The Film That Rocked

This piece was originally published November 16th, 2009

Radio Caroline IconRenowned Director Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and A Funeral to name only a few) brings to life the exciting, colorful and often madcap world that was revolving around the zeitgeist of mid sixties Britain in his latest feature, Pirate Radio (U.K. title: The Boat That Rocked).

Forget the usual tepid remakes, uninspired adaptations, disappointing ideas and lousy sequels to films that were never so hot to begin with, this is easily my favorite original fun film of the year.

The story takes place during 1966.
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Rube Goldberg + The Three Stooges = 1930’s SOUP TO NUTS

This piece was originally published August 10th, 2009

Larry Fine IconMost folks are familiar with the famously talented Rube Goldberg.

Goldberg’s iconoclastic comic strip drawings for his character, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts’-better known simply as his “Inventions”-still delight, bemuse, entertain and provide the inspiration for competitions worldwide for their attempt to make complex, the very simple.

The Three Stooges comedy team need no introduction.

What is not often known is that these two famous names came together in a 1930 Goldberg scripted feature film entitled, ‘Soup To Nuts.’



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LUAU HUT PART 1: Chasing the Polynesian Dream…

This piece was originally published June 22nd, 2009

Tiki Mug IconWelcome to a recurring new Mystery Box series: The Mystery Box Luau Hut — my ongoing look at all things from the world and history of Tiki Culture and Exotica music.

Since childhood, like many other fans, I too have fallen under the spell of all things Polynesian themed a.k.a. Tiki.

Never a month goes by that I don’t rekindle that fondness in some way.

So I am happy to report that Tiki style not only manages to still exist (if you seek it out) but also continues to inspire newer artists, designers, and musicians who wish to escape into its dreamy world of imaginary exploration.

First, a look at the origins of this colorful style.


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TREK WEEK: 13 Things I Obsessed About On Star Trek, The Original Series a.k.a. Just Where Are the Bathrooms On the Starship Enterprise?

This piece was originally published May 4th, 2009

Vulcan Man IconAh, classic 1966 Star Trek. We know it all too well: William Shatner’s inimitable Captain James T. Kirk; Leonard Nimoy’s half Vulcan, half human Mr. Spock; and Sulu. Not to mention, an immeasurable amount of fodder for discussion, trivia, merchandising and collectibles.

1966 Star Trek, in its endless cycle of syndicated reruns during my teenage years, was my very first foray into any type of a full blown obsessive, deep fan-trance, geeked out, collector type mentality.

Call it the beginning of my lovable/sick desire to collect memorabilia, toys, books and to actually go beyond that of merely absorbing something as just entertainment.

Sure, I had other loves before and spent any money I had on courting them as well. There was James Bond and all things spy; monster movies; music; models; MAD magazine and comic books (I was a proud member of Marvel’s FOOM); Saturday morning animation, and other groovy syndicated tv shows like Batman (Adam West),The Green Hornet, The Munsters and The Addams Family. Yet, Star Trek is where my young brain skipped a therapy session and decided to dive into things. I needed the toys, the books and devoted my pondering thoughts to all things Star Trek in a way that I not yet experienced.

Where no “I” had ever gone before.

Now, a small sampling of these as I list 13 things about Star Trek: The Original Series that I heavily obsessed about. In no particular order of importance, as they were all important…



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This piece was originally published April 27th, 2009

Half Blue Girl IconHow could 5 American GI’s, stationed on a military base in the middle of 1961’s Cold War immersed Germany, in a few years become one of the most out there, avant garde, experimental garage rock and roll art bands to ever come along in pop music’s history?

Well, it doesn’t hurt if you have an electric banjo, are called MONKS and dress like…Monks.

For over ten years, Directors Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacios have been working to bring the little known tale of one of the wildest, most strikingly different bands of the sixties to the screen. This unlikely story is a superbly engaging film called Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback.

For those uninitiated to the Monks’ story, music or visual image, this film tells a thoroughly head scratching tale: they were a group of GI’s who originally set out to primarily have some fun and meet some girls through making beat music and covering Chuck Berry tunes under the name The Torquays in 1964 while performing for their fellow servicemen also stationed in Germany. They soon hooked up with “a pair of loopy existentialist visionaries,” namely two German art student/producers who helped use their own experimental ideas about art, noise, society, politics and generally how to create an in your face image—best seen to be believed—to shape the band into an altogether different kind of pop act.


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Little Steven’s Underground Garage: Celebrating 7 Years (So Far, and So Far Out) of Garage Rock Radio Greatness

This piece was originally published April 6th, 2009

Mop Top IconThe Little Steven’s Underground Garage syndicated weekly radio show began 7 years ago and is currently celebrating a seven year anniversary of playing selections from the ever growing umbrella of Garage Rock’s creatively wild, brilliantly defiant and just plain freakin’ good music from the ’50s to NOW. The current program is listed at show #366 and there is definitely no sign of slowing down.

One would be hard-pressed to find a better music radio host at the moment (ok Bob Dylan might be an equal, but he’s the subject of a future column) than the gravely voiced, street smart Dead End Kid who is Little Steven…

Steven Van Zandt a.k.a. Little Steven, was born at the beginning of the rock and roll decade, in 1950, to an Italian American family in Winthrop, Massachusetts. Moving to New Jersey when he was 7, his life as a musician will forever be one for modern music’s history books. Even an incomplete list of accomplishments is staggering: founding member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, several early pre fame Bruce Springsteen bands, twice (and currently) a key figure in the legendary Springsteen E Street Band, activist and leader of the ’80s all star “Artists United Against Apartheid” Sun City benefit ensemble, and infamy as an actor in The Sopranos as the memorable Silvio. Hell, most folks would probably lounge on an island doing nothing else between recording albums and nightly four hour plus shows of touring with The E Street Band alone.


Thankfully, for those of us who live, love and breathe cool music, Mr. Van Zandt seems to be a workaholic, and number one fan of all that he programs on his radio show.
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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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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.



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


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.



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.


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.


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 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 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.”