Friday, May 24, 2013

Pop culture roundup May 24, 2013: Frank Zappa and Shuggie Otis; Brady Bunch; Daleks, Beatles!

Via Dangerous MindsHear a rare 1970 acoustic jam between Frank Zappa and then-whiz kid musician Shuggie Otis.

Otis has a new, coupled with an old classic, out now.


Three of the Brady kids reunited at a Cincinnati amusement park last weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a "Brady Bunch" episode filmed there.
Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) met with fans, shared memories from the show and introduced clips from the sitcom.

Via "Kid" Robson: Vintage Dalek transfers!


Beatles biographer Hunter Davies has donated John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to "Strawberry Fields Forever," "She Said, She Said," and "In My Life" to the British Museum.
The manuscripts and other Beatles rarities were donated to the Library by Hunter Davies, The Beatles’ biographer, under the new Cultural Gifts Scheme.

The scheme allows individuals or companies to donate “pre-eminent” items to the nation during their lifetime in return for a reduction in their UK tax liability.

Davies, who had loaned The Beatles items to the Library in the past, said: “I want my Beatles collection to be kept together, in one place, and on public display, and the British Library is the perfect home for it."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pop stuff: What I'm reading, watching, hearing, etc.

Star Trek Into Darkness
It must be summer, because the sequels are on the screen and the sound of big explosions fills the air. This second installment of J. J. Abrams' classic Trek reboot gets the season started with several big bangs and lots of destruction. The U.S.S. Enterprise takes some severe photon (or whatever) hits, and Scotty's not pleased.

All that's beside the point, really though, because the main focus here is on the interactions between beloved characters lovingly played. As on the original TV show, the interactions between Kirk and Spock, Bones and Spock, pretty much everyone and Spock, is what's fun.

With his nearly clone-like resemblance to Leonard Nimoy and his permanently arched eyebrows, Zachary Quinto is a blast to watch as everyone's favorite pointy eared straight man. A new wrinkle is added in that this Spock is also in a relationship with Lt. Uhura (played by Zoe Saldana), which brings up all sorts of, from Spock's Aspergian perspective, illogical emotions and circumstances. A scene in which these two have a tiff is a comic highlight of the film. Vulcan's are the ultimate clueless males when it comes of understanding a woman's emotions, it seems.

As with the first film, this is essentially a two-hour riff on classic Trek, but one that's a lot more action-packed and funnier than the ones the sci-fi nerds on my school bus used to have (I'm not casting aspersions. I was a comic book nerd. I didn't really get all this stuff about the prime directive and Klingon words for mayonnaise, etc.)

It's tough to describe too much of the plot of "Into Darkness" without spoiling surprises, but it's fast-paced and entertaining throughout. It's not a great movie, or even that coherent. The tone morphs from sci-fi adventure in an opening sequence that may be the best part of the film, into big explosion thriller, into epic space battle, into superhero showdown. Don't worry about it, the popcorn goes down easily enough. And, as I said, the performances are the main thing.

I will say that we get to see the first Abrams-era appearance of the Klingons, which I suppose may be a big deal. And BBC-philes will enjoy Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch as the film's villain and Doctor Who's Mickey, Noel Clarke, in a small but important role.

Volume 3 by She & Him
Maybe it's because I don't watch "The New Girl," but I've so far avoided coming to hate Zoe Deschanel. My only encounters with the doe-eyed demon are on these records of gem-like pop she records with M. Ward. And iPhone commercials. Those are annoying. But if you're annoyed by ubiquity, aren't iPhones more obnoxious than Ms. Deschanel?

Anyway, I've found little to dislike about the She & Him collaborations, all of which feature Deschanel's strong, catchy original tunes with a few well-chosen covers mixed in.

This isn't revolutionary music. For the most part it's firmly set in 1965 sound-wise, with strong girl group harmonies, Fender-reverbed guitar, Hal Blaine-style thundering drums and lyrics that rarely venture from the topics of love gone good or bad.

Along with being a great guitar player, M. Ward knows his stuff as the producer of these albums. There are small touches throughout that demonstrate how deeply he's listened to classic pop of the past. These are songs that sound like they might've been recorded at Gold Star or Western Studios in Los Angeles during the heyday of Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and the Wrecking Crew.

But it all serves Deschanel's songs, which are, as I mentioned very good. On all these albums, I hear tunes that sound familiar and realize they're new. The melodies are very strong, as are Deschanel's lead and multi-tracked backup vocals.

Vol. 3 launches strongly with "I've Got Your Number, Son," powered by Deschanel's high, flutely backup vocals, those Blaine-like drums and a driving piano riff. "Never Wanted Your Love" and "I Could've Been Your Girl," are strong tunes in a similar vein. On "Somebody Sweet to Talk To" and "Together" the sound ventures into the 1970s a bit. The first of these sounds like "Rumours"-era Fleetwood Mac, while the second has a pre-disco R&B feel to it.

Covers include an excellent version the Ellie Greenwich nugget "Baby" and Blondie's "Sunday Girl" from 1979.

As with the previous She & Him LPs, this one is strong throughout and, at least around my place, will make a great soundtrack for what I hope is a sunny summer. Zooey deniers who love great pop shouldn't deny themselves the same pleasure.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I went through a brief period of reading big books with maps in the front during my middle school years, but have ready nary a fantasy book since. It's just not my thing.

But, a couple years back, after reading an article in the New Yorker about George R.R. Martin and the "Game of Thrones" phenomenon I was intrigued enough to give this book a try. It took me a while to get around to it, and another little while to read it, but I did and I'm now a fan.

While I dreaded a long and painful slog, I found the book both easy and engaging to read.

There are, as you've no doubt heard, a zillion characters. But I was generally able to keep track of them all and what they were up to.

And the intrigue of Martin's plot kept me eagerly reading on

The New Yorker article made a comparison between "Game of Thrones" and "The Sopranos," and this is apt. The tricky relationships between the families in the story, and the way they maneuver around one another in order to maintain standing, increase their power, and not get "whacked" is similar to the mob.

You get to know these people and come to either hate or worry about them. Sometimes both.

In this first book, at least, the action is very realistic, though there are hints of magic to come. By building up his world and making it real, Martin ably sets the stage for us to accept some of the more fantastical elements it's clear that he'll be introducing later on.

I thought I might just read this first book and then check out the "Game of Thrones" TV show. But I've now decided to read the series and then watch it. It may take me another year or two, but when I'm finished reading, viewing the series should be more rewarding, although I keep hearing that the show takes a lot of liberties with the books. This way, I'll be able to complain about it!

Video find: Making of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jack Kirby's grandson launches Kickstarter for new book project, to include photos and lost play script by King of Comics

A script to a never-performed play and never-seen family photos of Jack Kirby will be included in a book the King of Comics' grandson, Jeremy, is assembling with some funding help via Kickstarter.

Here's Jeremy's video describing the project. You can donate here.

Video find: Monkees TV commercials

Here are the Monkees shilling for Kellogg's, Kool-Aid, Nerf and more!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New trailer for The Wolverine

The Clash announces huge box set, hits collection - details and teaser video

Looks like I may need to sell off my Clash CDs and trade up for this huge box from one of my favorite bands.


The Clash Sound System: Recorded Works Box Set 
Designed and compiled by The Clash.

Collected for the first time:
  • All of The Clash's seminal studio albums remastered.
  • 3 CDs of demos, non-album singles, rarities and B-sides.
  • DVD of all videos with unseen footage by Julien Temple and Don Letts.
  • Original and newly commissioned Clash fanzines, exclusive poster, dog tags, stickers, badges and more.

And, for the less obsessed:

The Clash Hits Back

  • 2-CD album, featuring 33 of the band's iconic tracks.
  • Sequenced from their legendary Brixton Fairdeal show in 1982.
  • Containing the best studio recordings of the full set, plus 8 extra tracks and
    the original setlist, as handwritten by Joe Strummer, which he usually tapped to the back of his Telecaster before each gig.

New comics and more May 22, 2013: Fantastic Four; The Phantom; Wally Wood; Golden Book Lone Ranger; Terry Nation and the Daleks, more!

Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon.

Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four - Volume 9

The Phantom The Complete Series: The Charlton Years Volume 2

Eerie Tales of Crime & Horror: The Complete Non-EC 1950s Crime & Horror Comics of Wally Wood

The Lone Ranger (Little Golden Book)

Make Good Art by Neil Gaimin

Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented the Daleks