Friday, June 13, 2014

`60s Little Rock pop, Australian TV, nostalgic fonts and Dolly Parton duets

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 3:45 PM

click to enlarge romans.jpg

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

I've started watching the first season of "Rake," an Australian TV series, on Netflix. Fox tried an American knockoff which apparently struggled. Crime, sex and a fair amount of Australian scenery, plus an interesting ensemble of characters, makes for interesting TV for me. Good binge watching. Netflix has the first two seasons. A third will be coming. — Max Brantley

In the `60s, one of the most popular bands in Little Rock was a group of kids who wore togas and brought their gear to gigs in a horse trailer converted to look like a chariot. They were in high school, and they were called The Romans (pictured above). Incredibly, the appeal of the band went beyond the gimmick. As local garage rock / sunshine pop groups go, they were pretty good, and sometimes great. "I'll Find A Way," from 1966, is them at their best. It sounds like a Zombies demo, or like one of a thousand great variations on a familiar British Invasion standard, but it's somehow especially endearing coming from some Arkansas teenagers.

Another band I've been listening to this week is The Rock*A*Teens, an Atlanta indie rock group that broke up in 2002 and reunited this month. To put it in Arkansan terms, they were sort of the Ho-Hum of Atlanta, and a lot of people think they were just a couple of years too early to catch the Strokes-era zeitgeist that would've embraced them. Bands like The Walkmen owe something to these guys, as does Destroyer's Dan Bejar, who once called them "the most underrated American rock 'n' roll band of the `90s" and was one of the people interviewed in Creative Loafing Atlanta's huge oral history celebrating their comeback last week. Anyway they were pretty good, and were based in the neighborhood I used to live in, Cabbagetown. — Will Stephenson

In your computer right now there is a font called Bookman. You have likely used it in the body of a document before swapping it out for something that makes you feel less antediluvian. Your thesis paper titled “The Next Big Tech Thingy” needed something a little less buoyant and vaguely religious looking. Good for you! You have the eye of a tiger/designer. While Bookman reads easily at such small sizes, your paper is not the time or place for such a font. You swapped it out for something called Gafata Std and never thought about it again (beyond the few times you considered deleting it to make room for MP3s.)

You’d also be right to think Bookman is also relatively ho-hum scaled up for headlines and titles. But if you’re going to think that, you should be aware of Bookman swashes. Bookman as a whole has been revamped and tweaked numerous times since its birth as Antique Old Style in 1856. Sometime around 1890 when American Type Founders formed with the merger of a handful of smaller foundries, Bookman received some of the life-giving swashes that commercial artists fell in love with in the 1970s and 1980s.

click to enlarge bookman.jpg

These swashes are game-changers for Bookman and have both enriched and defiled graphic design for years. (Like when Spider-Man wore the black suit in Spider-Man 3. The swashes take the worst and best of a letter and make them ten-fold.) Some of my clearest boyhood memories are of book and cassette tape covers in the church library with titles like “The New Lord’s Day Unto Us All Amen Bible,” “A Redeemed Christmas,” and “Jesus is My Boyfriend.” However, with every swash, each letter became a real … well, character. And every word a lineup of cantankerous cartoons who can’t quit bugging each other. The “w” reaches over to tap someone two spaces down on the shoulder. Sneaky, sneaky. The “k” rudely, albeit deftly, steals a glance up the skirt of it’s neighbor. The “A” and “M” sit like pumas with tails ready to be stepped on. The “T” and ”h” in “The” are so wrapped up together it is obsene. And the ampersand somehow manages to look like an egg lost at sea. With all that, it is fascinating that at its most swashiest, Bookman has found its way onto many first-rate rock & roll album covers, Christian inspiration classics, alternative food lifestyle magazines, car ads, erotic mass market novels, and teddy bear collector’s guides.

So, I recommend getting intimate with Bookman. Just look for it in your dad’s record collection, your mom’s cookbooks, or your uncle’s stack of sci-fi pulp. — Bryan Moats

I love new covers of old songs, but I especially like old-school covers of newer songs, from Dolly Parton doing a cover of Collective Soul's 1993 grunge hit "Shine," to this dude's fiddle cover of Avicii's "Wake Me Up." Here's one somebody sent me today that I can't stop listening to: Postmodern Jukebox's doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop," which lends just the perfect amount of 1950s torch singer sultry to Miley's oversexed clubkid lyrics. Hang up your tongue, Miley. You just got owned, Eisenhower-Era style. BONUS: Here's pre-nuts Miley, doing a duet of "Jolene" with her godmother Dolly Parton. Okay, maybe she can sing a little. — David Koon

I have a friend in town, who I wish I got to see more but he lives across the ocean. And one of my best friends is getting married in a week. So I've been thinking on friendship. And rather than blabber about my own thoughts, let me recommend C.S. Lewis on this topic:

“In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares two-pence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history … That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.

Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gave value to survival.” — David Ramsey

My initial reaction to the trailer of "Edge of Tomorrow" was, 'Another Tom Cruise Sci-Fi movie: Awesome!' However, my first impression turned out to be really wrong and the movie was kind of great. Tom Cruise plays a slick press officer, Cage, who is reluctantly sent to the front line of a futile war with extraterrestrial beings, nothing new there. But it starts to get interesting when Cage dies within the first half hour of the movie and is exposed to alien blood that enables him to reset time, unintentionally of course, to the day before. This is when the movie earns it's reputation as a mash-up between "Groundhog Day" and "Independence Day," but I won't reveal any more of the details because I don't want to ruin it. What I will mention is that I was really pleased with the fact that the super soldier, Earth's hero, is a woman — girl power! A role Emily Blunt portrayed with ease. Edge of Tomorrow has a solid plot, is well executed and is one of those movies that I would definitely recommend seeing in theaters! — Darielle D'Mello

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