Saturday, February 16, 2019

Karen Carpenter

Recently saw a BBC documentary about the infamous Carpenters, a group reviled by some in their day. Yes, they were sometimes irredeemably schmaltzy, and got even schmatlzier as they went on, but they had a secret weapon that cut through even the worst their candy-coated sentimentality, The potent, emotional sound of Karen Carpenter’s voice. Cutting and direct, the melancholy tone of her singing stood out, even in the circus-like schizophrenia of 70’ pop music. With her brother Richard, a good arranger, (and who recorded and highlighted his sister’s voice brilliantly) the occasionally good song or two, (Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams, and Richard himself), The Carpenters’ music, most particularly Karen’s voice, could be soothingly affecting. Listening to her now, knowing the tragedy of a long, slow death from anorexia nervosa that led to finally succumbing the singer at age 36, the music now has a more powerful resonance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mary Halvorson

The Leopard was waiting for the C train and who do I see waiting on the platform near me with a huge guitar strapped to her back but the extraordinary young musician Mary Halvorson on her way to a gig. I don’t know Ms Halvorson personally, but I’m aware of some her beautiful, challenging, emotional music. I approached her and her colleague Rafiq Bhatia and she was incredibly friendly and genial. The meeting inspired me to go home & make a drawing as I listened to her latest record, Code Girl.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Vampire Girl

One of the few big conflicts I ever had with my mom as a kid had to do with a 6-foot tall Vampiress. 

When I was around 13 or 14 in the 70’s, I went through that big change I guess most adolescent boys go through. It manifested itself in small, weird ways. For one, I became obsessed with this comic magazine called Vampirella. For the uninitiated, Vampirella was an alien who came from a planet where blood ran in rivers like water.
Somehow she made her way to earth and was portrayed as a sort bloodsucker/superhero. I’d like to say that I bought it for the awesome art and magnificent storylines (which is what I probably told myself the time) but I’m pretty sure it had more to do with the skimpy costume.

In the back of the magazine there was an ad for a six foot poster of Vampirella holding a screeching vampire bat on her finger (I’ve recreated it here). It was so beautiful. Painted by the brilliant José Gonzalez, it was so lifelike, so perfectly rendered. I had to have it. I sent my money, received it, and proudly taped it to my wall.

When my mom walked into my room one day and saw it, she almost gasped. “Take that down this instant,” she quietly said to me. In a rare as act of defiance, refused. I said, “Why?” “She said, “You know why.”
I knew she wouldn’t say. Mom was a deeply religious woman and we simply didn’t discuss certain things in our house.
I had a Spider-man poster on the wall, a Bruce Lee and Star Trek. But she couldn’t bring herself say why this was any different. Finally:
“Just be sure to take that down when family comes over, Keith.”
“You know why. And if you say “why” one more time, you’re going to get smacked.”
I started to say some thing clever, but instead let out a soft sigh.

I held on to that poster for years.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pervy Cos.

Current Wiki description :“William Henry Cosby Jr. (/ˈkɒzbi/; born July 12, 1937) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, musician, author, and convicted sex offender.”

Listening to an interview with Bill Cosby from 2011 where the comedian/sex offender discussed his long career of achievement brought to mind a thought: should the work of an innately bad person be completely dismissed, no matter how important? Cosby, throughout his career, from his early breakthrough years as one of the first hugely successful African American comics, his chart-topping comedy albums, groundbreaking television shows (including Little Bill, which my kids loved) - should all these works be boycotted and never watched or appreciated again? Same as the films of Roman Polanski or Woody Allen or Harvey Weinstein (which, at the very least, would include all the works of Quentin Tarantino), the paintings of Pablo Picasso, The music of Michael Jackson, the works of Lewis Carroll, - it goes on and on. I’m asking, not telling. How do we approach the heritage of a deeply flawed genius?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Nat KIng Cole

I think my mom’s favorite singer was Nat King Cole. Even though music was constant in our house - all  kinds of magical sounds flowed - Jazz, country, blues, show tunes, pop - We had so many of his records. When his smooth silky voice permeated our home, my mom, who also possessed a lovely croon, would sing along. But it wasn’t just the melancholy verses of "Mona Lisa". I think there was a sort of teenage girl crush lurking somewhere under the appreciation of the music.

When I was little, she used to dress me similarly to the way he looked on his album covers and even straighten my hair with a hot comb which made it resemble Mr. Cole’s coif (It was the 1970's, so you can imagine how well THAT worked ay my local junior high, especially since Afros were the rage).

Of course now I can appreciate the man's talent - Particularly his innovative piano records before he was pigeonholed as a pop singer. But hearing his music always gives me a nostalgic jolt.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Old and deep.

Deep under the icy depths live the Greenland sharks, the world’s longest living vertebrates. Until recently, it was impossible to determine just how ancient these animals are but modern technology which involves the use of a lens crystalline in the eye of a fish, have helped determine its age. Some, over 16 feet long, have existed possibly up to over 500 years. How do they live so long? It may be its slow metabolism in the bitter cold. Its said there may be Greenland sharks alive today born before Christopher Columbus.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Frances McDormand

"If you're not going to kill me,... I've got things to do." - FrancesMcDormand, "Dark Man"
My favorite Oscar-nominated performance of 2017 hands-down is Francis McDormand for her wrenching work in Three Billboards Out Of Ebbing Missouri. McDormand has created an incredible body of work with great performances after another. Her role as Mildred Hayes is right up there with Marge Gunderson in Fargo and her brilliant turn as Olive Kitteridge in the HBO mini-series of the same name.