Home

I Like the Way You Walk!

Leave a comment

Any kid who read comic books in the 1950s and ’60s– and what kid didn’t?– had to have read a story or two that involved Easter Island statues either being alive or being brought to life to attack mankind. These statues, properly called Moai, were built between the years 1250 and 1500 and they are huge. Hewn from rock quarried on the island, they can be as tall as 33 feet– almost as high as a three-story building– and weigh over 80 tons. There are over 850 of these amazing statues scattered over the island. Some are buried in the earth up to their necks, but their bodies are under the soil, ready to erupt from the earth and smush us whenever they feel so inclined.

These Moai originally sported red stone hats, made of a different stone than the bodies, but that’s something not essential (as if anything could be) to this little post.

But comics with walking Easter Island statues were guaranteed to creep out the bravest kid and, most importantly, get his money out of his pocket and into the cash register!

Here’s a classic example, drawn by Jack Kirby for DC Comics’ House of Mystery, cover date April, 1959:

Here’s another Kirby cover, this time drawn for Marvel/Atlas’ Tales to Astonish, cover date February, 1961:

Here’s a third from either Ron Wilson or Larry Leiber for Marvel’s Chamber of Chills, cover date July, 1974:

And finally, another Kirby example from Marvel’s Tales of Suspense, cover date April, 1962:

Why am I bringing this up? Because I just read a Scientific American article by Nature writer Ewen Callaway which describes how the folks living on Easter Island got these ungainly statues from the rock quarry to the platforms made for them. Evidently, they walked them into place!

Here’s a YouTube video of this being done and you have to admit, it’s rather creepy!

Tasty Stick Ain’t Thick

Leave a comment

As everyone knows, I admire all things Utz. So I’m not being critical here of their product, but I’m rather amused at the packaging of their Potato Stix.

Our little group of guitar players, who meet ‘most every Saturday night, have gotten into the habit of bringing salty snacks to our gatherings. Last night, being an Utz fan, I brought three bags of their stuff to share, including their Sweet BBQ-flavored Potato Stix, which I’ve never seen before:

Growing up in Florida, Utz products were never seen but sometimes mentioned as wonderful yet unobtainable; when I moved to Maryland, I was happy to be able to at last enjoy them. Many of you may remember before the 1980s when Coors beer was not sold east of the Mississippi River. Not being able to obtain the product made it all the more desirable.

Back to the Utz Potato Stix. Please look at the photo on the package and then at the actual product below; a guitar pick is provided for a sense of scale. We all laughed at the little slivers of potato, especially when compared to the representation on the package. They tasted great but seemed a tad scanty; more a sliver than a stick, we all agreed.

Perhaps Utz should print a disclaimer on the package; something like:

Product shown as photographed by the Hubble telescope,”

or

Actual product is nowhere near as robust as represented in glamour shot,”

or

Product shown is what they’d look like if consumer was quite tiny,”

or

Product photo enlarged to ensure prompt purchase.”

Nonetheless, the Utz Potato Stix were greatly enjoyed and everyone was happy to have encountered them. Even if they’re skinnier than expected.

This Sausage is the Best!

4 Comments

I’ve never flat-out endorsed a product on this blog before, but, hey– it’s my blog and who’s to stop me? I encourage those of you who enjoy good old country-style sausage to try the Homestyle brand, if you can find it.

Here in Maryland, we’ve only found it at our local Giant store. It comes in mild and hot flavors, and the hot is indeed hot, but I love them both and so does Patty. Here’s the website for the company; there are some good recipes there:

http://www.homestyle-foods.com

Having grown up in North Florida, where folks take pride in the sausage they serve their families and friends, we hadn’t been able to find anything like a home-style sausage since we moved to Maryland. When we visited Callahan, where our family farm is, we’d bring back a stash of the good stuff made and sold locally in that little town, but that was not a convenient or permanent solution. Once we discovered the Homestyle-brand sausage, we were so pleased.

If you enjoy old-time country sausage, I bet you’ll enjoy the Homestyle brand sausage. Their website says that the company was started by a Georgia state senator and, since his death, its been a family-run enterprise. They offer a great product and deserve to succeed.

What they are offering for sale is the real deal.

When Les is More . . .

Leave a comment

I have always been attracted to oddball guitars, and have had a bunch of them. However, the three classic electric guitars– the Fender Stratocaster, the Fender Telecaster and the Gibson Les Paul– were ones I always passed up. Maybe it was because they were so frequently seen; I don’t know. These three icons of the guitar world were all developed between 1950 and 1954 and a lot of companies have either copied them outright or made their own variations of them. More on that in a second.


In the last couple of years, as I amble into my dotage, I finally gave in and got a Stratocaster (though not a Fender; more on that in a second, too!) and a Tele (made by me from various old-timey Fender parts). The Telecaster is now my favorite electric. For those of you who don’t play guitar, there’s a big difference between acoustic and electric guitars; in my mind, they are two different instruments. I started on bass, coming to guitars as I did from playing a baritone sax, and then mainly played acoustic guitars.


For some reason, guitar players develop an affliction called Guitar Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS. I try to ignore it, but seeing rows of Tolex guitar cases all over the house proves I came down with GAS a long time ago. I guess I still have it, though I try to keep it in check.

My latest GAS object of desire is a Les Paul, but not just any old Les Paul. The one I want is a type that Gibson made for only a few years: The Fretless Wonder Black Beauty model. Its official designation is the Gibson Les Paul Custom, and it was originally made from 1954 to 1960. These originally sold for about $350 but command astonishing prices now– say $15K or so. I saw one for sale on the Net this morning for $37K. And most of the ones I’ve seen in person have been modified with taller frets. I play with a very light touch and the original flat, tiny frets would be perfect for my style of playing; most players today hate those kind of frets and have them changed to the more modern type.

Since the original Fretless Wonders are so pricey, I looked into Gibson’s “Historic” and Vintage Old Stock reissues of those guitars. Even those are past the $3K mark; I’ve seen some selling for over $7K. Yeesh!

Now Gibson Guitars realized several years ago that their prices for guitars built here in the U.S. and built using the original materials and finishes were beyond the reach of most players. And as the quality of the American-built Fenders and Gibsons declined– and they surely did when accountants controlled the companies–Tokai and a few other Japanese companies blueprinted the original classic guitars and painstakingly reproduced them by hand. Gibson and Fender both gave in and had their own Japanese contractors make guitars for them, and they are quite good. I have a Japanese Fender reissue of a 1951 Precision Bass that is a beautiful instrument. And the Stratocaster I got a year or so ago is one of the early-’80s Tokais and it is a spooky-good recreation of a two-color sunburst 1956 Strat– just like the ones Buddy Holly used to such good purpose.

So I looked at the Tokai versions of the 1950s Les Paul Customs. They’re beautiful and exact copies of the Gibson Les Paul model I want, but even those are selling now for over well over $2K. And, being a crazy GAS-afflicted guitar player, I wouldn’t be satisfied unless the Les Paul I got was one of the tiny-fretted, fat-necked gloss-black nitrocellulose-lacquer-finished Les Pauls! Really!!!

So to heck with it. No Les for me. As I struggle to find a permanent day job in this frustrating economy it makes no sense to throw that kind of money at a guitar. Besides, Patty has learned to count those hardshell Tolex guitar cases and I am scared of her. But can you imagine how wonderful it would be to have a black Les Paul ’58 Custom that matches Murphy, my Boston terrier?!?!?!

Les Paul presents Paul McCartney with a custom lefty Les Paul.

Great Spirit Comic Books!

2 Comments

I first encountered Will (or Bill, as the old comics guys called him) Eisner’s Spirit comics when I got a copy of Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. This stunning book, which I got for Christmas in 1966, was a chance for a 1960s kid to see for the first time what comic books had been like in the 1940s. Living in the Florida Keys, where we had moved earlier in the year, I had few chances to find old comic books for sale.

Oddly enough, while snorkeling one day, I discovered a stash of old comics that someone had evidently thrown overboard long ago in and around the marina outside our home in Marathon Shores. These comics were coverless and half-buried in the sand and silt about 15 feet deep on the salt-water side of the island where we then lived, but I’d dive for them and leave them to dry on the dock outside our house. Once dried, they were perfectly readable, if rather crinkly, and I was able over the summer to get 20 or 30 old DC comics in this fashion.

So I was primed to learn more, and Feiffer’s superb book was right up my alley. I then sent a letter to the Miami Herald asking where old comic books could be found, and they printed my letter and listed some shops in Miami that sold them. Armed with that info, I bugged my dad until he finally agreed to fly me the 107 miles to Miami!

One odd thing my dad did was keep $50 cars at a few airports he flew in and out of a lot. He’d never pay more than $50 for the cars, so they weren’t too spiffy, but they saved him the trouble of renting cars. We drove in whatever clunker Dad had stowed in Miami to several of the stores that the Herald had listed, and I was finally able to get a copy of a 1940s Spirit comic book. The Spirit feature had originally been part of a 16-page Sunday newspaper comic supplement from about 1940 to 1952, and Quality Comics had printed a magazine in the mid- to late-1940s showcasing the character. Eisner, being nobody’s fool, was smart enough to keep the copyrights and that was unheard of in comics at that time.

Will Eisner was a solid pro not only at writing and drawing comics, but in print production. He, by the time we’re discussing here, had moved on from newsstand comics to producing preventive maintenance monthlies for the U.S. Army. One of my uncles had given me some of those, as they had a ton of great Eisner artwork in them, and they were unsurpassed in explaining technical issues in a simple and understandable way. I still have a stack of these P.M. magazines somewhere in the basement, much to Patty’s dismay.

Eisner’s Spirit stories, and there are about 250 of them, I guess, were way above the norm for a comic book. They weren’t aimed at nine-year-olds, for one thing, and Eisner had a tight group of amazingly talented assistants who helped write and draw the stuff. Jules Feiffer had been one of these ghosts for Eisner.

Nowadays, Eisner’s Spirits are easily found in both comic-book form and in hardback, and much of the work is also available in digital form, if you know where to look. In the late 1960s, it was very different and Spirit comic books were few and hard to find.

There had been a couple of 64-page color reprints by Harvey Comics in 1966 and ’67 and those were comic books to be treasured; beautifully printed and colored. My next Spirit encounter was in what were called Spirit Bags in the early 1970s. These were 6″ x 9″ black-and-white reprints of the 8-page Spirit stories and had a typed commentary by Eisner on the last page. Still have all those, too.

Over the years I snagged a ton of other Spirit reprints, both in hard copies and in digital form. I recently learned that Fiction House, a second-tier comic-book publisher, had issued five Spirit comics in the early 1950s. I had never heard of them before, but Fiction House really did a nice job on these reprints of the newspaper Spirits. The coloring is amazing, especially when you consider that they only had 64 colors and tints to work with in those old days.

I now have these in digital form and they are a treat. If you have an interest in Eisner’s work, I encourage you to download them; here’s a site:
http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?cid=932

These are in the public domain. You’ll need a PC, Mac or iOS reader for the files; they’re easy to find. I particularly enjoy the Comic Zeal iPad app; it makes organizing the hundreds of comics on my iPad a snap.

Thank me later!!! Enjoy!!!

Side Note:

A couple of years later, when we started a student newspaper at Naples High, I made damned sure that the newspaper was called The Spirit, and I worked for days on a masthead for it; my crude homage to Will Eisner. Of course, Eisner, who was so gifted that he came up with a different and stunning masthead for each and every Spirit story, was in a much different league than I was and I cringe to look at my crude Spirit newspaper masthead now!

So it goes!

Music Really Does Makes the World a Better Place

Leave a comment

I heard of Jackie Guthrie’s passing yesterday when Rip Tragle, a friend of the Guthrie family and a member of the Shorpy community, posted this lovely photo he took at Jackie and Arlo’s wedding, back in 1969:

I didn’t want to post the image here without Rip’s kind permission, but he granted that just now and I’m pleased and honored that he did.

The title of this blog entry is from a series of bumper stickers that my old friend John Pearse used to give away when someone bought his guitar strings or accessories. Lord knows I bought a bunch of both, and once even bought a high-end Martin guitar from John, but the sticker he created is what’s on my mind today and John may have had the Guthrie family in mind when he wrote it. It seems to be very apt when considering the passing of Arlo Guthrie’s wife, Jackie. They were married for over 43 years.

The Guthrie family has consistently used music as a way to make the world in which they found themselves a more human, more kindly place.

What they had to say may not have always been politically correct, and I may not have agreed with every position the various members of the Guthrie family took, but no one could say that they didn’t do more than their share to help others find happiness and peace.

Woody Guthrie’s famous statement, placed prominently on his guitars, remains a touchstone for why many people picked up the instrument in the first place. Woody’s musical and philosphical DNA has spread over much of the world and many folks may not even be aware of it. But they owe him.

Arlo came into most of our lives through his wise and witty 1967 song, Alice’s Restaurant, properly titled Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, and that song was a breakthrough on many levels. It was funny, fact-based and a fingerpicker’s joy. So infectious and joyful was his playful delivery that it may have masked the more serious message of his words: Official America can sometimes be a blind lumbering beast that can step on people unless someone shouts a warning.

I recall playing that record for my dad, who had no taste or interest in music and was an outspoken opponent of the “hippy” movement or anything that smacked of a lack of respect for authority. Dad tried hard not to laugh as the song progressed but at the mention of “mother stabbers and father rapers” he surrendered and enjoyed himself and the song. I couldn’t believe it. Dad had let his short hair down, if just for the duration of a song!

So today we remember the Guthries and all they have meant to us. For those of you who haven’t listened to the music and message of the Guthries– Woody, Arlo and his and Jackie’s children Abe, Sarah Lee, Cathy and Annie– I encourage you to please take the time to do so. And here’s Arlo’s website: http://www.arlo.net/

Their world is our world and it’s a wonderful place to be.

Murphy Supervises The Construction

Leave a comment

Murphy, our Boston terrier, is very interested in the sewer-pipe replacement activity going on in front of our house. As the photo shows, he pays strict attention to all that goes on, though he is sometimes nervous about the loud noises and shaking of the house that are part of this effort.

Here we see Murphy watching as the LBT is smushing the dirt in the big hole dug by the other machines.

I have been on the lookout in case the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa is discovered, but so far, he has not surfaced. One of the crew said to me the other day, “This is a big pain and inconvenience for the folks on your street, but just think: In a week or so you’ll have brand-new feeder pipes for your sewerage!”

Yes; that is a wonderful thing to contemplate, and I hope that I can restrain myself from lording it over those with lesser sewerage-feeder pipes. They can’t help it, and it would just make them jealous.

Older Entries Newer Entries