July 26, 2011

The Shmear: Inaugural Edition

Ceilings, Nothing More Than Ceilings Department:

These are historic days here in the U.S. of A., what with our two major parties locked in a fierce tussle over the future of our country. Keeping my personal opinions off the table so as not to polarize my brothers and sisters in pop culture, it does occur to me that although it would appear our government is broken, what we are really seeing is a horribly extreme example of the effectiveness of the checks and balances that are built into the system. Problem is, in an age of instant mass communication, this system of checks and balances seems like a fossil from a quaint bygone age. There is a tug of war playing out in front of our very eyes. Ultimately, either one side is going to prevail, or as it seems increasingly likely, the rope is just going to snap. Or, as Howard Fineman observed last night on Hardball, "What's going on here, as I see it, is a kind of slow motion secession."

At least there is one thing that both Dems and Republicans seem to agree on: our debt is too damn big. I think Bob Dorough said it best when he described the national debt as "a fiscal misadventure with trillion dollar dentures."

Dim The Pilot Lights Department:

From Wikipedia:

The pilot episode of Gilligan's Island, titled "Marooned", was filmed in November 1963. On November 22, the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the crew continued to work after hearing the shocking news. The departure of the Minnow was filmed on November 26, and all the flags in that sequence can be seen flying at half-staff.

Revolting History Deptartment:

If it is true as some are saying, and revolution is in the air, then this is the perfect time to view an excerpt from Give Me Liberty:A Revised History of the American Revolution, an Underground Comix effort which is credited to "Gilbert Shelton and Ted Richards with Gary Hallgren and Willy Murphy," fine patriots all. This comic was first published in the American Bicentennial year 1976, supporting my long-held theory that a lot of comics from the 20th century are 100 times better than the crap that passes for comics today.*

* with many notable exceptions of course :)

Looks Like I've Got A Theme Going Here Department:

I'll leave you today with XTC's 1978 chart-bottomer "Statue of Liberty," a song which was banned by the BBC for seemingly portraying that American treasure as an object of lust. Andy Partridge discusses the song here.

From The Old Grey Whistle Test:

July 14, 2011

Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Up On Netflix Then Gone Again!

As of this writing, Netflix subscribers can enjoy every single tintinnabulatin' episode of the weirdly wonderful 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. However, if you search for it and it's not there, do not panic. I added it to my Instant Queue the day it arrived on streaming, but the next day it was nowhere to be found. Subsequently, it seems to have been re-added and then taken off at least two more times. At least that has been my experience.

I have a frustrating history with this show, dating back to my childhood. How well I remember the long-ago Saturday Morning when, while manually turning the dial on my 13 inch set, Spider-Man '67 entered my consciousness for the first time. Unfortunately, the station was too far away to provide a clear signal and I could barely glimpse the Spidey magic through the forbidding snow. In those days, cavemen sometimes relied on rabbit ear antennas to improve tv signal quality. Sometimes, if you placed just the right amount of aluminum foil on the tips of the rabbit ears, positioned each rabbit ear just right, taped the rabbit ears to your head, stood on one foot, and held your mouth open just right, your signal quality would be almost perfect, at least for thirty seconds or so. Nothing I tried that morning worked, and for years I held in the sorrow of missing my chance to watch what I imagined to be the greatest entertainment spectacle of all time.

Then there was the time, in the late 90's, when, at a toy show, I acquired a fan-made set of the entire series. I was glad to finally fulfill a childhood desire, but gee, the quality of the prints was horrendous. I still longed to see Spider-Man '67 in all of it's glory, especially when I learned of the Ralph Bakshi connection.

That's why I was delighted when, in 2004, the folks at Disney came out with their dvd collection of the series, every episode restored to a quality that far surpassed my wildest dreams. I'm pretty sure I bought that set on release day, and it would have proudly remained a gleaming jewel in my collection forever, had an unfortunate series of events not led to what I now jokingly refer to as "The Great DVD Purge of Ought Eight."

Ever resolute in the face of personal disaster, I have rebuilt my collection, but Spider-Man '67 has eluded me. Long out-of-print and going for insanely high prices on the secondary market, the 2004 release is, in fact, one of the only dvds I have not repurchased. Instead, I have watched the occasional episode on YouTube and hoped that Disney might issue a second printing. You would think a dvd set that quickly went oop and was fetching up to $120 on eBay might get a second printing. Are you listening, Mickey?

All that doesn't matter though. Spider-Man '67 is on Netflix, and hopefully soon, it will stop teasing me and stay on my queue on a regular basis. This is truly a wonderful show. Sure, Spidey's costume design is awful and one cannot fail to notice that he is obviously swinging from clouds, but that Ray Ellis crime jazz score is superb, and the Bakshi episodes in particular show how sheer imagination can trump low budgets. The colors jump off the screen and it all has an air of that effervescent 60's atmosphere, back when comics, cartoons, and superheroes were exciting and fun to the max degree.

And you don't even need Reynold's Wrap to watch it.

July 13, 2011

The Leakin' Lena Sails Again!

Does the debt ceiling crisis have your stomach tied in knots? Are you worried that your dollar bill collection will soon be as valueless as the hairball your mangy cat just hacked up on your imitation berber carpet? Take your mind off the doom and gloom with a full episode of The Beany and Cecil Show from August 1965, complete with commercials advertising ABC's 1965 fall lineup!

The three cartoons featured in this rip roaring episode are "The 7th Voyage of Singood," "Cecil Meets Cecilia," which is available in much better quality on the dvd Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition Volume 2, and "The Capture of Thunderbolt the Wondercolt."

Thanks to YouTube user "foxeema" for sharing this priceless piece of TV history!

Don't forget to pay a visit to the all new official Beany and Cecil website!

July 12, 2011

When Super Friends Fall Out

Today I spent some time perusing some comics from 1983, a year in which I could regularly be found "spinning the rack" at the town drugstore, a magical place that always smelled of cherry syrup. 1983 was the year in which Batman quit the JLA due to their refusal to intervene in the Markovian Revolution. This, you may remember, was the impetus for the formation of The Outsiders, a team I ceased caring about before I got my first zit.

The Batman/JLA hostilities bled over into the pages of World's Finest #294 (August 1983), which reads in part like an episode of Dynasty with capes. I couldn't help but chuckle at the overarching gravitas of this sequence:

Man, I hate to see a grown Superman cry.

(Look for a flurry of posts this week...I'm feelin' it!)