Sunday, February 11, 2007


People have complained to me that this blog ain't as uppa date as it could be. I'm sure you know the schpiel by now...lotsa reviews of disques that have been out for ages already and name-dropping of tee-vee shows and magazoons that have been dead and buried by the time we've hit the digital era. I'm sure you know the rant given by a whole load (and I do mean load!) of upper-crust snobboids out there in computerland who like to be up on top of everything as soon as it slides down the langchute and lands all over us eagerly-waiting peons out there. Well, yeah, I could be on top of everything and hot-offa-presses if I wanted to, but frankly there is VERY LITTLE out there in media/internet/kultur-land that's worthy of me getting all worked up, and you know that when something in the here-and-now DOES get me all hot 'n bothered enough for me to WRITE about it, well I WILL BE A JOHNNY-ON-THE-SPOT FOR ONCE and deliver my fresh and honest opinion as to what is going on now and not a hunnerd years back, whether it be something I caught on the boob tube that ain't snatched from that glorious Golden Age of Flabby Suburban Amerigan Brat Living or a song that doesn't have any connections (tangential or whatever) to something from thirty/forty years back that I haven't hitched my star to or whaddeva. Of course don't expect too much of that, but when something of a newsworthy nature does hit the ol' BLOG TO COMM flashlight-inna-brain believe me you will be the FIRST TO KNOW!!!

And believe-it-or-not, but that very moment when I do comment on a current event (and I don't mean something along the lines of "the Indians predict a severe winter" quap that Beaver was trying to find for a school project!) is none other than TODAY!!! Yes, there is something in the news that yours truly would like to clue you all in on, and for once it ain't anything of a politico nature either (though who knows, get me worked up enough and I'll work something in!), but sheesh, I do get so hot-and-bothered about things at times and start flying offa handle at the drop of a hat and believe-you-moi this is just one time I gotta do JUST THAT! So settle down and batten the hatches, because none other than memeME is gonna lay down for you an editooreal that would make Floyd R. Turbo blanch in comparison!

And (if you gotta know, and if not why are you reading this anyhoo?) it's the death of Anna Nichole Smith that's got me worked up to the point of froth! Normally such light pitter-patter doesn't get me all champing at the bit...after all, aren't most if not all (with one or two exceptions) celebs these days nothing but puffed-up pastry who more or less help animate that corpse called Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry long after the fact? Heck, I didn't even know (or if I did, would care) who this blondoid boob-buster was until I started to watch a little more tee-vee after the arrival of a satellite dish at our abode and saw some "reality program" starring this star slut being aired on one of those fancy-schmancy cable nets and Jillery hadda tell me who she was, clueless dolt I am! (OK, call me "behind-the-times," but really, who has the luxury to pay attention to such trivialities when there are WAY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO like listen to tons of great music and watch REAL tee-vee [you know, the MONOCHROME kind!].) Even after Jillery gave me the lowdown regarding this ditz I still couldn't understand just how Miz Smith could be regarded as being a celeb of any renown...true I could make the cheap-o jokes about here (a la the title of this very piece!) such as that she was two of the biggest stars around, but that was funnier when they said that about Jane Russell. At least that bitch could act!

But the incessant (as could be expected in these "Spill-It!/Confess-It!" days that Steve Ditko so aptly described) coverage of this "tragic figure" (no pun intended there!) as if the broad had cured disease or helped people out even in the slightest is enough to even make a guy like me toss tons of Chinese takeout (that's "takeaway" for you non-Amerigan readers) all over the back seat of my Studebaker. At least Princess Diana was part of British Royalty (which, with a dime, can get you a cup of coffee) and Mother Theresa, although she coulda done a lot more for those people in India if she lined up a buncha businesses to open factories and fast food joints over there, was way more sincere and perhaps even helpful in her own way. But Anna Nichole??? I mean, in these days of being famous for being famous she couldn't even rate as that aforementioned "tragic figure" a tad bit. If she had been around a good fifty/sixty years back she wouldn't have made it outta the yellow journalism/tabloid factory with her non-there appeal and general blanditude. Maybe the slut was born fifty years too late...I do know that she woulda found her niche back in the forties as some gangster's airhead moll, or perhaps even playing one in the moom pitchers...preferably Monogram. Heck, if she did that maybe I'd have some respect for her!

You do know that there's some family out there in the heartland of them thar United States who have suffered terribly, having lost members of their family due to disease and war and hard work, and the father (and his father onandonandon...) has to labor really hard to put food on the table and worries about how he's gonna pay next month's rent, and the whole slab of 'em are probably sniffling their noses over the death of this 21st century martyr the same way they still bawl over the Kennedy Curse and all the bad things that happen to the Big and Nasty while they themselves rot away in the middle of nowhere! But I guess that does figure...and what's even WORSE is that these same kinda people usually take on this outdated Marxist attitude towards the big men in life who DESERVE their lofty status due to success and transcending the "common man" myth to make something outta themselves! But what else is old...people can rise to the highest realms of goodness or sink to the murky depths, but even paying attention to that whole Anna Nichole thing in the first place shows there's some sorta big thirst for SOMETHING (knowledge?, a new hook???) out there and I doubt a jugfulla Kool Ade could quench it nohow!

Of course, it's just the end of the line in that ol' celebrity worship hoohah that's been plagueing mankind for quite a long time. The one where we actually think that the bigname people out there in entertainment land actually mean something outside of their trades, pithy as they may be. You know how people will actually look up to and believe what Robert Redford says as if it had the same weight as a political pundit who is at least in on the game. It all started back when Peter Paul and Mary said that they could actually be a strong political force by campaigning for Eugene McCarthy back in '68 or when John Lennon began using his fame to spout off about a whole slew of societal ills as if he were really qualified to do anything other than make music! Later on it got even more ridiculous, like when it seemed as if the entire populace began singing high hosannas about just about any "caring" and "compassionate" big name lending time and effort to some chic cause of the week or disease as if they were ready to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. I mean...Michael J. Fox??? Christopher Reeve fercryinoutloud??? (I wish I could link up this great putdown of the latter after his death that Thomas Fleming wrote on the CHRONICLES website even though he did hafta take a few pokes at the REAL Superman George Reeves in the process!) It's all pretty ridiculous, as bad in retrospect as if people had looked to Harry Langdon for political advice in the twenties or even Elvis in the fifties. Nowadays we have this strange belief that the stars are as astute as the paid politicos which is why a whole lotta 'em won't shut up and are extremely annoying when it comes to spouting off their asinine rants that I guess are about as sacred as the Dalai Lama's turds once you think about it.

Though frankly, I'd rather listen to the political ideals of Harry Langdon or Joe Cook than I would Bill "Penis Nose" (as Justin Raimondo calls him) Maher or those dykes on THE least those guys were funny! (See I knew I'd work something political into this rant'n'rave!)

But enough could say that I myself am taking on some of the big ones, but really, aren't jokes like that bust??? And quit'cher tittering chaps!(OK, I couldn't resist, but it does say about all that has to be said so don't write in complainin'!)


Now, back to the OLD STUFF, but in this case, I do have a good reason for holding off as long as I have! Y'see, I was going to latch onto a copy of this Noah Howard rarity about three years back when it first hit the Cee-Dee market kept me from doing it with his own review, ass-like as it was. I mean, if I had bought a copy of PATTERNS/MESSAGE TO SOUTH AFRICA some time in '04 only to find out that one of my arch-enemies had also bought the thing and liked it as well...well, you could just BET that my own copy woulda gotten slung onto the "sell" pile faster than you could say "Retract my foreskin Dave!" and that's no jive!

But really, I am a civilized and comparatively couth gentleman, and I don't let mindless squabbles get the best of me like they might others. And with this in mind I purchased a copy of this platter which teams up a rare self-released 1971 side with a previously-unheard '79 sesh, and if such a team-up worthy of a classic Bronze-Age Marvel title doesn't get your juices flowing may I suggest a nice mausoleum where you can spend the rest of time in?

Neat-o sesh in PATTERNS with Howard still under the influence of his BYG recording with the late Rev. Frank Wright playing particularly post-Coltrane whilst his mostly furrin backing (including guitarist Jaap Schoonhoven, who played alongside Wally Tax of all people) are going particularly outre but not quite "out there"...good enough but there is a little something that keeps PATTERNS from being the all-out noisecapade that I hoped it would be. Maybe it's that "thumbs up" that I had previously referred to? Don't believe that for a second! Perhaps the low-fi quality? Ditto. Maybe it's the fact that I was listening to this while reading Don Martin paperbacks? Closer to the point.

I tend to prefer Howard's '79 MESSAGE TO SOUTH AFRICA a wheelbarrow more where Howard and a number of top-name jazz expatriates (including living and breathing [at least then] South Afrikaners like Johnny Dyani and Chris McGregor as well as the under-appreciated Kali Fasteau) do a good moan and blare session partially based on the SA National Anthem (hip people, them South Africans!) that seems to float in and out of your brain. Some good jazz moans and flash-fly to get you into one of those jazz trances where YOU TOO can transcend to higher planes just like the guys playing this do, only without the use of narcotics! An all-out winner you should seek, and maybe somebody should reissue more of those rare Howard albums while we're at it, eh?

William Hooker-SHAMBALLA CD (Knitting Factory Works)

Another oldie that keeps popping up on ebay, and at ridiculously low "Buy It Now!" prices at that. I figured that with so many people trying to dump copies of SHAMBALLA it must be a dog even though it does feature Sonic Youth bigname Thurston Moore on a couple tracks, right? Well, after years of pondering (and with my recent revision of Hooker's career in-and-out of his alternative music slumming) I decided to plunk down my five bucks to see whether or not this 'un was worth a good seven years of thunk, and surprisingly enough I gotta say that I not only played this one TWICE so far but a whopping three times (in about four days!) which must mean it's a winner, right???

The duets with Moore are actually hard-edge raucous enough to please even a jaded character such as I, sounding like some long-forgotten guitar/drums session along the lines of DAILY DANCE perhaps with a more heavy metallic appeal. As Neil Strauss' liners say, this music does transcend categories, though come to think of it a lotta the best jazz of the past twennysome years did so you could say that the two were right on track with the proper avant jazz evolution! The live set with Elliot Sharp laid down at the CB's 313 Gallery comes off even better, perhaps due to the as-it-happens ambience/immediacy of the thing or maybe even because the drums sound even more in-front. Whaddeva, it's a definite keeper.

COMIC STRIP CAVALCAGA! Since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd also detail for you some of the other joys that I've been engaging in as of the past week. And yeah, while a good portion of you BLOG TO COMM readers probably spend your free time engaging in illicit activities I'm not ashamed to say that my interests are of a purer, more wholesome variety. Mainly, besides helping old ladies across the street and being kind to dumb animals, getting my fill of none other than classic-era comic strips! Readers familiar with my BLACK TO COMM fanzine already know that I consider comic strips along with comics of the book/mag variety, tee-vee and music to have been healthy parts of that great All-Amerigan thang we call entertainment sometimes during the past-century's "Golden Age" (whenever that might have been), and although you couldn't get me to read a funny page today the same way you couldn't get me near a top forty station or currently-running television program that doesn't mean the form is totally lacking in fine BLOG TO COMM-approved anti-kultur. Far from it...when I read an old funny page I get that same legal (for now) high I get reading a vintage comic book or watching a tee-vee show created before the hippie generation got in charge, and frankly I gotta admit to you beyond-it-all decadent types out there that I'M HAVING MORE FUN THAN YOU EVER WILL when I settle back and read a collection of boss comics while listening to some hot-and-heavy garage band rock right before I settle down in front of the tube to absorb some great b&w programming (as if you didn't know)! And if that's good enough for Bill Shute it's good enough for you too!!!

The selection of late-forties NANCY strips I recently latched onto were perfect. Remakably I've only read about two or three of them before in one of my old TIP TOP collections now snuggled safely somewhere in my abode, and it's always pleasurable to settle back in my comfy chair and resensify myself with these comics which do their best to zone me back to those great single-digit days when looking forward to the funny pages was just as exhilarating as waiting for your favorite programs to come on or summer vacation when it seemed that YOU were the boss, at least for the next three months. And it's amazing just how many people I've come across who not only remember, but remember fondly the old Ernie Bushmiller-era strip even this far down the line. Most of them are women over the age of sixty, but who sez they're outside the "norm" of society anyway? Let's face it, NANCY's got it all from great, deceptively simple art and whacked-out gags, not to mention an occasional hot shot or two of none other than that eternal comic strip mother figure, Aunt Fritzi.

What was really great about the reams of NANCY Sunday paper clippings I got was, that on the backsides of them were not only classic HENRYs (a comic that almost equals NANCY in 20th century mid-Amerigan doofus living concerns) but DIXIE DUGAN! I never did pay attention to this once-popular strip (to me, it seemed too much "for the gurls" as Beaver would have said), but the humorous Sunday version of DIXIE sure know how to deliver not only with the sexy gal art and gags (like the one where she and her half-there boyfriend Charlie get their clothing mixed up by the clothes checker at the beach and get arrested for cross-dressing!) but with the occasional presence of niece Imogene who sorta acts like a Nancy in waiting more or less. Gotta say that I surprisingly really cozied up to these comics which isn't that much of a surprise given the high artistic standards which have sorta been brushed away in these days of expediancy, but they sure go down smooth. Then again, maybe Dugan has the sexiness intact because she was (believe it or not!) modeled after hot Hollywood silent star Louise Brooks and as any student of the screen can tell you that really amounts to something!

Also big on the comics scene happening in my bedroom as we speak are the Gene Ahern-era MAJOR HOOPLE comics that I've come across. Full page Sundays at that, complete with the "topper" Nut Brothers (Ches and Wal) comics which are guaranteed as many good groaners as at least one Joe Cook comedy. I wish I could repro for you at least one of these great full-pagers I got (circa mid-thirties), but these post-HOOPLE Ahern examples (featuring Hoople knockoff Judge Agustus Puffle from ROOM AND BOARD as well as the proto-MISTER NATURAL "Nov Schmoz Ka Pop" guy from the legendary SQUIRREL CAGE) will have to do until I get my camera outta hock. Anyway, for those of you who've read the old HOOPLE panels and are unfamilar with the Sunday version these full-pagers are just about everything you would've dreamed of (with regards to the high quality and general cartooning capabilitie of the day) especially during that great era of full-page Sunday Funny stripdom in the twenties and thirties, not only with the great Nut Bros. sicko gags but with the extended format in which Ahern could expand on what he hadda do with only a single panel on weekdays! Many of these comics have a Munchhausen/Commander McBragg sense of exaggerated ridiculousness with Hoople telling his nieve nephew Alvin about some unworldly great past feat of his whether it be in war or in some African or South American adventure usually ending with a great bubble burst from battleaxe wife Martha (but maybe not). Lemme tell you, after seeing these comics and in lieu of the past seventy years of what has happened to funnies in general (or at least the past thirty since strips like HOOPLE were given the ax) you can tell where R. Crumb and Bill Griffith got a lotta their artwork and even storyline ideas from!
But what really got my eyeballs a poppin' were the old SALESMAN SAM strips on the reverse of these HOOPLEs, a huge surprise considering how this one (also part of the boss NEA Services syndicate outta Cleveland that gave us HOOPLE, FRECKLES, PRISCILLA'S POP, OUT OUR WAY, ALLEY OOP and many other top-notch comics) was one of the best (and most forgotten) screwball strips to come outta the twenties! Similar in many ways to SMOKEY STOVER, SALESMAN SAM is also top-notch as far as delivering those fantastic groaner gags that would sound horrid had anyone else delivered 'em, and with some pretty advanced cartooning style as well! Unfortunately by the time I ran outta HOOPLEs to read I also ran outta SALESMAN SAMs...the strip went under in '36, and the paper which was running the thing replaced it with a tiresome kiddie comic called HERKY, and if that didn't upset a cartload of unwashed thirties kids who hadda get their thrills some way then I dunno what would!


Anonymous said...

I have no idea what the political views of Harry Langdon or Joe Cook were, as unlike Chaplin they didn't speak about them. As you probably know there were stars who spoke about politics in the 1930s - many of them got into trouble in the late '40s/early '50s because of it. (Did you know though about Moe Howard's intense hatred of Nixon? Too bad there couldn't have been a Watergate themed Three Stooges film with the Stooges as the plumbers, even though it would've been with Curly Joe it would've still been funny)

Your comments about Mother Teresa seemed a bit reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens' piece about her - something I never thought I'd say about anything you wrote.

Christopher said...

Thanks for writing. I sure knew about the stars of the 30s/40s who got into trouble for their politics, and frankly I think most of them got what was coming! I'm not talking about the nobler amongst the Hollywood brahmins like Robert Taylor or director Elia Kazan natch, and frankly the more avowed Marxist writers/directors/actors in Hollywood certainly deserved the drumming they got if not more for supporting one of the evilest political movements of the 20th century, which met with much success because it was also one of the chicest!

I knew that Moe Howard didn't especially care for Ronald Reagan due to his responsibility in limiting residuals for broadcast performances to after 1972. Or something like's so late at night and my mind is foggier than usual so if anybody has any more info on this please pass it on! A Watergate comedy with the Stooges would have been a funny aside given the wealth of humor that sprung from that fiasco, though I dunno how I could take the Emil Sitka-period threesome...Joe DeRita I can handle! (Did any of you see his pre-Stooges Columbia Short Subjects which a younger, thinner and hairy DeRita looking almost like some upstart SNL wannabe?)

My Mother Theresa comments certainly weren't meant to be anything along the lines of the sputum Hitchens or Penn and Teller have unleashed as of late (or especially on ABC's broadcast of her funeral, where Hitchens went into an anti-Theresa tirade which even staid I felt was in extremely bad taste!). It was more or less a commentary on how I think the woman REALLY could have helped out in India, though maybe the Socialist govt. of the day wouldn't have been so hot on introducting new industries to their sagged out nation. Still, what I wrote was not intended to be in the same Trotskyite vein as Hitchens nor in the "Objectivist" fashion of Penn Jillette, a man who I gotta say I have about nil interest or respect for these days (ditto Hitchens).