TV Shows »The Twilight Zone


It’s extremely comforting to revisit a classic show like The Twilight Zone. Whether its an iconic classic like Time Enough At Last and To Serve Man or ones I’ve never seen like Elegy or The Invaders, the sci fi anthology still impresses and entertains.

It must have stunned audiences back in 1959 when it debuted. It’s proof that interesting ideas and good writing are timeless.

You can watch all the original series on Netflix instant. A perfect background for cold days stuck inside.



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Posted on February 27, 2013

Albums »Ray Charles In Person

by Ray Charles (1959)

My sticking point with Ray Charles has always been over-production. Those Disney-esque backup vocals and cascading orchestra? It’s too much and distracts from his voice.

So, a live album like Ray Charles in Person is perfect.

Same great songs minus all the fluffy polish. It’s a quick one, blink and it’s over, but you get some classic favorites ( “The Right Time”, “What’d I Say”, “Drown In My Own Tears”).

Most impressive? It was recorded on a rainy night by one guy in the audience with a microphone but it sounds amazing.

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Posted on August 15, 2012

Movies,Spend a Couple Minutes »Rear Window

directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1954)

Some of my absolute favorite movies have never been recommended here because:

A. I assume everyone has already seen them and

B. They’re such known classics that there’s not much left to say except “It’s awesome”.

But I am recommending Rear Window regardless because no one needs me to say much anyways and I am always surprised at how few people have seen what I think are major classic films.

Hey, let’s make a week of it – I’ll call it my Top Best Movies You’ve Probably Seen But If You Haven’t You Better Get On It Marathon.

And if you are already a fan of Rear Window and don’t need me telling you to watch it, check out this stunning time lapse video of the amazing set piece.

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Posted on April 4, 2012

Songs »White Christmas

by Otis Redding and The Drifters

White Christmas is a great holiday classic, cheers to Irving Berlin! But it’s roots are in the old fashioned Bing Crosby era sound and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the song really takes on new dimensions with more interesting renditions.

My favorites are The Drifters who lend a toe tapping doo-wop sound, while the incomperable Otis Redding spins his heart broken soulful magic and suddenly White Christmas is the best song ever!

It’s one of the holiday’s most covered songs, so if you don’t agree with my favorites, you can likely find one that suits you (Rick Astley, NKOTB, or Kenny G, perhaps?)


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Posted on December 21, 2011

Songs »I’d Like You for Christmas

by Julie London

I am really into the holidays this year, just ask anyone that drops by and finds Christmas classics playing in our apartment all day.

Van is a huge fan, but for those that aren’t I’m recommending Holiday songs anyone would love all week.

Starting with the sultry voiced Julie London and her lonely I’d Like You For Christmas. It’s underplayed and hasn’t been covered a million times which is refreshing.

Plus it will make you feel like a heartsick pin up girl, staring out her window on Christmas eve.

And since I’m in the generous spirit, below are a few of this sexy singers amazing album covers.

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Posted on December 19, 2011

Albums »Stand By Me Soundtrack

Various Artists (1986)

The whole apartment’s been alive with the sounds of third grade as Jim and I been nostalgic for the Stand By Me soundtrack.

I imagine we weren’t the only ones that treasured that well worn cassette tape.

I choreographed a dance to Lollipop and always somewhat dramatically cried during the title track as the thought of River’s bar fight demise was too much for my eight year old heart to bear.

The album steered me towards a 1950’s obsession that lasted a few years – lucky for me I was hosting birthday parties in the age of Fuddruckers.

Now I’m a mom and I’m old and my baby Van is grooving to his favorite track “Get a Job”.

It’s one of the coolest things about parenthood really, that things you loved from your youth get revisited by new eyes and ears and suddenly being eight years old doesn’t seem far away at all.

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Posted on October 24, 2011

Books »A Rage in Harlem

by Chester Himes (1957)

It’s a shame that the name Chester Himes  is not as well know as Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard. His colorful mix of humor, poetic despair, violence, and action put him on par with the best noir writers. A Rage in Harlem is my first Himes read but definitely won’t be my last.

It concerns a gullible square named Jackson who’s been had by some no good swindlers and a dame. In a half brained frenzy to put things right, he only spirals into deeper and deeper trouble leading him to seek help from his doped up street smart brother Goldy who makes his way by impersonating a nun and selling tickets to heaven.

The book is packed with wild, intriguing characters like Goldy ( including two hard ass cops named Grave Digger and Coffin Ed) but Harlem itself plays the biggest role.

Vivid and taut, this book is both gruesome and absurdly funny. While reading, I kept thinking what a great movie it would make and was surprised to learn there already is one from the early 90’s starring Forrest Whittaker. It’s said to be pretty good so I look forward to watching it.

PS – the book as also released under the name For Love of Imabelle and I’d love to get my hands on those photo cover Panther editions!

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Posted on October 13, 2011

Movies »Little Fugitive

directed by Morris Engel (1953)

Little Fugitive, to be honest, was forced on me by an old friend years ago, and I never fully thanked him. It’s a classic, simple film that effectively shows a day in the life of a little boy.

Forced into exile when he’s convinced by his older brother’s friends that he’s killed him (a plot point that’s not as grim as you might think), adorable Joey runs away to Coney Island until his brother finds him.

Despite being a non-actor, Richie Andrusco is fascinating to watch as he gathers bottle, eats watermelon, and makes friends. It’s just as fun to see the old fashions, signs and scenery of Coney Island circa 1953.

Available on netflix instant, this is a great find for lovers of old New York and anyone in the mood to feel like a child again.

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Posted on August 18, 2011

Books »Deep Water

by Patricia Highsmith (1957)

Patricia Highsmith‘s Deep Water is a slow simmering thriller. It’s a claustrophobic look inside the very strange and cruel marriage between Vic and Melinda. Living in separate quarters, theirs is a loveless but weirdly co-dependent relationship based on the odd, not quite unspoken arrangement that Melinda can take as many lovers as she pleases.

Teetering between loathing and dedication to his wife, whose affairs are viciously paraded in front of him (often in his own living room), Vic loses himself in his unusual interests, like book printing, poetry, entomology… and eventually murder!

Not since George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has there been a fictional couple so messed up yet willfully entangled in their daily chaos.

Though it’s not written first person, the book is definitely from the point of view of Vic, which makes the reader feel like, if not a cheerleader for him, then at least a confident. It’s not hard to be on the side of Vic, despite his crimes, as his wife is so outwardly awful.

By the end, you feel that uncomfortable queasiness you get when you’ve seen far too much of someones personal life and find it repulsive… but at the same time, you can’t resist hearing more and more details.

I have been meaning to read a book by Patricia Highsmith of Talented Mr. Ripley fame for some time and this certainly won’t be the last.

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Posted on June 16, 2011

Albums »Ella and Louis

by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956)

I usually like my albums, particularly jazz ones, a little messy. I always think artists, like Ray Charles for instance, suffer from over production and accompaniment, but the 1956 album Ella and Louis benefits from the clean sound.

The duos’ unique voices, which are in stark complimentary contrast to each other, are the centerpiece with limited but beautiful musical arrangement. Even Satchmo’s signature trumpet only makes brief appearances.

In what is arguably the pinnacle of vocal duet albums, Ella and Louis perform with love and joy some of the era’s greatest songs by, among others, Berlin and Gershwin. Isn’t It a Lovely Day?, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and Cheek to Cheek are some of my favorites that have been filling my apartment with musical sunshine as I prance around with Mr. Van.

This is genuine and heart swelling feel good music that sounds as wonderful as the album cover photograph would suggest.

An easily accessible album to those weary of vocal jazz. Even Jim, not so much a fan of the genre has been requesting it get replayed.

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Posted on June 14, 2011

Songs »Sincerely

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty Five: Best Song to Accompany a Corsage:

Sincerely by The Moonglows (1958)

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Posted on May 25, 2011

Albums »Sleepwalk

by Santo and Johnny

Slide guitar reminds me of two things: Hawaii – to which I’ve never been and High School Proms – well, OK, not MY prom where I had just broken up with my date and Toad the Wet Sprocket still ruled, but you know, the fluffy dress, Enchantment Under the Seas kind of prom.

No one was as prolific on the instrument as the Brooklyn born duo Santo and Johnny, whose collection Sleepwalk, Vol 1 has been brightening my days lately.

They lend their musical styling to a variety of songs, so that in the end, you’ll be taken on a slide guitar journey that goes beyond Hawaii and Proms while still making a stop at each with Sweet Lelani and the excellent title song respectively.

You’ll hear hints of the Old West in one of my favorites, The Wandering Sea, and be able in envision a David Lynchian scene with another favorite, You Belong To Me.

You’ll be whisked away to a groovy party via Watermelon Man, think you’ve just turned on a 1970’s variety show with the musak-y glitz of Volare and even say hello to a sunshiny Christmas with Twistin’ Bells (Van’s current favorite – the boy loves Christmas music).

This just seems like the perfect music to be listening now during the fresh air days of May.

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Posted on May 12, 2011

Songs »Cielito Lindo

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Five: Best Song to Sip Tequila to This Afternoon:

Cielito Lindo by Los Panchos

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Posted on May 5, 2011

Movies »Nights Of Cabiria

directed by Federico Fellini (1957)

I expected Nights of Cabiria to be great, considering Fellini is directing, but it’s so much smaller in scale and less dramatic and surreal compared to my favorites (8 1/2 and Amarcord) that I was surprised to fall so hopelessly in love with it like I have.

Much of the magic of the film belongs to Fellini’s wife and star Giulietta Masina, whose adorable face is one of cinema’s most expressive. She manages to make the character of Cabiria, an aging prostitute in Rome touching, prickly, slightly disturbed and incredibly charming all at once.

I really can’t imagine any other actress creating such a memorable and complex woman with little more than a smile and a smirk. Of course, the cast orbiting her is also spectacular and in usual Fellini fashion, awesome to look at. Her curvy best friend Wanda is notably amazing.

Divided into small intimate vignettes of her life, you grow incredibly tender for this scrappy but deeply damaged woman. Nothing is more painful than watching someone you care about get hurt and it’s even harder you see it coming a mile away and they are oblivious.

As she walks down the street, literally brushing her self off from rock bottom and manages a tearful smile to the camera, it’s impossible not to get teary eyed yourself. It’s a rare treasure to find a film that can evoke so much compassion.

Cabiria just reminds me and affirms again that Fellini truly was a genius, whether depicting the lavish loves of the jet set or the hard knock day to day of the poor. A must see!

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Posted on April 2, 2011

Movies »A Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

directed by Richard Brooks (1958)

There’s no modern equivalent to the great Tennessee Williams whose witty melodrama and familial unraveling is always fascinating. So when I am in the mood for some passionate Southern squabbling, nothing fits the bill like A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (By the way, that’s a mood I do get in fairly often.)

From Burl Ives’ hard hearted Big Daddy to the shrill “Sister Woman” the cast is excellent. But it’s the Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman that really bring the life to the film. And they seriously both look insanely gorgeous. It’s unearthly.

Thank goodness Grace Kelly and Elvis didn’t take the offered roles, neither could capture the fire like these two.

This is one of the best Williams adaptations, second only to Night of the Iguana but it’s definitely not one of the most faithful. The toned down homosexuality enraged Williams who told people not to see the film.

The first time I saw it, I was too naive to understand the subtext (Skipper was just his BFF, right?) I’ve seen it a few times since then but I found it the most heartbreaking this go round. Maybe it just comes with getting older, the pain of life seems more acute, even if it’s just in a broken marriage and a loveless family on screen.

Of course, with Taylor’s recent passing makes this the perfect time to watch or rewatch this classic which is available on Netflix instant.

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Posted on March 27, 2011

Books »Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe (1958)

Things Fall Apart was a milestone in African Lit. It was one of the first successful novels about Africa and written by an African. It introduced the world to tribal living in Nigeria, specifically the Igbo culture at the time of the 19th century invasion of missionaries and colonists. It’s no less interesting decades later and no less heartbreaking.

Chronicling the life of a fierce warrior named Okonkwo, author Chinua Achebe is economical in his writing which is matter of fact and without dramatic flourishes and lengthy descriptions. Events, as small as women preparing for a feast and as powerful as the murder of a son are described frankly and simply, which makes them all the more affecting. It reflects the traditional stories that are woven into the novel.

The novel is common high school reading, made clear to me in my used book that includes the scrawled inscription “I hate this book!” from some ninth grader past, but this is the first time I’ve read it. I enjoyed it much, much more than the book’s previous owner.

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Posted on March 24, 2011

Movies »The Tales of Hoffmann

directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1951)

When Jim saw The Tales of Hoffmann in the Netflix sleeve, he asked what it was and I said “That is not for you”. While it is highly and rightfully praised for it’s cinematic beauty, a film set entirely to opera with no dialogue is a tough sell in my house, and probably many others. I like opera generally, though have to admit, this one isn’t my favorite musically.

Luckily, that hardly matters since the real spectacle here are the surreal, fantastical and sometimes creepy imagery that Pressberger and Powell have created.

The plot, concerning a poet’s three big loves lost to a wind up doll, a gorgeous temptress, and an opera singer is full of fun flights of fancy. Like a man who sells eyes to make you see the world as you wish it or another that turns candle wax into jewels.

While I admit, I found the third act a bit of a snoozer, this is a film unlike many you’ll ever see. If you are familiar with their more popular work, The Red Shoes (a previous Brix Pick) you have some idea of the visual spectacle that awaits you. Not only are the sets stunning (such a shame no one makes unrealistic sets for movies anymore) but the costumes are amazing.

While it was a surprise to read that George Romero sites this as a most favorite and inspirational movie, I’d not be shock at all if fashion designers took to it for the insect body suits, eyes adorned with flower petals, gold manicures, eyeball printed trench coats, and that awesome candle wax necklace that I would buy in a heartbeat.

Click here for the rest of The Tales of Hoffmann

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Posted on February 23, 2011