Friday, May 10, 2013

Things I don't usually say: Go John McCain!

I'm usually poles apart from the so-called Maverick, but agree with him on this one: We shouldn't be forced to pay for cable channels we don't watch.

For the pleasure of AMC or HBO right now, we're obligated to buy cable TV and pay for lots of channels we never watch. But McCain wants to change that so we could buy channels a la carte.

Right now, I don't have cable and get buy just fine with Netflix, over-the-air channels and streaming rentals via Amazon. I save a lot of money over cable and can see anything I like. But I like McCain's idea detailed below:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)  has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let you get HBO without paying for the DFH Network, defying a powerful telecom industry that is vociferously opposed to allowing pay per channel options.

The “Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013″ would let consumers buy cable channels “a la carte,” something the Netflix and Hulu generation has been clamoring for to the trepidation of telecom giants.

“You want to watch one television program, you can watch it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. The situation today is obviously far different from that,” McCain said introducing the bill in the Senate Thursday.  “That’s unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry against the consumer.”

For avid fans of “Girls,” “Homeland,” or “Game of Thrones,” McCain is speaking to their deepest desires. The ability to subscribe to HBO Go, without paying Comcast, Verizon, or the Dish Network nearly $100 a month has for a long time seemed like a fantasy.

The super group that never was: Hendrix, McCartney, Miles, Tony Williams

Wow, this would've been something to hear:
It's been long known that jazz trumpeter Davis and guitarist Hendrix had been toying with plans to record together in the year before Hendrix's sudden death in 1970. But a piece of memorabilia, which has been on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague, confirms that they were also trying to recruit McCartney as the bass player. Williams, one of the best jazz drummers of the 1960s, was also lined up for the group.
A telegram (complete with a typographical error, below) that Hendrix sent to McCartney at The Beatles' Apple Records in London on October 21, 1969, told him to get in touch with producer Alan Douglas:
"We are recording and LP together this weekend. How about coming in to play bass stop call Alan Douglas 212-5812212. Peace Jimi Hendrix Miles Davis Tony Williams."

Video: Beatle attacked by grasshoppers!

Here's some great video of Paul McCartney playing live in Brazil this week, where the stage was attacked by hundreds of  grasshoppers.

Pop culture roundup: Jeeves and Wooster; She-Hulk; Orson Welles; Ken Nordine; Mary Roberts Rinehart

I'm never crazy about contemporary authors reviving classic characters, but some folks may be interested in a new work featuring P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster penned by Sebastian Faulks.

Faulks previously wrote "Devil May Care," featuring Ian Fleming's James Bond.
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells," to be released in the United States on Nov. 5, St. Martin’s Press said on Tuesday...The new book chronicles their latest adventure in a “comic work worthy of the master himself,” St. Martin’s said in a statement.

A woman dressed as Marvel Comics' She Hulk allegedly assaulted a teen outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York City earlier this week.
Police said that at the time of the incident – just after 3am on Friday, April 26 – the woman suspected of the assault was covered in green body paint with dyed red hair.
But it is believed she was a white woman, in her late teens or early twenties and around 5ft 8in tall with a medium build.


Spy Vibe posts a nice birthday tribute to the multi-talented Orson Welles.

I like this interview exchange between Welles and fellow movie director (and major Welles fan) Peter Bagdonovich regarding Welles' days starring on "The Shadow" radio series.
OW: Lamont Cranston, that was me.

PB: You didn't write those things?

OW: My God, I didn't even know what was going to happen to me while I was in 'em. Not rehearsing- which was part of my deal with Blue Coal- the sponsor, made it so much more interesting. When I was thrown down the well or into some fiendish snake pit, I never knew how I'd get out.

PB: You had nothing to do with that marvelous opening speech-

OW: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men...?" Well, I said it every week for years.


Via Booksteve's fab 1966: My Favorite Year blog: I love this fan-made video featuring a tune from Ken Nordine's classic Colors LP.


Scientific American profiles novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose mystery novel "The Bat," inspired Batman. Turns out that's just one of many of her accomplishments.
 She was a wife and mother; a nurse, feminist, adventuress, playwright, comedy writer, war correspondent, advocate for Native American rights who was initiated into the Blackfoot Tribe. She marched for women’s suffrage. She wrote about the injustice of wife-beating long before it was popular to take up such a cause. She was a breast cancer survivor who advocated for breast exams in an age when such things weren’t often talked about. She was the first female war correspondent on the Belgian Front in World War I; King Albert chose her to take his first statement on the war. She crossed the Cascades on horseback over a little-explored pass that nearly killed her, and floated uncharted rapids on the Flathead River in a wooden boat.

Fab Friday: Vintage Beatles pics

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Unreleased Andy Kaufman comedy album on the way

This could be interesting. From the press release:

Andy and His Grandmother is material never heard before, a skimming from 82 hours of micro-cassette tapes that Andy recorded during 1977-79. Andy regarded the micro-tape recorder as a fantastic new way of capturing his hoaxing, and carried it with him everywhere, for use at any given moment.
The album was curated by writer/producer/comedian Vernon Chatman, editor Rodney Asher. They also brought on Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader to narrate.
Check back here closer to the album’s release date, as it should be available in our Online Store.
Andy and His Grandmother track listing:
  1. Andy Is Making A Record
  2. Andy And His Grandmother
  3. Andy’s Land Live
  4. Andy Loves His Tape Recorder
  5. Slice Of Life
  6. Andy Goes To the Movies
  7. Kick In the Pants
  8. Andy Can Talk to Animals
  9. I’m Not Capable Of Having A Relationship
  10. Hookers
  11. Andy And His Grandmother Go For A Drive
  12. Sleep Comedy
  13. [HONK] vs. [DOG] A
  14. [HONK] vs. [DOG] B
  15. Andy Goes For A Taxi Ride
  16. Andy’s English Friend Paul
  17. I Want Those Tapes

Hear the remastered "Black Bird" from Paul McCartney's Wings Over America reissue

Video teaser for Mark Lewisohn's long-awaited Beatles bio - pre-order now

The world's leading authority on the Beatles - and author of the bestselling Beatles Recording Sessions - has completed the riveting first volume in a groundbreaking trilogy about the iconic band that changed the face of pop music. Tune In uncovers the lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo as never before.

 Forget what you've read or know about the Beatles, tune in, and start anew.
This is the lesser-known Beatles story - the pre-Fab years of Liverpool and Hamburg - and in many respects the most absorbing, extraordinary and incredible period of all. Here is the warts and all story of their family backgrounds, childhoods, and their infatuation with American music. As Tune In chronicles in amazing nuance, everything comes together in these years and in this one book: the Beatles' talent, charisma, looks, sex appeal, personalities, honesty, humor, attitude - and the Lennon-McCartney partnership.

Their enduring fame and legendary exploits have led to countless biographies of the Beatles, but now we have the ultimate portrait. Tune In is the first book in a genre-defining trilogy, telling the story of the Beatles from before their beginning up to the final night of 1962, with success within their grasp and on the cusp of a whole new kind of celebrity.

Pop reviews: Iron Man 3

At one point in this third Iron Man installment, Tony Stark, sleepless and suffering anxiety attacks following the epic events of the "Avengers" movie, describes himself as a "hot mess." He just can't seem to get it together enough to protect his girlfriend and save the world.

"Hot mess" is also an apt description of this disjointed, ill-conceived film. It can't seem to work itself up to following "The Avengers," either.

Granted, Joss Whedon's flick is a tough act to follow. It was funny, well-structured and packed with superheroes. But the first two Iron Man films, and all other Marvel movies to date, were all strong films on their own. "The Avengers" would have faltered had those films not done a good job of establishing their title characters and paving the way.

"Iron Man 3," on the other hand, seems unnecessary. It doesn't expand the on-screen Marvel Universe or set things up for "Avengers 2." And it lacks a strong villain and high-stakes plot.

Not that being a mediocre movie has hurt "Iron Man 3" at the box office. The record audiences during its opening weekend, and the enjoyment that millions of people took away from the film, indicate that we're not yet sick of superheroes.

In fact, Marvel is enjoying a brand loyalty on the big screen that's similar to its comic book heyday. These modern-day True Believers are loyal enough, even, to forgive or overlook the flaws of this film, which are plentiful.

"Iron Man 3"is slow to start, launching with a voice-over from Robert Downey, Jr., as the formerly cocky, now damaged, Tony Stark. And it takes lots of talk to establish that's he's been traumatized by the big battle in New York. We never see any clips of that action from "The Avengers," which would have helped tremendously. Instead we get the cinematic equivalent of a dull splash page littered with over-long captions and no action.

Villain-wise, Ben Kingsley brings some menace and mystery to his role as the Mandarin, but his co-villain Guy Pearce, as generic mad scientist Aldrich Killian, has nothing to work with but a grab bag of cliches.

The threat that Killian's cooked up in the lab is nebulous - a bunch of people who, for some gobbledygook reason, glow and sometimes explode. Somehow, having these folks show up in various places to blow themselves up is going to make Killian the Ruler of the World! Or something. Also, he's mad at Tony Stark, because years ago Killian was a nerd and Tony was mean to him.

It's all silly and, in some ways, reminded me more of an episode of the 1970s "Wonder Woman" TV show than a Marvel Movie. Despite all the explosions, there's a distinctly low-budget feel to it all, particularly the scenes set in Killian's lab where Tony's girlfriend Pepper Potts has, of course, been taken hostage. The set looks like it was recycled from an old Frankenstein movie.

This TV vibe is reinforced by a cheesy title montage at the end of the film (an indication of how disjointed this film really is), that shows bits and pieces from all three Iron Man films over lively music.

The notion of a superhero who's been traumatized by battle is an interesting one, and for a bit I though the movie might follow the comic book storyline of years ago when Tony Stark developed a drinking problem. Not the case. But, still, making Stark a little more vulnerable is a nice touch. If only the rest of the plot had made any sense.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau all return as Stark's pals and have some nice moments, particularly Favreau, who gets more screen time than previously as bodyguard Happy Hogan. But Rebecca Hall, an excellent actress, is wasted as a women from Tony's past. Her role might have been interesting but it falls prey to predictable, cliched storytelling.

So, there you have it: Marvel's first flop, production-wise if not financially. The studio and characters have built up loads of good will. But if subsequent films don't improve on the quality of this one, even true-believing fans will eventually lose interest.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Video teaser for Burt Bacharach retrospective on PBS June 1

Looks like this look back at Bacarach should include some classic performances:

Audi ad with Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto

So long, Dan Adkins -- some of his best covers

Comics historian J. David Spurlock reports that famed Marvel Comics artist/inker has passed away. Another big loss from Marvel's heyday.

In tribute, here's a look at some of Adkins' excellent cover art.

Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver pics

Preview: Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver


Today's Google doodle pays tribute to Saul Bass

Check out Google's nifty tribute to the great film title designer.

And here are some samples of Bass' work:

Vintage photos: Dick Van Dyke hosts CBS Cartoon Theatre 1955

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Video: Paul McCartney performs Eight Days a Week live

Promo video for new Beach Boys live collection

So long Ray Harryhausen - some of his classic scenes

Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen has passed away at age 92. The Guardian has a nice overview of his career, which included some of the classic scenes below:

New, huge Adam West Batman action figure up for pre-order from Amazon


For close to 50 years the Batman TV show has delighted audiences and for several generations Adam West is the Batman. We grew up with this iconic version of Batman and we are honored to have created this 18" tall poseable figure featuring Adam West's likeness, functioning utility belt, interchangeable hands, and loads more.

NECA Batman Adam West Action Figure, 1/4 Scale