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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

slide show

I've been slaving over a hot keyboard today. I actually put in something on the order of six hours organizing and selecting photos, putting them on my flickr page, finding that half of them were already there, blasting away duplicates, deciding on an order, captioning, and mostly, waiting for flickr to wake up. That was the fun part.

Anyway, the magnum opus is finished. I have made a new photoset of the pictures I took in 2006 and 2007 of the derelict amusement venue, Holyoke's Mountain Park, and the nearby derelict (and somewhat newer) water park. Mountain Park closed in 1987 after 80 years, and the wooden coaster was torn down in 1990.

In the course of looking up older photos to put names on some of my pictures, I learned that Jay Ducharme (whose pictures and sound files I linked to) finished a book on the park's history. He was one of the last carousel operators. The book, fittingly, is being sold at the carousel, which is now in Heritage Park, by the Children's Museum. It came out about four months after we moved out of town.

I also found out that bulldozers have finished obliterating the place, and a new owner hopes to make a concert venue of it.

slide show

Having found the access road, we have driven up and parked just off the bridge over I-91. The animated clown sign that invited drivers to visit Holyoke's Mountain Park for years is long gone, but the sign for the water park farther up Mt. Tom (which closed more recently) is still visible and peeling away. Let's go on in!

mountain golf

One of the overpasses that allowed pedestrians to cross paths with the little Zephyr train that ran around the park and also marks the location of the mini golf course, whose carpeted greens are among the more recognizable features of the park.

dolly pitch

For a real treat, check out Jay's page. He was a carousel operator before the park closed, and he saved the recorded sound tracks from the Pirate's Den and Zoltan, the robot fortune teller.


Sadly, Thurl Ravenscroft doesn't seem to be among the pirate voices. Anyway, this seems to be the roof of the Dolly Pitch, where you pitched dolls at baseballs to win wooden bottles. Or something.


hillside hillside

A three-dimensional view of a hill of poles. This is freeview 3D, because cross-eyed 3D gives me a headache and won't hold still. I took some other 3D pairs as well and might do something with them some day. More information about freeviewing can be found on the internet.

Seriously, go have a look if you can. I hiked in the hot sun to get these because I thought it was interesting, and I put a couple dozen of them up two and three years ago, respectively, and they've been looked at between zero and three times, ever. Be the first on your side of the Mississippi!.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ahhhhh, Yes!

Before it vanishes, as it has other times, do yourself a favor and spend some entertaining time immersed in the scholarly pages of The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion by Eric Costello.

I can't mention it without bragging that I -- yes, I! -- once had the privilege of serializing this groundbreaking reference in the pages of a monthly cartoon APA (private magazine that went out to the contributors). Once I learned that Costello was doing this, and having seen it, I got his permission to run a few pages of it each issue, with the intention of turning the text files over to him afterward, so that he wouldn't have to type the thing over another time, and could get it published somewhere reputable. My term of office expired before it was completely finished, but by then (or soon after) he took the show to the net where it could be appreciated by a wider audience.

So. You might ask what this wonderful thing is? (I pause while you ask.) It's a guide to all the puzzling references, in-jokes, catch-phrases and ad jingles that enlivened the classic Warner Brothers cartoons, and which now confuse and confound audiences, even as their kids are shouting "TURN OUT THAT LIGHT!" or asking "Was this trip really necessary?" Radio jokes, ration coupons, opaque slang, Texas trivia, aspects of Hollywood stars, and other detritus of the collective unconscious are aired and explicated herein.

A note of caution: It comes and goes. It seems that no sooner has Mr. Costello found a home for this indispensable repository of knowledge than something happens leading to a 404 NOT FOUND message. A Google search will show you all manner of no-longer-viable WBCC locations. We recommend saving the whole thing to your hard drive, and maybe converting it to some format in which you can carry it with you wherever you go. It's that good. Samples:


The Last of the Red-hot Gobblers. A caricature in The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (Tashlin, 1937) of Sophie Tucker.


One of the many advertising slogans for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Daffy-Duck-as-Danny-Kaye mentions the slogan in Book Revue (Clampett, 1946). The Christopher Columbus character in Hare We Go (McKimson, 1951) yells the phrase in exasperation at King Ferdinand while attempting to prove the Earth is round. Henery Hawk also used the expression when confronted with a fine specimen of alleged chicken tail.


Cigar-smoking character actor with a dour face who was well-known and often imitated. His movie appearances include 42nd Street, Golddiggers of 1933 in which he played the producer, the live-action Alice in Wonderland as the Caterpillar, and Wake Up and Live.

Caricatures of Sparks appear in:

  • Hollywood Steps Out (Avery, 1941) greeting the table of stonefaces
  • Malibu Beach Party (Freleng, 1940) being buried in sand by Baby Snooks/Fanny Brice
  • Slap-Happy Pappy (Clampett, 1940) indicating his joy (?) at the news that Eddie Cackler (caricature of Eddie Cantor) is going to be the father of a boy
  • Fresh Fish (Avery, 1939) as an old crab

It is quite possible that the Rip Van Winkle character in Have You Got Any Castles? (Tashlin, 1938) is a Sparks caricature as well, given the character’s voice.

These are three successive entries, taken from the page I had it open to when I started this. I can't promise that the internal links work, but it gives you the names and the meanings -- there's enough there to satisfy your curiosity and make you want to watch all the cartoons again.
re: re-re-re-re-reading

Every day, I read just a few more pages of Jules Feiffer's America. This is the 25th anniversary collection of his comic strips. Inimitable, though often imitated, they are amazingly concentrated and powerful stuff.

Feiffer was already an experienced professional who had worked for Will Eisner by the time he hit the ground running during the Eisenhower administration. His drawings shimmered from one style to another briefly before settling into a style so direct and unvarnished it sometimes seems like no style at all. Though famous for his talking heads, his action drawings are full of life, especially his dancers (male and female), caught at moments of poise and release, like key drawings by a great animator.

Typically existing for about eight panels, his characters breathe nervous life. He sets up small slices of them speaking to us, panel leading to panel, until they have unwittingly revealed their hearts. Sometimes they are us, and the recognition is not always comfortable. Sometimes they are the evil others, only they look and sound a bit more like us than we would like.

They are history lessons for moderns who think the 50s were a sitcom, the 60s were a love-in, and our current problems are something entirely new and novel. His Eisenhower-era strips are insightful, and I'd read many of them so often before that I can't recall them being a revelation. His Kennedy strips are a jolt of cold water to Camelot fantasists. His JFK was vital, sharp, alive, and also shallow and poll-driven. Feiffer stuck it to him mercilessly, depicting him as a choreographed dancer "doin' the Frontier drag." LBJ was a shining knight until he revealed too much of himself; then he was a particularly disappointing political hack. Nixon -- well, we all know Nixon. So did he. Jerry Ford? "Shut up and ski, Jerry." Carter was Jimmy the Cloud.

I haven't been quoting (except for Jerry) because if I start, I won't stop. It's all too good.

I can't recommend this 25th-anniversary collection too highly. It's been more than 25 years since it came out, and I wish he'd do a follow-up. I don't know if reading all his strips in order without the filter of the creator choosing what to include would match the impact of this set, but I'd be willing to find out. Fantagraphics has started the ball rolling, and the volume they've done calls to me from the store shelves. Would that I were wealthier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

family day

Six years ago, on the other side of the planet, they handed us a baby. I am still awed that such a thing could happen, no matter how many forms we filled out, biographies we wrote, pictures we took, fingerprints we allowed, interviews we underwent, and months we waited. They gave us Sarah. Thanks, China. Thanks, everybody.

lazy day

Thanks, Cathy, for your diligent and committed work on getting it all done right. Thanks, Sarah, for being a great kid. Thanks, Frances, for being such a kid-tolerant cat.

My heart, as they say, is full.
a billion and one blistering barnacles

Georges "Herge" Remi passed away with one last Tintin book loosely sketched out. It has been finished by others. Canadian fan Yves Rodier made the art, and it has been scripted, colored, and translated into English.

The first time I found this online, it was still in French, and only the first few pages had been colored. This is a pleasant pastiche, complete with covers and end pages. I've often said that the trouble with some fan fiction is that they can get the characters properly dressed and standing around, but don't know how to plot for them. Luckily, in this case, the plotting has been done for them by the sole and singular creator of the entire milieu (no relation to Snowy). I still haven't purchased the published volume of the very loose version of this left by Herge, so I can't be sure whose idea it was to have various secondary characters pass through. I'm not complaining, though.

I wonder if the other completion of this, the one signed as being by "Ramo Nash" (a character in this tale), has been fully finished now. There were interesting differences between them, owing to the vagueness of the outline both started from.

Anyway, please enjoy this. It's a valedictory curtain call -- and a sort of gift to a Tintin fan who thought they already had everything.

Friday, February 27, 2009

flickr hates you
part 2

Let's see if I can finish this tonight...


















Well, that's the lot, so far. It takes a significant part of an hour to do each of these. Let's hope I can find some time to do more of these soon -- and maybe some of the panels that were also saved in the same scrapbook of "Our Boarding House," which were pretty good. Just not as good, to my mind, as these.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

flickr hates youpart I

Flickr takes action often to keep people from viewing my photos there. God knows why. You'd think they would want their service to work. So, here is a portfolio of "Out Our Way" panels from my flickr page. I may not get all 20+ in today. It's late at night. Here goes.









Let's just call this Part I. Bed beckons. Let's just say Part II will come some time after I've had a chance to digest all the feedback. I'm only human.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jukebox for January 11, 2009

Ben Light was another musical master who worked within the field of "Party Records." He has a handful of sides over at archive.org (click on his name), which include two genuine delights -- the other is "The Full-Her Brush Man," which I intend to present on a future occasion. The others please me less. "Give It To Me, Daddy," is a fairly standard number for the genre, and its ending is a little creepy by today's standards. Ditto "It May Not Be Love, But It's Wonderful," which is actually reprehensible to my 21st-century ears. "When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go" is one I seem to have forgotten. I might give it another listen and see if I like it now.

Ben's vocalist has a breezy delivery, and Ben's own piano playing is superb, with scales and arpeggios that tinkle like running water at times. His small backup ensemble includes a guitar and either a clarinet or a saxophone and not much else. Searching on the title didn't get me much of anything. Archive says it's as given below, though it would seem more logical that it would be the same as the first line of the song proper. This suggests to me that the song was written to be sung by a woman, and he's covering it in the third person. If you think that's complex, wait till we get to the brush man!

Anyway, before the introduction overshadows the piece itself (a sound file is linked from the title), here we go:

I'm Gonna Get Me a Robot Man
by Ben Light and His Surf Club Boys

People laugh at Science
The reason I can't see
For science has done many things
For girlies like Marie

First it gave us radio
That reached around the world
Now it's found another way
To help the working girl

She has had her troubles
With sweethearts by the score
But hip hooray for science
She won't have them any more!

She's gonna get her a robot man
He'll do things nobody else can
She'll turn him on about a quartet to nine
And keep in action all of the time

Switch him off at a quarter to ten
Rest a while then start him again
She'll have lovin' that's simply grand
When she gets her that robot man
(He'll keep givin'!) When she gets her that robot man.

She must have one with a guarantee
One that loves nobody else but she
She'll have gadgets that are unique
Turn him on on Monday and he'll run for a week

A robot man cannot cheat, you see
She'll control his electricity
He'll never feel tired and never get low
Flip a switch and he's ready to go, no foolin'
Flip a switch and he's ready to go.

(interlude -- Ben plays that tinkling piano)

A robot man cannot rust or spoil
All he needs is a little oil
And talk about your sex appeal
He'll be a Casanova made of steel

A metal papa that can go to town
He's got a battery that won't run down
If you want lovin' that's simply grand
Get a scientific robot man and he'll keep pitchin'
Get a scientific robot man!

Update: I believe the vocalist's name is Bob Tank. Ben Light went on to an instrumental career, some of which can be found in the recently uploaded hoard of around 25,000 78s (sides or disks?), recorded with some care and reasonable file size.

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