My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Happy Boopday (Or Maybe Not)

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/19/2010

There will be no earworms here at the Homesite this Saturday, because today is the anniversary of Max Fleischer’s birth.
[Update 4:50 a.m.: Actually, that’s a lie. I misread my source. His birthday was July 19, not June. But, hey, it was late when I wrote this, and what are a couple of letters between friends? Anyway, I like to get my cards out early to be sure they’ll arrive in time. So, sue me. But enjoy this tribute first; don’t let all my Googling go to waste. FYI: The information in the rest of the post, to the best of my knowledge, is correct.]

Max was a genius at animation. He and his brother Dave started the Fleischer Studios in 1921. Among their successes were the “Out of the Inkwell” series and the “Song Car-Tunes,” which invited audiences to “follow the bouncing ball” as they sang along. The Fleischers also created the Popeye series and made adventure cartoons starring Superman.

But the Fleischer shorts that I love best are the ones that scared me shitless when I was a very little boy, and left me fascinated, both visually and auditorily, when I was a little older. They were wildly surrealistic, really wacko. Some of them featured popular jazz artists of the 1930s, both in live action and as “voice-overs.” These psycho-sexual extravaganzas appealed to me on a level I didn’t even recognize. Their “star” was Betty Boop.

In honor of Fleischer’s birthday [next month!], I present you with some of his eeriest, most wonderful work.

First, three cartoons that helped launch Cab Calloway’s career. He not only sings and conducts his band, but — because Max had invented the rotoscope, which recorded live action for animators to trace over —he dances, too.

Minnie the Moocher

Snow White (including “St. James Infirmary”)

The Old Man of the Mountain

The Fleischers also got a great performance out of Louis Armstrong.

I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You

In this last cartoon, Don Redman sings and conducts two numbers, “How’m I Doin’?” and the title song.

I Heard

Even given the flawed YouTube incarnations, I still find those cartoons pleasurably creepy.


Posted in Music, Old Movies, Pop Culture | 23 Comments »

All of ‘Em

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/16/2010

Katy Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?
Sarah Palin: I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.
Katy Couric: What, specifically?
Sarah Palin: Um … all of ‘em.

Glenn Beck: Who’s your favorite Founder?
Sarah Palin: Um … well … all of ‘em.

Wallberg: I’m delighted to have Sarah Palin with me tonight as my guest on “Book Blather.” Ms. Palin, as most of you know, is the titular author of …

Palin: Well, if I may interrupt you for just a minute here, if I may. I don’t think most Americans care whether a person is titular or not. Here in this great country of ours, God gave men and women the same wonderful freedom.

Wallberg: Yes, well, thanks for coming to discuss books, Ms. Palin.

Palin: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Because I love books. I even wrote a book because I love ’em so much. It’s called Going Rogue and you can buy it on your computer or in a book store or at WalMart or even some gas stations. That’s how much I love books and magazines. And newspapers, too, and uh-huh. Greetin’ cards. I think all Americans understand me when I say that we are a greetin’ card nation, because all of us do love to receive. In the mail. Y’know. Christmas and birthdays and such. Greetin’ cards.

Wallberg: Yes, getting a card is nice.

Palin: And it’s, I think, fundamental to the American way of life. Our freedom to send each other little poems on Christmas and Easter and. Oh, all kinds of occasions.

Wallberg: Well, let me ask you, since this is a program about books. What’s your favorite novel?

Palin: Um … all of ‘em.

Wallberg:Every novel ever written is your favorite?

Palin: Well, of course, I do like some better than others. But they’re all my favorite, really.

Wallberg: Can you name one novel that you like better than others?

Palin: Well, I’d rather not single out … of course I really enjoyed readin’ Going Rogue. Which I also wrote.

Wallberg: What about novels by some other authors, besides you?

Palin: Y’know, I also liked readin’ The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, which I didn’t write, but I feel I coulda, because I agree with everything in it. And it’s about a great American who had lots of … um … wit. And wisdom, too. Somebody wrote it whose name I forget for the moment but it doesn’t matter because it’s mostly filled with stuff that Ronald Reagan said. So, really, it’s like he wrote it. And he was a great American who loved freedom only somebody else typed.

Wallberg: Those books you mentioned aren’t novels.

Palin: Oh, you want me to name a novel?

Wallberg: Here, I’ll help you. How about Huckleberry Finn? Or Moby Dick? Or The Sound and the Fury?

Palin: So you’re talkin’ about schoolbooks?

Wallberg: Well, any novel.

Palin: I’d have to say that one of the novels I like best is Goodnight Moon,  because I tell it to Trig and Trapp and it helps put ’em to sleep. So it works, which is what good ol’ American know-how is all about. But I think stayin’ awake is OK, too, and many of the people I respect most, like George Washington and Ronald Reagan. They stayed awake when they could.

Wallberg: Let’s forget about novels, shall we?

Palin: To answer your question. I could never forget about novels because all of ‘em are my favorite. But you betcha.

Wallberg: Let’s move on then. How about Shakespeare’s plays? Did you ever read any of those?

Palin: Um … all of ‘em.

Wallberg: Even The Two Noble Kinsmen? Nobody reads that one.

Palin: You’re tryin’a confuse me, arencha? If it’s one of ‘em, I read it.

Wallberg: And do you have a favorite?

Palin: I’d have to say … um … all of ‘em.

Wallberg: Well, do you prefer the tragedies, or the comedies, or the histories?

Palin: Y’know, Larry, I prefer … um … all of ‘em. Because every freedom-lovin’ American has to deal with tragedy and comedy and history in their own life. In my own experiences, for instance, I’ve had to deal with tragedy, which was losin’ the election to Barack Obama. But I also like comedy, I Love Lucy and such. But I think we Americans can learn most, mostly, from the histories.

Wallberg: I take it you’ve read all of Shakespeare’s history plays?

Palin: Yup.

Wallberg: And I suppose it might be too much to ask for you to name a favorite?

Palin: Oh, they’re all really good. Maybe I like the one about George Washington a little bit better than the others because he was a great Founder and a great American.

Wallberg: Is that the one where the main character says, “To be or not to be?”

Palin: You’re tryin’a to trick me, I think. So no. George Washington didn’t say that. He said, “I chopped down the cherry tree.” Maybe he said “I choppeth downeth the cherryeth tree-eth,” because that’s how  people talked in Shakespeare’s day, y’know? But it still means the same thing in plain English or Shakespeare’s Latin or whatever. Which is chop, baby, chop. And that’s why most of your socialists and commies and atheist liberals find it hard to understand those Shakespeare books. Because they have good old-fashioned language and family values.

Wallberg: Do you have any other favorite Shakespearean quotes.

Palin: Well … um … all of ‘em. But maybe I also liked it a lot when George Washington said “God bless America.” Which I know God does,  because we’re his favorite country.

Wallberg: I thought he loved all of ‘em.

Palin: Well, maybe he does. But the best places in the world are our small towns here in the U.S.A, where the people are hard-workin’ and patriotic. Like Wasilla and many others. So I’d have to say that God maybe likes us a little bit better than Russia or Afghanistan or Eye-Rack. Or even London and Asia and any of those other foreign countries. Because they don’t love freedom and God the way we do. And that’s why I wrote Going Rogue. To resonate with people who want to resonate with my great vision for America.

Wallberg: Could you share with our audience any final thought about books?

Palin: Gee, I have so many thoughts, I can’t really name a favorite. I like all of ‘em. Maybe, if I hadda pick one, I’d tell people to buy Going Rogue. Or, for any great American who loves freedom and doesn’t like to read, watch me on TV.

Wallberg: Why don’t you just remind the folks what network you’re on?

Palin: Um … all of ‘em. Aren’t I?

Posted in Books & Bookshops, Idiots, Pop Culture | 19 Comments »


Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/12/2010

If you’ve been reading all the flap about Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and NBC’s Tonight Show, and whether or not it’s still technically tonight if it’s really twelve-oh-five tomorrow morning (or, in the Central Time Zone, a little after eleven p.m. yesterday), then you may have missed a minuscule announcement about another program. The long and the outrageously short of it is that “Whenever … with Larry Wallberg” has been moved to five-fifteen in the morning, sandwiched between “Wall Street Hustle” and “Pray Along with Mitch.”

Mitch’s point – that a religious program makes sense only in the context of the current financial debacle – is well taken, but the idea has sprung up among network execs that the average viewer can’t perform his, her, or its morning ablutions without the background babble of a few bad puns thrown in along with the usual disaster news and entreaties to the deity. As the beatnik banker said, “Man cannot live by bread alone.”

However, an ugly rumor has been bruited about that “Whenever … with Larry Wallberg” will be replaced by a half-hour baking show to follow “Your Dough” and to precede “Christ Is Risen.”  The rest of the network’s programming will, of course, continue to be repeats of “Law and Order S.U.V. I.U.D. L.M.N.O.P.” and “Everybody Loves Seinfeld.”

In other humor news, The Kentucky Encyclopedia continues to insist that “For the most part, Kentucky literary humor, like [its] folk humor, is based on the culture of common people, and thus most of it is rural in nature.” Opie Taylor refuses to comment, except to brag that he finally caught an old shoe. Kentuckians, as everyone knows, find catching-old-shoe jokes hilarious, so I’m hard at work to add some to my repertoire. But I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll hold my tongue.

Which is (to be serious for a moment) why I won’t mention that it’s impossible for me to understand how anyone can give a country rat’s ass about Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, or NBC’s late-night, calendar-confused lineup. Both Leno and O’Brien are dull, unfunny, and just plain dumb. They’re comedians for the rubes, and cheerleaders rather than interviewers. The Tonight Show hasn’t been really witty – urban and urbane – or relevant to anything other than shilling since Jack Paar left.

Posted in Pop Culture | 8 Comments »