Sometimes my videos are inspired, sometimes less so. This time was one of those times I just couldn’t seem to satisfy myself. However, there’s still some great footage here. A couple of blue jays, some delicious steaks, incredible sunsets, waves in slow motion, and miniature Schnauzers. All to the greatest hits of our good pal Tee Bone. And you can’t resist his music!
#1002: The Best of the Best of the Best
RECORD STORE TALES #1002: The Best of the Best of the Best
It has been unknown numbers of years since the last time I had a four-day summer vacation. Long overdue! Full of great music, great visuals, and so hard to come back from. My heart aches, but I have been diligent and made a video of the memories, as I always do. The theme of this week’s video: wildlife! Lots and lots of animals. 18 minutes of video paradise: the best of the best weekend I ever had.
As usual, we departed the hot city on Thursday night, to the sounds of great rock and roll. Heavy metal, in this case. This time I chose Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son for the trip. The entire album plus the B-sides bonus disc. Musically genius, lyrically dicey. I used to think the words were so deep. “Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell and your trip begins…” I used to imagine Bruce’s lyrics were so deep. Now I think he was just making up cool sounding phrases. We all know what the seven deadly sins are, but there are no “seven ways to win”, nor “seven holy paths to hell.” I used to give him credit for knowing the exact meaning of everything he sang. What are the seven ways to win? Don’t ask Bruce, I don’t think he knows! But it all sounded cool, and I must have spent childhood memorizing this whole album, because I sang the whole way to the lake. I conclude the concept is fun, but without depth. If there is any depth to the album, it comes on the last song, Steve’s “Only the Good Die Young”.
So I think I’ll leave you,
With your bishops and your guilt,
So until the next time,
Have a good sin.
That resonates, but the overall album is just a tale. Just a comic book. On the other hand, I could be like Liam Gallagher with Oasis lyrics. “Just because I don’t know what they mean, doesn’t mean there’s no fookin’ meaning in them fookin’ words!”
80s Maiden continued on the porch all Thursday night. All 80s, all Bruce. Nothing but. Then we watched Thursday Night Record Club with Brent Jensen and Alex Huard, talking about Judas Priest’s British Steel. Switched over to Priest on the front deck the following morning. And then to Journey, for an upcoming episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions, on the excellent new Journey album Freedom. I used my show notes to complete my upcoming review. It will be ready shortly after the show debuts. And you’re going to love the show we taped. Trust me!
As the days meandered on, we encountered all sorts of wildlife. There was a cheeky chipmunk that was climbing all over us each day, looking for treats. There was a raccoon hanging around the back door, smelling the blueberry pancakes I just made. Birds, birds, and more birds. And Schnauzers! We saw the return of our UFO! We kept our eyes on the skies, and there may have even been a flying squid! (What?)
Indoors and outdoors, there was plenty to do. No wonder four days flew past. We did retro gaming, watched Ant Man, had a belated birthday party, and cooled off in Lake Huron. We observed the sun set, and then the moon a few hours later. We have photos and video of it all.
By the time Monday rolled around, nobody wanted to go home. I spent my final four hours on the front deck editing away. It took that long to edit down 95 minutes of footage into the awesome 18 seen below.
Please enjoy the lengthy but entertaining video, and the awesome memories that go with it. I wish we could stay forever. At least with the videos, the memories remain and will not fade. The accompanying music comes from Tee Bone Erickson, Dr. Kathryn Ladano, Max the Axe and the Seagram Synth Ensemble. And it’s all good. I worked damn hard on this, because making videos like this does a lot of good for me when my seasonal affective disorder eventually kicks in. I worked hard on it for me, but also for you, because beauty is universal.
The best sun (and moon) sets in the world. Magical music. Awesome animals. The best, of the best, of the best weekend ever!
#999: Slo-Mo Schnauzers, Stop Motion Autobots, and UFOs? Oh My! (Video)
RECORD STORE TALES #999:
Slo-Mo Schnauzers, Stop Motion Autobots, and UFOs? Oh My!
Nothing really went as planned when the internet went out. So, we did what we could. We pretended it was 1989 and had fun in old fashioned ways. Good thing no LeBrain Train show was planned! And boy, did we take advantage of the break. Fortunately music was not an issue, so I warmed up the laptop and dug into the hard drive for some albums that reminded me of the old days.
To a soundtrack of Kiss, Kim Mitchell, Max Webster, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and many more, I grabbed the comic books and the Yahtzee. It was too cold to swim (weird for July) so we had to do other things. Jen worked on her adult colouring books. I made food. I also took plenty of video.
The wildlife this weekend was captured for your viewing pleasure. Plenty of gulls, eating multitudes of beach insects (which were so plentiful you can clearly see them on camera). We had a brave little chipmunk who seemed to enjoy the sounds of Aerosmith. I think I’ll name him Joe Perry. There were two cute doggos (one Schnauzer and one Miscellaneous), which I filmed in slow motion. The visuals this weekend were unrivalled! A pretty epic night fire, and sunsets that kill any you have seen yourself. All captured and carefully edited to a soundtrack of unreleased Max the Axe music, and classic Tee Bone Erickson tunes. Although the finished video is on the long-ish side, your reward is unreleased Max tuneage (one live, and a preview of a coming remix of “Randy”) and plenty of stunning visuals in HD slow motion.
We talked last time of being bored at the lake as a teenager. If I had this kind of technology as a kid, I’d never had been bored. That’s the truth. There’s always something worth documenting. The fact that I can have it finished and edited at the end of the weekend is actually pretty mind blowing.
The weirdest thing that happened (besides hearing a coyote calling at 11:30 at night, and then screaming at 5:00 AM), was the UFO.
Now, I’m not saying “aliens” when I say “UFO”. Let’s be clear on that. However the object was flying and none of us could identify it. There were minimum three witnesses each time. On the first night, the UFO appeared at sunset as a quickly brightening star, which eventually faded or was hidden by clouds. It didn’t move. My camera didn’t reveal much, although it looked like a blocky shape. Our working theory was the International Space Station.
The second time, the object appeared in the same place at the same time, still motionless. It looked like a flame in the sky, a frozen flame. That’s the best way I can describe it. It stayed in the sky until we eventually left the beach about half an hour later. When I returned later at night, it was too cloudy to be seen. Two examples below, and you can see more in the full video.
Internet outage aside, the only crappy thing about the weekend was that I did not get to visit Sausagefest as I’d hoped. The internet outage disrupted Jen’s routines a bit and I elected to stay home and make sure she was OK. As it stands I’m glad I made that decision, as she needed a little help doing a few things.
Otherwise, it was a delightful weekend of music and doing things differently. I wish I had written down all the albums we listened to, but with no movies and no TV, music was the obvious dominant force. A lot of Kiss this weekend, folks. A lot of Kiss.
The video may be long but it’s worth it. Slo-mo Schnauzer is your payoff!
#963: Birthday Man
RECORD STORE TALES #963: Birthday Man
At some point in the mid-80s, I realized my little sister had crappy birthdays. She was a December 28 baby and it seemed she got decent gifts for Christmas, but only boring dresses and clothes for her birthday. So I decided to invent a new character to the pantheon of imaginary gift givers: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy…and now, enter Birthday Man.
The only problem was at that young age I didn’t own any money. So I’d re-gift little things for my sister. “To Kathryn, From Birthday Man”. She believed in Birthday Man for as long as I could find pencil erasers or pens or other assorted “gifts” for her. She did question me as to why none of her friends had heard of Birthday Man. She seemed to be the only one.
Even as we got older though, I wanted to make sure she got good things for her birthday. It did appear in my experience that kids with birthdays around the “big holiday” seemed to get shorted. So I tried to outdo myself every year, getting bigger and grander birthday gifts for my sister. I hope 2021 is no exception!
So happy birthday to Dr. Kathryn Ladano. Hopefully we can see you soon. Enjoy some takeout, Nintendo and the company of furry friends.
#925: A Tribute to Gozer the Gozerian
RECORD STORE TALES #925: A Tribute to Gozer the Gozerian
Our first dog was Crystal. Somehow, because my dad is who he is, that name eventually metamorphosed into “Gozer”. My dad just does that and you have to hope to understand what he’s really talking about. But Crystal was called Gozer in the end, which of course is the name of the evil demon at the end of Ghostbusters. Gozer the Gozerian. Named after a Class 7 apparition. The way she goes.
I have some good footage of Gozer with a rockin’ soundtrack that I took in June 1990. I was home alone on summer holidays and my sister was about to graduate. So, we rented a video camera. We had it for 24 hours, and I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity, being on holidays. This is my earliest solo filmmaking! And you can hear what I was listening to on the tape deck that beautiful June day.
Summer holidays, man. Listening to rock music on a ghetto blaster on the front porch. Hanging out with my dog in the sun. Being creative, making movies. Trying to do a shot like John Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down the Road”. Doing fades. Crash-zooms and close-ups. Animating a pair of scissors.
Gozer didn’t like that many people besides Mom. I’m not even sure if Gozer liked me all that much. You can kind of tell from the video that she’d rather just be left to lounge in the sun. But we had good times and I’m lucky we have video footage of Gozer the Gozerian. The only reason we do is because my sister was graduating, we wanted to rent a camera, and I was on summer holidays with the dog. My mom used to think I wasted a lot of batteries and tape with that camera. I beg to differ.
Rest in peace Gozer!
Schnauzer Report Cards
Spring 2011, I found myself dogsitting. There were three Schnauzers: Lacey, Ani, Ali. I am glad that I kept a record of that day. Oh, the memories (and my eardrums)! One of the pooches was so ill-behaved that I went to the trouble of writing up a report card for when their human-mommies came home. I stuck it to the fridge so the doggies could be judged by everyone.
Incidentally the artwork at top was by a young Dr. Kathryn Ladano long before she was a Dr. It is titled “The Rad Schnauzer”.
Sunday Chuckle: Schnauzer Cam
Good doggies! Music is “Contentions” by Dr. Kathryn Ladano, from Masked.
#842: Three Times
GETTING MORE TALE #842: Three Times
Cottages were not meant to have all the niceties of city living. No washing machines, no dishwasher, no cable TV, no telephones. At least that’s how it used to be. When we used to head to the cottage for a long two week vacation, we had to take our clothes to the laundromat. If we needed to make a phone call, we had to go over to my Uncle’s place who had a phone. If I was worried about missing some WWF wrestling, I had to set the VCR at home and hope it worked. (It usually didn’t — programming those simple machines was very finicky.)
We only got two TV stations at the cottage so pickings were slim. There was a station up in Lion’s Head and another in Wingham. You had to turn the TV antenna in the general direction of those towns to get a signal. I can recall that the two stations were exactly 90 degrees apart and almost in line with the cottage itself. If you wanted Lion’s Head, you turned the antenna aligned with the front wall. If you wanted Wingham, you turned it 90 degrees to match the angle of the side wall. All done manually by twisting a pole in your hands. Changing channels in the rain was something that happened too! On a particularly clear day, we could pick up a signal from Michigan across the lake. The old timers say that if the weather is just right, you could actually see the lights of Michigan from the shore of Goderich, Ontario — a trick of the refraction of light.
Between those two stations, we had very little television to choose from. The one show that we watched every single day was The Price is Right. I seem to remember watching Bob Barker and Barker’s Beauties after many morning swims, and just before heading back to the beach again.
One morning in ’87, we were watching a poor old guy named Fred up there on the Price is Right, and he was so uncomfortable. “You can tell he really doesn’t want to be there,” I said to my sister Kathryn. He ended up winning a bid and had to play a pricing game. He looked so miserable and confused up there. You just wanted the poor guy to lose and be out of his misery. But that also demonstrates how dull cottage life could be for a kid — one of the most memorable highlights of that vacation was a goddamn Price is Right episode! I can still remember Fred and his green hat!
The potential boredom of the cottage, and even the Price is Right, really sparked some creative moments. Two things you needed at the lake at all times: Some paper and pencils. With those, you could keep yourself entertained through days-long rain spells and cold snaps. The weather up there was colder and wetter than home, and you could find yourself stuck indoors with no respite.
Kathryn was always creative back then, which was shortly before she started playing music. She invented her own games. One of them was based on the Price is Right.
Do you recall that pricing game called “Three Strikes”? You reached in a bag and pulled out a chip. It could have a number, or a “strike” on it. Pull three strikes and yer out! Kathryn invented her own variation of that. She called it “Three Times”. Her version was far more challenging. She put more chips and way more strikes in the bag. It was unwinnable. But memorable. We still talk about her first prototypical game, “Three Times”. Not a triumph, but certainly a good effort.
Another of her creations was more original and ambitious. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book. She drew upon real life experiences for its storyline. This book still exists; it is in a drawer at the lake. It is fully illustrated and bound.
Inside, on a street that looked a lot like ours, a little kid was taking their dog for a walk. A cute miniature Schnauzer, just like ours. Turn the page. You see a man approaching. Do you: 1) Turn and walk the other direction? 2) Turn and walk towards the man.
I’m not sure what the two endings say about my sister. In one, the man turns out to be your dad and walks with you. In the other, the same man kills you with a knife!
This bizarre book was limited to a single copy. Her latest work, The Improvising Musician’s Mask: Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation is less accessible but saw a wider distribution. But would it exist if her Choose Your Own Adventure dog walking book did not?
We’ll never know!
#836: Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Schnauzers – How It Was Made & Full Movie
GETTING MORE TALE #836: Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Schnauzers
For one weekend in the summer of 2012, I put the music on pause. Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Schnauzers was the title. It was a series and I made four movies in total. Five, if you count the final one that I shot but never edited. There’s something so satisfying about animating Transformers. I wanted to go big or go home this time, and what I ended up with this time was a 44 minute movie (originally split into two parts for file size reasons).
It’s amazing to think I did this movie in a single weekend in July 2012. Probably Canada Day weekend. I filmed the whole thing in just two days. You can see the the light change as I filmed from sunrise to sunset, in order to squeeze time out of every minute. And this movie was just my side project! At the same time, I was also posting 1-2 articles per day for my main gig: reviews and Record Store Tales.
I came prepared for Canada Day weekend with my Nokia C3 cell phone as my only camera. Here’s something you didn’t know. Cell phones back then were so much easier to do primitive animation with. There’s a pause button you could hit when you’re making a video, and it essentially allowed me to do the stop motion very single-handedly, very quickly, just by hitting that pause button. Sure, I made a few mistakes along the way. I had to reshoot entire scenes when I didn’t know I was pausing “off” instead of “on”, but it did enable me to do this entire thing in just two days. I barely stopped to eat, and I was just wiped by the end of it. I think it was a manic episode to be honest with you, but a doctor never diagnosed that so it’s just my opinion.
I chose the characters (and more importantly, toys) that I wanted to use for the movie. Most of them are from the Generations lines, with some third party add-on kits for Hound and Goldbug. Others are reissues of G1 originals: Soundwave and his tapes, Predaking, and Ultra Magnus. I needed figures that would be easy to transform on the fly. Magnus and Predaking were brand new in my collection and I wanted to show them off. I decided to bring more Decepticons with me than Autobots to give them a real disadvantage. I built the teams and roughed out a story. Dialogue was improvised on the spot but not fixed in place until the editing stage a few days later!
I used Windows Movie Maker, then and now, to edit. It was much less stable then (or at least my computer is more powerful now). The amount of edits I used numbered in the hundreds and crashes were frequent. Even though I was essentially editing “live” in-camera as I filmed and animated, I was also tightening up those edits with Windows. Funny enough, Windows has no more features in the current version than it did in 2012. For the laser blasts, I added a “split” and inserted a “fade in from white” effect. They are remarkably effective.
I originally edited the movie with mainstream rock music as the soundtrack. I used Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, and AC/DC among others. Needless to say, YouTube never let me upload it, so it sat on my various hard drives and DVDs all these years. Until I recently had an idea.
Uncle Meat’s hatred of my “playing with action figures” inspired me to use his music to get around the YouTube issues. More accurately, Max the Axe’s music (with a little of my sister’s mixed in). It worked brilliantly. Just as well as the original version, though with music you’re not familiar with.
Now you can hear many of these great Max the Axe tracks for yourself. While watching robots blow each other to bits!
Sure, it was cool when I used “Accident of Birth” by Bruce Dickinson as the entrance music for the Colossus Schnauzers and….
Oh! You’re confused about the Schnauzers. Having grown up around the wee beasts, I realized that in action figure scale, you could use them as giant monsters if you could get them to do what you wanted them to do. With Kathryn Ladano’s help, we used treats as incentives to chase and attack Autobots. I affixed Decepticon logos to their foreheads and wrote them into the story as Shockwave’s latest creation: Colossus Schnauzers. With DNA stolen from a secret lab (named after the two doggies Laci and Ali), the Decepticons engineered giant versions of the beasts.
It’s up to the Autobots to find out what they are up to, with a small squad led by Ultra Magnus. (I had focused on Optimus Prime in the preceding chapter with his death and rebirth as Powermaster Prime, so I wanted a different leader figure this time.) I used two Bumblebee figures. One was modified with a third-party head that made him into a Generations version of Goldbug, his rebuilt form. This is all roughly based on an original Marvel comics storyline. I also took inspiration from the TV show. One figure that I wanted to show off next time was my transparent “Ghost Starscream”. I didn’t have time to get into that with this chapter, so I ended it with some foreshadowing that would allow me to introduce my ghost version of the figure next time.
I coloured the dialogue to make it easier to tell which ‘bot is talking. I did an “infodump” introduction for the Predacons. This is the much-critisized technique used by Bob Budiansky in the 80s Marvel series. Each new toy had an introduction, because the comic was just a device to sell toys. That was my homage to Budiansky. The characterisations of the figures in my film are meant to be true to their toy bios and comic book appearances. Although my story takes place in a universe all its own, it’s similar to the ones you know. The “release the Schnauzers” scene is of course a parody of the the Kraken scene in Clash of the Titans. I wanted something that reminded me of Poseidon pulling the chain that opened the big gate.
I haven’t watched this movie for a long time. I had forgotten that I even included a “blooper reel” at the end. This is the only part of the movie that still has its original music soundtrack. Though I’ve forgotten the name of the track, that’s Kathryn Ladano’s music playing and that’s her in her only cameo!
Consider that I shot this thing in two days, sunrise to sunset, and edited it together in a couple more, all while posting new daily reviews and Record Store Tales. That’s unbelievable and probably also unhealthy. But I still enjoy the results! I legitimately like this. I also enjoyed adding the new music by Max the Axe and seeing how it worked out. I’m proud enough to post it here for you to enjoy. And I hope you do!
VIDEO: Dr. Kathryn Ladano ambushed by Ambush Schnauzer Paparazzi!
EXCLUSIVE! Dr. Kathryn talks about new album MASKED out later this year!