There are lots and lots of songs about the radio; so many, I had no trouble finding a list from what's on my hard drive. I usually put up a list of five; unable to make clean choices, I this week picked 10.
Van Morrison: Caravan. You could make a list alone around Van Morrison songs about radio; an alternate is the Enlightenment track In the Days Before Rock and Roll, one of several about his adolescent obsession with tuning in U.S. R&B ("Fats did not come in/ Without those wireless knobs"). Caravan is about the joy that comes with letting the radio set the scene for a party.
Reunion: Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me). A chestnut from the AM era ... about AM-era chestnuts. The lyrics are one namecheck after another, sung at a frenetic pace: "B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers..." One of my friends at school could actually rattle off these words, even though I'm pretty sure none of us knew much about the names in the song.
Talking Heads: Radio Head. A track from True Stories that may be best known for giving Radiohead its name ... even though the Texan accordion swing sounds nothing like Radiohead at all. And it's fun.
Elvis Costello: Radio, Radio. The other side of the coin to the tributes to radio, Costello ripped into the vapid programming of the late 1970s. It was also, famously, the song Costello played without approval on Saturday Night Live after a false start of another tune; you can watch it here. (It pissed off NBC, although it's been anthologized and taken as a proof of SNL's iconoclastic tone ever since.)
Wilco: Radio Cure. I love the sombre tone of this song, which seems to be about the healing power of radio, even though it is so downbeat.
Donald Fagen: The Nightfly. With Steely Dan, Fagen made FM, which gave the concept of grapefruit wine to the masses. But I like this song, and the fantasy of late-late-night radio that filled Fagen's imagination in the early 1960s.
Everclear: A.M. Radio. I'm not an Everclear fan, but I got a kick out of A.M. Radio, and its attempts to explain things like transistor radios to kids brought up on CDs (which, ironically, are now themselves old-fashioned of kids today).
The Modern Lovers: Roadrunner. Jonathan Richman's breakthrough song is one of the great driving songs of them all, but it's also all about the radio. "Radio on," to be precise. Chant it now.
David Bowie: DJ. A slice of weirdness from the Lodger era. Y
Rush: The Spirit of Radio. On a positive note, a rare love song from a band that is happy to say what fans they were of a radio station, in this case the still-loved CFNY in Toronto.
"While clothes with pictures and/or writing on them are not entirely an invention of the modern age, they are an unpleasant indication of the general state of things ... If people don't want to listen to you, what makes you think they want to hear from your sweater?" - Fran Lebowitz
As seen here. (I'm tempted to think of how many Americans could put their finger on a map of Canada, but I'll let the joke fly.) More of my virtually clipped T-shirt collection can be observed by clicking the link below.
If you've seen the Simpsons Movie, you'll recall the climactic sequence in which Homer musters his courage, gets on a motorcycle, and tears around a giant dome in order to save Springfield. Here's a game that lets you drive in Homer's place. You get points for scoring donuts (duh, or d'uh), and Duff as a reward; what's not to love?
I've been trying to keep this blog updated somewhat consistently ... but it's been a little more difficult than usual lately, and that's partly because I have another blog to keep up and running.
Check out Campaign Trail, a group blog that I and some colleagues have been working on at cbc.ca/nl. I launched it a week before the campaign kicked off, and it's been busy enough so far. I imagine it will get only more hectic as we roll along to voting day on Oct. 9.
In the meantime, poke around Newfoundland and Labrador Votes 2007, the election site I'm editing as part of my day (and, it feels sometimes, night) job. Busy days, indeed. Anyway, there's lots and lots to read - check it out.
[Surf's Up, as publishedin the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007. Click here to read more columns.]
"Tim is cautiously aware that his mother is now on Facebook." So wrote my friend earlier this summer, to update his status line on the popular social networking site.
Tim, by the way, has since turned 45 – more than double the presumed age of a typical Facebook user, and indeed putting him among the parents of younger users, who quite likely would be anxious to encounter their folks online.
Facebook sure isn’t for the kids anymore. Just last year, Facebook opened itself up for a non-university audience, triggering an explosion unlike anything seen online. What started as a web-based version of a get-to-know-your-classmates guide handed out at Harvard spread across every campus in North America, and now has become a bona fide phenom among grown-ups, too.
How much so? Well, more than 35 million have signed up, with about half of them beyond campus walls.
In other words, people like Tim and me are not freakishly old people (although, I’m sure, untold numbers of high school and even university students will disagree), but perhaps the emerging profile of an average Facebook user.
So, I had a good chuckle about Tim’s status line that day. [Your status, for non-users, is a one-line summary of how or what you’re doing or thinking.] He obviously has not been the only person on Facebook to get a nervous tingle upon learning that a parent has waded into their virtual world … a world where things are arranged and highlighted rather differently than they would be, say, at the family dinner table.
Which made me think that maybe some of the younger folk (and, heck, the older ones as well) should really think more carefully about what they’re doing online.
Facebook is an odd duck: it’s a website with millions of users, but what you post can only be seen by the people you’ve agreed are your friends. (“Friend” is the word Facebook chooses; I’m certainly not the only user who wishes there were greater flexibility in how to describe a relationship that may be professional, familial or otherwise.)
One thing, though: Facebook is nowhere near as private as some users think. As Newsweek put it in an August cover article: “Everyone knows that Facebook is the online hangout of just about every college student in the nation as well as the inevitable source of photos of nominees for the Supreme Court in 2038 cavorting in their underwear as youths.”
An astonishing number of people don’t have privacy restrictions on their photos (cavorting and otherwise), and a good few seem not to think that notices they file to Events are seen by more than their friends.
For instance, soon after I caved and signed up with Facebook this spring (I had resisted, because I’m all too aware of the existing demands on my time), I was struck by the number of house parties crossposted to the Events section in the St. John’s network – not to mention the all-too-easy-to-find pictures of drunken revelry.
I recall one event that listed not only the hosts’ names and the street address, but the important detail that the parents of their friend – all were in high school – were away for the weekend.
No kidding. Imagine the surprise on those kids’ faces if their parents signed up for Facebook!
It seemed to me a technological update of the time when, years ago, the friends of a neighbour’s teenager thought it would be hilarious to make photocopies of a party notice, and put them up downtown. (So many kids showed up that the police had to be called to clear them out.)
Facebook has made improvements to its privacy settings, although I have to agree that figuring out those settings is awkward and far from easy.
So, some advice. For parents: you may not be able to police what your kids are up to, but you may well want to log on and have a peek. For the campus set: do some research, and not for a term paper. Bone up on how Facebook and similar sites work, and think carefully about how you present yourself online.
I like Facebook. As I’ve mentioned in this column, I got hooked in a major way this summer on Scrabulous, an online Scrabble game. I’ve reconnected with dozens of former school friends, college buddies, coworkers and relatives, with a new and wonderful surprise every few days. I get real pleasure out of seeing photos that friends have posted online.
But, all that said, I’m quite conscious of what the limits of Facebook are, and where boundaries need to be drawn.
A new Dean Martin passed by this month, and of course I thought it was a compilation of old recordings. Well, sort of.
Dean Martin with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Who's Got The Action?. The album Forever Cool takes Dino vocals and marries them to newly recorded duets, with vocals from an assortment that includes Joss Stone, Kevin Spacey, Charles Aznavour and Shelby Lynne. This is the track that caught my attention the most: a new backup from retro-minded swingers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Mary Barry: Hurricane Charley. From her new album, Red Eye Tonight. Spot-on lighter jazz for winding down.
Tracey Thorn: Plain Sailing. Twenty-five years old, and still fresh: a song about "meetings arranged" that in this case did work out.
U2: Everlasting Love. From the B-sides album that came out a while back, a cover of a tune that has had many fingerprints over it; in fact, I had to look up who had the first big hit. (I guess it's The Love Affair, which would have been called a boy band, had the phrase existed in 1968.)
Three Dog Night: Black & White. A No. 1 from 1972, with an optimistic take on race relations that seems to fit the time. I didn't know until recently that the song dated from the mid-1950s, when things were very different indeed.
I post a playlist of five tunes each Saturday; click on the link below to see more.
Geoff Eaton has a story that can only inspire people put in a tough situation; struck by cancer, he once lay in an intensive-care unit, in an induced coma, with less than a two per cent chance of getting out. But as he puts it, one per cent is greater than zero, and Eaton not only got healthy, he founded RealTime Cancer Challenge, which is still going strong. This year's Cancer Climb up Signal Hill takes place next Saturday, at 2 p.m. Details here.
In the meantime, Geoff worked on this promotional video, which takes all the cheese of Rocky, and drops it around downtown St. John's.
This cracked me: a series of scans from the original 1984 user manual for Macintosh computers. Yes, it is funny to look back on it, and how almost every shot shows yuppies and preppies lovingly using their brand-new computers. The shot above reminds me of the Mac II I used at work for several years, and the monstrously large carrying case I put it in to sling over my shoulder when I brought it home. The notebook cases today are slim, sleek and sometimes hard to even notice, so this does look pretty peculiar after 23 years. Take a look at some of the other retrospectively funny bits, including an introduction to the then-peculiar concept of scrolling.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.