"It’s not every day that you get to see a monster piñata killing teens on a paradise island."

October 26, 2008

Oh how true that statement is and due to a fortuitous bout of insomnia that had me channel surfing in the early-morning hours, I can now rebuff anyone that uses that line as a selling point. Of course, the fellow who reviewed the film for Slasherpool might be the only human in the history of humans to state the titular quote.

If you’re a piñata aficionado or simply have an interest in really bad movies, well Piñata: Survival Island might just be for you. I cannot recommend it as a “so bad it’s good” feature as I only caught the last ten minutes and that brief glimpse led me to believe that it’s so bad, it’s just bad. It’s the kind of movie where you mumble to yourself, “Someone actually believed this needed to be written down?”

It was entrapment that I watched what I did. As I said, I was channel-surfing when I was confronted with…well…I really don’t know how to describe it. Remember the little tiki idol that caused so much mayhem when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii? Well, imagine that tiki idol roughly eight-feet tall, breathing fire, and rampaging through a jungle wielding a battle axe. Understandably, my hand froze on the remote as I watched, boggle-eyed.

Apparently, the angry tiki thing burst forth from a piñata. Man, I already have a feeling that someone out there, either suffering from insomnia or bad taste in viewing choices, caught this flick and will be touting it as a solution to the illegal immigration debate.

Piñata: Survival Island is not without star power, though. One of the survivors of the piñata run amok is Jaime Pressly from My Name Is Earl. In fact, she dispatches with the evil spirit by quickly assembling a Molotov cocktail and handcuffing it to the creature’s ceremonial headdress (or maybe it was just its misshapen cranium). It also stars Aeryk Egan who seemingly put more thought into making his stage name a bastardization of Eric than in choosing his roles (or maybe he had parents with too much time on their hands).

The fact that the film was showing on AMC, which allegedly stands for American Movie Classics, is another kettle of fish altogether. However, I suppose that I should feel enriched and enlightened for the experience. It’s not often that I will have the opportunity to write about piñatas and, for that, I am grateful.

And, if any of you are now filled with a sense of urgency to get to your local movie rental outlet, be sure to check under Demon Island if they don’t have Piñata: Survival Island. Apparently a cinematic endeavor of such magnitude could not be constrained to merely having one title.

Sadly, my music collection is sorely lacking in piñata songs.

Sting – Island Of Souls
Perhaps like many young music fans who came of age during the mania surrounding The Police and their album Synchronicity, Sting was the paragon of cool (of course, there were a lot of folks who also consider(ed) him to be an insufferable, pretentious twat.

Island Of Souls came from Sting’s third solo album, The Soul Cages, and, even though I own several of his albums released since, it was really the last one which I awaited eagerly and listened to devotedly.

Blondie – Island Of Lost Souls
Ah, Island Of Lost Souls – nothing more than a wholly transparent attempt by Blondie to duplicate the success of The Tide Is High from their previous album, Autoamerican. There are a handful of good songs on The Hunter (see/hear the dreamy English Boys), the group’s wreck of a follow-up, but I wouldn’t consider this to be one of them.

However, it does have one of my favorite cringe-inducing lyrics from a band that definitely had a few such moments (that would be, “Hey buccaneer, can you help me put my trunk in gear?”) and, personally, even bad Blondie is something for which I have a weakness.

Heather Nova – Island
Nova made some of the most atmospheric and ethereal music of the mid- to late-’90s, but she seemed to, unfortunately, get lost in the glut of post-Lilith Fair artists who worked the same territory.

She was attractive, talented, and had a cool back story (raised on a houseboat in the Bahamas, as I recall). When she was picked up by Sony following a couple independent releases, I told a friend at the label that, if they couldn’t break her, they should give up.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Coney Island Whitefish
When I posted some Joan Jett awhile back, there was much love as the tracks proved to be some of the most popular of anything I have ever posted. And why not?

A little research revealed the title of this song to be slang for a used condom washed ashore on Coney Island. A listen reveals that – not surprisingly – Joan is one woman not be trifled with.

The Zap

October 22, 2008

It wasn’t the cleverest of names, but it was so generic that it now strikes me as endearing. It could have been any arcade in any small, Midwestern town in 1983, but it was all ours.

Our town wasn’t unlike the one in the movie Footloose (undoubtedly a major reason why that flick was such a mammoth success). Of course, we did have a bowling alley, a public pool, and probably a dozen bars – the ratio of places to drink to our population had to be equal to the average town in the UK. Any (all) of those establishments might have been verboten in Footlooseville.

For the couple of years during which The Zap existed, though, it was pretty much the hub of my friends and my world. It was the dingy command center for our plots, plans, and schemes in a minimally remodeled building that had housed a beauty salon and an auto repair garage

Not that we required much. The Zap had refrigerated air and concrete floors, providing cool in the humidity of summer (although it also was frigid in the winter). It had video games and pinball machines. And it had a jukebox.

The jukebox is one rite of passage that I’m grateful I am old enough to have gotten to experience. The jukebox was common to us all, but there was also specific etiquette of which you were familiar if you were a regular.

It also had to be one of the earliest financial dilemmas we faced as kids – burn through your limited funds playing Defender or Robotron or selecting a few more songs on the jukebox.

I think I usually opted for more music. So, here are a few the songs that emptied my pockets and kept me from notching stratospheric scores on Asteroids.

The Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang
I didn’t know much by The Pretenders aside from Brass In Pocket and…maybe that was it. But it was easy to fall in love with this song. It was wistful yet defiant. It sounded so hopeful, but it was a hard-earned hope.

Golden Earring – Twilight Zone
As classic rock hadn’t been invented in 1983, I’m not sure if I was familiar with Radar Love, but we all knew Twilight Zone, the song by Golden Earring that wasn’t Radar Love.

But my friends and I certainly loved Twilight Zone. The whole dark undercurrent of the lyric welded with that driving music made the song a universal favorite at The Zap, cutting across all social lines and musical divisions.

Chris DeBurgh – Don’t Pay The Ferryman
My friend Brad used to go spend a couple weeks with his father in Arizona every summer. Upon his return, he would awe us with cassettes of songs he had taped off the radio stations “out there”(it was quite an exotic trek to us). There was a lot of New Wave and songs which we wouldn’t hear on our stations ’til often months later.

Anyhow, I remember hearing Don’t Pay The Ferryman on one of those cassettes. Like Twilight Zone, it had a mysterious, dread-filled lyric. As for DeBurgh, I always thought he kind of resembled Dudley Moore which gives the song a slightly comical bent to me now.

Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
During my junior high/high school years, Billy Squier was a rock god to most of my hometown’s kids. Of course, he was toppled from that exalted position as minor deity by the infamously bad video for Rock Me Tonight. (I’d include a link, but if you’ve read this far, you know the video)

But when Emotions In Motion came out, he was still cool and Everybody Wants You was constantly playing from a radio or car stereo. In fact, DJ Mark Sebastian from Q102 in Cincinnati played the damn song repeatedly one night on his shift (like for an hour or something, I can’t exactly recall). There was considerable water-cooler talk at school the next day following that stunt.

An Open Letter To Joe The Plumber

October 20, 2008

Hi, Joe. In an early article which I read about you, you expressed the hope that someone would let you know if you were making a fool of yourself. Nudge, nudge – you are.

See Joe, I work with small businesses every day and, based on what I’ve read about you and how the actual tax plans about which you are so concerned would affect you, I question your abilities to actually run a business. I doubt that a business with you at the helm would be a going concern long enough for this matter to be anything more than a hypothetical in your world. So, relax.

Furthermore, Joe, as someone that has actually paid my taxes for the twenty-five years since I started working, the fact that you owe back taxes makes you less than credible. Or, perhaps your refusal to pay your taxes is some heroic protest against our country’s slide into socialism.

But those quibbles are business. May I get personal for a moment, Joe? Should you acquire this business and should you gross a quarter million dollars, I’ve read that you’d stand to pay roughly $900 in additional taxes (provided that, you know, you actually paid your taxes). At this theoretical level of income, would such an amount truly cause your quality of life to be shattered beyond repair?

See, Joe, I don’t gross a quarter million dollars a year – not even close – so I do understand the value of a dollar or two. I would guess that a few of the estimated 750,000 people who have lost jobs this year do as well.

Instead of looking at potentially paying a bit more in taxes as socialism, try thinking of it as generosity, compassion or, dare I suggest, karma. If you consider yourself to be a Christian, Joe – and I’d wager that you do – file it under being your brother’s keeper. See, Joe, it’s a good thing to help others. Someday, you yourself might just need a hand.

Oh, and as I now read you’re getting prickly about all of the media scrutiny, I have a suggestion there as well. Turn down the interviews, don’t appear with John McCain at a rally (as I read you might), and pass on the inevitable offers for book deals, commercial endorsements, reality shows, and whatnot.

To be folksy – and you do strike me as a folksy fellow, Joe – I offer you the words I often heard from my grandfather and father…

…if you don’t want to get stepped on by the elephants, don’t go where the elephants are.

So, Joe, while you sort it all out, maybe you’ll console yourself with these songs by more noteworthy Joes.

Joe Walsh – Life’s Been Good

Joe Jackson – I’m The Man

Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers – American Babylon

Joe Satriani – Ceremony