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Looking for suggestions: Relaxing pop/rock numbers form the 1980s

February 8th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

Over the years, a lot of 1980s classics that I’ve been exposed to and enjoyed have been mocked and marred because of stenotypes of music form the 1980s in general as being too cheesy or being too slow/sleepy/boring. There are people I know who continue to dress down 1980s music and certain artists specifically because of the era and…

And they’re still good songs so shut up.

There are rich pop songs that are slower and perfect for night when trying to relax (if not sleep).  I’ve got a playlist for it, but I know I’m lacking a lot of the music from that era that would fit:

  • ”All out of Love” – Air Supply
  • “Another Day in paradise” – Phil Collins
  • “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – Crowded House
  • “Drive” – The Cars
  • “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You” — Foreigner
  • “One More Night” – Phil Collins
  • “Steppin’ Out” – Joe Jackson (which I wrote about recently)
  • “Take My Breath Away” – Berlin

The whole reason I blog about this is because I’m looking for other 1980s songs like these – soft rock, pop, mid tempo. I’m aware of other options from some of these artists (Air Supply and Collins specifically) but I’m looking for other artists. Hearing different examples or suggestions wouldn’t be a bad thing.

And yeah, there are songs from other decades that fit the bill quite easily (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel; “Tears In Heaven” (unplugged) by Eric Clapton), but right now the quest is to discover from 30 years ago, not rediscover from the 1990s and be introduced to numbers form the 00s/2010s.

OK Stupid and the joys of social interaction via online dating sites

February 6th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

I’ve done dating sites before. I had remarked on an old-old post here about how much I disliked where I was going with Plenty of Fish (the types of profiles I was exposed to and how there was no positive contact). I’ve made friends and romantic interests through old sites now gone, Match.com and even Plenty of Fish. It’s not all bad out there but the platform for Plenty of Fish keeps me away from it.

With few contacts of recent who have led to a wider social world or romantic promise, I’ve tried two platforms in recent months and both have been dreadful for very different reasons.

Lavalife

An arcane platform out of the late-90’s/early 00’s (at least that’s the way it was in my experience in 2015), Lavalife didn’t feel secure (password size limitations, for example) and being contacted almost outright by spammers/scammers. Pair the clunky, arcane aspect and security issues with the base of the site users being in Canada (that’s not a security flaw, that’s just a distance from each other that prevents actual want to reach out / make contact). All together it just didn’t work. Neither did the brief free trial and then forced paid-subscriber switch to continue.

I do have friends who end up getting married after meeting through the platform and it did remind me of American Singles where I was reached out to and met a friend off the network waaaay in the past. Lavalife trying to stick with that template so-many years after the fact is flawed though. It’s too limited in profile information for it’s users, giving them little reason to stick around before forcing them to pay to continue. I didn’t last on there. My friends who met and forged a relationship did it long before the switch-to-subscriber standard was put into effect.

OK Cupid

This is the dating site I wanted to vent about the most when I started writing this out, as I spent a good length of time on that powerful platform that led to contact from two women total in more than a year of use. Two total contacts after how-many messages sent on my part? Friendly conversation attempts to get things started, not Mr. Pervert antics that are far too common on dating site messages to women (from what I’ve been told by friends). And after investing time in reading profiles, seeking people with high match ratings (more on that in a jiff), no one had responded to a conversation I attempted to start while only one of those two women who contacted me led to a friendly and sustained conversation. It didn’t lead to anything besides some casual and friendly chats, but that’s better than the immediate-social-meeting-because-me-and-my-girlfriend-are-new-to-town antics from the other woman who contacted me.

OK Cupid is a powerhouse platform, as I said, free of charge with solid technology, but it’s flawed deeply. While some users use laptops or PCs to write their profiles and interact on the site, too many others are doing their work (and searches) mobile and won’t make much of an effort to build a profile, let alone communicate. The site tries to extort you into paying a monthly fee to see those who “like” your profile/picture (and a few other bells and whistles), but that’s just an ultra-easy, lazy and stupid means of interaction with someone you take interest in or are aroused by. That “like” system is playing off social media and catering to impulse by mobile users but leaves out the complication of accountability. You like a profile or a photo? Great, congrats, now send a message and break the ice. That’s why a person is on that platform to begin with – to be social. Might as do your part and actually socialize.

OK Cupid also employs a survey/question and answer system that is also a huge flaw. Many, many questions are asked for the topics of ethics, religion, dating, sex, lifestyle and other general shit. They’re all available for you to help set a “match percentage” with other site members. The whole thing is a time occupying sham that defies the basic concept of getting to know someone, let alone finding out things in common or adjusting your habits to suit someone else. It’s possible to click with someone who has different wants / needs / craves that we see as polarizing negatives. The fact that match percentages might be thrown off by the most useless, unimportant differences in opinion (or bolstered by mundane things you don’t care about in a potential friend/date/romantic interest). With that and how so many  members don’t even review that stuff adds to the throw-off aspect of the system.

There’s also the aspect the questions – which are all elective to answer, by the way – have a very wide gray area in reality but are presented as black-or-white, yes-or-no in OK Cupid.  “It Depends” is a truth with certain questions, let alone with how you’d react to certain people you forged a personal connection with regarding their habits, desires or beliefs and what not.

I’ll note here that Match.com owns OK Cupid and now Plenty of Fish. Between how common spam is from people with affiliations to Match, with how bare-bones and weak Plenty of Fish can be, and with how closed off OK Cupid is by way of laziness and anti-social habits from it’s members, I’ve got to search for a better site if I want to try that form of socializing again. At this rate, I have a better chance of meeting someone though Twitter than on an up-front dating site.

Do you do cabinet work in the Tampa Bay area? I’m selling a domain name

February 4th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

I have a domain name for sale that was purchased for marketing sake for a web site I used to work on. The company has been gone for years and they never much took to the regional domain name. Heck, even the field – wood work and cabinetry – makes it feel like a regional domain name isn’t a necessity for marketing.

That being said, TampaBayCabinets.com is available for purchase through Sedo. The site it was purchased for had cabinetry and woodworking in mind catering to customers in the Tampa Bay metro area. While the price isn’t cheap, the regional branding for a company is a good marketing point (as long as the domain name is clearly listed on company branded material).

 

Film memories, lasting legacies, and songs from forgotten films

January 28th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

John Travolta is not the subject of this entry, but he is the starting point to get to what I want to speak about. It’s the way I tend to write – to segue into the point/subject. The subject is tied to Travolta and his work but Travolta isn’t supposed to be the main topic.

I got introduced to Travolta with “Look Who’s Talking” in 1990. I was a kid and the film got a lot of exposure in pop culture by way of the cutesy aspect and the fact stars Kristy Alley (Cheers among other things) and Bruce Willis had their hands in the film (among others). John Travolta was considered an also-ran at that point, or at least that’s how things seem to reflect now. It was a long way from Saturday Night Fever as well as his TV role in Welcome Back, Kotter. If there’s other stuff that was a large success for Travolta between those 70’s entries and his late 80’s/early 90’s stuff… well, I fail there (Urban Cowboy is an exception, I think). I just know Staying Alive was forgettable and we’ll leave it at that.

Between Look Who’s Talking and its sequels, Travolta found himself back in film culture. This ruffled feathers, which is actually my second memory of Travolta that stands out: Quentin Tarantino talking down about Travolta being in “a baby movie” either after his casting for Pulp Fiction or after the film aired at one film festival or another. It was repeated a few times, Tarantino couldn’t believe someone like Travolta had been in a baby movie! How could this happen?! It’s a quirk of cinema in general, for actors to be brushed off or working in roles that seem beneath them because of a lack of offers form the high. Heck, actor Dom Ameche was working dinner-acting jobs because no one would call him and offer work opportunities. It was what he’d already achieved professionally that got him cast as one of the Duke Bros. in Trading Places without even having to read for the role… But it was the first role in a feature film in 13 years.

Travolta had roles though. One of them, his pre-Look Who’s Talking film, is what I’m trying to segue to. I don’t recall exactly when I got exposed to The Experts, but I did catch it on HBO and it’s a quirky spy-comedy that has one immense quirk driving me nuts lately: an intangible soundtrack.

To summarize the movie: Two (Travolta and Arye Gross as Travis and Wendell) unlucky hipsters who keep failing at starting a club in New York agree to trying to launch a club in a small town. They find themselves in a reclusive, socially stunted (read: 1950’s down-home style) place without a lot of normal, modern aspects of society. They don’t find out until much, much later it’s actually a spy town within the Soviet Union. It’s a play on the Cold War and a contrast of culture. The flick didn’t exactly set any precedence but it’s not bad either. Maybe now it seems extra dated – Travolta had a mullet, which should tell you enough – because the Cold War isn’t a driving factor in society.

All of this leads to that aspect about the soundtrack that is driving me nuts: how you can’t find it. While I say the movie comes off dated now, one song promoting Americana can stand the test of time as it’s a nationalism/pop culture ditty called “Hometown U.S.A.”. The song was part of the closing of the film, I’m not going to give spoilers on that… It was quite fitting for when it was played, I’ll just say that.

Yet you can’t find the song in digital music stores. The lyrics aren’t posted anywhere that can be found on a Google search. The song itself is posted on YouTube but the quality of the copy is suspect (at least from my hearing). The artist, for the curious, is credited as David Morgan, with writing credits going to Harold Payne, Pete Luboff, and Pat Luboff. It got posted on July 4th, 2011 – 22 years after the film’s release and yet again fitting as it was the 4th of July.

How common is this in film, where songs just disappear? Ones that stand out to you and yet you can’t find them anywhere besides in the film itself?  I’m not talking about Matthew Broderick’s clarinet playing during Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; I mean specifically songs crafted for films that just slip away. Another 1980’s film song that I was searching for in the last year (just to find the full performance of it) was “Paradise” by Kaylee Adams, which you can hear a snippet of in the movie White Water Summer. The only thing I had luck in finding was the movie clip itself and some employ pages / other Kaylee Adams songs.

A song is something that lasts in your mind if you connect to it or what images it’s tied to, or what feelings are around when you hear it. Songs tied to movies are especially going to leave a mark with you if you like the scene they’re part of… And that’s a fact even if the film is a bomb in cinema – the music can still leave a mark and a memory, which can still draw interest (and make the entertainment industry a dime) years and years later.

A social reaction to an aloof social-media status response

January 25th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

I tend to be a wise ass when I set a status message on Facebook, or I’ll play around with pop culture, or music, or share small, small things in a very unclear way. It part of it is me trying to draw attention and yet also have positive interaction with friends. Talking about private issues in truth and honesty, as a guy, is going to just lead to complaints / mockery from guy friends.

It can also piss you off as hypocrites participate in comments.

Monday morning I dropped on to Facebook and one of the top status messages currently going on my timeline was a female friend telling a personal story tied to….bathroom stall graffiti. My friend is divorced, still trying to move on in life after the divorce (the marriage ended abusively). Between that status, written at sometime around 2 AM, and other thoughts dangling in my mind in recent days, I put up a very personalized status of my own – a little generalized and grandiose but the message was honest:

“Why is it the most mundane and yet immense social destination of life, love, is a journey that fails so completely for me? It’s an adventure with someone that just never materializes into the joint trip.”

A private status just went public, why?  Because of the response I got. See, with a status like that you’d think to either be hands off or encouraging. That’s private and personal. What I got was a dense, reactionary reply from someone who had been who I had a very stunted journey with when it comes to love. Someone who was alienated by life, had long interest in me, and who threw it all away.  We’ll put it that way. Someone who’s twice married and who slept around before, during, and after marriage:

“Love is elusive. You won’t find it if you are looking for it.”

That’d be a profound remark if the responder did not have ties to my statement, as someone I failed the journey with. And I’d willingly open up a conversation on the point – that I had some great leads when I was least looking for romance – if she wasn’t an example; an example of one, who wasn’t elusive but who dropped the entire idea when it was least convenient.

Love isn’t elusive. It’s too easy for some to find to be considered that way. The fact I hear of marriage and babies from so many friends of both genders I’ve known (some of whom I’ve been attached to) is counter to the notion of elusiveness. Even dating that lasts more than a single or few nights, or lustful romances that come and go… That’s something more than what I’m experiencing.

The only thing elusive is what path I have to take to actually find myself in a mutual romantic involvement without being taken for granted or used for the moment. Someone who wants to take the trip in life with me and someone I want right by my side for the trip.

Hockey blogging and blog aggregation

January 17th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

I used to depend on Hockey Blogs — an RSS aggregation web site — for  one-stop coverage of the web log world for the NHL and the sport of hockey. A decade ago, when there weren’t many blogs but some great blog writing, that site was a killer tool to have, especially during the 2005 NHL lockout.

Yeah, and then it got killed because of what it was aggregating. I won’t name names but a certain blog that was doing aggregation of its own got its RSS listed on the site and inundated the page with its shared-content, making it hard to find actual writing efforts from notable blogs of the time. Now it’s even worse as a feed of pro-news sites and another, singular, mass-content blog over-dominates the feed.

I still rely on RSS (Sputnik RSS reader) but one thing  that my RSS reader can’t do is discover other hockey blogs from indie writers. In days of yore, those indie web loggers lusted to get themselves listed on Hockey Blogs.  That doesn’t happen any more.

I don’t know… I once helped run a aggregator aimed specifically at Tampa Bay blogs… Maybe I could start a WordPress powered hockey blog aggregator comparable to Hockeyblogs.org, run independently by someone devoted to the sport? Who knows… It’s tough finding independent blogs these days; SB Nation, Fansided, The Nation Network and Bloguin dominate  with individual sites/blogs, while The Hockey Writers, Today’s Slapshot and a few others try to cover things widely under one franchise/site name.  It’s that one-site, mass content aspect that ruined Hockey Blogs

My occasional social media habit: Musical Therapy

January 9th, 2016 |
By John Fontana

There’s a little habit I have on Twitter, usually in the hockey off-season but rarely too. It’s great form my end but I think it likely sucks from a Twitter follower’s end because I’m not sharing media as I do it. I just announce it.  I call it Music Therapy or Musical Therapy (#MusicTherapy or #MusicalTherapy in Twitter hashttag terms).

The habit actually inspired some creative writing in 2014 but I never finished what I started or even found finality to work towards… That’s going off on a different subject than I was trying to aim at here, but oddly the not-going-to-be-completed story and my musings on Twitter had one thing in common: Music heals and pushes you forward. It gives you something to revel in and celebrate.

My therapy sessions on Twitter, running on summer nights mostly, were just me announcing songs I was playing and yammering out facts and thoughts and feelings brought on by the song at play, or the band in question. It drew in some very good chatter from friends and ran off a lot of people following me for hockey purposes (that’s my day job, so to speak). Maybe that was opinion derived from what I was listening to at the time – 50 years worth of pop and rock with a habit of 60’s and 90’s stuff being dominant, and without a broad palette of songs. Not heavy metal, not hair metal, not rap, not balladeers (okay, actually those pop in at times but still…), no country, some bluegrass (basically just Credence Clearwater Revival), too little Motown, etc, etc. I only have somewhere above 1,250 songs in my personal library (music I choose to listen to) and not that many playlists, so there is repetition going on there that concerns me. Heck, this whole paragraph is tilted to the negative of my mind because I’m concerned I’m running people off when I’m trying to gain some release.

In another universe, I’m a late night deejay who’s been married five times, has a torrid affair with hi-if going and it helps stymie his bitterness at the world… Music soothes the soul.

It does have a worthwhile DJ feel to it, though, and it’s fun when people are there with me (well — through Twitter) to talk up the songs or suggest music. Some actually consider themselves informed by what i say about songs, be they facts or opinions.

The end of the mystery earworm

December 29th, 2015 |
By John Fontana

A few days before Christmas 2015, my friend Liz contacted me through Twitter in an enthusiastic state and asked “is this The Song?” The ambiguity is an appropriate title of a mystery earworm that’s followed me around since childhood. A couple of notes to a song, a piano or synthesizer riff, that I had heard a few times while in the car with my family as we traveled late at night through Queens, New York.

? do-do DA-do, da-da Dada…. ?

We were always passing through Flushing Meadows, on our way home in Suffolk County, New York. It was late at night as-was and it was usually me and my father who were the ones still awake in the car. Dad had been working overnight for the United States Postal Service at their sorting facility at LaGuardia Airport at the time. Driving home late at night was no big thing for him. For the rest of the family – my mothers and my two brothers – it was time for sleep. The would be dozing as we were in the beginning stages of a trip to the Great South Bay area of Suffolk County, some 50 miles away

We visited Queens and specifically Jackson Heights on a regular basis; it’s where my parents were from and their parents were still there.  Well, at least their mothers and siblings. My mother’s mother was the usual destination of our trips into the city, though we regularly made brief stopovers to my dad’s mother’s place.

I don’t remember the exact streets that were taken to get to the Long Island Expressway and back home, but I do remember passing William A Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair site in flushing. I loved passing those location sites. And it was guaranteed my father would have the radio on and be listening to the music playing on one station or another while we headed east.

? da-da Dada, dad a DA-da…. ?

It happened more than once, I just don’t know how many times; it was too long ago to even try to guess. Driving through Flushing that song would be playing. Memories of the streetlamps from the highway and seeing Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair sites at night were sown with the song and the memory a guys voice tied to the song. I couldn’t recall a lyric; I could recall the piano riff though. Was it a keyboard or a piano? Memory wasn’t clear on that one either, but as time went by it came off more and more like a keyboard. Blame that on time and distance distorting a memory.

The last time I heard that song was by chance after I’d moved with my family from New York to Florida in 1989. It was about 5 years later and coincidentally / fittingly we were visiting the tri-state area because my aunt was to be married in October 1994. We all had flown from St. Pete/Clearwater airport to Newark on the long-since-defunct Southeast Airlines, and had to make the extra long trek from Newark to a location in Nassau County where our hotel was. While it was just mid-afternoon, it was only me and my father awake in the car at the time when that song came on air over the station my father was listening to.

“What is this?? What is this song, dad?  It’s been in my head for years, I’ve always wondered….”  He answered, but between the events of the wedding-weekend and life in general, what he said didn’t get retained in memory.

A lot of things have taken place in my life since that afternoon, including me becoming deaf and regaining my hearing with thanks to an Auditory Brainstem Implant (it’s a variation of the Cochlear Implant). One thing that didn’t change was memory of that song that riff. It haunted me. I started imitating it and running it by people in person around 2004, seeking out suggestions from those who grew up in the 1980s. Maybe they’d know? I ran it by family first before reaching out more broadly in recent years (by way of social media).

Early in 2015 I compiled a list of Billboard Hot 100 lists from the mid to late 1980s and started to check songs whose titles I didn’t recognize… Maybe that one is it?  Oh, by the way? I’m not even supposed to be able to enjoy music as much as I do. That’s supposed to be a shortcoming of having sound by way of the Cochlear implant – you can’t process music right, and can’t enjoy the songs for what they are.

Yeah, well, I’ve got 1250+ songs in my iTunes library, many of them songs I’ve only heard after going deaf, and they sound like they should depending on the era they were recorded in.

Back to the Billboard listings – I stuck it all in an Excel file, and while it reintroduced me to a lot of good music from 1987 through ’84 or ’83, I didn’t find what I was looking for.  I didn’t go through everything though – getting impatient and disappointed as well as having the rest of life happening. I still have the spreadsheet tucked away somewhere on the PC and want to go through it again to sample other songs from the list but, well, that’s not necessary any more in the case of THE song.

I forgot how Liz got caught up in this. We were talking through Twitter I guess and out of frustration or because musical chatter had come up – I brought up the song. A little while after our conversation in the summer, I sent an audio recording of me humming the song.  Like many had reacted to me over the years, Liz (who’s my age) recognized the riff but had no clue of the song – who it was, what the song title was.  She’s a 1980s music fan and has friends who are 80s music fans. The plan was to keep an ear open for it.

Oh, by the way? Soundhound sucks. I’ve used that app a few times on Android phones and at no point has song humming worked to identify a song, let alone this long-standing sought after item. While I see the application as absolutely loved by the masses, it’s just never lived up to its reputation or abilities unless I put a smartphone up to a speaker when a song plays that I need to identify.

At any rate, back to Liz: She was traveling with her husband and a friend through upstate New York less than two weeks ago. A SirusXM station that focused on stuff from the 1980s came on the air. A lot of songs have been suggested to me over the years ago The Song, but all of those suggestions aren’t even of the feeling of 80s pop hits that this thing sounded like. It’s no rocker, it’s no ballad. It was… it was … something… Probably a one-hit wonder too if I’ve never crossed it again. And you can guarantee a one-hit wonder song will make it back on-air through a station that covers a decade…


I click that link and the tempo alone matches the memory. Then the piano of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” starts coming through strong….

That link Liz posted, that song and hearing it again and knowing who sang it… that was an early Christmas gift and turned out better than the majority of my tangible gifts received this year. To have such a long standing question answered. It brings a level of internal peace and allows a degree of comfort. Such a trivial and persistent question gets solved, and now the earworm can’t haunt me by way of ignorance of who and what.

 

Re-enGauged

December 29th, 2015 |
By John Fontana

My writing habits have been stuck on Lightning hockey for something like 7 years now. Sometimes I vent on Reddit.com or in private conversations. Other times I’ve articulated in fiction writing that’s sitting in a “Saved” folder on my PC.

I dunno,perhaps it is time to un-mothball this thing and use it to express myself instead of hiding it? Then again, reviewing some of my riting here I call people out by name. That’s not good.  At the same time, knowing this site hasn’t been public for years (and not easily accessible even to me) the site has not been indexed in search engines or shared through social mediums in a long, long time. Looking over web traffic data proves it.

This article draft was put together months ago, but it’s publication is only being done now.  Hmmm, maybe i should actually post some worthwhile content instead of venting writing-wise?

One thing I have to do that absolutely has to be done is clear up the blogroll. Some of those sites are spam sites now, others are just dead-in-the-water.  Sorta like Stonegauge, which is only getting reads (from me) for the first time in forever.

Stating a life of “Pinterest”

December 29th, 2015 |
By John Fontana

I’ve had a Pinterest account for over two years, but I’ve only posted once (in a contact attempt with someone not on broader social media). During idle time during the holiday season, I decided give Pinterest a try, more for content promotion than discovery of stuff that’s already out there on Pinterest.

Good news: I seem to be getting the hang of creating boards and posting content. My topics are dominated narrowly so far by hockey media and multi-media, but that’s what I tend to do anyway on Facebook.

Bad news: 1 follower – that person I wanted to contact two years ago. I have no clue if anything I’ve posted has drawn a look-see from the general public or what. There are two articles form Raw Charge that I’ve shared that haven’t drawn a click-through, but I also have no altered their description listing either… so lacking keywords won’t help draw in eyeballs. There are two shirts form the Raw Charge Store that haven’t gotten much (any?) of a general look, but I can’t track data on Pinterest (or so I think).

If I actually stick to Pinterest isn’t certain, but it’s worth testing out as social media is a necessary tool to utilize with site management and online socializing.  We’ll see.

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