Saturday, October 31, 2009

They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Kinky, Anymore!

Today (or maybe tomorrow, there are conflicting reports) is the 65th birthday of Kinky Friedman.

That's right, Kinky Friedman of "The Lost Texas Jewboys" fame was born on or around today in 1944.

Kinky came to prominence in the early-mid 1970's with his rendition of a song that was a response to the heavy-handed Merle Haggard song "Okie from Muskogee". Kinky's call back was "I'm Proud to Be an Asshole from El Paso".

Here's a snippet:

Kinky had lots of great songs, "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight", "Rapid City, South Dakota", "Sold American", "Autograph", "Git Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" and here's a couple more:

"Ol' Ben Lucas":

"They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore":

Over the years Kinky has spread his influence, branching out as an author. Here are just a few of his books. All are highly recommended.

And more recently, in 2004, Kinky decided to run for Governor of Texas. The main item of his platform? The dewussification of the state.

He lost. Just like we're all losing the war against wussification on a national level.

But there's good news, Kinky's running again for the 2010 election.

I wish I was a resident of the Lone Star State. He'd have MY vote.

The world needs more satirists in charge.

The world needs Kinky!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Night America Fooled Itself

Well kiddies, tomorrow night is Halloween. The time when we all like to get spooked. And today is the 71st anniversary of the night when this country spooked itself, but good.

In 1938 on this date, The Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast their radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds".

The Mercury program was an artisan's show from New York organized by a young unknown Orson Welles. Every week this small company of very talented and very serious-in-their-craft actors and actresses would perform a radio play based on a highbrow theatre piece or a literary work, usually adapted and written by Welles, starring Welles and directed by Welles.

It was a highbrow kind of show, and not well known by most radio listeners.

On their Halloween week broadcast they decided to dramatize the H.G. Welles classic. A unique spin that Welles put on it was, to begin the show as a music program and then have it interrupted by fake newscasts telling the story of a Martian invasion.

Listeners across the New York area and all down the eastern seaboard heard the show...and believed it as the real deal.

People panicked and barricaded themselves in their houses.

Angry mobs formed to defend communities from the deadly Martians.

Orson Welles said, "Boo!" and a skittish nation of superstitious natives fell for it.

People think their more sophisticated than that now. I think their wrong. I see people falling for shit everyday.

Myself included.

To remind us all of how foolish we can be we should remember this story. We should remember how good this play was too.

Sit back tomorrow night with the lights out and give a listen. It's 71 years old, but still really good, gripping story-telling.

I know it seems odd posting an audio file of a radio show from YouTube, but blogger doesn't allow for the embedding of audio files here. Enjoy.

Thanks Orson for scaring the bejeesus out of all those folks that night. We ARE them.

We could use a good TP ing now and again to remind us how fragile we are.

ADDENDUM: October 29, 1969 the internet was created as the first communication from one computer to another was sent 400 miles from UCLA to Stanford.

30 years after the miscommunication of "The War of the Worlds" and 40 years ago today!

More science fiction amazing fetes or more scientific nightmares? You decide.

Just kidding. It's an amazing fete. There ARE still folks out there who are afraid of computers, and those folks will soon be left in the dust as natural selection eliminates them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's quaff a root beer with Bill Mauldin

Born today in 1921, two time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin would have been 88 years old today.

Himself a decorated infantryman (he was wounded at Anzio), he began drawing cartoons for The Stars and Stripes, often centering on two soldiers named "Willie and Joe".

I don't pretend to know a lot about this member of "the greatest generation", but I do have a feeling for the important contribution he made to us humans.

In the propaganda thick war years, Bill wrote and drew a cartoon for the grunts that were doing the work. The jarheads and squids and wingnuts and dogfaces that were out there on the front lines getting shot at and getting dirty, who were away from the Hollywood war bond drives and parades.

He wrote and drew what the guy who just wanted to go home was experiencing. And was doing it just for the boys over there.

Here's some "Willie and Joe" strips.

Showing his recognition and appreciation for what Bill did all those decades ago, Charles Schulz paid tribute to him in his own strip "Peanuts". Himself a veteran of WWII, Schulz would, every year on Veterans Day from 1969-1999, send Snoopy to Bill Mauldin's house to "Quaff a few root beers and tell war stories.".

Thanks Bill for making an impact on the little guy.

We appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Uncle Jeffy's Sketchbook v. 3.0: Annoying Little Blood Clots & Pet Giant Monsters

A couple of other ideas from Uncle Jeffy's Sketchbook, as yet not flushed out.

My battle with medical science. The story of how an infinitesimal blood clot, smaller than the pointy end of a pin, brought a 250 pound man to his knees and how I overcame.

It has a happier ending than it sounds. Luckily I have the strength of 10 men and the recuperative powers of "Wolverine".

Then there's a notion I have that I could put an end to all the real life injustices of the every day real world...

...if only I had a "pet" Giant Monster to do my bidding. Pardon the graphic nature of the above.

Me and my monster...THAT'D I'd teach 'em. ALL of 'em!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Uncle Jeffy's Sketchbook v. 2.0: Postcards from the Timestream.

I was born and reared in Great Falls, Montana, which is also the home of "western artist/painter/sculptor" Charles M. Russell.

I even attended Russell Elementary from K-6 and graduated Charles M. Russell High School. Charlie Russell differed from his more famous counterpart Remington, for the humanity and humor he put in his pieces. In addition to showing the beauty and ruggedness of the west, he also depicted an irony and sadness in his characters faces and situations.

As a schoolboy, we took field trips to his home, studio and museum. Of all his paintings and sculptures, I was most entranced by the letters he would write to his family and friends. Little notes about the current goings on, which he would illustrate with little sketches and scenes around the borders.

This lead to me coming up with this as yet undeveloped concept.

"Postcards from the Timestream" in my sketchbook:

Timetraveler Erwin would travel to points in time and send postcards home. Not necessarily from a scientific point of view, but from a more everyman human POV.

Someday I'll wring this idea out more. I like it.

Maybe as a character to talk about the famous birthdays I do here?


More to come from my sketchbook another day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Uncle Jeffy's Sketchbook v. 1.2

Sketch Two: Action Frank -

Action Frank was born Akshunt Frank Franklyn to wealthy a Dutch-American family, heirs to a vst cookie importer fortune. Born with an asymmetry of the skull, doctors advised he wear a helmet from birth to help re-shape the bone. Much like a shark though, Frank's physiognomy actually contains no bone and his skeletal structure is made up entirely of cartilage, so his head never did come together.

In embarrassment, the family left young Akshunt to the care of "DWEeB" (Doctors With Expertise en Bupkus), a secret underground society to raise and experiment on at their will, and officially disowned him and destroyed all documentation linking them to him. The Doctors at DWEeB performed physical and phsycological tests on the boy, the horrors of which would drive any normal man insane. They convinced him he could speak with animals. They convinced him he had been born with a prehensile tail, then told him it had been mangled in a horrible thresher accident, just so they could monitor the phantom pain conjured in his addled brain.

There were many more, but I understand some of you are eating while reading this.

Young Akshunt eventually escaped the mad doctors, made his way to a grand jury and testified against their nefarious schemes. He then became a ward of the state, until he was assigned under the guardianship of the handsome, wealthy, benevolent Geoffrey Von Oberdorfer IV.

He would along the way trade in the football helmet he wore to protect his undeveloped skull for a more sporty pith helmet. He explains the practicality of this by saying, "No matter where you go, if you have to take a pith, it's right there!"

He tried to use his imaginary ability to speak with animals to become "The Cow Whisperer" and start an animal husbandry consulting business.

Then he found that "Husband"ry wasn't as erotic or romantic as it sounded, and gave up.

Now, armed with a "Never-Say-Die" attitude that can only come from pure, unadulterated ignorance and lack of common sense, Action Frank fearlessly fights side by side with Congo Jeffy!

Traveling the globe in battling for truth and justice and ever-long in search of true bovine-love.

Look for Action Frank at a pet store near you!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bob Kane..."I'm Batman, Dammit!"

Today is the birthday of Bob Kane. Born is 1916, Bob would have been 93 years old today.

Back in 1938, Action Comics #1 was published featuring the first appearance of Superman and the age of the superhero was born. Young Bob was working at DC Comics at the time, and after seeing Superman's success, the powers that be turned to all their young staffers and asked for ideas for more super-hero ideas that they could publish.

This was on a Friday afternoon, and the following Monday Bob returned with some sketches he had made of his new idea, "Bat-Man".

Unlike Superman, Batman was a character with no super powers, he was a masked man who used his detective and natural physical skills to fight crime. Partly based on "Zorro" and visually inspired by Leonardo Di Vinci's sketches of men in flying suits, Bob was given the go ahead.
In May of 1939, Detective Comics #27 featured the first appearance of the character. "The Dark Night Detective", "The Dark Knight", "The Caped Crusader" hit the comic book page, and the rest is history.

Here's that first 6 page story for your enjoyment!

Batman was a huge success and still is today. From the imagination of a young Jewish boy in Depression era Brooklyn, the character still captures our imagination today.

There is a lot of controversy over Bob Kane and his ghost artists and writers over the years, mostly spurred on by the fact that only his name appears on the strip. Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger and others have all been given credence in their contributions to the strip and fans still look down their noses at Kane for hogging the glory and money for himself and his shameless self-promotion over the years.

I really don't care about the ins and outs of the business side of all this though. I just appreciate the worthwhile work that was done.

Here from 1940 is probably one of the first full telling's of Batman the character's origin. Dark, serious simple drawings, that over the course of 2 pages, have kept storytellers going for 70 years in comics, TV and film and still have the fans wanting more.

Happy birthday Bob. Though many lay claim to contributing, it was you who brought all the creative forces together, recognized the value of the work and trudged through the dry business of it all.

You kept Batman alive and going when others would have walked away.

Thanks Bob!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bob Montana: The Typical Average American Teenager

Born this date in 1920, Bob Montana would have been 89 years old today.

Bob is responsible for creating perhaps the second most recognizable comic book icon in the history of the medium, just after Superman representing superheroes. Bob created the typical, average, American teenager, Archie Andrews.

Here from 1941's Pep Comics #22 is his first appearance:

Looks quite a bit different from the Archie gang as you all grew up with, I know. Quite a bit rougher, but Bob's drawing skills slickened up quickly as he kept producing more strips of the happy gang from Riverdale.

Almost immediately, the feature became a staple in newspapers as well. Below you can see just how clean Bob's line became. All the more to add to the Idyllic life modeled in the strip.

Here's the real astonishing thing about Archie Andrews et al. 1938 was the dawn of the comic book as ushered in by Superman. Through WWII, there was a wide variety of genres well represented. Superhero, Teenager (like Archie), Detective stories, War, Western, Romance, Science Fiction, Horror. Then in the 1950's the Superhero fell by the wayside and the rest became the norm with Archie still on top. The 1960's dawned a new age of the superhero, and through the 1970's the War, Western, Romance, Sci-Fi and horror comics fell to almost non-existence, but Archie stayed on.

To this day Archie hangs around where none of his ilk can be seen.

But the real reason for this post is...the eternal decision between Betty and Veronica. This year it was announced that Archie would pop the question to Veronica and they would be married.
Your characters finally lost credibility with me Bob.
Every one knows Jeffy's stance on these matters...

Maryanne over Ginger...

Janet over Chrissy...

Rachael Ray over Giada DeLorentis...

and Jeffy and America's favorite perennial average typical teenager would always choose ...

Betty over Veronica.

It's a no brainer.

Happy birthday anyway Bob. Maybe you should rise from the dead and straighten this nightmare out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk, Everyone's Favorite Stooge...Coitenly!

Happy Would-Be 106th Boithday to Jerome "Curly" Howard!

Born today in 1903, Jerry...or Curly was the Stooge we all wanted to imitate. A true personification of the human id, he seemed the most like we manic folks, who are stoogophiles!

Jerry was the youngest of the 5 Horwitz brothers (Shemp, Moe and Curly all changed to Howard when they entered show bid-ness) and so was dubbed "Babe" by his older siblings, a nickname which stuck with him for life. He was only "Curly" in front of the camera.

In the early 1930's, when Shemp grew tired of the abuse (financial and emotional and physical) suffered under from Ted Healy, Moe suggested his other brother "Babe" to replace him. Jerry walked in to the meeting with Ted coiffed as he standardly was in his own stage persona, with longish wavy brown hair and a bushy moustache. Healy said, "You don't fit in! Your brother's got that bowl haircut and Larry's got the porcupine're too normal looking!". Jerry left the meeting, went downstairs and had a moustache-ectomy and his hair shaved away and came back and said, "Just call me Curly.", and the rest is history.

In 1934 the boys broke away from Healy to begin their long run at Columbia doing the shorts we all know and love. Curly was the bright light who really clicked with audiences, until illness came.

In 1946 Curly had a debilitating stroke which left him unable to perform as Curly did. If you watch the last 12 or so shorts that Curly appears in, we can assume that there were a series of smaller strokes that happened beforehand left unattended. He seems much more slowed down and sluggish.

This was the end of Jerry Howard's career.

Shemp was asked and agreed to come back and fill the shoes of the third stooge until Curly could recover, but Curly never got back to fighting strength. He lived until 1952 and had a happy and relaxing retirement with his 4th wife. They even had a child in 1948.

Below is one of my favorite pictures of the stooges. A few shorts into Shemp coming back, Curly was visiting the set, and came up with a gag idea. Moe, Larry and Shemp are running through a train car trying to find someone, when they're suddenly distracted by a strange snoring sound. You all know the one...go ahead...I'll wait while you do it...there, feel better? There in his seat is the sleeping Jerry "Curly" "Babe" Howard in all his glory.

It's the only scene on film that features all 3 Howard's. A gem.

Here's a couple of Curly clips to start your day with.

The first a scene from "Disorder in the Court":

Next is "Swinging the Alphabet" from "Violent is the Word for Curly":

Just try and get that out of your head the rest of the day. I dare you.
Curly's career was stopped short when he was just 43 and his life when just 49.

Aren't we the better and happier for the short time he was here though?

I think so.
Thanks Jerry!

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