Saturday, February 26, 2011

Movie Time!

February 26 is Frederick Bean "Tex" Avery's birthday. Avery virtually invented the physics-defying sight gags that the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes writers, artists and animators would exploit so well for a good three decades. He's also responsible for the sort of Sarte-esque cosmic (in)justice that informs so many of his and his imitators works. (Think of Chuck Jones' Coyote vs. Roadrunner 'toons.)

A true envelope pusher of 20th century cinema, Avery could elevate the simplest plot, even a single gag, into pure gut-punch comedy worthy of post-graduate study. Alright, shut up and let's watch his 1949 short for MGM, Bad Luck Blackie:

[courtesy of gobearsnfl]

Thank you Tex.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Written In Blood

Perhaps there's a collective case of cabin fever settling over North America and we're all subconsciously gravitating toward entertainments depicting unseemly things. We were going to post a link to Monster Brains' wholly satisfying gallery of Bernard Baily Terror Tales covers.

... and so we did. While drooling all over these insane pics, we received an electronic mail from longtime Typing Monkey associate Mr. Monko, who is Facebook friends with legendary artist/graphic designer Art Chantry. Chantry (as well as A. Monko) knows good design when he sees it. Unsurprisingly, Chantry has a fondness for pre-code horror comics:

"[T]here were dozens of manufacturers cranking out this stuff by the truckloads ... just the titles alone are worth listing here. Here's a very incomplete list of comic book titles to just give you a taste of what this turf was like: The Beyond, Dark Mysteries, The Unseen ..."

Chantry goes on to list at least two dozen more titles and even though he doesn't land on Terror Tales, chances are he owns a few issues. Since The Typing Monkey does not belong to the social experiment network Facebook, we are grateful to Mr. Monko for sending us Chantry's words. Go friend Chantry yourself and see what he has to say.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Monkey Reads: Miss Israel Regrets (Maybe)

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Memoirs of a Literary Forger
By Lee Israel
(Simon & Schuster)
The snakes-and-ladders path from obscurity to stardom to poverty rarely surprises. We know the story arc well yet still tune in. A once-celebrated biographer, Lee Israel bucked expectations by skipping the drugs and rehab nonsense – really what’s interesting about that? Instead, she opted for something daring and far more fun: forgery.

In Forgive Me, Israel carefully lays out how she ends up tossing multiple typewriters into dumpsters around Manhattan, the FBI hot on her trail. It reads like a true-crime confessional because it is.

Early success with biographies of Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen led to spending advances before Israel could produce the work. She lived beyond her means, and produced a biography of Estee Lauder that bombed with both reviewers and retailers. From there it was short ride to finding out she hated “real work”; then welfare and a sick cat pushes Israel to make some poor choices.

Israel’s bad judgment makes for some compelling reading. She’s a classic anti-hero who admits to being over-confident, elitist and coarse to many people to whom she should have been kind, even if she’d had to fake it.

One thing she didn’t fake was her first celebrity letter. Israel simply stole three Fanny Brice letters and sold them to a collector.

When asked if she had any others, the reader can practically hear the lightbulb spark to life above Israel’s head and she sets to work on imitation Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward and others. Her Parker letters are a delight to fans of that writer, perhaps because they both drank too much and pissed off friends.

Israel’s outlaw charm makes Forgive Me sing. She can’t believe she’s getting away with it any more than her audience can but neither can she stop herself. The con is too delicious and too profitable. Root for Lee Israel all the way to the end because, unlike bloated rockstars who do the drugs-and-rehab routine and end up recording flaccid comeback music, her post-reform output is outstanding.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Here You Go Sweethearts ...

This well-conceived and well-edited video comes from RubyTuesday717, aka Serena Bramble. The people who organize the Noir City Film Festival like it so much they sometimes play it before screenings. If you want to know all the films she uses in the clip, click here. The song is "Angel" by Massive Attack.

Bramble already has a new homage/mash-up/mash-note to crime cinema, this time focusing on Tony Bennett's city by the bay: San Francisco is the Scene of a Perfect Crime.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Free Music: XII Boar and SP-33

Music distribution has changed, just in case anybody here hasn't been paying attention. Giving away singles, EPs and sometimes full albums is often the method emerging artists use to get attention in a crowded marketplace.

The viability of that model is and has been discussed ad naseum -- it's all speculation and only time and failure will reveal the best path. By then we'll have already reached a destination.

Meanwhile, three dudes from the U.K., with a deep and abiding love of Motorhead, doom/stoner metal and other heavy sounds, decided to form a band last year. They're called XII Boar and they're giving away a four-song EP titled XII.

XII Boar spew high-density sludge with moody curls of smoke filling up the spaces in between the blasts. They have a good feel for dynamics and at least one of them digs hardcore ("Train Wreck").

The EP's closer, "Skol" follows a sparse percussion break with a tonal shift in which the band does a quick variation on Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues" trick by letting each member of the trio take two quick measures to hammer down a short solo and step back to make room for the next guy in line.

Find multiple download links for XII here. [And an enthusiastic goat's head to Angry Chairs.]
The Typing Monkey knows nothing of the DJ/producer/musician known as SP-33. Statistics favor a dude in his mid-to-late 20s behind the moniker but for all anyone knows SP-33 is two teenage girls. What we do know is that we've been playing SP-33's Escape from Tha Carter a couple times a day since we downloaded the free LP a week ago.

SP-33 chopped up John Carpenter's soundtrack from Escape from New York and spliced it with equally shredded vocals from Lil Wayne's Tha Carter discs. (Mostly from Tha Carter III.) It's standing on the shoulders of Dangermouse's Grey Album in order to reach past mash-up status and into collage territory.
Escape retains the desolate tone of Carpenter's compositions and often grinds up Weezy's vocals -- already treading into drain-cleaner territory -- into a coarse paste that blends well with the music's zombie-Vangelis sound.
Get the download here or if you want to save bandwidth play it on Soundcloud. [Wink & a nod to XLR8R.]


"Though Oprah herself will not remain vegan, her long time partner, Stedman Graham, has expressed interest in sticking with it."

That's an exerpt from an article about Oprah and the staff of her show attempting to follow a vegan diet for a week. We could grouse about the lazy substitution of the word "vegan" when writers actually mean a "vegan diet" (the latter is a way of eating, the former is a way of living) but instead we'll just enjoy the fact that the world's most powerful woman gave it a shot.
Even more interesting is that her husband, the Ringo Starr of non-famous spouses of famous people, may take it further.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Lie of Diminishing Returns

We can't accuse Slate of biting our style because there are only a few original thoughts left in the ether, and "Forgot to Remember" wasn't necessarily one of them.

But Matthew J.X. Malady's "Eureka Lost" does explore similar territory regarding technology's ability to deliver even obscure information with alarming speed, and thus, reduces the thrill of the hunt and the allure of a mystery to solve.

Even if the chewing only lasts for the duration of Malady's article, it's worth a read.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fancy Lightly Turns

Spring has sprung sweethearts. At least it has if you observe Celtic, Druidic or general pagan rites -- Wicca counts too.

The day known to the modern world as Groundhog Day used to be Imbolc, Candlemas and various other holy days that acknowledged this date, or hereabouts, as the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

In other words, it's time to think of all things spring. We're rooting for The Green Man. Jack Frost can suck it.

Fire-bearers circle figures of The Green Man fighting Jack Frost. Imbolc celebration in Marsden, West Yorkshre, February 2007.
Photo: Steven Earnshaw

Read more about it here.

Bonus woo-woo: Feb 3 is Lunar New Year (bye tiger, hello rabbit) and a new moon.