Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pheaturing "Weird Al" Yankovic

Hey there, welcome to the Phile for a Wednesday. Today is my last day as a 48-year-old. I'm too old for Netflix and chill. I want Amazon Prime and commitment. You know you're getting old when a fart throws out your back.
Happy almost Thanksgiving! It appears that this year, the president of the United States is thankful to be compared to Charles Manson. WHAT? After Manson's recent death (R, but not IP), the "New York Times" shared an op-ed arguing that Manson and his race war-fantasizing family ushered in the new far right. In the essay, Baynard Woods argues, "Mr. Manson was not the end point of the counterculture. If anything, he was a backlash against the civil rights movement and a harbinger of white supremacist race warriors like Dylann Roof, the lunatic fringe of the alt-right... In recent months, the far-right media have become fixated on the idea that left-wing 'antifa' activists will spark a new civil war. Gateway Pundit, a far-right website, claimed that 'millions of antifa supersoldiers will behead white parents,' and Alex Jones, the conspiracy enthusiast who runs the website Infowars, predicted that the antifa activists would lose such a war." The far rightist Laura Ingraham decided to pun on the term "right" and seemingly celebrate a comparison to Manson...

...which Trump later retweeted. These people can't resist a pun even if the logic is terrible. Your political movement being compared to the Manson family is not something one should be excited about.
According to The Daily Meal, a couple is planning to name their baby girl after the restaurant chain Olive Garden. You know, that place with the breadsticks. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the child) her name is not Pasta or Bread Sticks. Maybe file away those idea for your next dog. The girl, who is due to be born on December 6th, is going to be named Olivia Garton. The parents, Jordan and Justin Garton, are apparently very fond of Olive Garden. They've gone on many dates there and have even bought a Pasta Pass that allows unlimited pasta for a certain period of time. For the curious, Jordan likes the Ravioli di Portobello and Justin usually goes for the Braised Beef and Tortellini. As a tweet from Justin suggests, the couple did consider naming their baby Olive. Olivia Garton is close enough. It's like the normal person alias for the superhero Olive Garden, whose crime-fighting power is filling villains with so much pasta they pass into a food coma. No word yet on whether Olive Garden plans to sponsor Olivia Garton's life since she is a walking advertisement.
In today's episode of WHY CAN'T WE LEAVE MOMS ALONE, PLEASE?! I introduce you to Brittni Medina, a mother-of-two living in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Medina was recently at Disneyland with her family and was waiting in line, which is what you spend most of your time doing if you visit Disneyland (or World). When her 10-month-old son got hungry, she decided to feed him. Smart choice. But apparently several women at Disneyland weren't on board with her decision to breastfeed her child in a public place. Two of them shot her some seriously judgmental glances, which her husband captured in a photo. Medina then shared the photo in the Facebook group Breastfeeding Mama Talk, with a post defending her right to breastfeed in public. The post soon went viral. ICYMI, here's a pic of her and her haters...

Most people on Facebook are expressing their support for Medina, and calling for the normalization of breastfeeding. Her story also went viral over on Twitter, where she's getting loads of support. And she's being praised as a badass (ACCURATE).
After setting up the camera to capture the once-in-a-lifetime view of a building imploding, the perfect shot was ruined, and the guy's reaction was even more explosive.

"No, bus, get out the way! Bus! Jesus, get out of the way, bus! Are you... you... ARRGHHH. What the fuck... God damn it. Damn, lady!" The city of Atlanta were saying goodbye to the Georgia Dome, the old stadium and bus stop. After people watched the still livestream for forty minutes, the bus rolled up just in time to ruin the cool part. You know what they say: Man plans, bus laughs. Twitter promptly declared this clip the most Atlanta thing to ever Atlanta in Atlanta.
Blackfriars Priory School in Adelaide, Australia was forced to cover up their brand new statue of St. Martin de Porres. Take one wild guess as to why...

Yeah, if you have a dirty mind, you spotted that right away. The statue depicts the saint handing a small child a rather phallic loaf of bread, and the placement is unfortunate at best. God, please forgive me for this, but HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA. How in hell was this ever approved!? According to The Huffington Post, the statue was made in Vietnam, but the Catholic school has hired local artist to redesign it. Until then, the statue remains hidden behind a black fence. Understandable. Either that Vietnamese artist was a blissfully unaware of what they were doing, or is they just trolled the Catholic church on an impressively high level.
So, I like to follow the rules in life but some people take it just a tad too far...

Disney, the greatest company to work for ever, once in a while likes to experiment with the look of their characters. I have no idea what they were thinking with this one...

That face is not a Disney character I think. So, you know the Rock, right? This is him now...

Hahahaha. That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

Ha! Parents, I hope  teacher doesn't send a note like this to you about your kid...

So, I was meant to Google "dog breeds" the other day and instead I Googled "dog bread" and this is what I found...

Haha. Some people are just the worse...

Hahaha. So, if I had a TARDIS I would go back in time to the 30s, but knowing my luck I'll end up seeing the last public execution in the U.S....

So, David Cassidy passed away, which you know I will remember in a minute. I don't know if you know this but the Partridge family met Batman in the comics...

Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, Long Island, here is...

Top Phive Thoughts I Had While Watching Trump's Turkey Pardon
5. Trump just called Drumstick the turkey "beautiful."
4. My god please don't let this man hurt Drumstick the beautiful turkey.
3. Melania's coat looks like if you googled "basic Thanksgiving print" and made a coat out of it.
2. Trump described the place where Drumstick and his friend Wishbone are going to retire after the ceremony and it sounded way nicer than my apartment.
And the number one thought I had while watching Trump's turkey pardon was....
1. Of course the turkey is white.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Alright, it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: Jeff, how're you doing? First of... can you believe you are on the same entry as "Weird Al"? I know you're a fan... what is your favorite "Weird Al" song?

Jeff: Always good to be back here on the Phile, especially if I am on the same one as one of my all time favorite musicians, Mr. "Weird Al" Yankovic. Favorite song? Damn, that's a tough one. I'm going to have to pick a classic and say "Eat It," followed by "White-N-Nerdy." Though we both can relate to "Skipper Dan" too. What about you? What's your favorite?

Me: "Skipper Dan" is great... maybe "EBay." So, Thanksgiving is tomorrow... what are your plans? I have to work... but it's my birthday and they are having a pot luck for me... and Thanksgiving. Haha. 

Jeff: I'm working a half day tomorrow, then my family is coming home for a Thanksgiving dinner and some football!

Me: Okay, let's talk about football. So, what do you think of Dak Prescott? His passer rating versus would've been higher of he threw every pass straight into the ground. Haha.

Jeff: It's amazing the difference a year makes. Prescott was one of the hottest QB's in his rookie year, and now he's... well he's not. Part of that is his fault. Part of it has to do with the suspension of Elliott and injuries to his offensive line.

Me: Did you hear Trump demanded Marshawn Lynch be suspended for the season for sitting during the anthem? What do you think of that?

Jeff: Yeah, I read Trump's tweets. I couldn't disagree more. I think Trump needs to worry more about running this country than he needs about Twitter and the actions of a few NFL players. I could certainly say more, but this isn't a political blog so I will refrain.

Me: They blew up the Georgia Dome, Jeff. Look!

Me: There's no bus blocking that pic.

Jeff: Yeah, I saw the Georgia Dome got blown up worse than the Bills secondary did.

Me: Twenty-five years gone up in smoke. Can you believe it? I've seen it but never been in it. Have you?

Jeff: I had never been there, but seen many sporting events on TV there including a Wrestlemania! 

Me: Okay, so, Disney has taken over another team...

Me: What do you think? 

Jeff: Iago certainly seems to be a popular go-to character for Disney logos.

Me: Okay, so, how did we do last week? You still kicking my ass?

Jeff: It's going to take more than one week to change if I'm kicking your ass or not! Last week we both went 1-1 with both our teams winning. I mean the Giants game was ugly but a win is a win regardless. So my points lead didn't change.

Me: Let's do this week's picks then, Jeff. I say your Steelers by 3 and Falcons by 6. By the way, it's nice the Giants are playing on my birthday. Wonder if they'll win.

Jeff: My picks for next week is Titans by 7 and Bengals by 3.

Me: Great job. I'll see you here next Thursday. Have a good Thanksgiving, Jeff. Be good.

Jeff: See you next week and Happy early birthday!

Ummm... I don't get it. Alright, so, a "friend" of the Phile recently wouldn’t let reporters ask questions until they said what they’re thankful for. She wanted to come onto the Phile and talk about that and I have no idea why. Please welcome back to the Phile I guess...

Me: Sarah, on Tuesday you turned the White House briefing room into a kindergarten classroom fit for the president by demanding that every journalist share what they're thankful for before asking a question. WTF?

Sarah: Jason, Senator Bob Corker called the White House an "adult day care center."

Me: Well, it increasingly seems like he was right. I, for one, am thankful that you weren't in the room to see my eyes roll to the back of my head.

Sarah: Jason, the result was having every journalist state that they love their families before asking me about Kellyanne Conway's subtle endorsement of alleged pedophile Roy Moore.

Me: Yeah, the briefing quickly got the vibe of a manners lesson, with you even calling people out if they didn't "follow the rule" and announce what they're thankful for first.

Sarah: I know. It was like Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer with the "dollies," but real. Reporters are babies and should be treated as such.

Me: Hmmm... ABC News's Cecilia Vega responded with the right answer, which April Ryan cosigned. If this was indeed a kids' classroom, Vega would get a gold star. And these kids outside the classroom get participation points. May your own Thanksgiving dinner be filled with all of this corniness, but none of the lies! Thanks for coming on here, Sarah. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sarah: You too. Happy birthday, you handsome man.

Me: What the hell? She's crazy!

Phact 1: Up until 1933 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons were released into the air at the conclusion of the parade and would stay airborne above the city for as long as a week. A return address was stitched in and people who returned them received $100 reward.

Phact 2: Canadian Thanksgiving predates American Thanksgiving by 43 years.

Phact 3: It is against the law for supermarkets, department stores, and other big box stores in Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts to be open on Thanksgiving.

Phact 4: Native Americans have been holding a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving since 1970.

Phact 5: Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863 during the Civil War to keep the country together.

Today, the day before Thanksgiving, Trump's pointing around the grand table that is America and asking LaVar Ball to say what he's thankful for, but with a twist. He's telling LaVar what he should be thankful for, and it's him. He should be thankful for Donald Trump. This must be a Thanksgiving tradition around the Trump family table. Earlier in the week, the brash father of Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball and two other NBA-bound sons, Liangelo and LeMelo Ball, refuted Trump's claim that it was the president himself who secured Liangelo's release from the Chinese legal system. Ball's middle son, Liangelo, was arrested for shoplifting during a UCLA team trip abroad. "If I was going to thank somebody I'd probably thank President Xi," said the elder Ball on Monday, shamelessly seeking the limelight as he always does. As far as we know, Chinese President Xi is the only one who's actually handling this situation like a normal human being. Yesterday morning, Trump took the bait, if you can call a welcome distraction against all his political misfortune "bait," and slammed Ball on Twitter. Trump mustered more than a 'Lil' for a nickname.

Are you thinking? Get ready for "Ungrateful Fool LaVar Ball" to catch on.

There's that holiday spirit! It seems like if you're in a Chinese prison the visiting situation might not be that generous. Also worth noting is that LaVar Ball himself was certainly never going to get an NBA contract, despite the fact that he's gone on the record saying he's better than Michael Jordan. See, these are the same two guys. At the very least, we can all be thankful that on an otherwise slow news day before the Thanksgiving break, our current President Trump and our future President Ball gave us something to gawk at that wasn't the horrific sexual assault allegations against Roy Moore. We're all very convinced that's just a coincidence.

The 70th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Kevin will be the guest on the Phile on Monday.

David Cassidy 
April 12th, 1950 — November 21st, 2017
THAT’S what he was so afraid of.

Della Reese 
July 6th, 1931 — November 20th, 2017
Touching an angel.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is the worst thing to happen to Thanksgiving since your dad found out about Obamacare.

Ack! This is soooo cool. Today's pheatured guest is an American singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, voice actor, music video director, film producer, and more. His new box set "Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of 'Weird Al' Yankovic" comes out in 2 days. Please welcome to the Phile the one and only... "Weird Al" Yankovic!

Me: Hello, Al, I am so excited to have you here for my birthday. How are you? Should I call you Weird, Weird Al or just Al?

Al: Happy birthday, Jason! You can call me Al. How are you?

Me: I'm good. I wanted to interview you for so long. As you know I have interviewed your drum Bermuda Schwartz a few times and have been wanting to interview you for a while. This is a big thrill for me. Alright, so did you set out to write comedic parody songs or did you start off wanting to write more serious songs? 

Al: I probably had a brief few weeks where I was maybe 13 or 14-years-old I thought, "hmmm, lets see if I can write some serious music," and I tried to write some very deep profound poetry and set it to music and it was just horrible. I realized very early on that my brain doesn't work that way. I've got a sick and twisted mind and everything I write seriously ends up being distorted and bizarre. I thought I should just go with my muse and just write demented material.

Me: Was any of the first songs you wrote fashioned after any particular musician or band or did you know then you had a kinda voice of your own?

Al: Hahaha. The horrible original stuff I was doing back then wasn't fashioned after anybody. I found I couldn't force myself to write serious poetry, I tried to solicited my friends to write for me. It was kinda a Bernie Taupin/Elton John arrangement where I wrote the lyrics and they wrote the music. Even so it wasn't very good and I realized this is not creatively working out for me.

Me: When you started writing songs did you use the accordion then or did you use the guitar and piano?

Al: Well, I was pretty limited being the accordion was the only thing I knew how to play. I took accordion lessons from ages 7 to 10 and the accordion has always been my main axe, and is what I write on. I play other keyboard instruments as well but feel more comfortable with an accordion. I probably should have at some point in my life but I've never learn how to play the guitar so anytime you see me playing a guitar in a music video it's probably a prop.

Me: So, three years ago I interviewed Dr. Demento who kinda got you your start. Do you think you playing the accordion and not another instrument helped you as well?

Al: Well, in a way it did because it really got me noticed. Dr. Demento played a lot of bizarre novelty music like Frank Zappa, Stan Freberg, Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman, Spike Jones... just very odd random funny music, that's what expired me to do what I do. I'd send him tapes in the mail that I recorded in my bedroom with a cassette tape recorder. I was told that the only reason he played some of my early material was because I was playing the accordion because my material certainly wasn't very good, it was juvenile and not that clever but he thought there was something novel about a teenage kid playing the accordion he'd want to play it on the radio. I have to think if I was playing the piano, or a guitar or a more conventional instrument I'd probably wouldn't have broken from the pack and got his attention.

Me: I'm such a huge fan of your song parodies, Al. How do you go about writing a parody?

Al: First of, thank you. There's a lot of attention to detail. When I first started out I wasn't quite methodical about it. I would come up with a funny idea and come up with lyrics in 20 minutes and send them to the Dr. Demento show. But now that people really care about what I do, if these songs are gonna live with me for the rest of my life, I do spent a lot of time with it and although they are ridiculous funny songs that doesn't mean they are just hashed out. I will spend weeks, or sometimes months, just working on one song. In terms of the parodies I try to match the meter exactly (I chart it out), I try to match syllable to syllable to make sure it flows correctly. I tried to make it feel natural as well as familiar so it's a bit f a puzzle and game to try to work on humor and still try to be true to the original composition.

Me: How do you go about to pick the songs to parody?

Al: Well, popularity and catchiness. Obviously I try to find songs that are well known and people will be familiar with, and something with a very identifiable musical hook to it. Something that jumps out and makes it distinct. Often it boils down to me finding a song that I can find a clever idea for. I try to narrow it down to songs that I think are good candidates for parody and then I find variations on a theme... different directions I could go, different ways I could make it funny. I could come up with ideas, I just can't always come up with good ideas. That's really what it boils down to... I have to find a clever idea and turn it into a three minute parody song.

Me: You have an amazing band backing you, Al. Do you use them in the writing process or do you do the writing alone?

Al: It's something I do on my own. Obviously they are amazing musicians and they all add their tones to the recorded work, not to the extent that it would be considered songwriting. I'd present them with the demos and the lyrics are already done, and I'd like to say I don't write out guitar solos but I try to have the band add their own musical flair to it but to doesn't involve the actual songwriting.

Me: As well as the parodies, you do some originals that cover the style of an artist... a really great example is "Pancreas," which is a funny homage to "Pet Sounds," "Smile," or any Beach Boys song. How did you come up with that song, Al? It's one of my favorites.

Al: Thank you. I love to do songs like "Pancreas," and simulate the style of a particular artist or group, but making the song a little more twisted. That's a lot harder then making a straight original song because I have to study an artists body of work and be familiar with the whole aura and dissect it and try to find out what are the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make that artist who or they are and play around with it. So, that take a lot of note taking and immersing myself in that artists body of work. It's a challenge and another puzzle but that's one of my favorite things to do as well.

Me: Al, did you study music theory at all? You have recorded so many genres, it's amazing.

Al: Not as such, no. I mean the only formal musical training I had was three years accordion lessons, so basically my only training I had, if you want to call it that, is listening to pop music on the radio and just trying to pull things apart. Same thing with my band, they've been picking apart recordings for 30 years and I think they learnt a lot on the job, what makes a pop song work.

Me: I have to mention the song "Trapped At the Drive-Thru." When I first heard that song I thought, shit, is this song gonna ever end? Was it hard to write that song?

Al: Well, the challenge of that song is where do you go from R. Kelly's "Trapped in a Closet" that's already as ridiculous and over the top to begin with. How do you make that song more bigger, more funny or more crazy? It's hard to do. I figured the way I could go is the other direction and make the story as banal and boring as possible. Basically have an 11 minute epic that is melodramatic but nothing really happens. So I didn't know people would react to it but they seem to enjoy that particular one.

Me: I once drove from my apartment complex's parking lot to work's parking lot and the song was still playing. Hahaha. The production on your music is so bloody authentic, Al. When you listen to a song for the first time do you pay attention to the sound?

Al: Yeah, it's part of what I do. We try to emulate the sounds as close as possible. When I first started out I didn't pay much attention. The gag was I was playing an accordion over some pop song... it wasn't meant to sound so much like the original. From the third album on we really took pain to match exactly where you heard my parody on the radio for the first time you are not exactly sure if you're listening to the original or to me. Again it helps to have a top notch band. Everybody I have been working with knows the drill and knows I have been working on making the song exactly. My guitar player would contact the original artist or the original producer see what kinda pick-ups he used on a guitar and what amps did they use. We really try to match everything as closely as possible.

Me: Wow! What about your original songs? Do you start off with a concept and continue from there?

Al: What I've been doing is I keep some methodical notes and I have a lot of lists. I have a list of song topics that I think would be fun to write about and I also have a list of musical styles. Sometimes I like to put the two lists side by side and draw a line from one thing to another and try to come up with some really random matchings and pair ups. That's how I came up with the idea of "Craig's List," for example. I thought it would be fun to write a song about Craig's List and I always wanted to write a song about the Doors. I thought is it wrong to do a song about Craig's List with the sound of the Doors? It sounds very stupid and I thought well, that's funny to me, I don't know if it's gonna be funny to anybody else but I think it's amusing.

Me: Okay, so, I work at Disney World... by the way, I saw you at Epcot once backstage. Anyway, when I heard "Skipper Dan" I cracked up, as I know sooooo many people that worked at the Great Movie Ride or the Jungle Cruise that can relate to that song. That song HAS to have a story, am I right?

Al: I remember seeing you at Epcot. Hahahaha. That song is my most bittersweet and poignant I've written. That song depressed a lot of people, especially people trying to be actors. That was actually inspired by a real life occurrence. I was at Disneyland with my family and we went on the Jungle Cruise ride and the skipper, whose name I don't think was actually Dan, but he made an off hand reference to his failed acting career. That was a joke but I thought there's a whole back story there. There's a whole song, so I made a little note to write a song about this guys failed acting career.

Me: Are there any songs that you recorded, Al, that you don't play live in concert as it's too hard or complex?

Al: Yes, I have to say "Hardware Store." I like doing a list song and case in point I'm losing everything you find in a hardware store. I have to say that's one of the few hits of mine that I haven't attempted to do live because I'll probably pass out on stage if I had to do that. Thank god for studio magic I could at least make it work in the studio.

Me: Yeah, by time you'd get to matching salt and pepper shakers you'd probably need an oxygen tank. Haha. When you write a song like "The Night Santa Went Crazy" do you write out the storyline first before you actually write the song?

Al: I get a basic concept in mind and see where the story takes me. I had a couple alternate endings on that one because the original lyric had Santa getting shot in the head and I showed that to some of my friends and they said I can't kill Santa and I got talked out of it. The version I put on the album he just gets sent to prison for 700 years. Afterwards I thought people really know how dark I am, I need to have the original version out there, so I released the gory version as a B-side to one of my singles. 

Me: But it's okay to barbecue the reindeer though. Haha. Do you have people you test your songs out on to find put if they are funny or not? Or is it an instinct thing for you?

Al: Well, personally I rely on what I think is funny but what I think about comedy and humor it's good to not work in a vacuum because humor is objective so if I finish writing a set of lyrics I will hand them off to who happens to be next to me and usually it's my wife and kinda get her take on it and usually it's, "Yeah, that's good." I don't get really a lot if insightful feedback but I get some positive reinforcement.

Me: You did so many different things from children's books to albums, movies, TV... do you find it hard to switch off from your creativity?

Al: Do you mean unplug?

Me: Yeah.

Al: Not so much. I mean I'm very good at not working too. Right now I'm on vacation with my family and I feel good at the moment. When I'm not working it's very easy for me to unplug.

Me: Do you think there's any reasons for your long career, Al? I mean a lot of comedy song genre is a hard genre to be in.

Al: Yeah, absolutely, that's been the irony of my career. No one would sign me to a record deal when I came out as they were like "Oh, comedy, novelty, you're gonna be a one hit wonder, you'll be done in six months, we'll never hear from you again. You'll be a footnote." Then apparently I've lasted a lot longer then most people that did parodies over the years. I don't know what to attribute it to... if it's pure tenacity, I refuse to go away. I do what I love, I have a passion about it. I work with some very, very talented people, I've worked with the same guys in my band for three decades... Most of all it's just luck, I don't know what it contributes to ultimately other than I've been blessed so far and I get to do what I want to do for a living.

Me: Well, I'm glad you are, sir. Wanna mention anything that you are doing?

Al: Yeah, on November 24th the box set "Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of 'Weird Al' Yankovic" comes out with all my albums plus a new one called "Medium Rarities." My second "Weird" Al action figure in the NECA Toys line is out now, and I'm the voice of Milo Murphy on Disney XD's "Milo Murphy's Law."

Me: Al, thanks so, so much for being on the Phile, sir. I can't thank you enough.

Al: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much. Keep up the good work, Jason.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jeff Trelewicz and of course "Weird Al." The Phile will be back on Sunday with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Have a good Thanksgiving.

I'm bone weary, I'm bone tired, the wood stove's last spark just expired, dawn's about one hour away and it's almost Thanksgiving Day. - Graham Parker.

No comments: