Sunday, July 31, 2011

Route 66

It was called the Mother Road or sometimes the Will Rogers Highway and in some cases the Main Street of America. Route 66 connected Chicago with LA and was one of the most famous roads in the United States.

You can no longer travel the highway because it is chopped up by Interstate 44 and 40 like a snake that ran through a lawn mower. But you can still ride on the bits and pieces of it when you are in select states.

The most interesting of those sections would be LA because it has the most well preserved 50's  Art Deco structures along the way. The other place would be Tucumcari New Mexico where you can still see little motels with names like the Blue Swallow and the Pony Soldier.

I can't say that I've have traveled the road extensively except for when I was in California... but I have stopped in Seligman quite a few times which inspired a poem.

 One can still get a good taste for the kitsch and Americana feel though by traveling 44-40... especially if you are driving through Missouri and seeing all of the hokey bill boards and road signs pass by. And who could miss the giant twin arrows in Twin Arrows Arizona? Or the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain Beefheart/Trout Mask Replica

He had a voice that sounded like a glass of asphalt with a gravel twist. He was Captain Beefheart aka Dan Van Vliet. He sang with a group called the Magic Band and together they made some of the most experimental, surreal music of any of the groups in the 1960's. If you need to compare them with someone, think Frank Zappa, but even less commercial.

Captain Beefheart was very prolific... but Trout Mask Replica is the album everyone remembers. It was cosmic. It was absurd. It was, his masterpiece.

Fast and Bulbous!

To listen to it makes one feel that they have stepped into the Land of Oz-- but it's an Oz where the Munchkins have discovered magic mushrooms.

 It's also an album that influenced alot of punk bands and other great artists. The most notable singer was Tom Waits. For those of you who are Waits fans I would say that Trout Mask Replica had alot to do with his titles such as Sword Fish Trombones and Rain Dogs. Another artist that borrowed heavily from the Captain was Beck. The artwork on his first album was very similiar to Trout Mask Replica.

Even though I do like Clear Spot Light Kid and Doc at the Radar Station, those works do not come close to this album. It's unfortunate that Beefheart is no longer with us. Who knows if he could have given birth to another great masterpiece

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Tubes

In 1983 I went with my brother and two cousins to see David Bowie at the Tacoma Dome. While Bowie was outstanding, it was the band that opened for him that fascinated me. They were none other than the Tubes.

They opened their act by entering the stage wearing black business suits. Then, just like that, they pulled them off and under them they were wearing orange pants and shirts. The crowd danced and went crazy like it was a full moon.

 The lead singer, Fee Waybill, sang all of their trade mark songs:Mr. Hate, Talk to Ya Later, White Punks on Dope.

What was most remarkable was their stage show. For instance, during his song Sports Fans, he and two women dressed as cheer leaders spelled out the word Tubes by putting their bodies together. Then he came on as a whacked out glam rocker for the song White Punks On Dope. I think the most memorable moment was when Fee stripped down to studded underwear. Pure shock and awe for a fifteen year old.

But alas, this was 1983 and by then the Tubes had toned down their act. However, in their early days their stage show was a modern day Roman orgy of bondage and scantily clad women which the lead singer simulated sex with. In fact, their shows were so lewd they were banned in England. In one venue in London the local authorites took a fire hose to the fans when they set fire to the theater seats.

But despite their raucous concerts, their schtick was quite clever and very tongue and cheek, often times mocking pop culture. As mentioned before the lead singer came up with some very funny characters. His most famous was Quay Lewd, a glam rocker dressed in a white suit with plumage and oversized sequined sunglasses, who played a white oblong shaped guitar. He donned this outfit when he sang White Punks On Dope. My other favorite persona was Johnny Bugger and the Dirt Boxes. He took on this character when he sang the song I Was A Punk Before You.

What was also unique about the band was that it was not made up of just men. There was a lone woman named Re Stiles who would sing lurid duets with Fee Waybill.

The Tubes hit their stride with their most playable song She's A Beauty on their album Outside Inside. That album had a few other good tracks as well. My favorite was the Wild Women Of Wongo. They faded again into obscurity with their next album Love Bomb and after that I out grew them.

I will always have a special place in my heart for the Tubes. They were one of the first groups that I liked that no one else did. Today, compared to other bands their antics and stage show might seem pretty tame. But to date, I haven't seen a group that is as creative as they were.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Elliot Smith

Reedy. Wispy. Angelic. Those are adjectives used to describe the singer Elliot Smith. Elliot first gained exposure with his song Miss Misery which was featured in the movie Good Will Hunting. Other songs have popped in other indie movies as well.

Some say Smith was reminscent of Nick Drake of Pink Moon fame;another singer with a trippy surreal quality.

Although I have listened to his other stuff my favorite album was Figure 8 which was his most  succesful.

What I also liked about Elliot was his smooth gentle voice--which is a change from all my other favorites who have gravelly blues flavored sets of pipes. But even though his singing had a placid quality to it, his sound remained rooted in punk.

It is unfortunate that we won't get to experience anything new from this singer because he committed suicide in 2003. But, his spirit and music lives within the hearts of his fans and is a reminder of the power of a still small voice.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Music Of Mark Lanegan

For those of you who like Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, the former lead singer of the Screaming Trees, is not only influenced by the man, he is the heir apparent to the Waits legacy.

With a similair cigarette stained and whiskey soaked voice, he sings about late night benders and weird visions that come from a world weary and drugged out mind. All this is put to a grungy blues.

Although, he never has achieved alot of commercial success, like Tom Waits, he has a strong cult following.

My favorite albums are these: The Winding Sheet, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost and Bubble Gum. I hope he has another album in the works.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sixth Gun Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

I'm not a  big fan of horror but I really do like it when it is mixed with a western, For some unexpalinable reason the two genres work very well together.

The graphic novel The Sixth Gun written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Brian Hurrt is just that.

The story is about an evil ex Confederate General named Oleander Hume who is brought back from the dead by his equally evil wife to retrieve a lost and very supernatural possession: a six shooter. The only problem is Becky Montcrief, a young woman has it in her possession. So, he sends a posse of evil murderers and two Pinketon detectives to take it from her and her dying father. Standing in their way and ready to protect the girl is Drake  Sinclair, a gunslinger. But his motives aren't exactly all that pure.

This story has lots of spooky atmosphere and there is a Joe R Lansdale influence--which is appropriate since he endorses the comic on the back flap saying it is his favorite to date.

I also really enjoyed the art work. It was refreshing to have color instead of black and white.

Apparently there are six more in the series and I intend to pick up Book Two at a later date.

Six Gun can be purchased through or at your local comic bookstore.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thoughts On Writing

Yesterday I wrote a short script for my brother in law who is a videographer. He is planning to turn it into a short film. The idea for this came from a late night talk he and I had about creativity and dreams. I would like to think that I inspired him to follow his. If so, then I have achieved one of my goals as a writer.

To me this is the main reason why I write. It is my hope that one aspiring writer will read my work and say "Hey I can do that... and I can do it bigger and better than this guy."

This is what I did 18 years ago when I decided I wanted to write. I devoured all of the poetry I could and then found a kindred spirit in the verse of Richard Hugo; often times wishing I wrote some of my favorite poems of his. Then I discovered the writing of Michael Madsen(who would have ever thought he could write poetry) and I essentially became him, copying his every riff and image.

With Huey Dusk I have finally found my own voice  which is an amalgamation of all my favorite authors-- as it should be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hello from The Northwest

Greetings from Washington State. I'm out here visiting my brother in law and having a great time. I am going to see my sister Talcott in an hour. Haven't see her in a long time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frank Miller's Sin City

The Sin City Series is what made me a believer in graphic novels, hard boiled fiction and all things cool. When Frank Miller wrote it, he had Mickey Spillane whispering in his ear as well as the ghosts of many sci fi and horror writers. What I like most about the series is the setting.

It takes place in a ficticious locale called Basin City, nick named  Sin City because of all the crime and corruption that exists. The city is made to look like a dark noirish art deco futuristic world.

The characters in the stories are a mix of hard-boiled cops, hoods and sword weilding chop socky prostitutes.

My favorite story of the bunch is The Hard Goodbye which features the most hardboiled noirish character of them all:Marv. Marv is Mike Hammer after he has had too many punches to the head and is now a half wit. He is big and lumbering and has a face that a mother could only not love, she wouldn't be able to look at it without screaming. But buried deep inside all of that tangled muscle and scar tissue, is Marv's good heart.

 In The Hard Goodbye Marv wakes up in the morning and finds Goldie, the woman he met the night before lying dead in sheets caked with her own blood. Marv manages to get out of there before the police break down his door and has a brain still functional enough to figure out that someone may have framed him. The rest of the story consists of him hunting down Goldie's killer and uncovering a political conspiracy. Even though the tale is derivative of Mickey Spillane's I The Jury, it still works.

The other story that I like isA  Dame to kill For. This features a sleazy private eye who gets into all sorts of trouble when a woman from his past shows up and needs his help.

Sin City has many attributes that I like. The artwork is great in that it is black and white and has an expressionistic feel. I also like the fact that the stories have different main characters but they interact with chraracters from previous stories. For instance, the main character Dwight briefly encounters Marv in a bar beating someone senseless. He remarks about Marv always attracting needless trouble.

I like this because it gives the reader a chance to see characters from other character'spoints of view. It is something that I will do in future stories of mine.

This is a series that I wish I wrote but didn't. So, instead, I wrote Huey Dusk to make up for that fact. Frank Miller has written other graphic novels but this is his best.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Men's Adventure Novels

This is a term I learned just yesterday from a buddy of mine. It refers to books like the Executioner, The Butcher, the Penetrator, the Death Merchant, and my favorite, Nick Carter Killmaster.

The stories were full of action sprinkled with some lurid sex scenes. They showcased a protagonist who was more of  an anti hero and was always a war vet and had the emotional scars to prove it. What was unique about these books is that even though they were pulpy trash, the mere fact that the characters were Vietnam vets made the stories appropriate for the times and added some social commentary to the work. Far different from their predecessors such as stories from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Savage to name a few.

I would say the most famous series of the genre was Don Pendelton's the Executioner, featuring Mack Bolan, a Vietnam Vet who went around waging war against the Mafia. Later on he would join the Able Team and they battled international terrorists when the series went from being published by Pinnacle Books to Golden Eagle. This is where the series faltered in that I liked it much better when he fought the Mafia. Just a personal preference.

My other favorite, Nick Carter was called the Killmaster. He got a little bit of a sixties face lift and was made more violent. He was famous for saying 'If I am wrong I will apologize,' then proceeded to maim and kill the bad guys.

Other books such as the Butcher, The Penetrator, the Death Merchant etc were knock offs of those two series and didn't have quite the quality or style of either one.

Today it appears this genre is dead. But I see its influence in graphic novels such as Sin City. Quentin Tarrantino borrowed heavily from these books as well. I will pay a huge tribute to them when I write about Huey Dusk's spy years. And you might also see a true men's adventure novel penned by your's truly because I love the genre so much.

I think they are ripe for a comeback in the e book market where they can be sold for 99 cents. Right now you can find them for a $1-2 dollars at used book stores.