Lexifabricographer

November 4, 2013

TMoRP – Back in action! Sort of!

Gosh, the Month of Relentless Positivity has been a bit patchy this year, hasn’t it? I think I just have to be big enough to admit that October has gotten away from me. November’s not looking all that sharp either.

On the home internet front, the good news is that our router issues have been cleared up. We have a replacement router which is working at peak efficiency, spreading wireless goodness to all corners of the house.

The bad news is that the router was never the problem in the first place. It turns out that the telecommunications cabling into the house – and throughout our neighbourhood in one of Canberra’s older areas – is decrepit. Frayed, corroded and in some places comprehensively chewed, it’s frankly amazing that our phone or ADSL connections have ever worked at all. As is the case in quite a few parts of the country, our communications infrastructure is just barely hanging in there. This helpful article on the ABC website summarises the parlous state of the copper wiring currently in use. It’s a contemptible enough state of affairs in the abstract. In the flesh, so to speak, it’s bloody annoying to me and my family.

The line technician who came out on Friday afternoon to cobble together a temporary cable, which bypasses the existing wires from the street to the house, told me he hates getting calls to my suburb. Invariably when he digs up the lines he finds a horrific Frankenstein’s monster of stripped wiring, corroded conduits and rotting insulation. His visit left me in no doubt that I could expect to stay with the temporary fix for a long time to come, based on Telstra’s copper replacement schedule, which can be charitably described as “unhurried”.

On top of all that, in the last week or so our suburb was one of 500 or so quietly removed from the forward plan for rollout of fibre under the National Broadband Network project. Cough. No surprises there.

So the magic internet-waves have been restored to our house, for the time being at least. And I supposed in a way we are lucky, to be so unambiguously stripped of the complacent delusion that we are being provided with the service for which we pay.

You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Anyway, I’m going to resume my TMoRP blogs and take a shot at catching up on them. Between that and editing a couple of short stories, I should be pretty busy for the next few weeks.

June 20, 2013

Writing Watch – Short story markets

Okay, before I start, I *am* still working on my novel. But I’m at the horrible late-middle stage where nothing is working properly and I can’t see a clear path (yet) to the ending. It’s doing my head in and all I can think as I work on it is: This story is not coming out how I imagined it in my head. Nothing I’m doing is working. I’ve wasted two years on this steaming heap of garbage and it’s still not readable. I hate writing!

Yes, it gets that bad at times. My brain is a stupid, self-defeating thing. It’s slightly heartening to know that other, more successful writers have similar problems – read this excellent depressing essay by the rather-good Libba Bray about her current work in progress – but that doesn’t help me out of my quagmire.

So I am regrouping and trying some new writing tactics. One of these is to work on a short story at the same time, so that rather than allow myself to stall because I am frustrated with the novel, I can switch modes quickly and still feel like I’m making some progress. Later (in the same writing session or the next) I can come back to the novel with fresh eyes and a calmer attitude. maybe. I dunno. It’s an experiment.

Anyhow, I’m taking the opportunity to list a few short story opportunities for Australian writers that are open at the moment. There are many more, of course, these are just some that have an appeal to me at the moment. Since I appear to have an invisible readership – HELLO IMAGINARY FRIENDS LEAVE A COMMENT – I figure they might also be of broader interest. If not, well at least I have the links handy.

Gold Coast Anthology - Canberra editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald and honourary Canberran Helen Stubbs are editing an anthology of short stories about the Gold Coast, available to authors who live at or have ever visited the Gold Coast. They have a large collection of photographs both modern and historical from the region. Every submission must be based on (at least) one of the photos. Any genre, up to 5000 words, submissions close 31 August.

Kisses by Clockwork – Ticonderoga Publications, who are one of the premier Australian spec fiction small publishers (in admittedly not that large a field) are doing a collection of romantic steampunk stories. Ticonderoga’s anthologies are rather intriguing – last year’s One Thousand and One Nights-styled Dreaming of Djinn is on my to-read pile – and of quite a high standard. Specific genre, 2000 to 7500 words, submissions by 15 October.

This is the one I’m working on now, writing the story while at the same time attempting to overcome my limited familiarity with the genre by poring through, I kid you not, The Mammoth Book of SteamPunk (which is proving itself to be quite an entertaining anthology in its own right).

Finally, Dimension6 will be an in-house journal of novella-length science fiction from Australian publisher Couer de Lion. Publisher Keith Stevenson is pretty open about D6 being a promotional tool for CDL’s other products, but I’ve read Anywhere but Earth and most of the stories from X6 – a novellanthology and on the basis of those I’d be happy to recommend their works. They aren’t reading submissions until January 2014 so there’s plenty of time to get something to them. Unusually D6 will have a minimum word length – 4500 words – because as Keith says “we believe a real story needs at least that much space to thrive”. And why not?

May 28, 2013

More shilling! Next at Smashwords

A very quick one: the CSfG Next anthology is now available for purchase from Smashwords for the utterly reasonable $4.99 US.

Obviously I recommend it, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I like to think of it this way – for five bucks you get a completely readable, diligently proofread story by me, along with more than twenty separate opportunities to scrub that story from your brain.

What’s not to like?

October 30, 2012

MRP Day 28 – Whedon endorses Romney

(Trigger warning for Dr Clam – pertains to US presidential election. Proceed with caution)

By now everyone has probably seen this short video of Joss Whedon endorsing Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy, right? Celebrity endorsements are the cringeworthy lifeblood of modern politics – as opposed to, you know, actual policy – so it’s nice to see one that trades off the usual bland, affable positivity for articulate and compelling points.

It’s two minutes long. Just watch it.

I think there are three things to note about this:

1) when you’re a rich American, you can pretty much say whatever the fuck you want and get away with it, but it’s nicer for the rest of us if you can at least be funny and satirical while you are doing it;

2) Whedon does a pretty damn good job of nailing his routine in a single shot for someone who is not a professional performer; and

3) The kitchen is so clean and well-ordered that I can’t choose between ‘mesmerising’ and ‘unsettling’ as a descriptor.

October 19, 2012

MRP Day 19 – Lifehacking

I have work to do including a novel to outline and my tummy is full of Margaret River Shiraz and spaghetti bolognaise [1]. Under the circumstances, I think you will agree that the less time I spend blogging tonight the better. But in lieu of my usual dubious and maddeningly scant commentary, I will point you to a Tumblr link that I came across today (likely via BoingBoing, but I really don’t remember.

This is a list of 99 clever little tricks for making a selection of almost-inconsequential first world problems go away. Some of them are likely things that you already do – I suspect that everyone knows the one about the last little sliver of soap, and after nearly five years of kids, unknotting a plastic bag is now an automatic reflex for me – but some of them are downright ingenious. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which, for example, I would have thought of using a hotel television USB input as a charge point for a mobile device, and yet its utility is blindingly obvious once it has been pointed out. And I kind of love his obsession with keeping power and data cables in order. [2]

Scanning this list today gave me a genuine pang of joy. Not all of it, obviously, but enough of it. I love watching problems solved with sparkling ingenuity (probably because it’s a quality I never expect to experience directly).

So, what’s your favourite?

[1] Oh no, I drank all the Shiraz, which was a Leeuwin Estate Siblings 2009. I highly recommend it – full of soft berry flavours and no heavy tannins. Plus it goes great in a bolognese sauce.

[2] I am pretty sure I am going to use the one with the toilet rolls.

 

May 30, 2012

Wednesdays are linkspam days

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 3:43 pm

I’m halfway through a bunch of things and coming up on my self-imposed deadline to finish things. So instead of starting something new to post up here, I’m just going to flag a bunch of things that caught my interest when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else.

Recently Neil Gaiman did a speech to the 2012 graduating class from University of the Arts in Philly about living a life in the creative arts. It’s wonderful. But at 15 minutes it is rather too long for my internet-atrophied attention span to follow [1], so instead, here is a rather awesome cartoon version.

Ticonderoga Press has announced the table of contents from its upcoming The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011 anthology. Having read four of the stories from a list of 32 and found all of them to be top-notch, I have already decided to pick this one up (due in July) and am hunting around my local bookstores for the 2010 collection.

Stunning (and completely spoilery) plot analysis of The Avengers: http://exurbe.com/?p=1368  If you have seen the movie and came away with the infinitessimally faint hint of dissatisfaction that perhaps the cunning and complexity of the villain’s scheme was not quite up to the standard traditionally ascribed to him, then read this essay and marvel at its subtle genius [2]

Next week I am going to plug a bunch of podcasts. You have been warned.

 

[1] Not really. Go watch the vid. Or just listen to it. Gaiman is terrific.

[2] Which goes almost wholly unrevealed amidst the witty snarking and multi-‘splosion hijinks [3]

[3] By the way The Avengers is making a serious play in my head for the best action movie of all time, though I suspect on subsequent viewings it will again lose ground to the masterwork that is Die Hard. But it is, I contend, better on every level than any of the Indiana Jones or Star Wars movies.

 

 

April 5, 2012

More Kickstarting

Filed under: Games,the interweb she provides,Uncategorized — lexifab @ 11:37 pm

I had noble intentions to post up the Deborah Biancotti review tonight, but I have kids who feed off the sleep deprivation of others. The squamous little fatiguovores. So instead I will direct your attention, all sleight-of-handishly, to a handful of rather awesome creative projects currently in need of sponsorship.

The Dinocalypse Trilogy by Evil Hat, Chuck Wendig and now a bunch of other people. To kick off the fiction line of their rip-roaring pulp-action Spirit of the Century game, Evil Hat Productions have invited funding for a trilogy of novels by Chuck Wendig. I will say only this: Time-travelling psychic dinosaurs invade New York. If that sentence is not enough to absolve these books of the presumed sin of being gaming tie-in novels, your tastes and mine may fail to correspond at a primal level.

BUT this being a project orchestrated by the inestimable Fred Hicks, the Dinocalypse Kickstarter blew through its initial targets in, I dunno, three or four minutes. Now they’re aiming for the stars, tacking on another novel for every five grand or so raised. So for the minimum buy-in of ten bucks, you can currently pick up SIX novels, written by a variety of young people who are extremely hot right now [1]. I told you that so that I could tell you this – the next stretch goal is for pledges totalling thirty grand. If they hit that target – and they will, in another couple of days probably – the next novel down the pipeline will feature Professor Khan, the intelligent gorilla who lectures at Oxford, in an adventure on Mars.

THAT IS A BOOK THAT I NEED TO EXIST!

(Ahem). If you like ridiculous high-octane pulp action with airships and jetpacks and sorceror-detectives and international dames of intrigue, consider slinging this one some bucks. The minimum pledge reward represents stunningly good value.

Shadowrun Returns by Harebrained Schemes. When I was still at uni I played the absolute hell out of tabletop Shadowrun. In summary the setting sounds pretty weak: in the near cyberpunk future ruled by megacorporations, the Mayan apocalypse arrives and heralds the return of magic to the world. A whole bunch of people find they can work spells and a whole bunch of others get turned into elves, dwarves, orcs, trolls and so on. Everyone plays edgy criminals with smart guns, stealth motorbikes, armoured trenchcoats and monofilament katanas and they all get together to steal corporate data from heavily fortified research labs and to blow the shit out of dragons or an attack chopper or whatever.

Shut up, it’s awesome. No, YOU’RE old!

Whatever, grampa. Anyhow, anarchic criminality, gun fetishism and stickin’ it to the man-who-might-be-a-dragon would seem like a good fit for a computer game translation, right? For some reason none of the attempts to date ever managed to capture the appeal of the original setting. That sense of the improverished street renegade struggling not to draw the attention of insanely powerful enemies; the wonder of ancient elf conspiracies and creepy alien shamanism; the clash of cultures, corporate and criminal, Native American and Elven, Orc Underground and (boo!spit!) Humanis Policlub. Back then I think we never quite got at the meat of what made the setting interesting (we were too busy playing it like a reskinned D&D with machine guns and hand grenades).

I’m kind of hoping that this game – a turn-based 2D interative story-telling game for PCs and tablets – will manage to find the sweet spot between immersion, in what was to me a fascinating setting, and the technoporn of smart-linking your Ares Predator to your combat reflexes and ocular implants. It’s back with at leats one of the original designers, so I have some reason to be optimistic.

And finally, Jess Nevins, an uber-historian of American pulp fiction, is compiling an Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. Okay, so this is a pretty obscure subject, but I do think this kind of cultural anthropology is both cool and valuable. Where else in this day an age are you going to find a detailed accounting of the careers of luminous creations like Captain Future, Mister Amazing  and, I dunno, Lady Zap or whoever. The point is, we’d never know how many of those three I just made up without a useful reference resource like this book and website. Unless I told you that it was two.

So that’s where my Kickstarter addiction has wandered this month. There’s obviously a wealth of stuff on there that it would be dangerous for me to explore any further given my apparent inability to suppress the urge to impulse-support neat stuff. If you seen something cool out there (or at Indiegogo or wherever else) shout it out in the comments.

 

[1] One of whom is a chap named Brian Clevinger, who writes a comic called Atomic Robo (art by Scott Wegener). As an aside, remind me one day to tell you how frickin’ great it is.

March 8, 2012

Spamwave and Linkage! (They Fight Crime)

Filed under: administraviata,geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 4:21 pm

Spamwave!

Woah. I just checked the Lexifab dashboard. Anyone wanna hazard a guess about which link I added or trigger-word I used in the Books of February post to attract a dozen brand new spam commenters? (All tragically deleted now, and may the good Lord ha’ mercy etc)

I will open the betting with “steampunk-themed torture porn”. Any takers?

Linkage!

So that this piece of bloggerel [1] is not a complete waste of your valuable internet time-wasting time, here is an extremely valuable link. I am almost certain that it does not come from the spam comments mentioned earlier.

Against Big Bird, The Gods Themselves Contend In Vain  – Scott Lynch, who will hopefully someday overcome the significant difficulties standing between him and the completion of the Gentlemen Bastards series, has contributed to the intellectual discourse on popular culture with this insightful analysis of the most insane Sesame Street special ever broadcast. I don’t recall ever seeing this one, but it’s hard to believe it’s stranger than the time they all went to Hawaii and discovered that Mr Snufalupagus is the walking dream-avatar of a sleeping mountain. Really. The late ’70’s were a great time for bogglingly weird children’s television.

 

[1] Yup, pretty sure that’s a word now. Your OED will update automatically.

March 2, 2012

More patronage for your consideration

Filed under: Games,the interweb she provides,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 9:11 am

For reasons I haven’t been able to quite figure out, February’s been a weird month. I haven’t been doing as much of anything as I would have liked (you name it – writing, sleeping, reading, walking, gaming, effective parenting etc) but I still feel like I’ve been busy as hell. High-octane wheel-spinning. Fervent nonproductivity. And now here’s March, and what do I have to show for it?

Meh. I’ll go into those stats in the next post. This one’s about Kickstarter. Following up from last year’s exhortation of crowdfunded patronage, here’s some more stuff on Kickstarter that I think is worthy of your attention and possibly your money, and why.

Books

Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig – [1] I already reviewed ‘Shotgun Gravy’, the first novella starring bloodied-but-defiant teenage arse-kicker Atlanta Burns. So you know why I think that the prospect of a sequel – or better still, numerous sequels – is a good thing (and if for some reason my sweaty, shaking insistence that this is one of the great works of Western literature is not good enough for you, or if hyperbole repels you and you wish I would just shut up, go get the ebook or PDF version of SG because it’s super-cheap right now). As at the time of writing, the funding drive has hit its target, so ‘Bait Dog’ is guaranteed. But Wendig has promised to write another sequel for every three grand raised, and with a little over two weeks left to run, there’s a good chance for at least one more Atlanta Burns story after this one. This is a good thing, for scientifically-provable values of good

The next Matt Forbeck 12-for-12 trilogy – I already plugged Matt Forbeck’s crazy ambition to write a novel every month this year, funded entirely through Kickstarter patronage. The first trilogy was based on a dystopian supers setting developed for gaming. this next one, taking place in the ‘Shotguns and Sorcery’ also has an easily-grasped high concept. In this case, he has a taster out – you can read a short story called ‘Goblintown Justice’ and decide whether it’s something you might be interested in reading. I’m a fan of mashing genres – hardboiled noir + post-Tolkeinist fantasy is a perfectly cromulent blend – so even though the short story only partly worked for me I am still on board for the series.

The patronage model is really working for me. When an author whose work I  have liked in the past asks for what amounts to an advance payment for work they have yet to do, the act of pledging to support it sounds (in my head) like “I like what you do, I want you to keep doing that thing and I am prepared to give you money so that you don’t have to do something else”. The act of financial support, however nominal, feels like a more sincere expression of appreciation and thanks than you can  convey through even Twitter or blog comments or similar points of contact.

Games – Computer

Doublefine Studios Unnamed Point’n’Click Adventure – When point-and-click adventure games were at their height, among the most lauded titles in the genre’s history were Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. Of those I’ve only really played Tentacle (and a bit of Psycho), but that game alone convinces me that Doublefine can produce a great game. Watch lead designer Tim Schafer’s video appealing for support if you want to get a sense of the likely tone of the final product. It’s hilarious. Nearly 70,000 other people also seem to think so, since this is one of the most heavily-funded projects in Kickstarter’s history. In its first couple of days it was making about forty grand an hour in pledges. It was compelling, if ridiculous, theatre. So obviously they don’t need your money [3] and the game is certainly going to be made.

What makes the project appealing to me is that some large fraction of the proceeds will go to the production of a documentary series about the making of the game. I’ve always been an enthusiast for behind-the-scenes docos. The prospect of a production team with full access to the development process and the editing skills to avoid making that ten hours of people coding is enticing. Plus at the end of it there’s a game in a genre that doesn’t receive a lot of high-production-value love these days.

FTL -Faster than Light – A starship management game in which you play through crisis after crisis trying to keep your crew alive while they encounter asteroid fields, marauding pirates, boarding aliens and take-your-pick from a vast range of space-difficulties. On the one hand the scope is small, the graphics and sound don’t appear to be anything to write home about and the interface does not appear cutting-edge. On the other hand this is exactly the kind of game I would play the hell out of for months on end if I had the time. It’s a resource-allocation decision-making game with continuity of characters (who can die) and emergent story – so kind of like the city-management aspects of Dwarf Fortress, though hopefully without the unrelenting obfuscation of that game.

Velociraptor! Cannibalism! – A fun, bloodthirsty card game based on a loose comprehension of natural selection, in which Velociraptors consume adorable helpless prey and customise themselves with the advantageous body parts of anachronistic animals. It looks loopy and fun.

That’s all the stuff I’m following at the moment. You got any recommendations?

(Oh, I forgot to mention that the Beginnings Anthology – a locally-produced comic anthology produced by friends of Lexifab Emma and Gavin, amongst others – is due to launch next Friday night. I’m hoping to go along to collect my copy. See you there if you’re in town?)

 

[1] Yes, as a matter of fact, I have put all my career plans on hold specifically to shill for Chuck Wendig. Yes, of course I have a business plan [2].

[2] Okay, not so much a “business plan” as a “world-class capacity for precision-focused procrastination”. Shut up.

[3] Or mine – I haven’t actually pledged to this one yet, since I want it but I’m undecided about whether to commit to the documentary as well.

February 4, 2012

Dare to be Stupid

Filed under: geekery,musical challenge,the interweb she provides,trolling — lexifab @ 1:36 am

These days when I delve into the pages of that venerable commentator on American music and culture, Rolling Stone Magazine, it’s invariably for the political analysis, which is a bit like claiming to only read Playboy for the articles. Nevertheless there are rare occasions when it manages to pierce the rigid carapace of indifference to music I’ve built up over a couple of decades or so of inattention. There is one musician out there about whom I continue to Have Strong Opinions.

I’m speaking, of course, of my hero and spirit guide, Albert Matthew ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, the undisputed comedy folk-rock piano-accordianist champion of all time. To celebrate the release of his landmark intermittently-outstanding 13th studio album AlpocalypseRolling Stone recently ran a reader’s poll to ascertain once and for all which songs – from a catalogue spanning more than a hundred songs over more than 30 years – are his top ten best songs.

Unsurprisingly, they mostly got it wrong. If I may smugly namecheck a Weird Al song in order to score a cheap internet-point, ‘Close but No Cigar’, people.

Oh sure, they managed to display the odd patch of good taste and common sense amongst their so-called “best of” picks. So why of why did they have to go and despoil a perfectly good list by rounding it out with the bland, the obvious and the tediously popular? See, this is why crowdsourcing is going to ruin culture.

You know what it means when there’s someone wrong on the internet, right? I’m gonna have to school them ignoramuses, track by track. Listen up.

Number 10: One More Minute. Okay, look, tens-of-thousands-of-Rolling-Stone-readers. Here’s where you went wrong right off the bat. Al’s doo-wop ballad lamenting the breakdown of a relationship is NOT the tenth-best thing he ever wrote. It’s THE best. Come on, people. Now, there are going to be people who argue that this is not Al’s best song, nor even a good one. What can I say? There are people who will argue that the sun’s not coming up tomorrow if someone else asserts it on the internet. Those people are unaware of – or conveniently forgetting – that ‘One More Minute’ selflessly contributes one of modern culture’s finest entendres – I’m stranded all alone at the gas station of love/And I have to use the self-service pumps – and that this is the least of its comedic achievements. I will say no more. If this song cannot find a place in your top five, your education is sadly incomplete.

Number 9: All About the Pentiums. Oh. My. Meh! This is just ridiculous. There are times when Al can effortlessly demonstrate what it takes to be at the top of the parody game. This inexplicable hit is not one of those times. First rule of sound-alike novelty songs: start with a good song. Puff Daddy’s inferior doggerel about the shallow pursuit of the appearance of wealth may have been rather popular in 1997. Is it still a respected classic of the hip-hop genre? I haven’t heard it on my shitty local FM golden oldies station recently! Getting back to Al, there’s certainly good material here – making fun of nerds and being a nerd is a rich vein to mine, and not particularly one I have a problem with. There’s some good jokes – What kind of chip you got in there, a Dorito? and You’re just about as useless as jpegs to Helen Keller – but the rapping’s sketchy and the jokes are scattershot and fail to build to anything. Everything weak about this song he got right ten times over with ‘White and Nerdy’.

Number 8: Smells Like Nirvana. This is more like it. Starting from a strong base – the so-called anthem for an entire generation – and working from a good premise – nobody understands any of the words of the so-called anthem of a generation – Al turned Nirvana’s crashy slacker masterpiece around on itself. It’s hard to bargle nardle zous/With all these marbles in my mouth. Al’s (insane, contrarian) critics often make the claim that all his songs are about food, but really only a handful are. It’s just that these happened to have included two of his biggest hits, ‘Eat It’ and ‘Fat’. (Kurt Cobain famously almost declined his permission for the parody because he thought it would be about food). This, arguably his best parody, aims a little higher, making fun of the original song and its performers, with outstanding success. The recent ‘Perform this Way’, sending up the fact that Lady Gaga is a dead-set loon, succeeds at this as well, though not so sublimely. The ‘Nirvana’ lyrics are perfect – Well we don’t sound like Madonna/Here we are now, we’re Nirvana/Sing distinctly, we don’t wanna – the instrumentation is a precise recreation of the drums-and-feedback Nirvana sound and the shot-for-shot video clip manages to ridicule and laud the original at the same time. This is a great song about a great song that sounds just like it. Meta.

Number 7: Dare to Be Stupid. Nearly everybody knows that Weird Al Yankovic is famous for comically substituting his own lyrics to a well-known piece of music. This other thing he does is to parody a famous band’s signature sound, producing a song that is likely to be indistinguishable from the rest of that band’s output (except those bands that are unlikely to be singing jokes about food, the internet or being a terrible relationship partner). ‘Dare to be Stupid’ is a sharp imitation of Devo at the height of their fame (i.e. post-‘Whip It’) and stylistically it sticks the landing. But the joke – bad advice offered to stupid people – wears out fast. There are many better examples of Al’s style-parodies. He’s done at least  of them (three on the latest album). The best include ‘Dog Eat Dog’ – which would be one of my favourite Talking Heads songs if they had anything to do with it – ‘Germs’ (Nine Inch Nails, as if Trent Reznor hadn’t passed the point some years ago of self-parody), and ‘Everything You Know is Wrong’, which really could be a They Might Be Giants song. He’s even done two songs in the style of the Beach Boys – ‘Trigger Happy’ apes their early surfboards-and-hotrods style and ‘Pancreas’ is a lost track from Pet Sounds. Here’s what I think – it’s the cheesy direct-to-comedy parodies that attracts Al’s wider audience, but it’s the style parodies that the fans come back for.

Number 6: Yoda. A contender for top three, without a doubt. Al’s first foray into Star Wars filk-singing was to convert ‘Lola’, The Kinks’ classic song about picking up a transsexual in a bar, into a recap of Luke Skywalker’s Dagobah training montage. Sure, it was dated almost the minute came out, but it still holds up (possibly because it calls back to the one inarguably good movie in the entire Star Wars series). Al’s been finishing his shows with this song one and off for 25 years. That’s because it’s great. And because everyone loves chanting the Yo-yo-yo-yo-Yoda bit.

Number 5: The Saga Begins. Oof. First up, it’s a terrible name, yes, but it would have been more terrible to try to cram one of George Lucas’ awful planet names (Coruscant or Tattooine would have been the contenders, I guess) into a joke renaming of ‘American Pie’. Forget that, though, because by Al’s standards this is a pretty ordinary parody. Considering the Maclean song is one of the most recognisable dirges in American music, many of Al’s lyrics don’t match up with the scanning of the original. Worse, it’s just a retelling of The Phantom Menace, which is bad because it’s a retelling of The Phantom Menace, a story we could really have done without being told even once. TSB does score points for its great final verse, which sums up in four lines what it takes George Lucas nearly an hour to depict onscreen – And in the end some Gunguns died/Some ships blew up and some pilots fried/A lot of folks were croakin’/The battle droids were broken. Lucas could wish he still had that kind of storytelling economy. It perhaps deserves some admiration too for being released just after the movie premiered – Al wrote it solely on the basis of what he could pick up from preview trailers, internet spoilers and sheer guesswork. But there’s no need for more than one Star Wars-related song on the list of any right-thing Al fan. ‘Saga’ falls well short of ‘Yoda’.

Number 4: Eat It. Here’s what I think happened with the Rolling Stone survey. I think it’s just faintly possible that the vast majority of people who responded to it had never listened to a Weird Al album at all! I know, right? They remember seeing this on TV back in 1984 and thought “Yeah, that was funny I’ll vote for that.” Because…durrr.

‘Eat it’ is the crass and obvious choice of the ill-educated oik who thinks parody songs need to be about food and contain belching sound effects. On an unrelated observation, ‘Eat It’ was number one on the Australian music charts and nowhere else in the world. Let me tell you – not only is this not the fourth best Weird Al song, it’s not even the best song on the ‘Eat It’ album (‘Midnight Star’ is). Hell, it’s not even the fourth best parody song on the album: ‘The Brady Bunch’, ‘Theme from Rocky XIII’, ‘King of Suede’  and ‘I Lost on Jeopardy’ are all flat-out better, funnier songs. Go to hell, ‘Eat It’.

Number 3: Albuquerque. Then again, there’s this – an insane, 11-minute rambling anecdote about starting a new life in New Mexico, boxes of weasels and…hell, I duno. It’s weird. Go listen to it. I’ll give the Rolling Stone readers this much, when they’re trolling an online survey, they really commit to the gag.

Number 2: White and Nerdy. Good parody, sharp lyrics, and surprisingly adroit rapping. ‘White and Nerdy’ is basically a reprise of the ‘All About the Pentiums’ joke, but with more serious commitment to the dorkiness, which is what makes it funny. I wouldn’t necessarily have it in my top ten, but it deserves a special mention for being the flagship song on the return-to-form Straight Outta Lynwood album, which broke the curse of the 90’s (during which Al’s popularity was in a bit of a slump, by which I mean not even hardcore nerds like me would listen to him).

…which brings us to

Number 1: Amish Paradise. You’re kidding me, right? This is one of those Oscars-envelope-mixup things, right, where the award for Best Song got mixed up with the award for Most Adequate Reinterpretation of Some Garbage Coolio Ripped Off from Stevie Wonder? Is that what this is? I mean, I guess ‘Amish Paradise’ is funny, but it’s not that funny.

I would have accepted an out-there selection like ‘Christmas at Ground Zero’ or ‘Bob’ or ‘Hardware Store’. If one of the slightly-less-popular parodies like ‘Living with a Hernia’ or ‘Like a Surgeon’ had gotten over the line, I would have nodded with no more than one eyebrow raised. If you’d randomly picked one of the medley polkas – a joke that started out funny, got less and less funny with each successive album, until it finally came around full circle and became funny again – I could have gotten behind that. This, though? This toothless poke at all the obvious jokes that anyone would think of five minutes after watching Witness?

That hurts, Rolling Stone Magazine readers. It’s like you’re not taking this seriously at all.

 

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress