Friday, July 14, 2017

Band on the march

I was in marching band in high school, and I remember how we would not only play your traditional Sousa-like songs at football games, but also then-contemporary songs. Our band's playlist included the Star Wars theme and "Disco Duck," and I still remember a trumpet player who would solo on "Rise" any chance he got.

Yes, the image of marching bands is true Americana.

Hold my wine.

A marching band performed at today's Bastille Day celebrations.

And, to the delight of some in the audience (but not others), this band continued in the "be contemporary" tradition by playing a medley of songs by French band Daft Punk.

While Spin makes a big deal about Trump's stone-faced reaction, that's not the only highlight of the video. My favorite occurs at about 1:22 into the video, as some older French veterans kinda sorta clap along to "Get Lucky."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And just think, nobody thought this would 'last"

In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jackson appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards. Mr. Jackson commented on their marriage, saying, "And just think, nobody thought this would last." The couple then kissed. (Spoiler: it didn't last.)

Mrs. Jackson was, and is, better known by her birth name of Lisa Marie Presley. While she has recorded three full-length albums to date, her former husband (since deceased) had slightly more success in the music industry. While I don't think I've ever listened to a Lisa Marie Presley song, I have listened to Michael Jackson songs 158 times since 2007.

How do I know this?

Because I have gotten myself into ruts at times.

For several years after I graduated from college, I would repeatedly go to the Jack in the Box on Archibald and Arrow and order a side salad with ranch dressing.

For a nearly ten year period, I would record my whereabouts in a series of books. I can't remember how many, but I know it was less than 26; I had an "A" book, but never created a "Z" book.

For almost as long, I played in various Starfleet Commander universes.

And, since Thursday, July 26, 2007, I have repeatedly "scrobbled" many of the songs that I hear. Over 170,000 times.


Initially, scrobbling songs on allowed me to hear the songs. In those days, actually hosted the songs, and I was able to listen to the songs for free. A couple of years later, I even hosted six of my own songs on itself.

Then, over the years, reduced its functionality while other services such as Spotify increased theirs. I can't directly listen to songs on any more, but I can record ("scrobble") the songs that I listen to on Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and other services...sometimes. My Bandcamp and YouTube scrobbles are dependent upon a Chrome extension, which works fine in Windows, but doesn't work on iOS. And many services don't support scrobbling at all.

So one morning while I was driving to work, Spotify scrobbling away on my iPhone, I asked myself, "What benefit am I receiving from giving all of my scrobbling data?" I could identify the benefits from giving certain data (such as this post) to Google, Facebook, and other services, but the value proposition for has disappeared over the years. What's more, my devotion to has led me to shun other non-scrobbling services for no good reason.

Often when I get into these ruts, I suddenly snap out of them. One day I didn't get a side salad at Jack in the Box. One day I put my book down and stopped recording where I was. One day I let my planets in the Starfleet Commander universes all die. These actions gave me a sense of freedom.

Well, after listening to one last song (the top one on thie list), I disabled my Chrome extension and turned off scrobbling in my Spotify app.

I may not keep scrobbling turned off forever. After all, I quit Foursquare at one point just to join it again a while later.

But now I have the freedom to listen to songs and not worry about the documentation of them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Robert Smith, approved by the Comics Code Authority?

Continuing on the general theme of repurposing music, what would happen if my favorite Cure song, "A Forest," appeared as a comic book?

Yes, I can quibble about the cover, since Robert Smith didn't become Edward Scissorhands until AFTER "A Forest" was released, but it's still brilliant.

This is from a collection of Cure songs reimagined as comic book covers by Butcher Billy.

Butcher Billy has also reimagined love songs as Stephen King book covers. How deep IS your love? (H/T Laughing Squid.)

P.S. going off on a tangent: you'll note that Butcher Billy even went through the trouble of reproducing the "Approved by the Comics Code Authority" emblem on his comic book covers - which is definitely humorous. For a history of the Comics Code Authority, and how William Gaines and Stan Lee (working for Richard Nixon) reacted to it, read this.

Monday, July 10, 2017

This Charming Charlie revisited

So anyway, this happened some time ago. (I'm writing this post an unspecified amount of time before its publication.) One day, I was informed at work that a particular item, which was declared "final" at one point but had then gone through a second and third revision, had just gone through a fourth revision.

So I did the best thing I could do under the circumstances.

I took a walk. (I needed the steps anyway.)

So I put my earbuds in and started Spotify on my phone.

And what song came up?

The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now".

And yes, that's the song that includes the lyric published in the "This Charming Charlie" comic strip that I shared in 2013.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Musical skills are handy - or, how an optical organ manufacturer got caught up in Watergate

In business, there are many circumstances in which you will make one deal in order to get another deal. And while I was reading about various 1970s organs, I ran across an intriguing story.

Richard Nixon was well-known as a piano player, although as several sources note, Nixon often proclaimed that he could only play in the key of G. But he was clearly interested in the instrument, and although he wasn't going to join the German band Kraftwerk on stage, it would make sense for keyboard manufacturers to court the President.

This explains the series of letters documented here. In brief, Miner Industries offered to give President Nixon an Optigan (optical organ) for his enjoyment, and offered to have musical director Michael LeDoux personally install the Optigan at the Western White House in San Clemente, California.

By PMDrive1061 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sounds simple, right?

Except for the fact that this series of letters was written on July 24, 1974. (A stamp on one of the letters indicates that it was received in Orange, California on July 29.)

And the fact that LeDoux had extensive experience in audio, having worked on the Talking Barbie, as well as the discs used by the Optigan.

Now what would be the significance of having an audio expert visit the Nixon Administration in July 1974?

According to Pea Hicks' recollection of something that LeDoux said (he has since passed away), the delivery of the Optigan to San Clemente was a pretext for something else.

...apparently Mike was known by someone associated with Nixon as a skilled audio tape editor, and given the Optigan office’s fairly close proximity to the Western White House, he was recruited to consult on a possible editing job of the famous “smoking gun” tapes...

The entire story is here.

Of course, by the time LeDoux received the letters on July 29, the House Judiciary Committee was passing the second of three articles of impeachment. Two days later, on July 31, Alexander Haig and Ron Ziegler privately told President Nixon that the smoking gun tape was "devastating" to Nixon's cause. The next day, August 1, Haig would tell Vice President Gerald Ford about the "smoking gun" tape (and kinda sorta mention various things about pardons).

The time for consulting audio experts had passed.