A 20th Century Pop Culture Wonderland

August 30, 2014

George Benson's "Giblet Gravy"

Going through a box of unsorted vinyl yesterday, I was pleased to find George Benson's 1968 Verve LP Giblet Gravy. This tune, the title track, starts out sounding like a funky take-off on Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk," but stick around for some bona fide virtuosity!


Blast Off, Eh Wot!

As far as unsold tv pilots goes, The Solarnauts, from 1967, is engaging enough to make me wish it had gone to series. There is a definite Gerry Anderson vibe going on here, and, if you like bongos, you're going to love the musical score. Okay, it's definitely not Star Trek. It is, however, rare British sci-fi from the Age of Groovy, and really, isn't that enough? Did I mention the bongos?


August 27, 2014

Bill Plympton's "The Bugle"

Bill Plympton has become quite well-known for his frenetic animation work. His latest film, Cheatin', is making the film festival rounds and stirring up a lot of buzz. Here is an example of his comic strip prowess, originally presented in the August 1982 issue of Heavy Metal.




August 19, 2014

Toppermost

A smattering of things that are rocking my world...




"There's more of them...Grenade!"  Battlefield 1943 (PS3 Edition) is my go-to game at the moment. I'm sure this version of the popular franchise is one of the more basic no-frills versions, but I'm addicted. It's very appealing fighting in the context of World War II in locales like Iwo Jima and Wake Island. I opt for sniper and love to throw explosives on tanks and blow them to smithereens, although randomly running down enemies in a jeep is always good for a chuckle. The best part? No one really gets hurt.



Oberto Bacon Jerky It's real, it's really good, and it's perfect for my Atkins Diet (35 pounds down!) If I was a hoarder, this is what I would hoard.

A Tale of Two Rainmakers Many Harry Nilsson fans agree that his 1969 album Harry is one of his most
satisfying platters. I've always had a soft spot for the song "Rainmaker." Imagine my surprise to discover that there an earlier version of this song exists as a single. It is a unique collision of Appalachian folk and bubblegum, two genres whose union seems unholy to say the least. And yet, Harry, that mad genius of pop, pulls it off effortlessly. No wonder he was the Beatles' "favorite group."


This track is also included as part of the recently released Harry Nilsson box set.


Unga Bunga I recently purchased from Warner Archive another item for my far-from-complete animation collection, namely Hanna-Barbera's Captain Caveman & The Teen Angels. It's not a show that lends itself to binge watching, and in fact, one episode at a time can be a little much. Still, it does take me back to those halcyon days of cereal and pajamas, and sometimes, that's enough. Cavey's clarion cry (voiced by Mel Blanc) never gets old. C'mon, you know you want to say it... "Captain Caaaaaaaaaaaaaveman!"

Oh, That's Why Baseball Sucks Now I'm not a huge fan of any sport, but I love to see documentaries about sports figures and teams from a bygone era when "love for the game," not profits, was the driving force. The new Netflix original documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, relates the story of actor Bing Russell (Kurt's dad) and his attempt , in the early 70's, to form an independent Minor League team in Portland. Initially, the citizens of Portland couldn't be less interested, having just lost a Minor League franchise due, in large part, to low game attendance.. It's a fascinating underdog story with some surprising twists and turns. It's also a sobering reminder that monopolies ain't cool.




The Death of a Clown







It is early on a Tuesday morning, and I am sipping my third cup of coffee. Toucan Sam is staring up at me from my Froot Loops t-shirt. A very bad week has come and gone, and I am determined to make the new week a productive one. To be sure, there are any number of pursuits that are more productive than blogging, but it's something.

Last week, on the first terrible day, I woke up from a nap. My wife was on the phone with her West Coast friend, Victoria. I drifted into the kitchen, noticing a newly-arrived cantaloupe, half of it in slices. It smelled nice, like summer. All was calm and very peaceful. I pulled up Facebook and there was the end of calm and peace.

Robin Williams.

Dead.

Suicide.

I don't exaggerate when I say a chill ran through my body. I was flash frozen, to be exact. If you are familiar with the K├╝bler-Ross model detailing the five stages of grief, then I can spare you most of the gory details of the days that followed. By good fortune, I was not scheduled to play my regular dueling piano gig until Friday. Unfortunately, my depression begat insomnia, and my insomnia became sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation, combined with a surprise allergy flare up, gave me the wickedest migraine I have felt in years. I had to call out sick Friday and Saturday.

It seemed ridiculous to be so personally affected by this news. And yet, that was my situation. I can't deny it. I was beaten. Crushed. System failure. Mission aborted.

When I first saw Robin, he was Mork. He acted like he was five years old. I was five years old. Perfect timing. Mork and I were simpatico. Through this character, I was introduced to the concept of stream of consciousness thought. To me, at such a tender age, living in a dysfunctional home, Robin's creative gifts were high octane fuel for my own imagination rocket. But there was more. Even playing an alien, he was filled with all the most noble traits of humanity. Empathy. Loyalty. Curiosity. Kindness. This alien came in peace.

Of course, Mork was just the beginning for Robin Williams. At each stage of my life, he was there on the screen, showing me something new and valuable. When I was seven, he was Popeye, a cartoon hero come to life. When I was fourteen, he made me better understand Vietnam and the horror of war. When I was sixteen, he was the unorthodox teacher who helped me appreciate things I might have otherwise taken for granted. 

Now, Robin is gone. My grief is passing and I feel stronger. It's a new day, surely one to seize. I am filled anew with the earnest desire to be prolific and make every second count. Even on a much smaller scale, I want to leave a legacy, one of creativity, one of  love. It is the only way I can repay Robin Williams, and so many others, for the gifts they have shared with me.

Carpe diem!



July 14, 2014

Theme From The Fox


Hello, fellow traveler in this (motorized vehicle of your choice) called life! It's summertime, and living is...well, it's a living. Having only posted sporadically for the longest time, you may be interested to know that my intentions are to resume blogging at the frenetic pace to which you had once been accustomed. The conceit here is that you, the Easily Mused reader, actually do exist. Certain statistics indicate that you do, but I assume nothing. Do me a favor. If you don't exist, get lost. I've got more important things to do than write blog posts for imaginary readers. 

Now that I've cleared out the riff-raff...

It's a season of change here at Easily Mused World Headquarters. Having made discipline a top priority, I am beginning to see some progress with the diet I started a few months ago. I have lost thirty pounds and my health is awesome, aside from some fatigue caused by listening to eight Hugo Montenegro albums in a row. Actually, that's a lie. It's true I won an online auction and received eight Hugo Montenegro albums in the mail, but I've only listened to one of them. 

The reason I can't listen to the other Hugo Montenegro albums at the moment is that the cable that usually connects the phonograph to the home computer speakers has been repurposed to connect an entirely different set of speakers to my laptop, which is sitting on the electric piano in the laundry room that I am converting into a home recording studio in an attempt to escape my status as the Emily Dickinson of songwriters. 

The pop-cultural studies continue, as they must, always. I greatly enjoyed PBS's airing of Carol Burnett: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize. Amy Poehler did a hilarious turn as Carol's much-abused personal assistant Roz. I really love Carol Burnett, but part of me feels as though her phenomenal success has disconnected from us reg'lar folks. It makes me a little sad to think of Carol, sitting in a penthouse somewhere, counting gold bars. However, Carol did insist that a rising young comedienne named Rosemary Watson be given exposure during the telecast, and that was certainly a nice gesture to the young generation. 

Before I received my eight Hugo Montenegro albums, I was the happy recipient of nine Smothers Brothers albums. What is intriguing about their first album At The Purple Onion, aside from the fact that is was not recorded at The Purple Onion at all, is that the record documents the entirety of their act at that time. They had so little material that the second side of their second record, The Two Sides of The Smothers Brothers, consisted of traditional folk songs without the comedic interplay for which they are known. 

YouTube continues to be a treasure trove of obscure delights. To wit, here is 72 minutes of the televised event that drew 21 million viewers, the episode of The Tonight Show which featured the wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki. It's to Johnny's credit that he treated the ceremony with utmost respect and dignity. 268 of the studio audience tickets that night were reserved for friends and family of the bride and groom. It's obvious that Johnny, Ed, and guests like Florence Henderson and Phyllis Diller were struggling in their attempts to cajole the audience into laughing. Everyone looks so nervous, too. It's fascinating viewing.




More post(s) tomorrow!