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Monthly Archives: August 2009

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Sugar in the Morning, Sugar in the Evening

Having just polished off a package of delicious vanilla Zingers, I wanted to share a couple of swell Dolley Madison commercials featuring the Peanuts gang from the early ’80s. Notice that the Zingers in these ads have a swirl of white icing on top, a la Hostess Cup Cakes. I don’t remember that detail at all.

Easy, Breezy Mix

It’s still hot and summery outside, right? Good. There’s still time to enjoy Easy, Breezy, the Summer 2009 mix. This one treads familiar ground as it focuses on Sunshine Pop and other soft yet exciting music produced between 1967 and 1971. Some of this stuff is brand new to me, others are old favorites that I first heard 8 or 9 years ago, when I was first discovering this kind of music. Notes:

The Committee — California My Way. Perfect opening: sunny, optimistic pop.
The Vogues — She Is Today. Another strong track that comes on like gangbusters.
Egberto Gismonti — Janela De Ouro. Out-there Brazilian does a groovy Euro soundtrack thing. Stereolab dig him.
Dilys Watling — Have Another Dream On Me. Toothache-inducing girl pop from England.
The Girls From Petticoat Junction — I’m So Glad That I Found You. Marvy TV tie-in, first heard on the Luxuria radio station.
Barbra Streisand — Our Corner Of The Night. Who’da thunk that Babs could sound like a mod ’60s flower girl? Apparently Streisand must still be mortified by this 1968 single, since it’s never appeared anywhere in the 41 years since it first came out. (thanks to Ion for this)
Lesley Gore — Small Talk. Marvelously mellow ’68 single. I suppose Mercury records thought Lesley was obsolete by this time, since this hidden gem did nothing for her career.
Nick DeCaro — I’m Gonna Make You Love Me. I love Nick DeCaro and his offbeat, wimpy sounding voice (the guy was much better known as an arranger than as a singer). Check out his ’74 soft rock masterpiece Italian Graffitti for more.
Carpenters — I Kept On Loving You. The Carpenters recorded a lot of well-known Roger Nichols/Paul Williams songs (“Rainy Days and Mondays,” etc.). This particular one is a hidden gem off their Close To You album with Richard singing lead.
The Groop — The Jet Song (When The Weekend’s Over). Invigorating Fifth Dimension soundalike.
Paul Williams — So Many People. So many great tracks to choose from off Paul’s wonderful Someday Man album. This is a personal favorite.
Tony & Carolyn — We’ve Only Just Begun/I’ll Be There. Wonderfully loungy vocals on this undeservedly obscure 1971 Motown single. Has a total “Happy hour at the DeMoines Holiday Inn” vibe — but I so love Carolyn’s voice!
Hugo Montenegro — Hair/Aquarius. Had to end on this. Just had to.

Easy, Breezy - Front

Easy, Breezy - Back

Weekly Mishmash: August 9-15

Act Of Violence (1948)Act of Violence (1948). Taut and efficient noir from that least noir-y studio, MGM. Van Heflin stars as a World War II veteran trying to live a straight life with wife Janet Leigh — only an ex-comrade (Robert Ryan) has entered the picture with a score to settle. This was a very well-made movie with excellent performances from the three leads. I also loved the appearance of Mary Astor, refreshingly free of any vanity whatsoever, playing an over the hill prostitute (this was the same year Astor played the mom in Little Women!). This movie maintains an edgy mood from the very beginning and never lets up until the satisfying conclusion.
Darling (1965). A selection from Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under The Stars” salute to Dirk Bogarde. This film was better known as Julie Christie’s breakthrough film, of course. As a freewheeling and very mod actress-model, she dominates every scene she’s in (and I think that’s the entire film, isn’t it?). I’m not sure if she deserved an Oscar for this (she seems a bit histrionic at times), but she is the compelling center for this interesting if overlong story. Very entertaining, if only for its ’60s time capsule elements. Dirk Bogarde is very good in this film, too.
Operator 13 (1934) and Land of the Pharoahs (1955). a.k.a. Movies To Watch While Deathly Ill With The Flu. Whenever I’m sick, I prefer movies that are slower-paced and not too visually stimulating. Throw in a story that doesn’t require a lot of analysis, and I’m home free. Rule #1: do not watch anything aesthetically ugly or hard to follow (I learned that lesson one year while trying to watch Peter Fonda in The Trip. That is not a sickie movie!). These two movies are not ideal sickie viewing, but I have them listed here because I happened to be down with the flu while attempting to watch them. Operator 13 is a Marion Davies/Gary Cooper melodrama best known for Davies being in disguise as a Creole maid (!!) for much of its running time. Davies overplays the part unconvincingly (but it really is a bizarre performance that has to be seen to be believed). The fact that much of this Civil War spy melodrama takes place outdoors and at night made this into one long cough syrup-induced haze of confusion for me. The one (weak) recommendation I can make here is that Harold Rosson’s photography is gorgeous. Howard Hawks’ opus of ancient Egyptian tomb building Land of the Pharoahs fared a bit better, if only for Joan Collins’ campy scenery chewing as a pharoah-ette. Scenes with dozens of extras hauling rock and stone were too visually stimulating in my weakened state, but that was mitigated with scenes of slaves being thrown into alligator pits and such. I thought it was a fascinating film overall, very overripe but possessing a fun-to-follow storyline that kept me hooked — crazy woman-eating asp and all.
Mystery Street (1950). Competently made procedural thriller that we watched only because it shared the same DVD with the superior Act of Violence. This was actually pretty entertaining in its own modest way, with Richardo Montalban as a Boston private eye investigating the murder of play girl Jan Sterling. Has a few interesting and novel scenes on early forensic investigation techniques. Amongst the supporting cast, Elsa Lanchester is most notable as a fussy landlady.
Roughshod (1949)Roughshod (1949). It’s interesting the kinds of “off the beaten path” things one can come across during Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under The Stars festival. This 1949 Western was playing in the morning hours of their Gloria Grahame day. I can happily watch Grahame in anything, so I decided to sit there and watch this oater while going through my morning routine (in the end, I ended up watching roughly three quarters). An RKO production that plays more like a scrappy indie, Grahame is all sexiness as a saloon girl who is hitching a ride on the wagon of nice rancher Robert Sterling and his innocent little brother, Claude Jarman, Jr. The story is pretty standard stuff, really, but John Ireland make for a potent heavy and of course Gloria is her usual minxy self. I’m glad I watched this.

Fresh as a Daisy

Let’s take a moment to enjoy Meredith MacRae, Linda Kaye Henning and Lori Saunders of Petticoat Junction performing a Sunshine Pop gem, “If You Could Only Be Me.” This buttery tune served as the b-side for the Girls’ only single, in 1968.

Emerging from the Sickness

Hey, I’m back. Thanks for all your kind thoughts and well wishes. Although I’m still feeling groggy and fatigued, I feel 100 times healthier than I did two and three days ago.

Last Thursday, I came down with a sudden bout with the flu. It was probably allergy-related. Whatever the cause, I felt totally debilitated. By the weekend, I had regressed to the point where I had zero appetite. I was sweaty, nauseous, running a 104 degree fever, and couldn’t move. I was bedridden, although ironically I couldn’t sleep very well, either. By Sunday, I was feeling moderately better, although I still had the worst headache on earth and a constant cough. And I still couldn’t eat anything heavier than a bowl of Rice Krispies. Monday was a huge improvement. I was still headachy and fatigued, but at least I could comfortably nap. One odd thing I noticed was that my senses of sight and hearing were so heightened, it limited what I could comfortably do. Watching TV could be an ordeal (couldn’t concentrate) and it hurt my eyes to read stuff on a computer monitor.

Now I’m feeling a lot better. I hate getting sick, but it makes me appreciate being healthy even more.

P.S. Thanks to Christopher for being such a good and patient nurse. I loved the warm chicken soup (I hope you noticed that I only vomited part of it up).

Today’s Guest Editor: Christopher!

Greetings to the minions who read this blog on a regular basis. My name is Christopher. I am Matt’s spouse. Matt is very, very, very sick (we think it’s influenza, but it might just be mange). He is very sorry to be sick and misses you all very much. He is making great progress — really, there is nothing left to throw up at this point — and expects to return in a day or two. Thank you for your patience. Well wishes sent his way will be immediately passed along.