Monday, June 30, 2003

Here's the Ryan Sook Gallery webpage. Sook is the current artist of DC's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell book, and has done turns illustrating BPRD and the Spectre, among other things. He's good, and is capable of doing a dead-on Mike Mignola art impersonation.

Also, here's the site of another excellent illustrator, Tommy Lee Edwards. he's gone on to do many interesting projects for several companies, but he's never topped his work on the Vertigo/Helix series Gemini Blood in my book. I'm contemplating writing a piece on Blood, which was an outstanding and overlooked book in my opinion.
Some things from here and there:

Pleased to report that I got a call yesterday afternoon from a fellow who's hiring for the job I've had my eye on. On a Sunday, yet! He just asked me a couple of questions, mostly about my skill level and my reasons for leaving the company almost ten years ago, and also about my availability for an interview. Of course, I said "Anytime, anywhere!". So now I sit and wait for the phone to ring, and it hasn't done so yet. Sigh. Keep your fingers crossed.

I just mailed a money order to Thriller artist Trevor Von Eeden, to buy a page of original art from issue 5 of that series. I've wanted some originals from that, one of my all-time fave comics series, for a long time.

Watched another Ann Sothern film today: Panama Hattie, with Red Skelton and Lena Horne. Frankly, despite several fine musical numbers, it wasn't all that good. But it's always great to see a 40s Ann Sothern film. I have, however, begun to get interested in another of the stars of this film, Virginia O'Brien, who had a really odd deadpan singing style that disguised somewhat the fact that she was a great singer and comedienne. She tends to appear often in films that star Skelton, for some reason. She also had a part in the Marx Bros. film The Big Store, singing one of the strangest versions of "Rock-A-Bye Baby" that you'd ever want to hear. I might have to see if I can find a CD someday of her music. She died on my birthday two years ago, how 'bout that.

I also watched Showtime, a buddy-cop flick with Robert DeNiro and Eddie Murphy; it had some funny lines and situations but fell flat in the all-important "believable criminal threat that they have to bury their differences and apprehend" department. Still, it was an agreeable time-waster that might be worth your time if you catch it on cable.

Finally, RIP Katherine Hepburn. Never really a favorite of mine, she still was a great actress and added a lot to several movies I like, including The African Queen, The Philadelphia Story, and, yes, Rooster Cogburn and the Lady.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Good morning. It's Sunday. Have you been to church today? No, I'm not in church. Haven't been to church in over ten years and it's been a lot longer than that since I attended regularly. Actually, the Sundays I spend at WLOC (third and fifth) are the most religion I get these days, when I turn up the monitor volume.

Not a lot going on at present to write about, but I have added some links to my burgeoning list at right, and with NuBlogger you (or at least I, apparently) have to post something in order to publish changes to one's template. If you go through the official steps to publish after editing your template, you are treated to a ongoing "publishing"...screen that doesn't stop until you stop it yourself and nothing gets published. The only way to publish changes right now is to publish posts, so I'm gonna ramble a while.

Another thing that irritates me is the PC version of Blogger has little formatting buttons for bold type, italic type, and URL links in the bar above. These are convieniently missing from my IE5 Mac version. Feh. Don't they know everybody uses Macs these days? Just go to the movies. Everybody in movies uses Macs, usually iMacs or Powerbooks, although I've noticed some G4's too.

Another thing about movies that is glaringly ubitiquous is a little thing that I like to call The Obligatory Puking Scene. "There's one in every movie", I'll remark to Mrs. Bacardi, who has taken to rolling her eyes and repeating it along with me. But seriously– 99 percent of films made in the last 20 years seem to feature at least one scene, sometimes more, people regurgitating. Yawning in technicolor. Shouting at the floor. Talking on the porcelain telephone to Ralph. Eating backwards. You get the idea. The only way that filmmakers these days, apparently, can think to get across the notion that people are in some sort of emotional duress is to have them blow chunks. I think I can do without seeing this. I can infer that someone is experiencing turmoil without being treated to rivers of regurgitation. Now, I'm not saying that every film features this sort of thing, but just watch, next time you see a movie, and when someone hurls you can say "there's Johnny B's OPS!" Strangely enough, for a movie that dealt with so much emotional flotsam and jetsam, there were no OPS's in The Hulk.

Two movies I've seen lately: Eight Legged Freaks, which tries to be as fun as Tremors and almost succeeds, and Bandits, with Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, and Cate Blanchett, who I'm beginning to really like. It too was fun, if a bit hard to believe. I also watched a Ray Harryhausen tribute on TCM Friday evening, part of a salute to the great stop-motion animator which has also included airing of many of his best films including The Seventh Voyage and the The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Twenty Million Miles To Earth, a favorite of every kid who grew up reading Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Jason and the Argonauts, and the immortal Clash of the Titans, pure cheese except when Harryhausen's effects are onscreen. Missing, sadly, was Harryhausen's 1969 cowboys and dinosaurs opus The Valley of Gwangi, long a fave movie of mine even though the story makes very little sense. It's the music. The score for that film kicks my ass every time I hear's a quintessential Western theme song with a memorable melody and great arrangement. For a movie with cowboys and dinosaurs. Gotta love that!

I've added a few great new links, including Dawn Olsen, and Jim Treacher (whom I had blogrolled back in the early days of the Show, but had deleted when his page temporarily went awol). Please feel free to click n' go read. Does anybody do this from my page? Does anybody out there get there from here, or am I just posting these things for my personal use only, to read for my own entertainment and add my blog name to referrer counters and so on?

I'm gearing up for a new Mondo Vinyl-O pretty soon, having listened to several wax platters lately. As far as new music goes, I haven't heard much but I did hear a song from the Thorns album recently and liked it very much. I must buy one of these days. Then I can listen to it while I'm spending my days living in a refrigerator box because I couldn't make my house payment anymore because I'm frigging out of work. I also borrowed a few CDs from a friend- Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe (I love "Seven Nights To Rock" and "Half a Boy and Half a Man"), the Blasters Collection, Prime Prine, along with Prine's Bruised Orange and Pink Cadillac- made a swellio sampler CD– and three Webb Wilder discs: It Came From Nashville, Hybrid Vigor, and Doo Dad. I copied all of them with a clear conscience– I think most of them are no longer in print, with the exception of the Prine cds and maybe a couple of the Wilders. That's what I've been listening to lately, along with Abbey Road, my Summertime Fabs album. Just in case you're interested or something.

I don't have much news about comics to pass on, you'll need to go to Journalista, Egon, Neilalien, Newsarama or Pulse for that sort of thing. Man, is it just me or does it seem like everyone and their immediate family is writing about and reviewing comics? There are a plethora of sites online where you can go and read multiple takes on various issues of various books, including this very one. Is this a good thing? Who the hell knows. I write these little capsules because I like to think that after reading comics since I was four years old, back in the Mesozoic era, I notice things that are sometimes worth mentioning. I just kinda write them for myself, because while I'm no journalist (graphic designer, remember– I've been having a hard time remembering myself lately) I've always enjoyed reading reviews of not only comics but movies and music as well, and I'm just emulating my betters. I don't know if anybody reads them or not. Maybe one or two people– I've been mentioned a couple of times on other people's blogs but nobody ever leaves comments, so I kinda have that shouting in a vaccuum feeling sometimes. I'm not fishing for comments, I'm just sayin', knowhutI'msayin'?

All right, all right, life is short, and you've got better things to do with your time than spend it reading this. Hopefully, where you are the weather is as nice as it is here, and you can go out and do fun stuff with the ones you love and all that jive. You never know when a Reaper is hanging around...

(yeah, I'm still thinking about Dead Like Me...)

Saturday, June 28, 2003

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I caught the two-hour premeire episode of Showtime's latest original series, Dead Like Me, which could be subtitled My So-Called Afterlife. It's about an whiny, self-absorbed 18-year old female college dropout named George who, while on her lunch break from her dead-end filing job, gets hit by a flaming toilet seat from the Mir space station after an encounter with an odd pedestrian. It doesn't hurt, because her soul was removed just before impact by the pedestrian, who was actually a "grim reaper", one of the undead whose job it is to greet souls after dying and direct them to their final destination. It so happens that the man who tagged George was a reaper, and now she gets to take his place. Reapers, you see, carry out their duties until they reach a certain unspecified quota and are allowed to move on. Now our George is one, and isn't very happy about it. Reapers are, convienently, corporeal and are able to interact in the world of the living, but they don't look like they did when they were alive. For the first hour, she's tutored in reaping by three other reapers played by Mandy Patinkin, Rebecca Gayheart and Callum Blue as they go about liberating souls whose number has come up. There's a particularly clever scene in a bank, in which they have to figure out who's the unlucky person before his time comes. The second half is given over to George's angst about not being able to return to her family, who she didn't get along with very well when she was alive, and her first assignment, which she doesn't want to complete. I must admit I got a little teary-eyed at the end of the second hour.

I thought this is a very witty and quite imaginative series, even though it does borrow from a number of sources. A lot depends on what you think about theories of predestination– whether you think that we have a set course that's predetermined for us or whether everything happens by chance, skill and luck. I tend to fall in the latter camp, but I was able to overlook it. Ellen Muth as George is a bit gnomish and hard to like at first, but she gets better as things go on. The supporting cast is very good, even though their characters are written as a bit self-consciously hip. Next week's episode looks like it's going to be devoted to George and her former family, and might be a bit tiresome and soap-opera-ish...but I'm gonna give it a chance anyway. You could do worse, as well.

Friday, June 27, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of June 25!

CATWOMAN 20 After the emotional sturm und drang of the last few issues, we get a lighter touch as Selina and Holly do a Thelma and Louise and hit the road for what seems to be shaping up as a guest-star-per issue run. This issue gives us Wildcat, who offers to help train Holly (a character Brubaker obviously has affection for) in self-defense, and brawls with some literal Thugs along with Selina. With lesser creators, this could become cliche and dull pretty fast– but with Brubaker and Cameron Stewart (who does a great job artwise) I don't think that's going to be the case. A

PLANETARY/BATMAN: NIGHT ON EARTH Some have greeted this with a shrug, but I thought it was a fine, imaginative and above all fun story. And of course, well drawn by John Cassaday, especially the various incarnations of the Batman. I also thought Warren Ellis' idea of a character who can serve as an axis around which dimensions revolve was a clever one. I especially got a kick out of the meeting between Jakita and the Adam West Batman–"Bat-apologies", indeed. It was great to see the Planetary crew back in action again, and rendered by the original as far as I'm concerned this is a winner. Guess I'm more easily entertained than some. A

LEGION 21 While this was an improvement over last issue's dream sequences, we still get illusions and red herrings, and I'm wondering exactly where Abnett & Lanning are going. But on the plus side we get more nice Chris Batista art, a vitally important team-up with two interesting characters previously unintroduced (to each other) as far as I can remember, the promise of two more previously AWOL characters next issue, and damned if the illusion sequences weren't exciting, too. B+

HELLBLAZER 185 Here's another one I just didn't quite connect with, although all things considered it's quite good. Perhaps it's because it's part two of an extended story arc, and while it's a well-done chapter of what I'm certain will be an outstanding story (this is Mike Carey we're talking about here) on its own it was interesting, but not a great story in itself. The resolution poses more questions than it answers. Another great art job by artist Marcelo Frusin, who in my opinion is one of the top three John Constantine artists, just behind Sean Phillips and Steve Dillon. Just a note: Frusin's line has gotten a lot fatter, and it takes a bit of getting used to on my part. B+

ASTRO CITY: LOCAL HEROES 3 This story of a big city teenager who has to go out and live with her relatives in the boonies (and encounters, apparently, the only rural superhero in the Astro City mythos) was strangely uninvolving somehow, but it was still crafted with enough care to make it worthwhile. Even artist Brent Anderson, whose sloppy pseudo-Neal Adams style just doesn't excite me much, does a fine job. Maybe if I lived in the city and not in a rural area, I would connect more strongly. Who knows. Nicer-than-usual Alex Ross cover, too. B

HELLBOY: WEIRD TALES 3 Outstanding lead story with creepy art by Alex Maleev. So-so, but fun, second story by Bob Fingerman. Cute pinup, then a convoluted and poorly drawn tale by Sarah Ryan and Steve Lieber, whose art didn't impress me much on Detective, either. Finally, a pretty good pinup by Wm. Stout and another odd chapter of Lobster Johnson round out this likeable but uneven anthology issue. But hey, anthologies tend to be that way. B

JLA 82 Not great but not terrible finale of Kelly's endeavor to flesh out his Faith character's background. After a poor beginning, I thought fill-in artists Duncan Rouleau and Aaron Sowd's work got much better. This had some acceptable dramatics and a somewhat surprising finale, but nothing really got resolved outside of the JLA's law trouble. Even more dismaying was the news that there will be another fill-in artist next month. B

INHUMANS V6 2 OK, let's see. Inhumans being chosen to live among humans for a time. I think that's been done at least once before, and this is not a particularly fresh or clever take on that premise. Oh, the thing is that they're teenagers this time. Well. That makes a lot of difference. The art team of Matthew Clark and (ooh! one name! how mysterious and cool) "Nelson" is capable but rarely rises above generic Adams-inspired superhero art. Why am I buying this? I'm not's residual good will from the Jenkins/Lee series of a few years ago, I suppose, plus I'm inclined to like the concept and characters of the Inhumans. That's the problem with limited series like this...I hate to bail on them in the middle. Knowing when they will end always dangles that "it might get better before it's done" carrot in front of my nose. C+

Also, I completely overlooked the new issue of Startling Stories: The Thing-Night Falls on Yancy Street Wednesday...hopefully there will be copies left for me to buy next week. I gave a long look to The Losers, the new Vertigo book by Andy Diggle and "Jock". First Kano, then Nelson, now Jock. This pretentious one-name stuff is annoying. I wasn't terribly impressed with Diggle's previous effort, the Lady Constantine limited series, and I didn't care for Jock's slovenly, underdrawn art very much either so I put it back. However, it's gotten a lot of good reviews, so maybe there's something there that's not obvious to me. I also remember that I passed on a lot of first issues of series I love now, including H-E-R-O, Jack Staff, and maybe I'll give it another once-over.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

As promised, here are those pictures of Dave Cousins (in black jacket) and Dave Lambert of the Acoustic Strawbs, along with someone that looks like your humble scribe, only about 100 pounds fatter.

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Here's an amusing review of one of DC's newest spandex extravaganzas, the Outsiders, by one of Pulse's interns, who is an apparent neophyte to comics. She expresses a lot of confusion at the apparent need for knowledge of several decades worth of continuity to know who's who, and tends to dismiss things as "stupid" a lot.

It's bringing out some interesting reactions as well; posters are either falling into the "yeah, that's right on the money, and I'm so hip because I agree" or "how can she write about a subject that she doesn't know anything about" camps.

Me? I think its funny but I kinda dispute one of her points: I seriously doubt that someone who doesn't read comics is going to make a new team book featuring no recognizable characters their first stop. Nope, they'll want to go to something familiar first, perhaps a Bat- or Superman title. Outsiders is a book aimed squarely at the converted, not the idly curious, and to damn it because it's not geared to be a gateway comic is to miss the point.

Anyway, check it out for yourself. Oh. Did I buy Outsiders #1? Hell no.
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Today's BSBdG's go out to Chris Isaak, who turns 47 today.

I've always kinda liked his Orbison/Presley-ish modified rockabilly music, and while I can't say I like everything on every one of his albums, there's a lot on each I do like. My favorite of his efforts so far, though, remains his self-titled 1987 album.

Another thing I really like is Isaak's show on the Showtime network. It's a humorous look at the life of a working pop singer, and sports a great ensemble cast including several members of his real-life group...who tend to upstage the real actors all the time. It's a hoot, and if you get a chance to see it sometime you should. I think they air it on VH1 occasionally, but those are usually edited for content. Myself, I'm hoping for a DVD collection someday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

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Watched an interesting film this morning on the Sundance Channel: Aimee & Jaguar, about the doomed love affair between a Jewish woman who secretly works for the underground and the wife of a Nazi soldier in the waning days of World War II. The title referrs to the pet nicknames they had for each other. Talk about being behind the eight-ball–Jewish, lesbian, spy and female in WWII Germany! Based on a true story, which you can read about by clicking on the picture above, which takes you to its official site and features a biography of the women. While there are some plot points which stretch credibility somewhat, it's still a well acted and gipping story with absolutely authentic-looking period detail (all right, I wasn't there– but I've seen lots of pictures and movies, and everything in this film looked right on the money) and an intense love scene which isn't terribly graphic but stays with you after it's over. And for once, they actually got actresses which resembled their real-life counterparts...and stayed pretty true to the real story. How often do you see that?

We've all seen film after film about WWII, the Holocaust, and so on, and it's easy to become blase to what happened and the lives that were affected, especially if you weren't there...films like this manage to serve as an effective reminder simply by shining a new light on a definitely different corner of that great tragedy.
Taking a look at the Diamond shipping list for today, here's what I'll be getting:

JLA #82

Ten books is a bit much for me and my on-life-support wallet, especially these days– so I might be putting a couple of them back in the holds folder until a lighter week, probably the Planetary/Batman thing which is six bucks and the Wolverine book, which I wasn't all that impressed with. And of course, there's that wild card comic: Clock Maker #3, which is supposed to be coming from another store.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

To complete my comic book geekfest yesterday, I was front row center for the History Channel's documentary on comics, Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked, heretofore referred to as CBSU. As I said yesterday, when this was announced I was a bit skeptical, mostly because of the generic-looking spandex and "biff!" "sok!" trappings they used to promote the thing. However, I'm pleased to report that my fears were unfounded and CBSU was a pretty good two hours spent.

Of course, I had problems with it, mostly of the nitpicky nature. While I understand that they only had two hours and had to narrow the focus to the Big Two, still, a lot of fine companies and seminal creators got short shrift, including EC comics, the undergrounds, Warren, Dell/Gold Key, Harvey, First, Pacific, and Fantagraphics. Fawcett got a passing mention, mostly for the big DC lawsuit that caused them to stop publishing Captain Marvel. It was annoying to see them get quotes from Will Eisner, against the background of one of the Warren Spirit reprint magazines, and not mention the Spirit once, except in Eisner's ID line! Also, there were a few occasions where they showed panels of artwork of a more recent vintage during discussions about Golden Age books, most notably the depiction of several panels of Frank Robbins art from Marvel's mid-70s Invaders series when discussing the 40s Captain America. This sort of thing doesn't bother nine out of ten people, but it makes the geek in me go nuts. Also, a hell of a lot of Gene Colan and John Buscema art got showcased but they got no mention. No mention of Wally Wood, either. It would have been nice if they could have interviewed someone like Roy Thomas or Neal Adams, as well.

That being said, it was great to see people like Dennis O'Neil, Jim Steranko and Neil Gaiman get a lot of screen time, and there were a couple of instances where stories were told that I hadn't heard before, like the amusing tale of the creation of the story that featured the first meeting of the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner in the 40s. For every deserving creator that was overlooked, many more got namechecked like Mike Sekowsky, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett (accompanied by that well-known picture of him looking up from his drawing board), C.C. Beck, Gil Kane, to name a few. Lots of great art and covers were shown, and often they would animate certain pages in a limited way that was often a bit cheesy but still fun.

It's airing again on Saturday at 9 PM CST, and also Sunday at 1 AM and 5 PM.
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I've never really been much of a Hulk fan. Not that I haven't read several books over the years with ol' Greenskin in them, but I have never bought any Hulk title on a regular basis. Probably the closest I've ever come to doing that was when I was a preschooler and my folks would buy me new copies of Tales to Astonish, the comic he shared with Giant-Man and the Wasp, who I did like. In fact, my favorite Hulk stories tended to be those in which he was the heavy or a guest star, like the big epic battle with the Thing in (I think) Fantastic Four 25, or when he was a member of the Avengers. Of course, I'm talking early 60s, when he was a surly brute that nobody liked or trusted. I was kinda intrigued, as I recall, by the late 60s-very early 70s Hulk books, most of which were drawn by Herb Trimpe and placed the by-then inarticulate "Hulk smash" behemoth in a number of odd situations, and also had the numerous subplots going with Betty Ross, Glenn Talbot, Rick Jones and General "Thunderbolt" Ross and his Hulkbuster paramilitary force, but not enough to buy regularly. As the 70s wore on, this all became stale and cliched, and I remember what seemed like a thousand hacked-out Sal Buscema-illo'd issues which just plain old bored me to death on the infrequent instances I'd pluck one off the spinner rack to look it over. This went on til the 80s, I think (remember, I wasn't paying much attention) when several attempts to jump start old Jade-jaws (always hated that dumb nickname) resulted in a total revamp by Peter David which often sounded interesting but didn't coerce me to buy. I remember a George Perez-drawn mini series in which the Hulk met his future self that a friend loaned me that was a pretty good read. I understand that the current Hulk series has its admirers, but I just can't care less. I do like what they've done with him in the Ultimates, though.

OK. That rambling paragraph above is intended to let you know where I'm coming from in regards to the character, and set up my thoughts on Ang Lee's new Hulk film, which I saw yesterday afternoon. Judging from the reactions I've read so far, people either seem to love it or hate it, so typically I'm somewhere in between. For the most part, I liked it, and there are stretches I liked a lot. It's a schizo film; it wants to be a serious drama, but it also wants to be a blockbuster action film as well and amazingly it pretty much succeeds, even though the tone is much too glum and Bruce Banner's character is made so repressed, dour and unlikeable that it's difficult to sympathize when him when all hell breaks loose in the second half. I never could figure out why Jennifer Connelley's Betty was so in love with him in the first place; she almost seems to pity him more than anything. I preferred the nerdy scientist of the original comics' origin. But that being said, I didn't mind all the revisions in the canonical story– maybe it's just that I've developed a thick skin to that sort of thing or maybe it's because I don't have any emotional investment in the Hulk or his comic-book cast in the first place, who knows. Skanky-looking Nick Nolte was OK as Bruce's dad, and I could buy the whole thing at the beginning about him experimenting on himself and passing on freaky genes to his son, and his rage at having his project shut down, and all that. What I couldn't buy was the fuzzy motives he had after he got out. Sometimes it seemed like he was all about bringing out his own power, sometimes it seemed like he wanted to kill Bruce, sometimes it seemed like he wanted to help Bruce. Sometimes it seemed like he wanted to sniff Betty's panties. I couldn't help but think of the role he played in Down and Out in Beverly Hills every time I saw him. One performance that impressed me was Sam Elliott as General Ross (would it have killed them to call him "Thunderbolt?"). He gave a mostly restrained, nuanced perf that was the best in the film, in my opinion. Connelley, who seems to be making a career playing women in love with men with bizarre problems, isn't asked to do much and she doesn't disappoint. Don't think she'll get any Oscar nominations for this one.

Ang Lee directs this thing to distraction, apparently trying to simulate a comic page's layout by using multiple split screens, wipes, fades and other assorted tricks, and for the most part succeeds. Sometimes it's annoying (and in the first half, poorly edited), but overall it works, especially in the second half when the Hulk gets to break out and raise hell. I loved the way he filmed the scenes with the Hulk leaping about in the desert from mesa to mesa, and the scene where Banner goes back to his childhood home was effective as well. He does screw up badly at the end, though– the grand finale is presented in such a dark and murky fashion that it was almost impossible to tell what was happening. Bet he'd like to take that one back. For that matter, I can't understand why the heck they (both the Army and the filmmakers) let Bruce and his old man have such an unsupervised and unrestrained conversation at the end ( I would have cut that shit off the first time Bruce screamed "Go!"), I know, it's more of a script thing than a direction thing, but I'm surprised Lee let it stand in his movie.

And people, the CGE Hulk was just fine. Sure, once in a while he looked a little fakey, and like Bill Sherman I was reminded a couple of times of the glorious Ray Harryhausen stop-motion dinosaurs of yore, but for the most part I found him very believeable and expressive, especially in the closeups. He looked a hell of a lot better than anything in the last two Star Wars flicks, that's for sure, and a hell of a lot better than Lou Ferrigno (funny cameo, by the way) in green body paint and a dime store wig. Five years ago this CGE would have blown everybody's minds, but I guess we're all programmed to expect more by now. The battle scenes in the desert made the fanboy in me sit up and cheer. I'll bet Jack Kirby would have loved them. I wonder what Herb Trimpe thinks about them.

Bottom line for me is, like the Spider-Man and X-Men films, there is respect for the source material. No one felt the need to poke fun or wink and nod at the audience, which was status quo for Hollywood versions of comic books up until just recently (exceptions: the Rocketeer and yes, Batman Returns. I know that most don't share my opinion on that one). Even though it's far too solemn and gloomy, its lead is unlikeable, humorless and self-absorbed, and it's structured like a big budget remake of some 50s monster movie, it is still entertaining in spite of itself and while I don't think it's going to be fondly remembered in years to come, it can be considered a noble failure. I also have a feeling that when the inevitable sequel is made, a few years from now, it will do a Superman IIor a Star Trek II and surpass its predecessor. Clip 'n save!
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I'll kick things off today with a BSBdG to Mr. Peter Weller, who turns 56 today. He's done many other fine films, but he'll always be Buckaroo Banzai to me.

For a funny review of the Banzai film from a website called, go here.

The Buckaroo Banzai FAQ is a treasure trove of info for those who are inclined to seek it out, and here's the link. While checking it out this morning I read the expansive press kit, with bios of characters and actors, and also saw the Mike Kaluta piece that the great artist did for a fake comic book that appeared for about 5 seconds in the movie. Meant to ask him about that when I met him a couple of years ago but forgot. C'est la vie. And lest I forget: The official Banzai Institute website.

I like that movie; cant'cha tell?

Monday, June 23, 2003

Peter Bagge's got a new Reason cartoon online. Of course, I read about it first at Franklin's Findings.
In about an hour I'm going to catch a matinee of that Hulk film which everybody's talking about. I'll let you know what I think later. Watch this space.

I'm also looking forward to seeing the much-ballyhooed Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked documentary on the History Channel tonight. When this was announced over at Pulse, I was a bit skeptical when confronted with all the glowing praise my fellow posters were bestowing upon it based upon advance screenings. I was chastised by several of those same posters for my we'll see. It sounds good, anyway...but the way they're presenting it looks mighty dumb if you ask me.

Also, there's a Futurama rerun coming on tonight I haven't seen, and then Cartoon Network will show all the episodes one more time before putting it on hiatus for a while. You've been warned! Tomorrow night: the series pilot. Here's the skinny via Cant Get Enough
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Guess I should have probably put a picture of Orlando Jones here, because actually what I'm going to mention is Sananda Maitreya aka Terence Trent D'Arby's recent appearance on his new talk show. D'Arby is out drumming up a little publicity for his "new" (actually a couple of years old, I think) CD, Wildcard. Judging by the one track he performed, Designated Fool, it sounds promising.

I've watched a couple of Jones' shows now– he's got a relaxed, laid-back feel which works well for his interview segments, and he's got a likeable onscreen personality which also helps. There's an animated short, The Adventures of Chico and Guapo, which attempts to do something Cheech & Chong-ish but comes across (to me, anyway) as a bit crass. The way it's supposed to, I suppose. He also has filmed skits which are hit-and-miss funny, mostly hit. Having enjoyed his roles in several films (Drumline and The Time Machine, among others), I'm inclined to be interested in what he's up to anyway and so far, so good. He's better than Jimmy Kimmel, anyway...
Another quickie: I've noticed on a couple of blogs that have, when mentioning the new Hulk film, don't understand why the TV show producers changed Doc Banner's name to David. Well, since I was around when that show originally aired, I'll tell you: because the name "Bruce" was considered, by a lot of people who should know better, to be an effiminate (read: gay) name and they decided to change it. Also there was a connotation from the comedic Batman TV series, which has had its share of dumbass gay connotations as well, and the Hulk TV show was intended to be played more or less as a drama. These are the reasons I remember from back in the day. I'm glad that the movie people changed it back.
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Quick Beatle-related note: today would have been Stuart Sutcliffe's 63rd birthday. I've gained an appreciation for Stu since seeing the 1994 semi-biographical Beatleflick Backbeat.
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Dear Santa:

If I promise to be good the rest of the year, can I have this for Christmas? It's a DVD set featuring every episode of the Avengers starring Diana Rigg as Emma Peel!

To all my wonderful readers: It's on my Amazon Wish List! *big grin*

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Found over at Pen-Elayne: The Shizzolator! Just type yo trickass blog's URL in and it translates it into Snoop Dogg's fo-shizzle lingo. It's tha bomb-diggety. Yo.

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Geez, a lot of great pop musicians were born in's BSBdG is for Raymond Douglas Davies of the Kinks. He turns 59 today.

Although I can't say that I've liked a single Kinks album after 1975, the ones I do like (basically, any I've heard pre-'76...well, I wasn't too crazy about Preservation Act II) keep Ray and his band in my list of favorites. Their 1973 contractual obligation LP The Great Lost Kinks Album is definitely one of top 10 favorite albums. Maybe I should list my top ten here sometime for posterity.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Boy, I've been prolific today, haven't I?

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Picked up a new CD Thursday: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Roger Miller.

I was 4-5 years old during Miller's commercial peak. Songs like "Dang Me", "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd" and of course the ultra-catchy "King of the Road" were irresistable to a little kid (and apparently a lot of bigger ones as well). But he was just not an artist who I was interested in when I got older and started to buy my own music. He seemed like cornball country to me.

Many years later, I was playing some guitar with my friend Mark Hayes (we briefly considered trying to do a duo type thing), and he had been listening to a Miller album and had worked up a medley of sorts with a rearranged "King", and a couple of other songs. He was quite evangelical in his fervor for Miller's music and it started me thinking I should listen to it again, which I did, and it was enjoyable but I still wasn't moved to buy.

Out of the blue, last Sunday, I had "Dang Me" stuck in my head, and I began to wonder if there wasn't a cheap collection out there of Roger's early 60s hits, and sure enough, I found the 20th Century Masters disc on Amazon. Tuesday, I was in Walmart and found a copy for nine dollars. At last, Roger Miller when I want it.

In addition to the aforementioned tunes, this collection also sports "England Swings", "Chug-A-Lug", and "Husbands And Wives", a song Ringo Starr covered on his 1974 album Goodnight Vienna, and covered very well. I've always considered it one of Ringo's best attempts at country music. You know, someone should collect all of Ringo's country songs, both solo and with the Fabs, on one CD. Hell, I'd buy it...but I digress...

Miller was a talented songwriter who sadly had his biggest successes with his most trivial songs; he got pigeonholed in a big way and never really had a lot of mainstream success after his early-mid 60s glory days. I understand he did a lot of great music after that period, I'll take their word for it. Maybe someday I'll get around to investigating it further...for now I'm content with one of the most enjoyable (and for me, nostalgic) set of songs I've listened to in many a moon.

You are Young Frankenstein:
You're stubborn unless you figure it out yourself,
then no one can stop you. Try not to let your
work get the better of you, or the town and you
should turn out fine.

Which Mel Brooks Movie Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Found over at another new blog (new to me anyway), Return of the Ghost of Ferro Lad. Apparently he doesn't know Ferro Lad is still alive in current continuity.
Just added to the blogroll at right: Big Sunny D. I liked his overview and comments on the FF/Mark Waid/Marvel mess, but he sold me with his critique/commentary of Grant Morrison's baffling Filth series.

I think I'm going to have to re-organize my links somehow...but I just don't feel like messing around with all the code. A project for for another day, for sure.

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What I bought and what I thought, week of June 18


Alan Moore is at his multiple-layered best, blending not only his ABC universe (heretofore previously unseen in these pages) into the current ongoing storyline, but also introducing some commentary about recent world events at the same time. As always, the Williams/Gray art team is stellar; especially the way they draw Moore's pulp hero homage Tom Strong and his family as being slightly less realistic than protagonist Sophie Bangs and her surroundings. Special mention should go as well to colorist Jeromy Cox, who colors the book entirely in monochromatic hues until the last page, and creates a feeling of apprehension and oppression by doing so. It's not often a colorist has such a strong effect on a book. There's usually always a lot going on in Promethea, but it's been a while since I've looked forward to the next issue as much as I am right now. A
It's nice to see that Mike Carey isn't spreading himself too thin, which is what I feared might happen when he started writing Hellblazer. Fortunately, instead we now have two great books written by the best writer in comics today not named Alan Moore. The dual storylines continue, we get even more of a reason to sympathize with our protagonist, and there's a cliffhanger ending which I don't think will stand for a minute but I don't see a way out of. Art-wise, fine but Gross and Kelly don't illustrate the Tsuki-Yomi scenes nearly as effectively as Dean Ormston does. Just my opinion. A
This series keeps getting better as we keep finding out more about Holden Carver's past and the noose keeps tightening on his present. I like the camraderie between Carver and the Genocide character, ably gotten across by the great Sean Phillips. The coloring, a liability early on, is once again excellent. A
Bendis continues to put Matt Murdock through the wringer as he strives to maintain his not-so-secret identity with minimal cost to his friends and loved ones. Well written as always, and I especially liked Luke Cage here...but the script, which is 1/2 fight scene, doesn't play to Alex Maleev's strengths until the end, a teté-a-teté between the Kingpin and an old acquaintance, annoyingly drawn to look like his movie incarnation. A-
This penultimate issue was delayed for a long while, but it's worth the wait. Robert Morales has hit all the right notes script-wise, and handles the interrogations of Isiah Bradley by Hitler and Goebbels and modern-day Phillip Merritt by Captain America with razor-sharp dialogue and smarts. Kyle Baker's art is still too sloppy and loose for me to fully embrace it, but he still does an above average job, much tighter than when this series began, almost as if his enthusiasm increased with each issue. I'll be watching Morales's projects in the future, for sure. A-
This one had me for a while until the Man Ray cameo caused a major speed bump. It's a noble ambition to want to enlighten your audience about the great artists of the early 1900's, but it needs to be done with more subtlety and not Lucy-show style cameos. You remember, Lucy would get into some scrape or be visiting a movie set or something, then some actor would amble in stage left and Lucy would gasp in amazement "It's JOHN WAYNE! Oh my goodness!!". This is the only way this Jason Hall can think of to shoehorn these real people in his work of fiction and it's as obvious as a wine stain on a white tablecloth. Otherwise, a bit of an improvement over the previous two issues; the dialogue has less exposition and sounds more natural. Art-wise, I still think Cliff Chiang is a bit overrated by many, but he does illustrate the events in capable but unremarkable fashion. The coloring by Dave Stewart is, again, very nice– lots of reds, golds, blues and muted greens. But nobody buys comics for coloring, do they... B-

I also picked up CLOCK MAKER 4 but I haven't read it yet because I haven't been able to get #3. I'm told it's coming from another store.
I haven't done one of these in a long time, so here's a new Friday Five!

1. Is your hair naturally curly, wavy, or straight? Long or short?

Straight and short.

2. How has your hair changed over your lifetime?

Well, I used to have a lot more of it. I had a Beatle cut as a kid, then grew it very long in the 70s- down past my shoulders! I had a couple of ghastly periods as a young man, first with a curly perm and then a mullet for a couple of years, but for the last 10 years or so it's been cut close on the sides and somewhat longer on top. And about 1985 or so I developed this lovely little bald spot right on the crown of my head which hasn't gotten any bigger, thank God, but still looks like crap. I've learned to live with it.

3. How do your normally wear your hair?

On my head.

4. If you could change your hair this minute, what would it look like?

Well, I'd get rid of that fucking bald spot, for one thing. I've considered letting it grow out long one more time before I die, but I don't have the patience to see me through that awkward transitional period.

5. Ever had a hair disaster? What happened?

My cousin poured glue in my hair when we were kids. That took some time getting out, let me tell you! I regard the curly perm and the mullet as disasters, too. No explanation for those, just seemed to be the thing to do at the time.
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Additional BSBdG's to Cyndi Lauper, 50 today. I've always kinda liked her music, especially her excellent 1992 album Hat Full of Stars. She's become quite the artiste these days, but all people want to hear from her (apparently) are rehashes of her earlier successes. If you click on the link for Hat, know that I think the reviewer is an idiot.

Credit where credit is due dept.: the image above came from the site of her NYC hairdressers, Tish & Snooky's Manic Panic NYC, specifically a page spotlighting clients that use their hair color products.
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While clicking around looking for Brian Wilson linkage, I found this cool caricature by artist David Cowles. Click on the image above to go to his website where many more can be found, including those of the Beatles and R.E.M. .
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While listening to "Vegetables", from the suite of scraps of the legendary lost "Smile" sessions that were featured on the Good Vibrations-30 Years of the Beach Boys box set (it's over in the time it takes to type this convoluted sentence), I am happy to present a very special BSBdG: Brian Wilson, 61 years old today.

It's funny about my relationship to the Beach Boys' music. This is gonna get long, so you've been warned. When I was growing up, of course, I heard their hits on the radio and they were OK, but they didn't really grab me. I knew nothing about their place in the music scene of the day, the much-ballyhooed genius of Brian, or how Paul McCartney revered them, or anything like that. A few years later, when the Endless Summer two-fer came out and re-established them as a chart presence along with bringing them back into the public eye once more, I listened to a friend's copy but again no soap. Most of it sounded silly and trivial, like bubblegum pop music–Yummy Yummy Yummy or Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop type stuff. Once again I declined to investigate the Boys. I remember seeing a TV special once where the Boys played a show in the early 70s, and they were in their long hair, beards and kaftans phase. I was a little curious and remember liking one song which Mike Love sang while playing an autoharp (Do It Again, I think). Then several more years went by and in the mid-80s I borrowed a big stack of those old Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders (you may remember-they sold for $2 and were two-disc samplers of then-current Warners artists) that a friend had, and one album contained the cut "Feel Flows"– a Carl Wilson song from the 1971 Beach Boys album Surf's Up. I was amazed, absolutely blown away by this impressionistic, gorgeously sung, almost prog-ish tune. I had to know more! What the hell was this? This is the Beach Boys? It didn't sound one damn bit like "Help Me Rhonda" or "Fun Fun Fun". Problem was, when I went to look for this album, or any others from that period of time, I was denied...they were all out of print. When I was watching TV one evening a bit later, I saw an ad for one of those K-Tel greatest hits-type collections featuring the Beach Boys, so I decided to order, since it was fairly cheap. Suddenly, when I listened to it, I developed an admiration for the music that I hadn't had before. 20 years of pent-up admiration suddenly broke through. I had become...a Beach Boys and Brian Wilson fan. Cue music: Bum-bum-bummm...Anyway, there was one question that kept bugging me, and information was not readily available about it: what happened to Brian? Why did he abort the Smile album? Why didn't he do much of anything with the group for the bulk of the Seventies? Of course, as the years went by, I eventually pieced together the story. I read the ghosted "biography" that Wilson supposedly wrote with his therapist, and several other things here and there including the wonderful book The Nearest Faraway Place by Timothy White, and those were helpful. I eventually acquired many more BB CD's, including the superlative Pet Sounds (an album that I had listened to as recently as 1989 and hadn't made an impression) and those 70s albums that had vexed me so much. I still don't have all the Brian/Beach Boys albums, but I have quite a few and I love just about all of them.

It remains a tragedy to me that things turned out for the Boys and Brian the way it did, even though I know they've had their successes along the way as well. I can't help but think about how today's musicians often take years to follow up successful albums, and everyone accepts this as part of the creative process. But in Brian's day, there was enormous pressure placed on him to write hits, and write lots of 'em, to keep the money coming in, and the Boys often released two records a year! Brian's fragile psyche soon caved in under the pressure, and when he presented his personal statement Pet Sounds to his group and the record company, trying to push the envelope and do something besides the established Beach Boys sound, he was treated with indifference and scorn. Heck, Capitol even put out a best-of LP while Sounds was still on the charts, which pretty much killed any chance it had of selling in significant numbers. This, combined with the drugs that were prevalent in the mid-60s, pretty much did Brian in. One can't help but wonder what if: Brian had had less pressure placed on him to be a hit factory and just be creative, and was supported by Capitol and his bandmates, what would have been. God Only Knows, I suppose...heh...

Anyway, happy birthday to ya Brian, and here's to many more.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Added in the blogroll at right, another mostly comics blog: Unqualified Offerings. I found his piece on his classifications of the various "ages" of comics enjoyable and interesting. Lately there have been quite a few excellent articles on comics to be found on sites like Pop Culture Gadabout, Neilalien, Journalista! (just how the hell do you make that upside-down exclamation point, anyway?), Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat (heretofore referred to as ATF), Franklin's Findings, and former DC editor Stuart Moore's (who I remember being very personable back in the old AOL DC message board days) A Thousand Flowers. Most of these sites are linked at right, if you're curious. I'd join in the discussions, but my famous lack of self confidence and vocabulary prevent me from doing so. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading 'em, though...

On a totally unrelated note, when Mrs. Bacardi asked me who Kate Hudson was (and who her parents were) I embarked on a search for info on The Hudson Brothers, whom you may remember (or maybe not) from their mid-70s TV shows, especially the Hudson Brothers Razzle-Dazzle Show on Saturday mornings. The HBRDS was one wacked out show and 14 year old me and my friends all thought it was the shiznit. If you don't have a clue what the hell I'm talking about, other than the gorgeous Ms. Hudson-Robinson, go here for the lowdown, the skinny, the 411, the straight dope on the Bros.
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No "pussy" jokes, please.

My modest eBay winning streak continues; I recently bid on and won a copy of Linda Lewis' 1972 LP Lark, which I received in the mail today.

Lewis first came to my attention years ago when I noticed her name in the credits of David Bowie's 1973 album Aladdin Sane, and on Cat Stevens' 1972 LP Catch Bull at Four. Her music on her own, though, never really caught on in the US and she was never mentioned in any of the music magazines I was buying , so I promptly forgot all about her, and her recording career kinda died out as the 80s wore on. A couple of years ago, I noticed her name somewhere, probably on one of the aforementioned albums, and began to wonder if she had any records on her own and how many; I was vaguely aware that she had pursued a solo career for a while. And besides, you know me- always on the lookout for obscure artists, especially with connections and records on Warner/Reprise in the early to mid-70s. I went to Limewire, the only Mac MP3 file downloading application, and actually found a handful of cuts– one being the title tune from the Lark album, which I fell stone cold in love with. It's a gospelly slow song with a beautiful melody, only Lewis and piano accompaniment. So of course, I thought "I gotta get that album"! Problem is, at the time very few, if any of Linda's albums were available on CD and the vinyl copies were pretty darn scarce. I did manage to find a couple of subsequent releases: Fathoms Deep and Not A Little Girl Anymore, which were fine records but a little bland and unremarkable, and being unable to find affordable copies of Lark (most were going for $25 and up!), I soon stopped looking.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I looked for and found a copy of Lark, still in the shrinkwrap, or so the ad said and it was under $ I bid and won it. And even though the condition of the album didn't live up to its billing (it's in its shrinkwrap, true, but it's open and the vinyl has some pops and a skip on one track), the music is every bit as good as I'd hoped. The title cut's there, of course, but there are several other tracks that are almost as good. On Lark, Lewis's songs are in a more folk-ish style rather than the R&B stylings of her later efforts– more Joni Mitchell than Aretha Franklin, the result of having several of Cat Stevens' musicians playing on them, I suppose. The more organic settings work well with Linda's admittedly little-girlish voice. I'm into my third listen as I type.

Rhino recently released a two-disc compilation overview of Linda's career– probably the best place to start checking her music out, even though it unbelieveably omits Lark's title cut.

Credit where crdit is due dept: the above image was found at a tribute site to the late British record producer Ian Samwell, who worked with Linda in her early days. Go here to check it out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Oh, by the way, I actually had a job interview today. It went well, I think, even though I wasn't particularly qualified for the position, which involves management. I've never been a "manager" in title, anyway. Still, they were impressed enough with my background and experience that I think they're interested in me. Guess we'll see...
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What a cool picture...this is none other than Marc Bolan of T.Rex fame playing with the 1973 version of the Electric Light Orchestra. Bolan contributed uncredited guitar to a couple of ELO tracks, including Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (on their 1973 LP On The Third Day) and apparently played some live dates with the group as well. I had read somewhere that Marc played on "Belle", but I didn't know he was involved to the extent he was. Of course, this is all completely irrelevant 30 years on, but as a fan I'm interested anyway.

I found all this out thanks to a link on the Move website which pointed me to a site devoted to the re-release of ELO's second album, imaginatively titled II. That was the first ELO album I ever heard, and I've always had a soft spot for it. II was the first record after Roy Wood split with Jeff Lynne to form Wizzard, and featured the hit US single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven". Though Wood was no longer a member of the group, this album still had the familiar late-Move-ish Wood sound, all scraping cellos and ponderous tempos...but Lynne, even then, was beginning to write more polished songs so it remains, 30 years on, an interesting transitional album, often excellent in places. I listened to it today, so chances are I'll write more about it in the next Vinyl-O. Anyway, apparently Wood stayed around long enough to play bass and cello on a couple of cuts, and I can tell now, but I had no idea until today. This re-issue features more Wood, along with several unreleased cuts including several representing demos for Woody's original idea for II, as a concept album named The Lost Planet.

Click on the photo above to go to the site, which has a ton of articles, interviews, sound clips, and photos and occupied a good chunk of my morning. Needless to say, I'd love to get this CD set, but it's only available as a 30 dollar import. Ces't la vie.
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Today's BSBdG goes to the cute moptop, Sir Paul McCartney, who turns 61 today.

You'd think that people would have had enough of Paul McCartney. I look around me and I see it isn't so.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Well, I hated the film Velvet Goldmine, and I can't say that I agree with him when he states that the mid-70s was "...oddly conservative era for solo-driven music", (if anything, it seems to me, the mid-70s was the last golden age for guitarists with distinctive sounds) but Mr. Sean Collins over at Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat republishes an otherwise excellent piece he wrote about King Crimson's Red album and Robert Fripp's contribution to not only that but other great music as well. Yea verily, he sayeth sooth. Goeth thou here to read.

I'd like to extend a big Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to that Pop Culture Gadabout per excellence, Bill Sherman, who writes about similar things as I but does a much better job of it. I was going to do this on his site, but his comments aren't working. Here's to many more, Bill!
Lest I forget: a new Christgau Consumer Guide is up over at Village If you like World Music, a genre which I've never developed a taste for, you'll find it interesting. I suppose as long as there are King Sunny Ade albums out there (that mofo is prolific), Christgau will review them...
Three out of four employers expect to cut jobs or hold off on hiring this summer, contributing to the worst employment market since the early 1990s, a new survey said Tuesday.

Here's the job market into which these idiots have cast me. Thanks a lot, guys. And I'm not saying that everyone there is an idiot, just the idiots who woke up one morning and decided to throw three years plus worth of spending, planning and work out the window. You know who you are.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Hopefully, I'll be able to hold on to my computer and my internet connection so I can continue to blog until the bitter end, and the bank comes to take away my house...
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I'm a little pissed because Sunday would have been Harry Nilsson's birthday, and I had made it a point (no pun intended) to write about it in this here blog. So naturally it slipped my mind until now. The problem with most of the birthday websites is that they list only living people and don't often mention those who have passed on, especially those who were on the fringes of celebrityhood. Anyway, I wrote about my fave Harry LP in the Mondo Vinyl-O of the other day, and by clicking on the above cover photo (another of my faves, his 1976 release Sandman), you can go to the very thorough Nilsson website, where you can find a ton of information about all things Nilssonian and many reviews I wrote in the discography section...
I haven't really had much to say about the big Mark Waid-gets-fired controversy, because I don't read Fantastic Four. Frankly, I think FF's been stale since Kirby left eons ago and nothing I've seen in the damn near thirty years since have convinced me otherwise. Dirk Deppey provides a neat overview of the whole tempest in a teapot, if you haven't read about it elsewhere and are curious.

Also, I have been silent about the passing of Gregory Peck, mostly because he's never made that great an impression on me. I've seen several movies in which he starred, and I certainly recognize that he was a great actor who appeared in many important films. And now I've commented.
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We all went to the Dinosaur World (you remember, the pictures of the big dinosaurs I posted a month or so ago) yesterday.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Watched Men in Black II last night. That had to be the most uninspired, by-the-numbers, indifferently scripted sequel I've ever seen. I can't believe that they spent as much money as they did on's like someone took the first MIB movie's script, rewrote it, added the scenes with the Pug (some of which were admittedly funny), and sat back to watch the profits roll in. While it was well acted (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have great chemistry, and Rip Torn is always good) and not a complete disaster, the special effects looked cheap and unconvincing and the whole air of been-there-done-that just brought the whole thing back to earth with a thud. You'd think that somebody somewhere would have been motivated to do something, anything, different, but I suppose the play-it-safe instinct of the studio won out.

I'm just glad I didn't blow 8 bucks to see this at the theatre. It's worth catching on cable, like I did, or if you're desperate to watch something, rent.
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Belated BSBdG's to writer Don McGregor. McGregor wrote a ton of Marvel Comics in the 70s, eventually moving on to other companies such as Eclipse and Topps, where his most recent comics-related work includes Zorro and Lady Rawhide. He turned 58 yesterday.

Two of the series he wrote that I loved the most were War of the Worlds featuring Killraven in Amazing Adventures 18-39, and the Black Panther in issues 6-24 of the Jungle Action title. McGregor often wrote in a verbose, flamboyant style, but often this style worked to illuminate the reader about things that the artists, talented as many of them were, couldn't show and as a result made his characters alive and realistic in a way that you didn't see all that often in the 70s.

Happy trails, Mr. McGregor.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Doubt I'll post anything tomorrow; I get to be ringmaster of the holy roller circus tomorrow at the radio station. Click on the WLOC AM 1150 link at right and maybe you'll get to hear me, or at least some of that good ol' Kentucky-style hellfire-and-damnation preachin' prayin' singin' shoutin'.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday and Happy Father's Day for all you fathers out there.
I added a couple of links at right: one to Mark Anthony, which doesn't have all that much stuff yet but I bet that will change soon, and Rob Kamphausen's Message Board. Rob was the moderator of the old, lamented DC Message Boards and is one of several on the new, lamer one. He does, however, have a board of his own where many of the longtime DCMB posters have relocated. Rob's board has a lot more bells and whistles, isn't as restricted as the DCMBs were nor are the discussions limited to comics-related topics only. I signed up for them just recently, and was given a swell reception by many of my old acquaintances. If you're intrigued by all this, then by all means go check 'em out.

Also, if you're curious about the button below with Matt Groening's head and the letters CGEF, it's a link to a great Futurama site. You can go there and find out just about anything you want to know about the show. Only one complaint on my part: not enough Morbo content. Puny Earthling fools. It has screen grabs and sound clips from every episode! You can go to the eppy that gueststarred Beck and hear Bender sing "Fry crack corn and I don't care, Leela crack corn and I don't care, Bender crack corn and he is great, take that you stupid corn!" Hee hee....
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What I bought and what I thought, week of June 11!

I had a fat stack this time around, and there wasn't a stinker in the bunch. On a lesser week, any in the bottom four could have been in the top five.

I think perhaps it would have been wiser to pare this 9-issue limited series to perhaps seems a bit stretched out. But why do I rank this #1 every time out? It's the personal touches that writers Beatty and Dixon keep throwing in: Jim Gordon's peevish exchange with Robin, the back and forth between the Bugs, and Barbara and Jason Bard's hospital encounter are all written true, and there's been a refreshing lack of contrivance and the usual superheroic posturing throughout. And if a man can fall in love with an ink style, I think I'm smitten with Alvaro Lopez' slender, but nuanced and expressive line. A

While I'm not crazy about Mark Buckingham's art, it serves adequately. Art's not the point with this book, anyway– it's the paces Bill Willingham puts his rethought fairytale characters through and he's set all this up beautifully. A

It kinda bugs me that I didn't notice that there were two sets of artists on this interesting (for once) Elseworlds book. Guess it's because I haven't seen Dave Johnson interiors all that much. A bit disappointing, but still well done. Fortunately, I like Killian Plunkett's work too. A

Here's where not being a regular Bat-book reader bites me on the ass because I'm just not familiar with the relationship between the characters in this issue's cliffhanger ending. Oh well, it's a minor thing– this is still outstanding police drama, well illustrated as usual. A

H-E-R-O 5
One small, but annoying thing about the beginning of the new arc is that the principal character is much less likeable than the previous arc's principal, so the rooting interest just isn't there for me. But even so, this super-heroes-meets-American Beauty-style storyline looks like it's going to be as well thought out as its predecessor so it's all good so far. A-

Somewhat low-key but satisfying finale to the storyline in which the Grrls give up drug dealing and get real jobs. Overall, this has been an amusing, effective series and Jim Mahfood's angular art style grows on you after a while. I hope we see more one of these days. A-

JSA 49
Well done superhero slugfesting, with more characters than you can shake a Star-staff at and the best art job yet by Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne, just in time to get dismissed from the book after next issue. The scenes with Billy Batson, Stargirl and the Shade continue to be highlights, and there's an intriguing twist to the Eclipso storyline as well. Oh well. One more issue to go! Will I change my mind about dropping this book? Stay tuned...A-

Yes, I know that the current plotting conceit will be very important down the road. But that doesn't make last issue or this one any easier to sit through. At least there's dialogue this time around, but overall this is a well-drawn (although Oeming slips a bit in the climactic battle scene) but dull sword-and-sorcery yarn. I think it was Warren Ellis that said if people wanted to read this sort of thing then Marvel would still be publishing Conan, wouldn't they? B+

Somebody slapped an old Invisibles cover on this one. I gave up trying to figure out the deeper significance of all this a long time ago, so I'm just gonna enjoy the purty colored pictures and hope that this will all come together at the end like Grant's Flex Mentallo series did. That's one of the best comics series ever published, in my own humble opinion. Parts of this issue reminded me of David Cronenberg's Videodrome, a compliment in my book...B+

I'm beginning to be ashamed of myself for continuing to be a voyeur to the ongoing heartbreak, tragedy and overall bad stuff that Terry Moore puts his characters through. It's like that old saying about passing by a car wreck– you are horrified, but you can't not stare. And yes, he's as pretentious as ever while he's torturing both his leads and his readers– but he's so darn effective at it that I read in spite of myself. Is there a twelve-step program somewhere I could take part in? B
I was watching AMC just last night, when my eyes beheld a unexpected sight: Curse of the Swamp Creature, a grade triple-Z monster movie from the worst filmmaker not named Ed Wood: Larry Buchanan. This one had everything: wretched acting, leaden direction, a washed up, has-been star (the unfortunate John Agar), ludicrous makeup and effects and a washed-out, yellowed looking, scratchy print that reminded me of Polaroid photos my folks made of me back in 1966. Buchanon made quite a few of these low-budget wonders; others include the legendary Mars Needs Women, the original It's Alive, which recycled the monster makeup from Curse, and The Eye Creatures, a remake of the already grade-z drive-in classic Invasion of the Saucer Men.

Now I kid, but truth be told, I live to see these flicks when they infrequently air on TV these days. I always get a kick out of obscure, low budget old 50s & 60s monster movies, and they were easily found on the tube when I was growing up. Heck, back in the day I had the Big Show, weekdays 4-5:30 on Nashville Channel 5 plus Creature Features and Fright Night, which aired Saturday nights (Channel 4, Nashville and Channel 41 Louisville respectively) from 10:30-12 AM for several years. These days, you have to luck up on them when they occasionally air on AMC, TCM or a pay cable channel. I wish that there was a regular outlet for these kind of films, and seeing Curse, (which I had seen two or three times previously over the years) on a Saturday night was a big part of the fun.

It's like Meat Loaf once sang: "Whatever happened to Saturday night...".

Go here for a synopsis, with screen grabs, from Curse. Here's the IMDb listing for Larry Buchanan.

Another item of note about Buchanan and his films: a young actor named Warren Hammack appeared in one or two of them, most notably Mars Needs Women with Yvonne (Batgirl) Craig. After Hammack gave up his Hollywood ambitions, he moved back to Kentucky and established a professional repertory theatre not long after which he dubbed Horse Cave Theatre. Since my kids have been working and participating in the theatre, I've been able to be around Hammack (who retired last year) and ask him about his Buchanan days, about knowing Agar and Craig, and many other geekish things. He has always seemed bemused by my interest, and didn't really want to tell any tales out of school apparently so I didn't really get much out of him. He maintains he was just looking to make some money, did his work, got paid and was gone. He was friends with Agar, but again I got no sordid tales. Oh well– it's cool just knowing someone who starred in some of the most Psychotronic of Pyschotronic films.

Friday, June 13, 2003

I wanted to write a bunch of stuff today, really I did, but I've been away from the ol' iMac most of the day. Oh well, there's always tomorrow to do those comic reviews which I promise are forthcoming. Yeah, like you've been breathlesly awaiting 'em.

But I did want to take a minute and acknowledge the link from All Too Flat, who is truly down with the funk. Thanks very much, and I got a charge out the absolutely true "weapons inspector" remark. I think I need to hunt down a copy of that Live In Louisville 1978 album. Don't know why I wasn't there when it was recorded! I missed a Parliament show as well the year before, if I recall correctly...

Thursday, June 12, 2003

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How ostentatious.

Anyway, here's the third installment in what has become a semi-regular thing on my little corner of the Web, Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O. It's where I take ten long playing, 33 1/3 RPM vinyl stacks o' wax that I've listened to over the period since the last JBMV-O and write a word or three about them. Now that that's over, here goes nothing:

Elliott Murphy-Just A Story From America (1976) I think CBS believed they had the next Springsteen on their hands with Mr. Murphy, and they may have been right, but sadly the public at large didn't agree. This was his last album to date to be released on a major label, but fortunately for music lovers and Mr. Murphy, he has maintained his career by releasing many records since on smaller indie labels. The album in question here, though, is his best in my humble opinion. Recorded in England with various session guys including Phil Collins on drums just before he took over as Genesis' lead vocalist and began his slide into schlock. Musically, a cross between Coney Island Baby-era Lou Reed and early 70s Elton John and his Paul Buckmaster string arrangements, lyrically like Reed as well but with pretensions toward a Hemingway or Faulkner-ish feel. Standouts include "Rock Ballad", written as an excuse to record with Mick Taylor; "Summer House", full of regret and sobbing strings; "Caught Short in the Long Run", another bittersweet love song, probably the most Springsteenish thing here with a nice crescendo and fade-out at the end and my favorite cut "Anastasia" with a supernaturally lovely melody and nice use of a children's choir. Yes, it's about the Russian princess, at least on the surface. Really, there isn't a bad cut on this album, although I tend to favor the ballads over the rockers. Your guess is as good as mine why Murphy hasn't gone on to better things.
Santana-Festival (1977) After about five years of Miles and Mahavishnu-influenced jazz-tinged rock, and seeing his record sales dip with each successive album, Carlos Santana began to try to placate his record company by going in a more pop-oriented, conventionally-structured-songwise direction and this was his second effort towards that goal after the 1975 first step Amigos. I picked this up after seeing him perform a few songs from this album on a PBS live concert show, name of which escapes me at present. It's honestly not that strong an album but there are some standout cuts, mostly in a soul/r&b groove: "The River", "Give Me Love", and "Reach Up". Noteworthy also are a couple of lite-jazz-rock exercises, "Let The Children Play" and "Try A Little Harder". Santana's biggest problem during this period was that the lyrics written for him and vocalists he employed were somewhat generic and banal, seriously undercutting a lot of his good intentions. Of course, after this album came a double live, Moonflower, and then a blatant arena-rock emphasis that dragged on way too long and almost killed his career after a few initial successes. Of course he's riding high now, and good for him. He is one of the few guitarists with a distinctive sound left out there. This album is, at least to me, the last "classic" Santana Band album.
The Beatles Anthology 2 (1996) Yes, it's true: I own this on vinyl. I made a chance remark to Mrs. Bacardi one time when we were out Christmas shopping, and she bought this for me. You can correctly assume that how much you will enjoy this, or any of these collections depends solely on how much of a Beatle-head you are...and even though I'm a pretty big fan, much of this collection of demos, outtakes, flubbed takes and ephemera is of minimal interest. Kinda like looking at someone's book full of preliminary sketches. However, there are some interesting cuts here and there: a weird, druggy-sounding "Tomorrow Never Knows" before all the tape effects got tacked on, the "new" song "Real Love" a Lennon solo demo to which the other three (and Jeff Lynne) contributed, creating a "modern" Beatletune which to these ears is excellent, and pretty good demo versions of "Yes It Is" and "Strawberry Fields Forever". Of the three Anthologies, this is probably the weakest simply because it doesn't have enough interesting "new" tracks but it's not completely worthless either.
Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band (1975) Bootsy Collins first introduced us to his goofy, likeable persona on this, his first solo album. This is a very strong and very influential LP, alternating psychedelic funk grooves on some cuts with winsome Stevie Wonderish harmonica-tinged slow songs. He received a lot of help from all of the P-Funk mob, including George Clinton. The next two follow-ups Ahh...The Name is Bootsy, Baby and Bootsy? Player of the Year feature more of the same. For a white boy who couldn't dance if his life depended on it, I sure did listen (and still do) to a lot of old school funk...
Tom Waits-Swordfishtrombones (1983) I used to work third shift, 11 PM to 7 AM, a lot when I was employed at R.R. Donnelley & Sons in nearby Glasgow, KY. I came home early one morning and sat down to watch some TV before I went to bed. I turned it on MTV, and lo and behold the video for "In The Neighborhood", one of the tracks from Tom Waits' latest album came on, and I was transfixed not only by the strange sight of Waits leading a parade of circus freaks through a desolate town, but by the music, which sounded like a surreal marching band from hell led by Captain Beefheart. I was aware of Waits before, and was totally unimpressed by his jazzy beatnik lounge-lizard stylings, but after seeing the video I had to give this a listen. Waits had decided to shift directions to a darker, more delta-blues-meets-Kurt Weill approach, and I was immediately won over by it. Not to say that every cut on this LP is a masterpiece; some are honking and atonal and hard to listen to but the good cuts, like "Down Down Down", "Gin Soaked Boy", the title cut, the deranged "16 Shells From a Thirty-Aught Six", and the amusing monologue "Frank's Wild Years" are simply amazing. I strongly recommend that if you haven't heard or don't own this, go out and get both this one and its equally great successor Rain Dogs. I guarantee you haven't heard much, if anything, like these albums.
Roy Wood-Mustard (1975) This album brings together two types of musicianship that I tend to fawn over: the auteur, who plays, writes, produces, and even designs the album packaging for his projects (think Todd Rundgren, Brian Wilson, Prince), and the crazed pop genius (Wilson again, Lindsey Buckingham, Mark (E) Elliott of Eels), who uses the studio like a mad scientist uses a laboratory, throwing everything he can think of in pursuit of the eclectic pop song. Wood, long a musical hero of mine, qualifies on both counts, and this album can be looked at as a summing up of his career to that point. It's a dizzying mix of styles and sounds, from the AM radio popsong ear candy of "Any Old Time Will Do" (in a perfect world this would have been a worldwide, and yes that includes the USA, smash hit) to the Beach Boys homage "Why Does Such A Pretty Girl Sing Such Sad Songs" to the 50s pastiche (probably left over from his previous effort with his then-band Wizzard, Introducing Eddy and the Falcons, which attempted to duplicate every late 50s and early 60s style you could think of) "Look Through The Eyes Of A Fool". We even get some faux 40s Andrews Sisters type vocalise on the title cut. While this album hits some very high highs, it also tends to be a sloppy, unfocused mess and as a result is a notch below his previous solo masterpiece Boulders and his Move records, but is much more interesting and listenable than his subsequent output which is a bit too slick and conventional for these ears. In all fairness, there's a lot of Roy's music that I haven't listened to, especially in the last 10-15 years–it just doesn't get released over here–but what I have heard just didn't have the same spark. Still, Mustard is a fine, diverse record that is no home run but certainly qualifies as a bases-clearing double.
Alexander O'Neal-Hearsay (1986) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, after being dismissed from the Time went on to become the premiere producers of funk-pop in the 80s, culminating in the records they did with Janet Jackson. Alexander O'Neal was another in their stable of acts–others included Cherrelle and the SOS Band–and he was kinda presented as the Luther Vandross of Flyte Time. Hearsay is a textbook example of the Jam/Lewis 80s production sound. Great funky dance grooves, snippets of dialogue linking the songs together adding to the "party" atmosphere, and first and foremost strong, memorable melodies which keeps all the Jam/Lewis stable efforts listenable even though the synth-heavy production sound is a bit dated by now.
Alice Cooper-Easy Action (1970) This was the second Alice Cooper Band LP, the first with a professional producer. As the story goes, Frank Zappa was supposed to produce their first, Pretties For You, but bailed and left the Coops to their own devices, and the result was uneven and only sometimes listenable. This one's a bit (only a bit) more polished and professional sounding, and contains some overlooked gems, many of which echo themes the band would develop further with Bob Ezrin. Action's got all sorts of stylistic variety and grunge pyschedelica tendencies, sounding a lot like the Jefferson Airplane, the Who or early David Bowie in places. I usually have to dig this out at least once when the weather gets's a record that reminds me of Summer. Thanks to my friend Kenny Fitzgibbon, whom I used to hang with every summer for about five years when he came down to stay with his grandparents when we were teenagers. He had this on 8-track, and I listened to it a lot,being the big, big Alice fan I was then. Whatever happened to ya, Kenny?
Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians-Element of Light (1986) This was my first exposure to the gifted British madman, and while he's done many fine albums since, he's never topped this one (his last before signing to a major label) in my opinion. I've always thought that Element sounded like a great lost collaboration between Syd Barrett and John Lennon.
Faces-A Nod Is As Good As A Wink-To A Blind Horse (1971) It's hard to believe now, with 27 years of slick, smarmy Rod Stewart irrelevancy behind us, that he could be a part of music as soulful, rocking, genuine and alive as his work both on his 1969-1976 efforts and with the Faces was. This is arguably the best Faces album, certainly the most consistent, and features such great tunes as Ronnie Lane's touching "Debris", and Rod and Ron Wood's own "Too Bad", "Miss Judy's Farm", "Stay With Me", of course, and "Love Lives Here", as touching a ballad as those found on Every Picture Tells A Story or Never A Dull Moment, which I had listened to during this time as well.
Harry Nilsson-Son of Schmilsson (1972) AKA How To Kill Your Career Part One. Harry was riding high after a string of smash hits that culminated in his Nilsson Schmilsson album, but at some point decided to hell with all of it, he was gonna do what he wanted to do and have some fun in the process. Bringing back Schmilsson producer Richard Perry, he recorded this sequel in name only, a weird, schizo, vulgar, sweet, charming, funny record which completely threw people for a loop. One song, in fact, with its "you're breaking my fuck you" chorus, really pissed a lot of people off and many copies were returned, causing a minor scandal which seems trivial now but back then you just didn't drop the f-bomb in your music, especially if you were a major recording artist. He followed this with an album of 30s and 40s standards with a symphony orchestra, then partied himself into career oblivion with John Lennon and Ringo Starr, forever marginalizing himself (which is not to say that he didn't make good records– his next five records are, in my opinion, outstanding– just forgotten and overlooked) until his death in 1995. Of course, this is my favorite of his albums, if nothing else than for the winning "Lottery Song". Heck, this is one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time.

Whew! That's gonna do it for now. I think next time I'll limit this to five albums...ten's a bit much. Thanks for reading!
Alas, it seems that the Family Stone is trying to reunite, but Sly and Larry Graham don't want to play. Too bad, but we all know that it would never be as good as it was back then anyway...
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Not to run anything into the ground, but I just had to note that today would have been Priscilla Lane's 86th birthday. How 'bout that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Today was a good movie day. First, I got to see Priscilla Lane in Brother Rat and a Baby, which also featured none other than Eddie Albert, a long way removed from Green Acres TV fame, and that well-known former president, Ronald Reagan. It was an entertaining bit of 40s fluff, the Daddy Day Care of its day, I suppose.

Then, unbeknownst to me, they had two Maisie films, Congo Maisie and Gold Rush Maisie, starring Ann Sothern airing back to back directly afterwards! They're formula films, to be sure, but Sothern is excellent and great fun as the lead character, a fast-talking Brooklyn showgal with a heart of gold.