November 28, 2008

"Love in the Open Air"

While on a break between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's in late 1966, and with touring now out of the question and John Lennon off making the film How I Won the War, Paul McCartney tried his hand at a film score -- with a lot of help from Beatles arranger/producer George Martin. The rather pleasing result is one of the most elusive souvenirs of the Beatles' high tide in the '60s, long out of print, and commanding sky-high prices on the collectors' circuit. Only 24 minutes in length, The Family Way is a collection of film cues based on a single McCartney tune, "Love in the Open Air," a plaintive melody reminiscent in some ways of "Here, There and Everywhere." (McCartney has since said that Johnny Mercer was planning to write lyrics for the song, but McCartney passed on it because at the time; he had never heard of Mercer.) (source)

with "then-fashionable Tijuana Brass-style horns"

A United Artists single issued under the name of the George Martin Orchestra in 1967 offers a completely different, rock-edged treatment of "Love in the Open Air" -- even including some then-fashionable Tijuana Brass-style horns. (source)


November 25, 2008

High def. Trek trailer

I just don't know about this "new" Star Trek coming out in May. I really want to like it. God knows I want to like it. I want to get in to it. But the whole Star Wars prequels experience left me a bit jaded and cynical about this type of thing. Sure, it looks really slick, just like the Star Wars prequels did/do. I'd guess that Industrial Light & Magic did the effects. But it still feels weird with the younger cast and all. I think the Kirk and Spock fight looks stupid, and the "sexualizing" of Uhura is irksome. The whole thing makes me feel strangely unfaithful to the original show(!). In this new trailer, the Eric Bana/Romulan character at the end seems too much like Darth Maul in the Episode I teaser, where he says: "At last we will present ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge," or whatever it is that character said. In fact, the whole preview feels way too Star Wars prequel-ly. You heard me - prequel-ly.

That logo, that insignia

If the makers of this "re-imagining" of Star Trek only knew what happens to me every single time I've watched this preview, and that insignia and logo (the ones I spent hours and hours and hours drawing and redrawing in Big Chief pads, along with communicators, phasers, tricorders, and of course, the Enterprise, when I was roughly ages 3-12 in the early to mid-70s) appear on screen to the accompaniment of three familiar notes from the theme played on shimmering xylophone...if they only knew what happens to me (like Pavlov's dog, without the drool), they'd make damn sure the movie is worth a flip. I think Simon Pegg might actually work as an alternative to James Doohan. Notice I said "alternative." This is coming from a guy (me) who was a member of the Jimmy Doohan Fan Club when I was eleven years old. Doohan could never be replaced, nor could any of the original cast members, as far as I'm concerned. I bet that "Buckle up" line from Kirk comes at the very end of the film (notice how he's finally dressed in the original, faded-orange uniform), so as to guarantee interest in a sequel, I can't help but feel a little excited when he says it.

EBiN c. 1977

Anyway, that's my two cents. Ain't It Cool News has three high resolution versions of the preview with an added surprise (potential spoiler alert), but for this post, here is the version you've no doubt already seen, so nanoo, nanoo:

November 23, 2008

Gulf Coast Deco

Inspired, as well as educated, by the fantastic Houston Deco website and armed with a Garmin, I have been able to locate the following examples of vintage, Art Deco architecture in Houston (and I hope to get more):

humble oil filling station no. 157
Humble Oil Filling Station No. 157, built in 1930

This is one of two Art Deco, Humble filling stations left in the city of Houston to date from the 1930s. The architect, John F. Staub, designed the prototype for all new Humble Oil stations in 1929. I'm always amazed this kind of thing is still around.
different view of humble oil filling station no. 157

Originally a place called Albritton's Eats, this is from 1945, and the streamlined detailing is still intact:
different view of albritton's eats

Even with a GPS, this next place was tricky to find. I'd given up on it after the GPS sent me in a bizarre circular pattern, which I repeated, just for good measure. But I caught it peripherally as I drove past it and nearly slammed on my brakes.
looking up at rettig's heap-o-cream
Rettig's Heap-o-Cream, built in 1947

front of rettig's heap-o-cream
Rettig's was a local ice cream manufacturer. The company operated Heap-o-Cream confectioneries throughout Houston, including one in a Moderne building on Yale Street. Aside from having had its front windows and doors boarded, the Wayside Drive location remains largely unaltered.

I came across this Texaco by accident, and took both of these from my car:
texaco in houston
front view of houston texaco

Built in 1935, this endangered structure was the Sterling Laundry and Cleaning Co. Most people would easily recognize this as being "Art Deco." What a thrill it's still there!
front view of sterling laundry & cleaning co.
sterling laundry & cleaning co.
side view of sterling laundry & cleaning co.

  • Gulf Coast Deco II
  • Gulf Coast Deco III
  • Gulf Coast Deco IV
  • Gulf Coast Deco V
  • Gulf Coast Deco VI
  • Gulf Coast Deco VII
  • Gulf Coast Deco VIII
  • Gulf Coast Deco IX
  • Gulf Coast Deco X

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  • November 22, 2008

    Texarkana slideshow

    I went to Texarkana recently, and I just got the slides back from the photo developer's. My projector's lens is a bit dirty, but here it is, anyway:

    November 12, 2008

    "Is That You, Mrs. Peel?"

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    Johnny Dankworth composed The Avengers' original theme tune, a syncopated jazz number, which was reworked for the third series. When Diana Rigg joined the series, the new title sequence was accompanied by a fresh theme by Laurie Johnson, a catchy, brassy tune designed to promote the "English eccentricity" of the show. Johnson also provided incidental music, and subsequently collaborated with Clemens on other projects, including the theme for the later New Avengers revival.

    November 8, 2008

    Bernard Herrmann

    In '56 with Hitchcock on the set of The Man Who Knew too Much....sort of

    Bernard Hermann was born in New York City on June 29, 1911. He won an Academy Award for The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). He is particularly known for collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock. He did the music on Orson Welles' infamous 1938 The War of the Worlds radio broadcast, composed the scores for several fantasy films by Ray Harryhausen, and many TV programs.
    This article has a great analysis of what makes Herrmann's music tick:

    On the Citizen Kane set with Orson Welles

    Essentially Herrmann regarded himself as a Romantic composer, stylistically speaking. His music was indeed emotional, moody, with great depth of feeling. Herrmann stated, "As a composer I might class myself as a Neo-Romantic, inasmuch as I have always regarded music as a highly personal and emotional form of expression. I like to write music which takes its inspiration from poetry, art and nature. I do not care for purely decorative music. Although I am in sympathy with modern idioms, I abhor music which attempts nothing more than the illustration of a stylistic fad. And in using modern techniques, I have tried at all times to subjugate them to a larger idea or a grander human feeling."

    The Romantic period of music came to full fruition in the 19th century, and it is interesting to note what Herrmann wrote to his wife on November 1947: "My feelings and yearnings are those of a composer of the 19th century. I am completely out of step with the present."

    Playing himself in The Man Who Knew Too Much

    While Herrmann’s music — his entire oeuvre — cannot be easily pigeon-holed, almost all of his works showed a natural Dramatist (a terrific aptitude for drama, whether musically or in his personal life!) that flowed along a romantic channel of expression. One suggestion is to say that he was a 20th Century American Modernist Romantic. He tended to excel in music written not so much in a co-called abstract construct (concert works, say, or symphony) but in response to an external stimulus or medium such as the Big Screen (feature film), the Small Screen (television), radio plays, and the opera (Wuthering Heights). His dramatic instincts really shined in these Show Business mediums.

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

    The Trouble with Harry (1955)

    I think the prelude to Vertigo (1958) is his most powerful and dramatic. At first, it's as if there is no melody (trying to hum it is about as difficult as humming The Beach Boy's "Let's Go Away for a While" from Pet Sounds). But after repeated listening, it gives me chills. The melody (rolling in around :54) is like waves crashing slowly onto a beach:
    Of course, it doesn't hurt to have it perfectly synced with one of the best opening credit sequences done by Saul Bass. And to say it's one of his best is saying quite a lot.

    North by Northwest (1959)

    Psycho (1960). Here is a version NBC/Universal hasn't removed.

    Herrmann's Cape Fear (1962) score filtered through Elmer Bernstein for the 1991 remake

    His last movie soundtrack was for Taxi Driver (1976). How could that film have not become a classic with a Bernard Hermann score??

  • Wikipedia's complete list of soundtracks
  • November 7, 2008

    "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear"

    "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" was a US number-one hit for Elvis during the summer of 1957, and his third of the four that he would have that year. The lyrics were by Kal Mann with Juliard-trained pianist Bernie Lowe doing the music. It was part of the soundtrack to Loving You. Here is Elvis, looking too cool (for school), in the very same film:

    Gotta love that technicolor.

    November 6, 2008

    "...This Town..."

    Spike is the album Elvis Costello released in 1989, his first for the Warner Brothers label.

    A bit from the Rolling Stone review:

    Now that New Wave is nostalgia and Elvis Costello has become respectable enough to serve as Paul McCartney's songwriting partner, you might assume that Elvis isn't angry anymore. But that would be a not-so-brilliant mistake. Spike – Costello's first new album after an uncharacteristically long two-year layoff – is a far-flung sampler of his musical genius, a fascinating effort informed by its creator's justified frustration that his genius is not more widely recognized.

    "You're nobody 'til everybody in this town thinks you're a bastard," Elvis sings in the chorus of Spike's opening number, "... This Town ..." Even the album's surreal, garish cover – with Costello as a sinister-looking clown, labeled as "The Beloved Entertainer" – seems to be Costello's defensive way of mocking the very concept of being a popular entertainer. Spike makes clear, Costello remains an astonishing talent. While less cohesive than his two 1986 albums – the justly lauded King of America and the underappreciated Blood & ChocolateSpike is more ambitious.

    The BBC aired a program back in '89 devoted to Spike. You can see that here.

    November 5, 2008

    Here's to a more perfect Union

    I got goosebumps and teared up several times during President-Elect Obama's moving and powerful victory speech, and I am hopeful for the future! Additionally, I look forward to his first State of the Union speech:

    Yes we can!!

    Mildly offensive pictures are from my post about the film Idiocracy.

    "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is a song written by Bob Dylan and released on his 1964 album of the same name. In 2004, this song was #59 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

    Dylan's friend, Tony Glover, recalls visiting Dylan's apartment in September 1963, where he saw a number of song manuscripts and poems lying on a table. "The Times They Are-a Changin'" had yet to be recorded, but Glover saw its early manuscript. After reading the words "come senators, congressmen, please heed the call," Glover reportedly asked Dylan: "What is this shit, man?", to which Dylan responded, "Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear."

    A protest song, it is often viewed as a reflection of the generation gap and of the political divide marking American culture in the 1960s. Dylan, however, disputed this interpretation in 1964, saying "Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age." A year later, Dylan would say: "I can't really say that adults don't understand young people any more than you can say big fishes don't understand little fishes. I didn't mean ['The Times They Are a-Changin'] as a statement... It's a feeling."

    Here's a young Dylan, with what appears to be his freight train ridin', disgruntled, Kerouacian/Steinbeckian hobo pals, on a CBC TV show called Quest, Feb 1, 1964:

    The Byrds, who recorded a version on their Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965) album, performed it on an October 1965 episode of Hullabaloo (introduced by Michael Landon):

    November 4, 2008

    The electorate

    We no longer have to pay for our fuel or housing! Happy days are here again!! Or did she mean Obama would lessen our dependence on foreign oil and clean up the junk mortgage loan industry??

    November 2, 2008

    Eagle Lake

    goose hunting capital OF THE WORLD crop
    Eagle Lake

    the frank stephens co.
    eagle barber shop
    eagle lake historical marker
    eagle market
    gas station in eagle lake
    This place is right down the road from the house in which my mother grew up, and my grandparents lived.

    buildings on mccarty ave in eagle lake
    s. mccarty ave. in eagle lake
    My paternal grandmother worked in a clothing store which was in one of these buildings, located on McCarty Avenue. My grandparents frequently took my sister, cousins, and me to visit a store when we were little called "Fink's," which was still set up like an old time general store. I seem to remember it had wooden floors. They had great toys - huge bins of them. It was also in one of these buildings on McCarty Ave., but I forget which.

    frank stephens co. building
    My maternal grandfather worked for Frank Stephens, in Eagle Lake, during the 1930s. The were paid in Frank Stephens dollars.

    front view of dairy delite
    Heading out of Eagle Lake on U.S. 90.