Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31

Okay, how can I explain how important John Lydon is? He didn't invent punk music; you have to look at New York, and bands like the Ramones, the New York Dolls, Television... You can't say that he started the Sex Pistols; that was Malcolm McLaren, an aspiring Don Kirschner trying to round up his own Monkees.
No, what Johnny Rotten did was give punk its heart, its conscience. And I'm not talking about the political protesting that draws a straight line from the Clash to Live Aid to U2. Their voices owe a debt to Johnny Rotten. When punk was about to become another pose, he showed everyone what a man with a microphone can do to the world. The empowerment that his tenure in the Sex Pistols inspired reached beyond musical trends, inspiring the art and politics of an entire generation, and beyond.

He remained true to his philosophy, even as he traipsed and trampled through pop culture. Here's a track from his follow-up band, Public Image Limited:

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 30

Today's the birthday of Mark Eitzel, singer for American Music Club. Today's also a day I'm snowed in, so here's a clip to go with their song "Western Sky". Don't know why this makes me feel as comfy as tomato soup and grilled cheese, but it does...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 29

Here's a blast from the pas: Ann Jillian. In the 80's, she resumed the tradition of Mae West and Judy Holliday, platinum blondes that were more than a pretty hair color. Matter of fact, one of her Emmy nominations was for playing Mae West. (She also was nominated for playing herself, in a TV-movie about her fight with breast cancer.) But her big break was the sitcom "It's A Living," which was one of the first TV shows to find a second life in the new syndication and cable markets.
These days, she's been retired for over a decade, doing motivational speaking and corporate gigs. But wouldn't it be great to see her in a touring production of Chicago? Watch this clip, and see what I mean:

January 28

I know there are people that need more attention than Sarah Maclachlan but I really like the song "Angel." I had no idea it was about the Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist Johnathan Melvoin. Since then, it's been the go-to song at too many funerals, sure, but it's still a touching tune. Heaven help me, I'm even excited that Liliths back; what's wrong with me?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27

Today's the birthday of Peter Laird, one of the two daddies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He's the current curator of the brand (Eastman sold off his share at least a decade ago), and that's his full time job apparently; he doesn't even have other comics drawn besides.
I know, the only reason I'm posting this is so I can run a clip of the catchiest theme song of all time:

Yes, you heard right. This is the European version; apparently, there's no such thing as a good 'ninja' in Europe...

Monday, January 25, 2010

January 26

So if you're a comic book fan, you probably heard that Spiderman's getting a movie reboot, along with any Marvel character not already being produced by Marvel Films. Well, my favorite guy is still Superman, and he deserves a reboot of his own, something classic and less emo. This looks like a job for Michael O'Hearn. He's a four-time Mr Natural Universe title holder and the only guy to be an American Gladiator in both incarnations.
I'm not the only guy who thinks he's the man who can pull off the tights. Check out this fan film, a mock trailer for a movie called "World's Finest":

January 25

Call me Leroyski, 'cuz I'm still rushing to find a good net connection. Meanwhile, consider the wisdom of poet John Cooper Clarke, bard of the punk movement. Here's his rant, "Chickentown":

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 24

I was looking over a list of today's candidates, and got to wondering what's going on with Yakov Smirnov these days. I mean, he got plenty of laughs out of the Cold War, but I figured the fall of Communism put him out of business. Should have known better; he's been in Branson since '93, which seems like a place where Reagan jokes would still play. Not only is he still playing to crowds, he's a professor of positive psychology at Missouri State, teaching about applied uses of laughter in interpersonal relationships. He's even developing a talk show, of the couch variety.
Before he reinvents himself as the next Dr Phil, let's enjoy a shot of some vintage Smirnoff:

Friday, January 22, 2010

January 23

How do you say "Happy Birthday" in Finnish? Because it's Sampsa Astala's birthday today. In his day job, he's known as Kita, drummer for Eurovision songwinners Lordi, who are the keepers of The Metal.
I so want these guys to take over the airwaves, and this year might be theirs; they start recording their next album in Nashville next month...

January 22

I know it's a little hard and fast with the rules, but I personally cannot let the birthday of Diane Lane go by. She graces one of the great cult rock films, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, and I'm pretty sure that Jack White's a fan, too. (See the film, to see what I mean...) She also stars in another peripherally important film to me, Killshot, which was filmed in my old neck of the woods: Cape Girardeau, MO (well, ten percent, at least.) And her next film is Secretariat, which lensed in my current neck of the woods, so I'll have to watch it, even if it is another damn horse movie, but I have two good reasons to: Diane Lane, and the prospect of seeing my neighbors in crowd scenes.
BTW, Diane Lane - lovely lady. She's been married to a Highlander and a Goonie; how cool is that?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January 21

Another quickie: Michael Wincott. The man's bad news when he's onscreen, at least in popcorn movies like Metro, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and The Crow. In smaller films, like Talk Radio or Basquiat, who knows what you're going to get, except that you know it's good. In video game circles, he's Halo's Prophet of Truth, because he's got one of those gravel voices, somewhere between Harvey Fierstien and Cthulu. Plus, he's really good with a sword; why hasn't he done a Pirates of the Caribbean movie yet?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 20

Now, here's an undercelebrated celebrity: Ken Page. A true old-school entertainer, this singing, dancing, acting machine is the original Old Deuteronomy in Cats. If you're younger, you'd probably hear his voice and think of Mr Oogie Boogie Man from "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Or, if you're a true and old comic book geek, you might remember him as Joe 'Cheesecake' Tyson, sidekick to Jon Sable on his eponymous TV spin-off. Or you might not; I think the show had eight episodes or something. And Ken played the blind black best friend in a wheelchair; I mean, how much more marginalized could you make the guy? Give him a Scottish accent? Make him a gay midget? A talking cat?
Let's put the bus back on the road, and watch this tour de force performance:

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 19

Hope to be back to normal tommorow. Meanwhile, think of Michael Crawford today, who is Condorman to me, and the Phatom of the Opera to everyone else. Plus, he's the guy singing the "Hello Dolly" songs in "Wall-E," which means his voice is the key to restoring a post-apocalyptic civilization. Now that's a powerful voice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 18

Again, briefer than usual, but still in the game. Today's "Beat" Takeshi Kitano Day, the Robert DeNiro of Japan. And not just because he plays a lot of gangsters. If I get a chance, I'll observe the day with a screening of "Battle Royale". Any other suggestions?

January 17

Well, it's relocation weekend for me, which gives even less time than usual to post. But I can't miss the chance to wish Kai Hansen "Happy Birthday." He's the godfather of power metal, which is the most cinematic, most technically proficient, and most uplifting form of metal out there. It's better than Red Bull for me. So here's Hansen's current band, Gamma Ray, with a live performance of "Somewhere Out In Space":

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 16

It's nice to get a chance to wander. In between packing rooms, I took a few moments to research today's birthdays, and found the name Stirling Silliphant. He's not a federal witness protection alias; Silliphant wrote some of the 60's mot acclaimed movies and TV shows, including "In the Heat of the Night", "The Poseiden Adventure," "Village of the Damned," "Route 66..."

And it was reading up about him that I learned about a lost Bruce Lee movie. Apparently, he was a student of Bruce Lee's, in his pre-superstar days. Lee and Silliphant co-wrote a script about Eastern philosophy: a young martial artist wanders in search of a mystic book, encountering many trials and battles, as well as wisdom from a mysterious sensei. "The Silent Flute" was supposed to star James Coburn as the wanderer, and Bruce Lee in multiple roles, including the sensai character. The project never got past the location scouting stage. Several years after Lee's death, Silliphant dusted off the script, took out the Tantric sex and some of the gorier fights, and sold it. Although it was now set in a fantasy world, "Circle of Iron" still possessed much of the koans and parables Lee had wanted to present to the audience. This time, David Carradine got Bruce Lee's role (again!) and some new guy had the James Coburn role It's generally considered a not-so-good movie, but still meritorious for its philosophy and audaciousness. Here's the trailer; it's not too hard to imagine what Bruce Lee would have done with the role:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 15

Even though Monday's the day kids get off from school, today's the day Martin Luther King was born. And sure, everybody knows who he is, but he's starting to become "that guy that we get the day in February off for" guy, or "that street that we took a wrong turn on" guy, or "that guy that had that 'dream' speech" guy.
But seriously, as a white/Asian mix, I know that his work was about more than rights for blacks; it was about rights for humanity, regardless of color, heritage, or any surfeit difference between two individuals. My ancestors might have killed each other on sight a century or two ago; my parents couldn't have shared the kind of abundant life they provided for our family, without the work of people like Mr. King. And anyone who can demonstrate to the world that there are more ways to bring about change than armed conflict, deserves respect.
There's a family of video comedians called the Gregory brothers, who have way too much fun with green screen and Auto-Tune. They also made this surprisingly touching (at least to me) tribute to Mr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech; those words he spoke really resonate now, when you consider the America that we live in at this moment. There's work still to be done, but we've come a long way...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January 14

Happy Birthday to good sport and future Jeopardy question Gary Brolsma. When he was 19, he was just a kid with a computer and webcam, and a taste for Eurodance. Nobody (certainly not him) thought he would make the world dance with this clip:

I'm surprised there are no dissertations yet written about how this clip became a cultural nexus point. I mean, it's the 2nd most viewed clip on the Internet ever, after Star Wars Kid - and Star Wars Kid's a recluse. Gary, meanwhile, has taken things in stride, parlaying his internet celebrity status to start his own band and become an ad pitchman.

He's also got his own website, and he's about to launch his own video network, trying to share his fame with as many people as he can. That's class, right there.
And maybe he's got the same attitude about it that Weezer sang about:

January 13

Happy Birthday to Lady Python Carol Cleveland, the girl on all those Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches. Although not a writer-performer like the six Pythons, her comic timing and willingness to be as silly as possible made her a favorite among the cast and fans. She appeared in 30 of the original 45 episodes, and in all four films, in Holy Grail's twins Zoot and Dingo.
And so, in commemoration of the lady who handled more Python than anyone (sorry about that), here's "Monty Python's best sketch ever," according to some copyright-flounting yahoo. Results may very, but give it a go:

And, because you can never get enough Python, here's a sketch you will recognize:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12

Happy Birthday to Jason Freese, the musician's best buddy. He made his mark as a saxaphone-for-hire, playing on tracks for everyone from Jewel to NOFX, from American Idol contestant Kimberly Locke to metal supergroup A Perfect Circle. Currently, he's a touring member of Green Day, playing keyboards and second guitar, among other instruments. Not only a musician, he's an ordained minister who officiated Jewel's wedding. So, he's got a fallback...
Here's a clip of Jason playing a musical tribute at a friend's funeral. Here's hoping Jason's having better times today:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 11

I'll admit it; sometimes, I'm a slave to the audience. Maybe it's this deep-seated need for approval that drives me, but if I can write up about somebody that'll interest any of my audience - all 3 of you - then I'll do it.
And so, it's time for filmmaker Darren Lynn Bousman to blow out the candles. He first tried to break into Hollywood as a screenwriter, but the script he was shopping around was rejected for being a "Saw" clone; when the "Saw" filmmakers found out, they approached him about reworking the script into a "Saw" sequel. Voila; "Saw II".
Bousman got the director's chair next, for "Saw III". And before he would accept a job on "Saw IV", he shepherded his dream project: a film adaptation of the underground stage play "Repo!: The Genetic Opera". (And that, friends, is why we're talking about him today.)
Currently, he's scheduled to helm remakes of Mother's Day and Scanners. Meanwhile, here's a scene from one of Milady's top 5 musicals...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 10

Today's birthday goes to Brad Roberts, lead singer and anchor of the Crash Test Dummies, a band that fell prey to their own success. I mean, if you were listening to the radio in '94 (back when there was an Alternative-radio format), you couldn't escape "Mmm mmm mmm mmm" and the woofer-rumbling voice of Brad Roberts. The song was so big, it painted the band in a corner they refused to be in; the band's subsequent forays into, respectively, hard rock and falsetto-rich R&B rhythms didn't have much impact at all. But the band's still together (well, Brad and another original member, plus lots of special guests) and getting a new album ready in 2010. Meanwhile. Brad lives in Soho and teaches mantra chanting classes on the side, which is perfect for him, considering that tremolo.
Speaking of that, he revealed the source of his booming baritone on an episode of VH1's "I Love the 90's" - he was born with a third testicle, which was surgically removed when he was 28. I think he was serious; with Brad Roberts, you can't entirely tell...
Here's their career-defining hit:

January 9

I've got over four months behind me, but I'm not writing this for the old reasons anymore. I was writing this to satisfy my writing itch, share a peculiar interest, and start a potential new revenue stream. Since then, I've dropped the ads, probably because I get a hit a week, probably because it's a stretch to call what I do writing. Although it's not a grocery list, it's basically caption writing in front of whatever video I can find. Time constraints has me spending 30 minutes a day, choosing one subject with a neato video, and spouting my first thoughts before I'm pulled away or pass out. But I want to finish this marathon; I might have brain fatigue, but I still intend on punching through.
Don't know if today's choice had anything to do with that outburst just then. Carl Bell is the guitarist and lyricist for the band Fuel, which warrants the debate of what the most important part of a band is. I remember Fuel's first splash on the radio ("Shimmer") in 1998, little anticipating their evolution into an American Nickelback clone. Ten years later, the drummer got fired, the singer left, and the bass player started a band with the ex-singer performing songs from the first three Fuel albums (just in case you miss the point, their band's called ReFueled.)
So are they a Fuel cover band, or what? It goes back to that fuzzy logic question of how many parts can you change on your old car before it's not your old car anymore, or how many parts of Van Halen can you change before it's not Van Halen anymore. Was Van Hagar the end? Cherrone? Chickenfoot? Wolfgang? I've veered off a bit...
I want to root for Carl on this one, because singer Brett Scallions' voice automatically notches a song in the American Idol Rock sound, while songs like "Shimmer" and "Hemorrage" suggest something with a bit more... range, I guess. On the other hand, Fuel 2.0 was a non-starter...
In the end, I'm of a mind that each artistic enterprise (even if its the musical equivalent of making greasepit cheeseburgers) is its own creature; when the alchemy's changed, it's time to change the name. It's hell on the marketing, but it's for the best...
At this point, the pieces of Fuel past and present are scattered to the four winds; Carl's working on theme songs for TV pilots, the hired guns are now in Everclear 3.0 (don't get me started,) and everybody's thinking about the good old days. So, I presume that in five years time, we'll see most of Fuel reunited on the Legacy circuit of state fairs and casino stages (Stone Temple Pilots already broke that barrier for 90's bands, and don't get me started about them...)
Here's a Carl Bell composition, from back in the day, in a FLCL AMV:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 8

Today's a very important day in the history of Rock n' Roll, because today is the birthday of the King... of the Loverboys. Mike Reno, lead singer of Loverboy, was born on this day, and Canada never rocked so hard. EVER. (I'm looking at you, Nickelback...) You see, Loverboy, in all their big hair glory, gave the world its blue-collar anthem:
Working For the Weekend. That song is the audio equivalent of Red Bull. Anybody who's hated a shift at their job and finished it anyway knows the lyrics in their soul, but it was Mike Reno and Loverboy who gave those feelings a voice.
So Happy Birthday, Mike Reno. If you'd had about five more songs like this, you guys would have been... Journey, I guess. But you're still rockin', and that's the important thing!
Here's an internet meme starring somebody that is not Mike Reno, celebrating Loverboy's contribution to humanity:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 7

Looks like today's post is going to be for Kathy Valentine, bassist for the Go-Go's. She's another great example of the bass player being the bedrock for a band; she was there at the beginning of their recording career, and is still a member today (that is, when they take their turn on the legacy circuit.) She's also in two or three other bands while raising a family in Austin, Texas. That, plus her solo album a few years back, and she's a pretty prolific artist.
Let's jam with one of my fave Go-Go's songs, "Vacation". I'm really needing this song today:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January 6

I tried, Sister, I tried. I mentioned about my blog, which has been a receptacle for my long-held fascination with birthdays and who shares them. She asked if I'd write about Danny Pintauro when her birthday arrived. Unfortunately, all I managed to uncover bummed me out. To save you the trouble of Googling him, the former sitcom child star grew up, left his past in his past, and isn't really at all like the character his old fans remember, from what I can tell.
So let me introduce you, sis, to somebody interesting with your birthday. Norman Reedus is an actor/filmmaker who's most recognized from the 90's cult film The Boondock Saints. Otherwise, he's got one of those faces that keeps him from getting lost in the shuffle, even if he hasn't had that Breakthrough Role yet.
He's not exactly waiting for it to show up, either. He's tapping into his inner Cassavettes. His production company in New York, Big Bald Head Productions, allows him to control things from the other side of the camera, such as this film short, called "The Rub":


The Rub | MySpace Video

Meanwhile, his most celebrated role remains as the younger, hot-headed McManus brother. So here's the first five minutes of the 2009 sequel:

January 5

This one's for Ted Lange, actor-director-playwright. He's even done a one-man show about Paul Lawrence Dunbar. But for a generation, he was the sultan of swagger Isaac Washington, bartender on the "Love Boat."
So here's a clip from the episode where Isaac's new girlfriend (played by June Pointer of the Pointer Sisters) seems to be using him for free booze. Why couldn't it be Stevie Nicks using Doc for pills? Or Anne Ramsey using Gofer for backrubs? Anyway, here's the Pointer Sisters harmonizing on "Happy Birthday":

Monday, January 4, 2010

January 4

Today's birthday boy is James Bond. Not the author of the spy book series, not any actor that's played him, not a fanboy - we're talking the original, born in 1900 (in America!), Mama-named-him "James Bond". And what would you expect a boy named James Bond to grow up to be?
A birdwatcher. In fact, he became a celebrated ornithologist, writing the definitive guide to birds of the Caribbean region. Birds of the West Indies was a welcome addition to any birdwatcher's library - including author Ian Fleming. One day, attempting to name his superspy character, he looked on his bookshelf and decided he liked the name "James Bond" - normal to the point of boring, yet still masculine. Fleming wrote the guy, got the o.k., and 20th century masculinity has never been the same.
So, in honor of a classy man who gave his name to a classy man, here's the James Bond theme - with words!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 3

I'm so happy to say Happy Birthday, Julia Nunes. I don't even remember how I learned about this girl, but once I heard Into the Sunshine, I was hooked. She's a college student/ukelele player that got the knack for making her own webcam music videos, posted them on YouTube, and managed to parlay that into three albums and two world tours (okay, trips to England, but still...) I don't even know if she finished school yet.
Anyway, this video will give you a good sampling of the charms of Julia Nunes:

Three days... so much for New Years Resolutions...

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 2

Okay, so today gives us a chance to reminisce about Isaac Asimov. Now, how undercelebrated can Isaac Asimov be, considering that he's one of the Big Three of Science Fiction, that he wrote about 500 novels, conceived the Three Laws of Robotics, that he has an elementary school, an asteroid, a Martian crater, and a Star Trek character named after him... really, what's been missed?
True, but today's really about an undercelebrated animated film named Gandahar, or Light Years, when it came to the US. Based on the French novel, Light Years was a sci-fi fantasy that got a boost in its pedigree when Asimov handled the translation chores. So, here's part 1, to give you a taste; it looks like a lost episode of Heavy Metal, but it's still worth a look:

Besides, it's got more blue naked chicks than "Avatar..."