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Preserving Texas’ film history

Cool story.

Click play on the grainy, black-and-white image titled simply “Houston Time Service” on the website of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and you’re treated to a 110-second Houston love story.

The film, from the 1940s, is about a phone number Houstonians could call to get the correct time. Ruth McClain Graham owned the service, according to an Oct. 24, 1947, Houston Chronicle story. Two years earlier she had married Shadrack E. “Shad” Graham, an itinerant filmmaker, who, apparently taken with the proprietor, produced the film promoting the business.

But film, like love, can be short-lived, and that’s what has driven Caroline Frick’s race against time. The role of film preservationists like Frick, an associate professor of film at the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication in Austin, becomes ever more crucial as moving images depicting life and history become unplayable.

As the years play on, the decay of aging motion picture film accelerates, as does the quality of magnetic tape on which video is recorded. Video projectors and old-format tape machines break, are not repaired and discarded. The race to get these recordings into a digital format – also unlikely to survive forever – becomes more crucial with each passing year.

“This is what we are trying to prevent,” says Frick, who founded and is executive director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, or TAMI, in 2003, opening a plastic bag filled with what looks at first glance to be beef jerky. It’s actually decomposing celluloid, curled and blackened. The smell from the bag is a pungent, vinegary rot, and in TAMI’s crowded offices near downtown Austin, you can catch a whiff if you stand next to stacks of boxes filled with 8-, 16- and 35-millimeter film.

Another threat is in the shrinking universe of ways to watch these historic movies, a dwindling number of obsolete devices available for playback. Frick points to a Sony reel-to-reel videotape machine on the floor that once was the pride of a television station editing room. It was designed to work with a now-abandoned, 1-inch tape format.

“We were able to play something once on that after we got it, and then it broke,” she says, sighing. “We’re still looking for parts.”

A staff of five — all part-timers — are in the office on this chilly January day. Some work on physical restoration of film, others scan it into computers for digitization. Another crew catalogs and curates, putting context to the images that, ultimately, stream across the internet to computers, phones and tablets.

It is a daunting task, hampered by a lack of funding — TAMI’s annual budget is in the $300,000 range — and made overwhelming by the sheer amount of content that flows in. So far, TAMI has digitized about 58 terabytes of film and video, but only 10 percent of that is available for viewing at its website,

“The number one reason for the disconnect between what we have digitized vs. what is streaming is budget – the human labor of researching and contextualizing the content,” Frick says. “Everyone is excited about what AI will be able to do some day (for automated curation) but, as of yet, nothing is as reliable or useful as the human eye and brain.”

I’m old enough to remember calling a phone number to get the correct time. Crazy to think about now, but here we are. In any event, preserving old film is a much more challenging task than preserving old books because of the technological barriers. Look at it this way: Most of us have obsolete technology from recent years that has information on it that is now unreadable to us, like various forms of portable storage from computers. The TAMI folks have to deal with machines from decades ago, where there may literally be nothing else like them in existence. Once these old films are gone, that’s it, they’re completely lost to history. Whatever the value of any individual piece of celluloid may be, it sure is a shame to lose something like that. Read the rest of the story and check out the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Maybe you have something that would interest them.

The KLOL documentary

Of interest to me, and other middle-aged guys like me.

This past week Houston filmmaker and blogger Mike McGuff released a trailer for his upcoming film about the late, great radio station, Rock 101 KLOL-FM, and it’s getting Houstonians of a certain vintage very excited for the finished product.

The story of the raunchy Houston radio phenomenon will be told in McGuff’s first documentary, with appearances from the likes of Outlaw Dave (one of the Texican’s creative mentors), Lanny Griffith, Colonel St. James, Pat Fant, David Sadof and even the late Jim Pruett of morning duo Stevens and Pruett in footage shot before he passed away in 2016.

To help with this long-gestating rock doc, McGuff, a former newsman, has turned to crowdsourcing platform IndieGoGo to bankroll some final nips and tucks for the promotional side of things. He’s hoping for a wide release in 2020, just in time for the station’s 50th anniversary. KLOL, formerly KTRH-FM, was born in 1970 as a progressive-rock station, evolved into a more structured album-oriented-rock and then classic-rock station before owner Clear Channel flipped it to Spanish-language in 2004.

As McGuff says, it has been a long journey to get this film in the can. When it comes to labors of love, sometimes time is the best ingredient.

“This project was only supposed to take a couple of years, at least that is what I told my very patient wife back in 2010,” McGuff says. “The years kept piling on as I kept chasing people for interviews, conducted a bunch of research, and waited for people’s photos and video to be found.”

As their onetime promo went, I admit it, I listened to Stevens and Pruett back in the day, and not just them. My enthusiasm for Dayna Steele’s Congressional campaign came very honestly, I assure you. I was right in the sweet spot of their demographic. Anyway, you can see a trailer for this here, and if you want to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, you can do that here. You know you want to.

Sandra Bullock hurts Dan Patrick’s fee-fees

Poor little snowflake.

I can see why she might intimidate him

Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick is not too pleased that Oscar winning actress Sandra Bullock has agreed to star in a movie about former state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 13-hour filibuster helped stall an anti-abortion bill in 2013.

“It saddens me that Sandra Bullock agreed to play Wendy Davis in a movie called ‘Let Her Speak,'” Patrick said in downtown Austin, just miles from where Bullock once owned a home.

When a member of the audience doubted it, Patrick assured the crowd it was true.

“Sandra Bullock,” he repeated. “I used to like her.”

But Patrick said he’s already taking steps to keep Bullock and film crews out of the Senate chamber to recreate the filibuster that raised Davis’s statewide profile. Davis ran for governor in 2014 and lost to Gov. Greg Abbott.

“And by the way, if I have anything to do with it, I’m not going to let them use the Senate chamber to shoot, because they’ve already disgraced it once,” Patrick said. “They’re not going to do it a second time.”

Patrick told the audience at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative public policy advocacy group, that he already has other issues with the movie. He said they sent him a script and asked, “Guess who the villain is?”

After a pause, Patrick raised his right hand and smiled: “Me.”

Can’t imagine why anyone might think of you that way, Danno. Now please go ahead and show me where that mean lady hurt you. You’re safe now. RG Ratcliffe has more.

Friday random ten – All in, part 1

I have a lot of songs that begin with the word “All”, so settle in and get comfortable.

1. All About Soul – Billy Joel
2. All Along The Watchtower – U2
3. All Around My Hat – The Mollys
4. All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints – Paul Simon
5. All At Once – Bonnie Raitt
6. All Because Of You Days – Echo and the Bunnymen
7. All But Blind – Larry Nozero
8. All Day All Night – And The Kids
9. All Day Music – War
10. All For The Best – from “Godspell”

Yes, that’s a U2 version of the Jimi Hendrix classic. Bono et al are distinctive enough to pull it off in a way that doesn’t necessarily invite unflattering comparisons. I’ve professed my love of the movie version of Godspell – it’s so gloriously and joyfully 1970s that I don’t know how anyone could not love it. Have I mentioned that Victor Garber, who has been in everything though he’s probably best known for being Jack Bristow in Alias, played the Jesus role in the movie? I have no idea if this classic movie is available on a streaming service, but if you come across it you should totally watch it. Anyway, I have a few more “All”-based lists, so be ready.

Friday random ten: Fluxblog 1980

It’s all about 1980 this week:

1. The Tilt – 7th Wonder
2. Everybody Wants Some! – Van Halen
3. I Got You – Split Enz
4. My Sick Mind – The Roches
5. Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 – Pink Floyd
6. Joy And Pain – Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly
7. Mister Softee – Kid Creole & The Coconuts
8. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
9. Black Woman – Fred Anderson Quartet
10. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross

All this comes from the Fluxblog 1980s survey mixes, a gigantic free download of music from each year in the 80’s that you really should check out. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s been a tremendous find. (There’s now the first few years of a similar survey of the 1990’s, which I need to start downloading.) It covers everything from big hits of all genres to the stuff that only the cool kids knew about to novelties to really obscure songs, all of which combine to give a good picture of what music was like that year.

As for the list above, I have two movie-related comments. One, I remember watching Pink Floyd: The Wall back in the 80s, and it’s every bit as weird and disturbing and psychedelic as you’d expect, even if you’re not stoned while watching it. And two, “Everybody Wants Some!” will always remind me of John Cusack flipping burgers at the world’s worst fast food joint.

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 22

Happy Leftovers Day, y’all.

1. Hotel Pool – Lily & Madeleine
2. Womanizer – Lily Allen
3. Hypnotized – Linda Jones
4. Tumbling Dice – Linda Rondstadt
5. 1917 – Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris
6. Funkytown – Lipps Inc. (Cynthia Johnson)
7. Jenny Jenkins – Lisa Loeb
8. Boy Boy – Lissie Trullie
9. Let’s Turkey Trot – Little Eva
10. Time Warp – Little Nell, Patricia Quinn & Richard O’Brien

The inclusion of Little Eva’s “Let’s Turkey Trot” is just one of those odd things that happens with these lists. “Time Warp” is of course from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I recorded but (I confess) never watched the recent live RHPS production, though the girls and I enjoyed the Ivy Levan rendition of “Science Fiction Double Feature”. I have high hopes for the forthcoming live production of Hairspray, though. “Tumbling Dice” is from Linda Rondstadt’s underrated career as a solo rocker, and also from the killer classic rock soundtrack to the movie FM. I know nothing of the movie but once had the soundtrack on cassette, taped from a roommate’s LP. That should tell you all you need to know about my opinion of the relative merits of the two.

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 21

I took last week off from my two regularly scheduled music-themed posts because I just didn’t have it in me. They’re back this week, not because I feel better per se, but because there’s comfort to be found in both the music and in the habit of experiencing it. So here we go again.

1. Self Control – Laura Branigan
2. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching – Laura Marano
3. Cluck Old Hen – Laura Veirs
4. Four Words – Lauren Anatolia
5. Astrodome – Leah White and the Magic Mirrors
6. Break It To Me Gently – Brenda Lee
7. Steal My Sunshine – Len (Sharon Costanzo)
8. Love Letters – Ketty Lester
9. Hello Stranger – Barbara Lewis
10. I Know Things Now – Lilla Crawford

Ketty Lester went on to play Hester-Sue Terhune on the TV show Little House on the Prairie, which I watched on occasion but was never really into as a kid. I have no idea who that character was, but I always enjoy stumbling across trivia tidbits like that while checking to verify that a given artist is in fact female as I suspect from the name. I read some of one of the Little House books to Olivia when she was younger, but neither of us was into it any more than I was into the TV show in the 70s. Austin and Ally, the latter of whom was portrayed by Laura Marano, and the movie version of Into the Woods, in which Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood character sang that song, were more her speed.

Saturday video break: Minnie The Moocher

From the movie The Cotton Club, it’s Cab Calloway’s greatest hit:

I saw that movie in the theater back in the day – it was kind of mediocre, but the soundtrack is killer. I’ve owned it on vinyl and on CD, and of course now it’s been ripped to MP3. I suppose I should watch the movie again some day – it has a great cast, including a very young Diane Lane. I see that Siskel and Ebert both loved the movie, so maybe I’m wrong about its merits. I just know I thought it was meh at the time.

Now here’s a live version from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:

Man, I love the sound of a muted trumpet. I’m pretty sure the soloist in this video had a straight mute as well as the cup mute you see going. I also like that they have a different verse in this song. What’s your favorite version of this tune?

Saturday video break: Meant To Be

Remember the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

I remember them well, and I wish they had made more CDs. I’ve been a fan of various forms of swing/jazz/ragtime music since my earliest exposure to jazz band in school. Of the bands that rode the swing revival wave of the 90s, the SNZs were my favorites. Turns out some form of the Zippers played a free outdoors concert in Houston last night, but I was unable to make it.

That song is of course called “Meant To Be”. A song by that same name provided a critical plot point in Disney’s Teen Beach Movie, a more-fun-than-it-had-any-right-to-be mashup of West Side Story, Back To The Future, Grease, and, well, teen beach movies.

Long story short, the girl with pigtails and the blond boy need the girl in the red polka dot dress and the boy with the guitar to be the “meant to be” in question. Watch the movie for yourself if you want to know more – it ain’t Shakespeare, but I’ve watched way worse. There was of course a Teen Beach Movie 2, which believe it or not generated some controversy in how it ended. It also generated this reprise of that song:

No word yet if Teen Beach Movie 3 will be a thing that happens or not.

Saturday video break: Mah Na Mah Na

There are many ways to spell that, but we all know the words. Sing along with the Asylum Street Spankers:

Very sad there’s no live video recording of that, it was always a blast to watch them perform it. With the title rendered as two words and not four, here’s CAKE:

Yes, I know, the video is a clip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I guess the band never made their own video for this.

Of course, the version everyone knows if from The Muppet Show, imported from Sesame Street:

The original version of the song, by Piero Umilani, is from a movie Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, inferno e paradiso).

If your first thought was like mine, that you expected a Benny Hill sketch to break out as you were watching that, then the song’s history should be easily comprehensible.

Saturday video break: Lady Luck

A couple of newer songs from my collection. The first one called “Lady Luck” is by Pickwick, featuring Sharon van Etten:

That’s from a South by Southwest sampler I got via Paste magazine. Don’t ask me how I came to be offered some of these samplers, the original impetus for them is lost to the mists of time. Another song called “Lady Luck” is from an actual CD collection of Texas music, by Dean Seltzer:

Again, I don’t recall where the original CD came from, but I’m glad I have it. And because I feel like it, here’s my favorite personification of the concept of luck:

I know that everyone associates that song with Frank Sinatra, but it was Marlon Brando who had it in the movie. Luck if you ever were a lacy to begin with, luck be a lady tonight.

Friday random ten – To the stars

Because Audrey got to watch “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with us last December, that’s why.

1. Science Fiction/Double Feature – from “Rocky Horror Picture Show”
2. Enterprise-Sulu Medley – Hi-Fidelity
3. The Saga Begins – Weird Al Yankovic
4. Star Wars – Moosebutter
5. Star Wars Medley – Lager Rhythms
6. Starships – Pentatonix
7. Beam Me Up, Scotty – Feo y Loco
8. UFO Attack – Asylum Street Spankers
9. Space Oddity – David Bowie
10. Mean Green Mother From Outer Space – Audrey II

She asked when the next Star Trek movie would be out as soon as the credits were rolling (it showed on TV and I grabbed it for the TiVo). Thankfully, the answer to that is “July 22”, which happens to be exactly one week after the “Ghostbusters” reboot that both of my girls are super excited about. It’s going to be a good summer.

Saturday video break: I Wanna Be Like You

A Disney classic, sung by “King Louie” Prima in The Jungle Book, here’s Los Lobos:

That’s from a live morning-show TV appearance; skip ahead to about 1:30 to get past the talk. This is a different rendition than what they did on the seminal Stay Awake album of diverse Disney covers – you can hear that version here if you want. I consider that to be the canonical cover, and you can hear their influence in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s version:

Still a great rendition, with smoking horn work, but I favor Los Lobos. What’s your preference?

Saturday video break: The State of New York concedes the existence of Santa Claus

A climactic scene from one of my favorite movies of all time:

That is of course the one true version of Miracle on 34th Street, the original 1947 version. I do not speak of the 1994 remake, but I will concede that this is a movie that really could be reimagined in a contemporary light. I mean, my kids have never written a letter to Santa Claus. I’d bet most kids from the last ten or twenty years have never written letters to Santa. You can’t have that scene without actual by-God on-paper delivered-by-the-USPS letters to Santa. How would you do a scene where the judge is finally convinced that this is the One True Santa? I don’t know that there’s a similar authority that could be invoked today like the USPS was in 1947. How would you do it?

Saturday video break: I Can’t Turn You Loose

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues:

I couldn’t find the clip from the movie for that, but we can all picture it, I’m sure. That was an Otis Redding song. Have you ever heard his original version of it?

Who knew that had words, right? I don’t have Redding’s original version, but I do have a pretty faithful cover by Was (Not Was):

The recording I have is a little longer and doesn’t end as abruptly, but it’s as energetic as that one. I feel turned loose, how about you?

Friday random ten: Revisiting the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list, part 13

Here’s their list.

1. Papa Was A Rolling Stone – The Temptations (#169; also a cover by Andrew Rothman)
2. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye (#168)
3. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (#167)
4. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (#166)
5. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (#165)
6. I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles (#164; also versions by Frank Sinatra with Count Basie, and the MOB)
7. Rock Around The Clock – Bill Haley and The Comets (#159)
8. The Sounds of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel (#157)
9. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#156; also covers by Ike & Tina Turner, and the MOB)
10. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (#154)

Song I don’t have but should: “Folsom Prison Blues”, Johnny Cash (#163). I don’t need to explain this, do I?
Song I will always associate with Bill Clinton and Arsenio Hall: “I Only Have Eyes For You”, The Flamingos (#158). Remember when then-candidate Bill Clinton played his tenor sax on the Arsenio Hall Show? This was the song he played. I always thought that was an, um, interesting choice on his part.

Am I the only person who thinks “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” sounds more like a Sly and the Family Stone song than a Temptations song? And wow, are there a lot of songs in this group that were in movies: High Fidelity (“Let’s Get It On”, done by Jack Black); Wayne’s World (“Bohemian Rhapsody”); American Graffiti (“Rock Around The Clock”); The Graduate (“The Sounds of Silence”); A Hard Day’s Night (guess).

Saturday video break: Groove Me

One of the great cover bands of our time, the Blues Brothers:

It’s been over 33 years since John Belushi died. Every now and then I wonder what kind of career he would have had if he had managed to tame his demons enough to survive them. He was amazingly talented, but he’d entered that “not quite sure what to do next” phase of his life, and who knows how that might have gone. What a terrible, tragic loss.

Here’s the original version of that song:

If you knew without looking it up that it was done by King Floyd, give yourself a pat on the back.

(Yeah, I know, I got out of order again. This is what happens when I do these that far in advance. Next week will be out of order too, so be prepared to cope.)

Saturday video break: A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam

Taking a break from cover songs for a good, patriotic reason today:

I’d love to see a modern take on that. Imagine Jay-Z interpreting and re-choreographing Jimmy Cagney’s song and dance above. Or Bruno Mars, or Justin Timberlake, or maybe even Katy Perry, if someone can figure out how to make “a real live niece of my Uncle Sam” work lyrically. They’d need to find a way to work Left Shark and his dance partner into the chorus, that much I know. What do you think? Happy Fourth of July!

Adickes documentary

I’d watch that.

Recently local video production company The Storyhive announced details of an upcoming documentary about Houston artist and sculptor David Adickes, the man behind many of the large-scale public art pieces dotting the Bayou City area.

The film, titled “Monumental,” will chronicle Adickes who at the age of 88 is still exercising his creative muscles daily. The film has been in production for three years now, according to the producers.

They shot footage with him in Huntsville at his old high school, which he turned into the Adickes Art Foundation Museum in 2012. They just recently spent a day with him at his house in the Montrose area as he created a mock-up for a statue of an astronaut for a project he’s currently an integral part of.

It could one day be the second-tallest statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, if the project is completed as planned.

“He’s talking about his entire life in the film and the production will focus on his life in Houston after he returned from Europe mostly,” says The Storyhive’s Jena Moreno. The film only has a crew of three people.

Here’s the Facebook page for the project. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of Adickes’. The film is aiming for a 2016 release, and I intend to be at a screening. I’m so glad someone is doing this.

Saturday video break: The Rainbow Connection

Going out of order, inspired by a Facebook post by my friend Andy, here’s a classic song with a particular resonance for this week:

From the original “Muppet Movie” of 1979, which I need to find on DVD and make my kids watch. I do have this song in my library, though I don’t have any covers of it. Searching around YouTube, here’s one I might like by the Dixie Chicks:

And because I’m a sucker for a capella, here are the Yale Whiffenpoofs:

No, I don’t know what’s up with the guy dressed as Mr. Incredible. Just roll with it. It seems appropriate for this weekend, don’t you think?

Friday random ten: Sum sum summertime

After all the rain we’ve had here, we haven’t had any opportunities yet to complain about the heat. I suspect that’s about to end.

1. All Summer Long – The Beach Boys
2. Cruel Summer – Bananarama
3. Dirty Summer – Mother Falcon
4. In Summer – from “Frozen”
5. Our Last Summer – from “Mamma Mia”
6. Summer Song – Joe Satriani
7. Summer, Highland Falls – Billy Joel
8. Summertime – The MOB
9. Summertime Blues – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
10. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) – Meat Loaf

I bet it wouldn’t take long to come up with a random ten list of movies with “summer” in the title. “Summer of ’42“. “Summer School“. “I Know What You Did Last Summer“. You take it from there.

Saturday video break: Cherry Bomb

It’s time for another edition of Same Name, Different Song. Today’s song “Cherry Bomb” is fairly well known in either rendition, though I’d venture to guess that the John Mellencamp version has been on the radio a lot more.

I had Mellencamp’s album “Scarecrow” on vinyl (still have it, I believe), and “Lonesome Jubilee”, from whence this song came, on CD. Tiffany was the big Mellencamp fan in our house – she had all his CDs from “Lonesome Jubilee” forward. We saw him play at the Woodlands Pavilion some 15 years ago, and it was a great show. I don’t know if he’s still touring these days, but if he were to come to Houston again I feel reasonably sure we’d get tickets.

The other song by this name was by The Runaways:

Yeah, no question about these two songs being different. This one was in at least two movies, “Dazed and Confused” and of course “The Runaways”. Maybe not a radio staple, but it got plenty of exposure.

“The luckiest man on the face of the earth”

Seventy-five years ago today, Yankees great Lou Gehrig said farewell to baseball and the fans at Yankee Stadium with one of the most memorable speeches of sports history. Here’s an old newsreel of Gehrig’s career and a clip from his farewell speech, on July 4, 1939.

Sports On Earth has the full text of Gehrig’s speech, and a comparison to the version from Pride of the Yankees. They’re paying tribute to the Iron Horse today at Yankee Stadium. Lou Gehrig died of the disease that bears his name in 1941, but his memory endures. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Saturday video break: Cups

Cup-stacking is a thing with the kids these days, and this song from “Pitch Perfect” is the soundtrack for it (music starts about 1:28).

David Letterman was quite impressed by Anna Kendrick’s cup percussion ability:

As someone who finds it hard enough to do one musical thing at a time, color me impressed as well.

Saturday video break: “Baby clothes. This place has got everything!”

A shot-by-shot LEGO remake of the mall chase scene from The Blues Brothers:

How awesome, not to mention OCD, is that? Here’s the side-by-side comparison:

And the “making of” video:

All done by the folks at Bricktease. I am in awe. Via Consumerist.

Friday random ten: Five, six, seven, eight…

So tomorrow the Rice Owls will play the Marshall Thundering Herd at Historic Rice Stadium in the Conference USA championship game (noon EST, 11 AM CST, ESPN2, check local listings), and I’ll be there in the stands with the Rice MOB, freezing my embouchure off. In any event, to honor the occasion and to hopefully avoid angering the weauxf gods, here are ten songs from my collection for which the MOB has an arrangement. Odds are you’ll hear a couple of these if you tune in or attend in person.

1. I Can’t Turn You Loose – Was (Not Was)
2. Vehicle – Ides of March
3. Love Shack – The B-52’s
4. Hit The Road, Jack – Ray Charles
5. Pipeline – The Ventures
6. Everybody’s Everything – Santana
7. YMCA – The Village People
8. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
9. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
10. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift

That latter one was my contribution to the script for the U of H show, since our parting of conference ways may mean it’s a long time before we face off on the gridiron again. Our director Chuck Throckmorton arranged it as a medley with Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Believe it or not, I don’t actually have a copy of The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie”, which is the MOB’s calling card. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad”, in that scene with the USC Marching Band at Dodger Stadium, it’s the MOB version of “Louie, Louie” that you’re hearing. We play it after every touchdown, so I hope we’re all sick of hearing it by the end of the game. Go Rice!

Saturday video break: Try A Little Tenderness

Song #64 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Try A Little Tenderness”, originally by Bing Crosby and covered by everybody in the galaxy but for these purposes by Otis Redding. Here’s Der Bingle:

Oh, that voice. Makes you want to go lay a pile of eggs, doesn’t it? Such a shame being a great talent doesn’t make one a great human being. Anyway, here’s Otis Redding:

Another monumental talent, and the polar opposite stylistically. As with Karen Carpenter, and sadly many other artists on this list, you have to wonder what might have been had his life not been cut so tragically short.

Like I said, there’s about a zillion versions of this song. I’m partial to the one from “The Commitments”:

What’s your favorite?

Alamo Drafthouse coming inside the Loop

Woo hoo!

I am so thrilled to announce that we’re getting two new Alamo Drafthouse locations in Houston! I love living in Houston and I love the Alamo theaters here, and the expansion of the company in this wonderful city is nothing but great news. Northwest Houston is getting a theater, and we’re finally getting that long-coveted inner loop location. It’s a great spot, convenient to downtown, Midtown, museum district, Rice and Montrose and with plenty of room for a beautiful, spacious theater. You guys: this is HUGE!
From the press release:

(HOUSTON, Texas, May 30, 2012) – Triple Tap Ventures LLC, owner and operator of the Houston area Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations in West Oaks Mall and on Mason Road in Katy, Texas, is pleased to announce it will bring two new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations to Houston in 2013.


The second new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, scheduled to open after Vintage Park, is a highly anticipated inner-loop location, which will be centrally accessible and located in Houston’s bustling Midtown area. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown will be located at 2901 Louisiana Street as part of a mixed-use project developed by Crosspoint Properties and, like Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Vintage Park, will offer state-of-the-art auditoriums featuring 100 percent digital projection and sound as well as an expansive and inviting lobby bar which will be visible from Milam Street and boast panoramic views of Houston’s impressive downtown skyline. In addition, there will be a ground floor lobby entrance leading up to the theatre, which will be located on top of a three floor parking garage.

“We are thrilled and excited to be announcing the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown and to have the opportunity to bring our unique experience to our existing inner-loop customers as well as introduce the Alamo brand to a new audience,” Michaelsen states. “The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown will no doubt be the epicenter for movie going entertainment for the 700,000 plus residents living within 15 minutes of the new theater and a must-visit destination for those located around the Houston area. We greatly appreciate our strong relationships with inner-loop organizations such as Aurora Picture Show, the Downtown Management District, Market Square Park, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Whole Foods and many more, and look forward to creating new partnerships with our Midtown neighbors.”

I am over the moon at having this theater nearby. There’s a map of the location at the Chron’s Newswatch blog, and if you zoom and and switch to street view, you can see they’ll be using the space now occupied by some abandoned building. Alternately, you can look at the photos on Swamplot for more. Oh, and they’re a few blocks away from the McGowan light rail stop. Awesomeness all around. Via InnerLooped.

Saturday video break: Hallelujah

Song #72 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Hallelujah”, originally by Leonard Cohen and covered by everyone on the planet many artists, in this case Rufus Wainwright. Here’s the original:

That’s probably not the version you’re most familiar with; Jeff Buckley’s cover version, which was really covering John Cale’s version of the song, is the template that everyone uses these days. (Here’s that discussion of the song’s evolution I’ve linked to before; it’s always worth a read.) There are so many versions out there that Cohen himself called for a moratorium on new covers a few years back. I doubt that’ll stop anyone. Here’s the Wainwright version:

Yes, this is the version that was in “Shrek”, in the scene just before Dustin Hoffman Shrek interrupts Fiona’s wedding to Lord Farquaad. If you don’t like this version, there’s plenty more where that came from. And yes, this song will reappear later in the list. What’s your favorite version?

Supreme Court keeps beaches closed


Affirming the private-property rights of shoreline landowners, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the public’s right of access to state beaches cannot be guaranteed when hurricanes or storms reshape the coast.

The sharply divided ruling will limit the state’s ability to enforce the Open Beaches Act, a 53-year-old law that had been used to force landowners to raze or move structures that intrude on the public right of way because of storm erosion.

Writing for the 5-3 majority, Justice Dale Wainwright said the easement that preserves public access to Gulf of Mexico beaches cannot suddenly jump many feet inland after a storm, encroaching on private property where no easement previously existed.

“On one hand, the public has an important interest in the enjoyment of the public beaches. But on the other hand, the right to exclude others from privately owned realty is among the most valuable and fundamental of rights possessed by private property owners,” Wainwright wrote.


Public land, owned by the state, runs from the high tide mark to the water and is known as the “wet beach.” Friday’s ruling did not change this concept.

Instead, the ruling focused on the “dry beach,” which runs from the high tide mark to the vegetation line and may be privately owned.

Under the Open Beaches Act, the dry beach also is typically subject to an easement that keeps it open to the public.


In its ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the public beach easement can subtly shift to follow natural patterns of erosion. It cannot, however, jump to encompass previously private property after a storm, the court said.

Remember the Christopher Reeves Superman movie? Lex Luthor buys up a bunch of seemingly worthless land in the middle of the desert in California, then hatches a plot to detonate a nuke in the San Andreas Fault, thus causing a massive earthquake that results in most of the coastline to fall into the ocean and turn his desert wasteland into valuable beachfront property? Basically, on two separate occasions, the Supreme Court of Texas has sided with Lex Luthor. That’s what this comes down to. Forrest Wilder has more.

Stephen Klineberg, superstar

I want to see this.

Dr. Stephen Klineberg

David Thompson and his colleagues at ttweak are best-known for their work on the quirky “Houston – It’s Worth It” campaign, paying homage to the yawning potholes, soul-sapping humidity and all the other things that help to define the sprawling city.

But they may have found the quintessential symbol of Houston in the star of their new film, “Interesting Times: Tracking Houston’s Transformations Through 30 Years of Surveys.”

Since 1982, Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg has followed the city’s economic fortunes, changing demographics and enduring belief that Houston is a better place to live than almost anywhere else.

His basic pitch after decades of study: “We are the most ethnically diverse city in the nation, a city reinventing itself for the 21st Century.”

He argues that Houston’s future depends upon raising the education levels of its growing Latino population, as well as improving parks and other urban amenities to attract knowledge workers and innovators who could live anywhere.

The film premiered earlier this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It’s a 30-minute sweep of skyline, streetscapes, archival footage and bits of data from the surveys.

Mostly, it shows the 71-year-old Klineberg, alone on stage in an empty auditorium at Rice, barely containing his enthusiasm as he talks about his life’s work.

I can’t find anything on this on the MFAH films page, but this will be shown at Discovery Green on April 27 after the 2012 Houston Area Survey is released. In light of recent news, I hope they’ve asked questions about attitudes towards marriage equality. No matter the case, the HAS is another great thing about Houston, and Klineberg deserves the accolades.

Friday random ten: The best little random ten list in Texas

A moment of silence, please, for Edna Milton Chadwell, the last madam of the Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange, Texas, who passed away this week at the age of 84. In her memory, I bring you this list:

1. Best Damn Fool – Buddy Guy
2. Little Beggarman – Great Big Sea
3. The Best Is Yet To Come – Frank Sinatra and Count Basie
4. Little Bird – Annie Lennox
5. Best o’ The Barley – Jiggernaut
6. Little Brown Jug – Glenn Miller
7. The Best Of Me – Eddie From Ohio
8. Little By Little – Southside Johnny and The Jukes
9. Best Song Ever – Katie Armiger
10. Little Dreamer – Van Halen

If there are any Aggie boys in heaven, they’re probably dancing right about now. (Warning: The following contains gratuitous glimpses of Aggie ass. Those of you with delicate constitutions, you have been warned.)

No more miles until you get to heaven, Miss Edna. Rest in peace.

Friday random ten: Tongue twisters

Somehow I got to thinking this week about songs that are challenging to sing because of lyrical density and/or complexity. Tongue-twisting songs, in other words. I came up with ten from my collection:

1. Mari Mac – Flying Fish Sailors

Here’s the refrain:

Mari Mac’s father wants Mari Mac to marry me
My father’s making me marry Mari Mac
I’m going to marry Mari to get Mari to take care of me
We’ll all be making merry when I marry Mari Mac

Like many songs of this type, it’s sung once at a modest tempo, then again at about twice the speed. You need loose lips to make it through the second time around. Here’s a Great Big Sea version, with slightly different lyrics, which is another feature of songs like this.

2. What I Want Is A Proper Cup Of Coffee – Trout Fishing In America
The refrain:

All I want is a proper cup of coffee, made in a proper copper coffee pot
I may be off my dot, but I want a proper coffee in a proper copper pot
Iron coffee pots and tin coffee pots, they are no use to me
If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot I’ll have a cup of tea

Another song that starts slow, then speeds up for the ending. All those Ps will get you eventually.

3. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – Great Big Sea

Originally by REM, of course. Once again, my favorite Pearls Before Swine cartoon:

4. The Elements – Tom Lehrer

Lots of good videos for this one, all utilizing the periodic table of course. Here’s one:

5. One Week – Barenaked Ladies

Now that I think about it, this was the song that got me contemplating the matter. I made some kid-friendly CDs for the car to give me some relief from hearing the same ones over and over again, and I included this on one of them. The official video doesn’t allow embedding, so click to see it.

6. Garden State Stomp – Dave Van Ronk

Does for the many oddly-named towns of New Jersey what “The Elements” does for, well, the elements. Couldn’t find a good video, so go listen to a small sample of it here. I prefer the version from the Laugh Tracks Volume 2 CD, where Van Ronk lets loose with his gravelly baritone.

7. Horoscope – Weird Al Yankovic

Mostly for the bridge, which demonstrates another aspect of songs like this – the need to sing long passages without taking a breath.

8. Beer – Asylum Street Spankers

This one’s a bit of a stretch, but I figure any song whose lyrics I can’t quite master after that many listenings should qualify. Note that the song and especially the intro are NFSW:

9. Quartet (A Model Of Decorum And Tranquility) – from the Chess soundtrack

Nothing like a little counterpoint to allow for verbal gymnastics.

I suppose it’s more of an ear-twister, trying to hear everything they’re saying. Of course, you have to be careful not to use too many notes when trying this.

10. All For The Best – from the Godspell soundtrack

One of my two favorite songs (the other being “Turn Back, O Man”) from my favorite musical when I was a kid.

I haven’t seen the movie version of this since the 70s, so I had quite forgotten where the end of that scene was filmed. Be prepared to get choked up if you watch all the way through.

Well, that was fun. What would you add to this list?

Saturday video break: Kiss

Song #84 on the Popsode Top 100 Covers list is “Kiss”, originally by Prince and covered by the Art of Noise with Tom Jones. While I was able to find a Prince song video before, I regret to say that this time I struck out – every one I clicked on had the audio disabled. So you’ll just have to settle for the cover this week, which I must say is its own kind of awesome.

The Art of Noise and Tom Jones are individually two things I’ve never quite gotten, but put together they add up to more than their parts. I love the little commentary at the end, too, even if the announcer is speaking over the music, which I normally consider to be a cardinal sin. Weirdly enough given the artists involved, this isn’t that great a divergence from the original, though it clearly bears the Tom Jones stamp – with that voice, how could it not? I was going to make a joke about Martian heads exploding, but while Tom Jones was in the movie, it was apparently Slim Whitman music that saved the Earth. And to think, all these years I’d remembered it wrong. Oh, well.