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Monthly Archives: January 2008

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Hitsville U.S.A.

Complete Motown Singles 1966We need our little and not so little indulgences every once in a while, right? I did a little post-Christmas splurge and bought The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 6, a box set containing every A- and B-side of every 45 single Motown released in 1966. It’s … amazing. This is part of the ongoing effort by Hip-O Select to release every Motown single on year-by-year CD sets spanning the company’s 1959 to 1972 period in Detroit. Each set is neatly packaged with a hardback book and an actual 45 rpm single (the ’66 one has The Four Tops’ “Reach Out”). Originally I was just planning on getting the ones covering the late sixties — but now that I can actually see what a fantastic job they did, I want them all! At a hundred bucks a pop, that might take a while.

Listening to this stuff in order, it’s interesting to hear how Motown slowly evolved during 1966. Often they’d have a stretch of really strong, classic singles followed by another stretch of obscure oddities or songs without that telltale “Motown” sound. Therefore you have plenty of Supremes, Vandellas, Temptations and Stevie Wonder alongside MOR singers like Billy Eckstine and Barbara McNair or a garage rocker from The Mynah Birds, a group which counted both Rick James and Neil Young as members. You can also tell that whenever an artist would have a hit, it would usually be followed with another single attempting to sound as much like the previous song as possible. This particular one contains Wonder’s “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby” (“Uptight” part II) and The Marvelettes’ “You’re the One” (“Don’t Mess With Bill” redux), two tunes nearly as enjoyable as the hits they emulated. 1966 also saw the arrival of The Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight & The Pips, two A-list R&B acts who suddenly found themselves B-listers amongst the other Motown talents. We can’t forget the fabulously underrated efforts of Kim Weston, The Velvelettes and The Elgins, either! One thing that surprised me is that they used mono 45 mixes here, so the sound is not quite as full as what I’m used to. I’m something of a liner notes geek, and the annotations accompanying this set are really fantastic — each single has a great story behind it. A great set for a great Motown year; now I gotta save some dough for ’67 (which, incredibly, was an even better year for them).

It’s All in the Game

Zack & WikiI still consider myself a gaming neophyte, but from reading the reviews at various sites I could tell that Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros Treasure looked like the kind of quirky, under-the-radar sort of thing that I might enjoy. Although the name leaves something to be desired (honestly, it felt embarassing asking the guy at Wal-Mart for “Zack & Wiki”), it’s actually a fun puzzler with a challenging edge that you’d never expect from looking at the game’s kiddie oriented cover art. In the game, you are a boy pirate named Zack who, with the help of an oddly hovering monkey named Wiki, journeys to various settings in order to piece together the golden treasure of the intimidating yet friendly pirate Barbaros (all the while avoiding the aminelike pirate queen and her purple-outfitted goons). OK, the story’s a bit lame, the characters are cardboard-thin, and Wiki’s Japanese schoolgirl voice is grating, but I tended to forget that while gaping at the lush visuals and background music. Did I mention that the game is weirdly Japanese in a way that I can’t put my finger on? As in when Zack is in the presence of other living things, you can wave the wiimote and Wiki turns into a bell (?) — transforming whatever animal you’re next to into an object (??) which may or may not be useful in your quest. Weird and cool at the same time! The video below pretty much echoes my feelings about this gem of a game. (buy at Amazon.com).

My Bullet’s in the Gun

What’s rocking my morning? Check music critic Elisabeth Vincentelli’s great post on the songs that nearly made her Best of 2007 lists. Although all are good, my fave is “My Secret Lover” by a Danish outfit called Private. It’s a wonderfully synthetic, ’80s-tastic retro funk jam that would likely have the scissors of Project Runway‘s Sister Christian in a frenzy. Listen and enjoy.

Which reminds me — whatever happened to Evelyn “Champagne” King?

Alias Smith and Jones

Steven Heller’s recent Design Observer rant over bloggers using aliases is less interesting for the post itself than the heated discussion it prompted. Heller’s basic gist is that a designer (or anyone) who uses an online nom de plume is either cowardly or behind the times.

I’ve always been up front about using my real name. Scrubbles only came into play because “The Matt Hinrichs Blog” sounds too unmemorable. Having a somewhat unusual, sometimes unpronounceable last name may be an annoyance in real life, but it’s an asset online (when it comes to commenting on forums or weblogs, however, only the first name is used). Although some may assume I use my full name for business purposes so potential clients might think (erroneously) that I’m related to the famous Kit Hinrichs, really it’s just me so that’s the logical choice. The name is unique and sticks out in a crowded field. And yet — if you Google my name the first result is the IMDb page for some actor whose sole credit is playing “School Kid” in Napoleon Dynamite. I’ve also discovered another Matt Hinrichs who blogs using his real name, weirdly enough — although any person with half a brain would notice that my blogging doppelgänger is an entirely different person. I really admire Steven Heller’s expertise and own a full shelf of his Chronicle Art Deco compilation books, his argument in this case is weak, weak, weak.

365 Days of Unrepentant Couch Potatoishness

Time once again for list of films I saw in the previous year. I counted 131 movies seen in 2007, with only five of them theatrical — which is about average. Not on the page is the fact that I rated each film on a scale of one to five stars. The bulk of what I saw fell into the 3-4 star range. United 93, Zodiac, Au Revoir, Les Enfants and an umpteenth viewing of Dinner at Eight were the only five star films. One star ratings I bestowed went to Spirit of ’76, the unbelievably bad bio pic Valentino and two cheapo gay comedies which were most definitely not on my Netflix queue, Slutty Summer and Eating Out. The two star films mostly consisted of ’30s/’40s obscurities taped off the wee hours of TCM or DVD rentals Christopher forced me to sit through (Matt Damon in The Good Shepherd, zzzzz).

Tennis Injury

Today I invited my parents over to the house for lunch and to give the Wii a try. We played a few games of Wii Sports Bowling and they, of course, had a blast. Before leaving, my mom — an avid tennis buff — wanted to give tennis a spin. We were playing a game of doubles when she tried to do a far-reaching racquet swing, lost her footing, and took a tumble right there in my living room. Shocked and in distress, me and Dad went to her aid. She hit her head on the TV stand and had a big cut in her upper lip. After we applied a wet towel, my dad took her to the emergency room. I felt so guilty! Later that afternoon I called her up to find her in better spirits. She ended up getting seven stitches in her lip (the doctor said it was his first-ever Wii related injury), but even worse is that one of her front teeth fell out and the other one is loose. Now they have to wait until Monday to see a dentist. I was worried and super-apologetic to Mom, but she took it in stride.

Actually, this incident may have shook me up more than them. My parents are in their 60s, retired but still young enough to fully enjoy life. They’ve always been very loving and supportive of me and Christopher, which really compounded my broken heart at seeing her fall today. Needless to say, I don’t think it will deter them from further Wii playing since they like their fun. They love gaming and travel and routinely go to Vegas for Casino hopping. This year, they plan to go to Washington D.C. for the AARP conference along with a stay in Colonial Williamsburg. And in April they’re taking me to Walt Disney World to fulfill a dream I’ve had for decades to see that park. They’re gonna want to try out every ride with me, but that’s still a few months away. For now I’m delivering all my best wishes to Mom for a speedy recovery.