Friday, October 21, 2011

Book review: George Harrison - Living in the Material World

Heavy on pictures, extremely light on text, "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" is the coffee table tie-in to Martin Scorsese's enjoyable but rambling documentary film of the same name.

If you're looking for deep insights into Harrison's life and thoughts, or even seeking a good overview of his musical career, there's not much detail here. But if you're a longtime fan who already knows that stuff, you'll find a wealth of pictures you've never seen before -- many of them from George's own camera: On tour with the Beatles, on holiday around the world and on pilgrimage in India.

There's a lot to say about Harrison. His influence on society -- beyond just his role in the Beatles -- is enormous. The spiritual openness and flexibility present in the West today is largely a result of his influence. The Transcendentalists and Beats all sought insights in Hinduism and Buddhism, but George was far more popular and culturally visible. He opened the doors for many would-be seekers to make their spiritual quests. The popularity of meditation and yoga are largely due to his influence, too.

And then there's world music. The Beatles use of sitar and other instruments, mainly due to Harrison's influence, helped open our ears to music from around the globe, and inspired other musicians in the West to explore sounds of other cultures and absorb their influence.

But you won't read about that here. However, you will get snippets from Harrison's diary entries and letters home to his parents, and all those pictures. It's not the first book you'd add to a Beatles library, but definitely not one you'd want to skip.

2011 Record Store Day releases announced

Here's a look at the limited releases on hand at participating shops in this year's Record Store Day, Nov. 25. Highlights include: A boxed set of Beatles singles, a selection of Pete Townshend's Quadrophenia demos, singles by the Byrds, Yardbirds and more, and releases by Wilco and others.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

John Lennon's tooth up for auction

Confirming all the bad things we've heard about British dental health:
One of John Lennon's teeth is expected to make £10,000 when it is auctioned next month.

The tooth was given to the former Beatles' house keeper Dot Jarlett when she worked for him at Kenwood mansion in Surrey in the late 1960s.

He told her to give it her daughter "as a souvenir" after he had pulled it out in the kitchen of the Weybridge property.

The tooth will be auctioned in Stockport on 5 November.

Restored Godzilla on way from Criterion

Producer of spruced-up, decked-out DVD editions of famous and cult films, Criterion has a new Godzilla set out in January. Details:

Godzilla is the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies. It’s also a remarkably humane and melancholy drama made in Japan at a time when the country was still reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing. Its rampaging radioactive beast, the poignant embodiment of an entire population’s fears, became a beloved international icon of destruction, spawning more than twenty sequels. This first thrilling, tactile spectacle continues to be a cult phenomenon; here, we present the original, 1954 Japanese version, along with Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 American reworking starring Raymond Burr.

  • New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentary by David Kalat (A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series)
  • New high-definition digital restoration of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Terry Morse’s 1956 reworking of the original, starring Raymond Burr
  • Audio commentary for Godzilla, King of the Monsters by Kalat
  • New interviews with actor Akira Takarada (Hideto Ogata), Godzilla performer Haruo Nakajima, and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
  • Interview with legendary Godzilla score composer Akira Ifukube
  • Featurette detailing Godzilla’s photographic effects
  • New interview with Japanese-film critic Tadao Sato
  • The Unluckiest Dragon, an illustrated audio essay featuring historian Greg Pflugfelder describing the tragic fate of the fishing vessel Daigo fukuryu maru, a real-life event that inspired Godzilla
  • Theatrical trailers
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman

Pulp cover parade

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One man show revives Viv Stanshall

An assortment of former Rutles, Bonzo Dog Band members turned out to see the premiere of "Vivian Stanshall's Sir Henry at Rawlinson End," a one-man performance of the late Bonzo's surreal comedy stories featuring actor Mike Livesley.

Mojo reports:

Backed by a crack team of musicians, under the direction of Bill Leach, Livesley's one-hour performance gives weight and truth to that old theatrical cliché, "a comic tour-de-force".

The first person to be granted family permission to stage a production of Rawlinson End since Vivian's death in 1995, Livesley has turned this absurdly loquacious family drama, and rococo-curlicued musical play-for-voices into a hysterically joyous theatrical experience. As did Stanshall, Livesley speaks all the character voices himself, from the stentorian grotesqueries of foul Sir Henry to the sweetly sad laments of Great Aunt Florrie and the lonesome camperies of brother Hubert.

BBC Radio this week - highlights

Click the links to hear streaming programs from BBC Radio:

A Short History of Vampires Available on BBC iPlayer
The vampire genre in all its dark glory

Days in the Life - Pink Floyd at 40 Available on BBC iPlayer
The Pink Floyd story from their Cambridge beginnings to the Live 8 reunion

Great Bleep Forward, The Available on BBC iPlayer
Andrew Collins explores the history and future of electronic music.

Rolling Stones Story, The Available on BBC iPlayer
Alexis Korner tells the story of the band.

You'll Never Be Sixteen Again Available on BBC iPlayer
The story of the British teenager.

Casino Royale Available on BBC iPlayer
Alex Jennings reads the classic Bond story by Ian Fleming

Complete Smiley, The Available on BBC iPlayer
John le Carre's George Smiley novels, adapted for radio.

The Goon Show Available on BBC iPlayer
Classic material from one of the all-time radio comedy greats.

DC Comics January 2012 solicitations

Items of interest from DC's January offerings. Click the links to pre-order discounted items from Amazon:  

Written by Bob Haney, Robert Kanigher, Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil, art by Neal Adams and George Tuska, cover by Neal Adams.
Neal Adams's groundbreaking tales of Deadman are collected in this new trade paperback featuring Brave and the Bold #79, 86, Strange Adventures #214-216, backup stories from Aquaman #50-52 and Challengers of the Unknown #74.  

 Written by Don Cameron and Alvin Schwartz, art by various, cover by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. Superman enters the post World War II era in these stories from Action Comics #86-102. The Man of Steel helps out Hocus and Pocus, and fights the nuisances of The Prankster and Mr. Mxyztplk.  

Written by various, art by various, cover by Jay Scott Pike.
DC's popular romance series is collected for the first time in this title reprinting Young Love #39-56, featuring art by John Romita, Mike Sekowsky, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Jay Scott Pike and others.

Movie still: Let's Make it Legal cast

New comics Oct. 19, 2011

Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon.

Things I'll buy:

Justice League #2

Legion of Superheroes #2

Avengers #18

Sergio Aragones Funnies #4

Things I may try:

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #1

Other items of interest:

The Legion of Super-Heroes - The Curse Deluxe Edition

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Strange Tales - Volume 5

S.H.I.E.L.D.: Architects of Forever

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Will Eisner - P.S.: The Best of the Preventive Maintenance Monthly

After helping to revolutionize the visual narrative of comics via his long-running Spirit comic strip, and before helping to establish the "graphic novel" format, Will Eisner spent much of his time running P.S. Magazine.

P.S. was published (in fact, still is published) by the U.S. Army and stands for "post script," because it's an add-on to the Army's conventional technical manuals. It's meant for use by soldiers in the field, providing quick tips with easy-to-follow visuals on how to keep vehicles and machinery running so it doesn't go belly up when you most need it. The information is put across in one-pagers, pin-ups and short stories featuring characters such as G.I. Joe Dope and sexy mechanic Connie Rood, who look like they might have stepped out of The Spirit. Eisner fans will recognize the artist's use of humorous verse and parodies of popular movies and TV shows -- features of the Spirit -- in these educational snippets.

Eisner had the contract to produce and oversee P.S. from 1951 to 1971, at which time he diverted his focus to creating long-form comic novels, such as the acclaimed "A Contract with God."

This book collects highlights from P.S. and does a good job showing how Eisner and the other artists in his stable used comic book storytelling to convey technical information. Not being the slightest bit mechanical myself, I'm not sure how successful it all is, or how useful P.S. might be to the troops. But Eisner's approach to using comics as an educational platform does come across as imaginative and innovative. And the fact that P.S. is still published today (comics great Joe Kubert illustrates much of it) is an indication that Eisner was onto something when he started exploring the educational possibilities of his art form.

As a civilian, I found the book more an interesting curiosity than an entertaining read. But it's something to add to my Eisner library and I'm glad to have it. Comics artist Eddie Campbell, who selected the included strips, does a nice job in his introduction providing historical context and artistic commentary. If you're interested in Eisner and the potential of comics art, you'll want to check it out.

DVD new releases Oct. 18, 2011

Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Five-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

Batman: Year One (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete Season Three

The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition (3DVD)

The Captains - A Film By William Shatner

It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series

Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory (Three-Disc 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Batman: Year One (Single-Disc Edition)

Batman Year One (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Captain America / Captain America II: Death Too Soon

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest