Culture

Saturday Grab-Bag: Aretha, Aerosmith, and at Least We Can See the Shark Now

(AP Photo/Philip Marcelo)

Claws

I know it feels most days like everything is terrible. I can’t really argue that an awful lot of things are awful and getting worse.

But not everything is terrible. The man and cat behind the Owl Kitty videos are a team of artists. The cat’s latest, Claws, is inspired madness.

He always posts behind-the-scenes videos showing how he gets his cat to act. That’s probably as much about keeping people happy that the cat is fine as it is about showing the tricks he uses to make the shots work, but they’re fun. It turns out that Owl Kitty’s filmmaker, Tibo Charroppin, works for the ACLU. That’s unfortunate politically, but hopefully we can all share a laugh watching a cat stand in for a mechanical shark across the political divide.

More about sharks and Jaws later–read on.

Mashups

Bill McClintock is another YouTube artist I’ve written up before. I first became aware of him while deep diving on YouTube and somehow came across James Hetfield and the News’ “It’s Hip to be the Sandman.” McClintock is back with another mashup and it may be his best yet.

Did you ever wonder what it would sound like if Aretha Franklin hired Aerosmith to be her back-up band? Probably not, but now you don’t have to. Here’s Aerotha Franklin with “Rock Emotion.”

What’s amazing about these mashups isn’t just the quality of the songs themselves. Those are masterpieces. Here, Aretha and Aerosmith combine into something that would have topped the charts. Both versions of “Walk This Way” did.

Aretha is straight fire on the original track”Rock Steady.” Few if any could wail like her. “Sweet Emotion” is one of Aerosmith’s best in a great catalog across several decades. It’s hard to believe that song originally dates back to 1975 with Toys in the Attic. That’s because it had a massive resurgence in the 1998 movie Armageddon. The movie soundtrack also featured “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and went to number one in July 1998. Aerosmith has basically had four hits with two of its songs.

The combination of Aretha and Aerosmith above is a beast. Aretha would have been at home belting out bluesy metal.

In addition to the mashup music that just works, there’s the video editing in McClintock’s works, which ties the piece together into one thing for YouTube. As a video editor and After Effects animator, I’m awed by how perfectly McClintock stitches these together. A digital archeologist a thousand years from now might think “Rock Emotion” is a real song and Aerosmith toured with Aretha as her backup band. They’d think soul metal was an actual thing.

It should be. I’m calling on some Austin bar, far enough from Sixth Street to be safe enough to go to, to have a Friday or Saturday night in which it plays nothing but Bill McClintock mashups. I’d be there.

This one should be in the hot rotation.

As an ’80s kid, this is the soundtrack of America we grew up with on some alternative timeline. Kool & the Riot should’ve been a thing. I know which kids would’ve had it blasting from the jambox in the back of the school bus. There needs to be a soul metal cover band.

Alamo Chicken Fried

I write a lot about the Alamo and I thought I knew a lot about the Alamo. But it turns out that I didn’t know about its connection to the other big fried chicken franchise.

Did you know that Church’s Fried Chicken started out as a small fried chicken shack across from the Alamo almost 70 years ago and has since become a global chain.

In 1952, retired chicken incubator salesman George W. Church Sr. opened the first Church’s Chicken, named Church’s Fried Chicken To-Go, in San Antonio, Texas.

Initially, Church’s Chicken was a single walk-up establishment that only sold fried chicken, and two pieces of chicken and a roll cost 49 cents. Church’s Chicken added fries and jalapeños to its menu in 1955. To allow customers to see their food prepared while they waited, Church Sr. designed the kitchen with the fryers next to the takeout window.

Truly, I had no idea. I also didn’t know jalapenos were on any menu in 1955, but if it happened anywhere it had to be San Antonio. That city pretty much invented Tex-Mex, including chips and salsa. And sorry Austin, San Antonio tacos are superior. I’m from the Dallas area and therefore neutral on this while being a Tex-Mex native. San Antonio wins on this.

They haven’t covered any of this history on The Food That Built America yet, though they do cover the somewhat violent past of Colonel Sanders. By the way, if you haven’t watched that History Channel series, it’s actually pretty good. A San Antonio historian, Dr. Carey Latimore, frequently appears on it and he’s credible and he’s got the TV chops. The show covers the inventiveness and innovations that have gone into modern American, and now global, fast food.

I’m not here to bash, I’m here for some chicken. And maybe a burger. With jalapenos.

We Can See the Shark

I usually keep the TV on while I’m working either to keep up with the news or avoid it. Right now Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is on, and I’m pretty much always up for watching some of that weird little movie. The other day I happened across a documentary about the making of Jaws. During that production, which if you haven’t seen it is (spoiler) a horror movie about a shark, director Steven Spielberg had a big problem. His mechanical sharks almost never worked right. He kept having to shoot around that, which made it challenging to tell a scary story about shark attacks. Spielberg eventually had an epiphany: He would do what Hitchcock would do. Hitchcock was a master at not showing whatever the audience was supposed to be scared of. Applied to this film, not showing the shark could make the movie scarier. He started using a camera in a watertight box that he placed at or below the waterline. Both perspectives gave the audience the shark’s viewpoint as it hunted humans in the water. But you don’t see the shark. And that’s more terrifying than if you do. Everyone who has swam in a lake or ocean has had that sensation of not knowing what might lurk below.

Speilberg figured that out in 1975, and Jaws is a masterpiece that holds up very well today. Fast forward a couple of decades and less competent filmmakers have totally forgotten this lesson. Spielberg hasn’t, as his handling of Super 8 shows. You don’t see the monster for most of that film, you just see its effects on the people and the physical world. But in 1999’s The Haunting, director Jan de Bont wanted to use Catherine Zeta-Jones to bring in audiences and a lot of CG to make a scary ghost movie around her. That movie shows way too much of the ghosts, and each time you see the wallpaper squirming or whatever, it gets less scary. You can see what the ghosts can and can’t do. It’s a yawn in the end, nowhere near as scary as Jaws was and still is.

So what’s my point? It’s tangential to real life, but for years we’ve seen the Gramscian march through the institutions but it’s been almost entirely off-screen from normal day-to-day life. That made it terrifying, as it was hard to see where it was and where it wasn’t capturing institutions. That also made it nearly impossible to stop. Now thanks to COVID and the left’s overreaching boldness, we can see it all very clearly. It’s everywhere, infesting nearly every institution including the military.

Related: Leaked Docs: Critical Race Theory Seeks to Undermine Equality and the Constitutional Order

But at least we can see it now. And seeing it is helping expose and stop it. Nine states have already banned critical race theory from public schools, and polls show that a large majority of Americans don’t want it taught pretty much anywhere. They’re right, it’s racist pseudohistory and it doesn’t belong in our country.