THE ADVENTURES OF TOM STRANGER, INTERDIMENSIONAL INSURANCE AGENT

“What’s that?” you cry. “What’s an interdimensional insurance agent and who is Tom Stranger?”

From the official blurb on Audible. com:

“Have you ever seen a planet invaded by rampaging space mutants from another dimension or Nazi dinosaurs from the future? Don’t let this happen to you! Rifts happen, so you should be ready when universes collide. A policy with Stranger & Stranger can cover all of your interdimensional insurance needs. Rated “Number One in Customer Satisfaction” for three years running, no claim is too big or too weird for Tom Stranger to handle. The Adventures of Tom Stranger is free until June 21, 2016.”

I don’t work for Audible, so all I can tell you is that this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever listened to in my listening life. It was obviously written for audio. The author is part of the story as is the narrator (Adam Baldwin).

tom stranger

If you like science fiction and you’ve got a weird sense of humor, this is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s just over 2 hours long. I probably will listen to it at least twice, just to pick up on all the humor and wit. It makes fun of science fiction as a genre, and sci fi writers. It also does a great take-down on insurance companies, their agents, and customer service as well as those people who won’t stop calling and trying to sell you something.

As a side note, we’ve been getting a deluge of calls from a company that comes up on Caller ID as “Burial Insurance” … so maybe they know something we don’t know? Or maybe it’s TOM STRANGER!

The price (free) is right. It’s also available on from Amazon. It won’t be free after June 21st, so grab a copy while you can. It’s really very good and hilarious.

SINGERS ON DEMAND

My You Tube favorites, by Rich Paschall


In the past singers gained popularity through radio play and variety shows on radio and television.  Now music is on streaming services and video sites.  The most popular video site, of course, is You Tube.  Many artists will use other social media outlets and personal websites to promote their You Tube videos which in turn popularize their songs, both cover versions of well-known artists as well as original works.

Since there is a lot of crap on You Tube, I have decided to come to your musical, if not indeed your emotional, rescue and let you know my top 10 favorites.  I follow them all through subscriptions on You Tube so I can see when new work comes along.  You can do the same.  Signing up on You Tube is free.  You can even start your own channel and sing out too.

The following order is for the purpose of this article and I might arrange this differently if I was to write it again tomorrow.  Some of the artists have so many videos online it was hard to make choices.  I have a playlist on my channel with 12 songs, two by one of the artists and a high energy song that includes three of these.

A Kickstarter success
A Kickstarter success

10. Kurt Schneider is actually the genius behind many people’s videos.  As a producer and a musician, Schneider is very much in demand these days.  You can find him playing various instruments in many popular videos, but you will not find too many where he is the solo performer.  An interesting presentation is Kurt with his mom and just a piano performing the Fleetwood Mac hit, Landslide.

9. Sam Tsui has made a LOT of videos with Kurt Schneider.  The pair have a long-standing friendship that goes back to school days so their frequent collaboration is no surprise.  Sam raised enough money via Kickstarter to put out an album of 14 original songs and, of course, Kurt Schneider was the producer.  The title track also has a high energy video, Make It Up and has over 2 million views.

8. Darin Zanyar is simply known as Darin in his native Sweden.  He became well-known in his country at 16 as runner-up to the Swedish “Idol” contest.  He records many songs in Swedish as well as English and is a popular performer at home.  The recent Nobody Knows is among my favorite English language songs.

7. Alexander Rybak is a singer, songwriter, pianist, violinist and even an actor.  He is fluent is Russian, Norwegian and English.  He has recorded songs in all three as well as Belarusian, Swedish and most recently Spanish.  He shot to fame as the winner of the 2009 Eurovision contest representing Norway.  In addition to his pop songs, he is an accomplished classical violinist.  Here is the English language Europe’s Skies  which has a remarkable 28.7 million views.

6. Eric Saade became popular performing the pop tune, Popular.  He competed with the song as Sweden’s entry into the 2011 Eurovision contest.  Unlike the other Swedish heart-throb above, Eric’s videos are mostly in English.  Here is the link to the recent Colors.

5. David Archuleta became a sensation at 16 as the runner-up on the seventh season of Americana Idol.  After some successful recording and concert dates, David took two years off to do Something That Has Nothing To Do With Me. Now he is back doing some live performances and working on new music.

In concert
In concert

4. Hunter Hayes has been the opening act for a number of big name performers and has found recording success as well.  We have mentioned him before in discussing his successful single, Invisible.  Just like Darin’s song, What If, it deals with bullying.  You will have to wade through a massive number of vlogs to find his songs on his You Tube channel.  Here is the up tempo country hit, I Want Crazy.  It was added to a deluxe edition of his first album.

Chicago Theater downstairs
Chicago Theater downstairs

3. Max Schneider, or just MAX.  He has done a lot of videos with Kurt but they are not related.  This Schneider has a variety of song writing and acting credits, including the young Van Dyke Parks in the movie Love and Mercy, the Brian Wilson biopic.  Parks was the lyricist on a number of popular Wilson tunes.  MAX financed his first album with a Kickstarter campaign.  He now has a record deal.  In recent years MAX has played small clubs on his own as well as opening act for big name stars.  He came through Chicago to play a small club, and then later as opening act for Fallout Boy.  I finally caught up with him as an opener for R5.  I think you have to be under 17 to know who that is.  Here are the talented Schneiders:

Meet and Greet
Meet and Greet

2. Steve Grand hit it big with his self-produced video All-American Boy.  The viral success led to a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded all expectations for funding for his first album.  We profiled the Chicago area native here.  In demand at Pride events nationally and even internationally, Steve has been hard to catch in the Chicago area.  I finally saw him live last year at a small Chicago club.  He was as charming as you might expect and his live performance did not disappoint.  Recently Steve has found time for plenty of vlogs so we will get you to a song.  While there is a slickly produced, high energy remix of this one, I thought I would go for the acoustic version of We Are The Night.  It more closely resembles the performance I saw.

1. Tom Joseph Law.  When I was thinking about doing this article, I got the chance to ask Tom what song he would pick.  He said Dear My Love.  It seems that songwriters are always in love with their most recent composition.  Then he tried to guess what I would pick and settled on a song he uploaded last year.  Yes, he got it right.

Note:  All of the BOLD words above contain links to websites, past articles and music videos.  That should keep you busy for a while.

SHOULD YOU FORGET THE CAMERA, TRY THE PHONE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Phone-tography


From Nancy Merrill:

“Cell phone photography is so prevalent these days, I figured it was about time I had a challenge where you pull out your phones and take a picture. There’s no theme other than a photo taken with your phone.”


I  am not a fan of cell phones. The sound quality is pathetic and I can barely read the text, with or without glasses.

They aren’t good telephones and aren’t cameras at all, even though you can use it to take pictures. Photography is more than just capturing an image.

72-View-State-Street--Boston-052816_089

Last weekend, we went to a wedding in Boston and I did not bring a camera. In my defense, I was carrying an evening bag into which a camera would not fit. When we got to the event and I saw the view from the 33rd floor of 60 State Street. I wished I’d brought a camera even if it didn’t go with my dress. I had tucked the phone into my bag, so for the first (only) time, I took some pictures using the phone.

72-View-State-Street--Boston-052816_085

The quality isn’t fabulous, but it was the what I had available. I’m glad I got pictures because “not great pictures” beats “no pictures.”