This week’s holiday atmosphere includes Sirius/XM rebroadcasting classic Bing Crosby Christmas specials, with introductions by recently retired Regis Philbin. Listening to these radio shows is the closest one can easily get to opening a time capsule.
In the 1970s, a local AM radio station (WGST if I recall correctly) used to devote part of its evening programming to airing old radio shows–and I vaguely remember hearing Fred Allen periodically. I know the name.
But this week I was absolutely flummoxed to hear a 1954 Christmas special, where Crosby went on at length (I came in on the broadcast mid-show, this could have been an ad) at how great Fred Allen’s then new book, Treadmill to Oblivion, was. The book is out of print (you can see parts of it at Google Books), so unfortunately it’s not something you can pick up at the local bookstore. Allen, a popular radio show host, was clearly unhappy with the seeming demise of radio, thanks to television. Allen likely would have made his way in TV (much like his peer, Jack Benny, did)
In trying to research the book, I ran across a 1989 Garrison Keillor New York Times review of a then new Robert Talyor-penned biography of Allen. The last paragraph of the review touched upon the naming of Allen’s 1954 book and Allen’s impact on the larger landscape of comedy history.
“Treadmill to Oblivion is a pretty bleak title for a memoir by an old comic. Allen chose it over genial ones like ”Looking Back” or ”Microphones and Memories,” and meant what he said, and ”Fred Allen: His Life and Wit,” trying to rescue him from oblivion, only proves him right. Comedy is temporary art unless you’re Mark Twain. Thirty years after you knocked them dead, your best stuff is just damp hyphens, a wet glow on the plate.”
A couple of months back, I interviewed writer/director Jairaj Walia about Pendejo, his romantic comedy starring Danny Trejo, Raja Fenske and Fernanda Romero, while the film was in post-production. More recently, the Pendejo team granted Technorati the exclusive premiere of the film’s official trailer (featured above) along with brief interviews of Fenske and Romero. My thanks to Fenske and Romero for their time. Current plans are for Pendejo to be released in 2012.
Five Questions with Raja Fenske
Were you nervous the first day on the set, or are you too experienced to get nervous any longer?
Not so much nervous. More anxious and excited to take on the role and begin shooting. It was my first experience being the lead in a film and I loved the idea that I would be in a position to carry a film.
Here’s the thing that surprises me about Guy Clark’s song,Step Inside This House. Clark has never recorded it (as noted by Wikipedia). Here is the great Lyle Lovett performing it, at the White House for a songwriting/educational workshop for local kids, connected to the recent In Performance at The White House special.
This email interview with Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) founder, award-winning author Masha Hamilton, was set months ago, but I dropped the ball. In a sense, though, I am glad that this interview was delayed. This time of year, I like to think people are more charitable. So once you read about the AWWP, an organization devoted to giving Afghan women the ability to voice their opinions without the filter of male relatives or the media–and visited the AWWP website–I hope you consider donating to its cause. My thanks to Hamilton for her time and thoughts, as well as to AWWP’s Lynn Harris for helping to arrange this email interview.
Tim O’Shea: In a sense, do you think mentors benefit almost as much from the experience as the contributors?
Masha Hamilton: Absolutely. A bridge is being built between Afghan women and both mentors and readers abroad that I think is important to both sides. To read some of the mentors’ comments on our site, look here. Here is one quote from Stacy Parker Le Melle, but you can pick any one you’d like:
“Magical. How else to describe sitting at my computer in Harlem, USA, and connecting with young women in Afghanistan, women who want to better themselves as communicators so that they can be heard at home and all over the world? I cannot thank Masha Hamilton and her partners enough for creating this cyberspace classroom. At times, it feels like we’re meeting in our dreams.”
There’s two levels to my enjoyment of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Remembers (acknowledging those who died) 2011: seeing some of my favorite actors/directors/screenwriters/what-have-you being remembered (I love that TCM picked a clip of Wenders’ Wings of Desire to honor Peter Falk, as well as The Princess Bride) and being introduced to great talents I had never known about it.
From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Paul Nelson was known for writing passionate, insightful criticism of folk and rock music that showed a partiality for singer-songwriters. He, and his record collection, was of great importance to Bob Dylan early in his career. As an editor at Rolling Stone, he influenced many great critics, such as Charles M. Young and Mikal Gilmore. But suddenly, in the early 1980s, when editorial decisions at Rolling Stone ran contrary to his thinking, Nelson walked away from music criticism. In fact, he dropped out of criticism entirely, choosing to spend his remaining years in relative obscurity, working at a video rental store. He died in 2006, but not before writer Kevin Avery contacted him about a potential biography. After Nelson’s death, Avery was tapped to compile this new Fantagraphics book, Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life And Writings Of Paul Nelson, in which Avery documented Nelson’s career as well as collecting his writing. In addition to discussing this book, Avery also discussed his other Nelson-related book that he edited, Conversations with Clint: Paul Nelson’s Lost Interviews with Clint Eastwood, 1979-1983 (Continuum Books). To mark the release of both books, Avery recently allowed me to interview him via email.
Not to toss a large question your way, but how did Paul Nelson help to shape present day rock criticism?
I’m probably the wrong person to ask. As a result of immersing myself in the music and criticism of the Seventies and Eighties, I really don’t follow rock criticism much anymore, but what I do read bears very little resemblance to the kind of writing that Paul did. Paul’s writing was more contemplative and expansive—in contrast to some of what I read today, which is dictated by time and space constraints (some of the very things that brought Paul’s tenure at Rolling Stone to an end in 1982).
This Archive of American TV interview (the full version can be found at the Archive’s website) was conducted in late 2007, about six months before his death. In this excerpt, Carlin does a hilarious imitation of Ed Sullivan around the 4 minute mark.
It’s bittersweet to hear him be critical of his Sullivan appearances, lamenting that he cannot watch them…but admitting he intended to watch them someday. I hope he got the chance. Or hopefully heaven has a great cable package.
The term comic genius is an understatement with this fellow. His influence on comedy can be felt everyday. Hell, his influence permeates throughout The Daily Show.
I’ll be the first to admit, I know next to nothing about film distribution. But when I caught wind of the plans for MoPix, a film and video distribution platform set to launch in January 2012, I wanted to find out more about it. A few emails later, I was in contact with MoPix founder, Ryan Stoner, who was more than willing to educate me in the ways of digital distribution and technology. My thanks to Stoner for his time.
Tim O’Shea: When and how did MoPix initially get conceived?
Ryan Stoner: MoPix was conceived in late 2010. We were developing entertainment apps for the likes of Warner Brothers, Disney and entertainment moguls like Anthony Zuicker the creator of CSI. We had just finished building the Dark Prophecy app, and were exploring creating an ePub authoring solution for publishers looking to enhance their books with a layer of context aware content, transforming an ordinary ebook into a full sensory experience, complete with audio, visuals, discoverable content, special effects, and other content to enhance the reading experience. We quickly realized the pitfalls of transmedia content rights for back catalogues and shifted our focus to the film work. We saw an opportunity to replace the income lost from traditional distribution outlets by creating a platform for filmmakers to release their work. We also saw it as an opportunity to enable users to experience more than just the film, such as, photo galleries, behind the scenes, and any second story content created around the film.
Back in October, I expressed admiration for Allstate’s Mayhem commercial branding.
But today, I got contacted by the fine marketing folks at Allstate, who clearly appreciated my post. But they also wanted to make me aware that while I linked to the Allstate Mayhem YouTube page, I overlooked Allstate’s main Mayhem page, which is pretty engaging in its own right–as it provides links to the videos and Mayhem’s equally funny Facebook posts.
My thanks to Allstate for the comedy and for making me aware of the page. Enjoy.