Doing another of my Play in a Day projects tomorrow, Friday Jan. 6, 2-5 p.m. at Never Ending Books, 810 State St., New Haven. Eleven have been staged so far, and each announcement of the next brings flurries of emails from friends and strangers alike.
My stage pursuits are a topic for another page.
What I want to celebrate here is the ongoing good works of Never Ending and Roger Uihlein, who founded the place over two decades ago. It’s a storefront that operates like Alice’s rabbit hole—you fall in and the most bizarre things happen. I’ve done (and seen) theater there for years. Both I and my daughters have held birthday parties there. Many bands have played. Book sales and clean-ups have occurred. A New Year’s party onetime.
Roger, I and others have been brainstorming new projects for the place, including a kid-only coffeehouse cabaret. But just existing, with the bursting bookcases and stained rugs and tweeting radiators, is Never Ending’s most fantastical achievement. Long may it Never End.
Watermelon ring pop
Green-on-green striped candy canes
A caramel-apple lollipop
Blue raspberry rock candy
Three grape-flavored Dum Dum pops
A Goetze’s Bulls-Eye. Classic!
The usual jawbreakers and fireballs.
That was a long party at Millie’s mom’s a few months back. In some minds, it’s still going on.
A lot of legendary things happened at the bash, including a six-hour jam session in which two guitarists featured prominently—“Pop” Bash of The Mental Place, and the industrious Frankenjoe of Danger on Vampire Trail. The axemen dueled for hours, antagonistically at first and then copacetically on a magical riff that seemed to arrive from nowhere.
Now the magic has dispersed. Pop and Frank each claim that the riff sprang out of their own fertile scalps. (Both men are bald.) The riff rift began when their respective bands debuted new songs at the annual holiday punk marathon in Santa’s basement, and a couple of tunes were suspiciously similar. Pop accused Frank of lifting his riff, and Frank accused right back.
No lawsuits yet—given the financial straits and mixed-up priorities of both TMP and DoVT, nobody’s got the cash to record for a while, and such disputes don’t get ugly until royalty payments rear up. But this a real grudge happening. Don’t expect a shared bill maybe ever again.
Shattered Helmet at the Bullfinch, with that guy who calls himself Lost Tunnel doing an acoustic opening set… The Disappearing Floor, apparently some sort of dance-party reference, plus Secret Warning at Hamilton’s… It’s a winter-gloomathon at D’ollaire’s with What Happened at Midnight, The Clue in the Embers and While the Clock Ticked…
I call home to tell them I won’t be there for the holidays. Nobody’s home.
123, “Scared But Not That Scared” single. The A-side begins much differently than what it becomes, from one of those common jangly pop openings into a weird David Essex-esque vocal. Unexpectedly gritty, yet there are still those modern-pop underpinnings. The other two songs, “Gun Master” and “Machine” are similarly unprepossessing pop with surprises. ”Machine” even yodels a bit.
The Lives of Sacco & Vanzetti
By Rick Geary (NBM, 2011)
I’ve been a Rick Geary fan for decades, and that means following him in some odd directions—his National Lampoon pages, his spin-off of Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot… but longform delineations of historic murder trials is what he does best, and it’s a pleasure to see him doing it now with long drawn-out complicated cases, slickly printed between hard covers.
Geary did a compendium of Victorian murder cases some years ago, but I think his style is better suited to post-Industrial America. His people have the roundness of John Held Jr. characters with the pockmarked detail of old black-and-white photography. His new full-length graphic novel series has allowed him to sink his teeth into the Lindbergh kidnapping and now the multi-faceted, heavily politicized travails of Sacco & Vanzetti. Geary really sinks his inky teeth into all the conspiracy theories and contradictory evidence, but lays the initial facts out cleanly and maintains a tricky balance between reality and courthouse conjecture. A lot of what’s he’s illustrating is trials rather than crimes, and you marvel at the variety of tools he’s developed to enrich his storytelling even when there’s little or no action.’
You come away from this slim, packed volume knowing all the basics of the Sacco & Vanzetti case and quite a lot more. You get a sense of how passionate people got about the pair’s guilt or innocence, how differently the men behaved, how constant the biases and tampering with evidence were among those sworn to uphold justice. Above all, Geary’s chosen medium suits the swollen, cartoonish tale he’s telling. He’s at home in the era—no corny ‘20s clichés in his art, just period suits and hairstyles—and in command of his subject: the art of celebrated killings.
John DeStefano should get Ron Smith to deliver all the mayoral speeches for him. It would mean that the right words in the text get punched, that the appropriate pauses for applause and reflection would be granted, and that rallying phrases might actually rally a few people. When DeStefano gives a long speech, he rushes through key phrases, misses opportunities for driving home main themes though emphasis and repetition, looks down at the paper constantly, and generally looks like he wishes the speech were a lot shorter.
Ron Smith, on the other hand, preaches and rages righteously.
But the main reason that Smith should give DeStefano’s speeches is so Smith would be distracted from giving any speeches of his own. Smith hogged the limelight at Hill Career High School, first in a rambling intro to his duty of certifying the election results, then again when sworn in as city clerk.
Other observations of the inaugural festivities: other than a trite and terse “look forward to working with all of you” from the mayor, there was no acknowledgement of the horde of brand-new alderpeople sharing the stage with the longterm mayor (beginning his tenth term) and city clerk (beginning his fifth). In fact, no big deal was made of the other exceptional aspect of this year’s elections—DeStefano’s record-breaking run in the office. All was cliché and platitude, so bland that small missteps and omissions (DeStefano reeled off a long list of local and state politicians in attendance at his inaugural, but neglected to mention Toni Harp, who was there as well) seemed to take on major significance. Yet I don’t think these speechifiers are capable of subtlety and mild digs. That gives them too much credit.
There was so much talk of God—Smith’s remarks plus the two reverends doing the invocation and benediction plus Rev. Boise Kimber swearing in Smith—that it made the very concept of separation of church and state seem laughable. That was the spirit of the room. Which explains why Smith got cheers instead of “Because it’s unconstitutional!” catcalls when he said “You want crime to go down? Put prayer back in schools.”
From the stories and gags within Archie Comics Digest Magazine #80, October 1986.
In a Lane Vein
…and the surfing gag Rave Wave.