Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January's Underappreciated Music: Bat Music!

Like any decent American, I love the Batman TV show of the '60s. The fight scenes, the villains, the sets, and..the music? Absolutely! Play close attention to the music of the series, courtesy of Nelson Riddle in seasons 1 and 2, and Billy May in season 3, and you'll hear how awesome it is. And of course, the theme! So simple, yet so effective, written by the great Neal Hefti. So awesome that it was recorded and released by several artists wanting to put their own spin on it--and cash in on the series' phenomenal success. Here are several examples.

The theme by Nelson Riddle's orchestra as it opened every episode:

Riddle's version for the original soundtrack LP of the series:

Neal Hefti's own orchestra recording the theme:

A version by the one hit wonders The Marketts:

Surf music favorites Jan & Dean recorded an entire concept album inspired by the Batman series, which is a topic deserving of its own article, but for now, here is their take on the theme:

Finally, here is a version by the greatest selling instrumental group of all time, the Ventures:

See you next time--same Bat time, same Bat channel!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Wentworth

The first Tuesday's Overlooked for 2016 is on the Australian women's prison TV drama Wentworth.

Wentworth revolves around the character of Bea Smith, who enters the prison while awaiting sentencing on an attempted murder charge on her husband. While there, she runs into many characters among the prison population and staff, all of varying degrees of moral ambiguity. Other characters include sadistic warden Ferguson, fellow inmate and prionser leader Frany Doyle and other various prisoners and corrections officers with their own stories to tell. 

The series, based on an earlier Australian series called Prisoner, has won critical acclaim in its native Australia and the UK. The first three seasons of the series are available on Netflix in the US. A fourth season is airing on Australian television later this year. For those who may think it's similar to the US series Orange Is The New Black, be forwarned: Wentworth is much more serious than Orange (not that Orange doesn't have its serious moments), and is a bit closer in tone to HBO's Oz. I've only seen sporadic episodes here and there, but my wife has been binge-watching the series religiously since our Christmas vacation.

Here is the trailer for Season 1.

For more Tuesday's Overlooked, check out Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Happy New Year and "The January Problem"

Happy New Year indeed! Welcome to my first post of 2016. I hope your holiday season was happy and healthy. I enjoyed some time off the last week of December, and spent the past two weeks getting back into full swing at work and in family duties.

Which leads me into my discussion of what I call "The January Problem."

From Thanksgiving at the end of November all through December and January 1st, most of us have the holiday season at the forefront of our lives. Our houses and workplaces are fully decorated, there is wall to wall Christmas music on multiple radio stations and in every department store. Christmas specials are plastered on every TV channel, and we spend every moment of free time either attending holiday events or shopping for gifts. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, we cheer the new year into our lives, rest on New Year's Day with family, and then, after almost six weeks of all this...we go back to our lives almost like nothing happened, like the holidays were just a dream.

Sucks, doesn't it?

Adjusting to life after the holidays has felt like a surreal experience the last 15 years. There's such a contrast between December and January, and as I get older, it's become harder and harder to make the transition--I don't know why. February is a bit easier, as we have Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day, March has St. Patrick's Day, then spring comes along and brings us milder weather to enjoy. But January? Eh. It's cold and has no fun events to look forward to. Hence, the January Problem.

So, what to do? What's the hook that can give January some sense of hope, of meaning?

The best solution I've come up with is the idea that January is the start of the new year. With it brings new beginnings, a cleaning of the slate, a chance to correct that which we did wrong in years' past and embrace the many opportunities to be different, to be better. With the right mindset, that can be exciting, invigorating. Yes, that's a solution to the January Problem. A chance to be the people we really want to be!

I wish for you this new year to be the person you want to be, to live the life you want to live. If I'm not too forward, I hope you will wish me the same in return.