Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dirty Deeds & the Men Who Investigate Them

Two book reviews that make us want both books in our possession:

Matthew Walther enjoyed Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language by Ross and Kathryn Petras. The volume collects examples of head-scratching sentences from famous, and sometimes even reputable, authors. See what Walther's on about here via The Spectator.

The other comes from Josephine Livingstone, who we've tagged before, so I guess that makes us fans of her work. In her review of Bran Nicol’s The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies, Livingstone is genuinely pleased that Nicol touches on a pet theory of hers: That the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo is a retelling of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

And you know what? She's right. But it's Nicol's book she's discussing, and Livingstone gives it a scholarly scrubbing -- the kind of gimlet-eyed critical writing that doesn't happen often enough in the usual crap we read. Either way, The Private Eye sounds like catnip to us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Send Me a Postcard

The unofficial end to summer approaches, a time reserved for listening to Nat King Cole on AM radio, eating fruit you picked right off that tree in the alley near the end of the block, and wondering how quickly your tan will fade.

Here's a music video that constructs a fantasy "wish you were here" greeting from a vacation to a magazine advertisement in the mid 1970s. Good job, Royksopp.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodbye Aubra, Goodbye Eleanor

Stage and film actress Julie Harris died on Aug 24. She was 87. Harris was the kind of actor who just does the damn work, and as a result, turned in many great performances.

She wasn't a movie star, but one peep at her IMDB resume shows how much she worked during a six-decade career. That's right: six decades.

Chances are you've seen her in something and maybe didn't know who she was. Two excellent places to start watching Harris and paying attention to how quietly she slides into roles and really soars with the material are two of her most well-known:

East of Eden - James Dean's screen debut and the little mumbler couldn't have asked for a better female lead. Harris plays Aubra, a thoughtful farm girl who can't decide if she loves Dean's tortured youth or his brother, played by Richard Davalos, who is dad's favorite. The film isn't about Aubra, it's about the brothers. But Harris delivers as an almost mythical love interest, too kind and too in love to hurt either boy, which only complicates the familial battle.

The Haunting - Hands down, this movie is one of the best horror films ever made, anywhere, and every single member of The Typing Monkey staff will fight any jerk in the bar who says otherwise. And what's key to this terrifying, theatrical masterpiece? Julie Harris. She doubts everything, mostly herself. She's wound up and may be psychic, and holy balls, the walls just took a breath.

Like we said, these two are probably her most famous film roles, and there's a reason for that. She takes good material and elevates it with her performance, making them better, greater. If you've not seen them, they're easy to come by and seeing them will make you more interesting at parties.

Thank you Ms. Harris.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Cartoon Space Bumpkin

The Disney Channel doesn't need our help in promoting anything they do.

However, we're big fans of Craig McCracken and his wife, Lauren Faust. He of The Powerpuff Girls, and the underseen, underrated Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. And if you want to go really deep, McCracken also did storyboards for Dexter's Laboratory, and got his start with the No Neck Joe shorts.

Faust is behind the My Little Pony revival, which we've never seen, but we love her Super Best Friends Forever shorts for DC Nation.

And on Aug 16, McCracken's new show, Wander Over Yonder, debuts on The Disney Channel. So we will watch with enthusiasm and encourage you to do the same.

From what little we know, the show follows Wander, a naif that looks a bit like Goofy Grape, as he makes his way around the universe. This will, of course, result in foiling various evil schemes and meeting weird characters that allow McCracken to indulge his talent for mixing up comic books, Hanna Barbera cartoons and a penchant for making the world look like a greeting card from the late 1960s.

Here's a scene called "The Picnic" so you know what you're in for:

And if that's not enough to loop you in, we dare you to try the title sequence and theme song, designed for maximum parent annoyance, despite the fact that McCracken goes out of his way to add jokes to his work that only adults will get.

Here's to hoping it lives up to McCracken's past work. And yes, that's 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer voicing the title character.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Too Soon

Our new intern, Kim (a boy ... named Kim!) returned two weeks ago from a trip to buy office supplies [hard cider, potato chips and chocolate-covered almonds are going in the office supply budget now? -- ed.] and returned to TMI headquarters visibly upset.

Initially we were unwilling to take the bait from this millennial kid who knows what a Tumblr is and has feelings and stuff. But his blue mood started to infect the rest of us.

It turns out, Kim was a great addition to The Typing Monkey because the source of his melancholy was the fact that two of the stores he visited already had Halloween decorations available for purchase. The date was Aug 3.

"It was a small display but it was there -- orange candles, plastic autumn leaves and Jack-o-lantern decorations," Kim sighed.

Our regular reader knows how deeply The Typing Monkey loves Halloween. It is the best holiday Western Civilization has ever devised. FACT.

But it's still summer. At the time of this posting, Labor Day is more than two weeks away. Back to school sales are still going strong, and if retail giants are willing to start displaying Halloween items in mid-August, then the dreaded Christmas onslaught will come even sooner.

Sorry, Thanksgiving, you've become the Jan Brady of major holidays.

To paraphrase The Byrds and the bible, there's a time to carve pumpkins and a time to do many other things that aren't carving pumpkins.

But commerce cannot be stopped. This is how we live now.

Photo by 1966 United Feature Syndicate  – © 1966 United Feature Syndicate Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Show Folk

Lovers of art and art history who don't have a lot of money are probably familiar with Taschen publishing. The mostly photo, but also fine art and design books put out by Taschen can class up your library and give your eyeballs a little vacation when you want to look at pretty pictures.

Thanks to Flavorwire, we discovered a Taschen book that will soon join the Typing Monkey library:  The Circus Book: 1870-1950. Flavorwire republished some of the photos a couple years ago, so in honor of National Clown Week (Aug 3, 2013 is officially National Clown Day), we link to those galleries.

One is "Rare Color Photos of Circus Showgirls of the ’40s and ’50s" the other is "Incredible Vintage Circus Photos of the '40s and '50s."

They're brief, fun looks at the romance and greasy glamor of human circus performers. Here's a sneak preview to entice you:

Circus people, 1955; courtesy Taschen; via Flavorwire