Tuesday, December 30, 2008

RIP Freddie Hubbard

For what it's worth (probably not much), "Daphne's Dream City" (the first song I wrote for the IJG, and also the first tune we recorded, and also the first track on our first album) was based (to a pretty shameless degree) on Hubbard's "Prophet Jennings."

The sad beauty of that Hubbard track still gets me. Seems fitting to play it again now.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sampling the Smorgasbord, no. 2: Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)

Hard to believe this was a contemporary of Star Wars:



A bit hit-or-miss, but the good bits are good indeed (i.e., bad indeed; i.e., "good" indeed; i.e., ... oh, whatever).

Some highlights include:

1. The opening -- everything up through the credits in the above clip (though you should do yourself a favor and skip the rest of the above clip). Particularly entertaining: the over-reaction of the crew when they avoid a head-on collision with an asteroid.

2. The costumes -- skin-tight to the max (cameltoe alert!), accompanied by ridiculous headgear. How bad is the headgear? James Dean could not have made it look cool. (But how I would love to incorporate a look like that into the IJG costumery!)

3. The bad guy -- one of the most pompous and condescending robots I've ever seen in a sci-fi flick -- made all the more delicious by the fact that he actually refers to the human astronauts as "earthlings." You can cut the metallic, blinking-eye sarcasm with a knife. (Alas, there is no YouTube-ified footage.)

4. The screenplay -- in places, it's basically a string of unintentional non-sequitors.

5. The score -- I'm just guessing here, and it's just a hunch, but the music sounds like it was vaguely it was influenced by Wendy Carlos. Just vaguely, mind you.

6. A vampire! (Yeah, you read that right.)

Anyway. At some point I really need to untangle the above-mentioned "good" / "bad" knot, n'est-ce pas? Cuz I often find myself (perhaps more and more lately) defending the sort of cultural artifacts that, in the eyes and ears of other folks, are typically dismissed as "kitsch."

For now: I do think there can be something retrospectively artistic about something that was initially created without a whole lotta artistry. Which suggests that art isn't always about intentions. Hmmm, I'll chew on that for a while.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reverse sleigh ride... from hell!



(This is right down the street from us.)

Sleigh ride... from hell!

So I was fighting the urge to gently tease my fellow Northwesterners for going into lockdown every time there are a few measly inches of snow -- compared to the great storms of my New Jersey childhood, the "severe weather" we're currently having on the upper left coast seems sort of wimpy.

But then I read about stuff like this:







From the news report:

A third charter bus with the group did not go down the hill after witnesses at the scene ran out and warned the driver to stop, and its passengers were all safe.

Witnesses said the third bus probably would have pushed the first one over the wall if it had come down the hill and lost control, as the first two did.


So I guess I'll skip it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The White-on-Yellow Album


A new review of LEEF can be found here (scroll down a little), c/o our old friend Joe Taylor.

Did I mention how this album makes for a great stocking stuffer? Aside from the many ways to purchase it online, it is also now available in a brick and mortar context at this Rhino Records (thanks, Tany.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Razzleberry dressing, anyone?

While we're at it, I loves me some Mr. Magoo:



This cartoon scared the shit out of me when I was a kid -- no idea why. Now I find it creepy but entertaining.

Sampling the Smorgasbord, no. 1: Teenagers from Space (1959)

And you people wonder why I love this stuff. From the previously mentioned collection:



In this sequence alone:

1. The possible coining of the phrase "Those crazy kids!"

2. The cheesiest "monster" I have ever seen (a silhouette of a lobster (!) -- did anyone find this scary in 1959?).

3. The most hilarious "monster" sound I have ever heard (it seems vaguely muppet-esque to me). Note to self: must sample.

4. An overly angry alien demeanor (more evidence of this can be found in part one). Why so angry, Mr. Alien? Especially given that you are superior and all?

I have no idea what any of this really has to do with the "teenagers" referred to in the title, unless perhaps the fact that the alien protagonist (Derek, the guy who kills the lobster-monster in the above clip) rebels against the norms of the extra-terrestrial society he comes from. But based on the title, I was expecting some kind of sci-fi Annette Funicello / Frankie Avalon flick.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the skeletons -- lots of skeletons. The aliens have a powerful ray gun that can convert flesh-and-blood beings into piles of bones instantaneously -- and so, as one of the original tag lines put it, this movie features "thrill-crazed space kids blasting the flesh off humans!"

In all, well worth the 20 cents.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Give us some money



So sue me. The dub quality here is pretty piss-poor, but this is my favorite unsung rock band, doing one of my favorite unsung Christmas songs.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

'Tis the season to buy stuff, part two



"Grow your own" and "nutcracker" -- a series of words I never imagined I'd see strung together someday.

But the fact is, we're growing our own nutcracker as I type.

So far, the operative word in the "Can grow up to 600% its size!" advertising blurb (in the upper right hand corner of the package) is "can." (Note that the wise Grow Your Own marketing scribe did not use the word "will.")

My favorite bit, though, is on the back of the package. In tiny text, we get the following disclaimer: "This toy is in no way intended to represent living people. Any resemblance is purely coincidental and not intended to harm anyone."

To which I can only ask: huh?

Anyway, get yours here.

The M word

It's raining, trying to snow.

My ankle is severely twisted, after I stupidly decided to go for a run last night and misjudged the circumference of a pothole (not surprising, since it was rainy and dark).

I can't stand or walk except by hopping on my left leg.

Apparently 40 brings you many things -- but not wisdom. And alas, the fool was right:

Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.


Anyway, is it any wonder that this concatenation of circumstances has put me in mind of a certain well-loved film:



* * * * *


And speaking of well-loved, Amanda over at Pandagon has one of the best blog-obituaries of the late great Bettie Page, who died earlier this week (RIP):

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t see the appeal, from the playful look in her eyes in most pictures, to her refreshing lack of shame, to the way she squares her shoulders, and of course her kitschy style that seamlessly adapted itself to punk rock reimagination decades later. She is very rock and roll, compared to Marilyn Monroe, who was very bachelor pad.

[...]

I have no doubts about why she’s popular at all. The image overload has diminished the power of her image, but for a lot of the kind of rock music loving weirdos who felt alienated from the standard cheesecake middle American version of sexuality---Playboy, Hooters, blond bimbos who all but say, “You want to put what where? *giggle*"---the Bettie Page pin-up pictures offered something genuinely fun. She’s not playing stupid in these pictures, and it’s genuinely hot. She’s naughty without seeming to have an ounce of guilt to her. They cater to the fantasies of men who want something more interesting than cheesecake. But it was women (well, women like me and a lot of women I know) who put her popularity over the top. I suspect a lot of women see her picture for the first time and think, shit, I can actually be sexy without getting breast implants, dyeing my hair blond, and adopting a cloying posture. For real. Not the consolation prize sexy, where you’re not the hot cheerleader but you’ll do. Genuinely sexy, sexy in a way that Hooters and sterile Playboy spreads doesn’t even come close to reaching.


Did I mention, by the way, that the IJG may soon be picking up a burlesque show gig?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exactamundo

In all the hand-wringing about Obama's supposed "move to the center," why oh why have more people not asked the fundamental question: which "center" are you talking about?

Welcome to the new center: post-partisan progressivism. "We're all Keynesians now," Richard Nixon once famously announced. And now the catastrophic failures of conservatism have set the stage for a new era of progressive reform. The election gave Obama a mandate and a majority for progressive reform: an end to the war in Iraq, health care for all, investment in new energy and education. He doesn't seem to have backed off on any of his major commitments yet. And the economic crisis is forcing an ever bolder response, driving the entire "center" to the left.


The first rule of critical discourse: define your terms. Thank you, Robert Borosage!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sometimes you can see the steam coming out of his ears

Alright, here I go again.

Why do I get so mad at the TV people? And why in particular do I get maddest at the very TV people whose hearts I know are in the right place, and with whom I tend to agree, politically?

Cue Keith Olbermann's show last night, and his opening report, on the (apparently insane) governor of Illinois. There were two moments that irritated me about this thing. The first can be found at around 2:40 in the following vid:



To wit: Obama, in footage from an exchange with the press, responds to the Blagojevich nonsense, but declines to go into any detail. Olbermann (back in the studio, of course) interjects:

Olbermann outburst number 1: "Oh, no, not four more years of not commenting on ongoing investigations, not that crap, that's not change we can believe in. Surely there's something the president-elect could say about his involvement without compromising Mr. Fitzgerald's efforts."

[Cue to footage of Obama doing exactly that]

Olbermann outburst number 2: "Now, was that so hard?"


Let me get this straight. Olbermann, reading from a teleprompter, knew, before making outburst number 1, that outburst number 2 would be following a few seconds later?

He knew, in other words, that outburst number 2 effectively made outburst number 1 irrelevant? He knew, while he was insisting that Obama "say something about his own involvement without compromising Mr. Fitzgerald's efforts," that Obama had already said something about his own involvement without compromising Mr. Fitzgerald's efforts?

What the fuck?

Later, Olbermann interviewed Jonathan Alter:



And here we have irritating moment number 2: a glimpse of the sort of power trip that comes from manufacturing drama out of thin air. It starts when Olbermann pursues the Obama connection (or non-connection):

"Well, to that point, eleven minutes into a nightly news broadcast tonight was the headline 'Barack Obama's First Scandal,' and it was eleven minutes into one of the British news casts, ITV. As much of an oversimplification as it is, and as much as it's contradicted by what Blagojevich said on those tapes, is there a risk of the implication sticking to the president-elect that this is his first political scandal?"


Okay, I have to ask: when a broadcaster gets into "is there a risk of the implication sticking" territory, specifically concerning an implication that has not yet stuck, how exactly is that different from the classic politician's gambit of deftly raising questions about an opponent -- especially guilt-by-association type questions -- without ever coming out and accusing them of anything? Isn't it the same dynamic? Plant the seed, and then step aside while it grows (or dies) -- never thinking about or owning your own responsibility in the process?

If the "Obama involvement" angle was discredited from the get-go (and Fitzgerald himself insisted that it was), why even raise it here? Until and unless new, contradictory evidence emerges, I have to ask, again: what the fuck?

It's amazing to me how much of what passes for news these days is actually the anticipation of news. So much of what journalists (especially broadcast journalists) do is wrapped up in the pseudo-science of making predictions. In part, that's the ruthlessness of the media-industrial complex's bottom line: you have to have enough "stuff" to fill up the hour, and if you don't actually have all the data on a story by air time (but you know you're dealing with a big story), you want people to continue to believe that you are "the most trusted name in news" or whatever. So you have to convincingly extemporize your way through the subject. You want to appear authoritative, right? You don't want to appear to be as clueless as the people watching at home, do you?

(Incidentally, note to networks: my ability to trust you is inversely related to the number of times you tell me that you're trustworthy. If you have to tell me you're cutting through the bull, I'm sorry, but I'm going to think you're bullshitting me.)

At what point does this mania for prediction help to create the news? At what point is the media getting in the business of self-fulfilling prophecy? Not out of a vindictiveness toward any one politician or party, but just because it has become standard operating procedure?

Look: Obama should not be protected from media critique. (Duh! Of course.) But these broadcasters need to get a new game. Because four more years of this shit is not change I can believe in.

Here it goes again

Okay, talk about crazy. Recently, for the first time in, like, ever, a venue saw fit to contact me about doing a New Year's Eve gig.

New Year's Eve with the IJG? Is that really how you want to start 2009?

I must admit, I accepted more out of curiosity than anything else. Would anybody want to usher in the New Year in such a sacrilegious way? Would we be able to capitalize on the buzz created by the show we did here in Portland last September? Would I find enough local players to fill out the band on such short notice? Could I get away with covering "Have a Hap-Hap-Happy New Year" from Rudolph's Shiny New Year? Would my Mom (visiting from out of town for the holidays) be horrified by the big band version of the IJG, which she has never before heard in person?

So many questions. Maybe I'll see you there for the answers:

The Industrial Jazz Group (the mostly PDX edition) on New Year's Eve, right here in Portland, 6-8 PM, at Mississippi Pizza. (Which is, incidentally, a much cooler place than it sounds. It features pretty prominently in this video.)


More info soon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ah, crap, this blog is becoming a list of other people's links

Ah, well.

The latest: "Fifty Years of Popular Songs Condensed into Single Sentences" (McSweeney's, of course).

Hint: there's a theme.

My favorite is the one for Radiohead's "Creep": "I'm filled with self-loathing, and, though outwardly I hate everything you represent, I want to do it with you."

Hey, that's kind of catchy!

The role of Vitamin D in beta-cell function



A PhD dance.

Something tells me I would have enjoyed grad school more if there had been less political backbiting and more of this sort of thing...

Two tickets to paradise



Just bought this as a 40th birthday present for myself. Less than 20 cents per film: priceless.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Who says jazz is dead?

Somehow in the heat of the campaign I completely missed these McCain-Palin vids set to music by pianist Henry Hey:



Very "John Somebody", right? How about this one:



Talk about making something out of nothing.

Via David Valdez.