Monthly Archives: July 2006

Saturday Morning Videos?

What do you do when you pop wide awake at 3:00 in the morning? Catch up on a friend’s posts about favorite music videos and make one of your own, of course. 🙂 Stephen has been daring me for a few weeks now to chime in with some of my picks, so here we go.

Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out (2004)

I think this video is utterly brilliant. Not because of the piles of money they undoubtedly spent on the animation, but because whoever wrote it intimately understood what makes this song tick: that relentless downbeat and the repeated song structure. The song is all about hook, and almost every element of the video is a visual mirror of an audible hook in the song: the dots and expanding concentric circles in the intro; the pounding machine, punching bag, gyrating blocks, etc.; and the repeated zoom out sequences almost every time they sing “I know I won’t be leaving here.” It makes the video almost hypnotic and the song infinitely more interesting to me. Bravo.

Debbie Gibson: Electric Youth (1989)

I know. Go ahead and have your laugh. I had a serious crush on this girl back in junior high school. I owned a copy of the album named after this song, and I practically wore the tape out. The odd thing is that since I didn’t have cable or satellite TV growing up, the first time I saw this video was something like a year and a half ago. TiVo caught it during one of the video programs on VH1 Classic. I “greened up” the program then, and I did it again when the video showed up the other day. I’ve watched this thing way more times than I’m comfortable sharing with you. Some of it is undoubtedly the residual crush-nostalgia, but there’s more. Yes, it’s a completely random video full of cheesy 80’s choreography. No, nothing in the video seems to tie into the meaning of the song at all (what’s up with the Styrofoam castle set?). Even so, this video shares something with Take Me Out: the writer knew what he/she was selling. In this case, it was Gibson’s image, and they did a brilliant job.

Maybe it’s just because I know how much of her own work Gibson did on her music (wrote, sang, played instruments, produced), but she just seems to come across as so real in this video. I compare her in this video to other teen-fad girl pop singers both then and later (Tiffany and Brittany Spears are examples), and there just seems to be so much “more of a person” staring out from behind that face. *shrug* I may just be projecting, but I’m really big on reading personality and intelligence from people’s eyes, smiles, facial expressions, etc., and I’m usually pretty close. Another thing I notice here: even re-calibrating for the late 80’s, Gibson’s outfits in the video were quite tame. They could have gone for the overtly provocative angle, and they didn’t. They waited for Anything Is Possible for that. 😉

Other things that stand out to me: they did a great job of posing and framing her for greatest effect. The first bridge (the one with the blue laser show) caught her in some really good angles, especially the profile shot with the spinning laser beams radiating from behind her head (”Don’t you see a strong resemblance…”). I really like the “stages of Debbie” trick they pull a couple of times in the video, with the two younger girls being cut in to apparently represent her growing up. Cute touch.

Finally, the music geek stuff. There’s no way those trumpet fingering changes we see at the beginning go with what we’re hearing (but then again, there’s no way that what we’re hearing is a real trumpet anyway). 🙂 The song is unusually long and uniquely-structured for a teen pop hit. Most rock-based pop songs like this have a simple verse-chorus structure. If “A” is the verse and “B” is the chorus, “ABABB” is pretty typical. Maybe “ABABCB” if there’s a bridge. This one, however, actually has two bridges, and the second one is in two distinct sections. It’s more like “ABABCBDEBB”.

Band Music Snippet 1

My rambling about band music yesterday really got my mind on old songs. So, I decided to put that together with a cool toy I’ve played with before: some free music typesetting software called LilyPond. Here’s a snippet of the 1st trumpet part (my part) from a song I know we played. The promotional recording is still so firmly in my head that I can hear the place in the song where some scratches in the LP affected the sound. I cannot remember the name of the song, though.

I don’t expect anyone to recognize it. It’s just a fun thing to play with. 😉

Band Music

When I was in band back in high school, every year Mrs. Johnson (our band director) got promotional packages from the big music publishing companies. These packages included recordings of bands playing the musical pieces that the publishing company wanted to sell for the following marching season. Mrs. Johnson would leave the recordings out near the band room sound system so that the members in their spare time could listen and give her ideas for what music to choose.

I LOVED those recordings. Most of them were pretty obviously done by professional wind bands in studios, and I developed a bit of an affinity for the style of music that authors usually wrote for marching band. I would often bring in a cassette and record some of the songs just to listen to later.

I miss having access to that. Back in band, our copies of the recordings were always on LP (we didn’t have a CD player in the band room), but I imagine that they were distributed on CD as well. I would do a LOT to get my hands on some of those demo CDs. I would especially love to have copies of the recordings of some of the original pieces I heard back then, some of them we played, some we didn’t. A few of the favorite titles were “Power Station”, “Wings”, and a western-themed one we didn’t play that I can’t remember the title for (but can still hear clearly in my head). In addition, though, I’d love to have access to the new stuff every year just to listen to.

I’ve looked around a little bit before, but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in distributing these recordings just for listening. It’s probably because of licensing and such. I wish I could get my hands on them, though. I’ve found short snippets as sound files on publishers’ web sites (usually with annoying beeps in the middle), but never full-length songs.

*chuckle* Sometimes, I think I need to find one of the large local high school bands and start showing up in the stands at football game half-time performances during the fall just to listen. I would probably get labeled as the creepy stranger that no one knows, though.

I know! We just need to get Eli (and other friends’ kids once they have them) involved in band. Then I can tag along and not look creepy. 😉

So folks won’t worry…

Many friends already know about this, but I’ve been meaning to post about it here so I could drop in a link and head off any worry from people who might spot it later.

A few months ago, I developed a completely harmless but rather annoying condition called alopecia areata. Literally, it means a loss of hair over some area. More specifically, this particular condition is an auto-immune skin condition where the white blood cells for some reason decide to attack the hair follicles in a certain area. The follicles effectively “shut off” (but remain alive), and the hair in that area eventually falls out, leaving perfectly healthy, but hairless, skin. It’s distinct from male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) both in its mechanism and in what it looks like (the bald patches can appear in any location).

In my case, it showed up as a bald patch on the back of my head. So far, some creative hair styling techniques have kept it fairly non-obvious, and very few people have spotted it without me pointing it out (or at least very few people have mentioned it to me). There is no underlying medical concern. It’s not a sign or symptom of a more serious problem. There’s a pretty good chance that the condition will “go away”, and the hair will regrow within a year or two. There’s also a decent chance that more patches will form. If the problem starts becoming obvious, I will probably join Jason and Stephen in invoking the “nuclear option” and just shave it all off. :) Since I’ve learned the condition is harmless, I’ve mostly stopped worrying about it. My main concern now is making sure it doesn’t worry other people. That’s part of the reason for this post.

Thinking about this has been an interesting mental exercise. Hair loss in general can be a psychologically traumatic experience, and seemingly random hair loss even more so. I have thought a bit about why that is. The best thing I can come up with is that I think most people (including me before I learned about alopecia areata) associate non-pattern hair loss with cancer treatments or some other serious illness. For most people with alopecia areata, the most serious effect is not medical but psychological. The condition affects almost 2% of the general population at some point in their lives, but very few people know about it, so it’s another one of those things where spreading knowledge can be helpful… especially for people who have much more serious cases than I do.

So, bottom line: if you look at me and see it, don’t worry. If you’re curious, ask me about it. The condition is not contagious in any way, and the affected area of skin is otherwise completely normal, so I’ll even show it to you if you ask. :) If at some point I suddenly show up with a shaved head, you’ll know why. In the meantime, if you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s a very good web site with lots of information:

National Alopecia Areata Foundation