Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Here's a question:

Why's it called "Shonen Jump"?

I know that "shonen" is Japanese for "young boy", and jumping is, well, jumping...so is this big, setting-the-world-on-fire manga collection actually named "jumping boy" or "young boy jump"? And why should I care anyway?

At the risk of really sounding nitpicky and unhip, this is one reason of many why I just can't seem to embrace manga- the awkward-sounding, loses-something-in-the-translation nature of the whole genre. I look and see a host of stories with subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once, and I wonder- is this the model to which Western comics should aspire? Leaving aside the actual cost-effectiveness argument (John Jakala's already-classic comparison can't be disputed) is it really all that much better than what we're generally being served up by America and the rest of the world? Or is it just different, and therefore somehow better by inference?

And before you begin to flame me, calling me an idiot and a Luddite or something- I'm not necessarily putting down manga, don't get me wrong, but I'm reading a hell of a lot about it lately and I'm beginning to feel like I did long ago when all the good music magazines and cool people I knew were championing punk music...and I just didn't get it. Perhaps I'm not seeing forest for trees or something like that. I feel like there's something wonderful going on and I'm not able to see it, kinda like the dude in Mallrats that kept staring at the picture, trying to see the sailboat, and everyone kept walking by and pointing it out to him. It's reminding me of when I used to get in discussions with my hair-metal loving friend, Keith, back in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I just couldn't tell them apart, musically- to me, Warrant, Winger, Skid Row, Dokken, Extreme, Tesla, Poison, Motley Crue, and so on sounded exactly alike, and that's one reason why I couldn't get into them. I just didn't give a damn because there wasn't anything going on there to engage me- nothing that made them distinctive or interesting to me. Keith swore up and down that there were differences, big ones, and he couldn't believe that I couldn't hear them. And I'm thinking that all the manga enthusiasts out there are like good old Keith, and once again I'm just not hearing or seeing it.

Or maybe I just think too much. Anyway, why "Shonen Jump"? Is that the best title they could think of?
Even though I suspect that everyone that cares already knows, Christopher Butcher has the new Previews Review up. Having just found this column, thanks to my other comics blogging homies, I find it a fun read. Hopefully you will too.

Mr. Butcher has a blog, too- go here to check it out.
"... we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

Paul Bowles (12/30/1910 – 11/18/1999)
US writer, composer, and traveler

Interesting quote, on the anniversary of the death of its quoter. Found at Born-Today.com.

This is what I'll be getting Thursday according to the new Diamond shipping list. Gotta drive to Louisville to meet with a career search firm tomorrow, and there's no way I'm doing 160 miles north then 70 miles south round trip in one day.

Monday, November 17, 2003

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Despite the fact that money's been tight, I've managed to pick up an occasional CD here and there, and here's what I've been listening to lately.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to place an order with Columbia House, because they were running a buy one get three free deal. I figured I'd try to take advantage of this by getting four two-cd sets, three for $3.49 (the usual shipping and hadling costs) and one for $27, and wonder of wonders, I was able to! I'll pay for them eventually, I promise. I go back a ways with the House, and they're pretty good about letting you take your time paying them back, in my experience anyway.

First, after watching an chapter of Ken Burns Jazz on PBS a while back, I got really interested in the work of Dave Brubeck. I had only heard one of his pieces before, the "Unsquare Dance", in a Music Appreciation class at Western. I probably had heard other things, but didn't know what they were or who they were by at the time. Brubeck was a real pioneer and legend in jazz, especially for his use of unconventional time signatures, which earned him a lot of scorn early on, it seems. Anyway, I thought that if I could find some sort of fairly comprehensive collection of his work then I'd get it someday, and Sony/Columbia solved that problem for me by issuing its Essential Dave Brubeck. It's got most of the stuff that people usually associate with Brubeck, such as "Time Out" and "Blue Rondo A La Turk", and is consistently enjoyable throughout. It seems to offer as good an introduction to the man's work as you could hope to find, and while I'm sure there's more out there that's just as good, and I hope to find out someday, this will do for now. That darn Ken Burns- first he got me interested in Miles, Coltrane, and Billie Holliday- now he's got me listening to Dave Brubeck too.

Another in the Essential series that I'd had my eye on for a long time now was the Essential Sly and the Family Stone, another two-CD set that features almost everything you could want to hear by this great, groundbreaking funk-rock outfit. I've loved the music of Sly and his Family since I first heard their Greatest Hits album at age 11, and I began to hanker after a good Sly collection back when I had no turntable to listen to my SatFS albums on, and listened to CDs in my truck and at my job. Finally, this one came out, and while I wish it had a little less from There's A Riot Goin' On and perhaps a cut or two more from later, less prestigious releases like High On You and Heard You Missed Me, Now I'm Back, it's still a great set. I even discovered a tune that I hadn't paid much attention to, "Time For Livin' ", which originally appeared on Sly's first real flop record, Small Talk, and I don't own hence my unfamiliarity with the song. It would have been nice to have had some liner notes as well. Anyway, I don't have a job or a truck with a CD deck in it anymore, but I manage to stick it on at home occasionally anyway and "dance to the music". And you gotta love "Hot Fun in the Summertime", one of the most evocative and gorgeous songs I've ever heard.

Continuing my haul from the House, I also got Rhino's reissue of Randy Newman's 1974 masterpiece Good Old Boys, which came out containing a bonus disc of demos Newman did, titled Johnny Cutler's Birthday. Those familiar with Newman only through his film songs like "You've Got a Friend in Me" might be a bit surprised by the acerbic wit he displays in this song cycle about people from the South, and the perception of same. Beautifully produced and orchestrated, and featuring the infamous "Rednecks", which is not what it seems- or is it; the lovely and pathetic "Marie", the elegant "Louisiana 1927" (which I remember seeing him perform on Saturday Night Live, hence my purchase of this record long ago); "Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)", which boasts tricky time signatures in its orchestration, and a personal favorite "A Wedding in Cherokee County", which casts its hillbilly subjects in a strangely sympathetic light. Plus it's funny as all get out. Good Old Boys is a dark, and darkly humorous record but it always holds up. I've been wishing for a copy on CD for quite some time now.

The last CD in my package was the most recent of the Bob Dylan Bootleg series, Bob Dylan Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue. Taken from the legendary shows Bob played in between Blood on the Tracks and Desire, and arguably his last really fertile creative period, these shows were most notable for the musicians who backed and traveled with Bob, gypsy caravan-style- the likes of former Bowie sideman (and Bacardi Show Hero) Mick Ronson, a young T-Bone Burnett, Joan Baez, a enigmatic fiddler named Scarlet Rivera (who recorded a dull solo album inn 1977 that I used to own), Byrd-man Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliott (notably -and regrettably- absent from the recorded and filmed proceedings), Joni Mitchell and others. The whole thing had a circus-like atmosphere (or, as the liner notes put it, an "old-timey medicine show") and was filmed for posterity, with much of it making up the 1975 movie Renaldo and Clara, which I've never seen but am told it's almost unwatchable. Anyway, having only seen one clip from the movie, that of Dylan, in ludicrous white pancake makeup, singing "Tangled Up in Blue" as well as watching an edited TV special taken from this tour called Hard Rain (and being totally unimpressed, to the point where I still, to this day, have never owned a copy of the live album of the same name which was subsequently released), I was curious about this release, wondering perhaps if there was more to that whole extravaganza than I had previously heard, especially given that Ronson was involved. And my verdict? Well, it's better than I remember, but not as good as I had hoped. Ronson provides some meaty chords and I can slightly detect his influence in the arrangements, but mostly they barrel through each and every Dylan composition like the devil was chasing them with very little nuance or subtlety- kinda like his more recent tours, come to think of it. Dylan is in terrible voice as well, bellowing the words very loudly and off-key like he couldn't hear himself on the monitors. Still, the songs are so damn good in most cases that they survive the roughhouse treatment and shine through just the same. I've even come to like a song I had no use for previously, an early version of "Romance in Durango". There's also a bonus DVD of that very same "Tangled Up in Blue" performance that I've seen a thousand times and another, alternate version of Desire standout track "Isis", with a full band which we get to see about halfway through. It's a pretty good rendition, but it's missing the first few minutes and Bob is given to ridiculous theatrical gestures throughout most of it while wearing his whiteface. Oy. One thing that came from this event, and I'm really happy it did: after the Rolling Thunder tour ended, Roger McGuinn enlisted Ronson to produce and play on his next record, 1975's Cardiff Rose, which used most of the Rolling Thunder musicians as well and is a huge favorite of mine.

Mrs. B and the youngest Bacardi Offspring went shopping the other day, and came back home with some Christmas CDs, one of which, to my surprise, was The Beach Boys: Ultimate Christmas- a recent release which marries that well-known-and-loved 1964 Christmas album with the band's subsequent efforts at holiday fare, and I being a relatively recent convert to the Church of Brian Wilson hadn't heard a lot of it. There are numerous alternate takes of Beach Boys Christmas Album tracks as well but I was really chuffed, as our British friends say, to finally hear obscurities like "Child of Winter" "Winter Symphony" and "Santa's Got an Airplane", which are not as accomplished as the famous BBCA cuts but are still tuneful and fun. The other one they got was Santa Claus Lane by the newest teen-pop sensation (Disney's own) Hillary Duff which is slick and produced to a tee, but is still very catchy and upbeat and (when I'm in the mood) listenable. Don't tell anybody, OK?
Another new blog, freshly linked to: Dave Intermittent. I happen to agree with his position re: the current manga infatuation and its effect on Western comics. I think it's a stretch to assume that the crowd, and I'm speaking in general here, that goes nuts for manga will get curious about the offerings from DC or Marvel, no matter how much the latter may try to imitate the former. Also, yes, the success of manga will most likely ensure shelf space for all stripes of comics, but if they don't sell they won't stay there long, I'm sure of that. Of course, this is only my opinion, and I've been known to be wrong before.

Another comics blogging Dave. What is, as they say, up wit dat? And this one links to all my comics blogging homies but me!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Got several things to write about, and no energy or time to write about them. I've got one draft which I hope to finish tomorrow, on music I've purchased lately. I also considered doing a "Previews Review", after reading John Jakala's observation about the perceived lack of enthusiasm among those who do that sort of thing on a regular basis, because there are a few upcoming titles that are interesting to me, like My Faith in Frankie and New Frontier, among others...but I don't buy Previews, so that would be difficult. I used to buy one every month, but the damn things pile up. Still, not having my source material or a particularly trenchant viewpoint has never stopped me before, so we'll see, I guess.

I suppose I could put my two cents worth in about the Epic fiasco at Marvel, but all I can think of is the old saw about lying down with dogs and getting up with fleas. Hardly an earthshaking insight.

I should also add my voice to the swelling chorus of hallelujahs over the release of Gilbert Hernandez' Palomar in collected format...but I won't. I've been buying Love and Rockets forever and a day now, but it's always been for Jaime's work, not Gilbert's. Don't get me wrong- I recognize that Gilbert is a superior craftsman and has amassed an impressive body of work, perhaps even more significant and important than his brother's...but his art and writing style just don't engage me like his sibling's. That said, Palomar, or to be specific Heartbreak Soup is, to me, by far the most interesting tale of 'Beto's fictional town, so if you don't share my particular prejudice, then go buy. Hell, even if you do, go buy...why should you be as myopic as I am?

I see where the next Jingle Belle GN is going to be released on New Year's Eve and not the end of November. Bummer. Why bother releasing a Jingle Belle book after Christmas? Maybe by then, though, I'll have a job and can afford the 12 bucks to buy it.

Watched the latest Justice League last night on Cartoon Network, an all-star extravaganza featuring Tegan's fictional amor Aquaman, acting kinda bitchy and thickheaded like he tends to do in these shows, along with Doctor Fate, done here as interestingly as he was in the Superman: The Animated Series episode several years ago. Solomon Grundy was on hand as well, sporting the Hulk-level strength which they've seen fit to write him with, and further developments in the ongoing filling-out of the Hawkgirl character. A while back they hinted around that she was sweet on Green Lantern, and this episode casts her as an atheist, as Thanagarians apparently are in this version. So, naturally, we get a not-so-subtle pro-faith message at the end, but it wasn't too annoying. This eppy felt a little padded, but the action was fast-paced and fun and Superman, yes, Superman got some funny lines.

Thanks to Dave Fiore for the heads-up about a great blog all about old films, called Michael's Movie Palace. This writer, whose last name I don't see, writes thoughtfully and intelligently, in extended capsule form, about films from bygone days that he's seen recently. Of course you all know what a total TCM junkie I am these days, so this sort of thing is right up my alley and I anticipate spending several hours reading his archives. If I could suggest one thing, perhaps a search function...!

One film I saw the other night that I'd bet he's reviewed was Becky Sharp, a 1935 period piece, previously filmed as Vanity Fair, that starred attractive 30's star Miriam Hopkins as the title character, a scheming little conniver of common birth in 19th-century Waterloo-era England (everyone's terrified of Napoleon there, so the film would have you believe) who is determined to be rich and affluent by whatever means necessary. It also has the distinction of being the first Technicolor film, and the print TCM showed was restored- when I first saw it I feared it had been colorized! The film itself was a bit creaky, but fun with supporting roles by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Nigel (Dr. Watson) Bruce.

That's it for tonight...looks like I found some energy after all, dunnit? Hopefully more tomorrow.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

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I made a button! Ain't it purty? Hope Adam Warren or Dark Horse Comics doesn't sue me.
Time once again for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Last week: 8-6. Overall: 82-47, .635 . Kinda rushed for time today, so no comments. You'll get over it.

Tennessee over Jacksonville
St. Louis over Chicago
Buffalo over Houston
Baltimore over Miami
Carolina over Washington
Arizona over Cleveland
Philadelphia over the New York Giants
Cincinnati over Kansas City (that's right)
Atlanta over New Orleans (you heard me)
New York Jets over Indianapolis (whoo-three straight upsets!)
Denver over San Diego
Minnesota over Oakland
Tampa Bay over Green Bay (if they lose this, I'll never take the Bucs again)
Seattle over Detroit (ditto for the Seahawks)
New England over Dallas
San Francisco over Pittsburgh

For entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. The Bacardi Show will accept no responsibility for any losses incurred by using these picks as a guide.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 12!

Everything that worked so well last issue is still in effect in part two. Superheroics are kept to a bare minimum (and I gotta say that Michael Lark draws a hell of a good Batman, especially in that two page spread), and the focus is right where it should be, on the various members of the GCPD. Minor complaint: sniping just doesn't seem to be the Joker's style somehow, but it's still early in the story so we'll see. A

Maybe it's because of the delay between issues, and maybe it's partially because Paul Grist once again indulges in his old shifting-back-and-forth-in-time-abruptly-without-warning tricks, but this big epic story he's concocted seems convoluted and meandering compared to his past work. That said, we get a few more pieces of the puzzle this time out, and it's cleverly illustrated as always. If you're going to challenge and frustrate your readers, you'd better give them something interesting to look at. A-

In which we get a dream sequence, pertinent questions asked and answered, some relationship issues explored, an interesting confrontation, and a subtle anti-abortion message. Then we get a kicker ending which is doubly pleasurable for those of us who enjoyed the Last Castle one shot of a month or so ago. For once, the Buckingham/Leialoha art team is up to the challenge as well. So far, so good. A-

Often, those who have grown jaded and cynical about the superhero comic will comment on a particularly well-done example of same by saying that it was "well done, for a superhero comic". After I had finished this second issue of this most recent webcritic's darling title, my first thought was that this was "well done, for a zombie story". As a story in and of itself, it's not exactly fresh- you can easily spot its influences from The Stand to (of course) the original Night of the Living Dead, with perhaps a smidgen of, God help us, The Postman and even DC's Y: The Last Man, which this beats all to hell. And it manages to transcend its secondhand bent by not getting all pretentious and wordy, instead letting artist Tony Moore carry the show with his lean, no-frills Steve Dillon meets John Findlay style. Also, big points for that rarest of rarities in most zombie stories, a happy ending- which I'd like to think represents a willingness to deviate from the expected on the part of heretofore-unknown-to-me writer Robert Kirkman. We'll see, I guess. In the meantime, I await issue #1 from another store, which should come in next week, and I'll go from there. A-

H-E-R-O 10
Whaddaya know. The Joker pops up here as well, in this pretty good finale to the story of likeable loser/wannabe supervillian Tony Finch and his encounter with the H Dial. Also, we get the return, apparently, of one of the dial's previous owners gone bad...a twist which I'm not sure I'm gonna like too much. I also had a small problem with the climactic event in this one- and here be spoilers- when the heck did Finch get time to attach a thermite bomb to the dial? And where did he get one on such short notice? A-

Darkseid, the red herring in the previous multi-issue extravaganza, is now introduced (in somewhat diminshed form) in the new multi issue extravaganza, which also throws in Superboy for good measure along with an ersatz Justice League of some sort. If you're a Legion fan, you'll find this another gripping chapter in the ongoing tribulations of the 30th Century super-team. If not, you'll wonder what all the fuss is about but maybe, just maybe, you'll be curious about what's coming up. And for what it's worth, I liked Superboy's black t-shirt costume better than his classic duds. B+

Lots of shouting back and forth, mostly between Nick Fury and the President of the US (if this is supposed to be Bush, he's a little bit too hyperactive and overstimulated, methinks), along with much breaking of glass and crashing and flashing electrical displays and grim, terse dialogue and closeups, and everything that can possibly be done to approximate the modern action thriller except with superheroes, a worthy enough goal I suppose. Still, this is well written, if somewhat low-key, and artists Hairsine and Miki continue to do their best Bryan Hitch. B+

1602 4
I must confess to the vague stirrings of interest in the ongoing story of Daredevil and the Black Widow- or their doppelgangers anyway- especially in how the heck DD survived the fall from the bridge. Otherwise, this is mostly Gaiman at his most dreary and pretentious, and the gimmicky art is still an annoyance. Again, nice cover. C+

JSA 54
Good thing Thanksgiving is coming, because we've just been given a big fat turkey. This would-be fun and clever "down-time" type story falls flat in just about every conceivable way, from its stilted dialogue, contrived dramatics and unfunny jokes (the one gag that works is the Formerly Known as... style appearance of the two sorcerers at the dinner table) to its stiff, clunky and poorly porportioned art, full of awkward poses and sideways grimaces. As you may know, I've been on the bubble with this book for a long time, and every time I get ready to drop it they come up with a good enough story to keep me interested. This one may have been the last straw. Turkey in the straw, get it? This ham-fisted tale gets a D, and they should be thankful it's not lower!
Oh my God.

Thanks to Mark Evanier via ¡Journalista!, I have found something that I've looked for with a million Google searches: A Jerry Grandenetti website!

When I was at that impressionable stage of my childhood, when I first discovered that I could string together pencil lines in something that approximated the human figure mostly from copying Kirby and Ditko pages, there was another whose work I saw in Creepy and Eerie magazines, doing some really hallucinogenic-looking, highly expressionistic stuff, unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I wanted to try to draw like that, but I couldn't copy that stuff, no way. This artist's work came from somewhere else uniquely inside him. The artist's name was Jerry Grandenetti, a former Eisner assistant (I later learned) and I really loved his work not only on the Warren titles, but later as an illustrator for DC comics, especially on The Spectre. Of course, as time went by, his work grew less and less idiosyncratic and more lackluster, which reflects (I'm sure) DC's apathy towards his work as well as his own apathy at plugging away on such fare as The Green Team and Prez. Like Evanier says, he went into advertising and then into obscurity, a lot of it self-imposed. Our loss.

I've been hoping to see the man get his due for a long, long time now, and this website (which I haven't had the chance to explore as of yet) is a great first step. If you're reading, Mark, thanks for the informative spotlight on JG, and thanks for linking to that site!

Update Well, having looked the site over, I'm not disappointed, but I wish that there had been some examples of the work that kicked my ass so hard back in the day. Instead, all the art reproduced is stuff Grandenetti's been doing recently- some of it is outstanding and some of it is eh. But there are a couple of nice text pieces, including an informative biography, plus you can commission art from him! If I could only afford it I'd send the email right now. Maybe get him to do a Green Team, or even Uncle Creepy or Cousin Eerie.
Perhaps this should go on the Free Beer! page, but it's been forever and a day since I posted anything that the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent has sent me...

Well, nobody has ever wrecked the Bill of Rights as he has. Other presidents have dodged around it, but no president before this one has so put the Bill of Rights at risk. No one has proposed preemptive war before. And two countries in a row that have done no harm to us have been bombed.

From an LA Weekly interview with Gore Vidal about the Bush administration.

Also, a page which features information on those who have died in the Iraqi conflict. Quite sobering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

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This is the cover of Time magazine the week I was born. How appropriate. If my Mother had read this before I was conceived...

Anyway, you can go here to find yours. Thanks to Tegan for pointing it out to me!
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BSBdG's go out today to Neil Young, 58.

Favorite album, out of many candidates: 1974's moody masterpiece On The Beach. Underrated: 1986's techno-rock Landing on Water.
... there are too many mediocre fucking comic books and you really need to stop buying them.

This is the quote that's making the rounds, by one Christopher Butcher, who writes a column highlighting (and holding forth on, as well) upcoming comics and trades for Previews. Of course, my first reaction was "well, why don't you let me be the judge of that", then I recalled the old saying about opinions and what they're like, and how everybody has one. But then I decided to actually read the column in which that statement appeared, and found that I enjoyed it very much- and not only that, I agreed with him on several of his observations as well. Kinda disagreed with him on Gotham Central, where the juxtaposition of real life and superheroics don't give me as much of a mental hernia as it does some, but he's right on the money about Batgirl: Year One, which I think was one of the best things to come from the mainstream this year, and I think I'll have to check out Sei: Death and Legend. And while I'm thinking so much, I think I'll have to start reading his column every month or week or whenever it comes out. I'm also feeling more conflicted than ever about continuing to purchase JSA on a regular basis...

Credit where credit is due dept.: I think this quote was first noted by that notorious rabble rouser Alan David Doane.

Also, for some reason I have that Zappa/Beefheart thing from Bongo Fury in my brain: "Sam with the showing scalp flat top/Particular about the point-it-made."
Quick note to David Fiore and those who commented on the Alex Ross thing:

Dave, my intention was more to criticize the "superheroes should not be portrayed in such a iconic fashion" notion than it was to brand you as some sort of Nazi sympathizer! So if that's the impression I gave, I apologize. The Riefenstahl comparison is a valid one, no doubt about it, but I just don't think that's what Ross is all about. As I recall, Orson Welles used that trick a few times as well.

I also didn't know (although I'm not surprised) that this had been a hot topic on the Comics Journal Messboard, on which I'm registered but never visit. I'll have to check out the argument sometime.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I'm back, and I have good news. Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column has returned, on a football blog-type site called FootballOutsiders.com.

Go here to read it. For some reason, the formatting of the page causes the text to extend beyond the boundaries of my browser window, which is a pain in the ass. I'm sure all the rest of you, who don't use IE5 on a Mac, will have no trouble. Grumble grumble. Credit where credit is due dept: I was pointed to the new TMQ by Jim Henley. Domo arigato, Henley-san.

I'm considering running for President of these United States, and to do so I will establish a third party ("a WILD party", like the lyrics to the old Alice Cooper song "Elected" said). I shall call it the Free Beer party, and will promise free beer to everyone if I'm elected. Who's gonna vote against free beer? I'll probably have a Paypal button in the links box at right for campaign donations, and might even start another blog, since all the legitimate candidates have one. So whaddaya think? Who should be my running mate? I wonder if Renee Zellweger's up for it...?

Maybe if I get elected President I won't have to job search anymore. I recently blew, I mean spent $68 on one of those resume distribution services, and so far have reaped an underwhelming return on my investment. I've also been Google searching for Graphic Arts/Printing recruiters that I can solicit on my own, and have actually had some nibbles today. I went to a local temp agency today as well, thinking they could get me on at some factory nearby, to tide me over until something more substantial comes along. I worked on a factory floor for approximately 7 months in the Spring and Summer of 1979 as a press takeaway at Donnelley, and hated every minute of it. Not that I'm too good for this kind of work, but after 25 years I've gotten set in my ways and don't look forward to doing this sort of thing. And this concludes my job search news for this week. You know what I'd like to get into? Coloring comics. To do so you need a more than passing familiarity with Photoshop, which I have in spades...I'd just need someone to show me the ropes and techniques. Anybody out there have an in with any of these Liquid! type concerns?

I've seen three films over the last few days: The Score, which stars Robert DiNiro, excellent as always in his shuffling, aw-shucks kinda way; Edward Norton, as another hotshot youngblood who doesn't know as much as he thinks he does; and Marlon Brando, who is grotesquely obese and doesn't speak his lines as much as he does wheeze them. DiNiro is a safecracker par excellence who gets talked into doing one last big score for his buddy Brando, and gets an unwanted partner in Norton. The heist itself is a slick, entertaining sequence which employs dubious physics but still works, and there's a neat twist ending. Plus, DiNiro runs a jazz club, and that looked so cool that now I want to open a jazz club. Beats working on an assembly line... The Score also boasts cameos by Mose Allison and Cassandra Wilson.

I also saw Ghost Ship, an amalgam of 13 Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill, and Titanic about a group of salvagers that encounters a- that's right, you guessed it- haunted ship, which starts out promisingly but devolves into a fairly standard special FX-fest, leaving no cliche unturned right down to (beware, spoiler here) the Demon Menace at the End, an old pet peeve of mine when used in comics. And of course, we get another Spooky Little Girl, the bugboo of choice for unimaginative filmmakers these days. I suppose this is a passble time waster if you can't find anything else to watch, but don't think too hard when you do.

Finally, I caught the cable premiere of the second Harry Potter film, ...and the Chamber of Secrets. I've never read a single Potter novel, and I kinda doubt that I would even if I was the target age...I would think that 12 year old me would have found them somewhat juvenile. Still, I found the first film clever and often charming, if a bit overlong, with imaginative situations and effects- and the sequel retains the imagination and fine effects but falls somewhat short of its predecessor in the clever and charming area. The script is boring, often illogically dot-to-dot and annoyingly contrived- for example, there's a showdown between Harry and his rival in Slitherin House, which started as a self-defense lesson but somehow devolves into a grudge match between not only Harry and the slimy blond kid but the two professors involved as well. I mean geez- someone could have been hurt! What were the profs thinking? Doesn't matter, because the scene is only an excuse for throwing in some special effects, and revealing that Harry somehow knows how to speak to snakes. There's a reprise of the first film's entertaining Quidditch match, but this time it only serves to show that someone's trying to harm Harry for some unknown reason. The performances are all fine, for the most part (even though poor Richard Harris is almost too frail to make it through his scenes), but the stitches in the patchwork script show a bit too obviously, and that kept me from having as much fun as I did with the first film. And if they ever have a special Jar Jar Binks Oscar® for Most Annoying Character in a Major Motion Picture, then 2002's winner would have been the self-abusive elf, Nobby, who does look like Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, just like Easterbrook says!

Oh, by the way- there's a new Christgau Consumer Guide up at the Village Voice website. In case you're interested.

No Navy NCIS tonight, gosh darn it! No Pauley for me. Hey- maybe she'd be my running mate!

I'm about halfway through that Essential Tomb of Dracula collection, and so far my early impressions are first how overblown, corny and melodramatic nearly all the dialogue is! Even the great Archie Goodwin succumbed to this in his two-issue stint. Everyone goes around stating the obvious, in the most florid fashion, and making dire pronouncements- and Dracula comes across as an arrogant, egotistical blowhard. Actually, he came across that way for the majority of the run, even with Marv Wolfman. Early on, it seems no one could decide what direction the book should go in- Hammer-style period horror, or modern-day vampire stories with SF leanings. When Wolfman took over with issue 7, he eventually tightened up the dialogue and went firmly in the latter direction, to his credit. I'm also struck by how fast-paced these issues are- Dracula, Frank Drake, Rachel Van Helsing and her group hurtle from one dire situation to the other in breakneck fashion, with little or no pauses between storylines. Say what you will about ToD, it was never boring!

Speaking of boring, I'm just about rambled out so I'll finish for now. Hopefully, back tomorrow with more...stuff.

Vote for Free Beer!

Music today: Lindsey Buckingham-Out of the Cradle; Marshall Crenshaw-Mary Jean and Nine Others, XTC-English Settlement, Little Feat, The Bootleg Series Vol.5-Bob Dylan Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue and The Posies-Frosting on the Beater.
Gonna ramble now, about different stuff.

Good news for those of us who are fans of Bill Willingham's Fables, straight from the man himself, courtesy of Graeme McMillian. Thanks for pointing it out; I rarely visit Willingham's page even though I've linked to it.

In fact, this is a big reason why I couldn't have the same kind of blog that Graeme, Dirk Deppey and others have- I just don't visit all the myriad news sites all that often. In fact, I just viewed a site this morning that informed me that Bad Girls, a title that I (and about a half dozen other people nationwide, apparently) buy had been cut back from a six-issue miniseries to five issues due to poor sales. Shame- that's one less Darwyn Cooke cover. Also I saw a review of a title that looked pretty interesting, called Three Strikes from Oni Press that I wasn't even aware of. I don't know if it's come out yet, or anything. According to the Oni website, this first issue was set to come out back in April! This is why I'm always missing out on first issues of interesting titles and having to go to great lengths and expense to find them after getting interested after issue 3 or somesuch. Oh well. Maybe there will be a trade I can't afford.

Alex Ross recieved such unanimous praise for his hyper-realistic, iconic portrayal of superheroes a few years ago, and is still so highly regarded, that it should come as no surprise that there's a strong backlash-type sentiment among many. One example that I'm a little dubious about is Dave Fiore's inferred comparison of Ross to Leni Riefenstahl, whose filmmaking cast the Third Reich in a heroic light, on the occasion of the publication of the hardcover collection Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. The thinking behind this seems to be that it's somehow wrong or misguided to portray super hero characters in such a reverential light, that perhaps Ross is explicitly trying to inspire literal hero worship or even (I'm assuming) an even more sinister agenda. I don't really think Ross has such a specious intent; I think he's simply able to convey that sense of wonder that all of us (I assume) felt when we first encountered the super hero comic, especially as realized by those most iconic of comic book artists, Jack Kirby and arguably Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. A case in point is my favorite panel from Kurt Busiek and Ross's Marvels, which depicts Giant-Man (a favorite character of mine when I was a child) in a ground-up perspective shot striding between buildings, and people looking up in amazement. This appeals to me on several levels- as the child who grooved on ol' High-Pockets, as the wannabe artist who admires how this perspective shot accurately depicts the awe and wonder of seeing a 15 foot tall man, and if I'm being manipulated into regarding this spandex-clad funnybook character (contemptable in itself by some standards, I suppose) as somehow heroic and admirable, and "cool" in that 12-year-old sense, and for some reason that's "wrong", then I suppose I'm guilty as charged.

I've always seen Ross's meticulous painting style as a logical extension of work by people like Gray Morrow, Wally Wood or Alex Toth, who depicted these costumed people in a more realistic (in Toth's case, anyway, highly stylized) fashion. One of the best things about Morrow's art, in particular, was how he bothered to draw boots and gloves like real boots and gloves, for example. I think many readers, after seeing these sort of depictions always had an urge to see this realism taken to the next level, and Ross came along and served that wish quite well.

Myself, I like Ross' work very much, and I like to think I'm a rational adult- but I never have included him on my list of favorites, and if I did it would be in the lower reaches of the list. His art is amazing on a lot of levels, but there's a dry studiedness about it that keeps me from totally embracing it. So this is not coming from your typical Ross fanatic. But geez, Dave- if you don't like Ross' art that's perfectly fine...this is America and all that. But to ascribe implied fascism to his work is a bit extreme and I honestly don't think that's what he's all about. And Dave, lest you think I'm calling you out or something, I totally agreed with the rest of your post about Claremont's X-Men.

I guess I gotta cut this ramble short. I still want to write about more stuff, like good ol' Chuck Barris always used to say on the Gong Show, but it will have to wait till later.

Sayonara for now!
More BSBdG's to send out today. It's odd how sometimes the most interesting people share a birthday...

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First up alphabetically, Marshall Crenshaw, 50 today. 50? Anyway, I've loved Crenshaw's music since he hit the scene with his landmark self-titled debut back in 1982. That album is as close to a perfect example of what whiteboy pop should be as we'll ever get in our lifetime. Subsequent releases, though, disappointed both aesthetically and sales-wise so Marshall never really had the career many envisioned for him. Still, he's still around, recording and touring, and you never know... Favorite MC album: of course, 1982's Marshall Crenshaw. Underrated: 1987's Good Evening.

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Blowing out candles with Crenshaw is XTC's principal singer and songwriter Andy Partridge, also 50 today! Ever since picking up Skylarking in 1986, I've loved the engaging Beach Boys-meets-Robert Burns sound of the Swindon's finest. Not that Colin Moulding hasn't contributed several great songs, but Partridge's particular ethos kinda dominates. Many like the earlier, New Wave-ish XTC, and there are some great tunes there as well, but I'm more of a fan of the stuff from English Settlement on. Favorite XTC album: the aforementioned 1986 Todd Rundgren-produced Skylarking. Underrated: 1992's Nonsvch.

Click on the images to go to pertinent websites.
Well, I'm not as smart as Alan David Doane, it seems. I took the Super IQ test at Emode, and here's my score:

David, your Super IQ score is 120

The way you think about things makes you a Practical Wordsmith. This means you are practical, detail-oriented, and know a good thing when you see it. Your thinking is clear and your reality is accurate. You are also highly organized. Your secret weapon is your verbal acuity. You use words to eloquently convey your ideas to others and are very good at expressing yourself in both personal and professional situations.

How did we determine that your thinking style is that of a Practical Wordsmith? When we examined your test results further, we analyzed how you scored on 8 dimensions of intelligence: spatial, organizational, abstract reasoning, logical, mechanical, verbal, visual and numerical. The 3 dimensions you scored highest on combine to make you a Practical Wordsmith. Only 6 out of 1,000 people have this rare combination of abilities.

Ooh. Aah.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I spy with my widdle eye the following books I'll have in my holds Wednesday, according to the new Diamond shipping list:

HERO #10
JSA #54
1602 #4

Hooray- new Jack Staff! Of course, what I really wanna see is the Dancing Elephant B/W Jack#12...but it's OK. Hopefully Paul Grist will resolve a few things this time out.
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How 'bout those Falcons! It must have been sweet for Dan Reeves to win his 200th against the team where he coached previously and constantly squabbled with the owner and general manager.

Now my team won't have to suffer the indignity of a 1-15 season. However, a 2-14 season is another thing...
BSBdG roundup, including a couple of noteworthies I missed over the weekend.

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First and foremost, the great Roy Wood, who turned 57 on Saturday. I can't believe I overlooked this one. I've written about my admiration for Wood's work before, but my devotion is mostly inspired by his brilliant 60s and 70s albums, either on his own- playing every instrument, doing all the vocal tracks, writing all the songs, producing and even painting the album cover art like he did for his 1973 release Boulders, always listed on that personal top 25 albums list I keep threatening- or with groups like the Move (see link in the link box at right), Electric Light Orchestra, and Wizzard. His work since 1977 just hasn't seen much release over here in the colonies (although that's been getting better in the last few years...but now I just can't afford), so I don't have a lot of it, and much of what I've heard is fine but doesn't quite match his earlier standards, as is so often the case with so many great musicians. Anyway, happy belated BSBdG's to ya, Mr. Wood. And tour America sometime before I die, will ya? Credit where credit is due dept.- the droll concert photo above was pinched from the website of one Jon Hinchcliffe, whose name rings a bell.

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I also missed the birthday of Rickie Lee Jones, who turned 49 on Saturday as well. She's another artist whose work I liked a lot at the beginning of her career but have lost track of due to a couple of mediocre releases in the early 90s- but she always remains worthy of a listen because she seems determined to follow her muse no matter what. Favorite album: 1981's Pirates. Underrated: 1993's Traffic From Paradise. She's another artist I'd love to see live someday.

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Finally, BSBdG's go out today to Greg Lake, 55. I've enjoyed enough of his work with King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Peter Sinfield that I thought I should give him a shout out. I've always had a perverse admiration for his side of ELP's Works Vol. 1. Let's just keep that between friends, OK?
Your classic good news/bad news scenario in today's Lying in the Gutters. First, the mention of the upcoming trade of Paul Pope's 100%, one of the best comics I've read in many years, among other news about a "Solo" line in which individual creators, Pope included, have an entire issue to tell personal stories, either involving DC characters or totally new concepts, quote unquote. Others mentioned include Darwyn Cooke and Howard Chaykin, and it sounds very interesting.

But later on he mentions something about a "relaunch of Gotham Central". That doesn't sound good at all.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

I watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets tonight on HBO, and I intend to comment on it later. But after it was over, I flipped over to Cartoon Network to watch the last 30 minutes of the Justice League show, and was dismayed to see that they had black diamonds, the chief weapon of one particular longtime DC character, which possessed people (explain to me how Superman's skin was pierced) and turned them evil- but no Eclipso! Instead, we get generic alien snake men! What the f-!

The eppy wasn't too bad, in and of itself...but as a bit of a fan of the Eclipso character, it's a mystery to me why this episode, which I'd bet started as a vehicle to introduce 'Clipsy into the Justice League series, turned out this way. What a copout, a shame and a letdown, because Eclipso would make a great recurring villian for the animated League. Guess it's easier to keep approving scripts with Lex Luthor.

Update Well, thanks to reader Adam Kepler I'm told that there was a General of some sort in the first half hour who had been possessed by the black diamond, and did indeed dress like Eclipso, so I gotta give the JL people the benefit of the doubt until I've seen the full episode. Still, he didn't appear in the last 30 minutes, so again- what the f-?

Update Update Gotta tip the ol' hat to CN for airing this episode on the same night as a total lunar eclipse!
Saturday once again, and time for Johnny B's Fearles NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Last week: 7-7. Overall: 74-41, .643 .

Seattle over Washington- I can't see the Skinnies beating the Seahawks with thier stagnant offense, even at home.

New York Giants over Atlanta- The Falcons' lost season continues. A loss to the Giants will ensure that the franchise-history-long no-consecutive-winning-seasons streak will continue.

Tampa Bay over Carolina- Carolina beat them in Tampa, but the Bucs seem to be hinging their season on this game, and I think that makes them dangerous. Stephen Davis is banged up, too.

Pittsburgh over Arizona- The Steelers are giving up an uncharacteristic amount of points at home. But, the Cardinals give up even more on the road.

Cincinnati over Houston- The Bengals blew a big one last weekend, but I think they'll rebound against the up-and-down Texans.

Tennessee over Miami- This will be a close one, but I think the Titans will prevail at home, especially if Ricky Williams isn't a factor.

Kansas City over Cleveland- It doesn't matter who the Brownies start at QB this time.

Indianapolis over Jacksonville- The Colts have enough to beat the Jag-wires on the road.

Detroit over Chicago- The Bears have been better lately, but these teams are so evenly matched that I think the Lions can pull this out at home. Say, didn't these two teams just play a week or so ago?

Minnesota over San Diego- This won't be pretty, Flutie or no Flutie.

Dallas over Buffalo- Hardest game to pick this week. I gotta give it to the 'Boys at home over an inconsistent Buffalo team.

New York Jets over Oakland- The only team having a more nightmarish season than the Raiders are my Falcons.

St. Louis over Baltimore- The Ravens have done pretty well despite weaknesses on both sides of the ball...but I don't think they'll prevail over a pissed-off Rams team eager to put last weekend's debacle behind them.

Green Bay over Philadelphia- The Pack isn't invincible at home anymore by any means, but jeez- Philly only scored 23 on Atlanta last weekend. That's not good.

Remember- for entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. You've been warned!
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Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out today to Bonnie Raitt, 54. Favorite album: 1975's Home Plate, a set of outstanding songs produced by Paul Rothschild (Janis, the Doors) and better than the AMG review would have you believe. Underrated: perhaps her 1998 effort Fundamental, which opens up with a clutch of tunes recorded with Mitchell Froom and various members of Los Lobos. It peters out about halfway through, but those opening songs are strong.

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Also, 28-year-old actress and Hollywood wild child Tara Reid, of Josie and the Pussycats fame, just because.

Friday, November 07, 2003

One more thing before I tear myself away from the butterfly curtains- John Allison, whose droll and delightful Charles Addams-meets-Friends webcomic Scary-Go-Round has been a link fixture here at the Show for the longest time, has launched another semi-regular webcomic Scare-O-Delia, which uses the same cast of characters as S-G-R, the difference being they're hand drawn, rather than computer illustrated. Compare 'em both to see what I mean.
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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 5!

I must say that I didn't expect Bendis to lay so many cards out on the table at once, in this issue that actually explains a lot of the questions I've had since day one. As always, Bendis' usual fascinating Watchmen-style character interaction and excellent, expressionistic art by Mike Avon Oeming add up to another high-quality episode. But guys- if these are supposed to be 80s superheroes, where are the big shoulder pads, leg-band utility belts, and oversize guns? A

Well, it seems to me that the EPA would be the most logical people to treat, or at least handle, Cap Atom until someone else could...but logic's kinda beside the point in this series anyway. Lotsa laffs, interesting back-and-forth between Oracle and the Blue Beetle (don't read Birds of Prey, so I assume that this is something that's been going on for a while), and a clever scene at the end with Batman and J'onn J'onzz add up to another entertaining chapter of a miniseries that feels a little padded and might have been better served as a one-shot. Also, we get the return of Manga Khan, a character that apparently DeMatteis and Giffen have a lot more affection for than I do. A-

Alan Moore is gone, and now we get Peter Hogan who gives us a so-so story about a mysterious race of bat-people living on the moon which has a couple of twists that mean more to those of us who have followed this book from the onset than they would to anyone else. The main attraction of this particular issue, for me anyway, is that it's 24 uninterrupted pages of Chris Sprouse pencils, and that's always a good thing. B+

Boy, do I love those swellio Darwyn Cooke covers. Boy, am I relieved that new inker Daniel Krall is able to work in the Jason Bone style, thus ensuring that all important visual continuity. Boy, am I impressed with penciller Christine Norrie, who has done a great job so far. Boy, am I underwhelmed by the next-to-nothing story that Steve Vance has crafted for them to illustrate. Boy, is this ever a B- comic.
On the subject of The Dark Knight Strikes Back, after seeing a couple of items here and there praising it:

I hated it. Thought it was a spiteful, offputting big fat "fuck you" right in the face of the very people who want to admire Miller's work the most: comic book fans. Garish, ugly, often dumb and crude, with absoultely none of the style and wit he brought to its predecessor. Miller was simply taking the money and saying to his readers "You want super-heroes from me instead of Elmore Leonard or Greek warriors? OK, fine. Here you go. Enjoy!" And if indeed that was his intention, then he succeeded admirably.

I don't expect reverence for the form from Miller, God knows, and would have been equally as disappointed if he had turned in something like JLA/Avengers, but I don't think it was too much to expect a little subtlety and class. I can appreciate what Dirk and others said about it, because of the (often justified) negative feelings some people have about the state of comics and comics fandom. But as someone who still sees a few pearls in the old swine pen occasionally, I just didn't care for Frank's wet fart in the face of the fanboy.

And it also pissed me off that I spent around twenty bucks for those three issues combined. It always comes down to money, doesn't it!
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BSBdG's go out to Joni Mitchell, 60 today. I wish I could cite you a bunch of my favorite Joni albums, but I've only recently begun to listen hard to her so I don't really have one. I've found her Hits and Misses CDs to be quite helpful, though. Click on the image above to visit her official web site.
"The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you're on the job."

-My current favorite quote, courtesy of comedian Slappy White, who died on this day in 1995.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

According to the
Howard Dean
best matches my political views.

Who gets your vote?


Holy crap. Dean got a 71% score from me when I took this quiz. Might be beside the point, though, because he really screwed the pooch with his rebel-flag set sympathy. Can't see how this stance will help him anywhere but south of the Mason Dixon line.

Here's the regular version.
Here's a "Mac friendly" version.

Found at Metafilter via Free Pie. One of the names I had considered for this blog was "Free Beer"...
Random stuff from hither and yon:

All right, people...I've had a Derek Kirk Kim link on my page since day one, and I got absolutely no credit whatsoever. Every comics blog I've looked at today is thanking someone for pointing The Ten Commandments of Simon out to them, but did anyone realize that it's been there all along just for the clicking, right here at the Show? I even added a nifty little button recently! Where's the love? Sigh.

Got a kick out of last night's episode of Angel, which featured luchadore and Aztec mythology in an absolutely nutso adventure which was tons of fun. They even worked in references to Mexican wrestling films like The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy. While the Angel season has been up and down so far, mostly up to be fair, this episode is a keeper and maybe one of the best in the series so far.

Well, it's official: hell has frozen over. The reason? People actually agree with me that Chuck Jones is somewhat overrated, especially in comparison with Bob Clampett. Found at Franklin's Findings.

Just wondering: am I gonna have to write about same-sex marriage, something which I have no opinion about whatsoever being a live-and-let-live kinda guy, to get EveTushnet to link to me?

Good news courtesy of that mercenary blogger Alan David Doane: Tim Burton's Ed Wood will soon be released on DVD, with a ton of bells and whistles. Despite the fact that Burton's movie played fast and loose with many of the facts about Eddie's life, it's still a very entertaining film with lotsa great performances. It's amazing that film got made at all, if you ask me...

Forager23 aka J.W. Hastings has chimed in with another of his Miller vs. Moore comparison pieces, and unfortunately I have no opinion of what he states, because I never finished From Hell and haven't read 300. C'est la vie. I'm afraid that with very few exceptions, I'd go with Alan Moore every time, simply because most of his work isn't as cynical as Miller's. Which is not to say I haven't enjoyed his Dark Knight Returns, Sin City or Daredevil (I agree that Man Without Fear was very underwhelming), but there's a scope, imagination and scholarliness in Moore's writing that Miller can't touch.

Many thanks to Theresa for not giving me a hard time about her Eagles beating my Falcons.

All right, I'm done. Oyasumi nasai, y'all.

Music today: The Essential Dave Brubeck, Bob Dylan-Blonde on Blonde, The Ultimate Beach Boys Christmas Album, and Hilary Duff-Santa Claus Lane (!) (My wife and daughter went shopping today, cant'cha tell?)
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The old saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure" certainly applies to the work of Quentin Tarantino, and his latest, Kill Bill Vol. 1 in particular. Yep, I finally managed to catch it yesterday, and everything you've heard about it is true. It's excessively violent, and is a lot of fun to boot- especially so if you're a fan of pop culture in general.

Tarantino's done this sort of thing before, even as far back as Reservoir Dogs and its naming of the heist gang (Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, etc.) as a tribute to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, but he pulls out all the stops with a smorgasbord of references and homages to a dizzying array of movies, songs, books, and general stuff half of which I'm sure that I didn't catch.

Uma Thurman gives her best performance since Pulp Fiction, and even then she didn't show half the range and panache she does here. I had totally written her off, but apparently QT brings out her best. Everyone gets a nifty little showcase, like Daryl Hannah in disguise as a murderous nurse (complete with white eyepatch sporting a red cross, a goofy touch which cracked me up) and Lucy Liu as Uma's former associate and would-be murderer, now set up as a Yakuza Boss. You also get a glimpse or two of David Carradine as the title character and Michael Madsen, a longtime fave character actor of mine, as another member of the assassin group that betrayed Uma. A young Asian actress named Chiaki Kuriyama (picture above) makes a strong impression as Liu's crazed bodyguard, Go-go Yubari, who dresses in a school uniform for all those schoolgirl fetishists out there and gets to swing a mean buzzsaw mace in the big climactic fight scene. Good old Sonny Chiba gets a great cameo as well. As someone who really liked the Green Hornet TV show in the 60s, I got a kick out of all the references and homages to Bruce Lee: Liu's gang, the Crazy 88's, all wore masks like Kato, the Hornet's sidekick as portayed by Lee, and her entourage drives to the restuarant to the strains of the Hornet's TV theme song, Al Hirt's rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee".

And yes, the film is violent and bloody. Maybe I'm just acclimated to that sort of thing, because the majority of the violence struck me as cartoony and over the top. People's heads get cut off, and literal fountains of blood spray out, and that sort of thing. To get upset about the excessive violence in this film is disingeneous to say the least...it's like going swimming and getting upset because you got wet. The viewer should know going in what a Tarantino film is like, if they've ever seen anything of his at all. And that's not even taking into account that, for the most part, the most bloody scenes were either in the clever, extended anime segment (which enabled QT to get away with some stuff that would have gotten this an NC-17 rating in a heartbeat), or presented in black and white like a generous part of the big fight scene in the restuarant and the opening scene.

Couple of things bugged me, though. And here be spoilers, so beware. The Bride (Uma) wakes from her coma, kills two men, hides in one of the men's truck, then spends 13 hours regaining the use of her feet and legs. I find it a wee hard to accept that no one would heard the commotion, called the police, and at least one of the policemen wouldn't have thought to check the dead man's vehicle to see if it had been stolen, especially when they surely would have noticed his keys were missing, at some point in the 13 hours. A lot can happen in 13 hours, even in the big city. This is nit-picky, I know, when so much else in this film is larger than life and comic bookish, but still. I should also note that I thought for someone who spent four years in a coma, the Bride sure got back in fighting shape mighty fast. Anyway, none of this really matters with this movie. Forest for the trees territory.

I read somewhere recently where the author posits that Tarantino is like a hip-hop artist, sampling from all sorts of sources to assemble his complete work and that's very true. I like the way Tarantino's not afraid to go to extremes, and if he oversteps the bounds of good taste at least he does so with style...and that's as good a justification as any, in my book. Kill Bill Vol.1 is damn near better than Pulp Fiction, and that's high praise. In fact, I thought it was a work of bloody genius. I very much look forward to Vol. 2.
OK, now to muse for a while on John Jakala's disenchantment post of the other day.

I got bit by the comics bug at an early age, age 4 to be exact. And before you ask, yes, I could read them. Somehow, and don't ask me how, I have been able to read (and comprehend) almost as long as I've been alive on this world. Honestly, I think comics helped me with this, enabling me to associate words with actions...but that doesn't explain my immediate grasp of phonics. Maybe it was divine providence, who knows. My teachers all thought that I was some kind of prodigy, and that I should be moved up a couple of grades, but it didn't take me long (with my non-English related subject performance) to disprove that notion. God only knows what they would have done with me if I'd been born in 1990 instead of 1960. Anyway, I digress. What I'm trying to get across is that I have a deep-rooted love of the comics medium, and have had for a hell of a long time. I've experienced the best and the worst of nearly every major company for 39 years, and my enthusiasm in this period has waxed and waned for sure but has never really gone away.

So I look at my comics buying habits right now and for the most part, I'm satisfied. I don't buy a lot of titles that disappoint me on a regular basis, and if they do I drop them, simple as that. I can generally justify why I continue to purchase everything on my holds list, even books I bitch about constantly like JSA and Strangers in Paradise. My biggest concern right now, given my unemployed status, is being able to afford to buy as many as I do now, and as often. The last time I was in between jobs I cut my list down to ten titles, and only picked them up once a month, which thankfully didn't last long. This is also a reason why I resist going to a "trades only" mode; even though 15 bucks or thereabouts isn't an outrageous sum for a collection of 4 or 5 books, still it's a good sized chunk of change to come up with at once, especially if there are other floppies in my stack. And don't get me started about hardcovers. My biggest concerns with changing over to trades-only is that there's no assurance that everything I want to buy will come out in that format. Many do, but I won't hold my breath waiting for a Superman: Red Son or Cinnamon: El Ciclo trade anytime soon. Also, buying floppies (God, you people have got me using that term) vs. trades is a bit like watching a weekly TV show, one sitting a week, vs. a whole month's worth of taped episodes of that same show. One hour (or one floppy), I'm good. Four hours, (or one collection of four comics) I get a little restless and wind up taking a day or two to view or read. Case in point: I'm up to issue 8 in that Essential Tomb of Dracula collection, and I bought it last Saturday. So while I wouldn't slash my wrists if the Powers That Be went to all-trade formats, I will hold out till the end.

I don't really have a big problem with the system or pre-ordering via Previews, either. My comics shop puts out the new issues of Previews, sells them at cost (and I used to buy them, but Jesus God those things pile up), and then issues a holds update form with all the upcoming releases for the prospective buyer to select. The biggest problems for me have arisen from the vagaries of Diamond's distribution system, which often shorts one store on a particular title to favor another. This is one reason why I don't have the third issue of Superman: Red Son, and missed both issues 5 and 8 of Jack Staff. Of course, no system is perfect, and this happens very infrequently, so I can't really complain.

Compared to the shop John shows pictures of (and I've seen much worse), my shop, which also carries used and new vinyl and CDs, toys, gaming stuff, VHS and DVDs as well as new and back issue comics, is pretty spacious (having just moved to a newer, bigger location) and well-organized, for the most part. It's not a hassle to shop there at all. It's a bit inconvienient for me to drive down there, especially since I don't work in Bowling Green anymore, but it's only once a week so I've managed so far. Besides, it's the only place to buy beer in the area, so I'd need to go once a week anyway!

Quality-wise, I honestly think that there are as many good, and I mean really good comics out there right now as there have ever been. More publishers, putting out a pretty wide range of subject matter, and more awareness of what fans want and don't want. Of course that doesn't mean that this awareness is always acted upon...DC and Marvel (along with others) seem to be steadfast and resolutely devoted to bringing us spandex first and foremost. But even the Big Two seem to be willing to experiment and bring us some unconventional titles (DC moreso, I believe) by unconventional creators. In every "age" of any company, there's always a fair amount of dross. It's just being selective and finding the good stuff that is the crux of the biscuit, if you'll excuse the Zappa reference. As far as the question goes of expanding the audience, I honestly don't know what the solution is...there's just a certain amount of people, and it's a very large amount of people, that regard any sort of fantasy fiction as frivolous and trivial, fun to watch once in a while but not to become a habit. And they raise their kids that way, as well, not encouraging them to read anything. I'm not entirely convinced that significantly more people would read comics, even if they were packaged manga-style and all dealing with Blankets-style subjects rather than super-heroes. Sure, there are a lot of kids that read Shonen Jump and collect Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon, and that's a potential market, but I don't know if they would even be buying Jump if not for the fact that (as far as I can tell, from my cursory glances at the odd issue of Jump) to them, it looks like Yu-Gi-Oh and scans like Yu-Gi-Oh, so it must be the same thing. I'd also like to know if those same kids collect this manga from issue to issue like most mainstream comic collectors do, or whether they just pick up the odd issue out of curiosity. The extent to which I don't know these things is staggering.

So to wind this up, I, too, have begun to question if I want to, and especially can afford to, keep buying comics. Right now, I'm still being stimulated visually and mentally by the handful of titles I buy right now, so I'm gonna keep buying until I just can't anymore.

And that, as they say, is that.
My friend Dave Puckett (who's also a very interesting cartoonist- maybe I'll get some samples of his stuff to post one of these days) is attempting to catalog every appearance of the Beatles in comics, a strenuous but worthy task in my estimation. He'd like your help! For a MS Word file which includes what he has so far, and to make him aware of any appearances you might think he's missed, email him at dpuck@scrtc.com .
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BSBdG's today go out to X-Men, X-Men II and Femme Fatale star Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, 31 today.

Why the hell not?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

As I prepare to drive approximately 35 miles to buy about four new comics (and perhaps see a matinee of Kill Bill- I haven't given up), I was pointed to (via ¡Journalista!) John Jakala's post about growing disenchantment with playing the comics buying game. It made the rusty, creaky gears in my thought mechanisms lurch into motion, and hopefully something will issue forth in response at some later time.

To address another topic that's been making the rounds lately (and it's a tempest in a teapot if I ever saw one), I think perhaps Tony Isabella should develop a bit thicker skin. Whether he likes it or not, DC is not obligated to run any changes in the Black Lightning character he created by him, because it was done under the work-made-for-hire situation that has caused so much grief over the years. I sympathize with him, but he's not- I'm sure- the first creator to see a beloved creation get put through paces that he abhors and I'm sure he won't be the last. I'm feelin ya, Tony dog, but ya gots ta put some distance between, knowhutamsayin? And I still think that what Kevin Smith did with Stanley and his Monster was far worse...but did you hear Arnold Drake crying? Huh? Didja?

On the TV watching front, I have an confession to make: I am really enjoying Navy NCIS, and not just because of Pauley Perette. Last night's eppy, about mysterious, apparently Meth-related deaths among members of a Navy aircraft carrier's deck crew, even though they don't seem to do drugs and their urine tests all report clean, kept me guessing all the way through till the end and the look "behind the scenes" on the carrier was very interesting. I find myself wondering if my friend the Stupid Llama (Mike Cary), who served in the Navy, has ever watched this show and what he thinks about it. Gray-haired Mark Harmon, of all people, gives a nice, nuanced performance as the head guy of the investigative team, sometimes crusty, sometimes dryly witty. Didn't think he had it in him.

I also caught the most recent episode of Carnivale, have been watching all season in fact, and I gotta say I'm very pleased with they way things have played out so far. We've been treated to a number of interesting characters, weird events, and arresting imagery- one in particular was the strange, sad fate of cooch dancer Dora Lee in the ghost town of Babylon, and the "carnival justice" which was invoked as a result. I don't know how many more episodes there are (and last night's previews of next week's show promises many revelations), but I can't wait to see how this all plays out.

About the only full length feature film I've seen lately is the Jason Statham vehicle (and I do mean vehicle) The Transporter, which is probably the dumbest, most cliche-filled, and worst-acted (except by the low-key Statham) movie I've seen in a good long while. If you like routine explosions and car chases and people shooting at each other and little else, then I suppose this film succeeds on that level. But if, like me, you like a bit more wit and style with your action thriller and like Statham because of his great turn as Turkish in Snatch, then you should just pass this Transporter. Statham obviously needs a new agent, one with better script choosing ability anyway, because almost everything he's done since his last Guy Ritchie film has flat out sucked. Ghosts of Mars, anyone?

Hopefully more later.
BSBdG's go out today to a couple of Sixties pioneers in their respective fields.

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First, the late Gram Parsons, maker of "Cosmic American Music", first country artist to act like and hang out with rock and roll stars, collaborator with the Byrds, Emmylou Harris and the Rolling Stones, founding member of the seminal country-rock outfit The Flying Burrito Brothers, and drug casualty at age 26. He would have been 57 today.

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Also, today is the 65th birthday of the great Jim Steranko. Steranko blew everyone's minds with his innovative multimedia and graphic design techniques while illustrating Marvel's Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., among others (see my horror comics post below) in the swingin 60s, then moved on to do many more great magazine and paperback covers, found his own magazine publishing company, write two histories of comics, and many other things. Everything but draw a regular monthly comics series, it seems... Steranko is also an accomplished magician and escape artist, and served as the inspiration for not only Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle character, but served as part of the inspiration for Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Despite his relatively low profile, Steranko's done some incredible stuff. Go here for a great cover gallery, and click on Steranko's picture above for a recently updated fan site. And yes, I stole the picture from the Dragon*Con bio page that can be accessed by clicking the link in Steranko's name. It was the only decent picture I could find on the Web of the man!

Boy oh boy, I love that Shadow cover. Death has "four kings"...but the Shadow has the Ace of Spades, plus his automatic! Damn!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Sean Collins finished up his 13 Days of Halloween list a few days ago, and he definitely lists some good'uns, not only listing them but breaking them down in a very well written, in-depth fashion. Me, I'm not prepared to go into such depth, but I can't help but wanna comment anyway (on the ones I haven't already put my two cents' worth in on) so here goes...

#6 on his list was Silence of the Lambs, an engrossing psycological thriller which was indeed often very horrifying and tense- and also gave the world a thousand "chianti and fava beans" jokes. It featured the usual great turns by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, plus an effectively creepy perf by Ted Levine, who I thought would go on to bigger and better things after I watched this for the first time. 'Twas not so, it seems. One standout scene which stayed with me was the pathetic kidnap victim in the hole begging just to find out why she was there and why. Silence is an excellent film, and I have no quibble with its inclusion.

#5 is Gore Verbinski's The Ring, which I commented on after viewing it on DVD a while back. Go here to read it. Again, I don't really have a problem with it being on the list (it is his list after all!), but it didn't exactly grab me as hard as it did Sean.

#4 was a film that I had to watch twice to get the full effect. The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I was 15 and in a car full of guys my age and a bit older, drinking and smoking and just partying in general, and to say that nobody was taking the film all that seriously would be an understatement. I remember another carfull behind us, as we were leaving the drive-in, and one guy hanging out the window making chainsaw noises. I do remember thinking it was intense stuff, and made it a point when VCR technology came along (which coincided with my infatuation with gore films then) to view it again without my buds. Like Sean, I think it's the unrelenting cruelty and arbitrariness of what happens to the teenagers that helps make this so memorable. That and the girl who gets impaled on a hook. Ouch. It was made on the cheap and it shows, but sometimes those kinds of films have a grittiness about them that makes them more convincing, and helps the big dinner scene at the end which could have been ludicrous in less inspired hands. I've always had a soft spot for the follow up, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, which features Dennis Hopper as a state trooper sporting two small chainsaws, pistol-style, in a holster, and one big chainsaw which he holds in a phallic position (filmed as a long-shot in one of the funniest scenes) and uses on Leatherface's lair, singing "Bringing Down the Sheaves" as he saws away on the timbers. Cracked me up, it did.

#3 is most definitely a classic: The Exorcist. I remember not getting to see this until it was re-released to theatres several years later, and I don't recall why I missed it the first time. Must have been because I was 13 and knew my folks wouldn't let me go see it. It played the drive-in, I'm sure, but I suppose the gang I saw the Texas Chainsaw Massacre with must have had better things to do. Anyway, I do remember all the hoo-hah that surrounded this movie when it was released, and everything I heard about it definitely gave me the creeps. It was the random possibility of being posessed by a demon that sounded just awful to me...I mean, you could go to bed one night, and wake up with something else in your head! Of course, after a while I realized how silly that was, so it troubled me no longer...but when I did get to see the film, I was caught up hard in it. It works on a number of different levels, both as horror movie and psychological thriller, and is still strong today, despite a legion of parodies and lackluster sequels and knockoffs. The most recent viewing of this film was, for me, in a class on supernatural folklore that I took at Western Kentucky a few years ago.

#2 is The Shining, which I've already gone on record as regarding as one of Stanley Kubrick's weakest, and I won't back down except to say that I simply thought it wasn't a very successful adaptation of the novel, by either King's or Kubrick's standards. Being a Kubrick film, of course it was full of arresting, often haunting imagery and Jack Nicholson gives an intense, if somewhat one-note performance (you just know he's destined to go bugfuck sooner rather than later from the opening scenes of the film) as the lead. I guess I fall in with those who cite Nicholson's character's portrayal as a major fault. As I watched the film, it just seemed to meander for a very long stretch until the big bravura finale which lets Nicholson cut loose (in more ways than one). The maze in the snow at the end, and the way it's filmed, was moodily effective. I'm in the minority here, I know- this film has a lot of admirers, and Sean makes some very good points about the psychological sybolism of it all...but after about three full viewings, I remain unmoved. Maybe I'll do four one of these days, who knows. And I do know this- flaws and all, this version kicked the ass of the King-sanctioned TV movie remake a few years ago.

And finally, #1-The Blair Witch Project. Again, my first exposure to this one suffered somewhat because of the venue in which I watched it- this time in a classroom, as one of the films shown in my supernatural folklore class. Even though everyone was caught up in it, the bootleg print had a disclaimer across the bottom and was missing the last scene, so its impact was somewhat diluted. As soon as it became commercially available, I rented it (around Halloween) and got more of its full effect. Part of me was a bit annoyed at the lack of background info (and yes, I'm aware there is a lot of this available from various sources) we're given, but the film's power is undeniable, especially due to the brilliant (budget-necessitated) decison to film on videotape, documentary-style, and you can't help but get caught up in the travails of the filmers and shocked at the utter hopelessness of their position. I resolved that if I ever went hiking like that, I would carry a whole bunch of flares and a flare gun. I don't know whether I would call this the best horror film of all time, but it's a definite contendah.

Great reading, Mr. Collins. Do some more soon, OK?

Update: I'm finding myself wondering what Sean (and everyone else, for that matter) thinks of Last House on the Left and The Devil's Backbone. Sean?
Had my worst weekend, football prediction-wise, at 7-7. I'd bet I wasn't alone, since there were some upsets and a few games that could have gone either way. Anyhoo, I'm now 74-41, a .643 clip. I'd like to be at .750, but I'll have to do a lot better in the next few weeks.

Keeping with the football theme, I've been playing around creating link buttons again, and I've made an Atlanta Falcons button, which, when clicked, enables you to "Share the Misery '03" on my woeful team's website. You can find it, of course, in the links section at right.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Casting a jaundiced eye towards the new Diamond shipping list, I see that I'll be getting the following:


And that's it! Another light week, which will tempt me to buy other stuff. I'll try to fight that urge.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Good morning.

As I await noon and my NFL fix, I just felt like typing a few lines. And they go something like this.

For some reason I have the song "Temporary Secretary" by Paul McCartney in my head. Lobotomies are expensive, I hear, but I'm thinking about it. Maybe a DIY lobotomy using a dull kitchen knife. Aw, I kid- actually I kinda like that song, a somewhat droll Devo-ish ditty from his 1981 McCartney II album.

I have a new truck! It's a 1998 Chevy Blazer, 4WD, and it's in beautiful condition, with only 78,000 miles. We got a great deal on it, I mean a real steal (or so I think anyway) plus I was able to sell my Rodeo of 230 K plus miles in the same day, so I got some help from my sainted Mother and made the purchase.

Still no job yet, and no real legitimate offers. Contrary to what I posted earlier, the Cabela's job, as it turns out, is still a possibility but they've run into snags before they hire anybody, so I wait. And wait. I recently interviewed at my previous employer, yeah, that's right, for a job that was similar but different from my old position, which doesn't exist anymore. It also paid $13 K less than I was making before, but I said I'd take it if it was offered. I don't think it's going to be, especially when I found out later that they had already hired one person from within for one of the two positions available. I've only been away 6 months from there, but it seems like 6 years. I'm considering using one of those resume distribution services which charge (to me, anyway) an outrageous sum to send your CV to recruiters all over. Gettin' pretty desperate around Casa Bacardi. I even had a dream last night, and I don't dream often...in it I was interviewing at my first employer, R.R. Donnelley, and I was asked to perform one of those color tests. If you've ever taken one, you know what I'm talking about- it's where you place small discs with a gradual color tint in order. My test in my dream was different- I had to take tiny paint-spattered torn pieces of brown paper, like grocery sacks, and put them in order. And I couldn't make out what some of the colors were, for some reason! Of course, as usual when I dream, everything was in black and white except for the paint spatters, and my brain was telling me were some sort of color but I didn't know which they were! As usual, I woke up before this dream was resolved.

OK, personal stuff aside. I've added some new comics bloggers to the ol' links list at right, by Kevin Melrose, Rick Geerling, and Ron Phillips. Boy, comics blogging seems to be catching on a bit, doesn't it? Of course, it's got a way to go before it gets up there with political blogging, percentage-wise, but there seem to be more and more every week. Which brings up something I've been wondering about: most of the time, I list my links (especially to the pop-culture blogs I've linked to) by the author's name, unless I can't find it or it's a group blog. Just seems like a more "serious" thing to do. But is there anybody out there who would prefer to go by the blog name or alias? For example-Tegan, do you prefer to be linked to as "Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog" or as Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag? Bill, "Pop Culture Gadabout" or Bill Sherman? You others? Some of you (heck, most of you) have clever names for your blogs, and it seems a shame to not use them but it also seems more personalized somehow to use the blog author's name in the link. Myself, I kinda prefer to go by Johnny Bacardi but some have linked to me using my alter ego David Jones. Either way is cool to me, as long as I'm linked to. Some bloggers, like John Jakala and Bill, avoid this problem by listing the author, then the blog name...but I don't know if I want to go back and type in all those names on my bloglist. I must ponder this, and of course feel free to leave all the comments you like.

On the subject of comics blogging, Matt Brady has received a bit of attention here and there for this post on a Delphi forum:

I think I was tempted to do something of a blog once, but, when starting to compose my thoughts about the world, emotions, puppies, kittens, and who's blogs I rilly, rilly like, like a voice from heaven, the phrase, "Who gives a shit what you think?" came into my mind, and the urge passed.

That should be a question in the EULA agreement on EVERY blog host:

"Do you really, honestly - and we mean honestly, not that 'honestly' you use when you ask yourself whether or not you look good in that pair of jeans - think anyone gives a shit about what you think?"

If they did that, and people were 100% honest, there would be no "blog culture."

Of course, if there was some secret code in all comics that you had to enter as proof you bought it before you could post a comment on it, messageboards would be dead, so who am I to complain about one group of people spouting off when I am a dancing monkey for another?

He does make a good point, and I have asked myself that very question many times. I have also answered it, at least to myself, by simply adopting the position of "I'm posting this stuff for my own personal gratification, and if others like it and want to read, then that's even better." I don't pretend that what I'm doing here is significant or important; I decided when I began this blog that I was just gonna write about stuff I dig just to get it out of my head and see if anybody else was interested. I've been blessed with much more attention than I anticipated, and have made the acquaintance of some wonderful people in the process (and you know who you are). If I don't get another hit or write another thing for the rest of my life, then this blog has been a success that has far outdistanced my expectations. So I guess my answer to Matt's query is that I don't give a shit if people give a shit, but I love it when they do. Kinda validates the old existence in a small sort of way.

OK, that's all for now. I'll try to get around to commenting on the rest of Sean Collins' horror film list later, as well as some thoughts on a couple of movies I've seen lately. Right now, I'm ready for some football.