Night stroll up Foster

I sometimes toy with the idea of learning the neon-sign trade. Taken yesterday.

Couch in the mirror

Last night.

The Ultimate Mutt Cat

It's a shame this visitor to the Magic Bus inclimate-weather community-feline shelter is so feral; it's fascinating how many breeds of cat you can see in its limbs and extremities. Taken yesterday.

A Very Special K-drama

A wise man once told me the first South Korean-made soap opera you see is the best one ever made, so I never bothered to seek out a followup to ALL ABOUT EVE, which has all the ingredients I would probably want in any modern TV series anyway; cute girls, handsome men, amusing-but-sparsely-used tertiary characters, a certain amount of realism [not everyone is rail-thin and young] and a lack of cliched bullshit -- of course, the latter may simply be me not recognizing the cliched bullshit because I'm not seeing the unique US-grown corn in it.

Hulu has a page of all 20 episodes in the series, although the actual videos are hosted on partner site Drama Fever.

To celebrate not having to arrange for my DVDs of the series to be dug out of storage and mailed to me if I ever have this particular pop-culture itch to scratch, I just wrote a senryu about the series:

"Roll My Eyes Skyward
To Keep The Tears From Falling;
Hyong Chul, Notice Me."


It's really only the difficulty for Westerners to say his name without giggling that's preventing Jang Dong-gun from becoming a star over here. That guy kicks ass on screen in ways that only middle-aged Britishers can do right now [go buy/rent/torrent/search YouTube for TAEGUKGI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR] and, unlike your Chow Yun Fats and Jet Lis, Jang can portray more than one character. He just needs to change his name to something that even a fan can't resist singing to Kiss' "Love Gun" and annoying the cats he's sitting this week: DONG GUUUUUUUUUUN DOooOONG GUUUUUUUUU-UNNNNNNN JANG-JANG-JANGJANG JANG-JANG-JANGJANG JANG-JANG-JANGJANG-JANG-JANG-JANGJANG-JANG-JANG-JANGJANG-JANG-JANG-JANGJANG

Or something.

You can never have too many documentaries about Peter Cook.

Because we all enjoy a good hour-long film about the late, great The Funniest Man Alive. Via frogandpeach1's invaluable YouTube Channel:

"Some Interesting Facts About Peter Cook"



"Heroes of Comedy: Peter Cook"



While I'm at it, let's tap out the rest of my Cook media bookmarks. Here's the BEYOND THE FRINGE cast on WHAT'S MY LINE; I think Arlene Francis is in love with all four men, who are endearingly camera-shy:



On the other side of Cook's life, this eulogy/eulogy-corrective from a young Stephen Fry really could and should be the last word on Peter Cook's life and career:

Banana fudge, perfected.

I will undoubtedly have forgotten everything I've learned in how to get this particular flavor of fudge right before this batch is even eaten, but, for now, banana is my bitch. Next, lemon.

The glory of Food 4 Less on Powell

This joint is like a outlet grocery from four or five different countries mashed together in a building that was probably built for a Home Depot or something. I like any joint with 50¢/lb oranges, Chinese eggplant, Mexican Coke, Eastern European cakes, suspiciously cheap fresh Thai coconuts and American candies that time forgot. The checkouts have a split-customer conveyor-belt system that cries out for the zombified corpse of Tati to rise and film a bit around. Taken yesterday.

Black and gray cats are not the easiest to photograph.

We have developed a ritual; after they eat dinner and finally give up on the chace to go back outside, they head into the bedroom to sleep. A few hours later, I attempt to get into bed without them flipping shit and leaving the room for a few minutes/hours. In almost any light, Flanders is a challenge to capture on screen as anything other than a black mass. Taken Friday night.

Sometimes, you just have to know

if a film actor you remember in a minor support role is the same actor you remember in a minor support role from a different movie.

Anne Ryan has an extraordinary start to her filmography; she made her debut as "Angie" in LUCAS, the Corey Haim/Kerri Green/Charlie Sheen coming-of-age vehicle [with Winona Ryder and Jeremy Piven in support roles], in 1986. Ryan then played "Shermerite" ["I heard that if Ferris dies, he's giving his eyes to Stevie Wonder. He's such a sweetie!"] in the iconic comedy FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, released later the same year. In 1987, she returned to the cinema to co-star in the hyperkinetic-but-realistically-awkward high-school-bully cult classic THREE O'CLOCK HIGH. And then, nothing. One assumes that, like Green, Ryan wasn't pressured, immature and/or broken enough to stay in the business at an age when most people go to college and/or learn about the world.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise to see that Ryan worked on three staples of Generation X's formative media back-to-back-to-back, and then walked away. Where is she now? She's the Artistic Director at the Corn Exchange Theatre Company in Dublin, Ireland, having racked up quite the resume on the stage. That's real "winning," as far as I'm concerned.

[Although going by "Annie" is the ladies' equivalent of the comb-over. Open letter to all Annes of mature age: Hello ladies. You're not fooling anyone with the "ie" -- we all know you hated how much "Annie" made you sound like a little kid when you were a little kid, it's not making you come off younger now.]

Saturday Night At The Movies: THE HILL [1965]

Perhaps best known for Oscarploitation films like 12 ANGRY MEN, DOG DAY AFTERNOON and THE VERDICT, Sidney Lumet is his most interesting to me when he's at his least "important."

Lumet followed up the aesthetic disaster of his film FAIL-SAFE -- no one could have outdone Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern's 1963 triumph by making an earnest, turgidly straight adaptation of the Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler's Cold War potboiler that DR. STRANGELOVE turned into glorious black comedy -- with this small, gritty drama about a WWII British Army prison in Libya. Real-life Army-prison-camp vet Ray Rigby wrote the original play and co-adapted it for the screen with R.S. Allen, one of Allen's rare excursions from television sitcoms to theatrical drama; it's a combination that works surprisingly well, although it takes a while to get used to some of the accents and grunts.

Like most Lumets, it boasts a great ensemble -- Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave -- and intense drama. The somewhat unsung Oswald Morris shot the film with a wonderful mix of desert grittiness and a unique clarity that B&W only developed once color film became the industry standard. I sometimes wonder why this film's opening shot doesn't get mentioned as often or with the same awe reserved for TOUCH OF EVIL; I suppose it's because the shot is largely technically impressive -- establishing little more than the size of the prison, with none of the drama of seeing the convertible with the ticking bomb in its trunk rolling by Heston & Leigh until they catch up and finally pass it.

Unlike most prison movies, this one has quite a nice kink in its tail [tale]; instead of the standard plot engine of seeing rebellious new inmates clash and sometimes reconcile with the institution and/or its inept/corrupt warders, this one throws in a few conflicts between the warders themselves. Enjoy:

More catfotos

This afternoon.

Eggplant & Chicken Stirfry

With a Thai iced tea & soup. best Thai I've had in years -- Thursday lunch at the Rice Thai Cookery in Milwaukie.

Peanut butter fudge

Must use less PB than what normally gets used for flavor. Also, must never ever use powered sugar in fudge again, even just a little when short on granulated like this time. Delicious mortar. Taken on the 23rd.

Gray lady love

Couch likes the rock on the window sill and the Flanders. The 23rd.

Del Shannon Mania, Runnin' Wild

Only inhuman monsters could dislike hearing Del's heartbroken shrieks. He's been one of my favorite pop singer-songwriters since I blew what was then a small fortune on Best Of compilations from Rhino Records' 1989 or '90 bigass catalog and discovered all the great old pop music that never gets any airplay on oldies stations. [See also: Isley Brothers, Drifters, Dick Dale, Zombies.]

One recurring theme in many of their comps was ending the album with the most kickass though obscure track in the subject's oeuvre. In Del's case, it was "Sister Isabelle," a psychedelic love letter to a young nun; let's see a Springsteen or a Dylan write that song. In a better world, women named Isabelle would have to humor people who insist on greeting them by bellowing their names as often as women named Bernadette have to endure now, because this song is great [ignore the demo track that starts around 2:45]:



I had no idea that Frank Black's first project after the Pixies broke up was to record a session for BBC icon John Peel with Teenage Fanclub as his backing band. One of the tracks they recorded was a surprisingly faithful and almost sedate but still rocking cover of "Sister Isabelle:"



Back to Del Shannon; I think it was Spurge who pointed out that Grant Morrison is clearly seen fruging during the Clavioline solo [1:17] of this "live" performance of Del's hit "Runaway:"



Do they even air teen dance programs on television anymore? If they do, I hope being able to dance in time to music is still not a requirement.

Procrastin Nation: Captain Beefheart on the Beeb

I always enjoyed Don Van Vliet's life story a bit more than his music, although the ideas behind that music are stellar. Here's a fine 1997 BBC documentary about all three, featuring Matt Groening and a clearly ailing Frank Zappa:

Every once and a while, I think about opening a Tumblr account



Don't remember what comic I clipped this out of on September 22, 2010, but it still makes me laugh and feel a bit queasy.

Peter Cook Overdrive: Vinyl Sharity Linkpark



Mr. Cook was the funniest Englishman of our times. I don't have to pull out any data charts or graphs to prove this.

Via Boot Sound Sales, here are some selected tracks from a Greatest Hits comp of his hugely influential work with Dudley Moore and BEYOND THE FRINGE -- I'm still amazed that even Cook could write a sketch as perfect as "A Leg Too Few" when he was just 17 -- and some of his satirical/muckraking PRIVATE EYE's flexidisc recordings.

Via Dinosaur Gardens, here's the OP vinyl version of Dudley Moore's soundtrack to his and Cook's classic film BEDAZZLED. The "Bedazzled/Love" Me seven-inch would easily make my Desert Island Discs shortlist -- considering most of production on the film must have been wrapped up prior to 1967's "Summer of Love," Moore and Cook did a remarkable job of predicting where pop music was about to go.

But the motherload of Cook audio goodness is "The Establishment" Peter Cook Appreciation Society, where you can enjoy several woefully out-of-print Cook/Cook & Moore/BTF LPs and rare recordings as well as the subversive call-in fantasies of his Sven radio pranks, and all sorts of other delights.

Andy Beckett's "Death of a Slacker" -- published in THE INDEPENDENT six months after Cook's 1995 death -- isn't entirely pleasant, nor is it entirely fair, but it does offer a compelling take on the post-Moore decade-and-a-half of Cook's life. It speaks to the man's greatness that somehow being less than superhuman -- standing as a key figure in the dawning of the '60s that we now think of as The '60s, directly influencing an entire generation of comedians and satirists who then directly influenced generations of later comedians and satirists, having a smash-hit Broadway revue, a hugely successful newspaper and the hippest performance club in London at the age of 27, before going on to change television, film, politics and society itself later in his life -- is considered something of a failure. It's like the entire world continues to play Ike making up to Cook's Tina; "Baby, I'm sorry I yelled at you -- but it's because you're so amazing that I get so mad when you don't do the great things I know you can do!" Anyway, Beckett write good, you go read now.

[ps. No need to point out how many of my heroes were polymaths who were nonetheless essentially wrung-dry professionally/creatively by the the time they were my age, playing themselves on talk shows at most -- Cook, Orson Welles, Paul Rhymer, Rod Serling. I already have had that pointed out to me twice.]

Back from the airport.

The fudge is already firm!

Holy fucking shit, this stuff is amazing yet it tastes exactly like how I remember it. Well, maybe a little sweeter, but I let the banana I used go a little browner a little longer than I used to do. Definitely need to brush my teeth before bed tonight. Huzzah!

Still glossy but very thick

Also, I gotta get to the airport. I'm intrieged to see the fudge turn yellow in the beating.

Fudge 75% Done

Oooooh, glossy. Of course, it's that gloss I now have to kill my arms beating for the next 20-30 minutes.

Waiting for 110 degrees

Halfway done making banana fudge. This may be one of those times when food coloring is needed -- few people will accept brown fudge that has no chocolate in it. Then again, I suppose a lot of people won't accept non-chocolate fudge at all.

A Cat Confronted with Cupcakes.



Shamelessly stolen from a friend's Facebook gallery, because A.] it gave me my first laugh in several days, and II.] I made those cupcakes.

Kittehs en repose

They slept alone, together, last night.

The 18th.

Flanders got a brand new collar. Red is his color.

thai non-bbq bbq

What world is this that chicken is now cheaper than eggplant? Dinner on the 16th.

The new kitty hangout

There's a bus from that Tom Wolfe novel parked outside. Dunno what Couch or Flanders think of their clubhouse being used by neighborhood cats. Taken on the 16th.

Seafoam-green vehicles

After seeing my third or fourth car/truck/bike in sea foam in half as many days, I decided to start taking pictures -- mere coincidence, or is the Foster-Powell neighborhood home to autobody/detailing shops that will repaint your ride any color you want, so long as it's sea-foam green? It is the best color this side of black, after all.

Taken on the 15th.

Dunno why Flanders is so squinty, although it gives him an aura of toughness that he clearly doesn't deserve. Couch is quite the lap cat, despite her stinky butt.

Taken on the 14th.

The Gray Lady's name is Couch; the Man In Black is Flanders. The chicken super-California burrito is from La Bamba's. I'm cat/housesitting for the rest of the month.

Saturday Night at the Movies: OVERNIGHT

Tonight on "Cautionary Tales Theater," we present this mildly horrifying documentary about bartender-turned-rocker-turned-auteur, Troy Duffy of BOONDOCKS SAINTS semi-fame.

We all have our moments and the urge to talk shit about our peers is always tempting -- not to mention that this film was made by two of Duffy's jilted ex-partners -- but this guy blasts his bridges to their component atoms instead of merely burning them, all with the power of his very big mouth. Enjoy:

Friday Morning At The Bootleg DVD Web Sites: THE TELEPHONE BOOK

Stick this in your pipe and smoke it, CITIZEN KANE's trailer:



No one knows the loneliness of being a 20-year-old TELEPHONE BOOK fan surrounded by FORBIDDEN ZONE and ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW enthusiasts.

Here's a scene from the film -- I can't say that it's indicative of the rest of the movie, as no scene in it corresponds to much of anything else in it. Still, "dick-a-lick" is fun to say with a mouthful of peanut butter. Enjoy:



Dear Criterion: Hey, it's me. Please get on finding a decent print of this movie and releasing it before I break down and buy a cruddy pan & scan boot. It would be nice to give just you twenty of my bucks instead of sending a 20 to some jagoff who may or may not rip me off first. Thanks in advance.

"Jamocha" must mean "old, stale coffee."

Having just done the Shamrock Shake recipe, I might as well post a better version of Arby's Jamocha milkshake while I'm at it. This shake is to cold coffee what banana bread is to brown bananas:

Ingredients:

Two-and-a-half to three cups of vanilla ice cream, depending on how thick you want your shake

One cup of room-temperature coffee; stale is fine, just swill it around in the pot a bit before pouring into the blender

One cup of milk

One or two tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sugary your ice cream is

Two or three tablespoons of chocolate syrup -- I've never tried it, but I trust that a tablespoon of powdered chocolate could work in a pinch here

Process:

Throw the milk, coffee and sugar -- in that order -- in your blender and blast it for 10 seconds on medium or until the sugar's dissolved.

Add the chocolate syrup. Blend another 10 seconds on medium.

Add the first two cups of ice cream. Blend on high for 10 seconds at a time until you like what you see, adding the rest of the ice cream to thicken as needed.

Eat. Enjoy. Never go to Arby's again.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, you tourist-drunks



How to make your own Shamrock Shake with stuff you probably already have in your kitchen, rather than drive around town like an asshole hoping that the next McDonald's won't be out of stock too:

Ingredients

* Two cups of any type of vanilla ice cream

* One to one-and-a-quarter cups of any type of milk [the fattier the better, of course], depending on how thick you like your milkshake

* A quarter to a half-teaspoon of mint extract, depending on how hardcore you want to be [peppermint will also work, probably better the more I think about it]

* Four-to-eight drops of food-coloring green, depending on your aesthetic/memory of swilling this shit as a child.

Process

* Put everything in a blender. Blend until smooth. Eat/Drink/Enjoy.

[* If actually Irish, add two cups of hard liquor. Insert beer to taste. Call your sister a stupid whore. Take a swing at the nearest cop. Begorra, Happy Thursday To Us All.]

Back To School

While I was on vacation, an old friend asked me for advice about college for her soon-to-graduate aspiring-cartoonist son. Once even I finally grew bored with raging about how we shouldn't be old enough to have college-age children yet, I told her what my writing and my painting mentors once told me about specialty/trade schools: Take a look at the instructors' work, and ask yourself how much would you learn from any one of them by working as his or her [unpaid] assistant for a year or two. Then ask yourself how much time and money you're willing to pay those folks for that knowledge and experience.

There is a benefit to living in a community of fellow aspiring artists, but the odds of hitting the critical-mass-flashpoint lottery to come of age in a pre-war writer's Paris, a post-war painter's New York or a filmmaker's Vietnam-era Bay Area aren't so hot, even at the nothing-but-comics schools. They just don't make artistic/cultural hothouses like they used to, kids.

Kubert, Savannah, CCS and all the other comics schools are loaded with swell people who have made many comics we all have loved to pieces, but their students would probably be better off sinking that tuition money into a liberal-arts education, an 11x17 scanner, a long-arm stapler and a nest egg to move to a cartoonist haven like NYC or Portland once they graduate.

Best Five/Worst Five: Orson Welles



Someone once asked me to rank the best and worst handfuls of movies Orson Welles made as a director. I normally resist or at least try to resist indulging any director-worshipper* and the more I dig into Welles' often far superior radio, writing and television work the more I realize that him devoting the bulk of his adult life to the cinema was less his manifest destiny than a codependent relationship he wasn't strong enough to walk away from once the honeymoon was clearly over and the bad times rarely stopped rolling.

All that said, I was weak and played along with this parlor game anyway. Actually, it is fun, I just don't like playing it with only directors [or only movies]:

Best
1. THE TRIAL
2. F FOR FAKE
3. TOUCH OF EVIL
4. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT
5. OTHELLO

Worst
5. MACBETH
4. MR. ARKADIN
3. THE STRANGER
2. DON QUIXOTE
1. SWINGING LONDON

THE TRIAL is the apex of Welles' post-Hollywood collage-as-mise-en-scène style; unlike OTHELLO, it rarely draws attention to itself, and unlike ARKADIN, it rarely looks like a cheap budget fix. THE TRIAL seems much more personally felt than any of his other movies, except for maybe CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, and it's the only one of his European movies that had a crew that came close to the technical chops of an American film crew at the time, so Welles had a far better shot at realizing what he imagined.

Because everyone asks: CITIZEN KANE is certainly one of the greats, but it's more of a brilliant, comprehensive textbook of filmmaking [hence, it ranks so high on critic lists and such] than a brilliant film. It's a greater calisthenic achievement than a meaningfully artistic one. It behaves a lot like Will Eisner's post-CONTRACT WITH GOD work; a mega-ton showcase of nearly peerless skill and craft, but in the service of a story that really doesn't deserve so much brilliance.

*******

* The director-as-auteur theory would never have taken root if the director wasn't the member of the producer/writer/director/editor quadrangle who works with movie stars the most. You know it, I know it, dogs know it.