Archive for the ‘a ukulele’ Category

Nobody expects a ukulele!: Greta Garbo edition

July 1, 2011

Garbo strums.


Greta Garbo for “Torrent,” 1925.

Since my unexpected New Years’ acquisition of two of them, my uke playing is going swimmingly, not that you asked. I’d love to have the courage to be one of those people who records and accompanies herself covering songs with their ukulele on YouTube but I doubt I’ll ever follow through. Scrutiny of my physical self terrifies me. But I’ll tell the Internet all kinds of private shit about my emotions. Contradiiiictoryyy …

12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

December 21, 2010

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989).

The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters — Male Kalikimaka.

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you!

Randy Quaid said that he based a lot of Cousin Eddie’s mannerisms and delivery on a guy he knew growing up in Texas. Also, wearing the extremely obvious black dickie under his white sweater was Randy Quaid’s wife Evi’s idea.

Even more exciting fact about Randy Quaid: He went to high school with Brent Spiner! (That’s Data, if you are not a dork and have one of those “lives,” or whatever you people call them. And if you are still lost, Data is a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and may I add that it is weird that you are even reading this blog because you are way too cool for this school. I assume you are here for soft-core porn and nothing more.)

John Hughes, departed King of the Eighties, wrote but did not direct this modern holiday classic, in which the star-crossed Griswold clan takes a stab at Christmas. He based the screenplay on a story he wrote for National Lampoon magazine in December, 1980.

That story, “Christmas ’59,” was his follow-up to “Christmas ’58,” his story from the previous year, on which National Lampoon’s Vacation was based. “Christmas ’59” is referenced in the movie when Clark goes up to the attic. As he goes through old tapes and reels, he passes a box that says “Xmas ’59.”



What are you looking at?

Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn. The clean, cool chill of the holiday air. An asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer.


You set standards that no family activity can live up to.

Wha– When have I ever done that?

Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays, vacations, graduations…


The scene where the cat bites on the Christmas lights cord and gets electrocuted was nearly cut from the movie. Prior to the first test screening. the studio execs wanted the scene taken out, fearing that it might offend some viewers, but producer Matty Simmons begged them to leave the scene in, and they eventually gave in to his request. After the first test screening, the test audience had scored the cat electrocution scene as the No. 1 favorite scene throughout the entire movie.

(the imdb)

I’m not the least surprised: test audiences are notoriously bloodthirsty.

I’m not sure from where they pull these twisted test audience members, but it’s a super-prevalent problem. As an example, it was a test audience who suggested that scene where the witch is drinking horse blood from a hollowed out hoof be left in My Little Pony: The Movie.

All the houses on the street in the Griswolds’ neighborhood are on the Warner Bros. backlot. The house in which the a-hole yuppies live is the Murtaugh house from the Lethal Weapon film series. The housefront in the home movie when Clark is upstairs in the attic was first used in Bewitched and then in the 1980’s in The New Gidget.


I am not a fan of defining gals by the dudes they’ve notched on their belts but I do bring it up if it’s as noteworthy as this case. Beverly D’Angelo has had a very, um, varied love life that includes marriage to a duke who is a descendant of Lorenzo de’Medici, Al Pacino, director Neil Jordan, and Anton Furst, who committed suicide after their separation. She’s got twins with Pacino and will be seen next year in Nailed, a David O. Russell picture also starring Jessica Biel, Kirstie Alley, Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, and Catherine Keener. Juts a bunch of super-cool funny guys. No big deal.

This was all brand-new news to me. I’m pretty surprised. I guess I did not know shit about Beverly D’Angelo.

The film is aired every Christmas night in Australia on the Nine Network. In America, it has a more tortured television history involving corporate games and censure. And let us not speak of the Cousin Eddie Island Adventure sequel.


Bethany is played by Mae Questel. The former mimic and vaudeville sensation is probably most famous for providing the squeaky voices of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop. This was her second to last role: she retired from show biz and died of complications related to Alzheimer’s in 1998.


As the unsinkable Clark Griswold of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase survives a holiday season that would try Job’s patience. His dreams of “the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever” soon give way to the realities of bulbs that won’t light and a pine that’s too big for the living room.

(Kempley, Rita. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” December 1, 1989. The Washington Post.)



Never mind. Clark’s faith in family tradition is Rockwellian, his spirits up there with the mistletoe. When the yule log smolders and the turkey explodes, this avowed family man counts his blessings, such as they are.

(Ibid.)

Flashback Friday, New Years’ Resolution Reality Check #1 — Music Moment: Les Paul and Mary Ford, “Goofus”

December 10, 2010

This entry was originally posted on January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm. It contains the second of my New Years’ Resolutions for 2010. Over the next several Flashback Fridays, I will be taking them out, dusting them off, and seeing how well I followed through. I do not anticipate it always being pleasant, but the truth can’t be.

Les Paul & Mary Ford – Goofus

This recording of “Goofus” (King-Harold-Kahn, 1930), one of my favorite songs, is just instrumental. It’s performed by legendary husband-wife duo Les Paul and Mary Ford (so, so, so much more on them another day).

The Paul-Ford version topped out at #21 on the Billboard chart on its release in the early Fall of 1950. The ensemble Paul and Ford had gathered is plucky and fun, although I have heard recordings from the ’30’s with saws and washboards which sort of put ukes and slides in the shade, but you work with what you got, and they did a great job re-popularizing a well-loved classic.

It really gets me that there was a time in this country when there was a) a set of songs that everyone knew, and b) a time when you picked up an instrument and sat down together and played, sometimes just as a family, but often as part of a larger community group. What happened? Radio killed the vaudeville star, but, moreover, the vaudeville star took group singalongs and skit shows down with him. No more public singing.

People just don’t do that often enough anymore, I think. I remember reading, quite a few years back, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I consequently did not see the movie), and, in one of the super-tolerable parts, a character aged in her mid-70’s during the 1990’s was remarking on the emptiness of the sounds one hears walking the streets in the present day. She recalled being a child and teenager in the ’20’s and ’30’s, and how you could not so much as hang the laundry without hearing someone whistling or singing a street over or while walking past the yard.


“One Last Tickle on the Ivorys,” St. Ebba’s Lunatic Asylum, by Christopher O’Donovan on the flickr.

The idea of that touched me very deeply, because it resonated. I have always liked music, and always known a little about the history of radio and the record industry, being a big vinyl guy, and I’m not saying even at all that radio itself massacred town talent shows, I think increasing materialism and isolationism happened to dovetail with that new mass media, and long story short: it should change back. We need more of that old way of doing things, especially now, when so many people have lost hope and there are young people growing up for whom there are no stories about uncles who sang Irish tenor or great-grandmothers that could play the spoons.

It’s always fun to find out what hidden talents your friends and neighbors have (unless those talents are taxidermy and soundproofing basements), and it brings communities closer together. I think I remember hearing that a song is like a prayer times two, or some such thing, and I believe it. Everything is better with music.


“I Wanna Be a Majorette,” by Eleanor Hardwick.

I used to perform in singing groups and church choirs, and even participated in competitive choral groups in High School. The older I’ve gotten, the more I have grown very shy about my singing, but why? Half of what I hear on the radio has been triple-processed and slickly produced, and who cares if someone hears me fall a little flat? The spirit and song in my heart that made me so happy, that urge to open my throat that I couldn’t repress, that hasn’t changed, so why do I let fear and modern ideals of social behavior fence me in?

Holy cow, I think I just found my second resolution of 2010: Make a joyful noise. Join me, y’all!


Reality Check: I did not do as well as I wanted on this one. I started sporadically singing in my friends’ “band practice” Rock Band video game nights, but I did not join my church choir, which was what I really wanted to do. Partly intimidation because the director is an old friend, partly feeling too busy (excuse). I guess where I feel I really failed is I did not keep that song in my heart that I felt when I had written this originally. I need to try to get that feeling back.

Music Moment and Movie Millisecond: Don’t say I never gave you anything and please do have a laugh

August 12, 2010

Sin City (Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, 2005). Jessica Alba portrays Nancy Callahan. Rescued from kidnap and rape in her youth by Detective John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy is now an exotic dancer at a divey downtown night spot guarded by my crowd-pleasing favorite character, Marv (Mickey Rourke).


Nancy as drawn by Miller in the original comics.

Things have been kind of heavy for me lately. Et tu? Seems like everyone I know is kind of down this week; guess Mars is in retrograde or some kind of similar jello salad. So I encourage you to hit “play” on the song below and watch in amazement as Nancy Callahan “dances it out” in the exact same beat at that there ol’ Kadie’s Club Pecos in fabulous Basin City, a sunny place for shady characters.

FIRST PLAY THIS:
Les Paul and Mary Ford — Goofus (1950).
THEN WATCH THIS:

Actually, it works with all kinds of songs, but “Goofus” is the one that struck an absurd and juvenile chord of laughter in me. If you’ve been feeling a little out of sorts today, please do have a laugh and promise to try and make some of your own fun.

Batter uuup!: Joan Jett edition

July 16, 2010


via sapphoscloset, very cool queer style blog, check ’em out!

Vintage Joan Jett lookin’ all kinds of pimp and ready to hit that shit right out of the park.

Please remember that Joan still looks THIS GOOD:

That right there? Is what a motherfucking rock star looks like. Hell yes! I said goddamn, Joan Jett. Haters to the left.

So few words in this entry, so many king-size cusses.

Music Moment: Nobody Expects a Ukulele! Adorable Kate Micucci redux feat. William H. Macy

July 2, 2010

Nobody expects a ukulele! Kate Micucci and William H. Macy sing “It’s Time to Get Laid” in uke-strumming duet-y glory. I said goddamn, Kate “Gooch” Micucci — you are just too big a bowl of awesomesauce to even take in.


Brain asplosions.

The short, sexually encouraging video was intended to promote Bart Got A Room (Brian Hecker, 2008), in which both Kate and Mr. Macy were featured. The movie also stars Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the gorgeously spatterfaced and at-long-last-legal-to-ply-with-long-islands Alia “Maeby” Shawkat (ow!) from Arrested Development and Whip It. Previously, I featured Kate singing “Screw You” in a duet with Ted from Scrubs. The cute-as-a-button comic genius is one half of the singing comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates — and I’m glad to add that youtube is chockful of her videos — and she is such a brain-asplodingly adorable uke hero that I may have to give her her own category, soon!

Bonus picture of Alia Shawkat for, um, … Science.


I have just blinded you. With Science.

You’re welcome.

Tevee time and Music Moment: Coupl’a’ Unlikely G’s — That Bald Sweaty Lawyer and The Girl He’s Sweet on, “Screw You.”

June 21, 2010

Nobody expects a ukulele!


Brain-asplodin’ cuteness.

God bless you, Ted. God bless you, Scrubs.

My sister-in-law and I used to have a running telephone gag where because of its glorious syndicated ubiquity — you could watch blocked hours at a time of it during the afternoon if you switched channels at the right half-hour — we would talk as though Scrubs were a new show of which we’d scarcely just now heard. It would go about like this:

“Helloooo! What are you doing?”

“Helloooo! I’m watching this situation comedy set in a hospital.”

“Really? What is it called?”

“Hmm. Docs or Duds or something.”

“Is it Scrubs, maybe?”

“Yes! Scrubs.”

“I’ve heard of that! That seems interesting.”

“It is! It’s even funny. Two of the doctors I think like each other.”

“Do you think they will ever get together, and then break up, and then do it over and over and over?”

“I have no idea — it’s a total mystery!”

“Gosh! I think I would like that. When can I catch it?”

“I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem like it’s on very often.”


Miss you, Christer. Muah. ♥




The Scrubs screencaps in this post come from fyeahscrubs! on the tumblr. When all the “Fuck yeah” tumblrs started, I was skeptical, but I find them increasingly great and this particular one has such awesome caps that I can go on there when I’m down and come out practically crying from laughing so hard. “You seem unhappy. I like that.” Thanks!

Music Moment: The Song Remains the Same — Five Iron Frenzied ukulele “Earth Angel” edition

November 19, 2009

Five Iron Frenzied – Earth Angel (acoustic uke cover)

I said several days ago that “Twilight Time” is my favorite song of all time, but another one that rates right up there for me is “Earth Angel,” charted by lots of folks but mainly famously done by the Penguins. If you cannot quite place it, it’s the song covered by Marvin Berry and the Starlighters in the Back to the Future movies, the one to which Marty’s parents, George McFly and Lorraine Baines, must dance together at the Enchantment Under the Sea ball in 1955 in order to ensure that Marty and his siblings exist in 1985.


“If you guys ever have kids, and one of them, when he’s eight years old, accidentally sets fire to the living room rug…”

The song had also cropped up not two years earlier in Superman III. Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve, R.I.P) and Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole*) dance to it at their reunion, because otherwise she would have to dance with her loser boyfriend. I think this is the best Superman movie for entertainment value, but basically nobody agrees with me other than the writers of Office Space.


*Fun fact: Annette O’Toole now plays Mrs. Kent, Clark’s adoptive mother, on “Smallville.”

This very beautiful, ethereal cover is by an 18-year-old ukulele aficionado on youtube who goes by the name “FiveIronFrenzied,” not to be confused with the Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy.


Earth angel, earth angel
Will you be mine?
My darling dear
Love you all the time
I’m just a fool
A fool in love with you

Earth angel, earth angel
The one I adore
Love you forever and ever more
I’m just a fool
A fool in love with you


I fell for you and I knew
The vision of your loveliness
I hope and pray that someday
That I’ll be the vision of your happiness

Earth angel, earth angel
Please be mine
My darling dear
Love you all the time
I’m just a fool
A fool in love with you

I fell for you and I knew
The vision of your loveliness
I hope and pray that someday
That I’ll be the vision of your happiness

Earth angel, earth angel
Please be mine
My darling dear
Love you all the time
I’m just a fool
A fool in love with you

Music Moment: The Song Remains the Same, “God Only Knows” edition by wonderful Julia Nunes

November 10, 2009

Julia Nunes – God Only Knows (self-recorded ukulele cover)


I really, really love covers, and I’ve been sitting on that fantastic one up there, which I hope you’re listening to right now because it’s really cool and different, and I’d been wanting to stream it on here, so I decided to start featuring some of my favorite covers as Music Moments in themselves. This type will henceforth be known as The Song Remains the Same. The clever name is not my own, I took it from the title of a song, album, and movie by Led Zeppelin.

I’ve featured a few covers already, which I’m now going to go back and retcon by tagging them “The Song Remains the Same.” The term “retcon” is an abbreviation of “retroactive continuity.” It’s commonly used in comics when new conclusions or pieces of information are retroactively applied to established canonical events. An example would be the aftermath of DC’s Crises on Infinite Earths, when established characters such as Alexander Luthor, Jr., were “retconned” out of existence by the events. A retcon does not always undo previously established characters or events; retcons can also fill in missing details in a story’s background. The Wolverine line of the New X-Men comics are a good example — Logan was Weapon X, but Weapon I turned out to have been Captain America. I thought that kicked some fucking ass, myself.

By reading this far, you may have now accidentally learned two things. The Zeppelin thing and the comics bit. No need to thank me. I don’t just care about boobs and Batman. I am also a sensitive soul with a passion for education. God bless me.

Please enjoy this radical uke cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows!” Nunes has a really cool, clear voice, and I am pretty sure she accompanies and harmonizes with herself using simple recording tricks, which is fun. If you are young but a fan of Love Actually, you may know the song from that. If you’re not a child, you may know the song from all over the place your whole life.

Sorry, I just find it wild when people don’t know songs I consider super-famous. At Paolo and Miss D’s wedding, I asked the very young and competent deejay to play “Tainted Love” and first he had me SPELL IT, then he was like, “Don’t have it, I can look for it, though, who sings that?” “Soft Cell,” I replied, totally still reeling in shock that a young person whose entire profession is playing music had never heard of “Tainted Love,” and he was like, “Is that a new group?” It was insane. I didn’t feel old, I just felt shocked, like he might be a space creature who was hiding inside the real deejay’s skin and trying to pass as an American. (Happens all the time.)

Look for more Julia someday when I have lots and lots of time, because in case you don’t read the alt text by hovering your mouse over the pictures, I am going to surprise-marry her. I have super-stiff competition, though.

On Good Morning America (June 30, 2008) Molly Ringwald said that she took up the ukulele after seeing Julia Nunes on YouTube. “I’ve always wanted to play the ukulele, and she completely inspired me,” she said (the wiki).

Holy crap, I love Molly Ringwald. I can’t fight her. She was Frannie in The Stand! Man, this sucks! Julia, you creative minxy little twinkie, you are ripping my imaginary relationships apart. I’m off to strategize, I guess!