Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Amusement Parks & Me

My history with amusements parks is storied.  I grew up in Ventura County California, near three top tier Parks on the west coast.  I also went to one park that back then, the mid 1980’s that was still considered second tier park and had not been elevated to first tier yet.  I went to these parks from 1970 to 1985.  Having attended these kinds of Amusement Parks with permanent attractions, I have always been leery of county/state fair rides and carnival rides.  It has always been a safety concern to me.  I am going to break it down by park.  There is also a big local institution on the list.


Disneyland

This was my first Amusement park.  It was my favorite as a pre-pubescent kid.  As a tween and teen I found it a little too kiddie, especially Fantasyland.  The first few visits were during the old Coupon or ticket system.  You had to buy tickets for each ride.  In the 1980’s when I started going almost regularly, from 1982 to 1985, that system was replaced by the park day pass.  I have not been back since 1984 or 1985.  I know the park has changed considerably in almost 30 years.  I loved The Enchanted Tiki Room, Bear Country Jamboree, Mister Toad’s Wild Ride, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, The Matterhorn, The Pirate of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion the most.   I know of those, the Country Bear Jamboree, one is no longer there.  It is at Disney World.  There are many attractions gone from my day, mostly from Tomorrowland (Mission to Mars, People Mover, Skyway to Fantsyland, Rocket Jets, Submarine Voyage, Adventure through Inner Space, America Sings Circle Vision 360, and more).  There are many newer attractions I never got the chance to experience. I have not been east of Utah, so that Park is not one I am familiar with.  In the 1980’s there were very few non fast food type places, from what I understand that has changed.  I have fond memories of going with My Great Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends during those years.  Since I left Southern California, they added a new park to Disneyland and there are Disneylands all over the world.


Six Flags Magic Mountain

This park was the closest to my hometown of Oxnard, California.  It was less than an hour drive to this park.  My family first went here for my brother’s fifth birthday in 1976.  It was more a thrill ride park than Disneyland.  It stated with its own in house characters, after it was purchased by Six Flags in 1979 it moved more towards Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes characters, at least for the area dedicated for the smaller kids.  Between the ages of 12 and 17, I preferred Magic Mountain.  I was even thrilled to find out they filmed the Wally World scenes of National Lampoon’s Vacation there. As a 12 to 17 year old, I had few vices, but thrill rides were among the ones I had.  Magic Mountain was known for its thrill rides.  There is also a category of rides where you spin around in a circle in various ways; I called these rides spin and pukes. In the eighties they had concerts that were free with admission to the park.  Bands that played were Flock of Seagulls, Cheap Trick, Quiet Riot, Berlin, and more. Since I left they have branded a section of the park as DC Universe and renamed many of the rides after DC superheroes.  The concerts from what I heard were toned down after gang issues in the 1990’s.  In August of 2014 they closed the Colossus, one of the largest wooden roller coasters down for a refit.  Like with all of Southern California, I have not been back since 1985. 


Knott’s Berry Farm

Of the top three Amusement parks, I considered Knott’s Berry Farm number three.  When I left, it had not licensed the Peanuts characters for it younger kids’ section.  It had Montezuma’s Revenge, a rollercoaster that was a single loop de loop that repeated multiple times forwards and backwards.  It was a decent park, but was not as thrilling and teen oriented as Magic Mountain or as family oriented as Disneyland.  Since then, they have done more with the old west theme and the kids themes with Camp Snoopy.  From what I have been able to find out lest that 30 percent of the attractions from my day are still there.  Knott’s also did concerts and teen events during my day.  There were a number of good thrill rides including the roller coaster called the Corkscrew, which has since been replaced.


Universal Studios Hollywood

In the 1980’s, Universal Studios Hollywood was called Universal Studios Tours.  It was mostly the Tour ride with a couple of live shows.  At the time it was a tier two Amusement Park.  Since 1985, the expansion of the Lower lot, in 1991, it has grown to become the fourth of the Southern Californian Tier One Amusement Parks.  When I went at 17, I was not impressed.  This was after years of Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knott’s.  From what I understand that has changed considerable in the close to 30 years since. 


Busch Gardens, Van Nuys California

I only went once to the Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, California.  It was in 1974.  We went with my paternal Great Aunt and Uncle.  I believe we went, because it was the only Amusement Park with a beer garden.  This must have been difficult for my father who was 3 years sober at the time.  There were some attractions, but they were tier two or three variety stuff.  The gardens and the bird sanctuary were fun, but not what a 6 year old would find fun.  I have very vague memories of the place and would find it hard to describe the rides.  The Amusements closed down in 1976 and the whole park closed in 1979. 


Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon

Enchanted Forest is just south of Salem, Oregon.  It has always been a kid’s oriented place, especially under 10. It was opened in 1971 and the family who built still owns it.  I went at 10 or 11, so for me it was a little cheesy.  It does not have the money behind it like the other parks mentioned here, so it may not be as polished.  It is a still fun little park.  It is more like the smaller parks found in the mid west and east coast.  During the 90’s to early 2000’s next door was a thrill ride park called Thrillville USA.  That has since closed.  I did not visit Thrillville, hence why it does not have its own entry. Enchanted Forest does the best on the budget they have, which is still fun.  I remind folks I have only been once.   


There you go my history with Amusement Parks based on a Park to Park basis.  That Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Podcasty Goodness

As we enter in the last quarter of 2014, I realize there are a few podcasts I have not covered yet. A few of these I discovered this year and others I just forgot to include them.  This will be the shortest of the Podcast write-up articles.  That is because most of the really good stuff has been covered earlier on the blog. 


The Disney, Indiana Podcast

The Disney, Indiana Podcast is hosted by husband and wife team Scott and Tracey Morris.  As the title implies they are podcasting from the state of Indiana.  They offer listeners residency to the imaginary town of Disney, Indiana.  I even have an address and it is 1957 El Camino del Zorro, Disney, Indiana.  The show is about all things Disney: the parks, the resorts, the cruise line, Disney proper, Marvel, Pixar, the Muppets, Lucasfilm and many more divisions and properties of Disney.  From time to time they present audio from Park attractions and music from anything under the Disney banner. They have a great time with each other, the subject matter, and the show.  They are a fun Bi-Weekly podcast.


The Alton Browncast
http://thebrowncast.libsyn.com/ (The first 49 podcasts)
http://altonbrown.com/altonblog/the-alton-browncast-podcast/ (The succeeding podcasts starting with episode 50.  Lat episode was episode 59, launched December 5th, 2014)

Alton Brown from Food Network had a podcast on the Nerdist Network.  His last show was in June of 2014.   The show returned in October with a new feed.  He started with multiple segments then became an interview show.  He does not just interview Chef and television personalities.  He has interviews with people in the culinary world with unique and interesting perspectives.  The show is worth a try to anyone interested in cooking and food.


Christiana Ellis/ Space Casey/ Nina Kimberly the Merciless/ Shallow Thoughts

I have mentioned Christiana before as a panel member of The Beyond the Wall Podcast and the Consumption Podcast.  I had encountered her before with her Podcast novels in Podiobooks and her Shallow Thoughts podcast.  Nina Kimberly the Merciless is a Fantasy Comedy podcast Novel and Space Casey is Space Opera Comedy.  She is known for her irreverent humor and definitely is a fan of Monty Python.  Warning eating and listening to Christiana can be hazardous to your health.


The Worlds of Abigail Hilton/ The Prophet of Panamindorah

I mentioned Abigail Hilton’s Guild of the Cowry Catchers podcast of that series of books.  I forgot to mention the first set of books she podcast set in the same world as Cowry Catchers.  The Prophet of Panamindoroah is a young adult style trilogy where as Cowry Catchers was a mature audiences series.   Most folks discover this first.  Sorry I forgot to mention the first series.  They are very different, but same world and same author.  The Worlds of Abigail Hilton Podcast releases two shows a week.  The first is an old but not forgotten piece of podcasted short fiction.  Her second podcast of the week is discussion, fan feedback and personal updates.  Abbie is thoughtful and interesting.


Comic Book Central

Comic Books Central is a podcast about what its catchphrase says it is, “Where Comic Books come to life.”  It is an interview show with folks who have brought Comic Book Characters to TV or Film in either live action or animation.  The host is Joe Stuber, also from the IndyCast.  He interviews actors, producers, directors, and show runners of these adaptations.  He has interviewed Erin Gray, Lou Ferrigno, William Katt, Stan Lee and many more.  A good deal of it is centered on the 70’s and 80’s TV and Film, but he has covered more including the Marvel Films and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   It is a great interview show.


1951 Down Place

1951 Down Place is a Hammer Horror film podcast.  Its hosts are Derek Koch, of Monster Kid Radio and formerly of the Mail Order Zombie podcast, Scott Morris, of the Disney, Indiana Podcast, and Casey Criswell of Cinema Fromage, Bloody Good Horror, and the Instomatic Podcast.   Hammer Films are films produced from Hammer Studios in the U.K.  They are mostly known for Horror from the 50’s to the 60’s.  Derek and Casey are the old veteran fans and Scott is the newbie.  They discuss a new film every month.   As of October of 2014 they have covered 37 films.  It is wonderful discussion of everything that made Hammer interesting.


Radio Free Nerdcore
http://radiofreenerdcore.com/

Radio Free Nerdcore is from Jeff “DJ Switch” Sorensen of the Dangerous Kids Podcast.  This podcast is about Nerdcore, Nerd flavored Hip-Hop, and Nerd/Geek music in general.  It includes interviews and music with folks involved in the Nerd/Geek music community.  Switch usually asks his guests to give the audience a top ten list of their favorite Nerd/Geek songs.  It is great stuff and from time to time Switch learns something new.  The joy of discovery from him is fun to experience. One learns that the host loves this variety of music.   


Geek Remixed: The Podcast/ Geek Remixed

Not covering this podcast was huge oversight.  Bobby Roberts, of Cort and Fatboy Show and Welcome to That Whole Thing, uses the moniker of Fatboy Roberts for his remixes.  He remixes Television, film, and Video game themes.  He also has done a few mash-ups as well.  He did a podcast from August to November of 2012 that ran down the whys hows and whatfors of his process of making that music.  It is informative and he even includes what versions of what songs he used to mix his work.  I have both the link to the podcast and his music here.   UPDATE:  The Podcast has been taken down, as have several songs from the Geek Remixed site. 


Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men

Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes try to explain the convoluted and wonderful continuity of the X-Men.  They start with the Silver Age and move forward. They also have a YouTube show Rachel and Miles Review the X-Men where they do video reviews of most of the X titles. They are fans sharing their love of everyone’s favorite Uncanny Mutants and all their various offshoots.  If you are a old hand or a novice, if you love the X-Men this is for you.  


The Neverland Podcast
http://neverlandpodcast.com/

Jeremy Shields' Disney-centric Podcast, but he cover all things young at heart: Superheroes, 80's and 90's cartoons, and more.  Word for the wise, I have guested on the podcast.  Jeremy is a great host and made me feel so welcome I tried his podcast out as a listener.  It is good general fun for those who are children of the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Check it out is it a fun listen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mainstreaming

Nerd/Geek music in nothing new many can point to Tom Lehrer and Weird Al Yankovic as antecedents to the current Nerd/Geek music movement.  There are musical acts that are considered mainstream that have huge Nerd/Geek followings.  It is not just Pop Culture Nerd/Geek followings, but also Music Nerd/Geek followings.  Also some musical genres and sub-genres owe good deal to their Nerd/Geek followings as well.  I will start with the genres then go into individual bands.  I will by no means cover all the possibilities.  I hope to get to a good selection of what is out there.



Progressive Rock

Progressive Rock AKA Prog Rock has had a serious Nerd/Geek following.  First its experimental style attracts the Music Nerds/Geeks.  Some bands use a good amount of Fantasy and Science Fiction imagery in their music as well.   Since Nerds/Geeks are thinking people and Progressive Rock is a thinking person’s musical genre, it is a match made in musical nirvana.  Bands that would fit this are Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Primus, and Dream Theater.


Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal itself may not seem nerdy/geeky, but some bands are notorious with their horror, comic book, Science fiction, popular culture, and fantasy references.  Anthrax wrote a song about Judge Dredd and Iron Maiden wrote a song about the 1960’s show The Prisoner.  Heavy Metal is full of Comic Book fans like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Scott Ian and many more.   The Power Metal sub-genre is full of fantasy imagery everywhere in the songs.  Do not forget the album covers, many fantasy artists worked on a Heavy Metal album or two back in the day. There are also quite a few fans in the genre of Horror in all it forms.  Monster Kids would definitely be at home here.  Bands that would fit this would be Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, White Zombie, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and more.


New Wave

New Wave, specifically that from the 70’s and 80’s, has not just influenced Nerdy/ Geeky music, but also Nerdy/ Geeky fashion. Bands like, but not limited to Modern English, Depeche Mode, Boomtown Rats, Thomas Dolby, Elvis Costello, and REM have given various styles.  Quite a few Nerds/Geeks still rock the horned rimmed glasses and skinny ties Elvis Costello made fashionable.   It also helps that most of the older members of the nerd/geek community were in their teenaged years during this period.  In some ways the modern hipster has stolen much of his style from this genre.  Musically this is also a vast and diverse genre, New Wave begat New Music which begat Alternative.  For a time the term Progressive Music was used for these styles. 


David Bowie

David Bowie may not be a Nerd/Geek; however he inspired many of them and inspired a diverse group of genres.  Without Bowie there is no Glam, Glam Metal, New Wave, Goth, New Romantics movement, Alternative, Grunge, and others that do not come quickly to mind.  Bowie worked with Science Fiction imagery first with Space Oddity then with Ziggy Stardust.  Bowie also is an Actor who starred in various Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, The Prestige, and The Hunger.


Queen

Queen’s Nerd/Geek following is for numerous reasons.  First, they are popular among music and theater Nerds/Geeks for their theatrical and operatic styles both musically, lyrically and performance wise.   Second, their two forays into film Soundtracks are Nerd/Geek classics, Flash Gordon and Highlander.  Both are in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  Third, their style changes for song to song, Operatic one, then ragtime, and hard rock on another.  This would happen on the same album.  They worked within Rock, Jazz, Ballads, Funk, Operatic, Punk and anything they could think of.  Freddie Mercury had an amazing versatile voice with a huge range.


Ronnie James Dio

Here I mention Ronnie James Dio and not his band Dio.  Why?  That is because it is all of his work including the various bands he was in: Rainbow, Elf, Black Sabbath and Dio.  Ronnie was not only the vocalist, but lyricist.   He liked Fantasy and injected it into as many songs as he could get away with.   He loved the Sword and Sorcery imagery.  Many cite him as being one of the pivotal people in bringing those themes into Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.  He was not the first or the last, but still was very influential.


Rush

Rush has a Geek/Nerd following, because of their musical mastery and their lyrical theme.  Music Nerds/Geeks love the tight musical style the trio made famous.  Their lyrics follow Sci-Fi and Fantasy themes as well.  Recently they did their first concept album in a Steampunk setting.  With songs about Inter-Galactic Empires, Robots, Mystical Quests and Necromancers how would Geeks/Nerds not love them? 


Devo

Devo’s aesthetic and their absurdist humor have always appealed to Nerds/Geeks.  They were weird for weirdness sake.  To this day they are the epitome of Nerd/Geek New Wave.  They delight those into synthesizer, Art, and just plain weird.  Nerds/Geeks who felt weird just for being themselves felt a kinship to Devo. 


Talking Heads

Talking Heads were part of the original Punk movement of the early to mid 1970’s.  Their style became more closely associated with New Wave.  They were an Avant-Garde Art band.  They had some of the similar absurdist predelictions that is found in bands like the B-52’s and Devo.  Their being a little out of left field made them fun and again made them resonate with Nerds/Geeks. 


Muse

Muse has its Nerd/Geek followers for multiple reasons.  They are like the band that writes soundtracks for movies that do not exist.  They are hugely reminiscent of Queen.  For Music types, their delving in musical influences as diverse as Telestar by the Tornadoes and Ennio Morricone, which was just in one song, shows knowledge and skill.  They can go Pop, Dub-Step and Operatic.  Their lead singer does not have Freddie Mercury’s range, but no one does.  He does very well with the range he has.  Muse is part of a new generation of Progressive Rock acts.  Like Queen they straddle Prog Rock and Pop. 


Weezer

Weezer came out during the heyday of the Alternative Rock scene of the early mid 1990’s.  With songs like Buddy Holly and In the Garage, they proved their connection to Nerd/Geek Culture.  They were Nerds/Geeks.  They were not going to hide it.  They somehow gained a mainstream audience without alienating people like themselves.  They from time to time would tap into influence like Talking Heads and other bands mentioned here.


Oingo Boingo

Oingo Boingo in all its various incarnations has been known for being weird, strange and a little dorky too.  They wrote and performed the title song for the John Hughes Nerd/Geek classic film Weird Science.  They love California kitsch including Mexican Day of the Dead imagery.  They started as a musical theater group in the vein of Frank Zappa and Spike Jones.  If that isn’t Nerdy/Geeky, I do not know what is.  They have been known for their Halloween concerts.  Danny Elfman, the lead singer, went on to be a big soundtrack composer on projects the Nerd/Geek community love like Batman (1989), Beetlejuice, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Simpsons, The Flash (1990), and Tales of the Crypt.


The Barenaked Ladies

The Barenaked Ladies are a alternative band from Canada whose style is very folky.  They are included here for a few reasons.  They created the theme for Nerd/Geek TV show the Big Bang Theory.  They mentioned Aquaman, X-Files and Akira Kurosawa in their song One Week.  They also do not take themselves too seriously on and off the stage.  Songs like If I Had $1,000,000, Enid, Be My Yoko Ono, Brian Wilson, One Week and Pinch Me show this silliness and playfulness.


The B-52’s

They have kitschy 1950’s/ 1960’s style.  They are known for their tongue and cheek approach to lyrics, the B-52’s are definitely well loved among Nerd/Geek types.   Their penchant for B Movies and alien invasion motifs are popular in the Nerd/Geek community.  Their music is also retro to the late fifties and early sixties as well.  With the bee hive hair dos and almost novelty type songs they have a fun irreverent energy.


They Might Be Giants

They Might Be giants have been known to cover Nerdy/Geeky subject matter in their songs.  They covered the 1950’s song Istanbul (Not Constantinople).  In recent years, they have recorded many Children’s songs including songs for the Disney Junior show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  They are also known for the Malcolm in the middle Theme, Boss of Me.  Their humorous and unconventional style has made them big amongst Nerds/Geeks.


The Misfits

This iconic punk band is known for Horror imagery in their album covers, merchandise and songs.  The Misfits are considered the progenitors of the Horror Punk genre.  They also were known to appear in makeup with horror themed costumes.  Musically they are reminiscent of fifties and sixties rock, but sped up.  Horror Nerds/Geeks gravitate to this bands iconic style and imagery.