Thursday, July 31, 2003

Again, like good ol' Professor Farnsworth says, "Good news, everyone!"

While reading the new Mojo magazine yesterday, I saw where one of my Ten Great Albums Not Available on CD, Neil Young's On The Beach, has finally been remastered and is set to come out in the US later in August! And looking at Amazon's listing, it's only ten bucks!! Now where's Time Fades Away, Mr. Young? Also, in an ad in that same magazine, I saw where Alan Price's 1974 Between Today and Yesterday, another later addition to that list o'mine, is also now on CD- right now as an import!

Now if they'd just issue Flo & Eddie's 1973 eponymous LP and Graham Central Station's Mirror...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Happy Deathday!
Your name:Johnny Bacardi
You will die on:Wednesday, August 22, 2012
You will die of:Spider Bite
Username:
Created by Quill


Shit effing fire, that's only nine years from now!

...found over at Rhonda's.

The Final Word on Roxy Music. I promise.

 
Sweet poster, huh! Marlene Dietrich! 

The first time I heard of Roxy Music, I was 14 and read a review of their then-current release Stranded in Creem magazine. Sounded interesting. I was intrigued by the name of the band, and since there weren't any pictures of the group to give me any idea who was who, for all I knew there was a lead singer named Roxy Music or some such (remember, these were the Gary Glitter days), and that sounded cool to me. So, the next time my parents made their weekly trip to Louisville to visit friends and shop, I got the ten bucks they usually gave me, headed over to the Oxmoor Center record store I liked to frequent in those long-gone days (but I don't remember the name, sorry to say...Disc Records or something like that. Not Disc Jockey, by the way) and plunked down my cash for RM's third elpee. Looking at the inside sleeve on the way home, I first noticed that there was nobody named "Roxy" in the group at all, and it was kinda hard to tell much about the fellows in the group since they were represented by monochromatic, blurry pictures on the inner sleeve. But when I got it home and put it on I was transfixed. I had never heard such sounds before in my life, from the swirling atmospherics of Eddie Jobson's strings to the melancholy, retro-sounding woodwind sounds of Andy Mackay, to the live-wire guitar of Phil Manzanera...and the attitude and world-weary air of the singer totally captivated me, or as much as a fourteen year-old Kentucky boy could process the Ferry mystique...I listened to that album constantly for the next few weeks. At some point later the same year, RM's next LP, Country Life, was released, and of course I had to get it. When I plucked it out of the rack, I was a bit puzzled...I thought RM always had pinup girls on their covers. Why was this one covered in opaque green shrinkwrap? When I sat down in the mall after purchasing it, and looked under the wrap, I discovered why! There were two girls, photographed from the thighs up, both wearing nothing but their lace undies (one topless!)! I sat there and wondered how the hell I was gonna keep my parents from seeing this one...then I had a brainstorm: I just wouldn't take the shrinkwrap off. And I kept that record in my collection like that for the next few months, sliding it out of the wrap (when they weren't home) to...admire...the photography. Yeah, that's it. Heh. Anyway, I eventually left it out and kept it in my growing record stack, being careful to keep it out of sight (my 'rents were pretty cool about a lot of things, but not nudity or cussin' in their only son's records). By the time the year was over, I had also picked up the first two RM albums, Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, and had added RM as one of the pantheon of my favorite Glam bands like Bowie, T.Rex, and others in those waning days of Glitter Rock.

Of course, as is so often the case, not long after they got their hooks in me the band went on hiatus after releasing the excellent Siren and began to concentrate on solo projects for the next 4 years. I dutifully bought as many as I could find, and while I liked (even loved) many of them, I kept hoping they would reunite someday and give me another Stranded. Problem was, as the times changed, so did Bryan Ferry & Co.'s tastes and styles, and when RM did finally get back together it sounded like an altogether different creature. Gone was the avant-garde experimentation and the what-the-hell edge, replaced by Ferry's world-weary lounge-lizard persona cranked up to eleven and a overly slick, synth-dominated sound, professionally if not passionately played by some of the most well-known studio musos in the business. So while I found much to like, I wasn't nearly as captivated by this edition of RM so eventually I stopped buying. The last RM-related albums I picked up were Ferry's 1987 bland Bete Noire, and Phil Manzanera's 1989 Southern Cross- an overproduced, glossy snoozefest with no trace of that fantastic, distorted, howling guitar sound of his RM peak.

Okay. Now, here's my top five favorite RM records, in order of preference.

1. Stranded (1973) Even though Eno had left, there was still enough of the reckless spirit of the first two records left with Ferry, Manzanera and Mackay that every cut here is a keeper, from the Eno-ish opener "Street Life" to the closing, hushed, even reverent "Sunset". I don't think Ferry ever wrote better lyrics than those to "Mother of Pearl". Underrated cut: the lovely and atmospheric "Just Like You". This record strikes a perfect balance between the compromised convention of subsequent records and the nutball feel of the first two.

2. For Your Pleasure: The Second Roxy Music Album(1973) I just think it sounds better with the full title. My favorite cover. This one is strong cut for cut but has a couple of clunkers which keep me from completely embracing it: the plodding, endless "The Bogus Man" and the lugubrious title cut, with its cheesy-spooky vocal treatments as it gradually comes to an end. But the good ones are very good indeed: the audacious "Do The Strand", the creepy/cool/weirdo Manzanera/Eno showcase "In Every Dream Home a Heartache", "Editions of You", fun and rocking and a chance for everyone (even Ferry, who plays a hilarious one-hand keyb solo) to take the spotlight, and the crooning "Grey Lagoons" with its strong melody and interesting arrangement.

3. Siren (1975) Their fifth group release is more conventionally structured than the first four, but every cut is strong both lyrically and musically. "Love is the Drug", their only US hit, is deserving and very catchy but it's the two songs after that, "End of the Line" and especially "Sentimental Fool", which grab me the most. "Just Another High" is also a remarkable song...but there's a samey-ness to this album which tempers my enjoyment a bit.

4. Country Life (1974) There's a samey-ness to this one, too, but it's a murky kind of feel rather than the pristine-ness of Siren. After I had listened to this one for several years, I could tell that they were beginning to feel a bit limited because there's a trace of ennui in all these songs, even though they're all great cuts. My faves include the surging opener "The Thrill of it All", the insistent "All I Want is You" (love the ending "Oo-ooh, I'm all cracked up on you"), "If it Takes All Night", which has always had a vaguely Fifties-ish feel to me and I wish Dave Edmonds would cover it, and while some may disagree, I've always had a soft spot for the goofy closer/tribute to Ferry's then-girlfriend "Prairie Rose", with its wink-wink lyric and chiming Manzanera guitar.

5. Roxy Music (1972) This is just a weird-sounding record. Everything sounds excessively separated and muffled, and can be distracting, especially upon first listen. I suppose in hindsight, getting King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield (a longtime favorite artist of mine, I have to add) to do his first solo production job for your debut might not have been the strongest of strategies. Still, there's not a bad track on this one, and some are brilliant, like "If There is Something", one of my fave RM tracks, and "Sea Breezes".

Others, and I won't list solo releases because this is already a Godzilla-sized post, include the 1976 Viva! Roxy Music Live! which isn't really all that bad for a live record but doesn't particularly improve on the songs chosen; 1979's Manifesto, the reunion record but really, it sounds more like a Ferry solo record that he invited the others to play on. It has a stripped-down, disco-poppish sound and some OK tracks, including the title cut, "Trash", and "Dance Away". The next record, 1980's Flesh and Blood is even more anonymous and bland than its immediate predecessor but when I get in a mood I can enjoy the title cut, the Byrds cover and "Oh Yeah". Everybody seems to love 1982's Avalon but me. I mean, "More Than This" is a great song, but nothing else on this slick, overproduced, homogenized record registers with me at all. Still, lotsa people dig it so what do I know?

And that concludes, boys and girls, my thoughts on Roxy Music. Thanks for your time.
All the recent hoo-hah after the SD Con about Jemas and Marvel's financial situation and Quesada and Grant Morrison and DC's snapping up names and so on and so forth has prompted some interesting writing in the comics blogosphere, both at the Gadabout's, Attentiondeficitetcetera, Jim Henley's and !Journalista!.

As someone who's been watching this shit go down for probably far too many years, all I can say is that it reminds me of little generals, bickering, squabbling and playing games with their troops and countries while the supporters and detractors on both sides watch on from afar and in turn squabble and bicker among themselves...while the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders and moves on. I would think that DC and Marvel needs to see the big picture rather than playing one-upmanship games, but I suppose to get over the apparent big fish-little pond egoism is a lot to ask, especially in Bill Jemas' case.

And if that's a muddled metaphor, I apologize...it's early. Whaddaya want from me?
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Kickin' things off with a BSBdG to one of the most innovative and interesting artists of the Eighties, Kate Bush, all of 45 today. My favorite of her albums remains 1983's The Dreaming, although 1985's Hounds of Love is probably her most accomplished record. Unfortunately, she only released one album in the Nineties and has pretty much been invisible so far throughout this decade. I keep reading that she's working on something, coming out soon...so hurry up, already, Kate! Tori Amos is running out of inspiration!

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

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BSBdG's go out today to one of my favorite character actors, David Warner, 61 today, who has appeared in a ton of great genre movies and TV shows, including Time After Time (Jack The Ripper, above), Tron, Time Bandits, Nightwing (playing a nutjob bat hunter named Payne...not the best film, but Warner was excellent and it's one of my favorite of his many roles), The Man With Two Brains, Alfie, and many more. He was also the voice for Freakazoid! villian The Lobe. Oh yeah, he was also in that film about the big boat that hit the iceberg...what was that title again...

Monday, July 28, 2003

Steve Winwood once wrote a song, and I'll betcha that if he could do it all over again he wouldn't, called "Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired". And like our Stevie, today has been one of those days when I share that feeling. However, I like to try to post something at least once a day, so here it is.

I have read some other blogs as the day has passed, though...One stop was at ***Dave Does The Blog, (what's up with those three stars anyway, yo?) which has so far seen fit to ignore any reciprocal linkage to yours truly but still features good writing so I persevere. The titular ***Dave has written (during the course of his blogathon over the weekend) of 10 (or 20, I forget) comics he feels one should give to non-comics reading people in order to try to convert them to our holy cause...and it's a fine list, but there was just something about it, a certain "usual suspects" feel that caused the sizzling, sputtering christmas light idea bulb in my brain to flicker. What comics would I give to some unsuspecting "normal" person who was uninitiated to the wonderful world of graphic narratives? At the risk of seeming like I always promise more than I deliver, I think I'll ponder this for a while and perhaps write on the matter later. And this is not to say that there was anything wrong with ***Dave's list; there were many worthy titles that I have read and loved like Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But if I were to make a list it might be a wee bit...different...

Also, the redoubtable Bill Sherman, that Pop Culture Gadabout for all seasons, has written an appreciation of one of the bands that, like Grand Funk Railroad, all the cool older guys and gals listened to in 1970-71, the Iron Butterfly. I don't have any of their albums, but I had a friend who had that storied In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida record, and I listened to it many times and everything he saith, verily, is sooth. But I wanted to tell ya, Bill, and I would have done this over at your house if your comments were working, was that the IB released a few more albums on Atlantic (actually its Atco subsidiary, I think...also the US label of, that's right, you guessed it...ROXY MUSIC!) before disappearing into the archives of oblivion. And if we're gonna start namechecking heavy blooz rock bands of the 70s, then I got two names: Bloodrock and Uriah Heep. Both coming soon to a Mondo Vinyl-O near you!

But there I go again, promising more than I deliver.

Oh yeah. There's a new Christgau Consumer Guide up, if you're inclined to care...

Update 7/29 I just remembered an amusing little ancedote involving Iron Butterfly: when I was in marching band in high school, our drummers created a cadence based on the drum solo in "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida". It sounded pretty cool, as I recall.
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RIP Bob Hope.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Like Professor Farnsworth says, "Great News!" Except this time it really is.

There's an article over at Newsarama which focuses on Paul Grist's Jack Staff, the latest issue of which is a bit overdue, and provides an explanation as well as a look ahead at what's coming up from the innovative Grist.

Also, if you've got the cash, you can now pre-order the Firefly DVD from Amazon.com!

Attack of the Puppet People, one of those great old 50s drive-in horror flicks that I love so much, is coming on in about 30 minutes. It's been 30 years since I've seen this one, I'd bet.

Speaking of Prof. Farnsworth, there's a new Futurama coming on Fox tonight at 6 central. Only 2 more new episodes to go after this one...

And speaking of TV, right now I'm still enjoying the new series Teen Titans (watched the second new eppy last night; it was better than the first) and Dead Like Me-they're really beginning to explore the situations inherent to the premise, and doing so quite cleverly. The season premeire of Kim Possible on Disney was as clever and fun as the first season was, so no decline in quality there. I think KP gets overlooked sometimes because of the misconception that it seems to be aimed at the pre-teen crowd, but the writing is sharp and the animation's fine as well so I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something new to watch. I've recently seen a newish cartoon on Nickelodeon as well, named Chalkzone, which is also worth a look.

Spent the day yesterday working at an auction for my father-in-law. If you've ever done anything like this, you'll understand when I tell you that whoever tought up the phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure" was a genius. Saw a classified ad in the paper this morning for a pre-media operation based in Ohio, called Phototype. They seem to be looking for a wide variety of skillsets and personnel, so what the hell, I'll send 'em a resume. Whether or not I can actually pack up and move there remains to be seen...

Found another website whch features an article on those Warner Bros./Reprise Loss Leaders promo albums that fascinate me so. Go here for the intro, go here for a detailed list. Most, but not all of the covers are reproduced, and all the tracks are listed on every album. As someone who has made, and tried to make, multitudes of mix and sampler CDs and tapes for both personal use and as gifts for people, and been frustrated when you have one great song then another great song which sounds good on its own but totally sinks the compilation when you stick them together, it amazes me how the people that assembled those compilations could take such varied artists and types of music and set them so comfortably next to each other. Of course, some sides were given to themes and such, but it wasn't unusual to have a lineup like this:

Deep Purple: Strange Kind of Woman
John Baldry: It Ain't Easy
Labelle: Shades of Difference
Redeye: Beginning to End
T. Rex: Hot Love
Randy Newman: Last Night I Had a Dream
Jackie Lomax: Helluva Woman
Paul Stookey: Sebastian
Norman Greenbaum: Circulate
Ron Nagle: Marijuana Hell
Gordon Lightfoot: 10 Degrees and Getting Colder
The Beach Boys: Feel Flows
Fanny: Soul Child
The Kinks: Animals in the Zoo


This is two sides' worth of the two-fer! Boy, I wish someone at WB or Rhino would re-issue these things on CD, or I could afford to get the originals on eBay. And this is despite the fact that I own many of these tracks on the original albums!

OK, almost movie time and I've rambled enough for a Sunday. Maybe I'll ramble more later. Coming up soon: that long awaited Roxy Music overview from my twisted viewpoint, and another Vinyl-O, and God knows what else.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

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You know, when I started this blogging thing I didn't intend for it to turn into a birthday blog, which is certainly what it seems like I'm doing lately. But I just gotta mention that today marks the big 6-0 for old Mr. D himself, Mick Jagger. You probably know what blues-rock combo he made his name with as the frontman. Underrated record: 1993's solo Wandering Spirit.

Getting back to the Roxy Music theme, Jerry Hall dumped Bryan Ferry for Mick. Let's play "six degrees of Roxy Music", shall we?

Friday, July 25, 2003

The great Roxy Music discussion continues over at Sean's, who gives us an opinionated career overview. Of course you know this means I'll have to give mine, but it will have to be later.

I've got to get up from here and do something productive today...
New discovery Eve-Tushnet writes a interesting review of the ill-fated Hulk film. In case you missed it, here's mine. I no longer think a sequel is a lock.
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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of July 23


LUCIFER 40
Big apocalyptic finale to the most recent arc, and a rousing one at that. Even though this was most satisfying, and ends with a most unique cliffhanger, this particular arc seemed a bit rushed and underdeveloped and probably deserved a few more issues of buildup. Not to worry- there are lots of dangling threads left and I'm sure Mike Carey will tie them up in splendid fashion. It's funny, after a while I began to not even notice the disparate art styles of the tag-team artists for the last several issues, Dean Ormston, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly. A

B.P.R.D.: DARK WATERS one shot
It's always great to read new stories of Mignola's Hellboy supporting cast, and this is done with total fidelity and care. Problem is, the story has a been-there-done-that feel to it, and fails to leave much of an impression. Nicely drawn by Guy Davis, whose work I disliked many years ago but has become a favorite now, and that carries the day. A-

LOVE and ROCKETS v2 8
As usual- idiosycratic, oddball and somewhat incomprehensable stuff from Gilbert and excellently drawn exploits of the Hoppers gang from Jaime. For them that likes, and I'm one, here's more. A-

STARTLING STORIES: THE THING-NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET 3
Obviously, Evan Dorkin's busting his ass to write what he hopes is an honest, no-nonsense tribute to the great Lee-Kirby Marvels of our youth, and as far as that goes, he's done it. But the great Lee-Kirby stories of yore had fresh, often funny dialogue and were stuffed to bursting with Kirby's hyperactive imagination...and here's where Evan's story falls short of the goal. Unless Dorkin comes up with a bravura finale next issue, I think we have to consider this a noble failure. Dean Haspiel does a great job of drawing all this, but after the novelty of seeing him render the likes of the Frightful Four wears off, one has to stifle a yawn or two. B

INHUMANS v6 3
The script is dull and derivative, the art awkward and too prissy, and if I had a yen for "misunderstood teens with special abilities try to fit in on Earth" type stories I'd be a regular X-Men reader. I hate to bail on limited series, but I'm not looking forward to #4 very much at all. C-
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Today would have been the 123rd birthday of the great Maxfield Parrish, who passed on in 1966. Click on the image above to go to a tribute site.
Good morning!

You know, it has occurred to me that I haven't written much about sports lately, and part of that is because I try not to get too caught up in the private lives of athletes and therefore don't really follow stories like that of Kobe Bryant or the Baylor basketball player who is missing and was allegedly shot by his best friend and teammate. I hear about them a lot on ESPN Radio and their News channel, so I know what's going on but don't really feel moved to write about it here. But since I list "sports" in many weblog directories, I feel obliged to at least post once in a while about them, so here's the obligatory sports post.

Bryant? Well, of course he's guilty of screwing around, many NBA players are. I don't really have a problem with him being an adulterer, because I don't recognize professional athletes as "role models" anyway and have always encouraged the impressionable to focus on their acheivements on the playing field and recognize that these people are human and have all the human foibles and faults. Parents or caregivers of kids are the ultimate role models anyway, if you ask me. Anywho, it kinda looks to me like the unnamed young lady was perfectly willing to be Kobe's mistress until some unknown something happened, then she decided to grab for the brass ring. Rape? I kinda doubt it, but who really knows. Kobe had a good rep prior to all this going down. And Bryant's public repentance was so self-serving to be disgusting. Oh, yeah...he's sorry now that he got caught! All I'm saying is that no one is innocent here, or at least the way I see it. I don't know all the facts, and I know that there are two sides to every story- and usually the truth falls somewhere in between.

On a happier note, my White Sox have won something like seven straight, and seem to be acting like they want to stay in the race. I'm still not crazy about manager Jerry Manuel, especially the boning he gave former closer Billy Koch, but he's OK as long as they keep winning. Fantasy-wise, I'm currently in first place in my freebie Yahoo! league, and am in 4th place (one through three finishes in the money) in the expensive one.

Another reason for celebration- NFL training camps are opening all over. Yesterday my beloved Atlanta Falcons opened camp, and optimism runs unusually high. Of course, they (and I) have had high hopes before and have seen them dashed to earth by the end of November. Still, they've never had an athlete at QB like Mike Vick before, and they made some key acquisitions in the off season...so we'll see. Fantasy-wise, it's looking like the Glasgow Fantasy Football League, which I've run since 1990, is about to bite the dust...done in by people growing apart (we all used to work for the same company, now only 4 of 10 do), losing interest and getting on with their lives. I've been putting off calling everyone, I need to do that soon. Myself, I hate to see it fold but it hasn't been too much fun the last two or three years so maybe it's time.

And that concludes the Obligatory Sports Update. I'll probably do more as it gets closer to football season, so you've been warned.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Continuing with the Roxy Music discussion, here's a reply to Bill Sherman, and by proxy Sean Collins:

Stranded is my favorite RM album, too, and not coincidentally it's the first Roxy album I heard. I ran out and picked up Roxy Music (on Reprise, with "Virginia Plain", gloat gloat) and For Your Pleasure, also on WB and probably my 2nd fave, before the end of the year. Even though Eno didn't participate on Stranded, I think tracks like "Street Life", "Serenade", "Mother of Pearl" and "A Song For Europe" are some of the best things to ever issue from the RM collective. I wish you would review that one, Bill, I'd like to read it.
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Also, BSBdG's to Thriller artist Trevor Von Eeden. Von Eeden started working for DC at the ripe old age of 16, co-creating and illustrating several issues of their Black Lightning character before moving on to Green Arrow and Black Canary and various Batman stories, all the time developing his expressionistic style and making a name for himself as one of the hottest artists of the early 80s...until he collaborated with Robert Loren Fleming on a brand new book, Thriller, where he really cut loose but the daunting, complicated narrative, combined with some hit-and-miss experimentation of TVE's part, polarized many readers who were accustomed to a less involved reading experience. Their stint only lasted eight issues, after which TVE went into a period of disallusionment with both his work and the comics biz in general. Throughout the 80s and 90s, he did sporadic jobs for both DC, mostly on Bat-books, Milestone Comics, Black Canary's early 90s solo title, and Neal Adams' short-lived Continuity Comics line. It was all fine work, but lacked the panache of his Thriller stuff.

Still, he's recently become re-energized in regards to his work, he tells me, and has recently done illustrations for Moonstone Comics' Mysterious Traveler and Kolchak books. It will be interesting to see what comes next for this former prodigy and heck of a nice guy. The above is a comissioned drawing of the two titles he's most associated with: Batman and Thriller's Seven Seconds. Wish it had been for me!
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She's going to shoot me after she sees this, but I couldn't not mention that today is Mrs. Bacardi, aka Theresa Ann Doyle-Jones' birthday. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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Speaking of Roxy Music, today's BSBdG goes out to Andrew Mackay, 57 today. The above is his 1974 solo album In Search of Eddie Riff, an all instrumental album recorded with Eno, Phil Manzanera and others which has been a fave of mine since I picked it up as an import back in 1975.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Yikes! Just read at Brendan's that our very own CzelticGirl, Annie, is celebrating a birthday today! So here's a BSBdG for you!

You know, every time I scan that "CzelticGirl" name, I get that old song "Candy Girl" in my head. Weird.
Via Franklin's Findings, I read these articles which describe Disney's scaling back on and Dreamworks' decision to stop producing traditional, cell-derived animated films.

I can understand why they would want to stop throwing money into a black hole of diminishing returns. But like I said before, and I don't think anyone can convince me otherwise- it's not the fact that these films are mostly traditionally animated that is causing them to fail at the box office. I mean, Jesus God, there are scads of trad-animated shows on TV that are doing quite well, in fact, well enough to get made into feature films (which sometimes flop- does this refute my point? Who knows...)! It's the CONCEPTS that are lackluster and stale. I mean, geez. Sinbad? Treasure Island? The generic Star Wars-isms of Titan A.E.? I'm surprised they haven't looked into doing an outer-space Little Women!

And here's another thing of which I'm convinced- films like Shrek, Monsters Inc., and Toy Story would have been just as successful if they had been hand-drawn. You know why? Because these concepts were FRESH! There may have been a curiosity factor, especially in the case of Toy Story, which was one of the first Pixar efforts, but I honestly believe that it was the concept, story and dialogue which made these and other Pixar-type films as interesting as they were. Finding Nemo? Derivative of other films and stories, perhaps, but fresh and unique in its presentation.

Of course, I'm far from a Hollywood insider, and I'm sure the Disney and Dreamworks folks have done test after test and poll after poll. But this is just a viewpoint from an objective distance, and I have been known to be wrong before.

End of rant. I'm feeling better now...think I'll go lie down.
"Sometimes I just think, 'You won't read somethin' because it's called a 'comic book'? What an elitist loser- Why the hell would I want you to read my book?' I wouldn't treat a ditch-digger the way some people treated me when I told them what I did. Who needs them?"

Artist/writer Colleen Doran, as quoted by Sean Collins in his mammoth SDCC summary. To quote Morris Day: "And I know that's right!"

But Colleen! Maybe you should have told them you write and draw "pamphlets!"

I also noted with amusement his recounting of being in a long conversation with Chris (The Filth, Time Breakers)Weston and Vertigo editor Shelly Bond about one of my favorite groups, Roxy Music, and how rare it was to get a group of Roxy fans together in the same place. Oh, boy...I would have been right there with ya. I absolutely love anything the Roxy collective did pre-1977.
While perusing Rich Johnston's Lying in the Gutters Monday column, I noticed the entry which dealt with the Royal Rumble anthology from the Royal Academy of Illustration and Design, and the Cartoon & Illustration Paradise (a message board which I have been known to post on once in a blue moon) post by Darwyn Cooke refuting that all was happy and good times in the creation of said anthology, specifically citing project editor Cameron Stewart and contrary to what Johnston had written in a previous column. Now, I have been an admirer of the work of both men, and while I know it happens more than we hear about, I still hate to hear about falling-outs between creators of this stature. Be that as it may, I thought it might be of interest to you who are inclined to care about these things, so I pass it on to you.
The BSBdG torrent continues!

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First, funkmeister George Clinton, 63. Since 1975, when we used to listen to an 8-track of Parliament's Mothership Connection in the kitchen at Carmen's Pizza, where I worked as a kid, I've put a glide in my stride and a dip in my hip as I partied on down to the Mothership. Most of all, we need the funk, as George has been telling us for many years now. Go here for a P-Funk FAQ. Click on the picture for his official website.

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Also, Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls turns the big 4-oh today. She is the one who's written most of my favorite IG's tunes, like "Least Complicated", "Galileo" and "Peace Tonight". Credit where credit is due dept.: the above picture of Ms. Saliers is by one Berta A. Daniels.

Monday, July 21, 2003

You all probably know I like Paul (100%) Pope's work very much. See link at right for his website. Via Big Sunny D, I found this career overview at Ninth Art. Just wanted to pass it on.
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After a slow stretch, suddenly a flood of interesting birthday people hath issued forth. Today's BSBdG goes out to Yusuf Islam, or Cat Stevens as we knew him way back when.

I've always had a soft spot for his music, especially his 1974 effort Buddha and the Chocolate Box. He's been out of the music business now for a lot longer than he was ever in it, and he seems to have found happiness, so good on him. Still, I wish he had put out a few more records before he was done...

Click on the picture above to go to a nice fan site. Here's his official site, and here's another, very thourough fan site.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

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Yeah, I watched the new Teen Titans anime, I mean animated series last night. And you know what? I kinda liked it. It's fast-paced and fun. Now I fully expect a lot of those dyed-in-the-wool Titans fans, who just can't let go of Saint George Perez's definitive rendition of DC's original teen sidekick group, to be in caniptions over the manga-izations of those iconic characters like Raven and Starfire, but myself, and I speak as one who bought the very first Teen Titans appearance in Brave & the Bold 54 (well, my Mom or my dad bought it, because I was 4 at the time), buying the 60s and 70s book periodically (no pun intended), and was also there at the beginning of the storied Marv Wolfman/Perez run which began so fresh and promisingly but devolved into standard, melodramatic superhero sludge before it limped to a finish many years later by other hands...I didn't have a problem with this new cartoon version at all.

True, this is only the "getting acquainted" opening episode, and it was rather slight...but hey, it was action all the way and was never dull. The re-imagining of the DC characters in manga style was a great idea, and in their individual characterizations Robin falls into his junior Batman role quite nicely, Beast Boy nee Changeling (I've heard people bitching about this namewise change-back, too) was fine comic relief, and if Starfire's a bit ditzy in this incarnation, well who cares. She was kind of a wet blanket back in the day, if I recall correctly. My favorite re-imagining is the Raven character, who became tedious, then evil, then who knows what (I had stopped reading long since) in the original comic. Here, she's the Janeane Garafalo of the group, always with the wry quip or observation. The Cyborg character is probably the least changed from his comic incarnation, except he, too got an emergency angst removal operation. I also got a chuckle at the Gloom Cookie-ization of the bad-girl Jinx character.

Gotta mention the nice Glenn Murakami-designed opening title sequence, with a Japanese girl group bashing away in best Shonen Knife fashion as ribbons snake along the screen, leading to shots of the principals, punctuated by a cutesy exclamation of "Teen Titans!" at varied intervals. Fast and clever, and definitely an indication of the nature of the show.

Hopefully, as the series unfolds, we'll get to know these similar-but-different Titans and their world a lot better. I know some will miss the sturm-und- drag, but that's why God made back issues.
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Couldn't let the day go by without extending BSBdG's to Dame Diana Rigg, 65 today, whose portrayal of Emma Peel on the British TV show The Avengers triggered those first stirrings of hormonal lust in 8 year old me. And I liked the show very much, too...still do.

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Also best wishes to Carlos Santana, 56 today. While his music in the 30 plus years he's been recording hasn't always been particularly interesting in my opinion, anyway, I will always love the jazz-influenced stuff he did in the early 70s, especially the Caravanserai album. Credit where credit is due dept: the above picture is by one Robert Venosa.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

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The coveted BSBdG goes out today to Queen guitarist Brian May, 56 years old today. May's distinctive guitar sound added immeasurably to those early Queen records, which I liked, thank you very much.

I remember reading a caption in Creem magazine, back in the day, which stated "If Truman Capote were God, then Brian and Freddie (Mercury) would be his salt and pepper shakers". Oh, those crazy Creem writers.

Friday, July 18, 2003

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After viewing Maisie Gets Her Man this morning, I thought I should note that today would have been the 90th birthday of the late comedian Red Skelton, who appeared in a lot of 40s and 50s films before moving to television and entertaining a whole new generation of people, including li'l ol' me who used to watch the Red Skelton Show faithfully growing up in the 60s and early 70s.
More from the Political Correspondent:

Throw Away Those Yellow Ribbons, Because Johnny is Never Marching Home

Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields

UK Whistle Blower Found Dead

Bush Lies About Iraq Are Only The Symptom, Not The Disease
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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of July 16!


BATGIRL YEAR ONE 8 Once again, the top of a very good heap. A bit more action this time out, with a subway traintop battle with Blockbuster (the Bat-villian, not the movie rental chain) as a highpoint, along with a fiery cliffhanger that's much more ominous than one would think, since it involves the Killer Moth...who I hope has fireproof tights! More nice characterization spread throughout as well, mostly involving Robin and Jim Gordon. A

GOTHAM CENTRAL 9 Cover-to-cover police dramatics focusing on the murder investigation of GCPD Det. Renee Montoya, with nary a stitch of spandex in sight. Wonderful use of the Bat-supporting cast, especially Bat-fan favorite Josie Mac. Can't imagine how this is all going to turn out, and that's all right with me. A

DAREDEVIL 49 Just a few observations: Matt Murdock needs to move. Seems like every nutjob super-psycho knows where he lives and can just walk in and give him trouble. Also, this Milla person who he's fallen in with is as big a loony as any Stilt-Man or Owl. Daredevil's little beatdown of Bullseye in this issue was certainly overdue, and Bendis even gets a little slam in at Bullseye's movie forehead tattoo. Alex Maleev's action sequences were much better this time out. And while this issue's central conflict was a wee bit contrived, I was as impressed as ever. A-

SLEEPER 7 The series that lives up to its name serves up another outstanding, if somewhat low-key, chapter of well-drawn skullduggery. You can't help but sympathise with protagonist Holden, but you also can't help but think that things aren't going to turn out all that well in the end because this just isn't that kind of story. A-

GLOBAL FREQUENCY 9 Here's the established Global Frequency pattern: Warren Ellis provides the canvas with only the most basic of scripts, and it's up to the chosen artist to carry the day. Some have succeeded with aplomb, some haven't. Lee Bermejo, impressive on a recent fill-in stint on Hellblazer, once again comes through with an excellent art job, and this grim tale is a keeper because of it. A-

H-E-R-O 6 Well, if the last issue was American Beauty with superheroes, then this issue is Lizzie McGuire. Quite fun, if slight, and nicely illustrated by that Kano fellow. B+

THE TRUTH: RED WHITE and BLACK 7 To sum up this not-bad miniseries: Clever, often powerful script, indifferently illustrated by Kyle Baker. Once in a while Baker would turn in a page or a sequence that hinted at what he can do when committed, but it wasn't nearly as often as I would have liked. Baker indulges his love of caracature towards the end of this issue, if you're into that sort of thing. B+

Also, I picked up the softcover edition of Darwyn Cooke's Catwoman graphic novel, SELINA'S BIG SCORE. As you may remember, Cooke pencilled the first few issues of the current Catwoman ongoing, and this story takes place just before the events in that title; actually, this story coincides with the Slam Bradley Detective Comics backup feature that appeared a few years ago. It's a fun, fast-paced heist thriller, and Cooke turns out to be as good a scripter as he is an artist. Although his inking line gets fatter and sloppier than I like sometimes, and he should never ever ever letter his own work again, this is a greatly entertaining story and is almost worth the 18 bucks I paid for it. A
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Today's BSBdG continues my preoccupation with film actresses from bygone days. Lupe VĂ©lez, the "Mexican Spitfire", would have been 95 today if she hadn't taken her life at age 36. I had never heard of her until I watched the installment of E!'s Mysteries and Scandals which spotlighted her life and career, and let me tell you, she certainly lived up to her nickname. Click on her picture above for her IMDb bio. Here's a website devoted to her.

Hopefully more later...

Thursday, July 17, 2003

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BSBdG's today go out to Terence Michael "Geezer" Butler, Black Sabbath's bassist. At 54, I suppose he really is getting to be a geezer now!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

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If I had to come up with a one-word description of the new album by the Thorns, it would be "harmony". In fact, they say in the bonus video on the CD that this was the reason they decided to unite in the first place- Pete Droge, Chris Mullins and Matthew Sweet's voices blend beautifully and every song features plenty of group vocalizing. It's when I try to think of what the music they make reminds me of that I begin to falter somewhat.

I've been a huge fan of Sweet's for several years now, since his Girlfriend album over 13 years ago. I've got three of Droge's albums as well, and I like one or two songs on each and am totally indifferent to the others. Mullins I remember from his hit single "Lullabye", but despite purchasing the CD for my wife a year or two ago I've never been curious enough to listen to it. If I had to hazard a guess as to who the principal songwriter is, I'd say Droge, because like his solo albums this one kinda runs out of gas before it's over. But Droge's music never sounded like this- possibly Sweet brings some pop smarts to the mix. The overall sound of this album is melodic soft-rock, with a sound that reminds me somewhat of Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac in some places, dead ringers for CSN & Y others, and in a couple of instances late-Beach Boys and late-Beatles. Early 90s Tom Petty is also a definite influence. The title cut is the hardest-rocking thing here, with its insistent lock-stepped beat. They claim that it's not an attempt to write a "Hey Hey We're the Monkees"-type theme song...uh huh. The Pettyish opener, "Runaway Feeling", is nicely sung and arranged and quite catchy. The best song is the first single "I Can't Remember" which has a bittersweet sentiment, a gorgeous melody and in a perfect world would be a huge smash. There's also a nicely done but somewhat pointless cover of one of the Jayhawks' best tunes, "Blue", which I suppose is to prove that they can harmonize purty-er than Gary Louris, Mark Olson and Marc Perlman, because otherwise their version is identical to the original...and "No Blue Sky" features a string arrangement by one of my absolute favorite arrangers, Paul Buckmaster, which allows me to forgive the title swipe from Lloyd Cole. "Think It Over" and "Dragonfly" are the best CSNY songs in three decades. Even though this album has its definite strengths, the overall sound of the album becomes a bit samey after a while, and renders the last few songs forgettable. I have a feeling, though, that I'll come back to them eventually and wind up liking them too.

Even though the rustic cover photos suggest Band-ish country-rock, this is actually quite an accomplished pop-music album. For those (like me) who flat out groove on well-done harmonies, you could do worse than to give The Thorns a listen.
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Found myself awake at 2:30 this morning, and while flipping around the TV I came upon the above scene, from the 2001 film The Lady and the Duke, about the relationship between an expatriate Englishwoman, living in 18th century France at the time of the Revolution, and the cousin of the deposed King Louis XIV. At the very least, it was an involving character study in a period setting...but the most interesting thing to me were the unusual visuals, which combined digital manipulation with hand-painted backgrounds (on all outdoor scenes; all indoor scenes were filmed on sets) which gave them an odd, almost eerie look, something like old postcards from that time period. People fade into the distance, horses and carriages blend in and out...see the photo above for an example. She actually hides behind that log in the foreground at a later point. It makes the film a fascinating one to watch, and it's a conceit which, with a lesser hand at the helm, could have become old fast but 81-year-old director Eric Rohmer still had the imagination and skill to make sure this didn't happen. Some critics that I've read since watching this complained that the film, despite the distinctive visual style, was talky and dull but it didn't seem that way to me at all...and if a talky dull film doesn't put me to sleep at four in the morning, then it must have something going for it! Another thing I thought cool was the fact that it was based on a written-long-ago and mostly-forgotten-now memoir of the real-life Lady Grace Elliott.

I also watched last year's hit film The Ring, which was a remake of a Japanese film (haven't seen it) called Ringu. In Ring, people watch a weird Nine Inch Nails video (or at least something like one), then get a phone call from a mysterious voice informing them that they will die in seven days. This happens to a skeptical reporter, who, investigating her niece's death at the request of her sister, foolishly views the tape. A somewhat convoluted race against time to find out who made the film and why follows as her son and his estranged father also foolishly watch the video and receive death sentences as well. At first I wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to hang with it, because it was such a smorgasbord of modern horror flick cliches- a little I Know What You Did Last Summer here, a little David (Seven) Fincher there, and a whole lot of Sixth Sense ambience everywhere (is there a law stating all modern horror films have to feature spooky kids who act like they're on a lithium? I blame Christina Ricci in Addams Family)...but it still built up a good tense head of steam, and I became caught up in it about halfway through in spite of myself. Of course, and I hope I won't spoil it for you too much, it has one of thise irritating false endings- you know, just when you think everything's gonna be all right- OH NO! I suppose people crave this sort of thing out of their horror movies these days, but I just find it annoying. I also had a hard time figuring out exactly what happened with the family that lived on the island that was at the root of the whole mystery, which the director didn't help by editing out a couple of scenes which helped explain what was what and who was who. On DVD, these are available as a bonus feature. Still, I liked The Ring OK, once it got going...but I wish the execution had been as fresh as its premise.
I've been remiss in passing along many of the links that the Political Correspondent's been sending me lately, so here's a couple he sent me today:

U.S. death toll in Iraq equals '91 War

Terror War? What Terror War?
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BSBdG's go out today to my 80's inamorata, Phoebe Cates, who turns the big four-oh today. Once a star in such films as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins, she has pretty much dropped out of acting and modeling these days, preferring to concentrate on being a mother to her kids by the Luckiest Man on Earth, aka Kevin Kline.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Oh, dear. The always interesting Sean T. Collins has thrown out the p-word. "Pamphlets", that is- and that word still makes me cringe. But the article he drops it in is an interesting one, so he gets a pass.

Me, I'm not necessarily against the demise of the "pamphlet", especially if it means creators, working in a larger, less deadline-strict format, can stay on a project from beginning till completion and produce a more cohesive work. Still, I have two reservations. One, price. I would have loved to have bought Selina's Big Score in its hardcover version, but just can't afford it. It's supposed to come out in softcover tomorrow, and I'm supposed to be getting it in my holds but I'm still not looking forward to dropping 15 bucks on one book, no matter what its size. Also, the effect of reading a collection or a novel sized TPB is akin to sitting down and watching 6 episodes of your favorite TV show back to back to back...and while this may be nirvana to some, I tend to lose interest unless the book in question is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of engaging storytelling. I still like reading a chapter at a time. I recently obtained the final TPB collection of Paul Grist's Kane, and while it was engrossing and quite good, and everyone knows how much I love Grist's work, I still couldnt read it in one sitting. Maybe it's ADD on my part, who knows.

The rumor of the demise of the "pamphlet" has been with us for years and years, and somehow I suspect that it will be a few more years before it comes to pass. Whether or not this is a good thing I leave up to you.

Update 7/16 I suppose I should mention that I bought the softcover trade of Darwyn Cooke's eighteen dollar Catwoman opus Selina's Big Score today. I think I'm a bit more amenable to this, a story written and illustrated with the knowledge from day one that it's going to be a self-contained story, rather than collections of single "booklets" as many TPBs tend to be these days. They tend to be less episodic, I suppose. And to underline what I said before, instead of the twenty dollar tab I would have had if I had not chosen to purchase Score, I wound up spending forty. Now whether or not this would be a deterrent to the non-comics-fan Barnes & Noble browser I can't say for sure.

Also, after reading Bill Sherman's commentary on this and Sean's posts, it occurred to me that I have purchased trades in the past to give me an idea if I want to start buying a series that has already seen a number of issues printed...and the example he gave of X-Statix nee Force was the opposite of my experience! He bought a single issue or two of X-Statix to see if he wanted to continue picking it up, but by the time I got interested in it there had already been eight or so issues released so I decieded "in for a penny, in for a pound" and picked up the first collection...liking it enough to buy the series regularly for another year or so.

Monday, July 14, 2003

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Like I said earlier, I watched a movie or three over the last few days. First up, Martin Scorcese's Big Sweeping Epic Gangs of New York, which dealt with 18th century New York, the Irish-American section in particular, and the relationship between three people: Bill (The Butcher) Cutting, who pretty much runs things in the Five Corners, played with brutal bravura by Daniel Day-Lewis; Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), son of Cutting's chief rival, who seeks revenge for his father's death by Cutting's hand; and Jenny Everdeane, a pickpocket and thief once indebted to Bill and falls in love with Leo. It's a very long film, but I kinda wish it was longer because it's oddly paced and one wishes more time had been spent on certain scenes and situations. The ending, in particular, seems rushed and somewhat unsatisfying. In fact, the middle part of the film is given to the conflict that Leo's character feels when he's taken in, recruited into Bill's gang and is treated like a son by the Butcher, who is totally unaware of Leo's agenda, and for me it's the most involving part. After the deception is revealed, the rest of the film became anticlimactic. But Gangs is still very much worth one's time- the sets and costumes look absolutely authentic and the performances are all first rate, not only the principals but supporting players like the great Jim Broadbent and John C. Reilly, who was in every other film released in 2002, I think. Leo succeeds in making his character work despite his unconvincing baby face, and Day-Lewis is amazing in his role, even though his accent (more Brooklyn-ish than Irish) bugged me throughout. I mean, everyone else in the film, even Leo, spoke in that Irish brogue: "Oh worra worra me, faith n' begorra" type stuff, but Bill was all "dese" and "youse". I'm sure Scorcese and Day-Lewis did their homework, but it kinda jumped out at me.

Also, I rented Treasure Planet, last year's big flop Disney traditionally-animated feature film. Everybody's wailing, lamenting and gnashing teeth about the death throes of hand-drawn animation, citing the failures of this and this year's Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. It seems to me that the problem isn't that people are rejecting traditional animation out of hand, it's that the concepts that trad-animators are proposing and getting approved somehow are DOA. Boring. Stodgy. For the life of me, I couldn't imagine why, when Planet was first announced, anyone would want to see it. Kids don't know jack about the Stevenson tale, and we already have at least two live action feature films of the story. Same goes with Sinbad. It seems to me that if trad-animators would work a little and seek out projects that are, shall we say, a bit more unusual and interesting to people other than bean counters, then perhaps their films would fare a bit better at the box office. Even going back a bit, projects like Titan A.E. and Spirit: Wild Horse of the Cimarron were yawn-inducing as well. The exception to this was Lilo and Stitch, which still suffered a bit from Disneyization but had a novel setting and characters to bouy it. Emphasis novel. Be this as it may (and bear in mind that this is just my opinion) there was much to like in Treasure Planet. Character designs were great, and there were several exciting set pieces, especially the struggle to escape a black hole; I liked the way the Jack Hawkins/Silver relationship played itself out too. I liked the feline Captain character, voiced by Emma Thompson. She was smart and tough. But they had to hedge their bets by infusing the hoary old Stevensen story with typical Disney-ish cliches like annoying comic relief robots and the obligatory contrived happy ending, not to mention songs which were (thankfully) not sung by the characters themselves. I could live with the conceit of the starships looking like old wooden sailing ships, but the more one thought about it the less sense it made. Treasure Planet is worth a rental, because it's well animated and involving, despite the cliches...but I'd wait until the rental price goes down.

And of course, there were my usual Turner Classic Movies viewings. I watched 1939's The Roaring Twenties, a big-budget gangster flick set in the prohibition era and featuring the best: James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. And of course, there was the angelic Priscilla Lane as Cagney's would-be romance. She gets to sing several songs, including "My Melancholy Baby" which I think made its debut in this film. Poor Cagney couldn't catch a break in this flick. Here's a link to a TCM piece about Twenties. Bogie also appeared, with Edward G. Robinson and another of my long-ago inamoratas, Ann Sothern, in Brother Orchid, an amusing tale of a gangster that hides out from his enemies in a monastery and learns a few life lessons in the meantime. Bogart is pretty slimy, Robinson shows great range, and Sothern is lovely and funny as always. On Sunday, I caught two Errol Flynn adventures: They Died With Their Boots On, with Flynn as Custer at Little Big Horn, and The Charge of the Light Brigade, this time with Errol as a Major in the British army in this tale based on the Alfred Lord-Tennyson poem. I always enjoy flicks with Flynn in 'em...he has that dashing air of good fun and high adventure, but is good enough of an actor to convey drama as well if need be.

I've got a few more films that have come out lately I want to see, and I'm sure some good stuff will come on cable eventually (there's a Maisie film coming on sometime in the next few days...!) so you can be sure I'll eventually write about 'em right here.
In my review of the Hulk film, I wondered what 70's Hulk artist Herb Trimpe thought about the big screen version of the character he had worked on for almost 90 issues. I need wonder no longer. Over at Pulse, they have reprinted comments he made in a local newspaper. Go here to read.

In fact, there are several interesting news items over there today, including a review of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film by Heidi MacDonald. I haven't read all of it yet, because despite my misgivings I might still go see it and spoilers are contained therein.
Hey there hi there ho there.

I was going to sit down first thing this morning and write about the movies I've seen and stuff I've read and listened to over the last few days, but when I sat down at my desk I noticed that my daughter had left a soda can on the top, and I had an ant party going on on top of it! So I had remove everything off the desk, move the desk away from the wall and the window in which the ants were entering, and clean and spray. It was a battle that made Helms' Deep look like a walk in the park. Though it was a mighty, time-consuming struggle, I am pleased to report that the ant menace has been suppressed, for now. If you find any misspellings or mistakes, it's all the ants' fault.

I've got places to go and people to be this afternoon, so I won't be able to write about anything much until later. Again, bear with me, puh-leeze.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of July 9


FABLES 15
Not especially well-drawn but still involving continuation of the current "Bluebeard's Revenge" storyline. You'd think that with as many Vertigo projects that artist Mike Buckingham has under his belt, he'd get his superhero-ish tendencies out of his system, but that's not the case. He approaches the material like he's trying to do an issue of Wolverine and inker Steve Leialoha, who should know better, lets him. Oh well. I'm not buying this for the art anyway...I just wish Bill Willingham could for once get a visually clever illustrator to compliment his scripts. A-

JSA 50
What we have here, basically, is a compendium of every superhero comic cliche of the last thirty years, all assembled in one convienient place for your entertainment. And it's a testament to the good will engendered by the writers in the early days of this title that I enjoyed it. If I was still 15 years old I think I would have thought this was the greatest comic I ever read. A-

I also picked up the new issue of Comic Book Artist, with an extensive look at Alan Moore and his ABC Comics line. Lots of interviews with other creators, as well, like J.H. Williams III (with several mentions of Chase) and wonder of wonders! Chris Sprouse, who I have admired for years but knew almost nothing about. I've been re-reading several books I had planned to sell on eBay, too, and am surprised to find that I'm more interested in the 1996 Helix miniseries Time Breakers now than I was when I was buying it!
Like seemingly everyone else in the Blogiverse, I've finally added Neil Gaiman's journal to the link list at right. I was a regular Sandman reader, and while I'm not a dedicated fan of Gaiman's other stuff, he seems to be an interesting fellow. Don't know why I didn't add it a long time ago...guess I'm just a rebel, Dottie. A loner.

BSBdG's today to:

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Arlo Guthrie (see link at right), who I seem to be writing a lot about lately...he's 56 today.

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Also, that diminutive devil-rocker Ronnie James Dio, who is 55. Dio's recordings with his eponymous band bore me to tears, but I've always kinda liked him as a vocalist with Blackmore's Rainbow and as a poor man's Ozzy with Black Sabbath. His vocal turn as "Froggy" in Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover's musical version of the children's book Butterfly Ball and Grasshopper Feast was surprisingly good and added a lot to a great record.

Rock on, Dio! Wooo!

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

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Ain't that cool? It's a smiley of Kinetix, of my fave Legion of Super-Heroes characters. There was a fellow over at the Kamphausen message boards that was creating one for each character, and he did this one by request for me. I'm gonna find a faboo Legion site and link to it using this smiley. The character has undergone several transformations in her brief post-Zero Hour existence, and this shows most of them.

Went comics shopping, and only had three books: Fables 15, JSA 50, and the new Comic Book Artist, the last one from TwoMorrows publishing, and it's a dilly with a spotlight on Alan Moore and his ABC Comics line. It even has an interview with Tom Strong artist Chris Sprouse, a longtime fave of mine of which I've read very little.

I also picked up the debut CD from The Thorns– the collaboration between Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Chris "Lullabye" Mullins. I've only listened to it all the way through 2-3 times, hopefully I'll write about it later. It's pretty good so far.

I ran into a friend of mine at the comics shop who's a dealer of comics, records and other stuff and sets up at many major conventions. He offered to let me have one of his Wizard World passes if I wanted to go up for the Con. Of course, by the time it arrives in August I'll probably be in dire financial straits, but Christ on a crutch it's tempting. I'd have to find a room, of course I'd want money to buy food and booze and maybe even a comic or page of art or something...anyway, I'm thinking about it.

I've been watching the Red Sox and Blue Jays on ESPN. We've had some severe storms pass through in the last couple of hours. My template is messed up again– there's waaay too much white space at right. This has been an on-and-off occurrence since NuBlogger started, and I wish I knew how to correct it. Of course, recently it's corrected itself eventually...but I can't count on that happening every time. Sigh. I've been drinking Mountain Dew Live Wire lately, and I like it just fine. It tastes like three parts Orange Crush and one part original Dew. Remember Orange Crush?

And that's your evening update. Thanks for reading and from all of me to all of you, oyasumi nasai.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Oh what the heck, here's a This or That Tuesday.

Summer Potpourri

1. Strawberries or blueberries?
Strawberries. No contest.

2. "Legally Blonde 2" or "Terminator 3"?
Da Tuhminatah. I thought the first Legally Blonde was fun, but I have no desire to see it or a sequel again.

3. Hamburgers or hot dogs?
Like 'em both, but I like burgers better.

4. Boating or hiking?
No thank you.

5. Suntan lotion or sunblock?
I'm somewhat fair-skinned (although not as much as you would think, me being a redhead and all), so I'll take the block, please.

6. "Big Brother" or "The Amazing Race"?
No thank you.

7. Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffett?
Without a doubt, the Boys. I've never really understood Buffett's appeal.

8. Grow your own produce or buy from supermarket/greengrocer/farm stand?
Wait. You can grow your own produce?

9. Drive with car windows/top down, or with air-conditioning on?
AC all the way. I'm a weak and worthless human being.

10. Go away for vacation, or stay at home?
Wait. You mean I have a choice?
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Yes, Summer's here and the time is right for another scintillating edition of Johnny B's MONDO VINYL-O! For those of you who are new, this is where I take ten 33 1/3 RPM vinyl long players that I've listened to since the last MV-O (I have lots of time for that sort of thing these days, you know) and ramble about them for a paragraph or so. Now...shall we dance?

Bryan Ferry-These Foolish Things (1973) Following in the footsteps of David Bowie's Pinups album, when Ferry decided to do a solo record he chose to cover a dozen or so songs from the 30s, 50s and 60s– and since he apparently felt he didn't have enough leeway to be goofy in Roxy Music, the whole thing has a goofy, what-the-hell kinda feel about it. That being said, the backing is first rate, featuring many members of Roxy with that great distinctive sound that the band employed from '73-'76, Bryan's singing is fine and his arrangements are very clever. He covers Dylan, Elvis, the Stones, Brian Wilson, the Beatles, Lieber and Stoller, and Leslie Gore's "It's My Party" (gender unchanged!), and really the only clunker IMO is the lugubrious title cut, in which Ferry croons like Garbo and to be honest, has its admirers.

John Renbourn-The Lady and the Unicorn (1971) Pentangle guitarist Renbourn is a master of his instrument, and there is much fine playing in this all-instrumental collection of medieval, early classical and folk tunes. Problem is, it all becomes dull and monotonous after a while and best serves as background music because it's so easy to tune out. I suppose it would be a groovy record to play in a merchant's tent at a Renessaince Faire somewhere...

The Doobie Brothers-The Captain and Me (1973) When I was growing up, I revered the music of the Doobie Brothers. They had an infectuously catchy way with a hook, a great guitar sound, stellar string arrangements by Warners arranging stalwart Nick DeCaro, and if their "We can all get together and love one another and listen to the music and just party out in the summer sunshine with our lovin mamas" type vibe sounds ridiculous today, well it was a bit more acceptable in those less cynical times. I just loved their rock slash R&B slash folk slash country sound and generally looked over the lyrical content. After their best and most ambitious cowboy-concept record, 1975's Stampede, co-founder and co-vocalist and co-guitarist Tom Johnston got sick on tour and was replaced by Michael McDonald, a former Steely Dan backup vocalist who then proceeded to take my beloved good-time folky party rock group and transform them into Dan Lite, and as you can probably infer I hated this development. I was a happy boy when McDonald's inevitable solo career flopped spectacularly. Anyway, back to Captain– this has two of their biggest hits, "China Grove", annoying somewhat after overexposure on FM classic rock stations; "Long Train Runnin", which has also been run into the ground by FM programmers but has such a killer hook that I can still stand to listen to it; "Dark Eyed Cajun Woman", beneficiary of one of DeCaro's best arrangements, "Evil Woman", which balanced its somewhat misogynistic lyric with a wicked, twisty heavy guitar riff; and the closing pair of songs "Ukiah", which features great harmonies, a strong melody and segues into the title cut, which is more of the same and seems to be about a starship captain or some such. Johnston returned to the re-formed Bros sometime in the late 80s, but the fizz just isn't in the pop anymore. However, I still have those early-mid 70s albums when I want to hear the uncut stuff.

Eddie Hazel-Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs (1977) The late Hazel was one of the first guitarists in George Clinton's Funkadelic and is revered by many for his solo prowess, especially on seminal tracks like "Maggot Brain". He released this solo album in '77, backed by (of course) the whole P-Funk Mob, and its noteworthy for its excellent, longish covers of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" (a song I never had much use for, but I like Hazel's slow, funky take), and John Lennon's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which lead off sides one and two, respectively. Rounding out the set are a couple of originals written by or with Clinton and a cover of a song from Bootsy's first album. I understand that this is a very rare record and fetches a high price from collectors. Mine's not for sale. Yet. Go here for a picture of the cover at a German review site.

Aerosmith-Draw The Line (1977) Aerosmith was one of the few hard-rock bands that all my friends liked that I liked, too. The follow-up to arguably their best classic-era release, Rocks, I'd be willing to bet that they remember very little about the making of this bad boy, since it was recorded at the height of their dissolute years. Still, be that as it may, there's a lot of great stuff on Draw– killer riffs, clever lyrics, even a punkish Joe Perry solo track called "Bright Light Fright" which is the unintentional high point of the record. On the negative side, there's a puzzling track in which Tyler complains about not being able to "Get It Up" (nice riff, though), another bitch-about-the-critics song ("Critical Mass") and the cringe-inducing "Kings and Queens", a muddled and muddy-sounding ambitious social commentary slash history lesson which might have been better served left in the can. DTL also sports a great Al Hirschfeld drawing as its cover.

Arlo Guthrie-Amigo (1976) This record, like most of Arlo's albums, is an eclectic mix of folk, country and rock, with traditional African songs side by side with the Stones ("Connection"). I love his own "Victor Jara", about the Chilean folk-singer and activist, which is passionately sung and is one of the best songs I've ever heard, period. I think I should add that Mr. Nick DeCaro is the string arranger on this album, too.

Slade-Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet (1974) Apparently this was retitled for US release, since all the multitudes of Slade websites (most with horrid graphics) list this as Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. Slade was the most un-glammy of Glam Rock groups...they looked like they just stepped out of a pub and were looking to kick your arse. No pretty boy glittery eye shadow and feather boas for these yobs! Their music was pretty much straightforward electric guitar, bass & drums and was mostly noteworthy for lead vocalist Noddy Holder's distinctive abrasive yowl along with their penchant for writing songs with cutesy misspellings like "crazee" and "cum" as in "Cum Feel the Noize", which you may have heard somewhere before. Stomp is a enjoyable and diverse record– they were attempting to stretch a bit with music-hall ditties like "Find Yourself A Rainbow" and the pretty piano ballad "Everyday", but there were still several fierce rockers. Of course, they were much more successful in the UK than they were over here although they did score a hit in the 80s with "Run Runaway" in the wake of the Quiet Riot hit version of "Noize".

Grand Funk Railroad-Mark, Don and Mel 1969-'71 (1972) When I was a kid, about 10-11 years old, all the cool older kids listened to Grand Funk. This is a double-LP compilation of tracks which appeared on their first four Terry Knight-produced albums, when they were a trio and aspired to populist blues-heavy rock. It's got the wonderful, funky, hard-rocking eleven minute cover of Eric Burden's "Inside Looking Out", the oft-derided but still melodically wonderful "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home", the slow blues "Heartbreaker", the infectuous hit single "Footstompin Music", and the title cut from the Paranoid album, which I remember hearing as a kid coming from my friend Tommy Blair's sister Marsheena's bedroom one day, and when I asked her what that was she played it again, remarking how creepy the sirens and baby's cry sound effects were. The things one recalls. Anyway, there's really not a bad track to be found herein. After this, they got progressively slicker and more AM-radio friendly with Todd Rundgren and Jimmy Iovine, and while much of it was excellent it didn't have the crude charm of their early stuff. This album is a great place to begin for those curious about GFR and don't want to track down each individual album...but unfortunately it doesn't exist in this configuration on CD. That being said, however, there are at least a couple of decent sampler GFR CDs that should suffice.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band-The Good Earth (1974) Lucky buyers of this record were entitled to a small section of land on a mountain in England if they clipped the corner off the record sleeve and sent it to the address provided. I got my copy a few years after it came out, so I never claimed my plot. I always loved the unusual Proggish sound of Manfred's Band, its synth-and-choir blend evoking cinematic majesty and Mann's excellent taste in cover songs made any Earth Band album worthwhile in my book. This particular effort is a little bit of a departure, as MMEB albums go, since there are no Springsteen or Dylan covers (Spooky Tooth-era Gary Wright gets the honors here on the title cut) and all but one are originals, the best of which is "Be Not Too Hard", a lovely plea for tolerance. I got to see Mann live a couple of years later, touring behind his Roaring Silence album, and it remains one of my favorite concert experiences...even though pre-Steven Perry Journey and Boston (eww) shared the bill.

Shawn Phillips-Do You Wonder? (1975) Phillips is said to be a virtuoso, claims to have co-written many of Donovan's best songs without receiving credit, and has pretty much remained invisible throughout his longer-than-you'd-think career. I got real curious several years ago about his stuff, and being intrigued by the cover, picked this album up and liked it well enough to buy three others which bored me– so I got rid of all of them but this one. Got that? Anyway, on Wonder Phillips' jazzy folk-rock got a bit of a commercial polish making it a bit more accessible than I recall from his previous efforts. It's still a bit uninvolving, albeit prettily sung (Phillips does have a remarkable voice), and he could be very pretentious sometimes. I think I keep this album around for one cut: "Golden Flower", a jazz-ish meditation on love and life than has a gorgeous melody.

And that's it! Whew! Thanks for reading, and keep watching the skies–you never know when I'll do another MONDO VINYL-O!
Sorry, but not overly surprised, to read about the cancellation of Peter Bagge's Sweatshop book, from Newsarama by way of Journalista! (sorry, Dirk, I still haven't figured out that upside down "!" yet) .

I loved Neat Stuff and Hate, and have somewhat enjoyed Pete's attempts to assimilate into the mainstream, but Sweatshop just didn't grab me and that's why I didn't buy any issues after #1. It just came across as a jab at a target that nobody in particular wants or cares to see jabbed. Bagge has a great style and a wicked sense of humor but in the case of Sweatshop it seemed diluted, trivial and yes, dull. Kinda like the comic strips that Mel Bowling approved of. Ironic, huh!

It doesn't surprise me that it got cancelled- I'm surprised that it ever saw print in the first place! I'll give DC credit, though, for at least trying to broaden people's horizons, whether they want them broadened or not.

When it comes right down to it, though, you can bet your ass that I'll be right there to get the next project Pete comes up with.
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A couple of BSBdG's go out today to Beck, a talented musician who only really grabbed me once, with his 1996 Odelay album. Sea Change isn't too bad either. Also Joan Osborne, a fellow Kentuckian who only really grabbed me once, after her Nashville show...but I'm a gentleman and...oh, I'm only kiddin. I kinda liked Relish, loved its flop follow-up Righteous Love, and haven't gotten around to picking up her latest.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Just wanted to say RIP Buddy Ebsen, who died today.

Many was the hour, when I was a kid (and even when I allegedly grew up), that I would spend in front of the TV, watching The Beverly Hillbillies and laughing my ass off. That was one seriously whacked out show, especially when they started filming 'em in color and the writers got familiar with the characters. I think the "Clampetts go to England" episodes were as funny as anything I've seen on televison.
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BSBdG's today go out to professional celebrity, former movie and TV star and underrated drummer Richard Starkey aka Ringo Starr. I'll try to give Ringo a spin today in his honor.

Seems like he was in a group at one time or another, after his lauded tenure in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The Silver Beetles or the Moondogs or some such. It'll come to me in a minute...

Update: Aw, I listen to Ringo all the time. I dug out 1981's underrated Stop and Smell the Roses and gave it a listen instead. Ringo got a lot of help from his friends again on that one, and Nilsson, (especially) McCartney and Harrison acquit themselves well.

Friday, July 04, 2003

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While out shopping with Mrs. B yesterday, I saw a fellow wearing a Kentucky Colonels t-shirt bearing not only the first logo, that of a dribbling colonel and his dog, but the later "KC" logo. I thought this was very cool, so I asked him where he got it and wound up in a conversation about the American Basketball Association.

When I was a kid, my Dad, Mom and I would go up to Louisville to see at least two or three Colonels games a year after the team signed UK star Dan Issel. I was one of those gym rats who would hang out outside the teams' locker rooms (on opposite sides of the arena entrance hall) and BS with the players, even getting the occasional autograph. The games we didn't go see we listened to on WHAS radio with Van Vance or watched on TV (they showed several Colonels games every year on Channel 41, I think it was) The Colonels didn't survive when the NBA absorbed four ABA teams, thanks to owner John Y. Brown (how that SOB got elected governor I'll never know), who took settlement money rather than fight to get the Colonels included, but I'll always have lots of great memories and a couple of memorabilia items, including a program from a 1972 NBA-ABA exhibition game which featured my favorite NBA team, the Phoenix Suns, against the hated Indiana Pacers and the Colonels against the Baltimore Bullets with hometown hero Wes Unseld. I got a ton of autographs on that program, including Connie Hawkins, who didn't want to sign at first but my Dad talked him into it. My Dad was something.

Anyway, I subject you to all this sports nostalgia because while searching for a site that sold those retro ABA shirts I ran across Remember The ABA.com, which has almost everything you need to know about that great old league. I've spent an hour or so this morning checking it out. It's got pictures of huge afros, sound clips (including several from Colonel games by Van Vance), pictures of team uniforms and comprehensive team histories. Go here for the Colonels page.

I couldn't care less about the NBA, and haven't for a long time...but I sure loved the league with the red, white and blue ball. Appropriate for today, wouldn't you say?
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Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out today to that fine old country, the United States of America. Happy Independence Day, everybody.

The painting, by the way, is by one Bo Bartlett.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of July 2


FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE 1 Most of the time, when creators attempt to reprise prior successes, the effort falls flat. People change, things change...you know. I am pleased to report, however, that this is definitely not the case in this fun revival of the 80s "bwah-ha-ha" league by its original creators. For about 15 minutes, it was 1986 all over again and it was great. To me, whether it was the original JL/JLI/JLE run, or Major Bummer, or Hitman, there's always room for a lighthearted superhero story. Notice I didn't say parody. A

100 BULLETS 46 The conclusion of the "Chill in the Oven" story arc, in which several more plot points are elaborated upon, and nothing goes as expected– neither for the reader, or protagonist Loop Hughes. As always, consistently excellent...but I hope Azzurello goes for a little less slang-heavy scenario in the near future. This arc should have come with a glossary for those of us who haven't done time. A

KITSUNE TALES 1 In which Andi Watson takes the likeable, kooky fox spirit friend of Tamsin, the lead character of his Skeleton Key series and shows us what she was like before they met– and she's not so likeable and kooky. The script from Sugar Kat's Woodrow Phoenix is steeped in Japanese mythology, and it's all very impressionistically drawn (albeit a bit sketchily and often hard to follow) by Watson, and fails as often as it succeeds. Worth 5 bucks? For me, yes, but maybe not for you. A-

ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL 3 This one slipped a bit in my eyes for two reasons: One– Ryan Sook, apparently unable to make deadlines pencilling and inking himself, gets an sloppy, unsympathetic inker and while it's not terrible, it's not the high quality stuff I've grown accustomed to in the two previous issues, and two– the focus this time is on the somewhat uninteresting (to me) Humphrey Dumpler character, about whom I found out all I needed to know last issue. That being said, the character interaction is still great as always and I, for one, am intrigued to see Jason Blood pop up. B+

I also (finally) got my copy of The Clock Maker #3, so I could read it and #4 back to back. Maker is full of great ideas, but it could stand a more sympathetic protagonist. It's unusual enough, though, that I'm still very interested in where it's going. Finally, I picked up the issue of Startling Stories: The Thing– Night Falls on Yancy Street (#2) that I missed last week. It's a well-drawn and surprisingly (considering that it's Evan Dorkin scripting) straightforward beauty-and-the beast story that is just not grabbing me for some reason. It's only a four-issue series, however, so I'll see how it all turns out.