Groovy, Man, Groovy!

Most Outlandish Halloween 2004 Costume Award goes to the short-sleeved T-shirt spotted last night at CBGB during The Shirts‘ set (a coincidence? I don’t think so…)

Generic, neutral gray, with the words “Haight-Ashbury” arching across, as on a street-bought college shirt knock-off, in a plain, navy-blue, block-serif font. Far out, man!

Posted in About Last Night, General Musings |

I Was a Teenage Mutant Cholesterol Monster

That's not my New Doctor, and it's not my Lipitor either.I love my new doctor. I hated my old doctor, so this is good. Apart from emergency scares, like when I woke up in the middle of the night with chest pains (wheeeee! that’ll put the fear into you!), or when I had Killer Krell Bronchitis a few years ago, or when body parts unexpectedly fall off, I tended not to go to my old doctor. Like for the past three or four years. Ever.

The Old Doctor couldn’t remember who I was, even after seeing me four times in the course of 6 weeks. Some people might not find this alarming. All I can tell you is that historically I tend to be memorable. If the cute Indian cashier at the Key Food can identify me at 20 paces, shouldn’t my doctor be able to do as much? It’s not like he doesn’t have my name written down in front of him, and when you’re named Linus that’s a tip-off right there.

My New Doctor called the other day to see if the insurance company had cleared my upcoming MRI. I was surprised to hear from her; on Wednesdays her office is closed. “Yes,” she explained, “but I took some work home.” I love my New Doctor.

“Now Sparky,” she said, “I need to talk to you about your cholesterol. You said it was high when you last had it checked, but it is very high. These numbers are absurd.”

What can I say? I’m an overachiever. And she didn’t actually call me Sparky.

I’m now on medication for the first time in my life, and probably for the rest of my life, which is a strange thing to think about. My prescription for atorvastatin calcium is a daily intervention. A little less scary when you note that atorvastatin calcium is better known as Lipitor®, because who isn’t on Lipitor after 35 or so. But still.

The numbers? Hang on to the skids, kids. I can wrap the Reichstag with my cholesterol; I can pave rural flyover counties with it. If I ever run hungry on a desert island I’ll scoop some out and use it in a casserole. My total level was 363, LDL 271 (woohoo!) and HDL 92. If I’d known, I could have made cholesterol shelves for my DVD’s instead of buying storage racks from Overstock.com. When I get a system that can handle Doom 3, I’ll be using the Lipid Gun as my default weapon.

I love my doctor. And when I got off the phone with her I called Peter Luger to make reservations for our annual Home Office Records company dinner.

Posted in General Musings |

A Perfumed Garden No More

John PeelLegendary British radio DJ John Peel has died of a heart attack while on holidays in Peru. He was 65.

John Peel came to the forefront of pop consciousness during the heady days of “pirate radio” in the mid 60′s, that fueled the music revolution in Britain, and soon the world. In those days, I used to listen most often to the competition at Radio Caroline –whenever I could, reception was not terrific in Paris– but I did often tune in to Radio London for Peel’s free-wheeling show, The Perfumed Garden, with its eclectic and invariably surprising program.

When the Wilson government made the pirate stations illegal on August 15 1967, and only Radio Caroline defied the ban, Peel moved to the newly-created BBC Radio One, which was supposed to take over from the pirates. To his credit, of all the pirates’ alumni, Peel was the only one who managed to keep the flame burning in the homogenized and sanitized environment of BBC1. He will be missed.

Posted in General Musings, Music Theory |

Needlepoint

Anita Pallenberg: All her Things are a Delight Britney of Prey

Birds of a Feather?: I don’t love Britney like some people love Britney, but I do appreciate all the giggles.

Today we bring you an evolutionary case study in Sartomancy, the arcane art of fringe fashion. Pictured above is a legend of pop culture, a difficult nexus of flowering creativity, a crucible of her age, an Explorer who voyaged deep and long in the heart of the Heart, a wastrel wanderer through the shifting fields of the Modern Soul. And, to her right, Britney Spears.

Anita Pallenberg, pictured in fuzz and feathers as The Great Tyrant in Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim), was involved with three of the Rolling Stones: Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger. Britney, all buttered up and ready to go in something that fell off some kind of furry bird, was involved with Justin Timberlake and perhaps Fred Durst.

I have written a poem for Britney Spears, though. It’s not complete, but I think even as a work in progress it can stand more or less on its own.

                    2/3 of a Haiku for Britney Spears

                    I love Britney for her mind.
                    OK, not really.

Posted in General Musings |

Bees Do It

The ever-entertaining BBC reports that the bees do it too. Get drunk, that is.

Researchers at Ohio State University in the US have found that bees react to alcohol in the same way as people do [...] The team found it affected their flying, walking and grooming. [...] the bees which had consumed the higher concentrations of ethanol spent the least time flying or grooming and spent more time on their backs.

Which goes a long way toward explaining the mating rituals along Ludlow Street on Friday nights…

Posted in General Musings |

On the Relation Between Bliss and Ignorance

Waitasec. You mean Boston has a baseball team?

Posted in General Musings |

Aha Baha

Three things:

1. Bow Wow. Woof Woof. In these jumpy aggressive times, so much information is classified, secretized, bowdlerized, villified, sanitized, qualified, glossed over and hidden from public view. But you can’t keep the Great Truths hidden forever.

Finally, the world can be told: who did let the dogs out, anyway? (Via Caren Lissner.)

2. Dare Not Speak the Name. I’m not good at waiting rooms in the best of times. Yesterday it was raining, and so it was not the best of times, Q.E.D.

I dandle about ’til the sonogram room frees up, and a September New Yorker issue comes to hand (by law and custom, all medical professionals these parts must have an old issue of the New Yorker on the premises). As one will in a waiting room, I page through, reading the cartoons and all the short bits.

Thus Running Mates, an extraordinary flight of fancy by Paul Rudnick, in which politics nearly makes strange bedfellows. It’s a tidy read — it ran a single page in the magazine — and I laughed out loud, the old-fashioned way. Partisan? Yes, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a love story, through and through.

3. Pop Quiz. As I respond to the changing season and the wet and chill with my customary brio, by getting an early cold, I’ve had some slow-moving home time to spend with a few DVD’s. The last two across the the transom: Best Laid Plans (1999, Mike Barker), which isn’t nearly as bad as the critics would have you believe (you have to love a movie filmed without the color blue — they had to build just about everything from scratch to pull this off), and Running on Empty (1988, Sidney Lumet).

I didn’t watch these movies back-to-back because the degree-of-separation link between them is so close, but as it turns out, it is. Connect the dots if you can, without resorting to databases. Anyone? Bueller?

3.1 P.S. Dear Internet: No, I do not want a fake Italian Rolex. Please stop asking.

Posted in General Musings |

Words, Words Everywhere

BBC News is having a writing competition to celebrate a century of new words –many of which, however, should probably not be celebrated…

Inquiring minds want to know: how could they miss blog?

Posted in General Musings |

Night of the Living Dead, La La

Romero, Romero, wherefore art thou Romero?Dean Street Brooklyn, Friday night. If you’ve been to Freddy’s Back Room in Prospect Heights you know it’s as easy to find as a trust-fund bohemian in Hipsterville. That doesn’t stop me from getting turned in the wrong direction every time I go, though I only live a mile or so away. Somehow it all looks different out the window of the bus.

If you haven’t been to Freddy’s, go quick, before developer Bruce Ratner tears it down and builds an unwanted urban-blight stadium in its place.

At the corner of Sixth Avenue there’s a congress of paleface ghouls on a cigarette break: this must be the place. It’s October, and Night of the Living Dead – The Musical is staggering around town for a few rare-scare seasonal shows. Near as I can tell the bulk of the run — or is it “stumble”? — is confined to the Greenwich Street Theatre as part of the Spotlight On Halloween Festival. How this show ended up in Freddy’s amiable cramped back room is a mystery for another divining. Number of things Freddy’s has in common with a theatre space = 1 (floor). It will be an adventure.

I opine over my drink that a musical version of this barrel-bottom bit of couture was pretty much inevitable from the word “Goargggh,” given infinite hominids in an infinite New York City (though the show first clawed to light in Detroit). Pierre tartly disagrees. “We’ve been perfectly fine without one for the last 40 years,” he sniffs. “I don’t see why we need one now.”

We’re both right. This is a howler of a show. You laugh with them, you laugh at them, you laugh at yourself for spending a perfectly good Friday night rubbernecking. And strictly speaking, it’s strictly unnecessary. Would I recommend Night of the Living Dead – The Musical? Absolutely. And you’ve been warned.

Things start properly enough, with Johnny and Barbara going to visit Mother’s grave, bickering over the radio as they drive. The classic line “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” is faithfully rendered, and right after this everything goes — forgive me — promptly to hell. If you do a low-budget live version of a low-budget cult flick, what do you get? You get the kind of night where the waitress asks you to move in the middle of Act I, because it has just occurred to everyone that your table is actually on the stage.

I thought that zombie was getting pretty close. (Trivia point: the word “zombie” does not appear in the dialogue for Night of the Living Dead.)

The live band (soon to be a dead band) chugs away at the songs, which run from second-generation Rocky Horror Lite to camp classic: preternaturally-thin Barbara scores early with the minor-key ballad “I’m Scared Shitless,” and follows up later with The Scream Song, which goes roughly like this: “EEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEE! Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo. EEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEE!” and so forth. There’s a flash of bizarre genius when Barbara’s Dead Mother leaps up for a round of ballroom dancing with a Dead Gentleman Caller; the caller will eventually have a solo song with complex lyrics, all of which are “Arrrrrgh.”

Between the highs, Night of the Living Dead – The Musical crashes hard and often. Much of the rest feels like a straining excuse to dress cute girls in torn-up flaps of tatty costumes and drizzle them with streaks of blood and zombie mascara. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. The cast varies in skillz and warez, as might be expected. (Trivia point: extras in the original film were paid a single cash buck for their trouble, and each one got an “I was a zombie in Night of the Living Dead” t-shirt … priceless.)

We can only hope that this show is a bit smoother in front of people who have actually paid for their tickets rather than drinking for them: late in the game tonight one character launches into a rant about American urban foolishness and girlie-men and porn on the B.I.G. HD-TV and an avalanche of like-clapping trap, after which he announces that he’s forgotten his lines, calls for the author, and explains to the meagre house that he doesn’t usually play this part. In true form, the author is off getting a drink or having a pee, or slitting his wrists. The actors shrug, and move on.

At its very worst, Night of the Living Dead – The Musical dabbles in lazy politics, which truly have no business here; while the Builders post fair notice (“WARNING: Those offended by political and religious stereotypes WILL BE EATEN FIRST”), attempts to squeeze 9/11 symbolism, Falwellesque ramblings and election-year posturing into the proceedings are jarring, misguided, badly done and incoherent. It appears that Kerry has the undead vote pretty well tied up, if you wondered.

As Act I bellies in for an emergency landing, the zombies tackle the willing band, dragging them into the street for an animated-corpse makeover. They play dead (haw haw) for the rest of the night. For a finale, after gun-totin’ bikini-fu action, buxom angelic intervention, and a pile-up of corpses worthy of Hamlet, the cast shambles toward the audience, moaning. There isn’t much room. After a few steps, Barbara’s Dead Mother shrugs and clasps my shoulders, leaning down over me as the music dies out. As zombie girls go, she is dead foxy under her grandma wig, and her face lingers toward mine.

She smells lovely.

Previously Peppered at Freddy’s:

Know Your Zombie Lore: Night of the Living Dead is the Ur-movie of the zombie genre. There are two original sequels, and two of the three originals have been remade (so far) with greater or lesser success. Creator George Romero is now working on the fourth film of the trilogy. The 1968 original was shot on a $114,000 shoestring budget in a donated house that was about to be demolished. It famously starred a black leading man and a white leading woman in a period of deep racial conflict. Ironically, Romero was far ahead of his time: he cast Duane Jones not because of his skin color, but because he did the strongest audition. The part of Ben was softened from its original coarse trucker tone to take account (and advantage) of Jones’s sympathetic intelligence and poise.

Because of a titling error on the original masters, the 1968 Night of the Living Dead is now in the public domain. The movie can be legally downloaded for free, and one group of wags has re-recorded the soundtrack to the film, creating a parody called Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh-eating, Hellbound, Crawling, Zombified, Living Dead: Part II (In Shocking 2-D). I haven’t seen it, but in this version (which is said to be pretty scattered) it transpires that the reason they’re all so desperate to get out of the house is that they really, really, really want to get some pizza.

There are many versions of the film available on DVD, and most of these are dismissed as low-quality crap. The two you are looking for are the Special Collector’s Edition or the Millennium Edition, both from Elite Entertainment, which are transfers from the original negative and have commentary by cast and crew including Romero himself. The edition to avoid at all costs, they tell me, is the Anchor Bay release, which adds 15 minutes of scenes shot in the ’90s. Anchor Bay has done excellent work with other films, so I assume they thought they’d try something different here and ended up with a whoops.

On December 5, 1968, The New York Times ran the following backhanded review by Vincent Canby, who really should have known better. Canby does not even deign to mention director George Romero by name. In its entirety:

Night of the Living Dead is a grainy little movie acted by what appear to be nonprofessional actors, who are besieged in a farm house by some other nonprofessional actors who stagger around, stiff-legged, pretending to be flesh-eating ghouls.

The dialogue and background music sound hollow, as if they had been recorded in an empty swimming pool, and the wobbly camera seems to have a fetishist’s interest in hands, clutched, wrung, scratched, severed, and finally — in the ultimate assumption — eaten like pizza.

The movie, which was made by some people in Pittsburgh, opened yesterday at the New Amsterdam Theater on 42d Street and at other theaters around town.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (MOVIE)

With: Judith O’Dea (Barbara), Russell Streiner (Johnny), Duane Jones (Ben), Karl Hardman (Harry Cooper), Keith Wayne (Tom), Judith Ridley (Judy), and Marilyn Eastman (Helen Cooper).

Links of the Living Dead:

  • The official George Romero web site
  • The IMDb roundup on Night of the Living Dead is full of filming information and trivia
  • Night of the Living Dead, in depth and to the point in the Wikipedia
  • Home Page of the Dead, your source for all things Zomboid (avec des scary music)
  • House of Horrors, a loving fan resource for Night of the Living Dead
  • Kyra Schon, who played young Karen Cooper (the Sickly Little Girl in the Cellar Who Comes to the Predictably Bad End), runs a chipper first-person Night of the Living Dead site called Ghoul Next Door
  • Much as I love The Zombies, they don’t belong in this post.
Posted in About Last Night |

A Slip Of The Eye

Quickly glancing over yet another Halloween show announcement for my weekly updating of The Gigometer, my eye stumbles upon a mention of “spongy music”. Huh? Oh, it’s “spooky music”. Still, I wonder what spongy music would be like…

Posted in Music Theory |