Reducing A World Of Wonder To A Microwavable Moment

November 15, 2009

Wizard Of OzIt’s a world of convenience and if I had any doubts, the fact that I am watching The Wizard Of Oz makes it quite clear.

Actually, I’m not watching – at least not with same the rapt attention I once did. Why should I? It’s on tomorrow night, too.

And the night after that as well.

Yes, TBS, as they have done for a number of years now is broadcasting the movie three nights in a row.

I perk up and stop, certain scenes finding favor with me for minutes at a time, but I’m also doing several other things. I’ve literally told myself to stop and enjoy this classic, but there’s no sense of urgency since I am well aware that I have, as the announcer coming in and out of commercial breaks reminds me, “two more chances to watch.”

Even if The Wizard Of Oz wasn’t available at will, if not on television, then on DVD or some other format, it is unrealistic to expect the experience to have the impact it did for me as a child.

You only discover fire once.

(and how did the career of the human who discovered fire fare? Was there a follow-up? Did this being possibly invent popcorn and, then, have to endure the carping of critics who whined, “yeah, you’ll be amazed by popcorn but it lacks the urgency of fire” as though it was some mediocre second album?)

Mutterings aside, I recall seeing The Wizard Of Oz for the first time at the age of four-, maybe five-years old, sometime in the early ’70s. I remember watching it with the lights off in our living room, sprawled on the floor with a pillow and blanket.

It was certainly not in high-def on a screen the size of a wall, but it didn’t need to be. The visuals and scope of the film couldn’t be contained or diminished. It seemed to fill the room.

I quickly learned that, like Charlie Brown specials, The Wizard Of Oz would magically reappear annually, but would not be shown at any other time like some common movie that might pop up here and there on a Saturday afternoon or on The Late Show.

You got one shot.

(for some reason, I also recall it used to be shown in the spring, though it now airs near Thanksgiving and multiple times)

Even into my college years, there was something special about the annual airing of The Wizard Of Oz and I often made a point to watch.

It is an iconic flick, one of the most iconic in the history of cinema, and I still try to catch it. And, if I don’t, I’ve still got at least two more chances this holiday season.

They keep reminding me.

Belly – Now They’ll Sleep
from King

Led by ex-Throwing Muse/Breeder Tanya Donnelly, Belly became indie rock darlings in ’93 with the gloriously catchy Feed The Tree from their debut album Star.

Now They’ll Sleep, a title inspired by a comment from the Wicked Witch, was from the band’s second (and final album) King.

Big Country – We’re Not In Kansas
from No Place Like Home

Big Country was nearly a decade past their brief fling with success in the US with their 1983 hit In A Big Country when they issued the album No Place Like Home in 1991. If I recall, its release in the States was delayed for some time and, when it did arrive, few cared.

It’s too bad as We’re Not In Kansas, while hardly as memorable as their lone US hit, is a driving rock track that deserved a better fate.

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

As I write this, I realize how often I’ve been so mesmerized by the melodies of many of classic Elton John songs, I pay little attention to the lyrics aside from the choruses. The lyrical content of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road isn’t quite as muddled as some of John’s songs, but, whatever questions I might ponder evaporate when he reaches the soaring chorus.

America – Tin Man
from Holiday

America very much reminds me of childhood as songs like A Horse With No Name, I Need You, and Sister Golden Hair seemed to be constantly on the radio (or, at least on the rare occasions – usually in the car – when our family had the radio playing).

And, like those other songs, America’s ode to the character desiring a heart is breezy, endearing, and as comfortable as an old sweater.

Rhode Island

May 2, 2009

If there is one state about which I know practically nothing about, it is Rhode Island.

I can’t even really picture Rhode Island in my head. I think it might be kind of square-shaped.

(and would it have killed us to have made one of the fifty states a rhombus or a trapezoid?)

I’ve never really even thought about Rhode Island. There’s only one person I think I’ve ever even known from the state. In college, my friend Chris dated a girl from Rhode Island.

All I really remember about her is that she had a friend with hair like a fringed lampshade.

But as Rhode Island is the setting for The Family Guy and the show airs for thirty-six hours a day, I’ve learned a lot about the state…

…the actor James Woods is from Rhode Island.

…it is populated by animated ne’er-do-wells.

…the forward-thinking citizens have elected Adam West to office.

The latter two items are things I can enthusiastically embrace.

(James Woods seems a bit intense – although he’s apparently easily distracted by candy)

And, as for music, here are a few acts with Rhode Island connections….

Velvet Crush – Why Not Your Baby
from Teenage Symphonies To God

Originally from the Midwest, the aptly named Velvet Crush stated their musical intent with an album whose title is a nod to Beach Boy Brian Wilson as most of the songs focus on girls and summer.

Why Not Your Baby is actually a cover of a Gene Clark song and it has an appropriately melancholic twang to it.

Belly – Feed The Tree
from Star

Throwing Muses were one of the darlings of the burgeoning modern rock scene of the late ’80s. Personally, I didn’t pay much attention to them.

By the time MTV was making alternative rock mainstream in the early ’90s, Tonya Donnelly, who had been a member of Throwing Muses with half-sister Kristin Hersh, formed Belly. Like Throwing Muses, I mostly ignored Belly, but Feed The Tree was inescapable in 1993 and with good reason.

John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown – On The Dark Side
from Eddie And The Cruisers

The flick Eddie And The Cruisers, about a fictitious band, flopped when it was released to theaters in 1983 (I don’t recall it playing in our small, Indiana town). Then, it became a hit a year later via repeated showings on cable (which hadn’t made it to our world, yet).

However, On The Dark Side was on the radio given momentum by the movie’s cable revival and the fact that, with Born In The USA a commercial juggernaut, the song (and the band’s image) bore more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Talking Heads – I Zimbra
from Fear Of Music

Talking Heads, who had formed while the members were in school in Rhode Island, had come to the attention of more conservative music fans in 1983 with the album Speaking In Tongues and the smash Burning Down The House. And their follow-up, the surprisingly playful Little Creatures, was ridiculously popular with my high school classmates.

The Heads (pictured above) were not a new discovery for me, though, as my friend Chris was a huge fan of the band. It was through him that I gained an appreciation for them and, especially, the album Fear Of Music and its tribal, rhythmic textures.