Tuesday, August 19, 2003

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This is one of the images in a Four Seasons set, done by another of those immensely talented Pants Press people, Clio Chaing. You can buy these as prints...go here to check them out. And while you're there, be sure to scope out the gallery.
Even though my enthusiasm for the upcoming NFL season has taken a couple of serious hits (Mike Vick's fibula and no more Glasgow Fantasy Football League), there's one sign of pigskin to come that's always welcome: Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the best sports column they is.

Here's the new one.
Here's the one from the week before.
First, here's something from the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent:

President Bush, like Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and FDR, epitomizes H. L. Mencken's adage, that "the only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head.  Put it in his hand and its good-by to the Bill of Rights."  Armed with the Patriot Act and a blank check to wage war anywhere on earth, he is a constant danger to personal liberty and national security.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Also, the newest toys to indoctrinate kids into the idea of living in a police state:

The Lego Surveillance Truck, and Police 4WD and Undercover Van.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Saw a couple of movies over the weekend:

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First up, Daredevil. I came into this one expecting a trainwreck of colossal proportions, based on all the negative word of mouth and reviews I had read. But you know what? I thought this film was OK. Not great, but OK. They stuck pretty close to the Frank Miller template. I think that if you're inclined to like Ben Affleck, that helps a lot. He's made a lot of junky films, but I've always thought he was an engaging presence, especially in the Kevin Smith movies, and he not only looks like the comics' Matt Murdock, but manages to give the character that tragic, driven side that Miller saddled him with for better or for worse. Jen Garner does a good job in a pretty limited role, considering that she's a onscreen a lot, and while I wasn't really all that crazy about Michael Clarke Duncan playing the Kingpin, when I first heard that he had the role, he won me over as the film went on. He's an imposing presence, exactly what the Kingpin should be. But I had reservations, simply based on the fact that the comics' Kingpin is a white man (please don't get me wrong here), and I was hoping they would stay true to the original conception of the characters. I've enjoyed Duncan in other films, and he was very good here. Jon Favreau (who I saw again in the funny Swingers yesterday) was born to play Foggy Nelson and had a couple of amusing scenes. Colin Farrell wasn't asked to do much as Bullseye except act like a lunatic, and he did that with aplomb...but the comics' Bullseye was largely a cool customer and not an eye-rolling, foam-at-the-mouth nutjob. It's been a long time since I read the original Miller run, though, so I could be wrong there. Still, a one-note performance, and I've seen better from him. Visually, I thought the filmmakers did an excellent, imaginative job of depicting DD's radar sense, especially in the scene with Elektra in the rain. The first big fight scene with Bullseye was fast-paced and well-staged- something the climactic battle was not.

On the negative side, this film is DARK. I don't mean in tone, although it is sometimes that too. But it seems 75% of the movie is shot in pitch blackness, and sometimes it's pretty frigging hard to follow what's happening, especially in the action scenes. I think the filmmakers must have left a lot of this film on the cutting room floor as well because the story often goes to point D from point A and you're left wondering what the hell happened. The plot tends to favor contrivance and the dialogue, while overall fine, gives us some eye-rollers once in a while. One is also hard pressed to understand why Matt falls so hard for Elektra and vice versa, especially on such short notice. They "meet cute", and fight a couple of times, and suddenly they're intensely devoted to each other? Somehow I doubt that technique will work for anyone else. I thought it was regrettable that once again we had to have our superhero characters decked out in fetishistic black leather (well, OK, very dark red in DD's case) outfits. I'm beginning to think the S&M outfitters must have a potent lobby system in Hollywood.

Gotta mention the wonderful "History of Daredevil" documentary that's included on the bonus disc. In it, they interview many of the people that have written and drawn Daredevil comics over the years, including Stan Lee, Miller, John Romita, Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Smith, and most notably Gene Colan, one of my favorite comics artists from back in the day...and notably missing from the cameos and in-joke name-drops in the film itself. Fascinating stuff and something which almost makes buying the DVD worthwhile.

So, not a perfect film, but at least it showed some respect for the source material and didn't condescend. If I was inclined to give it star ratings, I'd give it 3 out of 5.

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The other movie I watched was Paul Schrader's Auto Focus, the story of Bob (Hogan's Heroes) Crane, his recreational pastimes and brutal demise, based on a book written by one of his sons. Now, I'm of that generation that remembers Crane from, of course, Hogan's and a ton of TV sitcom appearances on shows like Love Boat, Love, American Style and Night Gallery, where he played an affable, wisecracking "regular guy" most of the time. Then there was The Smirk, which was the most notable aspect of his run as the title character in Heroes. There was nothing in his onscreen persona which would prepare you for the revelations about his personal life, in which he was apparently a total sex freak, especially when it came to filming his exploits. Auto Focus exists, it seems, solely to present us with that side of old Bob, and that's what it does, unflinchingly, for almost two hours.

This film is meticulously crafted; the period recreations look right on the money. There are several scenes in which the Hogan's cast and sets are recreated, and they're very well done, especially Kurt Fuller, who plays Werner Klemperer playing Colonel Klink. In fact, all the performances are great: Greg Kinnear acts his ass off trying to portray the lead, who, as portrayed here seemed to have no moral compass or introspectiveness whatsoever- he apparently just fell right in with whatever he fell into and didn't trouble himself too much with the consequences, and Willem Dafoe once again successfully defends his crown as Creepiest Guy in Films Today with his portrayal of Crane's partner in debauchery, John Carpenter- who is often portrayed in what seemed to me to be an almost positive light. Perhaps he was manipulating and/or enabling Crane, and using him for his fame, but he also appeared sometimes to be a pathetic sycophant. Willem brings out every nuance in this contradictory character, as always.

The biggest drawback to this film, for me, was the one question I had when it was over...what, exactly, was the point Schrader was trying to make? By presenting Crane's peccadillos in such a objective manner, it's uncertain exactly what we're supposed to make of the man. There certainly seemed to be a void somewhere inside him, and perhaps Schrader intends this to be a cautionary tale. There's very little here that's erotic or titillating, even though there's a lot of nudity and naughty behavior, so that couldn't have been the idea either- in this way it's a lot like Boogie Nights, which at least had a sense of humor that this film totally lacks. Maybe the moral is "Don't film yourself or anybody else having sex, or someone will come along and beat you to death with a video camera tripod". Oh well, I suppose that's as good a moral as any. Another nitpicky thing for me was that while Kinnear certainly walked the walk as Crane, he just couldn't reproduce one of the man's most notable traits: his voice. Crane had a deep voice with a lot of range, and Kinnear just doesn't. And while this is not a big thing, it kept bugging me because he just didn't sound like Crane, and it kept me from totally believing that he was anything else but an actor portraying someone. The actor that played Richard Dawson didn't look a damn thing like the real Dawson of the time, either. The film would have you think that except for a couple of flop Disney films, Crane did nothing after Hogan's was over, but one look at his bio on IMDb will tell you otherwise. In all fairness, I have read of factual errors and misconceptions that were published in the book this movie's taken from, so a grain of salt must be employed when considering the facts presented, something like one has to do with Ed Wood, another similarly scandalous pseudobio that was scripted, I believe by the same people responsible for this movie.

Another somewhat negative side effect of this flick is now I can't watch anything with Crane in it now without flashing on his "other" life. I recently caught a showing of the movie Crane made in 1968 with many of the Hogan's cast members, The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, not a porn film (despite the title) but a virtually laugh free cold war comedy with Elke Sommer as the title character. I could not help but wonder if Bob got to snog or at least photograph Sommer; you'd think he'd at least try. And that's terrible, I know...I've always been one that espouses the philosophy that there are two sides to every story and usually the truth falls somewhere in between. But now I'll always mentally tar Crane with that brush. Unfair, but what can ya do?

So see Auto Focus, it will suck you in and hold you for the duration. But after it's over, it will be, like many of Bob's exploits must have been, ultimately unsatisfying.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usToday's BSBdG goes to former Labelle singer Nona Hendryx, 58. She did a handful of excellent synth-driven funk albums in the mid-to-late 80s, many with Bill Laswell and Material, of which 1984's Art of Defense, (from which the above picture was taken) remains a favorite to this day. Of course, most people who care about these things regard it as her weakest. Go figure.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

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BSBdG's go out today to Maria McKee, 39 today.

She's an adventurous singer, songwriter, and performer, and her 1993 album You Gotta Sin To Get Saved is probably her best all around record. That being said, I am devoted to her next release, 1996's brilliant and nervy Life Is Sweet. Her latest, High Dive, isn't too bad either. Seems like I said I was gonna review that one back when I bought it. Oh well.
The football gods hate my team.

My beloved Falcons may win a game or two with Doug Johnson at QB, he's not that bad. But Mike Vick could pull magic out of thin air sometimes, and had the fickle Atlanta fans buying tickets and selling out home games. Now he won't be back until October. There's just a special hell reserved for the Falcons and their fans like me, it would seem.

Sunday morning- the perfect time for Unconscious Mutterings!

I say ? and you think ? ?

Only you:: ...and you alone...
33:: and one third RPM
Foundation:: Wayne (I'm such a comics geek)
Accidents:: will happen!
Hometown:: television (the provincial slogan of Bowling Green's oldest TV station)
Natural:: woman
Bombastic:: Celine Dion
Bachelor:: party
Far away:: So Close
Tony:: Millionaire

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere seems to be some discussion in the Blog-o-sphere-iverse about the nature of Ditko's Question and Mr. A characters, and whether or not they're as "preachy" as the Sturdy One's reputation would suggest.

As someone who is older than God, and who has read about as many comics, too, I feel moved to put my two cents' worth in. I've read several of the old Charlton Questions (along with a half dozen or so of DC's revival attempt in the 80s) and a couple of the Mr. A's as well, although I don't own any. What I had was either in the collection of my friend Dave Puckett, or was sold when I sold 3/4 of my original collection in 1987, a move I regret to this day. I don't recall Ditko's Question being all that "preachy", mostly because, I suspect, that it was a work made for hire for Charlton. That being said, Ditko certainly took every opportunity to slip his Rand-ish views in whenever the opportunity presented itself, as he tried to do in his later Spider-Man issues and DC's Hawk and the Dove. Also, if I recall correctly, when Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan did the character for the 80s revival, he took on a harder edge, and O'Neil used the book as a forum for some of his more liberal viewpoints...so maybe that's what many folks recall when they think of the character in general, since that version is more comparitively fresh. He also did a character named Killjoy for Charlton, which was much more of a platform for his polemics. Mr. A, on the other hand, was self-published (or published by a small press publisher which did Ditko projects almost exclusively) and was created solely as a forum for his views, such as they were. So, I suppose on a preachiness scale of one to ten I'd give Mr. A a 9, Killjoy a 7.5 and the Question a 6.

For a bio of Steve's Question, go here.
For a bio of Mr. A, go here.
For a picture and brief commentary of Killjoy, go here.

These come from what is probably the best site for Ditko info on the Web, Blake Bell's Ditko Looked Up. Curiously, there's little mention of Killjoy.

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BSBdG's to Madonna Louise Ciccone, 45 today. My fave song: "Like A Virgin". It's that amazing Tony Thompson drumbeat. Album: Bedtime Stories.

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Also, today marks the birthday of a somewhat lesser known figure, Mr. Kevin Ayers, 58. I rather like his 1973 album Bananamour, among others.

Later: a paragraph or two about Daredevil and Autofocus, both of which I viewed yesterday.


What herb are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tee hee. I'm Rosemary. I've always liked that painting... found at Rhonda's.

Friday, August 15, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of August 13

Satisfying finale to this overall excellent, if a little stretched-out, limited series. By focusing on the thoughts and feelings of not only Barbara Gordon but the supporting cast as well as opposed to a clever plot or fight scenes or existential angst of some sort or another, writers Dixon and Beatty have done that all-important thing- create sympathy and empathy with the title character. If you can do that, then that's half the battle. The other half is carried by artists Marcos Martin and (especially) inker Alvaro Lopez, previously unknown to me, who do a great job of adhering to the established Year One series Mazzuchelli template but bring their own style into play as well. Just like last issue's subway train scuffle with Blockbuster, again we get a rousing set piece- a somewhat improbable, but no less exciting scene in which Babs pursues and eventually brings down the Killer Moth & Firefly's helicopter. Suspension of disbelief...always talked about but seldom accomplished. If you haven't been picking this series up in "pamphlet" form, then I strongly suggest you get the trade paperback, which I'm sure is coming out soon. A

While I really wish Rucka hadn't resorted to using Two-Face (and to a lesser extent, Batman) in such a prominent manner- I tend to be more involved with the non-superheroish elements of this book- this still was an excellent finale to an excellent arc, and the final scene redeems all. I love the already great relationship between Detective Allen and Josie Mac. Michael Lark has really grown into his comparatively new, looser style. You know, Allen reminds me of ESPN's Pardon The Interruption guy, Michael Wilbon. A

3. FABLES 16
Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Certainly not Bill Willingham, who is doing a marvelous PR job for that oft-maligned huffer and puffer. Although he kinda comes across as a cross between one of Neil Gaiman's Sandman characters and Wolverine as portrayed here, he is still the most interesting character in a large group of interesting characters. In this particular issue Bill zigs when I expect him to zag, and delivers a twist or two I didn't figure on. The art by Buckingham and Leialoha is still doesn't yank my crank, but they have some nice moments. A-

4. POWERS 33
First we get Quest For Fire, then Conan the Barbarian, now Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. When Bendis gets around to the Thirties, I anticipate Citizen Kane...or maybe even The Roaring Twenties with Zora in Priscilla Lane's role. Aw, I kid. Actually, the concept Bendis is developing actually works quite well in the context of what's already been established, and this issue makes a lot of things clearer...even though, really, the gist of this issue's story is an argument that's been posited in many different places...Watchmen, Kingdom Come, to name a few of the recent stories that have dealt with similar themes. Bendis doesn't really add much to the debate, but we'll see what happens as this progresses. Mike Avon Oeming has a field day, as does colorist Peter Fantazis, but Oeming should be careful with his panel layouts...not since the halcyon days of Thriller have I been misdirected so often. A-

5. JLA 84
Ask and ye shall receive! All I wanted was to see Kelly, Mahnke and Nguyen back together again, with the League facing a suitably world-threatening menace and a de-emphasis on the heavy-handed political allegory. And lo and behold, that's what we get, and less than a month after last issue's debacle to boot! The menace looks to be a strong and interesting one, but Joe kinda flubs a bit with his usual strong point- characterization, especially in regards to Batman. However, Bats may be suffering from the same malady that all the villains were, so I'll give Kelly a Mulligan. Part one of what promises to be a good 'un. A-

6. H-E-R-O 7
Don't go in for Jackass-type shows myself, nor do I particularly enjoy the company of dumbass fratboys...but I don't mind laughing at them whenever the opportunity presents itself as it does in this amusing, but slight, skewering of that particular sub-sub culture. The art by fill-in guys Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy reminds me a lot of JLA's Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen...and that's a compliment in my book. B+

7. JSA 51
Hector Hall gets a little self-respect on in this effectively handled, though somewhat predictable coda to the events of issue 50. We Legion fans even get a little treat in the form of a puzzling cameo by our favorite 30th century supergroup...but one which features members which aren't part of current continuity. Foreshadowing...or poor research? To coin a phrase- U-Decide! Anyway, almost everything gets tied up somewhat neatly, the bland-when their-run-started but eventually very good Kirk/Champagne art team goes out with a bang, and I'm prepared to bid this book (which I've grown somewhat bored with) a fond adieu...but then they go and throw in a final scene with a JSA splinter group which appears to have some promise. Sigh. Guess I'll wait a while longer. B+

Lu cimapar pohi vufacay hiyo meha bedate. Icinet fesahi lemiyew balaret oyo vu isasale tal tidepih dotulu. Cuto lono wiloca sulog se; givixu mote para narila eti. Omomu bafe cive ta pola eri dilie focu car latolet. Resev otieseh hete lide riwa namez! Anila ube idin cuh careyal cikapet domen iyan; nocene nawiyi tokuyo be tema ter heti ivi. Tetatup dieb mi leracan lofurom socasor xosie tetor. Ihane siciy nagez ge neneci yexay cis sece: Ri cal yusew sibol nodas cahet refuro teni yanoge; itan tilirut abenar icu eloyur. Kamer uni pe. Oricir con nu hier. Osalare viem potirog gare lebi aqaroy rodocif fa! Me doho daditi re sonev mos hanir otayet cu: Dudina imaso efatet cato vitepar lo bareli elamonih! Now you know what my general impression is of almost every issue in this series so far. Oh yeah. The art is quite good and so is the coloring. Clem Robins' lettering is well done, too, but I fail to comprehend why he bothers.C+

I also had the lovely Nicole at my comics shop place Witchblade Animated 1 and 1602 1 in my folder for next week. The more I thought and read about them, the more I decided I wanted to get 'em. I'll review them next week. Better late than never.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOne of the most annoying things about being a voracious consumer of music, especially an unemployed, almost broke and never exactly flush with cash when employed voracious consumer of music, is that I'm constantly coming across albums and performers that I haven't heard before (or have heard a long time ago and hear differently now) in which I become interested...but don't have the resources to hunt the music down and buy, or go see perform, or whatever.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to a documentary I caught last night on the Sundance Channel, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, about the noted (and notorious) folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Now, I had heard of Elliott, but that's all- I knew he was a good friend and contemporary of Woody Guthrie, and heavily influenced Bob Dylan, but that's all. This documentary sheds a lot of light on his career and his accomplishments...and also paints a not-so-flattering picture sometimes of a person who was determined to remain footloose and free spirited, no matter what the cost to his career or family life. But even though there was plenty to dislike about the man, this film makes it clear how talented and likeable he was when he wanted to be, and I was blown away by a lot of his singing and playing, and enjoyed the performances that were shown. One great clip we get to see is an appearance on the Johnny Cash Show (will someone please get this program out on DVD, immediately if not sooner?), in which Elliott sits and tunes for at least a minute and a half while Cash looks on, amused...but the song they sing together is worth the wait. If you're a big Bob Dylan fan, you should probably check this out as well...Zimmy's a constant presence throughout. But be warned- Elliott has a definite ax to grind with Mr. Zimmerman, who imitated and refined Elliott's stage persona and performance style while buddying up with him...until he hit it big, after which he completely abandoned Elliott, to the point where Jack wasn't even invited to the all-star Woody Guthrie tribute, which Dylan headlined, after the great singer's death. Dylan did try to reconcile later, and included him on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the mid-70s...but the relationship fell apart again. The general consensus is that Dylan owes Elliott far more than he's repaid, and there's a great interview segment with Arlo Guthrie (who sounds like he has a bone or two with Dylan himself) flat-out stating that "Without Ramblin' Jack Elliott, there wouldn't be any Bob Dylan".

Another dimension to this film is that it was directed by Elliott's daughter by his fourth wife, Aiyana Elliott, who grew up with her Dad always on the road and had little contact with him after her parents divorced. A great deal of the proceedings are spent with Ayana attempting to have several talks with her father, who is prone to, well, ramble and free associate. There's a funny/sad scene in which they drive, in Pater Elliott's RV, to the location of the house where they all lived for a few years as a family...but Elliott has forgotten where it was. While Aiyana doesn't come to any real reconciliation with her Dad, you get the feeling that she knows him better, or as much as anyone can know the mercurial Elliott, and realizes perhaps (again, in the words of Arlo) "maybe she just wasn't meant to know him", or at least like she thought she did.

Anyway, Elliott's music has definitely aroused my curiosity, especially in the two records he did on Warner Bros./Reprise (you know how I am) in 1969 and 1970. Elliott himself is a fascinating individual, as charismatic and rascally as he is obtuse and difficult, and he seems to have settled into his old age with resignation, if not always acceptance, about his lot. He still performs, and is excellent in the recent clips shown, in particular one that shows a stellar rendition of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", one of my fave Dylan songs. If you're inclined to like folk music, or pop music history, or just want to watch the family drama unfold, then you should seek this out. I hope to see it again before its run on Sundance is over.
As I sit here in my air-conditioned home while the thermometer reads 90-plus degrees outside, listening to The Basement Tapes and drinking a Dew with ice, taking it all for granted, I read about the current difficulties in New York and elsewhere...and think that perhaps I do have one or two things to be thankful for. I suppose all I can do from hundreds of miles away is send out sincere hopes that they get that mess straightened out as soon as possible.

Elayne Riggs has written a interesting first-hand account of her experiences yesterday. I have a feeling there will be several of these all over the blogosphere in the next few days.

Heck of a way to spend "Fair and Balanced" day, isn't it?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

This is gonna be another one of those "state of my union" pieces, and it will be brief because I got up late and have things to do, including cutting the grass, always a fun thing in the Kentucky humidity.

Picked up eight new comics yesterday, and of course I will review them eventually. In my stack were

JLA #84
JSA #51

Out of these, I suppose half of them could be considered Spandex superhero comics, and I suppose Central and Powers would be as well even though superheroism is de-emphasized in those titles. I don't know how to categorize the uncategorizable Filth. Under "mindfuck", I suppose. Anyway, I note this because I've been reading a lot of thoughtful pieces dealing with "outgrowing" superheroes and the comics that feature them over at !Journalista!, Sean Collins', and Eve-Tushnet's comparison of comics to opera over at her place. Of course, I always accepted it as a given that Kirby comics, for example, always operated at a implied Wagnerian level, but it's a good piece nonetheless. I have, for a long time now, thought myself bored by most conventional superhero-type offerings from the Big Three or Four, but the evidence above kinda brings my conviction into question. Still, a generous portion of my monthly purchases, I believe, while not as indiecentric as they could be, is still definitely not that of a typical comics fan these days- whatever that may be. I'd like to write a long post about my thoughts on this, but I am finding it difficult, at best, these days to organize my thoughts on most matters so I guess it will have to wait. It's an interesting discussion, though, and I wanted to point it out to you all.

Also, lest we forget, I opined a little on the Jesus Castillo debacle, but it was buried in one of my longwinded rambling-type posts so go here to read what I said again, which pretty much echoes 75% of most people who are inclined to care about that sort of thing. Third paragraph. However, there are many who don't agree, and Ampersand has a clearly thought out "con" position. Go here to read it. Me, I still maintain that while the letter of the law might have been upheld, justice was not done.

Finally, you may or may not have noticed that I have made my small contribution to the "fair and balanced" madness, in the header above.

Hopefully, more later. If not, sayonara, kiddies, see you tomorrow. Pax et justitia!
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BSBdG's today go out to Sly's former singer/bassist and Graham Central Station founder Larry Graham, 57 today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Just wanted to mention that I've added a couple of interesting new (to me, anyway) blogs at right: Forager23 and Sugar n' Spicy.

Forager's site is loaded with well-written commentary on any number of subjects, and Sugar n' Spicy spotlights art from various sources and times. Good stuff. Go check 'em out. Thanks to Skippy for pointing Sugar out.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

An impassioned commander with more respect for individuals than for authority, you have a no-holds-barred approach to life and its obstacles.

I don't believe in the no-win scenario.

James is a character in the Star Trek universe. STARTREK.COM has his Starfleet record.


Found over at In Sequence.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd now, finally, it's time for that long promised JOHNNY B's MONDO VINYL-O! In which I discuss, inform, opine, and otherwise enlighten all of you wonderful people out there who deign to read my little bloggie-poo about at least ten, count 'em, ten vinyl long playing 33 1/3 RPM stereo unless otherwise noted stacks o' wax to which I have listened to since the last time I did one of these here things. This was started when I got a new turntable several months ago and I had literally thousands of records that I hadn't listened to in over three years, and I thought it would make great blogfodder to inflict, I mean pass on my joyful reunions to all of you. I still listen to those newfangled compact disc things a lot, too, but this here's an exclusive vinyl joint, yo, so I don't discuss them. I've thoughtfully provided a scan of the cover when AMG didn't have one. So without further a-do-delee-doo, here goes...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWendy Waldman-The Main Refrain (1976)
Wendy was one of a spate of West Coast female singer-songwriters that emerged in the early 70s in the wake of Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Janis Joplin. I've always placed her in a little group with Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, The McGarrigle Sisters and later Karla Bonoff, but she was different in that unlike Muldaur, Raitt and Ronstadt she wrote her own songs (several of which were covered by Muldaur, on whose records she often performed). Her records were always well-crafted LA-style country-pop-rock, often tinged with jazz stylings like her most obvious influence, Nyro. Her vocals even resembled Nyro's. But for some unexplainable reason, despite recording for one of the biggest record labels on Earth, her five Warners records from 1973-1978 probably sold as many all together as one of Ronstadt's. Guess she was just too smart for the room, who knows. Anyway, Refrain, her fourth solo album, is probably her strongest cut-for-cut, often featuring expansive, even cinematic arrangements and some nice harmony singing, especially on the title cut. Other highlights are the breezy, recorder-accented "Goodbye Summerwind", the dramatic, rockish "Soft and Low" and "Living is Good", and the reflective, jazzy "Back By Fall" which Muldaur also covered that same year. Wendy went on from here to release one or two records on other labels in the 80s, which were laden with typical 80s rock-guitar bombast and slick production, wrote a song called "Heartbeat" which Don Johnson, of all people, riding high on the success of Miami Vice had a hit with; then she went to Nashville where she's had a decent career of professional songwriting and production. Most recently, she's recorded with her pre-solo career band Bryndle, which features Andrew (Lonely Boy) Gold and Karla Bonoff as well. Sadly, none of her albums are available on CD; only a best-of sampler, released by Warner Archives about five years ago and one which doesn't begin to scratch the surface of her best work, is available.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Mothers of Invention-Over-Nite Sensation (1973)
This album was (and still is) the line of demarcation for many Zappa fans. Sensation was his first album in which every song was conventionally structured, in a verse-verse-chorus-bridge-verse sense, rather than the mix of Varese, Ornette Coleman, doo-wop and blues to which Zappaphiles had become accustomed. And it was on this record that Zappa's sense of humor, always sarcastic, added an overtly surly and dismissive edge- one of the things I've always disliked about Frank's music was his nasty air of disdain for those that he perceived as beneath his contempt, and it's on this record in abundance. Guess getting pushed off a stage by a crazed "fan" and breaking your leg will do that to you. Anyway, I too am a little undecided, even after all these years, about what I think about this record...most of the satire takes shots at easy targets, unless you choose to go by Ben Watson's book, with all its "conceptual continuity" and multiple meanings and layers, and the arrangements of many of these songs are a bit too repetitious ("Camarillo Brillo") and busily arranged. Still, geez- it's got "Montana", one of his best songs and one of the few times his playful whimsy gets to shine though here, with speeded-up vocals by Tina Turner and the Ikettes; "Zomby Woof", which could have been a leftover from the Flo & Eddie band days; and of course, the elaborate and notorious dirty joke "Dinah-Moe-Humm", which is as catchy as it is crass. "I'm The Slime" is passable blues-rock, although its satirical target is a sitting duck. Really, the only cut which I don't like on this is the too-slick and horribly sung (by one Ricky Lancelloti) "Fifty-Fifty", in which Zappa states his musical ideology circa 1972. Time has been kind to this record- compared to much of his mid-to-late 80s albums, Sensation sounds like a major work.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usUriah Heep-Sweet Freedom (1973)
Ladies and gentlemen...THIS is Spinal Tap. These guys were critical whipping boys for so long, and mostly for good reason. Ostensibly a heavy blues-rock boogie outfit, they began early on to incorporate grandiose harmonies and fantasy themes into their music, and managed to hit it pretty big in the early 70s with albums such as Demons and Wizards, with its hit single "Easy Livin'", and The Magician's Birthday, appealing also to the Prog-rock crowd due to their Roger Dean album covers. And it's true, a lot of Spinal Tap's material was inspired by bands like the Heep...but when I was growing up, I kinda liked the guitar-keyboard-harmonies blend, as well as the hippie-dippie sword-and-sorcery subject matter so as an adult that should theoretically know better, I retain a soft spot for the classic incarnation of Uriah Heep. That being said, unfortunately the Heepsters were saddled with a preening vocalist, David Byron by name, who had one of the most cringe-inducing voices in rock music history. He had the unfortunate tendency to break out, at odd times, into a falsetto vibrato that would peel paint off a wall. Anyway, by the time of this record they had changed US record companies and this was their first release with Warners. It spawned a hit single, the catchy bluesy "Some Kind of Wonderful"-ish "Stealin" but largely abandons the fantasy themes of its immediate predecessors for more down-to-earth topics. The opener, "Dreamer", is a punchy rocker which Byron almost kills with his screeching at the end and I also like "Seven Stars"- another driving rocker with weird backwards-masked voices at the end. "Circus", an acoustic "pity the lot of the poor rock star" tune, is normally the sort of thing that annoys the hell out of me but the whining is at a minimum so it gets a pass. On the negative side, the plodding title cut sports a memory-defying hook and lyrics of the self-pitying type, and the album's closer, "Pilgrim", is the sort of song which gave the Heep its sometime unfair rep. The story of a wandering warrior who has to choose between love and battle, or something like that, it's bloated and overlong and horribly sung (especially at the end) by Byron, you won't know whether to laugh or leave the room. For what it's worth, I always liked Uriah Heep, even after Byron left or was sacked or whatever, and stuck around for a couple of records after he left- one of which, 1977's Firefly, was quite good. But I can certainly see why they were scorned like they were. We all have our guilty pleasures. Caveat emptor.

The J.Geils Band-The J. Geils Band (1970)
Most people that remember the Geils band at all remember their slick, oversynthed (but catchy) 80s hits like "Love Stinks" and "Centerfold". However, when they started out they were a straight up blues band- idolizing, emulating and covering the likes of John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush and Albert Collins. This, their debut on Atlantic, is about as bluesy as five white guys from Boston can get. They cover all three of the aforementioned gentlemen here, along with Smokey Robinson and Big Walter Price, and manage to hold their own with originals like "Wait", which kicks off the LP, and "Hard Drivin' Man". Later records adopted a more R&B-rock tone, and were not successful sales-wise even though they were popular on the road throughout the 70s. Of course, I liked 'em all, but as you're probably beginning to notice, my tastes don't always coincide with that of the record buying public at large. These guys are long overdue for a reunion album, but it probably won't happen despite the fact that neither lead Peter Wolf or anyone else in the group are having any sort of success whatsoever right now. Ego clashes, I suppose. Pride swallowing difficulties, maybe.

Bloodrock-2 (1970)
Gotta give a shout out for this one to Russell Butler, the cool older guy that lived next door to me when I was growing up and exposed me to bands like Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and these guys. Bloodrock was a Texas heavy blues rock group that was managed and produced by Grand Funk Railroad Svengali Terry Knight in the early 70s. According to AMG, and I didn't know this, they had six charting albums between 1970 and 1972 but the only one anyone ever remembers is this one, which features the top 40 hit "D.O.A.". I've always been amazed by the chart success of this song, which was so unlikely given its morbid subject matter. But you know what? That tale of two unfortunate young people who OD on drugs and jump off a building is still kinda gripping, the ominous, spooky music memorable and the lyrics crossed a lot of taboos for radio, causing a sensation among those who tend to become sensationalized by that sort of thing. And it definitely didn't sound like much else that was on the radio at the time, that's for sure! Anyway, there are several other songs here that are tuneful and rocking, if not especially well played, but the leaden production style of Knight doesn't help. Many of these, and I assume other songs on subsequent records, were co-written by one John Nitzinger, who went on to release several solo records as the decade wore on. I dig this one out from time to time for nostalgia's sake...it's one of the oldest records in my collection. Sadly, the first cut "Lucky in the Morning" is so scratched it barely plays.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usStatus Quo-Rockin' All Over the World (1977)
I'm sure you all (or many of you, anyway) remember the mid-1960s psychedelic pop hit "Pictures of Matchstick Men" which put the Quo on the map way back when. After unsuccessfully trying to follow that song up, they decided to make a major shift in their sound and went all heavy and bluesy, like the Cream, Foghat, or Humble Pie and many other groups of that ilk that were popular in the late 60s and early 70s. And they boogied along for several years, releasing several albums which did quite well in the UK but not so well over here until they released a live album in 1977 which finally got them a little attention. Then they released this, the studio follow-up, and it sounded very little like what had come before. Gone were the eight minute extended jams and piledriver riffs, replaced by a more compact and sleeker sound which rocked just as hard but more economically. I don't know why they chose to do this, maybe Punk and New Wave had something to do with it, but I'm glad they did because this little record is a joy. Yeah, it's slickly produced but for once the processed group vocals and guitar licks are in service to tightly arranged, strongly melodic songs which make all but the most lead-assed among us nod your head or dance around. All the songs are written by the band themselves, except the title cut which was taken from John Fogerty's self-titled first solo album. The Beatles and Cream are obvious influences, as well as Creedence to a point, and a couple of cuts- "Dirty Water" and "For You" sound like the Kinks. I'm tellin' ya, if you haven't heard this one I recommend it very highly. It's a good-time record if I ever heard one. Of course, this record failed to build on the Live record's sales, and it was back to the heavy boogie for the Quo. Honestly, I've heard very little of what they've done since this record because its follow up didn't come out in the US right away (or at least not where I could find it) and I just kinda lost interest...but they're still together and boogieing strong to this day. Here's their official website, if you're curious.

David Lindley-El Rayo-X (1981)
I've never had much use for the music of Jackson Browne, so it took me a while before I discovered the four albums that his sidekick and guitarist Lindley did in the 80s. This one was the first, and it was after this that he assembled an actual group named El Rayo-X, which toured in between session commitments. El Rayo-X is the best of the eclectic bunch, and it's consistently entertaining and surprising, combining a multitude of styles (mostly reggae, zydeco and Tex-Mex) and rhythms. Best of show here is the cover of the old song "Mercury Blues" later an enormous hit for some singing hat from Nashville...but that version couldn't hold a candle to this one, with its downright terrifying slide guitar solo. Other standouts are "Quarter of a Man", a funny reggae tale of a vertically challenged fellow who manages to get by just the same, "Ain't No Way", two of three excellent Robert "Frizz" Fuller songs on side one (whoever the hell he was), with a great melody and another excellent slide solo, and a reggae-ized cover of "Twist and Shout". A fun record, and highly recommended along with the two other El Rayo-X albums, Win This Record! and Very Greasy. We used to play the heck out of these at WLOC back in the old days.

Seals and Crofts-Summer Breeze (1972)
OK. I know by now that I have lost a ton of critical cool points for my earlier advocacy of Chicago. And I know I didn't help it any by admitting to liking Uriah Heep. Now I've probably destroyed it beyond all recognition because I'm going to step right up and say that I liked this record. Or to be precise, I liked the album cover design, and two songs: the title cut, and "Hummingbird". Those are both catchy and winning folk-rock songs with nice, polite, but somewhat snarly guitar licks spicing them up. Of course, they went on to record many schlocky albums sporting many schlocky cloying hit singles...but there's just something about the hippie vibe of this album in its entirety that appeals to me. While I'm at it, the later songs "Diamond Girl" (from the album of the same name) and "King of Nothing", from 1974's Unborn Child, were nice, too. And that's all I'm going to say about Seals and Crofts, pro or con. Heck, it's Summer, and that's when these songs sound the best, so I put the record on. Sue me.

Rick Wakeman-The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973)
PBS recently aired a two-part documentary/dramatization which dealt with the lives of Henry's spouses, and I watched most of it, which in turn led me to dig this record out and give it a spin for the first time in several years. Of course, Wakeman was a pianist who started out as a session guy in his teens, then eventually hooked up with the Strawbs first, then Yes, and launched a solo career during his tenure with the Prog supergroup. This was his first, and it purports to be his "musical impressions" of each of the wives. It's tuneful enough, and very well played...there was never any doubt that Wakeman could play. He would never play one note when he could throw a hundred in instead. There are several nice, complicated passages of music, featuring not only piano but a barrage of keyboard instruments that were cutting edge then but sound a bit dated today...time marches on, I suppose. As a longtime Strawbs fan, I was especially gratified to see that some of the band members circa 1973 played on one cut here. The problem I've always had with this record is that in spite of all the craft and musicianship that went into it, I never get much of a feel for the personalities of the individual subjects. It all just sounds like a bunch of trademark Wakeman keyboard flourishes, punctuated by oohing and aahing from group vocalists. Sometimes he plays quieter, sometimes he plays faster and louder. Sometimes he plays a Hammond, sometimes a Moog, sometimes a Mellotron. Guess I just can't hear it, I don't know. Also, the track sequence is not the same as the sequence of Henry's wives, and this annoys my anal nature. Wakeman later went on to release enormously successful records with enormously overblown stage presentations, and when his career momentum died out he reunited with Yes, and has hung in there to this day...he's released an astounding number of records over the last three decades.

Marshall Crenshaw-Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
I gotta confess: when skinny-tie New Wave bands and their music came along, I was just as slow to embrace it as I was Punk. I liked what I liked, by God, and I didn't like all the synths and simplistic guit-bass-drums arrangements and gulping vocals and lyrics that were just boy-girl-whatever love songs. So when I first saw this record in Creem magazine, I was prepared to ignore it...Crenshaw looked like a less-nerdy Elvis Costello and I thought it would be more of the same. This was before I saw the light with Mr. McManus, so cut me some slack. However, something in both the Creem proper review and Christgau's review in the next issue (I think) broke me down a little, and I took a chance. I am very glad I did. For a bright shining moment, it looked like Marshall was going to be the savior of pop music itself- this record was so unpretentious, filled with great hooks and arrangements, and rewarded repeated listenings with a sharp, funny lyric here or a great lick or percussion embellishment there-and I think everyone got their hopes up for more of the same in perpetuity. Uh...didn't happen. Apparently the song well was a shallow one, because the sluggish, overproduced follow-up Field Day was a huge commercial flop with only one or two really memorable songs (and I know this record has its admirers...I just call 'em like I hear 'em) and subsequent records, while still delivering a great tune or three, were disappointments as well. Still, many artists go their entire careers without releasing one album this strong, so I can't feel too bad for Crenshaw, but it's a shame he couldn't sustain whatever he had. That doesn't take away from this album, which I think is one of the best in the history of pop music, no kiddin.

Well, that's gonna do it. I've listened to several others lately, but I'll have to do them some other time. I think the next Vinyl-O will be a special solo Beatles edition, since I'm always digging those out and giving 'em a spin.

Thanks for reading, and by all means feel free to comment!

Just added Tommy Lee Edwards' site to the "creators" section of the blogroll. Of special note is an ongoing story of which he has the first chapter up: it's called Teddy Grant, Soldier of Fortune, which seems to be, so far, a bit of a blend of the stylings of Toth (especially Bravo For Adventure) and Caniff with Raiders of the Lost Ark and X-Files. Go forth and viddy it, O my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Unconscious Mutterings again:

I say ... and you think ... ?

Miss America:: Styx. They did a song by that name that my high school rock band covered. Still can't listen to that frigging song, and the band thing didn't turn out all that great either.
Cherubs:: angels (sorry..can't think of anything else)
Shark Week:: Discovery Channel
Sunflowers:: Beach Boys
Sorority:: girls
Grilled chicken: Wendy's
100:: Bullets
Tickle monster:: Elmo
Veronica:: Lodge
Slurpee:: Cherry

Looks like this is all the posting I'll be doing today...I'm still working on the Vinyl-O, but it's gonna be a big'un and it takes time, something I can't seem to find a lot of right now.

See ya later, and like the Stones once sang: "May every song you sing be your favorite tune".
Speaking of Wizard World Chicago, the best news I've heard so far:

Howard Victor Chaykin is going to do the Challengers of the Unknown. Can't wait.

Via Newsarama by way of !Journalista!.

Update: Please see the comments section for more about recent Chaykin stuff from me.

You know, I should check Newsarama more often...though Neilalien I found the announcement that none other than my old fave Tommy Lee Edwards, whom you may recall from my Gemini Blood description in my "12 Comics You Should Read" list, will be illustrating the new adventures of fan-favorite character the Question. Originally created, written and illustrated by Steve Ditko as sort of a no-nonsense Spirit knockoff for Charlton Comics, the Question was one of a group of characters that DC acquired when Charlton went out of business back in the 80s. His gimmick was a mask that he wore, which had no facial features, hence the name. He always seemed to be accompanied by a lot of that trademark Ditkoesque swirly smoke. DC then published a Question comic for what seemed like a hell of a long time, with scripts by Dennis O'Neil and art by Denys Cowan, and while I was initially intrigued, I was completely underwhelmed by it so I stopped buying after about 6 issues. I've never had much affection for the characters, so believe me when I tell you that Edwards art is the only thing that could get me to buy a Question comic.
Here's another one of those quizzes where if you have any familiarity at all with the subject you can skew it towards any result you want...but what the heck.

You are "Uncle Black"

Which Mark Ryden Painting Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Hey, any excuse to post a Mark Ryden piece. Chris, aka the lucky bastard that got to go to Wizard World Chicago, you should take this quiz.

Poached from Very Black, by the way.
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Went to see Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl Saturday. About all I can say is that it's better than Cutthroat Island, though not by much, and Johnny Depp is almost as pretty as Geena Davis was...and it's Depp, like Davis, that makes the film worthwhile.

Don't know what moved Depp to play his Jack Sparrow (Captain Jack Sparrow, I can hear him say) as some kind of mincing mix of Tim Curry, Errol Flynn and RuPaul, but I can guess: other than Sparrow, the most colorful character is Geoffrey Rush's scowling Captain Barbossa and the script is a by-the-numbers pirate adventure, badly needing some spice- which Depp provides by the barrelful. He seems to be having a large time, wisely kidding the material, and as a result the viewer has a large time along with him. His performance is the best reason to see this film. Rush gives a fine, nuanced performance too, and Orlando (Legolas) Bloom is OK in a role which, despite the fact that his character is pivotal to the goings-on, isn't asked to do very much acting-wise. The special FX are fine, especially the scenes with the ghostly, decomposing buccaneers by moonlight...as they swordfight with living opponents, I couldn't help but flash back on the recent Ray Harryhausen documentary I saw on TCM and how difficult it was for the Master to pull off the Jason vs. the skeletons scenes. We've come a long way, I suppose. There's a lot of nice scenery, not all of it being chewed by Depp and Rush, and the period detail appears to be very nicely done. One or two of the action scenes work as well as they're supposed to. Director Gore Verbinski, with whose The Ring I was unimpressed, does a fine job, free of the noisy and annoying MTV-ish tricks he brought to his previous effort.


The movie is too damn long by at least 20 minutes because modern scriptwriters, especially when they write action-adventure films, can't resist the urge to pad the story with false endings and unnecessary plot twists. There is at least one too many swordfights as well, among all the other requisite pirate movie trappings, such as battles at sea, and people being washed up on tropical islands. I realize that the prevailing thought is that hey- this is a "Summer action movie", based on a Disney World ride, so we have to make it as much like a roller coaster as we can...with lots of ups and downs and ins and outs and "make you jump" scenes as possible. Fine. But I don't like roller coasters. More negatives: the young actress Kiera Knightley has absolutely zero charisma playing the female lead. None. Her character is given plenty of opportunity to do all sorts of things, and she does them all in the same, low-key way. Even her drunk scene with Depp. A little more spark on her part would have gone a long way towards making this movie a lot more entertaining. There's a lot of exposition, because the story itself is needlessly cluttered, and you have to pay attention (especially at the end) or you'll be confused.

All things considered, though, I thought Pirates was OK. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of late 50s and early 60s Disney films like their version of Treasure Island and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Guess it was the priggish, uptight would-be suitor and captain of the guard, and Knightley's character's clueless father (Jonathan (Brazil) Pryce, always welcome in any film), along with all the redcoats. If this had been made in 1963, it would have been split in two parts and shown on Sunday night on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. So what the heck...go see Pirates, for Depp if nothing else, and park your brain at the door.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

A couple of things from Mark Evanier's website, which always provides a ton of interesting stuff-

A look at why "critically acclaimed but cancelled" titles are still worthwhile, which mentions one of my 12 comics you should read, Bat Lash. This article is almost a year old, and I'm sure many of you have already read it...but it sheds some light on that title. Plus, he reproduces the cover to #2 again...it's definitely the best cover of the series' run, but I'm thinking I should post another issue's cover sometime, just for the heck of it. #2's the only one that ever gets used!

Also, Evanier points us to art from what is now apparently going to be an unused Jay Stephens Teen Titans story. It's very retro, and appears to be set in 1964, is written by the original Titans (and longtime Brave & Bold) cscripter Bob Haney, and looks extremely cool. Hell, I'd buy it, unless it came out as a thirty dollar hardcover...but apparently those enlightened folks at DC say it's "too weird". As Rorschach would say: "Hurm."
Greetings, salutations, felicitations and Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings on this Sunday morning go out to:

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Rock/hip-hop/jazz singer Neneh Cherry, 39 today. She hasn't been exactly what you could call a prolific artist, what with only three proper albums (only two released stateside) since 1988...but they've each been of high quality. Hopefully she'll get a new one out before the Aughts are over. Wonder if anybody hangs in the Buffalo Stance anymore...


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Everyone's favorite one-legged flautist and rock philosopher Ian Anderson, 56 today. I've always been a fan of Jethro Tull's early albums (pre-1976), as long-time readers may remember. He looks like the sort of fellow who'd "Give up his halo for a horn/and the horn for the hat I once had", doesn't he?

And by the way...he really has both legs. He sometimes played flute standing on one leg. Just in case you were wondering.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

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BSBdG's today for Agent Scully, aka Gillian Anderson, 35. I know, X-Files is over, and I shouldn't perpetuate typecasting. Apologies. I hope she goes on to bigger and better things as her career progresses.

But I'll still think "what's Agent Scully doing in that period drama?"...

Click on the picture above to go to her official website.

Friday, August 08, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of August 6

Honestly, I don't know how I can add to what I've said before: it's like Giffen and Dematteis found a script they had written back in 1986, dusted it off, and turned it in. Highlights this time around: the running joke with Fire, Sue Dibny, and hubby Ralph, the intellectual thugs, and the small, but hilarious Oberon cameo. Small...Oberon...BWAH-HA-HA! Big difference between now and then: Kevin Maguire has grown as an artist...his facial expressions, which were always realistic but sometimes didn't always match the emotions required back in the day are letter-perfect now, and he's gotten looser and more imaginative with his layouts. Only one complaint: colorist Lee Loughridge really needs to rethink his color palette. I suppose if I wanted to be true to this issue's spirit, I'd give it a 9, but instead I'll just stay with the norm and give it an A.

What we have here is really nothing different than the sort of TV movies you see on the Disney Channel all the time, and since I watch Kim Possible whenever I can, I see plenty of that sort of thing on that network. Strong Buffy vibe, too. It's also reminiscent of theatrical releases like Zapped!, The Craft, or Clockstoppers. Or if we must compare it to comics, perhaps H-E-R-O combined with Will Pfiefer and Jill Thompson's recent miniseries Finals. A teenage nerd creates a serum which gives the four "Heathers" of his school super-powers, and it definitely doesn't appear as though they'll use them responsibly. This was an engaging read, despite the second-handedness of its plot, and well drawn by newcomer (to me, anyway) Jennifer Graves, who inks herself this time but I read where personal fave Jason Bone will do the tracing honors next issue, which is just fine with me. Still, I'm glad I got to see her own inks, and I'll be interested in what she does next. Gotta give a special mention to the nice Darwyn Cooke cover, which induced me to pick this up in the first place. Again, murkily colored by Lee Loughridge, who really should take that colorblindness test I had to take years ago for my graphics jobs... A-

Moody and fast-paced, as usual, and Wade Von Grawbadger is a much better inker for Ryan Sook than the guy they got last time...but the story jumps around from place to place and flashback to flashback, often making it hard to follow, and I'm not sure if the focus didn't shift from the "Fish" too soon. The Demon's coming up, and all hell promises to literally break loose, so I'm still interested. B+

I still like Tony Millionaire's oddball sense of humor, and his excellent re-creation of the turn-of-the-century cartooning style...but his last few Sock Monkey stories have sported downbeat, glum endings which don't reward the faithful reader at all and definitely tempers my enjoyment and appreciation of his efforts. I'm not one that expects to be uplifted and favorably entertained every time out, but geez...misery doesn't always love company, you know. B+

How typical of Terry Moore to finish his most involving issue in months with that hoariest of hoary comic-book cliches, the bitter victim of parental abuse. In this ever changing world in which we live, I suppose it should be reassuring to know that Mr. Moore will always be counted upon to do the melodramatic and cliche without fail whenever presented with the opportunity.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Great post/appreciation of Bruce Campbell over at Big Sunny D's, along with a link to the upcoming film Bubba Ho-Tep, which sounds like one can't-miss oddball flick. Boy, I miss The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr....

Blogging's probably going to be light for me the next couple of days...many things to do this afternoon, and they're showing several James Cagney movies back to back on TCM...must...watch...Cagney...(one had Joan Blondell!) plus tomorrow will bring a doctor's appointment and a possible "Loser's Luncheon", so that's gonna minimize my quality time with the ol' iMac. I still need to post reviews of the new comics I picked up yesterday, plus I still have that overdue Vinyl-O, so don't despair. Like I'm sure you were. Despairing, that is. Whatever.
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Once in a while I'll use this Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings conceit simply as an excuse to post pitchers of purty girls. Today, 28 years ago, Charlize Theron was born. Happy happy to ya, Ms. Theron.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

More random musings about (everybody repeat after me) everything in general and nothing in particular.

Maybe I could organize a flash mob event where everyone repeats that phrase then disperses. Actually, I've been seeing the occasional article and blog post about this phenomenon, and it sounds interesting. I find myself wondering what Warren Ellis thinks of it for some reason. Anywho, the most recent blogpost/article link I found was over at Susan's. Go! Read! Return!

A serious note: the truly scary outcome of the Jesus Castillo case, as reported by Dirk Deppey and others. Scary, more for the precedent it sets than anything else. If this sort of transaction, to an adult with no children present, and the book in question having been found in a section clearly marked "adult", can cause this sort of legal trouble...then what's next? The definition of "porn" is a subjective one, at least the way it's set up in the USA, and all sorts of hell can be raised using this very shortsighted and ignorant ruling as an example. I know what they say about Texas justice, but this goes beyond the pale and is a dark blot on an already dark record.

Once in a while, I find myself awake at odd hours. Often, I'll sit and watch VH1's Insomniac Music Theatre, just to see that rarest of rare birds: a music video. Found myself doing just that the other night, and I'll mention a few in an effort to demonstrate to you people that my musical tastes are not stuck in 1974. I found myself enjoying several videos both on VH1 and (wonder of wonders) MTV, including Liz Phair's new one and a truly nutty crazy video for a dance song by a pair of Danes who go by Junior and Senior. It's called "Move Your Feet", and it features graphics which look like old Atari 2600 video games. It's catchy, silly, and totally fun, like the B-52's were when they started. Phair has caught a lot of crap for the new direction she's taken, for sure, and I can see why- the song I heard, "Why Can't I", sounded a lot like something from the Vanessa Carlton/Michelle Branch/Avril Levigne school...and while it wasn't bad in and of itself, quite catchy, actually- we all know she's capable of much more so it disappoints a bit. Still, I'm sure she's a bit tired of being a cult artist and this was the way she decided she could perhaps break out, so best of luck to her. The video, though, for this song is very imaginative and clever- it featured Phair and her band performing the song, which each scene aping album cover graphics- an interest of mine, hence my particular enjoyment of the clip, I'd say. Also, I caught the video for my favorite song on Coldplay's Rush of Blood to the Head, "The Scientist", and while it's not an interpretation I would have chosen, it's still a somewhat haunting depiction of the aftermath of a car crash in reverse. If you ever see it, you'll see what I mean, and I hope I haven't spoiled it for you.

I watched a really odd film the other night, as well...Flamingo Road, starring a by-then-long-in-the-tooth Joan Crawford playing a carnival dancer (she looks ridiculous in her carny costume) who becomes romantically involved with a young small-town deputy sheriff who is being groomed for state governorship by Titus Semple, played by Sydney (Maltese Falcon) Greenstreet, the corrupt, evil sheriff who pretty much has his way in both local and state affairs. Of course, Titus can't have his governor-to-be snogging an ex-carny girl, so he makes life miserable for Joan, eventually framing her for a crime and geting her sent away. When she returns, she gets a job at the local roadhouse and hooks up with another of Titus' political circle, the only one poweful enough to stand up to him. Much soapy melodramatic stuff ensues, before the somewhat contrived ending. Still, this was an interesting film, if nothing else than for Greenstreet's malevolent scenery-chewing. He had his difficulties with the southern accent, predictably for a trained Shakespearean actor, but he was otherwise excellent. Joan has her moments...no one could express indignant rage like she could. But jeez Louise- she had no business in a role that should have been played by someone half her age then.

The White Sox won the second game of the series with the Royals last night, so I'm feeling a bit better about them for now. It sounds like they came ready to play and didn't get out-hustled too much, which is what they're going to have to do to hold off the gutty Royals.

On the job hunt front, I got a phone call screening yesterday evening from a hiring manager from Phototype, a prepress operation based in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. It went pretty well, I suppose, even though I think my lack of experience with Flexo printing might be a drawback there. I have a passing familiarity with it, but I get the impression they need someone who can hit the ground running. Still, their classified ad that I responded to a while back stated that they needed several positions, not all of them Flexo related, and he hadn't looked at my resume yet, so who knows. Ohio's a lot closer than Nebraska, but the Nebraska gig sounds better. Stay tuned...

Taking a look at the Diamond Shipping List for today, I'll have the following waiting for me when I get down to the store:


I also see where BAD GIRLS #1, with a sweet Darwyn Cooke cover, is coming out...since my haul looks light I might pick it up too. The softcover TPB of HUMAN TARGET: FINAL CUT is supposed to come out, and I might stick a copy back to buy later.

OK, I'm done for now. Gotta go buy a birthday cake. Everyone have a great day and hopefully I'll post more later on.

Music today so far: Geri Haliwell-Schizophonic, Coldplay-A Rush of Blood to the Head, Eels-Daisies of the Galaxy, Allman Brothers Band-Eat A Peach, R.E.M.-Reveal (still haven't warmed to this one yet) and David Lindley and El Rayo-X: Win This Record!.
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And another, very special BSBdG goes out to my darling daughter Brittany Abigail "Abby" Jones, every bit of 19 years old today. And fellas, she's single!
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Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out today to ol' Ginger Spice herself, Ms. Geraldine "Geri" Haliwell, allegedly 31 years of age and a bit thinner and a lot blonder since the above picture was made. Still, that's Geri as I liked her best.

Actually, her 1999 solo debut Schizophonic really isn't all that bad. Can't comment on the follow-up Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (cool title), because I never got around to picking it up. Oh well, ces't la vie.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Been checkin' the ol' Site Meter, and I am in a state of shock.

I usually average 40-50 hits per day, sometimes less than that.

As of this writing, I have had 134 hits, and it's just mid-afternoon! At least 50 of these have come from Alan Doane's Comic Book Galaxy link, maybe more...my stat page only goes up to 5 pages. I'm amazed. I've even had some comments from some people whom I haven't heard from in a while.

Anyway, welcome to everyone, and thanks for checkin' me out! I'll try to post some more interesting stuff as the week goes by, so come back often!

134. Wow.

Update 8/6: I ended up with in excess of 180 yesterday. Double wow.
A quickie sports note:

I didn't like White Sox manager Jerry Manuel much before the season started; I like him and his style a lot less after last night's debacle in Chicago.

If the Sox want to win this division, this series is absolutely crucial. But Manuel's low-key, laid-back style has fostered an air of apparent lethargy and indifference in the clubhouse, and his season-long mishandling of his pitching staff was painfully in evidence last night, when he burned four pitchers in one inning, and had his bench coach (Manuel was ejected in the sixth inning with very little protestation, I might add) Joe Nossek leave closer Tom Gordon in for two innings, getting him lit up in the process.

Kansas City Royals manager Tony Pena out-managed, out-motivated and out-hustled him in every conceivable way. The Royals dugout was fired up and ready to play, and they executed flawlessly. I was even more impressed with Pena after outfielder Michael Tucker fouled a pitch off his knee and laid on the ground, writhing in pain...with Pena there, holding his hand as the team trainers examined him. No wonder the Royals have overacheived this season...this is the kind of leader players want to win for. He was animated and up the whole game, clapping his hands and talking to his players, with a lot of help from crazy man pitcher Jose Lima.

I'm a Sox fan, and I want them to win this division and maybe even get in a World Series before I die...but after last night's game I've developed a ton of respect and admiration for the scrappy Royals and their manager, and have nothing but scorn for the knuckleheads calling the shots for the Sox.

And that's your sports for today...now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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While reading Bill Sherman's review of the new show Peacemakers, in which he mentions the early 70s Richard Boone vehicle Hec Ramsey, I was reminded of another show of a year or two earlier, Bearcats! .

I was all of eleven when this show aired in 1971, and I suppose I was just the right age for this sort of thing. Also, it seems that when I get attached to a Western film or TV program, it's usually always an off-the-wall one (Wild Wild West (60s)or Valley of Gwangi, anyone?), and this one certainly qualified. Essentially, Bearcats was a hybrid action-adventure and western series about two soldiers of fortune, played by Rod (Pal's The Time Machine, The Birds) Taylor and Dennis Cole who traveled around the turn-of-the-century American west in a 1914 Stutz Bearcat righting wrongs and looking for adventure. For their services, they insisted on being paid with a blank check.

I wish I could go into a long, detailed explanation of what happened in this show, but hey, let's face it- that was 32 years ago and I just don't remember all that much. I remember one exciting episode in which some nutball ex-WWI German fighter pilot was flying around causing trouble and the Bearcats were hired to shut him down, and did so with the help of a Gatling gun which they mounted on the back of the car. The action scenes, with the pilot swooping down and the guys firing back at him, were pretty darn cool. I know I never missed an episode when I could help it, but it must have been up against some really popular show on another network, because it only ran for 8 months before it was cancelled in December of '71.

Anyway, I did a Google search or two for the program so I could write a semi-intelligent post, but I didn't turn up much. Here's TV Tome's entry, which features episode guides, and the link in the above paragraph will take you to another site which provides a little more info. Here's IMDb's entry.

I really wish that TV Land or some other network would rerun these...originally I thought there weren't enough episodes but according to TV Tome.com there were 13, including the two hour pilot. I won't hold my breath.
Part of the fun, or maybe more accurately one of the guilty pleasures, of Blogging is getting namechecks, linkage and such from other bloggers out there in the blogiverse, or blogtopia, or whatever you want to call it. Thanks to Sean Collins, Alan David Doane, and Eve over at Eve-tushnet for mentioning my "comics you should read" list. Thanks, too, Alan, for the linkage! Speaking of linkage, I've added a new semi-comics blogger at right, found at Alan David Doane's, named Michael Paciocco's Mind.

Maybe I should write more lists like that...

Monday, August 04, 2003

Random musings about nothing in particular and everything in general, just like it says in many of my blog descriptions.

First of all, go to Flat Earth for a very nice memorium for the late Warren Kremer, the Harvey artist par excellence who died on July 24. He was one of those creators who I never paid attention to until a recent Comic Book Artist issue devoted to Harvey Comics and realized how many Richie Riches and Hot Stuffs I read when I was a little kid. Steven Wintle doesn't update his site all that often, but when he does it's always worthwhile.

Went to the grocery yesterday, and while in the cereal aisle I was dismayed to note that not only is Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries now costing FOUR DOLLARS a box, but they're not even crunchberries anymore! Now those succulent little magenta sugar-and-oat bombs are now several alleged fruit flavors, and are not spherical in shape, but are in the form of whatever merchandising tie-in Quaker Oats is trying to push on its consumers. Feh. For four bucks I want CLASSIC MAGENTA, SPHERICAL crunch berries, or I don't buy.

I really wanted to add a Google search box to the Show, but those frigging Mac-phobes over at Google don't offer one. Bastards.

I have rearranged the blogroll at right somewhat, moving up a number of blogs I read more regularly than others and dropping others, who haven't reciprocated my linkage, altogether. If yours wasn't moved up please accept my sincere apologies, I still like you. Nothing personal was intended. I also added the Kinetix smiley, just as I said I would, now linked to a fansite devoted to the character. One little problem- the site hasn't been updated since 1997 and a lot has happened to that character since then- so if I find a better one I'll change the link. This will do for now. In the process, I have also somehow fucked up my template code, and have an extreme excess of white space at the bottom of this webpage. I went to Blogger.com to see if I could copy the original code for this design, but they don't offer it anymore! Gah! Is there anyone else out there who uses this template design and could send me the bottom section of your code? Help a brother out, whydoncha? If I had a job, I'd consider finding a nice webhost somewhere, download some other blogging application like Movable Type and forget Blogger altogether. I'm not that unhappy with Blogger, but little things keep popping up and driving me nuts. Update The excessive white space is gone, but I still have about a quarter inch of white at the bottom which I didn't have before. What's a poor boy to do.

Watched the mega-flop (both critically and at the box office) Eddie Murphy movie The Adventures of Pluto Nash Saturday night. And I guess I'm getting soft in my dotage because I didn't think it was all that bad. Labored and extremely silly, yes. Botched ending, oh my, yes. Retro-styled moon cars? Huh? But heck, Murphy was Murphy- rascally and appealing, Rosario Dawson was fine as the love interest, and even Randy Quaid as the son of Andy Kaufman in Heartbeeps gave me a chuckle or two. I'm sure I won't want to watch this again, but for a ninety-odd minute timewaster you could do worse.

I watched a generous portion of Minority Report earlier Saturday, not long after reading Evan Dorkin's little rant about the Spielberg-Cruise film. When I wrote about it back in March, I was quite impressed, and even though it might have been Oscarworthy. Problem is, Dorkin pointed out several things which I had overlooked or didn't notice, which always bugs me but I gotta admit he's right. The ending, after a second look, was cliched and it's true- the main villian's identity was easy to guess, because that type of character is always the villian in movies like this. Also, Evan asked how Cruise's psy-police intended to police the entire USA (or even, eventually, the world) with only three psychics? It's true that there may be more out there, but it was never mentioned. Oh well. Even with this, I stil thought it was a thought-provoking concept, with excellent and imaginative FX and I was still quite caught up in it until the end, which felt tacked-on. Oscar? Nah. But I still liked it better than Dorkin did.

Those of you who are longtime readers o'mine will be aware, I'm sure, of my intense admiration of the art of Vera Brosgol, she of the webcomic Return To Sender and the Pants Press Sketchblog. She recently announced over at RTS that she is...well, I'll just let her explain it:

No update this week. Or next week. Or for a while. Return to Sender is going on hiatus because I am running away from my life to join an animation studio, much like Steven Wolfhard did quite recently. In fact, he's getting me from the train station. And at the end of August I am moving into my new apartment and starting school. Sorry to do this to you but the comic isn't all that high on my list of priorities, and the whole animation thing looks a tad better on the old resume.

I'll miss reading RTS, it's fun even though it's not her best work...her illustration, design and pinup-type stuff is far, far stronger. She's always wanted to get into animation, and she'll be great at it, I'll bet, so best of luck to her. Boy I wish I'd done something like that when I was her age.

You know, actually I did look into attending the Joe Kubert School of Art when I was 18 and just getting out of high school, and all I wanted to be was a comic book artist. Problem was, the guidance conseling at our school left a lot to be desired and was nowhere near as developed as it is today, so I had no idea about how to get financial aid and I didn't think my parents would be able to afford the somewhat pricey Kubert school. So that never happened. I would have been attending at the same time as such later comics luminaries as Steve Bisette, John Totleben, Tom Yeates, and others...ce'st la vie. Sigh.

On the job hunt front (hee-I'm a poet and don't know it), I received an email last week from a recruiter from Printlink.com, who has had my resume on file for several years now, about an opportunity with the catalog production/marketing department of a outdoor gear & hunting/fishing equipment supplier called Cabelas, doing pretty much the same graphics/prepress work I did at Camping World! But...and there's always a "but", you know...this is in Sidney, Nebraska.

Nebraska. That's approximately 1200 miles away. Almost 80 miles north of Denver, closer to the Rockies than the plains, or so they tell me.

Still, it sounds like a great opportunity, they're willing to "relo" (recruiterspeak for relocate...wonder if I could get J-lo?) and I can't not check it out...so Printlink is supposed to set up a telephone interview with me after the 18th, when the hiring manager gets back from vacation. So stay tuned. I've got some other resumes out, but this is the most concrete thing right now. Nebraska. Geez. Here's a little irony for ya- when I was at CW, we used to refer often to Cabelas catalogs, to see what they were selling, for design ideas, prices, what have ya.

Ever since I saw a clever cameo appearance by the Michelin Man in a strip in Heavy Metal magazine, I've loved the character. You can go to the Michelin website, which you can visit by clicking here, and get a swellio bobblehead doll! I want one! I don't remember which HM story it was or who the artist was, either. Sorry. It was from around 1977 or '78, though, if that helps...

I'm thinking about creating a button for this site, so people can link to me with it. I think about a lot of things, including a website for my Pandora Arcana character (the synopsis for which I never did get around to submitting to Mike Carey...I'm sure he's lost a lot of sleep over it) and other things. I have a nifty logo which I created for my would-be cottage industry Psychic Martini Productions (TM, all you theives out there), but it's mighty big and even though it would be perfect for "Johnny Bacardi", when it's reduced as small as I would need it to be reduced, you can't tell what the hell it is...so back to the drawing board. Actually, I have a drawing board, given to me as a gift by Mrs. B back in 1980. I never got around to assembling it, and it's still in my basement some 23 years later. Sigh again.

All right, this is enough. Thanks for reading, now go out and live your lives and be happy and all that stuff. And come back soon.

Music this morning: Johnny Cash-American Recordings, Iris Dement-My Life, Alan Price-O Lucky Man! Soundtrack, The Mothers of Invention-Over-Nite Sensation, Status Quo-Rockin' All Over the World (a really great, forgotten record-bet your ass it will be in the upcoming Vinyl-O), Sandy Denny-Like An Old-Fashioned Waltz.
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BSBdGs today go out to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who would have been 211 today. Now that would be impressive.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Unconscious Mutterings!

I say ? and you think ? ?

Hook:: line and sinker
Greg:: Briggs, a buddy of mine
Sixty:: Minute Man
Breakfast:: of Champions
Dollar:: General Store
Unpredictable:: emotions
O:: Lucky Man!
Bathing suit:: hot fun in the summertime (ooh lawd)
Inconsiderate:: bastards
Marx:: is there anyone who wouldn't reply Brothers?

Saturday, August 02, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of July 30

Let's face it: Mark Millar has one story to tell, and this is a textbook example. He did this during his Authority tenure, in almost exactly the same fashion: set up a formidable, seemingly invincible menace, place the protagonists in a position in which it seems impossible for them to triumph, then a-ha! Pull something out of the blue. Again, as with the Authority, what makes this formula storytelling interesting is the attention paid to the characterizations. Many don't like these less than noble portrayals of the classic Marvel heroes, and I'm sympathetic; but to be honest, I never was all that attached to them anyway (OK, maybe Giant-Man, but it's not like this spouse-abusing version is an innovation or anything) so I'm just fine with it. For me, many of those grand Marvel stalwarts lost their appeal due to lackluster scripting and bland art over 30 years ago. So I still like this book, and I'm looking forward to the grande finale, whenever it comes out. A-

More deja vu. We've seen Johnny tripping and talking to the Aborigines before, but it's been a long time ago and I don't really think Conjob's somewhat confusing little nightmare 'shroom trip was the point of this tale anyway. Mike's trying to acquaint us with new girlfriend Angie, and he's succeeding in rounding out her character, all the better to set us up for some sort of major role I'm sure she's gonna play before this arc is over. OK, fine with me. I also hope that artist Marcelo Frusin stays on this book a long, long time. B+

Well, we're four issues in to this five-issue arc, and I'm sorry...I just can't get caught up in it. Too many diversions, digressions, catastrophic events that only evoke shrugs, and red herrings. This whole thing has been oddly paced and there has been less than no suspense at any point in the proceedings, nor is there any reason to believe that the Legion won't persevere in the end. Perhaps Abnett and Lanning should read a few Mark Millar comics to get an idea about how to set this type of thing up. Anyway, this particular ish merely seems to be an excuse to get the two missing Legionnaires, Karate Kid and Ferro, back into the fold...and frankly, I didn't miss them all that much in the first place. This being said, at least we've had excellent art throughout by the Chris Batista/Mark Farmer team, so it's not a total loss. Of course, after next issue we get fill-in artists. B

I think the earlier announcement that artist Cameron Stewart is leaving after #25 tempered my enjoyment of this diverting heist tale somewhat. The artists slated to replace him just don't seem to be a good fit with the current direction of this book, and it makes me apprehensive, based on the pinup I saw...it's big boobs and spandex all over again. We'll see, I guess...writer Ed Brubaker says that the pinup isn't indicative of what they'll do when their tenure starts. Anyway, Stewart isn't at his best here, especially compared to last issue...his Captain Cold looks too young and he doesn't have the visual flair to bring off the humorous aspects Ed's script hints at. This isn't a disaster, but it's the first disappointing Catwoman issue in a long while. B

I still think this is a poorly scripted and unimpressively drawn failure, but I will admit to liking a few things this time around...the Creeper's flaming statue performance art and the Josephine Baker-as-dressed-by-Ditko cameo were fun. C+

JLA 83
Gotta give Joe Kelly points for good intentions, and I'm down with his message. But his normally sharp characterization is nowhere to be found, and the twist ending is a groaner. The fill-in artist, helped a lot by regular inker Tom Nguyen, is OK. After four straight issues of heavy-handed, thinly veiled political allegory, I'm ready for some doomsday-scenarios-that-only-the-combined-might-of-the-JLA-can-avert type stories again. C

A very definite valley in this up-and-down series. Someone actually pulls someone's arm off and beats him with it, ha ha, and this whole story is actually a set-up for a punchline that lands with a thud. Not badly drawn, for what it's worth, but the coloring is excessively dark for no good reason. Bloody predictable, bloody formulaic, bloody bloody, and bloody awful. D