September 1, 2015

Doug Wildey's Haunted Tank Story!

Today's comic share is a treat for Jonny Quest fans, a war story written by Bob Kanigher and drawn by Quest co-creator Doug Wildey! "The Armored Ark" was published in G.I. Combat #153 (April-May 1972, DC). As you might guess from the the title, the story addresses the subject of animals in war zones, and it shows how soldiers can display great compassion, even in the midst of battle.

August 31, 2015

Goon With the Wind or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Goons

If you are a Monty Python fan, you owe it to yourself to watch this documentary on the Goons, who were very influential in the development of the brand of absurd conceptual humor that the Pythons popularized. In fact, John Cleese and Michael Palin are two of the interviewees featured in this special retrospective.

The Goon Show can perhaps best be described as an audio version of a surreal comic strip, featuring recurring characters (some with recurring catchprases) and innovative sound effects and music. It was broadcast weekly on British radio from 1951 to 1960, and primarily featured the comedic talents of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe. I have been trying to cultivate a greater appreciation of the Goons for a while, and I found this doc most helpful in that regard. 

July 1, 2015

Frontier Cabin: An Appeal

I've been away from this blog for a little while, posting very sporadically, but I have not been idle. The main focus of my energies as of late has been my music. Frontier Cabin is the name of my project, and I would be very appreciative if you could follow my progress on Facebook. Need convincing?

What kind of music is it? We are living in an era where rhythm has become the primary focus of popular music. While rhythm is very important, I believe that melody is just as important. In addition, I draw inspiration from many different genres, and enjoy blending these genres liberally. Frontier Cabin music is a musical melting pot of styles, organically conceived on piano. I also strive to produce intelligent lyrics that reflect my observations on life, the universe and everything.

Who are your biggest musical influences? The Beatles are #1 in my book. If you don't like Beatles music, read no further. Here is the short list of songwriters and musical artists that have impacted my style the most.

The Beatles, Elvis Costello, XTC, Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, NRBQ, Judee Sill, The Monkees, Elvis Presley, Mose Allison, The Clash, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, James Taylor, Paul Williams, R.E.M., Tom Petty, The Who, Barenaked Ladies, Squeeze, Bach, Nina Simone, Hoagy Carmichael, Led Zeppelin, They Might Be Giants, Beck, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Taj Mahal, The Kinks, Ween, James Brown, Emitt Rhodes, Big Star, John Prine, Allen Touissant, The Band, Charlie Rich, Bob Dorough, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Burt Bacharach, 10cc, Todd Rundgren...and so many more!

Most of my influences come from an era stretching from 1930-1980, a most fertile and creative time in popular music. I do listen to some contemporary acts, but mostly acts that share those influences. If you like some of the artists listed above, you probably feel disenfranchised by the current music scene. Hopefully, you will like Frontier Cabin on Facebook and find a brand new song to love!

What can I expect when I visit Frontier Cabin on Facebook? Right now, I am operating on a shoestring budget. Nevertheless, I am using the resources I have to create sketches of my songs until I can build a proper home studio. If you like Frontier Cabin on Facebook, you will be able to hear these sketches, along with lyrics and thoughts of a musical nature. In addition, you will have access to Cabinessence, a weekly podcast dedicated to my musical heroes.The first episode will be available this Sunday morning!  Also, I promise to never overpost. Two posts a day, maximum!

Is there anything else I need to know? I have been writing songs for over two decades. It took a long time for me to develop a truly unique sound. My recording ventures have been limited, and the fruits of those efforts have been mostly disappointing. However, I feel very strongly that if I keep working hard, I have the talent and creativity necessary to produce something of lasting value. I can plant the seed and water it, but your patronage of my art is the sunshine that will help that seed grow and bear fruit.  If you follow Frontier Cabin now, you will be able to track the progression of my recordings, from crude sketches to fully realized productions! If nothing else, you will be able to follow one person's creative process. Best of all, you have absolutely nothing to lose!

Thank you for your time.

John Glenn Taylor

Click here to visit Frontier Cabin on Facebook!

May 21, 2015

What's Next For You, Dave? Here's My Idea...

Dear Dave,

First of all, please forgive me for not addressing you as "Mr. Letterman." I know that we were always only "tv friends," as you so eloquently put it in your final episode, but to me and millions of others, you will always be just "Dave." You are truly a man of the people!

Dave, I believe in my heart that I have inside of me exactly one Great American Novel. The basis for this literary masterpiece will be the glorious coming-of-age summer I spent in the little resort town of White Lake, North Carolina in 1980, when I was a mere lad of eight. So many memories flood my mind when I think of that magic summer. Almost drowning in the crystal clear waters, barfing up cotton candy when I was flung off the Tilt-A-Whirl, accidently stepping barefoot on hot cigarettes tossed by careless campers. It was the best summer of my life.

One week, my older brother Herbie and I had to stay cooped up in our rented trailer with calamine lotion plastered to our faces. We were the unfortunate victims of a staph infection caused by a rusty shower head. This was the week you came into my life for the first time. My impressionable mind absorbed every minute of your groundbreaking morning show, and although the clumps of dried lotion made laughing uncomfortable, if not impossible, for that one hour every day, my desire to continually scratch my face subsided considerably.

I have been a loyal fan since then (well, at least until you left NBC), and I feel I owe you a great debt. If you and your writers had not "borrowed" so many ideas from legendary entertainers like Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, and your mentor, Johnny Carson (who also "borrowed" quite a bit from Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen) my sense of humor would be woefully underdeveloped today. Why, I might even think Ricky Gervais was funny. The very thought makes me shudder.

I think I know you pretty well, Dave. It is a lovely and noble thought, having more quality time with your enchanting wife Regina and your chain-smoking boy Harry, but if I know you, not being involved in a significant way in the "business of show" would be a surefire death sentence. I can picture you now, sadly barreling down the ol' ski slope for the umpteenth time, teardrops turning to ice on your cheeks, hoping that a tree will just pop up out of nowhere to put you out of your misery. It can't end that way!

There's a better way forward, Dave. I now humbly submit to you the greatest idea ever presented in the history of mankind. Drumroll, please. You, David Letterman, must start your own television network, Network Pants.

Network Pants. Let it roll around in your head for a minute. I'll wait.

Ok, let's get down to brass tacks, whatever that means. What is Network Pants all about? It's about humor, a certain kind of humor. It's smart. It's stupid. It's subversive. It's irreverent. It's "too hip for the room." Network Pants is about you. It's about your influences. It's about folks who have been influenced by you. It's about all the amazing shows that were cancelled before their time because the average American didn't "get it." It's television for enlightened viewers who have been, for too long, disenfranchised, yearning for an awesome network to come and fill the great vacuum that exists between C-Span and Nickelodeon.

I know mere words cannot do this idea justice. I have taken the liberty of writing up a fantasy schedule. No extra charge.

11:30P    The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson
12:30A    Late Night With David Letterman
  1:30A    Kids In The Hall
  2:00A    Mr. Show With Bob and David
  2:30A    It's Garry Shandling's Show
  3:00A    Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
  3:30A    Fernwood 2-Night
  4:00A    Ernie Kovacs
  4:30A    Bob and Ray
  5:00A    Candid Camera
  5:30A    You Bet Your Life
  6:00A    Clutch Cargo and His Pals ( a morning kid's block featuring Clutch, Gumby, and Gary                  Coleman cartoons, live-hosted by A Guy In A Bear Suit)
  8:00A    Pee-Wee's Playhouse
  8:30A    Ren and Stimpy
  9:00A    Hollywood Squares  ( the good ones, with Paul Lynde)
  9:30A    Match Game  (the good ones, with Gary Burghoff)
10:00A   The Gong Show
10:30A   Let's Make A Deal (Monty Hall episodes)
11:00A   Super Dave (the other Dave)
11:30A   Saturday Night Live
  1:00P   Green Acres
  1:30P   The Monkees
  2:00P   Mork and Mindy
  2:30P   WKRP in Cincinatti
  3:00P   Police Squad
  3:30P   Night Court
  4:00P   Laugh-In
  5:00P   TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes
  6:00P   Onion Nightly News
  6:30P   Funny or Die Presents
  7:00P   SCTV
  7:30P   The Muppet Show
  8:00P   Mystery Science Theater 3000
10:00P  Three Stooges
10:30P  Monty Python's Flying Circus
11.00P  Benny Hill

That's just for starters, Dave. Imagine weekends on Network Pants. Battle Of The Network Stars marathons. Great movies like Airplane!, UHF, and Kung Pow: Enter The Fist. Other movies, like Cabin Boy. An Andy Kaufman Tribute Weekend. Stupid Pet Trick Weekend. The possibilities are endless.

But, Dave, that's not all. You'd be the chief, the kingpin, the top banana. You could interrupt your network's programming at any time you desired, from the comfort of any of your dozens of palatial homes. Work up a funny monologue about grocery shopping? Press a button, you're on. Just want to rant about ISIS for a few minutes? Push a button, you're on. You could even stay in your pajamas!

I am aware that the end of The Late Show is putting a lot of talented people out of work. Network Pants is the solution. They can do most of the busy work involved in operating a television network, and you can mostly relax as the ad revenue pours in, and trust me, it will. In fact, I'm sure you will have to beat advertisers back with a stick. Or a canned ham. Your choice.

Well, that's my pitch. Network Pants is a sure thing and I can't wait to see it pop up on my cable grid, assuming I ever get cable back. It will be an honor knowing I had some small part in Network Pants' creation, however insignificant, although I wouldn't turn down a small "imagineering" fee. I'm barely hanging on here, Dave. Both my front tires are bald and my kids are tired of playing Super NES games.

If you need any further guidance, call me. Seriously. Or humorously. Your choice.

I have gum.

Your Biggest Fan,
John "Silverman" Taylor

April 7, 2015

What Stan Freberg Meant To Me

It's horrible to learn that Stan Freberg has passed away. If you do not know who Stan Freberg was, I kinda feel sorry for you. You have, up to this point, missed something great and rare, the chance to commune with brilliance and laugh at the same time. On the other hand, I'm also envious, because you have the incredible opportunity to discover and fall in love with his work.

I no longer have this opportunity. I became aware of Stan Freberg as a teen-ager, around 1988, and it became a personal mission to experience as much of his genius as possible. I have many heroes and role models, and Stan is right up there at the top.

How brilliant was he? George S. Kaufman once said "Satire is what closes on Saturday night," meaning that the topical nature of satire almost guarantees diminishing returns as time goes by. I find a lot of the old episodes of Saturday Night Live unwatchable for this very reason. Jimmy Carter jokes, anyone? How about that Leona Helmsley? Who? Exactly.

Stan Freberg pulled off the rare feat of making satire that stands the test of time. He did this by skewering bad ideas that just won't go away. He trashed greed and commercialism. He slayed censorship. He eviscerated war. In this way, he created the most timeless body of satirical work ever produced. One hundred years from now, someone will hear "Elderly Man River" and understand, maybe for the first time, why censorship is rotten. More importantly, that person will laugh while understanding why censorship is rotten.

Stan hated rock'n' roll and parodied it with a vengeance. I love rock'n'roll, and Elvis Presley was one of my first heroes, but the first time I heard Stan's total destruction of "Heartbreak Hotel," I clearly remember the uncontrollable laughter, the tears streaming down my face, the breathless insanity of the moment. Too much echo!

What I really want to say about Stan Freberg is that he came into my life at just the right time. Through his comedy, He helped me understand the power of individuality at a time when I was supposed to be mastering the art of conforming. He showed me the possibility for the coexistence of intelligence and silliness. He also showed me, in his subversive way, how the real world functions, dysfunction and all. Most importantly, he made me laugh when life made me want to cry. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed.

Here are just a few of my favorite Freberg records:

March 13, 2015

The Winter of Our Contentment

Man, what a winter it has been. The finest in a long time. This year, Heather and I stared that behemoth known as Seasonal Affective Disorder in its squiggly green eye and made it clear he was not welcome in our tiny but overpriced Shangri-La.

Keeping busy was the key. If the blog has been mostly dormant, it's because I was rearranging the living room, alphabetizing my records or hanging tin signs above the kitchen cabinets. I spent less time on Facebook, and more time reading real books. I listened to music. I wrote music. Heather found a Keurig in perfect condition at a thrift shop for next to nothing. We are over-caffeinated and happy.

I made a lot of wonderful pop culture discoveries this winter, and I am going to share them with you, one post at a time. Until then...

January 6, 2015

Through A Glass, Darkly

Apropos of nothing, my favorite Norman Rockwell painting

I just finished watching Life Itself, a candid and stirring tribute to movie critic Roger Ebert, film's greatest friend. I give it two thumbs up. Of course, the second thumb is redundant. There is still a hole in my soul where my frequent trips to Roger's blog used to be. I much admired his writing skills. He had a way of conveying very sophisticated and nuanced ideas about movies, and life itself, without ever seeming pretentious. His blog entries always provoked thoughtful feedback from articulate and passionate readers, and Roger frequently replied to many of the comments. He was passionate, intelligent, generous and courageous. People like that I call heroes.

Heroes. I have so many. Hitchcock. Dali. Chaplin. McCartney. Vonnegut. Zappa. Perhaps only Santa has a longer list. My love for the arts can never be properly articulated,. Art and pop culture is my life support system. Aside from love, art is the finest thing that humanity can produce. In a world where humans are defined by their propensity for destruction, art is creation. It is a reminder that a man can pick up a paintbrush instead of a gun. You know a society is in trouble when its art is suppressed. Art is the proverbial canary in society's coalmine.

A few years ago, I realized that I fit all the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome. Obsessive devotion to specialized interests. Check. Social awkwardness and difficulty making eye contact. Check. Repetition of routines and rituals. Check. I don't like phone calls or long-sleeved shirts. Fluorescent lights can be very oppressive. I don't give a damn about football, but I will play pinball on my PS3 until I pass out from exhaustion. I walk a little funny, and my enunciation sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Emotions? My face may say Spock, but inside I am Kirk.

Is it a burden? A handicap? In other's eyes, maybe, but never to me. It was only a burden to me when I was growing up unaware of my condition and its name, when I thought my classmates' cruelty toward me was a random act. These days I might be misunderstood, but I understand that I'm speaking a different language, and therefore I hold no grudges. If I had been born "normal," I might be glad I did not have Asperger's. Thankfully, I rarely feel persecuted these days.

Like most people with Asperger's, there is the one companion to whom I devote most of my energies. Heather is my wife. She is my confidant. She is my best friend. She is my muse. When time permits, we are happily inseparable. She knows my frustration of being geographically separated from my two amazing daughters. At my lowest point, she helped me regain my footing, and I believe she might literally be an angel.. Seven years, no serious arguments. How many couples can make that boast?

I have put considerable time and effort into studying the art of songwriting. For twenty-five years I've been at it. The first 500 songs I wrote I discarded. It's only been in the last two years that I've been able to synthesize all my influences into what I believe is a unique sound. I have dozens upon dozens of songs to record, and I write an average of one new song a week. I feel my music must be recorded in solitude, so my mission currently is to save money and build a proper home studio. My music is the part of me I can leave behind when my life journey is through. I do not care if my music is popular. I do not care if I make a lot of money. My burning desire is to make recordings that sound as close as possible to the sounds in my head. In this way, I will express myself in a way that I cannot otherwise do. I am grateful that my dream is still alive.

It is clear to me now that this blog is a permanent record of my influences. Only time will tell if that record has value to anyone else but me. However, I am going to post here as often as I can all the things that I feel are valuable and worthy of note. I hope to present exhibits here that will make you want to dig deeper on your own. If you have an open mind, there is endless treasure to discover. I also have a nagging desire to do some creative writing, maybe short fiction. Fair warning.

Comments are always deeply appreciated, unless you live in India and have some money waiting for me. I'm talking to you, Sirjit Chakrabarti!

December 10, 2014

A Strange Arrangement: El Camino

"A lot of artists say anger or even the experience of fear or these things feeds the work, and so the suffering artist is a romantic concept. But if you think about it, it’s romantic for everybody except the artist. If the artist is really suffering, then the ideas don’t flow so good, and if [he is] really suffering, he can’t even work. I say that negativity is the enemy to creativity." - David Lynch

"Here we have the example of avoiding the cliche..." Alfred Hitchcock 

Stan Lee's New Superhero Pitch

UK Coca-Cola Ad, 1965


Tsunehisa Kimura?
Svetlana Petrova

Pomplamoose is not a vanity project.

Fridge In Space

Stay attuned...

November 22, 2014

Apocalypse Cos

Forgive me in advance for not knowing exactly how many women have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. At last count, I think it was sixteen. Naturally, the numbers do not matter. If .even one time, Cosby drugged a date and took advantage of her, that behavior is unconscionable and must be condemned in the firmest way possible.

Bill Cosby. I've never known a world without him in it, making me laugh. I regularly watched his television shows and I've seen most of his movies, but to me his stand up comedy is the real meat and potatoes of his large body of work. Routines like "Chicken Heart," "Noah: Right!" and "Buck, Buck" are unforgettable. Through his comedy, Cosby showed us humans who we really were, with all our foibles, and gave us permission to laugh about it. In that regard, I would have to say he is a hero, someone who shaped my view of the world more than I probably even realize.

Now, at this late stage of his life, when he should reaping the rewards and accolades of a life well lived and a job well done, Cosby has instead been cast into the harshest of spotlights. The charges are so ancient, that there can seemingly be no proof as to whether he did or did not do the things he is accused of doing. All we have are the words of the accusers and the faintly damning silence of the accused.

I certainly do wish every one else on the planet would stop shouting "Guilty!" or "Innocent!". Unless you were in the bedroom or jacuzzi or wherever with Bill Cosby and his alleged victims, your opinion as to Bill Cosby's guilt or innocence means exactly nothing and probably just reflects how you feel about Bill Cosby, regardless of the current situation. In the last few weeks, I have never seen a faster or harsher rush to judgment than what I have witnessed in this matter. Is it because Cosby is such a legend, so big he must have an epic fall? Is it because rape is such a hot button issue? Whatever the case, all this armchair juroring only obfuscates the legitimate reporting. Didn't McCarthyism teach us anything?

The question that keeps going through my mind is "Why?" Why would Bill Cosby do these things? At the time of these alleged activities, Cosby was a young, handsome and wealthy comedian and actor. I can't imagine a scenario in which ladies weren't standing in line to go to bed with him. What's more, he could have afforded any call girl's price. I can buy that Bill Cosby had a hitherto unseen dark side. Many geniuses do. However, it is very hard for me to conceive that Bill Cosby drugged and raped women as a kind of deviant sexual hobby.

And yet, I don't know the truth. Hannibal Buress doesn't know the truth.You don't know either, unless you're Bill Cosby or the women who are making these terrible claims. One would think that an artist who has given so much laughter and insight to a world that desperately needs laughter and insight could at least be shown the courtesy of not being lynched in the court of public opinion until more information comes to light.

But, this being America in the first part of the 21st Century, that's not going to happen. Therefore, I suggest we take a poll. We must poll Americans and ask them whether or not they like Jell-O. If the majority of Americans say they like Jell-O, then Cosby will be cleared of all suspicion. If the majority is against Jell-O, then we will boil up a huge vat of Jell-O pudding, and dip Bill Cosby in it, and then cover him with feathers. Then we will tie him to a stake and force him to listen to the comedy stylings of Hannibal Buress.

On second thought, never mind. That idea is as crazy as a kangaroo court.

October 2, 2014

The Mammy Two Shoes Imbroglio

The news is out that Amazon Prime Instant Video subscribers who watch Tom and Jerry cartoons will first be greeted by a warning that these cartoons are "racially prejudiced." This has many classic animation fans up in arms. "The PC police have gone wild!" they'll say. "There's nothing racist about these cartoons."

As far as these fans are concerned, that is absolutely true. Classic animation fans watch classic animation to laugh and be entertained. They watch them to study and celebrate the history and process of animation, sometimes going frame by frame to see how a particular gag is executed. They are well informed about the people that were involved in the creation process: the directors, writers, voice actors, background designers, et al.

Moreover, they do not view a character like Mammy Two Shoes as being particularly racist. They see her as a funny character, ready to give "Thomas" his just desserts if he steps out of line, which he often does. They even feel genuine affection for her, so much so that they are willing to defend her against her detractors.

There is nothing wrong with that. They are coming from a pure and honest place.

However, the history is in on Mammy Two Shoes. The mammy archetype is deeply offensive to many Americans, and they are also not wrong to be offended. Nor is it wrong to warn people in advance that what they are about to watch contains an archetype they might find offensive.

If you have a hard time understanding why Mammy Two Shoes is offensive, then this Authentic History Center article should help you to understand, but be warned that it does contain advertisements and other ephemera that are deeply offensive. There are also articles on the same site that address other racial stereotypes.

Basically, Mammy Two Shoes is a Rorschach Test for race. If you are deeply offended by the character, it does not mean you are an overly-sensitive troublemaker. If, however, you are not offended by her, it doesn't mean you are a racially-insensitive lout. 

Although it happens way less often than our "fair and balanced" news media would have us believe, I believe this is actually a case where the positions of two opposing factions are equally reasonable and acceptable.

It would be wrong to lock away or burn Tom and Jerry cartoons. It's wrong that Disney will not make available Song Of The South. It's hypocritical to think Song Of The South must be banned, while Gone With The Wind gets the deluxe box set treatment.

Censorship is wrong, period. It lessens us as a society of free-thinkers. It robs us from learning from mistakes in our nation's past.

Though they are inherently flawed by racial caricatures, there is simply too much value in these cartoons and films to consign them to the dustbin of history. They should be released with strong disclaimers. They should be released and exist in an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding from those on both sides of the issue.