THE FINE ART OF FIRECRACKERS

This piece was originally published July 1st, 2013.

Uncle Sam IconGrowing up in the Mystery Box-land that is Providence, RI, it has always been a special treat to await the festivities that are annually celebrated on one larger than life day here in the United States, Independence Day.

The Fourth of July.

I grew up near a beach, so in actuality it was the eve of the Fourth, on the night of the Third of July that was the real party, with everyone making bonfires along the beach, and lighting more illegal fireworks than could be imagined.

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Nothing goes better with fireworks than liquor and bonfires on a beach

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The actual day of the Fourth was always reserved more for cookouts, seafood boils, parades and hangovers, with fireworks generally relegated to the larger displays by the local municipalities or baseball stadiums, and whatever scant few firecrackers were still unlit from the night before by the plebeians were casually used—making for an occasional pop and crack here and there throughout the day and night.

Fireworks in RI and MA were illegal. You needed to have someone run a trip up to New Hampshire and fill the trunk of their car, a flatbed, or the back of their truck with enough to satisfy families, friends and seemingly, entire neighborhoods. I can’t recall anyone ever being arrested for using fireworks, as it seemed that unless you really put folks in harm’s way, the local law enforcement looked the other way and enjoyed the spectacle like everyone else. Oh, and did I forget to mention that we had a family friend who was a policeman, and he usually supplied us with loads of firework every year.

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Get your illegal fireworks here! Continue reading, please click here…

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MY CREEPY VALENTINE: Love Songs From Another Dimension

This piece was originally published February 14th, 2011.

Wolfman Valentine Post IconValentine’s Day is one of those holidays that really divides folks.

There seem to be few who remain neutral when asked about this February tradition.

For whatever personal reasons, some people grumble and immediately fire off a few shots exclaiming how much they despise the whole thing.

 

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Simmering with dislike, they view February 14th as nothing but a cheap ploy to force affection and spend some money needlessly—much to the delight of the nation’s retailers of course.

Meanwhile, sitting over in the effervescent land of candy, flowers and cards, are those who view it as a reminder of just how nice it is to be in love, to be loved and in general have a pleasant, however brief it may be, momentary bit of happily ever after.

So whatever money is spent, it’s still a bargain.

I thought it would be fun to list some of my favorite that deal with love. Yes they deal with love, although they deal with the subject in a rather tweaked, off-beat and sometimes sinister way. Hell, a few are downright dangerously obsessive and lead to nefarious endings.

So while love has been the primary subject of pop and rock and roll for decades, there are a few noble writers who have managed to take quite a different road than the normal love song.

You may have a few of your own to add to this list. Continue reading, please click here…

HALLOWEEN: Mystery Box Style…

This piece was originally published October 25th, 2010.

Spook Show Post IconHalloween is one of the stranger quasi-holidays that many of us celebrate. Personally I enjoy a round-the-year love of most things that many people only go for on Halloween such as creepy films, scary stories, kitschy bad novelties, and disturbing yet cool music.

Life is in so many ways, one big Halloween costume party, so when October 31st rolls around I usually see it more as a good time to bulk up on certain things that are more readily available this time of the year, until they are put back into the retail coffin storage warehouses or usually sold off at as cheap bargains (I always seek them out) to make way for the bad Thanksgiving decorations and props of November.

We all have our well loved movies, music, books and other activities to keep us happy around All Hallow’s Eve. Of course nothing would be right without the prerequisite Bruce Campbell/Sam Raimi Shempfest that are the Evil Dead films, the original Romero classics Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead, Hitchcock’s Psycho, numerous Vincent Price flicks (many are the wonderfully disturbed period films directed by Roger Corman of course), Dario Argento’s Suspiria, and loads of the Universal Horror masterpieces.

In tribute to this year’s Halloween extravaganza, I thought I would share a few lesser known delights that are my personal hand-picked classics, yet may be a brand new discovery for you, dear reader. Perhaps you will find one golden piece of candy corn among these Mystery Box faves!



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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, NEW YEAR, ETC. ETC. !!

This piece was originally published January 4th, 2010.

Happy New Year 2010 Icon copyAll sorts of celebrations lately.

It’s a new year, a new decade, and this week marks the 1st anniversary celebration of the resurrection of this Mystery Box weekly column.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely, and from my heart, thank you all for reading and coming back each week.

I look forward to this coming year’s stay here.

I’m settled in and ready to go-go. I hope that my subject matter for each new column will also be as entertaining and interesting for you as they always are for me to come up with.

If I can get you to seek out some new (or old) music, visual art, discover a great comedian of the past that you never heard of before, or find a new love for anything that I have been able to dig out of the Mystery Box’s deep chamber, then I am a very happy scribe here at the command module and my weekly work is accomplished.

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A SMALL POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE CRACKED RAINBOW

This piece was originally published December 28th, 2009.

Mod 2009 Year-End IconThankfully, here at The Mystery Box H.Q. I am kissing goodbye to what has been a roller coaster of a year.

One that has been filled with the lowest of lows, albeit also with some very beautiful  happiness.

In retrospect, this seems to be a transitionally positive and better year than last year, which downright sucked dirty motor oil and exhaust fumes.


Without reporting the downers or becoming mired in too much negativity, since I get enough of that through reading Twitter and Facebook updates from the cranky or through my own venting outbursts, I am going to run down a list of a few of the standout things that have really helped make this year more fun than not, more up than down…

Listed may also be some things that I will be doing future column pieces on, so for now I won’t fully elaborate on everything in long detail and unfortunately, I am probably going to forget quite a few that I would love to add, but I will try my best to spill out a selection of The Mystery Box 2009 for your reading pleasure…
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A Christmas Gift for You From Robert Jaz

This piece was originally published December 14th, 2009

Ronnettes IconOK the title for this week’s Mystery Box column may be a bit misleading.

The gift is actually one that was given to the world in 1963 by the very famous and legendary (as well as infamous and notorious) enfant terrible, Harvey Philip “Phil” Spector.

Phil Spector, a man who many (myself included) feel may be one of popular music’s all time greatest producers, has recently more or less capped, and in a sad note, what was a brilliant and careening career of outstanding merit.

In light of the tragedies involving the world of Phil Spector that have been in the news recently, I felt that perhaps mentioning Phil in this week’s title might be a bit too tabloid-like or off putting for what should be a cheerful time of the year. Basically, I wanted this to be a separation of the Phil I admire and the Phil I shake my head at.
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Ruminations From The Kids’ Table: 10 Non Traditional Things To Do On Thanksgiving

This piece was originally published November 23rd, 2009.

Thanksgiving Parade IconAh Thanksgiving! 

The other white meat

I mean…the other great American holiday extravaganza.

For most, a fine time for getting together and dining with family, friends and other loved ones.

Yet, for some, perhaps a time of loneliness, reflection or worse, being forced into stressful situations that we honestly dislike.

Sometimes we feel obliged to attend gatherings that we wish we could escape from, and other times we have an ok time but would love to put a small twist into things to give the entire affair a healthy spin of fresh delight.

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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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