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Monthly Archives: October 2008

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Mod, Mod Monsters

Happy Halloween — as good a time as any to give props to the cult Rankin-Bass stop motion feature Mad Monster Party, doncha think? For all its spooky mystique, however, this movie is actually kind of dull (Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller give their all in the voice department). Perhaps the best part of the movie is the opening credits — did you know Mad magazine’s Jack Davis designed the creatures? The lovely title song sung by jazz singer Ethel Ennis sounds like a lost James Bond theme, only … Halloweeny. Listen to Ethel without competing sound effects here.

Bama Bama Bo Bama

Obama’s infomercial might have been too slick and manipulative, but it reminds me that very few politicians can be called “inspiring.” I can’t believe we might actually have a calm, rational, statesmanlike president. We’ve already sent in our early ballots and made the right choice.

As far as campaign ads go, I much prefer this:

Putting the ‘M’ Back in MTV

What do you think of MTV Music, the brand spankin’ new Hulu-style database of music videos from the channel’s glory years? I think I’m going to spend much too much time rooting around that site. One can search hundreds of videos by artist, title, or director (thanks to Ironic Sans for that tip!). Just tonight I burned up several minutes watching this, this, this, this, and this — all examples of that “film a bunch of models in grainy Super 8” style that was briefly hot in the ’80s. I vaguely remember reading in Rolling Stone about a married couple (Paula Greif and Richard Levine) that was responsible for many videos of that ilk.

New Order’s “Round and Round” is one of my favorites from that era, the kinda thing that made you glad that you stayed up late for 120 Minutes for once. As it turns out, one Paula Greif directed it. Honestly, from a 2008 vantage point the idea of juxtaposing b&w footage of models just sitting there with brief flashes of colorful flowers and marbles seems pretty goofy, but back then it was the coolest:

Let’s Hear It for Generic Scientist Guy

About the nifty sculpture below: we drive by this all the time. It’s located in downtown Phoenix’s Encanto Park, surrounded by a grove of Italian cypresses that threaten to grow over the poor guy. It always fascinated me, but I’ve never actually gone out to look at it up close until now. Although it was erected in 1957, the simplified man in the laboratory coat has more of an optimistic ’30s feel. Very appealing.

The inscription on the base reads” “World Progress Through Scientific Research In The Laboratory. Designed in fulfillment of the wishes of the donor and given to the city of Phoenix by Helen B. Rogers, 1957. Charles Badger Martin, sculptor.” I haven’t been able to find much info on either Rogers or Martin.

Charles Badger Martin Sculpture

Weekly Mishmash: October 19-25

Before getting to the weekly mishmashery, I need to spotlight a couple of links that I meant to post about earlier this week — but never did (this seems to be a recurring pattern here at First is a neato collection of vintage Peanuts animation commented on by Cartoon Brew’s Jerry Beck. The post also links to the clips — the trailer for You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, an intro to The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, and a preview of the 1961 Fords — without commentary. I love this stuff; your mileage may vary!
My second must-see is Mark Simonson’s post about the accuracy of vintage typefaces and props used in the first season of Mad Men. A fascinating examination of a beautifully produced show that — heresy alert! — I’ve never really warmed up to.

On to the mishmash:
Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 7: 1967Various — The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 7: 1967. When Mom and Dad gave me a nice big gift certificate for my fortieth birthday, I immediately went online and placed an order for a volume of this wonderful but expensive CD series produced by Hip-O Select. After hearing all 120 songs on five discs, I can now confidently say that 1967 was my favorite vintage Motown year. This was the time when Marvin Gaye first duetted with Tammi Terrell, Stevie Wonder was emerging as a major talent, The Temptations were coming on strong under producer Norman Whitfield, and The Supremes went glam-tastic with “The Happening” and the quasi-psych masterpiece, “Reflections.” It’s also the year of some of the most underrated songs Motown ever put out — The Marvelettes’ “When You’re Young And In Love,” The Four Tops’ “7 Rooms Of Gloom,” Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ “Honey Chile.” Surprisingly, many of the b-sides presented are as good as the flip sides. Here’s where the non-soul oddities that blemished the earlier volumes are ironed away: 1967 Motown was truly a nonstop hit producing machine. Fantastic stuff!
Iron Man (2008). This movie got mostly good reviews when it came out, didn’t it? Alas, both of us were pretty underwhelmed by the DVD. On the plus side, Robert Downey Jr. deserves all the credit for shaping the character of Tony Stark into something more than a teenage boy’s pastiche of a perfect man (filthy rich, gadget geek, and chick magnet!). On the minus side, this movie was awfully dumb and leaves an impression that’s distinctly more Transformers than Dark Knight. The usually reliable Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges were both pallid as love interest and adversary, and for that I blame an uncompelling script. I know that superhero films require much suspension of disbelief, but this sports one too many “oh, come on” moments to count. Hopefully the inevitable next film in the franchise will improve.
Prix de Beauté (1930). This French melodrama, filmed as a silent but dubbed in with a soundtrack for release, would be a minor footnote of a film if it wasn’t the final starring vehicle for the comely Louise Brooks. She’s the whole show here, playing a young woman who enters a beauty contest against her boyfriend’s wishes — suffering the consequences when she wins the title of Miss Europe. The storyline is nothing special, leaving one to notice the director’s odd fascination with crowds and mechanical objects (really, this movie is practically a love letter to the linotype machine). Brooks is startlingly modern in her trademark helmet hairdo and a variety of simple casual wear ensembles. She does her best in a boring story that turns unexpectedly potent in the final ten minutes.
That Darn Cat! (1965). Despite being somewhat long and slapsticky, this is the pinnacle of ’60s live action Disney. Should be an object study on how to make family-friendly films that appeal to both adults and children. And Hayley Mills? Cute as a button.

Young, Gifted & Baroque

It’s finally done! The Autumn mix, Young Gifted & Baroque, grew out of my fascination with Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade music. As even Disney neophytes know, the parade’s twinkly theme was appropriated from “Baroque Hoedown” — a song composed by French electronica pioneers Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley for their 1967 LP Kaleidoscopic Vibrations. Ten years later, musicians Don Dorsey and Jack Wagner lengthened the song and incorporated (rather ingeniously, I think) melodies from classic Disney films to create an unforgettable soundtrack. According to the song’s Wikipedia entry, Jean-Jacques Perrey didn’t even know Disney was using his song until he chanced upon the parade during a 1980 visit to Disneyland!

This mix contains Perrey & Kingsley’s original and a bunch of other goodies. It culminates with an official 2001 remix of the Main Street Electrical Parade theme with campy voice-overs from Alice In Wonderland‘s Alice and Pete’s Dragon‘s Pete. Other versions include They Might Be Giants’ frenetic cover, a delicate rendition by harpsichordist Sumina Arihashi, a dance remix by Konishi Yashiharu and Pizzicato Five, and an orchestral arrangement used as mood music in the Disney theme parks. I’ve also filled out the mix with various tunes I dig that have a funky “amusement park” vibe (please note: the mix is one long 72-minute mp3 file with the songs slightly blending into each other). Enjoy.

Download ‘Young, Gifted & Baroque: Autumn 2008 Mix’

Young Gifted & Baroque - front

Young Gifted & Baroque - track listing