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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Song In My Heart, or, I Love To Singa!

Today, November 10, is Carl Stalling's birthday. Stalling is best known as the composer of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s.

A pioneer in film music (he scored early Mickey Mouse cartoons), Stalling created lush soundtracks for animation. Many WB shorts were music videos, featuring songs from Warner features, which encouraged viewers to then purchase the sheet music for home use.

There are two techniques Stalling used: the literal and the figural. The literal?  A woman is seen in a red dress, and we hear a quick snippet of "The Lady In Red". The figural? We see the camera pan across a pastoral forest scene, and hear "Peer Gynt".

So, why do I mention this? Because, every day, I live a life affected by what I call "Stalling's Syndrome." I create, usually subconsciously, a soundtrack to my existence. Sometime's, it's a visual cue, like rushing to catch a bus, and I'll think of the Simpsons theme (based on the scene where Bart skateboards, swipes the bus stop sign, the bus drives by the waiting passengers, and the passengers then chase the bus).

Or I'll whistle, hum, or skat an instrumental marching tune while walking down the street. Or I'll be reminded of a movie song, and recreate it in my mind. (For example, Central Park = Hair.)

How did this happen to me? When I was in the Fourth Grade, in 1979, two related events occurred. The local NBC affiliate began showing old Warner Brothers cartoons at 3 PM. At 3:30, the local ABC channel would show old MGM cartoons. At about the same time, my oldest brother began working at two local public radio stations. Whenever he would record the local symphony or opera, my mother and I would tag along, listening from the recording booth located up in the old projectionist's booth of the renovated movie palace. At intermission, we would sneak down to an empty seat and enjoy the remainder of the performance like normal people.

So, at a young age, I was exposed to a variety of music. Mother would often play Broadway soundtracks while my siblings and I helped clean house. Three older brothers also influenced my musical experience, as well as a "pirate" radio station which later transitioned to cable radio. (Remember when stereo television was a big deal? Cox Cable had a gizmo where unused frequencies on your stereo would be utilized for stereo signals from specific premium channels like HBO. Later, I figured out how to run the VCR's sound through the stereo, to make TV mixtapes.)

Cable television also expanded the width of the music spectrum. There was MTV, but also BET and Night Flight. During high school, I would tune to the local NPR station to listen to "Piano Jazz" or one of the the other music programs during that drive time.

Of course, thanks to my brother, I was also somewhat addicted to Dr. Demento. We made basement tapes, memorized lyrics, and laughed our asses off! (American Top 40 was what the normal kids listened to. Not us!)

Also, because of the Looney Tunes cartoons, I developed an exposure to American Standards/Hit Parade songs. Sinatra, Crosby, Cantor, Benny (see above)... usually sung by Bugs or Daffy.

Later, I became a karaoke crooner, and expanded my repertoire by frequenting various bars. Of course, whenever something strikes my curiosity, I'm off to YouTube to sample! And then there's my #forgottentvlyrics project, where I research the actual, little used, lyrics to television themes. I also have a fondness for popular music covered by marching bands. (The best?  The Superfriends Theme!  But it's bootleg.)

So, I have accepted my condition. I am careful not to offended others (for some reason, Shortnin' Bread pops into my head on occasion). I try to keep things to myself, although with cellphones and earphones, it's easier to conceal one's propensities!

But... I soon discovered I was not the only one with this syndrome.  One late night, on Letterman, Leslie Nielsen made an appearance. Band leader Paul Schaffer played "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals. Why? Because of the misheard lyric: "That would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie"! That was when I realized I wasn't alone!

So I post this, for those lone souls out there, who don't know exactly why a particular song pops up in their mindpod. You are not alone. You are not weird for wanting to break into song, to make your life a neverending musical. You can live a productive life! You might not become a bandleader, or radio personality, but your life will never sound dull!

While others might have songs which define their lives, you have a soundtrack of your life, ever changing! Embrace it! And if necessary, imagine yourself at the center of a big Bollywood dance number!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fiction: Fantastic Fauna and How To Avoid Them: The Peril Squirrel

Der Vorahnhörnchen, or The "Omen Squirrel"

Shot with a filter to avoid the "stare of despair", the photographer required a week of rehabilitation at a local spa to recover.

The Peril Squirrel (Sciurus oraculus), known locally as der Vorahnhörnchen or předpově'verka, is one of the more dangerous vermin found in the crypto-forests of the far woodlands. 

While larger cryptofauna are more lethal physically, this smaller animal is one of the most lethal psychically. As timid as the common squirrel and chipmunks found near polite societies, this species has developed a secondary defensive behaviour: upon eye contact with any animal threat, the peril squirrel creates a direct psychic link with the creature. This link inexplicably presents a dire premonition to the predator, causing it to startle and flee in terror.

How the peril squirrel produces this effect has puzzled natural scientists for centuries. Investigation of S. oraculus carcasses shows no discernable difference between it and other Sciurus species. The emotional state of the squirrel, possibly in combination with blood humors,  might trigger the defensive reaction in the squirrel's brain and nervous system. 

Via surveillance of various nests, it has been witnessed that peril squirrels mate for life. During the mating season, usually in late autumn although this varies by climate, single perils will scout the local vicinity, tracing glandular secretions of individuals of the opposite gender. Upon encountering a possible mate, the individuals will carefully study each other. Sometimes, an individual will quickly break the social contact. Otherwise, the ritual will culminate in both individuals staring deeply, hypnotically into the eyes of the possible mate, which usually results in a pairing. 

Romantics surmise that the pair are staring deep into the soul of each other, although both the actual psychic connection and the more theological hypothesis are both nearly impossible to ascertain. Variants of this romantic notion exist in various agricultural folklores, some with specific tales similar to folktales involving other animals and curses. Many localities host "squirrel dances" for local youth during harvest festivals, with local churches offering a more intimate (but chaperoned) locale for couples engaged in further "soul searching". Romantic squirrel motifs are common at weddings and in homes. Some localities require the local youth to gather acorns as an offering to the "love squirrels". Of course, the true purpose of such organized activities is to encourage socialization away from adult supervision.

Peril squirrels can crossbreed with other squirrels (albeit with great difficulty, as noted above), although progeny do not always attain "the sight". 

Some individuals have hypothesized that peril squirrels can also bestow favorable premonitions if properly encouraged. Domestication of peril squirrels is difficult, due to the defensive mechanism of the animal. There are rumors of such squirrel oracles living deep in the crypto-forests, or traveling randomly, offering fortunes for hire from town to town. Stories have also been told where the oracle bestows a blessing upon a person, then a curse when the customer tries to belittle the premonition. These might be further folktales, told wherever people congregate for hospitality.

Peril squirrels are uncommon among settled lands, and most travelers will seldom venture into the darker forests and woodlands where they might be found. If one finds oneself in such an area, it is wise to consider that any squirrel seen is a peril squirrel, as the more predatory cryptofauna will have eradicated the more common varieties. The traveller's attention will most likely be directed towards the detection and avoidance of more dangerous animals, and thus peril squirrels will be less likely to offer risk to the individual. Some travellers will trap a peril squirrel, to be used as a weapon against more dangerous animals found in the far woodlands, but some cryptofauna can attack with speed and stealth, reducing the effectiveness of this stratagem. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Forgotten TV Lyrics: Ironsides

While this is an instrumental, it's the uncut theme to Ironside, so I include it in the "Forgotten TV Lyrics" index.

Besides, it's Quincy Jones, one of the great soundtrack composers of the 20th Century!

If you're looking for a copy, it's available on the Smackwater Jack album!

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the music on the series:
The opening theme music was written by Quincy Jones and was the first synthesizer-based television theme song, though in 1971, Jones recorded a fuller four-minute band version for the album Smackwater Jack.[3][4] This recording was then edited and used for the opening credits of the fifth through eighth seasons (1971–75). (The entire album track can be heard in the fifth-season episode "Unreasonable Facsimile" as Ironside and team track a suspect on the streets of San Francisco.) In addition to the opening theme music, Quincy Jones composed the entire score for the first eight episodes. Oliver Nelson took over those duties up to the end of the winter to spring 1972 episodes. Nelson was then replaced by Marty Paich for all the episodes from the beginning of the fall of that year up until the last episode that was produced in the spring of 1974. The song "Even When you Cry" with music by Quincy Jones and lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman was performed by James Farentino in the episode 'Something for Nothing' while Marcia Strassman had already sung it off-screen in the earlier episode 'The Man Who Believed' both during season 1.
I wonder if that Season One score has been released?

Forgotten TV Lyrics: The Bill Cosby Show: Hicky Burr

"Hicky Burr", the theme to The Bill Cosby Show, words by Bill Cosby, music by Quincy Jones, with vocalization by Bill Cosby.

Many people have forgotten that Quincy Jones wrote a lot of movie soundtracks, as well as many TV themes.  From Wikipedia:
In addition, he composed "The Streetbeater," which became familiar as the theme music for the television sitcom Sanford and Son, starring close friend Redd Foxx; he also composed the themes for other TV shows, including IronsideBanacekThe Bill Cosby Show, the opening episode of Roots, and the Goodson & Todman game show Now You See It.
(I'll get to those eventually...)

This series didn't last long... two seasons. I remember it being on cable, but it never kept my seemed strange in the way it presented the story.

You can find the song on Quincy Jones' record, Smackwater Jack, which also contains the theme to "Ironside", as well as "Theme from "The Anderson Tapes", a movie which is mostly forgotten, but which has an amazing cast, and a few historical footnotes attached!

The New York Channel

The New York Channel
Showing only television shows and movies which take place in New York City!

Would it be possible to program a cable/satellite/internet channel showing only television and movies which take place in New York City?

Sure... it's easy to fill up a daily programming grid with shows (try it with friends at a bar!), but what about an entire year's worth of programming?

52 weeks x 7 days a week x 24 hours a day = 8,736 hours of programming!

(Hmm... that doesn't seem too bad.)

Rule #1: You cannot double book a show.
No "an hour of Seinfeld!" like some local stations advertise.

Rule #2: Only one movie a day, Monday-Friday; two-a-day on weekends.
Rule #2-A: Each movie block should have a different movie theme.
For example, Saturday night would be "Creature Feature".
Sunday evening would be "Hollywood Blockbuster". (Just like ABC used to do back in the 1970s.)
[Maybe I'll post a separate thread on New York movies by genre...]

Rule #3: Saturday and Sunday may each have a 3-hour block for a sporting event.

Rule #4: The episodes must exist, available for broadcast.

Rule #5: No talk shows, soap operas, or skit comedy.
Rule #5-A: Except for Jackie Gleason (Honeymooners), prime time soap operas, and Saturday Night Live.

Rule #6: Short lived shows may be shown one day a week, preferably on the weekends.

Long running series should be scheduled Monday-Friday (260 episodes...approximately 10 seasons). Shorter series should be scheduled on Saturday and/or Sunday. (52-104 episodes.) Longer series can be scheduled every day (365 episodes).

If something can't make the full 260 airings (like Seinfeld), then shorter series can fill the gap. Rule #1 applies.

Let's assume a year which starts on a Sunday... That means 52 weeks of Sunday-Saturday, with one Sunday left over.

So... 365x24 = 8,760 hours of programming.

Subtract from that:
Rule #2. Nine movies a week. Let's program 2 hours a movie. (Maybe 2.5)
That's (52 x 9 x 2) + 4 [two movies on that extra, last Sunday] = 940 hours. 10.7% of programming.

That leaves: 7,820 hours of programming.

Rule #3. Three hours of sports programming for each Saturday and Sunday. (52 x 6)+ 3 = 315 hours of sports programming.

That leaves: 7,503 hours of programming. 85.7%

So let's start filling those time slots!

The series (with number of episodes in parenthesis):


Archie Bunker and friends account for 284 hours of programming.
  • Barney Miller (168)
  • Fish (35)
101.5 hours of programming.
  • Diff'rent Strokes (189)
  • [The Facts of Life was set in Peeskill, NY, in Westchester County, and is disqualified.]
94.5 hours of programming.

These three franchises account for 480 hours of programming, or approximately one-half of one percent. (About 1 hour, twenty minutes of each day.)
  • Bewitched (254) [half Manhattan, half suburbia]
  • Bosom Buddies (37)
  • Car 54, Where Are You? (60)
  • Cosby (95)
  • The Cosby Show (202)
  • The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (65)
  • Dear John (90)
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show (158) [half Manhattan, half suburbia]
  • Family Affair (138)
  • Friends (236)
  • Head of the Class (114) [+ Billy (13)]
  • How I Met Your Mother (208)
  • I Love Lucy (181) [I'll include the suburban episodes, since they still live in the metro area.]
  • The Jackie Gleason Show (156) /The Honeymooners (39)
  • The Joey Bishop Show (123)
  • Just Shoot Me!(148)
  • Kate and Allie (122)
  • King of Queens (207)
  • Love, Sidney (44) [+Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend tv movie]
  • Mad About You (164)
  • Make Room For Daddy / The Danny Thomas Show (351)
  • Night Court (193)
  • The Nutt House (11) [Yes... but it has a great cast, and co-created by Mel Brooks!]
  • The Odd Couple (114) [Hmm... did Felix and Oscar ever meet Kate and Allie?]
  • The Patty Duke Show (104)
  • Rhoda (110)
  • Seinfeld (180)
  • Spin City (145)
  • Taxi (114)
  • That Girl (136)
  • Welcome Back, Kotter (95)
  • Will & Grace (194)
4601 episodes, 2300.5 hours of programming.
  • Saturday Night Live (750+!) [The "no double booking" rule! So, 365*1.5 = 547.5 hours] [I'd slot this in the "talk show" time slot of 11:30 PM-1 AM.] [If run as a non-stop marathon, it would last 46+ days.]
480+ 2300.5+ 547.5 = 3328 hours of programming.
38% of the annual total!


  • McCloud (46) [6@60, 34@90, 6@120]
    • 360+ 3060+ 720 = 4140 / 60 = 69 hours of programming
  • Naked City (138) [39@30 mins., 99@ 60 mins.]
    • 1170+ 5940 = 7110 / 60 = 118.5 hours of programming
  • Baretta [Uknown east coast city, perhaps Newark]
  • Beauty and the Beast (56)
  • Cagney & Lacey (125)
  • CSI: NY (197)
  • Dr. Kildare (190)
  • The Equalizer (88)
  • Fame (136)
  • Felicity (84)
  • Kojak (118)
  • Law & Order (456!) [365 hours]
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (343+)
  • Mad Men (85)
  • NYPD Blue (261)
  • Sex and the City (94@30 mins.)
  • Ugly Betty (85)
  • Ryan's Hope (3515!) [Yes, a soap opera set in NYC! 30 minutes long]
    • 182.5 hours of programming. [Or, if run as a non-stop marathon, 73+days.] [ Oh, wait... Rule #5. Disqualified, and I doubt episodes exist for broadcast.]
2367.5 hours of programming!

Cartoons [Yeah, I'm thinking of a Saturday Morning block. 52 Saturdays x 5 hours of programming?]

  • Spider-Man (various)
    • Spider-Man (52) [1967]
    • Spider-Man (26) [1981]
    • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (24) [1981]
    • Spider-Man (65) [1994]
    • Spider-Man Unlimited (13) [1999]
    • Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (13) [2003]
    • Spectacular Spider-Man (26) [2008]
    • Ultimate Spider-Man (78+) [2012]
297 episodes, 148.5 hours of programming.
  • The Critic (23)
  • Futurama (140)
  • Gargoyles (78)
  • Hey Arnold! (100)
  • The Real Ghostbusters (173)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (193) [1987] 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (157) [2003]
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (78+) [2012]
  • Top Cat (30)
972 episodes, 486 hours of programming
148.5+486 = 634.5 hours of programming.
Divide by 52 Saturdays, and that's over 12 hours of programming each Saturday Morning!

Or I run Spider-Man five days a week in an afternoon timeslot, and keep the rest on Saturday, on a 7-hour block?! Possibly grab TMNT (428 episodes) as another M-F afternoon block. That leaves an average of 5 1/4 hours of cartoons for Saturday morning.

The totals, so far:
  • Movies 940
  • Sports 315
  • Comedy 3328
  • Drama 2367.5
  • Cartoons 634.5
7585 hours. 86.6%. *SIGH* I need to find 1175 hours of additional programming... 49 days...

  • The Nanny (146) 73 hours.
  • Brooklyn Bridge (34) 17 hours.
  • Archer (75+) 37 hours.
  • The Defenders (132) 132 hours
  • Dream On (120) 60 hours
  • Jessie (101) 50.5 hours
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent (195) 195 hours
  • Louie (53+) 26 hours
  • News Radio (97) 48.5 hours
  • Veronica's Closet (66) 33 hours
  • Wizards of Waverly Place (106) 53 hours
725 hours. 8310 total. 450 hours to go. 19 days.

  • Caroline in the City (97) 47.5
  • Boardwalk Empire (56) 56
  • White Collar (81) 81
  • Rules of Engagement (100) 50
  • Gossip Girl (121) 121
  • 30 Rock (138) 69
  • Everybody Hates Chris (88) 44

468.5 hours 8778.5 total!

So we made the "deadline"!
The breakdown:

  • Movies 940
  • Sports  315
  • Comedy  3919.5
  • Drama  2969.5
  • Cartoons  634.5

How many of these shows would you watch?

If you had to pick one episode from each of your favorite series, which would they be?

Top Ten List: Ways to Greet Your Boss

This morning at work, on my way to get my first cup of tea for the day, I happened to pass my boss' boss (the department director), chatting with one of our masters of marketing.

What I heard, obliquely, was her talking about how others addressed her. Thinking quickly, I reverted to Polite Mode (which, of course, I rarely use, since she's a great boss, and we're all rather informal in our department).

"Good morning, Ms. Allen," I said with a grin.

But then, as I waited for my tea to steep, I began to think... what could I have said? Thus, this list.

I'm posting this here, because that little voice inside my head thought this could be taken the right way, and why tempt the Fates of HR?

10.  "Yessir, Ms. Allen, SIR!" (clicks heels and salutes sharply)

9.  "Good Morning, Ms. Allen. I reserved a private table for your 1 PM lunch with Mr. Frankson at L'Arrogant Parisienne. I sent an email to your private account containing numerous embarrassing Facebook posts, as well as photos hacked from the Epsilon Aleph Zayn iCloud account, in case the conversation lags. Also, “Droobles” Frankson has an extreme allergy to licorice. Remember to look shocked and concerned if any law enforcement agents appear to speak with Mr. Frankson."

8.  "How ‘bout them Mets?"

7.  (Halts suddenly. Look of panic and shock. Smile suddenly. Back away slowly, maintaining smile and eye contact.)

6.  "Yeah, yeah, whatever."

5.  (We perform the “secret cheerleader handshake”, which involves elbow bumbs, jazzhands, and spirited doggerel.)

4.  "Heghlu’meHQaQ jajvam." / "  "

3.  "Hi, I’m Sten. Have we met?"

2.  (Nods to boss, walks into breakroom whistling "The Internationale".)

1.  "Hey, Toots."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You Are Here: A Tiny Speck In The Big Scheme of Things

So... let's not ask: "Why am I here?"
Instead, let's ask: "Where am I now?"

We'll ignore the city, state, country, continent variables, and keep it general:

We're all on planet Earth.

(This is the famous photo, taken Christmas Eve 1968, from Apollo 8 as it orbited the Moon.)

Here's another photo, taken from the Cassini probe on July 19, 2013.  That's Saturn in the middle ground, and we're the little dot below the rings. Distance: about a billion miles. (0.0001 light years, or about 90 light minutes.)

The Earth is the third planet in the Solar System.

The Oort Cloud marks the edge of the Solar System, at about 2 light years away.

Our Solar System is located in the Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. 

The Solar System is located in the Milky Way, a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter of about 100,000 light-years containing about 200 billion stars. The Sun resides in one of the Milky Way's outer spiral arms, known as the Orion–Cygnus Arm or Local Spur.
The Orion Arm is a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way some 3,500 light-years (1,100 parsecs) across and approximately 10,000 light-years (3,100 parsecs) in length.
Here are our neighbors:
The nearest star is Alpha Centauri.  Travelling at the speed of light, it would take more than four years to reach it.

The Solar System is currently moving through the Local Interstellar Cloud or Local Fluff...

... which is part of the Local Bubble.

The Local Bubble is a cavity in the interstellar medium (ISM) in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way. It contains, among others, the Local Interstellar CloudG-cloud, and the Solar System. It is at least 300 light years across... 

The Solar System is located in what is known as the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that has a diameter usually considered to be roughly 100,000–120,000 light-years in diameter but may be 150,000–180,000 light-years. The Milky Way is estimated to contain 100–400 billion stars, although this number may be as high as one trillion. There are probably at least 100 billion planets in the Milky Way. The Solar System is located within the disk, about 27,000 light-years from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust called the Orion Arm. The stars in the inner ≈10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars that radiate from the bulge. The very center is marked by an intense radio source, named Sagittarius A*, which is likely to be a supermassive black hole.

The Milky Way galaxy is part of the Local Galactic Group.

The Local Group is the galaxy group that includes the Milky Way. The Local Group comprises more than 54 galaxies, most of them dwarf galaxies. Its gravitational center is located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. The Local Group covers a diameter of 10 Mly (3.1 Mpc) and has a binary (dumbbell) distribution.

The Local Group is part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is a small part of the Laniakea Supercluster.

The Virgo Supercluster (Virgo SC) or the Local Supercluster (LSC or LS) is a mass concentration of galaxies that contains the Virgo Cluster in addition to the Local Group, which in turn contains the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. At least 100 galaxy groups and clusters are located within its diameter of 33 megaparsecs (110 million light-years). It is one of millions of superclusters in the observable universe.

The blue arrow?  That's us.  (Everyone...remember where we parked the car!)
The Laniakea Supercluster encompasses 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 160 megaparsecs (520 million light-years). It has the approximate binding mass of 1017 solar masses, or a hundred thousand times that of our Galaxy, which is almost the same as that of the massive Horologium Supercluster. 
How many superclusters are there?  Good question.  The number goes up to at least 174. But here's a map:
That's about One Billion light years in diameter.  Which makes it one of the skinny ticks on the map below.

The observable universe consists of the galaxies and other matter that can, in principle, be observed from Earth at the present time because light and other signals from these objects has had time to reach the Earth since the beginning of the cosmological expansion. Assuming the universe is isotropic, the distance to the edge of the observable universe is roughly the same in every direction. That is, the observable universe is a spherical volume (a ball) centered on the observer. Every location in the Universe has its own observable universe, which may or may not overlap with the one centered on Earth.
And then there exists the possibility of parallel universes, including one where you did not misplace your car keys.