It's the longest song ever recorded by Weird Al Yankovic. He'd wanted to compose a song "that's just going to annoy people for 12 minutes," Yankovic is quoted as saying (on the epic song's page on Wikipedia).
The strangest thing is it's actually not a bad song, with a certain amount of punk-rock-ish cred. And after slogging through all 12 minutes, it arrives at its semi-affirming finale:
"...if one day you happen to wake up and find yourself in an existential quandary... at least you can take a small bit of comfort in knowing that somewhere out there in this crazy ol' mixed-up universe of ours, there's still a little place...
Called Al - buquerque!
Al - buquerque!
Albuquerque! Albuquerque! Albuquerque! Albuquerque....!
It's probably the most famous passage ever written by this great American writer. But have we all been misquoting it for the last 91 years after a typist misread his original manuscript?
I'm talking about Thomas Wolfe, and his stirring opening paragraphs for Look Homeward, Angel.
". . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.
Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?
O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?
O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."
In his first novel, Look Homeward Angel, 29-year-old Thomas Wolfe remembered a turn-of-the-century Thanksgiving from his boyhood in Asheville, North Carolina. In his nostalgic fictionalized memoir, Wolfe calls himself young Eugene -- the toddler son of a couple named Eliza and a wildly prodigal stone-cutter named Gant.
Seated before a roast or a fowl, Gant began a heavy clangor on his steel and carving knife, distributing thereafter Gargantuan portions to each plate. Eugene feasted from a high chair by his father's side, filled his distending belly until it was drum-tight, and was permitted to stop eating by his watchful sire only when his stomach was impregnable to the heavy prod of Gant's big finger.
"There's a soft place there," he would roar, and he would cover the scoured plate of his infant son with another heavy slab of beef. That their machinery withstood this hammer-handed treatment was a tribute to their vitality and Eliza's cookery.
I love The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And I'm fascinated by
this song from its soundtrack. Its title is "Step Out," but the lyrics
are a little darker. I could've sworn they were singing "House on fire.
Leave it all behind you..."
So I launched a quest to learn what the real lyrics are...
I discovered there's a "last episode" of Route 66. Tod gets married
his bride is played
by Barbara Eden -- but in the last scene,
scheming relatives immediately have him murdered in order to claim his
inheritance. The episode actually ends with them throwing his body off a
high bridge, while his bride weeps.
It turns out that's just part one of a two-part episode...
I was walking around a
beach town when I suddenly remembered the movie "Summer of '42." (A
teenaged boy in a summer resort town has a crush on a woman whose
husband is serving in the war...) Remembering the movie, I felt like I
had to know: was the movie really based on a true story?
obsessed with the great music that Ben Folds wrote for "Over the Hedge."
William Shatner was on his (new!) version of "Rocking the
Suburbs" - and
there's a gentle ballad called "Still" that's
I love the sweet (and satirical) '60s euphoria he sneaks
into songs like
"(I've Always Got My) Family
of Me" and even a cover of The Clash's "Lost
in the Supermarket"
. The melody itself is almost a
commentary on middle-class suburban life.
Here's an inspiring story. A part-time cameraman for the news (and
commercials) at a local TV station in Texas was hired in the 1970s to
start filming NCAA football games. Eventually he was filming NFL games
and even part of the Olympics in Mexico City. But Steve Rash had a
dream. And he spent the next five years raising money to make it come
Edgar Allan Poe described walking to a tomb in a brilliant but
forgotten poem called "Ulalume".
("Perhaps befitting the
Ulalume has a
secret history," writes Moe Zilla). After his death, Poe's
literary executor deleted
the last stanza -- though the poem's even spookier without it.
And somehow, YouTube has a video of the poem being recited by Nico of
The Velvet Underground.
"You have to distinguish between two things - the Swedish economy and
the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the
goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There
are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and
shipments from Kiruna to Skovde. That's the Swedish economy, and it's
just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago...
"The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and
no production of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which
people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is
worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn't have a thing to do with
the Swedish economy."
"So you're saying that it doesn't matter if the Stock Exchange drops
like a rock?"
Fonzie literally "jumped the shark" — on water skis — in a
episode of Happy Days. Three decades later, the
writer of that
episode insists "I still don't believe that the series 'jumped the
shark' when Fonzie jumped the shark."
"It aired Sept. 20, 1977, and was a huge hit, ranking No. 3 for the
week with a 50-plus share (unheard of today) and an audience of more
than 30 million viewers...
If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show
stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164
episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six
It's fun to get his perspective, and he remembers that at the time,
one expected this episode would become infamous.
"...what I definitely remember is that no one protested vehemently; not
one of us said, "Fonzie, jump a shark? Are you out of your mind?"
I said that I didn't mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as
an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply. He
accepted the explanation and thanked me. We shook hands and said good
Now, in the shadow of his passing, I find myself wondering about that
explanation. Yes, he was a cultural icon, a hero if you will, but not of
my generation. He belonged to my father's youth: he was a World War II
guy whose career began in the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and ended
with the arrival of the youthful Mickey Mantle...
A 2001 biography of Crosby by Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins
says that Louis Armstrong's influence on Crosby "extended to his love of
marijuana." Bing smoked it during his early career when it was legal and
"surprised interviewers" in the 1960s and 70s by advocating its
decriminalization, as did Armstrong.
Crosby even recommended that his son smoke pot instead of drinking
alcohol, if Wikipedia is to be believed. They quote his son as saying
that "There were other times when marijuana was mentioned and he'd get a
smile on his face...."
Jan and Dean share some
surfer zen - chanting "Summer means fun." (Over and over again...)
I thought it was a shame that the complete lyrics to their bouncy
summer surfer koan appeared nowhere on the web.
Add this to the list of things I didn't know about
The first International House of Pancakes opened up in California, however
due to concerns the heavy tectonic forces prevelent in California would
topple the original a-framed building it was relocated to Idaho.
relocation process spanned the course of a year as piece by piece the
original building was deconstructed and placed on flat bed trucks to be
shipped across the United States.
The Oompah Loompahs were even scarier in the original book.
Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they
sing their stern
judgments with extensive and gleeful details about the
fates of the bad
For example, Augustus Gloop.
A hundred knives go slice, slice, slice;
We add some sugar, cream, and spice;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we're absolutely sure....
For Tim Burton's movie, Danny Elfman changed that lyric to "We boil it
for a minute more..."
Elfman sang, produced, and wrote music for all the songs. But Dahl's
lyrics were apparently so vicious, that Elfman had to
trim out most of them.
As an example,
here's Roald Dahl's original lyrics for the Augustus Gloop
song. Italics show the only lines that Danny Elfman kept.
Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldn't do!
However long this pig might live,
We're positive he'd never give
Even the smallest bit of fun
Or happiness to anyone.
So what we do in cases such
As this, we use the gentle touch,
And carefully we take the brat
And turn him into something that
Will give great pleasure to us all --
A doll, for instance, or a ball,
Or marbles or a rocking horse.
But this revolting boy, of course,
Was so unutterably vile,
So greedy, foul, and infantile
He left a most disgusting taste
Inside our mouths, and so in haste
We chose a thing that, come what may,
Would take the nasty taste away.
'Come on!' we cried, 'The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
He has to go! It has to be!'
And very soon, he's going to see
Inside the room to which he's gone
Some funny things are going on.
But don't, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be altered quite a bit.
He'll be quite changed from what he's been,
When he goes through the fudge machine:
Slowly, wheels go round and round,
and cogs begin to grind and pound;
A hundred knives go slice, slice, slice;
We add some sugar, cream, and spice;
We boil [it] for a minute more,
Until we're absolutely sure
That all the greed and all the gall
Is boiled away for once and all.
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
This boy, who only just before
Was loathed by men from shore to shore,
This greedy brute, this louse's ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?"
But to be fair, 34 years ago, I remember a kid on the playground
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He'd read the book - "Charlie and
Chocolate Factory" - and
through the entire movie he'd waited to hear the Oompah Loompahs sing...
"Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop,
The great big greedy nincompoop!"
But they didn't.
I wonder if he'd even remember that conversation. But I did. Saturday,
watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When the Oompah
Loompahs finally sang...
"Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop,
The great big greedy nincompoop!"
Last night Jon Stewart's The Daily Show did a segment
The highlight was its interview with Stephen Colbert...
JON: With more on the role of blogger's in today's media, I'm
joined by Daily Show senior media correspondent, Stephen Colbert.
STEPHEN: Jon, before we begin, I'd like to get something off my
chest, before I get 'outed' by the bloggers.
My real name isn't
Colbert. It's Ted Hitler. No relation. Well, distant relation, two
generations back. Directly. I'm Adolf Hitler's grandson. Anyways, it's
out there. It's no longer news.
JON: Uh, uh, wow. First of all, thank you for your honesty,
It's Ted. It's Ted Hitler.
Ted, you're sort of 'old media,' you're an old media reporter. What are
your thoughts on,
in your mind, the role of these new media figures?
Jon, the vast majority of bloggers out there are responsible
correspondents doing fine work
in niche reporting fields like Gilmore Girl fan fiction, or cute things
their cats do or photoshopped images of the Gilmore Girls as cats. That's
great. Where I draw the line is with these "attack bloggers," just
someone with a computer who gathers, collates and publishes accurate
information that is then read by the general public. They have no
credibility. All they have is facts. Spare me...
JON: But, Stephen, I mean, to be perfectly...
STEPHEN: Okay, I put myself through school as a Colombian drug
mule. I put heroin in condoms and I smuggled them into the country in my
colon. Okay? Fine. Post away, atrios.blogspot.com
Um -- getting back to the story, Stephen, the medium of the internet may
be new but
what bloggers do, as you just described it, is really in many respects
'What journalists do', Jon? As a journalist, I think I know what I do.
I'm not sitting at home in front of my computer. I'm out there busting my
hump every day at the White House, transcribing their press releases,
repeating their talking points. That's how you earn your nickname from
President Bush. And when he stands at the podium, points at me and says
'You, Chowderneck - question?' Everyone knows its me. Ted Hitler.
JON: But as long -- as long as the blogs fact-check, as long as
these bloggers check their facts, why would you even object to this kind
of political coverage?
STEPHEN: Because it's not political coverage, Jon.
They're reporting on the reporters. The first rule of journalism is
talk about journalism'. Or maybe that's Fight Club, but my point
is this. These guys need to learn: you don't report on reporters. Nobody
likes a snitch! If they've got to report on something, why don't they
take some of that youthful moxie of theirs and investigate this
administration. Somebody ought to! You would not believe the
things they're getting away with!
JON: But Stephen...
Fine, Jon. Three years ago I killed a panda. Ling-Ling! Or the other
one. I can't tell them apart. In my own defense, in my own defense Jon,
it was dark, I was drunk, and it was delicious. Sorry to ruin your scoop,
Now Stephen, like it or not, these bloggers have already gained a certain
Yes, Jon, and therein lies our only hope. For with legitimacy, the
bloggers will gain a seat at the table, and with that comes access,
status, money, power. And if we've learned anything about the mainstream
that breeds complacency.