Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yé-yé Yeah!

What's that you say? Got the late February hump day blues? How about a steamy soufflé of swinging sixties yé-yé merveilleux-ness?

Yé-yé was the French pop movement that mixed influences from the British Invasion and the Girl Groups with a subtle dash of Jacques Brel and Francophone ennui. Yé-yé is considered to include non-French performers like Petula Clark, and it certainly had it's share of boys (Like Françoise Hardy's future husband Jacques Dutronc.) but it's probably the hoemgrown french yé-yé jeunne filles who are best associated with the scene. Here's three of the most famous:

Françoise Hardy

(Wheee! Upskirt action!)

Sylvie Vartan

(The Barbarella-esque art direction in this clip is AWESOME.)


("Aqua Net, Je t'aime!)

For more info on this Gallic Go-go scene I recommend checking out the website Yé-Yé Land.

Stand by for ADVENTURE

Okay, for a switch here's something that has nothing to do with booze. (Which isn't to say you might not enjoy booze with it...)

One of my fave obscure old cartoons is a little number called COLONEL BLEEP. I first became aware of the Bleepster back in the 90's when I read an animation magazine article on him. Colonel Bleep was having a bit of a mini revival, what with having the episode "The Treacherous Pirate" included in Speed Racer The Movie and two videocassettes having been released by Tapeworm Video. I missed out on all that at the time, but later managed to get a bunch of episodes on a bootleg video off of eBay. A lot of things don't live up to my anticipation of them, but such was not the case with Bleep.

Starting in 1945, the inhabitants of the planet Futura begin witnessing man's atomic age culminating in guided nuclear missiles. To the Futurans this means trouble, "Trouble in SPACE!" The "Futura Interplanetary High Command" thus sends Bleep to earth to do...something. With pretty much no explanation why or how, Col. Bleep hooks up with Squeak (A little boy puppet in a cowboy costume) and Scratch .(A bald caveman who was blasted out of his cave by an atomic explosion.) The three get a fly glass domed pad on "Zero Zero" island and proceed to have a bunch of far out adventures which don't seem to have much to do with nuclear proliferation.

Colonel Bleep was the first color cartoon made for TV, and color was pretty much it's one nod to lavishness. The need to economize can be seen in Bleep himself, his body merely a series of white lines perched on top of a circle. (Representing some kind of minimalistic alien unicycle I guess.) Bleep's bubble helmeted gumdrop shaped head doesn't actually omit speech so much as make a bunch of sounds resembling the warbling of an electronically treated flute. In fact, our heroes pretty much never talk, leaving the heavy lifting to the narrator. (In Squeak's case we are given the somewhat weak explanation that Squeak can't speak "Because as you all know, a puppet cannot talk for himself!" Independent thought and locomotion sure, but talking? Feh!) I can forgive all these attempts to save costly and time consuming lip synching on the strengths of narrator Noah Tyler's efforts. Dear God this man has heart! Whenever our three merry heroes are in trouble Tyler wails and laments the situation like a tortured soul (I like to imagine him rolling around on the floor tearing his hair out.) stopping just short of crying "OH THE HUMANITY!"

To compensate for lack of fluid animation, director Jack Schleh frequently has the characters spend their spare moments doing extreme squash & stretch poses climaxing in having them swoosh around the screen in a burst of sparkly stuff before returning to the spot they were standing in. It may not make any sense, but brother does it look WILD. That maybe best sums up Colonel Bleep's appeal. In an era before kid's cartoons were designed by committee and prescreened by educators, Colonel Bleep just seeks to get it's sugar soaked youth audiences rocks off with as much frantic action as humanly possible. The results are a hallucinatory revelation, to say the very least.

A couple of years ago Alpha Video released a DVD with some of the good Colonel's adventures so you too can thrill to Bleep's battles with Doctor Destructo, The Black Knight,Black Patch the Space Pirate or whatever other wonderfully cockamamie thing creator/writer Robert D. Buchanan could come up with to throw at them. For a taste of what to expect, click the link below for Bleep's first adventures:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mardi Gras in the Big Freezy

Saturday Burlington had it's big Mardi Gras celebration (Much like with the primaries, we're way later than everyone else.) highlighted by a parade hosted by local brewery Magic Hat

(I didn't have a chance to photograph Heather's Magic Hat sign for Number 9 beer but it basically looks like this.)

This is the 13th year these counterintuitively frostbitten shenanigans have been going on. It mostly amounts to a big float competition (With beads and candy being pelted at spectators.) and any nearby establishment serving alchohol being packed tighter than a refugee camp. Burlington being decidedly less laissez-faire than New Orleans, you won't see people staggering around in the streets holding gi-normous hurricane cocktails or flashing their breasts. (Aside from the inhospitable weather, the fact that the parade is to benefit Burlington's Women's Rape Crisis Center it MIGHT send the wrong signal...)

I was actually involved with a winning float back in the mid-late 90's. At the time I managed the local indie record store Pure Pop Records and they'd joined the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, a collective of non chain stores using their "Taste maker" status as a means of getting record companies to spend money on them promoting up and coming bands. (The music business was just starting to tank a bit. HAH! Just wait until the new millenium starts boys...) Anyhoo, Virgin Records was promoting a band called SILVERJET (Not to be confused with a current band out of Sheffield England.) and the store owner got the idea to use the label's money to construct a big silver jet float for the parade and put the band on it. (Also arranging for the band to play a few songs near the parade route.) He got a sculptor friend to build the float while sometimes American Elf character Kerrie Mathes and I did the detailing. When the big day came it was colder than a subprime lender's heart and the band refused to get on the float or perform at the event. PUSSIES! The fallout was that despite the band's non appearance, the float won the competition and the store got a full Magic Hat keg party. The band, on the other hand, quickly fell into alt rock glut obscurity and you can get their one major label release for a penny on Amazon. The moral: NO GUTS NO GLORY. One does not trifle with Burlington lightly!

(Not that I had any interest in freezing my ass off on the float either...)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And lo, there was BLOG

Tap, tap, tap...is this thing on?

To quote Smokey the Genie from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "A-Lad-In His Lamp":

"I'm here! I'm here! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! Feast your eyes on me! It's too good to be true, but I'm here! I'm here!"

Thus begins my new blog. I will assail your tender brains with the flotsam and jetsam of my world, a dreamy reverie of art, pop culture and booze. Drift down into the pulsing ripples of blogness, deeper...deeper...what's that gummy popping sound you hear? It's YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS EXPANDING. You're welcome!

So, to add another quote, this time from the incomparable Chuck Barris:

"We'll be right back with more STUFF."