Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forty years ago

On this date in 1968, the Beatles' self-titled (or "white") album was released. It was a double decker mishmash of songs, an electic effort from a band continuing to experiment, but also clearly nearing the end of their time together.

There were quite a few good songs on this collection, including Helter Skelter and Back in the U.S.S.R. There were some fairly stupid tracks, too, and it has less to do with the experimental/odd nature of the record and more to do with the Beatles writing a lot of dumb songs.

George Harrison wrote four tunes on the record, including:

1968 was a good year for rock music in general. Deep Purple released its first two albums, Simon & Garfunkel issued "Bookends," The Jimi Hendrix Experience finished their double LP "Electric Ladyland," and The Velvet Underground dropped "White Light/White Heat." We also got Pink Floyd, The Doors, and the debut of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Then there is my favorite album from 1968, Cream's "Wheels of Fire," yet another double LP featuring ten studio tracks and four live, rambling recordings from San Francisco.

It had one of the weirdest songs in rock history as well.

More on Cream in a few of days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How much is a deserted island worth?

Amazon dot com is having a big sale on DVDs, including Gilligan's Island. You can get individual seasons for thirteen dollars American, or you can go all out and get the whole series for $35.99 (normally retails for $114.82).

I was very interested in picking up the DVD, but then I was mulling over whether I really wanted 98 episodes of Gilligan's Island. Probably 10 episodes would be enough. After all, how many times do I need to see the Professor create a device just to have Gilligan ruin the escape? You'd think they would tie him to a tree and tell him they'll send someone to pick him up. Or really, just bash his skull in with a coconut. It's not like he was ever useful.

I guess Mary Anne wasn't all that useful, either, but she was a babe and she probably kept the Professor warm on those cold, lonely nights. For a farm girl, she was able to remember to bring an extensive change of tantalizing clothes. As has been discussed by many people before me, it is very odd that the island's guests brought so much clothing for a three hour tour. The only people who didn't, really, were the Professor, Gilligan, and the Skipper. You'd think the latter two would at least have a change of shirts, considering they probably worked 12 hour days on that boat. Well, let's be honest, they probably lived on that boat with their few meager possesions. Even on a deserted island, they were still forced to bunk together and do the heavy labor. Apparently the class system exists even away from civilization.

Maybe I'll get the two seasons of F-Troop instead, because I'm also a little disappointed that the Gilligan DVD set doesn't include the TV movies, such as The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. That's about as interesting a combination as Scooby Doo and Batman. It's a disappointing omission.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Philly Tale

I saw A Bronx Tale Friday night at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. ABT is the revival of the original one man show that launched the movie of the same name. Although the Merriam is one of those historic theaters that was designed for men half my height (I had to move to an empty row halfway through the show just so I could uncoil my legs), I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. ABT is one of those rare times when a great piece of art translate into a new medium in a fabulous way, and I'm glad I got to see the original source material as it was first presented.

Creator Chazz Palminteri was involved in both pieces, although he is more the focus of the stage production, seeing as it's a one man show. The theater performance is more humorous, taking more of a conversational tone that is necessary when there's only one person performing. Necessary, but exquisite. I'm not a fan of one man shows one way or the other, but ABT was like a mix of a regular play and a stand-up comedy routine. Palminteri brought to life many different characters like a master storyteller, and there were only a few times when I thought it dragged a bit. Overall, though, I was captured by Palminteri.

I thought the legendary bar scene played a whole lot better on the stage. In many respects, it's like comparing a great movie to the better book it was based on. I was thoroughly entertained, and I recommend it to any fan of the film or of theater in general.