Categories
Print Reviews

Lee And Kirby: The Wonder Years

Lee And Kirby: The Wonder Years

by Mark Alexander

Twomorrows

Author Mark Alexander (RIP) even outright admits at one point in this authoritative tome that some parts of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby story have been told so many times that it’s impossible to add anything new. And for the most part it’s true: Alexander’s colleagues at Twomorrows publish the monthly Kirby Collector, which tirelessly tells “King” Kirby’s side of the story, while Stan Lee has no less than the Marvel Comics machine endlessly giving traction to his version of events. Hell, Michael Chabon’s breakthrough novel Kavalier and Klay pilfered large chunks of the sad sage of Lee ‘n’ Kirby for its titular characters. On the other hand, if there was a story that needs to be told again, especially in the Twomorrows style of combining diligent research with a metric ton of original artwork culled from collectors all over the world, it’s this one.

The tempestuous partnership of writer/hypeman Stan Lee and extraordinary artist Jack Kirby gave birth to a Marvel Comics “universe” whose jointly-created characters are still the cornerstone of Marvel Comics, some fifty years after Fantastic Four #1 hit the newsstands. The aforementioned Fantastic Four was the fullest flowering of that collaboration, and their nine-year run is the focus of The Wonder Years. Throughout The Wonder Years, the focus is laserlike — on the two’s work on Fantastic Four as a comic book empire steadily builds up around them, and on their own relationship as it crumbles to dust.

Y’know, come to think of it, the side you take in this fractured alliance tells a lot about the kind of person you are; it’s a popular culture Rorschach test along the lines of the Beatles vs. Stones debates. The Wonder Years is great ammo for both sides.

Twomorrows: twomorrows.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Rebelution

Rebelution

The Expendables and Passafire

Cocoa Riverfront Park, Cocoa, FL • August 18, 2012

At first it was difficult to find our way to the Cocoa Riverfront Park. (My son and I were a team for this show.) That was until I pulled out my prized Scooby-Doo toenail that I had found earlier in an old “haunted” house. You see, with that claw I was able to cut a hole in the smoke filled air in the very same way that a cartoon great dane would have done. I poked my head through the hole, and jinxy, what do you know, I found the Riverfront park. I replaced my Doo claw into my pocket and made my way to the cloudy sea of blond natty dreads and bikini tops.

Passafire

Jared Campbell
Passafire

Passafire played a sweet set during the daylight, generating that pale-skin irie. The songs which these Savannah Georgians dished out made me not really care about the juicy muddied ground that was rivuleting into my sneakers. Those smooth upstroked riffs breezing through the palm trees out over the park and on to the Indian River Lagoon generated the positive vibe they were going for. The sun was setting, the red eyes were reddening, and the beer line, although very long, was full of polite, happy people.

During Passafire’s set I watched as the Trop-Rock dance unfolded. This dance is called the Cupup Headbob. I have studied this dance for many years and am an expert. Here are the essential moves:

1. Eyelids must be kept at half mast.

2. Eyebrows must be raised.

3. What were we talking about here? Mmm, chips would be good

4. Oh yeah, you have to bob your head.

5. Hold a plastic cup with your drinking hand near your face. Barbecue would be nice too, or maybe… hey that girl is really cute.

6. Every few minutes switch hands so that you can dead-finger snap-pack an invisible can of Skoal several times while whistling.

7. Repeat.

During this show, I realized there were also a few new options:

1. Throw a flip-flop willy nilly into the crowd.

2. Laugh/Cough.

The Expendables

Jared Campbell
The Expendables

After Passafire came The Expendables. It was their turn to bogart the stage. They drifted in and out of island-timed riffs and made the occasional obligatory pot reference. The audience sang every word with them. Bold crowd surfers were tossed about. I’d like to see a study on boy and girl crowd surfing durations. I hypothesize that dudes eat dirt two to one, but I digress. At one glorious point they played a metal instrumental which really showcased their musicality. Their cool points went up to 11 as the riffs reminded me of some old Iron Maiden songs. Their guitar players shred. I was impressed by the number of flip-flops that entered the sky during this part. Apparently, airborne flip-flops quantify respect. They played “Bowl for Two” and did one of those clever, split the crowd and have a singing competition with the other side of the crowd routines. The only thing they were missing was a few beach balls.

Rebelution

Jared Campbell
Rebelution

The headliners, Rebelution, were up next. It was nighttime by this point, and the stagehands reset the lighting slightly to totally mess with our heads. The Riverfront park stage looked incredible with these changes. Whoever was responsible for it deserves to have several flip-flops hurled at them. To my disbelief, the smoke became thicker, and as the lights panned the crowd it looked as though we were all in a smoldering forest of hair. Outside the perimeter fence I saw a police dog with donut sprinkles around his face totally leg humping his passed-out handler. It was that smoky.

Rebelution brought their mindset of reggae music and being all-around nice gents to the forefront. There was shrubbery on stage casting shadows on the upper stage. The few oak trees in the park were illuminated as colorful lights danced around. One set of lights resembled smoke rings, as they lit up the smoke coming from the crowd. Because we were standing near the sound/light guys, we were able to see and hear everything.

Rebelution

Jared Campbell
Rebelution

Rebelution played all of their hits, to which everyone sang along. They played arm-waving games with the crowd, peace-sign games, sing-along games, and double-hands-up games. We sang Yeah-Yo! Yeah-Yo! at the top of our lungs in unison. I became hopeful that someone would do a statistical analysis of the decay period of having your hand up and not having your hand up during a concert. This could help with maximizing waving your hands like you just don’t care and ultimately lead to perfecting the live music experience.

During “Safe and Sound” I had a moment. This was the song that my son uses for his alarm clock. I wanted to go and jostle him awake, but he was already smiling and dancing away to the song so I just gave him a big hug and snapped a picture of us. We bonded. I love that kid!

They played “Green to Black” as an encore. The crowd responded as expected. Cupup Headbob, brah!

Even though I don’t listen to a steady diet of Reggae or Trop-Rock, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. It was fun and I would do it again. I suggest you also do your part and support these bands.

Rebelution: rebelutionmusic.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Wild Flag

Wild Flag

with Mission of Burma

Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, NY • 8/3/12

What do speed-dating and today’s musicians’ side-projects have in common? Both meet in a short, chance encounter, where a timer is set for a couple to share ideas and check each other out before moving on to the next person or thing. But after doing it enough times, you eventually run into the same people. And while side-projects can be hit-or-miss, sometimes bands whose members beget other bands will create something good. Enter Wild Flag.

Carrie Brownstein

May Terry
Carrie Brownstein

Feel free to disagree, but let’s just admit that Wild Flag is indeed a supergroup, at least as far as ’90s female-led indie-rock bands are concerned. The post-punk fab-foursome of Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, and Janet Weiss weaves a rather tangled web of side projects that can also read like a telenovela:

Carrie and Janet were both in Sleater-Kinney, but while Mary was in Helium, she and Carrie hooked up to form The Spells. Meanwhile, Janet also co-founded Quasi, which at one point included Joanna Bolme from The Minders, where Rebecca also played keyboards. And at one point, Janet hooked up with Rebecca to play in a local cover band, The Shadow Mortons.

Wild Flag’s self-titled debut album was released last year, and was followed by a tour that went through last spring. Unfortunately, Wild Flag is not actively doing a promotional tour, narrowing down their performances to a couple of select events. It was perplexing why this performance suddenly cropped up. Maybe it’s because NPR was one of the Brooklyn Arts Media sponsors, and it’s no coincidence that Carrie has ties through the Monitor Mix blogging days for public radio. In any case, this free — yes, FREE — concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Bandshell was a scrumptous treat of Riot Grrl goodness!

Mission of Burma

May Terry
Mission of Burma

Before the Wild Flag headline, post-punk veterans Mission of Burma started their set. With their latest album, Unsound, released this past July, the power trio of Roger Miller, Clint Conley, and Peter Prescott demonstrated with raging force that they can still rock hard even three decades after Signals, Calls, and Marches was released in 1981. The Bandshell had a fair number of attendees there to just see MoB, and by the end of their set, I’m guessing that some new converts will be checking out older albums like Vs.

Mary and Carrie

May Terry
Mary and Carrie

But the night clearly belonged to Wild Flag, who came onstage at around 9:30pm, opening with “Glass Tambourine,” followed by “Electric Band,” and “Future Crimes.”

Wild Flag is a fresh fusion that blends the hard edge and united vocal chant typical of Sleater-Kinney, the ethereal and psychedelic bend from Helium, and a retro indie-pop sound from The Minders. Their vocal harmonies for the most part worked well (with the exception of a couple of pitchy spots, but hey, it’s rock, not classical), and their playing was highly complementary.

Janet Weiss

May Terry
Janet Weiss

Janet’s thunderous drumming forms the backbone for most of Wild Flag’s sound, and worked great with Rebecca’s use of the lower notes on the keyboard to fill in bass lines. Carrie’s wound-up and jagged guitar style funneling a dirty distortion oftentimes was front and center, but Mary’s more refined and cleaner guitar sound deserves its own listen as she often uses techniques that work for the song without being overbearing. It was tough to see the stage sitting from a distance, but Mary’s melodic riff played through guitar tapping on “Short Version” was brilliant. Another great bonus is to hear Mary sing the unreleased Wild Flag song, “Nothing,” that really should have been added to the debut album as another bonus track — maybe for the second album? [Wink, wink, nudge, nudge?]

Mary Timony

May Terry
Mary Timony

Visually, there’s a lot of jumping and head-bobbing from all the band members to keep the energy up on their more driving songs, but the spotlight mostly shines on Carrie’s eye-catching onstage moves which seem to draw from a lot of either taped or live concert footage of classic and punk rock bands. There are the Jagger-esque hand-on-flank poses without her guitar, Pete Townsend windmills with the Gibson SG in hand, and spastic head turns, jumps, and high kicks seen in countless punk rock concerts.

“Racehorse” rocks like a Sleater-Kinney song, with frantic keyboard passages during the solo, and was Carrie’s cue to strut her bad-self over center stage, literally stand on the bass drum, and hold the guitar up way above her head like the statue of liberty. The crowd went wild as a sea of iPhones suddenly showed up for photo ops. Undoubtedly, Carrie gets an “A” for working the crowd.

Carrie

May Terry
Carrie

A cute moment came next when the band asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to Rebecca and it was easy to see a modest and slightly embarrassed, but touched look on her face. This led into the breakout track of the album, “Romance,” which ended the set.

Wild Flag then returned to stage for the encore and performed two covers that they’ve done on past shows – Television’s “See No Evil,” and Patti Smith’s “Ask The Angels.” The entire Wild Flag set was only an hour and fifteen minutes, and leaving still amp’d from such a great performance, there was a yearning to hear more. Then again, what more could one expect for free?

With the acclaim and awards from the IFC series, Portlandia, a book deal with Ecco/Harper Collins, and hints of a possible Sleater-Kinney reunion somewhere down the road, Carrie Brownstein has her dance card full, and with Mary in DC, thousands of miles from Portland, I wonder what the future holds for Wild Flag. Is this a one-time deal, or will we see more of this talented group? Let’s hope for the latter. Someone set that speed-dating timer for another 15 minutes, because we’re not done yet.

Wild Flag: wildflagmusic.com

Categories
Angry Ink

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

In 1989, 23 years ago, the important punk rock band Poison Idea released an album (these were things that contained music to be played through some sort of mechanical device) called Ian Macaye, an homage to the guy responsible for Emo.

Here’s what the album cover looks like.

I think Rage Against the Machine should release an album with a similar cover and call it Paul Ryan.

I won’t buy it because I can’t stand Rage Against the Machine. But maybe the army of Paul Ryan fans out there will.

I don’t like ‘Rage, never did, never will. I’ve seen them perform a couple of times and, yeah, there were folks into them (not the first time, though — when they opened for House of Pain). Not me, though. I don’t like their pro-communist politics for useful idiots, their “fusion” of rap and metal, if that’s what it is; basically, I don’t like their sound. They don’t groove and do they have guitars? What they did with “Street Fighting Man” is criminal — man, it really blows… But hey, for the billions out there who know what they like, I don’t expect a rat’s ass given.

But one of those fans is Paul Ryan? Know what? He is not the first follower of Ayn Rand or something pretty close to that who’s a Rage fan I know. I didn’t get it way back then and I still don’t get it. Rage Against the Machine is a band I turn off if they’re on the radio or satellite. Again, rat’s ass’s not expected by me from the Rage fans.

Things Rage Against the Machine is strongly for that Conservative Young Guns who like rap-metal obviously support as well: Communism run by blue-blood political elites who know better than the masses; Free Mumia!; War Crimes Tribunal for the entire Bush Family; Communism; criminalization of meat eating; Homosexuality; public nudity in the name of Tipper Gore; Communism; and Communism.

Reading between the lines, the economics of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and William F. Buckley, Jr. like, dude, they jump out of the speakers if you play it loud enough!

But you know what? I guess if a tea-partying, Ayn Rand acolyte can dig Rage Against the Machine an Irish guy sitting in Rev. Wright’s church every Sunday for twenty years may actually be capable of thinking for himself and separating the wheat from the chaff…

I hear he’s a Led Zeppelin fan, too. Who isn’t?

Categories
Features

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

1920 – 2012

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

For me, writing an obituary for Ray Bradbury became an all-encompassing writer’s block and an almost impossible task. Part of me didn’t want to accept his passing, and the other part of me wanted to expound too much on what his writings and philosophy meant to me. How do you encapsulate in just a few short paragraphs just how special a man he was to millions of people from every corner of the Earth?

Inspired early on by horror films and comic books, Bradbury refused to leave these fantastic creatures on the pages of books and on theatre celluloid. Instead, with his own imagination fueled, he began to apply the unbelievable to ordinary day to day situations. Imagine a woman buried alive in the woods and a small child hearing the cries. Imagine a traveling carnival whose prizes for the unknowing are granted wishes of dire consequence. Imagine a world where books are burned — by the firemen themselves?

The way he looked at the ordinary and revealed the extraordinary is what I took away from Ray the most. Never again could I look at the world so simply. I now always question and imagine what could be, what if?

Bradbury’s curiosity for “what if?” combined with his wondrous imagination helped predict many items that are now day to day products, such as iPods and interactive television, and his belief in a town-like setting for a group of shops and theaters predated today’s modern shopping malls.

Wikipedia offers lists of Ray Bradbury’s accomplishments and awards, but if you don’t already know all about them, reading the list now won’t leave that much of an impression on you, other than the expected awe at such a prolific career in which more than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages.

What will have a profound effect on you is reading a novel of his, such as Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, or any one of the 600 short stories that he published.

I speak from experience. Bradbury’s classic, Dandelion Wine, was a reading assignment for me in 7th grade, and while my other classmates exhaled their complaints about how potentially boring a book about a boy’s summer could be, I jumped in head first and breathed in a world that very much mirrored my own sentiments regarding summers, families, and just growing up in general, so much so that I felt a kindred, almost spiritual pull towards his words and worlds.

• •

Great Grandma Prepares

Now it was as if a huge sum in arithmetic were finally drawing to an end. She had stuffed turkeys, chickens, squabs, gentlemen and boys. She had washed ceilings, walls, invalids and children. She had laid linoleum, repaired bicycles, wound clocks, stoked furnaces, swabbed iodine on ten thousand grievous wounds. Her hands had flown all around and down, gentling this, holding that, throwing baseballs, swinging bright croquet mallets, seeding black earth or fixings covers over dumplings, ragouts and children wildly strewn by slumber. She had pulled down shades, pinched out candles, turned switches, and- grown old. Looking back on thirty billions of things started, carried, finished and done, it all summed up, totaled out, the last decimal was placed, the final zero swung slowly into line a silent hour before reaching for the eraser.

— Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

• •

Each time I read a different story, whether in short or long form, I was equally charmed and stimulated by his use of the most creative adjectives and situational empathy for the humanity he brought to his subjects and stories. He was quoted as saying “no one ever died that had a family,” and that sentiment came from his belief that customs and traditions passed down from one generation to the next and carried on kept not only the spirit alive of a loved one but kept the loved one in the here and the now.

• •

Best Friends

Like all boys, they never walked anywhere, but named a goal and lit for it, scissors and elbows. Nobody won. Nobody wanted to win. It was in their friendship they just wanted to run forever, shadow and shadow. Their hands slapped library door handles together, their chests broke track tapes together, their tennis shoes beat parallel pony tracks over lawns, trimmed bushes, squirreled trees, no one losing, both winning, thus saving their friendship for other times of loss.

— Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

• •

I was so deeply moved by his observations and writings that I corresponded with him a few times over the years. The first time was actually a funny “out of the depths of despair” scenario as I was actually put on hold for a call-in on the Larry King show, waiting to speak with Ray. The screener came on the line stating “you’re the next caller up” and to have my question ready. With my heart pounding from immense exhilaration, my reality was completely shattered by the caller before me, who was going on and on and on, asking a question whose inane irrelevance to Mr. Bradbury was only frustratingly equaled by the time it took to ask it.

With me watching King’s hold button flashing on my television I suddenly heard the screener come back on the line stating, “Sorry we’re out of time” and with that, the flashing button and my hopes were simultaneously extinguished. After I collected myself, I sat down and wrote Ray about what his work had meant to me and of the day’s frustrating events in trying to reach him on the Larry King show, along with the question I was going to ask him. A few weeks later I received back a personally typed, hand signed letter from Ray on his own personal stationary full of warm salutations and wit.

Years went by before we corresponded again, but I always kept my literary torch burning for Mr. Bradbury. Out of the blue, I came across a website that had done some audio reenactments of some of his more popular works. When I found a hand-drawn map that Ray had supplied as a “historic reference” to his beloved Green Town, Illinois (an imaginary town based on the actual town where he did grow up and where many of his more famous characters resided), I felt compelled to write him once more.

Once again Ray replied with a letter that this time caught me quite by surprise. He wrote that my words had brought him to tears, and with heartfelt gratitude and love, he wanted me to know this. You could imagine my emotions at the time reading this from a man, a writer, whose work had deeply affected the way I looked at everything.

Ray Bradbury’s immense popularity and fame had him rubbing elbows for decades with celebrities who were just as excited to meet him as he was meeting them. But it was always the reader — just folks like myself who expressed their thanks and love of his work — that he said brought him the most joy.

When Ray was twelve years old he met up with a carnival performer one summer who went by the name of Mr. Electrico, who would “knight” someone in the crowd each evening, transferring his electricity to that person. Mr. Electrico told the young Bradbury to “Live Forever!”

Bradbury decided then that writing was his way to achieve this immortality, but he couldn’t know then that in the future his work would deeply affect such industry legends as Steven Spielberg, John Houston, Stephen King and even Walt Disney, influencing and inspiring them to dream, and helping inspire some of their greatest efforts, reaching beyond generations and in turn assuring that Ray Bradbury would indeed… live forever.

• •

A final memory.

Fire balloons.

You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still made and filled with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.

But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the stars, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.

I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this. No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they?

And that someone was me.

The wine still waits in the cellars below.

My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.

The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.

Why and how?

Because I say it is so.

— Ray Bradbury, 1974 Â

Categories
Music Reviews

múm

múm

Early Birds

Morr Music

Here are three words that somehow belong together: “Experimental Icelandic Collective.” That’s what mùm calls itself, and please don’t be so Rolling Stone as to capitalize them. The guys behind the band are the impressively named Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason, and this disc harkens back to their wanderlust days at the end of last century.

Bumming around Europe with a recorder and mixer gives some deceptively simple soundscapes that suppress melody and rhythm, but not the point of becoming hopeless noise. The compositions sometimes sound like backing music for a kiddy video game (“Hufeland”) or a student film that lacks theme, character development, or resolution (“Volkspark Freiderichshain”). At other times they go way, way far down the road of found sounds and ambient environmentalism. A good example is the mysterious voices populating “Enginn vildi hlusta á fiðlunginn, þvà strengir hans vóru slitnir (getiði ekki verið góð við mömmu okkar).” I’ll let you translate it; the voices are clearly human but of no discernible language. These are sounds stripped of nearly all “soundness” and located in a place devoid of “location.” Sure, a melancholy accordion drifts across the sky, but what I hear is “We are all alone, together.”

People want answers, answers to questions like “Why was this recorded?” “Who thought this was a good idea?” and even very rarely “Where can I get more of this?” That is conveniently provided in the handy digital book that came along with the music. It’s a PDF in my case, and looks typed with an old fashioned Royal Underwood, complete with actual Icelandic fonts. No lyrics, just little factoids about the songs along with a watercolor or pencil sketch somehow relevant to the emotion at hand. You can argue all of this was technically released, but that assumes you happened to be at the right party or record store in the less fashionable side of Reykjavik on a particular rainy Tuesday at 3 a.m. and had enough Kroner left to get the original vinyl or cassette collectible. But you missed it, so this is your option, and in some sense it’s better than the original: you can get it easily, keep it up to date on your latest gadget, and enjoy the relaxation of arty Icelandic experimental collective mùm in all their typographical glory.

múm: mum.iswww.facebook.com/mumtheband

Categories
Angry Ink

It’s not the first time a childhood hero turned out to be a douc

It’s not the first time a childhood hero turned out to be a douc

or

Obama by a Landslide in 2012

Picture of a guy with the Mormon Prophets and Mormon Jesus tattooed on his back.

Picture of a guy with the Mormon Prophets and Mormon Jesus tattooed on his back.

Hello, fans! It’s been a long time! Seven years! Wow!

Clint Eastwood was – WAS – my hero through Firefox, when was that? 1982? I didn’t like Firefox that much and for some composite of reasons I let him go. Went to see “Pale Rider” and thought it sucked. I kind of liked “The Unforgiven,” and “In the Line of Fire”… The “edge” westerns of his stopped with “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and the Dirty Harry series should have stopped with “Magnum Force” – one of the greatest films of all time – for the music and the co-stars (Tim Matheson, David Soul, et al). And for what it’s worth, my favorite of Clint Eastwood’s films is “High Plains Drifter” – a feast for fans of westerns, horror movies, in-jokes, and dark characters.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s a douchebag. Not because he’s a so-called “conservative” and been plenty successful at politics, business, procreating, shaking off crazy women without apology and so on… that stuff is the hallmark of a high-quality movie star…

He’s a douchebag for endorsing Mitt Romney’s Presidential candidacy.

According to some website, Clint Eastwood said that Mitt Romney would “restore, hopefully, a decent tax system that we need badly… so that there’s a fairness and people are not pitted against one another as to who’s paying taxes and who isn’t.” Gee, Clint, what’s wrong with the tax system that, over the last 60 years made and kept you a multi-millionaire? Same with Jenna Jameson – who also endorsed Romney in the same article (OK, here’s the link) apparently because, as a rich person, it’s better if there’s a Republican in the White House. I guess she didn’t do so well with Bill Clinton in office, wait a minute, that’s when she did her best work – that’s made her filthy – FILTHY – rich… But I digress.

So wealthy octogenarian Clint Eastwood, about whom I’ve yet to hear an Alzheimer’s joke, thinks we need Romney to “restore” whatever. I guess during the commie-socialist years since the 2000 election he was just taxed too hard and couldn’t make a cent. Hold on, a bit more than half that time we had George W. Bush in office and the US was fully employed, stocks were all go-go, and it was safe to use your house like a free ATM, right? Despite the wars – the wars that made a hell of a lot of people very rich.

My understanding of recent economic history is that it all came to a grinding halt about 2007 and the bottom fell out of everything due to the interference of UFO aliens in the housing market (do you have a better explanation?). And starting in January 2009, with a new Executive Administration, the USA was forced to wear sackcloth, eat ashes and shave our collective heads.

And things didn’t get better, depending on your perspective.

Because, in my expert opinion, the Tea-partying Republicans, who took over from the do-nothing idiot Democrats who took over from the stupid idiot Republicans (they threw away everything an alliance with Ed Koch and Ron Silver bought them), don’t really want things to get better. They would rather the entire country come to an economic bottom than give the Irish guy in the White House anything other than complete political failure.

I think it’s because he’s identified as Irish and “those people” are still not accepted as an “Americanized” ethnicity. But some may disagree.

Is David Lee Beowulf endorsing Barrack Obama in 2012? Are you kidding? I never vote for commie-pinko, collectivist, hippie liberals! But I like the present and future Republican machinery a hell of a lot less so it’s understandable for me to prefer the re-election of President Obama. I guess my opinion on these matters has evolved – though I voted for a black guy in 2008!

Among Barry’s accomplishments in office there are: getting Osama Bin Laden, Ending the Iraq War (as a war), speaking in favor of bettering Americans who have found themselves in dire economic straights (that would not include people of the wealth of Mr. Eastwood and Ms. Jameson), surrounding himself with wealthy liberals, a bunch of stuff that doesn’t effect me or stuff that I don’t care about, all sorts of things that I disagree with but he at least isn’t pro-feudalism, he’s smart about the importance and influence of the Clintons, and standing firm on his public principles in the face of incredible adversity. I can’t help but respect him. But I digress yet again.

Getting back to the sackcloth-wearing thread, none of the Republicans is wearing sackcloth or giving up much of anything.

But economics isn’t what’s going to cost Romney the election. No one cares about economics anymore because it’s more important to hate the Irish guy because he’s Irish. Bush-hating liberals forgot that W. was a progressive center-rightist (oh yes he was and is!). And, accordingly, Irish-hating “conservatives” have failed to notice that B.O. is a progressive, corporate, center-leftist, an economic inclusionist, and a hawk. Shoot, the guy could almost be an Irish Dick Cheney!

Romney will not win because he’ll likely not get the votes of two key political blocs: Christians, African Americans and serious students of American conspiracy theory. (Oops, that’s three, but the third no one knows about so it doesn’t count.)

Christians, especially the so-called “Evangelicals” will find it difficult to vote for a Mormon. Christians historically (and currently) view Mormonism as a cult. It will be fun to watch who among the popular TV evangelists compromises on this… Is it more important to be a “conservative” or a Christian?

In a nutshell, Mormons believe that Joseph Smith discovered – with help from the angel Moroni – and subsequently translated, the Book of Mormon, written on gold plates, buried in Palmyra, New York. This book tells the amazing story of the pre-Columbian Anglo Israelites who inhabited North America, built impressive cities, fought incredible wars, nearly annihilated themselves, and wrote books in a language only Joe Smith could translate. The original gold plates have long since been called back to the planet Kolob.

And from roughly 1830 on, the Mormons built an amazing Global Empire that allowed (or allows, nay, demands it, if you’re a Mormon Fundamentalist) polygamy, forbids drinking of coffee, condemns masturbation, and a bunch of other stuff.

By divine revelation, the Mormon leadership decided to dispense with their position on polygamy in favor of Utah reaching Statehood. But they’re still on the books about prohibiting coffee and masturbation. Anyone who’s read the Bible will know that while many of the prominent Biblical personalities practiced polygamy, there are strong warnings against it as taught through the adventures as object lessons of said personalities like David, though it’s not prohibited – unless one wants to be a deacon of the church. The Bible doesn’t say anything about not drinking coffee or jerking off, so no one can claim them as forbidden by God. Yeah, the Bible doesn’t say anything about shooting heroin, either, so I would conclude that any laws regarding heroin are strictly of human origin… (…so is there a Biblical precedent for the War on Drugs? I can’t find one.)

While there may be “marginal” Christians or “Secular” followers of the Abrahamic religions (i.e., Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), where they identify with some of what they consider mainstream-palatable tenants of said religion and they live their peaceful, lawful lives as they see fit (e.g., Bill Clinton). There’s no such thing as a marginal or secular Mormon. A Mormon lives his daily life looking authoritatively to their Living Prophet and the works of previous Prophets, on back to Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, as the receiver and arbiter of divine revelation from God. They’ve got rules to follow and they are monitored.

Anyway, core beliefs of Mormons include that Jesus and Satan are brothers, Mormons can become Gods, and a bunch of other stuff. And thus Evangelical Christians will find themselves hard-pressed to vote for someone who firmly believes in and identifies with these, and other, weird, anti-Biblical teachings, no matter how well behaved they are.

African Americans will likely not vote for a Mormon, either.

Until 1978 African Americans were, in accordance with divine revelation to the prophet at the time, to put it nicely, “inferior.” Or, in the words of Brigham Young, “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.” Powerful stuff, contrast it with lily-white Christian Abolitionist, John Brown, predating Young: “If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments-I submit; so let it be done.” And it was, as Brown was soon after executed for treason (and murder…).

To which I suppose Brigham Young’s reply was “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be.” Modern translation: “you’re a putz, John Brown!”

Don’t believe me? Do a web search. John Brown’s history should be well known to all Americans, Brigham Young’s, maybe. Do a web search for the quotes, you’ll find them.

Donnie and Marie offer this on the issue.

Mitt Romney was 31 years old in 1978. His accomplishments at the time included a Mormon mission to France and missing out on Viet Nam.

Until he was 31 the public would presume that he firmly believed that (heresy, see Acts 8:27, etc.) black people were cursed by God because God said so through the Mormon prophets.

Despite the numbers of African Americans becoming Mormons, unless Mitt Romney explains his position — and he likely won’t because any thoughts contrary to the hive-mother’s, retroactive or not, could be akin to a death sentence – he’s not going to get the votes of this important group of American voters.

And thus, let’s wrap it up with the conspiracy theorists.

Joseph Smith and his apostles’ goal was a kingdom on earth. They were a group of physically strong, charismatic white men who were determined through right of concentrated, concerted force to take as much land and white women for themselves as they could. They almost got it in Illinois – before Joseph was dragged out of a jail and killed by a mob. They almost had it in Utah, too, but they joined the Union as a State and had to tone it down a bit.

They have thus since waited.

They have thus since sent missionaries all over the world, have built “Temples” in many major world cities, they figure prominently in all levels of government, they have recruited legions, they command an economic empire worth billions of dollars that’s got its tentacles in all facets of the American enterprise, they are an army of non-masturbating, tee-totaling coffee-abstainers, working tirelessly for the right time…

The right time wasn’t 1968 when Mitt Romney’s father ran for president.

The right time is NOW, to quote Thulsa Doom, er, Brigham Young, “…when the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they [the people of the United States] will have to call for the ‘Mormon’ Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it.”

Gird thy loins, folks!

But… my money’s on the Irish guy come 7 November 2012.

Categories
Music Reviews

Can

Can

The Lost Tapes

Spoon/Mute

I first heard Can when I grabbed a copy of Tago Mago, the band’s 1971 classic, while working at a CD store years ago. I had read about them in Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler, the heralded but long out of print look at “head” music coming from Germany in the ’70s, but no amount of gushing words could prepare me for actually hearing it. From the first moments of “Paperhouse,” it was a sound completely alien to whatever I thought of as music prior. As the album played on, through the grooves and sounds of “Mushroom” and “Halleluwah” and ending with “Bring Me Coffee or Tea,” I was completely blown away from the experience. I literally thought the room was levitating.

Now, with the release of the three-CD The Lost Tapes, I might not ever come down.

When Can sold their studio in Weilerswist to the German Rock ‘n’ Pop Museum, everything was included, even down to the musty old mattresses on the walls. In a cupboard were over 50 hours of tapes of the band, covering the years 1968-1977. Can taped everything — all their shows, rehearsals, jams — and then taped over it when new tapes ran out. Later, Holger Czukay, the bassist, and Irmin Schmidt, the keyboardist, would pore over the amassed material, editing it, overdubbing found sounds, and meshing many different performances together until a song appeared. And they played constantly.

At their most potent, the band, with Michael Karoli on guitar, the indescribable Jaki Liebezeit on drums, and either Malcolm Mooney or Damo Suzuki on vocals, honed their sound by jamming, but not jamming as we normally think of it. Theirs was not the endless blues recycled or long, masturbatory solos of today’s “jam bands,” but rather an oft-times sparse sound in which each instrument plays an improvisational role for a moment, and then drops out, only to resurface minutes later in another guise. Liebezeit was a drum machine with a pulse, relentless in his intensity and dedication to the groove, but never overplaying. Schmidt had studied under Stockhausen, and he turned that unorthodox schooling toward rock music, and with Czukay, they created a sonic tapestry that refused to be shackled by convention. They were some of the first to include aural snippets amid the instruments, long before sampling was possible, and Damo Suzuki was fond of using his voice as an instrument, dispensing with normal language altogether.

When you listen to Can, you are hearing the sound of freedom, the freedom that comes from having no commercial expectations at all, playing because you want to see what you can create that didn’t exist the day before. For example, the cut “Midnight Men,” which sounds somewhat like a horror movie soundtrack (and may well be, as one of their early albums was Soundtracks, another Monster Music). The keyboards start the song in a rush, headlong down a narrowing path, drums propelling until they all fade away, only to come back as ambient washes of synthesizers, burrowing into your skull incessantly. This is the music of relentless imagination, an unburdening of the shackles of conformity and full of influences from around the world: a tribal drum beat from Africa here, a jazz flute solo there, a James Brownish bass pattern, perhaps. And in the end, it all sounded like no one else but Can. This brilliant box set, in a 10-inch tape box with copious notes from Irmin Schmidt, is out of this world.

Literally — out of this world.

Mute: www.mute.com

Categories
Print Reviews

Modern Masters Volume 26: Frazer Irving

Modern Masters Volume 26: Frazer Irving

by Nathan Wilson and Eric Nolen-Weathington

Twomorrows

The Golden Age of comic books may be long gone, but we are certainly in a gold-plated age of graphic novelists. I really don’t see how anyone can keep track of them all, but the folks at Twomorrows have cranked out a long series of profile books on the leaders of this pack, and I’m constantly amazed by the quality of their work. Today we meet up with Frazier Irving, who has worked on Necronauts, Tharg’s Terror Tales, and, my favorite title, The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange. In this wide-ranging interview, he talks about the mechanics of getting into cartooning, early influences, and all the sort of technical stuff that artists talk about when the rest of us are polishing our lightsabers.

What really strikes me in this parallel graphic novel universe is the evolution of Frazier’s style. He starts his career with the crisply inked panels that we associate with B&W comic books of bygone days, but then gradually evolves toward fine art with scratch shading, charcoal tones, and a softer, more ominous look. His women are both erotic and ominous; they look like ordinary people you might know, or at least think you know until one turns all zombie cannibal on the fourth date and rips out your heart, either metaphorically or for dinner. My favorite image is the blue-skulled, Frankenstein-lit evil scientist on the cover. He too is out for blood, but the “have a nice day” button tones him down as well. Perhaps he’s not really a blood thirsty vampire, just an assistant manager at Kmart, helping you return a plastic lawn chair. (Cue evil laugh)

Twomorrows: www.twomorrows.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

Oceania

Martha’s Music/EMI

You still wear your old Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt — you know, the one with with the silver star beneath the word “zero” on the front — even though it fits a little tighter than it did 15 years ago when you bought it. It’s faded, has a few holes in it, and doesn’t look quite as good as it did when paired with your baggy jeans and greasy hair, but you wear it anyway because you still love the band and because it reminds you of a simpler time.

…a time when you knew the names and faces of all of the Pumpkins, not just Billy Corgan. Oceania, the new full length effort by Corgan and company (guitarist Jeff Schroeder, drummer Mike Byrne, bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino), is kind of like that t-shirt. It’s super cool, if not a little nostalgic, but it will always be a piece of your past. You can’t wash off the beautiful stink of pot and nag champa that Billy Corgan’s voice recalls anymore than you can listen to “The Chimera” without thinking how nicely it would’ve fit onto Siamese Dream. The nostalgia factor doesn’t detract from the acheivement that is this song, but it hangs in the background like the ghost of music’s past.

“The Celestials,” a beautiful acoustic ballad, stands out as one of the best Smashing Pumpkins songs, perhaps ever. “Pale Horse” is another slow number that sticks to the senses, only this one revolves around a simple, intoxicating guitar riff. “Violet Rays,” with its desperate cry of I’ll kiss anyone tonight, would be a delicious addition to any sad teenager’s dark bedroom torments. This has always been a Corgan strongpoint — songs to feed the melancholy beast.

These few songs aside, the better part of the album fades into background music at times. Perhaps it’s because Oceania is to be considered part of their 44-song concept album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, an epic effort that’s been in the works since 2009. You know what they say, it can’t be all highs — every 44-song album needs its lulls.

The previous batch of songs for Teargarden were released one by one, for free, on the band’s website; these 13 songs will debut as a whole with the release of Oceania. No pre-release single, no video, just an album release. Old school, like Billy Corgan. He’s just your average musical genius pulling sometimes beautiful, sometimes brilliant, but always innovative compositions out of his shiny, bald noggin.

Smashing Pumpkins: www.smashingpumpkins.com