Friday, April 25, 2008

Lynda Barry Rocks the 'Burgh

The amazing Lynda J Barry was in Pittsburgh recently, teaching her workshop, Writing the Unthinkable .

What It Is, a new book based on the workshop, is coming in May from Drawn & Quarterly.

Lynda and her partner-in-crime Betty Bong also paid a visit to the ToonSeum, which is where we met up. Ms Barry and I staged an impromptu nerdly-eyewear exhibit:

Photos by LJB

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Acid Logic

Wil Forbis's new book, Acid Logic: A Decade of Humorous Writing on Pop Culture, Trash Cinema and Rebel Music is available now from the publisher. The cover and interior illustrations are by Your Humble Blogger.

Wil's new CD, Shadey's Jukebox, will also be out soon, from Rankoutsider Records. The CD also features art by YHB, (previewed in earlier posts.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Secret of the Ooze

Left to right: Mark Martin, Wayno, Ben Burford
Northampton, MA, 1991

Feeling the effects of alcohol combined with Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap."

Required Reading

I'm in the middle of a time-consuming project that isn't terribly blogworthy, so here's a look at a book in the "active" pile:

This is a groovy hardcover containing hundreds of photos from 1960s and 70s Italian sex comedies, plus a nice 20-track CD of soundtrack music from the same era.

Dusty Groove mail order gives a very accurate description on their order page:

A really crazy little book -- one that's filled with sexy images from Italian comedies of the 60s and 70s -- and packaged with a special CD to match! The book itself is practically softcore porn (so be aware of that, you sensitive viewers!) -- 326 full color pages with images from the films, most of which feature ladies in some state of undress. The production quality is quite high -- almost at an art book level -- so you might be able to justify this one as "art", even though it really contains very little information on the films -- just lots of naughty pictures. But the CD's also pretty great too -- and features 20 classic sex comedy themes that include "Sessomatto" by Armando Trovajoli, "Isola Tuttofare" by Piero Umiliani, "Fail Piano Fai Presto" by Gianni Ferrio, "Quel Gran Pezzo Dell'Ubalda" by Bruno Nicolai, "Curiosita Infantili" by Fred Bongusto, "Vieni Avanti Cretino" by Lino Fanfi, and "Rio 70" by Nylon.
© 1996-2008, Dusty Groove America, Inc.
Great stuff, and a nice intro to a rich and delightful area of musical exploration. There are sample photos and audio previews at Movie Grooves.

Online prices vary widely. I've seen it from $15 up to $45, so it's worth shopping around.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ten Musical Questions

Here's an email interview from March 2006. A blogger submitted the questions to me, but he abandoned the blog and it was never published. I don't think I'm responsible for his disappearance, but you never know.

1. What is the last record/CD that you listened to?
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
(Japanese version) by The
This CD is different from the version released here in the US,
which included a lot of vocal numbers. This Japanese release is the (mostly) instrumental score, consisting of RZA's sonic collages. It's absolutely hypnotic.

2. What is your earliest music memory?

I was on a local kids' TV show here in Pittsburgh at the age of about eight. I wasn't a regular cast member or anything; local kids could sign up to be guests around their birthday, so it was just a one-shot thing. There were around 6 or 8 kids on the show each day, and the host would interview each child, and ask them to tell a joke and sing a song. I sang the Yogi Bear theme.

A year or two later, my younger brother appeared on the same show. He completely clammed up and just stared at the camera, like one of those kids from "Village of the Damned."

3. What is the first record you bought?

Redirecting my lunch money, I bought a 45, "Gizmo," by Jimmy Heap, from a fifth grade classmate. Years later, I was thrilled when the song turned up on a bootleg CD compilation.

4. You once played in a band that sounded like?
(If you never played in a band, what would a band you play in sound like?)

Two answers:

1: A country/blues version of The Cramps. I
n the early 1990s I played harmonica and sang in a cartoonist band called the Sin Alley Katz. The band also included JR Williams on vocals and electric ukulele, Mary Fleener on bass and vocals, Mary's husband Paul Therrio on lead guitar, mandolin and sax, and various drummers. We'd regroup every year for the San Diego Comics Convention.

(Sin Alley Katz photos courtesy of Mary Fleener)

b) A bunch of spastic Sun Records rejects: In the early 80s, I played guitar (badly) in a rockabilly-inspired trio called The Rumble Strips, with my friends Jim Spitznagel (bass) and Kathleen "Crash" McCollum (vocals). We couldn't find a drummer, so I also programmed and triggered a dirt-cheap rhythm machine when we played live, and on our only recording, a 6-song vinyl EP.

5. What would one find most surprising about your music collection?

That would depend on who you asked, I suppose. People who know
me from my involvement in the world of oddball music might be surprised at the amount of straight-ahead jazz I listen to. It accounts for about a quarter of my collection. I'm a big Frank Sinatra fan too.

6. What is something you like to play at maximum volume?
The Pixies' album Surfer Rosa. It's one of my absolute favorite records of that era, and I'm sure that listening to it in the car will accelerate my eventual hearing loss.

7. The first concert you attended was?
It was either Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Frank Zappa
. I can't recall which one was first, but I think I saw to both of these shows when I was in tenth grade.

8. What is your favorite music moment that involved yourself?

Two answers, again:

A couple years ago, during the (alcohol-free) intermission
of the annual University of Pittsburgh jazz concert, where I volunteer as stage manager, Joe Lovano and I crashed a nearby wedding reception to score some drinks.

b) Learning all of the lyrics to Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business."

9. What is a song or album from an artist or band that you generally
don't like but for some reason like this by them?

I absolutely hate the Statler Brothers, and their bland country
harmonizing (despite endorsements from Johnny Cash). They sound like a bunch of weenies to me. However, they released a great comedy album called Alive at the Johnny Mack Brown High School under the pseudonym Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys, which I like a lot. Ostensibly a send-up of inept musicians, this CD (which collects two rare LPs) is infinitely more enjoyable than any of their "legitimate" releases. As comedic country music goes, they're still not in Homer & Jethro's league.

10. What is one record/CD that you think everyone should have in their collection?

Esquivel's Exploring New Sounds in Stereo. This was the album where Juan Garcia Esquivel really nailed his signature arranging style, and it's a joy to experience his playful genius.

His reinventions
of familiar tunes ("Third Man Theme," "All of Me," "My Blue Heaven") were as radical as anything happening in any musical genre. It also includes "Whatchamacallit," an Esquivel original that I never get tired of hearing. I'm a big fan of Hoagy Carmichael, so Esquivel's unique take on Hoagy's "Lazy Bones" is yet another reason to find this album, in any format. The mono version of the LP was titled Exploring New Sounds in Hi-Fi. I find the "Hi-Fi" version of the cover art to be more visually pleasing.

I once heard an Esquivel tune on a radio show featuring John Zorn playing music that influenced him, and he described Esquivel's music as "a beautiful pop mutation," that's about the best description I've ever come across.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

20 Year Old Sketchbook Piece

"Self Portrait with Bear Ears"
March, 1988

Typical example of my lo-fi approach to keeping a sketchbook. I never bought a proper sketchbook until 1990. Prior to that, I used these crappy little spiral-bound notebooks (below), and glued or taped scraps of paper in them to preserve "worthy" doodles and story ideas.

Supplies Are Running Low!

It's not too late to get a limited edition Squaresville print,
but there are only a handful of the run of 25 copies left.

16" x 20", Archival inks on museum quality rag paper
Edition of 25 Individually signed and numbered prints
Fits perfectly in a standard 16" x 20" frame

$100 postpaid within the USA

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Bizarro Encounter, Wheels, Hoagy, Mutliple Links

Catching up with a few recent items...

1) Crossing swords with Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro

Photo by Miss Ashley Stone

The formidable Mister P visited Pittsburgh Pi Day (March 14) to serve as host for Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School. The art school meets once a month as a fundrasier for The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh's new museum dedicated to the cartoon arts. Our official DJ is the mighty Zombo, but he was tied up hosting the opening of Nathan Mazur's terrific art show, Wee Beasties, so yours truly fumbled and flailed with a borrowed laptop and PA system. Despite the ineptitude of the substitute DJ, the evening was a success.

2) Inflatable Art

Speaking of bizarre items, I was recently contracted to draw four views of a loaded-up shopping cart for a local agency. The photo above was provided by the folks who fabricated the inflatable display.

3) Feline Hooligan

Tag for an auction basket Kim and I assembled for Animal Friends, our amazing local shelter. That's our shelter cat, Hoagy, an Animal Friends alum.