Monday, August 27, 2007

25 years of CDs

A somewhat significant anniversary took place on August 17, 2007. It was the 25th anniversary of the compact disk. Those little plastic circles that changed the way we buy music have reached the quarter-century mark. Not a bad record! (Just FYI, according to my local paper, the first mass-produced CD featured Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony).

For me, the CD craze actually began circa 1989. Prior to that, everything my family had was on vinyl or on cassette tape (or on reel-to-reel, but that's another long story!). Why didn't we jump on the CD bandwagon right away? Yep -how'd you guess?- it was money. But it was also the fact that most of the music we bought came from thrift stores, not “real” music stores. I, like so many teens before me, had to beg my folks for my music. Maybe “beg” is too strong a word, but when you don't have a job, you really aren't in a position to demand everything you want.

So it began with my parents' old collection. I listened to what they listened to, and I liked it. And not because I had to! It was good music. John Denver, the Seekers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, etc. And of course, there were those Sesame Street albums. And the Bill Cosby comedy LPs. Ah yes, a golden age. I had a beautiful blue Lionel record player. That's right, the same folks who made toy trains made some record players as well. And they could do things that record players of today can't do – such as play records at 16 rpm!

My teen music years began with buying hit singles. “Business as Usual” by Men At Work is regarded as the first “teen rock album” I managed to talk my parents into buying. After that came such classics as “Toto IV,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Rio”, etc. The first CD I managed to obtain? Probably “Bridge over troubled water” by Simon & Garfunkel. I think when Peter, Paul & Mary's “10 Years together” album debuted, that was when I realized that I needed to take this CD stuff seriously. Prior to that, most of the albums that I wanted to get on CD were just not available. There was no “Best of Seekers” CD. No “Best of Ed Ames.” Without the artists that I wanted to hear, there seemed little reason to delve into this new technology. But as time went on, favorite artists/albums began to “convert” to CD, and I (and everyone else) decided to start collecting them all over again. And so began the golden age of the CD.

There's a chance that that golden age is behind us. With the advent of iPods and the demise of Tower Records, much of the music-minded masses today get their music from online downloads and not from CDs. CDs are certainly still popular, though, and their demise – if it is coming – is probably still several years away. In the meantime, I relish in the fact that I can now pick up a CD at Goodwill for $2.00. That's almost the price of an LP there. How times have changed.
For more about the fall Tower Records (and why it fell), read this post:


As noted by Nantoreturns, Helen Reddy's “Wonder Child” - a song she performed on Sesame Street (and originally available on the “Stars come out on Sesame Street” LP) - is finally available on compact disc. It's on a 2006 collection titled “The Rest of Helen Reddy.”
Why is this important? It is a rare example of an artist's track from “Sesame Street” appearing on the artist's official album. It's a good sign – if this keeps up, we may get to hear more rare tracks from Sesame, including songs by Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano, etc. that haven't been released commercially. Let's hope! In the meantime, you can watch Helen sing “Wonder Child” on the clip in the favorites folder of my YouTube page.


THE BUZZ FROM TODD: You can blog about anything. And I do mean anything. The slightest, tiniest little bit of news can become a blog posting. You want a perfect example? Fly on over to “Neato Coolville” by clicking on the link below and see what I mean. But bring along a can of Raid. Maybe this blogging stuff is easier than I thought.


DOUBLE YOUR. . .PLEASURE? Have you ever walked down the street and run into somebody who looked exactly like yourself? It happened to Fred Hembeck. He writes about it on his blog – scroll down to August 21, 2007 to read all about it:


MISTER, WE SHRUNK OUR MOM. The problem with having an overactive imagination is that sometimes it makes you see things that don't exist. . .Or do they? For example, I came upon this description in the newsgroup of a video that someone is looking for:

I was writing this in the hopes that someone could help me find a video I have been wanting to find for a long time. The video was called "Mister, We Shrunk Our Mom," and it was a promotional video distributed for Kirby Brand Vacuume (sic) Cleaners in the early 90's. The Kirby Company has since stopped distributing the video, and I have been unable to locate it. If anybody out there has this video or knows where I can find it, I would GREATLY appreciate it if they would please give me a reply.

Now I have never seen this video. But given only this tiny bit of information, I think I can describe pretty much exactly what this video is like!

A vacuum cleaner salesman walks up to a house & knocks on the door. Two kids answer the door.

SALESMAN: Hi there, kids! Is your mother home?

KIDS: (In unison) Mister, we shrunk our Mom!


KIDS: We shrunk her so small that we can't find her!

SALESMAN: Well, that's no problem, kids! I just happen to have the new Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner with me! This handy, economical machine will find your mom with no trouble at all!

KIDS: You mean we have to do our homework after all? That sucks!

SALESMAN: Exactly! Just look at how well this Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner sucks up all the grungy, grimy things within your carpet! Including your mom!

KIDS: Be careful!

SALESMAN: Don't worry, kids. The Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner won't harm your carpet or your hard-floor surfaces.

KIDS: We're talking about our Mom, you dufus!

Cut to a scene of the Mom standing next to a strand of carpet that is twice her size.

MOM: Gee, it's a good thing my clothing shrunk with me. . .Wait, what's that?




KIDS: Gee, did it work, mister?

SALESMAN: We'll find out soon, kids. But first, let's talk about payment options. . .

If anyone really does have this video, which sounds like a future cult classic for MST3K, please let me know. And let me know how accurate I was! (Just contact "sesameguy" at the Muppet Central forums.)


Friday, August 10, 2007

YouTube: Is change good?

MORE MARION. A production photo from the next “Indiana Jones” movie shows the cast standing next to director Steven Spielberg. Among the cast are (of course) Harrison Ford and – a drumroll please - Karen Allen! Marion will return! YAY! For Marion fans like me, this is great news. I suggest the film be titled, “Indiana Jones and the cute girl.” I realize that “cute girl” doesn't have the same feel as “temple of doom”, but girls can get Indy in trouble too, can't they?

Check out the pictures on the official site.


NEW HOME FOR MUPPETS. Those of us waiting impatiently for the coming Jim Henson exhibit to arrive at a nearby museum soon will have another option. The Jim Henson company is donating several puppets – along with sketches and artwork – to Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts. The exhibit will be housed in a wing of the museum that won't be ready until 2012, but when it is, it promises to be a Muppet fan's paradise, featuring puppet characters from several Henson productions. This is great – a wonderful way to allow fans the chance to see the classic puppets up close. A definite thing to look forward to in 2012. Read about it here, along with some links:


BART AND ART: I do not regularly visit the Christianity Today web page, but a recent web search led me there, and I couldn't help but see that they had a link to a review of the new “Simpsons” movie. “Oh great,” I thought. “They're probably going to have a cow.” Knowing the humor of the Simpsons, I felt that a Christian organization would probably not shower the movie with praise. But I was wrong! The movie actually got a pretty good review. I guess it's because they realize that it's all in fun. That's the kind of attitude that is necessary to enjoy a lot of things. You need to be willing to accept that it is “ridiculous” in order to relax and enjoy it. Homer Simpson, for example, is so absurd as a character that he couldn't exist in the real world. His character is just that - a caricature. You laugh at him because you know that no normal human being would do what he does. The antics of the Simpsons mock just about everybody, and if you're ready to accept that, you'll probably survive the movie.

Blogging pal Fred Hembeck enjoyed the Simpsons movie, but he seems a lot more excited about what he saw in the previews. Bean! Read about it on his “Fred Sez” blog site. You can get there from the “Fred Hembeck's page” link in my links section.


YOULOSE? For the five of you who visit my YouTube page - (sorry, I couldn't resist)- you may have noticed that some of the favorite videos are missing. Many YouTube users are switching their videos to “private” in an effort to avoid what may be the demise of “copyrighted” material on the site. One user has actually moved some videos onto a different video site. The loss of such videos may mean big changes for YouTube – changes which I'm afraid may not help the site's popularity.

A few weeks ago, I found a rare clip of Ed Ames (who I will have to do a blog about someday!) on YouTube that I considered putting in my favorites folder. The video was originally posted on a Sunday, and by Wednesday YouTube had removed it. That's not too bad a turnaround when you consider the hundreds (thousands?) of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. They're cracking down, folks, and unfortunately, it may mean the end of the site as we know it. I have to admit that what first drew me to YouTube was the chance to see material from broadcast TV or film that wasn't available anywhere else. I really didn't come there to watch home movies, or parodies. But that's what YouTube will have to become if they eliminate all copyrighted material.

Is there a silver lining? Well, you can still upload your (G-rated) home movies to YouTube, which could double as a place to store your valuable memories. Perhaps this is the chance for us home-movie makers to really shine and present material that can compete with some of the best cartoons/short films out there. YouTube's crackdown may force more innovative videos, but only from those of us who are blessed with the time and desire to do it. That's not too many people. It's just easier to put on an “Electric Company” clip than it is to think of something that's just as good, and then beg your friends to help you film it. If YouTube succeeds in keeping copyrighted stuff out, it will only be a boon to those who are patient enough to create good home movies – and those who are patient enough to watch them.

The other big winners are “web bloggers” and musicians who are able to produce a lot of material that can be uploaded quickly. If the “big names” of music don't want to be on YouTube, it means the little guys may rise to the occasion. It's like what happened at the “Old Fashioned Christian Radio” site. The “big guys” go away, but the small guys take their place. It may become easier for independent artists to make a name for themselves online. It may also create more of a challenge to TV & other media to compete for our attention.

Just this morning, I was going to look at some clips of classic TV material, only to find that those clips (and the poster) were gone from YouTube. If this keeps up, I'm not going to want to visit the site anymore. Why should I when there's nothing there I want to see?


This blog is quickly turning into the “Mister Rogers story,” but I can't resist letting you folks know about a new production in the works. A fellow named Benjamin Wagner was lucky enough to visit with Fred Rogers at his summer home on Nantucket Island. Their friendship – and a certain conversation in particular - has inspired a documentary that is scheduled for next year titled “Mr. Rogers and me.” (Apparently no relation to “Roger and me.”) Judging from the preview, this film should be something very enjoyable and a fine tribute to Fred. You can learn about the show at the site below, which has a link to a blog about the making of the production.