Rudolph the catalog reindeer

Who remembers that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Montgomery Ward, the now-defunct retailer/catalog competitor of the almost defunct Sears? Here is the first animated appearance of Rudolph, directed by Max Fleischer and beautifully restored, with its original music, and presented by the Library of Congress. Santa has the barrel-chested build of Popeye’s nemesis Bluto!

P.S. The LoC took the video down a day after posting it and I don’t know why. There is no possibility of a copyright issue, so I will assume the problem is technical.

P.P.S. I asked why the video was down, and as I had assumed…

Server problems! It’s back up now.

Mike Mashon

Head, Moving Image Section
Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation

P.P.P.S. A notorious, nit-picking Internet troll going by the handle “Denro,” but who is, in fact, Dennis F. Rogers of Massachusetts, has requested — nay, demanded — that the first sentence of this post be changed as follows.

“Who remembers that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward, the now-defunct retailer/catalog competitor of the almost defunct Sears?”

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

Starting this coming Tuesday, the PBS series American Masters is presenting “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”. Don’t miss it!

I was 22 when Crosby suddenly collapsed after playing golf in Spain on October 14, 1977. Bing sure seemed old to me at the time, but he was only 74. To put that into perspective, Ringo Starr is 74.

The day after Bing died, Denro and I were at the Boston Newcon comic book convention, interviewing the one and only Joe Sinnott, who was, at the time, starting work on inking the Silver Surfer graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, released in 1978. Dennis asked Joe, addressing him as Mr. Sinnott, “What do you for enjoyment? To get away from comics?” Here is what Joe said, as recorded by me on October 15, 1977.

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We knew that Bing had died, so I wasn’t completely clueless and, yet, being the callow youth that I was, stupidly I asked, “So how do you feel about it?” Duh! The next day, October 16, would be Joe’s 51st birthday and, my goodness, how young he sounds in that recording.

I don’t know yet how much the American Masters documentary will ac-cen-tu-ate the positive. Gary Crosby’s memoir damaged Bing’s reputation as a father, but the multi-talented, multi-media Crosby remains an undeniably significant and pioneering figure in entertainment history. As I have pointed out in the past, Crosby was the first to see and exploit the potential of magnetic tape recording. A few months ago, someone working on the American Masters documentary spotted my posts and requested a photo for “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”, which I gladly provided. I can’t say for certain if the picture is in the final edit, but if you see it you’ll know where it came from.

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Desperately seeking CK

Somerville Theatre stage, Massachusetts

Somerville (MA) Theatre stage, post-Louis C.K.

Thursday, I received this message. The reason why is explained in the message.

Hello. Louis CK here. You are getting this because a. you bought something from my website and b. you live somewhere around Somerville, Mass. C. I’m doing 3 shows at the Somerville Theater this weekend (November 22nd and 23rd) 2 shows on Saturday and 1 show on Sunday. Please go to one of these shows. Here are links to buy tickets…

Saturday November 22, 2014 – 7:00PM…performance_id=4124684

Saturday, November 22, 2014 – 10:00PM…performance_id=7530226

Sunday November 23, 2014 – 7:00PM…performance_id=3613757

that’s it really. Except I hope you are doing ok. Stay warm. Wear a sweater.


Louis CK

The tickets were a flat $30, with no add-on fees. I acted the moment I saw the message, and still ended up with two seats in the nose-bleed section of the Somerville Theatre, against the back wall and next to the spotlight, which has a much louder fan than my video projector at home. But I was lucky to get the tickets, because it was purely by chance that I had checked my mail. Louis C.K.’s fans are mostly young and, as I pointed out recently, I don’t have a smart phone. Yet many fans missed out, despite Louis adding a fourth show, and they were desperate to get tickets.

I was also lucky to find a parking space in a city lot. As Louis suggested I wore a sweater, but it turned out to be a warm night and the theater was even warmer. As this review on points out, the audience skewed heavily with a late 20’s-to-early 30’s demographic. Everywhere I looked, we were by far the oldest members of the audience. The fact is that I became familiar with Louis’ work because he has an apartment next door to some people I know, but I am now a genuine fan, so I watch his FX series and I enjoyed seeing him in “American Hustle”.

It was a very funny 75-minute set, with only a few brief transitions that felt flat. Louis anticipated and deflected them easily. I loved his bit about Victor Fleming directing Ray Bolger in the scene from “The Wizard of OZ” where the flying monkeys rip the scarecrow apart. Later he seemed to make another nod at the classic movie by describing a time when he was spooked and declared that immediately he believed in witches. Earlier in his routine Louis pointed out that being funny doesn’t, by itself, have to be a job. You could, for example, be a mechanic and be funny. I don’t know if that was a sly tribute to the Car Talk Guys, but it would be nice if it were.

Get me to the church on time!

For the first time in decades, this non-practicing Lutheran has attended a Catholic Church. Joe Sinnott’s son Mark told me we’d better not be late for Sunday morning Mass or Joe would give me heck. So I made sure we were there on time! Joe and Mark are in the area for the Super MegaFest Comic-Con in Framingham, MA, and I’ll be heading back there shortly.

A contemporary of Joe’s, the artist Ramona Fradon, is traveling with them. Ramona had a long and notable run drawing Aquaman for DC Comics, and I am a big fan of her work on “Super Friends”. Ramona was later hired to draw the comic strip “Brenda Starr”, which she did for fifteen years.

Speaking of Catholicism, if you’re a Silver Age fanboy you know that Joe inked Jack Kirby’s pencil art for Fantastic Four #5, the story that introduced the quartet’s most infamous villain, Doctor Doom. Get out a reprint FF #6 (I assume if you have an original comic it’s sealed) and take a look at page #2. Most of that single page was inked by Joe, but everything else in the book was inked by Dick Ayers. Why? Because Treasure Chest, a publisher of comic books that were distributed to Catholic parochial schools, made Joe an offer he couldn’t refuse, to illustrate the life story of Pope John XXIII.


The story was released in serial form and now, for the first time, all of the installments are being collected in a single volume, scanned from the original art in Joe’s archives. This project, which means so much to Joe, is thanks to the hard work of Mr. James Tournas, otherwise known as Jimmy T., who ran a successful Kickstarter project to get the money together. See that $1500 pledge down on the right? I wonder who contributed that princely sum? ;-) There are 25 paperback artist’s proofs that were printed locally in Boston, and I’m looking at one of them right now. The final print run of 500 10″x15″ hardcover copies should arrive on (literally) a slow boat from China the first week of December.

Joe also has all of his original art to the story of the Beatles, authorized by Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises and published in 1964 by Dell Comics.


It would have been great if a similar deluxe hardcover edition of the Beatles book were done, but a certain someone, through Apple Records, nixed it. “Saint” Paul said no, and so the decision was made for the Pope John book. A higher power than the Beatles must have been at work!

The Boytles

20 Forthlin Road, South Liverpool, Merseyside

20 Forthlin Road, South Liverpool, Merseyside

Take a virtual tour of the boyhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They had each lived in more than one place, but it’s fair to say the 20 Forthlin Road and 251 Menlove Avenue are the most notable addresses for Paul and John, respectively.

OontZ Oomph

While accepting that getting a smart phone is inevitable, I continue to rely upon my LG flip phone, now over five years old. It does everything that I want it to do — phone, speakerphone, text, take an occasional low-res photo, check e-mail, and be an accurate clock. Best of all, it fits perfectly in the little watch pocket on a pair of Levi’s jeans. The LG phone has Bluetooth, but I don’t wear an earpiece so I leave it turned off. It also does not do something that I like. It does not distract me.

I have been in several close encounters with drivers that are texting, including one on the Massachusetts Turnpike where a car started to swerve into my lane. The driver was face down at 65 mph, with an occasional glance up. It’s even a problem when encountering people walking with their eyes down on the screen. I will say “heads up!” before they can walk into me, and sometimes the person appears surprised, but other times there is the look of annoyance.

Being an Amazon customer since July, 1996, one year before Steve Jobs’ triumphant return to Apple, I am hooked into the Amazon “ecosystem.” I have never owned anything from Apple, not even an iTunes account. The one thing I have that makes good use of Bluetooth is an Amazon Kindle 8.9″ Fire HDX. My primary Bluetooth speaker is a Sony SRS-BTX500, now discontinued, that I found at Best Buy for half price ($150). If it’s still listed on, the customer review is mine.

The BTX500 is an excellent product, and although it’s portable it’s relatively large and heavy, with a bulky power supply. I wanted to get a really cheap and very portable Bluetooth speaker, and I’m enthusiastic about the one I chose — the OontZ Angle that I ordered from Amazon for $40.

OontZ Angle

The OontZ is from the latest incarnation of Cambridge Soundworks. The original Cambridge Soundworks company that was founded by audio/video legend Henry Kloss in 1988 was sold to Creative Labs, which sold it in turn, and the current owner carries on the Cambridge Soundworks tradition of offering nifty, inexpensive products. I recommend the OontZ Angle for its good sound quality and excellent battery life. The sound is surprisingly detailed for music, and voices are particularly well-articulated, making the Angle ideal for news stations. Before you find a review that complains about the mini USB port I will note that the Angle now has a micro USB port, like the LG phone, which was the reason I chose it. At the time every other phone had a proprietary connector.