Stephen Gammell Strikes Back

concept and artwork by J.J. Lendl.

HarperCollins has published a 30th anniversary edition of the seminal “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” trilogy by Alvin Schwartz and had opted to REPLACE all of the INCREDIBLE artwork by illustrator Stephen Gammell, artwork that has for years been debated about among censorship groups due to the sheer terror it instills in young readers (which is the entire point of a book of scary stories, right?), with new, less objectionable, artwork. I feel that if Gammell’s drawings can simply be replaced by other artwork, it’s only fair that some of Gammell’s work get to replace some other well known works of art.


Why, YouTube, Why? – Janet Jackson Slide Show

Now that my mother has been on Facebook for a couple years, I stop thinking of the situation in terms of “Oh god what is she going to see” and more in terms of “Hey, I can share links to videos and articles without opening my email!” While both processes are relatively easy, it’s just more fun to post it to her wall and not have it mired in an inbox full of forwarded puppy photos.

So today, thinking that I haven’t sent her anything in a while, an idea popped in my head – when I was a kid, she used to LOVE the video for Janet Jackson’s “Runaway.” You know the one, where she’s hopping off of buildings like Spiderman and landing in lush and colorful foreign lands, where she is instantly welcomed and joined for choreographed dance numbers. Obviously, I was a child of the early 90’s and even more obviously, I loved the video too.

With my seemingly simple plan in place, I headed to YouTube and searched for “janet jackson runaway”. Immediately, something stood out as suspicious – one of the auto-complete searches was for “janet jackson runaway official music video” – always a dead giveaway that several versions exist on this vast digital wasteland, therefore the latter three words are a necessity. I braced myself for the search results.

On the following page, only two videos matched the title I wanted. One was clearly the old “Here is a 3 and half minute shot of the album cover, uploaded simply so you can listen to the song and do work in another tab.” The other result carried the curious description, “Slide Show on my pics.”

It was simply that, yet so much more.

If you view the embedded clip below, you’ll find something I consider to be as hilarious as any Funny or Die clip on YouTube. It baffles me that user “jigg074″ took the time to take the in-tact music video, import it into a rudimentary editing program (let’s assume by the craftsmanship that it’s Windows Movie Maker), and ever so casually layer in reverse Ken Burns shots of her face – and not different shots, the same one. Multiple times. The kind of snapshot you look at once and go, “Well, that is her…not the best angle, but whatever.” The whole video!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. And don’t worry – I still posted it on my mom’s wall. Now I don’t have to get her a Christmas gift.

The Strokes return to Earth

This is so marvelous I can’t describe how happy it makes me. Ever since First Impressions of Earth made it feel like the Strokes had left the Earth as opposed to just joining it, it’s been an oddly dark time of waiting. Waiting and re-trying. I would every once in a while put the record on and try, TRY to like it, but it was so scattershot that I just couldn’t do it. My mind warped in a thousand directions and the unbalanced EQ with squeaky guitars doing opposing lines and barely harmonizing while Julian warbled just turned me off – or rather, turned me back to Is This It? and Room On Fire to remember why I liked them in the first place. With the exception of “You Only Live Once” and “Ask Me Anything”, which I still think is beautiful and sad, I barely give it a chance anymore.

When Julian released a much-touted solo album last year, I bought it on my birthday at Best Buy in Cleveland and blasted it all the way through in my rented Mini Cooper. I knew the lead single from Stereogum, and was pleased. But alas, the rest of the album fell into the First Impressions… trap, only this time there were synthesizers and polyrhythms. Where was Fraiture and Valenci, Moretti, and Hammond, Jr. (names that I somehow still have memorized from years of adolescence Rolling Stone magazine absorbing) when I needed them?

They were here, holed up in a gaudy opera hall with the tuxedos to match. From the opening beat, to the reverbless jangle of the dueling guitar parts, revealed to be white Fenders subtley augmenting each other in their Tele/Strato differences, I was hooked and in love and feeling 19 again. I want to believe the enjoyment isn’t pure nostalgia (especially since culturally I don’t feel that removed from 2002, certainly not the way someone in 2002 would have felt removed from who they were in 1993), though it certainly plays a part. This is the missing 3rd album, taking the charm and joy from Is This It? and the musical interplay from Room On Fire and smoothing out the edges to create the best of both worlds. Enjoy it as I did, marvel at how cool the leather jacket is, and anticipate the full album as 1,145,674 other people have in just under 2 weeks.