Friday, November 30, 2012

Secret Hearts Comics - Reach for Happiness! No. 121, July, 1967

It's vintage romance comics time once more. Today's entry is unusual (at least to me) because it's part of a serial soap opera entitled "Reach for Happiness!" I don't own other copies of DC's Secret Hearts, so unfortunately I don't know how this cliffhanger is resolved. But like most soaps, the pace is so slow you won't miss much anyway. I love how everything takes place in a nondescript town called Danville Corners, complete with nightclub, discotheque, a wealthy part of town, the ever-present "wrong side of the tracks" (apparently near the hardware store), and a seemingly constant swirl of emotional turmoil. Danville Corners has it all!

And now: Reach for Happiness! Episode 12.

Our cover art. Check out the mod geometric style of Rita Phillips, girl from the "wrong side of the tracks." What's she doing with a straight-edge like Dr. Greg Marsh? Let's find out!

Whoa. This is an entirely different mise en scene! Rita is not such a modern Miss after all. The cover was just a ploy! And I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Hmf! Will Greg believe Rita's slightly cross-eyed exclamation of love? Pay special attention to Rita's above-the-elbow-length gloves here. There will be a quiz.

One thing is certain: Greg is pissed
Let's take a look at our cast of characters, shall we? My favorite part of "Reach for Happiness!" is that one guy is named Richy Smathers, son of Roger and Lila Smathers, the richest family in town. That's swanky! Also, Richy has a go-go girlfriend named Joanie, who looks a little high. It is 1967 after all.

So Bob Martin is on a date with old flame Peggy Wilder, when in stomps his soon-to-be ex-wife, Brenda. And boy is she PISSED. Look at that body language in the red dress. She dominates the romantic meal-for-two entirely.

If we were to sum up this scene in one panel, it would definitely be this one:

We've all been there, Peggy. Is Bob a complete cad? Is Brenda a dangerous lunatic? Just what the heck is going on here?

Brenda just wants to make Bob's life miserable, that's all. Is she going to bust up every dinner-date he has from now on? That could be a full-time job in this town. Peggy reacts as if physically assaulted. She needs to learn some assertiveness training, stat! Let's sum up this page thusly:

Don't worry. Peggy learns to trust and believe in Bob, all in the space of one car ride home. They smooch in front of Peggy's house, her lonely sister Karen, watching them furtively. Weird. This results in Karen's only storyline but it's pretty tragic: INSOMNIA.

Meanwhile, at the discotheque on the other side of town... Richy and Joanie are cutting a rug. Wow!, says one of the youngsters on the dance floor, What's the name of that dance, kids? Hee. No comment. Oh, all right, it's called the ASS GRINDER, doofus.

Richy and Joanie are super happy together. They're young, speak in baby talk, and always refer to themselves in the third person. What could possibly be the matter with this relationship? Well, Richy's wealthy family does not approve of go-go Joanie and keeps cock-blocking his efforts to marry her. The 1%—always causing trouble for regular folks!

No matter! Richy's got a plan. This time, they'll elope immediately with no snoops as wedding witnesses. Instead they'll invite the whole gang down to the...wherever they go to get married, I guess. It's nighttime in Danville Corners. Are they located by Las Vegas or something? Nobody says. Anyway, the whole gang agrees to witness the nuptial arrangement and it's on!

Wouldn't you totally want this guy to witness your marriage? I would.

BUT there's trouble afoot because on the OTHER side of the room sits Dr. Greg Marsh, on a date with Rita Phillips. And he's a friend of Richy's family and he's, well, he's a SNITCH, that's what he is. Yeah. A snitch. The gears are in motion for a wedding take-down.

Look at that lantern jaw—trouble
The flash of lights. The sound of sirens. There'll be no honeymoon tonight! Plus we're shown Rita's ex, dicey nightclub-owner Ray, who is only too happy to suck up to his financial backer and Richy's millionaire grandfather—Wallace Hendrickson. Oooh, the 1%! They control EVERYTHING.

Nice wheels, trust-fund brat
The law steps in (being in cahoots with Danville Corners' wealthy elite) and the wedding is off. Again. Look at ol' man Hendrickson, smoking a cigar in court. Show some respect, you manipulative codger! MEANWHILE, Rita invites Greg home for "coffee," which he eagerly accepts because, although it's late, he's "Not one bit sleepy!" Idiot.

Ray now calls in the middle of romance, setting the tone for suspicion, jealousy and furrowed eyebrows! Look at Rita's gloves—what happened to the fingers on the gloves from page 1?! I tell you mystery is afoot in Danville Corners.

The gloves—what happened?
And check out Rita's full-length shot on the lower left. What's up with her posture? Usually the anatomy of romance comics is pretty technically great (one of the reasons I love looking at them), but this is really "off."

Remind you of anyone?

That's right, the Geico Gecko
 Let's wrap up with a whimper. I do like Dr. Greg's "anger face" in the last panel. Would you date this guy, or even see him as a patient? He looks like a murder suspect. And so ends our thrilling episode of "Reach for Happiness!"

I may have to buy this issue of Maniaks on eBay. Looks good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

She Mob - Lobster Girls

Joy was once talking to our friend Sam, who at the time was working in a lobster processing plant in Maine. He mentioned that he had put on She Mob's last album, "Not In My World" while at work. After a few songs, his co-workers complained that the music was scaring them. Thus, Lobster Girls was born.

This version is live and a bit muddled in more ways than one. It does capture something about She Mob and I think that something could be called hee-wack-a-doo. Also, the mild argument we're having in the mid-point was based on a real discussion at an earlier rehearsal regarding this particular song's "dancibility." I made sure this would be a dance video to prove my point. Because I am the director. And because I can.

She Mob's on CDBaby. Buy some songs, or a CD, complete with graphically designed photo inserts if you're old-school like that.

More songs about shellfish are here.

Footage courtesy of the Prelinger Archives.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Animals Playing Music

In my post-Thanksgiving food stupor, I haven't been at my sparkiest in the past few days. Recently I did manage to see an entertaining new play, Status Update, in which the protagonist, a depressed freelance photographer, jumps into her Facebook feed as if down a rabbit hole. There she encounters the wonders of Internet addiction made flesh, hosted by her somewhat sinister guide, Keyboard Cat. One of the lessons learned: when life gets too troubling, there are so many cute animal videos online. Partake in the cuteness as we witness the wonder, the glory, of animals playing music.

Tucker the schnoodle plays and sings at the piano. Good dog, Tucker.

Nora the cat plays us a tune on piano. The piano—easy to learn, a lifetime to master.

Amazon parrot, Captain Flint, sings A Pirate's Life for Me. So inspiring!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dina Martina - Big-time Greatness for our Great Big Times

Once in a great while a talented performer comes along. A performer so talented that the talent has yet to be defined by regular language. Only irregular language will do. Words like demented, perplexing, questionable, hoo-hoo-ha!, and woob-woob-woob only begin to scratch the surface of the talent of said performer.

One day, while lollygagging about on the Internet, I came across such a performer. Dina Martina. Remember that name: bastion of all that will be great. Just not yet and only because we're personally not ready to receive all the greatness that's coming our way. But we will be. And when that day comes, Dina Martina will rightfully take her place in the pantheon of galactic stars. Catch Dina Martina now. If you dare.

Update, May 17, 2014: I SAW Dina Martina, up close and personal in a little bar called Rebel on Market Street in San Francisco. AND IT WAS A JOYFUL OCCASION FOR ALL. See her. Do it.

I don't know about you, but Dina Martina puts me in the Christmas spirit, BIG TIME. Lucky denizens of Seattle, Washington: Run, don't walk to Dina's Christmas show, playing at Re-Bar through the end of December, 2012.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

White People Mourning Romney Embroidery Samplers

Since the election, I've really been enjoying the White People Mourning Romney site. A collection of Republican social-media quotes, photos and ephemera. Some of the sentiments expressed are so awe-inspiring and heartfelt, I thought it was up to me to turn them into monetary worth. So I bring to you custom-embroidery: samplers, pillows, and assorted decor from white people mourning Romney.

They're sad. They're mad. They're delusional and most likely racist. Bring their view of Americana into your abode. These are prototypes, but once I get the necessary permissions and cheap overseas labor lined up, I'll be cranking this crap out nonstop, at least until 2016 and (probably) beyond.

Hurry! For a limited time only, if you order a White People Mourning Romney embroidery sampler product, you will receive this FREE Fox-Newscasters-in-Denial T-shirt. One-hundred percent cotton with quality silkscreen print of Fox newscasters in shocking, jaw-dropping, pale-faced denial about the 2012 election results. Includes Karl Rove before he was hauled off the set due to his unrelenting babbling about Ohio! Hurry though. This is a limited-time offer. While supplies last. Unisex sizing because: equality for all. Duh.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Art 2012

Note: no official ballots were harmed in the making of this art
I made some art out of my sample ballot. Be sure to vote and may the best candidate(s) win. I can't wait for this to be over. Election 2008 was a hopeful, if desperate election. This one is bitter and ugly. People have been sniping at each other for months in person and on social networking sites. Racism is alive and well, like a creeping terror, making its way across the nation and into our living rooms. Would-be policies are left to gather dust with a bi-partisan congress that refuses to get along. It's a dark, dark governmental time indeed. What a wellspring for creative types!


Monday, November 05, 2012

The Fabulous 80s New Wave Fashions of "Edge of Seventeen"

Edge of Seventeen isn't just a Stevie Nicks song that is now stuck in your head for the next 17 hours—it's also a coming-out coming-of-age film directed by David Moreton, set in Sandusky, Ohio in 1984. If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what's wrong with you. Did you not catch that?—coming-of-age, 1984, Sandusky, OHIO?

Made in 1998 and timelessly reflecting gay youth experiences in small towns across the nation, Edge of Seventeen was an audience favorite at Sundance. Although it starts out slow, the emotional threads ring true, thanks to the strong cast and "every teen" status of its lead, Eric, played by Chris Stafford. And most thrillingly for me, the new-wave fashions are not merely an 80s set piece for us to point to and snicker at, but a creative indicator of Eric's state of mind as he figures out his sexuality among family, friends and new-found gay cohorts. As Eric finds his true self, his style begins to reflect his sense of joy, wonder and freedom. The 80s, with its genuine underground music scene and party-fueled fashion sense, is a perfect cinematic setting to do so.

And now...

When we first see Eric get dressed (this is a fashion post, after all), he's clad in a drab polyester uniform, ready to start his summer job in the restaurant of the local amusement park. Futilely trying to iron out the creases in his pants, Eric is powerless to control his outward appearance in a conformist society.

Eric's typical middle-class teen home life is established in the looks of Mom and brothers in one shot (featuring a 110 instamatic camera—a nice touch from the props department).

At the food court, we're introduced to Eric's new boss, Angie, played with charismatic panache by comedian/jazz singer, Lea DeLaria.  Angie doesn't let the crappy uniform, subpar menu and hostile customers cramp her vivacious, satirical personality, giving Eric a glimpse into adulthood as a form of personal expression, rather than conformist grind.

After a new haircut and dye job, via his best friend Maggie, Eric embraces his passion for new-wave fashion, to the consternation of his mom, a loving but very straight-edge lady with zero style points to her name.

Check out the cute top on Maggie—it has criss-cross corset and bow in back—sweet with a hint of naughty
The mean girls and non-ironic proto-preppies of high school can't get down with Eric and Maggie's personal forms of self-expression.

Even though they are clearly the coolest kids in Sandusky.

And when Eric deals with his sense of social isolation with excellent emotive dancing to the only synth-pop song of the night, the galumphing drones turn on him.

Thank God for Angie's new gay bar, The Fruit & Nut Company, located at the edge of town off of highway...whatever. It's here that Eric meets his new posse.

Where dancing is FUN—not a form of ostracization.

With his new-found friends and potential boyfriend(s), Eric has got a new spring to his step. In fact, he becomes so buoyant, I can barely capture him in a movie still. But I will try. Ties were big in the 80s. This one is bigger than most.

Every human being who ever went out in the 80s had to first style up with a jar of Dippity-do. It was REQUIRED.

Eric's parents are beginning to wonder what exactly is going on with their son. He can't possibly be going over to Maggie's house this often, especially wearing this:

Thrift-store shopping is another fine activity for 80s teens to partake in. Better than drugs and in 1984, much cheaper too.

This is a telephone, not exactly a fashion accessory, but now that I think of it...

Eric is looking fine and patiently awaiting the ticking clock of senior year so he can blow this popsicle stand and escape to New York City.

Believe it or not, in the 80s you could get laid while wearing this outfit. It was that kind of era.

The fabulous Angie entertains in a classic 70s-junior-prom tuxedo shirt. I will never tire of this look.

Angie's club—I want to go there.

Maggie isn't so sure. She tries a little too hard to make an impression, but "A" for effort.

The horror of Eric's mom's ensemble adds an extra dimension of tension in this confrontational scene. How is this woman ever going to understand her son? If clothing is a message, the message is not good.

Even when brooding alone in his room, Eric makes a point of dressing right.

Low-budget lighting doesn't allow for the full glory of Angie's smoking jacket to come through here, but a decent vintage smoking jacket was de rigueur for every stylish hipster of the 80s.

And buttons! You had to have at least seven political, musical and/or satirical buttons on your lapel area. They were the essence of your very being!

Maggie's vintage sweater and pedal-pushers—spot on for the era.

As Eric truly accepts who he is, his shirt gets extra sparkly with golden significance. Bonne chance, Eric!

Let's end with some classic menswear and a song.

Trailer (needs sound-synch fix)