Cabinessence is the official soundtrack of Easily Mused, Spotify playlists chock full of infectious and stimulating tunes from many places and times. It's outsider music, hidden gems, buried treasures, and hits you remember! And it's absolutely free, a labor of love from a lifelong music lover. Simply go to the Cabinessence page on Facebook, click "like" and you're all set! Stay attuned...

December 28, 2011

A Stepping Stone Year

Hello, fellow travelers! The topic for today is 2011, a memorable year for me, if not for this blog. This entry is not for the casual reader of Easily Mused, one who arrived here by googling "Kaspar The Dead Baby" or "Betty Betz," although I appreciate that there are still people out there who still are curious about such arcane subjects. No, this entry is for the faithful few who have come here regularly, especially this year, and may have been disappointed by the infrequency of the posts or the direction, or lack of direction, of this blog.

Let me start by telling you a few things that happened this year that contributed to my absence here. In the summer, feeling a bit cramped in our smallish apartment, my girlfriend Heather and I moved down the street to a smallish townhouse. Around the same time, I received a promotion at work, which consumed more of my time and mental energies than I initially expected.

Another unexpected thing happened when I decided to cancel my cable service. My attention span grew! I was a serial channel switcher for years, and it had gotten to the point where my attention span was so short that I could not make it through a two hour movie to save my life. It was alternately amusing and deeply frustrating putting on a movie I really wanted to watch and falling asleep twenty minutes into it. I don't want to put the blame entirely on cable, as this phenomenon started occurring when I became a stay-at-home Dad and was routinely operating on four hours of sleep. I am happy to report that my attention span is quite healthy now, but as I again reclaimed the ability to watch entire movies, even entire seasons of television shows, less of my free time was used to blog. Last week, I had the cable reinstalled. I could happily do without 90% of all programming, but the shows and channels I missed, I REALLY missed. Turner Classic Movies, I'm talking to you. I also have noticed that there seem to be even more commercials than ever and the cadence of people's speech patterns sometimes seems unusually fast, especially on news channels. Or maybe I'm just slowing down.

What really drained most of my time and energy this year was a desire to focus less on the creative people who have inspired me ( and continue to do so ) and concentrate more on my own creative endeavors. I have written songs for many years, and most of them only exist in my mind. I feel the need to purge myself of this backlog of material, to record the old to make room for the new. I have no desire to be famous, but I do feel it would be a shame to spend so much time developing a talent and not share the results of my efforts. I have to admit, it would be exciting if one or more of my compositions resonated with people. At any rate, I am proud that I still have the optimism required to pursue a dream. I think it's a good thing.

As for this blog, there are a few things I know for sure. First, I still enjoy blogging and I want to find the time to post regularly. The blogs I follow regularly, like Mark Evanier's News From Me and Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.'s Thrilling Days of Yesteryear are fun to visit, in part, because they are updated frequently. Also, I think it's very important that I zero in on particular areas of interest, so that people have some idea of what kinds of articles to expect when they visit.

This blog is essentially a way of sharing the creative works that stimulate me, especially those works that I feel have been overlooked or are underappreciated. I am not an expert on copyright law, but let me pose this hypothetical question. If I post a "Sugar and Spike" story by Sheldon Mayer, and complement that with some information and/or links to information about Sheldon Mayer, and someone who was previously unaware of Sheldon Mayer or his work stumbles upon the story, and as a result, becomes interested in reading more stories by Sheldon Mayer, is this not educational and a legitimate Fair Use of said material?  Consider that I am not profiting from sharing the story, and that I do not even allow ads on this blog. Even if the story is reprinted in a Sugar and Spike Archive, is there really a serious concern that a reader would not purchase a 200 page volume of Sugar and Spike stories because one of the stories was posted on a blog? In fact, isn't it at least slightly more likely that someone with no prior knowledge of Sheldon Mayer might discover his work on this or another blog, and become interested in buying a Sugar and Spike Archive based on that exposure? If an entire story is too much, what is appropriate? A panel? A page? Who determines this? Of course I want to stay on the right side of the law. I just can't convince myself it's a crime or even a tiny disservice to say to a friend or even a stranger, "Sheldon Mayer is great. Check out this story, and you too may become a fan."

Hmmm, went off on a tangent. I will close for now by wishing you every happiness in the coming year. And I can't sign off without mentioning that I asked my sweetheart Heather to marry me and she said yes! She is my special angel and I am one damn lucky son of a gun!

Cheers!

November 22, 2011

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Did you hear the one about the guy who wrote hundreds of songs but never shared them with anyone? Well, until recently, that guy was me. I have begun the task of transferring years of words and music from my brain to my hard drive. Here is a song called "We've Died," which is about the feelings of loss that I felt when my second marriage ended a few years ago. It's not purely autobiographical, but the emotions are real.



It was Elvis Aaron Presley who pulled me into the world of music. I can only speculate, but his death in 1977, when I was only four, was accompanied by an unprecedented amount of media coverage, and I believe that was one of my first brushes with the concept of death. Radio stations played his music around the clock for weeks, and I listened. Although Elvis was not a songwriter, he employed some of the best songwriters of his era. Elvis' greatest contribution was the embracing of so many different genres of music. Rockabilly, bluegrass, country, pop, gospel, blues, r&b, even world music, "It's Now or Never," anyone?

Once I was hooked to E's ear candy, any thoughts of being a normal little boy were soon discarded, as I stocked up on Elvis records, magazines, and bubblegum cards. I even had a little statue of The King on top of my dresser, replete with fake little rhinestones. You never saw a kid get so excited as when I discovered his movie oeuvre. Yeah, those flix are cheesy, but c'mon, it's The King!

Childhood obsessions fade, and mine did eventually, and for many years I was very uninterested in listening to music. How do you top Elvis? I do remember really enjoying an 8-track collection of novelty tunes my brother brought home. My parents played records and tapes around the house, but I was more interested in drawing, reading comics, watching tv, and playing with my friends.

Then The Beatles happened. No kidding. 1988, and the Beatles happened to me. Totally out of sync with my generation's own musical revolution (Sorry Madonna and Whitesnake), I discovered that everything I knew about The Beatles was wrong. They weren't just four mop-top having, grey suit wearing, head bobbing freaks singing "Yeah Yeah Yeah!" and making girls faint. Their sound evolved year by year, becoming more complex, tearing down walls, building bridges, and illuminating truths with maddeningly catchy melodies. If Elvis had handed me the key, then the Beatles had flung the door wide open!

The Beatles had been influenced by other artists and so I traced that path. Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Carl Perkins. All revelations. The Beatles had contemporaries and I listened and learned from them. The Beach Boys, The Who, The Kinks.  The Beatles had influenced artists so I followed them, too. Squeeze, Elvis Costello, XTC. All kinds of threads emerged. I followed labels. Motown. Stax. Sun. My tastes became more eclectic. De La Soul. Randy Newman. Frank Zappa.
I worked my way into the present day, careful to avoid fake hype, refusing to buy something only because it was new and commercially successful. I demanded authenticity! Screw Vanilla Ice, give me They Might Be Giants! Milli Vanilli no! Joni Mitchell yes! Backstreet sucks. NRBQ rocks. Other people my age wanted music to dance and make out to, I wanted music to help guide my life, to give me the answers I was seeking. And it did.

It elevated my consciousness, conveying an aural history of mankind, putting me in touch with emotions I did not know I had. I felt as though I had climbed to the top of the mountain. I found nirvana, and it wasn't Nirvana. It was the truth in beauty, and the beauty in truth. Most impotantly, the music I was drawn too reinvigorated my soul, giving me joy to combat the sorrow. Did you know the blues was a music of joy?

This then is the goal of my music. To tell the truth and make it beautiful. No genres, just catchy melodies capturing life. Stories of love, stories of loss. I won't be dressing up in egg shells. I'm not trying to be a gazillionaire. I only hope that one or more of the hundreds of songs I have written and continue to write might make someone a little less jaded, or in touch with their life's purpose, or a little less unhappy. I won't be working hard to manufacture an image that shallow people can accept and idolize. That's not what a good songwriter does. I am only hoping to write a song as good as a Beatles song, a song that might be sung after my day is done. If that song can put my daughters through college one day, that will be gravy.

I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

November 21, 2011

Grateful, Not Hateful

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I have been pondering all the reasons I have to be thankful, and there are many. Among the greatest blessings I count is an optimistic disposition, one that has enabled me to stay strong through many setbacks. This quality, optimism, seems to be rare. When I am out in the world I feel as though I am surrounded by cynics and negative thinkers. People who have had misfortunes befall them, and now feel it is their duty or right to project their suffering on others. Randy Newman wrote a great song about this subject called "I Want You To Hurt Like I Do." I've never wanted anyone to hurt like I have. And whenever I have hurt, I have made it my top priority to honestly work through my feelings to reach equilibrium as soon as possible, figuring I am no good to myself or anyone else if I allow negative thoughts to weigh me down. Sing it, Curtis...


The Impressions "We're a Winner" 

Hate. It's out there. Where does it come from? Is it a moral failing of mankind, a biological phenomenon, or a supernatural force? Is my lack of understanding or unwillingness to participate in the concept of hate a sign of naievete or evolution? Like anyone else, I have been the recipient of hate feelings. I'm sure there have been times when I have thought hateful feelings but somehow those feelings have always been trumped by a desire to forgive and forget, rather than act out in a rage.You know what's weird? Sometimes when people have directed anger towards me and I have failed to reciprocate with anger, it seems to have made them even angrier. What is that about?



Hate by Robert William Service


I had a bitter enemy,
His heart to hate he gave,
And when I died he swore that he
Would dance upon my grave;
That he would leap and laugh because
A livid corpse was I,
And that's the reason why I was
In no great haste to die.

And then - such is the quirk of fate,
One day with joy I read,
Despite his vitalizing hate
My enemy was dead.
Maybe the poison in his heart
Had helped to haste his doom:
He was not spared till I depart
To spit upon my tomb.

The other day I chanced to go
To where he lies alone.
'Tis easy to forgive a foe
When he is dead and gone. . . .
Poor devil! Now his day is done,
(Though bright it was and brave,)
Yet I am happy there is none
To dance upon my grave.



Of course, I use the word "hate" sometimes, or I should say I misuse it. I might say " I hate brussels sprouts," but that's just a shorthand way of saying "Brussels sprouts are not a food that I care to eat, ever, ever, ever." Sometimes, I get migraines and I will claim to hate them too, but all I'm really saying is that the pain I feel is unpleasant and I wish I never had to experience it. Let's face it, most of the people and things we purport to hate are really just annoyances. That rude driver who cuts us off in traffic, the rain that plagues our parade, the apartment dweller who lives aboves us and likes to play his balalaika all night long.

A sequence from Optic Nerve #6, by Adrian Tomine

Well, you might ask, what about Hitler? Surely, he was at least one man that is worthy of all the hate one human race can muster?

Long pause....thinking...

Hitler's actions were unconscionable, wicked, horrid, obviously the deeds of a madman. I am glad his plans were thwarted by brave soldiers and citizens, many of whom sacrificed limbs and even their own lives to remove him from power. I feel tremendous sadness for the innocents that were decimated by Hitler's own dogma of hate and intolerance, beautiful souls that had their futures stolen. But hating Hitler? Hating was Hitler's stock in trade. Hating is what Hitler did, and it is not what I do. I would never shed a tear over Hitler's death, and I surely feel great relief that he no longer menaces mankind. I could, in a shorthand way, absolutely state " I hate Hitler," but I think I would really be saying "Hate and the architects of hate must be challenged and defeated by love and the practitioners of peace." The old "hate the action, not the person" theory.

I wonder if I'll get hate mail for admitting a reluctance to practice hate on someone whose behavior was so inhuman?

I'm not claiming a moral high ground. Maybe I was just born minus the hate chromosome. I think there is ample evidence to suggest that children can be taught to hate, brainwashed to believe that some people are inferior because of their skin color or gender or wealth level. I wasn't taught to hate. My parents were deeply committed to the Golden Rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. Ironically, they were largely unsuccessful in practicing that philosophy towards each other. But their countless arguments did teach me that nothing fruitful ever comes from personal attacks or hateful rhetoric. Their hate sprang from frustrations, financial hardship, fear of an uncertain future, the same kind of scenarios that are playing out on a larger scale in today's 1%, 99% America. It must surely be tempting to a person who has been out of work for a year, a person for whom the planning of his or her every meal is an exercise in frustration, a person who can scarcely afford to provide the very basics to his or her own child to be filled with rage an anger and to want to direct that rage toward the people who have gamed the financial system to ensure that they will live in absolute opulence, without the slightest care for the plight of the very people they have exploited to create this reality for themselves.



Why is it then that the hate I have seen in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere comes not from the downtrodden citizens, seeking to exercise their inalienable right to publicly express their frustrations, an idea at the core of our American system, but from the purveyors of pepper spray and rubber bullets whose salaries are paid by the very people they are using these weapons against? From the beginning of the Occupy movement, the media has largely portrayed the demonstrators as radical socialists, dirty hippies, lazy hipsters, thieves, and rapists. The comment sections on these hatchet pieces are filled to the brim with hateful comments against the 99%, but in truth, the anonymous nature of such forums makes it hard to tell how many of these blistering barbs are authentic, and how many are paid for by the machine that has been engineered to keep Americans divided so that we might continue to be conquered. If you had a small child to feed and no money, would you not consider typing hateful comments eight hours a day for say, $1,000 a week?

 "It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get." Rene Descartes 

As an optimist, I believe that hate is not our future. It didn't work for the Nazis 70 years ago and it's not going to work for Americans now or at any point in the future. I think the Occupy movement would do well to reject hate in thought, speech, and action and to extol the winning qualities of love, peace, and brotherhood no matter how associated they are with the "dirty hippies," no matter how ridiculed those concepts are by the well-oiled machine of hate. 

I believe hate is a kind of slavery, and love is the key to freedom. 


Norman Rockwell's The Four Freedoms


And as Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful that I still believe that.

Love, John

November 8, 2011

"A Lotus of Countless Petals"

Jerry Beck at Cartoon Brew, a wonderful resource for animation fans, recently posted a great find, a half hour video autobiography of artist Eyvind Earle. Mr. Earle wrote and narrated this account of his life before he died. He is perhaps most well-known in this country for his work for Disney in the 1950's. The amazing backgrounds in Sleeping Beauty are one example of his work. In the film, Eyvind recalls the many hardships he faced on his road to becoming a master painter, and shares some inspirational philosophies on art and life.  


                                                       Watch Eyvind Earle: My Life



Eyvind Earle's Ocean Cliffs (1991)






Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."  Say not, "I have found the path of the soul."  Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."  For the soul walks upon all paths.  The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.  The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.  ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923


I find it very comforting that David Letterman is still hosting a late night show, although I confess I have not made it a top priority to tune in very much in the last decade. If you never had the opportunity to watch his antics on Late Night with David Letterman in the early to mid 1980's, then, by all means, YouTube some of these clips at your earliest convenience. The show had a kind of magic "anything can happen" atmosphere surrounding it. The ensemble seemed like a very close knit group, and Dave was the wry ringmaster, a latter day Carson with Ernie Kovacs ambitions.

This full-length episode from August, 1985 is not typical of the Late Night format, being an affectionate parody of every variety show ever made, but it should give you a sense of the kinetic, wacky, and above all fun atmosphere that Dave and his motley crew generated on a nightly basis. I do wonder if this episode contains the first instance of Dave speaking the immortal words "I been hypmotized!" It seems very spontaneous.





The Golden Years
by Billy Collins


All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

I could drive over to Quail Falls
and spend the day there playing bridge,
but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
would only remind me of Pheasant Ridge.

I know a widow at Fox Run
and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge.
One of them smokes, and neither can run,
so I’ll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.

Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.


From Ballistics by Billy Collins. Copyright © 2008 by Billy Collins.




From Fantastic Worlds # 6 ( November 1952, Standard). Artist unknown.


Extra Mangy Bone-us Link Treat!

October 13, 2011

A Strange Arrangement


Salvador Dali's Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944)



"Most people don't grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging." 
                         Maya Angelou



A fan-made video for Mayer Hawthorne's "The Ills" from A Strange Arrangement (2009)







"Me, Ghost!", art by Jack Katz
Adventures into Darkness #10 (June 1953)




Everybody Tells Me Everything
by 
Ogden Nash

I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no
blacker, it worsens.
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era
when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.








October 12, 2011

Gezunt Heights

Early this morning, on a whim, I decided to try something different here on the blog. I thought about an approach based on the concepts of simplicity and variety. On a piece of paper, I wrote the following:

a comic
a song
a link
a video 
a quote
a poem
a painting
an advertisement


All of the exhibits except for one (the song) were found over the course of the last seven hours. The selection process was both random and intuitive, and the exhibits chosen all hold some appeal to me personally. 

Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy, as reprinted in Comics on Parade #74 (Oct-Nov 1950)




 Georgia O'Keeffe's Oriental Poppies, 1928

                                                                                          
                                                                                                              

 Jimmy Webb's "P.F. Sloan," from the album Words and Music, 1970



“The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been kindness, beauty, and truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, and luxury have always seemed to me contemptible.” Albert Einstein







CBS Outtakes and Bloopers






Pepsi-Cola magazine ad, May 1957


Democracy

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you. 


Langston Hughes







What is your reaction to this exhibit?


October 7, 2011

Big Underdog News!

Patrick Owsley drew this magnificent portrait of Underdog.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming! My inner child is posilutely delightificated at the news over at TVShowsonDVD concerning a January 2012 release of Underdog: The Complete Series! Amazon has it listed with a runtime of  1260 minutes, which hopefully means that the show will finally be presented as nature intended, uncut, with original titles and openings/closings, and with all the other character shorts (Tennessee Tuxedo, Go Go Gophers, etc.) included.

It just occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to explain to you my passion for things such as this. I had a lonely childhood, but there was something in me determined to overcome all obstacles to happiness. The key for me was in nurturing my own imagination. I instinctively knew on some level that, while bullies could succeed in marring the landscape of my reality, they could never penetrate the outer walls of my fantasy world, a place where I could safely guard my optimistic dreams of the future. 

So, very early on, I began to draw constantly. I created my own characters and comic books. The fruits of my creativity were amateurish, but it was great fun drawing, and great therapy too. It was only the next logical step that I should be drawn to the products of other people's creativity as well. At first it was comics and Saturday morning cartoons. There were so many places and times I could escape to when life was bearing down on me in unpleasant ways. As I grew older, I became more and more interested in music. I found I could escape into a song just as easily as I could escape into a book. Any form of creativity shared is a portal to an alternate reality. Being ostracized by classmates was a fortunate thing, as I rarely fell under the sway of peer pressure, the most subtle bullying of all.

There are people who believe it is foolish to spend any time in a fantasy world. There are those that believe that becoming an adult means suffocating their inner child. There is such a large difference between being "childlike" and "childish." As kids, we see our parents, weary from their jobs, complaining about high prices and their overbearing bosses, acting increasingly jaded as the years limp by. I made a promise to myself that I would never be that person. I must tell you, it has made all the difference.

The standard stereotype placed on all dreamers, except for the few like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, who derive millions of dollars from their creative pursuits, is that they are lazy, non-contributing cellar dwellers. It isn't the dreaming that is the problem. It is the failure for some to even try to turn those dreams into realities. Some dreams, in the end, do not pan out, but that is no reason not to pursue them. Because I dreamed of being a songwriter, I ended up playing music in a club where I met the eventual mother of my two precious daughters. Pursuit of my dream led me to a reality that surpassed my dream. That's what dreams do. They inspire better realities. 

I like The Underdog Show because it encapsulates, in it's own way, 1964 America, a time when John F. Kennedy had been killed, but his optimistic dreams for the future were more alive than ever. I like The Underdog Show because creative men and women joined together to create something not meant to maim, destroy, or oppress, but rather to entertain and delight. I like The Underdog Show because it thrills and comforts my inner child, and that, in turn, fuels my desire to be a responsible caring adult, and not a jaded cynical one. 

There's no need to fear...

October 5, 2011

Hiatus No More!

Crrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak!

Well, that door could certainly use a touch of oil...Now where is that consarned light switch? Ah!




Much better! Well, the old place seems to be pretty much as I left it. A few cobwebs here and there. No biggie.

Y'know, I have a pet peeve about bloggers who don't blog for a while and then feel it is necessary to apologize and then explain the reasons for their absences in excruciating detail. It is my opinion that a blog should never stray too much from it's topic(s), and so I will spare you the details of my sabbatical, the moving to a slightly bigger apartment, the job promotion, etc. I will certainly not bore you with anecdotes about my recent trip to Harrah's Cherokee Casino and the 50 free spins I won on the Lancelot slot machine or how my girlfriend actually made bodily contact with her beloved Rick Springfield at a concert that was louder than an A-Bomb blast. I will not be sharing the details about the renewed focus on my songwriting endeavors which will soon yield actual recordings that you will actually be able to hear with your actual ears on my actual new songwriting blog.

What I will say is that I truly missed the company of my pop culture loving brethren. I am delighted to see more and more bloggers appear on the scene to share and celebrate the products of inspired creativity. Art, in all forms, is fuel for the positivity that shields us from the weapons of apathy and despair. Whether you follow this blog regularly, or just now stumbled upon it accidentally, I hope you will find something here to inspire you.

PYTHON IN THE MORNING DEPT.

What do you get when you cross a legendary British comedy troupe with an American morning show? This 1975 clip, submitted to YouTube by "FirstNews8," gives us a taste of Holy Grail-era Monty Python, minus John Cleese, practically taking over AM America, ABC's precursor to Good Morning America. Peter Jennings' interspersed reports on the fall of Saigon add an additional ingredient to this weird cocktail.




MUSIC TO MY EARS DEPT.

In the last 24 hours, I have become the newest ardent admirer of Curt Boettcher, a name synonymous with the California Pop sound of the 60's. My first dose of his greatness comes in the form of a 1968 album called Begin, the only LP effort from his band  The Millennium. Here is a small taste, contributed by "GuyLiguili."



Much more information about the visionary sounds of Curt Boettcher can be found on Spectropop.

THE MOPPET SHOW DEPT.

Longtime readers of this blog will be familiar with my fondness of the cartooning work of Sheldon Mayer. Thus, I simply must point you in the direction of the first ever book collection devotely solely to his work. The Sugar and Spike Archives Vol. 1 is 240 pages of whimsical brilliance, guaranteed to delight young and old alike. The book reprints the first ten issues of this charming, but oft-overlooked masterpiece. You'll scarcely be ten pages in before you forgive the garishness of the way-too-pink cover.



NECESSARY QUOTATION MARKS DEPT.

"You know that being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break." - Harry Truman

Ch-ciao!





July 26, 2011

The Shmear: Inaugural Edition

Ceilings, Nothing More Than Ceilings Department:

These are historic days here in the U.S. of A., what with our two major parties locked in a fierce tussle over the future of our country. Keeping my personal opinions off the table so as not to polarize my brothers and sisters in pop culture, it does occur to me that although it would appear our government is broken, what we are really seeing is a horribly extreme example of the effectiveness of the checks and balances that are built into the system. Problem is, in an age of instant mass communication, this system of checks and balances seems like a fossil from a quaint bygone age. There is a tug of war playing out in front of our very eyes. Ultimately, either one side is going to prevail, or as it seems increasingly likely, the rope is just going to snap. Or, as Howard Fineman observed last night on Hardball, "What's going on here, as I see it, is a kind of slow motion secession."

At least there is one thing that both Dems and Republicans seem to agree on: our debt is too damn big. I think Bob Dorough said it best when he described the national debt as "a fiscal misadventure with trillion dollar dentures."





Dim The Pilot Lights Department:

From Wikipedia:

The pilot episode of Gilligan's Island, titled "Marooned", was filmed in November 1963. On November 22, the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the crew continued to work after hearing the shocking news. The departure of the Minnow was filmed on November 26, and all the flags in that sequence can be seen flying at half-staff.

Revolting History Deptartment:

If it is true as some are saying, and revolution is in the air, then this is the perfect time to view an excerpt from Give Me Liberty:A Revised History of the American Revolution, an Underground Comix effort which is credited to "Gilbert Shelton and Ted Richards with Gary Hallgren and Willy Murphy," fine patriots all. This comic was first published in the American Bicentennial year 1976, supporting my long-held theory that a lot of comics from the 20th century are 100 times better than the crap that passes for comics today.*














* with many notable exceptions of course :)




Looks Like I've Got A Theme Going Here Department:

I'll leave you today with XTC's 1978 chart-bottomer "Statue of Liberty," a song which was banned by the BBC for seemingly portraying that American treasure as an object of lust. Andy Partridge discusses the song here.

From The Old Grey Whistle Test:




July 14, 2011

Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Up On Netflix Then Gone Again!


As of this writing, Netflix subscribers can enjoy every single tintinnabulatin' episode of the weirdly wonderful 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. However, if you search for it and it's not there, do not panic. I added it to my Instant Queue the day it arrived on streaming, but the next day it was nowhere to be found. Subsequently, it seems to have been re-added and then taken off at least two more times. At least that has been my experience.

I have a frustrating history with this show, dating back to my childhood. How well I remember the long-ago Saturday Morning when, while manually turning the dial on my 13 inch set, Spider-Man '67 entered my consciousness for the first time. Unfortunately, the station was too far away to provide a clear signal and I could barely glimpse the Spidey magic through the forbidding snow. In those days, cavemen sometimes relied on rabbit ear antennas to improve tv signal quality. Sometimes, if you placed just the right amount of aluminum foil on the tips of the rabbit ears, positioned each rabbit ear just right, taped the rabbit ears to your head, stood on one foot, and held your mouth open just right, your signal quality would be almost perfect, at least for thirty seconds or so. Nothing I tried that morning worked, and for years I held in the sorrow of missing my chance to watch what I imagined to be the greatest entertainment spectacle of all time.

Then there was the time, in the late 90's, when, at a toy show, I acquired a fan-made set of the entire series. I was glad to finally fulfill a childhood desire, but gee, the quality of the prints was horrendous. I still longed to see Spider-Man '67 in all of it's glory, especially when I learned of the Ralph Bakshi connection.

That's why I was delighted when, in 2004, the folks at Disney came out with their dvd collection of the series, every episode restored to a quality that far surpassed my wildest dreams. I'm pretty sure I bought that set on release day, and it would have proudly remained a gleaming jewel in my collection forever, had an unfortunate series of events not led to what I now jokingly refer to as "The Great DVD Purge of Ought Eight."

Ever resolute in the face of personal disaster, I have rebuilt my collection, but Spider-Man '67 has eluded me. Long out-of-print and going for insanely high prices on the secondary market, the 2004 release is, in fact, one of the only dvds I have not repurchased. Instead, I have watched the occasional episode on YouTube and hoped that Disney might issue a second printing. You would think a dvd set that quickly went oop and was fetching up to $120 on eBay might get a second printing. Are you listening, Mickey?

All that doesn't matter though. Spider-Man '67 is on Netflix, and hopefully soon, it will stop teasing me and stay on my queue on a regular basis. This is truly a wonderful show. Sure, Spidey's costume design is awful and one cannot fail to notice that he is obviously swinging from clouds, but that Ray Ellis crime jazz score is superb, and the Bakshi episodes in particular show how sheer imagination can trump low budgets. The colors jump off the screen and it all has an air of that effervescent 60's atmosphere, back when comics, cartoons, and superheroes were exciting and fun to the max degree.

And you don't even need Reynold's Wrap to watch it.

July 13, 2011

The Leakin' Lena Sails Again!

Does the debt ceiling crisis have your stomach tied in knots? Are you worried that your dollar bill collection will soon be as valueless as the hairball your mangy cat just hacked up on your imitation berber carpet? Take your mind off the doom and gloom with a full episode of The Beany and Cecil Show from August 1965, complete with commercials advertising ABC's 1965 fall lineup!

The three cartoons featured in this rip roaring episode are "The 7th Voyage of Singood," "Cecil Meets Cecilia," which is available in much better quality on the dvd Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition Volume 2, and "The Capture of Thunderbolt the Wondercolt."

Thanks to YouTube user "foxeema" for sharing this priceless piece of TV history!








Don't forget to pay a visit to the all new official Beany and Cecil website!

When Super Friends Fall Out

Today I spent some time perusing some comics from 1983, a year in which I could regularly be found "spinning the rack" at the town drugstore, a magical place that always smelled of cherry syrup. 1983 was the year in which Batman quit the JLA due to their refusal to intervene in the Markovian Revolution. This, you may remember, was the impetus for the formation of The Outsiders, a team I ceased caring about before I got my first zit.

The Batman/JLA hostilities bled over into the pages of World's Finest #294 (August 1983), which reads in part like an episode of Dynasty with capes. I couldn't help but chuckle at the overarching gravitas of this sequence:











Man, I hate to see a grown Superman cry.




(Look for a flurry of posts this week...I'm feelin' it!)

June 22, 2011

Day Trip to Yesterday












Much more on Gregg Koenig's Flickr Photostream

Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No

Illustrator James Blagden's engaging short animated film "Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No" tells the true story of former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in June of 1970 while tripping on LSD. Do not try this at home, kids!



Sarong It's Right: A Dorothy Lamour Comic



Here's a comic that may be of interest to classic Hollywood enthusiasts: a brief biography of the glamorous Dorothy Lamour. I can't positively identify the artist, but I love that half splash. Some trees have all the luck.





From Miss Beverly Hills of Hollywood #3 (July-August 1949, DC)