Tuesday, September 23, 2003

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I've also watched a gaggle of movies over the last week or two, and this be them:

1967's Clambake, a film which certainly contributed to Elvis' growing dissatisfaction with his movie career and onscreen image; indeed, it was less than a year later that he filmed the legendary 1968 Comeback Special on TV. Taken on its own merits, though, this film actually was kinda watchable, if a bit formulaic. Elvis is placed in another "Prince and the Pauper" type situation as he plays a rich oil heir/chemist who wants to find out if people could like him for who he is, rather than for his money. He trades places with a goofy ski instructor at a Florida hotel, and finds himself in a rivalry with Bill Bixby (wearing hair that looks like it was spray-painted with copper colored lacquer), a playboy boat racer, for the hand of sweet, demure Elvis movie regular Shelley Fabares. Much hilarity and several Elvis songs, some not bad, and some that will leave you slack-jawed in disbelief (there's an Oklahoma-inspired bit with some kids on a playground that has to be seen to be believed), ensues until the climactic boat race at the end, where the truth finally comes out and Elvis gets the girl. This flick looks more 1965 than 1967, and it's often pretty cheesy, but I found it an enjoyable way to kill an hour and a half.

John Woo's 2002 film Windtalkers is well made, and certainly conveys the intense horror of war effectively, but the problem is that what was supposed to be a drama about the secret code used in Word War II (actually the Navajo language) and the Native Americans who were responsible for using it to relay messages on the battlefield becomes the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan rewritten as an action vehicle for Nicolas Cage, who is good but should not have been the main focus of this movie. Christian Slater, of all people, has a pretty good-sized role as well...ah me. I remember when he was top-billed.

Another 2002 film, Pumpkin stars Christina Ricci as a perky sorority girl who falls in love with one of the contestants in a Special Olympics, a wheelchair-bound shot-putter named "Pumpkin" Romanoff. Of course, this causes no end of complications in their lives. Pumpkin is not a dreary drama, thank God, but one of those Farrelly Brothers-type satires that goes by the throw-enough-at-the-wall-and-some-is-bound-to-stick principle, and unfortunately not enough does. It's so inconsistent in its tone and intent that I got real impatient with it, and it has a copout ending to boot. Ricci is good, as usual, but little else here is. There is some interesting use of soundtrack music here and there, though.

I do, however, recommend (very highly) the 2001 William Macy film Panic. Panic is the story of Macy's character, Alex, who has been raised by his domineering bastard of a father to follow in his footsteps as a hit man. As an adult, he has a family who has no idea what he does for a living, and lives a normal life as a upstanding member of the community. Problem is, he's havig a midlife crisis, and he wants to quit, but he can't stand up to his father. He decides to start seeing a therapist, nicely underplayed by the late John Ritter...but when his father hears that he's doing this (and has confided his real occupation to his doctor), he orders Alex to kill his shrink. To complicate things further, Alex falls in lust with a young girl he meets in the therapist's office, played by Neve Campbell. He begins to desperately try to see her, even to the point of stalking. Macy is outstanding in the type of role he specializes in, an average Joe type who is struggling to keep everything around him in line but clueless about how to go about doing so...he's able to create sympathy for what is a pretty unlikeable character. Donald Sutherland is outstanding in the role of the heavy, as is Tracy Ullman, of all people, as Alex's uncomprehending wife. Heck, everybody's good, and this is a first rate film...one of those kinda movies that you hope you'll catch when you're awake at 4 AM watching TV.

And then, on the other hand, sometimes you run across a film like the dumb-ass Formula 51, a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels wannabe that doesn't come close to the Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino model it aspires to. Basically, it's about a drug, developed by Samuel L. Jackson's character out of legal ingredients and supposed to be 51 more times powerful than any other, that he takes to England, doublecrossing Meat Loaf(!)'s American crime boss in the process. Meat hires an assassin to off Sam and get back the formula. Chaos ensues as Jackson tries to sell his drug to the nutball crime lord, accompanied by a small-time hood who works for him. It's got Samuel L. Jackson, always a plus, but he is saddled with a dumb, mostly incoherent script that asks him to go around in a kilt (which he wears with style), states at the end that no one ever found out why he wears one, and then shows us why in the very next scene! I also thought Emily Mortimer was pretty easy on the eyes as the assassin, even though her role didn't amount to much. Formula 51 is worth watching once, I suppose, but check your brain at the door.

And that be it for movies from me lately!
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Well, Bill Sherman's already beat me to it, and has summarized it quite nicely-so go there first before reading any further- but I wanted to post some thoughts about HBO's new original series Carnivále anyway.

It's an densely plotted, challenging show, and most of the characters are ambiguous as far as their inclination towards good vs. evil. There's dust everywhere, blowing and making everything all gauzy and causing me to sneeze. Carnivále reminds me of David Lynch remaking Something Wicked This Way Comes, or maybe if Bradbury rewrote that book as a sequel to The Grapes of Wrath. But to its credit, it doesn't lay all its plot (tarot?) cards out on the table right away...which means I'll be surprised if it becomes a hit. I can't imagine who HBO imagines the audience for this will be, but I'm happy they're airing it nonetheless. Besides- it's got Buckaroo Banzai's Clancy Brown, playing a nutball preacher who (like almost everyone in the show) sees and causes visions, so I gotta watch. For some reason his character reminds me a bit of previously mentioned American Gothic's Sheriff Buck. It's cool to see former Twin Peaks cast member Michael J. Anderson in a role that doesn't ask him to speak backwards, and B-movie queens Adrienne Barbeau and Amy Madigan are always welcome.

Hats off to HBO for putting this on, and I hope they stick with it. If this had been on any of the mainstream networks, it would be off the air in two months max, after multiple time changes and pre-emptions.
OK, now that the birthday stuff is out of the way, here's one of those rambling posts. Brought to you by Coca-Cola and pretzels.

First, wake the neighbors and phone the kids, and let there be drunkenness, fornication, and revelry everywhere because commenter per excellence Shawn Fumo now has a blog! There is hope for this wild, wanton world after all.

Belated thanks for the kind words, Sean Collins! Hopefully, you're not just softening me up for when you tear into me over "Heroes" and Velvet Goldmine...

After going 10-4 in week 3 of the NFL season, I'm now 30-15, not too shabby. Lest I get overconfident, I've got to keep in mind that I'm not considering the spread, which as any gambler can tell you is the real test of a prognosticator. I had a hunch that Arizona might be tough for Green Bay in that desert heat, but I wasn't brave enough to pick that way. The loss by San Francisco made me happy on a personal level, 'cause I despise the Niners, and I honestly thought Cincinnati had a shot against banged-up Pittsburgh. And my Falcons. Oh, Atlanta. Little Feat reference there, snicker-snicker. It's pretty obvious that they have deep problems, and unless they find some confidence and fire somewhere it won't matter if Mike Vick comes back or not. Dan Reeves' conservative play calling is, as always, a problem. Reeves coaches like a man who forgot to take his Zocor. I realize that they've had a lot of success with Reeves, but there have been times when I wished they had someone in charge down there that had a better grasp of the modern NFL game. And all the people that were wondering what was "wrong" with Tampa Bay, good God, people, Carolina has a great defense! Were you even watching that game? They're gonna shut a lot of people down, Atlanta included in a week or so, and Tampa's offense isn't all that potent to begin with! There was nothing "wrong" with the Bucs that a trip to Atlanta couldn't cure. Underacheiving offensively, and overmatched defensively, I'm beginning to regret my 9-7 prediction for my hapless Birds.

And o bitter disappointment, but absolutely no surprise, my White Sox completely rolled over and spread 'em for the Minnesota Twins and blew their shot at the playoffs. It's my curse, I suppose, to root for teams with emotionless skippers. Charlie Manuel, who (if there's a God) will surely get canned at the end of this season, had his charges sleepwalking through what should have been the stretch of their baseball lives. You'd look at the opposing bench for both the Twins and the Royals, and the players would be alive, cheering, yelling- look over at the Sox's dugout and everyone would be sitting around, looking out into space or staring at the floor. Only Frank Thomas showed any life at all. Carl Everett looked a little fired up occasionally as well. Sad.

Looking at the new Diamond shipping list, I see where I'll be getting the following:

CATWOMAN #23
FABLES: THE LAST CASTLE
HELLBLAZER #188
JLA #87
LEGION #24
PROMETHEA #27
STRANGERS IN PARADISE VOL III #60


It wouldn't be a bad week, cost-wise, if not for that Fables one-shot which clocks in at $5.95. And didn't I say I was gonna drop Strangers? Can't...stop...buying... Oh well, also looking forward to the finale of the best JLA arc in a while, and best of all, a new Promethea!

Music today, so far: Neil Young- Tonight's the Night (I can't think of very many lovelier songs than "Albequerque" and "Borrowed Tune"); Harry Nilsson-Duit on Mon Dei (original title: God's Greatest Hits, which a horrified RCA immediately nixed), Jethro Tull-Living in the Past (I've had "Boureé" in my head most of the morning), Latin Playboys (love "Rudy's Party"), and No More Sad Refrains- The Best of Sandy Denny.
Mamaw has some great birthday company! Among others, she shares her day with (hang on, there's a bunch of 'em):

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The great Ray Charles, 73.

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Bruce Springsteen, 54. There are those who can't stand his stuff, for whatever reason, but I'm not one of them. He does have some annoying mannerisms, and often goes to the same well too often when writing songs, but he's down-to-earth, literate, and often rocks like a mutha. Favorite album: difficult choice, but I tend to listen to 1987's Tunnel of Love a lot. Heck, I like the usual suspects a lot as well: Born in the USA and Born to Run. Most underrated: again, difficult...but there's a lot of good stuff on The River that gets lost in the sprawl. For some reason, I've been playing Nebraska a lot lately...

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The great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who would have been 77 today. Hard to pick out any one favorite album, because to be honest, as a newish convert to jazz I haven't heard that many of 'em. But A Love Supreme is an amazing record, and I flat out love his version of "My Favorite Things".

And finally,
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Ani DiFranco, 33. I first saw her perform on one of those "Live from the House of Blues" specials that used to come on, and was absolutely blown away. She was performing songs from her then-recent Little Plastic Castles album, and seemed to be jittery and uncomfortable, causing her to belt out the tunes with a sincere type of aggressiveness, like she was trying to overcome great obstacles to get her music out there. Two songs especially stood out in that set: "Fuel" and "Swan Dive". I don't know whether she was really all that nervous, or if that was just her style, but I rushed right out and bought Castles (the CD on which those songs could be found) a few days later- and was incredibly disappointed. The studio seemed to suck the life right out of her. Still curious, I picked up her next release Up Up Up Up Up Up...and was unimpressed as well. So much for Ani with me. However, my son sings her praises, and I realize that she has a large following, so I can't dismiss her totally and should probably try to get something else one of these days.

Credit where credit is due dept: The photo of Ani is by one Susan Scott.
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First up, BSBdG's go out today to my grandmother Naomi Frasier, 88 today and shown here with my grandson, who was Bob the Builder for Halloween last year. Mamaw, as we like to call her, is currently recovering from knee replacement surgery, and is amazing her therapists by being ahead of schedule in almost every way. No surprise to all of us, but they just don't know her like we do- she's that way in almost every aspect of her life. All I can say is that I hope I'm as active, alert, and alive when I'm her age.

Monday, September 22, 2003



BSBdG's today go out to Joan Jett, 43 today. While she didn't exactly go on to revolutionize the role of women in the rock biz like some thought she might, she certainly has put out a respectable amount of great music over the years. Favorite album: 1983's cleverly titled Album.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Time once again for
Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning tomorrow: Indy, Cincinnati (I really think they're due),
Tennessee, Tampa Bay (sigh), Kansas City, New England, Minnesota, Seattle, Green Bay, NY Giants, Baltimore, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Denver.

For entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. The Show acknowledges no liability if money is lost betting by these predictions.

Week two record: 9-7. Overall: 20-11.
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Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out today to Gary Cole, 47 today, who most people (I fear) remember from his turn as Mike Brady in those smirky Brady Bunch movies, or even as (God help them) Brian Keith for the Aughts in the WB's lame revival of Family Affair. But- he'll always be (to me) Lucas Buck, the evil sheriff of Trinity, South Carolina in CBS's excellent American Gothic series of a few years ago. That was a fascinating show, with a great premise, and CBS totally screwed it by moving it around to different nights, pre-empting it incessantly, showing episodes out of order and failing to air four of the twenty-two, and tinkering with the scripts and cast...which ensured its failure, hardly a difficult thing to do given its unusual nature! Anyway, reruns pop up here and there on cable networks like Sci-Fi and Trio, and one can only hope that someone decides to collect it, in order, on DVD a la Firefly...if that ever comes out...

Friday, September 19, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 17


HUMAN TARGET 2
So far, so good as Milligan avoids the trap I had feared, choosing to explore a new direction for our "hero", rather than going once again to the lost-in-the-identity-of-someone-else well that I had hoped he would avoid. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone that's overly sensitive about the events of 9-11, but otherwise, this is a smart extrapolation of a real-life premise that I'm sure has a lot of basis in truth. Javier Pulido's art looks a little bit rushed this time out, and I'm wondering if he's ever done a monthly title before...but believe me, I'm nitpicking. He's still excellent and more than good enough to overcome the hamfisted hues of Lee Loughridge. A

SMAX THE ADVENTURER 2
More Groucho Marx meets Robert E. Howard, as we delve deeper into the backstory of the big blue Top Tener Jeff Smax, aka "Mr. Dragonslayer". Smax was not one of my favorite characters in the original series, but this is clever and interesting (pretty much par for the course for Alan Moore) and well drawn by Zander Cannon, especially the really bizarre looking dragon we encounter. Amusing Frazetta swipe on the cover, too. A

LUCIFER 42
Beatrice, the coat check girl from Lux (the Morningstar's piano bar), who has gone unseen for quite some time now gets a partial spotlight in this issue, which also deals with the reprocussions of Lucifer's actions two months back. We're also introduced (if they've appeared before, I don't recall them) to two giants who decide to assume the vacant position of ruler of creation, and they seem to have done their homework, which makes them a surprisingly credible threat, despite the fact that one of them reminds me of Billy Crystal's Monsters, Inc. character. As always, Ryan Kelly and Peter Gross do a capable, if a little inconsistent this time around, job. A-

CINNAMON: EL CICLO 2
Well, even though if you kinda squint your eyes you'll think you're reading 100 Bullets, this is not bad in its own right. Not the most original thing I've ever read, but this Cinnamon character is charismatic enough to be interesting, and the upcoming conflict between this daughter of a murdered sheriff and the daughter of one of his murderers looks to be worth following...and I have a sneaking suspicion that it might take an unexpected turn or two before it's over. I hope. A-

DAREDEVIL 52
Out of the 23 pages, only 8 actually advance the script, so once again we're treated to more of the backstory of David Mack's Echo character, which is useful, I suppose, if you didn't read her first appearance a couple of years ago. In fact, if not for those 8 pages I would have sworn I was re-reading last issue. So while it's all very well illustrated in Mack's Bill Sinkiewicz-influenced style, it's not very cost effective...so I dock this issue a notch and hope for closer to a 50-50 mix next time. B+

ULTIMATE SIX 1
Here we have an impulse buy. I really like the Ultimates book, and this is definitely cut from the same cloth, albeit with the Ultimates acting a bit more fascisistic than I remember from their own title. I suppose if we have to have superheroes, then I like them presented this way: terse, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, with a self-aware, sarcastic sense of humor. Of course, this is anaethema to many who have their hero-identification crosses to bear, so I'm sure there will be as much bitching about this as there is about the Ultimates proper. Bendis sets the tone from the beginning with his usual snappy dialogue, Joe Quesada turns in a nice art job on the first few pages, and Trevor Hairsine does his best Bryan Hitch impersonation for the remainder (and gets away with it more often as not), with Danny (Johnny B does not know who the hell you are) Miki holding it all together on inks. Nicely done, and if not for the inconsistent art I would have given it an A-. B+

B.P.R.D.: NIGHT TRAIN
I have to admit that I was a wee bit disappointed that this wasn't Abe Sapiens, Liz Sherman, Hellboy, and co. sitting around getting drunk on cheap wine...instead, it's more Liz and Roger the Homonoculus (with another appearance by Lobster Johnson, who's nowhere near as interesting to me as he seems to be to everyone else) as they get mixed up with (you guessed it) ghostly Nazis, this time riding a (yep) ghost train. Even so, it had my interest for about 3/4 of the book, until the creators seemed to run out of pages and charged full speed ahead to the end. Typical hit-and-miss Geoff Johns, and OK art by Scott Kolins, whose work I hated on Legion years ago, but apparently he's had a stylistic epiphany of some sort since. I like it a lot better now. B

THE FILTH 13
OK. Bill Sherman, Big Sunny D and Sean Collins have weighed in on this already, and they've managed to sum this up quite nicely, confirming the suspicions that I had about the general thrust of this difficult-to-like limited series. Look, for the record, I like Grant Morrison's work. I was right there, digging on his Doom Patrol and its magnificent spinoff Flex Mentallo, one of my all time favorite comics series. Marvel Boy. The Invisibles. Even a trade or two of his New X-Men. I think there are few, if any writers who have as much sheer imagination as Morrison, let alone the ability to challenge his readers. However, as with his Invisibles, I think that he has ultimately failed to get his ideas across because he has deliberately chosen to cloak and obscure them with overwhelming visual and verbal clutter, which would seem to be at cross purposes with the enlightenment he seems to hope to bring to his reader. But he apparently doesn't know how to do it any other way...when waxing all metaphysical on us, I don't think he could write a linear story if he wanted to. These convoluted "unreality vs. reality" and "common man striving to find that small spark of the divine within while dealing with the mundanity of the world in which he lives" notions were the heart of Invisibles, (especially) Flex, and the Filth, and only on Flex was he able to state his case clearly. Whenever I've finished something like this, I'm always reminded of Robert Christgau's review of John Lennon & Yoko Ono's Some Time in New York City, in which he states:

...But if agitprop is one thing and wrong-headed agitprop another, agitprop that doesn't reach its intended audience is hardly a thing at all.

And isn't agitprop of another sort what Morrison's trying to do, this time on a perceptual level rather than a social level like John & Yoko in 1972?

All right, that's all. I think I'll definitely have to re-read this at some point; after all, it took me a couple of readings to get to the bottom of Flex Mentallo as well. And I'll also mention that Chris Weston, with inker Gary Erskine, often turned in some stellar work during the course of this series, no more so than on this issue's touching last page. The coloring was magnificent throughout. A lot of what The Filth was trying to say may have evaded me, but I'll give DC a lot of credit for putting it out. I wish more floppy pamphlets, or trade paperbacks for that matter (and that may be where The Filth coheres) would be as challenging as this one has been. This issue: B. Entire series: C+

Note: The Filth review has been edited a bit to help clear up some fuzzy thinking on my part. Mercy buckets, Big Sunny D!
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Apparently a lot of interesting musicians met their respective makers in the month of September as well...in addition to Marc Bolan's death a couple of days ago, along with (more recently) Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash, yesterday was also the anniversary of the untimely death of Jimi Hendrix, and today marks the day that country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons began his long dirt nap as well.
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Multitudinous BSBdG action today! From left to right: Holy typecasting! Adam West, 73; One of the redoubtable agents of U.N.C.L.E., David "Ilya Kuryakin" McCallum, 70; and Lol Creme, 56, musician and video director, formerly of 10cc and Godley + Creme, currently affiliated with the Art of Noise.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I see where Peter Bagge's playing around in Marvel's sandbox again, this time with The Incorrigable Hulk. I wasn't going to pick this up, since I regard his previous efforts The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and Sweatshop as well-intentioned failures. But the splash is pretty damned funny, so I'm beginning to think about getting it.

Which makes me wonder- if I take this job in Nebraska, I don't think there are any comics shops for miles around Sidney. Too far to drive every week, I'm afraid...I have two alternatives, it seems- either get my current comics shop to ship my books to me every week, or enlist a subscriber service like Mile High Comics or Midtown Comics. That's an attractive idea, since they'll be bagged and boarded and I'd get a discount, which I don't get now. But I'm afraid that I wouldn't get my books until at least a week after they come out on Wednesday, and I'd be perpetually a week behind, which would play hell with my reviewing efforts. Have any of you out there got any experience with comics subscriber services like these, and can you advise me?

On a related note, I picked up everything I had previously listed yesterday plus BPRD: Night Train which I had overlooked on the Diamond list, and, believe it or not, Ultimate Six 1. And of course you know that I will review them ASAP.

I've also added a couple of new links at right: recent commenter of note Dave Fiore's Motime Like The Present, and pop culture sites Metafilter and Scrubbles. Click on the links and check them out, o my brothers and sisters!
Prepare yourselves, puny humans, it's time for another edition of

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How d'ya like the new logo? The Mondo Vinyl-O is a semi-regular feature in which I write about ten long-playing vinyl 33 and 1/3 RPM record albums that I have listened in the interval since the last MV-O. This is a direct result of obtaining a new turntable several months ago after not having one for a couple of years. I've been spending a lot of time getting re-acquainted with a lot of music that I don't own or is unavailable on compact disc, and I decided to pass my impressions on to you. Don't you feel fortunate? Anyway, time to lock 'n load!

The Rolling Stones-Their Satanic Majesties Request (London 1967)
The Stones' stab at psychedelia was universally panned at the beginning, but has grown in stature over the years. At the time of its release, a lot of people, John Lennon included, saw the record as being a little too imitative of Sgt. Pepper's, but I think that's a bit harsh- hell, it seems like everyone back then was trying to do music like this. There's a lot of self-indulgent screwing around on Satanic, to be sure, mostly on the meandering second part of "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)", and the dull "Gomper" which might have been better off left in the can...but there are some wonderful (and somewhat influential, I believe) songs which more than make up for it, like the resplendent "She's A Rainbow"; the eerie synth-driven "2000 Light Years From Home"; and "Citadel", which features a great riff (which Roxy Music nicked for Stranded's "Street Life") at its center. Brian Jones was the driving creative force behind a lot of this, it seems, and perhaps its poor reception was one of the things that led him farther down the slippery slope that resulted in his premature death, who knows...Mick 'n Keef abandoned psychedelia after this for the more earthy pleasures of country and blues-rock, and I'm kinda glad that they did...but this remains a fun listen. I wish I had the necessary discs so I could make my own Psychedelic Stones CD, with the '67 single "We Love You" and the earlier "Child of the Moon" added.

Tim Moore-Tim Moore (Elektra 1974)
Picked this up back in the late 70s in the cutout bin at the Emporium, where I met Bill Lloyd, who used to work there. I had never heard of Moore, and to be honest, I don't know what caused me to pick this up, even to this day...but I'm very glad I did because this is an excellent soft-pop album, reminiscent of Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac or James Taylor. Best of all is the marvelous opening cut, "A Fool Like Me" which overcomes pseudo-philosophical lyrics like "Cryin with the millionaire/Is like laughin' with the old street bum/Send him off to the colisseum/Promise him Kingdom Come" with a drop-dead gorgeous melody and wonderful string and vocal arrangements. Other winners include the pensive piano-and-strings ballad "Second Avenue" and the Jeff Buckley-ish "Sister Lilac". Richie Havens had a minor hit with "Aviation Man" on side two. When I got this I also picked up Moore's 1977 effort White Shadows, which was utterly unremarkable and disinclined me towards seeking out any further albums, of which there were only two or three all together. Wonder whatever happened to this guy?

Sparks-Whomp That Sucker! (RCA, 1981)
If you've been reading me for any amount of time, you've probably inferred that I have a definite weakness for whimsical smart-ass pop-rock, like Jellyfish, 10cc, or Queen...but nobody, and I mean nobody, could touch these guys in that department. Sparks were mostly a vehicle for the Brothers Mael, Ron and Russell- Ron was the deadpan keyboardist/lyricist with the Hitler moustache and Russell was the prettyboy frontman with a voice that was capable of belting or warbling, depending on what the songs called for. Whomp was very much of its time, a synth-heavy Devo-ish concoction punctuated with "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style chorus en masse vocals, produced by then-hot ex-Georgio Moroder engineer Mack, who went on to work with Queen and ELO. Which is not to say it was derivative or imitative, far from it...the Maels were too smart for that. Each song is based on some sort of humorous premise, evident in such song titles as "Tips For Teens", "I Married a Martian", and "Wacky Women". I think my favorite cut, though, is "Upstairs"- in which Ron muses on the thought process set to a surging synth-driven beat. It's catchy as hell. It's been several years since I picked up a Sparks record, even though they've released several since...after their 1984 album Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat I kinda lost interest. I've read good stuff about some of their recent albums so I might have to get one someday.

Dr. John-Desitively Bonaroo (Atco, 1974)
Dr. John, aka Mac Rebennack, had a huge hit album and song the year before with the Allen Toussaint-produced In the Right Place, so apparently both he and the record company saw no reason to deviate from that with the follow-up. Bonaroo is almost identical to its predecessor, featuring that New Orleans Seventies funk sound, except the songs just aren't as strong and there were no hits this time. In fact, Bonaroo was a fixture in cutout bins for years, as retailers bought a hell of a lot of copies that went unsold. Musically, though, this record is first rate, since the Doctor brought back his Right Place collaborators the Meters, and it's actually quite listenable...but it just pales in comparison. Favorite cut: "Mos' Scocious", with its dipsy doodle horn arrangement, and "What Comes Around (Goes Around)", a catchy soul tune.

Michael Nesmith-Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash (RCA 1973)
This was the Thinking Man's Monkee's last record for RCA, for whom he recorded a surprising six records in three years before leaving to start his own Pacific Arts company, which exists to this day. At the time, too weird for Nashville and too country for AM or FM radio programmers, Mike's RCA records are simply amazing country-rock efforts, with smart lyrics and excellent melodies, and I think it's a crime that they're so obscure. I dare say that Nesmith is the missing link between Gram Parsons and Steve Earle in the country-rock pantheon. Although every one of them has strong cuts, Stash represented a aesthetic comeback of sorts for Nez after the somewhat dull And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' and the sloppy, rambling Tantamount to Treason Vol. 1. I get a feeling of wanting to go out on a high note on this record, making me think that Nesmith knew that chart success was just not going to happen at RCA , so he just decided to record some music for himself and ta heck with what the bean counters thought. Side one is Nes originals, featuring a remake of the Monkees tune "Some of Shelley's Blues", and his honky-tonk angel song "Winonah", which is pure classic Nashville country. Side two is given to eclectic covers like Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and Billy Hill's "Prairie Lullaby". I think most of Nesmith's RCA albums are available on CD these days, so if you haven't heard them do yourself a favor and seek them out.

Mike McGear-McGear (Warner Bros. 1974)
McGear is, of course, Michael McCartney, satirist brother of the cute moptop. Partially as an excuse to audition future Wings guitarist Jimmy McCullough, and partially out of the desire to help out his bro, Sir Paul produced, co-wrote, and played on this album along with Linda and Denny Laine, essentially making this sound like a Wings record with a sense of humor. Actually, it's a lot better than that- I think Mike's sharp humor brought out the best in Macca's creativity, and this is actually one of the strongest records he was involved in post-Fabs. Lol Creme and Kevin Godley show up on a couple of cuts as well, playing their then-new Gizmo, essentially a device which made guitars sound like orchestral strings. Features a great, rocked-up cover of Roxy Music's "Sea Breezes", the pretty "Simply Love You", the Sensational Alex Harvey Band via Monty Python-ish "Norton", the T.Rex satire "Givin' Grease a Ride", and the horn-driven "Have You Got Problems?", and several other strong cuts. Mike de-emphasized the family connection when this was released, and therefore this record was a flop of historic proportions. In fact, and I might be mistaken here, I seem to recall reading that this was the worst-selling record in the history of Warner Bros. Records at the time of the article. A pity, but it's available on CD so apparently somebody out there wants to hear it!

David Bowie-"Heroes" (RCA, 1978)
The second of those revered and influential Eno collaborations, "Heroes" has always been, to me, kind of a mixed bag. Just like the previous years' Low, it's divided into a song side and an instrumental side, and just like Low, it's of varying interest. Most of the instrumentals bore me, although there are some passages here and there that sound interesting. The songs on side one, though, are pretty good, especially the lurching opener "Beauty and the Beast", the melodramatic "Sons of the Silent Age", and, of course, the title cut, which most people these days know from that terrible Wallflowers cover. It's rare when one song makes picking up an entire record worthwhile, but it's true in this case- Bowie's original version of "Heroes" is such a dynamic, evocative cut that it raises the quality of the rest of this album, like a great hitter in baseball can make his team a lot better. Of course, I gotta mention that this album would be nowhere near as strong as it is without the invaluable aid of guitarist Robert Fripp, who shines throughout- especially on that title song. Compared with the strong, groundbreaking Low, and its successors Lodger and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), "Heroes" comes across as a step sideways, but it does have its charms. And even the worst track here is far superior to anything Bowie's done in the last 20 years.

Davey Johnstone-Smiling Face (Rocket/MCA, 1973)
At some point between the albums Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John's guitarist recorded this understated, but likeable folk-pop album. Filled with songs about his wife, friends and family, it's definitely a labor of love for the underrated Johnstone, whose contributions to John's best records is often overlooked. Longtime EJ producer Gus Dudgeon did the board work, Elton contributed keyboards to one cut, and Rick Wakeman (credited here as "Bakeman", either a typo or an attempt to fool Wakeman's record company) chips in with synths on "A Lark in the Morning With Mrs. McLeod", a fun medley of folk songs, but everything else here is Johnstone and the odd member of the Elton John music family past and present, like Roger Pope or Caleb Quaye. Bert Jansch of Pentangle fame also guests on a well-played track. Of special note is the title cut, a song for his son (pictured on the cover) a mandolin exercise that is absolutely charming, and the equally charming "A Lovely Day", a happy song about, well, a lovely day! Of such slight origins wonderful music is often made. I have no idea how well this record sold, I've only seen one copy in my life in a record store, the one I own. I was a pretty big Elton fan at the time, and I didn't even know it existed until many years later. An real obscure, humble little gem of an album.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Brain Salad Surgery (Atlantic/Manticore 1973)
Boy, this record (the first ELP album I ever heard) brings back a lot of memories. Other ELP albums have their moments, but this one in particular is one of the most original, most over-the-top, imaginative, melodic, inventive, and any other adjectives you care to name albums by anybody that I've ever heard and it blew me away when I was 14. Guess that speaks to my legendary arrested development that I still think so. And yes, it's pretentious as all get out, too, but I've never minded pretension when the music that framed it was solid. From the bombastic, but triumphant opening track "Jerusalem", a William Blake poem set to music, to the neo-classical assault "Toccata", which is a bit much at first but gets better with subsequent listens, to the lovely, albeit thin-sounding "Still...You Turn Me On", to "Benny the Bouncer", a clever little story-song reminiscent of the trio's "The Sheriff" from Trilogy to the gonzo, all-stops-out sci-fi extravaganza "Karn Evil 9", this record is a tour-de-force, with inventive arrangements and excellent lyrics by good ol' Peter Sinfield, especially on "Karn Evil 9"'s second movement. So naturally, after I discovered ELP with this record, they completely lost the plot, due to internal squabbling, megalomania, drugs, and all the usual bullshit which disrupted musicians' careers. They tried to reunite in the 90s and even more recently, but apparently they totally shot their creative wad with Surgery because subsequent records were lackluster at best and abominable at worst. One of the reasons I never embraced Punk or New Wave all that much back then was because of the utter disdain punks had for this type of music.

Todd Rundgren-Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (Bearsville 1971)
Todd's second proper solo record, the one before Something/Anything and "Hello It's Me" made him, briefly, a star. It's an unassuming (well, as unassuming as Todd could be, anyway) little pop record, where Rundgren works out his Carole King and Laura Nyro obsessions...which is not to say it's all piano ballads- there are several rockers here as well, mostly Badfinger-style power pop (unsurprisingly, Todd produced Badfinger not long after this) with former Nazz members and studio musos. It's a fine record, but Todd hadn't really come into his own just yet. The highlights for me are the doe-eyed ballads "Long Time, Long Way to Go" and "Be Nice to Me", along with the smartaleck country song "The Range War" and the genuinely moving "Wailing Wall". He went on to do more accomplished music, but this is a solid album.

That's it! I try to limit it to ten (which takes me all morning to write), but there were twice as many records that I listened to in this period. Maybe they'll pop up in future Vinyl-O's. Sounds like a breakfast cereal, dunnit? I still intend to do a solo Beatles someday down the line, so stay tuned.
Antipopper recently made some interesting observations after watching the DVD of the first season of Twin Peaks. I would have never made the connection between the odd Americana slant of late 60s Beach Boys music and Peaks, but AP did, and it makes a lot of sense. I had totally forgotten that Van Dyke Parks had a role as Leo's lawyer.

I watched, and was utterly engrossed in, the first season of Twin Peaks. But for reasons which escape me right now I missed the first two episodes of the second season, and I figured that I would never be able to figure out what the heck was going on, so I didn't watch again. And sure enough, right after I made that decision, ratings fell hard and fast and the show was cancelled not long after. I've always felt partially responsible for the death of that show...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

And finally, in order to justify my membership in the Team Comics Bloggers club, here's what I'll be getting tomorrow according to the new Diamond shipping list:

CINNAMON: EL CICLO #2
FILTH #13
HUMAN TARGET #2
LUCIFER #42
SMAX #2
DAREDEVIL #52


A mercifully light week, although if they get in copies of Superman: Red Son 3 I'll pick that up too. I can't tell you how glad I am that The Filth is winding up. I gave up trying to figure out that frigging book a long time ago, and I can state unequivically that I'm sure this issue won't make anything any clearer. My comics shop didn't get in a copy of Scott Morse's The Barefoot Serpent last week, not that I could have afforded it anyway...but I'd still like to pick it up someday.
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The distinguished Mr. Sean T. Collins expresses disbelief upon reading that I didn't like the film Velvet Goldmine. Straight out of Bizarro World, me will now not explain why me liked that movie. Bear in mind that I haven't seen it since my initial viewing in 1999.

For those of you that don't know, Velvet Goldmine was for David Bowie (and to a lesser extent, Iggy Pop) what Citizen Kane was for William Randolph Hearst, a thinly veiled biopic. It was released in 1998, and starred Jonathan Rhys-Davis as "Brian Slade", a mysterious Bowie-like figure and Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild, a Iggy-type. Kane-style, new Bat-guy Christian Bale played a reporter who tried to find out what happened to Slade, who had retreated from the public eye in the 1980s.

Glitter Rock, or Glam Rock if you will, was a short-lived phenomenon that rose up as a reaction to the music scene in the late 60s, which was full of earnest hippie types who played bluesy rock. Glam brought a sense of theatricality, imagination, flamboyance, and yes, a gay sensibility to what was perceived as the stodgy music environment, and as a lad of 12 who was just beginning to discover music magazines and different artists, I was instantly attracted not necessarily to the androgynous aspects but just the sheer visual panache and musical cleverness of artists like Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Roxy Music. Of course, Glam never really caught on in the US, most likely because it was just too weird and different for mainstream tastes at the time. But I loved it, and was sad to see artists like Bolan fade away. Heck, many of my favorite albums and musicians remain those of this period.

So when I heard that a new movie was coming out, and it was going to be about the Glitter days and specifically Bowie (I also seem to remember that it began as a biopic with La David's participation, but Bowie pulled out of the project), I was very excited. And of course, when the film hit theatres the knuckleheaded conservative area movie house operators wouldn't show it because it was vaguely controversial. So I had to wait another year to rent the video, which I did on the day it was released. Perhaps because I had built up so much anticipation (feel free to pause between the ci- and the -pa), after I watched it I was hugely disappointed...even angry. If one is to go by the general impression that this film leaves, then one will think that all the Glam Rock genre was about was sex, drugs and decadence, and getting a boner when you saw Bowie/Slade wearing eye shadow and silk pants. Now don't get me wrong- I may be a Kentucky boy, but I'm not naive. I know that all sorts of sexual and chemical shenanigans went down, and was indeed a huge part of that whole decade, not only the Glam era...but there was the music. The imaginative, clever, wonderfully played (in most cases) music. In Goldmine, the music was incidental, of secondary interest to visualizing that tired old question of "did Bowie really sleep with Iggy and Jagger?". I just think director Todd Haynes and his scriptwriter(s) completely missed the forest for the trees. The performances were OK, but neither Rhys-Davis or McGregor had half the charisma of their real-life analogues. Marc Bolan, who was just as instrumental in the rise and fall of Glam as Bowie, was given very short shrift, and the scene at the end that was supposed to depict Marc was amateur-hour all the way. Of course you know that pissed me off, too. Insofar as the soundtrack went, there were several apt choices, but again Bolan got the shaft- choosing the obscure, slight ditty "Diamond Meadows", from the equally obscure first proper T.Rex album, more popular in Britain but almost unknown in the colonies, was just all kinds of wrong. I know, licensing issues may have made that necessary. But still.

I will say one thing- the film looked good. Visually, it was first rate, like Haynes' other films have been. But I think he totally underestimated and misunderstood the movement he was trying to depict, and just created a trashy, condescending cross between Stardust and Citizen Kane, and that's something nobody wanted to see...especially me. I felt like he was cynically looking down on me, and others, who embraced Glitter wholeheartedly in the 70s. And that, Sean, is why I didn't like Velvet Goldmine.
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Today marks the 26th anniversary of the automobile crash death of Marc Bolan, which leads me to my next post...
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BSBdGs today go out to über-sexy (the Word of the Day-Über) Jennifer Tilly, 42 today. Don't know what else to say...she makes bad movies better, and good movies even more so!
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Received an invitation the other day to an exhibit featuring my friend from Western Kentucky University, the über-talented artist Neli Ousounova, who is now attending East Tennessee State in order to get her Masters. I doubt I'll be able to attend, because that's a fairly long way away and I don't have a lot of cash for road trips right now...but I thought I'd post an example of one of her paintings, which she attached to the email, and let all of you know about it in case you might be in the neighborhood. Besides, I said I'd post Neli's work any chance I got, and I'm as good as my word. In this case, anyway.

When and where:
The Reece Museum - East Tennessee State University, on Thursday,Sept 18th, 2003. The opening reception is at 5-7.
Preliminary ramblings:

Well, thanks to the Giants' kicker, I finished this weekend at 9-7. Still, not too bad but not as good as last week's 11-4. Overall I'm 20-11 after two weeks, for you mathematically challenged out there. Like me.

Once again, my Blogger template is all fucked up, as Mojo Nixon would say...I'm not seeing my archives links, I'm missing the grey border at extreme right, and my blogger button is gone. I have deleted nothing, do you hear, nothing! I look at my template code and everything seems to be where it's supposed to be, so all I can assume is that it's another of those periodical Blogger glitches that come and go, usually, in a couple of days. I'll be glad when I get a job, because I'm seriously considering finding a webhost and publishing with Movable Type or one of those other Blogger alternatives. I'd like to come up with a new look for the page anyway. Yeah, yeah, I know I've said it before.

OK, on with the Show.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Only time for a couple of musical observations.

When I was at the radio station this afternoon, preparing to voice track Tuesday, I listened to what was being played at that moment. First, the Beatles' "Norwiegan Wood", then Sweet Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula", then Olivia Newton-John's "A Little More Love". It kicked my ass! Of course, you know I love the Beatletune, but to hear it followed by one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time, then one of about four Livvie songs that I like (and I don't care what anyone says) made my eclectic little inner child jump up and down. I don't pick the music that gets played, but sometimes it does closely resemble the kind of show I would do live...

I watched a broadcast of the Mountain Stages show on PBS Saturday Night; it was a best-of the previous year featuring several different artists, including Billy Joe Shaver, who sang a great song that I cannot remember the title of to save my life. Did any of you out there see this show and/or know what this song's called?

I also wish I could find a good version of Ramblin' Jack Elliott singing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".

Finally, I've been listening to Sparklehorse's Good Morning Spider CD a lot lately. I did the same thing last time I was depressed and unemployed three years ago. Guess it's my official "Broke and Down in the Dumps" soundtrack.

Good lord, the game's on. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff, like Chuckie Barris used to say.

And me am not going to explain why me loved Velvet Goldmine.
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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and bat-fans all over...I give you the new big screen Batman, Christian Bale. I've seen several films in which he's starred like Velvet Goldmine (which I hated), Reign of Fire, and Shaft, but he never made much of an impression on me one way or another. He needs to bulk up and has a bland onscreen demeanor, so I'm a little apprehensive. But after Bat-nippled armor and Bat-credit cards, anything will be an improvement. And for the record, I didn't think George Clooney was all that bad as Bruce/Bats...it wasn't his fault that the film in which he played the role was a stinking pit of putrescence from Hellywood.
Had a decent football weekend, even though for a while there I was considering changing the title from "Fearless Pigskin Prognostications" to "Fearful...". Anyway, I'm standing at 9-6 with only tonight's G-men vs. Tunaboys contest to go.

My Falcons apparently forgot that a pro football game has four quarters, and rolled over and spread 'em for the Skinnies. Man, I have never liked the 'Skins, and the Falcons should be ashamed for letting Spurrier come in with his ragtag bunch and letting them beat them down at home. Typical Falcons football team...two steps back for every one step forward, and they always find a way to make unlikely heroes out of every green rookie or second-year or has-been on every opponent. Latest example: Patrick Ramsey, who has been remarkably unimpressive in the two seasons he's been in the League...but boy, he looked like the second coming of Joe Montana yesterday. Not that I got to see the game, mind you...the jackholes at the Louisville and Nashville Fox stations I get would rather show TV movies and the like until the 3 PM game. Sigh. I should have my head examined for picking Detroit at Green Bay. Same goes for Cleveland at Baltimore. Just you wait, Tim Couch will be back under center there in no time. And even though I kinda like Tampa Bay, and had picked them to win, I still found myself rooting for Carolina who came in and dictated the game to the stunned-looking Bucs. Of course, both teams are in Atlanta's division, and I do not look forward to the home-and-homes with either. Tennessee didn't perform as well as I expected, either, but you gotta credit Indy's D...they look for real this year.

This concludes the periodical sports post.


Had lunch with the Political Correspondent Friday. As you may or may not recall, the JBSPC had recently attended Wizard World Chicago, and he brought along some of the sketches and prints he had obtained, one of which was a printout of a piece by one Leanne Buckley, a young lady hailing from Kentucky who is a member of Wisconsin-based Studio Ronin. I thought the piece was excellent, albeit sadly not represented on her Studio Ronin web page. Her work kinda reminds me a bit of Tommy Lee Edwards crossed with Jim Mahfood and Dan Brereton via David Mack as realized by John Van Fleet. Or something like that. She should be doing comic book covers NOW.
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BSBdG's are in order today for the luminous Fay Wray, an incredible 96 years old today. Most remember her as the screamer par excellence in the original King Kong, but she actually made several fine films in not only the Thirties but for several decades thereafter.

Here's a nice 1998 interview. You'll recognize the picture I stole right away. Quid pro quo, baby. Yeah.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Time once again for

Johnny B's Fearless Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning tomorrow: Miami, Tennessee, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Seattle, New England, Oakland, Denver, Minnesota, and the New York football Giants.

For entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. The Show acknowledges no liability if money is lost betting by these predictions.

Week one record: 10-4.

Friday, September 12, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 10


LEAGUE of EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN v2 6
I was somewhat disappointed in this after my first reading...it's methodical and workmanlike and far from the cathartic finale which one would expect from such a epic-in-scope tale. What redeems this for me is the deepening Moore's done to the Mr. Hyde character, transforming him from a sarcastic, brutish engine of destruction to a more sympathetic sarcastic, brutish engine of destruction by insinuating that the Jekyll side of him has perhaps reasserted itself a bit. Turnabout's fair play, I suppose. Another triumph for Mr. Moore and his collaborator Kevin O'Neill, and if the sequel didn't hit many of the high notes its predecessor did, at least it hit some other, equally nice ones. A

GOTHAM CENTRAL 11
Enjoyable catch-your-breath issue which focuses on the quirky, cute girl whose job it is to turn on the Bat-signal. The idea that someone not affiliated with the GCPD has to turn on the signal for legal reasons is smart and nicely done, and this is pretty well drawn by fill-in guy Brian Hurtt, who's no Michael Lark but will do in a pinch. Don't get me started about the coloring. A-

JLA 86
Combine Joe Kelly's sharpest scripting in quite some time with typically great art by Mahnke and Nguyen, and you get one of the most enjoyable mainstream spandex books I've read in a long time. Kelly's set up a credible menace- a little over-familiar perhaps (Martians again? Sigh.), but he's taken pains to make sure it's different enough to be interesting. Unless Joe totally botches the ending, he's come up with a real winner this time out, and hopefully his detractors will lay off for a little while. A-

JSA 52
Another inbetween-er type issue, in which we get several character-interaction interludes and setups for forthcoming storylines...and thankfully no fighting until the very end, when we get re-introduced to Johns' revamped Crimson Avenger, who's interesting enough, I suppose. This title's always been best when it's doing character stuff, and minimizing the grand cosmic throwdowns. Well, to me, anyway. A-

FABLES 17
If Buckingham and Leialoha had taken pains to make sure that their figures' facial expressions matched the goings on they depict, then this would have been a lot better...but as it is, this is pretty darn good. Some plotlines get resolved, some are launched, and so it goes. Clever and involving, but as always I wish the art was better. A-

H-E-R-O 8
A bit slight- but this storyline, featuring a crew of Jackass-style video makers who use the Hero dial to create superheroes who they then film doing dangerous stunts, is fun enough and the art reminds me a lot of the Mahnke/Nguyen team. B+

1602 2
I'm trying real hard to appreciate this, really I am, but I'm having a hard time because this glorified What If? is not only more of the same old Marvel self-mythologizing, but Neil Gaiman is being as pretentious as only he can be in writing it. Neil, when you had the Endless and all those mythological characters spouting this florid dialogue, it worked because they were, well, mythological characters and archetypes. We come to expect it and it sounds natural. When you do it here it fails miserably because these are simply reimagined Marvel comic book superheroes, hardly myths despite what Stan and Joe Q want us to believe. Andy Kubert is trying real hard to draw real purty-like, but it's just beyond his capabilities. It's blurry, not especially well staged, and reminds me in places of John Buscema at his Weirdworld-era worst. C
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The Man in Black is gone.

I clicked back on my homepage, and what do I see but another noteworthy death! I'm scared to go back there! Anyway, the great Johnny Cash has indeed died this morning. I've recounted the story before, but I've got to relate it again: chances are I wouldn't be the music fan I am today if not for Cash's "Ring of Fire", one of the first records I ever owned. My Dad was a league bowler, you see, when I was 4 or 5 and he would take me along sometimes. I would always wander over to the bowling alley jukebox and ask him to play songs for me, and I asked him to play "Ring" so much that I guess he figured he'd save money if he bought me the 45. Of course, over the years I kinda lost interest in Cash...his TV show was pretty cool, but wasn't on all that long, and as a teen and young man I just wasn't all that much of a country music fan. And let's face it, by the end of the 70s he was perceived as being irrelevant and a relic of bygone days, which made his Rick Rubin-enabled comeback albums all that much sweeter. I picked up his Essential Johnny Cash a few months ago, and have listened to it a lot lately. It's going in the CD player right now, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, he's reunited with wife June now, let's hope, and his legend will grow. Hopefully, there's a big jam session going on right now with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Sam Phillips, and John. And I hope this is it for noteworthy deaths for a while.

Extra: The Louisville Courier-Journal's Jeffrey Lee Puckett weighs in on Cash and his life.
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BSBdGs go out today to Maria Grazia Rosa Domenica D'Amato Muldaur, 60. Most people remember her with varying degrees of affection for her one and only hit record "Midnight at the Oasis", but the rest of that record (her self-titled 1973 solo debut) made me a huge fan, and I loved her subsequent Warners releases, Waitress in the Donut Shop and especially 1976's wonderful Sweet Harmony. Unfortunately her next two WB albums tried to be a bit more contemporary in their sound and focus but failed to be interesting...so I wrote Maria off as another casualty of that unholy trio Punk, New Wave and Disco and moved on. Thing is, Maria did too, and far from fading away has had a very successful (aesthetically, if not always financially) career, releasing a score of blues, jazz, gospel, and children's song records on a couple of indie labels, most of which I haven't heard. But I think that's gonna change one of these days.
Surprised to read about the death of John Ritter yesterday. I never was really a fan of the show most people associate with him, Three's Company, but he really opened my eyes with his excellent performance in Sling Blade.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Apparently next Friday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I think I'll try to go around talking like Jack Sparrow...unless I'm in Nebraska. Something tells me that won't play over there.

Found over at Stupid Evil Bastard's.
While on the subject, the Political Correspondent sent me this link to a Flash presentation which provides a 9-11 timeline and asks some pertinent questions.

Also, he sends along this statement from September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
It's a little muggy out this morning, but otherwise it promises to be a nice sunny early September day, just like the day two years ago which we all will never forget.

Myself, I heard the news accounts on the radio driving on the interstate (to the job I no longer have), and at the time nobody was sure what was happening. Arriving at work, a couple of people already had the video feeds going on their computers, and by the time I sat down at mine to do my usual internet stuff before beginning my work day, the other tower had been hit, and the terrible news was everywhere. We all had stuff to do, and we did it, but the events in New York were on everyone's minds. To be honest, I live almost a thousand miles away from New York City, so the events didn't affect me directly, so I simply got on with my life and only periodically checked in with the news on radio or TV. Which is not to say I didn't sympathize or feel horror or outrage; it was just happening far away and I didn't know anyone there then, so all I could do was live my life and hope for the best.

Two years later, I'd like to think we're a little wiser for the experience, but I don't know. Terrible tragedies bring out the best in many, but sometimes the worst as well. I looked around the blogisphereiverse to see if I could find anything about the two year anniversary to pass on to my readers, and I found myself liking Tom Tomorrow's piece here.
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Found at Sugar n' Spicy via Scrubbles: the Esquire Cover Gallery. We printed Esquire at Donnelley's for many years, and it was one of the few magazines we printed that I actually enjoyed reading. The above was the cover for the month I was born. Wish I could read those predictions for the Sixties!

Sugar 'n Spicy has also jumped on the Pants Press bandwagon, God bless 'er. S 'n S always features the best links to interesting art from a number of periods, and I recommend it highly.

Dirk Deppey, here's a suggestion: go ahead and sign up to Bitpass, using the three dollar option, and check out not only Scott McCloud's opus but Pants Press's Wary Tales.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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I noticed that I had several referrals from the Spanish-language comics blog La Carcel De Papel, so I clicked on a link and discovered that he has created a button for every webpage that he has links for, including mine! Ain't it cool? I'd been thinking about doing this very thing for a long time, but as with so many things just hadn't gotten around to it. Of course, I won't use it since it's his, but I just wanted to show you guys.

Gracias, Señor!
A few things I've noted around the old Blogospheriverse that I'd like to comment on:

First, in response to Dirk Deppey's new op/ed piece on the direct market, I'll make it short and sweet: survival of the fittest. That's what it's all about. If comics shop retailers, and the people who make the decisions that affect them, can't come up with a way to compete, then they should go under. For what it's worth, I've felt this way for several years now about Major League Baseball teams.


Eve Tushnet has written reviews of several comics she's read lately, and I think she underrates Human Target and Top 10 a bit. But I understand, because as a relative novice (I think) to comics history, she's coming from a whole different perspective than I am on these titles. And this is both a blessing and a curse for mainstream floppies these days; the very thing- in this case prior knowledge of the character, in the Target's case, and appreciation for comics cliches and canon in the case of Top 10, delights comics junkies and completely goes over the head of those less versed in floppy history. She also weighs in on V for Vendetta, which I've been hearing nothing but praise about for decades now and still haven't read. When DC first published it over here in the 80s I wasn't too impressed with the artwork so I passed. Still, I'm thinking I really should track a collection down someday and read it.

Forager23 has mad love for the great Karloff/Lugosi film The Black Cat, a longtime top ten movie of mine. He also clarifies his position on Art vs. art, and I think he makes a good point.

Alan David Doane was kind enough to point out my JLA/Avengers review over at his place, and I return the favor: here's his, written with Chris Allen.

Everybody's talking about the upcoming Peanuts collections that Fantagraphics will be publishing soon; as someone who was of that age to love Peanuts when it was being published, and grew older with it, it's a good thing. Peanuts, along with Pogo, were arguably the two most important newspaper comics strips ever published, and it's good to know that they'll be available in this format. That being said, I probably won't buy because I'm sure it will be very expensive...and to be honest I'm a bit bored by the strip. I don't read the reprints now in the daily paper, and it got so bad toward the end that I sorta lost a lot of enthusiasm for it.

I sincerely wish someone would set commenter extraordinaire Shawn Fumo up with a blog. I'd read it every day!

Also, I'm considering signing up for the Comics Journal MessBoard...seems like a lot of interesting stuff gets posted there. I've always kinda worried about being in over my head among the regulars, but hey, I've never let that stop me before!
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I've written before about how much I loved monster movies as a little kid. My parents, thank God, were open-minded enough to trust me to know the difference between make-believe and reality. I was assisted, of course, by reading such invaluable magazines as Famous Monsters of Filmland, which often showed pictures of Karloff and the like sitting in the makeup chair, or Ray Harryhausen bending over a tiny Ymir figure, which just kinda took away the illusion for me. And the Nashville and Louisville TV stations were my enablers. I got my monster movie fix at first from the Big Show, Channel 5 Nashville, showing classic horror flicks from the 30s-60s almost every weekday afternoon, then Channel 4's Creature Features with the great Sir Cecil Creape, and Louisville's Fright Night on Channel 41 and the Late Show on Channel 32 in the 70s. Also, I read the Monster Times faithfully in my teenage years, where I also learned that there was a sub-genre of horror movie, the gore film. I was curious about these (mostly) low-budget wonders, and managed to catch many of the seminal films at the local drive-in, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left. Three big turning points, as I became a young man: first, the 1982 publication of Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, a mother lode listing of obscurities both good, bad, and good-bad; second, the rise of VHS, enabling me to indulge my new gorehound instincts, especially through the auspices of Sinister Cinema; and third, R.R. Donnelley, the printing company where I worked for 15 years, printed the gorehound's bible Fangoria magazine for several months, piquing my interest and leading me to collect it for a year or two. Heck, sometimes I was the only one that would work on it- we had several people that refused to strip it or plate it! Anyway, eventually my interest waned as the years went by, as horror films became more and more formulaic and unimaginative...but I've never lost my interest in low budget horror obscurities (mostly, I must admit, 50s sci-fi and giant-monster films) from the 20s through the 70s.

Rob Zombie's childhood was similar to mine, I think, in this respect anyway. Zombie has made a career out of working drive-in double feature roadshow spookhouse imagery and fright film sound clips into his music, album packaging and stage image, and he made, a couple of years ago, a movie of his own. Its theatrical release was delayed for a long while, and it's just now been released on DVD. This film is titled House of 1000 Corpses, and I had the opportunity to watch it last night. I wish I could tell you that it's freakishly good fun and a blast to watch, but I can't. Sure, it's bursting at the seams with nightmarish gore imagery, horrible depraved creatures and screaming people...but it somehow manages to be completly derivative and totally unoriginal, and is extremely dull because of it. Zombie tries to be Herschell G. Lewis, T.V. Mikels, Ray Dennis Steckler, Al Adamson, and Andy Milligan all at the same time, and it just becomes too much after a while. There's not a single thing you haven't already seen in this film, if you've seen the likes of (to name but a few) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Shriek of the Mutilated, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Bloodsucking Freaks aka The Incredible Torture Show, The Corpse Grinders, or (just to pull one more out of my ear) The Ghastly Ones. Such blatant unimaginitivity is extremely disappointing, because Zombie obviously has good intentions...but apparently is just too determined to wear his influences on his sleeve. He tries to liven up the procedings by using a number of MTV video-ish visual tricks, but it just adds to the disjointed nature of the proceedings. Hopefully next time (if he gets a second chance) he'll be a little less inclined to give us a Cliffs Notes version of the gore films he loves and obviously knows and more interested in coming up with something fresh.

The film's not a complete disaster, though- these less-than-fresh goings on are convincingly staged and the gore effects- while nothing elaborate- are good, plus there are a couple of attention-getting performances by veteran Z-movie actor Sid Haig as a braying cross between Steven King's Pennywise, Foghorn Leghorn and Zippy the Pinhead, and Shary Moon, in her film debut, coming across as a psychotic Kate Hudson type who lip-syncs Helen Kane singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in a demented stage show put on by her nutjob family. She's pretty sexy walking around with her ass cheeks hanging out of what seems to be a pair of bellbottomed pajamas. Karen Black, who has "I coulda been a big star" written all over her face and her collagen-swelled lips, has a role as the matriarch of the family. She can take consolation, I suppose, that such luminaries as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Orson Welles also starred in low budget horror films at the end of their careers.

If you are disposed to like this sort of thing, and are curious, check out House of 1000 Corpses. You won't be disappointed if you don't expect much.

Absolutely the last Warren Zevon posting of the week.

Bill Sherman has listed five great Zevon songs that aren't "Werewolves of London", and while it's a great list I can't resist making my own. And it goes like this:

Desperadoes Under the Eaves from Warren Zevon
A song of 70s El Lay disaffection, it features a great melody and one of WZ's best lyrics:

And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill


It ends hilariously with closing harmonies by several LA luminaries, including arranger Carl Wilson, humming as if to emulate an air conditioner.

Jungle Work from Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School
Nobody could mock and celebrate simultaneously like our boy. A tale of mercenary soldiers, with some audacious rhymes and more humming against some heavy metal gutar.

Lear jet S.W.A.T. team
On a midnight run
With the M16
And the Ingram gun


Mohammad's Radio (live) from Stand in the Fire
One of the best cuts from his criminally unavailable 1981 live record. This had already been recorded on his debut, and Linda Ronstadt took a shot at it as well if I recall correctly, but this is the best version in my opinion. WZ's earlier attempt was fine, but just a little stiff and fussy; no chance of that here as Zevon is in full gonzo mode and his band falls right in step. The result is more of an in-your-face version and is much more resonant because of it.

Charlie's Medicine from The Envoy
A great story-song about the unfortunate title character and a drug deal gone bad, with acoustic verses and rocking, dissonant choruses. Like Stand in the Fire, I fail to see why this album's not in print.

Poisonous Lookalike from Mutineer
I was determined not to name more than one song from each record, and there are several on this one that I'd like to name, like "Similar to Rain", "The Vast Indifference of Heaven", and "Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse"...but I think this song of betrayal and bad feelings is possibly the best, with a devastatingly correct guitar solo towards the end.

Well, that's another list. Feel free to make one of your own, I'm sure it will be just as good. There are a lot of great WZ songs to choose from!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

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BSBdGs go out today to Penny pretty herself, Angela Cartwright, 51 today. Dear God, I feel old. Anywho, Angela is best known as Penny Robinson on Lost in Space, hence the above pun. Click on her name to go to her official website, which features a ton of photos of Angela present and past. She also was one of the singing Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, and the little kid on The Danny Thomas Show.

Here's a cool picture of Angela meeting the Beatles.
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Been thinking about Nick Drake this morning, which caused me to put on his glum masterpiece Pink Moon. While I won't go into a long discussion of the record, I'd like to note that I believe that the piano break in the title song is one of the loveliest things I've ever heard. Didn't really care to hear it used in a VW commercial, though, although it did make a lot of folks aware of Nick's music that wouldn't have been ordinarily.

This in turn led me to realize that I still haven't seen the documentary A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake, which I need to add to my list of films I want to see before I die.

I also love Robyn Hitchcock's song "I Saw Nick Drake". Typically odd Hitchcock lyrics, but a haunting melody.

The above portrait of Mr. Drake was done a couple of years ago by a struggling artist, whom I've become quite close to over the years and has a terrible self-confidence problem. He is quite capable of much better if his head and heart would only allow it.
Random stuff from hither and yon:

Thanks to Tampa Bay's alarmingly easy win over Philly last night (it will get better, Theresa, trust me), I finished week one at 10-4. More fearless predictions on Saturday.

The amazing Vera Brosgol has got her new version of her Tourniquet website online now. Go check it out, especially the "art" section. I envy those young ladies (and that Bill Mudron fella, too) of the Pants Press so much. They are good.

Speaking of Pants Press, if you've got three bucks to spend 50¢ (unless you're already a Bitpass subscriber), then you can read their group effort Wary Tales online. I'm still deciding whether or not to drop three dollars. I'm sure it would be worth it...

Looking at the Diamond shipping list for tomorrow, I spy with my little eye that I'll have the following waiting for my shrinking dollar:

FABLES #17
GOTHAM CENTRAL #11
HERO #8
JLA #86
JSA #52
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL II #6
1602 #2


I also see where HAWAIIAN DICK VOL 1: BYRD OF PARADISE, the collected Hawaiian Dick mini-series, is coming out. A great chance for all of you who didn't pick this up several months ago to get in on a great, fun book.

One thing that's been troubling me- I don't think there are any comics shops anywhere near Sidney, Nebraska! I can't frigging drive to Denver or Omaha or Lincoln or Cheyenne every week for my comics! I'm considering a subscriber service, like Mile High...but only if I can get my books weekly, so I can continue to read and review them in timely fashion. Of course, I'm still waiting for the call from Cabela's HR secretary to let me know when they can fly me out. I don't know about you, but I hate to wait for the phone to ring.

I have got a huge stack of LPs sitting on the speaker, which means I'm overdue in writing a Vinyl-O. I'll try to get that done this week sometime. I know I said that the next one would be a special solo Beatles edition, but that will have to wait. Many of the records in the pile are from the all-day Zevon marathon tribute I had yesterday.

Went to see Horse Cave Theatre's version of Les Liasons Dangereuses last week, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Very witty script, and the actors pulled it off nicely. None of my kids were in it, but one of my daughter's buddies had a small part. Got my ticket courtesy of my baby girl, who is House Manager right now. My son has just been named Master Carpenter, after the firing of the first MC who apparently was a real asshole. I'm a proud papa. Back to Les Liasons, seeing this has caused me to want to see one of the recent filmed versions...I'm aware of Dangerous Liasons, and Valmont, so it will be one of those.

OK, that's all the rambling I'll do for now. Maybe more later.
More on Warren Zevon:

A nice obit by Louisville Courier-Journal music writer Jeffrey Lee Puckett.

Rolling Stone chips in with a group of past interviews and articles.

Also, I caught David Letterman's tribute on his show last night, and it was nice. Paul's band played Zevon songs before and after commercial breaks, and then at the end they reran his last performance from his October 2002 appearance, in which he sang "Mutineer", one of my fave WZ songs. I'll tell ya, I got a little misty there at the end.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Hooray for the Louisville Courier-Journal; they carried yesterday's notorious Doonesbury strip, and even wrote an editorial about it.
Oh, a note to Neilalien:

Thanks for the info on the Wand of Watoomb! I read that indeed-classic Spidey/Doc Strange team up oh so many years ago when I was a squirt, but had forgotten about it. I was thinking that particular object (one of the JLA/Avengers quest items) was Tiboro's wand.

One of my favorite late-60s comics was the Thomas/Colan issue of Doc in which he battled Tiboro. Colan was just out of his mind drawing that stuff!
A personal note:

The job hunt has gotten interesting. I finally got my call from Cabela's on Saturday afternoon (!), and it looks like they're going to be flying me out either the weekend of the 18th or the 25th for an interview and an opportunity to get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Wow. Nebraska. I don't suppose any of you out there are from the Cornhusker State, are you? I hope they have cable and DSL out there, that's all I know.
Going into tonight's action, I'm 9-4 in my NFL predictions. I should have known that Buffalo would be looking to kick some ass, and I should have known better than to pick Cincinnati, but all in all, not bad.

I thought the Cleveland Browns looked pretty good in their orange pants, and Atlanta's new unis don't look all that bad, but geez Louise- who the heck decided that the Bengals should wear all black on a 80 plus degree day? I'm not saying that's why they lost, but it couldn't have helped.

Warren Zevon has passed on. Knowing it was inevitable doesn't make it any easier to accept.

I was actually kinda late to pick up on Zevon; I was aware that he was a singer/songwriter out of L.A., one of the people in Jackson Browne's orbit, and I was not a Browne fan. I thought "Werewolves of London" was kinda neat, I liked his should-have-been-bigger single "A Certain Girl", and I liked the songs that Linda Ronstadt covered, but for some reason I was disinclined to buy until Creem magazine and Robert Christgau praised the heck out of his 1980 live set Stand in the Fire. A raucous, sloppy, fun concert LP, it made me a Zevon fan. I went out and picked up Excitable Boy, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School (with "A Certain Girl"), and not long after, his next release The Envoy. Touring on that album, I caught him in concert at the Louisville Palace, and remember it as a great, energetic show. Still into his self-destructive rockstar period, he was loose but certainly gave the crowd its money's worth. After a five year hiatus in which stopped drinking for good, he returned with some excellent records, beginning with Sentimental Hygeine and later Mr. Bad Example, Mutineer, and Life'll Kill Ya, with only the muddled 1989 William Gibson-influenced concept record Transverse City failing to be consistently interesting.

Favorite Zevon album: Actually, I like them all (except City) more or less equally. I tend to listen a lot to the 1996 anthology I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, which has most of the highlights of WZ's career covered, except, inexplicably, "A Certain Girl".

Most underrated: 1995's spare Mutineer, which uses its odd instrumentation and naked, openhearted sentiment to good effect on some of WZ's strongest post 1970s songs.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Zevon. That's all she wrote.

Photography by Mark Silver.
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Let's get the BSBdG party started today for Miss Alecia Moore, aka Pink, all of 24 today. Her M!ssundaztood CD was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2001-02.

Also, today would have been the 71st birthday of Virginia Patterson Hensley, better known to the world as the great Patsy Cline. Further evidence that great musicians should not fly in small planes.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Not having a good day, prediction-wise, and a slightly better day fantasy football-wise...and my Falcons can't seem to get out of their own way against the Tunaboys. Sigh.

But THIS picked up my spirits a bit! Found at Antipopper.

Chris, you should read this. If you don't already know.
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Saw a movie last night that was the best film I've seen in many a moon: 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, starring Walter Matthau (in a startling yellow necktie) and Robert Shaw and shown in wonderful widescreen on TCM last night.

Everything about this film is razor sharp, from the direction to the script to the excellent performances by all the leads. The music score, by David Shire, is all early 70s jazz-funk dissonance and grabbed me at the opening credits. In all fairness, the film looks very dated- everything from fashions to cars to slang is very 1974, and I would imagine this film would be particularly jarring for New York City residents- but that ceases to be a distraction about five minutes in. Shaw in particular is very good as the British mercenary who masterminds the subway car heist, coolly working crossword puzzles while he waits for the ransom money. I honestly haven't seen many films besides this and Jaws that feature Shaw, maybe I should attempt to remedy that. Matthau is Matthau, grumbling and kvetching around, but his character has a no-nonsense, capable side that manifests itself more and more as the film goes on. In spite of the tense subject matter, there was a lot of humor including a long gag with Matthau conductiong a tour of the subway control center for a group from the Tokyo subway system, who he presumes can't speak English; and Jerry Stiller is on hand to provide several funny one liners. The subway car hijackers are code-named "Mr. Blue", "Mr. Green", and so on, and you guessed it- this is the film Quentin Tarantino borrowed from when he made Reservoir Dogs.

Speaking of the NYC perspective, here's a nice review of Pelham I found at the Village Voice's website. She nicely sums up the film and the City it depicts that no longer exists in a lot of ways.

If you haven't seen this, then go out and rent it. It's one hell of a good film.

Time to go watch some football...