Monday, February 25, 2013

Song of the Week: There Will Never Be Another You

We end the month of February the way we began it - with songs from Nat "King" Cole and Tony DeSare.  Here they both are, singing "There Will Never Be Another You".

Friday, February 22, 2013

MST3K Friday: Out of This World

This "short" is almost 20 minutes long.  Unfortunately, the full version has embedding disabled, so here is "Out of This World" broken into two parts.

"Down, down, down."  "To burning ring of fire."
"Why do they keep the bread in dresser drawers?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jack Wakes Up by, Seth Harwood

Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he's supposed to meet Ralph.

Once upon a time, Jack was the toast of Hollywood.  He was the star of a mega-hit action movie called Shake 'em Down and had a beautiful trophy wife and the world on a platter.  These days, he's a divorced, washed-up actor who just spent several years weening himself from coke and booze.  The bills are piling up and the mortgage on his gorgeous San Francisco mansion is overdue.  When his old friend Ralph Endorino calls with the promise of quick, easy cash, Jack jumps in it.  All he has to do is flash his once-famous smile to get Ralph and some friends through the door of an exclusive night club or two.  Needless to say, Ralph soon turns up dead and Jack is up to his neck in Czech gangsters, Colombian drug kingpins, and SanFran's finest street thugs.

Jack Wakes Up starts with a nice setup and a strong protagonist.  The character of an action movie star on the wrong side of his career is one with a lot of promise.  Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to that promise.  The dialogue was repetitive and quite clunky.  The majority of the characters sounded exactly the same; I can't tell you how many times someone ends a sentence calling Jack "my man".  Some reviews call the book Tarantino-like and in a way it is, only Seth Harwood embraces the worst aspects of QT's work.  There are some funny moments, but the characters aren't as clever as they think they are and the dialogue is littered with every variation of the f-word that you can imagine.

Some clunky dialogue can be glossed over if the rest of the book is solid, but it's not.  The story is almost nothing but dialogue and stage direction.  Character A says something.  Character A rubs his forehead.  Character B points his chin at something.  Character A nods.  Character B says something and pinches his nostrils between his thumb and forefinger.  And on and on and on.  There are very few attempts to get inside the characters' heads or even take a breath to describe their surroundings.

I don't want to make it sound like I hate the book.  I think there are some interesting characters and a story to be told here.  If you turned this into a mindless summer action movie starring Vin Diesel, you could make $200 million without breaking a sweat.  But the pieces aren't quite where they need to be to make this a good read.

I'd heard good things about Jack Wakes Up and had been looking forward to it for a while, so I couldn't help but be disappointed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Song of the Week: Taking A Chance on Love

This week's song is from the great Ella Fitzgerald.

Here's an alternate version from Benny Goodman and Helen Forrest.

Friday, February 15, 2013

MST3K Friday: Sodium

Here's a song from The Horror at Party Beach (episode 816).  This movie is a pretty entertaining one with lots of good riffs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Gentlemen's Hour by, Don Winslow

Epic. Macking. Crunchy.

There's no other way to describe this book.  The Gentlemen's Hour, Don Winslow's sequel to The Dawn Patrol, follows the continuing adventures of surfer/PI Boone Daniels, and is every bit as engrossing as its predecessor.

When surf legend Kelly Kuhio (K2) is killed, a local law firm approaches Boone to help with the defense.  All of San Diego is out for the killer's blood and Boone is on their side; he wants nothing to do with the case.  But Boone's girlfriend Petra Hall (introduced in The Dawn Patrol), who works at the law firm, and his memories of K2 force him to take the case.  What he finds is rot and corruption in the city of San Diego and the surf community itself.

For a number of years localism has crept into the San Diego surf scene; a violent undertow running at cross purposes with the general spirit of aloha associated with surfers.  Boone and the Dawn Patrol are aware of it, but treat it as the exception rather than the rule.  But since K2's accused murderer is a member of the Rockpile Crew, a nearby surf gang, Boone has to confront the issue head on.

Not only does Boone's work put a heavy strain on his relationship with the Dawn Patrol as a whole, but the K2 case was worked by fellow member Johnny Banzai, a San Diego homicide detective.  Boone essentially "jumped in" on Banzai's wave, which makes the detective even more pissed. The tension is so thick and Winslow sets the stakes so high that when Boone muses about quitting surfing and going to law school, it seems like the only logical conclusion to the book.

Once again, Winslow's style is great, his characters so vivid, and language so real that you'll find yourself turning the pages well after your self-imposed bed time.

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Song of the Week: How I Will Say I Love You

This week's song is a love song from Tony DeSare.  "How I Will Say I Love You" is one of his original compositions that were included on his debut CD Want You.  This isn't the original version, but one he recorded last year because a fan requested a version with lyrics.  Either way, it's a great song for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It Was 49 Years Ago Today...

49 years ago today, one of the most significant cultural events of the 20th century took place: The Beatles debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show. Less than 90 days after the country was horrified by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the arrival of the Beatles provided a much needed diversion. As quaint as it may seem now, their hair and music was deemed dangerous and controversial and the media ran with it. The event almost singlehandedly broke the nation out of its collective mourning.

The Beatles first appearance on television was a watershed event. One of those rare moments in popular culture that millions of people experienced simultaneously and seared into their collective consciousness (according to Wikipedia, 73 million people watched that night -- about 45% of all of the TVs in the country. By comparison, last week's Super Bowl was seen by a paltry 20%). Countless future musicians were minted watching the black and white images that Sunday night (including Billy Joel). Everyone wanted to be a Beatle. Further, the appearance marked the end of the relatively pastoral 50's and the beginning of the momentous changes of the 60's that would change the country forever. We can debate the affect that had on our culture and the country, but the fact that the Beatles lit the fuse that night is undeniable.

The video above is a restored and remastered version of the complete Sullivan show set. Everyone has seen moments -- Sullivan's introduction with his weirdly Frankenstein-like posture, the screaming girls, the Beatles' smiling and their mop tops swaying. But do yourself a favor and watch the entire 13 minute video. What is so striking and perhaps now overlooked is that these guys could play. And they were playing -- no Beyoncé style lip-syncing going on here. At this early stage in their careers, they were already a great band, due in no small part to the fact that the Beatles had paid their dues. By 1964, they'd been together for close to 8 years, playing the bars of Liverpool and Hamburg. They had the infectious music and charisma to push through the tiny flickering television screens across the country. And as we now know almost 50 years later, the talent to make them the best band in history.

Friday, February 8, 2013

MST3K Friday: The Greatest Frank of All

In the episode Village of the Giants (523), Frank gets fired from Deep 13, and the gang sings this loving tribute.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

MST3K Friday: The Mole People

Any movie that starts with a rambling "science" lecture has Oscar-worthy written all over it.

"Oh, these are the people who make that nice Mexican sauce."
"Archaeologists are just publicists for deceased royalty."
"This movie is just ropes and asses!"