June 30, 2009

Rick Astley lives!!!

Rick Astley has somehow mangaged to escape the prolific and successful (as of late) Grim Reaper, and he is not yet dead. So, I guess that means he is never gonna give us up, and we will be together forever. I'm pretty sure these are two different songs:

June 29, 2009

The Clash at Shea Stadium

Prior to Shea Stadium show, October 1982 (pic by Bob Gruen)

In 1982, the Clash were on tour in America, promoting their Combat Rock album. Performance footage in this video was recorded on October 13th, 1982, when the band opened for the Who at New York's Shea Stadium amid falling rain and wild jeering from Who fans:

During Combat Rock tour in '82 (pic by Bob Gruen)

June 25, 2009

"I'm going to buy your songs one day."

Peace to Michael Jackson. Nothing left to prove. A life even more tragic than Elvis'? How is that possible? The comparisons will come, don't you know. This will be repeated ad nauseum for the next few days, but--the King of Pop is dead. Love live the King!

A river of a novel

The illustrations are by Edward Windsor Kemble, and were included in the original, 1884 publication of the novel.

The French call an episodic, wandering novel a "roman fleuve" - the novel as a river. Such is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I've just reread it and have a couple of thoughts. First, being a little bit older and more experienced now than when I last read the book, I felt really sorry for Huck, not yet fourteen-years-old during the year of the novel's events, 1839. Despite being raised in hellish conditions by an abusive, alcoholic father in dirt-floor squalor and famine-level poverty, he is unfailingly clever (smart even) and surprisingly sensitive and sweet. Jim is treated so poorly throughout (and depicted so stereotypically, I assume), he almost doesn't register as a human being. Is he simply a stereotype, or were enslaved Africans really like that?

Secondly, Ernest Hemingway was absolutely right about the final chapters:

If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that.

Hemingway is also quoted as saying the book "devolves into little more than minstrel-show satire and broad comedy" after Jim loses his freedom. That is a very accurate description. I found Tom Sawyer and his elaborate schemes tiresome, so I read through those parts very quickly. I kind of like the way this person succinctly puts it:

Read for my Mark Twain class, started on 2/2 and finished on 2/7. I loved the first 31 chapters of this book. LOVED. Huck is just the greatest character, and Jim is awesome, and yes. Unfortunately, in chapter 32, Tom Sawyer saunters in and has to mess it up for everyone. What a little assh*le. Go away, Tom. No one likes you.

Yet the passages where Huck and Jim are out on the raft, floating down the Mississippi River ("the monstrous big river"), are prose as poetry, beautiful and stunning. Their drifting journey down the Mississippi "may be one of the most enduring images of escape and freedom in all of American literature" (source).

From chapter 19 ("The Duke and the Dauphin Come Aboard"):

"Two or three nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely...Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves for the longest time...It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened..."

June 24, 2009

The I Love Lucy theme


Desi Arnaz serenades Lucille Ball with the theme to I Love Lucy (by Harold Adamson and Eliot Daniel) on the season two, May 11, 1953, episode, "Lucy's Last Birthday":

The familiar theme (without lyrics):

And once again with lyrics, this time as a studio track:

June 23, 2009

R.I.P. Ed McMahon

On The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the '70s

Ed McMahon, TV icon, is gone. When I was growing up, he was everywhere on television. I think at one time during the early 1980s he was on The Tonight Show, Star Search, and TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes, as well as hosting the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. But he will probably be most remembered (at least by moi) for his repartee and banter with Johnny Carson, all those many, late nights:

Obscure cartoon I barely remember

In 1968, Hannah-Barbera took Mark Twain's characters and thrust them into various make-believe fantasy worlds. In this live-action/animated series, the actors were superimposed over animated backgrounds. It's an obscure cartoon I barely remember.

The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This is the very reason J.D. Salinger sued to block the publication of a so-called "new" take on his Catcher in the Rye.

June 18, 2009

"Miss Me in the Morning"

Here is a fairly harmless, mildly groovy, quasi-psychedelic little piece of trifle called "Miss Me in the Morning," by Mike D'Abo. It was used during the opening credits of There's a Girl in My Soup (1970):

June 17, 2009

Veronica Lake, a.k.a., "sex zombie"

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

I didn't know much about Veronica Lake, but I have seen Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) and L.A. Confidential (1997), I am just generally into this sort of thing, so I was curious. It appears her life was a classic example of a beautiful, young starlet, chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood system (and life in general).

This Gun for Hire (1942)

When she made it into the movies in 1939/1940, she was just eighteen years old. That seems awfully young to me for someone back in those days to be thrown to the wolves, but I suppose that's life. It happens voluntarily (eagerly) today, so you expect it now, but back then?? Her film career was essentially finished by the time she was thirty and had no doubt begun to lose her iconic allure. But nay, the story gets worse, the seas rougher.

mid 1950s

After breaking her ankle in 1959, Lake was unable to continue working as an actress...she drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

A reporter found her working as a barmaid at the all women's Martha Washington Hotel in Manhattan. At first, Veronica claimed that she was a guest at the hotel and covering for a friend. Soon afterward, she admitted that she was employed at the bar. The reporter's widely distributed story led to some television and stage appearances. In 1966, she had a brief stint as a TV hostess in Baltimore, Maryland, along with a largely ignored film role in Footsteps in the Snow.

Her physical and mental health declined steadily and by the late 1960s Lake was in Hollywood, Florida, apparently immobilized by paranoia (which included claims she was being stalked by the FBI). Lake died of hepatitis and acute renal failure (complications of her alcoholism) near Burlington, Vermont. Her ashes were scattered off the Virgin Islands. In 2004, some of Lake's ashes were reportedly found in a New York antique store.

In the 1970s - pic from this isn't happiness (thanks, peteski!)

So Hollywood had no use for her once she'd passed her prime, at least until Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, and only then in cartoon form. It's hard to get a bead on how she felt about things from these quotes, but perhaps they are somewhat illuminating:

"You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision."

"I wasn't a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie."

"I've reached a point in my life where it's the little things that matter... I was always a rebel and probably could have got much farther had I changed my attitude. But when you think about it, I got pretty far without changing attitudes. I'm happier with that." (1970)

Veronica Lake (sex zombie)

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June 16, 2009

"Don't Worry Baby"

So, "God Only Knows" was supposed to be the first use of the word "God" in the title of a pop song? I'm guessing "Don't Worry Baby" has one of the first (if not the first) instances of the word "worry" showing up in a song for teeny boppers. This song is possibly the beginning of Brian Wilson's songs dealing with more mature and serious issues, other than just cars and surfing. I've always loved Brian's voice on this. It is a little disconcerting though for such a high-pitched voice to be coming out of so big of a dude:

And how does one explain the way a song about such relatively "macho" subject matter succeeds so well with a vocal line a full octave above any normal male singing range, sustained in falsetto completely throughout? (source)

From Rolling Stone:

Wilson wrote "Don't Worry Baby" for Ronnie Bennett, hoping she'd cut it as a follow-up to the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," a Phil Spector production he listened to so much he wore out the grooves. From the opening drum riff (played by Hal Blaine, also heard on "Be My Baby"), "Don't Worry Baby" is sheer homage but also vintage Beach Boys, with one of Wilson's finest falsetto-punctuated lead vocals.

And how about those background vocals? They wash over the listener like a huge wave at high tide. That third verse (after the guitar "solo") is something! I think the song transcends at that point.

June 15, 2009

Gulf Coast Deco VI

All but one of the following structures was built during the 1940s. According to the Art Deco Wikipedia entry:

Art Deco experienced a decline in popularity during the late 30s and early 40s, and soon fell out of public favor.

...Art Deco slowly lost patronage in the West after reaching mass production, when it began to be derided as gaudy and presenting a false image of luxury. Eventually, the style was cut short by the austerities of World War II.

Further information from this site:

The period termed "art deco" manifested itself roughly between the two world wars, or 1920 to 1939. Many actually stretch this period back to 1900 and even as far as the late 1950's, but work of this time is generally considered to be more of an influence to the Art Deco style, or having been influenced by the style.

So the the following six and a half buildings might have been considered "gaudy" when they were constructed, and I can see that. It is also possible the designers of these structures were more influenced by Art Deco style than actually designing Art Deco buildings (that's a bit of a paradox, no?). But to my eye, looking at them some sixty-plus years later, all of these most certainly are Art Deco, at least what I perceive of as being Art Deco (based on a rudimentary understanding of its attributes).

knapp chevrolet co.
Knapp Chevrolet Co. (1941)

knapp chevrolet co.
I knew this place existed but had not planned on photographing it this go around. The fact it was in the same area as something else I had on my list to photograph was a nice coincidence, indeed. According to the information at Houston Deco, this 1941 structure is unaltered:

"The design combines Art Moderne streamlining with an Art Deco pylon. The glass blocks in the pylon, lighted at night, mark the showroom entrance."

Apartment at 5507-5515 San Jacinto St. (c. 1947)

These are currently named Lurie Apartments, but I couldn't tell if people still lived here or not.

dahlgren's cabinet shop
Dahlgren's Cabinet Shop/
Dahlgren's Furniture Studio (c. 1930, expanded 1940)

From Houston Deco:

The one-story section housed Karl Dahlgren's original cabinet shop. By the time the two-story addition was completed, he had already renamed the business Dahlgren's Furniture Studio.

dahlgren's cabinet shop
the original, 1930 structure

dahlgren's cabinet shop
the 1940 expansion

peterson's pharmacy
Peterson's Pharmacy (1940)

kurth building
Kurth Building (1940)

kurth building kurth building

weiner's dry goods store no. 12
Weiner's Dry Goods Store No. 12 (1946)

weiner's dry goods store no. 12

weingarten's big food market, store no. 16
Weingarten's Big Food Market, Store No. 16 (1941)

Joseph Finger was the architect on this building, which has been altered. Ironically, Weingarten is now a name associated with the demolition of Houston's greatest Art Deco treasures. Let's hope they stay away from this former business location of theirs!

weingarten's big food market, store no. 16

  • Perhaps you'd also like my Houston Deco and Art Deco flickr sets.
  • Gulf Coast Deco
  • Gulf Coast Deco II
  • Gulf Coast Deco III
  • Gulf Coast Deco IV
  • Gulf Coast Deco V
  • Gulf Coast Deco VII
  • Gulf Coast Deco VIII
  • Gulf Coast Deco IX
  • Gulf Coast Deco X

    Other Art Deco sites:
  • Art Deco Buildings
  • Art Deco Blog
  • June 11, 2009

    "Figure Eight"

    This Schoolhouse Rock! aired in 1973, so it is entirely possible "Figure Eight," sung by Blossom Dearie, had some part in my early mathematics education(!). I remember these would come on usually after all the really cool Saturday morning cartoons had ended, around 10' o'clock or so. I usually then had to go outside and mow the lawn or something of that nature. This is such a haunting and melancholy song, being as it was intended for elementary to middle school age kids:

    Blossom Dearie

    June 10, 2009

    I'm bringing them back.

    hats of quality
    What, you ask, am I "bringing back"? Hats. That's what I'm bringing back. I'm already one of very few males where I work who wears a tie (at all). From Monday thru Wednesday (at least!), I persist in my antiquated, ancient ways, so I might as well fall even further backwards.

    This impulse isn't new. It no doubt started that summer of 1981 as my teen years mercilessly began, in a movie theater, during any one of numerous viewings of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Come to think of it, this post could just as well have turned out to be about whips.

    But anyone who has visited this blog more than a couple of times knows exactly from where this is coming. An excerpt from The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin':

    "No one in the family seems to know where they" [Sinatra's hats] "have gone. Said Eydie Gorme, in 1995: 'He recently told me he missed wearing those hats so much. He loved being able to take it off, give it to a hatcheck person, put it back on, tip it, push it down, push it up.'" (p. 115)

    "It was only when his hair had grayed, in the seventies, that the hats disappeared. Privately, he took to golf caps and baseball caps. But if he wasn't wearing casual clothes, he wasn't wearing any hats at all. It was an acknowledgment, unconscious and barely noticed, that the world had changed, that jauntiness belonged to another time. No one else was wearing hats, either. And so he began missing them more than ever." (The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin', p. 117)

    The display window of Raleigh Haberdasher in Washington, D.C., c. 1925. (Shorpy)

    April 1939. Street scene in San Augustine, Texas. Shorpy


    I've always assumed Elvis Presley was the beginning of the end for hats, followed next by John F. Kennedy. One popular theory with many who mourn the lost era of hats, is when Kennedy stopped wearing hats, so did the world. The final nail in the coffin of hat wearing as being fashionable had to have been the Beatles, specifically their first appearance on Ed Sullivan's show, February 1964. Whatever the case, Wal-Mart (of all places) is selling these hats (of a questionable quality) for $10 apiece. Seeing as they were displayed and had been possibly handled by other Wal-Mart customers, I was a little uncomfortable actually trying them on. But that's the point of this post - I bet nobody else had even touched them (other than the shelf stocker).

    As you can see, I'm ready for summer or winter -- casual or formal.