Remembering Return of the Living Dead

When I was six I went with my mother to a friend’s house.  This wasn’t unusual as the house belonged to her childhood friend who had twin sons my age who were now my friends.  I spent a significant chunk of my youth with and around that family, so being over at their house was business as usual.

What was not business as usual was the movie playing on this particular day.  Return of the Living Dead had come out the year before and their father had bought a copy of it on VHS just the night before.  And because he was kind of a sick twisted dick, he decided that playing the movie for a group of children ranging from three to 10 would be tons of fun.

The movie terrified me.  I mean, run out of the room screaming into my mother’s arms terrified.  And yet, it was also fascinating.  I’d never seen anything like it, literally.  I’d never seen what I now think of as typical 80s punk look:

A few years later I would try - and spectacularly fail - to replicate some of these looks in an attempt to look radical

A few years later I would try – and spectacularly fail – to replicate some of these looks in an attempt to look totally gnarly

I’d never seen a fully nude woman as Linnea Quigley’s character Trash does about 19 minutes into the film.

I’d never seen zombies or vast amounts of blood and gore and destruction.  I’d never seen a good guy, as I thought of dopey protagonist Freddy, turn bad and proceed to try to murder anyone around him.

The movie marked a lot of firsts for me, but perhaps it is most notable for being the movie that began my fascination with zombies.  Without seeing this movie 27 years ago, would I be working on my Zombies? Zombies! anthology today?  I really don’t think so.

And so when I saw today on Youtube that the entire movie is available streaming on the site, well, I couldn’t resist a walk down memory lane.  I watched the movie for a second time about 10 years ago and after watching it for a third time today I must say it holds up surprisingly well.  In my mind at least, but in my mind it’s been a hokey, silly experience since I was old enough not to be terrified of zombies anymore.

There’s really nothing hugely special about this outside of the morbid humor used at times, “Send more police” but it will always hold a special place in my heart.  It changed my life, which is kind of sad because it’s such a ridiculous movie, but I’m okay with that.  And so here it is in its glorious majesty, Return of the Living Dead

The Daily Ditty 4.8.13

The year 2005 is one of my personal favorites.  I started the year by traveling to Ormskirk, a small market town about a thirty-minute train ride east of Liverpool, England.  Liverpool, where the Beatles were formed!  I spent four months living there, going to school and traveling often to Mathew Street to visit the Cavern Club and its neighbor the Cavern Pub.

cavernpub

About a month after getting home I found myself working at Books-a-Million for the summer, and it was from there that I discovered the band featured in today’s Ditty.  Thanks to a mutual love of alcohol and live music, a small group of us meshed together that summer and became more than co-workers who were acquaintances.

One of those co-workers was the drummer for a local cover band called Two Way Radio, and the bassist in the band was married to another co-worker.  Over the course of the summer they would play weekly or bi-weekly shows around town and the B-A-M crew would always show up in force.  It was a very fun summer, full of what I grew to call three-day “drinkends” where my fiance and I would go out drinking with our friends every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.

We drank a lot of alcohol, spent a lot of money and had a ton of fun.  And we got the majority of our youthful exuberance out in one final blast, as that September we would discover my future wife was pregnant with our first child.

But oh, what a summer.  Because many of those nights were spent at a Two Way Radio show, the songs they played now remind me of that summer.  They played a superb, eclectic mix of covers – from David Bowie and The Talking Heads to Ryan Adams and Modest Mouse.  This week the Ditty will be a miniature Two Way Radio playlist and it starts with Uncle Tupelo.

There were three Uncle Tupelo songs that made appearances throughout the concert and I’ve included them all here.  “Gun” is a fun song that reminds me of Mentos for some reason while “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is surprisingly good to dance to… but then again when you’ve had too much to drink almost anything is surprisingly good to dance to.  “I Got Drunk” could certainly serve as our anthem that summer, but regardless it, too, was surprisingly fun on the dance floor as well.

The Daily Ditty 4.4.13

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, seen a lot of bands both good and bad.  Between the ages of 16 and 22 I went to as many as I could with my friends, with my brothers, with anyone that wanted to go with me.  I loved, and still love, seeing live music.  Live music from a band I greatly enjoy?  It’s superb.

My first concert was a festival called Rockstock 96, thrown by Chicago rock station Rock 103.5.  Rockstock 96 was kind of a downer concert; one-hit wonder Candlebox and old terrible band Cheap Trick were the two headlining acts.  The station got it right the next two years as Rockstocks 97 and 98 were great experiences that I remember fondly, though Rock 103.5 would be dissolved in November 1998.

June1997 to August 1998 was probably the best extended year of concerts for me, personally.  It started with Ozzfest.  I’m not a huge metal fan, or really a fan at all, but that was a great show.  Black Sabbath and Pantera were amazing, and even Marilyn Manson – whose pathetic gimmick I despise – put on a fun show.

Rockstock 97 was two months later.  There were no huge bands at that show – I believe Megadeath and Faith No More were the headliners – but there were enough good bands and good friends with me to make it highly enjoyable.

Two months after that I went with one of my best friend’s boyfriends to another Pantera show that was one of the most insane experiences of my life.

In February of ’98 half of my high school turned out at the Aragon Ballroom for the Black Crowes.  We waited outside in line for about 8 hours in the cold Chicago winter and it was worth it, because we all got front row… most of us also got ridiculously sick, but it was so worth it.

Rockstock 98 was the cherry on the cake.  Another concert where there weren’t any huge major bands – Black Crowes, Creed and Rammstein were the headliners – but still so much fun.

The highlight of the year, however, was seeing the Rolling Stones in September of 1997 at Soldier Field.  Despite crappy nosebleed seats and the weather progressively getting chilly as the evening went on, it was amazing.  The music was amazing, the band was great, even the crowd was awesome.  And eclectic.  There were the college frat boys sitting to the right of us, in front of us a couple of old bikers in leather jackets and beards passed joints with a couple of businessmen in suits.  Behind us an elderly couple would get up and slow-dance every so often.  All around was a motley collection of humanity, and all of us were entranced for a couple hours by one of the best bands the world has ever seen.

Today’s Ditty is a clip of that very same concert at Soldier Field in 1997.  The music doesn’t start until the 4:30 mark and watching a concert via youtube video is nothing like being there in concert, but looking at it brings back memories of how absolutely amazing that night was.

The Daily Ditty 4.3.13

As a young teenager I had what I now consider to be piss poor taste in music.  I listened to pop station B-96 out of Chicago and pretty much whatever my older brother listened to, which was usually gangster rap.  Not that there’s anything wrong with pop music or gangster rap… but who am I kidding?  Pop music is an abomination unto man and gangster rap is mostly made up of guys trying to prove how tough they are through poetry.  But I ate it all up.

I’ll never regret owning Dr. Dre’s The Chronic as it’s a classic but there are some real stinkers in there that I am embarrassed to say I proudly owned as a 13-year-old.  All-4-One, Bryan Adams, Boyz 2 Men, Kriss Kross, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer (not their one hit wonders, but their follow ups).  I cringe to think of some of my voluntary musical selections back then, but hey, I was a kid.  I dare almost anyone to look back on their middle school music selections and not cringe.

What saved me was a new town away from the ghettos where I’d grown up, and new friends.  One in particular seemed to take it as his personal duty to educate me in the ways of classic rock.  It started with The Beatles.

I was resistant at first, because I felt pretty set in my ways.  But then I listened to the music and something amazing happened:  I liked it.  These guys weren’t just good, they were amazing, and I quickly devoured everything of theirs that I could.  I bought as many of their CDs as I could afford and for a while in my house it was all-Beatles all the time.

It was through the Beatles that I re-educated myself and my taste in music.  Without them, who knows, I might still be listening to I Swear for the hundred thousandth time and sighing over long lost girlfriends.

In honor of the Beatles saving and refining my musical tastes, today’s ditty is my favorite “song” of theirs which really isn’t a song.  Technically its 9 songs put together in one awesomely glorious medley, the Abbey Road medley.  You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mister Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End, and Her Majesty.  All decent to great songs alone but together they are simply amazing.

For the ultimate listening experience, set the video to 720 resolution.  And Enjoy:

The Daily Ditty 4.2.13

I’ve been in love with the music of Arcade Fire since I first heard their debut, Funeral, back in 2005.  A friend handed me a burned CD of theirs and raved at me about needing to listen to them.  I declined at first, because the name of the band sounded really stupid.

A few days later I popped the CD into my old 95 Le Sabre’s CD player and they were okay.  The first song, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.  It was different and just really really good.  I quickly found myself listening to the album over and over again, and to this day Funeral is one of the few albums I can listen to over and over again.

I’ve been a huge fan ever since, eagerly looking forward to anything they produce.  My wife and I finally saw them in concert back in 2011 and it was like a religious experience.  Just superb.  Enjoy:

The Daily Ditty 3.28.13

In my continuing attempt to make this the most eclectic blog possible, I’m going to start including a song that I find particularly awesome.  While my musical tastes run to a preference of classic and indie rock, I do enjoy all sorts of music, so I’ll try to be as varied as possible.

For the first Daily Ditty I’ve decided to use one of my favorite bands.  Some may think they’re overexposed and even overrated, and while those people are entitled to their own opinions I’m entitled to call those opinions stupid; except the part where they’re overexposed because that’s sort of true.

That’s also okay, because if any band deserves to be overexposed it’s Mumford & Sons who are one of the best bands around today.  Outside of classic rock, there simply aren’t many albums I can listen to all the way through over and over, but both Sign No More and Babel qualify.  And here is one of my favorite’s from their new album, a cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song The Boxer.  Enjoy:

Spinach and Kale Ravioli with Homemade Tomato & Garlic Sauce

I am often compliment on my ability to cook as if it’s some type of huge surprise.  Maybe I don’t look like the type who cooks, I dunno.  What I do know is that I’ve always been very good at following directions to create something, and when that something is a food dish, well, I guess compliments mean I followed directions successfully.

The other night I tried something sort of new.  I was at Sam’s Club and one of the free sample people gave me a cup of this ravioli that was pretty darn good, so I decided to buy it to make for dinner this week: Spinach and Kale Ravioli by Pasta Prima.

I cook pasta at least once every other week so it’s not a big deal, but for this I decided to try something different.  The package of the ravioli had directions for a sauce to be made with it, so I figure why not?  Especially since the sauce was really simple:

Toss the ravioli in a pot of hot or boiling water.  The package I had was so fresh the ravioli was almost falling apart after boiling for more than a few minutes

This doesn't need to cook long

This doesn’t need to cook long

1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil in a skillet
Add 2 onions and 4 cloves of garlic and onions – diced (my stomach can’t handle onions, so I skipped them)

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The garlic looks lonely, but I’ll take lonely garlic over angry stomach any day

10 plum tomatoes – diced; add when the onions/garlic are browning

I accidentally bought Roma, so had plenty of tomato.  It will start stewing if you cook it too long, so just long enough to be nice and hot

I accidentally bought Roma, so had plenty of tomato. It will start stewing if you cook it too long, so just long enough to be nice and hot

Cook and stir until hot, then add basil and salt/pepper to taste
Add some grated Parmesan cheese and you’re ready for a healthy, quick, easy, and delicious meal:

If only my photography skills were as good as this dish

If only my photography skills were as good as this dish

Even the kids ate it, and when you can get a six-year-old and two-year-old to both like a food, it’s a success.  But of course I forgot to take pictures of that.  Next time.