Everyone Wants To Beat Daniel-san’s Ass

March 10, 2013

kkEverytime I channel surf the past few weeks, there’s Ralph Macchio sulking, being oblivious or – most often – getting his ass kicked by every living soul whose path he crosses in one of the three Karate Kid flicks.

I was roughly the age of high school student and social pariah Daniel-san, the character Macchio was playing, when The Karate Kid opened in theaters in the summer of 1984.

(Macchio was, at the time, already in his forties)

The movie was, as I recall, an unexpected hit.

I saw it, as did most of my friends, at the old theater in our hometown. It was slight but entertaining and, of course, we all dug Mr. Miyagi who came from another world and possessed wisdom dispensed in riddles.

But Daniel-san…

It’s tough to be the new kid in town, but, having had three decades to reflect on the situation, I have to wonder if Mrs. LaRusso moved him three-thousand miles from New Jersey to Southern California to escape the shame of having an offspring whose mere presence instilled instant hostility and hatred in those around him.

(it couldn’t have been simply the lure of a secretarial job)

And then, she comes to find that there is no East Coast bias when it came to wanting to open a can of whoop-ass on the fruit of her loins.

Yes, you could have put Daniel LaRusso in a room with Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Ghandi, and the peace-loving threesome would have reduced Daniel-san to a pulpy heap identifiable only by dental records.

In truth, not only were Daniel-san and I roughly the same age in 1984, his attire led me to believe that he had been raiding my closet. I should have identified with the kid I was seeing on the screen.

I didn’t.

No one did.

The only people that seemed to dig Daniel-san were Elisabeth Shue and my girlfriend at the time.

(and though the girlfriend was googly moogly for Macchio, her five-year old brother – who loved The Karate Kid – also wanted to kick his ass)

And what about Elisabeth Shue’s interest in this human piñata?

She had money, she was a cheerleader, she was a fetching blonde whose student body was seemingly popular with the entire student body…

…and she would later graduate from Harvard and win an Academy Award nomination.

And she was smitten with Daniel-san.

It was inexplicable.

But, when I come across The Karate Kid on cable, I pause. I watch for the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi, but I also watch because there’s something about watching Daniel-san receive a beating that restores order to the universe.

The Karate Kid also served as an introduction for most of America to Bananarama, whose Cruel Summer appeared briefly in the movie and became a hit with its inclusion on the soundtrack.

Here are four songs from Bananarama…

Bananarama – He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’

Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
from Deep Sea Skiving (1983)

My buddy Beej brought a lot of new music to us via his uncle, a college professor who lived in the city. So, we knew of Tears For Fears, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and Echo & The Bunnymen well before we might have heard them on the radio.

Bananarama was another one. The trio’s Deep Sea Skiving might not have been more than a cult hit in the States, but I did hear He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ and Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) often when 97X went on the air in autumn of 1983.

The former was a cover of a minor hit by Motown girl group The Velvelettes and the breezy, tropical vibe of the song was augmented by a guest appearance by Fun Boy Three, a trio comprised of former members of UK ska group The Specials.

Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) was another cover but of a far better-known song which had reached #1 in 1969 as performed by the studio band Steam.

Bananarama – Cruel Summer

Bananarama – The Wild Life
from Bananrama (1984)

Bananarama’s self-titled second album actually arrived in the spring of 1984 and my buddy Beej was again tuned in, raving about Robert De Niro’s Waiting… which he had discovered via the song’s video being played on the fledgling Night Tracks on WTBS.

By the time we returned to school that autumn, the loping Cruel Summer had become Banarama’s US breakthrough hit, so the trio might have been the only people on the face that didn’t wish to do great violence to Ralph Macchio.

That autumn, Bananarama provided the title track for Cameron Crowe’s The Wild Life, a movie that I don’t even recall being in theaters. The song was belatedly added to the US version of Bananarama and, though stylistically in the vein of Cruel Summer, The Wild Life failed to replicate the group’s prior soundtrack success.

I totally dug those first two Bananarama records. Deep Sea Skiving was a lot of fun, the three girls were cute as buttons, and it’s still the only Bananarama I need to own.

Two years later, Bananarama fell into the clutches of producers Stock Aitken Waterman, scored a mammoth hit with yet another cover, Venus, and I was out.

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Blinding Myself With Science*

October 5, 2011

There was a period several years ago when my friend Donzo and I declared our dream of being scientists, vowing to create a ham ray gun which would turn any targeted object into ham.

(maybe I declared it and she humored me)

Surprisingly, I haven’t become a scientist and the ham ray gun never got beyond the conceptual stage (which is good as the military applications of this device are too frightening to imagine).

Donzo and her now-husband did send me a lab coat and a canned ham for my birthday one year.

It’s not like I’ve ever been especially interested in science. Sure, if there’s fire, shiny objects, or extraterrestrials involved…

But I am reminded as I watch an episode of Futurama that Prof. Farnsworth was undoubtedly my favorite character. I find his absent-minded enthusiasm/cynicism infectious and downright delightful.

And Prof. Farnsworth could certainly be a descendant of Doc Brown from the Back To The Future flicks. There are far lesser dreams than to aspire to the heights of either of these great men.

As a child, it was impossible not to be impressed by the nimble mind of The Professor on Gilligan’s Island.

(later, of course, the focus shifted to Mary Ann)

But that’s not the point. Merely typing the names of this trio of visionaries inspires me. No, there is no obvious, apparent reason or need to invent a ham ray gun, but that’s not the point either.

It’s science! And sometimes you simply need to invent because you can (like clonin’ dinosaurs and makin’ Jell-O).

Here are four slightly scientific songs…

Thomas Dolby – I Love You Goodbye
from Astronauts And Heretics (1992)

You expected She Blinded Me With Science, yes? Well, there’s more to Dolby than that one song and I Love You Goodbye is one of my favorite songs of his. It’ll likely surprise you if all you know is the former song.

However, even if the song doesn’t suit this post thematically, Dolby has always struck me as scientist-like. Also, his doppelganger, Food Network personality Alton Brown injects his take on cooking with plenty of science.

Kate Bush – Experiment IV
from The Whole Story (1986)

Like a lot of folks, I discovered Kate Bush in 1985 with her lone American hit, Running Up That Hill, but it was her compilation The Whole Story that was my first purchase a year later. Experiment IV was the obligatory unreleased/new track and it’s quite scientific.

Johnette Napolitano – The Scientist
from Scarred (2007)

If you asked me to list my favorite female rock vocalists of the past twenty-five years, there’d certainly be a place for ex-Concrete Blonde singer Johnette Napolitano. I have a feeling that even I would be surprised at how high I’d have her.

As for The Scientist, it’s a perfect showcase for that voice. Coldplay’s original version made me shrug with indifference, but Johnette’s take on the song is impossible to ignore.

Dot Allison – We’re Only Science
from We Are Science (2002)

Dot Allison first appeared on my radar with her band One Dove in the ’90s. The group only released one, under appreciated album before Allison embarked on a solo career toward the decade’s end.

I interviewed Dot following the release of her second album, We Are Science. Had the idea of the ham ray gun existed at the time, perhaps I would have asked for her thoughts.

That aside, she was a sweetheart and the only downside was that the combination of her Scottish accent and the fact that she spoke in hushed tones made transcribing the tape slightly maddening.


A True Puppet Regime

September 14, 2011

A few days ago when I was pondering Cheerios, I considered that the cereal would be ideal for serving at state functions while entertaining foreign dignitaries.

Alas, as I cannot gut a moose, I fear that I have no possible route to high office where I could enact this bold idea.

But I think I’d make a fine head of state and I suppose that I could overthrow a current leader and install a puppet regime.

Like moose-gutting, leading a coup d’état is not in my skill set. Yet I have an innovative twist that I would introduce to shake up this tired endeavor.

My puppet regime would consist of puppets.

Literally.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for the responsibility of having my own puppet regime and I can imagine that it won’t be all seashells and balloons, but it’s time I grew up a bit.

(I’m also going to have to put a puppeteer on my payroll)

Central to making this venture work is choosing the country, one whose population is amenable to having their present government ousted. I don’t drive an SUV and my family has no ties to the petroleum industries, so oil is not a prerequisite for consideration.

I’d prefer beaches and tropical climates, so I can cross off countries like… Iraq or Afghanistan. Besides, they’ve already been spoken for and the upkeep seems to be a bit much.

I do like the idea of press conferences with throngs of reporters jockeying for answers from wooden figures being beamed globally on CNN and Al-Jazeera. I suppose we already have that now, but not with actual puppets!

And imagine if my marionette myopia starts taunting other countries?

Consider the hilarity as the leaders of Iran, Israel, North Korea, or the US go cowboy loco, puffing out their chests, and reacting with threats over statements issued by a non-living figurehead with a hand up its butt.

Just when you thought global politics couldn’t get more ridiculous, think of hearing Wolf Blitzer bloviate, “The American president noted in a speech today that ‘puppets make good kindling,’ a not so subtle message to Micronesian President Chewbacca.

This was in response to Chewbacca bellowing in an interview on foreign television and, though his Wookie wail was unintelligible, it was deemed provocative by …”

Here are four random songs from the iPod…

The Candyskins – Everything Just Falls Apart On Me
from Fun?

There are plenty of surprises within the vast digital expanses of the iPod, things that I am wholly unaware that I have, but, somewhere along the way I’ve deemed necessary to keep. I had to look up the details on The Candyskins as I couldn’t remember anything about them.

Considered one of the seminal bands of the Brit Pop era-pop, The Candyskins featured brothers Nick and Mark Cope and hailed from the same Oxford scene which produced Radiohead and Supergrass.

The band has much more more in common with the latter and Everything Just Falls Apart On Me is engaging, jangly power pop with a ’90s slacker vibe in its take on love.

Wheatus – Sunshine
from Wheatus

I certainly remembered Wheatus for the catchy Teenage Dirtbag from their 2000 self-titled debut. I might have to pull up the entire album and get reacquainted as Sunshine has the same bratty and endearing charm as that song.

(it also has banjo)

Leon Russell – Beware Of Darkness
from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

Leon Russell’s version of George Harrison’s Beware Of Darkness is something relatively new to the iPod thanks to whiteray over at Echoes In The Wind. He had written about the song and I mentioned that I was only familiar with Concrete Blonde’s version from the late ’80s.

So, he was gracious enough to turn me on to Russell’s take on the song which is a trippy, stutter-step of a song. It’s off-kilter, frenetic, and the vocals give me a sense of dread.

(and I quite dig it)

Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
from Raw Like Sushi

Neneh Cherry was a critical and commercial sensation when Raw Like Sushi arrived in 1989. At the time, it was an unconventional brew of R&B, rap, pop, and dance music that seemed to announce the arrival of a star.

Cherry was a star for awhile as the sassy Buffalo Stance – which sampled Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Girls – reached the Top Ten in the US and all over the world. She never captured that lightning in a bottle again, though, and I don’t believe she’s released a new album since the mid-90s.