Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Forty-Eight Hours Since Last I Blogged

Some days I just don’t wind up with the energy to write even a couple paragraphs. And yet, I have lots of energy for experiencing things worth mentioning. So, here we go with a small number of comments about a lot of things.

1) I don’t know where in the country you are, but it’s ridiculously hot. Everything I do is tempered by the fact that I live in a house where we only have one room of air conditioning.

2) Wednesday night, I went to Frederick’s Music Lounge to catch Tim Easton and Kevin Gordon. Both these singer songwriters were in fine form. Easton played solo (with the occasional aid of a local violin player named, I think, Kevin Buckley), while Gordon rocked with a crack team of Nashville session players who were channeling lots of Memphis soul. Yeah, that’s all I got, except to say you really should listen to these guys.

3) We caught up watching last week’s episode of “30 Days,” the new cable series by Morgan Spurlock, the guy who did “Super Size Me.” This time, Spurlock and his fiancée agreed to live for thirty days on minimum wage jobs (or more precisely, jobs they could get without prior experience). Watching them deal with the hardships imposed by such tight financial constraints was further proof, as if it were needed, that this country is surviving off the backs of its working poor in ways that are simply unconscionable.

4) Wednesday afternoon I watched Fatty Arbuckle in his 1921 movie, “Leap Year.” This was the last movie Arbuckle made before the scandal which ended his career. Arbuckle was completely exonerated by judge and jury of any involvement in the young starlet’s death which happened at his party, but he was kicked out of Hollywood anyway. Too bad, because this nutty comedy of a guy who can’t stop getting fiancées through no fault of his own was quite a hoot.

5) A 1926 Lon Chaney flick called “Tell It to the Marines” was the first movie ever made with the cooperation of the United States Marine Corps. If you’ve ever seen any of the dozens of military boot camp films which followed in its wake, or for that matter “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” you’ve got the basics. A boy comes in to the corps green as can be, and they make a man out of him. The pleasures of this one are mostly in Chaney’s complex sergeant and the enthusiasm of William Haines as Skeet Burns, the young recruit. On the other hand, Haines is quite the asshole to his supposed love interest, whose only regret about the night he practically raped her was that she tattled on him.

6) Speaking of slapping women around, last night Cat and I watched James Cagney in “Picture Snapper.” Oh, the guy is engrossing as all heck, pushing his way around as the eager young reporter who wants to go straight after his years in Sing Sing. But, that doesn’t stop him from pushing his hand hard into the face of the bimbo who never catches on that he isn’t going to go to bed with her. See, it’s violence against women because Cagney’s character is truly in love with another. Of actual interest, the complex series of reactions by reporters to witnessing an electrocution execution was rather impressive in an era when nuance concerning law and order wasn’t all that common.

7) I’ve been driving around listening to Duke Ellington’s “Piano In the Foreground,” a trio album re-released last year. Since most of the hundreds of Ellington albums in the world feature him leading his amazing big bands, it’s a rare treat to hear him just sit and play the piano. He had an elegant, minimalist style at the keyboard. He liked to stick to the melodies and riffs of the song, with little ornamentation, but plenty of variation.

8) I gobbled up “The Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2,” one of those giant 500-plus page collections of black and white reprints from Marvel comics. The first half of the book gives us the 1968-69 issues of Dr. Strange’s own comic book, which lasted for a short time after years of sharing half of Strange Tales. The Gene Colan artwork is absolutely gorgeous, but Roy Thomas didn’t put a lot of thought into the meandering tales. Fast forward a couple years and we get the revival of Dr. Strange as featured originally in the omnibus title Marvel Premiere. With a revolving cast of artists, most of them really good but one, whose name escapes me right now, as hideous as any professional comic book artist I’ve ever seen, veteran scribe Gardner Fox got Strange involved in a hooey-ific bunch of Robert E. Howard gothic monster nonsense. But Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner rescued him, and the last five stories in this book are philosophical, complex, and downright powerful things.

9) Next week, I start a two-week temporary job. Should be interesting going on a regulated schedule.

10) Did I mention it’s hot?


Blogger Aunt B said...

Plus, using my psychic powers, I predict that you will soon have a new book to mull over. Just add the almost unbearable heat, some good old Muddy Waters, and enjoy!

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My vote for the worst artist in the Essential Dr. Strange vol. 2 is Irv Wesley. With a name like that, he really never had a chance.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My vote for Most Self Aggrandizing Music Reviewer is Steve Pick.

"Rock music criticism is people who can't write writing for people who can't read." FZ

8:13 PM  

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