2020 May 27 • Wednesday

Exciting new arrival! Our first piece of original art by David Heatley, sent to us personally by the artist himself!

Funny how things work out. I was a fan of his work and then I met him and then our bands played on bills together and now he's sent me this wonderful guitar-centric panel from one of his recent works.

I can totally relate to this scene.

And there's some extra Heatley on the other side!

It's amazing to me how artist like him can get so much feeling and expression out of their pens and pencils.

If you're not familiar with David Heatley, you should check out My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down and Qualified!


2020 May 25 • Monday

For our 623rd Soundtrack of the Week we're listening to more songs, this time by the redoubtable Serge Gainsbourg: Serge Gainsbourg et Le Cinéma.

Only three of the pieces on this record have vocals, two by Gainsbourg himself and one by Juliette Gréco, so this shows off Gainsbourg's talents as a composer, especially for jazz combo. Credit must also go to occasional co-composer and more than occasional arranger Alain Goraguer. (Goraguer arranged all but four of these pieces. Michel Colombier handled the remaining four.)

First on the Side A is the theme from L'Eau à la Bouche, one of Serge's slinkiest and grooviest numbers, very relaxed with some Afro-Cuban percussion adding a light and dry contrast to his mellow honeyed voice.

"Angoisse" starts with a bouncy jazz guitar intro that's completely surprised by a slow burning trumpet entrance. Then we settle into a mid-tempo jazz groove, the guitar comes back and it all fits together and makes sense. No vocals, just a really coo, jazz atmosphere.

This mood continues, though slightly more relaxed and featuring saxophone as well as trumpet, in the next piece, also instrumental, "Black March".

Next up is "Les Loups Dans La Bergerie (Final)", a serence and romantic chamber piece and so far the most "soundtracky" sounding track. Near the end it seamlessly morphs into a jazz combo and starts to swing.

After that the Afro-Cuban percussion comes back for the bouncy and swaying "Cha-Cha Du Loup", something I think I remember hearing on a Gainsbourg compilation back in the '90s.

Juliette Gréco sings the next track, "Strip-Tease", a crystalline yet shadowy number which has Gréco's wonderful voice unobtrusively supported by guitar, bass and percussion.

The last number on the A side is called "Some Small Chance", another scintillating small combo jazz piece, this time with vibes and piano helping to set the mood.

The second side starts off with another cool jazz tune, "Rendez-Vous À La Calavados. This one has a West Coast feel to it with really nice alto playing and the pleasing addition of conga.

"Wake Me At Five" is an interesting blend of jazz, dramatic underscore and somewhat dirty blues/rock electric guitar. It's something of a gem, certainly unusual!

After that comes "Solitude", features the piano and is an emotive and swelling cue, one of the few that really suggests a conventional film soundtrack sound here.

After that we go back to a more driving, large combo swing with conga sound for the danger jazz sounds of "Crazy—Horse Swing".

A pretty fast and impressive upright bass line introduces the last vocal number here, "Comment Trouvez-Vous Ma Soeur?", kind of a perky novelty song and not a favorite of mine, to be honest.

"Érotico-Tico" is another one I remember liking from long ago, sort of a bossa lounge number very tastefully arranged and with a great feel.

Then there's the somewhat Mancini-ish "No Love for Daddy", with lush strings and elegant piano playing wrapped around what sounds like a classic jazz standard.

Some weird-sounding electric keyboard along with spaghetti western electric guitar, drums and vocal bursts bring the record to a close with the aptly named "Rocking Horse". This one is really a surprise!


2020 May 22 • Friday

Raw Courage (1984) is a really solid independent thriller, the kind that nobody makes anymore. Well written and intelligently shot and edited with an effective synth score by Johnny Harris, it takes a simple idea, fleshes it out with distinct and believable characters who are given deft and convincing portraits right at the beginning of the movie and just gets the whole job done really well without overdoing it or running longer than it has to.

Three runners set out on a 72-mile marathon in New Mexico. They know each other well and have solid friendships despite being men in different parts of life.

One is twenty-two years old and frustrated at not being able to escape from his father's control or even move out of the house.

Another is in his thirties and on the brink of stepping into a real serious relationship and partnership, for what sounds like it would be the first time, with his girlfriend.

The third is a middle-aged man, married, two kids, haunted by a few anxieties, among them whether he can keep up with the two younger runners.

Once they turn off the highway and head for the mountains, they're surprised and captured by a bunch of survivalists on a training mission, prepping for whatever it is preppers prep for with only knives and basic provisions.

You know the survivalists are bad news because M. Emmet Walsh is the commanding officer.

But at first it isn't a problem. While what the survialists did was basically abusive, they're not really interested in the runners and this could be the end of it, except for the fact that the runners can't stand by and watch these weekend warriors abuse and torture one of their own members.

Things get heated and the runners leave, after lying about their route. Some of the more violent survivalists catch up to them on motorcycles and attack them.

Let's just leave it there. Suffice it to say that after that it becomes a true test of survival. The entire troop is now pursuing the runners to kill them.

It's genuinely tense and suspenseful and the filmmakers make great use of the New Mexico locations.

If you like this kind of thing then I bet you'll enjoy this gem.


2020 May 20 • Wednesday

Roger Moore is always thought of as James Bond or The Saint or, uh, whoever he was in The Persuaders and maybe you've seen him kind of walking through a couple of crappy movies but he could be a really good actor when he got the chance and The Man Who Haunted Himself is a good movie that wouldn't work without a solid performance from its star.

Moore plays Harold Pelham, a middle-aged business man, square, boring and bored, father of two, listless and loveless husband, starched collar, wears the same tie every day, everything regular and conservative and while hardly joyful, taking satisfaction in adequacy.

He has a strange episode while driving on the highway one day. It seems like a kind of possession. He unbuckles his seatbelt and starts driving incredbily fast and recklessly, resulting in an accident that almost kills him.

While on the operating table, he seems to have two heartbeats.

And after that, once things should be back to normal, his friends and colleagues report seeing him and having interactions with him that he knows can't be possible.

His friend plays snooker at their London club with him when Pelham was actually in Spain. But everybody at the club saw them play.

People Pelham has never met before are reacquainting themselves with him. And during a tense business conflict with a rival company, Pelham seems to be working for both sides.

Is there an impostor, a doppelganger, or is Pelham going insane? He undergoes psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

To say more would ruin the movie.

It's a good story, pulled off by excellent camerawork, a versatile and impressive score by Michael Lewis—and by Moore, who is in almost every scene and has to make the movie work by nuanced control of his voice and facial expressions.

The Man Who Haunted Himself came out in 1970, so it's post-Saint but pre-Persuaders and -Bond. Later in life Moore remembered the film as "one of the few times I was allowed to act".


2020 May 18 • Monday

The 622nd Soundtrack of the Week is this album of Waylon Jennings songs (with a bonus track of a Chet Atkins arrangement of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood") for the movie Nashville Rebel.

Jennings starred in this movie and apparently wrote most of these songs specifically for the film. He sings them himself and I'm sure he plays the guitar as well because why wouldn't he?

It opens with "Silver Ribbons", a relaxed and loping country song in which the title is a metaphor for railroad trains and the elecrtic guitar subtly suggests the sound of the whistle. "Don't ask me where I'm going / Don't ask me where I've been / Those silver ribbons will take me there / There and back again." A Hobbit reference?

Before Jennings's character becomes a Nashville rebel, I guess first he's a "Nashville Bum", talking about chasing all the "big wheels" in Nashville trying to catch his big break while living on "ketchup soup". There's some nice guitar playing and the song is humorous while also serving as exposition.

"Green River" is a beautiful slow song about remembering lost love. Waylon Jennings was really a marvelous singer as well as a great guitarist, as anybody knows who has listened to the live bar band recordings he made way before he was famous.

Then we get to the title track, with clever lyrics and a steady rolling rhythm as well as a tremendous electric guitar sound. "I've got things to do / And things to say / In my own way."

After this comes another slow and dreamy one with a lovely steel guitar intro, "I'm a Long Way from Home". It's a while before the words come in but the band does a great job of expressing the title before Jennings opens the song by singing the title and then proceeding to dissect the pain of being lonely and homesick.

Side B opens with one of the Deodata tunes, "Corteguay". It's a piano-driven groovy lounge number, not a bossa, I think, but a different Brazilian rhythm. Maybe a mid-tempo samba? It's very nice, whatever it is.

The last song on the A side is "Tennesee", which Jane Dowden, associate producer of the film and author of the liner notes, asserts "introduces a new feeling to the Jennings style". And maybe so! It features the piano and is a more laid back, late-night saloon sort of song, very gentle yet with impressive of depth of emotion and perhaps a touch of Roy Orbison about it, as well as some gospel and blues influences.

The B side kicks off with the "Norwegian Wood" cover, which I assume not to be from the film. It's a very cool arrangement, sounds like it might have clavinet on it or something and of course very nice guitar playing as well as a very effective use of a backing chorus. I usually hate that last addition but it works very well here.

The rest of the record is all instrumentals!

"Hoodlum" is a really cool uptempo number with divebombing and soaring steel guitar flourishes. Now this is really something! Up to now everything has been great but relaxed and laid back. Now the energy is kicked up a notch, though to be honest it might go on a little longer than it should, since it's fairly simple and repetitive and without much in the way of "events" other than the steel guitar.

The next instrumental is "Spanish Penthouse", in which the band create a somewhat Spanish flavor and the acoustic guitar carries the day. Again it might be a bit on the long side for what all happens in it. Perhaps these tunes were source music.

"Lang's Theme" is a slinky number with some more frisky steel guitar action. I think the rhythm might be a hully gully? Gotta love these guitar sounds. Everything sounds great, in fact.

After this comes "Rush Street Blues" a swinging blues that again has amazing steel guitar playing. The steel guitarist really takes center stage here. Who is it? I'd love to know the names of all the musicians.

The record concludes with the serious-sounding and not-country "Lang's Mansion", basically a piano piece with upright bass and violin in supporting roles. There's a valedictorian feel to it, which is appropriate enough given that's the last piece on the record. And a great record too!


2020 May 15 • Friday

All Together IPA is another excellent beer from our favorite brewery, Other Half.

It's delicious and, at 6.5% ABV, easier drinking than a lot of their beers.

But even more important than that, this is part of a global effort to support people in the hospitality industry. Other Half has made the recipe for this beer simple and freely available and over 700 other breweries are crafting and selling it, with some of the proceeds being donated to charities.

(Other Half is giving the money to the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation.)

So if you like beer, this is likely to be the easiest and most pleasant way you can help some people who are struggling right now!

I put on my mask and biked over to Other Half within an hour after first hearing about it. It wasn't more than an hour after I got back home that I was drinking it.


2020 May 13 • Wednesday

Make With the Brains, Pierre, by Dana Wilson, was an interesting and unusual book, and hardly the "mystery" that its front cover proclaims it to be, but a curious novel that occupies an authorial space whose borders include Nabokov, Camus, Kafka and, uh, someone who wrote about Hollywood.

I guess you could say that it's a book that lives in the same housing development as Lolita, L'Etranger, The Castle and The Last Tycoon.

Perhaps this is over-selling it, but it is a very well written and intelligent work. Perhaps Dostoevsky was an influence as well.

Pierre Bernet is a Frenchman in Hollywood who has been barely getting by working in the film industry in one way or another and, when we meet him, has more or less bottomed out.

On the first page we're told that there are two men waiting for him outside of his apartment building, to kill him. He intends to leave and allow this to happen, as soon as he receives a certain phone call.

Pierre also alludes to a "thing" in his bathroom.

From here the story flashes back so we can see how Pierre arrived at this point. It involves his neighbors, a woman he loves, a couple of big time movie stars, a powerful producer and ends up being the story of a few crimes, though the crimes themselves are not really what the book is about.

So why is it good? Because of the writing. It's consistently sure-footed, elegant and surprising. It first really got my attention when Pierre first meets the powerful film producer character and we see him through Pierre's eyes at a crowded bar, "guarded like the termite queen by all the other termites".

I watched him. In his ugly face, his eyes were like dirty, frozen water. His expression was cruel. He seemed carefully to avoid getting sober. Drinking like a fish, he did not get drunk like an ordinary human being. His surface was hard, but he had not entirely drowned his conscience.

At one point, Pierre describes his friend Jerry arriving "with the punctuality of an eclipse" and also drawing on a cigarette "like a man breathing salt air".

And later, a note of parody, and an example of the tone throughout, in which a European observes American culture with bemusement and admiration:

You enter the big hall, walk over the copper bas-relief of a ship, and there are dozens of elevators waiting for you A man with a kind of castanet directs them. I envy him his job. To be clad in a uniform, to look very efficient and to be paid for making a noise with a rattle is something to be proud of. You have to be born with the knack for a job like this; and when you finally die, honored and respectable, your funeral paid for by the town, you can truthfully say: "I didn't live a useless life. I rattled!"

In Lolita there's a scene where Humbert is in a children's clothing shop to buy some items for Lolita. Nabokov deploys an extended metaphor:
I realized I was the only shopper in that rather eerie place where I moved about fish-like, in a glaucous aquarium. I sensed strange thoughts form in the mids of the languid ladies that escorted me from counter to counter from rock ledge to seaweed, and the belts and the bracelets I chose seemed to fall from siren hands into transparent water.

When Pierre goes to a fancy club with Marjorie Dean, famous movie star, Dana Wilson shows herself to be capable of the same sort of flourishes:

I kept in the background but the eyes of the guests were focused on me. A fat woman, sailing along like a galleon complete with pennants, arrived in a favoring gust of wind and anchored close to us. She greeted Marjorie with a heavy broadside of compliments, but her round curious eyes stared at me.

(Of course in Lolita it's not isolated but part of an Edgar Allan Poe "Annabel Lee" motif.)

But Make With the Brains, Pierre is a really good back with a bizarre title. It would later be reprinted in paperback with the title Uneasy Virtue, which is astonishingly dull and not at all appropriate to the text. (Make With the Brains, Pierre doesn't resonate much with the content either, but you're not likely to confuse it for any of a hundred other books.)

The first line is "The long shadows of the sinking sun fall over the stop signal at the crossing" (and it's worth noting the different tense used here).


2020 May 11 • Monday

The incomparable Antonio Carlos Jobim brings us our 621st Soundtrack of the Week: The Adventurers.

The main title music theme starts out in a dramatic mood, suggestive of mystery, adventure and romance. It's not bossa nova but there is a lush lyricism to it that might remind you of Jobim's better known work. Out of the orchestral layers arises upright bass and trumpet playing, suggesting that seasoned jazz musicians are in the studio.

"Children's Games" is a short piece that features the guitar and flute, in 3/4 or 6/8, with a light and airy feel to it.

For "Rome Montage" Jobim comes up with a lovely tune that sounds a bit like "Skylark" to me. The arrangements by Eumir Deodata (who also wrote a couple of the songs on this record) are terrific.

After that we get "Bolero", a gorgeous acoustic guitar duet. It's killing me not to know who the musicians are on this. Both players are excellent.

"Dax Rides" finally drops the needle on some irresistibly deep and swaying Brazilian grooves, starting out sunny and relaxed and then executing an unexpected segue into a darker, more driving feel.

The last piece on the A side is "Dax & Amparo (Love Theme)", another one with lovely acoustic guitar playing, this time with velvety support from the strings and winds.

Side B opens with one of the Deodata tunes, "Corteguay". It's a piano-driven groovy lounge number, not a bossa, I think, but a different Brazilian rhythm. Maybe a mid-tempo samba? It's very nice, whatever it is.

Jobim returns to dramatic feel of the main title for "The Long Trek", which features the harp and has a sweeping and expansive sound.

Harpsichord and Spanish or Mexican-sounding guitar kick off "Search for Amparo", to be joined by another guitar which trades off with the harpsichord to express the melody. It's a lovely and tender piece. Eventually the orchestra comes swelling in.

And then there's the old standard "That Old Black Magic". Besides the two Deodata pieces, this is the only non-Jobim composition. While the piece is done in a fairly standard big band arrangement, the rhythm section is percolating in unusual ways, giving this familiar tune a very different way of moving.

Things sound like they're getting intense and climactic, perhaps even dangerous, in "Bitter Victory:, though the mood also sweetens to something sounding more like triumph than tension. It's an aptly named cue.

"El Lobo's Band" is the second Deodata composition and is actually a marching band number and sounds just like what you'd expect. Presumably this is for a marching band you see on screen. It doesn't have to be, of course, but I'm betting it is.

Finally we have "A Bed of Flowers for Sue Ann", a short but richly romantic piece, with some writing for strings and winds that I think Mancini himself would approve of. It's also a reprise of the "Rome Montage" theme.

A wonderful score by one of the true greats.


2020 May 08 • Friday

At some point you've heard statistics about violence against women. The numbers are sickeningly high, regardless of whether you draw some sort of line between "harassment" and "assault". Who gets to decide whether you've been harmed or traumatized?

The numbers can show the staggeringly large range of the problem—a constant, global, undiscriminating epidemic of terror, injury and death— but they don't tell the stories or offer a window into people's actual experiences.

The comics anthology Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival, edited by Diane Noomin, does just that.

It probably goes without saying that this is a really heavy book.

It's not a book of despair, though. This is an honest book that contains a wide variety of voices of many different people who speak of their different experiences at different ages in different places and times.

And not just voices. There couldn't be a better medium than comics for something like this. Every contributor has a unique voice as well as unique style of art, and even a unique way of lettering the text.

This isn't something you would get in a text-only format or a pictures-only format.

Some of the stories contain brutal violence, some present a ubiquitous fear or anxiety or dread or terror, a state of trauma that can exist independently of personally experience trauma.

But if ever a book can speak for itself, this one can. Here is just a small sample of panels or details of panels from some of the works included.



Mary Fleener



Sarah Allen Reed



Trinidad Escobar



Ajuan Mance



Meg O'Shea



J. Gonzalez-Blitz



Nina Laden



Minnie Phan



Kaylee Rowena



Caitlin Cass



Corinne Pearlman

Drawing Power is dedicated to Anita Hill.


2020 May 06 • Wednesday

This book has been out for a while but I just came across it: Glitz-2-Go, a collection of comics by Diane Noomin.

This is an intense collection of brilliant work. Much of it apears to be autofiction while some of it is clearly fantasy and other parts clearly autobiography.

Noomin's creation of DiDi Glitz is a fabulous and indefatigable character navigating the turbulent waters of a certain section of '60s and '70s culture, a collision of relaxation of sexual mores and the entrance into the mainstream of feminist thought and various counter-cultural ideas and behaviours, set against a background of more conservative, suburban, old-fashioned styles and practices, often specifically Jewish New Yorkish.

That's probably not a great description but there's so much going on in Noomin's work that any attempt at encapsulation is probably doomed.

The writing is perfect and the voices clear and strong but this is a visual medium that, for me, lives and dies by the quality of the artwork on the page. Noomin the artist is at least as good as Noomin the writer. You almost never see work with this much depth, complexity and detail.

Consider the depth of field in this panel, as well as the varied patterns and textures and contrasts, and marvel at the balanced and controlled composition.

If this reminds me of anything, it's the famous Yasujiro Ozu approach to filming domestic scenes, with the camera in one room, filming action in another room in front of the camera, with a third background room visible behind it.

It's notable how the characters' height increases from left to right, and DiDi's daughter is giving a Bronx cheer to the obvious jerk that Didi is apparently hoping will turn out to be a good guy with enough encouragement.

This search for love and companionship and emotional security and acceptance is the bedrock of many of the stories in this book.

DiDi Glitz puts up a really good front of but her encounters with men are almost always, at best, disappointing. This point is made very powerfully in one panel where we see tears running down DiDi's cheek after yet another night of being used for sex.

DiDi doesn't always have much luck with women either, beyond her closest friends. She has a dismaying encounter with a lesbian woman and doesn't fit in with a women's group that she tries joining.

Noomin has been through the wringer herself, of course, and for some especially painful experiences, the creator is dragged onto the page by her creation.

This story, about having no fewer than four miscarriages while trying to have as child, is devastating. And Noomin is as much in control of telling it and creating great art from it as she is everywhere else in this book.

The comics hall of fame should have Diane Noomin right up front for her highly original and breathtaking work. This is one of the best collections of the artform that I've ever seen.


2020 May 04 • Monday

Curtis Mayfield achieved film score immortality with his brilliant music for Superfly. But for our 620th Soundtrack of the Week we're listening to his lesser known score for Short Eyes.

The songs are tackled by a strong small ensemble, similar to the band on the Curtis/Live! record, and keeping "Master" Henry Gibson on congas and bongos from that date, as well as bassist Joseph Scott.

Adding some more layers and tectures are strings and horns.

The first song, "Do Do Wap Is Strong in Here", is classic Curtis Mayfield brilliance, with his voice and guitar work stunning as usual. "Sad, sick ain't no way for bail / Kinda feel like sending him to hell / Handsome man becomes an ugly freak."

Things slow down for "Back Against the Wall", a slow and tender soul song with an edge in the chorus that builds for longer than you might expect. The congas are a big part of this one and there's a great guitar solo.

After this, "Need Someone To Love" sounds cheerful and uplifting, even Gospel-tinged and with echoes of The Impressions.

Side A ends with "A Heavy Dude" and it's got a real heavy groove, featuring the drumming of Donnell Hagan and Gibson on bongos. There are background singers who punch in on parts of the lyrics as well, giving the song some pugnacious energy.

Side B starts with the title track, which has a swinging and syncopated feel and makes a lot of use of the background vocalists. It kind of has a "Freddie's Dead" feel to it.

"Freak, Freak, Free, Free, Free" is the name of the next song and those words are included in the lyrics to "Short Eyes" The transition between the two is fairly seamless, like a crossfade. It's mostly instrumental, with just the background vocals and some great guitar playing by Mayfield.

After this comes a floaty and atmospheric song, "Break It Down", which gets a lot out of the piano and compelling singing and lyrics from Mr. Mayfield, as always. "Dammit, I belong to the state / Break it down / But my mind's still free / I don't plan to give that up / I can't give that up to no one."

(It seems that this is the only song not written by Mayfield but is credited to H. P. Denenberg and Martin Hirsh.)

Then there's "Another Fool in Love", a sweet love song in 6/8, with an old-fashioned feel to it.

The record ends with "Father Confessor", which starts out with almost a "Greensleeves" kind of feel to it. It's a short instrumental that sounds valedictory.


2020 May 01 • Friday

The Great Jewel Robber (1950), claiming to be based on a true story, is a much above average crime movie with a very unpromising title.

David Brian plays Gerry, a professional thief who specializes in jewels and furs and uses several different last names, as well as several different women, a few of whom he marries or at least becomes engaged to.

We start with him in Toronto, where he's arrested and sent to prison. After a humiliating and sadistic episode with the warden Gerry escapes, makes it to New York, marries a nurse and starts a new crime wave in New Rochelle.

After picking up a new woman in Manhattan and hoping to start up a fur-stealing racket there, he barely escapes capture and hops a train to California, where he infiltrates the high society set of Beverly Hills.

More sex and more stealing and then, eventually, an impressive action sequence as Gerry tries to elude police officers who have surrounded the building he's in.

Since this movie is from 1950, you know he's not going to get away with it in the end, but it's impressively hardboiled and fast-paced, moving smoothly from crime to crime and keeping moralizing to a minimum.

Gerry isn't really sympathetic character but this isn't a movie about who people are as much as what people do. Brutality of one sort or another finds everybody in it, but the idea is to deliver excitement, not anguish.

William Lava's score does much to enhance the experience, as does the wonderfully shadowy photography by Sid Hickox.

Gerry wears a standard-issue black mask when he's on the job but Hickox has his face blocked by shadows a lot even when he's not working, suggesting his criminality is part of his true nature.

Another arresting image comes when Gerry is betrayed by two partners in crime who beat him into unconsciousness and steal the jewels that Gerry has just stolen, at considerable risk to himself.

One of the two is Gerry's latest seduction, who holds the stolen jewels so that they block Gerry's face, a clear signal that the human cost of crime is completely eclipsed by the material reward.

She also throws his engagement ring back at him before she leaves, a ring that he had stolen from his previous fiancée. It had belonged to her mother and meant the world to her, and she had given it to him in true love and good faith. Oh well!

At one point, police and reporters speak to the mayor of New Rochelle, NY, and the person playing the mayor is a startlingly different actor than anybody else in the movie, with a very odd way of speaking and holding himself.

It turns out that this person is not an actor at all but the actual mayor of New Rochelle in a cameo. Not sure what the ballyhoo value of this would have been, but there it is anyway.

If you're a fan of old black-and-white crime movies and film noir, then this is a lesser known title that you're likely to enjoy. I was very pleasantly surprised!