December 28, 2011
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!
November 22, 2011
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
November 8, 2011
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.
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.
Extra Mangy Bone-us Link Treat!
October 13, 2011
Everybody Tells Me Everything
October 12, 2011
“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
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
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.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.
October 7, 2011
October 5, 2011
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
July 26, 2011
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:
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.*
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.
July 14, 2011
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 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!
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
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)