto the scene. I'll bypass food discussion pertaining to all-day football, as that could be an entire subject by itself.

Turkey: Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national symbol rather than the eagle. Google results indicate Franklin was displeased with the choice of the eagle, but not entirely clear that he lobbied for the turkey. More recently, in the previous century anyway, turkey has become an unflattering term. "Jive turkey!" was a derisive insult often uttered by George Jefferson of The Jeffersons TV show. Turkey has been a term used to label a bad movie; even better, Golden Turkey Awards go to both movies and directors. Cold turkey as a term does not refer to the temperature of the bird. One other Turkey is the country, which always makes me go "hmmm" when I think of it in conjunction with another country that makes me think of food—Greece.

Potatoes: We have Mr. Potato Head, couch potato, hot potato, .... Regarding edible potatoes, there seem to be lots of ways to prepare them, serve them, and buy them already prepared—baked, mashed, twice-cooked, scalloped, fried, liquified or nearly liquified into soups, chunked into salads, etc.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams: This subtopic required googling for "sweet potatoes vs yams". And wow, what a load of results! Here's one link that has descriptions for each— Sounds like yams are not as common as sweet potatoes in my neck of the woods. Oh, well, as Popeye might say, "I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam that I yam!" Maybe Popeye doesn't handle hot potatoes, sweet or not. Anyway, let's move to a sweeter topic—Swee'Pea, his adopted baby. That brings us to ...

Sweet Pea(s): Peas—those Crayola-green spheroids. Oh, if they're canned peas, they have that odd olive-green color about them. Sweet Pea does seem an odd name for a baby. Nevertheless, Tommy Roe made a hit song in the mid-60s named "Sweet Pea" about a girl. (Well, this looked like a good area as any to shoehorn "sweet peas" as a candidate vegetable for the Thanksgiving Day meal.)

Cranberry Sauce: The first time I saw cranberry sauce, it came out of can. It resembled jelly that you dish out with a knife or spoon. It retained the shape of the can and the utensil characteristic used to serve it up. It didn't pour like a sauce. Even odder, I didn't consider it tasty for such a pretty color. Still don't. Even its liquid relative—cranberry cocktail—isn't that appealing to me.

Dressing and Stuffing: I think these terms are strange names for the same food—flavored and moistened diced bread that contains other items—celery, onions, sage (predominant flavor!), .... Stuffing, as a term, makes sense, particularly when it's actually placed inside the turkey. Dressing, as a term, makes no sense to me. Related, the term "salad dressing" makes sense, as you're dressing a salad. Turkey dressing? I don't see turkey dressing dressing a turkey like I see salad dressing dressing a salad.

Gravy: Good gravy, gravy train, Gravy Train. Good gravy—this expression has nothing to do with good or gravy. It's a polite and not-that-common expression of surprise. The two kinds of gravy trains pertain to implicitness of advantage, the proper-noun expression (dog food) having been named from the lower-case gravy train. Eh, let's leave the Gravy Train at the station and move on to pumpkin pie. (I rethought my initial intent to hyperlink to Gravy Train. Readers are on their own for this googling.)

Pumpkin Pie: These two words can evoke lots of language imagery separately. Pumps have kin? What kin they look like? Lotion pumps? Miniature oil-drilling pumps? OK. There are some etymological roots for pumpkin, but they all sound like slacked pronunciation devolution to me, since the word pump has no kinship with the word pumpkin. As for pie, besides the edible ones, I also think of pi and pie charts.

What's after dessert? How about antacids? Anyway, I hope this article has provided some food for thought. May your Thanksgiving Day be a good one, with plenty to be thankful for.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Trip Over an Apostrophe

I created and continue to maintain the Austin Heart of Texas (AHOT) Designers Council website. (AHOT is a professional organization for printed circuit board designers.) The other day, I uncloaked a navigation link, then uploaded the javascript file, not expecting hiccups. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! My heart sank when I refreshed the page and saw the content section suddenly hug the left margin, the navigation menu having disappeared! I immediately thought, "¡Ay, Caramba!"

Doh! I had overlooked saving an archive file of what had previously worked. Memories bubbled to the surface of javascript files being extremely unforgiving for such infractions as extra hard returns and omitted back slashes at the ends of lines. I started to formulate a plan to fix my problem but also—for the benefit of possible site visitors—put forth an indicator that I was fixing the site.

I saved the navigation file to an experimental file, stripping everything except the critical start and end of file lines and one destination link. After saving that minimalist file, I uploaded it to the server, then refreshed the site. I was relieved navigation was again viewable. I decided to keep that file as an initial backup file and experiment with a newer working file. With the newer file, I added a notification line—"troubleshooting in progress"—which would stay viewable until I resolved everything.

My methodology shifted to replicating the information as applicable, referring to an older writing sample of the AHOT site. Processing a few lines each time, I would add the html line item codes and back slashes, upload the file, then refresh the page. I finally encountered the offending line that caused the navigation menu to disappear—"AHOT Members' Resumes". It occurred to me that maybe the apostrophe might be "abnormal" (my word). After googling for html code for an apostrophe and finding "’" (& # 8 2 1 7 ; without spaces), I proceeded to replace the symbol in both places. Another save, upload, and refresh. Woohoo! I sure was happy to see the navigation again!

My final acts on the file included rechecking my information and also commenting out my troubleshooting-in-progress text. My lesson learned (relearned) is to back up stuff—especially a javascript file—before changing it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Convenient Quiche

(Quiche pixstrip retrofitted into article May 18, 2010)

Yesterday, I baked a quiche that requires only 5 ingredients:
  • 1 ready-to-bake pie shell with pan
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 packet of dry vegetable soup mix (0.9 oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (jack, cheddar, swiss, or combination)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Stir the dry soup mix and milk in a 4-cup bowl and let the mixture soak for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Use a fork to mix the eggs in a separate bowl.
  4. Stir the eggs into the soup/milk mixture.
  5. Layer 3/4 of the cheese into the pie shell, followed by the eggs/soup/milk, then the rest of the cheese on top. (Note: For my next effort, I'm thinking of doubling the cheese.)
  6. Bake for at least an hour; about half-way time, place foil or aluminum pie shield at pie edge to prevent edge overbrowning. (The original recipe states 45 minutes, which I found to be too short.)
  7. Test for doneness using a toothpick. If pulled toothpick shows mixture wetness, bake longer.
  8. Let the quiche stand at least 10 minutes before cutting it.
This recipe is from "Spring Vegetable Quiche" in The New Woman's Day Cookbook: Simple and Healthy Recipes for Every Occasion, copyright 2006, ISBN 1-933231-01-7 (online version of recipe at
Similar dish, which uses Knorr soup mix and adds spinach—

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

"Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies"
Music from "Money for Nothing", visuals & lyrical creations from Beverly Hillbillies

"Hey Ricky"
Music from "Mickey", visuals & lyrical creations from I Love Lucy (with closing bars of the I Love Lucy theme song)

"Jurassic Park"
Music from "MacArther Park", visuals & lyrical creations from Jurassic Park (with guest appearance by Barney the dinosaur)

Music from "Lola", visuals & lyrical creations from Star Wars (videos created by Al fans) (added feature—Legos)
Weird Al himself performs the song at

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

"Bedrock Anthem"
Per, 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.

"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)

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") ("Living with a Hernia") ("Living in America")

"Like a Surgeon" (parody of Madonna's "Like a Surgeon") ("Like a Surgeon")—note reference to the Three Stooges starting about 0:10. ("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.)

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

[This article originally posted to
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

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")—

Kindle review from CNET (result from youtube search for view count, uploaded November 2007)—

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
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

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; 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

Cross Words Over Crosswords

[This article originally posted to 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

Homophones—Hear There Everywhere

[This article originally posted to 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

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 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 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:

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