Category Archives: history

a very special christmas special, “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together” (1979)

As you are probably aware, based on my previous posts about A Muppet Family Christmas and The Christmas Toy, and my yearly exultations that The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best and most faithful film adaptation of the original book A Christmas Carol despite being narrated by Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo the Great, the Muppets and Christmas occupy roughly the same spot in my brain.  It’s that soft, gooey, marshmallow-like cluster nestled at the back of my hippocampus, near the base of my occipital lobe.  If you were to poke it, I would involuntarily start waving my arms around like Kermit.

However, I have never actually seen John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together until today.  Part of this may have to do with the fact that it has never been officially released on VHS, and part of this may have to do with the fact that it came out the year I was born and I was too busy spitting up strained squash and eating stuff I found on the carpet to notice.   Either way, I found it on the Youtubes, and have decided to write about my experiences watching this holiday gem for the first damn time.

Aaaaaaand… push play.

Fade in on the late John Denver, sprightly and alive and in the middle of his “Oh, God” heyday.   Because ‘tis the glorious season of Yuletide, he’s dressed like a Dickensian gent, resplendent with his purple top hat and all.  At this point, things could really go either way – of all the M.O.R. artists ever to walk this Earth, John Denver is the M.O.Riest.  For every heartfelt, aching ballad like “Leavin’ On A Jetplane,” there’s an “Annie’s Song.”   For every “Rocky Mountain High”, there’s a Coors beer commercial where a bunch of people start singing “Rocky Mountain High.”   And, of course, there’s that big old slice of bitter irony pie you have to mention when you’re a heartless bastard like me and someone brings up John Denver: “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was written by a man who died when his private plane crashed.  Either the jokes make themselves or they really, really don’t.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

And, either this is going to be the most goddamn heartwarming thing I’ve ever experienced, or it’s going to be 2 solid hours of molten Velveeta cheese.  Things don’t look so good when ol’ John starts singing “The 12 Days Of Christmas”, a song that’s only tolerable when Muppets are involved.

Thank God there are Muppets involved.  Fozzie screws up his lines, Miss Piggy adds some “ba-dump-bump-bumps” to her FIIIIIVE GOOOOOLD RIIIINGS line, and all is right with the world.


There’s more, after the break.

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songs you don’t know: “Apologize (Revolutionary War version)”

Some amazing people, with too much time on their hands and access to some nifty costumes, did this parody of the OneRepublic tune “Apologize”, but, you know, about the American Revolution and stuff.   Enjoy.  Happy day-after-the-4th!

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Posted by on July 5, 2010 in history, music, youtube


Dude! It’s The 90s!: Butthole Surfers, “Pepper”

Butthole Surfers – “Pepper”

Summary: The Butthole Surfers are arrested by the Dallas police department for the assassination of President River Phoenix.  Then they eat some chili.

Things To Notice: Dallas PD cars, Cops in cowboy hats, black and white footage…   (0:15) There’s a lot of JFK assassination imagery here, and a lot of ’60s commercial parodies.  We can assume that this is sort of supposed to be about Lee Harvey Oswald.  A little.  Maybe.   See, Gibby was there the night River Phoenix died, which was the closest thing our generation had to a JFK moment until St. Kurt died for our sins.   Methinks he’s got some survivor’s guilt to work through.

WTF Erik Estrada?  (0:48) Yes, that’s Erik “CHIPs” Estrada, being questioned by the cops, perhaps about a shady time share deal.

…or is Gibby saying he’s Charles Manson? (1:18) It’s gotta be said, the lyric  “some will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes” is a pretty pseudo-messianic thing to say, and Gibby sure looks like Charlie.  It should be noted that Gibby’s not a bad actor for a rock dude – he’s giving a very convincing performance of someone who’s distraught after having been rudely woken up.  Or he could just be coming down hard.

Chili, guy? (1:59) I don’t know what the significance of the canned chili is, but Erik Estrada seems to be enjoying it.

This YouTube clip was recorded off of MTV2 in 1999 or 2000. (2:20) You will note that “rapist”, “bullet” and “shot” have been removed from the lyrics.  This is because some kid might watch this video, hear the word “bullet” and go SHOOT UP HIS GODDAMN SCHOOL because he heard the word “bullet” in a video, alas alack etc.  Nowadays, this seems to make as much sense as protecting our daughter’s virginity by shooting Elvis from the waist up, but Columbine really freaked people out.   Everyone was looking for someone to blame, and they settled on music.   Especially dark alternative music, because a kid in a spiked dog collar is an easier target than a faulty education system/parents that don’t give a shit/poor gun control/the deadening and hopeless future left for us by all of the above.   So: MTV removed all references to anything violent from every video they played, and radio followed suit, and now, in the glorious future of 2010, we have eliminated all forms of violence and all international disputes are settled with games of Beer Pong and Don’t Wake Daddy.  You’re welcome.

Final Judgement: Well, look – I love this song.  I love this band.  And if they want to play fast and loose with one of the darkest chapters in American history, then they can damn well play fast and loose with one of the darkest chapters in American history.  Enjoy the chili.  (B+)

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Posted by on March 12, 2010 in history, music, nostalgia, youtube


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i made a music video!

This is the official video for “Nikita Says Love”, by my band The Pluto Tapes.   I made this.  Enjoy!


Posted by on August 30, 2009 in history, music, nostalgia, the pluto tapes, youtube


WBCN: requiem for the rock

This Guy Right Here, at a WBCN event at Harper's Ferry

Note: In case you hadn’t heard, WBCN, the Rock of Boston, is closing up shop in mid-August after 41 years of broadcasting.  You probably know this, but I’m a DJ there.   This is mostly about my experience at the station – there have been plenty of obituaries written about 104.1 in the last few days.   Go read them, especially Danny Schecter’s.

It was January 2003.  I was driving back home from work, with a take-out order of egg lemon soup from the Greek place that I had ordered in hopes of fending off one of my nasty sinus infections.  I was driving on 495, it was about 5 o’clock at night, it was snowing lightly, and my phone rang.  It was my mother, telling me that she had received a phone call from Steven Strick at WBCN.

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Happy belated 4th!

Yep, it’s from 1776.  Music starts at about 2:48.

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two is called a ‘law firm,’ and that three are called ‘a congress!'”

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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in history, music, theatre, Uncategorized


why killing abortion doctors and museum security guards is so lame

You know, there’s a vast difference between throwing red paint on people with fur coats, or sneaking into an animal testing facility and setting all the monkeys free, or holding up a picture of George W. Bush with a Hitler moustache drawn on…. and, well, pretty much anything your average right-wing extremist has ever thought of doing.

I bring this up now because of what happened last week to Dr. Tiller, and what happened two days ago at the Holocaust Museum.  I bring it up because of what the Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year, when they said that the combination of “financial crisis” and “first black President” could spark a surge in acts of violence committed by scared old white men and luckless bull-headed neo-Nazi boys.   I bring it up in particular because of Rush Limbaugh’s instant reaction to the DHS report, which was to ridicule it, and I bring it up because of his current reaction, which was to blame it all on the liberals anyway.

Yeah, Rush, it’s one of those liberal/Nazi conspiracies we’ve been hearing so much about.  See, all the liberal Jews in Hollywood got together and decided to hire a guy to shoot a security guard at the Holocaust museum, because that all makes sense.

People actually buy this crap.

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Posted by on June 12, 2009 in history, politics


cover #20 – Marilyn Manson, “The Nobodies”

Cover #20 is “The Nobodies” by Marilyn Manson, from the 2000 album Holy Wood: In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death.  It was written by M.Manson.

This is the 20th cover of the month – I had intended to post it on April 20th, the 10 year anniversary of the Columbine Massacre.

Eric and Dylan did not listen to Marilyn Manson.  As Jello Biafra once pointed out, if they were such big fans of his (as several lazy journalists claimed), why didn’t they wait until after his show in Denver, CO later that month?  Manson’s more a grand guignol-style artist of grotesque imagery and doesn’t really seem to advocate the sort of violence we saw that day in Colorado, but he sure looked scary to middle America back in 1999.

Eric and Dylan did play Doom, but so did I and I never killed anyone.  They didn’t wear trenchcoats when they committed the murders.  They weren’t members of any “Trenchcoat Mafia”.  That expression was something a bunch of computer geeks and goths who went to the school jokingly called themselves.   I understood this mentality – some of my best friends wore black trenchcoats.

There’s been so much writing about Columbine already.  There’s a new book out that’s supposed to be pretty insightful.  Most of what’s written, however, falls into two camps: the “oh, the killers liked the goth music and that’s why they did it and CASSIE SED YES!” camp, and the “no they didn’t and NO SHE DIDN’T!” camp.  I’m not going to add to that.

All I’m gonna do is play a tune Marilyn Manson wrote about Columbine, and about a murder spree in the age of instant celebrities.  We’re the nobodies who want to be somebodies.  Some children died the other day.  You should have seen the ratings that day.  If you’ve seen Bowling For Columbine, you know he’s the most insightful person in it.


Next up…: He’s fifty and he could kick your ass without smearing his eyeliner.

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Posted by on April 29, 2009 in April Covers, history, music, nerd riot


Cover #5 – Nirvana, “Pennyroyal Tea”

Cover #5 of our month long covers project is Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea”, from the album In Utero, released in 1993 and written by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl.

Fifteen years ago, give or take a day, Kurt Cobain decided he couldn’t take it anymore.  Oh sure, big whiny rock star couldn’t count all his money, boo hoo.  Well, actually, the man had an incurable, brutally painful stomach problem that no one could possibly diagnose or cure.  The only thing that stopped him from hurting was heroin.  Then the heroin stopped working.

Should he have killed himself?  Of course not.  No one knows what he’d be doing today.  Nirvana would probably be in their “reunion tour” phase, and Frances Bean would have a Daddy to protect her from Courtney.  Who is, I’m sure, a good mother.

Fifteen years ago was April 5, and people generally assume that’s the day he died.  That night, Pearl Jam played Boston, and at the time very few people outside the “scene” in Seattle even knew Kurt was missing.  Eddie Vedder knew, and before they launched into the first live performance of “Immortality” ever, he said “this song’s for Kurt, wherever he is.”  Considering that song is probably about “not being able to handle fame,” it’s kind of creepy.

They found his body that Friday,  April 8.  It was the day of my friend Jeff’s 15th birthday party.  I got home from school and got a call from my friend Brian.  As I was running to answer the phone, my flannel shirt caught on the doorknob and ripped in half.

Brian told me Kurt Cobain killed himself, and I didn’t believe it cuz it was Brian, but then I turned on the radio and there it was.  The guys at Jeff’s house hadn’t heard the news either and I wound up having to tell them.  These are the things where we remember exactly where we were.

Anyway, here’s an unplugged Nirvana cover.  This song’s really about nothing, except Kurt feeling bummed and not being able to cure his tummy troubles.  Still, I’ve always been fond of it.

Download.  Stream.  Don’t distribute, don’t sell, don’t burn out or fade away, maaaan.

Next up…: Circus freaks.


Posted by on April 5, 2009 in April Covers, history, music


a very special christmas special: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) (or: Cheer Up, Emo Kid!)

cb1When you think about Christmas specials, you think of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  End of story.  Oh sure, you might think about the Grinch or about Rudolph or even Frosty, and maybe you’re Jewish and you’re thinking about how the Rugrats gang finally threw the chosen people a frickin’ bone a few years back with their Hanukkah special.  A Charlie Brown Christmas, however, is the template.  It’s why every stupid sitcom has a very special holiday episode where someone learns the True Meaning of Christmas.

The True Meaning of Christmas.  That’s a phrase that means nothing, isn’t it?  It’s been dragged out by retailers and hucksters so often that it can now only be said wrapped snugly in quotation marks.   I think this is where it comes from, though.   The aforementioned Rudolph, and especially The Year Without A Santa Claus, are heavilly plot-based affairs.  Usually, Christmas itself is in jeapordy, and its up to a plucky soul to save it.  Why is Christmas so important?  Um, because, you know, the kids will be disappointed if there are no toys.  Oh noes.

The interesting thing about the Peanuts gang, though, is this: even though they’re presented as children, and even though they have some of the concerns children have, they’re not really children.  They’re flawed and selfish, but they’re flawed and selfish in the same way grownups are.  I knew bratty little kids growing up, but I never really met Lucy until, say, college.   You’ll notice you don’t see Charlie Brown pining after particular Christmas gifts here.  The other kids do, but it’s mostly incidental, and it’s in a very grown-up way.  Lucy wants real estate, and Sally wants her present in small bills.

As we begin, Charlie Brown’s practically singing The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Sure Don’t Feel Like Christmas Time” as he walks around through his home town.  That’s one of the all-time great bummer Christmas songs, and I recommend you give it a listen if you’re ever feeling blue around the holidays.   You know what else is a bummer song?  “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi – which all the kids are singing.  It’s a lovely slow jazz tune, but somehow the children’s choir gives it a certain dirge-like quality.
Charlie Brown and Linus head out to ice skate with the other kids, and Charlie opens up to his bro about how crappy Chrismas makes him feel.  Linus tells him to stop being so damn emo.  Charlie hits a tree while ice skating, and all the snow falls off the tree and buries him alive.  Then, the title appears.  That’s how it starts.  Probably the most beloved and resonant American Christmas story apart from “The Gift Of The Magi,” and it begins with seasonal depression and a potentially fatal avalanche.  MERRY [bleep]ING CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!!!!!!!

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