Archive for the Reviews Category

Review: Andre Williams – “Sweets and Other Stories” (Kicks Books)

Posted in Reviews on November 4, 2009 by brokenheadphones

And now we come to the subject of “Outsider Literature”, which subject I had hitherto never considered.  However, I hesitate to apply said sobriquet to this fine new outing from Mr. Williams, because the whole idea behind outsider art is that the artists have had no prior training in their chosen medium, and it could in no wise be implied that Andre Williams is not an experienced writer.  His legendary musical bona fides need not be recounted here; suffice to say Williams is one of those giants whose garments the rest of us feebly aspire to brush with our grimy mitts.


In this, Williams’ first literary work, he recounts the tales of two female protagonists (the eponymous Sweets, and another, unnamed heroine) from the Chicago neighbourhoods where he has spent the majority of his adult life.  Williams’ prose is dense, almost claustrophobic at times in its depiction of prostitutes, dealers, and other south-side hustlers out to make that fabled ‘Big Score’.  His deeply urban prosody was left largely intact by the editors, and so the work bears the unmistakable stamp of a truly unique literary voice.


Let’s be straight here: this ain’t no “East Of Eden”, but a solid and compelling story takes this book pretty far on its own merits.  Some of you also know that I am an aquaintance of Andre Williams; indeed, we’ve worked together several times in the past, but regular readers will know that I pull no punches here; if I didn’t like this book, you would know.  Anyway:


Fans of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines will find themselves right at home in the pages of ‘Sweets’: a headlong run through a gritty underworld written with the intimate veritas of someone who has most definitely lived there.  A bit expensive for its size (US$12.95 for 103 pages), ‘Sweets and Other Stories’ is nonetheless a worthwhile read and an excellent debut.  A+, y’all.



Revised review: PF Flyer Center Hi

Posted in Reviews on October 1, 2009 by brokenheadphones

I stopped wearing them on 22nd September because the soles gave out.  I wish I knew how to import a picture so you could see these things.  I started wearing them on 3rd July and THEY FELL APART on 20th September.  THEY FELL APART.  AFTER 75 DAYS. That is a FAILURE, pure and simple.  Even Chuck Taylors last ninety.  I hereby resind my previous grade of A, and re-grade the PF Flyers Center Hi A BIG, FAT F.

Review: PF Flyers Center Hi Sports Shoe

Posted in Reviews on August 19, 2009 by brokenheadphones

Through measures arcane and unseen by myself, a pair of Center Hi sneakers (y’know, trainers, gym shoes, whatever) made by the PF Flyer company were obtained for me at the start of the Gories reunion tour.  Outwardly they resemble Converse Chuck Taylors, and the two are contemporaries, the Chuck Taylor taking its current form in 1928, and the Center Hi following from BF Goodrich in 1937 (The two were actually owned by Converse for a very brief time in the early 70s).

When I first got them, I tried one on with one of my ubiquitous Chuck Taylors to see if there was any difference in feel.  The first thing you notice, when lacing them up, is that there are more eyelets, 20 as opposed to the Converse’s 14.  Next you notice the heavier material the shoe is made from.  Combined, the two make the shoe feel far more solid on the foot, as if they’ll last much longer then the current six months for a pair of Chucks.

I stood up and started to walk around.  “What the hell’s the matter with you??”  My girlfriend (hereafter referred to as ‘The GF’) was looking at me like I was crazy.

“I don’t know!” I yelled, lurching around the room like a drunken giraffe.  “The shoe is making me walk funny!”

“Well, take it off, or something!  You’re scaring me.”

Instead of taking it off, I put the other one on.  The secret of PF Flyers lies in a patented rubber insert which changes the way you stand and walk (the “PF” stands for “Posture Foundation”), resulting in alleged reduced leg strain.

That was the day before I was to get on the plane.  After wearing them for a couple of months now,  I have to say I like these A LOT. They feel more solidly built than the Chucks, and the posture-altering insert is apparently doing it’s job, as I had no real issues over the course of the 15-city tour; my legs and feet felt fine.  In fact, they still do. My only issue is with the tread.  They’re like rolling on cheater slicks: effin’ awesome on dry concrete, but Ghods help you if you gotta make a sharp turn  in the rain.

I would love to be able to tell you how well they would wear under daily use, as in would they last longer than a pair of Chucks; however, that part of the experiment was voided by a sharp chunk of metal cutting the fabric somewhere in Italy.  I would be willing to try again, with another pair…

I’m gonna give the PF Flyers Center Hi a solid A.  This may be the shoe that finally ends my 23-year-exclusive run of Chuck Taylors.  These things are GREAT.

EDIT: I’ve noticed people keep finding this review, and I feel I should put a link to my REVISED review, here.

Review: Smokey Robinson’s Seafood Gumbo/Red Beans And Rice

Posted in Reviews on September 20, 2006 by brokenheadphones

No, that’s not some kinda weird non-sequitur:  I was in the supermarket the other day, trying to find something in the frozen food aisle that would go with the Lo Mein I was having for dinner (I’ve been on an Asian food kick recently, mainly because there’s apparently no such thing as an Ojibwe restaurant, and even if there is, it isn’t here in Detroit), when I happed across a freezer full of Smokey Robinson Brand food products.  As soon as I laid eyes on them, I knew I would be writing about them here.  When I went to the website, I discovered that the two I bought, the seafood gumbo and the red beans and rice, are the first two offerings, even though there’s a chicken gumbo pictured on the packaging.

Anyhow:  The seafood gumbo was pretty good, although IMHO it could use more shrimp, and less okra, but that’s only because I hate okra.  It was good.  I’ve had better, but my family IS from Louisiana, and y’know, I can imagine that crayfish and mussels are probably not cost-effective ingredients for a newly-formed frozen food company in Glendale, CA.

The red beans and rice, on the other hand, was GREAT.  Let me tell you: over the past 40 years, I have put away my fair share (and then some) of red beans and rice, and I don’t recall EVER liking it this much.  Maybe the very first time I had it, made by my thrice-sainted gran-maman (may the angelic choirs ever sing her praises), but definitely not as much since then.  Until now.  I gotta say, Smokey, I LOVE your red beans and rice.  I’m probably gonna be eating it for the rest of the month, unless I can stop myself from eating it so much I stop liking it.  This is the stuff.

Faint Praise, Indeed

Posted in Reviews, stfu on March 4, 2006 by brokenheadphones

I forgot to mention: As we were walking out of ‘Ultraviolet’, the friend I had gone with said “Well, it was better than ‘Aeon Flux‘” (which I didn’t see because I KNEW it wouldn’t be as good as the original), which leads me to wonder: when will the heads start to roll in Hollywood over this kind of shit??  How many more dogpiss-poor remakes, re-treads, and ‘re-imaginings’ are we gonna stay away from before Hollywood gets the message?  “It’s a remake of ‘A Patch Of Blue‘ except she’s the bioweapon daughter of a huge megacorp and he’s a half elf/half vampire NINJA!”

If someone walked into my office saying that, I’d grab the nearest sharp object and replace their groin with it.  I was gonna say ‘lobotomise them’ but anybody who would think that that was a good idea for a movie has probably already had one.

Y’know, Hollywood can blame P2P networks, recordable DVDs, Blackberry units, sunspots and whatever else ALL THEY WANT to explain why no-one’s going to see their movies, but THE SIMPLE FACT IS THAT HOLLYWOOD IS LOSING MONEY BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD IS MAKING SHITTY FILMS.  Did we really NEED a remake of ‘The Hills Have Eyes’?  Do we really NEED a remake of ‘The Poseidon Adventure’?  What next, a remake of ‘The Towering Inferno’?  ‘Bad Ronald’?  How ’bout a remake of ‘New York, New York‘ starring Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher?  (and just like that, I have sinned.  By merely typing those words, I know in my heart it will happen, and it will be my fault.  Sorry, everybody.)

Hollywood will continue to churn out terrible remakes and big-budget special-effect showcases with no story.  And, when those movies flop at the box-office, Hollywood will continue to blame YOU.  Sic Semper Tyrannis, kiddies.  Hollywood is in the first stages of its death throes.  Go make some popcorn, and then get a good seat so we can all point and laugh over the next few years.  Good Riddance to bad rubbish.
In the meantime, bop on over to the Internet Archive and have a bang on the future.

Review: “Ultraviolet”

Posted in Bad Craziness, Reviews on March 4, 2006 by brokenheadphones

Before I went to see this movie, I found it interesting to learn that Screen Gems didn’t allow for pre-release review screenings.  This, as we have come to learn, is the mark of a bad film.  if the company doesn’t let reviewers see it, then those reviewers can’t tell the world what a turkey the movie is.

Okay.  We have now ascertained that ‘Ultraviolet’ was a bad film.  Here’s why.

One of my pet peeves with current moviemaking trends is movies which eschew niggling little details like, oh, PLOT, character development, and SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF in favour of giving a leggy woman some guns and having her spend 90 miniutes blasting holes in faceless drones who apparently couldn’t hit the ground if they used a laser sight.  In addition to that, ‘Ultraviolet’s cheesecloth-like plot was made up primarily of scenes from OTHER MOVIES: ‘Blade’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘Equilibrium’ ‘Lone Wolf & Cub’, and ‘Gloria’, with a little ‘GATTACA’ and ‘Fahrenheit 451’ to try and be ‘edgy’ and ‘futuristic’.  I was blowing raspberries at this thing five minutes into it.

The opening credits told me everything I needed to know about this film:  The credits are printed on (non-existent) issues of the ‘Ultraviolet’ comic book, with the covers done by some actual comic artists.  (I could’ve sworn I saw one by Dave Stevens in there: Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave.  Do you need money THAT bad?  Are those people making you do drugs?  You have to get out of LA, Dave, that place is killing you.  Those people – those people don’t love you Dave, not like we do.  Come back to us, Dave.  Do you remember?  Do you remember Pacific Comics, Dave?  Wasn’t it FUN?  It can be like it was.  It can be FUN again.  Just come back to us.  We can get you the help you need.  We love you Dave, and we miss you.  Come back to us.)  It was obvious that the makers of this film are huge comicbook fans (there were also parts of Howard Chaykin‘s ‘Cyberella‘ and the miniseries ‘Accelerate‘ accreted to the tissue-paper plot), and HAD THEY MADE AN ACTUAL COMICBOOK, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN OKAY.  As a comicbook.  As a MOVIE, it was dreadful.

So, in conclusion: Gunkata, swordkata, blah blah, wait for this to show up on the P2P nets, edit out every scene in which a face-to-face conversation takes place, and enjoy a solid 18-minute action *spectacular*.

Review: Godland – “Hello, Cosmic!”

Posted in Reviews on February 12, 2006 by brokenheadphones

Like most folks my age, back in the day I read a lot of Silver Age comics.  A particular favourite was the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run of ‘Fantastic Four‘, with its psychedelic colours and mind-expanding tales of cosmic doings.  As an adult, I’ve often wondered why the cats at Esalen never hooked up with Marvel or DC during this period (this would have also been during the time of DC’s famous cosmic tales of Green Lantern and the Jim Shooter run of Legion of Superheroes, other favourites of mine); the synergetic potential should have been obvious.  I think we missed an evolutionary tipping point, there, and as we know, I’m ALL FOR evolving.  Anything’s got to be better than our current Bilderberg World Order.  But I digress.  My eschatological leanings will get their fair share of display here in future, I’m sure…

Anyway: the basic idea behind the Image comic ‘Godland‘ was to make a new comic in the style of the Silver Age ‘Cosmic’ milieux.  I was pretty dubious of the whole thing when I first saw the comics in the store, so I never looked at it.  However, after a while I began to notice people heaping praise upon it, and I got curious.  “Hello, Cosmic!” is the trade paperback collecting the first six issues of the comic, and I have to say: Yeah, ‘Godland’ delivers it the way we remember it, without all the cornball dialogue.  Creators Joe Casey and Tom Scioli have taken the styles of the Silver Age masters and made a genre out of it, while still leaving room for modern innovations.  I’m giving it a solid A all ’round, and they’re just getting warmed up, so now’s the time to climb aboard, kiddies.  Going UP…