The Great Horror Family: Yet another wacky tv horror sitcom (!?) and one you may have missed…

This piece was originally published March 23rd, 2009 Onibaba IconThere have been plenty of horror and supernatural television series that have had a great deal of wit and/or a tongue in cheek aspect to them (think The Night Stalker and its offspring, The X-Files) but an all out goofy, slapstick filled, bloody horror / monster sitcom? You can pretty much count the television sitcoms that could be listed under “horror” on one hand. In the sixties, when television genres really started to loosen up and take chances begetting successful shows involving witches, genies, spies and animated cavemen or flying squirrels, you had two of the best loved—and primarily the only ones most people can think of as straight up horror comedies: The Munsters and The Addams Family. Both of these classic shows exemplified the love and obsession with monsters that had viewers flocking to cinemas and drive-ins throughout the ’50s and ’60s and reading magazines such as the ones that help spawn the love, Famous Monsters of Filmland or the omnipresent kid staple, MAD. For awhile it was monsters, monsters and more monsters—at least until the mid sixties James Bond spy craze took over and everyone needed a briefcase that contained a pop out throwing dagger.

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I Was a Teenage Movie Maker 2: Confessions of a Super 8 Freak

This piece was originally published March 9th, 2009

Frankie Teen IconI had fun making amateur movies as a kid with my friends. Things were different then…were they ever. You see, video — that was something that was waay out of our league. Only grownups that had academic credentials used video. I saw that firsthand, observing the wacky hipsters who came into our 3rd grade music class videotaping our visit from the local Looking Glass Theater children’s acting troupe. No, video cameras were out of the question. They cost unfathomable amounts of money, were huge clunky behemoths with accompanying heavyweight television monitors, and shot disturbingly poor grade black and white images. This did not meet with our colorful kid standards at all — video cameras were best left to the early German Krautrockers like Kraftwerk who also had room sized, hand built synthesizers.

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TajTunes: The Singing Telegram with a Happy Twist

This piece was orignally published February 23rd, 2009

Dr Guru from the 1967 Fantastic Voyage Saturday morning cartoon show IconIndia is a nation where music and song are ingrained into everyday life and virtually inescapable to the resident or traveling visitor. From outdoor market stalls and back alleyway shops, there are loud speakers often set up somewhere providing a daily soundtrack for the passerby. From business district to humble doorway, there are performers or non performers singing, chanting or at the very least changing the cassette or cd of their funky windowsill boombox.

It is nearly a prerequisite that most of the films released in the Mumbai based “Bollywood” feature song and dance sequences, regardless of the subject matter or genre, that will often tie into becoming massive selling soundtracks and popularly known songs throughout the gigantic country.

In keeping with this spirit of daily musical delight and escapist love of song and dance comes a happy company called TajTunes…

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What’s so funny about Peace, Love and …Dioramas??

This piece was originally published February 9, 2009

Japanese Robot Goldar from Space Giants Icon

 

I’m fairly certain that no dictionary definition is needed here for exactly what a diorama is.

Well, just in case there is one person who isn’t quite sure, or isn’t familiar with The Simpsons episode, Lisa’s Rival, here are two simple ones:

1) A three-dimensional miniature or life-size scene in which figures, stuffed wildlife, or other objects are arranged in a naturalistic setting against a painted background.

2) A miniature, three-dimensional scene, often depicting a historical event.

From childhood on, we have all seen and experienced firsthand the modern day examples of dioramas. Be it via the often creepy and slightly upsetting versions, at least that’s what comes to my mind whenever I am viewing say, a taxidermist fueled fest such as the kind of wildlife diorama found in a museum of science or natural history setting – teachers, scientists and tourists just love ’em – or the ones created with ever so cool toys that you want to touch, covet, take home and place into your very own fake grass and plaster over chicken wire creation.

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R.I.P. Lux Interior: Inimitable frontman for The Cramps

 

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This piece was originally published February 4th, 2009

Goo Goo Muck IconLux Interior, singer for The Cramps, died today.

The Cramps were formed in 1976 by Lux along with his wife, guitarist Poison Ivy, and together they made some of the coolest green slime Z movie sounds ever heard. 

 

The Cramps merged rockabilly, shlock horror, drive-in trash and underground punk rock into a voodoo stew that few others could even hope to attempt with such singularly perfect results.

Simply put, he was among the most greatest of all frontmen to have ever appeared on a stage.

DIG THE OLD NEW: THE INCREDIBLE FORGOTTEN WORLD OF 78 R.P.M. RECORDS AND SOUNDS

This piece was originally published January 26th, 2009.

Golden Queen IconVHS vs Beta? Blu-ray vs ?? Format wars have been around for a long, long time and exact dates, details and the inventors are often very difficult to pin down.

So keeping this in mind, The Mystery Box brings you a look at the format known as the 78 rpm vintage record – which prior to the dominance of vinyl 33 1/3 rpm lp’s and 45 rpm singles, was king of the record industry – followed by two essential ways to hear the strange and fascinating world that is contained on these black, shiny portals.

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Mystery lesson pt. 1) The shellac 78 rpm (a.k.a. “revolutions per minute” or the speed of the Continue reading, please click here…

JEEVES’ TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO AN ALARM CLOCK NEAR YOU

This piece was originally published January 15th, 2009.

Monocle Man Icon

 

An alarm clock for people who hate alarm clocks, hate getting up in the morning, and really hate not having enough scratch to afford a good personal man-servant to roust you in the a.m. with freshly squeezed orange juice.

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While you may not have the life of leisure bestowed upon young Bertie Wooster, you can at least pretend that you have his valet, actually THE valet of valets, Jeeves, in your constant employ thanks to Voco U.K. and their Stephen Fry, Jeeves alarm clock. Continue reading, please click here…

BEE GEES’ ODESSA – 40TH ANNIVERSARY REISSUE

This piece was originally published January 13th, 2009.

Morey IconToday marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Bee Gees’ lavish Baroque double lp pop masterpiece, Odessa. To anyone unfamiliar with the ’60s work from the Bee Gees, think not the ’70s disco or ’80s & ’90s soppy gloss. Throughout the decade, their most prolific period, the Brothers Gibb crafted some of the most creatively insightful, ambitious and majestic music to rival anyone of the time. Not to mention, having hit single after hit single.

Odessa, their sixth album, would be the apex of their work together – a double album covered in red flock velvet for the first pressing, heavily orchestrated, and loosely based on the concept of a ship lost at sea. After Odessa, the Gibbs would never again be as creative, would splinter off into solo projects and until their resurrection as disco icons, stay off the pop charts.

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Reprise/Rhino Records puts their usual magical touch to this release by not only replicating the red flocked cover, but by including 3 cds worth of music and extra materials to create a superb deluxe version box set of this previously little know gem. Outstanding in every way possible.

WHAT’S INSIDE THE MYSTERY BOX??

Morey IconHello and welcome to The Robert Jaz Mystery Box – a column (and site) which I will be contributing to on a regular basis and will also include special guest contributors.

What’s in store with this column? Well, some groovy graphics and a small back story. I enjoy introductions, formalities, a little pleased to make your acquaintance…or as I would really like to think of this – an apéritif.

Firstly, I write about the things I love.

Here you will find writings on: Music and the Visual Arts, Observations of Cultural Ephemera and Juxtapositions of Genres.

Along with my own art, music and perhaps a few Laffs.

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A Mystery Box advertisement from the 2009 – 2013 run of columns.

Just what is The Mystery Box??

The Mystery Box is a gimmick that has been used by savvy magicians throughout magic’s history as a catchall trick which could vary in design, presentation and purpose. We are all enticed by both what is in, and what could possibly be pulled from “the box.” Similarly, I’ve used The Mystery Box for several projects I’ve worked on over the years. Having never been comfortable in my life with pigeonholing or staying within one medium, category, or theme, and like my own interests and collection of pop culture ephemera, The Mystery Box can be about anything and everything—Genres without borders.

I once hosted a weekly film series which I called The Mystery Box Film Festival. While this was a weekly series and not actually a festival as usually assigned to film gatherings, I merely wanted each once-a-week showing to be a very very special EVENT (secretly, I also liked confusing people while getting a grant for it). At the same time, my film selections were freed up to be whatever I felt like showing — from the often dreaded contemporary “critically acclaimed,” which usually meant a dreary turnout and an equally depressing pretentious film, to arthouse classics, experimental and underground cinema, fantastic silent greats, schlock z grade nonsense (huge turnouts), student Godard wannabes from the nearby universities (ok, huge turnouts but everyone was unhappy by the end of the evening), vintage comic book serials (Ford Beebe anyone?) and subtitled surreal masterpieces such as a personal fave, Bunuel’s Simon of the Desert. Like the original repertory arthouse cinemas of the past; we all had variety, laughs, a low budget education and an all around great meeting place to exchange creativity with our fellow punters.

In another use of The Mystery Box, there was the time while I was I working at a weekly free arts and entertainment newspaper. I used the old “grab bag” idea which I loved from childhood. My dad would come home from work with a simple unmarked paper bag he’d bought at a large area department store—usually around the holidays—and give me a few per week. These bags often held small toys, candy and other cheap novelties, but the thrill of not knowing what would be in one and receiving such an unknown, really filled me with immeasurable delight. For my newspaper Mystery Box project, I ran a weekly ad attached to my column, which stated that if a dear reader would write to me or send me anything they wanted—creatively speaking that is—I would return to them a large envelope judiciously filled with things: rubber stamp art, doctored photos, trinkets and goofy thank you letters. This proved to be a very fun and rewarding experiment for senders on both sides and never led to any hate mail, bad vibes or distasteful mail. I also recently became friends with someone years after the fact, that sent in to me as a kid for the freebies, and is now accomplishing many great artistic things as an adult. I’m just glad they finally erased my name off their chalkboard that reads “Cheap Bastards of My Youth: Who to Whack Next.”

It is with a fondness for these past forays that I will now be contributing my newest Mystery Box in column form for RobertJaz.com. I will as always, unpredictably open this grand and decorously laden box, dip in, and pull out anything that seems worthy of sharing. I will also attempt to make wisps of smoke appear magically from my fingertips and infuse some guffaws, snickers and and/or chortles into my writing only because I really enjoy the words guffaw, snicker, and chortle.

I’m more than happy to once again provide this catchall title to my ever growing morass of tangential discoveries, interests and findings from either the here and now or the historically fantastic past. In other words…Huzzah!

Due to the rapidly speeding by nature of writings on a site such as this, I will also attempt to create columns or entries that can be easily accessed on the site at any time and hopefully ones which will still be of some interest long past their sell by date. Please feel free to post comments, or contact me either at RobertJaz@gmail.com or through this fine site.

Many thanks to you for reading this, and please enjoy your stay.

Til next we meet again, and in the words of the great Groucho Marx, “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”