I've been going a little cross-eyed at the number of posts I have in draft mode, some begun as long ago as 2014, some begun much more recently than that but equally far from the finish line. If I was a tad less OCD - i.e. if I could just leave them there in a state of incompletion until the spirit moved me to finish them - that'd be fine. Alas, I'm not, and each day a post sits there unfinished drags at me like one of those flotation barrels from Jaws.
Maybe not so dramatic as that, but I've been wanting to dive back into the Springsteen blogs Bryant Burnette and I have been doing and figured I'd move a little faster if I clear the decks. They're all worthy of more love and attention or analysis than I can presently bring to the table.
Here's a glimpse of the Blogs That Might Have Been. Fire up the Ur-Kindle and search appropriately, friends and neighbors!
First up: the last two John Romita Jr. in the dot-dot-dot posts I had planned: his work in the 2010s and his work on Spider-Man.
I was enjoying the JRJR-through-the-decades project, but all I have (digitally) of the man's work from the present decade is Kick-Ass. Certainly a series worth looking at, but I don't have any of his Superman or - the above screencaps notwithstanding - his Batman to go with it. Seemed like a lot to skip and still call an "...in the 2010s" post. As for his Spider-Man stuff, I honestly hadn't realized there was quite so much of it: 90-plus issues across three different series (not including the 80s stuff already blogged up). A better blogger than me will have to take that one on; I suspect there's a lot of gold in them hills.
The last Let's Rap About Cap post I put up here was in February 2017. I had planned to do two more (one for the DeMatteis /Zeck run, and one for Mark Gruenwald's Commission saga), but regrettably, the trail went cold. It was fun while it lasted. Let this not be a metaphor for America itself.
I've had a couple of posts on Walt Simonson's Thor in queue for a couple of years now, and while it's clear I'm not going to finish them anytime soon, I'm sure I'll still get to them, as I usually read Simonson's Thor run once a decade or so and I'm due. I had a notion of starting a series of posts on Kirby's Fourth World with an overview of Simonson's Orion, though, and that's looking like it's not going to happen. Too bad because it's probably the best - and apologies to all Kirby purists - of all the takes on the New Gods.
|Impossible for me to make my case in the space allotted, hence the initial desire to do so in a series of blogs about it.|
|Don't take my word for it, of course - line 'em all up an read them yourselves. There's a lot of great Fourth World stuff out there.|
And while it's taking me forever to get back to Twilight Zone Tuesday and continue my year-by-year exploration of the Gold Key comics, I still very much intend to.
FRIDAY NIGHT FILM NOIR
This whole series of posts grew out of the groceries routine I had during the first year of my eldest child's life. I thought it would be amusing to qualify that with some details, but after I typed it all out, guess what? It wasn't! So, we'll just leave it there. I still plan on putting up the occasional FNFN, but I've been stuck on this one forever and it's time to move on. Film in question:
Worth seeing? You bet, it's a stone-cold classic. And really, maybe that's the part that trips me up. What can I add to the discussion, really? Just screencaps and the occasional personal ancedote. Which is more than fine by me - that might even be on my gravestone - but I hadn't watched it that way originally. A Friday Night Film Noir is a whole different approach than a Scenic Route post. I'd have to go back in and re-do it - not just re-watch it but re-do it, i.e. shitcan what I already did, since it was notes for a FNFN post, and spend about twice the duration of the film pausing every so often to get and crop my screencaps. Oh, to have a bullpen of interns or ghost writers! Or the proverbial robot body. Or clones. Maybe someday someone will re-do the movie Multiplicity but make it about a guy who just wants to get to all the blogs he wants to do.
And speaking of!
FROM NOVEL TO FILM
There are some novel/film combos I've had on this list that I keep meaning to get to, and I fully plan to. But I've been tinkering with these two -
- for months and months and just cannot seem to crack the code, as it were. Instead I've added more and more to them and now have way too much but still not enough. I mean take a look at this Island in the Sun folder:
Each of those folders has sub-folders in it, and each individual folder represents two-to-five-paragraphs apiece. Who do I think I'm fooling over here? That ain't a blog, it's a damn semester. Is this some kind of fake online university? It sure the crap is not.
|On a short list of End-of-Empire reads for me, and the movie's pretty great, as well.|
|The film adds the nice touch of beginning and ending on the image of Harry Bellafonte's character walking on his own into the unknown future.|
As for The Long Goodbye, the novel and the film are very different animals. Equally fascinating in their own ways, but very different animals. Hardcore fans of the book seem to dislike Altman's American New Wave update on it, and non-Chandler fans seem to prefer the film. I love both, but I will say, I've never understood why Altman didn't just call his film something else altogether. It's different enough to just be a homage/ update of the novel without it explicitly being called it. If that were the case, though, we might not have gotten the theme song, which plays throughout the movie but scored differently each time. (A rarity in cinema, if not unique to The Long Goodbye.)
"She opened a mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed."
"The name's Chick Agostino. I guess you'll know me."
"Like a dirty newspaper. Remind me not to step on your face."
Have you noticed how many blogs out there start as one thing and then slowly morph into random film reviews? Mine will likely suffer the same fate. (Better that than political rants, I guess.) Before we get there, here are two that got away from me. First up:
|ATTACK OF THE 50 Ft|
I've always had a soft spot for anything that uses the trappings of "trash" culture to make a serious academic point, or - even more - when I suspect it happens accidentally. This is probably the case with Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman. I don't suspect its creators purposefully set out to create such a fruitful object of meditation for subsequent generations of film connoisseurs and scholars. I've read such varied interpretations of it over the years, most of them under a feminist-theory umbrella, which makes the most sense, but also more than a few Marxist deconstructionist stuff. I was trying to find one of the latter - about how the film is an examination of what happens to "appetite" in a capitalist system - that I read years ago, but no luck.
|There's definitely something more than meets the eye going on here.|
|Almost David Lynchian in some scenes.|
|A cuckolded woman driven mad by the knowledge of her husband's infidelity.|
|The authorities are no help - hell, they're protecting the philandering sonuvabitch.|
|Attempts to dialogue result in nothing.|
|"I'll help you get undressed and take your pill."|
|Let me step out of the way (mostly) and let the screencaps tell you the rest.|
|Literally holding a baby doll meant to be her husband in this scene. Cheesy fx shortcut for a pause-button-less generation, or cheeky Freudian reference, take your pick they both work.|
|Reconciled... in death.|
All of the above plus about a hundred other redundant screencaps were meant to be corralled into something resembling a sensible overview, but again I felt like I was recreating the wheel. Plus it's all probably perfectly self-evident upon viewing. Still - what a fun flick. Right up there with other meta-narrative gold of its era like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Creature from the Black Lagoon or Star Trek's "The Man Trap".
And I screencapped Bulworth a while back but haven't found anything to do with it.
|"The populace is unaroused."|
|Subtle placement of janitorial station.|
|It's filled with caustic swipes, such as when the insurance man leaves out one door and the Senator's paid assassin comes in the other.|
Good movie, though. A little awkward in spots but maybe even Beatty's best work. Call me crazy.
"One of the more curious after-effects of Prince's death is that I finally got into ZZ Top. Let me unpack that a little..." So began a blog from 2016 about:
The Prince/ZZ Top segue was on account of an interview Billy Gibbons gave after Prince died where he relayed some of his conversations with the Purple One about guitar tone and technique. They were mutual fans of one another and shared one other thing in common: mad respect from all their professional contemporaries and critics for how they play their instrument but not always popularly recognized as the brilliant guitar players they are. Or in Prince's case, were, I guess. RIP, you purple SOB.
But, I didn't get to it fast enough, and my musical "buzz" moved elsewhere. (To Sade and Robert Cray blogs, specifically.) ZZ Top still very much rocks. There was a stretch last year where this outro to "Backdoor Love Affair" was in my head all the time, and I just found myself randomly nod-and-squinting along to it on the bus or elsewhere. Great soundtrack music for walking around. As is "Sharp Dressed Man," which is one of those things that is used in so many things from commercials to punchlines in Reality TV or elsewhere to perhaps fool you into forgetting how utterly, perfectly cool it is.
You could say the same thing for Robert Palmer, specifically his work with The Power Station (1985) through the same year's Riptide and Heavy Nova (1988). I've been listening to a whole hell of a lot of this the past few months. That whole Power Station album (best known for "Some Like It Hot") is a hot air balloon rising and falling through a neon landscape of cocaine and Miami Vice, while Riptide is just so cool: whether it's the dreamy disorientation of the title track or "Get It Through Your Heart," the every-montage-you-ever-saw-awesomeness of "Hyperactive", the ultimate revenge/ expression of the Seinfeld bass-line approach to life on songs like "Trick Bag" or "Discipline of Love," the unexpectedly-metal swagger of "Flesh Wound," or the album's big hits - and 80s classics in general - "Addicted to Love" and "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On."
|The video for "Addicted to Love," featuring Robert and stoic Nagel-esque girls lip-synching in front of a fake backdrop, was instantly iconic.|
|The motif re-appeared in the video for "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On."|
The success of Riptide and especially the music videos meant a repeat of it all for the lead-off single for Heavy Nova. It's a bigger production - twice the girls, twice the dancing - but a much crasser effort. While Robert is clearly taking the piss out of the persona in the above videos, "Simply Irresistible" drops the irony altogether and synchronizes bumping and grinding intercut with close-ups of the girls pantomiming sex. Rather tame compared to these days - or even those days really - but I declined to screencap it. It's basically a Viagra commercial. I have a soft spot (no pun intended) for the Pepsi commercial, though.
Heavy Nova is, like Riptide, remembered for these videos than as an album. Which is too bad, since (again like Riptide) it's an eclectic and spirited collection of tunes. RIP, Mr. Palmer. Noblemania has a three-part interview with the girls of some of the above videos here.
"'Yeep!' A small brightly colored shape darted out from behind Lord Leighton's desk. It was Cheeky, the "feathered one" from the Dimension of the Crimson River. He was about the size and the shape of a monkey but covered head-to-foot with bright blue and green feathers instead of fur.
"He was also telepathic."
Ah, Richard Blade and his bangtastic adventures in Dimension X. I had aspirations at one point to do a three-part series on Blade's adventures, all to fulfill a joke with a dead man that he never even heard. I still love the idea (described here) but the actual reading is a bit of a slog. Not quite rinse-wash-repeat, more like rinse- become-palace-sex-slave-to-overthrow-kingdom-cuff-the-underling-then-bang-high-priestess-and-whomever-else- repeat. In theory, entertaining; in the reading, not so much.
This is very much not the case with:
One of the most entertaining books I've ever read. (The cover notwithstanding.) Judging solely on the reactions from people when I say things like this, I'd have to list Garrison Keillor way up there on my list of guilty pleasures, right up there with Jimmy Buffett's Don't Stop the Carnival. (What? It's freakin' great, ya jerks, leave me alone.)
"It was a good place to grow up, Lake Wobegon. Kids migrated around town as free as birds and did their stuff (...) You were free, but you knew how to behave. You didn't smart off to your elders, and if a lady you didn't know came by and told you to blow your nose, you blew it. (...) Your parents did not read books about parenting, and when they gathered with other adults, they didn't talk about schools or about prevailing theories of child development. They did not weave their lives around you. They had their own lives which were mysterious to you."
"Life is complicated, so think small. You can't live life in raging torrents, you have to take it one day at a time, and if you need drama, read Dickens. (...) The urge to be top dog is a bad urge. Inevitable tragedy. A sensible person seeks to be at peace, to read books, know the neighbors, take walks, enjoy his portion, live to be eighty, and wind up fat and happy. (...) Nobody is meant to be a star. Charisma is pure fiction, and so is brilliance. It's dummies who sit on the dais, and it's the smart people who sit in the dark near the exits. That is the Lake Wobegon way of life."
This excerpt kind of makes it sound like an extension of Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon" segments, late of Prairie Home Companion. But it's actually an insightful take-down of the ascendancy (and blind spots) of politically correct culture in public radio and higher education. So insightful, in fact, that I think he spent the next twenty years apologizing for it in the circles Keillor ran. For that alone, it deserves a Pultizer. But beyond that, it's just a very well-written, poignant, and accessible story.
Unfortunately, it seems beyond my ability to corral into a post. I had dog-eared something like 50 pages on my last read; that's what is called "dog-earing yourself into a corner," kimosabe. Ain't no way I can sit here and transcribe all the quotes I want to. Too bad - go to Goodreads or search "Wobegon Boy quotes" and you get maybe 5% of the quotable material. This blog could've done a public service! Maybe it still will. First order of business when I get the robot body/ support-staff. (Well, first-ish.)
"Can you hold him?"
"Ain't much left to hold, he's deader than armadillo shit."
I mentioned wanting to watch some of Quarry, the recently-cancelled Cinemax series starring Logan Marshall-Green based on the Max Allan Collins series in my recent remarks on Quarry's Climax. I decided to watch the episode Collins himself wrote:
I do want to go back and watch the episodes in the proper order, but I felt the author's take on his own material would be an interesting entry-point. Whether or not it turns out to be I guess I'll find out, but as for the episode itself, it's terrific. Quarry - in the midst of his particular domestic problems with a dynamite supporting cast - takes a contract from the Broker on Eugene Linwood. Linwood was arrested in a previous episode for taking a black student off a bus on its way to a desegregated school and beating him to death. While Linwood travels around town with ease, glad-handing the locals at bars and diners, the black part of town is put on lockdown.
|Quarry tracks Linwood to a schoolbus yard, where he intends to place a bomb on one of the buses, beats him to death, then blows up the bomb himself.|
|When he reports in to the Broker, we learn it was the Broker himself who ordered the hit.|
As is the fashion of these days, Quarry is long-form storytelling, so there's way more to the above going on in "His Deeds Were Scattered." But as I can't speak to it credibly, I didn't feel comfortable reviewing that part of it. Hence its appearance here instead of in a post of its own.
|Whence the episode title.|
|A great-looking series.|