Monthly Archives: February 2009

Paul Harvey: Good Day!

I know, I thought he was already speaking to us from beyond the grave. Now he might.

From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, there was a televised, five-minute editorial by Paul Harvey that local stations could insert into their local news programs, or show separately. On May 10, 1976, ABC Radio Networks premiered The Rest of the Story as a separate series which provided endless surprises as Harvey dug into stories behind the stories of famous events and people. Harvey’s son, a concert pianist, created and produced the series. He remains the show’s only writer.

Harvey’s News and Commentary is streamed on the Web twice a day. Paul Harvey News has been called the “largest one-man network in the world,” as it is carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations around the world and 300 newspapers. His broadcasts and newspaper columns have been reprinted in the Congressional Record more than those of any other commentator.

And if you click here , you’ll know…the rest of the story.

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NEW ALBUM! Slingsby Hornets: Whatever Happened To…

Pollen Pop?

Pollen Pop?

Slingsby Aviation built some of the world’s greatest gliders, and although used by the British during WWII, they were mostly tactical observation planes; drone bombers at best. The Hornet, on the other hand, was a piston-engine fighter plane used by the RAF, built by the de Havilland company. What this has to do with glam rock and powerpop takes on classic 60’s music is beyond me, but I can tell you that John Paul Allen’s angry insect logo is the antithesis of the pure joy coming out of the speakers when The Slingsby Hornets are playing.

Whatever Happened To is the follow-up to 2007’s Introducing The Fantastic Sounds of; like its predecessor it’s a one-man studio effort from Allen. Boasting a dense layer of guitars, stacked vocals and a simple but uncluttered rhythm section, Allen blends five original pop songs inbetween covers of classic garage and glam singles like “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” and “Rock’n’Roll Love Letter”. His solo vocals are more breathy than powerful, but the layered harmonies are skillful, even within production that’s smaller in scale that some of the bands you’ll be reminded of (Jellyfish, XTC and especially Queen – Brian May is obviously an influence). But there’s no denying the pure love of the music, but anyone that can cover The Osmonds and ABBA with the same respect as The Move and T. Rex is okay in my book. I really like the originals, especially “The Long Way Home” and “Black & White Movie”, but the covers are obviously the draw. My favorites are Klaatu‘s “Calling Occupants” and Marc Bolan‘s “Children of the Revolution” in which Allen also incorporates the related “Buick Mackane”.

My copy of the new album included the Knee Deep In Glitter EP which features five covers, including Cliff Richard‘s “Devil Woman” and “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” by Slade. The guitars are much louder and overall the music rocks harder, even the chugging version of “Does Your Mother Know”. As with all Slingsby Hornets covers, they’re anything but straightforward copies of the original.

Introducing also has five originals, the best of which is the synth/guitar duel of “The Man From Yesterday” and the more delicate “Stop The Rain”. I’m no fan of Captain and Tenille so I’m not crazy about a cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together”, but at least it adds some muscle to the melody. I much prefer his take on “Fire Brigade” and  a cover of “My Sharona” that sounds like Brian May (yes, again) jamming with Todd Rundgren. Again, Allen wisely alternates his originals with the diverse covers, as if to show that any radio station (or pair of ears) that would appreciate one would also find the other appealing. Use the CD Baby links above or check their MySpace page for more details and sound clips.

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Remembering Bill Hicks

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Poster created by UK artist Ryse Hale

 “Bill Hicks–blowtorch, excavator, truth-sayer, and brain specialist, like a reverend waving a gun around. He will correct your vision. Others will drive on the road he built.” – Tom Waits

Bill Hicks didn’t suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. Like any good social critic, what fueled Bill’s ire was gullibility more than stupidity (although the latter took its shots as well). If you don’t think for yourself, you choose to follow, and certainly there are times and circumstances where that might be appropriate. But all of the time? And despite all logic and evidence to the contrary?

Take religion. Hundreds of sects, each claiming to have the one true path, most professing that should you not choose “the way” you are doomed. Nice benevolent God, right? If indeed only one religion is correct – assuming any are – what does that say to the faith of the others? And if they are all in fact pointing to variations of the same God…how many of them are so wrong in their conditions of belief? Why are people able to swear so forcefully to the abstract of religion, yet unable to comprehend the simplest, plainest truths when they are set in front of them?

One of Bill’s favorite topics was education, in that we should all seek to learn and be enlightened; satisfy our insatiable curiosity. One of my favorite routines had him being approached in a waffle house while reading a book. “Whatchu readin fer?”, drawled the observer. Not “what are you reading”, Bill said, “but what am I reading for?” “Hey everybody”, taunts the observer, “looks like we got us a reader!” Bill often railed that politicians in America could now do whatever they wanted to in broad daylight, and no one would revolt in the streets or form an organized protest. Everyone was fat drunk and happy in front of their televisions, their brains turned to mush and their priorities focused upon collecting the latest consumables, sheep in the meadow. Like George Carlin, he believed not so much that people were idiots as people behaved like idiots.

Of course, there were the cheap shots any condescending music fan will take, why are Hendrix and Joplin dead while Billy Ray Cyrus walks the Earth? Judgmental, certainly. Hilarious? Unquestionably. And even as a fan I would tire of his Goat Boy persona; I wondered if he was pushing the envelope in Andy Kaufmann fashion to get as close as he could to clearing the room before stopping (“how long are they willing to ride with me on this one?“).

But to me the heart and soul of Bill Hicks was his stubborn unwillingess to accept anything at face value. His keen observational skills and fearless mind would have you re-examining any topic he tossed out there; sometimes howling in collaborative laughter, other times challenged to take a pause and think about something from a new perspective…if you had the courage to do so. It’s always easier to shut up and go along for the ride. That’s why we will always need a Bill Hicks.

I would have loved to hear Bill’s take on the last fifteen years; the questioning of our government’s actions, the exposure and consequences of corporate greed, the ridiculous saturation of “reality television”. But it was not to be, and now the other beacon of truth, George Carlin, is also gone. There are nuggets of their fearlessness in Maher and Stanhope and Olbermann and Rock, but for me, Hicks and Carlin are on a special plateau with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. I don’t know that I will see another one like them in my lifetime, but I know we need one now more than ever.

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The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think that it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud and it’s fun for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us. They say “Hey! Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride.” And we… kill those people. Ha ha ha. “Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter because it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourselves off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what you can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, for ever, in peace… (Bill Hicks)

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Bill Hicks Returns To Earth

Whatchu readin fer?

Whatchu readin fer?

“Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…”

Bill Hicks probably hated that Joni Mitchell song.

Hated everything about it, from the title to the symbolism to the warbly voice coming out of her angular face. But it’s the first thing I thought of when I realized that tomorrow is the fifteenth anniversary of his death. We take so much for granted, and then when it is taken away, we regret that we did not appreciate it more. It is still stunning to me that Bill Hicks was only 32 years old when he died. (Yet Billy Ray Cyrus still walks the Earth…)

There are tribute events in several cities around the world tonight and tomorrow. Click here for details.

I’ll post my own thoughts tomorrow, on the anniversary.

A word from Bill’s siteFebruary 26 will be Bill Hicks Day on Twitter…a day for Twitter users to post comments, quips, remembrances, musings, ponderances, jokes, and anything else Bill-related…a day devoted to the moments that remind us all of Bill, such as when we hear a news story or notice something in pop culture and wonder “What would Bill say?”…a special day to share with everyone your favourite Bill rants and truths, and to remember Bill’s vision…a day to tweet Bill’s quotes, your thoughts, links to Bill sites, links to sites that you think Bill would approve of or condemn…in short, a day to squeegee your tweeter! (To read everybody’s Bill Hicks Day tweets, go here and enter #billhicksday in the box)

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Words of Others

There are a lot of people who blog, but not all of them are good writers. It’s a real pleasure to stumble across a well-written essay on a favorite topic.

I don’t know anything about Sheila O’Malley, but I do know a lot about Mickey Rourke, and Sheila’s essay is a first rate piece of writing. Check it out.

Illustration by Charlie Powell (from Slate)

Illustration by Charlie Powell (from Slate)

And as your bonus prize, a link I found on her site to a great interview, possibly the last interview, with George Carlin.

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part Two

More snarky observations from the weekend, as the Hollywood Elite shook the Santa Monica sand out of their shoes (well, those with any Indie cred, anyway!) and headed to Red Carpet Land for the Big Show…

The 81st Annual Academy Awards

I'd like to fawn a friend...

I'd like to fawn a friend...

  • Sorry, Eric Roberts. For one night, at least, Hugh Jackman Is The Man.
  • Nice to have five former Oscar winners help present each acting award. But was that an introduction or a coronation? Did it really take fifteen minutes to fawn over Best Supporting Actress nominees? It looked like they were inducting a new member into The Skull And Bones Society.
  • Millions of dollars to reconfigure the theatre, douse it in brilliant lights and wire it to the heavens with cameras, screens and special effects. And the first time they try to use it, some stagehand forgets to open the curtain. (It’s a union job, smart money says he was probably in an oil drum in the Pacific by midnight)
  • Why did people think that Hugh Jackman – a singing, dancing Broadway veteran – couldn’t sing and dance? Great ten cent sets for the Best Picture tributes, but none funnier than the tribute to The Reader.
  • Anne Hathaway Is The Man.
  • Ben Stiller was only the second best faux Joaquin of the weekend, but still funny.
  • More actor fawning from prior Oscar winners. It’s a good thing that after the huge salary, the legions of fans, the constant media attention and the stroll down the Red Carpet through a crowd of sycophants, these poor people were able to get great seats and have their egos stroked by having lavish compliments spread over them with a trowel.
  • Is there a stupider question in the universe than “Who are you wearing?”
  • Judd Apatow Is The Man. (Or maybe Seth Rogen? No, no…James Franco!)
  • Having the two-time Oscar winning cinematographer tell his collegue to “suck it”.
  • Christopher Walken disappointingly did not do his Christopher Walken impression.
  • No Jack Nicholson. What, was there a Laker game?
  • Queen Latifah has a great voice, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a classic song. But when paying tribute to deceased Academy members, silence is golden.
  • Slumdog Avalanche.
  • Robert DeNiro on Penn: “How did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight guys” and he “gently reasons with the paparazzi”. Funnier than most of Bob’s last dozen comedies.
  • Good night for Oscar Dads. Heath Ledger’s father gave a heartfelt and passionate speech, and Kate Winslet’s Dad’s whistle was the highlight of her speech.
  • Has Jerry Lewis ever been that humble? Or succinct?
  • Speaking of Kate, I do admire her always solid work, but if I don’t see her at a podium again for a while that will be just fine. (At least she toned down the breathless “I am so shocked” routine). I suppose I have to blame Ricky Gervais for this. Will she be “playing a mental” next time out?
  • I am Woool-verrrr-iiiiiiine!”
  • Tina Fey and Steve Martin: Master class on comic timing.
  • Philip Petit. I bet that humility and a cool magic trick will be remembered more fondly than leaping over the backs of chairs.
  • Bill Maher (following an emotional moment in the show): “Great. Everyone’s crying and now I have to go on!”
  • Sean Penn’s speech.
  • A. R. Rahman running offstage after each win, much to the surprise of the presenters and usherette.
  • In a world where we have so many movie trailers, how did the tribute omit Don LaFontaine?
  • The Jimmy Kimmel promo was brilliant. It’s possible to like Tom Cruise when he’s not being Scientologish.
  • Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Full list of winners here.

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part One

It’s a guilty pleasure, I must admit. And when both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards occur over the same weekend, well…that’s a lot of couch time. And snack food. (And snarky observations).

Independent Spirit Awards

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...no caption could do this justice.

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...brilliant!

  • Eric Roberts Is The Man
  • Emily Deschanel is pretty hot in Bones, but Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) is even hotter.
  • It’s hard to think of Woody Allen as “independent” when everyone else in the room seems to have financed their movie on a relative’s Visa card. But although $15 million (Vicki Cristina Barcelona’s budget) is an unthinkable fortune compared to Frozen River’s $1 million, it’s still a pittance in an industry where you would have to dig even deeper just to pay a Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon to ruin your movie.
  • Someone has to explain “business casual” to Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • I don’t know what Rosie Perez is doing career-wise, but her amicable smack-down of Penelope Cruz should be in her highlight reel.
  • Ditto Penelope Cruz’s story about Woody Allen
  • The “musical numbers” for the Best Picture nominees might be an idea stolen from Billy Crystal, but since the Academy isn’t letting Billy Crystal host the Oscar telecast, I’m glad to see these guys picked up the ball. Which of course, leads to…
  • Rainn Wilson Is The Man.
  • Michael Bolton can be the punch line of a joke that is funny and has nothing to do with his singing, and he can be a good sport about it.
  • Jason Bateman and Ellen Page need to take their act on the road.
  • Is there anyone more comfortable in his own skin than John Waters? Then again, he’s probably comfortable in yours, too.
  • IFC likes awards shows without interruption of any kind – commercials, censors, or otherwise. AMC has editors (and presumably, viewers with more sensitive ears).
  • Steve Coogan is no Ricky Gervais, but then, who is? Nice job, mate.
  • If you didn’t already think Charlie Kaufman was one odd dude based upon his screenplays, listening to him speak should seal the deal for you.
  • I know why Mike Myers wasn’t there last night.
  • The only thing that would have made Melissa Leo‘s acceptance speech better was if she gave a shout-out to the cast of Homicide.
  • Nothing would have made Mickey Rourke‘s speech better.

Full list of winners here.

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