Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Diversionary Tactics

I’ll level with you– real life, these last few days, has sucked out loud. We’ve had bad news seemingly on all fronts– national, local, friends and family. Several folks we know had unexpected deaths of loved ones. The money and work stuff has felt so oppressive that I feel like calling in sick to everything because adulthood is just too hard.

Worse, each new day seems to bring the news that yet another creative person whose work I admired has passed away. Hearing about the loss of the great comics artist Dan Spiegle last week was a gut punch, and just this morning I found out we lost Ken Adam, the brilliant production designer who created all those wonderful aluminum rooms full of cool stuff for the James Bond films.

And literally five minutes ago someone told me that Galactica‘s Richard Hatch passed away. I thought Jesus, he was too young, and then saw that he was seventy-one. So maybe not so much.

Now, I am not going to go into one of those patented “Goddamn it 2017” rages that people are doing these days whenever a famous person dies; the ugly truth is just that my wife and and I have entered that age bracket where death is happening more frequently, not to “old people” but to US. To the people we think of as contemporary.

So a lot of shitty news about work and finances and relatives and friends coupled with the sudden realization of age and my own mortality. That’s been the week.

I know, right?

But since I can’t just stop answering the phone and hide out in a blanket fort till it all goes away, I have been distracting myself with various odds and ends. The good news is that I have lots of cool friends who are always turning up odd bits of this and that on the internet.

Here is something that just delighted me out of all proportion to its value. Some fine fellow put together a supercut of all the great Ray Ellis jazz music from the old 1967 Spider-Man cartoon.

Seriously, it SWINGS, cats. The occasional snippets of dialogue actually add to the fun… it’s like a beatnik poetry reading with a really hot jazz band behind it. It’s been my background music here in the office for a few days now.

Best of all, it led YouTube to suggest I might also like this similar playlist from Jonny Quest.

Getting to listen to both of these while I am trying to beat deadlines on various book projects has cheered me enormously.

Here’s one that had me grinning like an idiot. I have no idea who the mad geniuses are at RocketJump but this video made me laugh so hard I frightened the cat.

diversion doggy

Trust me, it’s not just another cute doggy clip.

Even though I know I am getting old and lately I can feel the cold breath of the Reaper on my neck with each new celebrity death I hear about, it must be said that in my heart, well, I am still a sniggering adolescent. Which is why Swear Trek never fails to delight me.

I know, I’m twelve. But I still love it. If you too have a potty-mouthed inner child that needs a laugh, this is the Twitter feed for you.

And we are still working our way through various cheap DVDs of old TV shows. Lately it’s been a lot of Gunsmoke.

Now, Gunsmoke ran for two decades, and you’d have to be a really hardcore fan to want all of them in your home. But there are a couple of cool greatest-hits compilation sets out there for not very much money at all, and they should more than fill your Gunsmoke needs. I happen to like this one because it’s got lots of fun extras and commentary, and I favor the later hour-long episodes that were shot in color. This one’s good too. There are a bunch up on YouTube as well, but those are catch as catch can. Me, I like having a few here in the library.

There was some television that was really a disappiointment, as well, though I freely admit that it might just be me. But I gotta say I really wanted to like 24: Legacy a lot more than I did.

I dunno, the cast is working hard, the creators seem to have a solid script so far, but… maybe 24 is a thing that is just done. It started as a really cool concept, then it sort of morphed into a weird right-wing wish fantasy, then it became predictable in its Shocking Twists, and now we’ve kind of reached the place where it’s just become laughable. At this point you have to wonder why the hell CTU hasn’t just been completely dismantled, since the only terrorists they ever stumble across are the ones that managed to get secretly hired on there. For a Counter-Terrorism Unit, they certainly never actually Counter any Terrorism. But they do seem to facilitate more then their share.

Another one I had high hopes for was Emerald City.

I am not normally a “Dark Oz” guy. Most of those efforts in film and comics leave me really cold– I’m still kind of annoyed about the time I wasted on Syfy’s Tin Man— but both my bride and I love the Oz books and the promo looked kind of cool, and we heard Kelly Sue DeConnick was working on it. All of which meant we were inclined to look kindly on the show. So far, though, it’s not really getting much of anywhere and we often can’t remember it from week to week. My wife Julie says it’s “too depressing.” Pity, because it’s a great cast and I do kind of love the goth junkie take on the Witch of the West. But I can’t really disagree with Julie; it’s mostly just dreary.

And dreary is something we have had way too much of lately. At least Timeless is still hanging in there.

And we learned how to embed videos in our columns here, too. That’s been fun. Hey, I’m taking the good stuff where I find it.

Back next week with something cool. And in a better mood, I hope.


  1. M-Wolverine

    Sorry to hear you’re having a bad week. I think we can all feel ya.

    You just heard about Ken Adams right? Because he died last year, and was in his 90’s. Tremendous life.

    But thanks for that Spider-Man video link. I can see me playing that in the background at work, or if I’m ever throwing a swinging party that needs some happening music on my tv. Better than a CD loop.

      1. Dougtron 3030

        Too bad about that, if I run into you I’ll be sure to say hi. BTW, like the new site, it has everything I used to like to read at CBR and some cool new stuff. I was a very infrequent commentator, so I’ll try and do better in the Junk Shop! 🙂

  2. Greg Burgas

    I went to Swear Trek from your Facebook link, and I could spend hours looking at that. Animated Uhura is the BEST!

    BTW, the wife and I will definitely be in Seattle for the con. So that’s something to look forward to! 🙂

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    That dog is awesome!

    Man, I hadn’t heard about Ken Adam or Richard Hatch. Adam was a WW2 vet, so hardly a youngin’; but, still, part of my childhood. Tremendous designer and one of the chief reasons I like Mid-Century Modern architecture and design (along with the Jetsons). Hatch was a great hero and a great villain, in the revamped series.

  4. Le Messor

    “I found out we lost Ken Adam, the brilliant production designer who created all those wonderful aluminum rooms full of cool stuff for the James Bond films.”

    I just finished (re-)watching the Austin Powers movies right before I read this. Ken Adam’s legacy lives on!

    “Lately I can feel the cold breath of the Reaper on my neck”

    That’s what I’ve always loved about comics and TV and movies… They’re a fun way to escape. Making your way in the world today takes everything you got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?

  5. Simon

    – “Ray Ellis jazz music from the old 1967 Spider-Man cartoon”

    Though from other hands, the Spider-Man theme song was probably remixed from the intros of Dave Brubeck’s “Bru’s Boogie Woogie” and Charlie Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle”, so you might like that too!

    Or for some joyful orchestral jazz, you could catch Jaga Jazzist’s LIVE WITH BRITTEN SINFONIA (2013, but rooted in Chick Corea, Miles Davis, and Glass Ensemble).

    – “a lot of shitty news about work and finances and relatives and friends”

    One of the most uplifting short stories about those is Raymond Carver’s gradually-funny “Elephant”, a 20-minute read here.

    – “the sudden realization of age and my own mortality”

    You may like the distraction of Muriel Spark’s hilarious crime novel MEMENTO MORI (1959), one of the funniest books about old age and death. It’s got the sharp wit of Wilde and the light touch of Wodehouse, not unlike some 1940s black-comedy films such as KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS or THE MURDERER LIVES AT NUMBER 21.

    * “ ‘Remember you must die.’ That’s what the characters in Muriel Spark’s first important novel hear whenever they pick up the phone. They are all old, some bedridden and others senile, and while the message is always the same, each of them hears a different voice: old, young, sinister, polite. Sometimes it sounds like long-distance. Word of the calls begins to spread, the London papers pick it up, Scotland Yard is called in. Are they a prank, a threat, a case of mass hysteria?” @ http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2010/04/the_prime_of_ms_muriel_spark.single.html

    * “Muriel Spark’s novel may be about the various physical and mental afflictions of old age, but far from being depressing or morbid, it is a wonderfully funny and exhilarating read” @ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jun/05/memento-mori-muriel-spark-novel

    * (w/ excerpts) https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2016/11/22/memento-mori-by-muriel-spark/

    It’s one of the “1001 Books to Read Before You Die”, fittingly.

  6. John King

    I’m still trying to figure out how strong a guy with radioactive blood would be…

    Emerald City has just started over here – I’ve only seen the first episode so far – so I’ll try the second episode tonight.
    I’m looking forward to the final season of Person of Interest starting this Wednesday.

    On Timeless – I’ve just seen the Benedict Arnold episode and found the views of “Rittenhouse” very topical and in agreement with a number of UK Prime Ministers (especially Tony Blair).
    Much of the current argument over here is because people genuinely do want a voice and so taking a stand against the politicians who feel that the people should only be given the “illusion of a voice” and quote John Adams to justify not giving people any real say in policy.
    I don’t know if it is the same argument is going on in other countries

    1. Le Messor

      We’re not having an argument in my home town (which is in Australia), we’ve been given the illusion of a voice. We have ‘consultations’ where they listen to just enough of what people say to figure out how to tell us we want what the government wants us to want (which is usually what the developers want). They tell us to “Have Your Say” (the actual name of the interaction program), but they never say they listen.

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