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  • feedwordpress 09:01:41 on 2018/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , Bumps Blackwell, Classical Gas, Dan McLaughlin, film, , Mason Williams, , ,   

    “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”*… 


    Mason Williams recalls…

    CLASSICAL GAS was written in August, 1967; recorded for THE MASON WILLIAMS PHONOGRAPH RECORD album in November, 1967; released as a single in February, 1968, and became a hit six months later in the Summer of 1968. It was also one of the earliest records that used a visual to help promote it on television, which probably qualifies it as one of the earliest music videos.

    During the time that CLASSICAL GAS was a hit I was also the head writer for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS. I had seen a film titled “GOD IS DOG SPELLED BACKWARDS” at The Encore, an off beat movie house in L.A. The film was a collection of approximately 2500 classical works of art, mostly paintings, that flashed by in three minutes. Each image lasted only two film frames, or twelve images a second! At the end of the film the viewer was pronounced “cultural” since they had just covered “3000 years of art in 3 minutes!”

    The film was the work of a UCLA film student named Dan McLaughlin. I contacted Dan and told him that I was interested in the idea of using his film as a visual for CLASSICAL GAS to air on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR. (His original sound track had been Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.) THE COMEDY HOUR offered him the money to finance a new film he wanted to make in exchange for the right to change the original soundtrack from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony to CLASSICAL GAS and air it on the show. As a “music video” it was first shown on THE SUMMER BROTHERS SMOTHERS SHOW (Glen Campbell was the host) in the summer of 1968.

    The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer’s mind could absorb this intense level of visual input. It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes! It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc. As a result of the response to the CLASSICAL GAS music video, in September of 1968 I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ’s would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV…

    [Dan McLaughlin went on to become head of UCLA’s animation program.]

    * Edgar Degas


    As we bathe in beauty, we might spare a thought for Robert Alexander “Bumps” Blackwell; he died on this date in 1985.  A bandleader, songwriter, arranger, and record producer,  he was probably most impactful in his work overseeing the early hits of Little Richard, as well as in grooming Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, Larry Williams, and Sly and the Family Stone at the starts of their recording careers.

    Blackwell, seated, with Rich Hall (of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals) and Little Richard



  • feedwordpress 09:01:10 on 2018/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: Abar the First Black Superman, , Comic book, , film, , Little Lulu, Marjorie Henderson Buell, ,   

    “There is no ‘ordinary person’”*… 


    Tobar Mayo in Abar, the First Black Superman

    As Black Panther continues to slay at the box office, a look at one of that blockbuster’s less well-known– indeed, virtually anonymous– antecedents…

    Abar, the First Black Superman is truly a cinematic marvel. It has its heart in the right place and fumbles spectacularly in every way possible—the painfully preachy dialogue, the scrappy special effects, the too long running time. But even if it’s not anywhere close to the achievement of Black Panther, it’s a fascinating product of the time and more proof that black superheroes have long existed outside the Marvel universe. And just like Black Panther, their superpowers are almost always political…

    An extraordinary story: “One of Cinema’s First Black Superheroes Is Not Who You Think It Is.”

    * “The disciplines of physical exercise, meditation and study aren’t terribly esoteric. The means to attain a capability far beyond that of the so-called ordinary person are within the reach of everyone, if their desire and their will are strong enough. I have studied science, art, religion and a hundred different philosophies. Anyone could do as much. By applying what you learn and ordering your thoughts in an intelligent manner it is possible to accomplish almost anything. Possible for an ‘ordinary person.’ There’s a notion I’d like to see buried: the ordinary person. Ridiculous. There is no ‘ordinary person’.”   – that most super of superheroes, Ozymandias, in Alan Moore’s Watchmen


    As we don our capes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that America was introduced to Little Lulu (in the February 23 issue of The Saturday Evening Post), appearing as a flower girl at a wedding and mischievously strewing the aisle with banana peels.   Created by Marjorie Henderson Buell (whose work appeared under the name “Marge”), Little Lulu ran as a regular panel in the Post through 1944; then as a comic book and a comic strip into the 1980s.  She also appeared in a series of animated theatrical cartoons and in a number of TV series and specials.



  • feedwordpress 09:01:06 on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: , Ed Sullivan Show, film, , , , smell-o-vision,   

    “First they moved, then they talked– now they smell”*… 


    In 1959, influenced by [Aldous] Huxley, two American films were made… introducing smell to cinema. The poster for one proclaimed: “FIRST They moved (1893) THEN They talked (1927) NOW They smell (1959).” The films premiered in December 1959 and January 1960, and the press dubbed their rivalry “The Battle of the Smellies.”

    The redolent story of Smell-O-Vision: “Cinematic Airs.”

    * Smell-O-Vision tagline


    As we hold our noses, we might recall that on this date in 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time) for an estimated 73 million Americans.


  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2017/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , film, , , Mae West, sex symbol,   

    “The truth is far more frightening – nobody is in control”*… 


    It’s the conspiracy theory to dwarf all conspiracy theories. A smorgasbord of every other intrigue under the sun, the Illuminati are the supposed overlords controlling the world’s affairs, operating secretly as they seek to establish a New World Order.

    But this far-fetched paranoia all started with a playful work of fiction in the 1960s. What does this tell us about our readiness to believe what we read and hear – and what can the Illuminati myth reveal about the fake news and stories we continue to be influenced by today?…

    What the myth reveals about how fake stories spread today and about the psychology of their fiercest proponents: get illuminated at “The accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy.”

    * Alan Moore


    As we believe that the truth is out there, we might send sultry birthday greetings to Mary Jane “Mae” West; the actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol was born on this date in 1893. Known over her seven-decade career for her lighthearted double entendre and breezy sexual independence, she has been named 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute.

    Among her memorable mots:

    Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

    When choosing between two evils I always like to take the one I’ve never tried before.

    To err is human, but it feels divine.

    Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.

    I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2017/08/03 Permalink
    Tags: , film, , , , Prince, , Purple Rain, ,   

    “Acting is all about big hair and funny props… All the great actors knew it. Olivier knew it, Brando knew it.”*… 


    * Harold Ramis


    As we dress the set, we might that it was on this date in 1983 that Prince played a 75-minute benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at the recently re-branded First Avenue club in Minneapolis.  It was there that the budding pop star debuted many of the Purple Rain album tracks, and recorded the versions of “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star” heard in the film and soundtrack.

    Screen shot taken from video of Prince and the Revolution’s debut performance of Purple Rain, August 3, 1983

    The night also included performances from the company, including a piece choreographed to Prince’s “DMSR.”

    More on this extraordinary evening, including a set list, here.


  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2017/07/08 Permalink
    Tags: Columbia Pictures, film, , Hot Scots, , , theme music, ,   

    “Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!”… 


    * Curly Howard


    As we celebrate the silly, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that Columbia Pictures released “Hot Scots,” the 108th short film featuring The Three Stooges.  The Stooges try to get jobs with Scotland Yard after graduating from a correspondence detective school.  They end up as “Yard Men” picking up trash and pruning the hedges.  They inadvertently get their chance to crack a case when– dressed in kilts and talking in phony Scottish accents– the Stooges (as McMoe, McLarry, and McShemp) are given the task of guarding the prized possessions of The Earl of Glenheather Castle.  The castle staff ransack the castle while the boys sleep there, though of course they eventually arrest the thieves.

    The comedians released 190 short films for Columbia between 1934 and 1959.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2017/06/24 Permalink
    Tags: film, , , , , Samuel Clemens, scrapbook, ,   

    “Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanization”*… 


    THE AUTOMATIC MOTORIST, a British short film from 1911, wants you to avoid self-driving cars at all costs. In it, a robot chauffeur is developed to drive a newly wedded couple to their honeymoon destination. But this robot malfunctions, and all of a sudden the couple is marooned in outer space (and then sinking underwater, and then flying through the sky—it’s complicated)…

    More on the film and its maker at “This Bizarre 1911 Film Warns of the Perils of Self-Driving Cars.

    * Federico Garcia Lorca


    As we keep our eyes on the road, we might recall that it was on this date in 1873 that Samuel Clemens (the author known as Mark Twain) received a U.S. patent, his second, for a self-pasting Scrapbook (No. 140,245).  His creation used a dried adhesive on its pages so that users need only moisten a page in order to attach pictures.

    In 1871, Clemens had scored his first patent, for “an Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments”–an adjustable strap that could be used to tighten shirts at the waist that was later used on women’s corsets, and is considered by many to be the precursor of the adjustable bra strap.  He earned his third patent in 1875 for a history trivia game,“Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder Game.”



  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2017/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: film, , , Moe Howard, , sarcasm, , tilde, ,   

    “If commas are open to interpretation, hyphens are downright Delphic”*… 


    The tilde is 3,000 years old, but is there any grapheme that’s more ~of the times~? The little traveling worm, originally designed to convey approximation (and used in Spanish and Portuguese to denote certain sounds), expresses so much more: strangeness, emotional and physical distance — but perhaps most importantly, sarcasm…

    The twisted mark’s twisted story in its entirety at “The Internet Tilde Perfectly Conveys Something We Don’t Have the Words to Explain.”

    – Mary Norris (the New Yorker‘s “Comma Queen”)


    As we move our fingers to the upper left of our keyboards, we might send rib-tickling birthday greetings to Moses Harry Horwitz; he was born on this date in 1897.  Better known by his stage name, “Moe Howard,” he was the de facto leader of The Three Stooges, both on stage and off.

    Moe, flanked by Curly and Larry, in The Three Stooge’s classic “Disorder in the Court



  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2017/06/14 Permalink
    Tags: Alfred Leslie, , film, Heretics, , Jack Kerouac, , Pull My Daisy, Robert Frank, ,   

    “Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art”*… 


    Bento (Baruch) Spinoza was excommunicated from the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1656, when he was still a young man. He would go on to become the most radical and controversial thinker of his time. In his treatise Ethics (written in the 1660s), he rejected the providential God of Judaism and Christianity as a figment of the imagination. God, he claimed, is just Nature, and everything that happens follows with absolute necessity from Nature’s laws. In his Theological-Political Treatise (published anonymously in 1670), Spinoza claims that miracles are impossible, that the major organized religions are nothing but organized superstitions, and that the Bible is just a “corrupt and mutilated” work of human literature. One overwrought critic called it “a book forged in hell […] by the devil himself.”

    Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy is a graphic history about Spinoza and the other thinkers of the 17th century who refashioned the way we think about the cosmos, the world around us, and ourselves…

    More (and larger) excerpts from Heretics! at the LARB.

    * “Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?”- Paul Gaugin


    As we emulate the Enlightenment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the short film Pull My Daisy was completed. Co-directed by painter Alfred Leslie, and photographer Robert Frank, it was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play, Beat Generation.  It features poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, artists Larry Rivers and Alice Neel, musician David Amram, art dealer Richard Bellamy, actress Delphine Seyrig, dancer Sally Gross, and Pablo Frank, Robert Frank’s son.  Kerouac provided improvised narration.

    It premiered the following November at the San Francisco International Film Festival; then, in 1996, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress (which choses films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”).


  • feedwordpress 08:01:57 on 2017/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: , cannes, film, , Jason Shulman, Palme d'Or, , , Union Pacific   

    “Observation is a dying art”*… 


    Alice in Wonderland (1951)

    Jason Shulman captures the entire duration of a movie in a single image with his series Photographs of Films.

    There are roughly 130,000 frames in a 90-minute film and every frame of each film is recorded in these photographs.

    More examples, and the backstory, at “Final cut: films condensed into a single frame – in pictures” and here. See Shulman’s other work here.

    * Stanley Kubrick


    As we enjoy our popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 2002 that the Cannes Film Festival employed a specially-empaneled jury to judge films from 1939, the planned first year of the festival (which was postponed due to World War II).  The retrospective Palme d’Or went to Union Pacific.



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