Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another ramble-on from a rambling mind. Writ too many of those these past few months and you might be sick as all heck about 'em, but I gotta admit that there's nothing really that crucial goin' on here that warrants a big blow-out filled with dozens of pant-inducing writeups of recently obtained goodies so in its stead I'll just bore you with some of my patented prattling regarding the other aspects of what we here at BTC central call "life". Who knows, maybe I'll even slip in a review at the tail end just to "legitimize" this entry. You can tell I'm in one of my crankier moods right now, perhaps brought on by the onset of autumn amongst other sundry things you'd be better off not knowing about lest you delve into the same state of funk that I'm currently wallowing in.

If you must know, there's one thing that has been occupying my preciously-dwindling free time in a positive, life-reaffirming way and that has been the start of a life-long ambition of tackling the entire 46-year-run of Chester Gould's DICK TRACY from beginning to end rather'n all splotched up like I have been doing these past fortysome years. Or at least tackling what is currently available from IDW have been reprinting Gould's 1931-1977 strip in smythe-sewn hardcover book form and are only up to 1947 (Itchy) at this point in time. And considering that (along with NANCY) TRACY is my all-time favorite comic strip why shouldn't I handle the herculean task of reading Gould's odyssey from beginning to end rather'n mix and matched up like I've been doing ever since first glomming a library copy of THE CELEBRATED CASES OF DICK TRACY when I was but a good eleven years old!

Many people forget the intensity and high-energy (not to mention controversy) TRACY exuded throughout the entire Gould run not to mention the tough on crime morality tales which still resonate at least for me a good seventy/eighty years down the line. Let's face it, Gould's creation remains such a top notch effort (while displaying a good healthy sense of older generation crankiness throughout) that I'm willing to tackle the later Moon Maid/hippie/law and order strips that even the most avid TRACY fans tend to loathe.

Right now I'm about three-fourths of the way through volume one and the introduction of "Junior" right when the strip seemed to be trying to latch onto an identity of its own, an identity which would come to fruition via the bloody and downright gruesome plots and deformed villains who made TRACY so noticible within a few years time. (At this point in the strip the bad guys who are giving the can opener-nosed detective a hard time seem to be cut from the usual mobster stock company seen in most of the movies and dime novels of the depression era.) The artwork is still in that old-styled thin-pen fashion that had been seen for ages already and although a far cry from the stark black and white boldness of TRACY's classic years the "feeling" and "roots" of the impending grotesqueness of the strip are definitely there. Same with the violent and at times chilling plots which are only beginning to show the bloodiness and gore of things to come. Nice but I sure can't wait for those strips where you see Tracy shoot some badski through the head with the bullet trajectory trailing of in a weaving fashion while coming out the other side of the chest/skull.

And stick a dildo up my ass and call me Dave Lang, but I'm still sucked in by the violent plots and developments just like I was when I was a wild-eyed blob not only reading the old TRACY sagas that had just come out in book form but eyeballed 'em daily in the newspapers before they were excised after the spate of violence that swept this Land of Ours throughout the late-sixties/early-sevenites. Y'see, some do-gooders (many cut from the same political/societal cloth as many of you readers) obviously thought the assassinations and student unrest of the day was being directly caused by comics such as TRACY as well as BUGS BUNNY/THREE STOOGES reruns on tee-vee so off they went faster'n the hair off my scalp. Good thing we've gotten rid of this violent rubbish and the world is now all sweetness and light and goody-two-shoes, dontcha think?

As a parting TRACY note let me lay onto you this always-pertinent quote which Gould told underground cartoonist Jay Lynch when Lynch and Robert Crumb (!) visited Gould at his CHICAGO TRIBUNE office, "If you can't tell the good guys from the bad guys then you're one of the bad guys!" Thought that might "offend" at least one of you "above-it-alls" out there. If you ask me (and why not?) no truer words have ever been spoken!

I guess that the recent deaths of at least two people of note should not go unmentioned, those of Joseph Sobran and Barbara Billingsley to be precise about it. (Forget it, I'm not even going to mention the recently-deceased sleepwalking actor Tom Bosley in the same breath as Billingsley, though if you ask me former Boy/Bomba star Johnny Sheffield was more than "just an actor"!) I'm sure not many of you readers know who Sobran was and considering his controversial nature (to the point where there were quite a few points where even I might not have exactly seen eye-to-eye with him, though there were many that I did) I'm sure most people in this universe didn't know either, but Sobran was one of the few pundits on the fringe of the "political" scene who was good enough at his craft to the point where he even knew how to rankle to ire of many people allegedly on the (yawn!) "conservative" side of the aisle, which in these days is really saying something good.

Heck, you could tell that Sobran was way on the outside of the so-called "right" because when Rush Limbaugh used to do his commercial for THE CONSERVATIVE CHRONICLES collection of columnists gathered under one roof he'd mention the big-name guns in a typically upbeat manner but would suddenly switch to unsure and unapproving when bringing up Sobran's! Well, that was around the time it became known to one and all that ol' Rush had fallen into the partyline conservative camp along with the rest of the put-on patriots (in fact wasn't he there all along?) while the likes of Sobran, along with Charley Reese and Paul Craig Roberts (to name a few) were actually carrying on the credo in its truest, most anti-governmental/anarchist form and getting berated or worse yet shoved to the back of the website for doing so. Funny though, it was the likes of these and other fellow travelers like Justin Raimondo who turned out to be correct about a whole slew of things from overseas aggression to the war on drugs while what passes for republicanism, conservatism or whatever it be known by just comes off all the more fishier the longer it's left outside the refrigerator.

Of course Sobran wasn't going to be making many friends with his opines nor would he be allowed near any of the major conservative outlets with his antiwar views in the face of a lotta sabre-rattling that continues to go on. In fact you knew he was that good since even snide libertarians the likes of Jay Hinman with his SF-bred ideas of "equality" (more of it for the sickos, none of it for the straights!) never would even dare name drop him in their litany of truly progressive and outside-the-realm thinkers the way they do many a lesser light, like Rudolph Guiliani??? But unlike these nebs I devoured Sobran's columns for their forthrightness and willingness to say things that most people would wish was left unmentioned, something which eventually got him into hot water with former boss William F. Buckley and fired from NATIONAL REVIEW even though the two made nicey-nice shortly before Buckley's own passing awhile back.

Sobran had been ill these past few years and his columns less and less frequent. I was able to make up with the loss by latching onto other faves usually via the Chronicles and Taki's Top Drawer sites listed to the left, but still a void was created with his absence. Like Reese, Sobran was one of the last of the old-time columnists who didn't screech or preach like most on both ends of the spectrum tend to. He pretty much talked it to you in the same fashion that a hard-boiled newspaperman from the fifties sick to his stomach at alla 'em long-haired stinkpots did; nice and tough! None of this frilly Anna Qundlen/Ellen Goodman humanist mush from Sobran fact, Sobran was more or less pried from the old-time newspaperman mold and the newsroom atmosphere that would have made a Quindlen or Goodman wilt in feminist outrage!

Very few, especially in these politically humble and "caring" times, would be able to fill Sobran's shoes. Some like Tom Piatek convey an anti-pointy-head snob attitude in their efforts but it just ain't the same. Somehow I could see Sobran, along with Reese and even Raimondo working as columnists under Perry White at THE DAILY PLANET. Piatek would have to settle for being Jimmy Olsen's gofer, something which I wouldn't consider an insult but let's just say he needs to get a little more expierience under his belt before he can be promoted to Clark Kent status.
Gotta admit that the passing of June Cleaver herself Barbara Billingsley just made me feel really old. And I also gotta admit that slapping her obit towards the back of the first section of the local paper along with the rest of the deaths only shows just how much in contempt she continues to be held in. At least when Hugh Beaumont died in the early eighties his death notice was on the front page, albeit on the bottom half along with the usual city council and traffic accident stuff. And yeah, unlike with Harriet Nelson's passing in the nineties I am going to avoid all of these pseudointellectual snide comments about her passing being the final nail in the coffin re. the role of women (pardon moi..."womyn", or is it still "wimmer"?) as publicly displayed in this patriarchal society of ours blab blab snooze snooze*. You know it's gonna come if it hasn't already arrived so batten down the hatches Gertrude! But leaving those malcontents aside, ya gotta give credit to Billingsley for acting in one of if not thee best tee-vee series of all time, one that really laid it on the line as far as what the entire mid-Amerigan baby boom fun and games swinging years of the late-fifties/early-sixties (and beyond) were all about. Yes, an era that was so beneficial for each and every one of us that it resonated (at least around these parts) for years on end or at least until the hippie generation grew up and made us all go organic whether we wanted to or not!

So hey, the death of Billingsley does make me feel about as old as Gus the Fireman right now. Perhaps it does because it puts my entire life into a strange focus and crams down my gullet once and for all matter how many episodes of TWILIGHT ZONE or QUICK DRAW McGRAW that I watch, no matter how many old issues of ARCHIE I may dig up from about four decades of flotsam and jetsam collecting, 1962 just ain't gonna come back! And I know some of you are more than willing to see the dark side of the past ("Oh boo hoo, that's when blacks and women and gays were kept in the closet, or something like that I read somewhere sniff blubber!") but I prefer to look at the "positive" side of things. Like that was an era of high energy fun and games when you didn't have to shudder when you turned on the television set because frankly people knew enough not to let the communists anywhere near the media unlike they do now!
MOE TUCKER, VELVET UNDERGROUND DRUMMER, STUNS FANS WITH TEA PARTY SUPPORT! That's what THE HUFFINGTON POST stated, though if you'd really care to know I must admit that this is one fan who is not in the least surprised. After all, Tucker seemed like the straightest member of the Velvets and the yang to Lou Reed's walking zombie of animal instinct yin so come to think of it, wouldn't she be the most likely ex-member of the Velvet Underground to be a Tea Party supporter in her own homespun grandmotherly way?

Of course the entire Huffington Post article is like a huge festering pimple waiting to be squeezed in the way it radiates its message of "how can such a scion of the New Kultur even consider teaming up with such uncouth rednecks anyway?", the argument that always comes about when a rock & roll icon, mainstream or otherwise, somehow rocks the boat with an opine ever-so-slightly contrary to the hotcha mode being laid down by the New Gods on Mount Olympus, or The Huffington Post for that matter. We heard it before thirty years back with Neil Young's and Johnny Ramone's Reagan endorsements which might make a few people totally absorbed in their own cocoons sit up and take notice, but frankly much of this entertainer editorializing whether it be from a rocker (favorite or not) or a comedian who thinks he has the power to make people think with his scathing putdowns of mid-Ameriga makes this observer merely yawn. As for the people who do hang onto their music idols' political pronouncements as if they were being made by seasoned veterans, well, I do wonder how these same people would react after discovering that John Cale's politics are closer to that of Robert Welch's than say, Lou Reed's f'rexample.

Maybe it all boils down to a fervent "so what!" Not that there's anything really wrong with living vicariously through your favorite entertainer's political visions; I should know and hey, it's not like I haven't championed more'n a few people whose politix seem to settle comfy-like with mine (and taken more than a little "heat" about it from people whom I thought were in my camp)...but letting them overcome you to the point where you feel as if you're fighting the good fight side by side with your longtime faves in the trench of your choice is just a little too much fantasizin' on your part. I may think Edgar Breau and Mick Farren to be fantastic rock & roll avengers and maybe I tend to lean a little bit more towards the Breau end of the political spectrum than Farren's, but that ain't gonna get in the way of my appreciating Farren either as a wordsmith or as a vocalist who I'm sure is a nice down-to-earth guy to all who know him. And if you hate the Tea Party so much that you're willing to trash all of your Maureen Tucker albums well maybe you should think of givin' 'em all to me instead. Really, Tucker, or any other musical favorite of mine, would have to do or say something extremely beyond the pale and over the limit before I would even think of dismissing her and her life work, not that she couldn't do just that (but I hope and pray not!).

Not that I'm going out whole hog to endorse this Tea Party movement which sure looked swell when Ron Paul had more or less created it but has since fallen into the hands of a whole buncha republican party wonk wagon jumpers turning it into quite a different beast. (Really, how much derision and ire do you think I would incur if I attended one of the local Tea Party rallies [which I understand were little more than {"ugh!"} prayer services] wearing a Murray Rothbard or Karl Hess t-shirt, that is if the organizers and participants even know who the two were! Plenty I'd say...don't ruin a good pump the rubes with any real clarion calls to freedom, eh?) But to pick on Tucker the way many of the commentators (for what that's worth) have as if she's some above-it-all rich rockstar with no concern for the so-called "little man" is rather irritating to this tortured soul. For the sake of argument Tucker "may" be a little misguided with regards to believing what the Tea Party candidates would do for us, but her concerns seem quite honest and real (and have been throughout both democratic and republican administrations) and hearing her being berated by a band of small-minded hippoids who see Nazis behind every Tea Party gathering is enough to make the blood boil. Her definitely down-to-earth forthrightness and everyworkaday honesty makes me glad that I gave a whole lot of my all to her and her bandmates at a time when I usedta get berated for doing so. Gives me another reason to wake up and look in the mirror, and not much can make me do just that these days y'know?

PS-You might note that I didn't mention the passing of Ari Up with the rest of the recently departed. That's because that I think her deep-sixing had been more than amply covered online 'n for me to add my own two centavos, which wouldn't amount to much anyway considering that I ain't really heard as much Slitscapading as you have. Maybe considering that you expect me to butt into things maybe I shouldn't butt into I should say something about her passing. After all, those early recordings were (at least for me) some of the better musings to pop outta the late-seventies English punk-via-punque scene along with the raves of Wire, the Subway Sect and the Pop Group to name three of the more interesting examples. To the dismay of some of you Slit-haters, I gotta say that the early Slits worked (and continues to work) for me probably for the wrong reasons, because they were creating a pure beyond-the-fringe music thanks to their fortunately limited musical vocab, and for that they might have been thee avant punk saviors of the day roughly akin to all of those late-seventies noisegaugers who were attempting to update 1967 Velvetisms into late-seventies miasma. Well, you wanted to know, didn't you?

*Well almost, since Brad Kohler, via snail mail, just hadda go ruin my day by revealing the contents of a reportage of Miss Billingsley's passing via tee-vee mentioning how Billingsley had such a hard time living up to her June Cleaver image since she was divorced three times, an admonition that was probably written by some women's libber type who was divorced four times until she finally tied the knot with her true soul mate Mabel! And really, I didn't hear anybody putting down Tom Bosley when he passed on even though you could say that HAPPY DAYS registers more in the postmodern mind being more current and all thus avoiding the barbs of the fifties nuclear family haters who control the media. Sheesh, it was almost as bad as the when some simpleton, in an attempt to "bury" Harriet Nelson after her passing, could only manage to dig up the dirt regarding her having smoked cigarettes as if this faux pas was perhaps a crime almost as disgusting as wearing an apron and being a mother! Only shows you that after all these years maybe Archie Bunker was right with his on-target putdowns of libbers and assorted pinkos back in the early-seventies when that rebellion coulda been easily quelled with one swift kick in the pants, eh? I mean, if we had only taken his message to heart we wouldn't have to put up with these simpering bleedhearts who are calling the shots these days, and I believe it deep in my soul!


Anonymous said...

Frankly, I can't think of a BETTER or more enjoyable long-term project than working one's way through the entire run of Dick Tracy. I wish you well on your journey. I have two of those beautiful volumes, and once I get into them, it's hard to stop. Gould was such a master in so ways...
Just the other day, Mary Anne and I watched three "Timberg & Rooney" Educational Pictures comedy shorts you sent me probably 15-20 years ago (last watched them about 5 yrs ago), and my, how they continue to entertain. Those people who came up through vaudeville had to do so many different things well to survive, and having played to thousands of audiences in every town where the train stopped, they had their comic timing down to a science...and they could adapt to any situation. All Educational had to do was have a writer string together some continuity using existing sets into which these guys could shoehorn parts of their act, and then let the camera roll...
Now, if only I could find some of the other Jefferson Machamer (sp?) Educational shorts, more than the one I have. Will have to dig out the Tom Patricola and Buster West shorts soon...
Best wishes from south Texas...

Bill S.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the encouragement. Right now I'm about 3/4ths of the way through volume two, engrossing stuff naturally though I'm clearly anticipating the carnage that will be ensuing in a rather short time (mid-thirties or so). One really sad feeling that I get reading these TRACY books is knowing that in NO WAY would the extremely violent nature of these strips be allowed in the newspapers of today. No wonder they're all (thankfully) going out of business!

humming in the night skull said...

Why anybody would jump on Maureen Tucker, of all people, just baffles me. It isn't like she's some rich rock star sitting on a pile of money. Between the respect she's earned through her music and the respect she should have earned through the years of working at nowheresville low wage jobs and raising her kids and all that it just angers me that she should get pilloried in the media for this.

You're spot-on with your observation, she would have to do something pretty bad to deserve to be remembered this way, but this might be her legacy to most people. Maureen deserves better. This lady deserves to be remembered for that glorious wonderful heartbeat drum pulse, such an integral part of one of the greatest branches of the rock and roll family tree.

humming in the night skull said...

I would like to clarify my comment from a few minutes ago, in retrospect it comes out sounding pretty much like a tree-hugging liberal defending a Maureen Tucker that has somehow gone astray in her thoughts.

Regardless of if a person agrees with her or disagrees with her support of the Tea Party, I really regret that this is the way she will be remembered by many.

I wish she would be remembered as the lady behind the throbbing pulse that ran through the classic Velvet jams, and as a good person with a clear head when that was sorely needed in some tricky situations, and as somebody who raised a family and tried to be positive when she could have become extremely bitter towards the hand life dealt her. She never ego-tripped or turned to oblivion-seeking and by all accounts was a great person to work with AND HAD A GREAT FREAKING DRUM STYLE!!!

I really really really hate that Maureen turned into a political footnote in most people's eyes. It honestly hurts me inside to see her ridiculed.