Friday, October 25, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 1951-1960: A (Perhaps Overly Long) Personal Journey

Roger recently did a post about his favorite albums of the 50s, in which he name-checked me, and I figured that I'd try and come up with a list for myself. Roger really only found 5 albums of that decade that he well and truly loved. I have a little bit of an advantage over him in making this list, which is my ongoing music project. I think I've mentioned it once or twice here, but thanks to things like YouTube and Spotify and Wikipedia, I've been going through every year of music since 1951 and listening to all the albums I've ever wanted to hear. I've lost track of how many years I've been doing this, actually. I do this whenever I have a day with nothing else I really want to get into, and it helps me with being mindful and present-oriented, so it's actually good therapy as well as just incredibly fun.

So, I've heard a great deal of the albums of the 1950s within the last few years, and I could probably make a decent-sized list. But that sounds kind of academic to me and, honestly, aren't you a little tired of me just listing things all the time? Plus, as Roger alludes to in his post, a lot of the great music of the period is available on strong compilations. For example, I love Elvis Presley's 1950s output, but most of the best of it came out as singles, and as I said when making my 1960s list, I think it's cheating to put a hits compilation on a list of best albums.

But what about the albums that, like Roger says, are just imprinted in my DNA? Albums that I really, truly love and maybe have most of my life? I want to mention those albums. As usual with me, not the best albums, but my favorites.

So, before I get to that, I'm just going to casually mention some of the ones that I think are really great, and which would be on that longer list that I don't want to get all boring and predictable with, divided into a couple of categories.

JAZZ & BLUES
I didn't actually realize that I liked jazz until I was an adult. The reason? Didn't hear much of it growing up. My Mom hates it, and my Dad is strictly a rock/pop/country guy. The way I envisioned jazz was like something on one of the Smooth Jazz radio stations in the Chicagoland area, and I just didn't fancy that stuff at all.

(The only time I ever enjoyed smooth jazz was one Friday night in Chicago, when my friends Carl and Jenny and I were downtown, I think around the Grant Park area. Jenny and I were helping Carl with a dramatic presentation at his Columbia College theater class--we were performing a scene from Athol Fugard, but I can't actually remember which play--and we went out for a drink afterward. We went into a place and it was actually a packed little jazz club with dancing. We sat and I drank vodka and cranberry and watched people dance and flirted with the waitress a bit; we were the only white people there and I was really digging the energy of the place. I felt out of place because everyone was dressed so nicely, and here was I in blue jeans and a solid tee shirt with my corduroy jacket on--side note on that, it looked a bit like the jacket Han Solo wore in The Empire Strikes Back and always made me feel cool; I kind of ganked it from my Dad, but he never gave me any shit about it. I loved that thing. So, anyway, we sat in there for about an hour and I was having such a good time just mingling a bit; there were a couple of guys that were amused by the three white people who had just sort of wandered in, and they teased us a bit. I was watching people dance and I am not a drinks-and-dancing kind of guy, but I just remember feeling like I was in a place where adults were enjoying their adult lives and it made me feel more grown-up. I was, I think, 22 or 23. That was a great night, especially after being terrified for days about performing Fugard in front of a class. Sorry, that's just a memory I like.)

So, anyway--I didn't hear a lot of jazz growing up. But when I was in high school, the Downers Grove Public Library really expanded its selection of music, and I used to just go and grab CDs to listen to that I'd never heard before. Realizing I hadn't heard much jazz when I was about 20, I decided to go for it, and I loved a lot of it! The thing is, I like soft music, I like dissonant music, and I like soulful, contemplative music, and there's a lot of that in jazz, especially from the 1950s. It's exciting, because sometimes it's any one of those things, and sometimes it's all of them at once.

So, just to mention a couple of albums I like: Straight, No Chaser by Thelonius Monk (1951); Nina Simone's Little Girl Blue (1957) and The Amazing Nina Simone (1959); and three Miles Davis albums: Blue Moods (1951), Birth of the Cool (1957), and Kind of Blue (1959). And there's also Duke Ellington's majestic The Nutcracker Suite, which Roger has a great post about here. I didn't hear it for the first time until about five or six years ago, but it's a Christmas mainstay now. So many of my favorite interpretations of Christmas music come from this decade.

On his post, Roger mentions the classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (1959), then rightfully points out that ANY of the Fitzgerald songbook albums are great. They're all worth hearing and worth having. I don't actually own any of them, though, because I listened to them online. But they're just perfect. I also really enjoy Ella in Rome: The Birthday Concert (1958).

I like a few more jazz albums, but I'm putting those on my list of favorites.

The blues I don't have as much to say about; I love The Blues Brothers, and because I do, I went to the sources and heard a lot of great damn blues music when I was in high school. Some favorites: Howlin' Wolf's Moanin' in the Moonlight (1959) and Muddy Waters' At Newport 1960 (1960).

FRANK SINATRA
I have always loved Frank. Since we were part of that generation, Becca and I used to make mixtapes for each other all the time. I remember, early on, being caught in that guy thing (is it just a guy thing?) of wanting to seem, all at the same time, cool, eclectic, honest, and genuine. So I wasn't going right to some of my more esoteric, unhip choices in music. You know how you're just waiting for the other person to reveal that they actually like something that other young people love so you can just finally say "I really love this one Roger Whittaker album"? Well, maybe not that specifically, but that was my whole dilemma.

Anyway, she pulled the trigger first and put Frank Sinatra on a mixtape she made me, which was kind of weird on a tape filled with Siouxsie and the Banshees and goth music, but that's the kind of weird, sudden tone shift that I actually really love while listening to music. And that's one of the many ways I knew she was perfect for me.

What I love about Frank Sinatra, I'll say again, is his sincerity. He sounds like he genuinely feels whatever he's singing. I have a couple in my list of favorites, but I have to also mention Songs for Young Lovers (1954), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), the travel-oriented Come Fly with Me (1958), Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958), Come Dance with Me (1960) and Nice 'n' Easy (1960) as being among the albums I really enjoy the hell out of.

ROCK AND R&B
I like a lot of early rock music, when it sounded more like a mash-up of country and R&B (or rockabilly, as I probably just could have said). But, like I said, a lot of the really great musicians I like in this blend of genres--Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, Ike & Tina Turner--released a lot of great singles and usually so-so albums. (Really, it's like that with a lot of singers at the time that I love: Dean Martin, the Platters, Nat "King" Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bobby Darin, etc.)

Some of these albums that would have made a longer list, though: the first two Buddy Holly albums, The "Chirping" Crickets (1957) and Buddy Holly (1958); Little Richard's debut album Here's Little Richard (1957); Chuck Berry Is on Top (1958); and the first album by The Isley Brothers, Shout! (1959).

Wikipedia also insists that Ray Charles is R&B (and sometimes jazz and sometimes blues), so I also need to mention Ray Charles (1957), Ray Charles at Newport (1958), The Genius of Ray Charles (1959), and The Genius Hits the Road (1960) as fantastic albums. In doing my music project, I was always thrilled when an album by Charles would come up to listen to, because I knew it was going to most likely be great.

STAGE & SCREEN
I have always loved scores and soundtracks, so a few mentions here: the cast album of West Side Story (1957); Alex North's score for Spartacus (1960), which is a great example of that kind of dissonant art music that I really love, particularly the main title music; and Russell Garcia's score from The Time Machine (1960), which I was excited and thrilled to find on CD back in 1994 or 1995, and which I've listened to countless times. (Another of my favorite score tracks is this one... boy, maybe I'll do that list some day.) And one more: Miklos Rosza's Ben-Hur score, which is one of my favorite scores of all time. I love that movie, and the music actually does make me emotional.

HARRY BELAFONTE
I like calypso music a lot, actually, but I wanted to mention here Harry Belafonte's albums Calypso (1956), An Evening with Belafonte (1957), and the spectacular live album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959). The reason I mention them here instead of on my main "imprinted on my DNA" list is that when I was a teenager, my main go-to was actually a compilation from 1978 called All Time Greatest Hits Vol. 1. I got it out from the library dozens and dozens of times, first on cassette and then on CD. It had almost all of my favorite Belafonte songs, including his soulful cover of "Abraham, Martin & John," and ended on that perfect note with "Jamaica Farewell." It didn't have my favorite of his songs, "Turn the World Around," but he didn't release that until 1977. (To this day, that song is my single favorite segment of The Muppet Show, and Belafonte even performed it at Jim Henson's funeral.) Now I have almost everything I love on The Essential Harry Belafonte.

I actually feel a little weird that my main list is going to include a calypso album not by Harry.

So, with those mentions out of the way, let's get on with this pointless, long-running list. My 10 favorite albums of 1951-1960.

But first, this honorable mention.

Sorry sorry sorry sorry.

Alright, well, this is the start of the real list, but it begins with an honorable mention and then just sprawls out from there in an esoteric and badly-organized fashion.

So here are my 10 entries for my 14 favorite albums of 1951-1960.

10. Honorable Mention: Elvis' Golden Records, Elvis Presley (1958)
I had to mention this because of a couple of things I said earlier about the best music being released as singles. Yeah, I did say that I think it's cheating to include a hits compilation on a list of favorite albums. But I grew up with this cassette. Like any kid, I really got interested in classic rock (which is what we called it in the 80s, before classic rock became oldies and stuff from the 70s became classic rock) in junior high. I was taking a music appreciation class, and I knew a lot of the early rock music because my Dad was always so into it. I've been listening to Elvis since before I can even remember.

This album has so many of his greatest hits and songs, and when they remastered this and put it on CD, I made sure to get it--and the CD has nearly double the amount of songs on it. So, if this is Elvis' best period of music--and it mainly is--this is the one CD to have. All killer, no filler. Always makes me think of my Dad and his mother, who only permitted him, when he was a kid, to see Disney movies, John Wayne movies, or Elvis movies. (He was born in 1955). This music makes me feel good from head to toe, as much because it's great music as it reminds me of a simpler time when I was a simpler me, and all those great Saturday mornings listening to 8-tracks while "helping" (kid code for "watching") my Dad make pancakes.

9. The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, Bob Newhart (1960)
When I was a kid, I knew the man from The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, and didn't know he was ever a stand-up comic. I first encountered this album in high school, in driver's ed, when the teacher played us the "Driving Instructor" track. I thought it was hilarious, but I noticed a lot of the class wasn't laughing, which always makes me feel weird. (This actually happens a lot now when I listen to comedy albums with Becca; I always end up feeling like I'm the only one who thinks they're funny.) It inspired me to go to the library and pick up the album itself, so I could listen to it alone and enjoy it to my heart's content.

(Here's a therapy aside: I was telling Becca the other night that I had recently realized the reason I like sad movies more than I like funny movies is that, deep down, I feel somehow feel wrong laughing out loud. Not always, but often. And not guilty, exactly, but like my laughing out loud is annoying to people or socially unacceptable somehow. I know a lot of this comes from my Mom and other people in my life telling me I'm loud or I'm obnoxious or to be quiet. My Mom had always been quick to bang on my door and tell me to shut up--among other things--for laughing too loud at the television. I think that's a big part of what turned me off to sitcoms and comedy for long periods of time; I internalized the idea that my laughter and amusement were bothersome and downright irritating for other people. Crying is a big emotional release for me--heck, my favorite movie is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the movie that makes me cry the most--and I know that often makes people uncomfortable, but for me it seems more socially acceptable an emotional release than laughing. I can be really guarded about that sometimes.

So, anyway, when something like a comedy album genuinely does make me laugh out loud when I'm alone, those things become extra special to me.)

8. Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, Marty Robbins (1959)
I'm not a huge fan of a lot of the country music from this time period, but this album I've loved for a long time. Honestly, I'm not even sure how or when I first heard it, but it's a classic, featuring Robbins' best song, "El Paso." The CD version is re-ordered and expanded, and includes "The Hanging Tree," a haunting song I first heard on Chicago's AM 850, which played a lot of older music (and, when I was driving professionally, a welcome relief from the onslaught of nine stations all playing the same terrible late-nineties excuse for pop music... fuck you, Rednex, right in your Cotton Eye Joe).

Incidentally, that station is where I came to absolutely love Ed Ames. Just to give you an idea of what went on there.

7. An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, Tom Lehrer (1959)
Tom Lehrer's albums are great, but I like this one the best for a couple of reasons. First, because Lehrer's smart and sharply funny songs somehow sound snappier performed live. Second, because I really love Lehrer's comfortable interplay with an audience of people who get his humor. I think a song like "The Elements" sounds better live when he's able to make asides to an audience who laughs at it. I'm not sure if that's more of my comedy hang-up, but I think he sounds better live. I wonder if Daniel Radflicce, Tom Lehrer superfan, agrees with me...

(Wow, that sounded obnoxious.)

6. Calypso--Is Like So, Robert Mitchum (1957)
People are usually skeptical on this one. They think it's a weird item in my music collection. But this is not a novelty record like so many awful records with TV show characters capitalizing on their popularity. (Have you ever heard Tony Randall and Jack Klugman sing "You're So Vain"? If you have, my sympathies.) This is a genuine, authentic calypso album that Mitchum recorded after meeting guys like Lord Invader while filming in Tobago. And it's a hell of an album. Just take a listen to "Jean and Dinah." It's not quite Harry Belafonte, but it's damn fun.

(Just listening to it right now, with my eyes closed, while drinking coffee... that's the kind of thing that pulls me out of my baseline anxiety.)

5. Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, The Everly Brothers (1958)
Way back when I was traveling musically through the year 1958, I actually remember just throwing up a post about how much I loved this album, having heard it for the first time. So, in that way, it's not really an "imprinted on my DNA" album, but it is something I've come to adore and hold close these last few years. It's an album of traditional music, and produced in that way I especially respond to but which I find hard to describe. It's the kind of thing that sounds great at 2am when you're all alone and the world seems still. It's quiet, soft, with just enough reverb echo to sound wonderfully haunting. "Down in the Willow Garden," for example, is the kind of song that is always as unsettling as it is delicately beautiful.

4. In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra (1955)
This is another album full of soft, delicate, sincere, "2am songs" that just come out of the darkness and touch you. This is really my mode, musically. The whole album--one of the first concept albums--is meant to sound that way, dealing purposely with themes like lost love, loneliness, and depression. So I guess I can say I relate. And "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" is in my top 10 of Sinatra songs. The Nelson Riddle arrangements are so perfect, cradling Sinatra's vocals without overpowering them.

I also like that Sinatra conveys the emotions without sounding, you know, whiny about loss or sadness. It legitimizes the emotions themselves without marring them with outbursts or self-pity. That's kind of a big deal for me.

3. TIE: Ella and Louis (1956), Ella and Louis Again (1957), and Porgy and Bess (1957), Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
I concede Roger's point that the first two albums do sort of run together, so I'm including them on the same entry. I could listen to all three of these albums together all day long. This is musical perfection to me; two great, distinctive vocalists, in such rapport with one another, and Armstrong's trumpet with Norman Granz' production (and, at least on the third album, Russell Garcia's lush orchestral arrangements)... I could just float away on these albums. A lot of the great standards they perform here are my favorite versions of these songs. They're special. I kind of wish they'd recorded nine more of these, but what they did do together is so special and wonderful, why wish for anything more?

2. TIE: Elvis' Christmas Album, Elvis Presley (1957), A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra (1957), and The Magic of Christmas, Nat King Cole (1960)
Obviously, my favorite music from this time period has a certain kind of softness, a certain kind of lushness, and a certain kind of emotional sincerity. If you've been paying even a little bit of attention to this blog over the years, you know that Christmas music is a big deal to me, so applying those characteristics to Christmas music is just heaven for me. I'm not a religious guy, but I sure do love the music sometimes. I would say that about 95% of my favorite Christmas music comes from the period between 1942 and 1967. And these three albums are albums I listen to every year and never get bored of.

The Elvis album has, of course, "Blue Christmas" and "Santa Bring My Baby (Back to Me)," but it also has probably my second favorite version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" and a beautiful rendition of "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The Sinatra album is wonderful from start to finish, with great arrangements from Gordon Jenkins that create a through-line that takes you on a sort of journey through an Americana Christmas. It also contains hands-down my favorite version of "The Christmas Waltz." And the Nat King Cole album, which is devastatingly gorgeous, has his recording of "O Holy Night," which is my single favorite Christmas song. Specifically this version. Despite the lack of his definitive version of "The Christmas Song" (from 1946), it's perfect.

1. Dave Digs Disney, The Dave Brubeck Quartet (1957)
My favorite album of this decade is jazz renditions of some great songs from Disney movies, because of course it is. That soft "2am" sound, that lovely alto sax, that beautiful piano, and Disney. You may remember how Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas was really high on my Favorite Albums of the 1960s list (number 6). I said that it was sincere without being cloying and bold without being pretentious. That applies here, too. It's sincere, it's bold, and it's pretty and fun. Time Out is a classic album, but this is the one I'll always reach for first. From the first few notes of the opening track, "Alice in Wonderland," I'm just in a good mood.

Well, there it is. Sorry that took so long for so little payoff. But I had nothing to do today and, apparently, a lot to say. Thanks for hanging in there!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stew


via

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

PICKPOCKET (1959)
Tense and direct film by Robert Bresson about a man who lives by picking pockets. The actual sequences of picking pockets are breathtaking, especially when the man works with a team on a train; their precision is like a ballet. The main character personifies an interesting kind of dichotomy; morally, he at once considers himself outside the law (he openly argues that it's beneficial for society if exceptional people are allowed to operate outside conventional morality), but he also seems to really want punishment, perhaps because he worries that he's really not better than others the way he tells himself he is. He is in love (with the very beautiful Marika Green), but avoids her because of her goodness. This is only the second Bresson film I've ever seen; what I find interesting about him is the way he uses non-actors and simply observes them rather than making moral judgments or telling us what to think. People behave, and we are confronted with their realities and free to make our own choices. It's quite powerful. ****

MAMA (2013)
Bizarre horror fantasy that doesn't really make much sense but works on its own emotional logic. I think there are some mistakes of tone, and it doesn't help that the lead actress is Jessica Chastain (I get that even less than Jennifer Lawrence), but as a ghost story it's a surprisingly compelling ride on an October Saturday night. ***

O SOLE MINNIE (2013)
This is my favorite of the new Mickey Mouse cartoons since Bad Ear Day; it's just a surprisingly sweet cartoon about gondolier Mickey trying to romance waitress Minnie in Venice. Extra points for the cameo by Willie, the Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. ****

ANDREI RUBLEV (1966)
Stunning 205-minute Tarkovsky opus about one of Russia's greatest painters. I'm glad to have seen the restored version. It's an episodic film, each chapter reflecting on both Rublev's life and the nature of creativity. Two sequences especially stood out for me: a visceral raid on a monastery, and an incredible scene, set after Rublev has given up his work, in which a peasant casts a gigantic church bell, restoring Rublev's faith in himself and in creativity. I've seen a few other Tarkovsky movies (Ivan's Childhood, Solaris), but this is the one that's really captured me. There's a lot to say about life and how we relate to ourselves and the world and our faith through art. ****

I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW) (1967)
I see the reactions to this film are surprisingly polarizing. Everything I've heard about this film is about its reputation as basically porno, and though the sex scenes are graphic, the film--a movie within a movie--is more concerned with the philosophy of nonviolent protest, gender equality, conscientious objection, social class, and living an ethical life. There's even an interview with Martin Luther King Jr. The main character, Lena, is starring in a film, attending protests, and after running from a new lover who confuses her, attempting to live an ascetic life. It's interesting how the film portrays her as idealistic, but also admits that her ideals can often be untenable in modern civilization. I also like the way the film presents all aspects of life--politics, art, sex, ideals, ethics--as inseparable parts of ourselves that inform the way we live. It messes around with its structure and form in a way I found surprisingly modern. ****

I AM CUBA (1964)
Soviet propaganda film that got really overpraised in the nineties. The camera work is really innovative; it's a very good-looking, well-shot film (mostly; sometimes it's overshot and lurid for propaganda shock value), but it's also often puerile and heavily stereotyped in its depiction of pre-revolutionary Cuba that is really only there to laud Castro. Yeah, it's a good-looking, well-edited movie, but so is Triumph of the Will, and like Triumph of the Will, I find its naked manipulations offensive. The obviously Russian actors playing the evil, decadent Americans are ridiculous. But, yes, the camera work is justly praised. It's worth seeing just for that. **1/2

THE HOUSE IS BLACK (1963)
Fascinating Iranian documentary short about a leper colony, punctuated by passages from the Bible, the Qu'ran, and the director's own poetry, all focusing on the beauty of creation and the human condition. Some of the imagery on display is a little unsettling, but I like how director Forough Farrokzhad doesn't shy away from adults and children afflicted with leprosy. Just watching the people of a leper colony work and play together with the readings the director chooses emphasizes their humanity. I can't stop thinking about it. ****

HALLOWEEN: Peanuts, 1967

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marvels: Strange Tales #105

"The Return of the Wizard!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(February 1963)

Simple story this month, with the Wizard escaping from prison and challenging the Human Torch--the only foe who has ever defeated him--to a rematch. The Wizard holes up in his ultra-modern home with a bunch of new superweapons, and comes very close to defeating the Torch, but the Invisible Girl shows up to save him from the Wizard's trap. Of course, they're both captured, but they work together to escape and defeat the Wizard, sending him back to prison.

It doesn't really get more complicated than that, but there is something I found worth thinking about.

There's a lesson being taught to the younger reader about manhood, and it's not really all positive. See, when Johnny wants to rush to answer the Wizard's challenge ("My reputation is at stake!"), Sue tells him "Members of the Fantastic Four don't get into fights just to satisfy their pride!" She actually calls Reed and Ben for help, but when she does, Reed tells her "Johnny has to grow up and stand on his own two feet sometime! The Thing and I won't interfere in this!" The message is clear: men don't back away from a fight.

So are we meant to think that Sue is merely being overprotective? Because Johnny just sneaks out, anyway. And then she follows him to the Wizard's house and falls into a trap, which allows the Wizard to demand Johnny's surrender. So not only does she try to keep him from this challenge, but she also holds him back when she tries to interfere. And then, when they try to make a desperate escape, it's only Johnny's ingenuity that saves them; Sue gives in to despair and cries. And when this adventure's ended, Johnny laughs off Sue's concern with a quip.

So men don't run from a fight, and women are overprotective and, well... weak. When Sue raises concerns, Johnny doesn't listen to her--and later plays it off as no big deal--and Reed tells her more or less to butt out. When she tries to help Johnny, she gets them both captured and nearly killed. Everything she does is the wrong thing. Johnny has to save her.

Why is this element even here? Is it just so that Johnny has someone to rescue, upping the stakes? I hate to see Sue used in such a cliched way; she should be a hero in her own right, not just the voice of concern to be shushed and shown up.

It takes a little story with the Human Torch's only good solo villain so far and mars it. Because it's a potentially fun story that's harder to enjoy because of its ridiculous, dated gender stereotypes. It's a filler story in an era when other titles--like Fantastic Four--are adding real humanity and dimension.

Next time: Ant-Man spends a bunch of time in a car engine.

Cause and Effect

From "Weird Al" Yankovic's YouTube.


Sometimes you just need a classic gag.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lou Scheimer 1928-2013

Filmation is one of those cartoon studios that seems to polarize people when talking about animation and pop culture. But there sure was a lot of it on TV when I was a kid.

When I was very, very young, I used to love Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and Flash Gordon, both Filmation cartoons. In fact, those were the first iterations of those characters I ever saw; I was just that little. It was formative enough that there's always a small part of me that misses Nkima in any version of Tarzan that he's not in... And one of the first action figures I ever had was of Thun the Lion Man from Flash Gordon.

When I was in second grade, I remember rushing home to see He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which was one of my favorite toy lines for a couple of years. I had one of those big Earl Norem-painted He-Man posters on my wall for a while. And my sister loved She-Ra: Princess of Power. We watched both shows, played with the toys, and got immersed in that whole universe. I've seen the show again as an adult, and it's... it's actually pretty terrible. There's nothing there for me now. But it dominated my childhood, fed and nurtured my love of science fiction and fantasy, and I still remember it fondly as something I had a real emotional investment in as a very young kid. Those were fun days. I played outside a lot, running around with my He-Man swords. Those shows inspired my imagination.

Even later, as I was starting to outgrow afterschool cartoons, I still enjoyed Ghostbusters (the one with the gorilla) and BraveStarr. And Filmation was there earlier, before I was born, with things that became favorites for me through reruns, like Journey Back to Oz, the animated Star Trek series (which still holds up as great TV science fiction), and Fat Albert. To this day I remember having a doctor's appointment one night in October, around 1982 or 1983, and being very upset that I might miss The Fat Albert Halloween Special on TV that night.

Lou Scheimer, the man who founded Filmation Studios, died a few days ago at the age of 84. Mark Evanier has a very nice post about him. I just had to mark it here and say a little thank you for contributing to a childhood that relished in fantasy and the imagination, and delighted at such things as lion men, monkey sidekicks, and ghostbusting gorillas.

Rest in peace, Lou Scheimer.

Song of the Week: "We Can't Stop"

I'm surprised how well this song works musically in different settings. I was kind of dismissive of it at first, owing in large part to its ridiculous video, but hearing it in a soft acoustic version and now this a cappella with the Roots and Jimmy Fallon have changed my original non-opinion. I dig this, anyway. I was never in the "shame shame shame on Miley" camp, but I don't think I've liked one of her singles since (*checks Wikipedia*) 2009. Damn, was "Party in the USA" really that long ago? Fuck, time flies faster and faster...