Monthly Archives: November 2012

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The Hippie Rock Paradigm

Grin – All Out (Spindizzy, 1972)

I’ve been a paying member of Spotify for about four months now. While I mostly use it to furnish some unobtrusive yet stimulating instrumental backing while writing, it also serves as a great vehicle for music I’d enjoy but not actually buy/download (whether it’s current mainstream pop or something ephemeral/fascinating like Barry Gray’s Stand By For Adverts). Sure, Spotify makes it easy for people to upload what’s already on their hard drives so they can hear their old faves on their smart phones/tablets/whatever, but you know I’m not interested in that. Weird crap stuck off in the corners fascinates me the most, and in that respect Spotify’s playlist assembling aspect serves as a fabulous way to explore the unknown.

Just for fun, I did some playlists drawn from rock critic Robert Christgau’s year-by-year listings of his favorite albums, as listed in the back of his book Rock Albums of the ’70s: A Critical Guide. Although a few of the albums he mentions in the lists are out of print, I was able to locate most of them and include from each a sample track (a song Christgau mentioned in his original review, a hit single, or even a quirky title that jumped out at me). Taste-wise, Christgau is definitely one of those typical rock-crit types who think music is somehow more meaningful if it’s played a) on real instruments, b) live, or c) by a grizzled old black man. Even so, he recommended some refreshingly off-beat, eclectic choices within these years, especially once the heavy-handed Jimi/Janis/Doors ’60s rock he favors gives way to more organic, worthwhile musical styles. Miles Davis’ meandering jazz-rock of this era is well-represented (dissonant and not too easy on the ears, but interesting at least), along with lots of homey hippie-rock by overlooked artists like Delaney & Bonnie, Joy Of Cooking, Grin and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I found myself grooving along with the Soul/Funk, Country and Blues he selected as well – especially in 1973, a year that one wouldn’t normally think of as a musically outstanding one.

If you have Spotify installed, clicking the links below will take you on a one-way trip to hippie-rock nirvana:

While listening to these, try to resist the urge to roll a joint and say “heavy, man” – and enjoy a sampling of the imagery from these years’ album covers (a very orange and brown era in LP design, I might add).

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends with Eric Clapton – On Tour (Atco, 1970)

Charlie Rich – The Fabulous Charlie Rich (Epic, 1970)

Mott The Hoople – Mott (Columbia, 1973)

Ann Peebles – Part Time Love (Hi, 1970)

Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo (Atco, 1972)

A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books

Endpapers, A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books (2012).

Shortly after being gifted with a nice, hefty Amazon gift card last month (thank you, Mom and Dad), the beautiful hardback collection A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books was the first thing I ended up choosing. While the immensely talented Mary Blair (1911-1978) is perhaps best known for her involvement with Walt Disney’s films and theme park attractions, she actually had a successful non-Disney career as an illustrator in the ’50s and ’60s. Treasury draws from this aspect of Blair’s art, reprinting the colorful, charming work she did for the Little Golden Book company. Along with a brief intro from animation historian John Canemaker, the book includes the full contents of four of her beloved Golden books – Baby’s House (1950), I Can Fly (1950), The Golden Book of Little Verses (1953), and The Up and Down Book (1964). Well-chosen selections from a fifth book, The New Golden Song Book (1955), are also included.

The first thing about A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books that struck me was how physically big it is – pages that were originally published in the classic, kid-sized Little Golden Books format are enlarged here by roughly a third. Another pleasant surprise is that much of the artwork is sourced from Blair’s original paintings, rendered in brilliant gouache. It really allows artsy nerds to get in there and study her technique. A few of the I Can Fly pages are lesser-quality scans from book pages, but at least they look as nice as they can (no noticeable moiré patterns or off-set colors). The artwork is pretty nifty, overall. I particularly enjoyed the pages from The Up and Down Book, since it shows her experimenting with a more graphic, simplified (yet still quintessentially Mary Blair-ish) style. Her work from the Golden Song Book is also notable for its wonderful intricacies and the skillful way some of it employs just two colors.

Paging through A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books makes it obvious why she continues to inspire artists and craftspeople. The book is available here (at a good price, I must add) at Amazon.com.

Czech Western Parody: A Brief Guide

Jiri Trnka – The Song of the Prairie (Arie Prerie) (1948)

I’m coming up with some interesting stuff to share at 4 Color Cowboy. The Song of the Prairie, a 1948 Western operetta parody from Czech animator Jiri Trnka, is one of them. A charmingly stylized tale of a cowboy serenading a lovely maiden while the black-hatted villain wreaks havoc, this stop-motion short film is similar in style to the George Pal Puppetoons. The 20-minute film isn’t available on DVD, but it can be viewed here. Even digitized on a computer screen, the animation and character designs amaze.

Although obscure in the U.S., Song of the Prairie is apparently a cherished classic in its homeland (similar, I imagine, to what we feel about the Rankin-Bass animated TV specials). The song warbled by the cowboy in this film became so popular, in fact, that it was reprised in another Czech Western parody, the 1964 live action musical Limonádový Joe aneb Konská Opera, a.k.a. Lemonade Joe. This film has its own adherents, especially considering that its broad, subversive take on Western clichés came along a decade before Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. At 4 Color Cowboy, I assembled a bunch of poster designs that show how Lemonade Joe was sold throughout Europe and in the U.S. Based on the fun, cartoony images on those posters alone, I’d so love to seek this one out.

When It’s Time to Change

Japanese Friendship Garden, Phoenix AZ 2012

Changes are afoot for this old weblog, as you can see with the minimalist re-design (big thanks to Kris for helping out!). Scrubbles.net is not going away any time soon, but the redesign is part of a larger effort not to place so much of my online identity on a made-up word that I came up with on a whim in July 2000. This has been brewing for awhile, but probably the tipping point was regularly searching for “Scrubbles” in Twitter and finding out about all the stupid, illiterate, vulgar people who used that word. If anything, Scrubbles.net is not stupid, illiterate or vulgar — so essentially Matt Hinrichs will be diversifying himself from his origins.

Not to fear, however — I will definitely keep Scrubbles.net going with thoughtful, long-form posts at least once a week. The weekly Flick Clique is going away, but I will make sure to periodically post on films that catch my eye (don’t forget to check out my DVD Talk reviews!). Mostly I’d like to use this space to get back to exploring design, illustration, retro kitsch and other stuff in more detail than would be contained in yer average tumblr post. It’ll be loads of fun, and I already have a swell book (a birthday gift to myself) that will be shared here shortly.

Like I said, the redesign is just part of a bigger re-branding project for me. It includes:

  • My new Matt Hinrichs Design & Illustration portfolio page, now at Cargo Collective. This replaces the self-hosted, old-style HTML site that I’ve hand-coded since ’bout 1996. While it still needs to have a few pieces added, the site looks nice and professional.
  • A Tumblr page with its own domain – 4 Color Cowboy. This is where I’ll be posting short daily stuff – images, videos, songs, whatever. I’ve long had an aversion to sites like Tumblr that are so damn passive, but I suppose this is a sign that I’ve finally joined the Borg. Surprisingly, Tumblr is a fun, fun place and their interface (unlike WordPress) is a breeze to set up and use.
  • My Scrubbles Twitter profile has been rechristened 4 Color Cowboy with a new profile design. Exciting, and a little nerve-wracking since there’s the possibility that my current followers will get confused and un-follow me. Since Twitter is more readily identified with their users’ real names, however, I’m not too fearful of that.
  • My Flickr user name has also been re-branded to 4 Color Cowboy, although the URLs for all the images remain the same.

Learning About Art & Design, 1960 Style

Another swellerific Flickr set – filler cartoons from the index and dictionary of the Famous Artists course, 1960 edition. This particular copy I came across had the student’s name embossed on the cover… which kinda makes me wonder if Alita Knowlton got a chuckle or two from these little gags.

While the book doesn’t credit the artist who did these cartoons, they’re pretty wonderful. I scanned all 30 or so of them for the Flickr set; some highlights are below.

Flick Clique: October 28 – November 3

A Cat in Paris (2010). Along with the Mambo-era romance Chico & Rita, this charming French production was the other surprise nominee for Best Animated Feature for this year’s Academy Awards. Like Chico, the story is a little too slight to be considered a truly great film, but it does have some impressive, beautifully colored imagery to recommend it (and hopefully alert Hollywood to the fact that not all successful animated films have to adhere to that Pixar/DreamWorks template). A Cat in Paris follows a Parisian cat (but of course), who comes to the aid of Zoe, the lonely, traumatized little girl who takes care of him. The independent kitty also belongs to an athletic, kindly petty thief in the city, and together they help nab the criminal who’s planning the heist of an ancient artifact – the same man pursued by Zoe’s mom, a police detective (he also murdered Zoe’s dad). Like I said, not much of a story to hang on to, and yet the visuals – computer aided and yet more warm and vivid, like a living story book – are dazzling enough to make it a winner. I enjoyed this one more than Chico & Rita, yet Christopher preferred the latter.

Harakiri (1919) and The Wandering Shadow (1920). Two films from Kino’s forthcoming Fritz Lang: The Early Works DVD collection. Though not without their archival value, these torrid dramas are very typical of that early silent period (stodgy, inert). Neither of them give any indications of the studied, visually resplendent directing style that Lang would later be known for, but they have a few positive points. Harakiri is a Japan-set update on Madame Butterfly with exotic (over the top, actually) production design; The Wandering Shadow counters a confusing story with lovely photography of the German Alps. At DVD Talk, I will shortly be posting a full review of these (plus the third film in the set, 1921′s Four Around the Woman).
Pulse (2006). This was our annual “scary” movie pick for us to watch in the back room while the trick-or-treaters ignored our house. I dunno why, but we always strike out this time of the year – and this soggy techno-thriller was no exception. This was a remake of a Japanese scary flick (bad sign #1) about a group of college students who are shocked to find chat messages and visions of their friend (who had recently committed suicide) on their computers and cell phones. Soon they are drawn into a terrifying cyber-world in which ghostly figures corrupt their souls and eventually transform them into chalky black dust, sucking their souls into the ether and creating a nationwide epidemic. Too dull to be frightening. Much of the film’s visuals were blatantly ripped off from the opening credits of Se7en, and the scares came out too contrived and too often to be truly effective. The cast (headed by Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder) contributes decent-enough performances. The single most annoying thing about Pulse: every shot has that dingy-blue post-production effect that seems to have gripped most recent scary-flicks.


DVD Talk reviews:
Disasters Deconstructed: A History of Architectural Disasters (1996-2011) – Recommended