Dumbing Down The Cosmos

February 26, 2011

I happened across some television program on aliens the other night that was focused on theorists proffering the idea that human evolution has been influenced by extraterrestrial beings.

One fellow rattled off the Nazca Lines, the Pyramids of Giza and the Moai statues of Easter Island as evidence.

There was speculation that aliens might have altered the DNA of humans, resulting in some six billion or so lab rats.

The theory was also offered that some of their experientation with the various species on the planet explains the strange creatures depicted in ancient mythology – lions with wings and such.

And, these creatures might have, then, been taken by the aliens to populate other worlds.

I thought of our planet’s inhabitants as Sea Monkeys for extraterrestrials.

(it would be far less disappointing than brine shrimp)

Then, I considered Earth as a potential reality show for more advanced civilizations in the cosmos. Perhaps it competes for the attention of viewers with “reality” shows set in the other worlds the aliens have created.

Earth is probably quite popular in extraterrestrial trailer parks and a guilty pleasure for others.

(maybe it has a snappier title like So You Think You Can Evolve?)

Here are four television songs…

A-ha – The Sun Always Shines On T.V.
from Hunting High And Low

Here in the States, the Norwegian trio A-Ha has been relegated to one-hit wonder status which is unfortunate.

Sure, everyone knows Take On Me, but I’ve always been partial to that song’s follow-up, The Sun Always Shines On T.V. It hurtles along with a gloriously yearning melody and, as I recall, the video was almost as striking as the song for which they’re better known.

David Bowie – TVC 15
from The Singles Collection

TVC 15 is a jaunty little number that originally appeared on Bowie’s Station To Station set. Apparently the song was inspired by a drug-fueled hallucination by Iggy Pop that a television set had swallowed his girlfriend. Iggy wished to crawl into the television and join her.

(Burger King commercials have the same effect on me)

Pulp – TV Movie
from This Is Hardcore

I owned a trio of Pulp’s records from the mid-’90s when they reached their highest profile in their native UK. Here in the States, the group garnered little attention (which is too bad).

Jarvis Cocker always reminded me of a latter day Ray Davies. This is Hardcore was a darker, more somber affair than the band’s previous Different Class. TV Movie, lamenting a failed relationship, is somber, but it is also lovely and moving.

The Tubes – T.V. Is King
from Remote Control

My high school buddy Bosco turned me on to both The Tubes and Todd Rundgren. Though Remote Control was released several years earlier, I have no doubt it was a memorable moment for him as the album found Rundgren producing the band.

Rundgren also received writing credits on a pair of songs from Remote Control, a concept album about television, including T.V. Is King. The amusing track has Rundgren’s fingerprints all over it.

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Aliens, Monks And The Kumbaya Moment

October 6, 2010

I stumbled down a rabbit hole in cyberspace the other day. One moment I was reading the comments on an article posted on Newsweek‘s site; the next I was searching for information on one of the commentator’s claims.

The comment referenced speculation about what would happen in 2012.

According to a piece in the India Daily from six years ago, Tibetan monks expect aliens to arrive in 2012 , clink the heads of the humans together like Moe did the other Stooges and get us to quit engaging in jackassery.

There are also folks that believe aliens have bases in the Himilayas.

It’s entirely possible I suppose.

It seems that every religion on the planet has followers that are militantly enthusiastic, but, if there are militant Buddhists, I haven’t heard about them.

Traveling in Thailand, I often saw Buddhist monks, clad in their bright orange robes. It was not uncommon to come across one of them sitting in prayer or meditation in the middle of the sidewalk as the flow of pedestrians gave a respectful berth.

After travelling however many thousands of light years to some strange world, who wouldn’t opt to attempt communication with the beings that seem to be calm, cool, and collected?

(as opposed to the ones behaving like poop-flinging monkeys)

It makes total sense that Buddhist monks would be sought out by the aliens.

As someone that is still transfixed when I happen upon Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, I hope that this forthcoming alien experience resembles the one in that movie.

The visitors arrive with a lightshow that dazzles the humans with the ultimate – and peaceful – display of shock and awe.

Then, Buddhist monks make the introductions.

The bobble-headed, child-like aliens are a global sensation.

Children love them.

Adults are charmed by them.

Madonna makes an embarassing attempt to adopt one.

The world’s leaders are called to the mothership for a trip to the galactic principal’s office and everyone on planet Earth gets a whole lot more humble.

(given the situation in Tibet, I’d think the Chinese would feel rather awkward)

And everyone lives happily ever after.

Yeah. It all makes sense.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind arrived in theaters in mid-November, 1977. Thirty-three years ago, I was nine-years old and eagerly anticipating the film’s release. I had minimal interest in music, but here is a quartet of songs that were on Billboard‘s charts during this week in 1977…

Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line
from Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra

ELO is one of those bands that is always welcome to shuffle up on the iPod. I can’t say that I’m familiar with much beyond their hits (though there were plenty of those for the band in the ’70s).

I know that the group gets slagged some for being some pale imitation of The Beatles, but, if you’re going to imitate an act, you could do far worse, yes? And Telephone Line is simply gorgeous and angelic.

The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
from Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition

I’ve loved The Carpenters since hearing them on the radio during their ridiculous string of hits in the early ’70s. The radio wasn’t on too often in our household, but it was usually on in the car and, if it was on, there was rarely a long wait to hear something from the duo.

Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft is a cover of a song by Klaatu (who, like ELO, had their own connection to The Beatles).

This song has really grown on me over the years. I don’t really recall hearing it back in the day, but it has a wonderfully spacey vibe, an odd, yet endearingly jaunty midsection and, as always, Karen’s voice makes it worth the price of admission.

(and, it happens to suit the subject at hand well)

Styx – Come Sail Away
from The Grand Illusion

I’ve noted that Styx – on their infamous Kilroy Was Here tour – was my first concert.

But years before, my buddy Beej’s older brother had The Grand Illusion on eight-track and I was fascinated by the cover. We’d hang out in Beej’s basement and blast the album until parental supervision intervened.

(and, like The Carpenters’ song, this one also fits this post’s themes)

Foreigner – Cold As Ice
from Foreigner

Foreigner’s debut album also has a link to an older brother. Lynn, lived in our neighborhood with Evan, who was roughly the same age as me and my other friends. Sometimes we’d shoot hoops at their house.

As I think back to then, Lynn kind of resembled a young Axl Rose and, pondering him from thirty-years of experience, was undoubtedly a stoner. He drove a black Trans-Am and he’d tear through the neighborhood, Foreigner blaring from the eight-track player in the car.

(would a stoner have listened to Foreigner in 1977?)

Though the group received little love from critics, Foreigner put out some great songs, peaking with the mega-selling Foreigner 4 in ’81. The dramatic Cold As Ice has all of the things – a nifty balance between guitar and keyboards, soaring vocals, and immediately memorable choruses – that made Foreigner a high school staple.


When An Ex Is Revealed To Be An Interstellar Overlord…

October 29, 2009

kirk_martaThere’ve been a number of commercials for a series called V. It’s a remake – I guess the kids call it a reimagining these days – of a series from the ‘80s.

I never watched the original, but a friend at the time was a devotee, so I knew that the premise of V involved visitors from space arriving on Earth and the hijinks which ensued.

And while the friend came to mind when I saw the commercial for the new version the other night, I was more struck by the apparent alien leader bearing a resemblance to an ex-girlfriend.

It made me think how odd it would be if, when the aliens take a wrong turn and finally land here, their form is not like bulbous-headed creatures from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, but, instead, indistinguishable from humans.

And, consider the drag it would be if the alien ambassador looked like an ex, especially if the end of that relationship had been contentious. Humankind’s first encounter with alien life would receive continuous televised coverage. It would be a carpet bombing from all media.

Friends who you hadn’t spoken to in years would contact you – “Have you seen that alien chick that looks like [name of ex]?”

“No, no I’ve been in a coma and missed the whole alien thing, but it’s nice to be reminded of unpleasant times.”

Of course, then I thought it would be even more disconcerting if the extraterrestrial leader not only resembled but was, in fact, that ex.

It would be a rather jarring reveal and undeniably some kind of feather in one’s cap.

To be someone that had slept with some alien uber being –

You’d get a book deal.

You’d end up on Oprah.

You’d likely need a lot of therapy.

You’d have to consult the one man who could relate to the situation – William Shatner. I didn’t watch much Star Trek growing up, but I do know that in one episode he hooked up with some green chick.

I mean, you’ve bedded an alien, why not up the absurdity quotient and seek the wisdom of Capt. Kirk.

According to online sources, V aired the first week of May, 1983.
Here are some songs from that time…

Tony Carey – I Won’t Be Home Tonight
from I Won’t Be Home Tonight

Tony Carey might not have been a household name with most music fans, but, in our corner of the Midwest, he got plenty of attention from the radio stations with songs like A Fine, Fine Day, The First Day Of Summer, and – as Planet P Project – Why Me and What I See.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about I Won’t Be Home Tonight. It’s just a straight-ahead rock song, but it sounded good on the radio. Also, the cover for the album – Carey, standing outside a UFO with a backpack – fits the subject matter of this post well.

Billy Joel – Goodnight Saigon
from The Nylon Curtain

I’ve noted before that I’ve never considered myself to be a Billy Joel fan until I realize that I own a fair chunk of his catalog and I usually don’t skip his songs when they pop up randomly on the iPod.

Goodnight Saigon is one of his more serious efforts, a rather dire take on the Vietnam War, and I song that I’d rank as one of his most compelling.

Robert Ellis Orrall And Carlene Carter – I Couldn’t Say No
from Special Pain

I don’t remember hearing the breezy I Couldn’t Say No aside from a few times on American Top 40. It’s a pleasant little number, unassuming but endearing, and it always causes Paloma to perk up and ask “Who’s this again?” when it comes up on shuffle.

Wall Of Voodoo – Mexican Radio
from Call Of The West

It’s too bad that Wall Of Voodoo is only known to most listeners for Mexican Radio. The quirky song is an undeniable ’80s classic, but their first couple records are worth seeking out (and, to my delight, I happened across them on one of our last hauls of vinyl).

Also worth the search is the solo stuff from lead singer Stan Ridgway, who got a recent nod over at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart when his song Camouflage popped up on a recent Halloween post.