Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thunderbirds Are Gone!

Gerry Anderson, creator of Thunderbirds and several other espionage/action shows aimed at kids, died on December 25, 2012.

His puppetry and wonderfully detailed set-pieces influenced many kids who grew up to generate their own crazy shows. Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame paid homage to Anderson's work with their film Team America: World Police.

We'll speculate that Tim Burton, Henry Selick and Robert Smigel are fans as well, not to mention the Screen Novelties crew and many others.

If Thunderbirds is unfamiliar to you, please enjoy the opening credits from the show, which will tell you just about all you need to know about why those who love it, love it.

(And yes, we already regret that headline. Thank you Mr. Anderson, for what you created. Rest in peace.)

Message in a Gravestone

An Oregon woman bought some fake gravestones at K-Mart in 2011. The Halloween decorations were put into storage unopened.

A year later, she opened them to put them up for the October holiday and found something far scarier than the cold embrace of the grave: a note allegedly written by a Chinese laborer at the factory where the disposable-income item was manufactured. It's a plea for help, detailing the harsh working conditions in which the item was made.

The note sets of The Typing Monkey's baloney detector, though it's entirely possible that it's legitimate. We don't deny that many things we buy -- including the computer used to write and post this information -- are crafted and assembled in conditions our well-fed and generally secure selves would find deplorable and unimaginably cruel.

Yet the note seems a little too good to be true in terms of human rights-riling. Why is this making news two months after the note was discovered? The timing seems off, given that many Westerners have recently spent millions (billions) buying things we don't need to celebrate Christmas.

Read it and draw your own conclusions.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wassailing from YouTube

A demo/unreleased recording from Simon & Garfunkel. It's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" but on the Old Friends collection it's titled "Comfort and Joy."

[courtesy mwebber69]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Zat You, Santa Claus?

Last year, Smithsonian published a slideshow of 24 depictions of Santa Claus that are not the typical Jolly Ol' St. Nick we imagine today when the old feller's name is mentioned.

You could vote as to which was scariest, and we didn't bother to look to see which creepy Santa won. What was far more interesting was that most of the frightening-elf Santas were pre-20th century or rendered by European artists.

That shouldn't be a surprise if you've read even a little bit about the folklore of Santa Claus, or paid attention to traditions still in play in northern Europe, where the Krampus terrorizes kids to let them know the world isn't always going to tussle their hair and give them a piece of hard candy just because.

Here are three of our favorites:

Santa Claus, in this storybook image from the 1870s, looks like a mad badger-man, and he's carrying the switches normally associated with Black Peter and Krampus. Look out kids! (That little punk about to dip into Santa's bag is going to get a right-good beating.)

For the photo below, we'll just quote what Smithsonian had to say:

In the 19th and early 20th century, a popular tradition for Pennsylvania Germans was to go belsnickling on St. Nicholas Day, or December 6. This meant that at least one person in a neighborhood—the “belsnickle”—would dress up, usually in raggedy clothes and a mask, and visit the homes of their neighbors, delivering either candy or coal to the children.

Bellsnicking, sure. St. Nick's cool by us, but is that Cthulhu on the left?

And finally, we give you a detail Will Crawford's illustration of Santa Claus from the cover of a 1912 issue of Puck, a humor magazine.

Crawford's illustration, titled "Hands Up!" has the caption: "As Santa looks to some of  us."

Take a good long look at the whole gallery here. And if you have a chimney, consider building a big fire come Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hisss! Give up! Alien can't be beat!

Typing Monkey publisher and unofficial cultural ombudsman, S.L. Kreighton, tried to shame us the other night by regaling the staff with tales of Christmases past.

Apparently the man grew up a street urchin in Victorian London, where a tangerine, some Brach's candies [the neapolitans were delicious -- ed.] and perhaps a fresh pack of Authors cards was the best a lad could hope for on the morning of December 25, provided you didn't die of consumption and scabies first.

We think he's full of shit. However, by chance we showed him the following commercial for Kenner's Alien doll, circa 1979 and he fell into a funk so deep, it would shame Charles Foster Kane on his death bed.

We're sorry you never got the Alien doll that year, Kreighton. Perhaps it's time to let go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"It is usually about murder ... "

At some point in your life, maybe not this very moment, but some time in the future, you will hear reference to Raymond Chandler's "how to write a good mystery story" guide disguised as a critical essay "The Simple Art of Murder."

You will wonder: "Have I read that?" Which means you probably haven't. Luckily, the University of Texas at Austin's American Literature Archive has made it easy to read Chandler's incisive work anywhere you have access to the Web. From 1950's ink-on-paper, to your 21st century electronic device: ta da!

And, should you care, they also have a virtual copy of Flannery O'Connor's 1960 essay "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let's Look at the Show

Seeing a pipe organ in action is almost as much fun as hearing one in person. Same with a Wurlitzer theatre organ.

Where the latter is often designed to give a bit of a show, the former is simply a wonder to behold and even better if you can see the player in action. Aside from a drummer on a trap kit, we can't think of another musical instrument that actively requires all four limbs if the performer wants to make as much sound as possible.

The sheer mechanical spectacle of a "Mighty" Wurlitzer theatre organ still has the power to amaze -- for us, anyway.

Pipe organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter lays waste to "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Andreson in this video from his Youtube channel. He plays it almost too fast to keep up with himself, but dang if he doesn't look like a cartoon octopus while covering all the orchestral parts of the winter tune:

Less manic and more hypnotic is David Dunlap playing the same tune on a Wersi Scala organ -- basicaly a Wurlitzer with a motherboard instead of bellows, pipes and levers. Prepare to be mesmerized:

Then enjoy falling down a rabbit hole of organ performance videos, because that's what happens. Either that or you go ice skating.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jazz Impressions of the Next World

We'd planned on posting something else today, honest. But then Dave Brubeck died, one day short of his 92nd birthday.

Good bye Mr. Brubeck and thank you for all the amazing music you made while you were here.

[courtesy of claudiofilippi1]