Be Ripped To Shreds By A Cheetah…

October 6, 2012

…or be stomped into a pulpy mess by an ostrich.

I spent a good twenty minutes – or maybe it was two hours – pondering this existential quandry.

It began when I told a buddy that I wanted the power to picture everything and everyone as cartoons.

(even bad things are amusing in cartoon form)

This friend – a gangly fellow with glasses, prone to bobbing his head in a furtive fashion – immediately wanted to know what kind of cartoon character he would be.

“An ostrich. With glasses. And a rumpled fedora.”

He was less than enthusiastic.

“Is it the fedora?”

It wasn’t the hat that ruffled his feathers. He was unwilling to sign on with my delusion as an ostrich.

He demanded cheetah.

I suspect he was envisioning the über cool Chester Cheetah, spokescartoon for Cheetos.

He was far too quick to dismiss the ostrich.

Paloma instilled in me a healthy respect for the ostrich from her experiences with them.

And if Dr. Grant would have wanted us to take one lesson from Jurassic Park, it would have been how closely dinosaurs were related to birds.

The ostrich, according to the internet, can grow as large as nine-feet tall, run as fast as 45 miles an hour, and has a sharp nail on each toe.

As ungainly and comical as it might appear, the ostrich is, in fact, a descendant of the velociraptor.

The ostrich is one badass bird.

So, while an encounter with a cheetah would undoubtedly result in a dramatic death, I hypothesize that it would be over quickly.

With no teeth and a proclivity for kicking, death by ostrich would be a slow, agonizing ordeal that wouldn’t read as well in the obituary.

I choose the cheetah.

As I have no ostrichcentric songs, here are four random songs that caught my attention…

Sinéad O’Connor – You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart
from So Far…The Best of Sinéad O’Connor (1997)

I dug Sinéad O’Connor from the moment she appeared on the tiny black & white television in my dorm room. Sinéad had just released her debut, The Lion And The Cobra, and, and suddenly this striking girl with a shaved head was wailing like a banshee in the video for Mandinka.

A decade later, O’Connor’s career had crashed and burned (so far as the mainstream American public) and the singer had only put out two albums in the seven years since I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and Nothing Compares 2 U had made her a momentary superstar.

It’s a shame that more people didn’t get to hear the haunting, atmospheric You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart. The song had initially appeared on the soundtrack to In the Name Of The Father several years earlier.

Rush – New World Man
from Signals (1982)

Rush is suddenly everywhere and more beloved than ever.

(Paloma was quick to give me a heads up on the use of Fly By Night in some new car commercial)

I was still listening to mostly Top 40 radio when I entered high school, but Rush had a rabid following with the older kids, especially the few known stoners, and I knew Tom Sawyer from hearing it blaring from beat-up Camaros in the parking lot.

Then, Rush notched their only US Top 40 hit with New World Man and, as I ventured beyond the confines of pop radio, I became a devotee of the band with Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows, eventually digging into their older titles.

Francis Dunnery – Good Life
from Fearless (1994)

I first heard guitarist Francis Dunnery when the groovy American Life In The Summertime, also from his solo debut Fearless, got a smattering of airplay at the time. Good Life, the closing track on the album slipped by me.

But, my boss at the time and his wife, who would both go on to be VPs at separate major labels, were insistent that the song had the potential to be a massive hit, causing me to revisit it.

It’s an uncluttered song – acoustic guitar accented by strings – that allows the focus to be on the words which are an emotional gut punch.

Good Life never became a hit or even a single, but it certainly could have been and is a lost gem of a song. Dunnery has continued to put out solo albums while also serving as a sideman for acts including Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill, Santana and Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe.

Pretty & Twisted – Dear Marlon Brando
from Pretty & Twisted (1995)

I was disappointed when Concrete Blonde broke up (for the first time) in 1995, but lead singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano quickly released two albums that year. The first was with Holly Vincent under the banner of Vowel Movement, which didn’t resonate with me.

Napolitano’s other short-lived union was with ex-Wall Of Voodoo singer/guitarist Marc Moreland as Pretty & Twisted. Moreland had been the inspiration behind Concrete Blonde’s Joey and Pretty & Twisted was very much in the vein of the guitar-driven alternative rock of the Blondes.

Though it found little commercial success, Pretty & Twisted, the act’s lone release, was a pretty stellar record. The chugging Dear Marlon Brando is an ode to the legendary actor and a request to hang with the reclusive man on his private island.

Let’s Have John Madden Make Kim Jong Il An Offer He Can’t Refuse

May 27, 2009

So, Kim Jong Il is engaging in shenanigans again. I can’t help but think that it’s a damned shame that there’s the whole threat of an isolated, paranoid, totalitarian regime possessing nuclear toys overshadowing the amazing comedic potential of the little fellow.

The crazy hair, the diminutive stature, the dubious stylistic decisions – Dear Leader is a craze waiting to happen. With the proper marketing campaign, there wouldn’t be a car in this country without a facsimile of him hanging from the rear view mirror or a puppy without a Kim Jong Il chew toy.

Unfortunately, there is that whole nuclear weapon thing.

Kim actually is not so dissimilar from an icon in the American sports world – Al Davis.

Davis, of course, is the owner of the Oakland Raiders, once one of the premier franchises in the National Football League; now, the organization is an isolated, paranoid, totalitarian regime.

Like Kim, Al has crazy hair, though he opts for an oily, slicked-back coif as opposed to Kim’s towering wall of hair.

Sartorially speaking, Al has his infamous white jumpsuit and granny glasses on a chain. Kim, too, also favors jumpsuits, albeit of a more drab variety, and shades.

Both are also obsessed with the vertical game – in Kim’s case, its intercontinental rocketry; for Al, its rocket-armed quarterbacks and track-star wideouts.

Al even once had a quarterback nicknamed The Mad Bomber.

(I must consult with my intelligence expert – don’t laugh, I have one – and I hope to find that Kim has a rocket expert nicknamed Darryl Lamonica)

Now, as both North Korea and the Oakland Raiders are failed, rogue states, isn’t it possible that the solution to the angst caused by both men is connected to the uncanny similarities between this dynamic, diminutive duo?

Before he became a video game inventor, John Madden proved adroit at working with Al, managing to coach the Raiders to a Super Bowl win. Madden is now retired.

Bring him into the mix, have him broker some kind of treaty between the two figureheads. Maybe it’s as simple as having Kim own the Raiders and Al lead North Korea.

Both would still receive the attention they so desperately crave.

Al’s good at rattling the cages of the powers that be and thumbing his nose at popular opinion. Kim has managed to drive an entire country into despair and destitution.

(ask any of the demented, psych hospital escapees that make up Raider Nation if that doesn’t sound familiar)

Maybe the two are too alike. Maybe the result of a swap would be status quo.

But consider the hilarity as draft expert Mel Kiper, Jr. bursts a blood vessel in his eye as he goes all apoplectic if Kim uses the sixth pick in next year’s talent hunt to select some unknown receiver from Southern Idaho State named Ray Ray Gorgonzola simply because he ran a 4.22 40 at the Combine

Tell me that wouldn’t be preferable to where things stand now.

Kim and Al might not have the market cornered on inexplicable behavior, but, when it comes to crazy, they certainly have the makings of a good cartel. So, here are a few songs for them…

Francis Dunnery – Crazy Is A Pitstop
from Let’s Go Do What Happens

I posted a track from Dunnery’s solo debut, Fearless, awhile back. This trippy little number comes from his second album and both are worth seeking out – very talented fellow.

Crazy might, indeed, be a pit stop, but it seems like an awful lot of folks treat it as a parking lot.

Nazareth – Crazy (A Suitable Case For Treatment)
from Heavy Metal soundtrack

As a teenager, Heavy Metal was among the favorites for movie rentals with me and my friends. The movie’s soundtrack was far more diverse than its title implied, ranging from Devo and Stevie Nicks to Donald Fagen and Blue Oyster Cult.

As for Nazareth, my best friend in our neighborhood as a kid had an older brother who we all held in awe. He had sideburns, sunglasses and a Camaro. And usually blaring from that Camaro was Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog (on eight track, no less).

Paul Davis – I Go Crazy
from Singer of Songs: Teller of Tales

If Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald is the light rock Stairway To Heaven of the ’70s, then I Go Crazy is…what? I do remember when this was a hit in ’77 and it was inescapable. It seemed to always be playing over the loudspeakers at our town’s public pool that summer (and on the radio of our bus returning from swim meets).

Bob Marley & The Wailers- Crazy Baldhead
from Rastaman Vibration

To Rastifarians, a baldhead is someone without dreadlocks, a non-believer. I have no idea what Kim Jong Il or Al Davis believe and, whatever it is, it’s likely mentally inscrutable to the sane.

However, I have no doubt that the two could benefit from throwing on some Bob Marley albums and blazing away. As hilarious as Harold And& Kumar Go To White Castle was, someone needs to draft Kim & Al Make A Taco Bell Run. It simply must be done.

Out Of Africa And Headed For Hollywood

April 3, 2009

I am a dog person.

I am a dog person sharing a home with a trio of cats.

There does seem to be much posturing between those who prefer canines and those who opt for felines, the two factions seeming to be only slightly less contentious than the Christian right and, well, everyone else.

Although I do prefer dogs, I have come to grow fond of the cats which Paloma has brought into my life.

I’ve often been inspired by television commercials to suggest that our cats might be able to get into that line of work. The animals jockeying for position on our couch seem to have as much personality as those shilling products.

The other night, I brought up the idea – again.

“I’ve heard the cats in commercials scheme,” Paloma assured me. She seemed mostly amused.

“We’ve got one on death’s door (she isn’t), one who’s overweight (she is) and one that’s a feral kitten (it’s true). And you want to put them on a set with a bunch of strangers and cameras and have them perform on command?”

Admittedly, her review of the plan, while accurate, made it seem slightly half-baked.

“Umm. Yes?” I replied.

On cue, Pizza, the kitten (see photo courtesy of Paloma), shot through the room in a blur of fur.

(Paloma brought her home as a stray and she is, literally, feral as we have discovered that she is a Savannah, a relatively new breed that is a cross between an African serval and a domesticated house cat)

Pizza’s mad dash ended abruptly in a collision with a chair. She flopped back on her haunches, blinked, turned, and darted off as quickly as she had arrived.

“So, are you going to have business cards printed that say ‘Cat Wrangler’?”

Maybe not quite yet.

Francis Dunnery – Everyone’s A Star
Some artists undeservedly slip from my radar, so it’s always welcome when something prompts a reminder. I’d kind of forgotten about Francis Dunnery until he was mentioned over at Fusion 45 recently.

I own two of Dunnery’s solo albums and both are well worth searching out. Everyone’s A Star comes from his debut, Fearless, which also includes Good Life, one of the most heartbreaking songs I think I’ve ever heard.

He also was a member of Robert Plant’s touring band and I got to catch him with Plant on the latter’s Fate Of Nations tour in ’93 or so.

James – She’s A Star
Another underappreciated act (at least here in the States), but James did find brief success with their song Laid.

She’s A Star comes from Whiplash, which was their first album after Laid was a hit. It failed to maintain their momentum even though they snagged a spot on Lollapalooza that summer.

Billy Joel – Say Goodbye To Hollywood
I’m strangely ambivalent about Billy Joel. If you asked me if I liked Billy Joel, I’d probably shrug and say something like, “He’s OK.”

But when I do hear one of his songs, I’m surprised at how often I pause, mentally list his songs in my head, and realize that the guy does have some truly fantastic tracks in his catalog. Say Goodbye To Hollywood is certainly (and always has been) one of my favorite songs (maybe the favorite) by him.

I never tire of hearing it.

Concrete Blonde – Still In Hollywood
I’ve realize that I’ve had the opportunity to see each of the acts in this post live. I’ve been quite fortunate that way.

I keep vowing to write about Concrete Blonde as the trio did produce some of my favorite music of the late ’80s/early ’90s. And as much as I adore Johnette as a frontwoman, I thought guitarist James Mankey never got as much love as he should have.