Friday, May 30, 2014

Lionel Catches a New Wave

We feel like we should hold one of those old Tonight Show cards up that says "more to come" in a hand-painted font, with maybe a laughing monkey sitting at a desk.

Oh well. Where ever you may be reading this, we hope you have headphones, a good half-hour to spare, and a heart.

Lionel Hampton's out-of-print 1963 LP Bossa Nova Jazz was probably a trend-hopping maneuver designed to sell records and keep Hamp & Co. in cigarettes and scotch. That's okay, because with results like this, the vibraphonist and his studio band can keep 'em coming.

There's great woodwind work throughout -- allegedly that's Gerry Mulligan on the baritone sax. And the flute in "Una Nota Sol" ("One Note Samba") would lift the spirits of a Victorian ghost with consumption. The buoyant notes of Hampton's vibes spill across the songs, a sound once described by TMI board of trustees member, The Amazing Mrs. Kendall, as the musical equivalent of "ice cubes tumbling into a glass."


[courtesy of Paul Atreides]

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oscar the Grouch Does Crowd Work

On Sunday, May 25, we took a field trip to Seattle's Egyptian Theater to see the West Coast premiere of the documentary film I Am Big Bird.

The movie tracks the rise and rise of puppeteer Caroll Spinney, the man inside the Big Bird costume/puppet on Sesame Street. He's also the performer behind Oscar the Grouch. It's standard fare as far as documentaries like this go, but entertaining and particularly moving if you're a fan of the Muppets. There are even a few revelations that pack a punch, and not just because of the contrast between the child-like innocence of an 8-foot tall yellow bird puppet versus the adult man who inhabits the suit.
Caroll Spinney, Oscar and various puppets.
[Photo courtesy of the I Am Big Bird website.]

Spinney and his wife attended the screening and during the Q and A session after the movie, Spinney brought out Oscar the Grouch. That is, the actual Muppet he uses when filming for Sesame Street.

A room mostly full of adults suspended disbelief and engaged with Oscar as if we were a bunch of preschoolers. Oscar became real. Oscar is real. Some patrons even asked questions directly to Oscar, and the Grouch never skipped a beat, saying things to fans that Spinney himself cannot. Though, to be fair, Spinney is saying those things to fans, but in a way he can't.

A fuzzy green puppet ran that room for ten minutes, and he was like Don Rickles on a cruise ship. See I Am Big Bird when you can. It's worth the time and attention even if you're not a major Muppet geek. The documentary shows how the right performer, in the right role, can make a major impact around the globe. And in Spinney's case, it's all for the positive.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Q: You know how I know you're gay?

A: You posted a poem on your blog

Well the joke's on you buddy, because we posted a link to a poem.

An excerpt from Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
by Margaret Atwood:

but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.

Read the entire thing here. (It's short, but long enough that we wanted to link away rather than copy and paste.) Atwood wrote the poem in 1939, published in a collection from 1995 called Morning in the Burned House.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ooh, the Colors

Given how sporadically we've been publishing anything -- artwork that some genuinely talented person created, a music video from decades past, critical commentary passed off as "writing" -- we still won't apologize.

That would be arrogant. For beneath any plea, no matter how sincere, is the expectation that readers were out there, waiting for The Typing Monkey to do something.

Instead, let's play catch up over the next few weeks and aim for a productive summer. [Somewhere, a retired junior high school band teacher mumbles "don't apologize, fix it." -- ed.]

To begin, take some time to read Oliver Sava's April 11 piece on comic-book colorists from the AV Club's "Big Issues" series. Sava writes intelligently about comic books, especially the superhero titles. And when he uses Big Issues to talk about the work behind the titles, it can be thoughtful and educational -- all the things good critical writing should be.

Colorists have been ignored, historically. Despite a good colorist being able to lift already good artwork to a higher level, the colorist's name rarely appears on the front cover. But that's been changing and Sava uses that change to talk about what a good colorist does, and why you, comic book reader, should care.

It also lead us to the blog of colorist Jordie Bellaire, who posts breakdowns of her work and is quite good at selecting images that illuminate the value of skills like hers. She's good, and she knows working with good artists makes them both look better.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

From the Dept. of Make-Good

Errors in our editorial department are frequent and egregious. However, when last night's Walpurgis Night post was held up by a sleeping copy editor, thus forcing us to publish on May 1 ... well that's the kind of nonsense we just can't abide.

So we duct-taped that editor to his chair, pried his eyes open and dosed him with three Red Bulls and a pot of drip coffee. And then we put this on repeat:

[courtesy of zozomusic69]

It's probably hugely inappropriate and possibly a little racist. But we don't speak enough French to be offended by Henri Salvador's novelty hit.

It's a Walpurgis Night

We've yammered before about Beltane, the Gaelic holiday on May 1 that traditionally marks the start of summer, as it's roughly halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

But today is April 30, and across Europe, those who give a hoot are lighting fires and toasting to the "other Halloween" known as Walpurgis Night, or more frequently, Walpurgisnacht.

Sitting on the opposite end of the calendar from Halloween/Samhain, Walpurgis Night behaves in a similar manner. It's believed that the barrier between our world and other worlds, especially the spirit world, is virtually non-existent on this night. Ghosts, demons and strange things will roam the land after sunset.

A strong association with witchcraft comes with Walpurgis Night, again, echoing the All Soul's/All Saint's dichotomy of Halloween and November 1. See, the Walpurgis refers to St. Walpurga, who is feted on May 1.

Naturally, to make things fair, the night before her feast, witches gather to do er, witchy things and non-witch types build bonfires to welcome summer ... and probably ward off malicious creeps from the nether realms. And that's Walpurgis Night.

Now, The Typing Monkey can't resist an opportunity to embrace the day and indulge in a little apple-blossom scented spookiness.


Squeal! Can you stand it? If you didn't take us up on a previous Lovecraft recommendation, this is a workable compromise.

"The Call of Cthulhu" introduces Lovecraft's richly detailed horror mythology of the ancient Earth in a dynamite blast of fantasy pulp that reads like a mystery/adventure but delivers plenty of sci-fi haymakers in the form of wack-ass other-dimensional geometry, a sea-dwelling "god," and men driven insane by a totem that summons the beast.

Afraid of Lovecraft's text? Then take a short ride with deviantART madman DrFaustusAU* -- who has turned the tale into a Seussian nightmare, complete with illustrations.

His digital presentation starts at the bottom-right of the page, and moves up and to the left, so we've linked to page two of the collection, where the story actually begins. It's well executed and hits every vital part of the story.

A paper version is due eventually.

*It's pure kismet (or is it?) that we post DrFaustusAU's creation on Walpurgisnacht, as his user name reference the legend of the mad magician who sold his soul to the devil. You see, in Gounoud's opera, Faust, act two begins with a depiction of Walpurgisnacht in the devil's realm. Naturally, it's the sexiest part of the story.