Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: MONAD Number Two, March 1992, edited by Damon Knight (Pulphouse Publishing)

Paperback edition above, hc below.

As noted here previously,  Damon Knight's Monad, as a periodical book (subscriptions available) was sadly short-lived, producing only three issues/volumes before the overextended publisher gave up the ghost (unlike Algis Budrys, who bought his magazine Tomorrow Speculative Fiction and published it himself after the first and only Pulphouse issue, Knight perhaps decided he didn't need to gamble his own cash). Knight's editorial here notes that the first two issues break nearly every rule he set out for himself in the first editorial, and indeed the subtitle is no more true for this issue than for the previous, as the essays collected here are nearly as much about fantasy fiction and literary criticism as about sf per se

The quality of the essays is about as good as in the first issue, as well, with William Wu's account of being perceived as not writing Sufficiently Orientally about East Asian and particularly East Asian-American matters a wry tale, Wu trying his damnedest to be both fair and kind but his head clearly still shaking No as he types, with utmost justification.

Contents, courtesy ISFDb:

Brian Aldiss, in a piece first delivered at an IAFA convention, makes some interesting observations about how home-bound, and comfortable in being so, the majority of British fantasy before the latter 1970s had been (British characters even often living rather cheerfully with their household haunts), vs. the quest tendency prevalent in US fantasy...even Arthur eventually settled, though Aldiss takes more interest in another poem usually attributed to the anonymous composer of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."

Gary Westfahl's first essay is the weakest in the volume, making valid points about various sorts of and reasons for sequelization, but tying that to a rather tiresomely distended running joke of creating or repurposing terms for these various methods and devices; the butterfly is definitely broken by time the wheel stops turning.

John Barnes replies to Bruce Sterling's essay in the first volume, taking Sterling to task for his rather facile dismissal of modern critical theory, without ignoring the flaws and limits of the array of critical approaches he cites.

Thomas Perry looks closely at Robert Heinlein's first published sf story, "Lifeline," and among other things cites Alexei Panshin for his misconstruction of the story in the latter's critical writing on Heinlein (Perry is too kind, however, to Cory and Alexei Panshin's The World Beyond the Hill, their attempt at a critical history of sf that won an extremely undeserved Hugo not long before this issue was published). Perry's joke about the death of a journalist character in the story is particularly fine. (Perry apparently didn't know, or perhaps didn't remember, that the Thrilling Wonder Stories story contest Heinlein didn't choose to send his story to was subsequently won by first sf-story author Alfred Bester.)

John Sladek briefly and wittily (of course) limns some of the inspiration for and subtext of his novels Roderick and Tik-Tok, and robot narratives generally.  BBC Radio 4 and possibly NPR and Pacifica Radio listeners' loss is our gain here.

Westfahl is in much better form with his second essay, which is a good brief survey, by an academic critic of sf, of how and why much of the academic criticism of sf goes awry, or misses its own point (sometimes by intent and out of practical necessity), and how some for which this is true is still better work than The World Beyond the Hill, which he deftly outlines as pitiful with plenty of supporting evidence, despite, as he notes, having within it at least an interesting and useful consideration of the influence and underappreciated qualities of A. E. van Vogt's early sf...and this in a critical magazine edited by Knight, who first gained widespread attention in the speculative-fiction community, in the late 1940s, for his critiques of van Vogt's widely-hailed early work not long after the latter was first published. Westfahl is also judicious about the strengths and weaknesses of critical works of peers ranging from Darko Suvin through Paul A. Carter (one of the first I read, when his The Creation of Tomorrow, and I, were new) to Norman Spinrad (whose critical work in the last decade or so has been underappreciated and usually rather better than his more recent, and sparse, fiction).

J.R. Dunn's letter rather forcefully, if at excessive length, takes issue with an assertion of Ursula K. Le Guin's in her essay in the first issue, and there's some justice and some useful reference in the churn of his argument.

One could wish for more Knight in this issue beyond the editorial, but one could certainly wish the magabook had had a longer run.  I still need to pick up the third and final issue.

For more of today's books, please see Evan Lewis's blog (and his Hammett-tribute story in the current Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine), as he fills in for Patti Abbott (with her own new story in the new magazine Betty Fedora) this week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Back again, for a second week running (!), and featuring at least two Ida Lupino films among other items of at least some interest, and usually some very great interest indeed, at least from one angle or another...thanks to all contributors and all you readers...

Anne Billson: The Beginner's Guide to Giallo

Bill Crider: Blind Date [trailer]

Brian Arnold: VHS Treasures; CBS Saturday Morning TV Commercials, 1985

BV Lawson: Media Murder

Comedy Film Nerds: Helen Hong

Dan Stumpf: The Key Man; The Villain Still Pursued Her

Darlene Vendegna: TableTop: "Cards Against Humanity"

Ed Lynskey: The Bigamist

Elizabeth Foxwell: Crossroads; Odd Man Out

Evan Lewis: Richard Diamond, Private Detective: "Custody"

Frank Babics: The 4400: "According to Collier"

George Kelley: Some Came Running

How Did This Get Made?: Deep Blue Sea

3 Coeurs
Iba Dawson: 3 Coeurs

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: In the Land of the Head Hunters; The Doris Day Show: "Doris the Model"

J. Kingston Pierce: Bullet Points

Jack Seabrook: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Dip in the Pool" (by Roald Dahl)

Jackie Kashian: LeAnn Olsen and musical theater

Jacqueline T. Lynch: Deep in My Heart

Jake Hinkson: Albert Maysles

James Reasoner: Three O'Clock High

Jeff Flugel: Ride Lonesome

Jeff Gemmill: Veronica Mars
The Late Edwina Black

Jerry House: The Hitch-Hiker

John Grant: The Late Edwina Black Keiju; The College Girl Murders (aka...)

John F. Norris: The Two Faces of January

Jonathan Lewis: White Zombie; The Deadly Trackers

Juri Nummelin: Él 

Kate Laity: The IPCRESS File

Kliph Nesteroff: Dick Gautier

Laura: The Big Broadcast

Lev Levinson: The Women

Lucy Brown: Father of the Bride (1950 film)

Martin Edwards: Deception

Marty McKee: Terror Among Us

Mystery Dave: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Patti Abbott: The Egg and I

Paul Gallagher: Warhol

Peter Rozovsky: Talaash

Prashant Trikannad: Are You Turned Off by TV Drama?

Thelonious Monk
Randy Johnson: Have a Good Funeral, My Friend...Sartana Will Pay (aka...)

Richard Wheeler: Casablanca

Rick: This is Cinerama!

Rod Lott: WolfCop

Ron Scheer: Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

Sergio Angelini: Cash on Demand

Stacia Jones: Without a Clue

Stephen Bowie: The Chrysler Theater: "Barbed Wire"

Stephen Gallagher: Chimera

Steve Lewis: Law and Order LA: "Hollywood"; Profiler: Pilot; Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Todd Mason: The Subject is Jazz: "The Future of Jazz"

Yvette Banek: The Grand Illusion

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday Music Club on Monday: some rather funny songs

Maggie and Terre Roche (featuring the Oak Ridge Boys): "If You Emptied Out All Your Pockets You Could Not Make the Change"

Karen Kilgariff: "Couldn't Love You More"

Tom Smothers: "Mediocre Fred"

Fairport Convention: "Million Dollar Bash"

The Kinks: "Wicked Annabella"

Utopia: "Everybody Else is Wrong"

The Damned: "Grimly Fiendish"

Trusty: "Goodbye, Dr. Fate"

The Virgin-Whore Complex: "The Coldest Night of the Year"

Annie Ross: "Twisted"; Lambert, Hendricks & Ross with Williams: "Every Day I Have the Blues"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Mozart in the Jungle
Anne Billson: The 10 Most Undervalued Crime Movies of the 1990s

Bill Crider: Wag the Dog; John Wick [trailer]

Brian Arnold: Scrooge (1935 film)

Brian Busby: Earthbound

BV Lawson: Media Murder

Comedy Film Nerds: Still Alice

David Vineyard: Father Brown (2013-date TV)

Ed Gorman: Dirty Harry

Ed Lynskey: The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

Elizabeth Foxwell: Routine Job

Evan Lewis: Left Coast Crime 2015

George Kelley: Dig

Halli Casser-Jayne: James Grady and Dennis Lehane

How Did This Get Made?: Zardoz and the sequel episode

Iba Dawson: Girlhood

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: The Connection

Jack Seabrook: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Lamb to the Slaughter" (by Roald Dahl)

Jackie Kashian: superhero movies, and enough

Jaqueline T. Lynch: Paddy O'Day

James Reasoner: All About Steve

Jerry House: Rio Rattler

Jonathan Lewis: The Jayhawkers

Kate Laity: SpeakeasyRadio

Kliph Nesteroff: Art Metrano

Laura: The Milky Way

Lucy Brown: Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)

Martin Edwards: Marathon Man

Marty McKee: The Octagon

Michael Shonk and Randy Cox: The Future of TV Watching

Mystery Dave: Frank

Patti Abbott: Buffalo Bill

Peter Rosovsky: Street of No Return: The David Goodis Pilgrimage 2015

Prashant Trikkanad: LA Confidential

Randy Johnson: Light the Fuse...Sartana is Coming

Sergio Angelini: Fedora

Stacia Jones: Panic Button

Stephen Bowie: Then Came Bronson

Stephen Gallagher: The Prisoner reboot

Todd Mason: Mozart in the Jungle, Nightmare in Chicago, Man in a Suitcase, Schitt's Creek

Yvette Banek: 10 Romantic Films for Snowstorm Cuddling

Monday, March 16, 2015


Capsule reviews of some of what I've liked a lot over the last few months:

Mozart in the Jungle: a sitcom based on oboist Blair Tindall's memoir, has charmed me, for the most part, and while it didn't change my life nor is it "necessary" viewing, it had most of the good elements of the previous rather good series from producer/supporting actor Jason Schwartzmann, Bored to Death, with less celebration of protracted adolescence than was on display in that series. And, like Bored, it seems to be getting essentially no attention compared to other series on its platform (HBO for the older series, Amazon for this one). Saffron Burrows and her character are only the best of several good reasons to give this a try.

Nightmare in Chicago is a telefilm I've been meaning to see for decades, since first reading about it in an early Leonard Maltin guide (Bill Warren might've written that review for all I know)...originally broadcast in the first season of Kraft Suspense Theater as "Once Upon a Savage Night" (and based, as it turned out, on William McGivern's novel Death on the Turnpike...I keep running into McGivern texts, he the too-forgotten Chicago/Philadelphia noir master; the director was the young Robert Altman).  Unfortunately, neither the full cut of Nightmare, beefed up for syndication from the Kraft episode, nor any form of KST episodes seem to be available outside the gray market,  nor does the episode version seem to be in the Crisis/Suspense Theater package that the Antenna TV network reran recently (a few scattered stations, broadcast and cable, might also be offering it). The link above is to a blurry black and white taping that I suspect was one of those made (several duplicate generations back?) on the fly to reassure Kraft and their ad agency that all the ad spots ran properly during, better than nothing, if not enough better (you do get the full complement of Kraft food ads, and the recipes are often as unnerving as anything about the episode itself). Barbara Turner is particularly good as the kidnap victim of a serial murderer of young women, and Ted Knight is full of appropriate bluster as a police commissioner juggling the suddenly newly active psycho and a nuclear weapons convoy coming through town on the QT.  I look forward to seeing a good copy.

Man in a Suitcase is a bit of a mutant version of a typical 1960s ITC spy drama, since it involves an inappropriately disgraced US ex-spy, with an attitude, who now works in the UK as a sort of private detective/fixer or perhaps a bit more like what The Saint would be like if crossed with irritable youngish Ben Casey. It lasted only one season (ran on ABC in the US). I'm mildly surprised how much I'm enjoying these, put together by some of ITC's better talent of the era.  The first episode (in both the UK and US, apparently, though another is the true pilot), as with several Danger Man/Secret Agent episodes, rather anticipates The Prisoner...others much less so...the influence of The IPCRESS File was probably strong. (Wikipedia notes that this was essentially a replacement series for Danger Man on ITV, the UK commercial network, which certainly makes sense.)

Actual pilot:

Pilot as shown:

Schitt's Creek is a new sitcom on the CBC, imported to US cable with language censored (! sigh) by the Pop Channel, which used to be the TV Guide channel, but is now a joint project of Lionsgate (who bought it) and CBS (who more recently bought in).  Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy are not breaking too much new ground, but nonetheless are expertly portraying somewhat washed up former Canadian television icons, fallen on hard times and living in the motel in the tiny town Schitt's Creek that is one of their few remaining properties...adding to their joy, their spoiled adult children, a daughter and son, live in the room next door (I've only seen two episodes so far, and missed the pilot, so assume the non-kids had been living on parental largesse till that ran out). Chris Elliott and some fine younger actors (including Levy's son, the co-creator) are the supporting cast. I'll watch O'Hara in anything short of a Home Alone movie (Away We Go would be about the far limit), but this is rather good fun so far.
principals of Schitt's Creek

As things wrap up and the layoffs continue from the corporation where I have served as the national public broadcasting scheduling reporter for 17 years (beginning about six months after I started at what was still TV Guide magazine, primarily), entering and editing the data about PBS, nationally syndicated, Create, MHz Worldview and Deutsche Welle North America programming for products ranging from through TV Guide products to Comcast and some other cable systems and sub channel guides, I'm about to join the laid off, and it's hard not to think back about my engagement with television, both professionally and beforehand.  

I'm fifty years old, and one thing I've heard repeatedly from peers over the decades has been how they, when young, had only three broadcast channels to choose from when watching tv, at least till cable became available and was actually subscribed to by their families. Seems strange to me, since I guess I was spoiled, from the age of five onward, to never live anywhere where there weren't at least four network stations (including PBS) and usually at least some interesting independents broadcasting within viewing range. In 1969, my parents and I moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, to the Boston suburb of West Peabody, MA, with a summer stopover in Oklahoma City (we traveled by pickup truck with camper atop it. I spent a lot of that trip, while the car was moving or stopped, in the bunk over the cab, which would probably not be an advisable way of going about such a trip today).

So, in Boston, there were no fewer than eight broadcast stations in 1969 or in the months shortly thereafter, and the relatively fuzzy New Hampshire stations to complement them: on VHF, the four big network stations (with National Educational Television/soon PBS powerhouse WGBH on 2, NBC on WBZ 4, CBS on 7, ABC on 5, and those NH stations WMUR, an ABC affiliate on 9--and run on such a shoestring that it didn't begin broadcasts in color until well into the 1970s, apparently--and WENH, the PBS anchor for the state network, soon on 11), and on UHF the commercial independents 27, 38, 56 (the Kaiser Broadcasting channel) and WGBX 44, the little sibling that ran as much local and syndicated programming as NET/PBS items...if 44 wasn't the first station in the US to run Doctor Who, for example, it was one of the first.  (To be continued.)