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As you know, Adam West is gone.

Like a lot of people, West was a pop culture icon of my childhood thanks to the syndication of Batman. And whatever his qualities as an actor, he was perfect for the role – too perfect, perhaps, although West was able to reconcile himself with it. And that’s good.

Also, like a lot of people, he was my first Batman experience – in my case, it was the TV show that led me to read the comic books, rather than the other way round. And of course there will always be debate about how “authentic” West’s Batman was – after all, the whole show was meant to be ironic camp fun for 60s hipsters who laughed at Batman’s ultra-square demeanor.

And yet it wasn’t. While the show was essentially conceived as a sort of superhero sitcom, they were serious about Batman’s squareness, if only because he was meant to be the sane centerpiece of an insane crooked world of flamboyant supervillains, and a counterpoint to Robin’s youthful impulsiveness to do what feels right vs what is right – even if it’s a detail like pedestrian safety or being too young to legally enter a nightclub.

Here’s one way of looking at it – college-age hipsters watched it in the 1960s and laughed at Batman’s goody-two-shoes squareness. Primary school kids in the 1970s like me watched the reruns and saw Batman as the ultimate role model – the guy who stands for justice, defends the defenseless, obeys rules and laws (apart from the ones against vigilantism, of course, but who thinks of that when yr eight?), and generally does the right thing for the Greater Good of society.

In other words, we didn't see the irony – we saw the superhero we thought Batman was supposed to be. And we aspired to that. As you do when yr a kid.

Of course we grew up, and in my case I did see the goofy, hokey side of it all (and as Mark Hamill has pointed out, it says a lot that West was able to play the role for laughs and seriously at the same time).

By that time, too, we had The Dark Knight and characters like Wolverine, the first of many bad-ass superheroes who were perfectly fine with killing bad guys and delivering snappy one-liners while doing it – which Adam West’s Batman would never have done in a million years.

Don't get me wrong – gritty realism and graphic violence has its place in comics. I liked Frank Miller’s take on the Dark Knight, and it’s an aspect of the character worthy of exploration, and one that has been explored well, possibly to the point of ad nauseum. But it’s just one aspect of a multifaceted and contradictory character. And West’s Batman is arguably at the core of the character – he may be an orphan who dresses up like a bat to punch the crap out of criminals, but he is also grounded in a very clear sense of right and wrong, and there are lines he will not cross.

Naïve and oversimplistic? Probably. But why not? For my money, superhero stories don’t have to be “realistic” in order to be entertaining or meaningful. They also work as basic good vs evil stories where good generally wins, eventually – and does so on its own terms rather than stooping to the level of evil. And the “terms” can be generally defined as what we think of as ideals of morality, citizenship and justice – where crime never pays and the bad guys never get away with it, but ensuring that without breaking the confines of a fair and impartial justice system. The fact that the real justice system is neither fair nor impartial – to say nothing of the fact that vigilantism technically is by definition extrajudicial – is beside the point. Classic superheroes tended to operate according to the principles of that system regardless of whether the system itself did or not.

We need stories like that, just as we need stories that focus on what happens when the system fails us. Because I don’t think you can really appreciate the significance of the latter without appreciating the aspirations of the former.

Also, as Neil Gaiman intimated in a Riddler story, the former is just more fun. And it’s evident we’re starting to see a backlash at least in DC films that have gone for gritty realism vs Marvel’s lighter approach. I personally love the Nolan Batman films, but that was a specific cycle of films. There’s no need to make the whole universe like that. Anyway, you know you’ve gone too far with the Dark Knight angle when the Lego films are making fun of you.

I suppose some might point to Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin as proof that light-hearted cartoony Batman doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison, partly because Schumacher went against the expectations of franchise fans at the time who expected Tim Burton’s version, but also because the problem with Batman and Robin wasn’t the one-liners, overacting villains and cartoon sound effects – it was a bad story, too many supervillains, a very clumsy and forced attempt to shoehorn Batgirl into the franchise and Robin basically acting like a petulant jerk.

So, anyway, respect to Adam West for helping create a square, straight-edge Batman that we could look up to and yet not take too seriously, all at once.

Go West,

This is dF
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Chris Cornell is gone.

And of course I have to blog about that because the very first time I heard Soundgarden … I wasn’t that impressed.

Not that I thought they sucked. Far from it. I just didn’t quite get what they were doing.

This was 100% my problem. I was writing album reviews for the college newspaper at the time, and I was very heavily into punk and underground music at the time. The way it worked was, the local mall record store would let me take a couple of new records home to listen to, and then I would choose which one I thought made enough of an impression (good or bad) to write about, then bring them back.

One week, one of the options was Soundgarden’s Loud Love. I forget what the other album was, but I wrote about it instead, because I could at least get a handle on it. I really didn’t know what to make of Soundgarden – they were long-haired guys with no shirts on and they sounded (to me) like a heavy Led Zeppelin tribute band. I suppose they didn’t fit within my narrow punk aesthetic so I kind of blew them off.

Less than a year later, some friends turned me on to Nirvana’s first album, Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone from someplace called Seattle. I liked them a lot. Then someone else reintroduced me to Loud Love again, and I gave it another chance and THEN it clicked. I got it. And I was both amazed at the music, at Cornell’s vocals, and at myself for being so thick as to not like it on first listen.

I tended to do this a lot when I was younger. (Heck, I probably still do it now.) There was a long list of bands I didn’t really “get” the first time I heard them, but give it a year and I’d hear them again and go, “Wow, this is great, what was I thinking?”


Here’s a true story: I saw Soundgarden live when they were promoting the Badmotorfinger album. My best friend and I drove from Clarksville, TN to Nashville to watch them open for Skid Row. The played for something like 40 minutes and absolutely blew the roof off the dump. We danced in the aisle and as soon as Soundgarden finished their set, we got out of the building before Skid Row could get anywhere near the stage.

It’s probably the only time in my life I ever paid full price for a concert ticket just to see the opening band.

That’s Soundgarden, of course. As for Cornell himself, I admit I didn’t buy his solo stuff, but I did like the first Audioslave album – it was basically Rage Against The Machine with a new lead singer, but it blended perfectly.

Even his James Bond theme song was pretty decent. That was a surreal pop culture moment for me as well, having grown up with Bond films, where one of the big deals about any new film was who would they get to sing the theme song – at one time, it was a sort of a career signpost signaling you’d finally made it. That arguably stopped being true by the time The Living Daylights came out. Still, they didn’t give the job of singing the latest Bond theme song to just anyone. Anyway, Cornell wasn’t an obvious choice – if you were going to go with “former grunge singer does Bond theme” atall, I’d have thought Eddie Vedder would be yr go-to guy.

In any case, admit it – “You Know My Name” was arguably the best Bond song since Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill”.

Anyway, he was one of the iconic singers of my college years, and I’m saddened and shocked to hear he’s gone so soon.

Say hello 2 heaven,

This is dF
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Haven’t done one of these for awhile, and it features questions I haven’t answered before, so why not?

Senior year of high school

The year: 1983

1. Did you know your spouse?

2. Did you carpool to school?
If the school bus counts as carpooling, then yes.

3. What kind of car did you have? 
I had no car. I occasionally borrowed my mom’s AMC Rambler station wagon with unreliable brakes and required a screwdriver to open the doors.

4. It's FRIDAY night football, were you there?
No. And why is Friday in all caps?

5. What kind of job did you have?
I didn’t. I was generally unemployable. I mostly mowed lawns for pocket money.

6. Were you a party animal?
No. I was never invited to parties, and probably wouldn’t have gone if I had been.

7. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? 
None of the above. I was in the Drama Club.

8. Were you a nerd?
Let’s just say I got beat up behind the portables a lot.

9. Did you get suspended or expelled? 

10. Can you sing the fight/school song?
I don’t remember what it was. I’m not 100% sure we even had one.

11. Where did you eat lunch?
The cafeteria.

12. What was your school mascot? 
A commando.

13. If you could go back and do it again, would you?

14. Planning on going to your next high school reunion?
I haven't been to any of them, so why start now?

15. Are you still in contact with people from high school?
I’m in contact with a couple of people who I knew while I was in high school, but they didn't go to the same school as me.

16. Do you know where your high school sweetheart is today?
No idea.

17. What was your favorite subject?

18. Do you still have your High School Ring?
I never got one. That was for kids with money. Also, I’ve never been one for jewelry.

19. Do you still have your yearbook?
I don’t know. If I do, it’s in storage in my mom’s house somewhere, gathering dust, cobwebs and mold. I’m not in any hurry to dig for it.

School’s out completely,

This is dF


Dec. 28th, 2016 12:02 pm
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And now Carrie Fisher is gone.

And somehow this pic just seems appropriate.

I don’t know what I can add to everything else being said about her. Obviously she was part of my pop culture landscape with Star Wars – Leia was one of the first female characters I saw onscreen who wasn’t a frail damsel in distress. She was smart, tough and funny.

Fisher was also a good writer (I’ve only ever read Postcards From The Edge, but it’s a very funny book), and a funny person. I also loved the fact that she brought her dog Gary along to interviews.

It’s sad that she’s gone, but it’s good that she was here. Not only did she embody one of the great female icons of my generation, she also did a lot of good works offscreen by talking about her addiction and mental illness issues. (One of my family members is a recovering alcoholic who has also been diagnosed as bipolar, so I’m not a disinterested bystander in the that regard.)

In closing, I’ll honor her request to report that she died the way she wanted to go – drowned in moonlight and strangled to death by her own bra.

A princess in a world full of dragons,

This is dF

EDITED TO ADD [29 Dec]: And a day later, her mom Debbie Reynolds has also passed, because that's how 2016 rolls. 

defrog: (puzzler)
Greystoke Trading Company:Star Wars by George Lucas, 1977. Cover art by John Berkey.

I have loved this book cover since I was 12.

And it gets me to thinking about how I was impressed at the time that George Lucas wrote the novel version himself. One reason I remember this is because around the same time, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind came out, and I had the novel version of that, too.

And of course I’m thinking, “Wow, so they both made films out of their own novels.”

Did I mention I was 12?

Eventually I learned of the concept of ghostwriters. But I didn't put much thought into the Lucas/Spielberg novels until, thanks to the internet, I found out that the Star Wars novel was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster.

Which is wild because Star Wars is what got me into reading SF novels, and I read a lot of Foster’s SF books in the 80s. And the book that actually got me started with Foster was Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, which was written as a sequel to Star Wars EP 4 before The Empire Strikes Back came out. (Apparently Foster’s contract for the first book included a sequel regardless of how well the film did.)

Anyway, that explains why the Star Wars novel is actually pretty good as SF novels go, let alone novelizations of screenplays, which Foster has done a lot of in his career – I read pretty much all the ones he did in the 80s, as well as the ones he did for Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 70s.

As it turns out, the one big novelization project he didn't do at the time was Close Encounters – that was done by Leslie Elson Waller.

It’s interesting that someone made the decision in both cases to credit the books solely to the writer/directors of those films. I’m not aware that this was done previously (giving a film director sole credit for the ghostwritten novelization), and I don’t think it’s been done since. And I’ve no idea why it was done for those two specific films – maybe because they were massively successful films that also happened to be auteur-driven? 

Whatever the reason was, it’s probably slightly dishonest, but Foster has said in interviews he didn’t mind Lucas getting the credit for the novel since the basic story and characters were his anyway. And ghostwriting is basically designed for the purpose of letting someone take credit for someone else’s work (or to keep a franchise going). And it’s not all that bad when the person taking credit did at least come up with the ideas and characters and the storyline.

I’ll take that over strange projects like, say, those tie-in novels for the TV show Castle (the one where the murder-mystery novelist helps a sexy lady cop solve cases). If you don’t know, part of the promotion for that show includes actual mystery novels ghostwritten under the name Richard Castle. He has his own Amazon page and everything.

It may be the first time a mystery series has been credited to a fictional TV character. Anyway, it annoys me. Of course I’m not a fan of the show, so I would say that. But who would want to read a book by someone who only exists in a TV show?

Then again, Franklin W Dixon and Caroline Keene – the authors of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, respectively – didn’t exist either. So who am I to be critical?


This is dF

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ITEM: Playboy magazine will stop publishing pictures of nude ladies.

It will still publish sexy pics, but they’ll be more the kind of stuff you find in FHM, Esquire or Loaded – only, you know, classy.

The reasons are simple enough: (1) thanks to the interpr0nwebs (or even just Tumblr), you can see nude ladies anywhere, and see them doing all kinds of things they never did in Playboy, and (2) Playboy’s circulation is down so much that it doesn’t have much to lose by dropping the nudity.

Arguably they should have done it a long time ago. As both a champion of First Amendment issues (both in terms of nude pics and in-depth articles addressing censorship issues) and an up-market single man’s lifestyle magazine, Playboy is not the relevant pop-culture force it once was – and it hasn’t been for a long time.

Part of that is because its reputation and editorial direction was built around an affluent bachelor lifestyle/philosophy – especially in regards to attitudes towards women – that has been outdated more or less since Reagan left office. Playboy’s mission statement played well in the 1950s and 1960s, but by the 80s it mainly got by via college kids and yuppies, as well as serving as a foil to the Moral Majority (or at least a classier foil than Hustler). To its credit, Playboy did try to evolve with the times, but they never really succeeded.

And while tastes may vary, IMO Playboy’s pictorials haven’t been sexy since 1982. They have tried to maintain a level of relative classiness, but it’s hard to be classy when the models look like shiny plasticine Photoshop mannequins. Feminists have always taken Playboy to task (and not always unfairly) for treating women as unrealistic fun-loving sex objects, but this actually became true aesthetically as well as philosophically.

I will say that while “I only read Playboy for the articles” is one of the great old jokes (and The Daily Beast’s Emily Shire will go out of her way to remind everyone that no one ever read them because Playboy is spank-bank material and nothing else), Playboy did put a lot of effort into the non-pictorial content. It published fiction from some of the top writers of the time, and the interviews were considered to be some of the most in-depth and insightful to be found anywhere. Even their stereo reviews were taken seriously. Sure, no one read Playboy just for the articles ever, but that’s not to say they didn’t read the articles, or that the articles weren’t worth reading.

So if that’s what they’re going to trade on now, it’s good that they’ll focus on that, though whether it will save the brand, I don’t know. And I confess, I don’t care that much.

As for the nudity, some people have waxed nostalgic about how Playboy was practically a rite of passage for guys my age – you never forget the first time you found yr dad/uncle’s secret stash and found out what ladies look like with their clothes off, etc. For me personally, there was no dad-stash. My first skin mag was either Penthouse or Oui (there was a lot of soft-focus, I remember that), and I found it whilst dumpster-diving. I was 13. It had an effect – it was definitely a step up from the lingerie section of the Sears catalog.

Interestingly, the Big Score was acquired during a youth church retreat. I was 17 by then, and we went camping by a river on the property of someone one of the advisors knew. The property included a cabin we were allowed to access, and inside the cabin someone discovered a crate full of Playboys.

Hallelujah, etc.

I guess it’s true that we’ve long since passed the age when young heterosexual men in puberty have their first Playboy moment on the path to sexual discovery. These days it’s probably “my first Tumblr account”, or “The first day I got a Pornhub link in my search results”. It’s not really the same. At least with Playboy you got some decent literature and journalism to go with it.

Anyway, I do think Hugh Hefner deserves credit for shaking up the establishment and paving the way for America’s sexual liberation. But we should also probably admit that the Playboy clubs with cocktail waitresses dressed as bunnies were just silly.

BONUS TRACK: One interesting by-product of the Playboy legacy was Playboy After Dark, a TV show that ran from 1969 to 1970. There was no nudity in it – it was basically a televised posh cocktail party at Hef’s place with some surprisingly decent musical guests that you don’t normally see playing at posh cocktail parties.

Like Peter-Green era Fleetwood Mac.

All that AND Arte Johnson drunk on a pool table.

No photographs,

This is dF 
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The Muppets returned to the televisions this week.

I didn’t watch it, because I don’t live in the USA. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an American citizen, it’s this: just because you haven't actually seen a TV show or a film doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the content.

Sure. That’s what Franklin Graham and One Million Moms do.

Apparently they’re expecting lots of sex, drugs and full frontal nudity. I have a feeling it’s going to fall short of that mark – after all, this is ABC, not HBO.

On the other hand, if the promo material is anything to go by (and that is what these people are going by), The Muppets ain’t exactly a kids show, either. Even the producers have promoted it as a more “adult” show, which means edgy realism humor, uncomfortable relationship situations, double entendres and Grindr jokes, evidently.

None of which is a reason for ABC to cancel the show as Graham and 1MM are demanding. They generally demand the same of 85% of any given prime-time line-up, so it’s hard to take them seriously even before you factor in the fact they haven’t even watched the shows they want taken off the air.

Probably a more pertinent question is: is this really the Muppet show we want? (And by “we” I mean “me”, of course.)

Some of the more sober commentary I’ve read suggests that while the new show is clever and probably what the franchise needs to succeed in 2015, fans of the original show may find it jarring, if not sacrilege, or at least depressing.

For myself, I can tell you from the promo material that I’m not that enthralled with the new direction for a couple of reasons.

1. The mockumentary concept has been done to death (and just because they’re mocking the mocumentary concept doesn’t mean we need more of it). Even the idea of a mockumentary of a late night TV show isn't that original – The Larry Sanders Show covered this ground in the early 90s.

2. I don’t really want a Muppet show that goes for edgy realism or delves into their personal relationships. The Kermit/Miss Piggy angle of the original show was fun and made sense because it played to Piggy’s stage-diva character. Turning it into an ugly public tabloid drama with new girlfriend/ex-girlfriend tension doesn’t really entertain me or make me laugh.

Maybe all of this gels in the current jaded TV landscape. I don’t really watch much TV anyway, so that’s at least one reason for the disconnect here, I admit. Maybe Muppet fans who do watch lots of TV will get more out of the new show, or see the humor in it. Or maybe they’re just glad that the Muppets will be relevant to new generations of fans.

The thing is, they’re not the same Muppets I grew up with. The same characters, yes – but portrayed and presented in a much different way. Let me put it this way: as far as I know, the Muppets were always an all-ages proposition – that doesn’t mean it was just for kids, but that everyone who watched would get something out of it. Making it more “adult” alters that equation. Which might be fine except that the Muppets have always been marketed as being appropriate for kids. To suddenly bump them up to PG levels is inevitably going to confuse people.

It’s also fair to ask: is this what Jim Henson would have wanted? Lisa Henson thinks so, at least in terms of the Muppets being back on prime time and being popular again. But while Jim Henson always had something of a subversive streak to his work, he also understood the importance of subtlety.

Anyway, I'll be the first to admit my reservations don’t mean anything – as I say, I haven't seen the show, so I’m just kind of riffing and dithering here via a promo and second-hand info. And to be clear: even if it’s as bad as I imagine, I wouldn’t support a boycott like what Graham and 1MM are demanding.

Also, it’s not fair to judge a whole show on one episode. By some accounts, Episode 2 is a lot better than the premiere. So it could still grow into something that’s worthy of the Muppet legacy.

In any case, it does sound like one of those cases where parents should be given fair warning. If you already let yr kids watch (say) South Park, it’s probably a non-issue. If you keep them at the level of Pixar films or Frozen, you might want to dial up some parental supervision. Maybe a lot of the “adult” stuff will fly right over their little heads and they’ll just laugh at the silly bits. Still, I have my misgivings.

This is because I am old and decrepit, I know. Fair enough. I can’t say this is the Muppet show we need, but given the state of TV in 2015 – and the general culture of Fear, Hate and Cynicism that pretty much defines social media – maybe it’s the Muppet show we deserve.

It’s not easy being green,

This is dF

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[Via Matt Fraction]

There’s something marvelous about this. I gather in Old Days Of Televisions the networks would publish an industry programming report and hire an artist to do some cover art for one of the hot new shows that looked hip in a New Yorker/Village Voice kinda way rather than actually representing the show’s look.

Because there’s absolutely nothing here that gives you an idea of what The Monkees show would be like – apart maybe from “it’s about four guys in a rock group”, but that’s like promoting a show like Knight Rider with a cartoon of a guy driving a car. I mean, the guys in this picture could be the Beatles. Or the dozens of Beatles clones that emerged around that time.

Maybe that’s the whole point. It’s like if you took electromagnetic samples of Mickey, Davy, Mike and Peter’s souls and fed the data into a radioactive heat projector and seared the resulting image onto a wall, the very essence of the show is revealed: “Shameless Beatles Cash-In”.

Or something.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I love The Monkees – the show and the band. I don’t care what that does to my alt.cred.

Here we come,

This is dF
defrog: (45 frog)
If you’ve been following this series, by now you’ve noticed the pattern and the general timeframe involved, and naturally yr starting to wonder:

“Where’s the Kiss records? Surely you have some?”

Fair question. And yes, though actually I wasn’t all that big on Kiss at the time. They were arguably the most popular rock band in my junior high school, with the exception of Lynyrd Skynyrd. (And I’ll admit, it was only much later that I appreciated the irony of my male 8th Grade classmates beating up kids for being [allegedly] queer whilst their favorite band was four guys in make-up, leather, high heels and fishnet stockings.)

Anyway, I liked what songs I heard, and I enjoyed their TV special and that Phantom Of The Park thing, but I wasn’t trying to paint my face like them or anything.

And given the nature of many of the other songs in this series, I guess it says a lot that the one Kiss 45 I bought was the disco cash-in.

That said, I didn’t really think of it as a disco song. Probably because of all the guitars.

In my defense, I did end up spending more time listening to the more hard-rockin’ B-side.

I think the B-side holds up better, overall.

FUN FACT #1: Looking these songs, I learned for the first time that Peter Criss didn’t play drums on these songs. They used a session guy – Anton Fig, a.k.a. the drummer in David Letterman’s band.

FUN FACT #2: I did have one other Kiss song I listened to a lot.

This is probably my favorite Kiss song. But I had it on a Ronco comp, not on 45, so it doesn’t count for this series.

The first step of the cure,

This is dF
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ITEM: YouTube user Marcelo Zuniga has made some videos detailing every change ever made to the first three Star Wars films, complete with side-by-side comparisons.

Many of them I already knew about via the 1997 "special editions", but I didn’t know they’d been making extra alterations in subsequent home video releases. Many of them are fairly subtle, others not so much.

Anyway, as part of the original Star Wars generation, I think these videos offer definitive proof (to me) that the originals really didn't need "fixing". In my opinion the Biggs scene is the only deleted scene that was worth adding in.

It occurs to me too that one of the biggest problems here is that Lucasfilm is subtely (if not intentionally) altering film history.

The original SW trilogy was heralded in large part because the FX were groundbreaking and visually stunning for the time period. That matters because when you watch any old film, yr basically seeing films that were made with the tools available at the time, some of which may have been invented specifically for that film. That in itself is a tribute to the ingenuity of the filmmakers, and even if it looks a little clunky by 2015 standards, you can still appreciate what they managed to accomplish.

Star Wars has a well-earned rep as a game-changer in FX, but when you stick in scenes using technology that didn’t exist at the time, it’s like cheating. People seeing Star Wars for the first time may look at the latest version and think, “Wow, they had CGI back in the 70s!”

Well, maybe not, if only because Lucasfilm has been fairly transparent about its enhancements, so it’s not they're trying to trick anyone into thinking they were that far ahead of the CGI game. And maybe it only matters to people like me who have a fascination with film FX tricks and the art of making fake look real, and how they used to do it in the Old Days compared to now.

And considering a lot of the original FX are still intact, I guess you could say the upgraded films serve as a kind of mostly seamless comparison of old-school and new-school FX that demonstrate how sophisticated Lucasfilm and ILM were when they first started.

Still, now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, I’m hoping one day they’ll release the original versions for us Old And Cranky People who will always swear that Han shot first. That doesn’t seem likely, internet rumors notwithstanding. And Lucas has adamant that the “special editions” are the definitive versions as far as he’s concerned, and the originals are “half-completed” films.

If it ain’t broke,

This is dF

defrog: (45 frog)
It’s still Father’s Day in the West, so this will also count as my post for that.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that my dad was a session musician in Nashville in the 1950s/60s, and also played with The Bluenotes (sort of the de facto house band for Colonial Records in North Carolina). His biggest claim to fame is working with Roy Orbison, but according to AllMusic – and I only just learned about this today – his credits also include Grandpa Jones. And apparently Ann Margret recorded one of his songs.

So, wow.

Anyway, he recorded and released this solo 45 in 1961. It’s the B-side of another song of his, “Lover’s Holiday”. Apparently Billboard was impressed.

So naturally the 45 was in our house. I listened to this a lot when I was a kid, but I’m not sure I still have it anymore. It may be in storage somewhere in the US.

Anyway, point being, I hadn’t heard this in something like 35 years, and had in fact completely forgotten about it. Then I decided to Google up something of his for Father’s Day and this popped up. As soon as it started playing, I recognized it and remembered each part of it – the boingy distorted riff, the mournful backup singers, the fadeout.

It’s been a sort of strange year for me in regards to my dad. We didn’t have the greatest of relationships, and just when we were on the point of reconciling that in 1984, he died suddenly of a heart attack.

So it goes.

But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that, and … well, let’s just say I’ve come to terms with it all, and it’s cool. I just wish I’d put more effort into archiving his music when I still had it all in the house.

Anyway, I dig this record. I think it stands up with some of the better (if obscure) rockabilly records of the era.

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

All in the family,

This is dF
defrog: (45 frog)
Yes, well, okay.

Unlike “Sad Eyes”, I pretty much got what the song was about, although I found it odd that the narrator and his “old lady” had been together all that time and didn’t even know each other that well.

Then again, I found the term “old lady” odd too. I knew what it meant. I just thought it was strange to call yr girlfriend/lover/wife that.

Hippies, eh?

Anyway, apart from the lyrics (which were written at the last minute, according to Holmes), the song does have a kind of timelessness to it – at least if you go by how many times it’s been used ironically in film soundtracks.

Like a worn out recording,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
With Vitamin B1!

(via Comics Make No Sense: THOR! No, not THAT Thor…)

[Via Sloth Unleashed]

Pure, wholesome and delicious,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
It might look like this.

Okay, not really.

But that was more or less the premise – two androids have a flying saucer that, like the TARDIS, can travel in time as well as space. They pick up a couple of Earthling kids for a joy ride, lose control of the saucer and go whipping back and forth to different periods of Earth’s history as they try to get the kids back home.

Hey, it’s from the Krofft brothers.

I remember liking it at the time. Of course, I was also in 5th grade, so I was pretty undemanding as a viewer.

Gotta go back in time,

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You know by now that David Letterman announced his retirement. And while he won’t be leaving the air for at least another year, I might as well post this now.

For obvious reasons (location) I haven’t watched Letterman for a long time, apart from a short period where one local station struck a deal to run The Late Show for about a year.

But I was a regular viewer of Late Night since it started on NBC. I already knew Letterman from his stand-up act and his guest host slots on The Tonight Show. But Late Night brought something new to the table. I liked the offbeat “we’ll try anything” humor, the World’s Most Dangerous Band (as they were known before they became the CBS Orchestra), and the now-famous rapport between Dave and Paul Shaffer.

Lots has already been written on his career and his legacy. I’d recommend this Rolling Stone piece from a few years ago, which sums it up nicely.

For myself, I’d highlight the following:

1. Despite the fact that he desperately wanted the Tonight Show gig, I’m glad he didn’t get it. I doubt he would have been able to take the chances he did, and it's always possible he wouldn’t have bothered. He might have succeeded Johnny Carson, but he would have always been known as Carson’s replacement, rather than his equal.

2. He championed Warren Zevon. Points for that.

3. He championed lots of cool music, actually – Late Night and then The Late Show tended to showcase new and upcoming bands, as well as obscure veteran bands, that The Tonight Show wouldn’t touch until The Late Show made it cool.

4. He handled scandal better than just about anyone else – what little there was that he had. When he was blackmailed for cheating on his fiancé and sleeping with some staffers, he went proactive with it and handled it with as much class as anyone could in that situation. Anyone else would have tried to cover it up, blame the women or milk the sympathy/victim card. Letterman went straight to the police, then confessed and apologized to everyone. And the blackmailer went to jail. It doesn’t excuse Dave’s actions, but you have to admire the way he handled it.

The same goes for his retirement announcement, as NPR has pointed out. No press conference, no drama, no tabloid gossip – he just said it while they were taping. It was a typical Letterman move.

5. There was also the Bill Hicks episode, where he not only restored a deleted routine, but also brought on Hicks’ mother to personally apologize to her. Who else would do that?

6. Bob Rooney Day (who knows why I remember this – but I do).

Well, this list could go on, so I’ll stop here. (I know I should do ten, but the secret is knowing when to stop.)

As for Stephen Colbert being named as his replacement … I confess I’m surprised, if only because Colbert has proven his hosting chops by playing a fake character. That said, it’s not like I have any better suggestions. (Though I would have suggested Team Coco, personally – or maybe Craig Ferguson, though the ultra-late slot seems to fit him better.)

It will be interesting to see how Colbert does by being himself. But I expect some people will be disappointed. His fans may expect him to continue with the overt Republican-bashing – I doubt Colbert is going to make that a centerpiece of The Late Show (and I doubt Les Moonves would let him).

Real conservatives are of course very sad about Colbert getting the job (and by “sad” I mean “outraged at liberal CBS for endorsing Colbert’s ultra-liberal agenda gawdammit”). But these are the same people who never forgave Letterman for that Willow Palin joke.

As you might expect, I find it odd that some people think a late-night talk show has to pass some kind of political objectivity litmus test. And even if we accept the premise that Dave and The Late Show were liberally biased (with the caveat conservative pundits tend to assume everyone on TV who isn't on Fox News is a flaming liberal Communist), I’m not sure who they’d accept as a reasonable, fair replacement anyway. Papa Bear? Rush Limbaugh? Victoria Jackson?

Well, why not? While we’re at it, Paul Shaffer’s replacement could be Ted Nugent.

Admit it. You’d watch that, if only for the train-wreck value.

Meanwhile, there’s the much more pressing and important issue: who will replace Colbert on The Colbert Report?

There’s a long list of candidates. I’d like to see Samantha Bee take a shot, personally. But as it’s meant to be a parody of conservative talk shows, she should dye her hair blonde. For verisimilitude. 

Dave has left the building,

This is dF

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I had one of these.

Tape Recording for the Hobbyist by Art Zuckerman (1977).

[Via Retro Reverbs]

It was a General Electric brand recorder.

It looked like this. 

I was fascinated by it. I used it mainly for three things:

1. Recording TV themes

2. Bootlegging Monkees songs from the TV show

3. Making fake radio shows.


This is dF
defrog: (science!)
I understand a few of you are interested in this Doctor Who bloke.

As you may have heard in passing somewhere, the Doctor Who series is now 50 years old as of Saturday (albeit that includes 16 years of inactive service, interrupted once by Paul McGann in 1996).

And what with everyone posting all kinds of Doctor-Who related stuff (even Google and Yahoo are doing it), I thought I’d just toss in a link to this post about the Doctor Who novels:

They were really just novelizations of TV episodes. But when they started popping up in Waldenbooks in the early 80s – by which time Doctor Who was playing on my local PBS station – I ended up reading a lot of them. They were good research for earlier Doctor Who stories.

You see, children, back then we didn’t have these fancy YouTubes and on-demand TVs and Netflixes and Amazons that you have today. We didn’t even have DVD boxsets of TV shows. We had reruns. And in the case of Doctor Who, we didn’t even have that, because PBS generally does not do reruns. In Nashville, they started with Doctor No. 4, so if I wanted to watch any of the previous shows, there was really no way to do it. At all.

But I damn well could read them, thanks to the cheap Target novelizations of the episodes. That was my version of Catch-Up TV. And I have to say, they were well written – which is to say, they were quick and entertaining reads that delivered what my relatively undemanding 17-year-old self expected. I’m not sure what the current 48-year-old model of myself would make of them.

I could find out, except that I can’t remember if I ever kept any of them. If I did, they're buried in my mom’s storage shed along with all the other books I left behind when I moved to Hong Kong. I figure there’s a 60% chance they’re still there. And there’s a 42% chance that they’re still in readable condition.

There is another option: some of the novels have been reprinted by BBC Books, and a few bookstores in HK are carrying them. I’m tempted to get one and see what happens.

Back to the future,

This is dF

defrog: (devo mouse)
ITEM: Photographer Michael Galinsky has published a book of photos of American shopping malls circa 1989 – complete with trendy teenagers.

This pretty much sums up why I look back on my teenage years with horror and revulsion. Every Friday and Saturday night, all the cool kids would cruise the local mall and hang out.

I hated mall culture. I thought it was superficial bullshit for people who cared more about being popular and fashionable and trendy – and more importantly, being seen doing it – than they did about anything important.

This was, of course, because I was unpopular, unfashionable and the polar opposite of cool. Also, I had no car and no money, so I couldn’t really get to the mall to hang out even if I wanted to.

But I didn’t, really. I was happier staying home, reading books and listening to my Rush, Pink Floyd, ELO and Black Sabbath records. My idea of a great Friday night? Staying up late writing stories, eating Doritos with picante sauce and watching Benny Hill and Night Flight on UHF.

I’ve long since gotten over my aversion to shopping malls, mainly out of necessity – Hong Kong is lousy with them, as is pretty much every major city in Asia that I travel to, but they do usually serve as giant multilevel convenience stores. They’re also usually where the CD stores and good English-language bookstores are. So I use them when I need them.

On the other hand, it’s kind of a drag seeing mall culture being exported to every corner of the planet. I can see the appeal in developing markets, in terms of job creation and boosting the local economy (assuming malls accomplish both). But I’ve also seen the tradeoffs. Here in HK, locally run businesses are being pushed out of the arcades in favor of mall chain stores that can afford the exorbitant commercial rent. And many of the chain stores just happen to be owned by the same three or four HK conglomerates who also just happen to own the property.

This is progress?

Mojo Nixon had a point.

A bunch of malarky,

This is dF

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This was the coolest thing ever in 1979.

[Via The Cult Of Ray]

Well, possibly. But yes, children, at one time Styx really were huge enough to rate a contest like this.

And I should know. I was a fan.

It seems funny now, but Styx really seemed bad-ass when I was in junior-high school. “Renegade” was the big hit on the main rock stations, and sure, they followed that up with “Babe”, but still, a lot of their album cuts were pretty heavy. Also, they were the first band I ever saw live (the Paradise Theatre tour, even – “no opening act”, the ticket said).

And for all that, of all the bands I loved during that time, Styx is the one I haven’t really reconciled myself with yet. I’ll wear my love for Electric Light Orchestra and Wings on my sleeve, but I don’t talk about Styx much.

I’m not sure why.  I haven't really listened to them since I graduated from high school, apart from whatever of their hits get played in the background (usually “Babe” or “Come Sail Away”), but in my head, at least, Styx hasn’t aged well as a band. Certainly the lyrics haven't – good as Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw were at writing hit songs, their lyrics often veered between corny and pretentious on any given song. Which works when yr 15, but not when yr 47. 

Still, nice van.

PRODUCTION NOTE #1: Notice that the ad is for record store retailers, not Styx fans. I think the idea was to use the van as a promotional tool, or possibly a giveaway.

PRODUCTION NOTE #2: Notice also the “Beta-format Videotape units”.

Oh what a giveaway,

This is dF

defrog: (devo mouse)
Messy Nessy Chic has some wonderful photos of the inside of HMV in the 1960s. 

It was all downhill from there, apparently. Even when I was growing up in the 80s, record stores looked nothing like this – or at least not the mall chain stores that I was aware of at the time. Then again, maybe it’s a British thing. For all I know, American record stores in the 60s looked more or less the same as they did in the 80s.


This is dF


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