Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DOUBLE STANDARD at the Post and Courier

I found it quite ironic that the Post and Courier would run an Associated Press story on the success of the local publisher The History Press, even though the policy of the newspaper will not allow the books to be reviewed by the paper.

The Post and Courier, like many newspapers, clings to the outdated tradition of only reviewing books published in hard cover format, while the success of companies like The History Press is built on publishing only trade paperbacks. History Press books may not be a cloth-covered hard cover with a paper dust jacket, but they are published on acid-free paper with state-of-the-art covers. As technology has improved over the last decade, the publishing industry has seen a massive change in production. In the twenty-first century, being published in soft-cover does not mean a poor book, while being published in hard cover does not guarantee quality. Have you seen all the bad hard cover books for sale at your local bookseller?

The percentage of books that are NEVER published in hard cover continues to climb, yet many newspapers still refuse to review soft cover books. The end result is that the readers of the Post and Courier have missed out on learning about several hundred books written exclusively by local authors and historians targeted toward the paper's readership, only because of the publisher's format.

It is also ironic that the story about The History Press was not written by a local reporter but was done by Associated Press. How can you miss that big of a story in your own back yard? With the well-documented crisis in the newspaper industry these days - circulation and revenues decreasing - one would think a local paper would be more willing to cater the needs of its readers rather than upholding an outdated tradition.

But of course, this IS Charleston, where tradition is often more important than reality.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Joseph Gardner finally paid for his crimes. He is finally taking the "celestrial dirt nap." As detailed in my book, South Carolina Killers: Crimes of Passion, Gardner and several other men decided to rectify 400 years of racial injustice by kidnapping, raping and murdering 25-year-old Missy McLauchlin in 1992.
On Dec. 5, 2008, Gardner was executed in South Carolina. The other two men convicted of rape and murder, Matthew Mack and Matthew Williams, are eligible for parole in 2014.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Sorry, I’m not counting TV shows, which rules out three of the greatest Christmas shows: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Boris Karloff) and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives as ‘the Snowman’). However, here are my favorite Christmas movies … and no, It’s A Wonderful Life is not on the list … a much better Jimmy Stewart film is however. In chronological order ...

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) Set in and around a Budapest store, lonely co-workers Klara (Margaret Sullivan) and Alfred (James Stewart) hold an intense dislike for each other, while maintaining a secret letter-writing relationship, with neither realizing who their pen-pal is. They fall in love via their correspondence, while being peevish and curlish towards one another in real life. This is a love story about a couple too much in love with love to fall tidily into each other's arms. Though it all works out finally it explores the fear of how easily good people can miss their chances.Klara sets up a meeting in a café with her pen-pal love and when Alfred arrives he realizes his pen-pal is none other than Klara. The following scene in the cafe and the conversation between Klara and Alfred is (for me) one the best romantic scenes in American film.Remade in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail, which, for all the charms of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is a pale imitation of this, the original. It's not a fluke that this film is on Time magazine's 100 Greatest Film's of All Time.

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1942) Nurse Mary falls in love Navy sailor Jones. He tells her that, being in the Navy, he's never really known what a real home is like. She reads an article in a housekeeping magazine by Elizabeth Lane. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is comparable to today's Martha Stewart. She lives on a farm in Connecticut with her husband and baby, a model of domesticity and the idol of many an American housewife. Mary decides to write to the publishing magnate, Mr. Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) who controls Lane's publication. She asks if Jones can spend Christmas on Mrs. Lane's farm. Mr. Yardley, sensing a public relations boon, supports the idea wholeheartedly.Unfortunately, there's a problem; Elizabeth is not nearly what she appears. She lives in a small apartment in New York, is unmarried and has no concept of domestic life or cuisine. she is a brassy night life girl. She writes the articles simply for the money, and her "five-star" recipes are provided by her uncle, Felix, who owns a Manhattan bistro. When she hears of Mr. Yardley's plan, she begins to panic. She tries to call off the plan, but Yardley insists she go through with the scheme. What happens next is classic screwball comedy at its finest, as Stanwyck desperately procures a Connecticut farm, rents a husband and baby for the week and then ... everything begins to fall apart.

THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) Bishop Henry Brogham (David Niven) prays for divine guidance with the troubled building of a new cathedral. His plea is seemingly answered by a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who reveals his identity initially only to the clergyman.Henry has become so obsessed with the building of the new cathedral, he ignores his duties and marriage with his neglected, unhappy wife, Julia (Loretta Young). Everyone, except for Henry, is charmed by the newcomer Dudley, even the non-religious Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley). As Dudley spends time cheering up Julia, there is an unexpected development: Dudley finds himself strongly attracted to her. Sensing this, Henry becomes jealous and anxious for his unwelcome guest to finish his assignement and depart. Eventually, he stands up to the angel. With his mission completed and knowing that Julia loves her husband, Dudley departs, promising never to return. All memory of him is erased. It was remade in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston.

A CHRISTMAS WISH [a.k.a.The Great Rupert] (1950) The Great Rupert was something of a marvel when it was released in 1950. Produced by special-effects pioneer George Pal, this charming comedy employs Pal's technique of animated puppetry to bring life to the title character--a lovable trained squirrel that comes to the rescue of a down-and-out family of vaudeville performers in the depths of the Great Depression.Jimmy Durante leads the struggling clan, barely able to pay rent in a converted garage adjoining the home of a man who's been stockpiling lucrative investment dividends in the floorboard between the two homes. From his cubbyhole in the wall, the resourceful Rupert begins to toss wads of $100 bills to Durante's wife, who thinks it's cash from heaven!

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) The greatest Christmas movie of all. You know it’s true. How much of this movie can you quote by heart? It's hard to believe that the man (Bob Clark) who made this sweet-natured gem, was also responsible for the very crude, but hilarious Porkys.

DIE HARD (1988) Most people forget this is a Christmas movie. The best Christmas action movie. Yippie-kai-yah mother-&*$*er.

PRANCER (1989) Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) is a 9-year-old girl who still believes in Santa Claus while her peers taunt and throw rocks at her. Therefore, when she stumbles across his reindeer Prancer in a remote part of the forest, no one believes her.

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) Sounds silly but for some reason it’s great. Tim Allen plays an executive who accidently kills Santa on Christmas Eve and is magically compelled tinto service as the next Santa. I had no desire to see this, but once I did …

THE REF (1994) The movie opens with Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur in marriage counseling on Christmas Eve; the session does not go well and the audience quickly learns of their problems. Caroline has had an affair, and Lloyd is miserable and blames the problems with their son Jesse on his wife.The movie then switches to a criminal named Gus (Denis Leary) who breaks into a house to steal jewelry from the safe; however, he accidentally sets off the alarm, a trap door opens, and he lands in the basement. He is able to get away but his getaway car driven by his partner Murray is no longer there.While Caroline is in the market Gus spots her and with a gun to her back orders her to take him to her car. He then proceeds to order both her and Lloyd to take him to their house. Along the way the couple continues to argue, with Gus beginning to act as a referee to make them shut up. And then the fun begins … Not your typical Holiday movie, caustic and nasty. Which leads us to …

BAD SANTA (2003) This is almost an anti-Christmas movie. Rude, crude, and seething with attitude. NOT FOR EVERYONE. Billy Bob Thorton stars as Willie, an alcoholic mall Santa who, with his dwarf partner (who works as Santa’s elf) breaks into the safes of the malls where they work. And that’s just the beginning.


original post: Thursday, November 6, 2008

Congratulations! For only the second time in her adult life, on Tuesday night Michelle Obama was proud of her country.

Now that the first ever American Idol presidential election is over and the United States has decided (due to a massive Bush hangover) to turn toward European-style socialism, here are some reading suggestions that may help steer some of our citizens to an alternative way of thinking.

***Sorry, none of these books have pictures; I know it's a stretch to ask a government school-educated citizen to actually read a book longer than a People magazine article because, after all, we have so little free time to expand our minds, due to the fact that there are so many great TV shows to watch and video games to play. ***

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley. Written in 1932, this novel depects a "negative utopian" vision of the world, as opposed to the slew of books popular at the time that presented a positive view of communial living. 1984 by George Orwell. Written in 1949, about life under a futuristic totalitarian regime in the year 1984. It tells the story of Winston Smith, a functionary at the Ministry of Truth, whose work consists of editing historical accounts to fit the government's policies. The book has major significance for its vision of an all-knowing government which uses pervasive and constant surveillance of the populace, insidious and blatant propaganda, and brutal control over its citizens. The book contributed the term 'Big Brother' into popular use.

ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. Published in 1957, this is one of the longest novels ever written (645,00 words) and one of the most audacious. It is also becoming more eerily prescient as the years progress. If this book doesn't make you feel uncomfortable (or pissed) and if you cannot see the parallels between this story and the world we live in .... God have mercy on us all.And last,but not least .........

**For extra credit, do you know who killed Hamilton, what office Madison held and what famous treaty John Jay signed? ***


original post: Monday, October 20, 2008

On October 17, Levi Stubbs, the greatest voice from the heyday of Motown was silenced after a long bout with cancer. Compared to the smooth supple singing of Smoky Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Eddie Kendricks (of The Temptations) Stubbs was all about emotion, singing like a man whose survival depended on each word that came of his mouth in a strangled cry.Stubbs began his professional singing career with friends Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954.

Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops. The group began as a supper-club act before finally signing to Motown Records in 1963; by the end of the decade, the Four Tops had over a dozen hits to their name.Although Stubbs was a natural baritone, most of the Four Tops' hits were written in a tenor range to give the lead vocals a sense of urgency. The Four Tops were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.Go back and listen to four of the greatest songs in the Motown catelogue, songs we all know by heart, but this time around, listen to the VOICE. The songs:

Baby I Need Your Loving: Listen to Stubb strangled cry when he sings, "Baby I need your lovin', GOT to have all your lovin'."
Reach Out, I'll Be There: Great line - “… the world has grown COLD … drifting out on your OWN … and you need a hand to HOLD.”
Bernadette: Just listen to they way he screeches her name - "Bernadette!"
Standing In the Shadows of Love: Greatest line of any Motown song: "It may come tomorrow, it may come tomorrow / But it's for sure I've got nothin' but sorrow."

Amen, Levi.


ORIGINAL POST: Saturday, September 27, 2008

Here is my list of BEST and WORST Paul Newman films.

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1954). Bio-pic of middle weight boxing champion Rocky Graziano.

What A Way To Go! (1964). A very obscure but hilarious movie which is a delicious send-up of Hollywood style and greed. Shirley MacLaine stars as a women who wants to marry for love and the film follows her life through her four marriages. Each one of her poor husbands become fabulously wealthy before dying in some freak accident, leaving her an increasingly rich (and frustrated) widow. Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum and Gene Kelly star as her husbands.

Harper (1965) William Goldman scripted this hard-boiled detective flick based on Ross MacDonald’s “Lew Archer” novels.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) What can you say? One of the all time great films with one of the most famous lines … “What we got is (a) failure to communicate.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Another all-time classic. Newman and Redford together for the first time. another William Goldman script. Great line: "I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocules."

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) Not for everyone, but I love this very odd movie with Newman playing the notorious frontier hanging Judge Roy Bean.

The Sting (1973) Newman and Redford in one the greatest crime caper movies ever! Newman's poker game scene is still one of the best.

Slapshot (1977) Love it or hate it … savagely funny.

Absence of Malice (1981) Newman is great in this crime story as Michael Colin Gallagher who finds himself persecuted in the press by a pretty reporter and extracts his subtle revenge.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1993) One of the best (and overlooked) movies by the Cohen brothers. Must be seen to be believed. Wacky, wacky wacky … Plot includes a corporate takeover, the invention of the hula hoop and the Frisbee.

Nobody’s Fool (1994) Newman is great as down-on-his–luck small town handy man Donald J. “Sully” Sullivan, who drinks too much and works too little.

The Silver Chalice (1954) Newman’s screen debut was this costume drama. It was so bad Newman took out an ad in Variety magazine to apologize for its awfulness.

WUSA (1970) One of the all time awful movies, a supposed “comedy” that is more political correctness than a movie.

Sometimes A Great Notion (also known as Never Give An Inch) (1971) Based on Ken Kesey’s terrible novel, this was made into an even worse film. It is only notable because it was the first movie shown on HBO when that cable channel debuted in 1973.

The Towering Inferno (1974) One of those Irwin Allen produced “disaster” movies that were all the rage in the mid-70s after the success of The Poseiden Adventure.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976) A typical Robert Altman over-the-top mess. The most over rated director in Hollywood history.

When Time Ran Out (1980) The last of Irwin Allen’s disaster epics is by far the worst … which is saying a lot. The best things about the film are Jacqueline Bisset’s breasts.

Message In A Bottle (1999) A movie based on another Nicholas Sparks novel. ‘Nuff said.


original post: Thursday, September 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield (67) died on Sept. 16 of complications from diabetes. If his name is not familiar then ... what a shame. I'm pretty sure you know his music. During his heyday as a writer/producer for Motown (mainly for The Temptations) in the 1960s and 70s he was instrumental transforming soul music into a more socially conscious commentary on society. Inspired by Sly and the Family Stone and Funkadelic Whitfield infused a bit more funk into the notoriously smooth Motown productions. The sound was called "psychedelic soul." Whitfield and his song-writing musicial partner Barrett Strong (who sang Motown's first big hit "Money (That's What I Want)" were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. A list of their songs include:

"Ain't Too Proud To Beg" recorded by The Temptations, 1966.
"I Know I'm Losing You" The Temptations, 1967.
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye, 1967-8.
"I Wish It Would Rain" by The Temptations, 1967.
"Cloud Nine" by The Temptations, which won Motown it's first Grammy award (1968) for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance by a Duo or Group.
"Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby" by Marvin Gaye, 1969.
"War" by Edwin Starr. Massive #1 hit in 1970 and considered one of the all time great protest songs.
"I Can't Get Next To You" by The Temptations, 1969 and later by Al Green.
"Psychedelic Shack" and "Ball of Confusion" by The Temptations.
"Smiling Faces Sometimes" by The Undisputed Truth, 1971. Personally, one my favorite Motown songs of all time with a great wicked bass line.
"Just My Imagination" by The Temptations, 1972.
"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" by The Temptations (1973). Perhaps the crowning achievement of Whitfield's career which also won a Grammy for Best R&B Song.
"Car Wash" by Rose Royce, 1976. A #1 early disco smash from the hit comedy movie and winner of the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack Album.

If you cannot sing along to at least half of these songs ... you need to seriously expand your musical horizions.


original post: Tuesday, September 16, 2008

“Smooth” (recorded by Santana) & “3 AM” (recorded by Matchbox 20)– Written by Rob Thomas (Lake City and Turbeville, SC). Thomas is the lead singer of the band Matchbox 20. "Smooth" won a Grammy Award for both Santana and Thomas.

“Little Darlin’” & “Stay” Written by Maurice Williams (Lancaster, SC). Maurice (with the Zodiacs)earned Rock and Roll immortality for the classic "Stay", which was famously covered by Jackson Brown in 1977. "Little Darlin' hit #2 in 1957 and was featured in the film American Graffiti.

“Take The Highway” & “Can’t You See” Written by Toy Caldwell (Spartanburg, SC) and recorded by The Marshall Tucker Band. As guitarist and main songwriter for MTB, Caldwell is one of the stalwalts of the 1970s Southern rock movement.

“Half of My Mistakes” Written by Radney Foster and Bobby Houck (Charleston, SC) and recorded by Radney Foster. Houck, who is part of The Blue Dogs, co-wrote this amazing song with Foster, one of the best and hottest writers on the Country/ Americana scene today.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (recorded by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, and Diana Ross) & “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” & “You’re All I Need To Get By” (recorded by Marvin Gaye) & “Let’s Go Get Stoned” (recorded by Ray Charles) Written by Nicholas Ashford (Fairfax, SC) and Valerie Simpson. The husband and wife team known as Ashford & Simpson is as big a part of the Motown story as is Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. "Stoned" was their first major success as a hit for Ray Charles.

“Summertime” Written by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward (Charleston, SC). Heyward wrote the libretto for this opening song for the opera "Porgy and Bess" and it is the only song he ever wrote. But what a song ... There are more than 1000 recorded versions of this song.

"Every Day In The Week Blues” Written by Pink Anderson (Laurens, SC). When English Mod Syd Barrett was looking for a name for his rock band he combined the first names of his favorite two bluesmen - Pink Anderson and Floyd Council and the rest is history.

“Still” Written by Whisperin’ Bill Anderson (Columbia SC). Major country star of the 60s and 70s. In later years Anderson hosted a game show on TNN.

Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball (Rock Hill, SC). Another South Carolina country singer.
“I Got You (I Feel Good)” & “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” & “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (Barnwell, SC). Soul Brother #1. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. 'Nuff Said.

“A Night In Tunisia” & Groovin’ High” by Dizzy Gillespie (Cheraw, SC). A staggering jazz figure. Generally considered to be the co-inventor of be-bop (with Charlie Parker), Dizzy's importance in modern music cannot be overstated.

“Corner Pocket” by Freddie Green (Charleston, SC). A product of the amazing Jenkins Orphanage Band in Charleston at the turn of the 20th Century. Freddie is credited for having the longest job in jazz history - the guitarist for the Count Basie Orchestra for over 50 years. "Pocket" has become a jazz standard. The Count Basie version is smokin' hot.

“Fire On The Mountain” by George McCorkle (Spartanburg, SC). Second guitarist for The Marshall Tucker Band. "Fire" is one of the great Southern country rock songs of the 1970s.

"Long Black Train” by Josh Turner (Hannah, SC). A Christian-oriented country artist whose first hit was this amazing song.

“Blues For Lawrence” & A Gathering In The Clearing” by Cat Anderson (Greenville, SC). Another product of the Jenkins Orphanage. For 20 years, Cat was played first trumpet for the Duke Ellington Orchestra and became world famous for his high-note playing. He was also a superb composer and arranger.

“You’ve Got To Stand For Something” by Aaron Tippin (Traveler’s Rest, SC). A hard core honkey-tonk singer who sings with a full twange.

“Only Wanna Be With You” & “Old Man & Me (When I Get To Heaven)" by Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim Sonnefield (Hootie and the Blowfish).
These guys need no introduction.

“Jazz Battle” & “Let’s Get Together” & “Till Times Get Better” by Jabbo Smith. Jabbo was one of the first kids from the Jenkins Orphanage to make a national reputation. One of the all time great trumpet players in early jazz.

"Jazz Me Blues" by Tom Delany. Delany was also a member of the Jenkins Orphange and penned this early jazz standard that has been recorded more than 1000 times, the most notable being a version by Bix Beiderbicke. Delany also wrote the obscure and filthy "All The Girls Love Big Dick".


originally posted, Saturday, July 26, 2008

In no certain order ...

1. “Travis McGee” by John D. MacDonald. 21 books all with a color in the title (The Deep Blue Good-bye; Darker Than Amber; The Green Ripper.) McGee, who works as a “salvage consultant” in Ft. Lauderdale, has all the best qualities of Magnum, Rockford, Bond, and Robin Hood, with the addition of yen philosophizing and rueful self-awareness. Must be read in consecutive order.

2. “Burke” by Andrew Vachss. 18 books. Vachss (rhymes with “tax”) is a lawyer who only represents children and youths and writes the darkest, most unrelenting series of books about crime and revenge. Main character Burke is one of the “children of the secret” - abused children who were victimized without ever experiencing justice, much less love and protection. To say the least, the adult Burke is a deeply conflicted character. Must be read in order.

3. “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 4 novels and 5 collections of short stories. What can you say?

4. “Thorn” by James P. Hall. 10 books featuring Thorn who lives in the Florida Keys and makes his living tying lures for fly fishing. There’s quite a bit of Travis McGee in Thorn, and a little bit of Burke also. You don’t have to read these books in order, but I highly recommend reading the first one (Under Cover of Daylight) so you will know why Thorn is the way he is.

5. “Repairman Jack” by F. Paul Wilson. 10 books. Andrew Vachss calls Repairman Jack “righteous!” An apt description. Jack is a loner who lives off the public grid (no SSN, no official identity) and makes his living “fixing” extreme situations. His adventures also feature touches of the paranormal. Must be read in order.

6. “Joe Kurtz” by Dan Simmons. 3 books – Hard Case, Hard Freeze, Hard As Nails. Hard-boiled crime noir at its best. Simmons is one of my all-time favorite writers. In addition to these great novels, he has also written my two favorite horror novels (Carrion Comfort and Children of the Night), a sci-fi classic (Hyperion) and a great Hemingway historical novel (The Crook Factory). It helps to read them in order.

7. “Parker” by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake). 24 books. Parker may be the meanest, nastiest character on this list. Very few redeeming qualities. These books are almost nihilistic. Highly recommend you read these in order – some of the books began the second after the previous book ends.

8. “Justin & Cuddy” by Michael Malone. 3 books - Uncivil Seasons, Time’s Witness, First Lady. Great literate mysteries set in small town North Carolina. Uncivil Seasons is one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. Read in order.

9. “Lew Archer” by Ross MacDonald. 18 books. William Goldman calls these the "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American". Macdonald is the primary heir to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler but his writing built on the pithy style of his predecessors by adding psychological depth and insights into the motivations of his characters. Archer often unearthed the family secrets of his clients and of the criminals who victimized them. Lost or wayward sons and daughters were a theme common to many of the novels. Macdonald was one of the first to deftly combine the two sides of the mystery genre, the "whodunit" and the psychological thriller.

10. "87th Precinct" by Ed McBain. 56 books. THE BEST. The most consistent police procedurals written about day-to-day cops, the inspiration for "Hill Street Blues" and all the other more realistic, gritty cops show that followed. Steve Carella, Meyer Meyer, Bert Kling, Ollie Weeks, Cotton Hawes, and Andy Parker just to name a few of the memorable characters we have to know and love who work out of the 8-7. And of course, the Blind Man, one of the greatest, coolest criminals to grace crime pages. McBain died in 2005 so alas, there will be no more 8-7 books.

11. “Spenser” by Robert B. Parker. 35 books. I almost didn’t list Spenser here … but I had to. This is an infuriating series … the first 14 books are as good as PI fiction gets … and the rest are hit-and-miss. Hawk is one of the great characters in crime fiction. But then you also have Susan Silverman - Spenser's main squeeze. The more important Susan Silverman becomes to the story the more annoying the book is. I keep hoping Susan gets killed and we get back the old, tougher Spenser, not the Oprah-fied Spenser we currently have.


originally posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008

As you will see, this is heavily weighed to the 1970s … what can I say? I grew up in the 70s.In chronological order:

Live at Newport 1956 – Duke Ellington Orchestra (1956) When Duke Ellington took his orchestra to the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956, the band was in need of an uplift, looking for a way to revitalize its image in the wake of bebop, hard bop, and so many more jazz currents. Ellington got the lift he needed when he called "Diminuendo in Blue" with set-closer "Crescendo in Blue" tacked on the end. Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves got the nod from Ellington to segue from "Diminuendo" to "Crescendo," and he created the most famous sax solo in jazz history. With one rousing 27-chorus solo, Gonsalves blew a fever into the crowd and jump-started Ellingtonia for another generation. Capping off Gonsalves solo is an equally over-the-top trumpet solo by Cat Anderson, former member of the Jenkins' Orphanage band in the 1920s.

Live at the Apollo – James Brown (1962) The hardest-working-man-in-show- business proves he deserves the title. Brown was born in the hometown in which I graduated high school, Barnwell, SC. Barnwell's other claims to fame are being home of Cliff Hollingsworth, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe, and the birthplace of Henry Wallace, convicted serial killer of nine women in Charlotte, NC in 1993.

Live at Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968) One of the seminal events in country (and popular) music. By turns funny, maudlin, rocking but always with attitude. This LP helped pave the way for Waylon, Willie and the Outlaw music of the 1970s. Rolicking versions of "Folsom Prison Blues", "Cocaine Blues" and "Twenty-four Minutes to Go," one of the greatest execution songs ever written.

Live at Leeds - The Who (1970) Four guys, three instruments and a wall of noise. Loud, loud and louder! Heavy metal bands are still trying match this. You can almost visualize Townsend's trademark pinwheel guitar playing and Roger Daltrey swinging the mic like a lariat.

Mad Dogs & Englishmen – Joe Cocker (1970) Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen revue showed the world how a rock and roll road show should be done. Recorded live at New York's Fillmore East in the spring of 1970, this CD documents a slapdash extravaganza (the whole thing was conceived, organized, and abandoned over the course of two months) that overflows with big, brassy, rockin' soul. Front and center is Joe Cocker, a spastically charismatic Brit soul shouter. The bandleader is Leon Russell, playing some of the best rock piano ever waxed. And the crack company (boasting 21 singers and players) includes the rhythm section of a band which become known as Derek & the Dominoes' .

Live at the Fillmore East – Frank Zappa and the Mothers (1971)This was a live concept-like album. It was a quick peek behind the curtain of the life of a rock band on the road as narrated by Frank Zappa. Frank and the Mothers portray stereotypically egotistical members of a rock band "negotiating" with a groupie and her girlfriends for a quick roll in the hay. The girls are insulted that the band thinks they are groupies and that they would sleep with the band just because they are musicians. They have standards; they will only have sex with a guy in a group with a "big, hit single in the charts – with a bullet!" and a "dick that’s a monster." One of the funniest LPs ever!

Made In Japan – Deep Purple (1973) This is often in the top five in "Greatest Live Album" lists. One listen you will understand why. Definitive heavy metal with master musicians. The band even indulges in some great long-form jams, reaching into the 10-minute range for most of the main set and closing with the now-famed live read of "Space Truckin'." Ritchie Blackmore earns his "guitar god" status on this release. Ian Gillian releases one of rock and roll's all time great screams in "Strange Kind of Woman."

On Your Feet or On Your Knees – Blue Oyster Cult (1975)As non-mainstream (for the 70s) as this music was, "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees" was Blue Oyster Cult's first album to break into the Top 30, a stunning document of the innovations to come. Sonic bombast on par with their obvious model, the aforementioned "Made In Japan." Bands like Judas Priest and Dokken built a career copying this model.

Frampton Comes Alive – Peter Frampton (1976)What else do you need to know? The album became the biggest selling live album at the time of its release and sold over 6 million copies in the US, and 16 million worldwide. As of 2008, it is the fourth best selling live album of all time.Released in early January 1976, it debuted on the charts at 191. It stayed at the top of the charts, at number one, for 10 weeks, stayed in the Billboard's Top 40 album chart for 55 weeks, and stayed on the Billboard charts in total for 97 weeks. It was the top selling album of 1976. It was so successful it took Frampton almost 20 years to recover professionally.

Live Bullet – Bob Seger (1976) Frampton got most of the sales records and press, but Live Bullet stands the test as one of the all time great live recordings. Bob Seger is one of the best songwriters in rock and roll, and one of the greatest vocalists also ... with a prime-to-the-pump back-up band ... how can you go wrong? This was the LP that put Seger over the top. His next release was called Night Moves.

One More From For the Road – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1976) Again, one of the greatest live recordings of one of the all time great bands. Those of who that have only seen the current version of Skynyrd have NO IDEA how great the original line-up was on stage. Happy that I got to see them twice. In 1976, and the next year, in their next-to-the-las performance before the fatal plane crash.

Seconds Out – Genesis (1977) The last great Genesis LP before they became nothing more than Phil Collins' back-up band. Peter Gabriel had left the group the year before and after auditioning hundreds of vocalists as replacements, the band just decided to let drummer Phil Collins take over the lead vocal duties. Genesis had such a reputation as a live act, it was imperative that the new line-up (sans Gabriel) prove it's mettle on stage - and they did. If you can only own one Genesis release ... this is the one. It includes an amazing version of the 29 minute end-of-the-world opus "Supper's Ready". After this Genesis was well on it's way to becoming the 80s superstars they became. Great for the bank, but lacking in musical creativity.

The Last Waltz – the Band (1978) How amazing can live performances get? The Band's last performance with guest stars galore - my personal favorite being Dr. John. This is also one of the great concert movies.

Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat (1978) The funkiest bunch of west coast (mostly) white guys. Smoking hot versions of Little Feat classics like 'Fat Man In The Bathtub", "Dixie Chicken" and "Oh Atlanta." Lowell George's last great performance.

Live and Dangerous – Thin Lizzy (1978) These guys may qualify as the greatest rock and roll band that ALMOST made it. Sure, everybody has heard "The Boys Are Back In Town", but Lizzy is so much more. Phil Lynott was the Irish Springsteen / Seger. Guitarist Brian Roberson later provided guitar fireworks for Motorhead. One of my regrets is that I never got to see these guys live.

Full House / Aces High – Amazing Rhythm Aces (1981)I may have listened to this LP more than any other live recording! I initially ordered through an ad in Rolling Stone magazine. This LP has been responsible for kicking more parties into gear, and provided the greatest soundtrack for cruising. If you've never heard of them ... think of a Memphis version of Little Feat with more country twang and a wicked sense of humor. God bless the Aces.


originally posted Saturday, June 14, 2008

Here's a list of some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) fiction in which Charleston is one of the major settings. Obviously, there are plenty of books I am going to leave out ... feel free to make your own list.


Prince of Tides and The Lords of Discipline / Pat Conroy. The Prince of Tides tells the story of Tom Wingo, a teacher and football coach who is reluctant to help his twin sister's psychiatrist unlock their dysfunctional family's secrets. When the sister, famous New York poet Savannah Wingo, attempts suicide again, Tom is torn from his safe and dull world and travels to New York to help her. Calling the Wingo family dysfunctional is like calling Paris Hilton an annoying skank - it's true but an understatement.

Discipline pissed off a lot of Charleston people when it was published. Why? It was a little too close to the truth. Charleston people like to be in charge of the mirror. They get upset when someone else decribes the reflection. Both books are amazing fiction. Conroy is an emotional and compelling writer.

Great Mischief / Josephine Pinckney. A perfectly creepy little book that unfortunately is out of print. I had to buy it used on Amazon. The year is 1895, and much of sleepy little Charleston is still lit by gas. Timothy Partridge operates a rundown apothecary shop, where things have't really changed much since the glory days of Romeo and Juliet; drugs are still hanging from nails on the walls, such as bat wings, hummingbird feathers and strange, fiery potions. Timothy is supporting his shrewish sister Penelope and has a roguish best friend, the drunken doctor Golightly, who is always encouraging Tim to live a little, stop being such a fussbudget, One creepy stormy evening a young woman enters, dashing into the shop in an urgent, insistent plea for some solanum. Tim knows instantly there's something "off" about the girl, but he has no idea that she's actually a witch from hell, who will intertwine herself to his life and change it--forever.

Carrion Comfort / Dan Simmons. The War and Peace of the horror genre. One of my all time favorite books. It is December 1980, and a small circle of vampires—not the fanged blood drinkers of legend, but monstrously cruel human beings with the psychic ability to possess and dominate others—gather in Charleston for a reunion, where they score points by comparing the latest acts of extreme violence initiated on their command. It is a page-turning marvel, weaving multiple plot threads and over-the-top action sequences into a narrative of genuine, resonant power. One, Nina, is particularly proud of getting a faceless nobody to assassinate the Beatle John Lennon. But the game soon gives way to a power struggle of an even more ruthless sort. The mind controllers turn on one another, initiating a bloodbath fought with innocents snatched from their everyday lives.

Enter Charleston Sheriff Bobby Joe Gentry, nobody's top nomination for action hero: An overweight, soft-spoken failed historian, who is baffled and angered by the sudden eruption of madness that has left Charleston littered with nine bodies in a single night. Gentry is out of his depth when his investigation begins to involve conspiracies that involve superpowers and coverups at the very highest levels of government power. He is soon joined by Saul Laski, an aging Jewish psychiatrist who has spent his life searching for the Nazi whose psychic powers he experienced during World War II, and Natalie Preston, a young black photographer whose own father was a victim of the massacre in Charleston. These woefully outnumbered three take on a global conspiracy, finding themselves alone in a world where any innocent can be possessed and turned into a murderous assassin without warning.
One of the creepiest characters is 'sweet little old Charleston lady' Melanie Fuller, one of the most evil creatures in modern literature.

Porgy / Dubose Heyward. The story of a crippled beggar who witnesses a murder during a dice game and later gives shelter to the murderer's woman, the beautiful, haunted Bess. The Catfish Row community is united in its opposition to the union, but Porgy and Bess make each other happy, and their happiness only increases when they take in a child orphaned by a hurricane. Their idyll is brief, however. The murderer, Crown, returns for Bess, and Porgy, defending his family, kills him. The police detain him for questioning but never dream that a cripple could have been the killer, so Porgy returns triumphantly to the Row. The triumph turns to tragedy, however, when he learns that, while he was away, Sporting Life, the dope pusher, beguiled Bess with "happy dus'" and took her away to New York City to resume, it is implied,her career as a prostitute. The book, for all it's melodrama, is beautifully written.

North & South - Love & War - Heaven & Hell / John Jakes. Historical fiction as it should be ... well written, and well researched and full of forbidden love, illicit sex, double crosses and other intrigue. In North and South, two strangers, young men from Pennsylvania and South Carolina, meet on the way to West Point . . . The Hazards and the Mains are brought together in bonds of friendship and affection that neither man thinks can be shattered. And then the War begins. Love & War: From the first Union rout in Virginia to the last tragic moments of surrender, here is a gigantic five-year panorama of the Civil War! Hostilities divide the Hazards and the Mains, testing them with loyalties more powerful than family ties. While soldiers from both families clash on the battlefields of Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Antietam, in intrigue-ridden Washington and Richmond, strong-willed men and beautiful women defend their principles with their lives ... or satisfy illicit cravings with schemes that could destroy friends and enemies alike! Heaven & Hell: The war ends, but there is no peace for the Hazards and the Mains in a nation still inflamed with bitterness and hatred. The defeated South teems with schemers and carpetbaggers ... and the North has no place for scarred veterans such as Charles Main, who struggles to rebuild his life in the Plains cavalry, only to be stalked by a murderous nemesis seeking revenge against both families. A gripping portrait of Reconstruction America, and a fitting conclusion to the saga of two mighty dynasties!

Celia Garth: A Story of Charleston in the Revolution / Gwen Bristow. This young adult tale of Celia Garth, a 20 year old woman trying to make a living as a seamstress in Charleston, South Carolina during the Revolutionary war. Celia and her friends survive the seige of Charleston by the British, living through the constant shelling and lack of food until the final surrender. At first, things seem normal after the surrender and Celia begins to build a new life, but tragedy strikes after the British go back on their promises and Celia must start life afresh. This time, while working as a seamstress she is also a bit of a "spy" for the colonials.

Galilee / Clive Barker. Clive Barker has earned a reputation as the thinking person's horror writer. His novels mix fantasy, psychology, and sheer creepiness in almost equal quantities. In Galilee, Barker soft-pedals the ghoulish in favor of the gothic. His novel (or as the author would have it, "romance") tells the tale of two warring families caught up in a disastrous web of corruption, illicit sexuality, and star-crossed love, with a soupçon of the supernatural thrown in as well. On one side are the wealthy Gearys--a fictional stand-in for the Kennedys--and on the other are the Barbarossas, a mysterious black clan that has been around since the time (quite literally) of Adam.

Galilee chronicles the twisted course of this centuries-old family feud, which centers around the magical Barbarossa matriarch Cesaria and her son Galilee. Indeed, it's the latter figure--one part Heathcliff to one part Christ--whose relationship with the Geary women sets a match to the entire powder keg of hostility and resentment. Mixing standard clichés of romance and some deep-fried Southern gothic, Baker has come up with an intelligent and shameless potboiler.

Settling Accounts: In at the Death/ Harry Turtledove. This is the last novel of the Settling Accounts tetralogy that presents an alternative history of WWII. It brings to a conclusion the multi-series compilation that is sometimes referred to as Timeline-191. This alternative history began with the Confederate States of America winning the Civil War in 1862, followed by a war between the United States and Confederate States of America in the 1880s which is also won by the South. In the conclusion, the United State detonates an atomic bomb in Charleston, wiping the city off the map, in retaliation for starting the War Between the States in 1861.

The Devil of Charleston / Rebel Sinclair. Full disclosure ... this novel was written by the love of my life. So ... I admit a major amount of bias. However ... Capt. Royal Ashurst was a brooding sea captain branded the "devil of Charleston" by a powerful merchant, Carter Seymour. Royal is sucked into events out of his control when he becomes an "agent" for the city when the notorious Blackbeard blockades the harbor. The events only enflame his passion for Seymour's estranged fiance Josephine.

The Fallon Saga / Reagan O'Neal (Robert Jordan). Great historical fiction on the same level with North & South. Written by Charlestonian James Rigney, Jr, more popularly known as Robert Jordan, author of the massively successful fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. Jordan died in Sept. 2007. Sharp-eyed tour guides often got a glimpse of him walking Tradd Street.
In The Fallon Blood, escaping brutal English overlords, 1760s Irishman Michael Fallon becomes an indentured servant to Charleston merchant Thomas Carver, where his infatuation with Carver's sensual daughter Elizabeth causes life-changing complications. In The Fallon Pride, Michael Fallon's son Robert Fallon survives years at sea fighting Barbary pirates and enduring the siege at Tripoli. He then returns to America with an Irish wife, Moira McConnell, and goes into business in Charleston where he raises a somewhat troublesome family. In The Fallon Legacy, James Fallon, the last scion of the Fallon line, strikes south and west, adventuring in New Orleans, Missouri, and finally Texas (then still part of Mexico). He loves and loses women, ranches and breeds horses, and becomes entangled in the schemes of shady men and women. Enemies made by Michael and Robert during their lifetimes converge upon James, who must find out if he has strength enough to stand against them.

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig. This is AWFUL!! One of the worst novels I've ever tried to read. Silly and poorly written. The narration is fuzzy and the story is well ... silly. Why can't they leave Gone With The Wind alone? First there was Scarlett by Alexandria Ripley which was a snore-fest and now this "Authorized Novel". Rhett should challenge the Margaret Mitchell estate to a duel for this insult!

All of the 'island" books by Dorothea Benton Frank. You know ... those books that have the fill-in-the-blank plot lines; the major change in each book is the characters' names and the sea island she uses as the setting. Frank is the female James Patterson - books written for the barely literate. I find it ironic that she is from and writes about Charleston, given the sterling nature of the public school system.

All of Mary Alice Monroe's Oprah-fied low country-based fiction.

William Gilmore Simms - praised in his time (1800s) by none other than Edgar Allan Poe, Simms is virtually unreadable today.

The Werewolf Super Sex Club by Mario Acevedo. Mario is the author of the bestselling Felix Gomez vampire detective series. The first three books are titled: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers and The Undead Kama Sutra. They are as fun to read as their titles indicate.

His next book (Super Sex Club) will be set in Charleston. Mario spent a week in the Holy City earlier this year researching the area. Rebel and I were happy to be his hosts and show him the nighttime Charleston. Can't wait for Felix and his vampire friends and werewolf enemies to be running rampant in the streets of Charleston. Could be lots of fun!


originally posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some Like It Hot: One of the all-time funniest movies. Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe are all at the top of their game. Jack Lemmon gives what may be the greatest comic performance in cinema. And to top it off ... you also get the great Joe E. Brown in single-minded pursuit after the cross-dressing Jack Lemmon.

Tootsie: A close second to Some Like It Hot. Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Terri Garr, and Jessica Lange are all phenomenal. And kudos to the late director Sidney Pollack for his great cameo as Hoffman's exasperated agent.

Victor/Victoria: In 1930s Paris Julie Andrews plays a struggling female singer who cannot get a job. Her friend (played by the fabulous Robert Preston) comes up with a scheme: Victoria will pretend to be a man pretending to be a woman and get a job as a female impersonator in a nightclub. Then Chicago mobster James Garner finds himself oddly attracted to "Victor". Great, great movie.

Psycho: What else do you need to know? Anthony Perkins as a cross-dressing murderer masquerading as Mama.

Dressed To Kill: Michael Caine is chilling as a cross-dressing psychopath.

The Crying Game: Infamous movie about a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who executes one of his hostages and then goes on to have a relationship with the murdered man's girlfriend.

Nuns on the Run: Comic silliness with Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane as criminals who hide out in a convent dressed as nuns.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar: Hilarious movie with Patrick Swazye and Wesley Snipes as transvestites who get marooned in a small town and get involved with the locals and their troubles.

Ed Wood: Directed by Tim Burton (in glorous black and white) and starring Johnny Depp as the cross-dressing cult movie maker, and all around weirdo, Edward D. Wood, Jr. The film concerns the period in Wood's life when he made his best-known films and also his relationship with actor Bela Lugosi, played with magical intensity by Martin Landau.


Glen or Glenda: Usually considered one of the worst movies ever made, it has become a cult classic due to its awfulness. Directed and starring Ed Wood (with a drug-addicted and impoverished Bela Lugosi) with such ineptness it inspired a movie that was 100 times better, Ed Wood.

Mrs. Doubtfire: Robin Williams in drag so he can see his kids ... it's even worse than it sounds, mainly because it is directed by the vapid Chris Columbus.

Yentl: Barbra Streisand cross-dresses as a Jewish man so she can study law. Bad, bad, bad ...


originally posted Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rebel and I just finished our 14 month saga of watching all 9 seasons of The X-Files in order. Very sad to have it come to an end. I was most surprised by how many of the episodes in Season 9 were really good. However, Seasons 3,4,5,and 6 were when this show was really turning out a great episode week after week. So my final opinion. The best show on TV ... ever. Dana Scully is smart, and hot hot hot! Monica Reyes is almost as hot hot hot. The Smoking Man is one the greatest characters ever on TV, and the Lone Gunmen were fabulous. And Mulder is Mulder.Here are my favorite episodes ... in order in which they were broadcast. I gave up trying to rank them. I did make myself leave out another 15 however.

1. Humbug, Production Code: 2X20 (second season, 20th episode) Wacky and weird.Mulder and Scully travel to Gibsonton, Florida, a town built and populated by circus and sideshow performers to investigate the death of Jerald Glazebrook, The Alligator Man. While searching for leads on the killer, the agents come across many bizarre characters including the local sheriff who was once known as Jim Jim, the Dog-Faced Boy, Dr Blockhead who performs human feats of endurance and The Conundrum, a tattooed jigsaw man who eats live animals. Scully finds it difficult to find a normal suspect, in a place where nothing is normal.

2. Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, Production Code: 3X04 Guest Star: Peter Boyle.Sad and smart. Mulder and Scully are called in to assist in an investigation of a killer who is targeting fortune tellers. The investigators have very little to go on and need all the help they can get. Clyde Bruckman, an insurance salesman, knows so many details about the crimes that Scully suspects he is the killer. Mulder however believes that Clyde Bruckman has psychic abilities and is divining the information that way. Peter Boyle as Bruckman is outstanding.

3. War of the Coprophages, Production Code: 3X12Funny and weird. Mulder travels to Millers Grove, Massachusetts to investigate reports of UFO sightings in the area. It turns out that the town is suffering from a cockroach invasion, and that these cockroaches have been attacking and killing people. Mulder confers with Scully by phone, she is skeptical of killer cockroaches. In each case Scully has an explanation, the exterminator was allergic to cockroaches and died of anaphylactic shock, the teenage boy was using drugs and suffered from Ekbom Syndrome, a drug induced delusion of insects invading the body causing the sufferer to try to cut them out. And the medical examiner died of an aneurysm while on the toilet. Then Mulder catches one of the cockroaches and discovers it has a metal body.

4. Jose Chung's From Outer Space, Production Code: 3X20 Guest Stars: Charles Nelson Reilly and Jess Ventura. Fabulous, maybe the best episode of all! Funny and weird like a nightmare. Renowned writer Jose Chung, researching for his book on alien abductions, interviews Dana Scully, who relates to him the case of a teenage couple, Chrissy Giorgio and Harold Lamb, who claim to have been abducted while on a date in Klass County. The only problem is, the victims and witnesses all have different versions of the events that took place. From Chrissy's first belief that she had been a victim of date rape, to the re-appearance of Harold with his tale of alien abduction. Jesse Ventura as a Man In Black is a great cameo, and the casting of Charles Nelson Reilly is brillant. But the scene with Mulder in the diner eating plate after plate of slices of pie is true magic. Like the best lost episode of Twin Peaks.

5. Home, Production Code: 4X03Monumentally CREEPY and disturbing! A baby is found buried alive in shallow ground and appears to have birth defects resulting from generations of inbreeding, leading Mulder and Scully to a reclusive family who have a history of inbred children. You will also never listen to Johnny Mathis again and feel comfortable. Truly great! This episode was so disturbing FOX only aired it on network TV twice.

6. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, Production Code: 4X07. A Lone Gunmen episode! AND a Smoking Man episode all rolled into one! An important episode in the X-Files mythology.Frohike pieces together and recites to Mulder and Scully what could be the possible life story of the Cigarette Smoking Man; from a young captain in the US Army recruited to assassinate President Kennedy, to becoming the mysterious man in the shadows at the height of a global conspiracy. What measures will the CSM take to ensure that he remains a mystery forever?

7. Small Potatoes, Production Code: 4X20Hilarious and sweet. Five babies in the same town are all born with tails and the local OB-GYN is blamed for tampering with fertilised eggs. However, Mulder discovers the culprit to be a simple man with a genetic deformity who may have the ability to alter his appearance.

8. Unusual Suspects, Production Code: 5X01. Funny as hell and important to the mythos. In this flashback episode, Mulder meets a straight-laced federal employee, a sex mad AV expert and a nerdy computer hacker who become known as the Lone Gunmen. They bond together to help Susanne Modeski, a strange woman with evidence of a government conspiracy. When their plan to expose the conspiracy fails and Susanne is captured by a group of men-in-black, they soon become a paranoid group of government watchdogs.

9. The Post-Modern Prometheus, Production Code: 5X06Sweet, odd and sad. Filmed in glorious black and white with a comic book feel to it, this is a modern retelling of Frankenstein as Mulder and Scully get caught up in a town where the residents live on Jerry Springer episodes and fear a two-faced monster who has been impregnating the women.

10. Bad Blood, Production Code: 5X12 Guest star: Luke Wilson.Funny and scary!Another episode that shows different people's viewpoints of the same story. After Mulder chases down and kills a young man whom he believes to be a vampire, Scully realizes that his fangs are fake. The agents then return to DC, aware of the mistake they just made. Faced with a lawsuit from the family of the man, they recount each of their sides to the story leading up to the event. Luke Wilson plays the sheriff with the hots for Scully, or maybe not, depending on who is telling the story.

11. Triangle, Production Code: 6X03. Exciting and romantic.Mulder goes to the Bermuda Triangle when he learns that the Queen Anne, a British luxury liner which disappeared during WWII, has re-appeared in the middle of the Sargasso Sea. Mulder's boat is wrecked and after floating in the water, he is hauled aboard the ship which has just been hijacked by the Nazis searching for the man who will build the atom bomb. Mulder tries to convince the crew that they have traveled into the future but evidence further suggests that it is he, who is back in the past. Mulder plants a REAL kiss on Scully in the time warp, knowing she will not remember in the real timeline.

12. Dreamland (1) Dreamland II (2), Production Code: 6X04. Guest star: Michael McKean. Mysterious and hilarious. One of the best!While being detained near the famed "Dreamland" Area 51, a strange craft flies overhead and Mulder swaps bodies with an Area 51 'Man-in-Black'. While the other agent has fun in Mulder's body (seducing Skinner's secretary and putting the moves on Scully), Mulder himself finds it difficult to fit into someone else's life, especially a shadowy one. Mulder contacts Scully about the body-swap and tries to get her the Flight Data Recorder from the UFO test flight but his alter ego uses Mulder's FBI persona to have him arrested. Mulder is thrown in jail at the Area 51 compound but is released when it is discovered that the flight data recorder he stole was a fake. Scully comes to her senses and realizes that the Mulder she sees isn't who he really is and heads back to Nevada to help the real Mulder. Meanwhile, the mechanism that caused the body swap is rapidly snapping back, undoing everything in its wake and Mulder and his alter ego must race to put themselves back where they belong.

13. Rain King, Production Code:6X07. Guest Star: Victoria Jackson. Romantic, sweet and funny. Mulder persuades Scully to join him in an investigation in Kroner, Kansas after being asked by the local Mayor, who believes that the drought they have been suffering from for the past nine months is caused by Daryl Moots. Following an argument with his fiancee Shelia, Daryl lost his leg in a car accident six months earlier, ever since then he has been able to make it rain at will. They go to Rain King Inc's office and meet Daryl's secretary, she cannot understand why Mulder and Scully are investigating Daryl who is just trying to help people.. Mulder and Scully go to a local farm where Daryl is due to make it rain. When Daryl arrives he claims not to know how he does it, but after a little dancing around, there is a clap of thunder and it starts to pour with rain. That night Mulder is nearly killed by a cow picked up by the wind and dropped in to his hotel room. Next morning Shelia claims to be responsible for the weather. Mulder doubts that she is the one controlling the weather but does believe that she is the key to the case as suspicions focus in on the local weatherman and his unrequited love for Shelia.

14. How The Ghosts Stole Christmas, Production Code: 6X08. Guest Stars: Edward Asner and Lily Tomlin.Funny and creepy at the same time.Mulder talks Scully into investigating a haunted house on Christmas Eve where several couples have met their fate on that very night. While there they encounter endless tricks and traps set by a ghostly couple who originally made a lovers suicide pact in the house. The ghosts try to convince Mulder and Scully to kill each other.

15. Arcadia, Production Code: 6X13. Hilarious!On their first official case back on the X-Files, Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple at a prestigious planned community where several residents have recently disappeared after failing to comply with the rules and regulations.

16. The Unnatural, Production Code: 6X20. Great! One of the best!It is Saturday afternoon and Mulder is in the X-files basement office leafing through New Mexico newspaper obituaries from the 1940's looking for anomalies, much to Scully's dismay on such a beautiful afternoon. But Mulder stumbles across a newspaper picture of agent Arthur Dales with a Negro baseball player and the alien bounty hunter. Ripping the page from the book, Mulder leaves the office and goes to Dales' apartment, only to discover that Dales brother, also named Arthur has taken over the apartment. But when he shows the photo to Dales, it turns out that the photo is of him not his brother. In June 1947 Dales was a police office in Roswell, assigned to protect a Negro baseball star Josh Exley from member of the Klu Klux Klan, bent on keeping baseball white. Exley played for a Negro team called the Roswell Greys and had hit 60 home runs in the season matching Babe Ruth's record, and so was being scouted for the major leagues. Only Exley does not want to play for the major leagues, he is quite content to stay where he is and play baseball for the Roswell Greys. Only Dales claims this was because Exley was actually a grey alien who had fallen in love with the game of baseball and that was the reason he did not want to play in the major leagues. As the newspapers and reporters would dig in to his background and reveal the truth. A fear shared by Exley's fellow aliens who send the alien bounty hunter to deal with the problem in his own unique fashion.

17. Improbable, Production Code: 9ABX14. Guest Star: Burt Reynolds.Weird and slyly funny.When Reyes uses numerology to connect the murders of several women to an obsessed serial killer, she and Scully become trapped with a mysterious checker-playing man who may or may not be the killer. The question then becomes who is going to be the next victim. Burt Reynolds is very effective as the checker-playing man who may (or may NOT) be Satan.


originally posted Monday, September 17, 2007

It has become a clique to say “the book is better than the movie.” 99% of the time, that is true. But what about that 1%? Every now and then, Hollywood takes an o-k book and improves it into a classic. Here is a list of movies that are BETTER than the book.

MOVIE: The Shawshank Redemption. BOOK: "Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King. A novella in King’s Different Seasons collection. The movie explores the storyline in much more detail and nuance, and having Morgan Freeman in your movie is ALWAYS a great move.

MOVIES: The Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum. BOOKS: Same titles by Robert Ludlum. If you’ve ever tried to muddle your way through Ludlum’s lifeless prose, you were stunned by how good these movies are. Good thing movies cut out the boring prose and replace them with action.

MOVIE: Contact. BOOK by Carl Sagan. Sagan’s writing is as interesting as wet cardboard. The movie however, is thrilling, passionate and suspenseful.

MOVIE: Angel Heart. BOOK: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. The book was good, but the movie, holy shit! One of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen. Lisa Bonet playing a character named Epiphany Goodheart smashes her Cosby kid reputation in one of the best sex scenes in a mainstream movie.

MOVIE: Forrest Gump, BOOK by Winston Groom. I read the novel when it was released and thought it was funny. But the movie . . . is a classic. But you already know that.

MOVIE: Jumanji, BOOK by Chris Van Allsburg. A slim children’s book becomes an amazing comedy/action/fantasy despite the presence of Robin Williams.

MOVIE: Die Hard, BOOK: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. Book was a run-of-mill cop action thriller, but Bruce Willis turned into a franchise.

MOVIE: Every film based on a Tom Clancy novel. Clancy writes as well as Rosie O’Donnell diets. Most of his books have turned into good movies.

MOVIE: Somewhere In Time. BOOK: Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson. This time-travel romance movie is INFINITELY better than the novel it’s based on, which is unusual, cause Matheson is one of the best popular writers of the 20th century.

MOVIE: Cool Hand Luke. BOOK by Donn Pierce. The book is almost unreadable; the movie is one of the greatest!


10. Explosion of Powder Magazine, May 1780: A powder magazine that sat between Archdale and Mazyck (now Logan) Streets accidently exploded. More 200 people were killed, sixty that were burned beyond recognition. An eyewitness reported human limbs handing from trees and torsos writhing on the street. Also, a brothel was destroyed, certainly a disaster!

9. Jan. 15, 1778 Fire: Fire started in a kitchen house at the corner of Union (State) and Queen Streets (currently Smith-Killian Gallery). It burned down Queen Street toward Meeting Street. It spread down Union Street east toward Broad, and burned Elliott Street, Bedon's Alley and all of Tradd Street east of Church Street. Losses: $3 million, and 250 homes.

8. City Drainage System. It has been raining in Charleston since 1670. And by the way, in 2006, when it rains, it STILL floods the streets. Thank you Charleston City Council, where the motto is: "If it's broken, let's TALK about fixin' it. If it ain't broke, let's see how we can raise taxes and attempt to make it better."

7. Charleston County School Board: South Carolina ranks 46th in public education, because the school board is a political playground, not an educational system. CCSB is the worse. Just look at the candidates running for office on Tuesday. And look who is in charge: the supertintendent of Charleston County sets a great example: She is consistently late for meetings, had an affair with a married man when she arrived, became pregnant with his child, has made several questionable financial descisions with taxpayer's money and is STILL serving in her position. Welcome to Charleston! See above motto for Charleston City Council.

6. South Carolina Aquarium: Paid for by taxpayer's money, the overpriced ($70 million) vanity project opened to the public in 2000 and is still operating at a loss. $2.4 million in 2005. And by the way . . . the streets are still flooding every time it rains. (See # 8.)

5. April 1838 fire: Started in a fruit vendor store at the corner of King Street and Beresford Alley (now Fulton Street). It burned eastward and destroyed most Ansonborough, 1200 bulidings and more than $5 million in damage. Most of the fire crews were black slaves who, according to white officials, had little "interest in saving the property of white citizens.” Hmmm, imagine that.

4. Dec. 11, 1861 fire: Destroyed 540 acres and over 500 private homes. Property losses totalled $8 million. Because the fire happened eight months into the War Between the States, one third of the city remained a burned out district for over a decade.

3. 1886 Quake: Occuring 21 years after the conclusion of the War Between the States, the timing of this disaster was devastating. And, it was preceded by major hurricane in 1885. Charleston was already shabby and shaking off the dust of a 20 year depression. $6-8 million in damage.

2. Hurricane Hugo: Class 4 storm. Around midnight of Sept. 21, 1989, a 14 foot storm surge of water swept past Ft. Sumter into the Charleston harbor. 80% of the homes on Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms. 50,000 Charlestonians were homeless after the storm. There was a total of more than $3 billion damage in Charleston alone.

1. Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861: The men of Charleston were the aggressors. They pushed the issue of seccession , and fired the first shot against Federal troops. The result of their actions: Over the next four years more than 650,000 soldiers were killed. That was followed by a 20 year depressison for the Southern states. Charleston can take credit (blame) for starting the worse war in American history, and plunging half of the country into a economic and cultural abyss from which, according to some people, it has never recovered. However, most of us have gotten over it . . . . Most of us.


(Originally posted April 22, 2007)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Oct. 19, 1977, Columbia, SC. I saw Skynyrd twice and both times they were great, but this show gets the nod for one simple reason: It was the next to the last show the original Skynyrd band ever performed. The next night they performed in Greenville, SC and flew to Louisiana but their plane ran out of fuel and crashed in Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant had one of the greatest stage presences I’ve ever seen.

Allman Brothers / Atlanta Rhythm Section: 1980, Columbia, SC. What a double bill! ARS was at its commercial peak and the Allmans are always good. Ronnie Hammond of ARS did one of the greatest Mick Jagger parodies I have ever seen. While ARS was playing ‘Imaginary Lover’ they effortlessly morphed the song into the Stones’ ‘Miss You’ and Hammond did a dead-on Jagger prancing on the stage and singing.

Mary Chapin Carpenter: 1990, Greenstreet’s, Columbia SC. I’ve seen her several times in larger arenas (one memorable show w/ Vince Gill), but she is better in smaller venues. This was one hell of a show, just as she was on the cusp of winning several Grammy Awards. BONUS: Radney Foster opened up as an acoustic solo act.

Rodney Crowell, 1988, Greenstreet’s, Columbia, SC. What a club Greenstreet’s used to be. Crowell is one of the greatest song writers of the past 50 years and one helluva performer. This was the first tour for a young hotshot guitar player named Stuart Smith, whom Crowell had discovered. Smith is now playing guitar for the Eagles when they tour. (He’s the clean cut guy who outplays Joe Walsh every night.) Crowell has only gotten better with age. BONUS: Crowell’s then-wife, Roseanne Cash, sat on a stool on the edge of the stage all night.

The Eagles / Amazing Rhythm Aces, 1980, Columbia, SC. The Long Run tour, with Timothy B. Schmit on his first tour as the new bass player replacing Randy Meisner. As a long time Poco fan that was very cool. BONUS: My second time seeing the Aces in one year. Even though they were only give a 45 minute set, they were, as always, amazing.

Radney Foster, 1994, The Wagon Wheel, Orangeburg, SC. Radney would the heir to the Rodney Crowell throne except that Rodney is still around and as good as ever. This club show was in support of the Labor of Love CD, Radney’s last release for a major label, before he went Indie and expanded his musical vision. Great voice on stage with one helluva band – Mike McAdams is an amazing guitarist. I am anxious to see Radney again.

Amazing Rhythm Aces, 1980, USC Spring Fest, Columbia, SC. The greatest outdoor musical event & drunkfest I’ve ever attended. The Aces are one of those bands that are always better live. Their rendition of ‘I Must’ve Died and Gone to Texas’, which was changed to “I Must’ve Died and Gone to Carolina’ for the show was one of the most fun singalongs I’ve ever participated in.

Dixie Dregs / Mother’s Finest / Little Feat, 1978, Civic Center, Augusta, Ga. What a triple bill! At this point hardly anyone had ever heard of the Dregs and their guitar playing genius Steve Morse, and unfortunately most people still don’t know about Mother’s Finest, the greatest funk/soul/ hard rock band in the world. And Little Feat, even on a bad night, can blow away most other live acts.

Bob Seger, 1980, Columbia , SC. The Against the Wind tour. I recently saw Seger in Charleston in 2007, and he was still phenomenal, even though his voice was nowhere near its old glory. Back in 1980 when he was still a younger man, this was as good as a rock-and-roll show could get. Three hours long and no let up!

Montrose / Foghat / Black Oak Arkansas, 1975, Augusta Auditorium Augusta, Ga. Being that I was 15 and had never attended a rock concert ever, I loved it. Montrose had a lead singer named Sammy Hagar, and Foghat was two years away from ‘Slow Ride’, but was one of the best live acts of the 70s. Black Oak just sucked, even at age 15 I could tell. Foghat blew them off the stage.

Honorable mention: Roseanne Cash, 1990; Elton John/Billy Joel, 2005; Earth, Wind & Fire, 1978; Grand Funk Railroad, 1977; Paul McCartney, 1996; Poco, 1985; The Police, 1980; Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1992.


(Originally posted May 3, 2007)

What do the following people have in common?

  • Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tyra Banks, Tina Fey (actors/writers/celebrities),
  • Rosie O’Donnell (professional braindead loudmouth),
  • Kate Moss (female bag of bones who works as a model),
  • Elizabeth Edwards (pampered wife of a rich lawyer),
  • Tony Dungy (NFL coach) and
  • Al Gore (former VP and leader of the 21st Century’s first religion – environmentalism)

They are all on Time magazine’s list of Most Influential People in the World. And Al Gore was placed on the list of “Scientists and Thinkers”!!! But for the first time ever, the President of the United States is not on the list. I guess Time hates Bush so much, they decided the most powerful man in the world was not worth mentioning, but Tina Fey who writes a TV SHOW is!
Using Time’s criteria, here are some revised Top Ten Lists:

TOP 10 MOVIES OF ALL TIME (alphabetical order)
Battlefield Earth
Clambake (Elvis)
Grease 2
Howard the Duck
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Speed 2: Cruise Control
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
Weekend at Bernies II

TOP 10 TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME (alphabetical order)
Cop Rock
Hee Haw Honeys
Hello Larry
Jerry Springer Show
The Love Boat
My Mother, the Car
Pink Lady and Jeff
Still the Beaver

TOP 10 MUSIC ARTISTS OF ALL TIME (alphabetical order)
Air Supply
Michael Bolton
Celine Dion
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Kenny G
Iron Butterfly
LaToya Jackson
Richard Marx