Friday, October 30, 2009

Woe is Poe on Film?

Are Poe's short stories best served by shorts?

In today's Baltimore Sun, Chris Kaltenbach penned an article ("Macabre movies miss the mark") about the dearth of quality film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's tales. While Kaltenbach liked Jules Dassin's 1941 adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart (which is available as an extra in Warner Brothers' The Complete Thin Man DVD boxset), he regretted that it was only 20 minutes long, lamenting that most feature film adaptations - usually by Roger Corman during his reign at AIP - missed the mark, though he gave a grudging pass to Corman's Nicolas Roeg-lensed 1964 version of The Mask of Red Death.

It's an interesting debate, one that makes me think that Kaltenbach was onto something. Maybe the master short story teller was best served by the short film medium, and maybe The Tell-Tale Heart was the Poe story best translated to film. In that case, here's a shout-out to my favorite Poe short, the 1953 UPA animated version narrated by James Mason.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)
Directed by Ted Parmelee
Narrated by James Mason

This Oscar-nominated short is essential viewing for Poe afficionados. It surprisingly comes from UPA, the studio whose animation style is most often associated with Mr. Magoo cartoons (as well as Gerald McBoing-Boing, for those who remember him!). James Mason's narration is inspired and atmospherically pitch-perfect! It captures the mood, tone and feel of Poe's story perfectly and is an incredible piece of work. Director Ted Parmalee also helmed a critically acclaimed adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Clothes (1953) and went on to direct many TV episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Watch it here:

For some reason this short turned up as an extra on the 2004 DVD release of the feature film Hellboy.

OK, while we're on the subject of Tell-Tale Heart shorts, another of my favorites for your consideration - though it takes outrageous comedic liberties with the Poe tale - is Jill Chamberlain's (much sought after) Poe-meets-Sex-in-the-City spoof The Tell-Tale Vibrator.

The Tell-Tale Vibrator (1999)
Written and Directed by Jill Chamberlain
(USA, 9 minutes, color)

"Let's just say that the title says it all in this provocative and extremely funny film"- RISD Film Festival catalog

I first saw this at the MicroCineFest in 1999. It played the festival circuit that year, winning the Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the Atlantic City Film Festival and Best Short at the Saguaro Film Festival. As the title suggests, this humorous short tells the story of a single woman who, when her parents come to visit her in her new apartment in New York City for the first time, becomes unnerved by the tell-tale, albeit familiar, buzzing sound coming from her bedroom bureau.

Does anyone have a copy of this (hmmmm, Skizz?)? I remember it being really funny.

Related Links:
UPA's animated Tell-Tale Heart (YouTube)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Private Eleanor

Private Eleanor: On top of the world

Thanks to the Enoch Pratt Central Library's local music collection, I just discovered my favorite local band: Private Eleanor. And as luck would have it, they no longer exist. Typical me: I don't miss my water 'til my well runs dry. The album I heard was their fourth and final recording from 2007, Sweethearting. As the band is currently on hiatus, it remains their swan song in absentia.

Private Eleanor
Beechfields (2007)

The band's introspective dreampop sound has been compared favorably to everyone from American Analog Set to Yo Lo Tengo, with nodding winks along the way to Big Star, The Go-Betweens, Mojave3, Red House Painters, Elliott Smith, and Wilco. Me, I hear SF's Sneetches in there for some reason. Whatever musical signposts they point to along the way, Private Eleanor's sound is (was?) definitely Twee with a capital T. And I like that. I mean, how can you not love a band that names an album Deciduous?

PE performing live

Though they've gotten some good national press, my favorite description of Private Eleanor comes from the Baltimore City Paper's Jess Harvel, who's a good a music writer as there is around town:
"Private Eleanor makes music so perfect for solitary drives on the cusp of late night/early morning that you want to rewind back a decade and listen to the band's music on an unlabeled C90 in your old beater's tape deck...The drizzly, cinematic sweep of Stahl's road-weary, twentysomething heartbreak is more sharply observed than ever, set to a lush swirl of bells, vibraphone, Hammond organ, and Rhodes piano meticulously arranged for the tingling of spines, crisply recorded and hitting all the band's now well-established sweet spots...Each song works beautifully as a little standalone slice of baroque indie-pop."
- Jess Harvel, Baltimore City Paper

PE performing live at Fletchers

According to the band's blog circa June 2009, leader Austin Stahl recorded a solo record that's available for free download at

"It's a record I made by myself at home, just for fun (much like the earliest PE stuff) but I liked it enough to want to share it with you. This is the first music I've ever released under the name Austin Stahl. Go download it! If you like Private Eleanor music at all, I think you'll enjoy it." Heads up, Stahlinists!



Private Eleanor's back catalog is now available digitally at their digital store:

Their first three records had never been available digitally, until now... And their first album, Deciduous (2002), had been out of print completely, unavailable in ANY form, for over five years. As Austin Stahl says, "Well, we've remedied that at long last. Go get them all!"


Here's the band's press bio from the Beechfields record label.


“Built upon sturdy melodies and the type of harmonies rarely practiced these days, they dared to be genuine and pretty, hurt and poppy, confused yet direct. They made pop that the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Mojave 3 would happily call their own.”
—John Foster,

Private Eleanor was a band from Baltimore, Maryland, who over the course of little more than five years was responsible for four records of unfashionably lovely folk-pop. For now, they’re on indefinite hiatus, having left behind little but those remarkable records – full of sly hooks, sparkling textures, and evocative, poetic lyrics as good as any you’re likely to hear.

Songwriter Austin Stahl began the band on a four-track cassette recorder in the bedroom of a Baltimore rowhouse, crafting a pair of intimate albums with the help of a rotating cast of friends. Stahl was soon hailed as the city’s best songwriter by the local City Paper, and began performing live with a full-time band. The higher-fidelity No Straight Lines followed in 2005, gaining slightly wider release (via Maryland label The Beechfields) and earning critical accolades on a national level ( called it “the final album Elliott Smith should have made.”). Before long, the band was bringing its subtle, harmony-laden pop songs to half-empty rooms throughout the nation.

Sweethearting was released in 2007. Recorded and mixed with the help of T.J. Lipple (Aloha) and Chad Clark (Beauty Pill), the album was performed mostly live in the studio, and showcased more than ever the vocal harmonies between Stahl and fellow singer Marian Glebes. The shifting backdrop provided by Chris Merriam (drums), Bruce Sailer (bass), and Drew Stevens (Rhodes/piano/organ) made for the band’s most varied and sonically deep record – at times the hushed vocals and vintage keyboards call to mind American Analog Set; other moments resonate with the quiet emotion of Ida or Red House Painters; some of the louder, catchier songs could pass for Yo La Tengo tackling your favorite Big Star tunes. It was the band’s best-received record to date, but they were unable to tour behind it and went on hiatus soon after.

As of this writing, Private Eleanor has no current plans to perform or record. Two new compilations feature what are, for now, the band’s final recordings: Love Goes On, a tribute to Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens, for which Private Eleanor was chosen to contribute a cover of the title track; and This City of Neighborhoods, a new compilation from the Beechfields Record Label.

The Beechfields Record Label
P.O. Box 6732
Towson, MD 21285



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Friday, October 23, 2009

American Psycho: The Mix Tape

"Hit play baby!"

I watched American Psycho (2000) when it was on TV a few nights ago. It's a fun film, as far as over-the-top black comedies based on novels by Brett Easton Ellis go, with a number of great quotes - like Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)'s Worst Pickup Line Ever ("You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death and then play with your blood" - c'mon, has this line ever worked, fellas?) - but what was most memorable to me wasn't all the severed heads in Bateman's fridge or all the bodies hanging on meat hooks in his closet. No, the most shocking aspect of the film (and book) was Patrick Bateman's music library: Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, and Whitney Houston. Yes, I know: surely this is tell-tale signs of a sick and twisted mind!

To see a video montage of all of Patrick Bateman's monologues about his favorite musical artists, click here.

And here, for all you text lovers, I give you the American Pyscho Mix Tape, a Populist Manifesto of Song:

1. Genesis - "Susudio"
(from the 1986 LP Invsible Touch)

Patrick Bateman: Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. (Christy, take off your robe.) Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. (Sabrina, remove your dress.) In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. (Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little.) Take the lyrics to "Land of Confusion." In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. "In Too Deep" is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in rock. (Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole.) Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like "In the Air Tonight" and "Against All Odds." (Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it.) But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is "Sussudio," a great, great song, a personal favorite.

2. Huey Lewis and The News - "Hip To Be Square"
(from the 1987 LP Fore)

Patrick Bateman: Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?
Paul Allen: They're OK.
Patrick Bateman: Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour.
Paul Allen: Hey Halberstram.
Patrick Bateman: Yes, Allen?
Paul Allen: Why are their copies of the style section all over the place, d-do you have a dog? A little chow or something?
Patrick Bateman: No, Allen.
Paul Allen: Is that a rain coat?
Patrick Bateman: Yes it is! In '87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.
[raises axe above head]
Patrick Bateman: Hey Paul!
[he bashes Allen in the head with the axe, and blood splatters over him]

3. Whitney Houston - "The Greatest Love of All"
(from the 1985 LP Whitney Houston)

Patrick Bateman: Did you know that Whitney Houston's debut LP, called simply Whitney Houston had 4 number one singles on it? Did you know that, Christie?
Elizabeth: [laughing] You actually listen to Whitney Houston? You own a Whitney Houston CD? More than one?
Patrick Bateman: It's hard to choose a favorite among so many great tracks, but "The Greatest Love of All" is one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation, dignity. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it's not too late to better ourselves. Since, Elizabeth, it's impossible in this world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It's an important message, crucial really. And it's beautifully stated on the album.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greatest Mix Tape Ever

That there independent music the kids are listening to nowadays, would never understand. I'm going to ride my fixed gear bike to the copycat - Vol. 1
A Tophat Production (2009)

My friend Chris Schatz just made me the best CD "mix tape" ever, the sarcastically named That there independent music the kids are listening to nowadays, would never understand. I'm going to ride my fixed gear bike to the copycat - Vol. 1. It's great because this two-disc compilation saves me the headache of deciding which of today's Generation YouTube bands I need to check out, as I only know three of the bands in Chris's superlative mix, specifically Of Montreal, Dengue Fever, and MGMT (and the latter only because their "Time To Pretend" is used as a theme song on cable TV's Sundance Channel). But with a primer like this, I'm ready to jump on the listed bands' respective bandwagons.

Thanks, Chris! You rock!

Here's the song tracking - and beautiful accompanying packaging - of this epic Photoshop production. I've only listened to the first disc so far, because I like to listen to stuff over and over until I get sick of it, but so far the standout tracks to me are The Faint's "The Geeks Were Right" (from their debut album, Fasciinatiion), Be Your Own Pet's "Becky," and twee-twangers Tullycraft's hilarious "Georgette Plays a Goth."

That there independent music - Vol. 1, Disc 1

That there independent music - Vol. 1, Disc 2

"They are young and on the edge of this extraordinary Baltimore..."
That there independent music, inner sleeve

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

People Are Strange

Tuesday, October 20, 2009,
Planet Earth

I was driving into work on York Road when I noticed, at the bus stop next to WMAR-TV, a young black man in a camouflage hoodie yelling angrily at passersby as he waved a little American flag, the kind you can get at Party City for 4th of July first I thought he might be one of those vendors hawking something, like the dudes that dress up as the Statue of Liberty for Liberty Tax Service or the Little Caesar guy with the sandwich board advertising specials outside the Drumcastle Shopping Center, but I couldn't figure out what he could possibly be pitching - veterans rights? This bus stop must be Soapbox Central because the very next day I saw a gruff old codger in a thread-bare fishing hat holding up home-made sign that said "CBS, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC are not journalists! Fox News, where have you been all my life?" (I can answer that; before Fox News there was Weekly World News to address the information needs of the "fairly unbalanced" lunatic fringe!)

Fox Trotters

This protest of one, this "Tea Party" minus the party, must have been moved down the street from WMAR-TV, I reckoned....anyway, I turned right at the light to go into the York Road Shopping Center to get my morning caffeine dose at Starbucks. There, a middle-aged woman with jerky, bird-like mannerisms kept snatching the half and half, pouring it into her coffee, putting the container back, then grabbing it again, adding some more, putting it back, adding some more, on and on, as if in a frenzy. This went on for several minutes, the woman building a steady rhythm as if she was working on an assembly line. Finally, fearing my coffee's was gonna turn cold by the time she finishes her OCD ritual, I asked politely, "Think I can borrow that for a minute?" Geesh!

The cream isn't rising to her top

It's OK, as I'm used to dealing with extras from Monty Python's Gumby Theater. You see, at my library gig I've met a number of wonderful patrons over the years, but I'd say that the majority, at least 75%, represent the dregs of recombinant DNA in terms of intelligence. These are the regulars who day in, day out are absolutely helpless, asking the same questions over and over, and getting the same answer.

A Gumby library regular

Like the Gumby who comes in and always asks for Smokey Robinson CDs, even though all our copies have gone "missing" (a common occurence, as classic Motown music seems to disappear almost as soon as it hits the shelves). He's in today again, treading the carpet around the music racks, looking perplexed. I've explained to him over the last several year how the filing system works; it's the same as a record store, alphabetical by artist's last name. Yet the man never comprehends this complex organzation principle which most of us learn by the time of our first roll call in school or the first time we flip through a telephone book.

"Can I help you?" I venture.

"You got any Smokey Robinson?"

"I believe they're all missing," I reply. "Did you check the rack?"

"I looked, but I can't figure out where anything is."

I explain the difficult concept that Smokey Robinson would be filed under the R's for his name, Robinson. He looks confused.

After several minutes of pointlessly searching the shelves, the catalog and the "red dot" storage CDs inventory, I report that all copies are gone. As they have been. And probably will continue to be.

Later, I try to listen to a "low-speaker" patron on the phone while a middle-aged man with a deep, grizzly voice like Wolfman Jack bellows every thought that comes into his head, non-stop. I catch staccato bursts that sounds like he's repeating, "Attitude, attitude, attitude, attitude, everywheres ATTITUDE...attitude, attitude, ATTITUDE..."

Wolfman Jack, broadcasting at the library

Cupping my hand over the phone, I address Wolfman Jack: "I'm sorry sir, I'm trying to hear this lady on the phone, can you please keep it down, it's hard to concentrate."

"Whoa!" Wolfman replies. "Dial it back! Having a hard day?"

"No, sir, but it's hard to concentrate when you're talking non-stop like that," I reply.

"I ain't talking," the man retorts. "I'm SINGING!"

"Well, um," I stumble, "Can you stop singing, then?"

"You can't tell people to stop singing," he replies.

Well, technically you can, at least in movie theaters, at plays, and, well, at the "Shhh! Quiet, please!" library. It's even in our Rules of Conduct, Rule No. 1: "Respect the rights of other library customers by: Avoiding behavior that disrupts the work of staff and customers."

"Well, singing isn't something that's customary at the library, where people want to read and do research, sir. It's just a courtesy to others," I reply, thinking to myself that's it's also a de facto part of Rousseau's "Social Contract" - think of your neighbors - that everyone who isn't a self-centered dim-wit would understand.


He mumbles some more nonsense in his grating, phlegmatic voice ("Attitude, attitude, attitude..."?) and wanders off, like a gadfly out to annoy the next member of society he encounters.

Our loss.

Sorry folks, the library is not a bus stop, not the street corner, not a barbershop, nor one's shower. It's not a place to sing out loud and proud!

Shortly after my boss came to relieve me on desk, just in the nick of time as another regular comes in. This is the ex-con dude who loves prison movies, though he dismissed the HBO sries Oz as being phony with the comment, "Real prison is WAY gayer, dude."

He should know, as he frequently regales me with tales of lockup levity, from smuggling contraband to graphic (and, needless to say, unsolicited) descriptions of prison yard gang-rapes.

His favorite prison movie was Steve Buscemi's Animal Factory, which is pretty good, except the idea that Willem Dafoe would take a weak little pretty boy like Edward Furlong under his wing without wanting to rip him a new one was just a little bit unbelievable. Unfortunately, he soon starting grossing me out with talk about gang rape scenes in prison movies (I admit this topic represented a gaping hole in my film history knowledge that has been closed, as I now know more than I ever wanted to know about the subject), like "Then this one had these Mexicans ganging up on the white guys and they tell this punk, 'We got a new whore in our cellblock now' and then they bend him over and this other dude pulls out a sword and they stick it..."

Whoa, I think I know where this one is going, I think to myself.

"Sorry, man," I interject, "I really don't need to hear the details on that, I get the idea - I'm about to take my lunch break and that's starting to turn my stomach."

I don't mention my upcoming colonoscopy, but that sword up the old wazoo image is one that haunts me for weeks to come.

Still, I'm always nice to the guy because when a patron has one of those tattooed tears under his eye, I tend to, well, not want to get on his bad side. I even let him show me his web site where he had examples of his demon and monster-inspired tattoo art. (A hobby he no doubt picked up in prison. I think to myself: never break the law if you can avoid it; I really don't want to end up in a cell with someone like this. I think I'd kill myself first.) The art wasn't bad, but it was that kind of crazy, testosterone-laden Conan the Barbarian-meets-Heavy Metal-album-art style that is so populary with America's blue-collar idiocracy.

Today he came in complaining of the heat and started disrobing in front of my boss. At one point, in stripping down to his wife-beater, he accidently took everything off and was there bare-chested as he placed a hold on The Wire with my boss. ("I didn't need to see that," she later commented.)

Con Airhead: Down to the Wire

He would return the very next day to complain about the fact that all five copies of the Wire disc he wanted had gone "missing." He spent the next five minutes coming up with unsolicited anti-theft solutions for the library; I told him that "the profession," as well as security professionals, have long examined the problem and possible solutions, but that there's only so much you can do without infringing on people's civil liberties, like putting cameras in the bathrooms. A pointless discussion, but finally I put it into terms even he could understand. "I mean," I said, "prisons have cells, guards, walls, security checks, police dogs, etc., and still people manage to escape every once in a while. Where there's a will, there's a way."

He liked the prison analogy and left.

Some days I feel like I'm in a prison. Only there's no escape.

(Naturally, if the ex-con reads this, I'm as good as dead. Which might not be so bad as long as I no longer have to be in public service.)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fat Mattress

Hey, I forgot to mention in my Globe Poster posting an important detail about this Jimi Hendrix poster...namely, the band listed in the lower right as the support act: The Fat Mattress. Despite the dumb name, which sounds like some jam band, the Fat Mattress is actually a rather significant band for Hendrix completists, as it was the folk-rock side group Noel Redding formed during his time as the bassist in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

According to Wikipedia, Redding formed the group in 1968 in Folkestone, England, with vocalist Neil Landon. Redding played guitar and also sang, with the band rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Jim Leverton and drummer Eric Dillon. The band released two albums, Fat Mattress (1969) and Fat Mattress II (1970), before splitting up in 1970.

According to a reviewer of their first album on Amazon,
"What the listener got with Fat Mattress was a solid, sometimes folky/woodsy, sometimes mystical rock band - very English and very stripped down, without pyrotechnics or pretensions. Songs like "Mr. Moonshine," "She Came In the Morning" and "All Night Drinker" (with Chris Wood of Traffic fame lending his flute, giving the song a style similar to early Jethro Tull) could have been staples on FM radio had the album been properly promoted. If you're at all into this type of music and wish to hear some of the little post-Experience music available by the late Noel Redding, you owe it to yourself to dig for this one."

Related Links:
Richie Unterberger's Bio of Fat Mattress (allmusicguide)
Fat Mattress (Wikipedia)

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Fell's Point Fun Fest 2009

Never mind the rest, Fell's Fest is the best

I spent the past weekend doing nothing but playing tennis, eating sushi and walking around the Fell's Point Fun Festival, where the sunny fall weather (mid-70s) was so wonderful it made the decision to trek down there both Saturday and Sunday afternoons a no-brainer.

Since I'm in two leagues (over-committing to under-performance with a vengeance!), I had to play tennis both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Once again sticking to an all-too-familiar script, I lost with ease, but that's OK, since my enormous ego has already deflated to the point where it's like a shriveled scrotum that's starting to be sucked up into my body cavity. At least the Hopkins engineer I played Sunday was nice, explaining the applied physics behind the kick-serves, top-spin and open-stance groundstrokes he used to pummel me into submission. Ah, not to worry: tennis is like sex; even when it's bad, it's still good exercise.

"Is it over yet?": Tennis Agonistes

Freed of my obligations to exhibit my athletic shortcomings, I picked up my girlfriend and headed down to Fells Point to show off my social and financial limitations at what I consider to be Baltimore's best fest. Yeah, I know Hon- and Hampdenfest boosters will argue with me that they have all the cool bands and quirky Avenue boutiques uptown, but c'mon...the Fells Point festival has the added bonus of its neighboring Hispanic community, with all those Latino foods and fare in their part of the festival north of the Broadway Market and Eastern Avenue.

Speaking of which, after parking miles away in Canton (where everyone seems to be Twentysomething, drive a jeep and belong to a fitness club), we headed straight to the Latino part of the festival, bypassing all the corn and meat-on-a-stick grub to sample the bootleg soccer jerseys on offer. You really can't beat the price on these authentic-looking knockoffs; last year I got a 2007 FC Barcelona replica shirt for a mere $20, and this year picked up a spiffy looking 2008-2009 half-and-half color kit with striker Thierry Henry's name across the back (they were out of Messi's, so I went with the Frenchman) for a mere $30 - not bad when you consider official shirts go for as much as $90.

O Henry!

Further down the street in the Flea Market section, a young guy had some primo vinyl and Japanese samurai DVDs for sale, including a bunch of '60s Zatoichi classics like the under-rated Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, which paired Shintaro Katsu with Toshiro Mifune.

I was especially impressed to see my favorite early Takashi Miike film, The Bird People in China there. I prolly should have picked it up for bargain price of $4...but I kept thinking "Must save some money for Comic-Con next weekend!"

Next door, a cool couple was selling vintage Viewmaster 3-D slides, toys, and assorted kitsch ephemera, like the complete KISS action figures set ($5 each, $20 for all four!) and rock "Concert Cards." Somehow I fought to urge to purchase Scandal and Loverboy card sets and settled for a $4 KISS Greatest hits CD because it had "I Was Born For Loving You" (my fave song from their disco period).

Lego My Lego!

Closer to the Broadway Market, the Lego Experience exhibition area was a-buzz with interactive activities.

Lego asked: Are you experienced?

Kids were encouraged to create things using the provided Lego materials - and they could keep the fruits of their labor. For me the coolest thing was the free Lego Happy Face Badge, which looked like some Devo-esque Rave pass. Throughout the day, Amy and I got stopped by admirers who wanted our happy face badges!

A Lego city under construction

Can we build it? Yes we can!

Lego people adorn the Lego truck

Wow, a Lego Home Entertainment System!

After experiencing the exhiliarating "Lego Experience", we strolled past this kiosk...

Has there ever been a non-Asian chanting this who WASN'T crazy?

...which made me recall all the crazy non-Asian Buddhists I've met over the years who would chant "Nam myoho renge kyo" - which translates roughly as "the teaching of the lotus flower of the wonderful law." Back when there was an Erol's Video store near me in Drumcastle, I remember a rogue's gallery of Halfway House Druggies would loiter outside handing out pamphlets with this slogan on them - chanting it which was supposed to impart all the benefits of the wisdom contained in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In other words, it was the spiritual equivalent of buying lottery tickets: get spiritual enlightenment quick! Most annoying!

How fitting that these crazies were right next door to the Republicans of Maryland table which - surprise! - was as dead as vaudeville.

Continuing up the street, we went by the African crafts vendors, who always have interesting items on sale.

Man About Colonial Africa:
The author goes native.

Unfortunately, my ancestral roots as a Eurocentric Western Oppressor always make me gravitate towards the Colonial carvings - which are wonderful, but a tad expensive at $300-400 a pop.

But for me, the highlight of the Fell's Point Festival was seeing the Globe Poster Company table outside of BOP Pizza. What a great idea - and long overdue!

Globe Poster: Representing!

For those not in the know, Globe Poster Printing Corporation is the legendary Baltimore poster company best known for its colorful boxing-style concert posters promoting the top R&B, Blues, and Rock & Roll touring acts of the 50's, 60's and 70's.

"Vibrant!...gorgeous, fabulous!!" doesn't begin to describe the flashy boxing style posters produced by Globe Poster Printing Company.

You've probably seen their handiwork stapled to a telephone pole or plastered on a wall around town and not even known it. Full of flashy neon-bright colors and distinctive wood-block typography, Globe Posters are as much a part of Baltimore's pop culural heritage as psychedelic posters were to San Francisco in the '60s.

Heck, no less a Baltimore icon than John Waters acknowledged Globe's influence when he designed his Summer 2004 Artforum cover - celebrating the wonders of Marfa, Texas (a town best known for the "Marfa Lights" and as a film locale for George Stevens' Giant, the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men, and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood) - at the Highlandtown poster shop in the signature Globe style.

John Water's Globe-style "Artforum" cover

Globe posters have been featured in The Art of Rock (an Abbeville Press coffee table book) and Rolling Stone magazine and are also in collections at Cooper-Hewitt, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The Creative Alliance mounted an exhibition of Globe's work 10 years ago and another exhibition of Globe poster art is currently on display at the University of Baltimore's Student Center Gallery. (Speaking of the Creative Alliance, they were clearly influenced by the Globe exhibition; I still have the Globe-style poster they used a few years ago to promote their silent film-with-live orchestra series, which featured Anne Watts and Boister orchestrating Buster Keaton's Seven Chances and Garbo and John Gilbert's romance in Love.) A few years back, Baltimore's Theater Project commissioned Globe to create posters advertising their season's repetoire. More recently, Chris Landers wrote an excellent profile ("Letter Men") of Globe Poster in the February 4, 2009 issue of the Baltimore City Paper.

The Art of Rock gave props to Globe Posters

Norman Shapiro purchased Globe in 1955, but for the past 35 years the 80-year-old Highlandtown company has been run by the Cicero family of Joe Sr., Joe Jr., Frank and Bob. Joe Cicero, Sr. died last year at age 91 and Joe, Jr. retired a few years ago, leaving brothers Frank and Bob to run the show. And there they were, manning the colorful Globe Poster booth at the foot of Broadway and Thames Streets.

Frank and Bob Cicero with Amy Linthicum

Amy and I stopped by to say hi. Amy works with a woman whose nephew married one of the Cicero children, so she mentioned the Smalltimore connection. I had met the brothers years before when researching a film (folly) idea. You see, years ago at the "height" (was there ever one?) of producing my public access show Atomic TV, I toyed with the idea of doing a documentary about the Globe Poster Company (alas, like many thoughts buzzing around that beehive that is my mind, it quickly disappeared).

ATV: Sometimes a great notion...

Then I ran into Baltimore magazine music writer John Lewis one day at Daedalus Books & Music in Belvedere Square and, looking at a rock posters book, got to talking about Globe Poster. When I mentioned how I thought somebody should do a documentary about Globe Poster, John said he had already started one along with architect/arts impressario Alex Castro.

I was elated, as John Lewis is probably the foremost expert on Globe Poster (writing perhaps the definitive profile of the company years ago for Baltimore mag or City Paper, I forget which; he's also a great friend of the Cicero family, having penned Joe Sr.'s obit for Baltimore magazine) and Alex Castro has already tested his mettle in the local filmmaking field with his National Bohemian doc Mr. Boh's Brewery (which he co-directed and produced with Harry Connelly and Lyle Hein). Lewis and Castro have already interviewed fans such John Waters, Solomon Burke, and Rosa Pryor, and have plentiful footage of the Cicero clan. Frank and Bob Cicero were particularly pleased that the filmmakers were able to get their father on camera before his passing last September.

On Saturday I bought two posters from the Ciceros, unable to resist the bargain festival sale price of $10. Along with Daves Jarkowski and Cawley, I think Amy and I may be the only Baltimore-area fans of the fab Dave Clark Five, so I had to pick up the cool DC5 poster shown below:

I also picked up this Hendrix poster (one of two on sale there) for a library patron regular known around town as Jimi Hendrix Man:

This one's for you, Jimi Hendrix Man!

Every couple of weeks he comes into the Central Library asking if there's any new Jimi Hendrix product. "Jimi Hendrix is dead," I keep telling him. "That puts a damper in new releases!" But JHM is nothing if not a fanatic, so I figured he'd be thrilled with this poster, and grabbed it for him. Besides, he's a pretty nice guy, if somewhat limited in his interests. (Conversations with him usually run the gamut from A to A, as in: "You like Hendrix?" "Got any Hendrix?" "Your girlfriend like Hendrix?")

Thereafter, everywhere I went, people stopped me and asked where I got the Hendrix poster. Hendrix is still - like Bruce Lee and Bob Marley - among the most popular of pop cultural iconoclasts, even almost four decades after his death. (No one gave a shout out for my Dave Clark Five poster - arrghhhh!)

"Where'd you get that Hendrix poster, hon?"
EVERYONE wanted to know!

Even an Iranian painter who had a booth near the beer garden stopped me and asked, "Is that Jimi Hendrix? He is genius!" - imagine, a Middle Eastern woman recognizing a Western pop music icon just as readily as we would see a picture of Buddha, Mohammed, or Krishna and instantly know its importance in the annals of world religions. Hendrix's legacy carries that kind of clout.

When I told people where I got the poster, they'd reminisce about their connection to either the concert venues advertised or Globe Poster itself. One guy said he used to have a job stapling the posters to telephone poles around town and, looking at my "Miles Davis at Godfrey's Famous Ballroom" poster, fondly remembered the Famous Ballroom (which used to occupy the second floor of what is now the Everyman Theater in the 700 block of N. Charles Street) and another long-gone jazz club around the corner from it on Lafayette Street.

So popular was I walking around the fest with my Globe posters, that I went back down on Sunday afternoon to get some more. Right away I spotted a new arrival, this beautiful Led Zeppelin poster hawking their April 5, 1970 appearance at the Baltimore Civic Center (now the 1st Mariner Arena) in support of Led Zeppelin II.

In 1970, you could see Led Zep for
the cost of a Starbucks venti latte!

According to, Led Zeppelin played three times at the Baltimore Civic Center: April 5, 1970; June 11, 1972; and July 23, 1973. The top ticket price for the 1970 show was...$7.50!

By the way, the setlist of that "full 2 hour show" was: "We're Gonna Groove," "Dazed and Confused," "Heartbreaker," "Bring It On Home," "White Summer / Black Mountainside," "Organ solo / Thank You," "What Is and What Should Never Be," "Moby Dick," "How Many More Times" (medley including "Boogie Chillen'," "My Baby Left Me," "That's Alright Mama," "Honey Bee" / "Lemon Song"), "Whole Lotta Love."

Jeff Krulik would certainly love this poster, as the Washington area filmmaker's current project is Led Zeppelin Played Here, a work-in-progress attempting to uncover "the truth behind the tall tales of local rock lore" concerning Led Zeppelin's first Washington area concert - allegedly held in the gymnasium of the Wheaton Youth Center on the night of Richard Nixon's inauguration, January 20, 1969. According to, "Lore has it that only 55 people showed up for the Wheaton Youth Center show, quite possibly the smallest audience to see Led Zeppelin outside of Jimmy Page's living room."

Following is a clip from Krulik's doc-in-progress:

Led Zeppelin Played Here (YouTube, 7:15)

Civic Pride: Globe's Civic Center Shows

Inspired by the Led Zep poster's hometown connection, I decided right then and there to limit my (already considerable) Globe Poster cache strictly to local music venues (civic pride and whatnot). I already had a poster of Funkedelic's Civic Center show... which I added the Led Zep,

...a cool neon-green (not kinda blue) Miles Davis at the Famous Ballroom poster, and this Sam & Dave banner for a star-studded Civic Center show that included my Philly faves The Intruders ("Cowboys To Girls") and The Dells, among others:

Note the mention of WWIN DJs "Rockin' Robin" (Fred Robinson, whose theme song was Bobby Day's 1958 hit single - and who besides being a DJ was a licensed barber and whose company Premiere Attractions brought many national recording acts to the Civic Center) and Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert at the bottom of the poster. "Hot Rod" was the only Baltimore DJ to be enshrined in the National Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and, according to, he had a saying "VOSA" which meant "Voice of Sound Advice." Another Hot Rod catchphrase was "Great Googa Mooga" (which the Temptations used in their hit "Ball of Confusion"). Hot Rod's showmanship appealed to both black and white audiences at venues like Carr's Beach in Annapolis and the Royal Theatre and The Coliseum in Baltimore. Listen to a 1954 soundcheck here. Sadly, both Rockin' Robin and Hot Rod passed away in 1996.

B-more jocks Rockin' Robin & Hot Rod

But back to Led Zep...Jimmy Page had played Baltimore before - as a member of The Yardbirds in 1966, a fact I learned after seeing this poster on the Globe Poster web site.

I gotta track this one down! Great supporting acts too, with The Cyrkle ("Red Rubber Ball" - Billboard #2 in 1966) and garage rockers The Syndicate of Sound (their single "Little Girl" reached as high as #8 on the 1966 Billboard charts and was later covered by The Dead Boys and The Divinyls).

Despite the photo, Jeff Beck did not appear, as he got "sick" following the first gig on September 1, 1966 in Stockton, California, and Jimmy Page carried on without him. Page later claimed Beck's sickness was just an alibi: "He was actually seeing his girlfriend, Mary Hughes, and had just used the doctor bit as an excuse to cut out on us."

The 1966 U.S. Tour even included a performance at a Roller Rink (anticipating a later joke in Spinal Tap) in Alexandria, Virginia! (Can you imagine being at that show?) For some reason, Baltimore had clout in those days, with two dates slated for the Civic Center on September 11 and 12, but the latter date was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Globe Poster Classics Exhibition at U of B

After I drooled over these posters and commented on how beautiful they were, Bob Cicero mentioned that the current exhibit at the University of Baltimore's Student Center Gallery is "Globe Poster Classics," a collection of works from the legendary Globe Poster Co. of Baltimore - works that the U of B rightly considers classic examples of 20th Century American Pop Art (after all, some of these prints sell at auction for hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars). Using the original letterpresses, inks, and 24 weight card stock, the posters seen in this exhibit faithfully replicate the original works. The collection will be on display through Dec. 16.

(The Student Center Gallery is open Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m.)

As I marveled again about the art behind Globe Posters, I recalled how City Paper writer Chris Landers used an Otis Redding at the Apollo poster to demonstrate the style for which Globe is known, one in which each listed act gets its own space on the poster.

In Landers' CP article "Letter men," Bob Cicero is quoted as saying, "What we would do is separate it and make everybody look important."

"Each 'cloud,' as we called them, each section, would be like a writer having a paragraph," Frank Cicero added. "It would say that one thought."

And as for Globe's innovative use of day-glo inks (initially made from fish scales), Landers quoted Bob Cicero as admitting, "They were loud and blaring. But we didn't care. When you're going down the street and you look around, everything is white and gray and black and brown. Florescent is not normal--for anything. So when you go down there, you see it. We didn't care how gaudy it looked or how outlandish it looked. As long as it caught your eye, you read it. I can't force you to go to the show, but if you read the poster--that's all I cared about. That's our whole game plan."

It's a great plan, guys. Keep it up!

Marble Bar Flashback

Famished, after not eating all day, Amy and I made our way down Thames Street in search of food. Along the way I stopped into The Daily Grind to use the bathroom after a pigeon shat on my hand (my experience working at the Enoch Pratt Central Library - aka Pigeon Poop Central, where I have had birds defile numerous articles of clothing over the years - is to first let the pigeon shit dry, then scrape it off, for best results)...Outside the Grind, Amy got excited when she spotted some girlfriends from her Marble Bar rock club past.

"Ohmigod it's Donna Diode!" she exclaimed. Love that name! (And no, this Diode had nothing to to with The Diodes, the Canadian punk band most famous for their cover of The Cyrkle's '60s hit "Red Rubber Ball").

Marble Bar Reunion: Kyle Powers,
Donna Diode & Amy Davis Linthicum

Donna Diode - who now goes by her married name of Donna Bowen - used to write a column for the Tone Scale, the Marble Bar fanzine, back in the '80s when she looked like this:

Donna Diode, back in the Marble days

Her son Dennis Bowen plays drums for acclaimed post-punk trio Double Dagger (whose More was named "Best Album" of 2009 by the Baltimore City Paper) and sometimes collaborates with local music idol Dan Deacon.

Dan Deacon, being idolized by idle youth

Let's Eat!

After cleaning pigeon shit off my hands and thoroughly washing my hands, I was ready to consume some protein-rich sushi, so we made our way toward Nanami Cafe, the little restaurant at the end of Ann Street and Thames Street. (Delicious sushi along the water in Fells Point...what could be better?). Amy and I had been there before, but only to buy tchokes like chopsticks and incense holders from their gift shop. Now we were ready to tackle their food, and weren't disappointed.

Nanami cafe's "Dragon Roll"

Nanami Cafe
907 S. Ann Street

Nanami is the name of the new restaurant in the same location as the old Kawasaki. It's not the cheapest, but it's a great sushi place (and besides you get what you pay for - not to mention it's right on the water so I guess you pay forthat view as well!). The shrimp tempura Dragon Roll is especially tasty and the chef prepared it in such an eye-catching way - serpentine with little dollops of Japanese mayonaise for eyes and a dragon scale collar - that we were sad to have to eat it.

After Amy dug into her pocketbook to get some pills, she pulled out some buttons she got at Artscape from artist Catherine Wang of Motorbus that caught our waiter's eye.

Catherine Wang's Motobus button packs rule!

"Excuse me," he said, "But I couldn't help notice those buttons - I'm looking for small buttons just like that, I collect them." he really liked the little Ninja dude button, so Amy wrote down the Motorbus web site for him.

Later - suspecting (as is usually the case) that most of the staff at local Japanese restaurants is often actually Korean or Chinese - we asked our waiter if he knew anything about our favorite Korean-run, Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant, Famous Yakitori One. This popular, albeit underground hole-in-the-wall spot on the corner of Maryland and 21st Street had been closed for months now and we hoped he had ggood news for us. But we learned instead that it had closed following a fire - an occupational hazard for a place specialzing in grilled food, I guess. It is dearly missed! (I hope they had insurance!)

Famous Yakitori: Quoth the waiter, "Nevermore!"

Having slain the dragon, we made our way home, both sated and elated.

Amy Is Easily Amused

In closing, let me list Amy's Fells Point Festival highlights; as you can see, she's very easily amused (no wonder she puts up with me!):

"My co-worker Nikki would like that she has a play station in Canton!"

"That's neat, a bee!" Amy cried, stung with bee glee.

"I wanna get on the crazy bus!" Amy ejaculated excitedly.

Things That Almost Amused Amy:

Amy mistakenly thought this was the AARP booth -
and was disappointed that it wasn't
(she loves the AARP crossword puzzles!)

"You mean Medieval Times ISN'T AARP's mag for
people in their Middle Ages?"
Amy asked.
"In that case can I take off this stupid crown?"

Related Links:
Globe Poster Exhibit Opens at UB (Baltimore Mag)
Globe Poster Classics
Letter Men (Chris Landers, City Paper)

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