Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where's Casey Kasem when you need him?

Boy...that's a phrase I thought I'd never say!

This post isn't about Casey...Mr. Kasem...or however he wishes to be addressed. This is about me. :)

It is my blog after all.

I thought I'd invoke the spirit of Casey to rise from the dead and do a quick Top Five Countdown of the videos I've posted here. Top Five chosen by number of times they've been viewed.

He's not dead, but I thought it would be fun anyway!

In ascending order, here are the Top Five song videos that have appeared on this blog thus far. Hopefully you'll enjoy reviewing them...or better yet, catch one you missed. If you want to read the post that went along with the video, scroll down this page and on the right hand side under the heading "Labels", the songs are listed there as hyperlinks. All under "S" for song. I keep it easy.

Here we go, Casey, Numberrrrrrrrrrrrrr 5. A happy little ditty written by Dan Reeder, giving advice on when you should sing, and what to say to people who disagree with you. "No One Will Laugh" with 73 views to date:



Number 4, a John Prine song appreciating all the old babies out there, "The Oldest Baby in the World" with 79 views:



A tie at number 3, each getting 103 views -

Myself and my old friend Will celebrating Billy Joe Shaver's birthday with his song, "Live Forever":



and me alone (actually accompanied by the upstairs neighbors' little rat-dog yapping) on an old A.P. Carter song, "East Virginia Blues/Greenback Dollar":



Number 2 and the first of 2 original songs of mine on the countdown...

"The Smile" at 104 views:



and at number 1 for the 107th (I actually don't know for how long) week in a row...with 813 views...."I Love Rachael Ray":



I hope you enjoyed checking out some you had missed or being reminded of some you liked.

Next time I'll see if I can get Jean Casem instead.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Back in the Saddle Again!

It's Gene Autry's birthday, and I feel back in the saddle after yesterdays lame job of a post.



It's been 102 years since Gene Autry was born in 1907. And we could still use him.

The era of "The Singin' Cowboy" was before my time. It only lasted from the mid 1930's until the late 1940's, maybe 15 years at the most. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers continued to have great success through the 1950's, especially on television, but the "singin'" part was mostly gone by then and they were mainly "B" westerns for the kiddie set.

If you've never treated yourself, there's plenty of the stuff available out there on DVD. Here's basically what you get:

1. Gene, Smiley Burnette and a bunch of cowboys are on a cattle drive singing in choral harmony about the joys of hard working. Then they find there's some trouble any one of the following will do. The heir to the ranch they're working on is a playgirl spending the profits, hoods representing the cattle buyers are scheming to undercut the price, the sheep rancher next door owns the water-rights to the brazing land and won't let the cows in, someone finds mineral rights on the ranch and tries to put Gene's boss out of business.

2. Gene gets in a quick fistfight.

3. Gene meets a girl and sings to her.

4. The bad-guys ambush Gene, but he kicks their butts.
-
5. Gene sings another song to the girl.

That's it! And all told in about 65 minutes. At the Saturday matinee back int he day you;d get a double feature of two of these. Gene always won because he was doing what was right. There was justice in the world.

All you needed to do was do what's right. And it helped if you sang a song, had a smart horse and a not-so-smart sidekick.

Another reason Gene gets a cool guy award, is the above movie serial.

The movie serial was a way of getting the kiddies to flock back to your theatre week after week. Part of the playbill was a serialized adventure story, continued week to week after a cliffhanger ending. The setting would be anything from a Western, a jungle film, science fiction, a comic book/newspaper strip/pulp fiction hero...whatever would catch the kiddies' eyes and imaginations.

Gene Autry's first ever screen appearance was as the star of "The Phantom Empire"
(think George Lucas ever saw this?). This one had everything. A singing cowboy, robots, bad guys after a mysterious radioactive metal and a futuristic city 20,000 feet underground ruled by a beautiful woman. GOD THAT'S GOOD SHIT!!!



Oh yeah. And he owned a baseball team too. boooooorrrrrrrrring!

I'm still trying to do what's right, like Gene, hoping that I may win one day.

And whenever the world smacks me around, I sing a song. It makes people look at you funny sometimes, but I know I'm winning.

Thanks Gene!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Al Capp: Comic Strip Great's 100th birthday

Born in 1909, today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Al Capp...

Creator of Li'l Abner.


I could talk on and on about the man and this strip...but here's a website that could do it all better than me. Subtitled "The Greatest Comic Strip of all Time" might be a push...but it's for sure in the top ten.

Don't let Monday get to you...it certainly impacted me...I'll meet you back here tomorrow...I'll be better.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blog Research & Development

It's 11:30 A.M. on September 27th. The temp in Huntington Beach is 69 degrees Fahrenheit with a mild 4 mph wind from the SW.

I've got no worries worth mentioning and I live in paradise.

I think today will be a day of R&D Inside My Head. Jeffy's Angels will take notes.

I'm feeling "it" today.

And "it" feels good.

Everybody out there...it's Sunday...go find your own idea of "B'rer Rabbit's Laughin' Place" and spend some time there. You deserve it. The Monday world of tomorrow will still be there when you get back.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Winsor McCay: One Talented Hard-Working Sum-Bitch!

Winsor McCay lived from September 26, 1867-July 26, 1934. An artistic innovator who changed the face of both the newspaper comics page and the animated movie screen.

Appealingly stylized and detailed with a talent for perspective and page layout, Winsor's comic strips looked like none other at the time. See, how even early on he was toying with the new format, treating the panel borders as props.

He had a number of comic strips in the 1900's and 1910's, above is an example of "Little Sammy Sneeze". A Sunday strip which revolved around the simple premise of a child who sneezes and the resulting destruction. Hey it was early on in the days of newspaper strips...no one was sure of the depth of story that would be acceptable to the public...but man did he draw good!

Below are two examples of another recurring theme strip, "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend". This centered around different characters each episode, but all afflicted with the same penchant for Welsh Rarebit (a melted cheese sauce with porter that's served over toast) before bedtime, which would then result in nightmares. This gave McCay the boundless world of fantasy to create whatever reality he felt like.


Keeping with his "dream" idea, his true masterpiece in the comics field was "Little Nemo in Slumberland". The continuing adventures of a young boy named Nemo who visits a fantastic surreal world in his slumbers. Beautifully rendered and engrossing to view. It's amazing to think that this is what used to arrive every week in the Sunday Funnies when you compare it to things like "Garfield" today. Makes me want to dry heave.


Winsor McCay was also interested in the fledgling film arts, most specifically animation of drawings. These films are extraordinary if you stop and think that, this is the era before cel animation...every drawing was completely redrawn for every frame...24 frames per second. And McCay did them single-handedly.

Amazing.

Here's an early one, even dramatizing his pledge to take on this herculean task and showing the work in progress. Animation sequence features Little Nemo and cast. This version is black and white, the original was hand colored, also by McCay.




The guy must never have slept!

McCay was also a showman and traveled the vaudeville circuit displaying his cartoons.

Another amazing innovation was employed for his tour with his ground-breaking cartoon, "Gertie the Dinosaur".

Watch this with your imagination running. McCay would actually appear on stage while this was projected on the screen and he would interact with Gertie as she performed tricks. The pumpkin you see her catch was matched by one thrown by McCay. Now THAT's Show Bidness!



A Great combination of creativity, artistic talent, mechanical talent and patience. We won't see another like him.


Thanks Winsor!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shel Silverstein - A bald, cartoonist, songwriter who liked to go barefoot. My hero!

Born in 1930, Shel Silverstein would have been just 79 years old today, but he left us too soon in 1999. 69 years that he really filled up with adventure, wonder, bawdiness, and love of wine, women and song. Then he passed it on to us.

Shel was a cartoonist for Playboy magazine, Stars and Stripes magazine, folksinger, songwriter, children's book author and poet.

Here's Johnny Cash to tell you a little about Shel and introduce him:


Some of the books he's written are:





Wonderful stories and poems all illustrated with his deceptively simplistic, but never simple cartoons. All works of art in my book.

He was also a prolific songwriter. A lot of folks sold a lot of records thanks to Uncle Shelby. Before I show you a few of them, I want to get my 2 cents in.

Here's my version of "Put Another Log on the Fire". A Shel song first made popular by Tompall Glazer on "Wanted: The Outlaws" the first big outlaw country album in the early 70's. Featuring Tompall, Waylon Jennings, Jessie Colter and Willie Nelson it was the first country album to ever go Platinum.


The Irish Rovers with "The Unicorn":


Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Their first 3 albums were written entirely by Shel. Then they sunk into 70's MOR crap. Here's two from their heyday.

"Cover of the Rolling Stone":


"Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball":


Bobby Bare doing "The Mermaid":



And Johnny Cash backed by Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Two, "A Boy Named Sue":



Back to his children's work..."The Giving Tree"


A parade of Shel's characters:




Shel is one of my heroes whom I've never really researched his personal life. I'm kind of afraid to.

After all the wonderful worlds and characters he's created, I think I'd be afraid to find an ordinary guy back there. And maybe a little comforted too.

Thanks Uncle Shelby for all the songs and cartoons. You are really missed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Revenge of the 100th" or "The Cougar Strikes Back"

Ominous title, huh?









Sorry for the late post...a busy morning today, but you knew I wouldn't let you gentle readers down I hope.

P.S. So long Chad. It''s been a pleasure. We'll see ya real soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ray Charles: Get Me Past Hump Day Music!

He would have only been 79 today, he left us too soon. Ray Charles was born this day in 1930.

You've all seen the Jamie Foxx movie (and it WAS good) so your familiar with the soap operatic trials and tribulations of this genius already, but for "Hump Day" guidance, let's just revel in the music this master gave us.

"What'd I Say?":



"I Got a Woman":



In case you're still in any doubt, here's proof that separating music into genre's is a fools game. Marketer's folly. Duke Ellington said, "There's only two kinds of music...good and bad.", and here's proof that drawing a line in styles makes no sense.

Brother Ray joined by band leader Paul Shaffer, guitarists Ron Wood and Carl Perkins and finally by fellow keyboardists Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. Jamming some boogie woogie for a bit, then closing it all with a gang bang on "Jambalaya"...a Hank Williams song. Beautiful.



"Hit the Road, Jack" and whomp this hump day on the behind!:



Happy birthday Ray! Thanks for the groove you left in the grooves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm just "Mad" about Will Elder

Born this day in 1921, today would have been Will Elder's 88th birthday.

This is an example of my on-going education, appreciation and awareness of comic art. I have to confess, that other than admiring this greats work from afar, I know very little about Will Elder and the course of his career. I just know he was FREAKIN' GOOD!

Will, along with Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Jack Davis and a few others led by Bill Gaines, lead a revolution in free-thinking and real art and true satire in the 1950's. William "Bill" Gaines (his father actually invented the "comic book" a couple decades earlier) headed up a company called EC Comics.

This was the publisher that brought you "Tales of the Crypt" and other horror comics like it, and also western, horror, war and science fiction comics, all of the same calibre, decided one day to try his hand at a humor comic. And with the aforementioned group of artists gave the world Mad. EC originally stood for "Educational Comics" but changed to "Entertaining Comics" somewhere along the way...and entertaining they were.

A man (I use the term loosely) named Fredric Wertham published a book back then called "Seduction of the Innocent" which blathered on about the rise of juvenile delinquency and what may be causing it...comic books were a chief target of his slings and arrows. Bill Gaines even had to show up in front of congressional hearings and answer to charges of corrupting children's minds, with the gore and horror and graphically charged comics he published.

They were right...he corrupted us. In all the right ways. He gave us well written stories that were artfully told and didn't play down to the young minds, but rather treated them with respect to tell right from wrong.

These hearings and other lead to the creation of a self governing board of censorship amongst comic book publishers called "The Comics Code Authority" which tamed and maimed comic books from the 1950's until it was finally mostly abandoned in the 1990's. But that's another story. Bill Gaines chose not to be a part of.

Bill Gaines quit the comics business. "Tales from the Crypt", "Vault of Horror", "Weird Science" and the rest all ceased publication by him. All except one. "Mad" he chose to continue. But he would drop the comic book format and change it to a magazine. He gave the "Comics Code" the finger.

And he continued to puncture all societies foibles for years to come.

I tell you that story, because that's what I know about Will Elder. That he was one of those renegade artists that made Mad so great. His work was so dense and fun to look at, that even as a kid I got lost in the details and sometimes didn't see the raw satire that was being laid out before me.

Here's just a few examples of the great work that Will Elder did when Mad was still a comic.









Geez that's good stuff. By the 1960's Will had turned to even more alternate venues. One was a comic published independently call "Goodman Beaver" which I am still trying to read more of in my art research.


...and of course, no mention could be made of Will without his work form Playboy in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Little Annie Fanny. Kids, turn your heads.



I'm still learning all of Will's work. I have a copy of "Absolutely Mad"...a DVD which contains EVERY page of Mad from 1955-2000. EVERY PAGE. I will let you in on more of the work of Will Elder as my education and appreciation grows.

Until then...Happy birthday Will.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chuck Jones - A Thinking Man's Cartoon Evolution!

Born today in 1912, Chuck Jones would have been 97 years old today.

In the course of his career at Warner Brothers, Chuck evolved as much as the characters themselves.

When Chuck first came to Warner's in the mid-1930's as an animator, he was just that. Another cog in the machine along with others, learning how this fledgling medium worked. Learning how to get ideas across in motion, motion created with 24 still drawings per second.

He was good at what he did though, and put thought behind what he did as well. So as directors moved on away from Warner's and new directors were needed, and in 1937 at 25 years old, Chuck Jones assumed the directors chair.

Unlike his counterparts Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin who were pushing the envelope and beginning to make some of the wackiest cartoons to hit the silver screen and truly setting the Looney Tunes-Merrie Melodies style, Chuck was interested in studying the Disney technique. Utilizing more natural movements and...I hate to say it because there is benefit to this...a treacly, cutesy type of characterization. Case in point:



After a few years of this, and of really honing his craft, the other directors pulled him aside and basically told him, "Hey, this ain't Disney...we're making FUNNY cartoons...get with the program!". So he did. He showed 'em.





You can't really cartoon or lampoon anything without knowing how to do the real thing. And Chuck knew. By the 50's he was doing some of the funniest, most Warner Brothery-est cartoons made.







Chuck was a thinking man. He directed these characters from a psychological point of view. And he was a true artist. By the 1960's he was wanting to expand the medium all the more. And he did, with cartoons like this:



Of course after Warner's closed their doors in 1963, Chuck went on to many more things. A little inconsistent at times, but always good for his desire to try something new. Here's a brief take of Chuck on himself.



Thanks for thinking about what you were doing Chuck. I'm still thinking about it!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"The Moose That Roared"...or..."Of Moose and Men"

Born 89 years ago in 1920, it's TV Cartoon producer Jay Ward's birthday.

Jay Ward was brought into the cartoon field in 1948, before TV was even in a siable portion of American homes. He produced the first ever made for TV cartoon "Crusader Rabbit" which debuted on August 1, 1950, then went on to produce some of the funniest cartoons ever made.

Confronted with the difficulty of expense of full animation on a limited TV budget, Jay and his partner Bill Scott made up for the static lake of movement in his cartoons with rich dialogue and stories which would range from witty to corny in the blink of an eye. This is something which Hannah-Barbera are oft credited with...but seriously??? Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear and the rest...well...they really weren't that funny...I'll stand on Fred Flintstones coffee table in my cowboy boots and tell him so myself.

But Jay Ward cartoons were just plain funny. It's Sunday and rather than go on and on about it...here's a collection of Jay's work for you to laugh at yourself.

Crusader Rabbit:



Rocky and Bullwinkle:





Dudley Do-Right:



Sherman and Peobody:



Fractured Fairy Tales:



Aesop & Son:



Roger Ramjet:



Hippety Hooper:



George of the Jungle:



Tom Slick:



Super Chicken:



That's just good stuff. And for sponsors? Jay teamed up with General Mills for these great commercial spots:

Cap'n Crunch:



Quisp:



Jay Ward is a guy who's work speaks for itself. Do yourself a favor and spend Sunday watching some of the best and funniest cartoons ever made.

Thanks Jay!

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