Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herb Ellis, RIP



Photo caption: Herb Ellis, left, with bassist Johnny Frigo and pianist Lou Carter, who performed together as the Soft Winds. The three musicians formerly played with the Jimmy Dorsey big band. (Family Photo)

(Turns out, along with famous teacher Jaime Escalante, and with a father of a friend, it seems it was a hell of weekend. TM)

Herb Ellis dies, considered one of best jazz guitar soloists

By Terence McArdle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 31, 2010; B06



Herb Ellis, 88, a jazz guitar virtuoso who swung hard behind such jazz luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Stan Getz and was a member of the celebrated Oscar Peterson Trio in the 1950s, died March 28 at his home in Los Angeles. He had Alzheimer's disease. His last performance was in 2000.

In a career than spanned six decades, the Texas-born Ellis was regarded as one of the finest jazz guitar soloists. Innovative guitarist Les Paul paid him the compliment: "If you're not swinging, he's gonna make you swing."

After an early stint with the Jimmy Dorsey big band, Ellis formed the Soft Winds trio in 1947 with two Dorsey colleagues, pianist Lou Carter and bassist Johnny Frigo.

The trio was not a major commercial success during its five-year existence, but the group recorded many songs and developed a fine reputation in later years among aficionados. The members co-wrote "Detour Ahead" and "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out," both of which have been widely performed by other artists.

Peterson, who often sat in with the Soft Winds, recruited Mr. Ellis as a replacement for guitarist Barney Kessel in 1953. Mr. Ellis was an ideal accompanist for Peterson, supplementing the often flamboyant playing of the pianist with precise, uncluttered chord work and economical but swinging solos. They were joined by bassist Ray Brown.

"It was probably the highlight of my career to work with those guys," Mr. Ellis once said. "Oscar's a mental giant. He'd give me stuff to play and I'd say, 'I can't play this Oscar.' He'd say, 'Yes, you can. I know how much you can play.' "

The Peterson trio also served as the house band for Norman Granz's Verve record label and on Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, accompanying Fitzgerald and such instrumentalists as Dizzy Gillespie, Ben Webster and Roy Eldridge. Mr. Ellis also recorded on the side and made some astonishingly good records, among them "Nothing but the Blues" (1957), featuring Brown, saxophonist Stan Getz and trumpeter Eldridge.

Mr. Ellis left the Peterson trio to tour with Fitzgerald and later embarked on a solo career that often found him generously sharing the spotlight with other jazz guitar virtuosos such as Kessel and Joe Pass.

Mitchell Herbert Ellis was born Aug. 4, 1921, in Farmersville, north of Dallas, and raised on a cotton farm. "I don't know if I heard blues when I was young, but if you could see where I lived, it would give you the blues," he once said.

He took up banjo at 8 but quickly gravitated to his older brother's guitar. Mostly, he said, he wanted to show up his sibling, who had tuned the guitar incorrectly.

His early influences came from the radio, on which he heard everything from Western swing to the European jazz records of guitarist Django Reinhardt. Mr. Ellis enrolled at the University of North Texas in Denton, where his roommate was reed player Jimmy Guiffre. Jazz records blared through the dorms, and Mr. Ellis became particularly fascinated by electric guitarist Charlie Christian, whose music "sounded like what a tenor saxophonist would play on guitar."

When the money to continue his studies ran out, Mr. Ellis moved to Kansas City, Mo., then a thriving jazz center. He had a heart murmur that kept him from military duty during World War II, his family said.

He lined up work with Charlie Fisk, a local big band leader, and then with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra before joining the popular Dorsey band in 1945.

In 1957, Mr. Ellis married Patti Gahagan. She survives, along with their two children, Kari Yedor and Mitchell Ellis, both of Los Angeles, and three grandchildren.

Mr. Ellis wearied of the constant road work with Peterson and left the group in 1958. After a couple of tours with singers Fitzgerald and Julie London, Mr. Ellis settled into a career as a studio musician, including stints in the television bands for the Steve Allen, Merv Griffin and Regis Philbin shows. He also recorded as a leader for Verve and Columbia in this period as a leader.

By the 1970s, Mr. Ellis had become a touring musician again, following a series of recordings for the Concord label. These included pairings with guitarists Joe Pass and Laurindo Almeida and a trio with bassist Brown and Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander.

The Great Guitars, with Mr. Ellis, Kessel, Charlie Byrd, bassist Joe Byrd and drummer Chuck Redd -- the not-so-humble name came from an Australian promoter -- became mainstays of the jazz circuit and performed several times at Charlie Byrd's club Charlie's of Georgetown in the District and the King of France Tavern in Annapolis.

"The individual chases are dazzling, but some of the most delightful work come in the ensemble passages, where harmonic subtlety and snappy counterpoint prevail," Washington Post music critic Richard Harrington wrote of Great Guitars.

Joe Byrd recalled Kessel as the "kibbitzer" of the group while Mr. Ellis was more reserved. Kessel would chat with fans long after they had finished playing. At some point, a set of keys would come flying toward the bandstand, and Mr. Ellis would yell, 'Hey, Barney, remember to lock up, okay?' "

David Mills, RIP

Veteran 'Wire,' 'ER' screenwriter David Mills dies
By MARY FOSTER Associated Press Writer © 2010 The Associated Press
March 31, 2010, 2:00PM

NEW ORLEANS — David Mills, a veteran television writer who worked on the award-winning series "ER" and "The Wire," has died. He was 48.

Mills died Tuesday night in New Orleans, said HBO spokesman Diego Aldana, declining to provide any other information.

Mills had been living in New Orleans while co-writing and acting as co-executive producer of the new HBO series "Treme," (truh-MAY'). He wrote two of the upcoming episodes. The drama is set to premiere April 11.

"HBO is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague David Mills," said a network statement. "He was a gracious and humble man, and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him, as well as those who were aware of his immense talent. David has left us too soon but his brilliant work will live on."

Treme cast and crew members held a memorial for Mills on the set Wednesday morning, said New Orleans-born actor Wendell Pierce, who played Detective William "Bunk" Moreland on "The Wire," and plays a musician in "Treme."

"He was very quiet and introverted, but spoke volumes when he wrote," Pierce said of Mills. "He challenged us as actors and he challenged Americans when it came to matters of race. He was one of the more talented people working in TV. He made it much more than just empty entertainment."

Mills collapsed on the set Tuesday night, Pierce said. An autopsy was pending.

"He was carrying on a conversation and just fell over," Pierce said. "They called the medics, but there was nothing to be done."

Mills began his career as a reporter for the Washington Post, before turning to screenwriting. In addition to "ER" and "The Wire," he worked on the HBO drama, "The Corner," and "Homicide: Life on the Street," among other shows.

According to Internet Movie Database, Mills started his television writing career with longtime friend and "Wire" creator David Simon in 1994. The pair wrote an episode of "Homicide" that year, for which they won a Writers Guild of America award.

Mills won Emmys for co-writing and executive producing the miniseries "The Corner" and an Edgar in 2007 for "The Wire."

Treme is set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and is being filmed in the city. The series is named after the Creole neighborhood known for its rich musical history.

"I'm so sorry he won't be able to see the launch of the show he cared so much about," Pierce said.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

10 magazines


What ten books most influenced the list-makers, asks George Kelley? How about the ten
magazines?

1. Unknown pulp sf reprint magazine. One of my two earliest remembered reading experiences (story about an alien who could transmigrate consciousness...swap bodies...with the protag, who described how he suddenly was in a tentacled body...after all these years, I wonder if I'd honed in on one of the reprint stories in a late '60s Amazing), the other being an unknown DC science fictional comic. I read Seuss and easy-reader Grimm earlier, but these are the first I remember. This would've been in 1968-69.

2. Children's Digest and Humpty Dumpty. Fascinating in their variety. Highlights, too.

3. Dynamite. The Scholastic Book Services magazine that was sheer charm and funny trivia. Runner up for this slot: Boy's Life.

4. Comics, particularly the horrors, and Mad. Particularly Weird War Tales from DC (and its militating against war); Tomb of Darkness from Marvel, Atlas/Timely reprints from the days they went head to head with EC's industry-shaking horrors; and the odd title such as Charlton's Ghost Manor and its early '70s importing of short ghost manga, or Gold Key's rather well-written Twilight Zone. Of course, the books collecting the Kurtzman Mad and its immediate aftermath were funnier than the current one, but the curent one was worth getting...ahead, in the middle '70s, of even National Lampoon (despite the sexy parts of NatLamp...but that's what stolen Playboys were for) given the relatively frequent recourse to the easy laugh in NL, to say nothing of the basic sadness of Cracked and Crazy...though DC's Plop! was gratifyingly weird. Not terribly funny, but interesting.


5. Fiction magazines. See approximately half the posts in this blog, including this one to a limited extent.

6. Playboy. Endlessly fascinating to the 9-13yo me, for all the obvious reasons coinciding oddly enough with puberty's onset, and perhaps the not so obvious...it almost, beyond the nudes, seemed to rival the generalist magazines for kids in the range of topics addressed, though even at nine it seemed odd to me that some of the pictorials showed fully-dressed men with naked women...wasn't he interested in the fun to be had?

7. The Atlantic Monthly...now, finally, in 1978, I'd found a magazine that was the adult equivalent of Children's Digest or Highlights...just as eclectic. Pity it kept getting duller and duller as the years passed, almost as staid, finally, as Shawn's New Yorker...but, happily, Harper's, previously Atlantic's Brand X, remade itself into something even more interesting in 1984.

8. Science Fiction Review. The first important sf fanzine I read, soon followed by Algol in the process of becoming, briefly, Starship, the entrees to my first subculture, albeit I've remained essentially an amused fringefan throughout the years since.

8. Downbeat. The first music magazine I read (ca. 1978), and it paved the way for the other interesting music magazines I would also pick up over the years. Now that I haven't read Rolling Stone regularly for a quarter century and haven't been keeping up with Maximum RockNRoll (which I also, if trivially, contributed to), I still pick up Downbeat and Jazz Times, and would Cadence if it was still with us [update: which it is!]. (Cadence and JT columnists were Far too kind to my jazz fanzine pretty obscure; jazz notes and unpopular culture in review...in part I think because they wanted to encourage the example.)

10. Our Generation. Even more than the rest of the anarchist press extant in the 1980s, ranging from the bitter one-man labor of printer's love The Match! through Fifth Estate through Social Anarchism (to which I would contribute; my brother provided a cover for that issue, a reprint from the front page of a collective magazine we put out with my ex and two other friends, (in*sit)) to Profane Existence (a long letter there from me was quoted in someone's PhD thesis that was published as a trade book, I learned on the same day I bought my first car...now there's a load of mixed emotions for you)...even more than all the others (Freedom and Anarchist Review from across the Atlantic...), the Canadian Our Generation spoke to me with its long contributions from Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Janet Biehl and others who were trying create a pragmatic libertarian socialism, and, where that wasn't going to happen, to not forget those who had come before, and what we might be able to do incrementally.

+. Hey, blogs are fanzines, basically. Sans martyred trees, mostly...

George Kelley got the books meme started in our little strand of the web, but Patti Abbott, as is her wont, put together the longest set of links to everyone's response she was aware of. K. A. Laity's link wasn't working on Patti's list when I checked, tho'.

And please spare a thought for Brian Arnold and his family, who faced a major loss this week.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Magazines



This is the ineptly covered first issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine I both owned and read...there were a Lot of inept covrs on AHMM in the HSD Publications and early Davis Publications decades, when it was decided that contributors names couldn't draw nearly as well as badly-cropped photos of Hitchcok. I picked it up, along with the August 1968 issue (with a less amateurish caricature cover), at a booksale in 1976.

The contents:
"Shadow Against Shadow" by Edward Y. Breese;
"Fat Jow and the Demon" by Robert Alan Blair;
"A Flower in Her Hair" by Pauline C. Smith;
"You Can Bet on Ruby Martinson" by Henry Slesar;
"Second Talent" by James Holding;
"The Creator of Spud Moran" by John Lutz;
"Nobody to Play With" by Irwin Porges;
"The Philanderer" by Lawrence E. Orin;
"Night Storm" by Max Van Derveer;
"Good-Bye Now" by Gil Brewer;
"You Can't Fight City Hall, Pete" by Bill Pronizini;
"What Difference Now" by Clayton Matthews;
"A Nice Wholesome Girl" by Robert Colby;
"Step No. VII" by Harold Rolseth.

My copy is in storage, but I remember the rather famous Holding story pretty well, and the Slesar (part of a series about minor "operator" Martinson), and that the Lutz. Colby, and Pronzini were wryly funny. The Porges is the kind of story I thought of when, later, I read Barry Malzberg dismissively refer to a the kind of plot that was stupid enough to sell to AHMM, a clumsy misfire about a mentally-retarded man and the machinations and improbable coincidences played out to ensure that he had a playmate. The Brewer, iirc, was effectively grim.

AHMM in those years was not as hardboiled as the ghost of Manhunt, still lingering, nor quite as much as Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, still making its lower-budgedted way in the world, but AHMM was certainly more likely to be grim and naturalistic than Ellery Queen's in Dannay's last years there or even than The Saint Mystery Magazine's last issues of its penulitmate (iF I have this straight) US version of that frequently-revived title. Given all the talent assembled above, it's remarkable how little AHMM was paying...while EQMM was paying relatively well.

Four magazines from Londonderry Junior High School library, late 1977 (images courtesy of the fine NooSFere site):





My friend Steven Durost (see previous post) found the Fantastic issue in our school library, where it (and the other three) had apparently been kicking around for years, left behind perhaps by a teacher...but never actually added to the collection. So when Steve turned the Fantastic back in, the librarian, seeing I was interested in it, gave it to me along with the other three old issues kicking around. You might note that the only fiction-writer not to be noted on the F&SF cover turned out to be the commercially biggest star in the issue, eventually...Gary Jennings, he of Aztec and Spangle a few years down the road.

You can see, I think, why I fell in love with Jack Gaughan's art for the newly upgraded physical package of Galaxy and If, sibling magazines (If had folded by the time I found these, incorporated into the faltering Galaxy). Interesting magazines, but not as good as the more eclectic Fantastic and F&SF...

Title: Fantastic, June 1971
4 • Editorial (Fantastic, June 1971) • essay by Ted White, header by Mike Hinge
6 • The Byworlder (Part 1 of 2) • serial by Poul Anderson
7 • The Byworlder (Part 1 of 2) • interior artwork by Mike Hinge
58 • War of the Doom Zombies • short story by Richard A. Lupoff [as by Ova Hamlet]
59 • War of the Doom Zombies • interior artwork by Bill Graham
66 • No Exit • shortstory by Larry Niven and [the eventual] Jean Marie Stine [as by Hank Stine and Larry Niven]
67 • No Exit • interior artwork by Steve Harper
70 • The Man Who Faded Away • shortstory by Richard E. Peck
71 • The Man Who Faded Away • interior artwork by Jeff Jones
76 • The Lurker in the Locked Bedroom • shortstory by Edward Bryant [as by Ed Bryant]
77 • The Lurker in the Locked Bedroom • interior artwork by Michael Kaluta [as by Michael Wm. Kaluta]
82 • War of Human Cats • (1940 Fantastic Adventures reprint) • novelet by Festus Pragnell
82 • War of Human Cats (reprint) • (1940) • interior artwork by Jay Jackson
98 • These Things Called Genes • (1940) • filler essay by uncredited (Ray Palmer?)
99 • Literary Swordsmen & Sorcerers: Skald in the Post Oaks • essay by L. Sprague de Camp
109 • Science Fiction in Dimension: New Perspective • essay by Alexei Panshin
115 • . . . According to You (Fantastic, June 1971) • letter column conducted by Ted White

Title: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1971
4 • A Feast for the Gods • novelette by Poul Anderson and Karen Anderson
18 • Books (F&SF, November 1971) • essay by Joanna Russ
18 •   Review: The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone • book review by Joanna Russ
19 •   Review: Abyss by Kate Wilhelm • book review by Joanna Russ
21 •   Review: The Light Fantastic by Harry Harrison • book review by Joanna Russ
21 •   Review: Partners in Wonder by Harlan Ellison and others • book review by Joanna Russ
23 •   Review: The Day After Judgment by James Blish • book review by Joanna Russ
24 • Bind Your Hair • (1964) • novelette by Robert Aickman
45 • Cartoon: "Where were you for all those years?" • interior artwork by Gahan Wilson (a dying, elderly woman shouting at a fairy godmother hovering over the deathbed)
46 • Only Who Can Make a Tree? • short story by Philip José Farmer
56 • Whom the Gods Love • [Jan Darzek] • short story by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
71 • Films (F&SF, November 1971) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Peter Rabbit and the Tales of Beatrix Potter; brief notes • essay by Baird Searles
73 • The Price of Pain-Ease • [Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser] • (1970) • short story by Fritz Leiber
89 • How We Pass the Time in Hell • short story by Gary Jennings
101 • The Left Hand of the Electron • [Science] • essay by Isaac Asimov
111 • That Boy • [The People] • novelette by Zenna Henderson
144 • F&SF Competition #1 • essay by uncredited

Title: Galaxy Magazine, May-June 1971
2 • Letters 3 • [Editor's Page) • letter column/notes conducted by Ejler Jakobsson
4 • Tip of the Iceberg • novelette by Ernest Hill
4 • Tip of the Iceberg • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
28 • The No-Wind Spotted Tiger Planet • shortstory by W. Macfarlane
37 • The Verity File • short story by Theodore Sturgeon
51 • Falling Through the World • short story by Duncan Lunan
51 • Falling Through the World • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
68 • The Message • [The Listeners] • novelette by James E. Gunn
68 • The Message • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
95 • Galaxy Book Shelf (Galaxy, May-June 1971) • [Galaxy Bookshelf] • essay by Algis Budrys
103 • Rate of Exchange • short story by Jack Sharkey
103 • Rate of Exchange • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
108 • A Time of Changes (Part 3 of 3) • serial by Robert Silverberg
108 • A Time of Changes (Part 3 of 3) • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
167 • The Buyer • shortstory by Larry Eisenberg
167 • The Buyer • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
169 • Galaxy Stars (Galaxy, May-June 1971) • [Galaxy's Stars] • essay by uncredited
171 • Price of Leisure • shortstory by David R. Bunch
171 • Price of Leisure • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan

Title:If, March-April 1971
2 • Hue and Cry (If, March-April 1971) • [Hue and Cry] • editorial/letter column conducted by Ejler Jakobsson
4 • Gambler's Choice • [A.E.S.O.P.] • short story by Bob Shaw
4 • Gambler's Choice • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
24 • One-Generation New World • novelette by W. Macfarlane
24 • One-Generation New World • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
60 • One-Generation New World [2] • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
68 • Slaves of Silver • shortstory by Gene Wolfe
68 • Slaves of Silver • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
84 • Star Crossing • novella by Gregory Benford and Donald Franson [as by Donald Franson and Greg Benford]
84 • Star Crossing • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
134 • Retief, Insider • [Retief] • novelette by Keith Laumer
134 • Retief, Insider • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
159 • Casey's Transfer • short story by Lee Saye
159 • Casey's Transfer • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
163 • Reading Room (If, March-April 1971) • [Reading Room] • essay by Lester del Rey
164 •   Review: Ringworld by Larry Niven • book review by Lester del Rey
165 •   Review: The Stone God Awakens by Philip José Farmer • book review by Lester del Rey
166 •   Review: Children of Tomorrow by A. E. van Vogt • book review by Lester del Rey
167 •   Review: The Glass Teat by Harlan Ellison • book review by Lester del Rey
168 •   Review: The Universe Makers by Donald A. Wollheim • book review by Lester del Rey
169 •   Review: Nightmare Age by Frederik Pohl • book review by Lester del Rey
169 • SF Calendar (If, March-April 1971) • calendar of fannish events by uncredited
170 • Space Slick • novelette by Gerard Rejskind
170 • Space Slick • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan

(Indices from ISFDB, which also features this Visco image of the F&SF wraparound cover:)



The Fantastic issue has the first of the rather unpopular De Camp takes on Robert E. Howard...and fine early stories from Richard Peck and Ed Bryant. And an uncollected Stine and Niven which I presented to, at the time, my completist Niven-reading father.

The F&SF featured a whole lot of revelations, including reviews of books my father had picked up and which I'd dipped into or read through (I already knew Joanna Russ from "Useful Phrases for the Tourist," for example). Also, the magazine was the first with the same horrible printers that EQMM had been using, cheap but with absolutely nothing else to recommend them...probably the same folks who had been giving cheap printing in Holyoke, MA, a bad reputation (if a thrify one) for decades.



This would be similar to my father's copy, inherted by me, of an Analog, the first I recall seeing. Cenetery World being rather minor Simak, "Pigeon City" is the story to take away from this issue...

Title: Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November 1972
4 • Legalize Pot? • [Editorial) • essay by Ben Bova
8 • Cemetery World (Part 1 of 3) • serial by Clifford D. Simak
8 • Cemetery World (Part 1 of 3) • interior artwork by John Schoenherr
34 • Cemetery World (Part 1 of 3) [2] • interior artwork by John Schoenherr
52 • Cemetery World (Part 1 of 3) [3] • interior artwork by John Schoenherr
55 • In Times to Come (Analog, November 1972) • house ad by uncredited
57 • The Parties of the First Part • short story by Richard F. DeBaun
58 • The Parties of the First Part • interior artwork by Leo Summers
62 • Pollution Probe • [Science Fact] • essay by G. Harry Stine
76 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer • [Science Fact] • essay by Loren E. Morey
76 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
79 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer [2] • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
80 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer [3] • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
81 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer [4] • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
82 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer [5] • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
83 • Cyrano de Bergerac: The First Aerospace Engineer [6] • interior artwork by Linda Morey Papanicolaou
86 • Pigeon City • novelette by Jesse Miller
86 • Pigeon City • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
98 • Pigeon City [2] • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
107 • Pigeon City [3] • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
117 • Request for Proposal • shortstory by Anthony R. Lewis
117 • Request for Proposal • interior artwork by Frank Kelly Freas [as by Kelly Freas ]
127 • The Analytical Laboratory: August 1972 • [The Analytical Laboratory] • essay by Ben Bova
128 • Miscount • shortstory by Carolyn Gloeckner [as by C. M. Gloeckner ]
130 • F.O.D. • novelette by James Durham [as by Jim Durham ]
130 • F.O.D. • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
148 • F.O.D. [2] • interior artwork by Jack Gaughan
157 • In the Matter of the Assassin Merefirs • short story by Ken W. Purdy
157 • In the Matter of the Assassin Merefirs • interior artwork by Frank Kelly Freas [as by Kelly Freas ]
165 • The Reference Library (Analog, November 1972) • [The Reference Library] • essay by P. Schuyler Miller
167 •   Review: The Wind from the Sun by Arthur C. Clarke • book review by P. Schuyler Miller
168 •   Review: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov • book review by P. Schuyler Miller
170 •   Review: The Chameleon Corps by Ron Goulart • book review by P. Schuyler Miller
171 •   Review: Breed to Come by Andre Norton • book review by P. Schuyler Miller
172 • Brass Tacks (Analog, November 1972) • [Brass Tacks] • letter column conducted by Ben Bova

I started buying new issues of AHMM with the January, 1978 issue (still only 75c) and new issues of F&SF (March) and Fantastic (July...as a quarterly, it dated Far Out) shortly thereafter, and all else followed as I could find and afford them.

Patti Abbott's blog might or might not have an official list on this traveling week for her for the Friday "Forgotten" Books roundelay. Patti had been kind enough to send me several 1970-era F&SFs, including a copy of the issue above, inspiring this nostalgic entry...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books: THE METEOR by Friedrich Durrenmatt (as translated by James Kirkup)

This play, apparently a key work in the development of Durrenmatt's career and approach to writing his plays, but still not the first item thought of when discussing the author of The Visit, was published in English translation in paperback in 1974 by Grove Press and sold as a remainder by my favorite bookstore in 1978 in Derry, NH, and read aloud by me and my three closest friends on a slow August afternoon that year. It's a mild if wistfully bitter comedy, featuring a slowly dying writer and Nobelist who stands in for Durrenmatt's grim prescription for his own future, and the various vexing folks who come to visit him over the course of his waning days. David Lapadula, Mike Frankauski, Steven Durost and I, having spent the night at Lapadula's house, passed the book around to do the reading as various characters, and generally enjoyed the experience (and amused David's younger brother Tony), with a rather dismissive description of a daughter by her mother, in jogging the memory of the writer about her offspring, damn near putting us on the floor. (It does rather come out of left field, and half-asleep 13-year-old boys are often easily amused.) Steven was the only true actor (and a good one) among us, though all of us had at least some keen interest in the arts...David and Mike would eventually become engineers, but at the time David was a good trumpeter (and a comics fan) and Mike at least a pretty good clarinetist (I was a terrible trombonist, but already showed a bit of facility for playing by ear), and Steve, as noted, was already an accomplished if at times a bit florid thespian (he could commit).

Inasmuch as we lost touch after I left New Hampshire for Hawaii, and I gather they lost touch with each other after high school, that was still a very pleasant memory, even given the play's rather-good rather than outstanding or memory-searing quality on its own. But you could do worse, and often with rather overpraised work.

(Mike has an engineering firm in New Hampshire, Dave was in the NY Times a while back as he and his wife were attempting to sell their Massachusetts house at the beginning of the Big Slide...how they chose the Lapadulas to highlight, I don't know...and Steve has been wrestling with an undesired homosexual tendency through Christian "post-gay"-related thearapy activities for some years, and was working as that sort of therapist a few years ago, when last I saw press about him. Life is full of odd and interesting turns.)

See Patti Abbott's blog (or, soon, George Kelley's) for further "forgotten" books.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Resolved: Maria Bamford and Maria Bello are Not the same person




Despite malicious rumors to the contrary, driven by the fact that both women are intelligent, talented, sharp-featured petite bottle-blondes who both are reported to have two dogs each, and, as far as I can determine, have never been seen at the same place at the same time, they are not the same person, as I hope to demonstrate tonight.

After all, Maria Bamford's two dogs are famously pugs. The breed or breeds of Maria Bello's dogs is not publicly known, as far as I have found (without looking too hard).

1. They are both given to fearless performances. Bamford tends, in her standup routines and her own dramatic projects, toward the confessional but also the very idiosyncratic...which she makes as universal as anyone could (she reminds me more of Lenny Bruce than any other active comedian, as I've mentioned before). Her newest album, pictured above, in not only brilliant but is augmented by a DVD of her web-series, the nearly one-woman Maria Bamford Show. Bello is never afraid to take an unsympathetic role, or to present the layers of charm and steel in characters who are facing severe challenges in their drama...brilliant work in A History of Violence, or in the rather less crowd-pleasing film in its DVD package, above.

Resolved: Bamford has two pugs.

2. Bamford has done extensive voice-acting for children's cartoons, while Bello has acted in a number of films aimed at children, such as Flicka and The Panda Adventure.

Resolved: While Bello might have two pugs, as far as can be determined, this is not specified.

3. Bello did what she could with a severely underwritten role in the disappointing, well-cast black comedy Thank You for Smoking; Bamford did what she could with a severely underwritten role in the disappointing, well-cast black comedy Lucky Numbers.

Resolved: Pugs.

4. Both have taken roles in their art in which they mock the therapeutic/mental health professions, while implicitly suggesting the value of such efforts.

Resolved: Bello was apparently born in 1967, Bamford in 1970. A three year (and some months!) difference in ages...surely this can't be dismissed as a trivial gap in the vital statistics of two women around 40...also, you know, pugs.

5. Both are implicitly when not explicitly feminist in all their work...even in such buck-hustles as Bamford's television ads for Target stores and Bello's cheesecake film Coyote Ugly...

Resolved: Both have new DVDs out this week, Bello as a cast member of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee; Bamford's Plan B is a formal one-woman show dealing in depth with her life. (Among other new work coming out in theaters and on television and DVD/BluRay from both.)

So, would the same person, in different personae, thus "compete" with herself? Perhaps, for our benefit...looking forward to the mutual performance, just to set the record straight. And, pugs.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: THE NIGHT BOOKMOBILE by Audrey Niffenegger, among the chapbooks it somewhat resembles...



In 2004, Zoetrope All-Story (Francis Ford Coppola's fiction magazine) published a lovely fantasy short story by Audrey Niffenegger, just beginning to make a famous name for herself as a fiction writer with The Time Traveler's Wife. But Niffenegger had primarily engaged in visual artwork before begginnig to publish fiction, and The Guardian commissioned and ran a weekly-installment serialized graphic adaptation of the short story in 2008...which will soon be published in book form. Making the short story perhaps a "forgotten" text, though I hope it will be included in the volume, and the graphic format an "anticipated" book...

But that got me thinking about the other projects that published a single short story (or at least short fiction piece, on up to short novellas) in chapbook form, often (though not that often) even from mass-market paperback houses, such as John Cheever's nearly posthumous Oh What a Paradise It Seems and William Kotzwinkle's Swimmer in the Secret Sea and more recently the novella, not published in maas-market format but in the QP format which has essentially supplanted that for much of the publishing world, as well as in boards, Michael Chabon's brilliant Sherlock Holmes story The Final Solution (orignallly in one of the last George Plimpton issues of The Paris Review)(read and support Your Fiction Magazines...unpaid advt.).

And then there was this series, from the last years of the shortlived Pulphouse Press, in association with some guy named Gorman and his Mystery Scene assoicates--even at the still pretty good Borders chain as it existed then, we had troubles getting every release listed here:
Mystery Scene Press Short Story Paperbacks
($1.95 each in the early 1990s)

The People of the Peacock by Edward D. Hoch
Eight Mile and Dequindre by Loren D. Estleman
Lieutenant Harald and the Treasure Island Treasure & My Mother, My Daughter, Me by Margaret Maron
Cat's-Paw plus Incident in a Neighborhood Tavern by Bill Pronzini
Ride the Lightning by John Lutz
Afraid all the Time by Nancy Pickard
The Perfect Crime by Max Allan Collins
The Reason Why by Ed Gorman
Outlaw Blues by Teri White
My Heart Cries for You! by Bill Crider

--In any case, it's frequently a good artistic idea, and almost never a good commercial one, to publish short fiction in this format, when the stories can stand on their own and serve as a good introduction to the writer's work...I'm sorry I never saw Bill Crider's volume, in this series, for example.

And then there were the Tor Doubles of the 1990s, a resurgence of the Ace Doubles of yore...and the very shortlived series of Dell Binary Stars in the late '70s/early '80s...

Please see Patti Abbott's blog for more Friday Books...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

CBS greenlights A MARRIAGE from Zwick and Herskovitz

Edward Zwick and Marhall Herskovitz will be producing a new series for CBS for next season, A Marriage, being a domestic drama about a marriage.

Inasmuch as these guys are responsible for two of the best dramatic serials so far, Once and Again (perhaps the best) and Relativity, and two of the most beloved, Thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, and the adventurous and not-bad (but not great) web-series/NBC and Bravo strike sub Quarterlife, this is probably a good fit, and I'm certainly looking forward to this.

No cast details or such yet.

Jake Johannsen: This'll Take About an Hour

Well, since I have the Maria Bamford Xmas show up, why not an embed of another fine standup, an HBO special with the typical weak but tolerable wrap-arounds?