Month: August 2008

View-Master’s 1952 New York City – 3 of 4

View-Master’s 1952 New York City – 3 of 4

Ephemera
While the signs have changed many times over the years, Times Square is just as identifiable today as it was in 1952.  Of course what seems to have changed is the sheer volume of lights - this image looks positively subdued compared to the garish displays of consumerism seen in the Square today, but I imagine it was still pretty impressive back then. There's some businesses I can't make out, but others are hard to miss.  The ones I can get are: Chevrolet (dead center) Kinsey Blended Whiskey (under Chevrolet) Pepsi-Cola (two below Kinsey) Astor Hotel (on the left - it was demolished in 1967) Capitol Theatre (bottom left) Loew's State Theatre (right of Chevrolet - the original closed in 1987 and was demolished in 1990) Bond (apparel chain, very nice display on the righ
Album reviews: Backyard Tire Fire & The Week That Was

Album reviews: Backyard Tire Fire & The Week That Was

Music
A pair of new albums from both sides of the Atlantic have found their way into my rotation this week.  From the good ol' U.S. of A comes Backyard Tire Fire's The Places We Lived (Hyena Records), the followup to last year's excellent Vagabonds and Hooligans.  Stylistically, this album shares many traits with its predecessor but is definitely not a rehash. Checking in at just over the half-hour mark, frontman and guitarist Ed Anderson and company (brother Matt on bass, Tim Kramp on drums) get right down to business with the deceptively simple title track.  It didn't make a strong impression on me when I first listened to it, but days later the main guitar riff was still rattling around my head, a tribute to Anderson's songwriting.  The integration of synths and chimes (not to mention a br
GFS at the Movies: Tropic Thunder

GFS at the Movies: Tropic Thunder

Movies
The fact that a movie like Tropic Thunder not only exists but is doing well at the box office is refreshing for two reasons - first because we live in age of political correctness run amok, where works of mainstream art are neutered beyond recognition lest they offend anyone; and because it's proof that genre spoofs don't have to be nothing but an endless parade of tired and already dated sight gags and pop culture references (I'm looking at you Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc.). Tropic Thunder is the type of film National Lampoon might have produced back in the day when they were culturally relevant and not resigned to making movies for sexually frustrated twentysomethings.  It was instead directed and co-written by Ben Stiller, who I've been thoroughly unimpressed with for the most
Venture Bros. wrapup: “The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part II)”

Venture Bros. wrapup: “The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part II)”

TV & Radio
I think I'm gonna need some more time to process the season 3 finale of The Venture Bros., but for right now I can't help but feel a bit let down. I think that's because Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer haven't yet figured out what they really want their show to be.  Do they want it to be an homage/parody of the action/adventure genre, or do they want to fully invest in their own universe and mythology? All signs pointed to the latter as season 2 progressed, and that was reinforced this season with so many plot- and backstory-laden episodes.  The laugh-out-loud moments decreased in general this year, but the payoff was ostensibly a series of richer stories and an opportunity to appreciate the show with more than ironic detachment. (more…)
Album cover of the week: Down on the Upside

Album cover of the week: Down on the Upside

Album Cover of the Week
In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious that Down on the Upside was a signal that Soundgarden was at a musical crossroad, and might not be long for the world.  While there were quite a few good songs on the album, it was not nearly as focused or unified as previous efforts.  In fact, less than one year after releasing the album in May 1996, Soundgarden called it quits. And while Down on the Upside does show the band slipping from the creative and commercial apex of their 1994 megahit, Superunknown, it is a worthy entry in the Soundgarden canon.  And for my money, the cover art here is the best of the band's career.  While the imagery is simple, what makes this a great cover is the excellent composition and color scheme.  The typeface, which appears to be identical to the one used on Supe
Tiki Barber goes nuclear at the Olympics

Tiki Barber goes nuclear at the Olympics

Sports, TV & Radio
Warning: This video is not for anyone easily offended by derogatory words concerning female anatomy. Curious?  Yeah, I thought so.  I haven't watched a second of MSNBC's Olympics coverage, but I think I need to start right away.  Particularly for the "Olympic Update" segments featuring co-hosts Tiki Barber and Jenna Wolfe.  Tiki, as most of you probably know, was a running back for the New York Giants until 2006, when he retired under less than friendly terms with the team.  They of course went on to win the Super Bowl without him at the end of last season. That's what Wolfe is alluding to at the beginning of this clip.  Pretty nasty dig for the situation I must say.  But then Tiki took it to a whole 'nother level with his supposed slip of the tongue.  It's at the 28-second mark:
Retrotisements – Burger King ’76

Retrotisements – Burger King ’76

Retrotisements
You wouldn't know it these days, but it is in fact possible to market fast food to black Americans without acting as if they all loved either lame rap or watered down R&B; or as if they all spoke whatever the hip, urban vernacular of the day is (yes, I'm aware of just how painfully white that sentence makes me seem). And I have the proof right here, in the form of two vintage Burger King print advertisements from 1976.  There's no pandering or awkward attempts to integrate African-American culture here.  Well, perhaps a small one in the first ad (can you spot it?). Your eye may first be drawn by those groovy fashions, but I immediately took note of the old-school wood decor found in BK establishments of the time.  Sadly, that wooden sign and many like it are either rottin
Still More Mysteries of the Universe

Still More Mysteries of the Universe

Funny Stuff
(For other mysteries, check out here and here.  Or don't.) Surely there are some ugly mermaids out there -- why hasn't one ever been represented in a movie or TV show? Does anyone in this country really give a rat's ass about the Olympics?  I mean, outside of the basketball team and Michael Phelps, can you name five American athletes on this year's squad? Could I avoid a vehicular homicide charge if I run a pickup with one of those rubber testicle trailer hitch cover things off a cliff? How is it there are still men on this planet who don't understand that if you are in a men's restroom and there is more than one open urinal, you always leave at least a one-stall buffer? What's the point of having a self-serve machine at the post office if it's so damn complicated for most