Monday, July 24, 2017

VHSmas in July

Because nothing should get you into the holiday spirit better than the rapid approach of August, the hottest and least-holiday-filled month of all, here is a Christmas video.



I spent the last two weeks cobbling this together for Drink Special’s Christmas in July event last night at Bar Mattachine in downtown L.A. And while it was cool to see something I’d stitched together projected onto the wall, probably bigger than anything else I’d had a hand in making, I’m also putting the video online, just because a few people have enjoyed my past videos. And who knows? Maybe this will come in handy in a few months, when you’re planning your own holiday party and you want to play some wallpaper video that encourages people to point and say, “Hey, I also remember this thing!”

The Drink Special party had its own soundtrack, so while VHSmas was playing on a loop you couldn’t hear the soundtrack I included with it. That’s okay. The music in the video is really just placeholder music anyway, and I feel like anyone playing this at parties will probably just mute it and put on their own Christmas music instead.

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of the TV shows and movies I included, in order of when each first appears in the montage.

  • The 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special
  • The Nutcracker Fantasy (read more about this high-octane nightmare fuel here)
  • 1974’s other Rankin/Bass special, The Year Without Santa Claus
  • Gremlins
  • A Muppet Family Christmas
  • Black Christmas (1974 version)
  • A fairly unknown 1984 slasher movie called Don’t Open Till Christmas
  • 1984's Christmas Top of the Pops, featuring Baltimora
  • 1977’s The Carpenters at Christmas
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
  • The “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble” episode of Ranma 1/2
  • The finale to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Ann-Marget on an unidentified Christmas special from 1981
  • The Joan Collins sequence from the 1972 Tales From the Crypt movie
  • The video for “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run–D.M.C.
  • The video for “Last Christmas” by Wham
  • “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the show’s original Christmas special
  • “Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • “The Bird! The Bird!” — the premiere episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Sailor Moon S: The Movie
  • Scrooged
  • White Christmas
  • An amazing Philip Morris video about marketing cigarettes that I think I passed off as Christmassy well enough
  • The Solid Gold Christmas specials from 1983 and 1985
  • He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Babes in Toyland (1986 version)
  • Batman Returns
  • The video for the original version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  • Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)
  • The 1989 Christian Lacroix fall-winter fashion show
  • Profondo Rosso
  • Die Hard
  • The Snowman (1982)
  • This 1951 Russian cartoon that may or may not be an adaptation of The Night Before Christmas
  • Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)
  • “Koopa Klaus,” the Christmas episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super
  • “Miracle at the Teen Club,” the Beverly Hills Teens Christmas special
  • “Christmas Memories,” the holiday special for Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats
  • A Christmas Story
  • A 1980 clip of Kate Bush performing a Christmas version of “Babooshka”
  • The video for Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” which it should be noted was originally written as a Christmas song
  • The Christmas Toy (1986)
  • A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)

(Sorry, no ALF.)

I’m not listing all the commercials separately because there are simply too many of them and I found them all in these treasure trove YouTube clips of old broadcast commercials broadcast around the holidays. But ask if there’s something you want identified. And feel free to use this montage as you will.


Previous videos:

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Singing Mountain

It’s not that I’m neglecting this blog; it’s that I’m more often engaged in creative ways that are not writing, and I’m simply using the shell of this blog as a platform to promote these other things.

I started Singing Mountain, a podcast about video game music a few weeks ago. It’s an experiment, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take. It may change episode to episode, based on my whims and availability, but I can tell you at least that it will always be about why the background music from whatever game you barely remember is actually more important than you might have realized.

I posted the fourth episode of Singing Mountain yesterday. It’s actually a remake, of sorts, of a post that went up here back in 2012. Once I started this thing, I realized that a podcast actually was the better medium through which to tell the story, just because you can exert a little more control over your audience than you can with just text. Topics discussed in this fourth episode include Earthbound, the closet where my mom would hide Christmas presents, The Cars, Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” the actual persistence of memory, the litigiousness of Beatles and, finally, Janet Jackson. It will likely prove to be the exception more than the rule, as far as future episodes go, as this one is also about me. I was interested if I could use this sort of podcast as a means to make creative nonfiction, I guess, and I’m eager to hear what you think of the result.



If you’re interested, you can subscribe to Singing Mountain both on SoundCloud and on iTunes. And if you’re curious, you can also listen to my previous three episodes, which cover Super Mario RPG, the Mega Man series and the work of German composer Chris Huelsbeck.

In case you’re wondering, the logo art uses a slightly re-colored version of the Dragon’s Hole dungeon background art from Seiken Densetsu 3. And please — if you’re so inclined, write me a review on iTunes. As a podcast person, I’m required to ask you that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

This Used to Be My Carnival of Horrors

It’s America’s birthday today, and what’s more American than baseball?

(This post is only tangentially about baseball.)

The newest episode of We Are Not Young Anymore has Chris and I — plus special guest Michelle! — talking about A League of Their Own, the 1992 baseball movie that asks the question “What if with girls this time?” Listen to the episode at your leisure.



I’m writing this post to tell you about something that got cut out of the final version of the episode, however. You may have noticed that we open and close each episode with MIDI renditions of popular songs. In making the League of Their Own episode, the obvious choice was Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground.” And that’s what I used, in the end, but it took a little bit of searching to find a usable version. It turns out that the most popular MIDI version of this particular song sounds… wrong.

Because this is something the world needs to hear, I’ve made it listenable in video form. Here, take it in.



Around the 13-second mark, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a horror movie. I’m not sure what’s happening here, exactly. It could just be that this composition was made a long time ago, and the program I’m using to read it today isn’t doing so correctly — or is maybe selecting the wrong instrument to play. However, what I’d prefer to imagine to be the case is that whoever created this rendition really did choose a thudding piano in the style of every old slasher movie where the killer is approaching a victim and death is imminent. They listened to the final version and said, “Yes, this is right. This is good enough to share.” And it’s been kicking around online ever since, making anyone who has reason to download a MIDI version of “This Used to Be My Playground” to get 13 seconds in and then say, “Wait, what the fuck?”

And I like that.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Here, I Fixed the Woodsman from Twin Peaks

Eight episodes into the new season of Twin Peaks, we’ve seen some scary stuff. However, the single most lingering image, for me, nightmare-wise, appeared back in the second installment. It was our first glimpse of the horrifying, soot-covered woodsmen. The camera pans from Matthew Lillard’s character, grief-stricken as he waits in his jail cell, to another one a few doors down, where there’s this man who is painted black, sitting motionless and contorted. Then he vanishes. Then his head floats away like a balloon. No explanation given.

I made a video in case you need a refresher.



Even though the woodsman has appeared again — and done more horrifying things than just vanish — it’s this one that has stuck with me, and I wanted to take the piss out of it. That’s why I acted on the suggestion that it could be greatly improved by the addition of a slide whistle.



It was, in fact.

That’s why I asked Tony (Tony!) to further improve the sequence with voices.

Here is that.



See? Not scary anymore. I fixed it. I think you will agree. You’re welcome.


Not even scary in the slightest.