20 September 2009
Saturday/September/26 2009 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
Years ago, we were fortunate enough to meet Mary Travers. She was as warm and gracious as she was talented.
Touched by Mary's recent passing, we take this opportunity to remember her and to salute other gifted women -- all taken too soon -- whose music and songs have touched our hearts. kindled our memories and fired our imagination.
Mary Travers 1936 - 2009
The Song is Love
The delicately entwined folk harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary were blessed by the vibrant Mary Travers.
Mary's voice -- so different from the sparkling soprano of Joan Baez -- was rich and imbued with a passionate urgency, demanding that she be listened to and ultimately understood.
Laura Nyro 1947 - 1997
Laura and the Thirteenth Confession
Before she was in her mid-twenties, Laura Nyro had already written hit songs for the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Barbara Streisand. But as gifted as she was a songwriter and singer, it would possibly be more accurate to describe her as one of the superb poets of our time:
Emily, you're the natural snow, the unstudied sea, you're a cameo.
And I swear you were born a weaver's lover, born for the loom's desire.
Move me, oh sway me. Emily, you ornament the earth for me.
Minnie Riperton 1947 - 1979
Minnie Riperton's vocal range spanned over five octaves, including what's known as the whistle range. As a member of the Rotary Connection, her angelic voice was majestic as it soared into the high registers of heavenly harmony.
Her classic solo album, Come To My Garden, is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful and romantic ever recorded.
Tammi Terrell 1945 - 1970
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Tammi Terrell's magnificent romantic duets with Marvin Gaye defined her short career. Her music added its own special magic to the mighty Motown Sound.
While on stage during a concert in Virginia in 1967, she collapsed in Marvin's arms. A few years later she succumbed to a brain tumor. But her beautiful music lives on.
Eva Cassidy 1963 - 1996
Eva Cassidy dared to cross the boundaries of musical genres. The haunting masterpiece which was her voice graced folk, rock, soul and jazz with equal ease and brilliance.
Even though much of what she sang had already been made famous by others, she made each song she performed uniquely her own.
Friday/September/25 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
The Brain Within the Brain
Dr. David Diamond, professor of molecular physiology at the University of South Carolina, suggests that within our brain, beneath our cerebellum and medula oblongata, there exists the basal ganglia, a lizard brain barely evolved from its Jurassic beginnings.
Who's Zoomin' Who?
The Washington Post reports that this lizard brain may be responsible for heart-wrenching and horrific tragedies of judgement and behavior. But maybe the workings of the basal ganglia are something that we experience on a regular basis.
And perhaps many of what we've come to call senior moments are actually very darkly different from what we've been led to believe. The Lizard Brain, scientists believe, actually takes control when the conscious parts of our brain are stressed and overstimulated.
It's the Lizard that's actually driving the car while you're chatting on your cellphone in rush hour traffic. And it's the Lizard that puts your keys where you can't find them.
This all gets very complicated when you take into account the work that scientist Bin He is doing at the University of Minnesota. Scientist He believes that he's mapped the brain in such a way that he can identify the sub-atomic volt signals that are the manifestations of thoughts.
Consider that for a moment. He (proper name or pronoun) has discovered a quantum terra nova that exists somewhere between the qualitative consciousness and the quantitative nervous system that animates us.
He has gone so far as to concoct a brain interface that allows your thoughts to control the computer-simulated flight of a helicopter. And we thought Project Natal was amazing!
The bioengineering possibilites of Bin He's work are staggering. He and others in this field are exploring the frontiers of the unimaginable. Since the dawn of humankind, the brain has had dominion over only the musculature of the body itself. Tools and machinery were always a step removed.
But if our thoughts could guide the flight of real helicopters, not just computerized versions, then man and machine bond as never before.
This is all well and good when we think about that conscious, deliberate, hard-working, industrious part of the brain. But what about that pesky Lizard part? What happens if, or better said when, the autonomic Lizard Brain gets the keys to Bin He's magic machine?
Monsters From the Id
The 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet was all about that. The movie -- one all Star Trek fans should see -- tells the story of what happens when Earth astronauts discover, among the ruins of an alien civilization on an uninhabited planet, the next generation of Bin He's mind machine.
When the astronauts experiment with the device they find themselves under attack from a creature they horrifyingly learn is the manifestation of their own fears and jealousies.
Sometimes you get the Lizard and sometimes the Lizard gets you...
Apocalypzia Bonus: Forbidden Planet Clip
Forbidden Planet was inspired by Shakespeare's play The Tempest. It stars Walter Pidgeon and a very young, and very serious, Leslie Nielsen.
Learn more information about the alien Krell version of the Bin He's innovation at timecode 4:30.
Thursday/September/24 2009 Filed in: TV Commercials
Green Giant Canned Vegetables
The Green Giant didn't look so jolly in his early appearances. In fact, he was scary as hell. He was hunched, scowling and looked on the prowl for bloody Englishmen.
The Leo Burnett ad agency was given the assignment of changing all that. Said Bob Noel, creative copywriter there, "when you try to move the Giant around and really show what he looks like, he comes off a monster. The baby cries and the dog goes under the bed."
The big green guy got an extreme makeover sometime after 1958. No more incredibly-hulking full view shots. Instead he was shown only in silhouette or partial view to make him less intimidating. He also became the jolly Green Giant and was given his signature laugh. After all, how scary could a guy saying Ho Ho Ho be?
And why did these vegetables come from the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant?
Before changing their name to the Green Giant Co. in 1950, the company that made this product was the Minnesota Valley Co.
This animated commercial for Ajax Cleanser reportedly clocks back to 1947. There's a bit of a debate at YouTube about vocal credits. Kingpong61 reports that the deep voice of the trio is that of Thurl Ravenscroft, whose most famous character was probably Kellogg's Tony the Tiger (They're Greeeaaatt!). Carlitosbug disagrees, giving the credit to Joe Silver.
Then Ajax -- who took its name from the Greek warror god -- had an image makeover. No more cutesy little cartoon characters slipping and sliding around your wash basin. Ajax was in the mood for a genuine butt-kicking beat-down. And dirt didn't stand a chance.
And Duuude! What could be more kick-butt than a gnarly tornado?
Stronger Than Dirt!
Further leveraging off the warrior imagery, Ajax again went on the cleaning offensive for their laundry detergent.
The Stronger Than Dirt ad slogan actually became part of rock-culture when, in the 1969 hit song Touch Me, Jim Morrison and the Doors used the phrase and the melody for the last four notes.
Fresh-Up Freddie wasn't exactly the coolest cartoon character to pitch a product. The Keebler Elves had more game than this guy.
But in one of the most successful re-branding efforts of all, 7-Up carved out a new niche as the Uncola. It was a brilliant ad campaign and Geoffrey Holder was masterful as he laughed off the inferior cola competition.
Tuesday/September/22 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
Foretelling the future isn't easy and most people who try get it wrong.
Sci-fi novels and movies promised us rocket cars, jet packs, ray guns and time travel. We're still waiting for delivery.
But some people who envisioned tomorrow put some thought into it. The video clip below is from a 1967 documentary exploring future possibilities. The technology shown may look a little clunky today, but the clip clearly hints at the basics of eBay, online banking and email.
Hey, isn't that Wink Martindale?
That's all well and good for a documentary but -- in the mid 1990's -- AT&T put its reputation on the line by running a series of TV ads that challenged viewers to imagine the many ways future technologies would influence and guide our everyday lives.
The Tom Selleck voiceover suggests that we close our eyes and contemplate the shape of things to come. What's astounding is just how spot-on this version of the near-future was. Uncannily, AT&T nailed almost every prediction with the exceptiion of one extremely important one. Can you guess which one that is?
(You may see a blank screen below. Just click the arrow to play)
From over 15 years back, AT&T was right on the money for Google Books, Garmin GPS, iSight Video-Conferencing, Video-on-Demand and iPass Toll Collection, to name a few.
But the tagline was where they tripped up - "...the company that'll bring it to you? AT&T."
AT&T may have indeed been involved in the technological development of some of these wonders but it sure didn't get any of the credit.
Arguably, the most innovative phone so far is the iPhone, brought to you not by AT&T but rather by Apple. Of course the iPhone did launch with AT&T as the exclusive carrier, but that isn't quite the same thing, is it?
Ironically, one of the predictions that didn't pan out was the woman (yes, that's the stunning Jenna Elfman) checking on her baby from a phone booth. A phone booth?
When's the last time you saw one of them?
Sunday/September/20 2009 Filed in: Weekend Showcase
Infomercials -- A Brief History
Bedtime for Deregulation
Some say it all started when Ronald Reagan deregulated the television industry during the early days of cable television, opening the door for greedy advertisers to buy up time in 30 and 60 minute chunks.
As if to fool the viewer, product pitches were loosely disguised as entertainment and the infomercial was born.
Soloflex exercise machines, in 1987, were one of the first items marketed this way. Ten years later, George Foreman and his Grill scored a knockout with one of the most successful infomercial product launches of all time.
Not-Exactly-Infomercials -- A Brief History
But a related version of this concept goes back long before the Reagan. We're talking about those shorts spots for amazing time-saving inventions or hilarious new gadgets that continue to be in heavy rotation on local TV stations. We suppose that technically they weren't infomercials but they were definitely a different breed of advertisement.
Way, way back in 1964, Ron Popeil hawked the slicing, dicing Veg-O-Matic.
Rival K-Tel countered with the Blitzhacker. The Blitzhacker?!
Hey, Good Lookin'! It's Mr. Microphone!
What could possibly be more fun than Mr. Microphone -- ?
The Pocket Fisherman
We're sure that Babe Winkelman carries one of these bad boys around.
This device tests your flashlight batteries to see if they have enough juice. Here's a battery test. Hit the on button on your flashlight. If it comes on, the batteries are okay. If not, replace the freakin' batteries.
(Insert your own clever comment here)
This commercial has a definite Little Shop of Horrors vibe to it. And by the way, why is it that no hair is actually coming off?
Perhaps the genius of Lucy -- and Jackie Gleason above -- is that they saw the future impact of a TV trend decades before anyone else did.