The Monkey Time

August 7, 2011

Friday morning I woke and, like Red at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, was so excited, I could barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

Not only did I have a rare weekday off work – and one that wasn’t about to be carved up by errands – but the day coincided with the opening of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. As a child of the ’70s, I’ve noted the hold that the films based on Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet Of The Apes had on my imagination.

Though I’d vowed not to be lured in to this latest take on the monkey tale, four months of tantalizing trailers and clips proved to be too much to resist.

That resistence was further eroded earlier in the week as photos began to arrive from Paloma’s brother, on a junket in central Africa, trekking through a remote region that is home to the few hundred remaining mountain gorillas in the world.

This confluence of events prompted me to do a little research.

The first thing I discovered was that the mountain gorillas reside in what is known as the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and live up on the slopes in “cloud forests.”

I find our planet that much more wonderous simply knowing that somewhere, simians or not, is a place known as an impenetrable forest and there is such a thing as a cloud forest. Add apes and I’m wondering if the gorillas would mind a couple of humans and a few cats putting up a treehouse in the neighborhood.

(though, as Bwindi is the only forest where mountain gorillas and chimpanzees live, the latter group should also be consulted)

I also learned that mountain gorillas will run, bipedally, for distances up to six miles.

(most of the humans I know would struggle to do the same…I suspect even fewer know what “bipedal” means)

The intelligence of these creatures is profound and, though early risers, mountain gorillas have the good sense to stay in their nests if they awake and it’s raining or overcast.

(I’ve been trained to leave the nest and go to work in such conditions)

In addition to intelligence, primatologists believe that the gorillas are able to consider the past, ponder the future, and – as some researchers theorize – are capable of spiritual reflection.

(an idea that would, no doubt, chap the asses of the uber-pious among the humans and cause them to fling poop)

I also read that the most common form of intragroup communication between gorillas is “deep, rumbling belches” suggesting contentment.

As for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes…hail Caesar!

Here are four songs from Gorillaz…

Gorillaz (featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien) – Clint Eastwood
from Gorillaz

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring De La Soul) – Feel Good Inc.
from Demon Days

Gorillaz (featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) – Stylo
from Plastic Beach

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Strike Up The Children’s Choir!

July 2, 2009

Paloma accused me of being an aficionado of songs with children’s choirs. I found myself on the receiving end of this perceived slur when we chanced across The Lost Boys on cable.

As we watched the antics of ‘80s-styled vampires, the song Cry Little Sister played on the movie’s soundtrack; said song featured a children’s choir.

It was then that she made her allegation (despite the fact that the song means nothing to me – though the movie’s soundtrack was fun back in the day).

I stammered for a comeback to an accusation that was truly a first. My fifth-grade teacher said I was “as trustworthy as a rattlesnake,” but this children’s choir charge had me bumfoozled.

Could it be true?

The Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want has a children’s choir. No shame in being a fan of that one.

The only other song that popped into my head was, of all things, Kenny Loggins’ Welcome To Heartlight. Aside from one, maybe two songs, I’ve never been a fan – his association with Top Gun pretty much demanded that I blacklist him – and I loathed Welcome To Heartlight when it was a hit in ’83.

If the only thing standing between me and a sullied reputation as a fan of children’s choirs was a dislike of Kenny Loggins, I was standing on shaky ground.

Some research quickly reminded me of The Carpenters’ Sing and Clint Holmes’ Playground In My Mind (“My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”). Both featured children’s choirs and I remembered hearing both as a youngster when they were radio hits.

Could affection for the dulcet strains of vocalizing urchins been ingrained in me when I was but an urchin myself? Is there something about the pint-sized choral harmonies of scamps and ragamuffins that cause my ears to perk up as though it was bacon sizzling in a pan?

I lost interest in researching pretty quickly. The results were inconclusive. For every song with a children’s choir that I liked, there was one that was not good.

Not good.

Actually, I didn’t even come up with a dozen songs. I have to have missed or forgotten some obvious ones.

However, here’s an assortment of songs that do have children’s choirs…

Sammy Davis, Jr. – The Candy Man

I think I was four when this song topped the charts. To a four-year old – when one of the few desires in life is candy – The Candy Man was as stirring as We Shall Overcome was to those marching for civil rights.

And though it wasn’t Sammy’s version, the song appeared in the movie Willie Wonka & Chocolate Factory, which seems to have quite a following with my fellow Gen Xers.

There must be a thesis in the relationship between that flick and slacker culture.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall, Part II
from The Wall

Like the concept of candy, a dislike for being confined to a classroom is a common thread in the DNA of kids. So, when I heard Another Brick In The Wall blaring incessantly from the bowling alley jukebox, it resonated.

It was one of the first 45s I ever bought with my own money and, though I wouldn’t really get into music for another year or so, Pink Floyd’s unlikely hit song helped awaken that interest.

Pat Benatar – We Belong
from Tropico

Pat Benatar’s rise to start status coincided with my teenage years, so she could have been singing Bolshevik work songs and she’d have had our attention.

Nonetheless, I owned most of her cassettes and likely bought Tropico soon after it came out. And, I’ve proven adept at repeatedly buying copies of her albums on vinyl which we already own.

Gorillaz – Dirty Harry
from Demon Days

Why I haven’t swooned harder over Gorillaz is a bit of a mystery to me. I love cartoons. Their music has always entertained me. And, I might be one of the few people that enjoyed the movie Tank Girl which was based on the comic book created by Jamie Hewlett who handles the animated aspects of the band.

I’d accept the blame except that would make me responsible. Instead, I think I need to devote more time to the music of Gorillaz. This should delight Paloma who is a big fan and – oh by the way – Dirty Harry features a children’s choir.


One Doped Up Monkey Is Much Less Fun Than A Barrel Full Of Sober Ones

February 21, 2009

Amongst the rubble of headlines about global economic collapse, global social collapse, and the world in general losing its mind, there’s been the ongoing saga the past several days of that berserk chimpanzee.

You’ve possibly heard of the domesticated monkey – former star of commercials – who went mental and mauled a friend of its owner. It was sobering.

I realized that this chimp had achieved a level of notoriety that most people never will (one of most people being me which made it sobering). Of course, I think that notoriety would clash with my reclusive nature.

It’s undeniably a sad, ghastly incident, but, apparently, the police report that was filed had the monkey’s owner admitting to spiking the simian’s tea with anti-anxiety medication.

It’s true that most of the population has been conditioned to believe that there’s a pill to remedy any issue, real or imagined. But, if the report is true, what would make someone think it might be a good idea to give prescription drugs to a creature that, while “domesticated,” is best suited to be roaming around in the wild?

If ever in such a situation and I reach the same conclusion, I do hope a little voice inside my head suggests I reconsider.

There’s something strange about this human/monkey mishap coming so close on the heels of the recent anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. I can’t help but wonder what he would have made of these recent turn of events.

Peter Gabriel – Shock The Monkey
In the fall of ’82, I was still sticking to a musical diet of whatever was on Top 40 radio. Shock The Monkey was certainly one of the most unusual songs that I had heard within that limited format and was my first exposure to Mr. Gabriel.

I was fortunate enough to see him live on his tour for Us in ’93 – incredible band, amazing music, and certainly one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

The Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
Paloma and I caught The Pixies on their reunion tour several years ago. It was her birthday present that year. Personally, they were a bit hit and miss for me during their late ’80s heyday, but Monkey Gone To Heaven is an odd, little gem that was all over college radio (at least where I was).

Gorillaz – Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head
You know, since the turn of the century, I really have had less and less sense of what is popular in music, so I was a bit surprised that, commercially speaking, Gorillaz have had considerable success here in the States. I’d have bet anything that the animated band from England would be one those acts that had failed to attract the same widespread audience as in their homeland.

Good for us. Gorillaz are more fun than killing strangers.

Aldo Nova – Monkey On Your Back
Hard rock was something else that I really didn’t hear much until I ventured outside the world of Top 40 music. But Aldo Nova was one of the first pop-metal acts to make it onto pop playlists with his song Fantasy during the summer of 1982.

By the time his second album came out in the fall of 1983, I had branched out and was mostly listening to album rock stations and, when I could get reception, alternative rock station 97X. Monkey On Your Back was massive on the former.

Joe Satriani – Psycho Monkey
I’m not overly familiar with guitarist Joe Satriani, but I’ve found what I have heard of his music to be clean and melodic. Psycho Monkey has a bit more grit to me (though I much prefer the stellar Ceremony from the same album, Crystal Planet).