Tuesday, January 13, 2004

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I love this album cover! From the official website of former Plimsouls leader Peter Case. I haven't bought any of Case's music since 1992 (and I didn't even buy that one, got it as a radio promo)...this particular one was available originally by mail order, which may account for why I didn't get it, but doesn't explain why I haven't bought any of his subsequent releases. Anyway, nice cover!
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The coveted BSBdG goes out today to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 43. Despite the fact that those who tend to make note of that sort of thing rarely credit her as such (probably because she played such a klutz on Seinfeld for so long), I've always thought she was jaw-droppingly beautiful. For what that's worth.
Little slow today at work, hence my numerous postings. Whilst Googling around, looking for a new feature image, I note that while it's not unusual for many illustrators to have an official website, devoted to their work there are several wonderful illustrators that don't, among them Adam Warren, J.G. Jones and Sean Phillips. What's up wit dat? Here's a one-pager for Warren, also here's a not-bad fansite with a lot of pencil art reproduced. Google searches for Jones and Phillips turn up nothing but original art dealers and online shops selling their graphic novel work.

A search for Michael Lark turns up more of the same, with the only really notable site being one which sells his original art, and lets you take a look at a goodly number of the pages for sale, including many from the wonderful Terminal City series, all reasonably priced at $60 per. I'd love to have a couple of those. A search for Promethea and Chase artist J.H. Williams III turns up a website which says it's soon to be obsolete, and directs you instead to the newish site of his longtime inker Mick Gray. All very nice, but I want to see some Williams art! You can still visit a gallery or two which features, among other things, unused covers for Batman 550, Cameron Chase's first appearance, and an unused promo illo for that late, lamented series, cut down in its prime. Speaking of Chase, her writer and co-creator D. Curtis Johnson has no site. Sad. Also siteless are Howard Chaykin, Elaine (Starstruck, Vamps) Lee, and Jay Muth, illustrator of Epic's Moonshadow, among other things. Personal fave Trevor Von Eeden doesn't have one either, although he told me a while back that he hoped to launch one someday.

So what does all this mean, exactly? Not much. Just passing this info on. I know that there are plenty of creators who do have websites, and that's very cool. But it sure would be nice to be able to visit some of these theoretical sites. wouldn't it...?
I'm geeked to see that I have been included in Fred Hembeck's links list. Even though he (or his webmaster) misspelled my name. Shit happens, I guess.

Also, many thanks to Dirk Deppey for the anniversary wishes. Her name is Theresa Ann Doyle-Jones. She uses the hyphenated format when she writes childrens' stories, none of which have, unfortunately, seen print yet. But I think she's pretty good, and hope springs eternal as they say. Maybe if she dropped the -Jones she'd have a better chance...
Hunter S. Thompson says take the Panthers, Colts and the points this week. I'm leaning towards agreeing. I love his 100% accurate description of the upcoming Colts/Patriots tilt; he calls it a "tall-walking bitch of a game". Cracked me up, it did.
In regards to this Marvel Age thing that's sparked some discussion here and there, I don't really have an strong opinion one way or another- I recognize that it is in the industry's best interests to get younger readers buying comics again, and this sounds as good as anything. Nothing attempted, nothing gained, as that Shakespeare fella once wrote. As far as the actual notion of redoing those great Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Heck/Ayers etc. stories of yore, and the potential aesthetic disaster that is implicit in that notion, well...it seems to me that the last thirty-odd years of convoluted continuity, Liefelds and Rich Bucklers have done far more to tarnish the luster of those classic originals than any attempts to totally re-write-and-draw them now, especially in the clever and energetic modern amerimanga-ish style could do, especially since the medium is intended to be such a niche item anyway. In other words, let 'em rip. We still have the originals to go back (and the various reprints of same) if we want to get the uncut funk, as it were. Like Bill Sherman says, I'm not the target audience for this, so I will retain a healthy skepticism but also force the jury to remain sequestered until I'm ready to make a verdict.

Good thing I didn't have a strong opinion, huh!

Aw, hell, I probably won't even read the damn things myself. Right now, I can't care less about mainstream Marvel comics. Hope lots of kiddies read these, though, and who's to say that I won't buy a couple for my grandson, if I can afford 'em!
Books I have to look forward to tomorrow, according to the Diamond shipping list:

H-E-R-O #12
1602 #6

And that's, as the pig says, all, folks!

You know, it's getting to the point where it's barely worth my while to go to the shop these days, it seems. I've dropped so many titles lately, and added very few (many more drops than adds, for sure), and my purchases are beginning to reflect this. Of course, now that I'm employed in a job that pays significantly less than my previous one, that's a good thing. But this is also a sign of my growing disillusionment with superhero comics in general...specifically the stuff cranked out by the Big Two. S'funny...I was thinking about this the other day, and the only books I still buy that feature spandex superheroes are Jack Staff, Daredevil, the Ultimates, Ultimate Six, The Legion (and as soon as the current creators step down, I'll be dropping that one) and Powers, none of which can really be accurately described as typical. Except perhaps Legion. Am I finally growing up? Am I finally reaching a higher level of sophistication towards the entertainment that I put in my head on a regular basis? Am I overthinking again? Who the heck knows. I'll have to ponder this.

By the way, I just won a copy of Superman: Red Son 3 on eBay, so that solves my "should I take my first two singles and sell them to my comics shop and buy the trade" dilemma. Just in case you're interested.
I'm sure many of you are aware of the recent Funky Winkerbean comic strip storyline, which involves the closing of the neighborhood comics shop and the reactions to this news by the regulars, specifically mailman "Crazy", he of the air guitar proficiency.

All in all, pretty interesting storyline, one which many of us can relate to (although thankfully not me...yet), and while it lapses into some teeth-grinding pretentiousness sometimes, in this as with most Funky storylines, I'm interested in how it all turns out. They've been running this strip in the Louisville Courier-Journal since I was a teenager, it seems, and I've enjoyed seeing how it has progressed from a high school hijinks type gag strip to what it is now, more of a drama involving the high schoolers as thirtysomething grownups. One recent storyline, which involved new lawyer Lisa Moore and her quest to juggle her home life while she tries to prevent the execution of a death row prisoner, was equal parts happy and sad, and very engrossing. Kudos to Tom Batiuk and company on his underrated comic strip.
Submitted for your perusal, and presumed approval: The Comic Book Reader's Bill of Rights (Version 1.0), at Alan David Doane's blog.

I don't know who was threatening to take these mostly of the "it-goes-without-saying"-type freedoms away, but it's interesting to have them all in one place like this. I agree completely with most of the entries, although I think the word "expect" in the first should more realistically be written as "hope", knowing how cutthroat business is, and I wonder if anyone has actually come up with a better alternative to the comics ordering system cited in #7. I especially back #3, it's at the core of what I'm trying to do with this blog.
Just found the funniest review I've read so far of JLA/Avengers, at a new blog named, with such charming modesty, "The Only Blog That Matters". You should click this link and read it. And you know what? I actually think he has a point...

Monday, January 12, 2004

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BSBdG's today go out to the Sporty One herself, Melanie Jayne Chisholm, aka Mel C of the Spice Girls, who's every bit of 30 years old today. For what it's worth, her 1999 solo album Northern Star was pretty good in my opinion. Haven't heard the other one.
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Me and Mrs. B, 25 years ago today. Makes you want to hum that Smashing Pumpkins song, dunnit?

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Me and Mrs. B, 25 years later. My, how time flies, as the saying goes.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of January 7!

Another light week for me.

The main buzz on this title so far has been about the back-feature- about a waifish but not-as-innocent-as-she-seems young lady named Peculia and the odd and frequently dangerous world she inhabits. She even got a trade collection a few months ago. The lead, a typically Sala-ish rambling and gnarly gothic murder mystery titled "Reflections in a Glass Scorpion", starring his skewed and shrewish Nancy Drew homage Judy Drood, has not been quite as engaging as its support feature- but that changes this time out, because after finding nothing but conundrums wrapped in enigmas for 10 issues, suddenly we get a lot of puzzle pieces all at once, plus a nifty cliffhanger to boot. None of this is especially reader-friendly, so the curious would be advised to, as they say, "wait for the trade". But for those of us who've been there since issue one, the penultimate chapter was worth the wait. The Peculia feature this time out is fine, too, but is less a story and more of a collection of single page illustrations, excellent as always. Richard Sala's an acquired taste, for sure, but thankfully I acquired it long ago. A

Actually, this should be titled (as far as I'm concerned) "My Faith in Mike Carey", because whether or not I really enjoy this light fantasy/comedy/romance book will depend on how skillfully he can handle this sort of story, which (to my knowledge) he's never tried before- other than a couple of instances in Lucifer. So far, so good as he sets up the main characters and manages to make them all likeable...and if it's more than a little reminiscent of the likes of Keith Giffen's Vext, or the film Drop Dead Fred, well, it's early and I have no doubt that Carey will take this in some interesting directions before he's done, like he has so far in Lucifer and John Constantine: Hellblazer. The art, by someone named Sonny Liew (who I'm completely unfamiliar with) and cover artist/interior inker Marc Hempel (whose story-form work I love) is sprightly and energetic and suits the mood perfectly. I doubt that this humble book is going to take the comics world by storm, but it's one that will come to be highly regarded by those who are inclined to seek this sort of thing out. A-

My curiosity got the better of me, and I broke down and signed up for the trade, which collects the first six issues, and picked this up, mostly because I thought it might be a good jumping-on point, plus it had art by Shawn Martinbrough, whose stints on The Creeper and Detective Comics were outstanding. So did I like it? Well, yeah, pretty much- it was basically a "getting acquainted" type issue, except that since the leads had already been introduced we were just privy to how they spent the aftermath of the presumed big mission in #'s 1-6. It's all like a lot of Alias or 24-type TV shows and movies that have been popular lately- lots of double dealing, edginess and grimness throughout (except at the beginning, a nutty scene which I guess, again, would make more sense if I'd read the other issues). Regardless, the characterization is interesting, and I really like the East Indian "Loser" depicted on the cover, but until I read the trade I suppose the jury will be out. B+
Time once again for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Playoff Prognostications!

Last week: 2-2, .500 .

St. Louis over Carolina. I expect a close one.
New England over Tennessee
Philadelphia over Green Bay. Another close'un.
Indianapolis over Kansas City. I picked the Colts to go to the Super Bowl at the beginning of the year, and I'm stickin' with 'em.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 31.
What is your score? Get it here.

Found over at Elayne's. Whee!
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Sendin' out BSBdG's today to Tintin, who turns 75 today and whose adventures I used to read, as a kid, in Children's Digest. Pretty spry-looking for such an old geezer, eh? Click on the image to go to Tintin.com.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Another thing before I shut 'er down for the night: I, like the rest of the comics blogospheriverse, rejoice to see that Steven Wintle's Flat Earth is back and better than ever.

Steve, take it from me, Dave Winfield was a hell of a great ballplayer, who played over 15 years for several different teams, and whose bust resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame- unlike Pete Rose, who has, by being a typically blockheaded clod, totally managed to botch the very thing he's needed to do for 14 years now. It will be a fricking miracle if he gets in the Hall now.
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A word or two about my most recent music-type acquisitions, most of which have fallen into my possession thanks to Christmas.

My yuletide haul consisted of Paul Westerberg's Come Feel Me Tremble, The SACD re-issue of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding, and Fountain of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers, all of which I've already written about in my 2003 wrap-up. I got some cash from the in-laws, and rather than buy socks or underwear I immediately hit Amazon.com and ordered three more CDs: Roy Wood's Exotic Mixture, Lambchop's Is A Woman, and Nice. by Puffy AmiYumi. Speaking of nice, Mark Anthony was generous and nice enough to think about me when he was cleaning out his office, and sent me promo copies of Concert For George, Beatles-Let It Be...Naked, the recent Best of Bowie, a Bob Dylan SACD reissue sampler, and the most recent solo release from Ringo Starr, Ringo-Rama, which features his tribute song to George, "Never Without You". He also sent along a DVD disc from the recent Led Zeppelin live set, and the odd DVD collection Lennon Legend. For this Mark has the eternal and undying gratitude of the Show and everyone involved. The rest of you need to get on the ball and send me stuff, too!

I'm kidding, OK? No, really- if you want to send stuff, then that's great but you are under no obligation or pressure to do so. But when I get cool stuff like that, it makes me happy, and when I'm happy, I write more (theoretically) cool stuff, and we all make out like bandits!

By far the best of my seasonal swag is that Puffy AmiYumi CD. Of course, like most gaijin I first became aware of them via the theme song to the new Teen Titans anime, uh, animated series. But the greatest revelation was yet to come...after a heads-up from Bill Sherman, I was elated to discover (no thanks to the super-speed credits) that none other than my old buddy Andy Sturmer, he of one of my favorite 90s bands, Jellyfish, wrote and performed the backing track for the Japanese duo. I just knew I had to get this as soon as possible, and for once my fanaticism was rewarded- Nice. is a tour-de-force of pop music, thanks to Sturmer and the studio musicians who back them up. The first cut is a kinda new-wavey, hopped-up rocker, the second, "Tokyo Nights" is a funny nod to the likes of the Buggles...but it was cut #3, "Angel of Love", that made me give it up for the long haul. A Beatlesque, mid-tempo confection with swirling harmonies and circusy keyboards, just like Jellyfish never went away- and when the trombone solo kicked in, I melted. Other cuts which made my ganglia twitch were "Thank You", which sounds a lot like Wings circa 1973; "Your Love Is A Drug", a catchy rocker with some daffy synth squiggles; "K2G", which is a crazy nutty Japanese ska track that puts No Doubt to shame; and "Shiwase (Happiness)", another dreamy popsong with a gorgeous melody that reminds me a bit of (Jellyfish's) Spilt Milk's "Russian Hill". Of course, the fun and rocking "Teen Titans Theme" is a highlight, and so what if it nicks "Secret Agent Man"? I haven't checked to see if Sturmer has worked on any other Puffy albums, but bet your ass I will soon and I'll have them if he has.

Exotic Mixture is a 1999 compilation of personal God Roy Wood's singles and B-sides spanning the years from his first post-Move solo album Boulders (1973) through releases by post-Wizzard groups such as Wizzo Band, Helicopters and Rockers, on through 1987- most of which have gone unreleased Stateside, and have gone unheard by yours truly. So of course, I've been wanting this since it came out in Blighty back in '99. I wish I could say it was worth the wait, and for the most part it is, but the stuff I like the best I've already heard many times over. Which is not to say everything from 1975's Mustard on is crap, far from it, but a whole lot of side two is given to earnest, but bland attempts at Springsteenish rock or attempts to work in synths and sounds contemporary in the 80s, and very little of it suited Roy at all. 1985's "Sing Out The Old, Ring In The New" is a nice Spectorish throwback to his more fertile years, the two cuts, one of which a medley of old 50s hits (you'd think he'd learned his lesson after Eddy and the Falcons, wouldn't ya?) with the all-star (Thin Lizzy's late Phil Lynott, of all people, was a member) Rockers are kinda clever but go on too long, and the two 1977 cuts from his collaboration with Annie Haslam are fine (but not the best cuts from that particular album, which I'm proud to own)...but I doubt I'll be revisiting disc two very much. The main appeal of this package to me, besides having great Wood songs like "Any Old Time Will Do" and "Oh What A Shame" on CD so I can listen to them at work, is a lot of the obscure B-sides, many instrumentals, that I haven't heard before like the cleverly titled "The Thing is This (This is the Thing)" and the bagpipe-drenched "Bengal Jim", that are completely new to me. The booklet is also a disappointment, basically a collection of pictures and one long essay which manages to ramble for several pages about Roy's story but provides little or no information about the songs on the disc. Sigh.

Lambchop is a band which hails from Nashville, but somehow I managed to never hear of them until a few years ago, when their album "Nixon" got some attention. I downloaded a couple of cuts from their most recent release, Is A Woman a year or two ago, and liked them so much I decided I'd get some of their music when I got the chance. The two cuts in question, "The Old Matchbook Trick" and "New Cobweb Summer", are the highlights, but this is one unusual album. Low-key, jazzy, kinda reminiscent sound-wise of Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece or some of the best of John Martyn, it's tuneful but static, and I find myself tuning it out sometimes. I think this is a disc best enjoyed in dribs and drabs rather than all at once. At any rate, I've enjoyed this enough to where I think I'll track down others in the Lambchop catalogue at some future date.

As far as my freebie stuff went, I've written about Let it Be...Naked and Concert For George, which I already had on DVD, and to be honest, the DVD makes the audio CD a little redundant. But the music on both is first-rate, if a little slick, and who's to say that I won't cue up Macca singing "For You Blue" or Jeff Lynne singing "The Inner Light" with Eastern accompaniment once in a while. The Bowie compilation is another repackage of previous Bowie samplers, gussied up with an additional DVD which consists of concert footage. Haven't really checked that out yet. The songs are mostly pretty good, but there are some glaring omissions such as nothing from Low or Lodger, or "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" or "Day In, Day Out"...and the version of "Young Americans" is horribly edited, like many of the songs represented here in their single versions. One of Bowie's few worthwhile 90s tracks, "I'm Afraid of Americans", suffers from this as well. It also includes the nadir of Bowie's career, his mincing, prancing cover of "Dancing in the Streets" with Mick Jagger, the video of which was absolutely embarrassing. Best of Bowie was worth what it cost me, which was nothing, but if you pay good cash money for it you might not agree. The Dylan sampler was outstanding, and I was especially tickled to see one of my all time fave Zimmytunes "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" included in its original Freewheelin' Bob Dylan glory. Another standout obscurity here is Desire's "One More Cup of Coffee". The Ringo CD is fine, and is a lot more hard-rockish than I was expecting. The George tribute song is a bland disappointment, but the sentiment is genuine so it gets by. I haven't listened to this one as much as I have some of these others; when I do and I hear something that impresses me I'll be sure to note it in the future.

One other acquisition of note: the Lennon Legend DVD. It virtually duplicates the track sequence of the CD release of the same name, but since it's a digital video disc, and to be honest Lennon didn't actually make many promo films in those pre-MTV days, someone got the bright idea to take archival footage of John and Yoko and splice it all together to accompany each song. There's also some animation of John's doodles, and to break the monotony, one or two songs have actual performance footage, like "Instant Karma" which is from some TV show and oddly enough features Klaus Voorman and some other fellow, both playing bass. There's no guitarist, and Alan White is on drums. John, freshly shorn, sits playing keyboards and Yoko knits. Seriously. A bonus is a performance of "Slippin' and Slidin'", surely one of the last TV performances he ever made, from 1975, just before he bowed out of the public eye. I could swear I saw a performance of this very same song from this very same show, but John and his musicians were wearing masks on the back of their heads. Ah, the brain cells I've killed. The long-ago video for "Imagine" (you remember, white piano, white room, Yoko walking around opening curtains) is trotted out yet again as well. Anyway, this is watchable on the whole, but many of the songs suffer from this cutting room mania format, and often the visual just doesn't go along with the song very well. Sometimes they're just plain hard to watch, such as the visual accompaniment for "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" in which we're treated to shot after shot of starving, maimed children and war footage for four plus minutes. Fellas, we got the point about a minute in. Hell, many of us got the point 30 years ago. One cut which benefits is "Mind Games", in which John walks around Central Park, wearing a long black coat and floppy black hat, interacting with people and generally seeming to have a great time. It's fun to watch, and you don't even mind for a minute or two that seven years later a person just like one of those lucky folks back in '73 took a gun and shot him dead.

Boy, that's a depressing note to close on, isn't it?

Anyway, that's most of what I got for Christmas this year. There was also that Firefly DVD I won't shut up about, a really nice book of photos of the Beatles from my son, and a leather jacket from me Mum, and some socks and underwear...but I can't see me getting three long paragraphs out of those (well, maybe the Beatle book), so I'll wind this up now.
I know, I know, content's been light lately. Been kinda busy at work, hence all the one-or-two sentence posts, and never seem to feel like sitting in front of the butterfly curtains. But I'm right here, right now, no matter where I go there I am, so I'm gonna ramble. Hang on and try to pay attention, there will be a test later.

The controversy du jour in the comics blogosphereiverse right now consists of reactions to the old "floppy pamphlets" versus trade paperback and how it affects the comics industry argument, and also damning by association those who (in the parlance) "wait for the trade", eschewing the purchase of the monthly book altogether. John Byrne, whose breath must smell like old socks all the time because he's constantly sticking his foot in his mouth, and Peter David, who usually shows a bit more common sense in his public pronouncements, (they're probably the two most prominent commenters, there are other message boarders who adopt the same position) are taking the self-serving stance that the death of floppies would ruin the industry, depriving them (both the majors and the creators) of the weekly income that they bring. Well, that's the way I understand it, anyway. Longtime readers of this here blog will hopefully remember that I have gone on record as saying that personally, I hope the monthly pamphlet format can continue. Maybe it's because I've been buying them for as long as I can remember, and nostalgia is coloring my judgment, or maybe it's because I kinda enjoy getting a monthly, or semi-monthly, chapter of a title I enjoy reading. Which is not to say that I am opposed to trades...I have been known to pick them up, when I can afford them. Usually it's to get acquainted with a title I haven't been buying previously; a recent example is the newish DC book The Losers. I didn't buy it from the beginning because I was trying to limit the number of new titles I was getting, while weeding out titles I had lost interest in, due to my unemployed state. I was completely unimpressed with the other series I had read by author Andy Diggle, the routine and badly dialogued Lady Constantine, and neither was I an admirer of the art of "Jock". After glancing at issue #1, I figured I could live without The Losers. However, after having recently found gainful employment, I'm looking around a bit more for things to read, and the admittedly snazzy covers for Losers caught ny eye. Noticing that there had already been seven issues see print already, and being unable to find #1 at my comics shop, I decided to add the upcoming collection of the first six issues to my holds and pick up #7 (which I liked, but the art was by a fave of mine, Shawn Martinbrough- review later). I am also still trying to decide whether to take my issues #1 & 2 of Superman: Red Son to the shop and sell them, and pay the difference for the trade which came out last week, or to get #3 on eBay and let it go at that. So what does all this mean? I don't really know, except I kinda like having a choice. For a while, it seemed that there was no way to know for sure if a certain series would get collected; now it seems like almost all of them do in some format or another (except, notably, The Legion) so that eliminates a resrvation of mine to trades. "But", the likes of David and Byrne splutter, "if the industry tries to go to all-trades, then titles like the Legion will disappear!" And that's true- but I am also a firm believer in survival of the fittest. I feel that The Legion is an exception- there are always exceptions- but if adopting an all-trades policy means weeding out the lackluster, the halt, the lame, in short, about 75% of what the Big Two issues these days, then how can that be bad? And while there may be an initial lag, due to creators turning in work that has a longer interval between finishing the job and the books hitting the stores, I have a feeling that all comics companies will strive to fill in the gap as quickly as possible, thus ensuring there is product in the bookstores and specialty shops. And in regard to the assertation that creators will get paid less if this comes to pass, it seems to me that trade collections/graphic novels will have more pages, and creators will still get paid by the page (and if they don't, then they should), so what's the problem? Anyway, as I've said many times before, I'll buy pamphlets until they stop making 'em, but I can adapt and move on. If the only way I can get an all-new Hellboy story by Mike Mignola is to buy his newest graphic novel, then I'll be right there, checkbook in hand. I think the market should dictate, and last time I looked, this is still the (mostly) home of the free and the land of the brave and if someone wants to buy TPBs/GNs exclusively, then by God, they can. And I have the right to be right there with 'em if I so desire.

I said I was gonna ramble, remember? And there's not gonna be a test, i was just kiddin'.

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Two BSBdG's today, first for The King himself- Elvis Aron Presley, who would have been (or may be now, depending on what you believe) 69 today.

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Also, David Bowie, who is 57. Favorite Bowie album: 1980's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), followed closely by 1973's Aladdin Sane. Underrated Bowie? Hard to say- but I've always had a soft spot for 1986's Never Let Me Down, which I feel is slightly more varied and tuneful than most late-period Bowie records. Which is not to say that it's a classic of any sort. I can see why he changed his name- his real name is kinda boring and dull.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

You are Rick, the people's poet. You're also a virgin
and most prolly always going to be one. You're a
spotty faced selfish bastard. Picking on those
weaker then you. Which leaves no one but Neil
for you to pick on. And would do very well
working in politics.

Which Young Ones Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Found courtesy of the most excellent Leptard. I haven't seen The Young Ones in ages. I'd like to see an anthology show of old British comedy shows that aren't Python, like Dave Allen at Large or The Goodies. Then I'd watch some Python. And I am not a virgin. I swear.
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Found at Sugar'n Spicy, who is thankfully updating again: the website of artist Gerald De Jesus. Click on the pic to see it full size.
I'm calling Sean T. Collins "butter", because he has certainly been on a roll lately. First, an interesting interview with Indie creator Phoebe Gloeckner, which has made me want to write something about Led Zeppelin one of these days, and then his hilarious beatdown of Rich Johnston. That little film clip cracks me up.
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RIP Tug McGraw. Once asked whether he preferred playing on grass or an artificial surface, he said, "I don't know. I never smoked any AstroTurf." I remember seeing him on David Letterman once several years ago, on which he appeared with Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who was taking phone calls from viewers that evening. One caller had asked Dr. Ruth whether it was OK to put onion rings on her lover's penis and eat them off, which caused a huge uproar of laughter and many hilarious quips from Dave. After the segment died down and the commercial break was over (and you could tell Dave, Paul, and the audience were still cracking up), McGraw was introduced, and he came out eating a basket of onion rings, which I'm sure he had gone down and picked up at the NBC commissary after hearing the caller. The crowd went berserk with laughter, and Tug was beaming from ear to ear.

Oh yeah, he was a pretty darn good pitcher back in the day, and I've never been a Mets or Phillies fan.
I'm a little concerned about my mental well-being. I am going through, right now, an almost Trekkie-like addiction to Firefly. Heck, just this morning I stepped out to get into my truck and drive to work and I caught myself thinking "It's gorram cold out here!"

Annie, that redoubtable CzelticGirl, gave me a link in the comments to my previous Firefly post to the Firefly Chinese Pinyinary, a site that translates the Chinese phrases the characters frequently spout. But I didn't want to leave it buried in the comments so I thought I'd pass it on to all of you.

Annie: TZOO-foo nee, mei-mei.
I had been wondering what Len Wein had been up to since he apparently doesn't get to do comics anymore, and thanks to Dirk, Kevin Melrose, and UGO.com, now I know! I'm too lazy to add links to Dirk and Kevin, so you'll just have to click on the links at right. The JBS is often an interactive experience.
Time now to share with you what I'll be picking up tomorrow according to the Diamond shipping list. I'm still pissed about not getting Jack Staff 12, But I'm holding out hope...


And that be it! Another slow week, and I still haven't decided if I want to get that Red Son trade, either. I already have the first two, and could get the third on eBay, or, for that matter, the trade itself for less than I'd be paying for it at my comics shop. We shall see. Always happy to see a new issue of Richard Sala's mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky Evil Eye.

Are my standards getting higher, or do I need to buy more comics? Life's little quandaries...
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Sending out mad BSBdG's today to lovely Chasing Amy star Joey Lauren Adams, 33 today and possessor of a voice which makes me feel all weird inside when I hear it,

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and the world's most famous acid casualty Syd Barrett of the Pink Floyd pop group, 58. You know, I really, really liked that song "Bike". Clicking on Syd's picture wil take you to a really informative Floyd site's feature section, and clicking on his name in the previous sentence will take you to another. Just in case you were wondering.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Wow. I just saw where somebody shot the Kinks' Ray Davies in the leg, and it wasn't Dave! Thankfully, he's not seriously injured.

In other news, Pete Rose finally admits to betting on baseball. In related stories, scientists reveal that water is wet, heat is hot, the sky is blue and grass is green. Despite the fact that this is a transparent plan to stimulate interest in his new book and he should have done this years ago, I still think the stupid SOB should be in the Hall, because he was one of the all-time great players, emphasis player. But there's no way in hell he should be allowed to ever hold a position of responsibility with a major league organization again.
Here's a site with some preview pictures and a Japanese trailer for Kill Bill vol. 2, coming out next month! Beware of spoilers...
Jim Henley makes a good point about the Dan Clowes/Ice Haven announcement. But I see it this way: Clowes is still at the height of his abilities. I trust him to elaborate on the original story. He's not so far removed that he can't continue the same feel or bring something new to the concept or even tell other, more interesting stories within the same framework. It's not like revisiting something many years on, ususally a recipe for disaster. I don't know what he has in mind, but I'm interested in finding out...and I don't think he'll do it in a way that will compromise any of the strengths of the original.

You are all now two cents richer.
If for some odd reason you don't read Alan David Doane, or any other of the heavy hitters that have linked to it, here's Christopher Butcher's latest, and overdue, new PreviewsReview column. Especially of interest to me are his right-on-the-money assessments of both Astro City and DC's braindead trade paperback policy.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

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Huh? Whaddaya mean there are no roadways in Venice?

I broke down and rented a couple of DVDs the other day: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or if you will LXG (oy), and George Clooney's filmed version of the memoirs of Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I wrote a bit about the latter in my 2003 review below, and now I'll elaborate on what I thought about LXG. I said in my best of 2003 post a while back that this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, and that's true. Judging from the invective hurled at it by not only film critics (one snarky knucklehead said that "they managed to dumb down a comic book"), but film critics who had read the source material and, of course, word of mouth from the comic book readers themselves, who knew better and universally deplored it, I was expecting a trainwreck of biblical proportions. Oh this is not to say that this film isn't a trainwreck, but its proportions are less grandiose. This film is a textbook example of how to take an already high concept and groupthink it into the ground. Heartless, soulless, it defies the attempts of its one or two good actors to be interesting in order to jump from explosion to explosion and ridiculous situation to ridiculous situation, with only token attempts to actually let you get to know the fictional characters involved. You'd think that all the major studios would have learned their lessons after the failures of The Avengers and The Wild Wild West, but apparently that's not the case because this film seems to have followed the blueprint for them to the letter. It blows my mind that James Robinson, so good on DC's Starman, could have scripted this, but I have a feeling that he was in no position to rock the boat, and many hands eventually were involved with shaping the way the film turned out.

But, like I keep saying, I was entertained, in a mindless fashion. The film hurtles from scene to scene, not wishing you to have an opportunity to pause and think, and becomes sort of a rollercoaster ride, which is what major studios seem to think people want. Sean Connery is good, but he's not really asked to do anything but play that standard "Sean Connery" character he now usually always plays, the gruff, capable man's man with that heavy brogue, sort of a haggis-eating John Wayne type. He often comes across here like he's trying to bully the others into acting...Naseeruddin Shah, who plays my favorite comic version character, Captain Nemo, does a great job as well. There are some bits and pieces of clever dialogue, and one or two ideas rear their head in between explosions. Most disappointing was Peta (TV's La Femme Nikita) Wilson's Mina Harker, now an Underworld-style ├╝ber-vamp- she stops every scene dead in which she's required to do more than just pose or jump around. Richard Roxburgh, who was good as the unctuous Duke in Moulin Rouge!, was given absolutely nothing to do, and that's what he did with the role. Especially bad was the wretched Popeye-style prosthetics they used on Jason Flemyng's (as Dr. Jekyll) arms when he became Mr. Hyde- in attempting to emulate the exaggerated style of comic artist Kevin O'Neill, it made The Hulk look like a landmark acheivement in special effects cinema. The completely monstrous thing at the end looked a lot better, but I was amazed at how bad the FX were for Hyde. The rest of the movie was a lot better, effects-wise, although I didn't care for the revamp of the Nautilus.

When they first announced this film, I had a bad feeling about it- I knew that Hollywood wouldn't understand or care to duplicate Moore and O'Neill's understated whimsy and depth, and I was right. So instead we get a compromised, shrill rollercoaster of a movie that was entertaining at its basest level but could have been so much more.
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What I bought and what I thought, week of January 2!

Ol' Conjob has unwittingly been duped into unleashing a Big Bad into the world, and in the process has pissed off and alienated his friends, fellow mystics (nice Phantom Stranger cameo- he should at least be happy that he didn't get his shoes pissed on, like the last time he guested) and latest girlfriend, leaving him all alone to combat the menace. Of course, to longtime readers this is nothing new- the "darkest before the dawn" scenario has been a Constantine staple since the Moore Swamp Thing days. The difference is the great pacing, characterization and dialogue Mike Carey uses, and the great synergy he has going with artist Marcelo Frusin, the most sympathetic collaborator he's had this side of Jon Jay Muth. Hate to say it, but doesn't JC look a bit like Bonnie and Clyde sidekick Michael J. Pollard on the cover? A

I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that this issue is Warren Ellis' sequel to Wells' From the Earth to the Moon, and it's mighty clever and even a wee bit sad, if a bit on the far-fetched side. But hey, it's not like we look to Planetary for gritty realism anyway. Most interesting to me were the back-and-forth between Elijah Snow and John Stone and the fast-paced takedown of the Four's William Leather, which was the only action scene to be found this time out. Wonderfully illustrated by John Cassaday, as usual, especially in the sequence showing the iron sphere crashing to earth. A

The penultimate chapter of this Mad Magazine meets Tolkien Top 10 spinoff continues in pretty much the same vein as the previous three: clever Alan Moore script and fun Zander Cannon art, albeit with a few less Easter eggs than we've come to expect and a bit lighter tone than last issue's. This will read really well when it's collected, so if you're on the fence about getting it when it comes out, then please keep my recommendation in mind when it does. A-

Thanks to my good friend, Mik Cary aka the Stupid Llama, for selling me his copy! Anyway, I gotta say this isn't half bad (and a definite improvement over last year's awful JB one-shot)...Paul Dini takes the moldy cliche of "Santa's ill...and Christmas will be canceled unless somebody can make his run for him!" and enlivens it with the standard JB cast, plus a couple of welcome new additions. His efforts are almost sunk, though, by the slapdash, apparently-reproduced-from-pencils art of one Jose Garabaldi. Even though his work was very hard to follow sometimes, he does have a deft hand with facial expressions, especially Jing's, and while my initial reaction was disgust I eventually got my bearings and came to tolerate, if not particularly like, it. If nothing else, it was as lively as the script, so all in all I'd say it worked. But next year, Santa, I want Stephen DeStefano back. B+

While this is a definite improvement over last issue's snooze-fest, and a full 25 pages of Chris Sprouse/Karl Story art (try as I might, I can't ID where they swiped the cover) is always welcome, it's pretty obvious that Alan Moore's departure has robbed this book of whatever spark it had. I'll buy till the inevitable cancellation or Sprouse leaves, whichever comes first, but I'll always regret the way this book turned out, because it had so much promise at the beginning. B+

Well, it's been proven that Kurt Busiek can be a real good writer when he's not churning out formulaic junk, and in the past his Astro City series has been the proof...but this mini-series, and in particular the last two issues, have proven that his attention is occupied with making a buck and he's spreading himself too thin. Derivative in every possible way, and sloppily illustrated by the overrated Brent Anderson, this story of a lawyer who tangles with the Mob and the ghostly vigilante who is striking fear into the criminal element of 70s Astro City was readable (Busiek's too talented for it not to be) but unexceptional, like this entire miniseries- with the exception of one issue which was a clever play on the old Superman/Lois/secret identity cliche. And one issue does not a five-issue mini make. This issue: C Entire series: C+
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A picture of me on Christmas Eve with my bestest present ever, the Firefly DVD set.

After having viewed all 15 episodes, plus the "Way It Was" featurette and the blooper reels and so on, I could probably go on for days and days about how great I think this show was (and hopefully will be again, at least on the large screen)...but I'll spare you for now. I will say, though, that after hearing the theme song over 15 times in the course of the last few days I still get a rush when I hear that little eight-note Oriental-themed run about 10 seconds into the opening credits. When you hear it you'll know what I'm talking about. It's gorram

Update I don't know if anyone ever reads anything here but the most immediate post, but this one is the most logical place to put some more Firefly links up that I've noticed lately. First, another fansite, which I have summarily linked to via button in the column at right: Firefly-support.com. Thanks to Teresa for pointing it out. Also, an excellent review of the box set at DVDverdict.com. Finally, here's FireflyMovie.com, which is a "fan run site dedicated to assuring that Joss Whedon's masterpiece will someday grace the silver screen".

Saturday, January 03, 2004

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Here's an interesting cover for the upcoming Sandman Presents: Thessaly miniseries by someone who's a relative newcomer to me, Tara McPherson. You can go to her website by clicking on either the image above, or the image in the feature spot at right.

I like her clean, simplistic style, nicely rendered and with excellent use of color. She also did the cover for the latest issue of Lucifer, and seems to be lined up to do several more for not only that book but other Vertigo imprint titles as well. Of course, Mark Ryden seems to be an obvious influence, Marc Hempel (perhaps) another, but her stuff also reminds me a lot of another Vertigo creator who did several covers in the late 90s though she's primarily a colorist, Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh. I liked her work a lot, and hate that I don't get to see more of it.
Time for some quick Fearless NFL Playoff Predictions!

Baltimore over Tennessee (I think the Titans are the better team, but the Ravens just seem to have their number plus the game's at Baltimore)
Dallas over Carolina
Green Bay over Seattle
Indianapolis over Denver

Last week: 10-6. Final regular season record: 158-84, .653 .
Since I seem to be experiencing a bit of writer's block, or basically one of those creatively fallow periods (nothing new for me, especially when it comes to drawing), why the heck don't I send out more posthumous BSBdG's to:

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That ol' Hobbitmeister himself, John Ronald Ruehl Tolkien, who would have been 112 today.

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Also, the actress best known as William Randolph Hearst's inamorata, Marion Davies, who would have been 107.

Kirsten Dunst (or, for that matter, Dorothy Comingore) had nothing on Ms. Davies when it came to looks, I must say...

Friday, January 02, 2004

Good news courtesy of Alan David Doane via Reader's Voice: Daniel Clowes will be producing an expanded book-form version of his excellent "Ice Haven" story from Eightball #22.
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A posthumous BSBdG today for the great Roger Miller, who would have been 68.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

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Okay, comes now the final installment in my year-ending quadrilogy of the music, films, comics and TV shows that made a great impression on me in 2 double aught 3. This may come as a big surprise to you, but I just don't watch a lot of major network prime-time TV shows. When I do sit down to watch, more often as not it's either old movies on TCM or sports (I watch at least an hour of ESPN News every day, it seems) or movies on cable, or pay cable series. And every time I do get attached to a series to the point where I make it a point to watch every week, it seems, it either gets cancelled quickly (e.g. Action, Firefly, Strange Luck) or gets progressively worse due to various reasons (X-Files comes to mind, Twin Peaks) or both (American Gothic, anyone?). Of course, there are exceptions, like Buffy (not without its peaks and valleys) or The Simpsons. I did watch a lot more TV this year than in years past, however, mostly because I was home more...and here's the top five that I liked enough to set my timer so I wouldn't miss them, alphabetically of course:

Carnivále Certainly one of the most unusual series in recent memory, kinda reminsicent of The Grapes of Wrath as filmed by David Lynch, this HBO production is set in the Depression era and deals with two ongoing storylines: first, a traveling carnival, with an assortment of quirky characters and some dark secrets- and the drifter, wanted by the police, who joins up with them. And oh, by the way, the drifter also has a supernatural ability to heal. Also, it's the story of Brother Justin, a priest who lives with his creepy sister and sees visions, which he can make manifest upon occasion. The storylines have been consistently fascinating, and in the case of the strange town of Babylon where the carnival makes a fateful stop, eerie and haunting. No one is exactly what he seems to be, nor are they entirely good or evil. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Michael J. Anderson (you remember, the little guy from Twin Peaks) as carny boss Samson. This season's finale kinda hedged its bets, X-Files style, by promising to resolve more than it actually did. But all in all, a fascinating series and I look forward to season two.

Dead Like Me Another unusual show, with the requisite quirky cast and characters- but this tale of a young lady named George who is killed by the toilet seat from space station Mir, only to discover that she's still "alive" in a sense, but as a "reaper", whose job it is, for an unspecified amount of time, to extract the souls of the newly deceased and direct them towards their final destination, was always engaging and clever. The writing was uniformly excellent in its first year, switching seamlessly from drama to pathos to wry comedy, and the leads (especially Mandy Patinkin as the head reaper of George's group) pulled off their roles with aplomb. Looking forward to season two.

Futurama Good news, everyone! The Other Show That Fox Hated finally bowed out in '03, and was every bit as funny as its previous three seasons. I was kind of a late convert to Futurama, since I worked at a job from '99 to '01 that caused me to miss many episodes, whenever Fox deemed to air them, and as a result kinda forgot it was even on afterwards. And of course, it was always being pre-empted because football ran overlong. But, I began watching the reruns on Cartoon Network late last year and developed an addiction that has only recently begun to abate. Gonna do my best to get the DVD sets.

Navy NCIS I have no explanation for why I find this show as interesting as I do. I have never been interested in this genre, the military/civilian/forensic investigator/crime show one, so I'm a bit mystified. One bored evening of flipping through the channels resulted in a chance viewing, and I thouroughly enjoyed the episode I watched...and one thing led to another, and here it is, on my top five list! The stories are usually hinged on a mystery which is, most of the time, a good one and often resolved without resorting to pulling a coincidence or deus ex machina out of the blue; and it's fun to watch the fine ensemble cast go through their paces, especially Mark Harmon as an unexpectedly dryly witty group leader, David McCallum as a quirky medical examiner and the lovely Pauley Perrette as a forensic specialist/computer whiz/Goth chick. Somewhat against type and kinda unlikely, one would think, but she's really good and very likeable in the role. These three balance the somewhat bland other leads Agent Katie Todd (Sasha Alexander) and Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly).

The Simpsons You keep waiting in dread for this show to wind down and become unfunny, and it never happens. Amazing.

Best of the rest: I finally started watching Angel this year, after it crossed over with the Buffy season finale, mostly to see Eliza Dushku return as Faith, and developed a genuine interest in the proceedings. I like the ensemble cast, and both the last season finale, with Firefly's Gina Torres as a messiah figure who wasn't quite what she seemed and the new season's premise of the Angel Band being assimilated into sinister law firm Wolfram & Hart, with an ongoing role for Buffy's Spike, James Marsters, was always interesting and often fun, especially in a recent episode that featured Mexican wrestlers and ghosts. Speaking of Firefly cast cameos, Nathan Fillion, Capt. Mal Reynolds on Joss Whedon's unappreciated space western, played a thoroughly unlikeable heavy for the majority of the last season of the aforementioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which, like most of the series' run since its inception, had some very high highs but also its share of low, logic-and-coherency-defying points as well. Still, it went out with a bang, all things considered, ad I'll always fondly remember the series. Karen Sisco is a show that looked and sounded very interesting, but for some reason I was never able to catch an entire episode and now it's in hiatus purgatory. Perhaps if they bring it back I can make it a point to watch a couple of eppies. I was disappointed that Showtime's excellent Chris Isaak Show didn't make its season three premiere in '03; the first new episode is set for January 8. Many of my favorite shows were animated- as I mentioned several months ago, this season's run of Justice League has been 100 thousand times better than last season's, with improved animation and character interaction. 2003 was also the year that Teen Titans made its debut, and I always found that anime-influenced series fun and fast-paced, even if the premise often doesn't make sense because the writers simply don't address why these kids (none of them appear to be over 18) are all living together in that building and fighting evil, and how do the grownups these characters have traditionally been attached to (Robin=Batman, Beast Boy=Doom Patrol, Aqualad=Aquaman) figure in? Batman was obliquely mentioned in one episode but other than that it's almost Peanuts-like in its refusal to show any mentor figures, other than the malevolent Slade. A fave episode was one that brought back the obscure 60's Titans adversary The Mad Mod, voiced by none other than Malcolm McDowell, who in his Clockwork Orange-era youth was a dead ringer for the comic-book Mod. Aqua Teen Hunger Force's second season was as brilliant, absurd and surreal as its first, and South Park, much to my surprise, has showed few signs of slowing down as the years have gone by. I watched several recent episodes and laughed my ass off.

OK, that's all I can think of for now. On to 2004!
Apropros of nothing, here's the lyrics to a great New Year's song. Well, I think it's great anyway. Sing along if you know the melody.

Ding Dong, Ding Dong
George Harrison

Ring out the old
Ring in the new
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ring out the false
Ring in the true
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong

Yesterday, today was tomorrow
And tomorrow, today will be yesterday
So ring out the old
Ring in the new
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ring out the false
Ring in the true
Ring out the old
Ring in the new

Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong
Ding-dong, ding-dong

All right, all right, I know it's not exactly William effing Shakespeare.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

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The final BSBdG of 2003 goes to Paul Westerberg, 44 today. Gee, it seems like only just the other day I was writing about him. Favorite solo album, and also most underrated: 1998's Suicane Gratifaction.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

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Time now to turn my attention to what I deem as the best movies (that I saw, anyway) of 2003. Being unemployed for seven months this year left me with more time than usual to go to the movies, and I tried to take advantage of that until the ol' severance package ran out. Problem is, I didn't see that many films that I thought were the best of this, or any year. Actually, most of the best flicks I caught this year were on Turner Classic Movies, where I saw many classics, many of which I'd never seen before, and some not-so-classics like the fun Maisie series starring Ann Sothern. Anyway, here ya go. In alphabetical order.

Concert for George Yes, this played in theatres but I got this on DVD for Christmas. For some reason I had forgotten this even took place, but now I have it to view until the end of time. Did I like it? Why sure! Big Beatle freak me, you know. It was great to see all the assembled musicians jamming and having a good time, not only the usual suspects like Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne but Procol Harum's Gary Brooker (who played keybs on All Things Must Pass) and Billy Preston (who played on the Beatles' final albums, plus was a significant Apple artist for a few years there). Of course, Ringo and Paul were there, with Mr. Starkey singing a Carl Perkins number he could probably do in his sleep, and no big surprise here, "Photograph"; and Paul contributing a great rendition of "For You Blue" (in which Ringo chimed in during the solo with "them old twelve bar blues", much to the delight of the hard core Beatlefans) and "Something", which he started out playing on ukulele and sounded pretty darn good but you just knew the Massed Alberts would have to horn in eventually. It must have been odd for Paulie to sit there and play piano on the Pass cut "Wah-Wah" which was George's version of "How Do You Sleep", John's vicious attack on Sir Paul. Anyway, I could go on and on, but if you like George or his former group at all, this is a heartfelt, entertaining and well-done tribute, and if you aren't, you could maybe get a charge out of the funny skits by the surviving members of Monty Python (with Tom Hanks as a head-scratchingly poor substitute for John Cleese) and the handsome production values throughout.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind All right, this one fooled me because all the dates given for this film adaptation of the memoirs of game show mogul Chuckie Barris were of 2002 vintage, but it made its premiere in limited release on New Year's Eve of that year, and actually had the bulk of its theatrical run in '03. This film was a delight in a lot of ways: it is surprisingly clever visually, thanks to director/actor George Clooney (who knew?), it appealed a lot to me as someone who grew up watching The Gong Show and The Dating Game, it has great peformances by Dean Stockwell as Chuck and Clooney as the CIA agent who recruits him to be a black ops agent, and the script doesn't get so carried away with the utter strangeness of the source material that it forgets to provide emotional depth as well. Very well done.

Finding Nemo Both the animation and story were first-rate in this engaging all-ages animated version of The Searchers. Well, OK, that's not exactly accurate, but you know what I mean. Nemo was a winner not because of the animation, but because of its witty and clever script. This would have been an enjoyable film if they had used sock puppets. I just wish that those who are churning out tepid trad-animated fare like Sinbad and Treasure Planet would realize this.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 An all out feast of pop culture references, martial arts action, rock 'n roll, laughs and thrills, and after all is said and done the best film I saw this year. It's a bit bloody, for sure, but Tarantino is so audacious and skillful even as he repulses you that you can't help but dig it. Can't wait for Vol.2.

Pirates of the Carribean This one was a lot of fun, too, mostly for the mutual scenery chewing of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush and some nifty special effects. I was totally unimpressed with the acting ability, for lack of a better phrase, of love interest Keira Knightley, and I thought there were a few too many swordfights dragging down, curiously enough, the action...but I really liked this one for the most part.

X2 I'm sure there have been better superhero movies, but I'll be damned if I can think of one offhand. I thought the performances were letter-perfect, especially the great Ian McKellen as Magneto, and this one was balls-to-the-wall action all the way, which kept us from thinking too much about what was going on. Hm...I wonder what the next one's going to be about...

and...well, that's it. I was tempted to include The Return of the King, 'cause I just know I'm gonna love it, but that violates the spirit of these sort of lists. Other 2003 flicks I did see that didn't make the cut were Ang Lee's visually accomplished but utterly joyless The Hulk, with the most (literally) hard-to-watch climax of any film in recent memory; the better than I expected but still not that great League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (review coming); Matrix Reloaded,another visually impressive but needlessly cluttered and convoluted film; the Jamie Lee Curtis remake of Freaky Friday, well acted and often very clever but no improvement on the original, so you have to wonder why they bothered...aw, all right, I know why. I also saw Daredevil, which often threatened to be a good movie and stay true to the spirit of Frank Miller if not Stan Lee and Gene Colan, but suffered from too-dark action scenes and eye-rolling plot contrivances.

Well, that's it, I suppose..most of these are superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre films, which betrays my fanboy leanings, I suppose. Guess I just wanted to see a spectacle of some sort for my money, can't say. Nine times out of ten I'll wait for a low-profile indie film to hit cable, because 8 times out of ten it won't come within 80 miles of where I live. But hey- I also went to see the great Spirited Away twice in '03, so that oughtta count for something.

Next: they year in TV. Or on TV. Or whatever.
Casting a sleep-encrusted eye towards the new Diamond shipping list, I see that I'll be getting the following books on the second day of 2004:



...get ready for it...

...here it comes...

...I don't believe it- I've been waiting so long for it...

...doesn't this remind you of those email chain letters you get sometimes...


The long awaited (by me, anyway) finale of Paul Grist's B&W JS run, published under the auspices of his own imprint, Dancing Elephant. Of course, I've been anticipating it for so long and have built that anticipation up to such an impossibly high level in my head that I'm bound to be disappointed. But what the hell. Jack Staff 12 is coming out! Hellblazer and Planetary usually get me worked up in a fanboy lather, too, so it looks like a good week.
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Multiple BSBdG's to send out today. First, in what has to have been an amazing coincidence for well nigh 30 plus years now, Monkees Davy Jones (what an odd name), 58, and Michael Nesmith, 61. Anyone who's seen Head knows how Mike feels about birthday celebrations, so I won't drag this out, but I sure have loved me a lot of Monkees music, much of it sung very nicely by our Davy, over the last 37 or so years. Fave Davy moment, besides seeing my name on the TV screen during the closing credits: his song and dance routine with Toni Basil for the tune "Daddy's Song" in Head. I'm an even bigger fan of Mike's solo albums, of which the best is probably the first proper: Magnetic South, but my personal fave is 1973's Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash.

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Also, two artists who are from totally different worlds, stylistically: Jeff Lynne, 56, and Patti Smith, 57. I've written many times about how much I love the Move and early ELO, of which Lynne was the main playa, and even have come to admire such later ELO efforts as Out of the Blue and Discovery. After ELO kinda petered out, he reinvented himself as George Martin via such vehicles as the Traveling Wilburys and the Surviving Beatles' reunion singles in 1996. While nowhere near as gifted as fellow Move and ELO co-founder Roy Wood or Tom Petty, or those Liverpool fellows he keeps hanging out with, he's still developed into an entertaining and often brilliant songwriter and producer, and I never have a problem when I see his name in the credits. Underrated Lynne project: 1990's solo Armchair Theatre, a solid set of songs that don't overstay their welcome. Smith, on the other hand, has never really grabbed me much (you remember...I didn't really get into Punk or New Wave) but a lot of people whose opinions I respect think she's wonderful, so happy happy to ya, Ms. Smith!

Monday, December 29, 2003

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Best of 2003, part deux

Now that I have the comics list out of the way, I'll turn my attention towards the music that I heard, and TV shows and films I saw in 2003 that impressed me the most. This can't be a real, legitimate "best of 2003" list, because I've been unable to afford to buy a lot of new CDs, don't watch a lot of prime time TV, or go to the movies all that much, and I'm not on anybody's comp lists yet, so this is gonna be kinda catch as catch can. If you see that there's some vitally important music that came out in 2003 that's not on the list, and you just can't believe that I didn't cite this or that, please feel free to send me a copy and I'll happily revise this if I see fit!

Anyway, here goes. Music first, listed alphabetically:

Beatles- Let it Be...Naked The act you've known for all these years, back with an old favorite that eschews several layers of Phil Spector production varnish, plus rearranges the song order and adds and drops tracks. Some of the tracks, like (of course, and will you now shut up, Paulie) "Long and Winding Road" and "Across The Universe" benefit while others, like John's great, loping, heavy (and heavily underrated) "Dig A Pony", hits "Get Back" (the victim of some clumsy fading at the end) and the title track, and "I Me Mine" defy you to tell the difference. Still, these are all excellent tracks, even "Road", and there were few albums released in 2003 that were as good, cut for cut. It hasn't been a good month for Spector, has it, what with the ongoing murder investigation, plus Paul McCartney and bandwagon-jumping critics slagging his contributions to the Fabs' long ago swan-song. Me, I still liked what he did (perhaps it's because I've practically grown up listening to his version), and like John said: "...he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling ever, and he made something out of it." Whoever chose the title and designed the packaging should be locked in a cell with Spector and a loaded pistol.
Maria McKee- High Dive Maria finally, after seven years, managed to release an album- and it was mostly worth the wait. Maria being Maria, there's a lot of daredevil vocalese on every track, but this album as a whole is much more restrained that 1996's sometimes brilliant, sometimes teeth-grinding Life is Sweet. Which is not to say that it plays it safe like 1994's You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, either, which can only mean that Ms. McKee's still trying to get it right. Marred only by a completely unnecessary remake of Sweet's climactic title tune and its coda "AfterLife".
Fountains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers I flat out loved FoW's last album, Utopia Parkway, and this one's not that different, and although there's no drop-dead gorgeous track like Utopia's "Prom Theme", there are hooks and laffs in generous supply throughout. I have a weakness for smart-ass power pop, and these guys do it very well.
Paul Westerberg- Come Feel Me Tremble Since structure and production values just don't suit our Paul, he's given us a sequel, or continuation, of last year's ragged Stereo: basically, a collection of very loose (so loose they threaten to fall off the disc) demos that fortunately are made up of great melodies and sloppy rock and roll, sometimes at the same time, and as a result they sound pretty damn good to this old Replacements fan.
The White Stripes- Elephant I wish they'd been a bit more selective when it came to choosing the tracks to include, because there are some outstanding cuts here beside some not-so-outstanding ones. But songs like "Seven Nation Army", "Ball and Biscuit" and "The Hardest Button to Button" just flat out rock in that good old Yardbirds/Jeff Beck Group/Led Zep fashion, and this CD was stuck in my player for a solid month, unusual for me these days.
The Minus 5- Down With Wilco Oops, forgot this one! If you're a fan of Wilco's albums Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, you could do worse than to check this often glum but melodically strong and sometimes even playful collaboration between Jeff Tweedy, Peter Buck and the Posies' Ken Stringfellow. There's a lot of nice Fripp-style guitar leads, harmony vocals, Beach Boys-style rhythms, and folkish touches, and the high point for me was the moody "The Old Plantation" with its gorgeous "Have you ever really tried/to peel away the sky/well, neither have I" refrain.

Some other releases of note: I gave my daughter a copy of Michelle Branch's Hotel Paper, and she's listened to it constantly since then, so I'm absorbing these songs whether I want to or not...and to be honest, some of them are pretty good. Of course, the production sound is slick as it can be, and the songs are a mile wide and an inch deep as the saying goes, but Michelle seems to be one of the few teenpop singers who aspire to be Joni rather than Madonna, and good for her. I was mostly disappointed by the Jayhawks' 2003 release Rainy Day Music, which was tuneful and nicely sung, but slight, and saddled with embarrassing, rudimentary greeting card style lyrics. Neil Young turned in his oddball Greendale, which I've only heard once and was as impressed by some tracks as I was repulsed by others, especially the sappy message pieces. In other words, pretty much par for the course for Neil these days. I liked the debut CD from Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, recording as the The Thorns. It was nicely sung and very tuneful, just like the Jayhawks CD, but the lyrics were better. I meant to get Warren Zevon's latest, The Wind, but haven't as yet. What I have heard sounds stronger than WZ's previous effort, My Ride's Here, but I think it's the beneficiary of Zevon's tragic death, which, like John's Double Fantasy so many years ago, takes a middling record and gives it more emotional depth, sentimentality, and meaning. Until I own a copy, though, and listen to it a few times I can't really judge. I also liked what I've heard from Outkast's new one, Speakerboxx/The Love Below, but really- it's not as groundbreaking and original as some would have you believe, at least not to my ears- but to be honest, I've only heard the album once through, so I gotta believe that there is a lot of stuff there that would grow on me. Let's just give it an incomplete for now. The duo, working seperately as a team (and we know how well that works), have come up with a pretty nifty Prince or George Clinton album. And while both "Hey Ya" and "I Like The Way You Move" are catchy as hell, they go on and on and on and on... Finally, I really liked the latest from the Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day, but I lost my job before I could get around to borrowing and burning the copy of Mike Carey's cd that I had been listening to. Guess I could go out and buy one, couldn't I. I've also ordered a copy of the new Puffy Amiyumi CD, Nice, with accompaniment by old fave Andy (Jellyfish) Sturmer, and I have a feeling it would have been on the short list above if I had received it sooner. Also, I've managed to pick up a couple of the Bob Dylan SACD reissues, and they're wonderful. I'm especially enjoying John Wesley Harding, a great folk-rock-blues-country album that I hadn't heard in years and (as I've been reading lately) got a lot of folks excited back in the day. I can see why.

OK, that's all I got time for now. Later on: Movies and TV.
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BSBdG's today for Marianne Faithfull, 57 today. Most remember her for being Mick Jagger's paramour during the 60s, and her hit "As Tears Go By", but she pulled herself out of some very deep holes in the 70s to not only establish a career and record several excellent albums in the late 70s and 80s, but just survive. Not the best, but my favorite, is 1987's Strange Weather.
you are darkslateblue

Your dominant hue is blue, making you a good friend who people love and trust. You're good in social situations and want to fit in. Just be careful not to compromise who you are to make them happy.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

Haven't done one of these in a while.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 24!

Yep, that's right, since I decided to drop JLA and not start picking up Rose and the Thorn, plus the fact that my comics shop only got in one copy of the new Jingle Belle TPB (and I didn't add it to my holds due to my uncertain financial prospects a couple of months ago), and someone else bought it before I got there...that left only the lonely, solitary new issue of Legion to provide me with holiday reading. Well, OK, I also got the new Mojo magazine, but I think you catch my drift. So here goes nothing:

Honestly, I wish I could get excited about this title again, but whatever momentum that was established by the one-two punch of Legion of the Damned and Legion Lost has completely worn away, to be replaced with typically convoluted space-and-time-hopping superheroics (with, of course, Darkseid- two of them, actually) and seldom-convincing soap operatics. Anyway, nicely (if somewhat stiffly) illustrated by Chris Batista and Chip Wallace, and special kudos to colorist(s) "Sno-cone", either a collective or an individual who has taken his or her admiration of Albert Collins to an absurd level. After all is said and done, maybe my tastes are changing, maybe I'm just getting tired of this sort of thing (I've been reading the Legion regularly for about seven years now), I don't know, but either way it doesn't appear that I'm gonna be on board much longer. B
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BSBdG's go out today to good ol' Uncle Stan Lee, 81 years young today.

Coming soon: my best-of-2003 in movies, TV and music, and a little writing about the great stuff I got for Christmas.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

And now, time for the final regular season edition of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over Seattle (sorry, Tegan, Mike)
Philadelphia over Washington
Atlanta over Jacksonville
Cincinnati over Cleveland
St. Louis over Detroit
Miami over the NY Jets
Kansas City over Chicago (take the Bears and the points, I think this will be a close one)
Indianapolis over Houston
Tennessee over Tampa Bay
Dallas over New Orleans
Minnesota over Arizona
Carolina over the NY Giants
San Diego over Oakland
Denver over Green Bay
Baltimore over Pittsburgh

Last week: 12-3. Overall: 148-78, .655 .
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Postumous BSBdG's go out today to the great Marlene Dietrich, who would have been 102 today.

Friday, December 26, 2003

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Whilst watching the Concert For George DVD last night, I happened to notice a gray-haired figure standing in the shadows of the stage behind the rest of the band, playing bass, completely anonymous. I was a bit surprised to discover that this was none other than Klaus Voormann.

Most people, unless they're big Beatles or Nilsson fans (and I certainly am guilty as charged on both counts), have no idea who Voormann is. But fortunately, for the purposes of this post, I do. He's the fellow who introduced Astrid Kircherr to the Beatles in the Hamburg days, and remained their friend for life. He is an excellent illustrator, who drew the cover to the Fabs' Revolver and the wonderful charcoal illustrations that graced the lyric booklet that came with Ringo's 1973 Ringo album. He played bass in John's Plastic Ono Band, and went on to play on nearly all the 70's solo albums for not only Lennon, but George and Ringo too. He also played bass on many of Harry Nilsson's best albums, and many other Apple musicians' sessions and records. All this certainly earns him honorary Fifth Beatle status as well as a place in Johnny Bacardi Valhalla as well.

Anyway, while it was nice to see him playing bass again, and I certainly wouldn't think it was right if he hadn't been there, I was disappointed to see that he was relegated to the shadows, next to the drum set of another Apple session stalwart, Jim Keltner. It would have been nice to see him on the main stage once in a while. But that's the way it goes...besides, it might have been the way Klaus wanted it.

Anywho, more on the Concert DVD later. Click on the picture of Klaus above to go to his official website, which is loaded with his witty, excellent artwork in the Gallery section.

The picture was poached from the site of another important figure (and it was a nice one, too) in 70s Beatle history, Lennon companion May Pang's www.maypang.com. Check it, yo.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

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Couldn't let the day go by without sending out a very special Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to that notorious rabble rouser and most misunderstood of philosophers, Jesus of Nazareth.