Thursday, April 23, 2009


I can remember, in the very, and I mean, very early 80's I would take advantage of the late hours my family kept, and the free time, and stay up as late as possible. When the local channels all signed off, and I was pre-vcr, I would sometimes sit and stare googly eyed in the silence at the Keyfax service's WFLD Chicago Channel 32 broadcast of Nite Owl. All the news that's fit to read on your television screen in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently this was huge in the UK, but not so much here stateside. Until bopping around on YouTube, I had forgotten about this little piece of my mind's history. I mean, it was buried. Take a peek:


As of yesterday I've tried both the Pepsi and Mountain Dew "Throwbacks", and I gotta tell you, I was surprised. They taste better than the regular versions, oddly enough. If tasted cold, they're lighter and crisper, lacking that syrupy aftertaste quality that hangs around in your mouth for far too long. I'd drink it again.

In honor of Mountain Dew Throwback, dig this Chuck Norris Dew spot.


As a kid in junior high, I always got a kick out of late night television's visits from Joe Garagiola and pre-scandal Marv Albert because they always brought sports bloopers with them. I really dug Joe G. because he was strictly baseball, and that was my game at the time.

I was stunned to uncover on YouTube, a summer '84 appearance of Garagiola's, bloopers and all, on the Johnny Carson show in it's entirety. I can't get over how good the image quality of this old video is. If you got 7:14, please enjoy. Dig the cheesy 80's uniforms, and as a lifelong Milwaukee Brewer fan, the frequency and ineptitude of the Chicago Cubs fielding is not lost on me here.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Eric McCormick wielded sarcasm better than anybody on primetime television in 30 years on "Will & Grace". Robert Patrick is, well....Robert Patrick.

Take these two, throw them into an homage to late 50's and early 60's sci-fi, and it can't turn out bad. "Alien Trespass" earned a B+ from the notoriously stingy Entertainment Weekly, kudos for them.

Knowing, witty, self-aware "throwback" movies like "Matinee" and "Ed Wood" are too rare to pass by, so do like my kid and I plan to do this weekend, and head out and give some support to this effort that appears to be pretty unique, especially in today's film climate.

NOBODY KNOWS: A Christian Punk Jewel

Oftentimes, Christian Punk is categorically ridiculed as being condescending and even patronizing. In many cases these bands take a soapbox approach, and from their pedestals can be annoyingly elitist and insulting to a listener who may be, for better or worse, "uninitiated". This is defeating the purpose, is it not? As good as their musicianship may have been, you felt excluded and often gave up on them.

There was a band that recorded for a short period of time that didn't fall into that ridiculous trap. They were Nobody Special, led by guitarist/singer/primary songwriter Pat Nobody. In 1989 the planets aligned, and they recorded what I feel as a punk rock sampling madman myself, SOME KIND OF MASTERWORK. The album was released by Broken Records, entitled "Call it Whatever You Want".

Make no mistake, NS could lean toward that pushy "Jesus Freak" (not my term) platitudism, but when they did step in that direction, it was brief, and not out of place. Where they excelled was in putting together music that you did not have to be a diehard religious fanatic to not just enjoy, but completely rock out to.

"Call it Whatever You Want" is loaded with songs like that. My favorite, "Fingerpointer" features a galloping riff, that much like their trademark Ramones-esque mid tempo romping, has you bobbing you head. Nobody's lyrics take a poke at self-righteousness, while underlining his own humanity. He may be be a lot of things, but smug, Mr. Nobody is not.

"Point your finger at me, I'll bite it off
I don't need you to tell me how to live.

Slap my face, I'll turn the other cheek.
Maybe, ...maybe not." -Pat Nobody

Smart, to the point lyrics. Good stuff.

On "Special People", the band takes a different look at the mentally handicapped, and sees them as not as shortchanged, but unburdened by the luggage that being "intelligent" carries.

"It's you and I who have to constantly see
Just How destructive knowledge can be." --Pat Nobody

A track that I as far back as 1990 have held dear to my heart, "Weirdo" spins a somber and weatherbeaten vibe, as Nobody seems to feel uncomfortable in his own skin, and like an outcast in his own world. He sings not with bellowing rage, but with beleagured frustration.

"I can see your point of view, you have ambitions,
things you want to do,
but me too,
Just not like you." --Pat Nobody.

The band just rips on this album. Nobody and Frank Wesolek grind out some memorable and undeniably catchy riffs. Tony Cena drums like Chris Mars on acid. Chris "The Vax" Kouacs keeps time with Cena, and flourishes just enough to keep things snappy. "Call it Whatever You Want" is like a great picture taken in a weird place. You can't forget it, and you won't throw it away. You constantly find your self pulling it back out and looking at it again, because you can't believe it's an accurate representation of what it is.

This is a Christian Punk band? Wow.
Nobody else in that sub-genre can touch this record, and to be honest, few that fall in the category of regular punk, or even "secular" if you prefer the term, can carry it's jock, either.

Nobody Special doesn't exist anymore, and this unheralded piece of history is way too hard to find. My only copy is a vinyl rip. I urge you to search it out.


For the next 8 weeks, Pepsico is unspooling Mt. Dew and Pepsi Throwback. What's the diff, you ask? Well regular versions are sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, and "Throwback" is sweetened with a mixture of cane and beet sugar, i.e. "natural" sugar. Again, what's the diff? According to reviewers at, definitely noticeable. For the better, I guess.

What the hell, I'll try anything once.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

IT IS WHAT IT IS.....Oh, shut the hell up!!

What kind of an aloof country do we live in when the last 3 "great" catchphrases we've had here were "Whatever", "shit happens", and "It is what it is".

It's confounding. They all mean the same damn thing.

What if this aloofness had permeated the great soundbites of American history?

"Ask not what your country can do for you, because it is what it is." Doesn't work, does it?

"The only thing we have to fear is nothing, because it is what it is." Wow. FDR sure would have motivated us out of WW2 with that logic.

Not just politically, but culturally, as well. It makes us sound lazy...

"Frankly, Scarlet, it is what it is." Gone with the Wind, went with the breeze.

"You have to ask yourself, did he fire 5 bullets or six, in all this confusion, I've lost track myself, so you have to ask yourself, Is it what is is? Well is it, Punk?"
Dirty Harry, sounds like Lazy Harry.

Even Journalistic Genius Bernard Goldberg stated in his "100 People that are screwing up America" that the phrase essentialy is an adult version of "Whatever".

Or basically, "Who gives a shit?"

Just say what you mean. There is no poetic self important way of being unproactive in your attitude. You couldn't care less.

It is what it is.

Monday, April 6, 2009


As spring approaches, the thing I love best about this time of year is thunderstorms. Lord knows, outside of my son being home from school once summer rolls around, there's little else to like. I'm one of those folks that is uncomfortable when the temperature exceeds 75 degrees. Check my profile: fall is one of my "interests".

Thunderstorms, for better or worse, remind me of the movie, "Twister". One scene always gets to me. Not the tour de force opening when the child version of Helen Hunt's character's father is ripped from the storm cellar by a vicious tornado, and not the monstrous Oklahoma-eating beast at the end of the film, either.

It's the damned dinner scene.

You know, the one where the merry Bill Paxton-led group of shaggy meteorologist storm chasers are discussing their "hilarious" stories. The one member of the group that's not in the know, played by Jami Gertz, asks what an F-5 would be like during a Fujita scale discussion (you all know the commonality of that mealtime conversation). All of the other member of the groups fall silent, a couple drop silverware very audibly, and in the hush one of the guys states in a quiet tone, "Finger of God."

As if an F5 tornado is an ethereal, almost supernatural entity that is seen about as often as bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. It's spoken of like an evil, horrendous boogeyman, like Jabberwocky or Warren Christopher. It's this sort of intelligence-insulting boobery in modern day movie dialogue that ruins many genre films all the way around. Maybe I'm overanalyzing it, and a movie like "Twister" wasn't ever meant to be taken seriously anyway.

That's probably accurate.


I hate to toot my own horn, folks, but I called this one. Two years ago I told friends and family that of all the action stars of "the day" that have stumbled to the direct to dvd industry, Jean Claude Van Damme would be the one to return to respectability. In his latest, the European made "JCVD", his acting isn't just "up to par", or "respectable". By gum, he's "Damn good." I mean true range is shown here.

And I called it.

I developed this idea from two things.

1. His choices of scripts. They included films that may not be fit for the silver screen, but as far as direct to dvd is concerned, they were of a high order. Ringo Lam's "In Hell", Philippe Martinez's "Wake of Death", as well as JCVD's last pair of films, "The Shepherd" (including some of JC's best fight choreography in years), and "Until Death" were among his more recent work that were well made affairs and show that JCVD's script-choosing was definitely noticeably improving. Unlike Seagal who seems to have a new disc out every 10 minutes, Van Damme's output is about one film a year.

2. His improving thespian ability. In "Until Death", he formed a slimy and corrupt detective who was both a horrible person and a broken soul. By the end of the movie he carries it through to a redemptive ending that does work. What tipped me off that this upward trend was begginning was the start of the DTDVD run, "Replicant". He plays a duel role in the film, but the spoken role as a serial killer is not all that impressive. It's his wordless performance as basically a full grown infant frightened of the world that impressed me. Much like Jackie Chan, it's all in the face and the eyes, and Jean Claude nailed it.
In the bruiser category, physically, he's still close to the top of his game. As I mentioned, he has some excellent fight work in "The Shepherd", and very good stuff in "Wake of Death" as well. Without using his trademark ballet-tinged high flying karate, he is a bashing monster by the end of "In Hell", and I found that somewhat impressive.
He wasn't by any means perfect, but his work was infinitely more watchable than the ballyhoo put out by Seagal, Snipes, et al.

And now, "JCVD", an uneven film where he plays himself, getting caught up in a bank/post office holdup in his hometown in Belgium while in the middle of battles for child custody and control of his waning career stateside. He's funny, angry, and achingly sad in some scenes where I was blown away by the emotion he managed to dredge up.

This film is proof positive for JCVD fans that as he ages, JCVD has got a lot left in the tank, and need not be pigeon-holed in action fare anymore.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Andy Hallet, better known as the empathic-to-those-who-sing demon, Lorne, passed away at the age of 33 yesterday. I would have never believed when he was playing that role under all that demon makeup on Joss Whedon's "Angel" that he was that young. That's a true testament to how remarkable an actor he was. He sold that "been there, done that" beleaguredness, mixed with a killer singing voice and knowledge of the lounge style, that was beyond his years. He will be missed.