Monday, December 28, 2009

What's New... Elsewhere?

By now, I'm sure most -- if not all -- of you have given up on my ever finishing Old Home Week, the multi-parter I began last October. Well, I will be finishing it, but I want to wait until I have time to devote to it, which frankly, won't be for a couple of months or more. (At that point, I'll probably re-post the first three segments.)

Regular readers know that I've been dealing with a lot of crap in the real world lately, so I'm not going to dwell on that right now. And when I have had time to devote to blogging, I've been sticking to shorter posts (for me, that is) here, and to the plotting/writing sessions for Simpson/Lynch Studios: Pleasantview, the blog I share with my once-and-future writing partner, Skip Simpson. (Skip also has a solo blog, Skip's Stuff, by the way!)

If you're not reading Simpson/Lynch Studios: Pleasantview, you're missing out on some of the most creative stuff I -- and by "I," I really mean "we," in this case -- have done! The blog started out as a place to talk about our collaborative projects, past and present, but has proven to have a life of its own. It's transformed into a soap opera of sorts, featuring storylines concerning "The Skipster" and "The Foxster" -- younger-looking, somewhat idealized, incredibly successful and rich versions of Skip and myself! -- as well as a great supporting cast.

I want to announce an upcoming internet crossover "event," the Grand Opening of the Kewl Beanz!TM coffeehouse on January 26th! But Kewl Beanz!TM is hardly "just" a coffeehouse; the team of Skipster and Foxster never do anything in a small way!

We're hoping that plenty of Blogger-bloggers sign up to participate. Those who don't will hopefully still enjoy reading our posts on the SLP site.

So, as the slogan goes, "Be There Or Be Square!"

Thanks for your time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas (Let's Try This Again!)

Let's see if Blogger cooperates this time...

For obvious reasons, I'm feeling somewhat ambivalent about Christmas this year. So I thought I'd just talk about some of my likes and dislikes about Christmas, or more specifically, about Christmas music.

Personally, I usually prefer the older, more religious Christmas carols... "We Three Kings" as opposed to "Here Comes Santa Claus," and such. And I generally like these songs better when they're sung by the more established singers of an earlier era -- Crosby, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, etc. -- as opposed to whatever some modern pop or rock artist has chosen to "gift" us with. But there are exceptions to that ill-defined rule, as you'll see below... if you make it that far.

I wanted to showcase some of my favorite Christmas songs -- in between some characteristic "RantZ" about songs I don't like, or at least, certain details about certain songs that bother me -- and was thwarted in my efforts to find the proper versions.

For example, my absolute favorite version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is by Robert Goulet, and it's not on YouTube. So I decided to "settle" for the song as oh-so-ably performed by Bing Crosby.

And hey, speaking of favorites... Can anyone tell me why "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music is now considered a Christmas song? And don't give me any of that crap about how certain lines have "winter imagery," etc., please?

Another favorite song version which I searched for and didn't find was "The First Noël" as sung by Dennis Day. Instead, I'm offering that Christmas classic -- one that "struck" me for no apparent reason when I was still a child -- as performed by Andy Williams.

"The First Noël" does have a line that bothers me now, even more than it did when I was about seven or eight, and first realized that something was "wrong" about the song.

The second verse begins "They looked up and saw a star..." Two notes are devoted to the word "they," so it comes out "they-ey." Those two notes are followed by another two -- "look-ed" -- which force the singer to sing "look" and "ed" as two separate syllables, rather than pronouncing it as "look'd." WTF? I'm hoping that this awkward construction can be blamed on the nuances of 16th century English. Otherwise, it seems like pretty amateurish writing. (Even at seven, I asked "How come they didn't say something like 'They all looked up?' That would've been better!")

In the song "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," the following lines appear: "There'll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting / And caroling out in the snow / There'll be scary ghost stories..."

Wait a minute. Time out. "Scary ghost stories?" Excuse me? Who the hell tells ghost stories on Christmas?!?

But now that I think of it, has anyone else ever noticed the similarity between "Carol of the Bells" and "Danse Macabre?"

I've already ranted elsewhere, at length (of course), about how and why the line in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which calls Rudolph "the most famous reindeer" bothers me.

Another song with a line that irks me is "I'll Be Home for Christmas," because it begins by saying "I'll be home for Christmas / You can count on me" (emphasis mine), and continues to say "I'll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams" (again, emphasis mine).

Well, make up your damned mind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I understand the point of the song itself. This person wishes he/she could be home for Christmas, but knows it won't happen. But why say "count on me" when you know this?

So again, make up your damned mind! I gotta know how many table-settings to put out!

Okay, okay, when I start getting that picky, it's time for more music!

Successfully mixing the traditional songs I've mentioned with a modern treatment, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has been blowing audiences away for years now. However, if you've never heard of them because you've been living under a rock, here's not one, not two, but three songs they've whipped together, featuring such Christmas favorites of mine as "the Nutcracker Suite," "O Holy Night," and "Carol of the Bells."

Yup, there are a lot of Christmas songs I love. Here are some more recent tunes -- "recent" meaning they were written in the last century! -- which I'm just throwing out at random. Some are a bit depressing, which is only fitting. Not everyone is happy this time of year, for whatever reason. Here's a pleasant thought, one which you probably knew already: More people commit suicide at this time of year than any other. Isn't that cheerful?

If I hadn't used up so much room with stuff I liked, I could have filled this space with YouTube videos telling you about Christmas songs I don't like, and why.

Neil Diamond did an ambitious version of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" which I really can't stand. It has almost a "barbershop" feel to its arrangement, but kinda falls apart in the middle.

I usually love instrumental versions of "Sleigh Ride," but between the "giddy-up" lines and the "comfy cozy" bit, I think the lyrics are sorta lame.

And this ought to tick off more than a few readers: I really dislike the song "Little Drummer Boy." I don't care how popular it is; I think it's stupid. And don't try telling me about how cool you thought the Bing Crosby & David Bowie duet was. It's a dumb song.

Here's a note I wanted to include because I didn't know where else to put it: Often, a person who seems less than enthusiastic about Christmas is asked, "Are you a 'Bah-humbug?' "

"Bah! Humbug!" is not a freakin' noun. It's an exclamation expressing Scrooge's opinion that Christmas was a "humbug," a fraud. The modern-day version of "Bah! Humbug!" would be something like "Ha! Bulls**t!" So calling someone "a Bah-humbug" would be like calling him or her "a bulls**t." Just plain wrong.

Back to the music...

One of my all-time most-loved Christmas songs is "O Holy Night." My favorite version is by Enrico Caruso, recorded in 1916. In my collection of cool stuff I have an original 78 rpm disc of The Great Caruso singing this song in French. Here's a video of it. Caruso's voice still gives me chills, and that's in spite of the poor recording quality of roughly 100 years ago.

Now, lest you think I'm going to let the sarcastic comments or depressing remarks override the theme of this post, my final two songs will be upbeat, I promise.

First, one of the few rock'n'roll Christmas songs that I really love!

And last, but not least, this re-working of a classic really kicks butt! Crank it up to "11," and... Merry Christmas.

Thanks for your time.

My Christmas Present from Blogger

I worked for hours drafting a Christmas post, filled with YouTube videos.

I posted it, and noticed that thanks to the erratic editing glitches I've encountered on Blogger lately, there were huge white spaces instead of a video wherever the videos had been inserted.

And I don't have time to fix it now, so I deleted it. Maybe I'll post it late tonight, maybe tomorrow. Or maybe I'll just say the hell with it for another twelve months!

So much for a timely Christmas post.

Thanks for nothing, Google team!

Thanks for your time.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

ANITA LYNCH, 1917-2009, R.I.P.

My mother passed away early this morning at the age of 92, in her sleep.

She'd been through an awful lot lately, medically speaking, and was just tired of it all.

I visited with her on Friday afternoon. My sister Kathy saw her in the early evening. One of the last things my Mom said to Kathy was "Tell David I can't go on like this." So she knew her hours were numbered, I think, and wasn't bothered in the least. On the contrary, based on some other things she'd said lately, I'm pretty sure she welcomed it.

Sometime when time permits, I'll probably write a much longer post about her. Right now, all I want to add is that my mother was quite impressed by the birthday wishes she received from all over the USA, and all over the world, in response to my birthday post about her on October 20th. And I want to thank those of you who sent those wishes via the comments section of my blog.

Wedding day, 1940

Circa 1969, 1970

After having consulted with me, this waiter at a Mexican restaurant took
Mom for a spin on the dance floor. She was just eighty-five at the time!

Thanks for your time.

David'Z RantZ -- Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em

According to a recent article in The New York Times which I finally got around to reading -- I "subscribe" via email to three sources of national and international headlines per day, but have been so effin' busy lately that I've got over 200 still unread! -- the FDA has banned "flavored" cigarettes. This was done in order to discourage the Precious Youth of America from taking up smoking.

This reminds me of something I've wondered about for years, ever since the PC "Nazis" and other people worried about "The Children!" started shoving their opinions down our throats in the form of laws or other bits of nay-saying designed to protect the impressionable young minds in our otherwise-perfect country (*ahem*):

Why the f**k do they still make candy cigarettes and bubblegum cigars?

I'm not saying whether I think they should or shouldn't...

I'm just askin'.

Thanks for your time... Now, anyone have a light?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

They Called Him Bat... Bat Masterson -- A Theme Thursday "History" Post

When I was a little spud -- very late 1950s and early to mid-1960s -- TV Westerns were all the rage. I grew up idolizing characters like the Lone Ranger and Disney's version of Zorro. I also remember liking shows such as The Rebel (featuring Nick Adams as "Johnny Yuma," a character that inspired me to plead with my mom to get me a Confederate cap until she finally gave in) and Have Gun, Will Travel (and its hero, "Paladin," who, it only now occurs to me, might have provided the initial spark igniting my later interest in dressing in black... an interest that pre-dated all the little Goths running around today).

But I was really too young to fully appreciate the so-called "adult" Westerns of that period.

Roughly three years ago, the Encore Western channel showed the entire five-season run of The Rifleman, and all three seasons of Bat Masterson. I loved having the chance to watch both series in their entirety, but I developed a special affinity for Bat Masterson's character, as portrayed by Gene Barry.

As you probably know, Bat Masterson (pictured above) was a real-life figure in the history of the American "Old West." He was a contemporary of Wyatt Earp's.

When it comes to Wyatt Earp, I prefer the depictions of him which look more authentic -- think Kurt Russell in Tombstone -- but I don't mean in any way to slight actor Hugh O'Brian, who portrayed Wyatt on TV in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp!

It should come as a surprise to no one that I own a cane
like the one in the above photo, obtained courtesy of eBay!

When it comes to Bat Masterson, however, I prefer to think of him as he was brought to TV "life" by Gene Barry. What a class act!

In 1991, Gene Barry played the role of Bat once again in the fun-filled, light-hearted memory fest called -- deep breath here, fellow babies! -- The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, starring Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire. This TV-movie gave cameos and longer parts to many actors -- Chuck Connors, David Carradine, Clint Walker, Brian Keith, Hugh O'Brian, Jack Kelly, and more --who were familiar faces during the 1950s and 1960s on American television. And they all played their original characters! (Well, not exactly in the case of James Drury and Doug McClure... I assume it had something to do with unobtainable rights to their characters from The Virginian, but let's not get into that right now.)

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the actors who reprised their earlier, iconic roles in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw are no longer with us. And sadder still, a few days ago, the illustrious name of Gene Barry was added to that list of departed Western stars.

In addition to three seasons as Bat Masterson, Gene Barry appeared in TV series and movies like Burke's Law, The Name of the Game, China Gate (which featured Nat King Cole, Lee Van Cleef, and Angie Dickinson as a Eurasian!), and the incredible, classic The War of the Worlds.

"Which The War of the Worlds?" Why, is there more than one? Heh, heh. (Actually, Gene Barry had a part in the Tom Cruise film, too!)

But to me, Gene Barry will always be Bat Masterson.

Rest in peace, Mr. Barry.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

David'Z RantZ: A Bird in the Hand is Worth U2 in the Bush... Or Something...

(This is only a "David'Z RantZ" post by default, since my proper "Silver Fox" entries are primarily my own writings. But this was too good not to share, fellow babies!)

I don't really care what your politics are, nor how you feel about the USA's former president, George W. Bush. Whether you love him, or hate him, or somewhere in between, you still ought to get a kick out of the following video, which has him "performing" one of the best songs by U2 (IMHO, anyway!)

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something Appealing, Nothing Ap-PAUL-ing...

As I have mentioned constantly on this blog -- so constantly that it's become a running joke -- I used to work at a comic shop and "pop culture emporium" called That's Entertainment in Worcester, Massachusetts. Simply put, the three years I spent there (1985-1988) as a full-time employee and de facto albeit untitled assistant manager provided my first opportunities for amateur and professional comic book publication, and more importantly, acquainted me with a few people who -- in varying degrees -- remain friends to this day.

One of those friends is Paul Howley, the owner of That's Entertainment.

Paul has been serializing his life story on a few internet locations, but unfortunately, these locations have dwindled over time. Therefore, Paul has started his own blog, My Life With Comic Books, which is re-telling his story from the beginning.

Don't let the title "fool" you, however. It is indeed a history of Paul's involvement with comic book collecting and selling, and is crammed with fascinating information about the growth of comic books as a real collectibles business, but as you read each successive chapter, you happily realize that you've been "tricked" into reading an intriguing story about a man and his family, and their friends, etc. That's why I highly recommend it, as I said above, but not only to comic book fans. The blog should provide interesting -- sometimes captivating -- reading for anyone interested in the so-called "human experience."

That may sound like I'm over-stating it, but I have the advantage of having seen over 150 chapters so far. For most of you, the ride is just beginning.

(By the way, in order to read it from the very beginning instead of whatever chapter Paul has most recently posted, you may want to click here instead. This will bring you to Part One.)

Paul Howley... kinda

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

John Lennon: You Learn Something New Every Day (Almost)!

This post originally appeared on my now-deleted blog, You Learn Something New Every Day (Almost)!

The 29th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination is December 8th. Doing some late-night research, I found a detail I'd somehow missed about his tragic shooting by Mark David Chapman.

John Lennon was shot, four times, in the back.

I'd always assumed he was shot in the chest, because of the probably-apocryphal story that before firing, Chapman called out "Mr. Lennon?" which presumably would have made Lennon turn to face him. But apparently, Chapman himself said he never said that.

Well. In the past twenty-four hours, I've written entries for all three of my active blogs. I'm going to bed...

But I'll leave you with Elton John's tribute to his departed friend.

Thanks for your time.

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