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Monthly Archives: July 2008

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Favorite American Songs, and Illustrations

Favorite American SongsLast February, I came across a vintage fifties paperback called Favorite American Songs at a huge book sale. It looked like a neat little sheet music collection, but what immediately struck me were the illustrations. The artwork had that perfect stylized retro Americana look, reminiscent of the movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis. Or The Music Man. A nostalgic salute to musical tastes of Main Street U.S.A., this is. And the artwork was done by a guy whom I’d never heard of before named Aurelius Battaglia, who immediately has become one of my fave illustrators. Apparently the book became very popular upon its publication in the ’50s and it’s not all that uncommon, but I treasure it anyway. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that many of the book’s songs are familiar to me via the great old America Sings attraction at Disneyland. The 1956 edition I have is the thinner, later paperback printing; Leif Peng’s Aurelius Battaglia flickr set contains more images from the hardcover edition.

I scanned about fifty illustrations and assembled them into a Favorite American Songs Flickr set (Battaglia’s fun style and skillful use of spot color is very similar to Lou Peters’ stuff from The New England Cookbook, by the way). Enjoy a sampler below:

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Favorite American Songs

Pebbles, Shells, Lennons and Kings

Patrick’s kinda now, kinda wow sunshine pop compilation Just Beyond The Sunshine is putting a smile on my face today. Highlight: The Lennon Sisters’ zombie-like “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” There’s also Brian Hyland, Nick DeCaro, The Cyrkle, Ronny & The Daytonas and so much more. Great job, Patrick!

Chalk Full of Extras

Attention aspiring writers — Christopher has a good post illustrating why spell checker is not enough. I actually got this promo email from MGM Home Video a few weeks ago and had to laugh. Shame on the spaced out, Starbucks-fetching office intern who made that mistake.

Weekly Mishmash: June 29-July 5

Endless OceanEndless Ocean. This game was pretty much what I expected — an open-ended scuba diving simulator on the Wii. One can go on dives, get to know fish better by petting them (yeah, that works in real life), deal with a whiny girl on deck, and perform tasks to earn scuba equipment and other rewards. Though the above-water graphics suck, the diving itself is an enveloping, scarily realistic experience. The fish and various undersea creatures behave so true to life it’s like being in a real aquarium. Though it didn’t knock my socks off, this is a beautiful excuse to chill out and relax.
The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947). It’s Rosalind Russel month at TCM — yay! We kicked it off with a viewing of this little-seen thriller which Russel made for Columbia in 1947. In a plot plugging into the Psychiatry Chic zeitgeist of the era, Russel plays a war widow haunted by the fact that her husband sacrificed his life so his comrades could go on to lead productive lives. On a quest to confront each veteran, she’s intercepted by reporter and part time lush Melvyn Douglas — a guy who also happens to be one of Russel’s targeted men. Although there’s nothing to write home about in the film’s hokey storyline (penned by the wonderfully named Lenore Coffee), Miss Russel does a great job being agitated and lovely at the same time, Douglas is solid and there are several effective, moody scenes. It certainly is an unusual film, structured around Russel’s dreamlike impressions of the various men — and when a young Sid Caesar shows up to mug away things decidedly turn surreal. It was a fun time, which is not something I could say about the other two cinematic efforts from this week.
Heading South (2005). A muddled and ugly little film about middle aged female tourists rendezvousing with Haitian prostitutes. Granted, someone could have made an interesting film dealing with that subject, but the direction is so bad that huge chunks of screen time just amble along aimlessly — which only makes the central women look even more pathetic. This film has nothing remarkable to say, the leading actress is a wishy-washy bore, and the talents of Charlotte Rampling are completely wasted. Avoid at all costs.
Three… Extremes (2004). A trio of stomach-churning and bizarre vignettes by the leading horror directors from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. I love a good scary Asian movie every once in a while, but this shorter format really underscores how cliché-ridden much of this stuff is — the requisite Creepy Little Girl even shows up! Though all three films had their moments, none of them grabbed me. Kinda like the evil kid from The Grudge, come to think of it.

Riverside, July 3

When the state of California recently allowed same-sex couples to marry, I was happy for the Californians but never really thought about how it would or could apply to myself and my partner. Never, that is, until Christopher (in a rare bit of spontaneousness) suggested we take a little road trip to marry over there. I was touched that he asked. We’ve been together for nearly 14 years, so why not?

Since it’s the nearest county seat to Phoenix, we picked the inland city of Riverside. I made a reservation at the lovely downtown Marriott hotel and we visited the nearby county admin offices as soon as we got there on Wednesday afternoon. Once arrived to get our registration, however, we found out that this building wasn’t the main office where the ceremonies are performed. It was a satellite office and the real office was located a few miles away. Luckily we had an extra day to drive over there and get the deed done. That night, we walked around Riverside and marveled at the neat old buildings and homes everywhere. Beautiful city; pity about the excessive smog constantly settled in the valley.

On Thursday, we got up early and set out to find the main Riverside County offices. After navigating the busy California freeways, we arrived two hours early for our scheduled two p.m. ceremony appointment. Since most of the employees were out to lunch at the time, we were told to come back in an hour. This office was located in what was apparently the strip mall and chain store capitol of Inland California, so we spent the extra time shopping (I picked up a copy of the Wii game Endless Ocean as a wedding gift to myself). We then arrived back at the office and turned in our registration papers. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about how these county employees would feel about two men wanting to marry, but actually everyone was great and very helpful. Although we were assured that they’d have a witness on hand for us, we were told that we’d have to get someone else waiting in the office that day to agree to witness. Now this was something I was a bit scared about, but the first person we approached was a pleasant local woman who happened to be marrying her boyfriend of thirteen-odd years at that same time. She was very sweet and patient to wait around for us after her own private ceremony was over. Eventually we got in there (the office wasn’t very crowded at all) and got our ceremony performed by another nice and helpful county employee. While our witness snapped away with my digital camera, we exchanged vows in a quaint little room with artificial flowers and a window looking out on a pretty stone fountain. It was beautiful. Christopher even started tearing up a bit during the vows.

Even though our marriage isn’t recognized here in Arizona, I have some hope that eventually things will come around for us and all LGBT couples. It’s an expression of love and commitment to ourselves and our community. What’s so dangerous about that?

Civil Ceremony, Riverside