March 13, 2015

The Winter of Our Contentment

Man, what a winter it has been. The finest in a long time. This year, Heather and I stared that behemoth known as Seasonal Affective Disorder in its squiggly green eye and made it clear he was not welcome in our tiny but overpriced Shangri-La.

Keeping busy was the key. If the blog has been mostly dormant, it's because I was rearranging the living room, alphabetizing my records or hanging tin signs above the kitchen cabinets. I spent less time on Facebook, and more time reading real books. I listened to music. I wrote music. Heather found a Keurig in perfect condition at a thrift shop for next to nothing. We are over-caffeinated and happy.

I made a lot of wonderful pop culture discoveries this winter, and I am going to share them with you, one post at a time. Until then...

January 6, 2015

Through A Glass, Darkly

Apropos of nothing, my favorite Norman Rockwell painting

I just finished watching Life Itself, a candid and stirring tribute to movie critic Roger Ebert, film's greatest friend. I give it two thumbs up. Of course, the second thumb is redundant. There is still a hole in my soul where my frequent trips to Roger's blog used to be. I much admired his writing skills. He had a way of conveying very sophisticated and nuanced ideas about movies, and life itself, without ever seeming pretentious. His blog entries always provoked thoughtful feedback from articulate and passionate readers, and Roger frequently replied to many of the comments. He was passionate, intelligent, generous and courageous. People like that I call heroes.

Heroes. I have so many. Hitchcock. Dali. Chaplin. McCartney. Vonnegut. Zappa. Perhaps only Santa has a longer list. My love for the arts can never be properly articulated,. Art and pop culture is my life support system. Aside from love, art is the finest thing that humanity can produce. In a world where humans are defined by their propensity for destruction, art is creation. It is a reminder that a man can pick up a paintbrush instead of a gun. You know a society is in trouble when its art is suppressed. Art is the proverbial canary in society's coalmine.

A few years ago, I realized that I fit all the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome. Obsessive devotion to specialized interests. Check. Social awkwardness and difficulty making eye contact. Check. Repetition of routines and rituals. Check. I don't like phone calls or long-sleeved shirts. Fluorescent lights can be very oppressive. I don't give a damn about football, but I will play pinball on my PS3 until I pass out from exhaustion. I walk a little funny, and my enunciation sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Emotions? My face may say Spock, but inside I am Kirk.

Is it a burden? A handicap? In other's eyes, maybe, but never to me. It was only a burden to me when I was growing up unaware of my condition and its name, when I thought my classmates' cruelty toward me was a random act. These days I might be misunderstood, but I understand that I'm speaking a different language, and therefore I hold no grudges. If I had been born "normal," I might be glad I did not have Asperger's. Thankfully, I rarely feel persecuted these days.

Like most people with Asperger's, there is the one companion to whom I devote most of my energies. Heather is my wife. She is my confidant. She is my best friend. She is my muse. When time permits, we are happily inseparable. She knows my frustration of being geographically separated from my two amazing daughters. At my lowest point, she helped me regain my footing, and I believe she might literally be an angel.. Seven years, no serious arguments. How many couples can make that boast?

I have put considerable time and effort into studying the art of songwriting. For twenty-five years I've been at it. The first 500 songs I wrote I discarded. It's only been in the last two years that I've been able to synthesize all my influences into what I believe is a unique sound. I have dozens upon dozens of songs to record, and I write an average of one new song a week. I feel my music must be recorded in solitude, so my mission currently is to save money and build a proper home studio. My music is the part of me I can leave behind when my life journey is through. I do not care if my music is popular. I do not care if I make a lot of money. My burning desire is to make recordings that sound as close as possible to the sounds in my head. In this way, I will express myself in a way that I cannot otherwise do. I am grateful that my dream is still alive.

It is clear to me now that this blog is a permanent record of my influences. Only time will tell if that record has value to anyone else but me. However, I am going to post here as often as I can all the things that I feel are valuable and worthy of note. I hope to present exhibits here that will make you want to dig deeper on your own. If you have an open mind, there is endless treasure to discover. I also have a nagging desire to do some creative writing, maybe short fiction. Fair warning.

Comments are always deeply appreciated, unless you live in India and have some money waiting for me. I'm talking to you, Sirjit Chakrabarti!

December 10, 2014

A Strange Arrangement: El Camino

"A lot of artists say anger or even the experience of fear or these things feeds the work, and so the suffering artist is a romantic concept. But if you think about it, it’s romantic for everybody except the artist. If the artist is really suffering, then the ideas don’t flow so good, and if [he is] really suffering, he can’t even work. I say that negativity is the enemy to creativity." - David Lynch

"Here we have the example of avoiding the cliche..." Alfred Hitchcock 

Stan Lee's New Superhero Pitch

UK Coca-Cola Ad, 1965


Tsunehisa Kimura?
Svetlana Petrova

Pomplamoose is not a vanity project.

Fridge In Space

Stay attuned...

November 22, 2014

Apocalypse Cos

Forgive me in advance for not knowing exactly how many women have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. At last count, I think it was sixteen. Naturally, the numbers do not matter. If .even one time, Cosby drugged a date and took advantage of her, that behavior is unconscionable and must be condemned in the firmest way possible.

Bill Cosby. I've never known a world without him in it, making me laugh. I regularly watched his television shows and I've seen most of his movies, but to me his stand up comedy is the real meat and potatoes of his large body of work. Routines like "Chicken Heart," "Noah: Right!" and "Buck, Buck" are unforgettable. Through his comedy, Cosby showed us humans who we really were, with all our foibles, and gave us permission to laugh about it. In that regard, I would have to say he is a hero, someone who shaped my view of the world more than I probably even realize.

Now, at this late stage of his life, when he should reaping the rewards and accolades of a life well lived and a job well done, Cosby has instead been cast into the harshest of spotlights. The charges are so ancient, that there can seemingly be no proof as to whether he did or did not do the things he is accused of doing. All we have are the words of the accusers and the faintly damning silence of the accused.

I certainly do wish every one else on the planet would stop shouting "Guilty!" or "Innocent!". Unless you were in the bedroom or jacuzzi or wherever with Bill Cosby and his alleged victims, your opinion as to Bill Cosby's guilt or innocence means exactly nothing and probably just reflects how you feel about Bill Cosby, regardless of the current situation. In the last few weeks, I have never seen a faster or harsher rush to judgment than what I have witnessed in this matter. Is it because Cosby is such a legend, so big he must have an epic fall? Is it because rape is such a hot button issue? Whatever the case, all this armchair juroring only obfuscates the legitimate reporting. Didn't McCarthyism teach us anything?

The question that keeps going through my mind is "Why?" Why would Bill Cosby do these things? At the time of these alleged activities, Cosby was a young, handsome and wealthy comedian and actor. I can't imagine a scenario in which ladies weren't standing in line to go to bed with him. What's more, he could have afforded any call girl's price. I can buy that Bill Cosby had a hitherto unseen dark side. Many geniuses do. However, it is very hard for me to conceive that Bill Cosby drugged and raped women as a kind of deviant sexual hobby.

And yet, I don't know the truth. Hannibal Buress doesn't know the truth.You don't know either, unless you're Bill Cosby or the women who are making these terrible claims. One would think that an artist who has given so much laughter and insight to a world that desperately needs laughter and insight could at least be shown the courtesy of not being lynched in the court of public opinion until more information comes to light.

But, this being America in the first part of the 21st Century, that's not going to happen. Therefore, I suggest we take a poll. We must poll Americans and ask them whether or not they like Jell-O. If the majority of Americans say they like Jell-O, then Cosby will be cleared of all suspicion. If the majority is against Jell-O, then we will boil up a huge vat of Jell-O pudding, and dip Bill Cosby in it, and then cover him with feathers. Then we will tie him to a stake and force him to listen to the comedy stylings of Hannibal Buress.

On second thought, never mind. That idea is as crazy as a kangaroo court.

October 2, 2014

The Mammy Two Shoes Imbroglio

The news is out that Amazon Prime Instant Video subscribers who watch Tom and Jerry cartoons will first be greeted by a warning that these cartoons are "racially prejudiced." This has many classic animation fans up in arms. "The PC police have gone wild!" they'll say. "There's nothing racist about these cartoons."

As far as these fans are concerned, that is absolutely true. Classic animation fans watch classic animation to laugh and be entertained. They watch them to study and celebrate the history and process of animation, sometimes going frame by frame to see how a particular gag is executed. They are well informed about the people that were involved in the creation process: the directors, writers, voice actors, background designers, et al.

Moreover, they do not view a character like Mammy Two Shoes as being particularly racist. They see her as a funny character, ready to give "Thomas" his just desserts if he steps out of line, which he often does. They even feel genuine affection for her, so much so that they are willing to defend her against her detractors.

There is nothing wrong with that. They are coming from a pure and honest place.

However, the history is in on Mammy Two Shoes. The mammy archetype is deeply offensive to many Americans, and they are also not wrong to be offended. Nor is it wrong to warn people in advance that what they are about to watch contains an archetype they might find offensive.

If you have a hard time understanding why Mammy Two Shoes is offensive, then this Authentic History Center article should help you to understand, but be warned that it does contain advertisements and other ephemera that are deeply offensive. There are also articles on the same site that address other racial stereotypes.

Basically, Mammy Two Shoes is a Rorschach Test for race. If you are deeply offended by the character, it does not mean you are an overly-sensitive troublemaker. If, however, you are not offended by her, it doesn't mean you are a racially-insensitive lout. 

Although it happens way less often than our "fair and balanced" news media would have us believe, I believe this is actually a case where the positions of two opposing factions are equally reasonable and acceptable.

It would be wrong to lock away or burn Tom and Jerry cartoons. It's wrong that Disney will not make available Song Of The South. It's hypocritical to think Song Of The South must be banned, while Gone With The Wind gets the deluxe box set treatment.

Censorship is wrong, period. It lessens us as a society of free-thinkers. It robs us from learning from mistakes in our nation's past.

Though they are inherently flawed by racial caricatures, there is simply too much value in these cartoons and films to consign them to the dustbin of history. They should be released with strong disclaimers. They should be released and exist in an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding from those on both sides of the issue.

Michael Kupperman Is Great So Buy All His Comics!

Do you like humor that is deranged, yet also droll? Do you like comics filled with non-sequiturs? Do you like woodcut drawings? Did you ever wonder what kind of delightful hijinks would transpire if a snake and a piece of bacon got together?

If you answered yes or no to any of the above questions, you need to check out the work of Michael Kupperman, creator of Tales Designed To Thrizzle.

When I read Michael's stuff, I somehow feel it was made especially for me, and that doesn't happen very often. Then, when I realize other people obviously enjoy his comics, I feel a little less alone in the universe.

Seriously. I'm surrounded by idiots. Help.

I just found an old Kupperman strip in an issue of Fantagraphics' Zero Zero (#26). Back then, Michael was operating under the pseudonym "P. Revess."

I hope it whets your appetite for more, and I hope you buy all of Michael Kupperman's comics, because he is a genius of comics, and geniuses of comics should be supported.

September 24, 2014

True Fact Comics #2: The World's First Military Sub

From Star Spangled Comics #107 (Aug 1950) comes the thrilling true tale of The Turtle, the first submarine used in combat. GCBD lists the penciller as Curt Swan and credits John Fischetti with inks.

Addams Family Mysteries

Percy Helton (as Uncle Fester) Sneaks Up on John Astin (as Gomez)

Recently, Life Magazine presented an article showing various actors and actresses trying out for roles in The Addams Family in 1964. Many people who care about such things have been trying to identify these performers. I collated all the info I could find on this matter and sent an e-mail to Mark Evanier, and he posted the bulk of it on his blog, News From ME.

Thankfully, he caught my mistake (D'oh!) of naming Percy Helton as a possible candidate for the role of Lurch. That would certainly be a non-starter, although, as you can see from the photo above, he just might have cut the muster as dear old Uncle Fester.