Monthly Archives: April 2008

Sure It’s a Shorter TV Season

But I’m not complaining.

Thanks to hulu, I have just watched for the third time in 30 seconds the point in a recent 30 Rock episode where Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin at his best) introduces a character with the following line: “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the bravest New Yorker since Bernie Goetz.”

Between the guest stars (Tim Conway) and writing for a strong ensemble (am I the only person that would love to see an entire episode focused on Kevin Brown’s “Dot-Com” Slattery?) this show achieves a quality normally reserved for premium cable with cussing. Seriously though, any show that can reference Sigourney Weaver‘s father as a funny punchline is a catch.

Debbie Drechsler on Daddy’s Girl

In writing words of praise for Debbie Drechsler, I must concede I’m joining a bandwagon that started in 1995 when her work, Daddy’s Girl was first released. As detailed here by her publisher Fantagraphics, “Fantagraphics Books is proud to re-release one of the most powerful and moving books in its distinguished publishing history: Debbie Drechsler’s first collection of short comic stories, Daddy’s Girl. Originally published in 1995 and distributed only to comic book specialty stores, Daddy’s Girl was ahead of its time: Drechsler’s account of her abuse at the hands of her father, told from the point of view of an adolescent, is one of the most searingly honest, empathetic, and profoundly disturbing uses of the comics medium in its history.” With some assistance from Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds and the valuable time and effort of Drechsler, I was recently able to email interview her about the re-release of the book, as well as what work she is currently pursuing.

Tim O’Shea: Given the personal, autobiographical nature of your work, do you intentionally avoid reading reviews of your work, or are you able to distinguish that folks are reviewing your storytelling skills, not your life?

Debbie Drechsler: No, I like to read reviews. I call my work autobiographical because there doesn’t seem to be another word that fits. But, really, it’s somewhere in between fact and fiction, I guess. The stories were very deliberately constructed, although I tried to maintain what I call the emotional truth of incest. They’re something I created, not a slice of my life.

Continue reading Debbie Drechsler on Daddy’s Girl

Playing Catchup II: RIP Humphrey Lyttelton

There are certain bloggers who possess an opinion I consistently trust, and the fellow behind Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun is one of those people.

So when Bully noted the passing of Humphrey Lyttelton, a fellow I had never heard of, I realized that this was an unfortunate gap in my wealth of international pop culture knowledge.

Bully links to a couple of You Tube clips for your edification. After reading up on him, Lyttelton reminds me a little of the late Steve Allen, a talented U.S. musician who also was a great wit and comedy show host. I must be quick to note that Allen did not rely on the double entendres as it appears that Lyttelton seemed to feast upon.

Lyttelton was able to succeed in two careers, as musician and as radio host. You can’t help but be blown away (pun intended) by someone who was a contemporary of Louis Armstrong (“Armstrong had declared him the greatest British trumpeter“) and yet, more recently, was present day mindful enough to collaborate with Radiohead back in 2001 on Life in a Glasshouse. The latter effort is shown here. I wish I had known about you before your passing Mr. Lyttelton.

Playing Catchup: New Nabokov to Come

Sorry for not posting in the middle of the week as I normally do. Will atone partially with two posts today.

I almost missed out on the news of Dmitri Nabokov being visited by the ghost of his father. So, if Dmitri sticks to his current plan, we’ll get to see the publication of his father’s (Vladimir’s) “last” book, The Original of Laura.

I originally discussed this situation back in January. And it appears the article I used as my primary source of info (a piece by Ron Rosenbaum for Slate) was identified as the catalyst for the resolution. And, in that same spirit, Rosenbaum has the greatest insight on how that path to the new Nabokov book was made.

Did Nabokov’s offspring make the right call? Come back and check with me once I’ve read the new book. I’ll reserve my assessment for until then.

Michael Walker on Laurel Canyon

Music is a subject that captures my interest on a daily basis. The environment that sometimes fosters or inspires music or other creative projects is another aspect of pop culture that hold my attention quite easily. So when I found out about Michael Walker‘s 2007 book, Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, I knew I wanted to interview him about the book if possible. Fortunately it was quite possible. I’ll let Walker’s website describe his book and himself before launching into the interview:

“In the late sixties and early seventies, an impromptu collection of musicians colonized a eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles and melded folk, rock, and savvy American pop into a sound that conquered the world as thoroughly as the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Thirty years later, the music made in Laurel Canyon continues to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world. During the canyon’s golden era, the musicians who lived and worked there scored dozens of landmark hits, from California Dreamin’ to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes to It’s Too Late, selling tens of millions of records and resetting the thermostat of pop culture.

In Laurel Canyon, journalist Michael Walker tells the inside story of this unprecedented gathering of some of the baby boom’s leading musical lights–including Joni Mitchell; Jim Morrison; Crosby, Stills & Nash; John Mayall; the Mamas and the Papas; Carole King; the Eagles; and Frank Zappa, to name just a few-who turned Los Angeles into the music capital of the world and forever changed the way popular music is recorded, marketed, and consumed. It was Brigadoon meets the Brill building, and the reverberations from the unprecedented music being made–and the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle it created –profoundly shaped the attitudes and expectations of an entire generation…

Michael Walker has written extensively about popular culture for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and other publications. He lives in Laurel Canyon.”

Continue reading Michael Walker on Laurel Canyon

Happy Birthday, Harold Lloyd

<p align=”left”>OK, it’s kind of disingenuous to wish a man who was born in 1893 and died in 1971 a happy birthday, but what the hey. Harold Lloyd, was born on April 20, 1893, was mostly known for being a silent film star, known for slapstick comedy–much in the vein of Buster Keaton.

<p align=”left”>I’m pleased to see that there’s a wealth of information about him, and the official site goes so far as to feature work from after his silent films days. In the mid-1940s, he hosted a half-hour comedy show on NBC radio, The Harold Lloyd Show. Once a month, the official Lloyd website hosts an archived edition of the radio show, which can be found here.

<p align=”left”>Turner Classic Movies has done a great job of featuring the work of Lloyd, but unfortunately I could not find a listing for anything upcoming featuring Lloyd. If you belong to Netflix, there’s plenty of his film work to pick from there. Check him out.

1990: David Baerwald’s Dance

So this morning I went looking for evidence of an old 1986 band, David & David. Never heard of ’em? Well, more than likely you did indirectly, as while David & David did not last very long, the two main members, David Baerwald and David Ricketts appeared on Sheryl Crow’s debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club. They also worked separately or together with folks like Toni Childs and Robbie Robertson. Their sound always was distinctive and almost always with a good hook.

But before I could link to any David & David work, I stumbled across David Baerwald‘s appearance on Arsenio Hall promoting his 1990 solo album, Bedtime Stories. For whatever reason, there’s a promo for the Laura Dern/Nic Cage/David Lynch Wild at Heart film before the appearance. The music starts around the 30 second mark.

You can regularly find David Baerwald’s music at any good used CD store. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. Or hey, I bet you can score some stuff off of iTunes as well.

Tom Peyer: Of Flash and Baseball

I think DC Comics should employ writer Tom Peyer a great deal more. So to see him take on Flash writing chores in the wake of Mark Waid’s departure was a step in the right direction for my money. This Wednesday, April 16, marks the release of Flash 239, the second issue in Peyer’s first arc. We got to discuss his take on this phase in Wally West’s life and also discuss some of Peyer’s other non-DC projects. And, with the return of the baseball season, plus Peyer’s and mine shared love of the game (and in his case, a fondness for the Yankees) we had to talk baseball, however how briefly. I regret I was not quick enough to ask the Yankee fan about the time then-Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch accidentally hit Keith Olbermann’s mom with an errant throw to first that flew into the stands.

Tim O’Shea: When you found out Waid was stepping down from the Flash, what was it mainly that attracted you to the assignment?

Tom Peyer: I’ve loved The Flash since I was a kid, so that’s all I needed right there. I also really enjoy writing characters people outside of comics have heard of. I hope you never have to explain R.E.B.E.L.S. ’94 to your dental hygienist, because it’s a pain. So thanks, Flash, for being pretty well-known.

Continue reading Tom Peyer: Of Flash and Baseball

Well Nuts: Now I Need to Read the Spiderwick Chronicles…Thanks John Sayles

My son is wrapping up his spring break today, and as part of that I took Thursday and Friday off to spend time with him. We went to Six Flags on Thursday and then on Friday I took him and his cousin to see The Spiderwick Chronicles at the local discount movie house.

I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, assuming it would be typical Nickelodeon light fare. In all honesty, I was bewildered to find it was a partially examination of the toll a marriage headed toward divorce can have on the children. I don’t know if the books deal with this at all (and so now I will have to read at least one of the books to see if there’s a hint of this…).

But really threw me was when the end credits rolled around–one of the film’s three screenwriters was John Sayles. I might be wrong, but I’m going to give the family drama element credit to Sayles. I’m not the only one to be caught off-guard by Sayles’ presence in the film–as evidenced by Sean Adler’s February 2008 Q&A with the film’s director, Mark Waters, at the MTV movies blog:

MTV: I saw a name in the credits — John Sayles. John Sayles?!

MW: We have to remember John Sayles started his career doing movies like “Piranha” and werewolf movies for Roger Corman. He’s got this real fun fantasy horror side to his sensibility. I think he did rewrite work on “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He’s got that part of him that loves working on these movies. The big thing that John did was he said, “Let’s take on all five books of this series and tell a complete story as opposed to trying to make a piecemeal.” He kind of was able to sift through that and find a general story structure, as well as ground it in the sense of a very real family going through some very real difficulties.”

I’ve always had a healthy respect for Sayles, be it for films like Lone Star or Passion Fish, but now looking back at his career, I really am kicking myself for failing to see 1994’s The Secret of Roan Inish yet. Well, off to Netflix to remedy that oversight.

Johnny Cash with Louis Armstrong

Astounding.

As one may expect, there’s a great back story to this 1970 clip. I cannot make you read Charles Wolfe’s Oxford American essay about Armstrong’s relationship with country music and this video clip in particular. But hopefully I can get you interested with this snippet:

“Then Cash himself, cracking a rare grin, moved in and sat and talked with him about Jimmie Rodgers, one of Cash’s heroes. Yes, Satchmo remembered backing him on ‘Blue Yodel No. 9,’ and yes, it would be fun to try to recreate it. So with Cash playing Rodgers and Armstrong playing—well, himself—the pair brought the audience back to 1930. Cash and Armstrong swapped choruses on the old blues standard—Cash doing a swaggering vocal, Armstrong playing a dynamic, elegant series of trumpet breaks, in spite of the fact that his doctors in New York had told him to stop playing for good.”