Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best New Year's Eve Cartoon Ever

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog bids a not particularly fond farewell to 2011 with this stellar, upbeat and good-natured seasonal cartoon, which is available for purchase on the Popeye The Sailor 1933-1938 DVD box set.

Let's Celebrake is one of the rare cartoons in the series in which Popeye and Bluto aren't literally at each other's throats - and that's a refreshing change, even for toon heads such as I. It is NOT a rare instance among the Fleischer Studio Popeyes in which voice artists extraordinaire Jack Mercer (both Popeye and Grandma), Mae Questel (Olive Oyl) and Gus Wickie (Bluto) outdo themselves throughout.



To all readers of this blog, make it a fun and safe New Year. In other words, don't booze it up, toke it up and drive, PLEASE - that's what friends' couches and cheap motels are for!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tonight On WGXC Radio: The Alex Chilton Belated Birthday Special

WGXC, the community radio station for Greene and Columbia counties (New York), will be presenting their Alex Chilton tribute from 9:30 to midnight Eastern Standard Time. To listen to WGXC streaming, click here.


Now, readers of this blog know that I'm a huge fan of the music of Alex Chilton in all its phases and incarnations. He was great with The Box Tops, the ill-fated but wonderful Big Star and on his many solo albums, which try out everything from punk to soul music covers to experimental rock to standards.









Never afraid to tackle varied material, both as producer and performer, Alex was often the only person to perform covers of various 1960's R&B chestnuts and goofy novelty songs. For example, this 1967 hit by Brenton Wood, which qualifies as both:




He also produced one of the most original and incendiary albums of crazed rockabilly ever recorded, Songs The Lord Taught Us by The Cramps.



The 1996 Live in Glasgow recordings Alex did with Teenage Fan Club are, IMO, a standout among his later work.







Alex couldn't care less about current fads or what the recording industry wanted and, sadly, paid a price for being true to himself and his artistic vision; the fact that he could not afford to see a doctor about recurring chest pains directly led to his untimely passing on March 17, 2010.


Since he shared with Elvis Costello and Mike Patton a musical taste that was gleefully, aggressively all over the freakin' map, one can present a veritable panorama of clips and just barely scratch the surface of Alex' sonic oeuvre. He could not be contained.





This - and a sense of person behind the performer - is best expressed in the following article, The Alex Chilton Panel At SXSW, written by Ann Powers for the L.A. Times not long after Alex' passing.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Photographer Kathy Sloane Tells The Story Of Keystone Korner

"There should be a book about those jazz clubs that have been a vital part of the evolution of the music…with reminiscences by the musicians who played and hung out there.” Nat Hentoff


With Keystone Korner: Portrait Of A Jazz Club, photographer Kathy Sloane has delivered that very book.

It is tough for me to articulate into words how it felt to go to a place like Keystone Korner - where John Coltrane Quintet bandmates McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones played a benefit so the club could afford to buy a liquor license - and not just see fun, enjoyable, entertaining music but be in the presence of GENIUS, night after night. 


Without a doubt, I and the other long-haired youths who hung out at the jazz joint of jazz joints, nestled next to a police station in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, got an unparalleled music education. I personally saw everything from swing legends Mary Lou Williams and Earl "Fatha" Hines (who recorded with Louis Armstrong, the guy who started it all, in 1928) to joyfully hard bopping Art Blakey, George Coleman and Horace Silver to explosive ultra-virtuoso Rahsaan Roland Kirk to the fearlessly eclectic multi-genre Art Ensemble Of Chicago there - and loved it all.

Kathy's book includes 109 photographs, fascinating oral histories from the musicians who made it happen, and a CD of remarkable music recorded there. It will give future generations a reference to see what greatness looks like.

Today, jazz fans around the world mourn the passing of music giant Sam Rivers, who is featured in the book.






Thinking of Sam, it compels me to say that, as 2011 comes to a close, the best thing we could leave for young people today - besides hands-on music and arts education - would be a place where, like Keystone Korner, it was all about the music and miracles could happen. And did.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gene Deitch's Excellent Idea: Gift Giving That Supports Your Neighbors And TheCommunity

Post-Christmas, I've been pondering how to plan more effectively for next year's holidays - and also listening to those great Ella, Nat, Sinatra and Dino holiday albums with awe yet again


I've also been re-reading a piece about the holidays that filmmaker Gene Deitch (creator of the wonderful "Tom Terrific" cartoons) posted a few weeks ago on his Roll The Credits blog. Gene is dead-on about the topic of moving the modern holiday gift-giving rituals away from the mindless consumerism so well described by the thoughtful, against-the-grain protagonist of A Charlie Brown Christmas and towards a more enlightened approach.


The memory of my local hardware store's "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" sign fresh in my memory, I shall paraphrase (with some revisions - once a professional editor, always a professional editor) Gene's piece.


I'm Dreaming of a RIGHT Christmas!

In these difficult times, when we seem to be helpless to do anything meaningful to make things better, I received one simple idea from a friend and put it into my own words to send to my contacts.

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous mountains of cheaply produced goods - merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American workers.

This year could be different. This year Americans can give a gift of genuine concern for other Americans.

No excuse that there’s nothing to buy that is produced by American hands. There is!

It's time to think outside the box.

Yeah, maybe many would like a flat-screen TV, but they also may be just as thrilled to have their driveway repaved, or lawn mowed and garden groomed for a year, or driveway plowed during the winter.


How about . . .
  • Free games at a local golf course.
  • Gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber for one or more trims.
  • A gym membership - it's great for all ages thinking about health improvement (Note: if you reside in the more metropolitan parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, there are small "mom and pop" neighborhood gyms to support).
  • A car tune-up? Small, American garages should be happy to sell service gift certificates. . . and also for maybe a year of car washes! How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by an American working guy?
  • See a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
  • Musicians need work, too, so find places showcasing local bands, and venues who could provide all-expense gift evenings.
  • There are still plenty of owner-run restaurants -- offering gift certificates. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. Avoid the big national chains.
  • Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day each week or month.
  • There are surely plenty of computer firms who’d be happy to contract for a year, keeping you online and your hard disk humming.
  • There are many local crafts people who can make pots, make jewelry, spin their own wool, and knit them into sweaters and scarves.

This is about supporting your home town people with their financial lives on the line, trying to keep their doors open. Isn’t that what Christmas should be about?

Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging American small businesses to keep going.

And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.

If we all could do this, we could have an effect, and make a social statement without having to march and camp in the streets: a painless but effective statement about how we think about the spirit of Christmas gift-giving, and about caring for each other.

THIS should be the new American Christmas tradition!

If you have any bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vote For This Charming Video In The Electro Swing Awards

This fun video, starring friend of this blog Kitten On The Keys, is quite the charmer. It is sweet, genuine, the real deal (not contrived as a lot of entertainment for kids can be) and has been nominated for an Electro Swing Award.

Directed by Eve St. Ramon
Song by Bart and Baker
Costumes by Monique Motil



Vote here. Voting ends tomorrow! (December 23rd).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burt Bacharach Day

Although this blog is largely on hiatus at the moment, I can pause long enough to post this song by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager.

If you count yourself as a Sentimental Sap (and at least some of the time I do), "That's What Friends Are For" registers a very high rating on the Sap-O-Meter. Some Burt Bacharach songs register way past the end of that dial, while others (the ones co-written with Elvis Costello), barely register.

Actually, this is my snide way of suggesting that I like this song a lot, provided the vocalist delivers it honestly, straight from the heart and without a diabetes-inducing dose of sickly, syrupy sugar. It ain't easy.



In this case, Trintje Oosterhuis, a fabulous singer, does a very nice job with this: knocks it out of the park.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Remembering Hubert Sumlin (Nov. 16, 1931 - Dec. 4, 2011)


Today, I will break with my own assertions and be The R.I.P. Blog. Must post a few clips of innovative blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin, responsible for musical genius both on stage and in the recording studio over six decades. He is best known for his stinging solos on numerous 1950's and 1960's Chess Records sides waxed by the great Howlin' Wolf.





Hubert Sumlin's guitar work has been much mimicked, frequently out-and-out plagiarized, but never equalled.




Sunday, December 04, 2011

In Person At Amoeba Records On Tuesday December 6: Maestro Brian Wilson

The recently released SMiLE Sessions box set - an in-depth look at the making of these recordings - is a treasure trove for instrumental music fans. Here are some scholarly reviews of the 1966 opus by Brian and lyricist Van Dyke Parks:

BBC - Music - Review of The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions

Chicago Tribune

The Guardian (UK)

Metacritic

NPR

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

Uncut


Brian will be at San Francisco's Ameoba Records, in person, signing the box sets for music fans on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

I love these recordings, and, as with Pet Sounds, never tire of listening to them. The more times I hear Brian's "way outside the box" arrangements, orchestrations and highly original choices of instrumentation throughout SMiLE, the more I enjoy them. The more I listen, the more interesting ideas I pick up.

The SMiLE Sessions have received the spotlight in the following 12-part series on YouTube. Here are some intriguing installments from The SMiLE Sessions chronicles - enjoy!







Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And This Blog Loves Elvis Costello


If any recording artist today is clearly a musician after Psychotronic Paul's jazzed-up heart, it would be Elvis Costello. In this piece from Reuters, Don't Buy My Box Set, Buy Satchmo's, he plugs the new Louis Armstrong DVD box set and gives some love to the intrepid musicologists who put it together.

Here's Elvis, on stage with Chet Baker. What a great concert that must have been!




Monday, November 28, 2011

This Saturday Night: KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival At Foothill College


The amazing 1955 Kelvinator Foodarama Refrigerator-Freezer

Alas, another December has rolled around, so that means it's time for the customary KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival to present yet another hallucinatory excursion through the irritated bowels of popular culture.



Yes, that means the usual suspects - trailers from schlocky drive-in movies featuring guys in stupid-looking robot and gorilla suits, well-meaning but now ridiculous 1950's educational films, vintage TV commercials and theatre ads, cartoon rarities, Japanese "thunder lizard" epics, musical comedy shorts, kidvid, serial chapters, puppet animation, Busby Berkeley style pre-Code insanity - will be on hand.



As will be the inevitable uber-campy Soundies. . .







And such high-stylin' tres cool Scopitones as these:









I am, indeed, way too damn lazy to write a blog or a manifesto, but present these shows as something of a personal reaction against all standard rules of curating.

Since I personally find devoting a screening to one director, one genre or one series about as fascinating as watching Black Friday-priced-to-move white latex paint dry, the Psychotronix Film Festival throws a wide variety of celluloid snippets from different places, genres, running times, techniques or time periods together for no apparent reason other than that sticking to one thing bores me.



Curator-archivist-producers-mad scientists Sci Fi Bob Ekman, Scott Moon and myself, supported by ace KFJC soundman Austin Space, create the program on the fly; we respond to audience reaction and select films accordingly in what I've repeatedly termed the "And Now For Something Completely Different" approach to film programming. Works for us!



The next KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival will return (by nothing remotely resembling popular demand) to spacious room 5015 on the Foothill College campus in the lovely Los Altos Hills, not far from the dreaded Silicon Valley on Saturday, December 3, 2011. Showtime is 7:00 p.m.



Ever-facile movie music expert and linguistically nimble host of "The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show" Robert Emmett m.c.s the festivities with panache, bon mots and a carefully picked selection of cheesy door prizes.


$5 admission benefits the innovative, un-corporate and fearless KFJC 89.7. You'll also need $2 for a parking permit.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

November 5, 2011 Is Bank Transfer Day

To paraphrase something I wrote on my January 2, 2010 posting:

"Every now and then I stop producing classic movie events, listening to jazz music, watching ancient short comedies and Scopitones long enough to ask . . . questions. And I invariably end up wandering circuitously through the dark woods of further questions."

Here are a few questions I like:
  • What can we, as citizens, given the massive corruption in our political system, do to make a difference?
  • Any way I can have checking and savings accounts that do not support sleazy business practices, sleazier lobbyists and the even - if one can imagine such a thing - sleazier politicians they bribe?"
  • Want to stop supporting ridiculous profits made by banks bailed out by TARP (and bonuses to the same greedy bastards who crashed the global economy. . . but got rewarded handsomely for their staggering ineptitude)?
  • Have I, unwittingly, Elmer Fudd-like, been aiding and abetting all of the above via my 401 K or IRA account and thus, am absolutely part of the problem?

Well, one way and signpost towards a solution, folks is to pull your moolah, your cashola, your simoleons, your do-re-me out of the Too Big To Fail banks and relocate it to smaller financial institutions and credit unions - the places that actually invest in our communities.

Supporting this worthy goal, Saturday, November 5, is Bank Transfer Day.

The Move Your Money website makes it pretty darn easy for consumers to identify community banks and smaller financial institutions in their neighborhoods.

If enough squeezed middle-class consumers migrate a substantial chunk of their business from irresponsible "too big to fail" banks. behemoths to community banks and credit unions, the message - which has yet to reach our elected representatives from the totally slimy GOP and only somewhat less slimy Democrats (and possibly never will) - will be loud and clear.

One can do a little research and find out which financial institutions spent gazillions - in some cases TARP money - to successfully bribe Senators and Representatives to kill or at least severely weaken financial reform (note - the bastards succeeded; the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was watered down from the blazing Bacardi 151 we needed to tepid, weak lemonade).

Let's hit the greedy assholes where it hurts most: their wallets.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Psychotronic Paul's 20th - Early 21st Century English Language Slang: Term #246

The Martha Stewart Universe: The good news is that in this universe, everything is organized, neat, tidy, color-coordinated, table settings are gorgeous, the clothes pressed, the linens without a single wrinkle, the living space is immaculate.

The bad news: citizens in general are treated like crap, status is king, employees are denied vacations. Spouses are interchangeable and children are ragged on. Neglecting to say thank you and not ever telling your partner, your family, your closest friends that you love them is the order of the day.

Then again, in The Martha Stewart Universe, the environment looks awesome, those perfectly placed doilies are comprised of the highest quality lace, and everything is as symmetrical as a fugue by J.S. Bach.





Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Bard Of Radio Theatre Passes At 101

There's been big news this month. The Occupy Wall Street protests are - well, maybe, as it's too early to tell - showing vague stirrings of genuine grassroots activism.


This blogger sees the protest as most of all, a response to the scandalous, pervasive political corruption and wholesale bribery of our elected representatives in America, as well as the fact that the public - lacking lobbyist slime and billions of ill-gotten gains which successfully buy influence - feels frozen out of the political process.


Could actually activism that is not from the far right happen? We haven't seen or it in the U.S.A. in almost 40 years - sorry, conservative friends, the Koch Industries- bankrolled "Tea Party" does not count. One can only hope the OWS protests stay non-violent, on message and on task - and do not get infiltrated by hooligans out to bash a few heads.


An even bigger story was the passings of Apple founder Steve Jobs and sports world mad genius and Oakland Raiders owner-coach-football wonk Al Davis. Both were giants and innovators in their respective fields. Jobs quite literally changed the world and could be considered the Thomas Edison of the present era. Although Al Davis made lots of enemies along the way, he ranks with Bill Walsh and Paul Brown among the gurus of NFL football.

This week, there was an additional non-untimely but culturally significant passing to call attention to. Norman Corwin, gifted dramatist, brilliant wordsmith, in many respects to radio what Rod Serling was to 1950's and early 1960's television, passed on at the very advanced age of 101.

The documentary A Note Of Triumph The Golden Age Of Norman Corwin offers an overview of his work and especially his moving VE Day broadcast: the eloquent words of Corwin, backed by Bernard Herrmann's outstanding original score, set a very high bar line for radio as an art form. Few could match Corwin's ability to orchestrate language, sound and drama. Fewer can now.



I am too lazy (or too tired from stressful events in my own life), unfortunately, to write an involved piece about the great Norman Corwin for this blog, but will point readers in the direction of some well-written obits

Columbia Journalism Review

Roanoke Times

L.A. Times

Variety

Washington Post

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psychotronic Paul Ponders . . . Heroin Addiction and Ready-To-Eat Cereals

Among my too many questions about mid-20th century pop culture: did William S. Burroughs start his day with a healthy breakfast starting with Kellogg's Sugar Smacks?



Uh. . . probably not. In actuality, the kids born a few years after notorious wordsmithWilliam S. Burroughs, would have been the target audience for such print advertising as this 1928 campaign for Kellogg's Pep.


Burroughs, novelist, junkie, provocateur and originator of punk rock literature 20 years before the term existed, was born in 1914.

The kids who were glued to the boob tube for the original late 1950's telecasts featuring Ruff N' Ready, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss were the post-WW2 babies, the Andy Kaufmans of the world, the offspring of what news anchorman-author Tom Brokaw termed The Greatest Generation.





Were The Beats, by that time home with children watching The Flintstones (and then listening to Art Pepper's Smack Up after the snot-nosed brats were in bed) the target audience for the following?



Maybe. Then again, maybe not. . .

My friends who are ten years younger than me were the audience for the following hilariously fraudulent commercial, no doubt heartily endorsed by the Future Diabetics Of America.



Shifting gears but staying somewhat on the topic of kidvid, today would have been the 90th birthday of stop-motion animation guru Art Clokey (1921-2010).

Clokey was an immensely creative soul who, in a way few in literature or animation come close to doing, succeeded in tapping into a genuinely childlike innocence and sense of wonder. This pre-speech consciousness permeates the very earliest Gumby cartoons such as the following - and would vanish not far into the series, once the main characters started talking and the "let's go to the moon" or "let's explore toyland, Pokey" scenarios got replaced with more conventional storylines.



Any doubts that Art listened to far-out cool jazz while thinking up clay animation ideas are dispelled by the following, his first film, Gumbasia.