Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: with another link


Yvette Banek: Favorite Books of the Year; 200 Decorative Title-Pages edited by Alexander Nesbitt

Joe Barone: The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen

Bill Crider: First Flight (aka Now Begins Tomorrow) edited by Damon Knight

William Deeck: Nine Doctors and a Madman by Elizabeth Curtiss

Ed Gorman: Black Friday by David Goodis

Randy Johnson: Run, Come See Jerusalem! by Richard C. Meredith

George Kelley: 3 Novels by Michael Moorcock (originally published as by Edward P. Bradbury): Blades of Mars aka Lord of the Spiders; Warriors of Mars aka Cities of the Beast; Barbarians of Mars aka Masters of the Pit

Evan Lewis: 3 Novels by W. T. Ballard: Say Yes to Murder; Murder Can't Stop; Dealing Out Death

John F. Norris: The Poisoner's Mistake by Belton Cobb

Ray O'Leary: The Old Contemptibles by Martha Grimes

James Reasoner: Winter Girl by Harry Whittington (aka The Taste of Desire as by Curt Colman)

Karyn Reeves: Penguin (Books) reading and collecting 2011

Gerard Saylor: Indigo Slam by Robert Crais

Ron Scheer: Lights on a Ground of Darkness by Ted Kooser

Kevin R. Tipple: Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England by Stephen D. Rogers

"Tomcat": Too Much Poison by Anne Rowe



The variant title version I have a copy of...TM

December's Underappreciated Music (w/links): RIP: Sam Rivers, and Johnny Cash: DESTINATION VICTORIA STATION (Columbia Special Products, 1975)


It doesn't seem too likely that a promotional item for a gimmicky chain restaurant might be one of the best anthology albums of the career of someone of Johnny Cash's stature, nor the best collection of train songs I've encountered (even when compared to Cash's own early themed album Ride This Train); the Wikipedia entry on the record states that most of the recordings were new for this album (seems possible, though that wasn't the usual procedure for CBS Special Products releases, but this is Cash, and some of his favorite songs). But it's the very fact that this album cherry-picks wisely from the catalog of Cash's recordings for CBS that makes it such great listening, even with the fleshing out by Cash of his Victoria Station jingle into a pleasant, unmemorable "real" song at the tag end.

Look to this selection:

Casey Jones (Johnny Cash) 3:01
Hey Porter (Cash) 2:41
John Henry (Traditional) 2:51
Wabash Cannonball (A.P. Carter) 2:39
City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman) 3:38
Folsom Prison Blues (Cash) 2:45
Crystal Chandeliers and Burgundy (Jack Routh) 2:27
Wreck of the Old 97 (Trad. arr. by Cash, Norman Blake, Bob Johnson) 1:49
Waitin' for a Train (Jimmie Rodgers) 1:46
Orange Blossom Special (Ervin T. Rouse) 3:05
Texas 1947 (Guy Clark) 3:16
Destination Victoria Station (Cash) 2:20

--and you see it's not only a good representation of Cash's career, but a not too terribly unrepresentative slice through the history of country music and the folk music which it came out of. And Cash is, unsurprisingly given that this is a cherry-picking anthology, at his best, with some of his best bands and arrangements, throughout. When I picked up this LP at a rummage sale for 50c, I wasn't aware of the Victoria Station chain of restaurants, and I still haven't been inside of one (if they're even still in operation), but even given the promotional nature of this record, it's still a gift from Cash and his colleagues, and we're lucky to have it as a measure of their legacy.

"John Henry"


An incomplete reading of "City of New Orleans" but a similar if less accompanied version:


"Texas 1947"


"Hey, Porter" (similar vintage, same arrangement)


Scott Parker usually has a list of participating blogs in this monthly meme...but if none arises over the course of the day, I'll probably compile what I see...

...and I've been missing the news a lot of late, so missed till just now the note that the seminal jazz reed-player (primarily a saxophonist, but also flautist and more) Sam Rivers died on 26 December, in an item Bill Crider posted. Rest in glory; two of his tracks for Blue Note albums, when he and Eric Dolphy were the primary free jazz innovators for that label:

"Involution"


"Dance of the Tripedal"


More recent big-band work: "Pulsar"


THE LINKS:

Patti Abbott: Etta James: "At Last"

Yvette Banek: John Williams: Score to Superman (1978)

Sean Coleman: The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin

Bill Crider: the music of Robert Mitchum

Jerry House: hymns

Randy Johnson: Chuck Mangione: Children of Sanchez


George Kelley: Linda Eder: Now


Kate Laity: The Cundeez

Todd Mason: the music of Sam Rivers; Johnny Cash: Destination Victoria Station

Eric Peterson: Demon Knight (soundtrack album)

Charlie Ricci: Chicago: Hot Streets

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links (all have trickled in!)











As always, thanks to everyone contributing a review or remembrance, and to all of you who are reading these (at their links below). If I've missed yours, please let me know in comments.

Bill Crider: I Married a Monster from Outer Space (trailer)









Brian Arnold: "A Case of the Stubborns" by Robert Bloch (Tales from the Darkside); Get Crazy

Ed Gorman: The Tall T; The Hot Spot

Eric Peterson: World Gone Wild

Evan Lewis: lost films: London After Midnight; Queen of Sheba; Charlie Chan Carries On

Iba Dawson: Woman in the Window; How to Survive a Plague

Ivan G. Shreve: The Classic TV Western Collection

Jack Seabrook: Robert Bloch on TV: “The Greatest Monster of Them All" (Alfred Hitchcock Presents)

James Reasoner: Blackthorn










Jerry House: Sydney Greenstreet (on film and radio)

Juri Nummelin: Dragonslayer

K. A. Laity: Dundee Cemetery

Kent Adamson: Christmas Holiday

Mark Hand: Coverage of the Occupy movement and anarchism

Michael Shonk: The Files of Jeffrey Jones

Patti Abbott: Whistle Down the Wind

Prashant Trikannad: Annapolis

Randy Johnson: The Brain Eaters

Rod Lott: Don't Open till Christmas

Ron Scheer: Sky High (1922)

Scott Cupp: Devil Girl from Mars

Todd Mason: Interesting Misfires, Close and Insane: Barry Munday and The Young Sinner

The Young Sinner, aka Like Father, Like Son, aka Among the Thorns, and with the working title We Are All Christ, is the kind of clumsy religious allegory you might expect to be written and directed by the young Tom Laughlin, with the principal shooting apparently done in 1960. Laughlin, who turned 29 that year, plays a high-school senior (yes) and football hotshot named Chris Wotan (you feel the dice being laden already, eh?) who has a steady girlfriend in Ginny (Stefanie Powers, who at least was 18 while playing a senior) with whom he supposedly has a solid, and (he admits in voice-over) playfully, romantically sexual affair, with both quite sure they will be wed soon. Good Christian's pagan temper, however, is more problematic, and gets him into Billy Jackesque beefs with petty martinets on the high-school's athletic staff, particularly after he and his similarly superannuated buddies break into the high-school's swimming pool for some goofing around with a couple of girls from the (even) richer school district up the road. Like his father, a rather well-groomed and tidy but supposedly shiftless and pathetic alcoholic, Chris's impulse control isn't quite what it should be; but Ginny has her own rather wild mood swings: extremely threatened that Chris should accept an invitation to dinner with Tury (? nomenclature not one of Laughlin's strong suits) and her family, whose father is interested in offering Chris a football scholarship to a local university, even when Ginny herself is also invited, Ginny threatens to break off their engagement if Chris goes. He does so behind her back, only to discover that perhaps Ginny's suspicions aren't so far-fetched, as Tury asks him, y'know, simply as an experiment, to "pet me; make love to me"...she wants to compare and contrast her feelings for a college boy she's been dating, with what they might be with Wotan. After checking in with Ginny (to the latter's understandable concern and upset), he goes ahead with the proposition, only to be caught by Tury's parents; Tury's father orders Chris out of the house as the camera lingers on the father getting ready to beat his terrified daughter with a belt he's looping around his hand, while Tury's mother looks mildly irritated with her in the background.

Irresistible Chris has also caught the eye of the most famous jailbait in town, 14yo Joan Meyers (Roxanne Heard, at least about 22, I'd guess), and Chris's goon friends enviously goad him into accepting her advances. Joan, too, seems to have a healthy libido which is stigmatized (perhaps 30yo high-school seniors aren't her ideal partners), but her youth and lust eventually appall Chris, particularly as her favorite makeout spot is a largely unused upstairs room in the local Roman Catholic church (another Heavy metaphor throughout this film is how abandoned that active church is, almost always). So, by the time of the wraparound events of the film, with Chris smashing some icons in the church and referring to it as a pigsty, and his long confession shortly thereafter which allows flashbacks to various incidents (a primitive nonlinear approach to the story not altogether unlike Quentin Tarantino's favorite method of script construction is employed here), he's lost his girl(s), his hope of a high-school diploma and college scholarship, and his "reputation"...but at least the progressive young priest, in less Dutch Uncle terms than the one HS athletic coach he respects, holds out hope for him to put his life back together. Thus ends this remarkably awkward, poorly-written, -directed and -acted US Angry Young (Christian) Man (well, supposedly young, anyway) drama, which was barely released in 1961 and picked up for distribution to television in 1965 (despite some relatively "strong" language, such as Chris calling Jesus et al. "bastards"...a word which was getting by the censors overseeing the series The Big Valley at about the same time probably with much wrangling and a careful hewing to its literal meaning). Shelly Manne's "score" is made up of rather hilariously tipped-in concert recordings that seem to be emanating from nowhere, not even a radio nearby, and often aren't terribly appropriate to the scene they're applied to. Aside from Laughlin's typically bootless arrogance (pun intended), and a very few cleverly arty setups for a few scenes (a despondent Chris is seen isolated between two statues in one lingering shot), there is little to recommend this film except as an example of the kind of bad-laugh variation on the AYM films (The Explosive Generation being another, the wildly overpraised earlier The Blackboard Jungle being yet another), the underside of the genre that Patti Abbott has been highlighting of late, and I, too, somewhat less consistently (I still need to write up Nobody Waved Good-Bye).

Meanwhile, the recent Barry Munday is interesting as a misfire mostly in that it has such an impressive cast (even if the eponymous protagonist is played by the just professional-enough Patrick Wilson), and it's based on a novel, Life Is a Strange Place by lawyer/writer Frank Turner Hollon, with whose work I'm unfamiliar (the Amazon blurb from the publishers, a smallish imprint, says "trumpet-wheedling father" where it means "-wielding"). Being based on a literary property never stopped drama from being offputtingly twee, of course, as is this Also Heavily Metaphoric tale of Munday, a remarkably improbable (even though pathetic) "player" and more-convincing porn aficionado, who loses his testicles after the aforementioned father even more improbably manages to walk up and smash them while Munday sits in a cinema seat next to (another!) jailbait character, the trumpet-wielder's daughter (Barret Swatek, 32yo at time of filming). Almost immediately after his release from the hospital, he finds himself the target of a paternity suit from a woman with whom he'd had a drunken, one-time tryst, which he has (almost) no memory of (she's suing, yet wants no money from him). Wacky circumstances ensue, and lessons are learned (about how testicles don't make one a Man, natch, among other rather obvious ones), particularly since Barry had no father, and (as Kate Laity can be faintly heard to be saying from somewhere in Anglophone Europe) Daddy Issues are the key to Everything, or entirely too much of everything that gets greenlit in Hollywood. But the cast here does what they can with what they have, led by Judy Greer as the suing mother (and she's supposed to be ugly, too boot...Hollywood ugly in this case being beautiful but tired-looking with slightly frazzled hair), Jean Smart as Munday's mother, Chloe Sevigny as a porn actress (or is she?) acquaintance (and Cybill Shepard and Malcolm McDowell as Sevigny's parents), and on and on, with such fine players as Colin Hanks and Christopher McDonald in small supporting roles). This film, like The Young Sinner, has earned its obscurity, but unlike the Laughlin was put together by professionals (even if it was the first feature by its director and screenplay/adapter), and it's genuinely a pity that these folks weren't given more promising material to work with. (IMDb commenters have a bit of a field day with Wilson's consistent involvement with films involving castration and impotence, including Hard Candy, Little Children, and Watchmen.)

Walter Albert: The Fighting Blade

Yvette Banek: Kiss Me Kate


Related matters:


Brent McKee: Sherlock Holmes v. the current television procedurals

George Kelley: Favorite Films, 2011

John Charles: Tim Lucas interview

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: the links (a work in progress...please let me know if I've missed yours!)

Patti Abbott, the originator and usual host of Friday's Books, is traveling, so I'll be compiling the links for reviews and citations on others' blogs for the next several weeks. Happy Solstice Holidays, everyone!

Yvette Banek: Jingle Bells by J. P. Miller

Brian Busby: Love is a Long Shot by Ted Allan (as Alice K. Doherty)

Bill Crider: My Best Science Fiction Story, edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend

Scott Cupp: The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith and Norman Matson

William F. Deeck: Method in His Murder by Thurman Warriner

Martin Edwards: In Whose Dim Shadow by J.J. Connington

Ed Gorman: On the Loose by Andrew Coburn

Jerry House: Still is the Summer Night by August Derleth

Allen J. Hubin: Merry Christmas, Murdock by Robert J. Ray

Randy Johnson: Tama of the Light Country and Tama, Princess of Mercury by Ray Cummings

George Kelley: Murder for Christmas, edited by Thomas Godfrey (and illustrated by Gahan Wilson)

K. A. Laity: Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

Evan Lewis: Jim Steranko S&S cover art for Lancer Books editions of H.S. Santesson anthologies and a Dave Van Arnam novel

Gloria Maxwell: Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith

Eric Peterson: Thieves World (and its sequels) edited by Robert Asprin (eventually et al.)

James Reasoner: A Corpse for Christmas by Henry Kane

Karyn Reeves: Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

Gerald Saylor: All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith

Ron Scheer: The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers

Kevin R. Tipple: Flank Hawk by Terry Ervin II

"Tomcat": Crime on His Hands by "Craig Rice" (Georgiana Craig) and possibly Cleve Cartmill, as by George Sanders

Prashant Trikkanad: Christmas covers for comics (and one Ed Emshwiller Xmas cover for Galaxy)

"Zybahn": Winds of Change by Jason Brannon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Thanks as always to those who have contributed reviews and such, and to you readers. Please let me know if I've missed your contribution, this week...


Bill Crider: Bronco Billy (trailer)

Brian Arnold: Noel (NBC 1982); "Miracle on 34th Street" (The 20th Century Fox Hour, 1955); The Great Santa Claus Switch

Chuck Esola: A*P*E

Evan Lewis: 3 Lost Films: Babe Comes Back; Tarzan the Mighty; Charlie Chan's Chance

George Kelley: The Girl in the Cafe; Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Iba Dawson: It Happened on Fifth Avenue; O. Henry's Full House; About a Boy

Ivan Shreve: Dragnet (the radio and television series)

James Reasoner: Trail of Robin Hood



Jerry House: The Six Shooter; Captain America (1944)

John Charles: Mean Johnny Barrows; Death Journey

Kate Laity: Spacedog

Michael Shonk: The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment (pilot for the series)

Mike Tooney: "The Accused" (Daniel Boone)

Patti Abbott: I Want to Live

Pearce Duncan: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil; Trapped Ashes; The Woman

Randy Johnson: A Page of Madness

Rod Lott: Point Blank (1998); Grave Encounters; Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Ron Scheer: Just Tony

Scott Cupp: Attack of the Mushroom People (aka Matango)

Sergio Angelini: Nightmare (1964)

Steve Lewis: Torn Curtain; East Lynne

Todd Mason: Coming Apart:
A 1969 cult item, which might well've influenced such later films as The Conversation...this Milton Moses Ginsberg film has been his only full-length feature (as writer and director) aside from the somewhat similarly unusual The Werewolf of Washington, released four years later, though he has been relatively busy as a film editor over the last two decades. Coming Apart features Rip Torn as Joe, a philandering, somewhat unstable NYC psychologist who sets up a hidden film camera with sound-recording equipment in a small but well-appointed apartment he's using for trysts and infrequent legit therapy sessions. The "kinetic sculpture" he hides the camera in helps mask its noises, as he records various encounters with women, young and less so (but most younger than Torn, already in his late 30s when filming this), most often an ex-patient of his, Joann (Sally Kirkland), though by no means Joann alone. In fact, Joann, who has been active as a sex-partner-swapping "swinger," brings a party of fellow libertines to Joe's apartment, slightly improbably including a tranvestite homosexual man who was not "provided for" in their party of six; after initially flirting and playing with "Sarabell" (dressed initially as a clown similarly to The Howdy Doody Show's Clarabell), Joe simply stares at him, after he removes his falsies and reveals his XY status, while Sarabell moans a bit as the other two couples, more conventionally hetero, make out around the room. The various women who come to visit Joe seem improbably attracted to him, though the film suggests that he might only be filming those with whom he's likely to have a tryst (aside from a pair of McCarthy for President campaigners who surprise him at one point), and he does prefer to keep company with women he can manipulate relatively easily, the primary exceptions being his wife, and his former mistress (Viveca Lindfors; the scenes with Torn and Lindfors are the most blatantly actorly and stagy, whether because of the nature of their relation or due to everyone losing some of their grip on the project isn't quite clear). All the action takes place in the apartment, from the vantage point of the camera in its box/sculpture, facing a large, mirrored wall, and the camera theoretically stutters and jumps frequently (we are quickly given to understand that this might well reflect Joe's state of mind rather than his playing with switches or the unreliability of his [various sorts of] equipment), noisily cutting in and out in the course of a single action on the part of its subjects, the film frequently running out in the "middle" of a scene. Very much a film of apparatus, with the final scenes apparently reflective of the self-medicating Joann's perspective instead (with time-dilation), and a soundtrack that, when the characters play music, intentionally makes the dialog hard to hear (and in the Kino Home Video version I saw, the music was rather obviously replaced from original contemporary songs by newly-written and recorded music to avoid rights issues, but which required tricky rerecording of the dialog around the music which distorts the voices even more). An interesting, flawed film, and one which has never had particularly reliable distribution...unless one picks up a copy of the out-of-print Kino dvd, one has to watch it, as far as I know, as I did, in pieces on DailyMotion (and one must register, for free, with DM, to cut off the "family filter" which blocks access to half the segments; Amazon streaming no longer has rights to show it), which probably doesn't detract too much from its cumulative effect given the intentional technological limitations of the project. Barry Malzberg offhandedly cited it as an important film, and one which I just might've heard of, some years back, due to a John Simon or other review, and which is definitely largely Overlooked these days.

Yvette Banek: The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Related Matters:

Bill Crider: The Vampire Film

Ed Gorman: Jerry Lewis; James Franco

Stacia Jones: The Hammer Vault

Todd Mason: television notes:
I've been catching some of the more important, or most interesting, or at least most hyped of the productions on some of the more overlooked channels. Borgen (The Government), the Danish political drama, remains consistently good and intelligent and believable, and a real feather in the cap of Link TV; I haven't yet returned to Starz's Boss, but the companion Encore channels have begun offering a British mob crime-drama import of some interest and no little brutality (probably too much, as the series goes on), The Take.

In a co-production with BSkyB, Cinemax has been offering another import, Strike Back, more into kinetic hugger-mugger than its closest correspondent, Showtime's Homeland, but similarly obsessed with terrorism and espionage in this New World Order we find ourselves in...in this case, a British counterterrorism detail, somewhat segregated from MI-5 or MI-6, tries and rather often fails to aid victims around the world (and mostly in Commonwealth states) of arms dealing and its collateral damage, while pursuing a Pakistani zealot and his organization. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series is the toll, in casualties and psychic discomfort, taken on the members of the task force; plenty of aw, shucks machismo, but also a pretty fair indictment of the use of political violence by anyone, including all governments. (Iba Dawson pointed out to me in comments that the season I saw was actually the second, with the first not yet imported to the States at all...the third season is apparently in production.)

Another small group is the focus of the public-broadcasting project V-me (a name which puns on the Spanish-language command "Watch me" or "Veme") import from Spain's Antena 3, El barco (The Ship...or The Barque), a goofy (because) Lost-inspired science fantasy series involving the adventures of the crew on an oceanographic vessel meant for educating high school and college-aged young adults, with adult supervision and ship's officers, in a world suddenly submerged by the oceans after a vaguely-referred-to incident at the Swiss particle accelerator. Not atypically for a telenovela, the cast averages even more improbably pretty, particularly the female cast, than even a comparable US production, but there is a certain charm about the two episodes I've seen, and doped out in my halting Spanish (if you think closed captioning is weak for entirely too many Anglophone productions...goodness).

Thanks to LionsGate's pay channel Epix, the other weekend I got to see a kinescope of the 1954 Climax live production of "Casino Royale," famously the first dramatization of the James Bond novels, with a Yank Jimmy Bond (Barry Nelson) conspiring with a British variation on Felix Leiter to best Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre), with the uncertain loyalties of Linda Christian's Valerie Mathis a question at first. This version has almost inevitable early-tv awkwardness (watch Bond's taking shelter behind a pillar to avoid the least adept attempt at a drive-by ever); however, it makes Le Chiffre's predicament rather more stark than the recent film bothered to. Happily, this item is also available for online viewing:


In part since this hasn't been the best season for the larger broadcast or cable tv sources (with such series as House and Dexter having their still-watchable worst seasons so far), I'm happy to also see little bits of history popping up on the nostalgia-oriented broadcast networks This TV and Antenna TV (competitors Retro TV and Me TV aren't easily viewed in the Philadelphia area, even if the quasi-competitive FamilyNet is accessible), such as This's run of The Hospital, the 1971 black comedy starring George C. Scott and Diana Rigg, somewhat censored but not too terribly (I'm sure it was chopped far worse when I first saw it on a large network in the '70s), or the Antenna run of two 1964 episodes of Kraft Suspense Theater aka Crisis aka Suspense Theater (the series title depends on whether you were watching the first run, the summer repackage, or the syndicated repeats), from some of the same folk who would produce I Spy for NBC the next year. The better of the two, "That He Should Weep for Her," featured Milton Berle of all people (the series apparently enjoyed stunt casting) as the accidental killer of the younger of two stick-up men at his jewelry store; the sister of the slain young man (Carol Lawrence) cozies up to Berle's character, with thoughts of at least humiliating him, which she does...not realizing that the man (Alejandro Rey) who got her brother involved in the holdup, and who seems to think he has a right to her love, was ready to kill the jeweler in jealous rage, stoked in part by her continuing rejection of him and in part by his band-mate buddy, a cross between Iago and Eddie Haskell, who also wants to get next to the sister. It's all rather like a somewhat more realistic, somewhat less ramped-up (if a bit rushed), noir tale, scripted by tv veterans George Kirgo and Halsted Welles (notably the adapter of 3:10 to Yuma, among his film work). Anthony Boucher was script consultant to the series, Franz Waxman did the scores, with the main title theme attributed to "Johnny" Williams. It is interesting to see this NBC series, otherwise comparable to such contemporary (or nearly so) anthologies as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits, in color, if indeed the same sort of faded colors that I Spy tends to sport these days.

And, of course, I await the return, particularly, of Children's Hospital and NTSF: SD: SUV to the Adult Swim block, and have been meaning to catch a few of their new series, including Chris Elliott's new show. And CBS's The Good Wife still remains my favorite dramatic series, even given the strong challenges from the likes of AMC's Breaking Bad and even Showtime'sShameless, the US version with an increasingly engaging cast (as the younger kids grow into their roles) and not quite too much cuteness about its rancidness.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Update: Maggie and Terre Roche's SEDUCTIVE REASONING slated for reissue in January


Revivalist label Real Gone Records has Seductive Reasoning, with the original sleeve art, slated for reissue after the turn of the year...one "Trurl" quoted my 2010 review of this impressive album on Metafilter as a hook to hang this announcement on, which happifies me slightly...my back-posts do tend to get a fair amount of traffic, which means I'm doing something at least half-right. (And half-arsed, entirely too often.) And I'm happified that this label has the Roches' album, and some other interesting things of similar vintage and feel, back out in the marketplace...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stuff I shouldn't be eating: sandwich cookies


Well, I suppose there's no harm (except calorically) in eating the sugar-free sandwich cookies offered by Kellogg's Murray division (aside also from the possible deleterious effects of the artificial sweeteners and other ingredients, taken in too much haste particularly)...but aside from the only three (3) flavors (chocolate, vanilla and lemon) offered by Murray, when you can find even all three of them on a market shelf, the flavor variety of their sugary competitors is rather compelling in comparison. Kellogg's itself (through the kinds of mergers and acquisitions that seem to be the trend among successful medium-to-big-sized companies over the last several decades--in this case, Kellogg's thus becomes too big to crumble) manages to offer both Keebler and Famous Amos cookies, the latter's chocolate-wafer sandwich the more-or-less closest equivalent available to the Sunshine Hydrox of yore, moderately famously loved by such folks as blogger Kim Burton and writer Harlan Ellison...the Amos wafer part of the cookie, like the Hydrox though perhaps a bit less so, tasting more cake-like and less candied than that of Hydrox's younger rival, Oreo, which managed to outmuscle Hydrox over the decades in the marketplace (Sunshine's Vienna Fingers, however, were dominant in that arena, and Keebler and Kellogg's have kept them available). The sugar and fat white stuffing of both the standard Amos and Oreo are perhaps the weak point, which is where Keebler made much of its early mark, with chocolate-"creme" slathered between its wafers as "E. L. Fudge," and the original "Grasshoppers," with chocolate wafers and spearmint filling (the more recent imitation-Girl Scout-cookie Grasshoppers of the last couple of decades are less worthwhile, but have allowed various competitors to rush in with their products).

Trader Joe's "Joe-Joes" brands offer several flavors (including the distinctive peppermint, then candy-cane, flavor that seems to excite people to Hydrox levels of lust), but the champeen of flavors among the national brands seems to be Newman's Own (particulary the ginger sandwich), despite the Nabisco attempts to do all sorts of things to excite us further about Oreos (including ridiculously overpriced sugarless ones, disgusting "Cakesters" and the not-bad not-quite vanilla "Golden" Oreos) and a few sustained offshoots, such as the less sugary Nutter Butter peanut-butter sandwiches. Famous Foods of Virginia, if I remember correctly, used to offer rather good oatmeal-cookie and chocolate-chip-wafer sandwiches that no one else seems to be marketing these days...rather a pity (the same folks used to have something exactly like the Girl Scout-cookie "Samoa"...which only made sense, as FFV at that time apparently was the baker of GS cookies). And perhaps the Whole Foods (aka Whole Wallet) "365" brand chocolate and vanilla wafer sandwiches are the best of that ilk, among the national brands.

Friday, December 16, 2011

FFB: COMIX andTHE BLACK CASTLE and its sequels, by Les Daniels and DYING OF FRIGHT, edited by Les Daniels


Les Daniels died on 5 November, and I hadn't gotten around to mentioning that on the blog yet...Kate Laity, who's been a congoer to a much greater extent than I have, got to know him as a fixture at Necon, the small horror convention which takes over a college dorm and is often tabbed Camp Necon by its regulars, where Daniels enjoyed taking on all comers in the annual trivia fest in costume. The New York Times obit, and the Locus obit.

His Living in Fear, both a history of evolution of horror fiction and drama and related matters and also an anthology of short fiction, meant a lot to me as a young reader...it wasn't the first item of literary history and criticism that I'd read as a kid, but it was easily the most compelling to date when I came across it not long after it was published, as noted in a previous FFB entry. I read his Comix next, and when it appeared the more straightforward anthology Dying of Fright, a fine anthology in similar coffee-table format to Living in Fear (I managed to completely miss his third and last such book, an even better selection in some ways).

Comix wasn't the first history of comic books to be published, but might've been the best book-length study by a single writer published by 1971 (as usual, the Times manages to not quite get it right), and it was certainly the first run through the complete history of comics I was to read, and it did introduce me to Help! magazine and the late '60s underground scene, some of whose participants were, by the latter '70s, moving into more "above-ground" arenas or at least getting some current national newsstand exposure in the likes of National Lampoon and its offshoot, Heavy Metal, among other magazines and collections.

And his Don Sebastian vampire novels, which I would catch up with long after the first publication of the first, The Black Castle, in 1978 (I began reading them a decade later, as I recall), are a fine series of historical horror adventures, not quite the utter literary and pop-culture historian's delight that Kim Newman's later and not altogether dissimilar Anno Dracula series of novels and stories is, but well-written and rather deft at making their point that the evils Sebastian finds himself among, including the invasion of "the New World" by the Conquistadors or the London of Jack the Ripper, are often at least as great as any that can be encompassed by a vampire, no matter how mythically dangerous (and Sebastian is not to be trifled with)(and the Daniels novels are more consistent than the Newmans, where The Bloody Red Baron, recently reissued, is not quite up to the novel it follows nor most of the work which follows it).

Daniels only began publishing short fiction nearly a decade after his first novel, but the stories in such key anthologies of original fiction as Dennis Etchison's The Cutting Edge and Skipp and Spector's The Book of the Dead were witty and, as much as their content would allow, charming.

I'm very sorry I didn't get around to telling him directly how much his work meant to me.

from Tabula Rasa: Living with Fear: An Interview with Les Daniels

Les Daniels Bibliography


Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, 1971.
Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media (aka Fear), 1975.
Dying of Fright: Masterpieces of the Macabre, ed. 1976.
Thirteen Tales of Terror, ed. with Diane Thompson. 1977.
The Black Castle, a Novel of the Macabre, 1978.
The Silver Skull, a Novel of Sorcery, 1979.
Citizen Vampire, 1981.
Yellow Fog, 1988 (this work originated in a novella published as a hardback special edition in 1986).
No Blood Spilled, 1991.
The Marvel Story, 1991.
The DC Story, 1995.
Superman: The Complete History, 1998.
Batman: The Complete History, 1999.
Wonder Woman: The Complete History, 2000.

from ISFDb:

Title: Dying of Fright: Masterpieces of the Macabre
Editor: Les Daniels
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons

The Adventure of the German Student • (1824) • shortstory by Washington Irving
The Masque of the Red Death • (1842) • shortstory by Edgar Allan Poe (aka The Mask of the Red Death)
Ethan Brand • (1850) • shortstory by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Squire Toby's Will • (1868) • novelette by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [as by J. Sheridan Le Fanu ]
The Upper Berth • (1885) • novelette by F. Marion Crawford
Lost Hearts • (1895) • shortstory by M. R. James
History of the Young Man With Spectacles • (1895) • shortstory by Arthur Machen
The Yellow Sign • (1895) • novelette by Robert W. Chambers
The Red Room • (1896) • shortstory by H. G. Wells
Oil of Dog • (1890) • shortstory by Ambrose Bierce
The Willows • (1907) • novelette by Algernon Blackwood
The Voice in the Night • (1907) • shortstory by William Hope Hodgson
August Heat • (1910) • shortstory by William Fryer Harvey [as by W. F. Harvey ]
The Exiles' Club • (1915) • shortstory by Lord Dunsany (aka The Exile's Club)
The Call of Cthulhu • [Cthulhu Mythos] • (1928) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft
A Visitor from Egypt • (1930) • shortstory by Frank Belknap Long
The Graveyard Rats • (1936) • shortstory by Henry Kuttner
Rope Enough • (1939) • shortstory by John Collier
They Bite • (1943) • shortstory by Anthony Boucher
Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper • (1943) • shortstory by Robert Bloch
Homecoming • [The Elliott Family] • (1946) • shortstory by Ray Bradbury (aka The Homecoming)
The House in Goblin Wood • (1947) • novelette by John Dickson Carr [as by Carter Dickson ]
The Man Who Never Grew Young • (1947) • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
Born of Man and Woman • (1950) • shortstory by Richard Matheson
Levitation • (1958) • shortstory by Joseph Payne Brennan

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Thanks as always to all contributors and all readers of this weekly collection of reviews and citations of insufficiently remembered (and occasionally insufficiently notorious) films, television, radio, stage presentations and other largely narrative performing arts...there might be a few stragglers this week. Please let me know if I've missed yours or someone else's citations in comments, and thanks again...


Bill Crider: A Rage in Harlem

Brian Arnold: "Christmas in July" (Punky Brewster animated); "Miracle on 34th Street" (The Twentieth Century Fox Hour, 1955)

Chuck Esola: Stop Me Before I Kill!

Eric Peterson: Off Beat (1986)

Evan Lewis: The Sign of Four (1932)

Iba Dawson: Away We Go (2009)

Jack Seabrook: Robert Bloch on TV: "The Changing Heart" (Alfred Hitchcock Presents:)

James Reasoner: Time Again

Jerry House: Tuba Christmas

John Charles: Terror Circus (aka Barn of the Naked Dead; aka Nightmare Circus)

Juri Nummelin: Dracula vs. Frankenstein

Kate Laity: The Long Kiss Goodnight

Mike Toomey: "Back for Christmas" (Alfred Hitchcock Presents:)

Patti Abbott: The Knack...and how to get it

Philip Schweier: I Wake Up Screaming; I Walk Alone

Randy Johnson: Two Flags West

Ron Scheer: High Plains Drifter

Scott Cupp: Supergirl

Sergio Angelini: Maniac (1963; aka The Maniac)

Stacia Jones: Nana (1926)

Steve Lewis: Black Moon (1934); Illegal Entry; Offbeat (1963)

Todd Mason: Why Do You Write Horror Fiction? Gahan Wilson, Joseph Payne Brennan, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap Long and Manly Wade Wellman at the First World Fantasy Convention, 1975 A convention panel (paired with one on fantasy publishing featuring Bloch, Wilson, Donald A. Wollheim, Elsie Wollheim, and [I think] Lester del Rey) that allows us to hear these worthies...all but Wilson now deceased...discussing what drew them into the field, how they think the literature should be marketed and how it is marketed, and basically how they came to be at the first World Fantasy Convention. Unfortunately, the recording stops abruptly on the first panel...in his First World Fantasy Awards volume, Wilson recalls Wellman eventually deciding that why he wrote horror fiction was simply...he enjoys the thought of his audience's eyes bugging out. (Wilson also mangles Vonnegut's urinal metaphor in the KV essay "On Science Fiction," where Vonnegut mentioned that the "drawer" labeled sf is too often mistaken for a urinal, particularly by uninformed critics and readers.) While Frank Belknap Long can be a bit windy, and Joseph Payne Brennan a little less so since also feeling a bit timid, it's still a good piece to hear, as is the marketing discussion which follows. (Recording uploaded to Archive.org from a cassette supplement to fanzine Myrddin 3, 1975)

Walter Albert: Nightmare (1956)

William I. Lengeman III: Mr. and Mrs. North (1942)

Yvette Banek: The March of the Wooden Soldiers

Related Matters:

Dan Stumpf: Jackie Chan: 5 Films

Frederik Pohl: Harlan Ellison (and Long John Nebel)

George Kelley: Jackie Chan: 4 Films; John Le Carre narrates his Absolute Friends

Jackie Kashian interviews actor/Planet of the Apes superfan/collector Brian Peck

Paula Guran (courtesy Ed Gorman): Behind the Bates Motel: Robert Bloch

Prashant Trikannad: World War II movies

Friday, December 9, 2011

FFB: DANCING NAKED: THE UNEXPURGATED WILLIAM TENN, V. 3, by Philip Klass (aka WT), edited by Laurie Mann (NESFA Press)

Philip Klass (1920-2010), who never quite 'fessed up to wanting to run a pun on the name "William Penn" with his pen name for much of his fiction and nonfiction writing (including some of the best and most influential satirical sf written so far, not least such short stories as "Child's Play" and "The Liberation of Earth"), was a genteel man, open and friendly and in all the good ways professorial, in meeting even bumptious long-term readers such as I...and, as this collection mostly of his nonfiction writing (with some early campus-magazine fiction and other bits) informs us directly and indirectly, who'd learned a few skills in the presentation of himself, as a man of great passions, over his years of teaching at Penn State (a university currently more famous for harboring an accused serial child-rapist for years, because the pampered head football coach thought the other guy useful) and elsewhere. The previous two volumes in this series from NESFA Press collected his fantasticated fiction; while this one by no means gathers all of his nonfiction, it seems a fair representation, including such reasonably famous highlights as his PS magazine essay "The Student Rebel: Then and Now" (an essay with new relevance in these de-Occupied times) and "The Bugmaster" (about electronic surveillance), apparently commissioned by Esquire or some comparable magazine but then spiked in favor of a similar staff contribution, which became probably the only piece ever published by the men's sweat magazine True to be collected in the then-equivalent of Best American Essays, in 1968. Also, such outliers as his short story "Murdering Myra" (from the cf magazine Suspect), a 1901 E. E. Kellett short story Klass suggests, in the essay that precedes it in the book, might've helped inspire Shaw's Pygmalion, an introduction by Klass writing student David Morrell, and an essay by Klass's brother, Morton Klass (a writer, editor and professor in his own right) help round out the book, which also includes excellent long interviews with Philip Klass by Josh Lukin and Eric Solstein.

This is a book which "jumped the queue"...I'd meant to read others this week, but in my typical time-crunch I kept turning back to this one, with its autobiographical essays about the early life of this British child-immigrant, his Marxist father having been an illegal alien here for decades after fleeing England for daring to volubly oppose WW1, and Klass himself only becoming naturalized, back in London no less, after entering WW2 military service; the continuing point of amused pride that he, Klass, had never managed to obtain a Bachelor's degree in his campus career yet served for decades as a full professor at PSU; his adventures in Greenwich Village in the '50s, hanging with Calder Willingham, Theodore Sturgeon, Judith Merril, Dylan Thomas and others; and the less happy duty of memorializing old friends (a selection of his obituaries is included, along with several of his introductions to his anthologies and the collections of others).

One of the few books I've cited in this series which is not out of print (though not nearly as well-known as it might be), and worth looking into even for those casually interested in Klass and the subjects he deals with.

from the Locus Index:
Dancing Naked: The Unexpurgated William Tenn William Tenn (NESFA Press 1-886778-46-9, Sep 2004, $29.00, 427 + vi, hc, cover by Bob Eggleton) Non-fiction collection of 36 articles and essays, many autobiographical, published to commemorate his being GoH at Noreascon 4, Worldcon 2004. Includes a bibliography of the author’s work. Introduction by David Morrell. Available from NESFA Press, PO Box 809, Framingham MA 01701; [www.nesfa.org/press]; add $2.50 postage.

iii · Master Class · David Morrell · in (*), 2004
1 · Myself When Young
3 · In the Beginning · William Tenn · ss The Evolution of William Tenn or Myself When Young, Pretentious Press, 1995
5 · Anecdote [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · vi Apprentice, 1939
7 · Eleven P.M. [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · vi Apprentice, 1939
9 · The Apotheosis of John Chillicothe [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ss Apprentice, 1939
15 · Incident Gourmandien [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · vi Apprentice, 1939
17 · Sonnet [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · pm Cargoes, 1935; restores author’s preferred text
19 · Personal Story
21 · Constantinople [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ts U.S. Catholic, 1994
31 · The Enormous Toothache · William Tenn · ts Stories, 1985
41 · The Frank Merriwell Compulsion or Winning the Championship the Hard Way [“Frank Merriwell’s Syndrome”] · William Tenn · ts Rogue Apr ’63
49 · What’s Wrong with My Daughter? [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ts The Reader’s Digest, 1992
53 · My First Deer · William Tenn · ts *
57 · Creative Fiction and NonFiction
59 · Murdering Myra · William Tenn · ss Suspect Detective Stories Nov ’55
69 · 8 Eyes on Strange New Worlds · William Tenn · ms Esquire, 1966
71 · The Bugmaster [“Mr. Eavesdropper”] · William Tenn · ar True, 1968
91 · The Student Rebel: Then and Now · William Tenn · ar P.S. Jun ’66
107 · Notes Toward a History of Science Fiction
109 · On the Fiction in Science Fiction · William Tenn · ar Of All Possible Worlds, Ballantine, 1955; revised from “The Fiction in Science Fiction”, Science Fiction Adventures March 1954
119 · Jazz Then, Musicology Now · William Tenn · ar F&SF May ’72
127 · An Innocent in Time: Mark Twain in King Arthur’s Court [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ar Extrapolation Dec ’74
143 · “The Lady Automaton” by E. E. Kellett: A Pygmalion Source? [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ar Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies 1982, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982
153 · The Lady Automaton · E. E. Kellett · ss Pearson’s Magazine Jun ’01
171 · Welles or Wells: The First Invasion from Mars · William Tenn · ar Synergy SF: New Science Fiction, ed. George Zebrowski, Gale Group/Five Star, 2004; revised from an earlier version in The New York Review of Books 1988 as by Philip Klass
183 · It Didn’t Come from Outer Space · William Tenn · ar The Digital Deli, ed. Steve Ditlea, Workman, 1984
185 · Author Emeritus Speech: Given Here Without the Gestures, Intonations and Pauses Which Made It Moderately Funny in the First Place · William Tenn · sp The Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1999
193 · Intros and Obits
195 · Introduction to Children of Wonder · William Tenn · in New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953
205 · Introduction to What Mad Universe [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · in Pennyfarthing; San Francisco, CA, 1978 [Fredric Brown]
215 · From a Cave Deep in Stuyvesant Town—A Memoir of Galaxy’s Most Creative Years [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · in Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction, ed. Frederik Pohl, Joseph D. Olander & Martin H. Greenberg, Playboy Press, 1980
219 · Introduction to The Ova Hamlet Papers [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · in Pennyfarthing; San Francisco, CA, 1979 [Richard A. Lupoff]
225 · John W. Campbell, Jr.: A Memoir [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ob Pennsylvania English, 1984 [John W. Campbell, Jr.]
231 · Sturgeon, The Improbable Man · William Tenn · bg Bright Segment, North Atlantic Books, 2002 [Theodore Sturgeon]
237 · Judy Merril [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ob Locus Nov ’97 [Judith Merril]
243 · Poul Anderson [as by Philip Klass] · William Tenn · ob Locus Jun, 2001 [Poul Anderson]
245 · Dancing Naked: The Interviews—and a Bit of PR
247 · A Jew’s-Eye View of the Universe · Dr. Josh Lukin · iv Para*doxa, 2003 [William Tenn]
279 · Eric Solstein Interviews William Tenn · Eric Solstein · iv * [William Tenn]
403 · Philip Klass: Wit with a Flair for the Incredible · Anon. · ar Penn Stater, 1973 [William Tenn]
409 · Klass Class
411 · Recruiting New “Huddled Masses” and “Wretched Refuse”: A Prolegomenon to the Human Colonization of Space · Morton Klass · ar Futures, 2000
423 · Bibliography · Laurie Mann · bi *

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

FFB: HARD LANDING by Algis Budrys...and SFBC's Gary Viskupic covers


Algis Budrys's last novel, which was featured in the October/November 1992 "double" anniversary issue of F&SF and published in both hardcover and paperback by Questar with a remarkably ugly cover design the next year, has been almost criminally neglected (the October issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine that year featured a Joyce Carol Oates novelet, "The Model", which I thought a nice parallel...).

His first long fiction to be published in fourteen years (after "The Silent Eyes of Time" [F&SF 1978] and Michaelmas [Berkley 1977]) and the last he would publish, it is a graceful and well-worked-out account of a handful of humanoid aliens, forced to crash-land on Earth in midcentury, and choosing to hide themselves among the Americans they find themselves among. It traces their progress, if it can be called as much, and the investigations of various US/human agencies and plenipotentiaries...a fairly rich situation for Budrys to work through his obsessions with coping with the often puzzling foreign society and attempting to conform, at least superficially, with the stresses of hierarchy and self-realization (both obvious concerns for a child of military/spy/diplomat parents, who was probably the last living citizen, by US State Dept. reckoning, of pre-WW2 Lithuania for a decade or so...he only became a US citizen after Lithuania gained independence again). His graceful prose, his wit, and his informed take on political and media matters are on display, as his characters deal with their specific situation and the larger-world developments of the four decades starting in 1940. Perhaps because of his already having engaged heavily with the Church of Scientology's publishing arm, administering their Writers of the Future workshop and prize (and helping launch its related) programs, this late work was ridiculously underappreciated...as Scott Cupp notes in comments, most of his work from throughout his career is underappreciated, perhaps least the novel that served as the climax for the first decade of his interrupted sf-writing career in 1959, published by Fawcett Gold Medal as Rogue Moon (and finally republished under one of his preferred titles, The Death Machine not long before his death). Budrys seemed a natural for Gold Medal, as his sf novels have the same sort of alienation and sense of contending with fate as the most fondly-recalled of GM's crime fiction, even if they couldn't leave such titles as Halt, Passenger (for "Rogue Moon") or The Iron Thorn (for "The Amsirs and the Iron Thorn," an even more ridiculous meddling).

Speaking of ugly covers, including for Budrys's first magnum opus, I'm not sure we've had a worse run of covers by an artist of some talent (though Kelly Freas's for Laser Books was close) than Gary Viskupic's series of rotten covers for Science Fiction Book Club dustjackets for books with no previous or negotiable hardcover editions for SFBC to reprint covers from:










































































It wasn't as if Viskupic isn't talented...I believe he's still alive, but might well be retired from professional illustration, as these examples of his newspaper work (I particularly like the Andrei Sakharov portrait and the montage to represent the beginning of the 1973 US syndicated run of the Thames Television series The World at War, from Viskupic's primary '70s gig at the Long Island/NYC-area Newsday), and even jacket images from A.E. van Vogt and P. J. Farmer novels attest (even if the Farmer, perhaps well in keeping with the work, seems a somewhat jejunely jokey pastiche of the kind of work Diane and Leo Dillon are most famous for, such as these illustrations for Ellison's work.)
























But then there are all these others he'd done...even given the Del Rey, and perhaps even the Slan, aren't terrible...but I suspect he was given probably very little time to do them, and little incentive to do his best for them.