Welcome to Haddonfield, Illinois: Halloween

So yeah SiriusXM has this horror channel Scream Radio whose programming includes popular mainstream hits (Thriller!), beloved sound effects and of course scary score music like the iconic Halloween theme song.

I drop by the channel every so often because tis the season. Today though I caught the beginning of Carpenter’s Halloween theme song. At first I was like oh hell no and I reached out to the dial but I paused before switching away.

Then I pulled my hand away.

Partly to face my fears: tis the season right?

But really I was driving and I’ve never heard that song while driving. Driving defines a lot of popular music: there’s something about that action of getting in your car even if you’re just driving to the dentist that makes a song truly pop. Especially in the Summer…windows down system up.

Sometimes when I hear a brand new song I think it’s fun but I wanna hear it while I’m driving. Driving is like melted cheese. I dunno why but it just makes it taste better. And road trips are of course synonymous with playlists.

So feeling as dumb as the big breasted chick in a tight white tank top going down to investigate that strange sound from the basement I left the Halloween theme song on.

Only I was driving through suburban neighborhoods. Through 2 school zones which meant slowing down. This chilled wind sailed through the trees plucking Fall tinted leaves so they swirled in the air in large sweeping circles like a drunk Superman. A young lady was out for a walk with her dog…it was all normal and yet so eerie…cruising. Driving slowly through the hood.

It felt way too menacing.

Fun Fact? “John Carpenter showed Halloween to an executive before it was finished. He showed the movie without the music. The executive didn’t find it to be scary at all. After the film was released, and she saw it, she changed her mind, an indication of how much Carpenter’s score adds to the film’s atmosphere.”

Nah man that was unsettling like eating slightly spoiled Subway. I now understand why a tagline for the 78 original was: “everyone is entitled to one good scare.” Indeed. Never doing that again even if it’s tis the season.


Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

Kanye West Is Not A Lone Wolf

So according to Pitchfork Kanye West held another Donda livestream event last night; so smart. He’s making an album release an experience. It’s been too long since we had sonic fun like that.

Yet one of the songs Jail used to have a Jay-Z verse and now it was replaced with a verse from DaBaby (seems like a downgrade but whatever…).

Kanye has done this for 2 or 3 albums now he never releases finished songs. He’s often tinkering. (Granted Part 1: if it was anyone but Kanye this would be annoying. He’s got the skills and talents to justify tinkering.)

I wrestle with Kanye’s creative penchant for alternative versions. We talk about him like we do every other artist and that’s a lie we’re not all on the same page. A theatrical release is mainstream…we can have a conversation about that because we all consumed the exact same product. We like it, hate it, are indifferent to it etc.

(Granted Part 2: When bands perform a song live they can do whatever…acoustic, duets etc. and that’s dope too. I don’t mind those live versions because…they’re live versions.)

Like I heard 2 or maybe 3 versions of Wolves. I like the song…some version at least but I dunno which version you’ve heard. Or me…I dunno which version I’ve heard either.

Like this is Wolves

The original album version featured a rap from West and a moody outro from Frank Ocean, which replaced Vic Mensa and Sia’s verses. Ok great.

Then…an alternate version including Frank Ocean, Vic Mensa, and Sia. Unlike the album version, Frank Ocean’s outro is featured at the start of the song, and West’s rap is omitted. Ok sure.

Then…in March 2016, over a month after the album’s release (The Life of Pablo), West updated the album’s Tidal tracklist with a reworked version of Wolves, which includes the previously removed vocals from Vic Mensa and Sia. Ok I’m tired.

I like Wolves but I no longer know which version I’ve heard or like. Or how to recommend and share Wolves with you.

(Granted Part 3: I can accept songs are never finished; they’re “abandoned.” Maybe the revisiting makes the songs better? It’s certainly easier to do since it’s all digital. Band used to put out a physical record…it’s a literal record…it’s sealed. Like court documents. It’s…on the record.)

It certainly speaks to Kanye’s boundless creativity…dude is restless yet he successfully assembled a malleable passionate fan base that will follow him down these dark roads. It’s impressive. And slightly exhausting.


Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

The Sonic Detective & The Case of The Great White Buffalo

We all have those sonic Great White Buffalos: unknown songs…sound fragments, misheard lyrics that we collect over decades of consuming pop culture. Like that utility drawer in every kitchen: cartoon bursting with…who knows what. Mostly likely dead batteries.

I finally resolved one of those Great White Buffalos today. So glad I got up and out of bed; well that was worth it.

This is Edith Piaf…it’s the classic French/Paris song that plays in every American movie to cue the audience the main characters will now be eating baguettes and watching lovely lithe Parisian girls on bicycles drift by…like wheeled gazelles.

The lyrics for Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien are in French. There was no way I was gonna sing this to google.

Well: I feel like a detective in an 80s TV show…case closed! Until next week…


p.s. All due respect to Hot Tub Time Machine for the use of Great While Buffalo.

Rick Rubin Is So Not Stay Puft

Wow! Found Ghostbusters the good one…the original 84 on a movie channel (almost right at the start!!).

And I just noticed that the comedy/vibe of this movie mirrors the Beastie Boys Sabotage video with a dash of Intergalactic’s uniforms.

The vibe/style overlap:

Mike D is Bill Murray/Venkman

Ad-Rock is Dan Aykroyd/Stantz

Adam Yauch is Harold Ramis/Spengler.


If you wanna toss in Kate Schellenbach you got Sigourney Weaver. (I am not in any way suggesting Rick Rubin is Stay Puft though he has been a giant in music.)

It’s the same humour; same sarcasm, same foolishness…Ghostbusters is a 2 hour Beastie Boys video. Yo! Think about this and get back to me.


#SetTheVCR: LA Originals

We lost Kobe on January 26, 2020.

Thankfully there’s a few hours of Kobe Bryant just sitting there in editors’ rooms from all the docs he’s been in. Wonder what’ll happen to it now?

His next appearance is in the doc that dropped today on Netflix: LA Originals. (I was already in before the Kobe connection. He’s listed in the credits for this doc but he’s not in the trailer. So I suspect he is probably not in this all that much. Still, it’s a powerful LA story so of course, LA stories go through Kobe. Kobe’s next appearance is in the upcoming Jordan doc The Last Dance in about a week or so. That I cannot wait for!!)

So for true: there’s a handful of hours of Kobe in docs just sitting around editing rooms. Dude’s gone but he hasn’t left.

Thus enter Netflix’s latest documentary: “An exploration of the culture and landmarks of the chicano and street art movement that cemented Mister Cartoon and Estevan Oriol’s status as behind-the-scenes hip hop legends.”

LA Originals is indicative of a powerful skill set that we rarely discuss or acknowledge. (And thankfully many of my friends have this skill set.)

I don’t even know what it’s called which is why I don’t think It gets acknowledged.

Those guys (and we) are passport people. We hang out with gang members and drug dealers and Trump voters and filmmakers and stand-up comics an incredibly broad range of distinct characters. But through it all we remain our unique selves within these different cultures. That’s how you get exposed to radical ways of thinking; nobody said anything about agreement. George is different than Kramer and Kramer is the opposite of Elaine but it all works right?

One day in LA my friend J Rock and I hit up the Magic Castle hanging out with magicians; then the next day we went to a picnic with some friends who’re editing and shooting and doing all kinds of fantastic LA filmmaking; the day after that we went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Completely distinct cultures of science and nerds and magicians and filmmakers. Yet we’re comfortable and we’re at home if not at all of those places with all those people even though those are not our cultures.

And that to me that is one of the hallmarks of an incredible documentary: how broad the culture is. LA Originals has Ryan Phillippe and you wouldn’t expect him to show up with Kobe and oh Brian Glazer…Blink-182 and finally Cypress Hill. What?! Those guys should never be in the same room together yet clearly because of the people involved in this doc they’re all connected. That’s amazing. Passport People for the win.

Check this documentary out. Highly Recommended.



This is just fascinating. On January 7th I interviewed Richard Lowenstein who directed the recent Michael Hutchence doc on the INXS front man: Mystify: Michael Hutchence.

Richard’s shot 20 INXS videos (lotta the big ones!), directed U2’s Desire video, Love Town…he’s also worked with Pete Townshend, Crowded House, The Church…Bowie. Crazy I had so much I wanted to ask and talk about check out this moment…as a sneak preview of an upcoming My Summer Lair episode.

Sammy: You worked on INXS videos for like Never Tear Us Apart, New Sensation…you mentioned Need You Tonight. Right into Suicide Blonde; By My Side. And you mentioned also working with U2, you worked on the Desire video and things like that. Can you talk about INXS’ and Michael’s creative process? So when they come to you and they want to do a video like Never Tear Us Apart or Guns In The Sky what is the process like and how is it different than like say how U2 would approach you saying let’s do a Desire video?

Richard: Michael would just trust you; Michael and the band would just trust you. They’re sort of going, you know, we do what we do and you can tell us your idea. And sometimes I just write it out on a napkin, you know? It’s like Need You Tonight was like I want to do moving black and white Xeroxes animated together. And then I want to do colored Xeroxes cause that technology has just been invented and so they would go “Yeah.” They’re lovely guys who’d seen some of my other work and just sort of trusted you and went: “Okay, that sounds good.” And you know, off we go and we’d work out the budget and we’d do it.

Whereas with U2 it’s very much concepts and ideas. And you know I’m not sure what’s more valid or not, but it’s a valid way of working. But, Bono and Edge would be sitting there discussing concepts and things that the songs meant or what the themes that we’re talking about. And I clearly remember in contrast to how Need You Tonight happened that Bono would?ah I was telling this story to him just a few weeks ago when he toured?and that he would take me into a room with a television, you know, a classic television in America with 50 channels on it, which we don’t have in Australia or England.

And he’s just flicking between the channels and saying: “See that? How it’s all just a jumble of different media? That’s the feeling I want in Desire.” So sort of take that concept and uh do what I can with it, you know? And so with U2 there was a lot more creative input but usually a lot more constraints. INXS would say: “We want something that, you know, that just blows everyone away. What are you going to do for us? Here’s the song, you know?” And I would sit there and close my eyes and play it a few times and imagine what I would think would work best with this song.”

I was like yo! Dude’s dropping gold!! Stay Tuned this My Summer Lair episode will be dropping soon.


Don’t Lose Your Head In Five Years

Started 2020 writing about Prince and Bowie and…Mystify: Michael Hutchence a solid documentary on the INXS frontman.

It’s been making the festival rounds…it was at Tribeca this past April, it screened on the BBC at the end of December…it’s even out on DVD. The 7th, however, was their 1 day catch it if you can American release. Mainly for cities that are not like LA or NYC you know? (Turns out America has more than 2 cities…did you know this?!)

And sorry…there are no Canadian dates!! Boo!! It played at Hot Docs here in Toronto last April. I interviewed the director on January 7. He’s an Australian filmmaker and we like gave him a bunch of Canadian firefighters so he owes us. Made him laugh when I brought that up. But yeah no Canadian dates.

(The doc is called Mystify (outstanding tune on the sublime Kick album) but during many movie moments I keep returning to Don’t Lose Your Head released right before Michael perished:

“What must have happened to your soul
Is skinnin’ you alive
The thing that you fear the most is love
And that’s buried deep inside
So deep inside

The heart you’re building out of rock
Is turning into sand
Cause you never took the time to think
What it means to be a man”

That was June 27, 1997…dude’d be dead by November 22, 1997. And suddenly we hadda face Y2K and a whole new millennium with one less band. I did not enjoy this New Sensation. I think of that song often when it comes to Michael Hutchence’s passing. While Five Years is what I think about with Bowie.

Five Years is a monster song: those lyrics and the subtlety of the music as it builds. I know the whole Ziggy thing gets lots of press (as it should) but Five Years is easy to overlook and under appreciate on an album with Moonage Daydream, Starman, Ziggy and more.

Bowie (and Prince) we don’t replace em…music will be fine lots of people will continue to make excellent songs but yeah those guys are gone. Just gone.


In Bowie’s Space

A couple of years ago I was so fortunate to get a NASA JPL tour from Krys Blackwood! Just Wow: it was an incredible experience. (is…present tense)

In this one building’s lobby on this NASA campus was a wall of photos surrounding the word Disruptors.

The photos were the usual dynamic creators you’d expect from NASA Nerds: Carl Sagan, Captain Kirk (“Risk is our business!”) and yet in the corner was Prince (YES!!) and off to the side was oh! the following David Bowie image.

That brilliant and talented individuals who’re actively working to literally get us to Mars (where there is hopefully no spiders!) see Bowie daily is astonishing. Your focus is your fate!

In life and in death and in space and on Earth Bowie galvanizes us all. He remains missed.


Purple Freedom

Prince in Beautiful Ones says: “If I want this book to be about one overarching thing, it’s freedom. And the freedom to create autonomously. Without anyone telling you what to do or how or why. Our consciousness is programmed. We see things a certain way from a young age — we’re programmed to keep doing them that way. Then you have to spend adulthood learning how to overcome it, to read out the programs. Try to create. I want to tell people to create. Just start by creating your day. Then create your life.”

Got up on January 1st after hitting up a couple of parties the night before (“hey ladies! In 2020 I can be a mistake but if you sign up right now I can even be a regret!!”) and Prince’s book was sitting on my nightstand.

Spent the day in bed reading it since January 1 is all about that energy: what we decide to start means stopping something else. If you sign up for the gym you’ll probably wanna stop living and eating like a homeless teenager.

I miss that guy.


My Birth: A Big Bang Story

Indeed today is my birth day.

I’ve spent over 4 decades soaked in popular culture across every single medium: as such I would like to thank some of the special creators and wonderful things that enriched my life and probably made me too quirky to sit with at lunch in high school.

My deep and endless thanks go to…

Forrest J Ackerman, Roger Corman, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Stephen King, Lon Chaney, Mad Magazine, Ian Fleming and James Bond, Zorro, The Shadow, quicksand, The Batman, Bugs Bunny, Frank Sinatra, The Invisible Man, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Quantum Leap, The Muppet Show, The Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man, Thriller, Ray Harryhausen, Wonder Woman and Lynda Carter, Carol Burnett, Edgar Allan Poe, Harry Houdini, The A-Team, SETI, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Jerry Lewis, Back to The Future, arcades and pinball machines (especially Indiana Jones!), Carl Sagan, The Lone Ranger, Knight Rider, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Richard Matheson, Flash Gordon, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Doctor Who, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Scooby-Doo, The Outer Limits, Invaders from Mars, secret passages triggered by pulling a dummy book, The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, James Dean, Mork and Mindy, Jules Verne, freak shows at the circus, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dean Koontz, The Iron Giant, The Rolling Stones, Alfred Hitchcock, The Three Investigators, Elvis, Errol Flynn, Ray Bradbury, NASA, David Copperfield, X-Men, The Six Million Dollar Man, Sean “Bond” Connery, Darth Vader and R2-D2, funhouses and haunted houses, Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, (the Dukes of Hazzard & the Fall Guy), Sue Grafton, Batman 66, death traps, Chuck D and Public Enemy, Super Friends, Fonzi, Spider-Man 67, Souls of Mischief, C.S. Lewis, Freddy Krueger, The Hardy Boys, Michael Jackson, The Black Museum, Orson Welles, Transformers, G.I. Joe, The Amazing Kreskin, X-Files, Bruce Springsteen, Rocket Robin Hood, Aliens, Defenders of the Earth, The Simpsons, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, Terminator, zombies and Halloween (the night…the movies less so.).

I have lived an astonishing life: I’ve travelled in time, saved the universe on numerous occasions, been to planets beyond our star system and encountered aliens: some friendly, many hostile…occasionally some are green and horny.

I’ve guarded secrets, foiled schemes, solved mysteries and seen more than my share of dead bodies. I’ve lost friends: good solid men and stoic women; not many of them have come back.

I don’t fear death and risks no longer intimidate me.

I know no matter how bad it gets; no matter how much darkness threatens me, no matter how big the monster is…no matter how outrageous the odds are…I know…I know…I know there is always a way and that’ll it work out. After I’ve been knocked down I don’t get up as quickly as I did in my youth but dammit I still get up. I have an obligation: I didn’t just hang out with these creators and these superheroes to just surrender the present and allow the triumph of catastrophe!

“I’ve watched my wild youth

Disappear in front of my eyes

Moments of magic and wonder

It seems so hard to find

Is it ever coming back again?

Is it ever coming back again?

Take me back to the feeling when

Everything was left to find…”

It has been and continues to be A Wonderful Life with so many Wonder Years. And as long as there are stars to maps and planets to catalog it’s irritating to live with gravity and all that keeps us down.

Now: where the cake at?


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