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Saturday, August 31, 2002
Notable things I came across in the past week:
Two "things ain't what they used to be" articles - Late Night TV Has No Use for Old Troupers and The Decline of the American Magazine Cover [both Excitement Machine]; the contradictory life of murdered millionaire Rick Chance; cool trailers for the restored Metropolis [Fimoculous] and Spirited Away [I Love Everything]; an appreciation for director Jacques Tournier; State quarters - Why Are They So Ugly?; The Conference Bike, a tricycle built for seven [DeepFUN]; Eight Fragments for Barry Gibb, a Pitchfork essay; Trouser Press Record Guide is back online - yay! [Travelers Diagram]; Mexican Actress' Body Exhumed [Christopher].

Thursday, August 29, 2002
tv50 Great TV Themes #1-10 Yes! It's finally finished. This was originally going to be a single post, a simple list of ten great TV themes - but I ended up with too many personal favorites to choose from. So it was expanded to 50. With descriptions. Why do I work so hard on these damned things? Anyway, to preserve my sanity, I restricted the choices to shows that were aired in prime time on one of the four major networks at one time or another (#1 and 22 may have been syndicated shows, however).
Selections were judged by their musical merits alone, although try as I might some nostalgia creeps into a lot of the rankings/critiques. And I'm sure there were a lot of others' favorites left out ("Wha, no Gilligan's Island?!?"). Now that mine are out of the way, what are yours?
1. Space: 1999 (1975-77; Barry Gray)
It kicks off with with a blast of overblown kettle drums, strings and horns, ripe for a Monty Python parody. Then it's down with the funky drums and electric guitars, both regular and wokka wokka, for some intense disco-ish jamming. Then the orchestra. Then the disco. But wait -- before it's over, orchestra and disco merge for a grandiose finale, leaving the viewer breathless with excitement. Barry Gray completely redid this theme for the second and final season - but like everything about Space:1999 that year, it was crap.
2. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77; Sonny Curtis)
How different Sonny Curtis' MTM theme was, coming along at a time when sitcom openers were either moronic or tooth-achingly cute. The song combined with that amazing montage of opening credits vignettes to form the image of perfect womanhood, '70s style. Really, those credits even make shopping for meat look glamorous. "Love Is All Around" was fantastic all around, but I give a slight edge to the first season version ("How will you make it on your own?") for bringing a hint of angst and self-doubt into the cheery world of Mary Richards.
3. Mission: Impossible (1966-73; Lalo Schifrin)
The apex of spy music - hard-hitting, efficient, cool. What seals the M:I theme's greatness, however, is its odd 5/8 time signature. Interesting how, when U2 switched to standard 4/4 time in their remake, the melody seemed lifeless in comparison.
4. I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70; Hugo Montenegro)
Hugo Montenegro wasn't the best or most prolific composer/arranger of the '60s, but his groovy output tapped into the swinging, sexy zeitgeist of the era better than anyone else. His Jeannie theme is a time capsule of innocent, navel-concealing naughtiness. Also notable: the entirely different first season theme, a lovely waltz written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King(!). Although probably better suited for a chi-chi fashion show than a sitcom, it's worth seeking out.
5. Barnaby Jones (1973-80; Jerry Goldsmith)
If Beethoven were working in Hollywood in the '70s, the results might sound like this theme. It's that amazing - full of purpose and drive. Pay attention to the percussion fills, busily working away under the flutes and woodwinds. Wow.
6. Dynasty (1981-89; Bill Conti)
A Reagan-era indulgence in champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Bill Conti's orchestration is so stately and dignified, you could picture it being played at some European royalty's wedding ceremony. It even made the Carrington's sniveling machinations appear somewhat noble.
7. The Avengers (1961-69; Laurie Johnson)
Created during the Diana Rigg years, Laurie Johnson's theme was the definitive musical expression of sexy Brit elegance. My judgement may have been clouded by Diana's fab catsuits, however.
8. The Brady Bunch (1969-74; Frank DeVol and Sherwood Schwartz)
It told a story (of a lovely lady) so well, with brilliant compactness, that one could divine the history of this family without having seen an episode before. So many variations, which one is best -- the white bread male singers from season one? The funky arrangement from the later years? Personally, the one I prefer the earliest season where the kids sang, off key and uncoordinated in that charmingly clumsy way.
9. The Simpsons (1990-present; Danny Elfman)
When I first heard this, I wasn't too impressed. "Too much like Pee Wee's Big Adventure," I sniffed. Well, I've converted. It's an excellent theme, charting new ground while implicitly acknowledging those that came before (see #21). Lisa's ever-changing sax solo is a terrific bonus.
10. Mannix (1967-75; Lalo Schifrin)
Schifrin's waltz-timed instrumental is easygoing and fun, an outgrowth of that particular culture of adult swankiness that died aound the same time cigarette companies stopped advertising on TV.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
50 Great TV Themes #11-20
11. The Waltons (1972-81; Jerry Goldsmith)
The show itself may have been corny, but Jerry Goldsmith's Waltons theme is one of the all-time greats. A wonderful, subtle arrangement accurately conveys the togetherness of a Depression-era family.
12. Land of the Giants (1968-70; John Williams)
John Williams (then credited as "Johnny") did several hysterical TV themes for producer Irwin Allen in the '60s, this was the best. The intricate composition was tightened (and vastly improved) in the second season.
13. Hawaii Five-O (1968-80; Mort Stevens)
Stevens' drum-heavy theme came on like a full force tsunami, and in the process became the template for ass-kickin' cool cop show themes to come.
tv14. Charlie's Angels (1976-81; Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson)
The critics said it was nothing but fluff. But what fluff. SurelyCharlie's Angels' popularity was partly due to its glamorous theme song, which merged disco and lush orchestration into the very image of blow-dried fabulousness.
15. Jonny Quest (1964-65; Hoyt Curtin)
This one has a simple mission: musically portray a boy's dream world of adventure and excitement. It succeeds brilliantly, pterodactyl scream and all.
16. The Bionic Woman (1976-78; Jerry Fielding)
I love this instrumental for how smoothly it changes moods, from urgency to wistfulness and back again. It helped that the accompanying title sequence was a masterpiece of tight editing.
17. The Munsters (1964-66; Jack Marshall)
The Addams Family was the better show, but The Munsters had the better theme - a funny and macabre symphony of surf guitar and some sort of low-pitched woodwind instrument (bassoon?). Season two's theme was sped up and reworked to sound even more hard-hitting and sinister, to an almost punkish degree. The entire career of The Cramps can be traced to this one tune.
18. ABC Movie of the Week (1969-75; Burt Bacharach)
Bacharach's jewel-like composition was given a snazzy arrangement by Harry Betts. Combined with groovy 2001-style special effects, ABC's TV movie intros gave the impression that something special was in store. It wasn't just another Connie Stevens movie, it was an event! More info can be found here.
19. Sanford and Son (1972-77; Quincy Jones)
Quincy Jones' S&S theme is so gritty and atmospheric that it immediately conjures up a specific time and place. Funky old junkshop from the '70s? Bingo.
20. The Patty Duke Show (1963-66; Sid Ramin and Harry Geller)
With Patty Duke as identical twin cousins (don't ask), the perky theme for her show became an icon of kitsch. "Patty loves to rock n roll/A hot dog makes her lose control ..." oookay.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
50 Great TV Themes #21-30
21. The Jetsons (1962-63; Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna and Joseph Barbara)
Nowadays it's remembered as a harmless kiddie cartoon -- but don't forget the brilliance of Hoyt Curtin's Jetsons theme, a marvel of intricate precision (better appreciated on the '80s remake). I especially love the hot trumpet solo during Judy Jetson's segment.
22. UFO (1970-73; Barry Gray)
If this seems a little too mod, too swingin' for a sci-fi show, we forgive Barry Gray. Cool typewriter sound effects, too.
23. Police Woman (1974-78; Mort Stevens)
One of the definitive '70s cop show themes. A fast paced, dynamic arrangement set up the premise - Angie Dickenson as a butt-kickin' cop - and it was all wrapped up in less than two minutes.
24. Maude (1972-78; Dave Grusin and Alan and Marilyn Bergman)
Sure, this funky theme has dated about as well as Bea Arthur's pantsuits. But you can't deny its rousing feminist power, especially with those campy lyrics: "Joan of Arc, with the Lord to guide her/She was a sister who really cooked".
25. Angie (1979-80; Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel)
The show, I remember, was a dreary, typical ABC sitcom - but it had a killer theme song. An upbeat slice of late '70s pop, winningly sung by Maureen McGovern.
26. Good Times (1974-79; Dave Grusin and Alan and Marilyn Bergman)
Gospel-infused ditty mirrored a theme commonly used in the earlier seasons of this show - keeping your dignity despite squallid surroundings. It had a certain poignancy missing from most TV themes.
tv27. The X Files (1993-2002; Mark Snow)
Cornered the market on creepiness, now and forever. Mark Snow's theme and the title sequence imagery were as perfectly matched as Fox Mulder and a conspiracy theory (pick one, any one).
28. Square Pegs (1982-83; Jonathan Wolff)
Square Pegs introduced something hitherto unknown to sitcom themes - rock 'n roll, courtesy of the Waitresses. Very hip, very different, very evocative of kids bopping around in skinny ties and Vans slip-ons and flouncy, polkadotted miniskirts.
29. Wonder Woman (1976-79; Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel)
THE camp classic, with a propulsive groove that could rival any disco hit of that era. Dig the lyrics: "In your satin tights/Fighting for your rights/And the old red white and blue."
30. Futurama (1999-present; Christopher Tyng)
Perfectly suits Matt Groening's funky, messy vision of the future - which is just like the present, but with sassy robots and stuff. This theme was heavily influenced by Jean Jacques Perry's trippy 1970 classic "E.V.A.".

Monday, August 26, 2002
50 Great TV Themes #31-40
tv31. Bewitched (1964-72; Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller)
Perky, '50s-style instrumental complemented the delightful animation in the opening credits perfectly. Why didn't Samantha ever transform herself into a cat on the show itself?
32. Alice (1976-85; David Shire)
Something of a "gotta get outta this town and follow my dream" anthem. I always found Linda Lavin's singing so warm and inviting here. Bonus: her scat singing on the closing credits theme.
33. NBC Sunday Mystery Movie (1971-77; Henry Mancini)
One of my treasured childhood memories was, after Disney was over, this show would come on and this mysterious "weeeooo" song would play accomanied by cool visuals of a guy with a flashlight. That's all.
34. Laverne and Shirley (1976-83; Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel)
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, shlemeel, shlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated." Less evocative of '50s Milwaukee than "all ages" night at the disco, but the melody, the defiant lyrics, and Cyndi Grecco's vocal are all terribly charming.
35. The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78; Lorenzo and Henrietta Music)
Jazzy theme makes footage of Bob Newhart walking through downtown Chicago look glamorous. That's really saying a lot.
36. thirtysomething (1987-91; Steward Levin and W. G. "Snuffy" Walden)
While the whininess of thirtysomething's circle of yuppies got annoying real quickly,the same couldn't be said of its memorable theme - a beautifully understated gem of acoustic guitar, piano and woodwinds.
37. The Streets of San Francisco (1972-79; Pat Williams)
Perhaps the TV theme that best captures the funkiness of Blaxploitation film soundtracks. Killer sax highlights a tight, energetic arrangement.
38. Hullabaloo (1965-67; Peter Matz)
Corny and dated -- but good.
39. In Living Color (1990-94; Heavy D)
New Jack Swing and hip hop were all over the radio in 1990, but still rare on network TV - which is why this theme was just as fresh and exciting as the comedy sketch show it supported. The theme was redone halfway through ILC's run, but it wasn't nearly as appealing as the original.
40. The Mod Squad (1968-73; Earle Hagen)
This show was about a trio of hip P.I.s, so it made sense it had an equally "with it" theme. Benefits from having an odd time signature and a hot arrangement, particularly the organ fills.

Sunday, August 25, 2002
50 Great TV Themes #41-50
41. It's a Living (1980-82; Leslie Bricusse and George Aliceson Tipton)
"Life's not the French Rivier-a/Believe me, life's not a charity ball!" This brassy, showtune-like song was of my favorites as a kid. I didn't know Leslie Bricusse (of "Willy Wonka" fame, among other stuff) composed this.
42. Medical Center (1969-76; Lalo Schifrin)
Another fantastic, punchy theme from Lalo Schifrin. Love how a siren-like sound is used to convey the urgent activity of a hospital.
43. The Facts of Life (1979-88; Al Burton, Gloria Loring and Alan Thicke)
The "soft rock" arrangement used in seasons 2-9 might be better-known, but I have a soft spot for the stilted, silly first season theme. Besides, the earlier one has Mrs. Garrett singing!
44. Remington Steele (1982-87; Henry Mancini)
The '80s had a surplus of plush, heavily orchestrated themes, this was among the most memorable. Great melody; powerful yet befitting its feminine lead.
45. Route 66 (1960-64; Nelson Riddle)
Don't know whether the vocal or instrumental version was in the TV show; this ranking is for the vocal-less rendition. The ultimate "driving in a convertible with sunglasses" song.
46. Star Trek (1966-69; Alexander Courage)
Remove yourself from its Trekkie ubiquity and appreciate what a truly strange and beautiful composition the Star Trek theme is. That combo of wordless female vocals and theremin is dynamite.
47. Survivor (2000-present; Russ Landau)
Survivor's theme is like a contemporary version of '50s Exotica - where the quasi-third world cheeziness actually adds to its appeal. Plus it's catchy as hell.
48. Eight Is Enough (1977-81; Lee Holdridge and Molly-Ann Leiken)
Let me clarify this refers to the wonderful, first season instrumental theme -- NOT the rather icky vocal theme sung by star Grant Goodeve in the later seasons.
49. Peter Gunn (1958-61; Henry Mancini)
Among the coolest themes ever, and the earliest to use the rock 'n roll influence. Guitarist Duane Eddy's sound was so distinctive that the Art of Noise used him again for their remake nearly thirty years later.
50. Phyllis (1975-77; Dick DeBenedictis)
An unusual exersize in Broadway style razzle-dazzle, which ultimately becomes a joke at the title character's expense. The final punchline (and Cloris Leachman's reaction to it) is priceless.
Many of these can be heard at TV Themes Online, Sitcoms Online, and The 80s TV Theme SuperSite.

Friday, August 23, 2002
From retroCRUSH - Deadly Toys of Days Gone By. I had one of them plastic helicopters, and it seemed pretty harmless at the time. Little did I know that " the fast spinning hard plastic propeller could turn a kid's eye into the opening scene of Un Chien Andalou." Heh, heh.

Thursday, August 22, 2002
The Kiddie Rekord King, not to be confused with the Kiddie Record King. Check the museum for some terrific circa 40s-50s album covers and graphics.

Leonard Maltin's website has some tantalizing bits about recently discovered outtakes and extra footage from the classic film The Night of the Hunter. A documentary was made around this material - but it's unlikely to show up on DVD, alas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
orangesJust received the Taschen Books catalog yesterday. More like a magalog, actually, with lotsa big pics and articles. Could someone please buy Scandinavian Design for my birthday in two months? Page after colorful page of austere bent wood and molded plastic modern-ness. I wouldn't mind adding All American Ads of the '60s to my library, either. Taschen's Icon series is a great gift idea - small format, inexpensive paperbacks filled with pretty vintage ephemera. Titles include Future Perfect, Mexicana, and Bizarro Postcards (oh, and some artsy p0rn). The orange spread is from Kitchen Kitsch, a book that has Gael's name written all over it.

Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp. Pretty. Via What Do I Know.

Depressing TV news - cable channels are seeking to expand their niches (L.A. Times story via TV Tattle). This kind of thinking burns me up. Who exactly are these frivolous, free spending channel flippers they're going after, anyway? Trying to attract a "young" (read: "stupid") audience by dumbing down the programming is pointless. I know plenty of intelligent people in their 20s and 30s who would gladly watch more cable TV if the networks didn't reach for such a numbingly generic Brass Ring.
Niche programming rules. What did I watch on TV this morning? A block of wonderfully bad heavy metal videos (Dokken, yeah!) on VH1 Classic.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
computerI almost forgot something ... this month marks the tenth anniversary of my being a Mac owner. Upon graduating college in 1992, my parents bought me a brand new Mac IIci outfitted with a StyleWriter inkjet printer, Microsoft Word, After Dark (beware the flying toasters!), and Aldus PageMaker (sheesh, whatever happened to Aldus PageMaker?). It had an unbelievably huge 100MB of hard drive space. The next month, I took a class in the nascent technology of digital imaging at the local community college. It was there that I had my first exposure to Adobe Photoshop 2.0. Have you ever gotten a feeling of euphoria when look at something new, and you think "this is my future"? Well, that was my reaction. Ten years later, I'm using Macs and Photoshop every day, at work and home - and loving it.

How much you wanna bet this local case will end up as a particularly lurid Forensic Files episode?

Monday, August 19, 2002
NYT obituary of eccentric musician Lucia Pamela, who died a few weeks ago at 98. Ms. Pamela was the inspiration for, IMHO, Stereolab's best song.

Into The Groove - in this L.A. Weekly piece, a fan of Madonna and Janet Jackson from the '80s reviews their recent filmed concerts. I know, it doesn't sound that interesting, but the writing is excellent - even poignant at times.
Speaking of dance divas, I just finished a mix CD called Totally Gay Music. But don't let the title fool ya, it's an eclectic programme of disco, weird remixes and good old pop -- with a higher than usual amount of artists popular with the lavender set. If anyone wants a trade, let me know.

Dusty Groove - how much do I dig them? D.G. excels in the kind of under-the-radar musical genres that the others won't touch: vintage Soul and Funk, Brazilian music, French pop, "The Now Sound of Today". Just bought a couple of British Motown discs from them - the compilation A Cellarful of Motown and a 2-on-1 disc of Martha and the Vandellas' last two LPs, Natural Resources and Black Magic. Despite having dozens of droolworthy discs, sometimes I go there just to read their over-enthusiastic descriptions of everything - Groovy! Amazing! Great! They use exclamation points in the same way James Brown uses "Unh"s. Yeah.

Sunday, August 18, 2002
Cutie Campus Cutie Sightings - brand new page from the much-neglected Campus Cuties. This started when Scrubbles reader Joy nicely sent me some scans of a CD booklet that used a couple of our ladies in the design. I also included some fabbo stock photos from the CSA Archive on the page (like the one seen here). If anybody has seen other examples, please please email them to me. It's high time I got some new stuff on the CC site, now if only I could complete the illustration or photo that's supposed to go on the front page ...

Great news - the Library of Congress has bought the Rick Preliger archive (press release is at the bottom of this page). The archive is a huge collection of "ephemeral films" - industrial, educational and home movies originally meant for a small audience. They say it best: "Ephemeral films vividly document the look and feel of times past and are unparalleled records of cultural and social history." Whenever you see glorious technicolor footage of a '50s concept car on TV, or clips from a cheezy dating "how to" movie - chances are it's from the Prelinger collection. Their Internet Archive is cool - and humungous - despite how it annoyingly uses formats that are friendlier to Windoze users.

Thursday, August 15, 2002
Last night me and Christopher were talking about this page. I was telling him how much harder it's getting to find interesting stuff to put here. So he says "Why don't I send you some stuff to post?" So I say, "Great!" Here are the results of our confab, news stories Christopher sent me (all require registration, blah blah blah) ---
  • The L.A. Times reviews a gallery showing of Ruth Harriet Louise photos. The writer is kinda dismissive of her talents. Yes, her work does look quaint - because many of her subjects were dressed in character, usually in period costumes. Her use of filters and sepia tone adds an ethereal quality, and it's true that her portraits of women have an intimacy unmatched in Hollywood publicity pics. That's why we like her.
  • A descriptive tour of John Waters' NYC apartment. This reminds me of when Waters wrote something for Rolling Stone on his home in Baltimore (a piece that later ended up in his book, Crackpot). He described in loving detail trashy tchotchkes such as his treasured collection of true crime books, a bulletin board of tabloid news clippings, and a trio of f**ked up Farrah Fawcett "make your own hairdo" heads.
  • New discoveries in the study of the language gene, and how it separates us from the chimps. C. says this is a big breakthrough. Okey dokey.
  • The L.A. Times pays a visit to Leni Riefenstahl. Amazing how the woman is nearing 100, still active - and still defending a few choices she made over sixty years ago. Give her a break.
  • A little piece on Alice Guy Blache, pioneering silent film director.

The history of Michael Jackson's face (via Slate) – we see that it was around the Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters stage that things started getting scary.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
A gallery of custom-made action figures. Generic Wedding Couple to the rescue!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Today's edition of Scrubbles has been brought to you by the letters I and J. (not really, but the article linked is the latest in a useful series from U&LC magazine).

Nice guide to The Muppet Show, authorized by the Jim Henson Co. Impressive - the character index takes pains to include everyone, no matter how obscure. Via kaytosukka.org, a weblog I'm sure I'd enjoy even more if I could read Finnish.

Monday, August 12, 2002
posterJoan Crawford Online - wowza! For a Joanaholic like myself, this is the mother of all dead movie star sites. Tons of movie stills, paper ephemera, letters, posters, publicity photos, etc. An encyclopedic treasure trove of info, and lovely to look at as well. I especially loved the foreign versions of her movie posters, such as the way-cool Italian Berserk poster at right.

Lots to like at John Book's website of eclectic music discoveries -- an mp3 of the week (don't miss the latest, a swingin' instrumental rendition of "Heart of Gold"), an ongoing journal of thrift store record hunts, a page of cherished finds. The latter includes something from my own collection - the soundtrack from the PBS kiddie show "ZOOM".

Sunday, August 11, 2002
A long, long post about books and reading. Funny thing about books. I've always had an easier time acquiring them than reading them. Compounding the problem lately is the newpaper where I work. Publishers send them a lot of promotional/review copies of their latest books. To lighten their load, the newsroom holds these giant booksales with all profits going to charity. Having access to so many cheap books, I never leave a sale without an armload of library acquisitions. So now there are shelves of interesting-looking books in the house that may require me retiring to get through. Here's a sampling of the more recent ones:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon - I don't read novels often, the story's comic book backdrop intruiged me when this one came out. Then a scrubbles reader kindly sent me the paperback a few months back. Max liked it, and now I feel I must get to this before the movie comes out. I read Chabon's first book - The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - a long time ago, although honestly I don't remember much about that one.
Beautiful Mornin': The Broadway Musical in the '40s by Ethan Mordden - part of an ambitious decade by decade history of Broadway. Bill recommended this, so I bought a copy when it showed up in the Dadaelus catalog. Ethan Mordden kind of reminds me of James Lileks in that his extensive cultural knowledge is tempered with a bright, offhand sense of humor that makes reading his stuff a joy. His book on the Hollywood studios' Golden Age (unfortunately out of print) is one of the best on that subject I've ever read - amazing how the guy is so prolific, and writes on such a wide variety of subjects. What an interesting dinner companion he'd make!
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002 edited by Michael Cart and Dave Eggers - this one doesn't come out 'til October, but I snagged a pre-release copy. The idea behind this is selecting the best pleasure reading geared towards high school and college-age people into one volume. Looks neat - and eclectic, including magazine pieces, a comic by Adrian Tomine, even a couple of Onion pieces.
A Big Life in Advertising by Mary Wells Lawrence - this looks like fun, an autobiography by one of the leading ad agency players of the '60s and '70s. Lawrence was a woman clawing her way up through a man's world, and her recollections have an appealing "take it or leave it" grittiness. An excerpt is at the Knopf site.
The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy by Stewart O'Nan - I originally gave this to Christopher, and he devoured it, loved it, lent it back, keeps asking me when I'm gonna read it. Well, it sits next in line in the paperback pile for lunch reading at work. Even has gruesome pictures!
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield - another book that Christopher read and recommended. I hate the fact that he reads faster than I do.
Primetime Blues: African Americans on Television by Donald Bogle - consumed with curiosity, I've already read big chunks of this book. It looks great; Bogle handles the subject in an even-handed manner that points out the inconsistencies and lack of progress in the TV industry without getting preachy. C. enjoyed his Dorothy Dandridge biography, another book on the "to read" shelf.
Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia 1910-1960 by Ross Wetzsteon - truth be told, I picked this hefty book up because it has an attractive cover design. But the subject appeals to me because it's a biography of a place during its peak of influence. I need to book myself a long cruise just to read it.
Silent Stars by Jeneane Basinger - Christopher's boss gave this to him, then he handed it to me with reservations. I tried to read one of her earlier books - A Woman's View, about womens' films of the 1930s. While it's a great subject, Basinger kept letting her emotions and pointless anecdotes get in the way of the messages she was trying to get across (she also revealed endings left and right; the worst thing a film writer can do is assume she's seen all these movies so you, dear reader, don't have to). This one apparently is no different. For a particularly stomach-churning example of her writing, check out her appreciation of Michael Bay (!!!) for the Criterion Collection.
The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous 18th Century Chess Playing Machine by Tom Standage - a book that I saw at several work booksales, didn't actually buy it until it was marked down to 2 bucks. It looks fascintating, about a complex machine that entertained royalty and other leading people in its day, with no one figuring out its secret. The book's been out awhile, but it's been getting published reviews only recently.
Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-Rock Revolution by Richie Unterberger - appears to be a breezy little history, but I was startled to find it has small, condensed type on the pages. If it's as appealing and in-depth as his Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll, this one should be great.

Saturday, August 10, 2002
Pleasant surprise of the day: Bonnie is in the new Entertainment Weekly! In the Digital section of the 8/16 issue, her Bettie Page fansite gets a profile. There's even some interview quotes in there. Way to go, Bonnie!

Friday, August 09, 2002
Some commercials with the Simpsons shilling Japanese soda (via Kottke). Weird.

marcyThe story of "Dancing Queen" from the official ABBA site. Earlier this year, I thought wouldn't it be great all of ABBA's videos were put out on DVD. Well, here it is and I just got my very own copy today. Have you ever seen "The Winner Takes It All" - with Agnetha being all glum while the other three yuk it up, totally oblivious to the poor woman? It's like Ingemar Bergman meets early MTV. Cool.

Anna Nicole Smith is a pathetic loser. I have zero interest in this show. Even The Osbournes left me cold. OK, I'm unhip. Just give me ABBA videos and I'm happy.

Thursday, August 08, 2002
Ooof! A fun waste of two minutes.

This article deals with how most "Special Edition" DVDs are built around decidedly average movies. Nice piece, but the writer seems to think anamorphic widescreen is an extra. It's not! Maybe the video industry thinks it is, as they try harder to reach the Joe Wal-Mart consumers, but it oughta be considered the norm.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002
A lineup of Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Players (from here by way of Sharpeworld), including sound clips! I had my 11th or 12th birthday celebration at one of the first Chuck E. Cheese locations in Tempe, AZ. Our party was in the room where Dolly Dimples, a giant pink hippo cabaret singer, was playing. There was also a room with the Beagles, who played (what else) Beatles songs. The place was fun, but more than an hour of all the lights and colors and sounds gave me the jitters, even as a tyke. I read somewhere that Chuck E. Cheese was started by the man who made Atari a success, correct?

marcySharpeworld also has a page of creepy Little Marcy mp3s. Marcy was a helium-voiced ventriliquist doll from the 60s and 70s. It's extremely likely that every child who owned a Little Marcy record grew up to become cynical, potty-mouthed atheist punk rockers. Thanks, Marcy!

I've been thinking about the WTC site a lot lately. What should be put there? Should it be a giant memorial or an office complex and park? Coincidentally, there's a lively discussion at MetaFilter on this. I was watching a report on New York's plans to commemorate 9-11 yesterday, and they showed a site of WTC proposals submitted by CNN viewers. From looking at these ideas, it's obvious that people are reacting the NYC's original proposals, all bland complexes of several smaller buildings that blend into the rest of the city. The viewers' designs range from simple and powerful to mawkish displays of patriotism and sentimentality. One of the more interesting ideas proposed using the 1939 World's Fair Trylon and Perisphere shapes as the basis for a combination office/retail space (giant sphere) and memorial (tall pyramid).
skyscraperI have some ideas of my own, although the only visual I have is this sketch of a Metropolis-like cylindrical skyscraper. It needs to be a grand, distinctive structure, not as tall as the WTC but impressive in its mass and scale. The design needn't reference the WTC at all. From the street view, I envision a massive hive of activity, to convey the American spirit of resilience and optimism. No retail shops from street level, only underground or inside. It should be state-of-the-art in every aspect. At night, it should be luminous and magical with a hint of fragility. I can imagine the walls and floors made of semi-opaque polymers, so you can see people moving through the building from the outside. I like the idea of, when you're inside, seeing the ghostly blur of figures on the floors above and below.
The memorial should be housed inside this massive cylinder, maybe in the top quarter. It would be a quiet and still sanctuary from the activity outside. Something that utilizes the names of the victims, like the Vietnam Memorial. Have a system of prisms and mirrors set up so that it's usually dark, except for a flash of brilliant sunlight in the shape of the Twin Towers - which only shows up every September 11.

Monday, August 05, 2002
Happy birthday to Andy Warhol (or at least Google sez so). For background on one of his more underrated periods, read up on the silkscreen portrait of Paul Jenkins from the Studio 54 days.

An entire website about The Brady Bunch Hour. Oh my god, I've died and gone to kitsch heaven. The episode guide even has a page on the Simpsons parody. Good as that was, it could never top the surreal spectacle of the Brady kids singing "Car Wash" -- while wearing Wizard of Oz costumes!

Thomas Kinkaide, Painter of Light™, Purveyor of Crap (via A&L Daily).

Sunday, August 04, 2002
trekLadies of Star Trek - elegantly designed, slow-loading page of beauties from the original. Metallic fabrics, heavy eyelashes, teased-up 'dos ... the Trek future looks an awful lot like 1967. Via Boing Boing.

Thanks to Sarah for linking to Stuck in the '70s - an actual diary of a teenage girl, kept from 1977-79. I love this kind of stuff, a more authenic portrait than any dumb sitcom or movie could ever do. Just look at her celebrity crushes: John Ritter, Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) and most of all ... Daryl Dragon from the Captain & Tennille!

Friday, August 02, 2002
Technicolor Skylines - in a piece for Metropolis, Dave Eggers muses on why skyscraper colors aren't more adventurous. The current issue of that mag - 21 Great Design Ideas for the 21st Century - is packed with excellent reading. My favorite piece is a list of the last century's worst design ideas, including fluorescent lighting, TV remote controls and cute cell phone rings. Mr. Fimoculous has helpfully posted the entire list on his weblog.

Plastic surgery tips from Jocelyn "Tiger Woman" Wildenstein (via Reenhead). Yeeks!

Local story du jour - a late night two vehicle collision isn't such a big deal. In this case, however, a third vehicle and three bodies sat for over five hours near the accident scene before a news chopper noticed them and alerted the authorities. Yeeks again!

Hmmm - "Most L.A. theater productions get a standing ovation. Are we less discerning, more easygoing or just polite?" (thanks, Christopher!)

Thursday, August 01, 2002
Have you been checking out Salon blogs? Now that they've had a week or so to settle in, I've been exploring. It's neat to read a weblog just as it's starting, while the person involved is still finding a voice (although I have to wonder how many will stick around once that $40 a year charge kicks in). Most of them ain't too pretty, and you get stuck with a number for a URL. Still, the passion for getting a message out is all there. Some of the more notable ones:
Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment - the most popular Salon blog, written by its Tech columnist. Very informative, basically a weblog version of his regular Salon work. Speaking of which, I dearly hope movie reviewers Charles Taylor and Stephanie Zacharek start their own 'blogs.
Words and Pictures Weblog - all about comics, and not the geeky superhero kind. Insightful and highly recommended!
Ken's Book Blog - erudite scribblings on books of all kinds. Really promising. Why aren't there more book weblogs?
People Are Stupid - Subtitled "a steaming pile of bitter observations," this is already a favorite with the Salon crowd. Sure, anyone can rant, but it takes someone special to do so with wit and intelligence which this guy has in spades. Addictive stuff.