Thursday, April 1, 2021

Much More Magical Marvel Movie Music

Dear Friends,

I never thought I'd miss the hustle and bustle, until all we had was hustle. But after a long bustle-free year, it's finally starting to feel like we are on the home stretch. Inch by inch, we are returning to the places, people, and activities that we have missed, and it's exhilarating. It's like starting to walk again after your broken foot has been in a boot. It's tentative at first, but you know that you'll be able to run again soon, and just hope that your body remembers how. The new Hard Taco song, "When I Smell the Barn," tries to capture this sense of anticipation. 

My family and I have continued to work on Marvel movie-themed parody videos. While I stand firmly against all flavors of musical snobbery, the parody is undoubtedly the bottom rung of on the ladder of musical artistry. It is the lyrical equivalent of the Dad Joke, often equally worthy of a groan as a chuckle. But like a good Dad Joke, it is easily accessible and may be enjoyed more than once. I'm particularly proud of this first one, whose thumbnail image speaks to its... accessibility.

With warmest regards,

Monday, March 1, 2021

Scrapbooks, WandaVision, Iron Man

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for March is called "Scrapbooking." Lauren and I dipped our toes in the gluey waters of decorative album-making when Scarlett was a bambino. We bought a poofy scrapbook, scissors that made triangular cuts, and plenty of fungible sticker letters. Each garish page told a different chapter in the story of Scarlett's journey from energetic fetus to meconium-coated newborn to chubby cherub in a portable bathtub. 

Fifteen years later, I can't remember if this was supposed to be ironic or not. It is certainly cute, and I love revising the baby pictures. I just can't tell how earnest we were when we labelled one of the pages LOUNGIN' or when we made a tiny green envelope to hold part of her umbilical stump. The song "Scrapbooking" imagines where we would be today if we kept going down that rabbit hole. 

But this month, we are introducing a new endeavor that is, in some ways, akin to scrapbooking. It's called VH1da-Vision.  The title is a mash-up between the music video channel VH1 and WandaVision, the Marvel superhero show that pays homage to several decades of sitcom tropes. VH1da-Vision imagines a channel that plays music videos from different eras, all of which are actually Marvel-themed parodies. Just go with it. 

So to kick things off, we have two videos. "Wanda Wall" sets the stage, and "A Jericho, Idiot" harkens to the opening scenes of the first MCU movie, Iron Man. Enjoy!

With warmest regards,

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Final-Ever-For-a-While Fortress Retrospective

Dear Friends,

This is 76th and (presumably) final Fortress Party retrospective blog. This has been magical and nostalgic in the best way, a biting reminder of how much I miss being with friends and family. I'm proud of all of the moments we created, and so grateful to the hundreds of people who contributed in ways great and small. 

I'm especially thankful for Lauren, who always manages to triumph at adulting without taking it too seriously. She is a joy magnet and a skyscraper of patience. She conquers planets and subverts pigeonholes, endures and thrives, sees wonder all around her, and appreciates special moments while they are happening. For years, her official Fortress Party title has been the Chief Tolerance Officer, but I prefer to call her the Fortress Buttress Mistress. 

And also, she rocks. In February's Hard Taco song, "Pretty Little Head," she once again proves herself to be whatever the female version of a heartthrob is. So dreamy! Enjoy the song, and these last few Fortress Party retrospectives. For now. 

Fortress Party 2018:

Fortress Party 2019:

Finally, here's a complete walk-through of Fortress Party 2019, with a few Easter eggs not seen in the previous installments. 

Will there be a Fortress Party 2020 Retrospective? There wasn't actually a party in 2020, was there? Or was there? Or WAS there? Or was THERE? 

With warmest regards,

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Fortress Party 2019 Retrospective, Part 8B - Broadway in the Shire Songs

The highlight of Broadway in the Shire, of course, was Frodo Baggins singing hit musical showstoppers.

When guests pushed the button, one of Frodo's songs would play randomly. 

And just to mess with people, this video would come up every once in a great while.

Fortress Party 2019 Retrospective, Part 8A - Broadway in the Shire Show Posters

Broadway in the Shire first needed a convincing Hobbit Hole. While it was hard to find realistic-looking grass, we had a pretty good round door. 

And while Frodo sang Broadway hits (more on that later) the room was decorated with Lord of the Rings-themed musical show posters. 

For those of you who are curious about the process, here is the spreadsheet that had all the ideas for musicals and songs, including some that we never ended up recording. You can also see a long list of Lord of the Rings terms that I tried to find puns for, but failed. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Fortress Party 2019 Retrospective, Part 7 - TSA Precheck and United Clotheslines

The entrance to Fortress Party 2019 was TSA Precheck, an elaborate maze of functioning airport security apparatuses.

Fortress Security Administration (FSA) agents wearing nitrile gloves would wave a metal detector over each guest to make sure they weren't packing heat. 

At the top left of this picture, you can see clocks showing the time in different parts of the world. The cities included Ann Arbor New York, Havana, Toronto, Panama City, Kingston, Bogota, and Quito. These cities are all in the same time zone, so the idea is that the clocks would show the exact same time. Unfortunately, the batteries fell out of a couple of them, so by time the party started, most of them were out of sync, and the joke was lost. 

Guests would then make their way down the gangplank onto their United Clotheslines plane ("United Fort 2019") where they could review the safety cards in seat in front of them, and enjoy a complimentary copy of HemisForts magazine.

Fortress Party 2019 came closer to a unifying theme than any of its recent predecessors, but I'm not sure if anyone noticed it. The theme was cryptozoology. The Loch Ness monster was in the Scotland Room, there were aliens in Area '51, the Yeti was in the Tibet Town Hall, and here we had Bigfoot ("Captain Squatch") piloting the plane. 

These seemingly diverse imaginary creatures were tied together by the in-flight entertainment, a music video for the Hard Taco song "Sightings." We also hinted at it by having the Captain announce that the flight would be making stops in each of the cryptids'... Lhasa (Yeti), Seattle (Bigfoot), Edinburgh (Nessie), and Roswell (little green men.) 

Here is a clip that just includes the entire loop that played in the room, including the safety video, words from the captain and flight attendants, the in-flight entertainment ("Sightings"), and the crash-landing into the side of a mountain. 


Above is a passengers' view of the safety video.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Fortress Party 2019 Retrospective, Part 6 - Area '51

Welcome to Area '51.  It was a weak pun, and I'm not sure everyone noticed the apostrophe, but it was supposed to indicate a mashup between the early 1950s and space aliens who have been carefully hidden by the government. 

Of course, every 50s party needs a diner and root beer floats.

The ice cream for the aforementioned floats was served out of the disemboweled abdomen of the alien we found at the crash site. Obviously. The ice cream was kept in a bed of dry ice, so there was always some smoke coming out around it.

And in the neighboring room, we had live music all night. 

Performers were encouraged to play 1950s music. In this case, we had Buddy Holly himself, captured by aliens, probed thoroughly, and returned to Earth in 2019. 

I see several phones in the air, so I suspect this is not the only surviving picture of our alien-themed 50's band, but this is the only one I've seen so far.