Monday, December 21, 2009

Freakbeat, December 2009

It's well-documented that I'm a freak magnet, both in my function as the first line of defense as a beleagured librarian at the downtown central library and (lucky me) in my off-duty role as freak-magnet-about-town. Here are some recent encounters of the freak kind.

Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson

Thursday, I walked down to the Lexington Market and passed an elderly man having an animated, one-sided argument with...a movie poster! He yelled, "Excuse me Mrs. Robinson, it's called a 'music club,' where they play 'music' and not this garbage they call music nowadays. I would like to play in the music club, Mrs. Robinson, is that alright with you, Mrs. Robinson!"

Sending a shout out to Mrs. Robinson

I looked around to see if there was someone next to him or in the building next to him, to no avail. He was talking to a action movie poster plastered to the side of the wall on scenic Lexington Street. The poster depicted some chick in Tomb Raider-looking fetish gear wielding a gun. Hmmmm, definitely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs...

What Would Annoying Crazy Loudmouth Proselytizer Do? (WWACLPD?)

...further down at the Market, it was the usual pandemonium. Everybody was chattering, or more often shouting - like the vendors hawking their knit caps, club CDs, and Obama knick-knacks - boom boxes were blaring, people walking into traffic, and there across the street by the old bus station was The Annoying Crazy Loudmouth Proselytizer shouting to the World At Large, "GEEEEEEE-zuss will save you, only JEEEEE-zuss!" I had caught his act before, when he was working the corner outside The Basilica on Cathedral and Mulberry streets and again at Artscape (as shown below).

Inside the Market I went to my favorite Korean Soul Food stand and got enough collard greens to last me through the snowstorm forecasted for that weekend. As I was standing there, two numbskulls who looked like they'd have trouble figuring out how to open a door (and would probably need assistance navigating a revolving door) were so messed up they practically fell over me as I went to pay the cashier. I don't think it's too much to ask that our city's well-lubricated/medicated Bo Bo Bolinski's be able to stand on two feet while out in public, do you?

Spare Change We Can Believe In

On the way out a black guy approaches me and, pulling himself away from his cell phone, asks: "Excuse me sir, are you prejudiced?"

Wow, I think, what a question! I wonder if anybody other than a angry white supremacist skinhead would answer this man's query in the affirmative (not that a whole lot of Aryan nation folks hang out at the Lexington Market to begin with!).

"No," I stammer, caught off-guard by the socio-philosphical query and dreading what I am sure will be a follow-up request for spare change. It comes almost immediately.

"In that case, can you help a brother out with 40 cents for the bus?"

"Nope," I reply, "Sorry, don't have it." It's true, I just spent all my spare change on my afternoon cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. But now I'm feeling stunned that a request for bus fare has become the new lithmus test for racial bias.

Brother, can you spare a hate crime?

I receive a mumbled "Have a blessed day" response as the guy walks on and stops another pedestrian.

But now I feel guilty, like I've been out-ed as a racist for not giving spare change to a person of color. And I wonder, does he suddenly seen me as nothing more than Bruce Willis walking through Harlem with that infamous sandwich board in Die Hard: With A Vengeance?

Upon reflection, I realise that in future a better answer to the "Are you prejudiced?" question would be, "No, I'm not prejudiced; I hate everybody!" (A variation on a button I have that reads "I'm liberal: fuck you too!") Later, a co-worker empathizes and tells me in future to tell pandhandlers, "Sorry, I'm suffering from Compassion Burn-out." Yes! In fact, I think I'll add "I'm late for my Compassion Burn-outs Anonymous meeting."

Coming back to work, a wack pack regular, a middle-aged drunk-cum-retard who likes to watch cartoons (go figure!) comes up to the reference desk and torments our part-timer with a request to print out all 293 episodes of Dragonball Z. As I look up from my computer I notice he's giving me the evil eye.

"I'm sorry, are you being helped sir?" I ask, uncomfortable with being glared at by someone standing mere inches away from my face. (Yes, I know - I'm so uptight!)

"Do I know you?" he asks me.

"I don't think so," I reply.

"I think I know you," he replies, mysteriously.

"Well, maybe so, I'm always here," I say.

He continues to stare at me until my co-worker intervenes to give him his list.

"Oh, so you are being helped," I comment.

"Yes, I lied," he counters. "What can I say, I'm a Baltimorean, ha ha ha ha ha!"

What a jokester!

I eye the clock, counting the minutes until 5 o'clock.

Serendipity! Who walks in but Bitter Bob, the retired art teacher who hates everything and everybody.

Bitter Bob

Unfortunately, I do know BB, and he knows me. BB likes plays, especially Shakespeare and Greek Tragedies. He also is somewhat of a provocateur who likes to use the library as a sounding board for outrageous statements that he hopes will make him seem witty or at the very minimum get a rise out of staff and othr patrons. In other words, he likes to yank our collective chains.

The Play's the Thing

Today Bitter Bob makes a seque from whining about how nobody's written a good play since Shakespeare and Euripedes to offering up his brilliant play idea.

"You know, I have a good idea for a play that would address all the problems affecting Baltimore's blacks," Bob starts.

Oh, no, I think. Where's this gonna lead?

"I wanna write a play about how a return to slavery will eradicate their problems with drugs, crime, and murder...I mean, a third of the men are in jail, another third are addicted, the rest are unemployed, and... (blah blah blah)," he goes on, waiting to see if his provocative rant has managed to make the veins in my forehead start throbbing with the onset of thrombosis. "So, what do you think?"

"I don't think that play would go over too well in Baltimore," I reply, keeping my cool and trying to ignore his call-to-argument. "I don't think it would ever come around to the Hippodrome."

What a coward. I'd like to see him make that comment out in the lobby. He'd be gang-tackled and stomped into meat tenderizer within minutes. Much easier to burden a skinny, bespectacled librarian who has to sit there and be civil in his guise as a "public servant" no matter how outrageous the provocation or ornery the clientele. And to what purpose?

Then I think to myself...hey, I do know at least one Baltimoron who would answer that prejudice question affirmatively.

I momentarily fantasize telling BB, Hey, Bob, I met a guy walking back from lunch who'd like to ask you a question...but think better of it.

Good old Bob, spreading that holiday cheer!

All in a day's work on the freak beat.

Can I go now?

Postscript Update (2:30 p.m.):

Two more incidents (geeze, will this day ever end?)...first the mentally challenged guy who rented Bridget Jones' Diary every week for two months until he moved on in obsessional devotion to Jennifer Hudson came in, asking the same question he asks every time he's in. Which is, "Can I buy your Jennifer Hudson CD?" See, someone told him that you could buy CDs for a buck at our year-end book sale. Every time he comes in we tell him the date of the book sale (which ended over two weeks ago) and that it's only once a year, but he keeps asking. We even show him the calendar and write down the date, but he just keeps repeating the question, hoping for a different answer. Which never comes. Maybe he'll go back to watching Bridget Jones...

Then, walking out of the computer room is an loud angry man (you heard it here first - loud angry people have been spotted at the library!) shouting "A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma! A stigma!"

I can tell A-Stigmatism Man is just dying for someone to ask him what societal stigma he is raving about.

But no one's interested.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yet Another Top 10 Movie List for 2009

My Top 10 Films of 2009

I don't go out to theaters to see new movies as much as I used to - blame it on NetFlix and cable TV's surfeit of movie options, from On Demand to my tried-and-true channel trifecta of Turner Classic Movies, IFC, and Sundance (not to mention Indie, Retro, and Flix!) factor in the fact that I'm a Cineplex-hating film snob who refuses to go anywhere but The Charles, The Senator, or The Landmark - but after seeing all the end-of-year Top 10 Lists on the newsstands and on the Internet, I checked my film log (yes, I'm the type of nerd who keeps a film log!) and this is what I came up with. In no particular order. Many of these films were released in 2008 but didn't make it stateside or play locally until 2009. Honest.

Hey...I notice from my notes that May was a banner month for good movies, with Michael Caine's Is Anybody There?, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata, Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, James Toback's Tyson, and Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil all hitting Baltimore theaters. All but the Caine film made my Best Of list, and that one was only excluded because of space limitations.

Top 10 Movie Movies, 2009:

  1. A Woman In Berlin (Anonyma - Eine Frau in Berlin)

  2. (Max Faberbock, Germany, 2008)

    Anonyma asks, "What's love got to do with it?"

    As Tom Verlaine sang, "I love disaster and I love what comes after." Berlin 1945 sure fits that bill. Russians, rape, death, and destruction. A time of eating, fucking, or killing anything that moves. Based on the suppressed memoir Ein Frau in Berlin by Anonyma, helmed by the director of Aimee & Jaguar, and starring Nina Hoss - the greatest Hoss since Bonanza's Dan Blocker - in the performance of the year.

  3. Revanche

  4. (Gotz Spielmann, Austria, 2008)

    Revanche is more than just a minge binge

    Revenge is a dish best served cold and nothing's colder than the corpse of your beloved - but the protagonist of Revanche eventually loses his appetite in this tale of love, loss, and serendipity. Director/writer Gotz Spielmann's intriguing narrative tells the story of a powerless ex-con (Johannes Krisch) who plans a bank robbery so that he can escape to a new life with his Ukrainian prostitute girfriend Tamara (Irinia Potpenko, pictured above), who toils away in a state of indentured sex-servantitude that reminded me of Lukas Moodyson's bleak Swedish film Lilya 4-Ever. But when Tamara is accidentally shot by a young policeman, Alex's plans go awry and he goes on the lam at his estranged father's farm, where he has an affair with the wife of the very cop who killed his expired ex. As the City Paper's Eric Allen Hatch observes: "With Revanche, director Götz Spielmann joins fellow countrymen Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl as world-class talents taking an unflinching look at the dark shadows of human behavior. Its story of an obsessive quest for revenge handles a dramatic shift in setting as well as any movie since Fatih Akin's Head-On; and, as with Spielmann's also-excellent Antares, the brutal notes are never forced, but struck only when honesty requires them."

  5. Coraline

  6. (Henry Selick, USA, 2009)

    "How can my parents be this hip?"

    I'm not a Neil Gaiman fanatic (he's far too hip for me), but I must admit that this adaptation of his book by director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) is brilliant and fun - and should serve as a cautionary tale to kids everywhere that if your parents start to seem too cool, they've probably been taken over by aliens or a witch's spell. I only wish I had seen Coraline in 3-D. Of course, Amy loved it because omnivore Coraline's appetite for the pleasures of the palate almost matched hers!

  7. The Damned United

  8. (Tom Hooper, UK, 2009)

    Great film about legendary British soccer manager Brian Clough's disastrous 44-day reign-of-error at Leeds United, penned by hottest-Brit-screenwriter-of-the-moment Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and starring hot-Brit-actor-of-the-moment Michael Sheen (he played Tony Blair in The Queen and David Frost in Frost/Nixon). I already blathered gleefully about it in a previous post, so I'll spare ya the rehash here.

  9. Star Trek

  10. (J. J. Abrams, USA, 2009)

    Spock gets all emo over Uhura's Vulcan Love Grip

    Loved this Portrait of the Star Fleet Captain As a Young Asshole, a Star Trek so entertaining that you could bring your girlfiend to it and she would find it fun and not nerdy! And because it was mainstream-friendly, you didn't have to be a Trekkie geek to follow it. Oh, and Simon Pegg (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz)'s turn as Scotty was truly inspired. And who woulda thunk it: Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (the smokin' hot Zoe Saldana - look for her next in Avatar) gettin' busy?

  11. Drag Me To Hell

  12. (Sam Raimi, USA, 2009)

    Never gyp a gypsy!

    What a ball this film was! I felt like a kid on a rollercoaster ride after ingesting a whole box of Pixie, fun, fun, and a return to comedy-horror form (circa Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness) by Sam Raimi. It starred a note-perfect Alison Lohman and The Mac Guy, Justin Long, doing his usual sensible geek guy thing. And it was instructional as well. I learned that you never, ever turn down a loan request from an old gypsy lady (The Young and the Restless' Lorna Raver) cuz she'll give you the evil eye and put a curse on your family. I think of this every time I see the old gyspy grannie pandhandling at the York Road Giant (I now always carry at least a buck in change in my car!). I just wish there was more screen time for Gypsy Grannie Ganush's niece, the overtly sexy Serbian actress Bojana Novakovic (star of Aussie TV's brothel series Satisfaction, pictured below).

    Bojana Novakovic

    The only quibble I had at all was Lohman's remorse-free kill-my-cat-to-save-my-ass scene in which the heroine tries to counter the gypsy voodoo spell. Kitty lovers beware!

  13. The Class (Entre les murs)
    (Laurent Cantet, France, 2009)

    This class is NOT saved by the bell

    Author and former high school teacher Francois Begaudeau basically stars as himself -a Paris school teacher in a culturally diverse inner city public school - in a film he co-wrote along with director Laurent Cantet (Heading South, Time Out, Human Resources) and Robin Campillo. Not only is Begaudeau a screenwriter, he's also a football columnist (you can tell because there are a number of soccer references in the film, which I loved!) and former punk singer. Anyway, the French title means "between the walls" and reflects the film's point that students and teachers lives extend well beyond the classroom and the school's walls and into the communities, homes, and cultures they come from as well. I like that it offered no easy solutions to anybody's troubles and admitted that some problems are beyond the scope of the teacher - and that teachers are human and make mistakes too (i.e., never call a student a skank - it's a bad career move!). Forget To Sir With Love; this is the real deal - literally, as it features real kids playing themselves. No wonder so many Baltimore city school teachers have come into the library asking for this documentary; no wonder it was the first French film since 1987 to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes (and by a unanimous vote, to boot).

  14. In the Loop

  15. (Armando Iannucci, UK, 2009)

    Tease me, squeeze me: Capaldi and Gandolfini
    yank each other's chains

    "A cynical, razor-sharp, truly laugh-out-loud farce about the symbiotic relationship between ineffectual, flip-flopping bureaucrats and the sneaky, petty spin doctors who need them" (GreenCine), In the Loop expands on director (and co-writer) Armando Iannucci's BBC TV comedy series The Thick of It. Basically, Iannucci takes the piss out of America's hubris-heavy rush to war in Iraq with this tale of an insignificant bureaucrat's off-hand remark that gets blown out of proportion and leads to an inevitable full metal jack-off. I only wish I had seen it with subtitles because the ball-busting blue dialogue comes fast and furious (especially when Scotsman Peter Capaldi is slinging the snaps) and I think I missed some good disses.

    Fave line: James Gandolfini as Lt. Gen. George Miller to Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker, "Look, Tucker, you might be some scary little poodlefucker over in England, but out here you're nothing. You know what you look like? A squeezed dick. You got a big blue vein running up your head all the way to the temple. See, that's where I'd put the bullet. Only I'd have to stand back 'cause you look like a squirter."

  16. Tokyo Sonata

  17. (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 2008)

    All in the Family, Tokyo-style

    Departures may have won the Academy Award as Best Foreign Film, but color me underwhelmed; far from being the year's best foreign film, it wasn't even the best Japanese film that year - that honor goes to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's timely tale of economic hard times and family implosion, Tokyo Sonata. Imdb plot: "Tokyo Sonata is the story of the Sasakis, a middle class family in Tokyo, Japan. The father, Ryuhei, loses his administrative job at a sports medicine company after it gets shipped off to the cheap labor paradise of China. Embarrassed, Ryuhei returns home without a word to his wife, Megumi, about getting fired. Ryuhei stands in line for hours in the coming days at "Hello Work!" - a social welfare program meant to help the unemployed find jobs. Ryuhei is offered work as a convenience store clerk, but he indignantly declines to take the position. Meanwhile, the Sasaki children, Kenji and Takashi, find themselves swept into the troubling zeitgeist of the late 2000s as well. Takashi, who has just graduated college, decides to join the U.S. Army and is deployed to the Middle East. Kenji, an elementary school student, starts embezzling his lunch money to pay for piano lessons."

    Roger Ebert summed it up best: "A sonata is a classical form in which two musical ideas are intercut. In the beginning, they are introduced. In the following sections, they are developed in passages revealing the secrets or potentials of both. The conclusion does not resolve them; instead, we return to look at them, knowing what we know now. The "themes" in this movie are the father and his family. At the end, they feel the same tensions as at the beginning, but the facade has been destroyed, and they will have to proceed unprotected."

  18. (500) Days of Summer

  19. (Marc Webb, USA, 2009)

    Suave-as-fuck Joe Gordon-Levitt and a doe-y Zooey

    Starring the he from Brick and the she from She & Him. A winning pairing in a genre (Hipster Romantic Comedy), I usually don't like, but one that ends realistically and not like all those Sandra Bullock and Lifetime movies. I liked that the 500 days refers not just to the couple's time together, but to how long it took them to get over each other. And (spoiler alert!) I like that a heart-broken Joseph Gordon-Levitt trades up from the cute-but-high-maintenance Zooey Deschanel to a hotsie Latina (schwiiing!). Reminded me of every crush and failed relationship I've had (except the part about trading up for a hotsie Latina), especially the all-important Getting Over It (And Moving On) Phase. And reminded me of how good Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel work together, having previously been paired in 2001's Manic. Bitchin' soundtrack, too, heavy on The Smiths ("There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want," and a She and Him cover of "Please, Please, Please...") and the usual indie hipster suspects (two Regina Spektor tunes, Doves, Feist), plus a pleasant surprise of a chanson by France's First Lady, Carla Bruni.

    Oh, and I gotta mention one more because, even though I didn't see it in the theaters (I saw a bootleg DVD of it!), it impressed me to no end...

  20. Precious

  21. (Lee Daniels, USA, 2009)

    Mo'Nique: Mommie Dearest of the 'Hood

    I didn't think watching a fat girl from the 'hood with a Down's Syndrome child and an abusive mother would keep me enthralled for two hours. I was wrong. Though I refuse to refer to it by its official drafted-by-the-lawyers-with-an-eye-to-fine-print full name of Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. Baltimore-native Mo'Nique is riveting as the abusive mother ("Don't you serve me no motherfucking pig's feet without greens!") and as Claireece "Precious" Jones, Bed-Stuy homegirl Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe fills the frame with more than just her girth - the young lady radiates true screen presence. And I can't believe I didn't notice Lenny Kravitz as the male nurse!

Top Documentary Movies, 2009:

I only saw three; blame it on being inundated with the titles I catch on Sundance Channel's Monday "Doc Bloc." And yes, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story didn't make the cut because, while I'm a fan of his work, he's starting to repeat himself with the same tired tropes, grandstanding, and gimmicks; far from telling us something new, this is just a lazy rehash of his old tricks that gets old quick - I was looking at my watch long before the end of its unnecessarily bloated 127-minute running time.

  1. Anvil! The Story of Anvil

  2. (Sasha Gervasi, USA, 2008)

    History is written by the winners, but the losers are almost always more interesting. Such is the case with Anvil, a Canadian metal band I had never heard of, though my friend Dave Wright not only had all the albums, he actually met the boys before this doc breathed new life into their not-so-legendary legend (see photo below).

    Lips and Dave Wright, then (1984)

    Lips and Dave Wright, now (2009)

    Anyone who's ever dreamed of rock and roll glory but had to resign themselves to the inglorious realities of having to put food on the table by taking the most mundane of day jobs because playing at skate rinks or to 30 people on a Wednesday night at some Podunk tavern doesn't pay the rent owes it to themselves to see this movie. Check out Anvil's official site:

  3. Tyson

  4. (James Toback, USA, 2008)

    James Toback's doc about fellow New York tough guy Mike Tyson is fascinating - Tyson trusted Toback (the two had worked before on Toback's 1991 film Black and White) and it shows in the incredible access and intimacy the director got in his attempt to understand one of the most inscrutable athletes of all time. (Toback has always identified with high-profile/misunderstood black athletes, going back to his association with Jim Brown, with whom he collaborated on Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir of the Great Jim Brown). Hardly played a week here at The Charles, and to sparse crowds at that (though I did spot Eric Allen Hatch there!), but well-worth checking out. The analysis of the relationship between Tyson and his trainer-mentor Cus D'Amato is especially valuable; Tyson was never the same after his surrogate father figure died. (Some might say the same thing about Tiger Woods after the passing of his dad.)

  5. Food, Inc.

  6. (Robert Kenner, USA, 2008)

    Yummy! Assembly-line style industrial food looks so appetizing!

    If nothing else, seeing Food, Inc. justified my love of Stonyfield yogurt (they're one of the good "organic" vendors profiled in this film, though they get bought-out by the food-trend marketers at Wal-Mart!). It could also justify turning vegetarian in an instant, especially the scenes of obese corn-fed chickens standing up to their bulging chicken necks in chickenshit (Eat Mor Chikin?) or cows ("Pleez eat Mor Chikin!") being gouged, prodded, and pulverized by forklifts until they meet their maker in slaughter pens. The depictions of abused livestock and fowl in this film are disturbing, to be sure, though right after seeing it my girlfriend got a sudden craving for a pulled pork sandwich (obviously forgetting the scenes of the little bacon-enablers not-so -merrily waddling around in the mud, slop, and their own feces). Inspired by their books, the film features the Dynamic Foodwatch Duo of Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and foodie guru Michael Pollan, whose collective insights provide the film with its gravitas and narrative framework. Perhaps the most important doc of the year in terms of impact on our daily lives and educational value.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When Animals Ruled the Malls

Baltimore's Wild Retail Kingdom

After hearing Mink Stole sing holiday songs at the Creative Alliance last night (Mink Stole's Christmas: Unwrapped & Unplugged), Amy got all nostalgic for Christmases past in Dundalk and recalled that one of her most cherished holiday memories was going to see the penguins at Eastpoint Mall in the '60s. (The Eastpoint Shopping Center opened in 1956 was wasn't enclosed as a "mall proper" until 1972.) The discussion continued afterwards over drinks at Henninger's Tavern, where Essex-native Scott Huffines - who's inherited his journalist mom Jackie Nickel's obssession with East Baltimore history - recalled the same thing. In fact, he thinks it was mentioned in his mother's book, Essex.


1. Penguins in the window of Hochschild Kohn
Eastpoint Shopping Mall

Scott says, "I can't find a picture yet but it was a fake arctic pool with a fake penguin on top of an iceberg wearing a top hat and then live penguins in the pool." Scott also sent me a link to Gary Helton's book Dundalk (Arcadia Publishing, Images of America series 2005), in which the author writes:
"...the most unique things about Eastpoint's early days had nothing to do with shopping. Long before the National Aquarium at Baltimore was ever conceived, Hochschild's featured a corner window display of penguins swimming about in a tank of presumably cold water. Equally entertaining was "Monkeytown," a window full of the little primates at Hess shoes."

On the Baltimore Examiner's web site, reader Jan Lynch adds
"Oh, yes there were penguins at Eastpoint. And not just at Christmas, but year round. They has air conditioners keeping them cool in the warm weather. There were 2 glass walls exposed to the outside (couldn't do that today - people would break the glass!). There was water in a sort of cement pool in the room, and the other 2 walls had a painted Artic background. There was always humidity running down the glass. Poor penguins. This was probably animal cruelty, but what did we know back then?"

Interesting, but even Scott hadn't heard before of the barrelful of monkeys that distracted youngsters getting haircuts at Hess Monkeytown (or "Monkey Town") - though most sources agree it was at the Edmondson Village Shopping Center...

...and not - as referenced in Gary Helton's Dundalk book and Eastpoint Mall's Facebook page - at Eastpoint Mall. (What's the story? Was it at both locations?)


2. Hess Monkey Town
Edmondson Village Shopping Center

HESS MONKEY TOWN print by Charlene Clark

Anybody remember this place? Above is the only picture I've found referencing Monkey Town. It's by local artist Charlene Clark, who is a visual archivist of Baltimore's "gone but not forgotten" oddball lore (Enchanted Forest, Gino's, Little Tavern, Cloverland Farms Milk, etc.).

In his Streetpolo blog, W.O.F. recalls that Hess Monkey Town was the barber shop next to the Hess Shoes store in the Edmondson Village shopping center, one that had real caged monkeys monkeying around in the store:
"...I recall hittin' Monkey Town for the occasional haircut as a young kid. There was a special carpeted ramp from which to view the monkey-shines. The monkeys held one's attention away from the fact that you were getting a hair-ectomy (and as a very young kid, I hated haircuts). Pretty entertaining, all right, and next to a Hess Shoes store. There was a Hochschild Kohn department store a few doors down, and a big ol' Hecht Company across the street, next to a cafeteria we used to hit on the occasional Sunday after church.

It's all gone now as the City and its blight spread out to the west along U.S. Route 40. The department store chains have fallen one by one, leaving, basically, Macy's. Maybe there is a renaissance going on in that area; I hope so, as Edmondson Village was pretty quaint. But I think the era of the monkey-festooned barbershop is pretty much over."

Ah yes, the glory days are over. According to Baltimore Style's online "Department Store Timeline," Edmondson Village - developed by Jacob and Joseph Meyerhoff and opened in 1947 - was one of the first regional suburban shopping centers built on the East Coast, and was home to Baltimore's first suburban department store, Hochschild Kohn.
"Built in the Williamsburg style and including a "parking plaza” for 800 automobiles, the center is called “unique in American city planning” by the Evening Sun. Besides the first Hochscild’s branch, the center includes Whelan’s Drugs, Hess Shoes, Food Fair, the Dugout Restaurant, the Princess Shop, a bowling alley, movie theater and a community meeting room."

In his "You're from Bawlmer if..." column, the Baltimore Sun's Dan Rodericks adds that, in addition to the monkeys, the Edmondson Village Hess Shoes also had large "rocking" horses to ride and an X-ray machine to see your toes in your shoes.

Even the Hess Shoes by me had the same Disneyland mentality - I recall slides and rocking horse ponies to distract kids at the Belvedere Square location, as well as a barbershop (but no monkeys!). Alas, my old Hess Shoes store is now home to the rather pricey Crush restaurant.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

48 Hour Film Project @ the BMA

A Cinematic Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe

Amy and I went to this at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Friday, December 4, and while I am usually wary of these quick film projects, I gotta admit it was great (the rest of Baltimore thought so, too, because there was nary an empty seat to be found). Of the 11 short films inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and the BMA’s current exhibition, "Edgar Allan Poe: A Baltimore Icon," only two were flat-out stinkers - though two films did manage to egregiously misspell Poe's name (it's Allan folks, not Allen; filmmakers, please use spellcheck before rendering your films!). In fact, the quality of the films was so professional that I was relieved to hear afterwards in the Q&A that these films took longer than the usual 48 Hour Film Projects; even with today's digital technology (all were shot with digital video cameras and edited on Macs/PCs) that would be too far a leap in turnaround time for the kind of slick production values in terms of sound, cinematography and set design on display here. The event was a collaboration between 48 Hour Film Project curator/producer Rob Hatch and BMA Director of Public Programming Preston Bautista - the latter of whom, in addition to hosting imaginative events like this, is a pretty good tennis player who can hit winners off his two-handed backhand (I always seem to find myself playing next to him on Baltimore's public tennis courts!).

Anyway, following are some quick observations about the films screened...quick, because I'm tired of blogging and need to get on with living my so-called life.

by Nick Prevas
Official site:

Nick Prevas drinks to the gal who got away - down the rabbit hole

First up was this impressively professional short directed by and starring Nick Prevas that looked like something that would air on the Sundance Channel's "In Short" series, yet amazingly was filmed in the course of just four days. Taking its inspiration from both "Alice In Wonderland" and Poe's "The Raven," it featured the most imaginative script, beautiful sets, stylish camerawork, a perfect soundtrack and a wonderful sense of humor. Fantastic. (You can watch more Nick Prevas videos on Vimeo.)

by Jim Lucio
Official blog:

If you are lucky enough to own a gorilla costume (no home should be without one!), you just have to tackle Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue." At least, that's what filmmaker (as well as photographer, graphic designer, event promoter, and producer) Jim Lucio thinks. On his Mondo Defeckto web site, Lucio says "I had never really read much Poe, but after reading a good dozen stories, I made the quick decision that I had to do my version of Murders in the Rue Morgue...mostly because there is a killer ape in the story and I happen to have a gorilla suit. My version is as loose as a zoot suit and we took the concept of guerilla filmmaking to the extreme. I've decided to call the short Ape."

Lucio's killer ape is called Wigfoot and seeing him romp around Mt. Vernon landmarks was as much fun to watch as I'm sure it was to film and participate in. There is no narration, just spinning tabloid headlines to advance the narrative, all set against a rousingly raucous Las Vegas Grind garage soundtrack.

The camera work was handled by local videographer Bardot (aka Billy McConnell - but not to be confused with Keith Richards, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Al Pacino, or The Fonz), which makes sense because this is his sort of thing - clever, hip, and funny. Oh, and my friend Renee Reabe makes a cameo as Wigfoot's first victim; gotta admit, she looks great dead!

by Ben Winter

Ben Winter may be an electrical engineer undergrad at University of Maryland, College Park, but I think he should switch his major to film because this was great. Every aspect of this adaptation the Poe tale "Ligeia" was professional, from the casting to the sound, lighting and camera angles (I loved the looking up from a coffin's POV shot!). Plus, the titular Lady Rowena was played by Rachel Cora Wood, who is a total babe - even as ash-white food for worms. Look for her in the upcoming TV series Past Life, the pilot of which was shot down at the Enoch Pratt Central Library earlier this year under the working title "Reincarnationist."

by Chris LaMartina

The funniest film of the night and my personal favorite. What a delightful discovery: I subsequently learned that Chris LaMartina makes live-action horror films and has garnered a bunch of awards, including "Best Local Filmmaker" (Baltimore City Paper, 2006) and "Best B-Movie" (2009 Shockfest International Film Festival). This adaptation of "The Black Cat" was made using what LaMartino describes self-deprecatingly as his "crude animation," but it was really no cruder than that seen on South Park. And bonus points for turning his narrative into a rhyming poem!

Watch "The Immature Burial" on YouTube!

by Merge Films

I honest to God can't remember a thing about this title. Wait, was this the one where the wife hears something go bump in the night and sends her husband downstairs to investigate? And it turns into a lesbian-tinged love triangle double-cross con job with a nod toward Bound? If so, very good and well-shot. And downright scary before the clever denouement!

by Ricky Johnson

I think Ricky Johnson is the same Towson University film grad who did the "Prince of Poop" short about Chris Jensen (CEO of Jensen "Your Poop Is My Bread & Butter" Plumbing Company and former "Baltimore Turd Tsar" under the O'Malley adminstration). This trailer, clocking in at a minute and a half, was short and sweet and - more importantly - funny!

Watch "The Hidden Gibbon" on YouTube:

by Franciska Farkas, Diana Gross, Amy Genevieve Kozak

Wow! Technically the most jaw-dropping production of the night and a crowd favorite. If it was a picture instead of a film, it would hang in the Louvre. Franciska Farkas (Work In Progress Productions) is a motion graphics specialist for Johns Hopkins Medicine - and that background certainly shows in this slick adaptation of Poe's short story "The Oval Portrait" in which a picture seems to come alive only to reveal that its subject has actually died. Poe's influencial tale inspired elements of Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Birth-Mark," and is even cited in Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre Sa Vie. Farkas' collaborators include include documentarian/digital media teacher Diana Gross and Amy Genevieve Kozak, who is engaged in a campaign to "promote greater understanding, empathy, and love in the world" (a rather tall order by anyone's standards - good luck with that!).

by Many Americans Productions LLC

You can tell this was conceived and shot by actors because it's all headshot close-ups and self-indulgent yapping, as if the thesps thought the audience would be captivated by their acting chops. As some pompous arse swills cognac and chomps on a cigar (I guess he was trying to convey the suaveness of Arsene Dupin) in a claustrophobic headshot, the camera cuts to a doe-eyed blond's claustrophobic reaction headshot, and back and forth until I found myself dying for a medium or long shot just to relieve the video-vertigo. The sound levels and light exposure were inconsistent and the whole production had the feel of amateur home movies. Let actors write food orders at the restaurants where they work during the day and leave the directing to directors.

by Bryan "Grasshoper" Robinson
I still don't see the Poe connection, but it was interesting and the filmmaker was funny in the Q&A afterwards. I usually hate Q&As because most of the time it's just spotlight time for film geek wannabes in the audience to show off and talk about themselves, but when one "I'm a filmmaker myself" nerd asked techie questions about what kind of camera each filmmaker used, Grasshopper replied, "A video camera." Ha! Short and to the point.

by Stephanie Barber

Excruciatingly lame, but blissfully short.

The film opens with close-up of an ear. Then we hear the sound of a human heartbeat. Then there's a long, long, long shot of wooden floorboards. The shot is held until you can sense the audience's communal response of "Is that it?" Slow fade to credits. We get it, and we are underwhelmed. I later read somewhere that the filmmaker "redistributed" found footage from some 1941 black-and-white German short by blah-blah-blah - which I don't understand because it's not that hard to film a close-up of an ear of wood floorboards (so why bother?). But then, I'm not an experimental filmmaker, so what do I know? If it didn't need to be explained to mere mortals, it wouldn't be experimental, I guess.

by Rahne Alexander
Official site:

This is what experimental filmmaking's all about. Mondo montage mania that's ab-so-f**king-lutely awesome! Renaissance Woman Rahne (music-film-literature, etc.) takes found nautical footage from silents, Hollywood features, and Gilligan's Island to reference Poe's "MS. Found In a Bottle" and then dissects, distorts, and manipulates it to death, all set against an insane barrage of spoken/musical sound that replicates what it must be like to be schizophrenic. Loved it. Just about everything Rahne is involved in is interesting and worth checking out.

by Aaron Shirley and Thomas Fant

OK, technically this may have been the most professional production with its overlapping "fine arts" triptych of ballerina, classical orchestration, and an austere/gray-haired/bespectacled orator reading Poe's poem - but it also went on way too long, resulting in it being kinda boring. I felt like I was watching one of those "Live from the Lincoln Center" specials they run during fundraising drives on MPT. The technical pedigree-in-the-C.V. is certainly there - Aaron Shipley has a BFA in Art and Design and Thomas Fant is an AV techie for Baltimore City...but ultimately the execution is a little dry: a good idea stretched perhaps 5 minutes too long..

Watch the "Annabel Lee" trailer on YouTube:

by Karen Yasinsky

They didn't show this, which disappointed me because 2007 and 2009 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize finalist Karen Yasinsky's films rock and she's a sweetie to boot!

Related Links:
48 HOUR FILM PROJECT: A Cinematic Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe (BMA article)
48 Hour Film Project

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Party Party

Elvis Costello & The Attractions
(A&M Records, 1982)

At Jon Jolles' Hampden Christmas Parade party last Sunday, I noticed a bunch of Elvis Costello CDs and asked if he was as big a Costello completist as my girlfriend Amy, who is obsessed with owning everything Declan McManus writes, sings, scores, or acts in. Jon said he is, though he lacked one song from his collection, the 1982 single "Party Party." That is, he lacked it in digital format, though he had the original 45. Apparently the song appeared on the soundtrack of a British movie called Party Party, whose accompanying soundtrack was on a label Elvis was not affiliated with.

OK, here's the backstory, Elvis completists!

Elvis Costello released his 26th single, "Party Party" b/w "Imperial Bedroom," on A&M Records in November 1982; the single reached the #48 on the U.K. singles chart (it was also released in the US and the Netherlands). Neither track appeared on an Elvis Costello & The Attractions album (though Elvis and the boys had released an album called Imperial Bedroom). The B-side was later added as a bonus track to the "deluxe" CD release of Imperial Bedroom, but the A-side remains available only on A&M's 1982 Party Party: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album, which is now available as an import CD (expect to pay $20-30 for it).

Party Party Soundtrack LP

(Now Amy swears she has this song somewhere in her cornucopia of Elvis memorabilia, but still hasn't located it, so the jury's still out pending her search. I suspect she either has the vinyl single or is thinking of "Party Girl" on the 1989 compilation record Girls Girls Girls.)

I had never heard of the movie Party Party, but looking it up on the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDb) I learned that it's a teen-oriented piece of cineplex fluff whose "plot" is described as "a bunch of kids go nuts and have a party when their parents leave." In other words, the title explains everything you need to know about it! Looking at the cast, I was surprised to see the name of one of my favorite Brit actresses, Kim Thomson, the strawberry-blonde gamine beauty who starred in one of my favorite films, Clive Donner's Stealing Heaven (1988), before carving out a successful career as a British soap opera star.

Stealing My Heart: Kim Thomson

Based on the book by Marion Meade, Stealing Heaven told the real-life story of one of history's most famous romances, that of 12th-century French philosopher Pierre Abelard and his beloved Heloise (Thomson), who fought their uncontrollable urges by exchanging love letters after they shut themselves off from the world in a monastery and convent, respectively. God, I jones-ed for Kim Thomson's bod back in the day (needless to say there were some explicit sex scenes in the movie before the lovers left the secular world behind!). So Party Party is now on my list of Obscure Films (and/or Guilty Pleasures) to seek out!

OK, but back to the song "Party Party"...If anybody knows anywhere else to find the song that at least one Internet reviewer has called "simply dreadful...about as close to rubbish as Elvis Costello has ever got," please let me know!

Below are the lyrics. I'm fascinated by its reference to the UK's sweet-and-fruity red soft drink Tizer (aka "Tizer the appetizer"). Besides "Party Party," Tizer gets name-checked in Brian Eno's "Back in Judy's Jungle" (1974) and in Morrissey's "King Leer" (1991). In addition, Baccardi and Tizer are mentioned as the vomit-inducing ingredients in British comedian Billy Connelly's "Casual Vomit" sketch on The Best Comedy Album Ever. And Advocaat is a reference to a "Dutch Eggnog" drink - not Dutch football manager Dick Advocaat, who led Zenit St. Petersburg to victory in the 2008 UEFA Cup and who currently coaches clubside AZ Alkmaar, as well as the Belgian national team. (Hmmm, I wonder whether A&M released "Party Party" in the Netherlands because of the Advocaat reference?)

"Party Party" Lyrics:
We're gonna drink enough tonight to drown the average army
By New Year's Day the next door neighbour will be goin' barmy
The milkman arrives at midday with his usual wisecrack
Who knows a girl with Wednesday legs so when's they gonna snap?

Why does everybody have to be so hale and hearty
Can't they see we're tryin' to have a party party party party

The last thing I remember I was talkin' to some fellas
Then she said she'd have a word for me with her good-looking mate
And handed me a pint-pot filled with Advocaat and Tizer
And I woke up in the flower bed fearing fertilizer


So shift yourself and shake your bod
You got bullet proof insurance from fire, flood and Act of God
You got to learn from your mistakes
When you got a face like last week's Cornflakes

The doors and the window frames are by Pablo Picasso
The party decorations owned by Michelangelo
The fine music that you hear is by Stravinsky
with overall design by Leonardo daVinci


So shift yourself and shake your bod
You got bullet proof insurance from fire, flood and Act of God
You got to learn from your mistakes
When you got a face like last week's Cornflakes

Two boys are upstairs in your bed
Three girls are downstairs cryin'
The Alka Seltzer in the glass is roarin' like a lion
You think you've aged 10 years tonight and still never been kissed
So you overdose on aftershave and try to slash your wrist
Related Links:
The Kim Thomson Site

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Why Construction Workers Are Never Mistaken for the Literati

On the way back from lunch I overheard the following conversation at a construction site:

"...and then I told the dude, sure..."

[Pause for dramatic effect]

"...WITH MY DICK!!!"

Howls of laughter greeted this punchline, to which the speaker added a Michael Jackson crotch-grab for added emphasis. I think it's safe to assume this joke never made the rounds at the Algonquin Round Table.

Pain Strikes Underdog

Suzanne Muldowney's Cat Scratch Fever

Suzanne Muldowney - who in her guise as "Underdog" (among other characters) has been a fixture of Baltimore's annual "Mayor's Christmas Parade" (not to mention the subject of the feature-length documentary My Life As an Underdog and - to her great dismay - a frequent "person of interest" as Underdog Lady on Howard Stern's TV and radio show, as well as public access' Atomic TV) - is in pretty poor shape these days. To make a long story short, Suzanne got a new cat in July 2009 that bit her, leading to a severe septic infection and eventual hospitalization. Additional complications caused her to go to the ER, where she had a major operation that threatened to keep her out of this past weekend's Mayor's Christmas Parade in Baltimore's happenin' Hampden 'hood.

But there's no need to fear, Underdog was here!

"I couldn't miss Underdog's 45th Anniversary!"

People who know Suzanne know that there was no way she would miss out on donning her custom-made cape and leotards in celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the '60s cartoon superhero Underdog, whose show debuted on NBC in October 1964 and ran until September 1973. In fact, she literally left her hospital bed to make the trek to Baltimore, where her good friend Violet Glaze picked her up at the train station and made sure she made it to the parade grounds. Though she was too weak to march the route this year, parade officials provided her with a convertible motorcar so that, like fellow celeb Mayor Sheila Dixon, she could wave to the crowds that have come to expect her annual appearance at the festivities. (She actually got more cheers than our sitting mayor!) It was Suzanne's 21st consecutive appearance at the Hampden parade, and her 19th in the guise of Underdog.

Below are two videos I shot of Suzanne on my crappy Flip camera:

Underdog Motors Through Hampden Parade:

Suzanne Overcomes Illness To March in Parade:

Underdog on the Harsh Realities of Healthcare

Underdog cartoon is rife with medical inaccuracies

Prior to her December 6 appearance in Baltimore, Suzanne was subjected to many procedures during her extended hospital stay. She talked about it on her YouTube "Real Underdog Channel" and compared her hospital experiences with the "grossly inaccurate and incorrect" experiences of her favorite cartoon superhero in the four-part 1965 TV episode "Pain Strikes Underdog":

Suzanne Muldowney on "Pain Strikes Underdog":

Following is an excerpt from the original "Pain Strikes Underdog" cartoon episode:

"Pain Strikes Underdog - Pt 2"

Related links:
Real Underdog Channel (YouTube)
"Pain Strikes Underdog, Part 1" (YouTube)
"Pain Strikes Underdog, Part 2" (YouTube)
"Pain Strikes Underdog, Part 3" (YouTube)
"Pain Strikes Underdog, Part 4" (YouTube)

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Central Booking

The 2009 Pratt Book Sale

Literary Hunters & Gatherers at Pratt Central

(Baltimore, December 4, 2009) - The Enoch Pratt Library Book Sale, that annual "Black Friday for Book Lovers," started at 10 a.m. this morning when the doors of the Central Library opened to usher in the teeming masses of greedy book sellers and sharp-elbowed, thrift-conscious consumers in full booklust mode - by Sunday (when you could fill a box with anything for a measly buck!) it was a feeding frenzy madhouse, like a pack of rabid dogs all making a dash for the same piece of raw meat.

Since I not only work at Pratt, but also live in close proximity to the delightfully discounted Daedalus Books & Music store at Belvedere Square, I tried to behave and limit my selections - I have so many books now that adding to them seems like bringing sand to the beach - unlike my "quirky" (i.e., mentally unbalanced) co-worker Ross, who almost suffered a hernia toting away his haul of over 80 books. Still, I couldn't resist the following Thrift Scores for home, family and friends alike.

My Thrift Scores: First Strike

On Friday I scored these titles:

The Peters World Atlas: The Earth in Its True Proportion
by Arno Peters (Hammond, 2002)

Condition: New hardback
List price: $16.53
Book sale price: 50 cents

I love maps and atlases, so spying Arno Peters' ground-breaking atlas, new and unused, made my day! "This book changes the world," said The Daily Mail, adding, "The Peters Atlas is the greatest single advance in map-making in 400 years." According to the publisher, "This atlas corrects our misconceptions of the geography of the planet," giving less attention to the developed Euro-centric "First World" and more to the auxillary players. Based on the revolutionary Peters Projection, each double-page spread shows one sixtieth of the Earth's surface presenting an astronaut's eye view. The use of colour and relief intensifies the green jungles, the brown deserts and the brown mountains and the 246 thematic maps cover subjects such as: global rainfall, birth control, marriage, weather, the status of women, employment, military strength, and languages of the world. Of the latter, I was shocked to see that Hindi is spoken not just in India - but also South of the Border in Guyana, South America! I hope the GPS I asked Santa for Christmas references the Peters Atlas.

MW by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical, 2007)

Condition: New hardback, 582 pages
List price: $24.95
Book sale price: 50 cents

Last year I scored Osamu Tezuka's Ode To Kirihito (Vertical, 2006) at the book sale. This year I stumbled upon this 2007 collection by Japan's "Father of Manga" that tells the story of Japanese priest Father Garai and his connection to criminal mastermind Michio Yuki and a mysterious chemical weapon developed by American Occupying Forces in post-war Japan. It's supposed to be notable as being Tezuka's response to Japan's gekiga artists, who were producing gritty, adult-oriented comics in the late '60s and early '70s. Supposedly MW does this by unapologetically depicting explicit homosexual relationships - a rarity in Japanese manga.

Balls, Boots and Haircuts
by Hunter Davies (Cassell, 2003)

Condition: New Paperback, UK import
List price: Out-of-print (used copies about $20 USD)

This bores the f**k out of my friends, but delights me to no end. From the author of what many consider the best authorized Beatles biography comes this history of football - everything from the ball itself to football haircuts, football crowds, football players, football merchandising, football souvenirs, football reporting, football books, football abroad, football and art, foreign footballers, black footballers, women in football. OK, enough now...I'm sure you get the point!

Carnal Knowledge: Baxter's Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex
by John Baxter (Harper Collins, 2009)

Condition: New paperback, 382 pages
List price: $15.99
Book sale price: 25 cents

Amazon Product description: "Averitable smorgasbord of sin, John Baxter's Carnal Knowledge is a delightfully unabashed education in sex and erotic culture. Would you ever consent to a knee-trembler at a love hotel? Would you enjoy a hot lunch while watching kinbaku? Would you consider wearing a French tickler, a merkin, a strap-on, or pasties . . . or would you rather just go commando at the Mine Shaft? From Deep Throat to Debbie Does Dallas, from the mile-high club to the Emperor's Club, John Baxter explains it all to you in this decadently definitive work on the many ins and outs of s-e-x, guaranteed to tantalize, edify, and titillate whether you're a novice or an expert in the arts of eros."

All fine and dandy, but this UK import was worth it alone for the excellent array of rare and picture-worth-a-1,000-words photo stills (like one of Ron Jeremy when the hirsute "Hedgehog" wasn't fat or the giant breast from Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex) that made me think of Amos Vogel's Film As a Subversive Art because, like Vogel's definitive guide to outre cinema, the wonderfully iconic pix make you want to see or read more about what the author is talking about.

I particularly enjoyed the entry about Mary Millington, the Brit porn actress (Come Play With Me) who took her life in 1979 and inspired the Disco Zombies' titular single "Mary Millington" that same year. Though well known across the pond, she remains a "Marie Provost" lost soul stateside. Oh, and the entry for Milton Berle! Locker room legend has it that Uncle Miltie had a penis (and casting couch) of enormous proportions, matched only by his indefatigable sexual appetite (he bedded everyone from Theda Bara to Marilyn Monroe). Mr. Television's "longevity" was later referenced in DC filmmaker Jeff Krulik's The Legend of Forest Tucker short, in which associates recalled how the two "big" stars once went, um, toe-to-toe, to see how they measured up with one another. Legend has it that Milty only unfurled enough pipe cleaner to win.

I only spotted one error - Paul Thomas (real name: Philip Toubus) is erroneously identified as John Holmes in one photo. I know my '70s porn stars well, especially Mr. Thomas who - besides performing in hundreds of adult films and winning countless AVN awards as a director - crossed over into mainstream cinema when he portrayed Peter (how apt!) in Norman Jewison's Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). The porn star who denied Christ is also one of director Atom Egoyan's favorite actors, inspiring Egoyan's "Dr. Gonad" homage in Granta magazine.

The Return of a Mad Look at Old Movies (Signet, 1970)

Condition: Used paperback
List price: Out-of-print (used copies are $1-10 dollars)
Book sale price: 25 cents

How can anyone resist a Mad paperback illustrated by Comic Book Hall of Famer Jack Davis and penned by Dick de Bartolo? Whoever you are, you're made of stronger stuff than me!

Box Lunch: See What a Little Brown Can Do For You

On Sunday I went back down to Central and filled a box with the following items for a buck, cash on the barrelhead!

Jerry Lewis In Person
by Jerry Lewis with Herb Gluck (Pinnacle, 1985)

Condition: New hardback, signed by Jerry Lewis (!)
List Price: Out-of-print (new copies go for over $80 plus shipping)

E-frigging-essential. Jerry Lewis continues to fascinate me, whether it's re-watching The Nutty Professor for the umpteenth time or seeing his puffy chipmunk face accepting awards on the telly of late. Like rubbernecking roadside carnage, it's hard to look away from anything to do with The King of Comedy's life or career. I mean, c'mon - The Day the Clown Cried, anyone? Pure genius. Even if only Harry Shearer and his girlfriend have ever seen it!

The Day the Clown Died

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America
by David Hajdu (Picador, 2009)

Condition: New Hardback
List price: $16

I got a copy of this essential read (featuring a nice cover by Charles Burns!) last year and re-gifted it to my comics-obsessed pal Big Dave Cawley. He told me if I ever saw another copy to do myself a favor and grab it. I did!

The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe
by Edgar Allan Poe (Sweetwater, 1997)

Condition: New hardback
List price: Out-of-print edition (new goes for $124, 7 used from $23.60)

You can't have enough Poe! Well, unless you have everything, in one volume, like this.

Cruel Shoes
by Steve Martin (G.P. Putnam, 1979)

Condition: Used hardback
List price: Out-of-print
(used copies from a 1 cent to $18, new for $48)

I already have a copy, but picked this up to share the jollity of this wild and crazy guy with others. I love Steve Martin. All of Me was on TV the other night and I almost peed myself during the Men's Room scene when he asked Lily Tomlin to "pull the little fireman out"!

Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened
edited by Jason Rodriguez (Villard, 2007)

Condition: New paperback
List price: Out-of-print (used from 62 cents to $7.92)

Editor Rodriguez bought a batch of vintage picture postcards and commissioned 16 cartoonists, including Harvey Pekar, to write and illustrate stories from the messages written on each card. Looked interesting.

From Cambridge To Kazakhstan: The Unauthorized Biography of Sasha Baron Cohen
by Kathleen Tracey (St. Martin's Griffin, 2007)

Condition: New paperback
List price: $13.95

I'll never read this, but it'll do for re-gifting purposes.

The World of Lucha Libre
by Heather Levi(Duke University Press, 2008)

Condition: New paperback
List price: $22.95

Looks scholarly but with that cool-ass cover, I just had to pick it up. After all, you can never have enough info about El Santo or Mils Mascaras. I wonder if it mentions Nash Vegas rockers Los Straitjackets?

Daddy-O Score-O's

For my sports-loving Dad I threw enough baseball and football books into the box to get him through the off-season.

Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas
by Tom Callahan (Crown, 2006)

Condition: New hardback
List price: $13.95

I hate football but I love Johnny U. Ravens be damned, the Colts were cool! Artie "Fatso" Donovan catered my wedding and I can still remember the night some drunk plowed into my Maverick, parked on the street, and our next-door neighbor at the time, linebacker Barry Krause, came out and chased the car down the street where he made an unassistd tackle on the soused offender's vehicle. Despite the cad hitting my stationary car and proceeding to urinate in the middle of the Bellona and Gittings intersection, the Baltimore County Police officers on the scene did not believe the rummy had been drinking! But Barry knew a penalty offense when he saw one!

Jimmie Fox: The Pride of Sudlerville
by Mark R. Milligan (Scarecrow Press, 2005)

Condition: New paperback, signed by author
List price: $17.95

Picked this up for my baseball-loving Dad. The Beast, Jimmie "Double X" was a local boy made legend, hailing from Sudlerville in Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Ogden Nash once penned the poem "Lineup For Yesterday" about Foxx for Sport magazine: "X is the first/Of two x's in Foxx/Who was right behind Ruth/With his powerful soxx."

Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era
by Charles Alexander (Columbia University Press, 2004)

Condition: New paperback
List price: $25

Another one for Daddy-O. New York Times: "Needless to say, attendance was down, players’ salaries were cut, and even the New York Yankees lost money a couple of years during the Depression. Historians and economists are looking back to that era to see how today’s teams might fare. And, while times were tough, no major league teams folded and in their need to attract fans, the 30s brought on a period of innovation, including night games, an expansion of the minor leagues, and the increase of radio broadcasts."

Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Hero
by Peter Morris (Ivan R. Dee, 2009)

Condition: New hardback
List price: $27.95

Liberal lovers of America's national pastime, listen up to MSNBC snarky pundit Keith Olbermann, who says "Nobody writing about baseball - its present or its past - does a better job of tapping into the game's collective unconscious than Peter Morris. Where the rest of us see tradition and inevitability, he sees an opportunity to find out how, why, and since when. Such it is again in Catcher, in which he finds yet another compelling, complex route to the present-day expression of the backstop's job, and tells it with the skill of a mystery writer."

Hail Brittania!

And, rounding it off, I scored this whole little mini-Angophile collection:

Up North: Travels Beyond the Watford Gap
by Charles Jennings (Abacus, 1995)

Condition: New paperback, UK import
List price: $12 USD

The Brits have the same bitter North-South rivalry as the US of A, whether it be Oasis vs. Blur or Man U. vs. any of the Big London Clubs in football. As Moz sang, "We hate it when our friends are successful - and if they're Northern that makes it worse and..." Product description: "The North. Where does it begin? Where does it end? And is it all whippets, black pudding and queer folk going rounds saying "There's nowt so queer as folk"? Fresh from the PJ O'Rourke School of Diplomatic Journalism, southern jessie Charles Jennings finds himself in need of Answers. With something approaching trepidation, Jennings packs his big girl's blouse in a suitcase full of prejudice and ventures fearfully into the great melting-pot that is the North of England - undergoing in the process a series of life changing experiences such as being mistaken for an exhibit at the Wigan Pier: Where History Comes Alive! Museum and voluntarily attending a concert featuring Roy Walker. Scandalous, astonishingly rude, scabrously funny, Up North presents the quintissential northern experience."

Notes From a Small Island
by Bill Bryson (Harper, 1997)

Condition: New paperback
List price: $14.99

"There are certain idiosyncratic notions that you quietly come to accept when you live for a long time in Britain..."

Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire
by Simon Winchester (Harper, 2004)

Condition: New paperback
List price: $13.95

Music Maestro, Please!

I topped the box off with a smattering of music CDs.

No Line On the Horizon by U2 (new!)
Essential Springsteen (3 CDs) by Bruce Springsteen (new!)
Stranger Than Fiction by Stranger Than Fiction (local boys!)
John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic
Greatest Hits by Supertramp
Mellow Gold by Beck
Pablo Honey by Radiohead
Soul Mining by The The
Anthology of The Them & Van Morrison (2 CDs)
Hilary Hahn Plays Bach by Hilary Hahn
Resevoir Dogs Soundtrack
Painted From Memory by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach
Music for the Masses by Depeche Mode
In Utero by Nirvana