Friday, January 30, 2009

This Week The Was That Were

Faulkner actually had, considering how hard he is to read and how drastic the experiments are, quite a middle-class readership. But certainly someone like Steinbeck was a bestseller as well as a Nobel Prize-winning author of high intent. You don't feel that now. I don't feel that we have the merger of serious and pop -- it's gone, dissolving. Tastes have coarsened. People read less, they're less comfortable with the written word. They're less comfortable with novels. They don't have a backward frame of reference that would enable them to appreciate things like irony and allusions. It's sad.
- John Updike, who died this week at age 76

This is not authorized by us. "The Simpsons" does not, and never has, endorsed any religion, philosophy or system of beliefs any more profound than Butterfinger bars.
- Simpsons executive producer Al Jean, commenting on Nancy Cartwright using her Bart Simpson voice for a robocall promoting Scientology

In an emergency situation, which part of you would you eat first?
-Stephen Colbert interviewing Sir Paul McCartney this week

A Really Big Shoe


For the war-beaten orphans of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, this big old shoe fits.

A huge sculpture of the footwear hurled at President Bush in December during a trip to Iraq has been unveiled in a ceremony at the Tikrit Orphanage complex.

Assisted by children at the home, sculptor Laith al-Amiri erected a brown replica of one of the shoes hurled at Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi during a press conference in Baghdad.

Al-Zaidi was jailed for his actions, and a trial is pending. But his angry gesture touched a defiant nerve throughout the Arab and Muslim world. He is regarded by many people as a hero. Demonstrators in December took to the streets in the Arab world and called for his release.

The shoe monument, made of fiberglass and coated with copper, consists of the shoe and a concrete base. The entire monument is 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) high. The shoe is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long and 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide.

The orphans helped al-Amiri build the $5,000 structure -- unveiled Tuesday -- in 15 days, said Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director.

"Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush's war," al-Naseri said. "The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist."

"When the next generation sees the shoe monument, they will ask their parents about it," al-Naseri said.

"Then their parents will start talking about the hero Muntadhir al-Zaidi, who threw his shoe at George W. Bush during his unannounced farewell visit."

By tradition, throwing a shoe is the most insulting act in the Arab world.

Dun't Esk!

Bet you didn't know I was so talented.

Milt Gross, of course (or one of his ghost artists), from Milt Gross Funnies #2.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So Long, Schmuck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Patrick McGoohan, 1928 - 2009

I know this roll call of the dead is getting a little ridiculous, and I hope to offer something different soon. In the meantime, one of our most unique and challenging actors, as well as a huge part of my adolescence, is gone:

Associated Press:

Patrick McGoohan, the Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show "The Prisoner," has died. He was 80.

McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said.

McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama "Columbo," and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film "Braveheart."

But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a sci-fi tinged 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small enclave known only as The Village, where a mysterious authority named Number One constantly prevents his escape.

McGoohan came up with the concept and wrote and directed several episodes of the show, which has kept a devoted following in the United States and Europe for four decades.

Born in New York on March 19, 1928, McGoohan was raised in England and Ireland, where his family moved shortly after his birth. He had a busy stage career before moving to television, and won a London Drama Critics Award for playing the title role in the Henrik Ibsen play "Brand."

He married stage actress Joan Drummond in 1951. The oldest of their three daughters, Catherine, is also an actress.

His first foray into TV was in 1964 in the series "Danger Man," a more straightforward spy show that initially lasted just one season but was later brought back for three more when its popularity -- and McGoohan's -- exploded in reruns.

Weary of playing the show's lead John Drake, McGoohan pitched to producers the surreal and cerebral "The Prisoner" to give himself a challenge.

The series ran just one season and 17 episodes in 1967, but its cultural impact remains.

He voiced his Number Six character in an episode of "The Simpsons" in 2000. The show is being remade as a series for AMC that premieres this year.

"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement Wednesday. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our re-imagining of 'The Prisoner."'

Later came smaller roles in film and television. McGoohan won Emmys for guest spots on "Columbo" 16 years apart, in 1974 and 1990.

He also appeared as a warden in the 1979 Clint Eastwood film "Escape from Alcatraz" and as a judge in the 1996 John Grisham courtroom drama "A Time To Kill."

His last major role was in "Braveheart," in what The Associated Press called a "standout" performance as the brutal king who battles Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, played by Gibson.

In his review of the film for the Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer said "McGoohan is in possession of perhaps the most villainous enunciation in the history of acting."

McGoohan is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Last Performance of the Oswald Band

I take it this is a long-standing Internet jape, but it was new to me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ron Asheton, 1948 - 2009


DETROIT - Ron Asheton, a guitarist and founding member of the influential rock band The Stooges, was found dead at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, police said.

Asheton, 60, was found on his couch and appeared to have been dead for several days, Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Brad Hill said.

"We do not expect foul play," Hill said.

Police were called to Asheton's home shortly after midnight after an acquaintance reported that he had been unable to contact him for several days.

Stooges frontman Iggy Pop, who went on to enjoy a successful solo career, said in a statement that he was in shock about the death of "my best friend."

The Stooges formed in 1967, with the lineup rounded out by Asheton's brother Scott on drums and the late Dave Alexander on bass. Known for a violent and primitive style that featured stage-diving and outrageous antics by Pop, The Stooges were part of a late 1960s Detroit-area rock scene that also included the MC5.

They broke up in 1974 after three now-classic albums, limited commercial success and mounting drug problems for Pop.

But backed by Asheton's guitar riffs on songs such as "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "TV Eye," the band's music has been credited as a powerful influence on a wide range of punk and alternative bands including The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The White Stripes.

"As a musician Ron was The Guitar God, idol to follow and inspire others," Pop and the Stooges said in a statement. "That is how he will be remembered by people who had a great pleasure to work with him, learn from him and share good and bad times with him."

After The Stooges broke up, Asheton acted in a series of low-budget horror films in the 1980s and 1990s.

Asheton, ranked as the 29th greatest rock guitarist by Rolling Stone, rejoined The Stooges when the band reunited in 2003 and for the 2007 comeback album, "The Weirdness."

The band has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Mike Watt talks about Ron Asheton.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Tristan King 1966 - 2008

From the livejournal Do You Come Here Often? by sometime Scritti Politti keyboardist and Independent columnist Rhodri:

Sad news for fans of niche late-1980s music. Tris King, the drummer of Bogshed, Jackdaw With Crowbar, A Witness and many others, died this week.

Guess my teenage self can now rule out any possibility of highly-unlikely reformations. Sniff.

Vince Hunt of A Witness wrote in response:

I’m very saddened to hear this news and Keith and I would like to pass on our sympathies to Tris's family and friends.

I played many times with Tris when A Witness and Bogshed appeared on the same bill and so I knew how good he was for a long time. When Bogshed finished and we needed a drummer, his name was first on our list, and I was delighted when he agreed to join. I wondered if he might be a bit TOO good, and I can still see him now setting his drums out in the rehearsal space in Liverpool and settling in behind his kit.

Of course, he got all the difficult bits first time and his great flair, sense of timing and feel for arrangement helped lift those final A Witness songs to a higher level.

‘Break On Through’, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – with its beautifully sparse acoustic mid-section, arranged on the spot in Strawberry – and of course ‘I Love You Mr Disposable Razors’ were all the better for Tris’s contribution.

I was shocked when I heard Tris was ill as he always looked so young. I remember him as a good guy and a great drummer and I'm glad to have known him and had him in our band. I’ll raise a glass to you Tris, and spin that final 12” single one more time.

Vince Hunt, A Witness.