Blast From the Past: “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”

Blast from the past. YouTube came up with Patty Smyth as music videos I might want to watch yesterday. Her self-titled album “Patty Smyth” came out my freshman year in university, and it was, and continues to be, one of my most favourite albums ever. I played her album again today for the first time in a while. Who else remembers her? If you don’t, here’s the video for the biggest hit off that album, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with Eagles front man Don Henley.

Every City in Despair Needs Heroes: Meet Flat Man and Quake Kid

This week, with the second anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake approaching, I’ll be blogging about several issues relevant to our situation here in Christchurch and natural disasters in general.

Flat Man and Quake Kid — Credit: Otago Daily Times

We were a city in need, and heroes came to help us.  In our darkest hours, Mayor Bob Parker did what no mayor in Christchurch history has done; he flipped the red switch.  Somewhere in Christchurch, a klaxon sounded, two seemingly-ordinary young men suited up and jumped in their Bumblebee-coloured Camaro to help the city in need.  This is the story of Flat Man, his mother Flat Mum, and his sidekick Quake Kid.

Read Every City in Despair Needs Heroes: Meet Flat Man and Quake Kid

Madonna’s Like A Prayer

Madonna from her
Madonna from her “Express Yourself” music video

While I’m blogging about iconic 80s albums like Michael Jackson’s Bad, I can’t pass up what I feel is one of Madonna‘s best albums, Like a Prayer.  To me, these two albums stand out because both of them were released in the years during my awkward transition from junior high to high school.

I remember buying Like a Prayer on cassette tape, and the insert or case itself smelled of patchouli oil, adding to the entire experience.  One of my memories of Like a Prayer was, interestingly enough, it was the tape I’d pop in the Walkman when I was mowing my parents’ lawn.

There was the whole controversy over the “Like a Prayer” music video, which featured burning crosses and “a black Jesus” (who actually was supposed to be a saint) and stigmata, among other things.  I didn’t quite understand what the whole fuss was about because I interpreted the video as Madonna’s character trying to free the man charged with a crime he didn’t commit and that (perhaps) having been inspired by her Catholic faith and the particular saint who happens to look like the accused man.  Then again, I was only 15 and a bit naive.  It might pay for me to go back and watch the video in close detail again.

Another great hit was “Express Yourself”.  If that wasn’t a bit of a toe-tapper for a gay teenager, I don’t know what is.  And the music video was full of eye candy, too.  If you have any doubt of that, Google “Cameron Alborzian” for a few images of Madonna’s main interest in the video.

(In college, one of my dorm-mates said she’d give me her carpet if I dressed like Madonna and did a floor show to “Express Yourself”.  I did… and got a free carpet in the process.)

I won’t go into every minute detail on every song on the album, but I think Like a Prayer was one of the first albums where I understood that an album can tell a story and have an overarching theme, where the order and inclusion of songs is important to the overall flow, and sometimes the songs you like the most will never make it to radio.  (I now call these my hidden gems.)  It also was the first Madonna album I owned and turned me in to a fan of hers for her career so far.

Memories of Michael Jackson’s Bad, 25 Years Later

Michael Jackson's Bad
Michael Jackson’s Bad

I can’t believe it’s been a whole 25 years since Michael Jackson‘s Bad album was released.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have noticed it if Prime hadn’t had Spike Lee‘s Bad 25 documentary on TV on Monday night.

To be honest, it’s been a while since I listed to Bad.  Unlike Madonna or other 80s artists who are on my iPod / iTunes, Michael Jackson lost his magic for me a bit when he got a bit weird and sang songs like, “Have You Seen My Childhood”. (“Scream”, on the other hand, was excellent.)  Plus, unlike Madonna, Michael Jackson didn’t seem to be able to evolve as an artist.  I always thought he seemed to be somehow stuck in time as the world marched forward around him.

Watching Bad 25, as the documentary covered many of the songs on the album, I realised how much of an impact the album actually had on me.  If I remember correctly, Mom and Dad had bought me a ghetto blaster for my birthday either that year or the year prior, and Bad was one of the tapes I listened to quite a bit.  On evenings that I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d pop Bad into the tape deck, put my headphones on, lay down, and listen to it.

Nearly every song on Bad went on to become noticeable or a hit.  I mean, I remember “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal” being songs on the album, but the documentary made me remember such gems as “Dirty Diana”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Another Part of Me”, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, and “Leave Me Alone”.  To see and hear some of the comments about these songs brought memories back of them and added new insight into them for me.

For example, I always wondered who the heck Annie was from “Smooth Criminal”.  (Remember, “Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?” from the song?)  Of course, when we learned CPR, the training dummy was named Annie, and part of the script was, “Annie, Annie, are you okay?”  I always thought that was a rather strange coincidence until the documentary pointed out that the CPR dummy and training script were the origins for MJ asking if Annie was okay in “Smooth Criminal”.  Or maybe I was just super dim not to get the connection until 25 years later; I dunno.

Michael and Princess Diana always seemed to me to be kindred spirits in some way, and I often wondered if “Dirty Diana” was written with her in mind, although sometimes I felt the lyrics did not even come close to appropriately describing the Princess of Wales.  Obviously, the song only shared the main character’s name with our beloved Diana; it was revealed the song’s about a groupie.

I could go on about the songs and some of the music videos (for example, how the music video for “Leave Me Alone” reminds me somehow of Peter Gabriel‘s “Sledgehammer” music video), but I think I’ll leave this walk down memory lane at that.  After seeing Bad 25, maybe it’s time for me to take some time to rediscover Michael Jackson’s Bad and truly appreciate the impact it had on my teenage years and later life.

And Now, On a Lighter Note…

During our stay at Auckland’s Prince’s Wharf Hilton (see mention last blog), Noel and I had a great time.  And now, on a lighter note than my last blog…

We stayed on the top floor of the hotel.  If you know the Hilton, it’s basically a long corridor with rooms spanning off each side.  At the harbour-end of the pier, there’s a large suite, but, to my knowledge, the remainder of the rooms are rooms, with some of them aiming out towards the water (with balconies) and a lovely view of a container wharf (soon to be a cruise ship passenger terminal… or so they keep saying) and the rooms opposite face into the narrow parking lot/lane running between the mirror-image of the Hilton on the other side of the wharf.

In the middle of the inner-side of the Hilton is where the elevators are.  Three elevators open onto a small lobby-like area on each floor, complete with chairs to wait for people, et cetera.  (Not anyone can go in the lift; you need a key to get in.)

We always get an outer-facing room, and I think we ran out of wine, so Noel and I decided to make a trek to the local Star Mart (kinda like a 7-11 for those non-New Zealanders reading this blog) which was at the city-end of the wharf.

The lift arrived, and we jumped into it.  Unfortunately, the elevator stopped on the next floor down, and two huge (as in muscular) guys got into the lift.  One of them was about 6′ 3″ (1.87m) and the other was about my height (5′ 10″ or 1.79m).  The tall one was still talking, going on about how he thought they were all “wank-a’s” and he was going to write that in his column.  Could he, he asked the shorter one, write that kind of stuff in his article?

After my mind wandered to, “Can this neadrathal write?”, then to, “Can I write it in my article, George? Please, George?”, I snapped back into the present and eavesdropped (as you have no choice to do when you are crammed in a lift with strangers).

The shorter guy just agreed because the taller one was having a good ol’ rant about something.  But then it struck me: they both had English accents.  They both looked like rugby (or American football) players.  And I really started thinking the guy doing all the talking was a bit of a “wank-a” himself.

We arrived at the ground floor and all spilled out into the lobby.  Other similar looking guys (you know, could knock-you-back-to-your-birth-with-one-punch kinda guys) were in the lobby and there was a symphony of various English accents.

Noel and I left the hotel to get our supplies, and en route I said, “Gee, I wonder if those guys are on some sort of team.”  (I did want to ask them, “Are you guys all on the same team or what?” but I didn’t fancy my chances of walking out of that one in one piece.)

Now, to totally justify myself, I have *no* idea who is playing what sport where.  I’m not sports-minded.  I never have been, and I probably never will be.  Images of my parents screaming at the TV during a Chicago Bears game (and me saying, “Uh, hello, they can’t HEAR you.  But the neighbours can!!!”) have totally put me off sport.

We didn’t think any more of it until we left our room once again to go get some dinner.  This time there was a really built guy sitting in one of the chairs.  Noel said jokingly to him, “You know, you don’t *have* to sit out here.  They give you rooms here,” and he laughed.  The lift arrived — the guy already hit the lift button — and we all piled in there.

Again, this guy was big.  Probably 6′ 2″ and very well built.  After he disembarked on the 1st floor (again, for some of you blog readers, in New Zealand, the 1st floor is above the ground floor), Noel turned to me and said, “Phaw. He must work out!”

We went to dinner, me still pondering who these guys were, and, once we got back to the hotel, I finally broke down and texted James and Jacqui to find out if, in fact, the English Rugby Team was in town for a match with the All Blacks.

No reply.

So I called them instead.  Jacqui sat laughing at me for about 5 minutes because I’d said “Football” instead of “rugby” (so bloody sue me) but said, yes, the English Rugby Team were staying in town because they were playing the All Blacks on Saturday.  I said to them, “Oh, I think they’re staying at our hotel because there’s all these huge guys with English accents staying here.”

This showed my naivety even further.  Jacqui was like, “Hello, that’s the WORST kept secret in the country!”

Hmph.  Again, I didn’t get the memo!

I think I would have caught on even if I hadn’t called Jacqui because the next morning, at breakfast in the White restaurant (on the 1st floor with a beautiful view of the harbour), the team were there, in a type of uniform, all saying “England” on them.

The Pulitzer-prize-winner wanna-be was there, scooping a large serving of eggs onto his plate, *still* spouting off about how so-and-so were a bunch of “wank-a’s” so I think the man must never shut up and have a great opinion of himself.

Anyway… it was interesting to see the difference.  Noel and I ran into the Canterbury team once in Whangarei, and they were really nice, down-to-earth guys.  Jillian and I ran into the All Blacks while taking the students for a tour of Champs-Elysees Day Spa at the Heritage in Christchurch, and they were also realy nice, down-to-earth guys.  But the English rugby team… wow, most of the ones we saw were really full of themselves and had little to no manners whatsoever.

They even had the cheek to act towards us and other guests as if we were a pain for being there, like we were going to all the sudden say, “Oooh!  Oooh!  Aren’t you so-and-so!  Oooh!  Can I get your autograph!  Please!”  As if I’d behave like that anyway!

Just as well Kiwis showed them good hospitality (if you’ve been following the media reports about some of the girls they met in an Auckland bar, I’d say some Kiwis showed them a better time than others!) and then handed their asses to them on a plate during their matches against the All Blacks.  Twice!