Monday, March 27, 2017


MUSIC DID wonders for Dad.

Wandering with his shadow, Dad saw deep and Dad saw far. The shit that couldn't kill Dad only made him stronger.

After Wagner and the Valkyries, after he had left the mountain with its high icy seclusion to share the honey of his wisdom, after he had leaped free, all full of the Ninth Symphony, Dad formed an elite fighting team to save the world, then hooked up with three far out women with access to arcane knowledge and got it on.

Everybody knows about us Malones. Everybody we know, anyway. And we oughta know on account we been around here an awful long time.

I'm Marvin. Most folks call me Moose. They used to call me a galoot. When I was a kid sometimes folks made fun of me. They'd point and say that I had antlers. No they're not, I said. They're antennae.

Neither me nor either of my brothers ever seen the Mystery House inside. Mom never let us see where we were born. And that Russian gypsy, Madame Blavatsky, she never did like me, so I didn't like her right the hell back and Marlow, he understood. But Marlon's mom, Lizzie, oh, she always treated me like these antennae here of mine are a crown, and Marlon, he just never did get that. Probably he gets his cockiness that way from his dads.

One thing my dad sure gave me was a strong appreciation for the power of music. Mom, she loved music, too, but she was more into architecture and gateways to other places beyond what shall we say is widely known. The places my brothers and I come from. Music always helped me enhance my abilities, what Mom and Dad called our special gifts.

My brothers and I saw decades fly, decades fly by while we remained unaffected by time, even kept right on improving over time. Marlow, or Marz, the eldest of us Malone triplets, he can move things with his mind. Marlon, or Catman, as my older brother is more often called, he is entirely dynamic. Great with electrical gadgets, extremely physically impressive, and aggressive, with a penchant for escaping straight-jackets and chains matched only by the deep love of hatchets he shared with his mother.

Once exploring a cave Marz found a portal that led to and from both the red planet and the dark side of the moon. Around that time I started receiving transmissions through my antennae from a technologically advanced city of giants deep down in the earth. I remember that was when Marlon started tripping on old Douglas Fairbanks when a newie of his was showing up north at the theater, oh, say a year or so after national release, on account the man on the wagon with the movie reel tucked all official in the hay didn't have but one mule to whip.

It was hard when our folks left us. But in time we saw their reputations grow. Tons of dudes have played Rasputin. Marz says Christopher Lee did best. I liked Elizabeth Montgomery in "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" 1974 or so made-for-TV thing. Catman hates it. Our guardian way back when, JD Malone--everybody still calls him Space Cowboy--swore up and down that he and Elizabeth Montgomery had fallen in love one mad October in the turbulent '60s and did the deed several times.


One day long ago in a cave where Space Cowboy took us to practice the talents we were to let no one see, he told me the truth about my dad.

"Friedrich Nietzsche, you will doubtless be shocked to learn," Space Cowboy said, "did not die in late August of 1900, but in fact lived on a great many years afterwards.

"Equally surprisin', yer pappy not only knew Nikola Tesla, he even enlisted him in a mission to save the world. Together, they persuaded Harry Houdini to join on up. And then, in a twist of circumstances that no one could have foreseen, all three of 'em pulled Rasputin in, too. Keep in mind, this was durin' the first few years of the 20th Century. Nietzsche was in his late fifties, but seemed, oh hell, much younger. He loved hikin' around in wooded mountains with them great craggy peaks a-sluicin' himself in ragin' cataracts thunderin' in icy rivers, oh, whenever possible. A chivalric man, stiff an' formal even by Victorian standards, yer pappy Nietzsche said things like, 'If the lady would be so good as to consider deignin' to stride upon my back every few feet, it would be no trouble at all and only too much my pleasure to stretch myself out on the ground in front, thereby providin' a dry and suitable surface upon which to tread'--and I reckon this was on account he was raised by women. He didn't have no idea how to deal with 'em. So, what with a whole mess of excess energy he grew the mightiest mustache the world has ever known and assembled the world's foremost goddam fightin' team.

"See now, the idea of formin' this elite corps grew in Nietzsche's mind as he stood in a room of his sister's house on display fer payin' customers to view. She had a great many racist friends, did yer pappy's sister Elisabeth, and they was all a-busily discussin' racist plans involvin' world domination, takin' in the view of yer pappy the Herr Professor bedecked about in his robes an' starin' into the vasty reaches of space and time oblivious, all-too-oblivious, of his true crystalline awareness. Then as he did so often in the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche struck left and right with cured ham fists and slammed the bodies of his enemies all around like a eagle with a serpent in its talons. "Ariadne!" he screamed, still recallin' Cosima Wagner, for whom he had the hots on account he hadn't met yer mother yet. Routed, the racists which Nietzsche left conscious ran off with their little tails tucked in tight against their arse-cheeks.

"Turnin' to Elisabeth, who cowered wide-eyed in a corner a-sobbin', Nietzsche in a long white robe and pointin' sternly said to his sister, 'How dare you put me on display in this-a here obscene manner, completely misrepresentin' my life's work, and makin' me look damn awful! I am very, very disappointed in you! You ain't never even read none-a my books anyway--on account yew always been too lazy!'

"Whereupon Nietzsche allowed Elisabeth to tend to the wounded as he gathered up his things. Quietly walkin' in place late at night while others slept, visualizin' hikin' his favorite trails high in the Alps with perfect clarity, it had not all been for naught. Nope. And so, in this manner and sundry other secret enterprises, all yer pappy's muscles was a-hardened and a-honed fer combat, not least of which his mind. Why, so thoroughly did yer ol' pappy will himself his power, he stepped forth from his very confines right on into the open air, free now to consider the information he done overheard."

I learned in the cave from Space Cowboy that Dad battled the NWO way back in 1911, the year that my brothers and I were borne through the void. He called his team the Overmen, and together they chased Aleister Crowley across the country all the way to Sarah Winchester's house in Northern California. Yet what should have been a West Coast showdown degenerated into an occult orgy in a secret underground early-Area 51-type facility owned by a young William Randolph Hearst, although he himself did not know it at the time, and indeed had no knowledge of what lay underground until nearly thirty years later.


"It bein' the summer of 1939," Space Cowboy said, "Hitchcock was set to shoot a flick which would be produced by Hearst. A big-budget suspense thriller, the picture would star Errol Flynn opposite Peter Lorre. Flynn was to play the owner of an advertisin' agency mistakenly kidnapped by henchmen of bad guy Lorre, with action a-culminatin' right at Hearst Castle. The role of Flynn's love-interest was to go to a gorgeous newcomer supposedly hand-picked by Hearst.

"Well, principle parties headed from Hollywood on up north a piece to San Simeon plum in the middle of July to stay for a blessed week, with the exception of Hitchcock, who hated the whole damn idea and managed to avoid goin' altogether. Over dinner one night with a dozen celebrities, Orson Welles, soakin' impressions I reckon in preparation for Citizen Kane, remarked how appropriate it was that the film's two leads, diametrically opposed as characters, even had opposite names. 'Errol, Lorre,' young Welles had said as though he were a-introducin' the two, 'Lorre, Errol.'

Everyone had gotten a big kick out of it. Even Peter Lorre, who took Errol Flynn's friendly slap on the back with a good-natured chuckle, supposedly. The previous year, durin' a radio broadcast which Welles gave the night before Halloween, panic had ensued when many of those listenin' thought The War of the Worlds was actually a-happenin'.

"The dinner was held in a huge room filled with art and antiquities of inestimable worth, and the room rang with music, laughter, and conversations recountin' wonders beheld by awestruck celebrities and goggle-eyed tycoons. Hearst himself had presided over most of the affair, keepin' Doris Sullivan, his gorgeous young protégé, close by, always ready to intervene whenever it seemed she and anyone else, particularly Errol Flynn, got engaged-like in dialogue.

"Halfway through the second course, an attendant briskly whispered in Hearst's ear, and the rich ol' host left the starched and glitterin' assemblage upon some pressin' point of business, in which absence Miss Sullivan regaled anybody willin' to listen with some rather fascinatin' information to which she happened to be privy. 'He let me see some mighty special pictures,' she said. 'There used to be giants all around here. Long time ago, some ten feet tall! The ones I seen the pictures of had great big long heads that went way back, and they had long red hair. You could still see it. Why, they got ten foot-tall red-haired mummies all over the country.'

"Brows knit, his watery, boiled egg eyes glistenin' concern, Peter Lorre then inquired, 'Where are these enormous mummies now?' An' ol' Miss Sullivan she goes, 'Beats me. Still underground, I guess. Gee they got swell towns down there. Hey, anybody gonna have that lobster?'

"Lionel Barrymore himself executed a world-class boardin' house reach and passed the lady her lobster. 'Go on, my dear,' he said. An' she said, 'Well, I probably shouldn't say, but it's on account of all these ancient underground cites that go back nobody knows how many thousands of years that this here picture's even being made. Can you believe that?'

"'Why, dear child,' Barrymore said, 'whatever do you mean?'

"'Well, it's not for me to say, but with what he knows about all these giants and things he's sure gonna turn some heads. They're gonna have to re-write history because of him. That's an honest-to-God fact...'"

Swell towns down there.

It's true. Ancient pyramids underground abound all around the country, indeed all around the world. Sometimes hiding in plain sight.

A long time ago my brothers and I knew about access points to the ancient interior spaces. We've always known about the danger of the beings below exploring out.

Individually and working together we've all three had more than our share of times getting into scraps holding back the hordes and maintaining tradition.


One time my brother Marlon told a bunch of them boys down at the little school that he could make sparks fly off his fists punching solid rock. They all said no way. Marlon said wanna bet?

"It's a trick."

"Ain't no trick. Just hard fists."

My brother held up his mitts.

"Just 'cause you got big hands, that don't mean nothin'."

"Yeah, you can't make no damn sparks."

Them boys all said it would make mighty big fun to see my brother bust his hands on solid rock. But all that did was set my brother's eyes ablaze with blasphemous whims.

Didn't take no time to hoof it down to the forest, neither. Even them boys knew about the spot with all the big solid rock. Them boys had crew cut hair mostly, and red patches on their cheeks from the exertion and the chill. Overcast as the day had proven, plus dusk being nigh, and the giant redwood trees looming all around and stretching on up the hill, the moss-caked rocky gorge held just the right light for Marlon to prove his point. First though came the bet.

"I say I'm going to punch this here rock with my bare fists," Marlon said. "I say I'm going to make sparks fly when I do it. If I can't, if somehow I am not able, why then you get to see me be in a world a hurt, right?"

Them boys all nodded. "Well yeah, that's what we get, all right. Go ahead, let's see."

"But," my brother continued, "on the other hand, if I do what I say, why then you owe me."

Them boys had their arms crossed and they had smirks. "Oh yeah? What will we owe you?"

In reality, of course, those weren't the words they used. Those words are just the gist. The actual words probably referred to Marlon as Hard On. I can't remember which one even said it. I could never tell their kind apart.

"You'll have to keep quiet and not make trouble when I kick all your butts here in a minute."

And that's exactly what he said. Then he swiveled, already standing at the perfect spot, and all of a sudden there was a sound like as if he'd struck the rock with a heavy sledge. Only it was with his fist. Just like he said. And right when his fist hit the rock, up shot a bright flash of sparks.

"All right," my brother said, turning back to them boys, "time for you to pay up..."



          When Sergio Leone perfected the Spaghetti Western, he was using his noodle.
          The gunfighter movies he shot in Italy had no basis in history, but rather existed in a realm of pure imagination.
          The documentary Sergio Leone: The Way I See Things primarily features Italian screenwriters and producers reflecting on their experiences with the visionary filmmaker who made Clint Eastwood a star.
          "My films are basically silent films," according to Leone, who died in 1989 at sixty. "The dialogue just adds some weight."
          His first feature film, Colossus of Rhodes, fell into the "sword and sandal" genre of the 1950s. His second feature, however, an un-credited re-make of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), was an instant hit. Kurosawa successfully sued Leone for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and made more money from that than he ever did from any of his own pictures.
          Music proved instrumental to Leone's directorial success. He and his composer, Ennio Morricone, had been friends in grade school. Unlike other collaborators, Leone worked his films around Morricone's music, resulting in a seamless blend which left even A-list heavyweights such as Stanley Kubrick in awe.
          Contrasting long background shots with close-ups on faces is part of Leone's extreme visual style. The documentary reveals particulars on the relationship between cutting production costs and subsequent techniques which inadvertently contributed to his trademark look. But what the documentary lacks is a sense of Leone himself. At no point do we ever even hear him speak.
          That said, sundry other online sources merit perusal.
          Few other directors create films as personal, artistic, and popular as Leone. Most film fans would probably agree that his greatest work is the "Dollars" trilogy. For a Few Dollars More (1965) exceeds Fistful, surpassed in turn by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). Most critics, however, generally cite Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) as his best Western.
          Busted window shutters banging idly in a sullen breeze and sweaty outcasts in long dusters framed in doorways with faces lined like sunbaked slats provide the foreplay to the gunshots inevitably reverberating over the inhospitable landscapes of Leone's cinematic mythos.
          The 2006 documentary and Leone's films are easily found online.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Starring Emma Watson,
Dan Stevens,
Luke Evans,
Josh Gad,
Kevin Kline,
Ewan McGregor,
Ian McKellen,
Emma Thompson
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime 129 minutes
Rated PG

          Highly enjoyable live-action version of the 1991 Disney animated musical.
          When a selfish prince is cursed by an enchantress to look like a beast, the only cure for the spell is true love.
          Remaining close to the Disney blockbuster, this new version keeps things fresh with additional back story and a few new songs. It's a superior experience--Emma Watson is excellently cast as the heroine, Belle--but the film still lacks the authenticity and charm of Jean Cocteau's 1946 classic.
          Live-action, and packed with computer-generated images. Pretty much just like watching the other one, except better. This opens the door to a complete hauling over of any and all Disney cartoon movies. With built-in markets assured, it's a natural fit fully to be expected. Just as Hammer films in the '50s colorfully re-made black-and-white Universal horror pictures from the '30s, Disney will likely update oldies with available technology.
          Though not a shot-for-shot production by any stretch, neither does this version significantly depart from the '91 story. Belle loves books, subsequently standing out from the provincial crowd of the old French town. Equally brainy and beautiful, she looks after her eccentric father, Maurice (Kline), and looks out for unwanted advances from the narcissistic Gaston (Evans).
          When Maurice stumbles on a magic castle in the forest one night, he finds himself a prisoner of the Beast (Stevens). But Belle saves him by working out a bargain with the Beast to take her father's place. Her presence in the castle raises the hopes of more than just the Beast, however, for the enchanted residents of the castle are anxious to return to human form.
          The action takes place in France, yet inexplicably the cast predominately speaks in prestige British dialect. Somehow this has gotten common. Norse gods in Marvel movies have to be British. If there was a new version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, even that would probably have to be British, too.
          Fun as it is to watch, one can't help but wonder how things would go if the form of the Beast was something less cuddly and more repellent. Plus, what if he wasn't rich? At the end of the day, it's the story of a small-town gal who stoops to settle for a guy with a castle. Even so, the presentation is pleasing to the eye.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


          Trending off Apocalypse Now, Kong: Skull Island pits a giant ape twice the size of cinematic predecessors against Vietnam War-era military forces.
          Ultimately, it's not as powerful as the 1933 original, but a good bit better than both the Peter Jackson film and the 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges.
          Set in 1973, Skull Island offers a WWII pilot downed on an uncharted island in the Pacific surviving for nearly 40 years among a population protected by a 100 foot-tall primate from giant, weirder beasts.
          That said, it is only through the efforts of a duplicitous explorer (Goodman) that a voyage to the island receives Senate-backed funding during the Cold War with military escort. Because the escort is filmed stylistically, with slo-mo choppers and other aspects having nothing to do with the action, Apocalypse Now inferences are inescapable. But the movie reference is candy-coated at best.
          Excellent soundtrack opportunities aside, what we mostly get is a chance to see a super-sized Kong slug it out in defense of his invaded homeland. Because of the anticipatory colon in  the film's title, we understand that this is the first entry in a requisite franchise. We neither expect nor get Fay Wray in a Beauty and the Beast tale. It's not the 1930s, and we know there won't be any battle on the Empire State Building.
          So it's not as good. But it's still a good time.
          The original can't be outdone. Improved special effects mean nothing. Kong as a character, and Ann Darrow as a character, and Skull Island, and New York City, they are all indelible originals in the classic charmer. No attempt to top it has ever worked or will ever work. Willis O'Brien's stop-motion animation can't be surpassed by computers or holograms or anything else. Kong could be a thousand feet tall and the result will still be a footnote to 1933.
          Even so, a footnote can be fun.
          Do we really need Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Marvel's Thor franchise), with his prestige British dialect, to impress us with his military knowledge and tracking abilities? No, we don't. It's pointless and odd to have him in the film. Almost as pointless and odd to have a prestige British dialect in a movie featuring Norse gods.
          A superior footnote to the original would go against standard expectation and feature a reduction in scale. A Bigfoot movie, perhaps set in an island off British Columbia, could parallel the Kong story, culminating in a battle on the Seattle Space Needle.
          Until such time, this one's pretty good.

Starring John C. Reilly,
John Goodman,
Brie Larson,
Tom Hiddleston,
Tian Jing,
Toby Kebbell
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
Based on a story by John Gatins
Runtime 120 minutes
Rated PG-13


Thursday, March 9, 2017



Chris Sculley - guitar
Tamson Ross - drums
This time, the Sleazebags switched instruments. Obviously, this pic doesn't reflect that fact. But it does show my otherworldly halo, so that's something.

By the way, I list some songs that we've recorded other times with the Stew and the Sleazebags SatS notation to differentiate the file names.



Lightnin' Stew - words, vocals
Muddy Ross - guitar
T-Bone Sculley - drums

Wednesday, March 8, 2017



We have a new Sleazebag and he plays bass.
I'm not super happy with my performance here. Kinda too singer-y, the recording quality still sucks, and Tamson couldn't make it last night. But one must take the sour with the sweet.

Chris - drums
Jay - bass
Tamson - guitar
Stew - words, vocals

Sunday, March 5, 2017


          It's unlike any superhero movie you've ever seen. Stunning on all counts, Logan is the first movie from Marvel to hit all the right notes as a real film experience for everyone, and not simply an extension of a comic book. And there have been lots of incredible movies based on comic book characters. But only here do we see the kind of writing, acting, and directing that drops jaws and earns permanent respect.
          The emotional content cannot be overstated. The Godfather deals with characters in the mafia. To Kill a Mockingbird has a lawyer and some kids. Logan concerns an aging mutant. One need not be a fan of Wolverine or The X-Men to relate and emotionally invest.
          In the near-future, Logan works as a limo driver in Texas, usually carting around rowdy high school kids. He drinks too much. He needs glasses to read. He doesn't wear his trademark mutton chops of old, he doesn't wear spandex tights, and he doesn't hang out with any of the folks with special gifts trained by Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart).
          Even so, he still gets recognized. When a nurse from a mysterious facility tracks him down, he resists her pleas to take a young girl (Keen) to safety. For the right price, however, he can be bought.
          Meanwhile, strange forces seek this girl. And further meanwhile, Logan seeks his former leader, the aforementioned professor, now living in a state of decline somewhere on the Mexican border.
          To preserve the plot, suffice to say that this film takes superhero characters and makes them human in ways bordering on reality to an excessive degree. What happens when the world's most powerful mind begins experiencing dementia? As the aged wheelchair-bound once-leader, Patrick Stewart knocks the proverbial ball out of the park. He's a King Lear for the 21st-century. Floating in and out of cognizance makes him much more interesting than merely being super-amazing at all times.
          Similarly, the powers shown by the girl work tremendously on screen precisely because she's not a big strong man with chin in air and hands on hips. So when guys with guns hold up hands and tell her to stop, the visual appeal is that much greater.
          It's a violent movie, and satisfyingly so. Yet the special effects serve the story. And more powerful than the action are the characters, for whom we truly care. In fifteen years of writing for this paper every week, I have never once used the word "I" in a review because my subjective opinion is irrelevant, but I do so now in order to say that I learned a lot about writing from this movie, and that's the strongest recommendation I can give.
          Hugh Jackman might not win Best Actor for his work. James Mangold might not hold that little statue for Best Director. Stranger things have happened on both counts. Don't be surprised though if the highest levels of formal recognition do go to Logan, after all. Because it really is that good.

Starring Hugh Jackman,
Patrick Stewart,
Dafne Keen,
Boyd Holbrook,
Stephen Merchant,
Elizabeth Rodriguez,
Richard E. Grant,
Eriq La Salle
Directed by James Mangold
Written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Runtime 137 minutes
Rated R