Tuesday, June 16

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

"Rollercoaster! Of love!" It's one of the most famous choruses of the early disco era, and one of the signature hits of the Ohio Players, the Dayton-based funk band recently voted as founding members of the R&B Music Hall of Fame. The song was released on their 1975 album Honey and quickly became a million seller.

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Monday, June 15

Music Monday: The Saga Of John

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! America is full of folk heroes. Pecos Bill. Paul Bunyan. Joey Chestnut. But maybe the greatest folk hero of all was a simple man who kept to himself and saved his co-workers. A man named... Big John.

Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John

 

When Jimmy Dean recorded this song, he had no idea that he was opening the door to a man's life. This one novelty song exploded like Ulysses or Seinfeld, and by the end of the ride, we knew so much about John. What happened in that mine wasn't the end. It was the beginning.

Five songs about John? Oh, yes, oh yes. See you on the other side of the link.

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Tuesday, June 09

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

In 1972, an Atari engineer named Allan Alcorn soldered a black-and-white Hitachi TV and some simple circuits into a wooden cabinet and placed the device in a local tavern in Sunnyvale, California. On the TV, patrons who put in a quarter could play an exceedingly simple tennis-like electronic game that Atari called Pong. The game was such a hit that technical problems hit almost immediately: within days, the coin mechanism was overflowing with coins. By the end of the decade, Atari wound up shipping 19,000 Pong games to arcades worldwide, and sold 150,000 home versions during Christmas 1975 alone. The video game industry was born.

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Monday, June 08

Music Monday: Orwell's That Ends Well

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! Today Scott celebrates the genius of the novel of the future that might just be responsible for all of modern politics, 1984. Come join in the celebration while you still can.

David Bowie - 1984

 

When David Bowie went to George Orwell's widow and proposed a musical about her husband's novel, she said no. And so what did Bowie do? He gave it a little touch up and ran with it! Today it might be considered unauthorized sampling, but back then, eh? Who cares? And so we got, well, one of the weirdest concept albums of his career. But a good song, certainly.

Take a few minutes to hate and then get right back here. If you don't, we'll know.

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Tuesday, June 02

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

Comedian Louis C.K. does a joke about how much crazier and more vivid the 1970s were than anything we have today. "Today people are like, 'The president's kind of disappointing," he said. "Really? Our president wept like an insane person and then got on a helicopter and flew away!" But when I look back at the hallucinatory, holy-crap-did-that-really-happen Seventies, I don't think about Watergate. I think about Jonestown.

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Monday, June 01

Music Monday: Goodbye To May

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! The truth is, this particular Music Monday was supposed to run on May 18th, but the tragic death of B.B. King preempted it. So today, Scott's chosen celebrate the month gone by! Just roll with it, this is a good one. He's picked five of his favorite May-themed songs. Do you know them? Sing along!

XTC - The Wheel And The Maypole

 

Ah, the maypole! A mix of ancient customs and good, clean, pagan-based fun. What could be more wholesome and traditional? Hooray for May!

More May-based pleasure to come... after the jump!

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Tuesday, May 26

The Debunker: Does "Moby-Dick" Begin "Call Me Ishmael"?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: Does Moby-Dick Begin "Call Me Ishmael"?

The 1851 novel Moby-Dick was originally a major critical disappointment, selling only 3,200 copies during the long lifetime of its author, Herman Melville. But today, it's an indisputable American classic. Even if you've never read a word of Moby-Dick, you probably know about the great white whale, the obsessed one-legged Captain Ahab, that famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael"…

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Monday, May 25

Music Monday: Comet Songs

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! The first recorded sighting of Halley's Comet was today back in 240 BC. It won't be back for quite some time, but when it gets here, it'll find Scott's gathered this small selection of comet songs in its honor! Isn't that nice?

Paul Simon - St. Judy's Comet

 

Paul Simon wrote this for his son, and when you know that, it's obvious what this song is about. Sort of a much more catchy version of that book Go The F To Sleep. And it's lovely too.

More comety goodness coming up, after the jump.

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Tuesday, May 19

The Debunker: In "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Does Dorothy Wear Ruby Slippers?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Does Dorothy Wear Ruby Slippers?

Dorothy's ruby slippers from the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz are one of the most famous props in movie history. Not only do they protect the wearer from wicked witches, but clicking the heels together will transport you magically to Kansas. There's no place like home! No wonder one of the few surviving pairs of slippers sold at auction in 2000 for $660,000. That's not a record for a movie prop (Marilyn Monroe's dress from The Seven Year Itch sold for a cool $4.6 million in 2011) but it's still pretty impressive.

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Monday, May 18

Music Monday: Good Bye To The King

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! Last week a blues hero passed on. The great B.B. King went up to that great back porch in the sky. His music is great and you should all find some and listen to it, but today's Music Monday isn't about the man himself. It's about his cultural legacy. Scott's chosen five songs about B.B. King that illustrate just how many different genres he's influenced. Here's a spoiler: it's everything.

The Beatles - Dig It

 

Even in this stream of consciousness album filler, John Lennon still takes a moment to namecheck one of his favorite artists. If that's not good enough to make you take notice, what is?

More cultural references coming after the jump.

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