Haven't had one of these in awhile, mostly because I've been immersing myself in enough good high energy recordings and reading (not enough viewings) o'er the past few months to not warrant some obvious space-filling toss out "best of" list. Then again, I'm positive that you reg'lar readers must love these lists or else there wouldn't have been such unmitigated jive as the old VILLAGE VOICE "Real Life Top Ten" (as if we really wanted to know what was tingling R. J. Smith and Greil Marcuse's frontals back in 1988!) nor would various letter writers to THE NEW YORK ROCKER back in the early-eighties been including their own top faves at the end of each and every missive (hokay so I eggs-aggerate, but only a tiny bit!). So in order to please you curiosity seekers and help sate my own sense of purpose educating your vapid craniums here's my very own "high six" of current items that I've not only encountered as of late but actually enjoy nonetheless. Hey kids, if you wanna grow up to be JUST LIKE ME you'll know enough to do everything Unca Chris tells ya to, and do it RIGHT because I'll be sure to clobber each and every one of you impudent little brats or I ain't just the ram-bunk-shuh-nest blogger on the face of this darn here Earth!
***Stan Freberg-A CHILD'S GARDEN OF FREBERG LP (Capitol)
I think my constant re-reading of the HUMBUG collection is what got me on the lookout for this early-sixties Freberg Greatest Hits album that some of you will remember I had originally reviewed way back in issue #5 of my very own publication. Well, all I gotta say is that after listening to the reams of pompous comedians turned "commentators" like Bill Maher and Dennis Leary etc. it's sure great experiencing someone who can hate a whole number of various peeves yet attacks his targets in an entertaining and truly cutting way. Plus the fifties musical arrangements and digs at everyone from Elvis to Mitch Miller are as on target as can be meaning that even the fans of the ones spoofed can enjoy 'em full well knowing that they too are the in for the keen roasting at the hands of the one called Freeb! Too bad Freberg dropped out just when things were starting to get juicy, or at least I'd gander that his punk rock parody would have beat Frank Zappa's to all heck!
***HANNA-BARBERA'S THE FLINTSTONES (authorized edition, Whitman Publishing, 1962)
Sure I'm a fan of the Flintstones enough to even enjoy those obv. shark-jumping Gazoo and Gruesomes episodes, but I gotta 'fess up that I really don't think their entire schtick transcended those six seasons of prime time entertainment they gave us during the real Golden Age of Television (roughly '57-'67 give/take a few). It's (perhaps ashamedly) true that I enjoyed the early-nineties special where a fully grown Pebbles and Bam Bam finally tied the big one, but others like the one dealing with the once-controversial subject of girls playing little league baseball was just a pack of trendy social significance only about a step above YOGI'S GANG (y'know, that series where Ranger Smith uttered the telling phrase "Gee, how I hate people who are different than me!"). The various seventies/eighties Saturday morning spinoffs like FRED AND BARNEY MEET THE SHMOOS were perhaps the worst examples of milking an entity for every tiny drop of potential cash (on both a Hanna Barbera and Al Capp level) seen since the later years of PEANUTS, though if you're game to hear Jean Vanderpyl demean herself even more by portraying Wilma as a private detective you got plenty of fodder to wade through. Yeah, it's expected and it's typical, but for a guy who grew up and revered class six-oh junk kultur and sat around all day watching reruns it did bug me a little that the new stuff couldn't retain the classic shine of the original.
Dunno where the comics that appear in this '62 Flintstones hardcover originated since the stories contained therein seem too long for Sunday pages and too short for the comic books, but they're more or less attuned to the entire Flintstone universe as it stood during the early pre-Pebbles days. Interesting enough stories, horrible continuity and obvious major league artistic style changes with each succeeding artist. I mean, what else would you expect? But for being a relic of those great consumer kiddie days maybe this should be enshrined somewhere.
***ACRES, STEREO ACTION, and THIS DAY WITHOUT by Bill Shute; DOG NIGHTS DOG DAYS by Brad Kohler (chapbooks published by Kendra Steiner Editions)
Going through the rubble of my bedroom can be an experience akin to an archaeological dig. Who knows what I might find once I hit the Pleistocene Era---could be an old issue of CREEM from their pre-stadium rock sellout days or perhaps a fanzine I forgot I had won on ebay a good six months back, or maybe even a slim case burnt CD of some Serge Gainsbourgh album that Mike Snider made me ages back. Well, on my latest search for funtime reading material that I hope will soothe me into slumbers after a hard day at the salt mines I came across the latest bunch of "chapbooks" that none other than Bill Shute had sent me with his last slew of burnt Cee-Dee-Are offerings! What a dirty trick on Bill's part because he knows that I'm a closed-minded anti-art snob who hates a good portion of this moderne artsy prose, but in order to be "nice" maybe this time I will slip on the beret and act like an effete snob which I know will make at least a few of you out there in readerland happy, right?
Three of these are by Shute and the final one's from Brad Kohler, and if those two names don't have you hopping up and down in unbridled ecstasy then you haven't been hanging around the BLOG TO COMM universe long enough! Shute's writings are sensational as always...yeah, his prosody for wont of a better word might not settle well with people who, like myself, believe that the end all in poetry begins with "milk milk lemonade" but he sure is attuned into the everyday hard grubby world o' existence to the point where you can almost feel the humidity in his world rise to the point where any moment now a rumbling thunderstorm is about to woosh through. He's so good in portraying this rush of everyday you-are-there that you're actually gonna taste that cheese whiz on broccoli that's dished up on "Southwestern-themed paper plates" not to mention wanna make a stop at the Saigon Express that he mentions while regaling us with his hotcha Texas environs. I dunno about you, but Bill Shute makes me long for those days when the main strip in your local town was cluttered with billboards and drive in restaurants intermingling with used car lots before the taste police decided to call it "urban blight" (I thought it was beauty, but then again beauty sure took a downturn when they stopped making Studebakers!)
Kohler's DOG NIGHTS DOG DAYS seems to be about the Manson murders, a subject that I know has been near and dear to his heart ever since I came in contact with the guy way back in the humdrum year of 1987. Ostensibly this tale (with such lines as "humid pre-dawn air disturbed only by a dragonfly's pirouette", something I doubt Kohler would ever spout out in a conversation at the local bar lest it had a double-entendre kinda name) is written from the point o' view of the ill-fated Steven Parent, the high school nerk living in the cottage behind the murder house and, pretty much like the author himself, the tale weaves in and out of kilter with it getting demi-erotic at times w/a description of Miss Sharon Tate's "swollen breasts and ripe nipples" before it all turns bloody red, kinda like some early-seventies R-rated film where the teenage kids do that dirty thing and end up hacked by the mystery killer who naturally gets revealed to be the least-likely film cast member by the moom pitcher's close. Only there ain't some hasbeen forties/fifties Hollywood star here to give this sausage some class amidst the reams of acting upstart wannabes...this here be the real thing!
It's a shame these books won't get out to the public like they should, but then again neither will my very own BLACK TO COMM fanzine so welcome to the obscurity club, boys! But otherwise, you should get these and some of the other books that the Kendra Steiner people have put out, especially if you're familiar with modern artistic ramble and want to read what it would be like were it good.
***KELLY'S POLITICAL CARTOONS IN "THE ONION"
Let's face it, these days political cartoons, no matter from what side of the aisle they may originate, are for the most part unfunny, unimaginative, party-line pious and worst of all ineffectual to the point of being mere window dressing for already sagging Opinion Pages in your local paper. Is it any wonder why newspapers are dying like they are when the typical "editorial" section has been reduced to the typical mainstream liberal columnist versus the typical mainstream conservative one with a usually typical dud-like cartoon that more or less attempts to be typically offensive to a person's own political taste or credo. How typical! Toss in the boring advice columns, watered-down funny pages and yawnsville local news (usually the same "Frostbite Falls Dog Chases Frostbite Falls Cat up Frostbite Falls Tree" nada you've seen for years) and it's no wonder why Nibsy the Newsboy is undergoing therapy as we speak. Frankly I could care less if newspapers went the way of the Edsel, though I sure am much more fond of that better idea of Ford's than I am the current state of the Fourth Estate, at least as it stands here in the faster-than-light twenty-first century!
Now I do recall a few funny political cartoons I've seen down the line, and not surprisingly all have been done not by the mainstays of the field but small-timers and/or upstarts who couldn't get a Pulitzer if their sorry lives depended on it. I remember this one guy whose last name is Stayskal who did a few funny abortion-related comics that had me howling...one of 'em had this pregnant woman walking in the direction of a sign pointing towards an abortion clinic, with a thought balloon coming from her belly saying "I wish I was a whale." Another had a doctor labeled "abortionist", a shabby guy labeled "child pornographer", two gays and a Hitler lookalike holding up cards reading "ACLU" with the caption reading "Don't Leave Home Without It!" I dunno if I guffawed more because of the outright political incorrectness or because they sorta hearkened back to the days of chance-taking, off-the-wall humor that seemed to go out of style sometime around the early-eighties when the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE cast dissipated and cutting humor sorta fizzled out of fashion. Whatever, I thought it nice that the enlightened social planner types were on the butt end of the jokes this time because, for some odd reason, they seem to be continually spared the same biting barbs and vitriol that's usually reserved for people like me!
I also recall a few other relatively recent (which for me seems to be spanning twenty years) political cartoons that had me in stitches, one being by AKRON BEACON JOURNAL cartoonist "Bok" who did what I believe was an "answer" cartoon to established biggie Conrad's one about Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel today (everyone's depicted in skeletal form with war and hatred abounding, all of this as the result of organized belief I think)...Bok's cartoon had David flipping God the middle finger to His surprise while a member of the NEA standing next to the beaming artist on a scaffold tell him his work is "cutting edge" and "socially significant"! Now both Conrad's and Bok's cartoons were what one would call "predictable" and "going for the cheap joke", but Conrad's seemed like the ravings of a humorless aging humanist akin to more than a few well-tenured college profs, while Bok had me rolling in the aisles with its oversimplification of the early-nineties "trash art" controversy and his ability to get an honestly funny cartoon out of it. Unfortunately most political cartoonists seem to take the snobbish route of such noted names as Conrad, Danzinger and Herblock, and those that try to be entertaining and "cute" like Mike Peters usually fall completely off the map and end up purposefully distorting the record or making things up to suit their own positions which they just better keep lest they be out of a job.
In light of all the prepared cuteness and cheap sentimental pap (like the kind seen around the time of President Obama's inauguration...not to demean our Commander In Chief but some of the saccharine displays regarding the first Amerigan president with any trace of parental heritage near the equator unless you count Warren Harding were sappy enough to make any edition of Johnny Mann's STAND UP AND CHEER look like your typical mid-sixties underground theatre production), it's sure nice to read something nasty and sacred cow skewering these days. And if the one being skewered is more or less a target usually considered "off limits" to modern day tastemongering the better I say. Which is why I have suddenly become hooked on the cartoons of this Kelly guy whose work appears via that satirical news site called THE ONION. I had been avoiding that site for some time even though I had read a few good link ups via such alternative right webpages as TAKI'S TOP DRAWER and that site is perhaps the closest anyone has come to the spirit of the original NATIONAL LAMPOON acting like that magazine would have had it made it into the modern world (it does survive in some form, I think?), but when I discovered just a few of this guy's political cartoons I just hadda read all of 'em! Really, they are that MANDATORY for you especially if you're a jaded hates-everything suspicious kinda person like I am. There's no sappy sentimentality in any of Kelly's comics...if he thinks the deceased is worthy of heaven you'll see the guy up there with St. Peter, like the time Jerry Falwell died and was told it was his duty to root out all the gays(!), and if Kelly thinks the carbon-cycle celeb is deserving of going "down there" (and I'm not talking Australia unless it's Melbourne naturally!) you'll see the dead guy in a pool of fire with some devils making an all-important comment regarding the new resident of the netherworld! No kissy mush bye bye dearly departed here! Topping it off in typical political cartooning fashion is a little self-portrait of Kelly himself at the drawing board on the lower right portion of the panel spouting some on-target, pointed closing comment, just like they used to have in those OUR BOARDING HOUSE and OUT OUR WAY cartoons that I used to devour as a child before they were axed to make way for more Want Ads in the seventies!
And while the vast majority of political cartoons either of the traditional or new school seem more or less like the creations of tepid horse-blindered fuddy duddies with that self-important task of educating us peons like an uptight school marm trying to subjugate a classroom full of Huckleberry Finn wannabes, Kelly dishes his "opinions" out with an abandon that's bound to hit more than a few targets and send blood splattering all across the computer screen. After reading more than a few of his creations one must mutter to himself...Is Kelly spoofing the sanctimonious stature of today's political commentators? Is he really that crazy about eighties television programs like MATLOCK and MURDER SHE WROTE? Are his opinions slanted that far to the right and if so why does he seem to throw a few morsels of what appears to be a more trad liberalism into the mix once in a blue moon? Really, why should you care?
Anyhoo, here are ten great examples of Kelly's work that sure had me in stitches...you of course can find more at the Onion's own site, but really what I'd like to see/have/own is a nice hardbound collection of this stuff and a whole lot more including those obvious fake reprints of seventies and eighties-era comics that seem to dredge up the past perhaps in ways many of us wouldn't have cared for. But eh...read on and I must tell you, I do hope you are offended!
***THE CAN BOOK by Pascal Bussy and Andy Hall (SAF 1989)
Consider it a brush up course!
***Iggy and the Stooges-MORE POWER LP (Cleopatra UK)
In an age when buying posthumous Stooges exhumations can be akin to buying the same old tracks re-repackaged in new covers by new labels you never heard of before, this one actually fills the bill with regards to satisfying the high energy maniac on the lookout for classic Ig tidbits! True some of these tracks have been making the rounds for nigh on thirty years, but packaged amidst some recently-unearthed rarities like "I'm a Man" and yet another "Louie Louie" and in a bee-youtiful package with a smart Mick Rock snap and you too will be sent straight back to the heyday of Iggymania like I was! Sound quality is perfect and the overall feeling is sorta like imagining what that mythical fourth Stooges album that Ig was talkin' about back then mighta sounded like had the Stooges been able to hold on just a little longer. A nice taste of prime Ig that I hope will hold me until those 1971 live disques make their way to my door just about any day now (right!).
***QUICKIE ADDENDUM: Here's a linkup to a really good piece on your fave even if not quite mine (I'd rather read about him that read him!) H. P. Lovecraft which just happened to be written by one of my favorite political commentators, the long-gone Sam Francis. Just so's you know that there's more to this internet thingie than Dave Lang talking about his pus-riddled appendix!
***Pretty good post there dontcha think? Just goes to show you what a guy can do when he's home sick with a cold and is under the influence of some pretty potent over-the-counter medicine (and gulps it down in double doses so's it'll do the job twice as fast!) If I survive, expect another one midweek. If not, don't send flowers.