Few things make me as happy as surf music, the shittier the better.  I once saw Dick Dale play at the beach in Ventura, California and that made me unreasonably happy.  Dick said, “I always use the thickest strings I can find for my guitar to get this sound — I’ve cut my fingers to ribbons for you.”

Thank you, Dick.



This is a very enjoyable album.  You might argue that some of the mixes are a bit too Spector-ized — a bit too mushy — but Lennon’s voice cuts through them like a knife, full of his joy in these basic rock and roll numbers.  I’m especially fond of his version of “Stand By Me” — I remember dancing to it on a juke box at McManus’s Irish pub on 7th Avenue in New York, with my girlfriend of the time, back when I was young, and thinking, “This is our song.”

As far as I’m concerned we’re still dancing to it, and it’s still our song, and John Lennon, long dead, is still singing it just for us.



More Record Store Day booty — a repressing of Dream With Dean, and it’s pretty dreamy, with Dino singing in such a laid-back style that you think he might drift off to sleep at any moment, though that would not be cool, and Dino is impeccably cool here.

Backed up by a jazzy quartet featuring the impeccable Barney Kessel on electric guitar, the song selection is excellent, the interpretations quiet but emotionally convincing.  It’s hard to think of any singer today who could pull off an album like this — getting the job done in spades without seeming to work at it at all.

We’ve all heard “Blue Moon” a million times, but when Martin just lets it roll off his tongue here, it sounds brand new, matter-of-factly perfect.



Record Store Day booty — a new pressing of the Everly Brothers 1968 album Roots.  This is a pretty good record, though many tracks are spoiled by too much reverb on the brothers’ vocals, which makes it hard to appreciate the exquisitely precise blend of their voices singing in harmony.  The standout track is “Sing Me Back Home”, where the harmony parts are clearer in the mix.

Click on the image to enlarge.


Circus Cover Baja

Drama and Romance Under the Big Top

“Circus” depicts the drama and romance, the triumphs and the tragedies, behind-the-scenes of a good old-fashioned American circus making its way through the midwest in 1935. Fonvielle immerses the reader in the unique show business world of the circus and provides a thrilling glimpse of the last days of the old-time traveling tent “Big Top” circuses that would disappear in the coming years after the story is set. The complex and colorful characters and evocative portrait of a time and world long-gone made this a highly enjoyable read.

Read the review and get book details here:




This is a Looney Tunes version of Fitzgerald’s novel, but it’s a pretty good Looney Tunes version of Fitzgerald’s novel, at least if you watch it in 3D — which is to say that it’s visually amusing and inventive, and possesses a delirious sort of momentum from shot to shot.

Baz Luhrmann has always aspired to the delirious visual style of a cartoon but his efforts have always fallen short to me — consisting mostly of lurid production design and hysterical, all-but-incoherent editing.  3D has gotten him to concentrate on making interesting, or at least diverting shots, playing with the possibilities of the format in a exuberant way.


It’s long for a Looney Tune, of course, but the acting is good enough and the story is good enough to keep your interest as you watch Luhrmann fiddle around happily with his new toy.  I imagine it would be deadly dull in 2D — you’d probably have to force yourself to sit through what is, aside from the visuals, an over-long and fairly pedestrian adaptation of a classic.

Click on the images to enlarge.



Best described by one reviewer as “a film without a constituency”, The Lone Ranger works overtime to alienate any constituency it might have had in theory.  Within the first fifteen minutes we are shown The Lone Ranger and Tonto robbing a bank, and the man behind The Lone Ranger’s mask is established as irreligious.  Ha, ha!  The filmmakers want us to know right off that this is not going to be “your grandpa’s type of Western” — which is, of course, the only kind of Western anybody wants to see.


We still long for the moral values, for the heroic role models, that Westerns once supplied, and whenever a modern Western mocks those things, it flops at the box office — just as The Lone Ranger flopped.  (The film lost approximately $150 million dollars overall for Walt Disney Pictures.)


You can make a funny Western, a Western that pokes fun at Western clichés, without being cynical about the tradition, but being cynical about the tradition is the mark of hipness for a modern Western.  The only people who find this sort of cynicism amusing are the Hollywood hipsters who make such films.


There are some funny things in the film.  There are some beautiful shots that reference classic Westerns like The Searchers.  There are some thrilling action sequences — or action sequences that would be thrilling if they didn’t rely so obviously on CGI.  Directors with big budgets just never know where to stop with the CGI stuff — it’s like a drug.  Watching a man sit a horse well as he rides through beautiful country is always exciting, cinematically.  Watching a man sit a horse indifferently as he rides in front of a green screen is just not the same.


The people who made this movie made the delightful Pirates Of the Caribbean, which is also a goof on an old movie genre.  The Lone Ranger must have seemed like a cinch follow-up, goofing on a different old movie genre.  But people care about Westerns in a way they don’t care about pirate movies.  It was a fatal miscalculation not to understand this.


Those who want to brave a viewing of The Lone Ranger should know that it’s one of those movies that gets worse and worse the longer it goes on, and it goes on for two and half hours — time enough to get really, really bad, swirling deeper and deeper into incoherence and silliness, all at a breakneck pace.

Click on the images to enlarge.