Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Another forthright and funny Jess Lemon review over at Pulse, this time of the recent DC Sandman manga by Jill Thompson, which my comics shop under-ordered so I didn't get one...not that I could afford it anyway right now.

Some speculate that Jess is really one of the Pulse staff like Heidi MacDonald or Jen Contino; some assert that she is really what they say she is, an intern who only has a passing familiarity with comics. Whoever or whatever "she" is, she writes perceptive stuff that makes you smack your forehead in a "why didn't I see that" type way.

I know that it's been up for a few days now, but I'm only just now getting around to reading it. Gimme a break, OK?
Glancing at the new Diamond Shipping List for this week, here's what I'll probably take with me to read on the plane:


Looks like a solid week.
Time now for the weekly sports post.

Had a darn good week prediction-wise, going 11-3, which makes my overall record so far after four weeks 41-18! Wish I had some money, I'd find a bookie somewhere...

My Falcons are dead in the water right now, becalmed, so to speak. They can't stop anybody, nor can they score on anyone. What they need is a dose of confidence, or some size and speed on defense...and it doesn't look like either is coming anytime soon.

Houston Texans coach Dom Capers has balls as big as church bells for going for the TD to win with four seconds left on fourth down. I don't see how the man walks around or sits down with stones that large. I was on the edge of my seat after they failed to punch it in on third down; I thought "You gotta kick the figgie!" But hey, sometimes (especially with teams like Houston) you gotta just say what the hell and go for it, and they did. It would have been second guessed for the rest of the year if they hadn't made it, but they did and so far it's been one of the most memorable plays of the young season.

Congrats, Theresa, your Iggles broke out of their funk. They looked fired up and ready to go from the beginning, and looked more like the team everybody thought they'd be at the onset of the season.

In baseball news, my White Sox finally canned manager Jerry Manuel, aka the Somnambulist. Good riddance. They won in the beginning with him, but they've underacheived for far too long under his low key approach. The White Sox-less playoffs start today, and I suppose I'll make a prediction. Let's see...usually the teams I like the least make it to the Series (Anaheim being a notable exception last year), so while I'd love to see a Cubs-Red Sox Series I know it's gonna be the Twins and the Giants, which the Giants win in seven games.

By the way, there's also a new Tuesday Morning Quarterback up.

That concludes the weekly sports post. This weekend's NFL predictions will probably be made tomorrow, 'cause I don't know if I'll be around a computer this weekend!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Hi, everyone...haven't had much time to sit in front of the butterfly curtains today, hence my lack of content. I went on a job interview this morning at a print shop in the community of Morgantown, about 60 miles away. They had advertised for a typesetter/graphic artist for the last month or so, and I thought what the heck, why not. That is what I do. Now when I was a kid, I accompanied my father (who was a wholesale grocery supplier's sales rep) on his Monday route, which took him to Morgantown, and had been there a few times as an (alleged) adult...but I had forgotten how far away it was, and how long it took to get there. So, I set out one day a few weeks ago, to put in an application and refresh my memory. And let me tell you, that is one long-ass drive, through Mammoth Cave National Park in part and mostly on hilly, twisty roads...and by the time I got there I knew I didn't want that job, but I thought since I had driven all that way I might as well apply. So I did, not dreaming they'd call me back. But they did. So this morning I drove back over there, jumped through a few hoops (typing test, built a flyer, proofreading test) then talked to the boss who told me that he appreciated me coming out, but he thought I was probably too overqualified and would want more money than they were prepared to spend. And he was right on both counts, which begs the question: Why the hell did they call me in, wasting my time and my gas, in the first place? Oh well.

I also have had to do a few things around the house, in preparation for the upcoming trip to Sidney, Nebraska...so that has left little time to write. But I decided to sit down and make some time.

I didn't watch any movies this weekend, but I have started watching Angel reruns on the area WB network. They showed the first one last night, and I was surprised at how much had changed since then. It didn't seem to have the same feel as the show does now, either, but they were watchable.

I also caught the new Teen Titans episode, in which they bring back, much to my surprise (I hadn't read anything about upcoming episodes) The Mad Mod! And they revived him in very clever fashion (no pun intended)- looking for all the world like he was designed by Jamie Hewlett with Austin Powers in mind, and having him voiced by my old droogie Malcolm (Alex) McDowell, a very clever stroke. And the animation itself was a tour de force of psychedelic effects combined with the usual anime action, making for a fun watch. I saw all kinds of homages to 60s films and TV like Yellow Submarine and the Avengers TV show, and even British comics like Paradax (the little missles with the checkerboards on them). I always kinda liked the Mad Mod character from way back in Teen Titans 17, and was tickled by this forward-thinking look back. You know, I'd pay good money for a prestige format Super-Hip vs. the Mad Mod one shot! Drawn by Hewlett or Philip Bond, and written by, oh, maybe Grant Morrison or Pete Milligan...

Dead Like Me had its season finale over the weekend as well, and it was excellent. As we've gotten to know each of the characters, the annoying little things that had bugged me when the series started have been smoothed out, and this has been my favorite show of the last few months. Don't know how the ratings were, but I sincerely hope it returns for (at least) another season.

I also caught most of an Elvis Costello "By Request" concert on A&E, where he played songs that people would phone or email in. He was in great form, and rocked real hard on the old stuff like "Radio Radio" that he could play in his sleep, I'm sure. I was less tolerant of the godawful Paul McCartney in Russia concert they aired, which was as much documentary as it was concert show and made the outrageous claim that the Beatles helped bring about the fall of Communism! It was just too much after a while, so I bailed and still haven't finished watching it.

I couldn't get into the new PBS series The Blues, either, and not just because I've always found the blues (certainly a seminal art form, no doubt, and I recognize that) a bit limited and boring. I might try to watch some of the other entries in the series, especially Wim Wenders' outing tonight...if the football game is as dull as I expect. I'm terrible, I know. Other than football, that's about all the quality time I've spent with my TV lately.

A couple of things worth noting in the Comics blogisphereiverse...Sean T. Collins has written a hilarious evisceration of the recently concluded Batman opus, "Hush". I managed to avoid that one, since I saw from the previews that it looked like it was gonna stink on ice- especially judging by the circa 1991 stylings of the overrated Jim Lee. I will state for the record, though, that I liked the run of Batman Halloween specials Jeph Loeb did with Tim Sale (less so Long Halloween and the muddled Dark Victory), as well as his more recent Daredevil: Yellow. Spider-Man: Blue, though, was such a crashing bore that I decided not to even pick up the upcoming Hulk book, next in the series. Maybe if they do Giant-Man: Helmeted, I might. But seriously, my favorite Jeph Loeb work remains his clever Challengers of the Unknown limited series he did for DC with Sale back in (I think it was) 1994. It was a refreshingly mature and slightly cynical look at the Challs, and was good enough to overcome the hackneyed Standard Issue Demon Menace at the end.

Also, over at Forager's, there is an interesting post and discussion of Neal Adams, Dave Gibbons, and Dave Fiore's review of Geoff Klock's How to Read Super-Hero Comics and Why. I haven't read the book in question, but I totally disagreed with his opinion of Adams vs. Gibbons and the "reality" trend over the last few decades in comics, and I popped off in the comments column. I need to get back over there and make another point which occurred to me this morning, but it will have to wait till later. You go read, and read Dave's review as well.

That's all I got for now. I have dishes to wash. Sigh.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Today's Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out the the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, 68 today. He's one of the greats, right up there with Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and others.

Other notables another year older today include Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, 55, and Emily Lloyd, 33. I always thought Lloyd was a cutie, and enjoyed seeing her in movies...but after her co-starring turn in 1989's Bruce Willis flick In Country, her career tanked and she hasn't been in anything of note in years. Don't know why.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Well, since today is Sunday I think it's appropriate that BSBdG's should go out to the heavenly Mira Sorvino, 36 today. She's a better actress, methinks, than common wisdom would have you believe.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Also, today is the birthday of Janeane Garafalo, 39. Janeane has made a career out of playing cynical, nerdy girls who think themselves unattractive, when in reality she's always looked very fetching in just about every film I've ever seen her in. That's kinda annoying, but I like her anyway.

Lots of other birthdays today, like Moon Zappa, Brigitte Bardot, Al Capp, and Ed Sullivan.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

No, I haven't been drinking and blogging. Hey- if Warren Ellis can post self-photography on his page, then why can't I? My son left his camera here, and the urge to play around was just too strong.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Also, a rare glimpse into the nerve center of the JB Show. Yes, captured there for posterity is the ol' indigo iMac on which I compose the majority of these deathless missives. Also, at right are some swellio Kim Possible toys I got from McDonalds the other day, along with a bunch of other crap on the sideboard next to my desk.

Access Hollywood, eat your heart out.
Time once again for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning this weekend, and why:
Houston over Jacksonville (I think they're better than getting beat by a rookie, even a rookie as good as Byron Leftwich seems to be)
Minnesota over San Francisco (Culpepper will play, I hear, plus they're at home. Besides, the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the Niner Nation are sweet music to my ears)
St. Louis over Arizona(I don't think 'Zona's so tough when the temp's under 100)
Washington over New England(This should be a good game, and I'm only picking the Skinnies because of the home field)
Pittsburgh over Tennessee (this should be a war- but I'm taking the Steelers at home)
Kansas City over Baltimore (another war- but KC seems to be on a roll)
Buffalo over Philadelphia (sorry, Theresa, but until Philly looks like they've gotten their act together I gotta go with the Bills. Plus the Eagles are still missing half their defensive backfield, and Bledsoe's licking his chops)
Carolina over Atlanta (the Panthers' D is too good for my Falcons to solve, especially on the road...plus I have a sinking feeling that Stephen Davis will have a monster day against Atlanta's soft defense)
Cleveland over Cincinnati (another road game plus a Browns team coming off a big win spells "wait another week" for the underacheiving Bungles. This will be close, though)
Oakland over San Diego (the only team in bigger disarray than the Raiders right now is the Chargers. Well, OK, there's the Eagles, too. But I think Oakland has enough to put the Bolts away at home)
Denver over Detroit (No way the Lions have enough to win at Mile High, or Invesco, or whatever they call it)
Dallas over the NY Jets (Parcells has his Cowboys playing well enough to beat the increasingly deranged-sounding Herman Edwards' Jets, who pretty much suck on both sides of the ball)
Indianapolis over New Orleans (I think defense will make the difference in this one; even without Edgerrin James, I like Manning and co's ability to score on NO more than vice versa)
Green Bay over Chicago (If the Pack loses this game, the Favre should just retire immediately afterwards)

Last week: 10-4. Overall: 30-15. So far so good.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Because I care...COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 24

Well, all right, we pretty much know from the beginning that most of the characters won't survive, which reduces the tension. Also, the Craig Hamilton/P.Craig Russell art is bright and cartoonish, and doesn't always convey the grimness of the events depicted. And I don't care. In this case, it's not the tale, it's the telling, and Willingham, Hamilton and Russell are completely in synch, giving us a rousing, entertaining, and often tragic tale using legendary characters both familiar and unfamiliar. It's epic in scope, larger than life, and (at least for me) brought back a lot of the thrill I got from reading old fairy tales and seeing movies like Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood as a kid. Russell, especially, excels at this sort of fine-line reality vs. fantasy stuff, and his inks really add a lot to Hamilton's strong layouts. Willingham, in the Fables ongoing, has been hinting at these events at a long time, and I was especially interested in the revelations about his Boy Blue character- it's his doomed romance with Little Red Riding Hood that is the core of the story. And while he hasn't cleared up every question here (I still find myself wondering how any of these characters stayed dead, when he established that they are sustained by the interest of the mundane world), he's given us some more puzzle pieces to use in the future. For once, a $5.95 comic that's worth the money. A

In which we inch closer to the end of the world as Alan Moore's ABC characters know it, and nobody feels fine. Sophie Bangs aka Promethea is hiding from the FBI and her destiny in Tom Strong's millennium City, and when the Bureau enlists his aid in finding her, he succeeds, with unintended consequences. When this book started years ago, I never dreamed it would be resolved like this, and it still feels a bit rushed, like he decided to go from point B to point Q. And, possibly, Moore wouldn't have seen fit to take it in this direction had he not planned to take a break from comics writing (nobody really thinks he's gone for good, do they?)...one thing for sure, he's going out on a high note. I've always thought Promethea was the best of his ABC titles, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen notwithstanding, and this issue is even deeper and more resonant than the previous as he builds the feeling of impending dread and wonder (both at the same time)...aided by the stalwart J.H. Williams/Mick Gray team, who get to do not only their established style but also those of Chris Sprouse, and on the clever cover Ross Andru/Dick Giordano. Williams' sense of design and layout is excellent, as always, and Lee Loughridge would do well to sit and talk shop with colorist Jeromy Cox. If not for the Fables one shot, this would have been the best of the week by far. A

JLA 87
Joe Kelly's on a roll, and this story arc is sharp, gripping and intense, with the League trying to cope with one of their own, who's been possessed by a world-destroying force and is quite content to be so. Kelly even revisits Plastic Man, who in Kelly's hands was quite interesting previously...but with a twist, no pun intended. Unless Joe K totally botches the ending, this will go down as the best JLA arc since early in Morrison's tenure, and to be honest, I'm digging this arc as much as I did any back then. And at the risk of being redundant (since I think I say this every time I review an issue of JLA that they're involved in) it is my considered belief that Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, as a team, are at this time the best mainstream superhero comic illustrators out there, bar none. A

Whoa! What's this doing up this high on the list!? Well, I'll tell ya. I'm always quick to tear into Terry Moore when I see his annoying storytelling idiosyncrasies, which always make me grind my teeth, but there's a reason why I endure the poems and the far-fetched characters and the pretensions- the relationship between his principals, Francine Peters and Katrina "Katchoo" Choovanski and their friends and families. And in this issue, we get lots of that, well written and nicely illustrated, and precious little else...and I like it. In this issue, we finally see Francine's marriage, which we longtime readers remember caused them to be separated for several years, bringing us full circle to the first pages of V2 #1. I can't say I would recommend this issue to first-timers, but for us long-suffering regular readers it's more than welcome. A-

You see, back in the late 80s or early 90s, I forget which, there was this fellow named Steve Lightle who used to draw the Legion of Super-Heroes comic on a regular basis. Fans liked his stuff a lot, as I recall. Myself, I thought his work was fine but I didn't read the LSH then nor did I care to begin. Then, he moved to another book or something and as is par for this title over the years, more changes got made, then Zero Hour came along and the Legion got completely retconned with new creative teams, and Lightle did less and less work for DC, and time went on...but longtime hardcore Legion fans didn't. Many of them hated the artists that subsequently illustrated the adventures of the 30th Century supergroup, and many publicly cried out for the return of Lightle, who didn't seem to be doing anything else to speak of, in comics anyway. So now, those LSH fans have gotten their wish- Lightle has illustrated this, a somewhat routine fill-in issue featuring the crankiest Legionnaire, Umbra, who returns to her homeworld to find out why her powers were malfunctioning. And you know what? He's not bad. Not bad at all. Many artists, when returning to the scene of prior glories, often serve to reinforce that old axiom about not being able to go home again...but not Lightle. If anything, he's gotten better! And while I like the current regulars, as far as I'm concerned Steve Lightle is welcome to draw the Legion any old time he wants to, improbable costume on Umbra notwithstanding. A-

Big treat for those of us who were fans of the Robinson/Harris/Snejbjerg Starman book, as Selina and Holly stop off in Opal City on their road trip, and we get to catch up with the O'Dares and Bobo Benetti. Ed Brubaker puts a nice outsider's spin on the Opal, and we also get layouts by Nevermen and Sandman Mystery Theatre artist Guy Davis, which don't always rest comfortably under Cam Stewart's finishes, but it's fine nonetheless. Loughridge colored this, need I say more? The countdown continues- two more issues until Stewart is gone, along with your humble scribe. B+

Normally reliable scribe Mike Carey kinda comes up short on the finale of this two-parter, which sets up an effective mood but devolves into incoherence before it's done. Maybe some of the blame is due to fill-in artist Doug Alexander Gregory, who looks capable enough with his Mark Badgerisms, but kinda gets derailed here. Better days ahead, I'm sure. B
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Also lest I forget (and thanks to Sugar 'n Spicy for reminding me), today would have been the 134th birthday of the great Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland.

The Potion Maker
Johnny Bacardinium is an opaque, thin beige liquid drawn from the leaves of a stunted oak.
Mix with Johnny Bacardi! Username:
Yet another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern

Found this over at Stupid Evil Bastard's place. When I'm mixed with his, this is what you get:

The Potion Maker
Lesium is an opaque, oily magenta liquid distilled from the flesh of a wolfsbane plant.
Johnny Bacardinium is an opaque, thin beige liquid drawn from the leaves of a stunted oak.
Mixing Lesium with Johnny Bacardinium causes a violent chemical reaction, producing an opaque lavender potion which gives the user protection from fire.
Yet another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern

Whee! Fun. And yes, I'm writing comics reviews, to be posted later today.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

BSBdG's today to Bryan Ferry, 58. We did the Roxy Music thing a month or so ago, so I won't go there...but I'll say that while I haven't been all that thrilled by the music he's made either on his own or with Roxy in the last 15 years, I certainly loved a lot of it he made in the 13 years prior and let it go at that. And the guy still looks classy.

Also, Olivia Newton-John, 55. Songs I like a lot: "A Little More Love". "Hopelessly Devoted To You". "Magic", and "Xanadu" with the ELO. Kinda liked "Physical". Movies I liked: Grease, and I kinda liked Xanadu in spite of myself.

Click on the pics above to go to websites.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Sad to read, just now, about the death of Robert Palmer at age 54.

While I was never a huge fan, I did like a lot of his music. I found a lot of it clever and inventive and admired his willingness to experiment with different sounds, while retaining the island music flavor he apparently preferred. Most people associate him, and rightly so, with the ever-present 80s hits "Addicted To Love" (from his biggest selling album, Riptide) and "Simply Irresistible", his dapper, disaffected, somewhat Bryan Ferry-ish image, and his alliance with the Double Duran guys in the Power Station. I myself have always loved his top 40 song "Every Kinda People", a Marvin Gayeish reggae song with a gorgeous melody, and am a fan of his underrated, in my opinion, 1983 album Pride, which melded techno sounds to reggae and never failed to be clever and interesting.

Who's next, I wonder...it's been a bad last few months for musicians!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I fully intended to write my comics reviews today, since I managed to get my new purchases read yesterday evening, but the day has gotten away from me. I might try to get them posted tonight, but most likely it will be tomorrow. In case you were waiting or something. I'll tell you this- I was most impressed with the Fables one shot. It was a really good read.

I've been listening to the digital music our cable TV company provides today, and have heard some interesting stuff, most notably a cut from Neil Young's newest effort, Greendale, which sounds like something from his Harvest period...honest! Sounds like Neil's done gone and writ himself a concept album of some sort- for some reason I'm reminded of Sinatra's 1969 Watertown. Right now I'm hearing a song by someone named Josh Ritter; it's called "Rainslicker" and it sounds very jazzy, folky and atmospheric. I like it, but that's just another CD I can't afford to buy right now. I need a job.

Speaking of which, this time next week, I'll be flying to Denver, CO, on my way to Nebraska and hopefully a job and a potential new life. Kinda scary if you think about it. I don't even own a pair of bib overalls! Just kidding, Nebraska readers!

Guess that's all I've got for right now. Hopefully, I'll have mo' better later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I've been reading here and there about the upcoming rerelease of Let It Be, this time supposedly more stripped-down and in line with what the Fabs intended, as opposed to the Phil Spector-produced (and some say over-produced) "official" version which saw release in 1970.

Now, I've always kinda liked the Spectorized version of Let it Be, even though, to be honest, I don't really think he improved any of the songs that I've heard as originals on the Anthology CDs, and I've had 33 years to assimilate that album. Paul always gets his knickers in a twist over Spector's "Long and Winding Road" job, but let's face it- after hearing no less than four different versions of that tune, on not only the Anthology but several of McCartney's own solo albums, nobody could help that plodding, sappy ditty. I don't think Spector helped or hurt the title track, and I actually prefer his "Across The Universe" to the more singsongy and thin-sounding original version that appeared on the World Wildlife Fund album in '68. Lennon always defended Phil's production job, partially, I suppose because Phil did it at his insistence but also because, I believe, John was interested in maintaining the creative collaboration he had going with Spector, so of course it was in his best interests to butter him up. Anyway, ironic that this is coming out now, since John's not around to oppose it. In fact, one gets the definite sense of Paul once again trying to apply a little revisionist history here, despite the fact that the other survivors, George before his death, approved this reissue.

Ah, well. I want to hear it, whatever the motivation. I'll definitely miss "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It", tracks on the original which are being left off, but that's not a major loss. I always liked the extended version of "Dig It" that John sings in the film, which I've actually seen only once. I'm hoping that a reissued DVD of the movie will soon be forthcoming, as well.

Photo by Linda McCartney, by the way...
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Today's BSBdG's go out posthumously to Linda Eastman McCartney, who would have been 62 today. It's debatable as to whether or not she should have had as prominent a position in Sir Paul's musical endeavors in the 70s and 80s as she did; myself, I think she was always a well-meaning amateur but her often off-key vocals added a haunting quality to the BVs in Paul's songs, and I liked that very much. I'll always recall with amusement seeing McCartney perform in 1990, with Linda, along with Paul (Wix) Wickens, on keyboards, and noting (along with everyone sitting around me) that she wasn't pressing down on the keys! And she was set up directly in front of us, so there was no mistaking. Apparently Wix was handling most of the keyboard duties, leaving Linda to ooh and aah and shake her tambourine, and mime playing the keybs.

But-Linda was a hell of a photographer. I went to see the traveling exhibition that made the rounds a few years ago, and was blown away. She took some of my favorite photos of the Fabs, most notably the session at John's Twickenham estate just before their breakup. You can go here to see the majority of what was featured at the exhibition.

She was also a tireless advocate of vegetarianism and animal rights, and Paul sure seemed to love the hell out of her, and she was the subject of a lot of great (and some not-so-great) songs...so happy birthday, Linda McCartney, wherever you are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I've also watched a gaggle of movies over the last week or two, and this be them:

1967's Clambake, a film which certainly contributed to Elvis' growing dissatisfaction with his movie career and onscreen image; indeed, it was less than a year later that he filmed the legendary 1968 Comeback Special on TV. Taken on its own merits, though, this film actually was kinda watchable, if a bit formulaic. Elvis is placed in another "Prince and the Pauper" type situation as he plays a rich oil heir/chemist who wants to find out if people could like him for who he is, rather than for his money. He trades places with a goofy ski instructor at a Florida hotel, and finds himself in a rivalry with Bill Bixby (wearing hair that looks like it was spray-painted with copper colored lacquer), a playboy boat racer, for the hand of sweet, demure Elvis movie regular Shelley Fabares. Much hilarity and several Elvis songs, some not bad, and some that will leave you slack-jawed in disbelief (there's an Oklahoma-inspired bit with some kids on a playground that has to be seen to be believed), ensues until the climactic boat race at the end, where the truth finally comes out and Elvis gets the girl. This flick looks more 1965 than 1967, and it's often pretty cheesy, but I found it an enjoyable way to kill an hour and a half.

John Woo's 2002 film Windtalkers is well made, and certainly conveys the intense horror of war effectively, but the problem is that what was supposed to be a drama about the secret code used in Word War II (actually the Navajo language) and the Native Americans who were responsible for using it to relay messages on the battlefield becomes the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan rewritten as an action vehicle for Nicolas Cage, who is good but should not have been the main focus of this movie. Christian Slater, of all people, has a pretty good-sized role as well...ah me. I remember when he was top-billed.

Another 2002 film, Pumpkin stars Christina Ricci as a perky sorority girl who falls in love with one of the contestants in a Special Olympics, a wheelchair-bound shot-putter named "Pumpkin" Romanoff. Of course, this causes no end of complications in their lives. Pumpkin is not a dreary drama, thank God, but one of those Farrelly Brothers-type satires that goes by the throw-enough-at-the-wall-and-some-is-bound-to-stick principle, and unfortunately not enough does. It's so inconsistent in its tone and intent that I got real impatient with it, and it has a copout ending to boot. Ricci is good, as usual, but little else here is. There is some interesting use of soundtrack music here and there, though.

I do, however, recommend (very highly) the 2001 William Macy film Panic. Panic is the story of Macy's character, Alex, who has been raised by his domineering bastard of a father to follow in his footsteps as a hit man. As an adult, he has a family who has no idea what he does for a living, and lives a normal life as a upstanding member of the community. Problem is, he's havig a midlife crisis, and he wants to quit, but he can't stand up to his father. He decides to start seeing a therapist, nicely underplayed by the late John Ritter...but when his father hears that he's doing this (and has confided his real occupation to his doctor), he orders Alex to kill his shrink. To complicate things further, Alex falls in lust with a young girl he meets in the therapist's office, played by Neve Campbell. He begins to desperately try to see her, even to the point of stalking. Macy is outstanding in the type of role he specializes in, an average Joe type who is struggling to keep everything around him in line but clueless about how to go about doing so...he's able to create sympathy for what is a pretty unlikeable character. Donald Sutherland is outstanding in the role of the heavy, as is Tracy Ullman, of all people, as Alex's uncomprehending wife. Heck, everybody's good, and this is a first rate film...one of those kinda movies that you hope you'll catch when you're awake at 4 AM watching TV.

And then, on the other hand, sometimes you run across a film like the dumb-ass Formula 51, a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels wannabe that doesn't come close to the Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino model it aspires to. Basically, it's about a drug, developed by Samuel L. Jackson's character out of legal ingredients and supposed to be 51 more times powerful than any other, that he takes to England, doublecrossing Meat Loaf(!)'s American crime boss in the process. Meat hires an assassin to off Sam and get back the formula. Chaos ensues as Jackson tries to sell his drug to the nutball crime lord, accompanied by a small-time hood who works for him. It's got Samuel L. Jackson, always a plus, but he is saddled with a dumb, mostly incoherent script that asks him to go around in a kilt (which he wears with style), states at the end that no one ever found out why he wears one, and then shows us why in the very next scene! I also thought Emily Mortimer was pretty easy on the eyes as the assassin, even though her role didn't amount to much. Formula 51 is worth watching once, I suppose, but check your brain at the door.

And that be it for movies from me lately!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Well, Bill Sherman's already beat me to it, and has summarized it quite nicely-so go there first before reading any further- but I wanted to post some thoughts about HBO's new original series Carnivále anyway.

It's an densely plotted, challenging show, and most of the characters are ambiguous as far as their inclination towards good vs. evil. There's dust everywhere, blowing and making everything all gauzy and causing me to sneeze. Carnivále reminds me of David Lynch remaking Something Wicked This Way Comes, or maybe if Bradbury rewrote that book as a sequel to The Grapes of Wrath. But to its credit, it doesn't lay all its plot (tarot?) cards out on the table right away...which means I'll be surprised if it becomes a hit. I can't imagine who HBO imagines the audience for this will be, but I'm happy they're airing it nonetheless. Besides- it's got Buckaroo Banzai's Clancy Brown, playing a nutball preacher who (like almost everyone in the show) sees and causes visions, so I gotta watch. For some reason his character reminds me a bit of previously mentioned American Gothic's Sheriff Buck. It's cool to see former Twin Peaks cast member Michael J. Anderson in a role that doesn't ask him to speak backwards, and B-movie queens Adrienne Barbeau and Amy Madigan are always welcome.

Hats off to HBO for putting this on, and I hope they stick with it. If this had been on any of the mainstream networks, it would be off the air in two months max, after multiple time changes and pre-emptions.
OK, now that the birthday stuff is out of the way, here's one of those rambling posts. Brought to you by Coca-Cola and pretzels.

First, wake the neighbors and phone the kids, and let there be drunkenness, fornication, and revelry everywhere because commenter per excellence Shawn Fumo now has a blog! There is hope for this wild, wanton world after all.

Belated thanks for the kind words, Sean Collins! Hopefully, you're not just softening me up for when you tear into me over "Heroes" and Velvet Goldmine...

After going 10-4 in week 3 of the NFL season, I'm now 30-15, not too shabby. Lest I get overconfident, I've got to keep in mind that I'm not considering the spread, which as any gambler can tell you is the real test of a prognosticator. I had a hunch that Arizona might be tough for Green Bay in that desert heat, but I wasn't brave enough to pick that way. The loss by San Francisco made me happy on a personal level, 'cause I despise the Niners, and I honestly thought Cincinnati had a shot against banged-up Pittsburgh. And my Falcons. Oh, Atlanta. Little Feat reference there, snicker-snicker. It's pretty obvious that they have deep problems, and unless they find some confidence and fire somewhere it won't matter if Mike Vick comes back or not. Dan Reeves' conservative play calling is, as always, a problem. Reeves coaches like a man who forgot to take his Zocor. I realize that they've had a lot of success with Reeves, but there have been times when I wished they had someone in charge down there that had a better grasp of the modern NFL game. And all the people that were wondering what was "wrong" with Tampa Bay, good God, people, Carolina has a great defense! Were you even watching that game? They're gonna shut a lot of people down, Atlanta included in a week or so, and Tampa's offense isn't all that potent to begin with! There was nothing "wrong" with the Bucs that a trip to Atlanta couldn't cure. Underacheiving offensively, and overmatched defensively, I'm beginning to regret my 9-7 prediction for my hapless Birds.

And o bitter disappointment, but absolutely no surprise, my White Sox completely rolled over and spread 'em for the Minnesota Twins and blew their shot at the playoffs. It's my curse, I suppose, to root for teams with emotionless skippers. Charlie Manuel, who (if there's a God) will surely get canned at the end of this season, had his charges sleepwalking through what should have been the stretch of their baseball lives. You'd look at the opposing bench for both the Twins and the Royals, and the players would be alive, cheering, yelling- look over at the Sox's dugout and everyone would be sitting around, looking out into space or staring at the floor. Only Frank Thomas showed any life at all. Carl Everett looked a little fired up occasionally as well. Sad.

Looking at the new Diamond shipping list, I see where I'll be getting the following:

JLA #87

It wouldn't be a bad week, cost-wise, if not for that Fables one-shot which clocks in at $5.95. And didn't I say I was gonna drop Strangers? Can't...stop...buying... Oh well, also looking forward to the finale of the best JLA arc in a while, and best of all, a new Promethea!

Music today, so far: Neil Young- Tonight's the Night (I can't think of very many lovelier songs than "Albequerque" and "Borrowed Tune"); Harry Nilsson-Duit on Mon Dei (original title: God's Greatest Hits, which a horrified RCA immediately nixed), Jethro Tull-Living in the Past (I've had "Boureé" in my head most of the morning), Latin Playboys (love "Rudy's Party"), and No More Sad Refrains- The Best of Sandy Denny.
Mamaw has some great birthday company! Among others, she shares her day with (hang on, there's a bunch of 'em):

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The great Ray Charles, 73.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Bruce Springsteen, 54. There are those who can't stand his stuff, for whatever reason, but I'm not one of them. He does have some annoying mannerisms, and often goes to the same well too often when writing songs, but he's down-to-earth, literate, and often rocks like a mutha. Favorite album: difficult choice, but I tend to listen to 1987's Tunnel of Love a lot. Heck, I like the usual suspects a lot as well: Born in the USA and Born to Run. Most underrated: again, difficult...but there's a lot of good stuff on The River that gets lost in the sprawl. For some reason, I've been playing Nebraska a lot lately...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who would have been 77 today. Hard to pick out any one favorite album, because to be honest, as a newish convert to jazz I haven't heard that many of 'em. But A Love Supreme is an amazing record, and I flat out love his version of "My Favorite Things".

And finally,
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Ani DiFranco, 33. I first saw her perform on one of those "Live from the House of Blues" specials that used to come on, and was absolutely blown away. She was performing songs from her then-recent Little Plastic Castles album, and seemed to be jittery and uncomfortable, causing her to belt out the tunes with a sincere type of aggressiveness, like she was trying to overcome great obstacles to get her music out there. Two songs especially stood out in that set: "Fuel" and "Swan Dive". I don't know whether she was really all that nervous, or if that was just her style, but I rushed right out and bought Castles (the CD on which those songs could be found) a few days later- and was incredibly disappointed. The studio seemed to suck the life right out of her. Still curious, I picked up her next release Up Up Up Up Up Up...and was unimpressed as well. So much for Ani with me. However, my son sings her praises, and I realize that she has a large following, so I can't dismiss her totally and should probably try to get something else one of these days.

Credit where credit is due dept: The photo of Ani is by one Susan Scott.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

First up, BSBdG's go out today to my grandmother Naomi Frasier, 88 today and shown here with my grandson, who was Bob the Builder for Halloween last year. Mamaw, as we like to call her, is currently recovering from knee replacement surgery, and is amazing her therapists by being ahead of schedule in almost every way. No surprise to all of us, but they just don't know her like we do- she's that way in almost every aspect of her life. All I can say is that I hope I'm as active, alert, and alive when I'm her age.

Monday, September 22, 2003

BSBdG's today go out to Joan Jett, 43 today. While she didn't exactly go on to revolutionize the role of women in the rock biz like some thought she might, she certainly has put out a respectable amount of great music over the years. Favorite album: 1983's cleverly titled Album.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Time once again for
Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning tomorrow: Indy, Cincinnati (I really think they're due),
Tennessee, Tampa Bay (sigh), Kansas City, New England, Minnesota, Seattle, Green Bay, NY Giants, Baltimore, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Denver.

For entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. The Show acknowledges no liability if money is lost betting by these predictions.

Week two record: 9-7. Overall: 20-11.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out today to Gary Cole, 47 today, who most people (I fear) remember from his turn as Mike Brady in those smirky Brady Bunch movies, or even as (God help them) Brian Keith for the Aughts in the WB's lame revival of Family Affair. But- he'll always be (to me) Lucas Buck, the evil sheriff of Trinity, South Carolina in CBS's excellent American Gothic series of a few years ago. That was a fascinating show, with a great premise, and CBS totally screwed it by moving it around to different nights, pre-empting it incessantly, showing episodes out of order and failing to air four of the twenty-two, and tinkering with the scripts and cast...which ensured its failure, hardly a difficult thing to do given its unusual nature! Anyway, reruns pop up here and there on cable networks like Sci-Fi and Trio, and one can only hope that someone decides to collect it, in order, on DVD a la Firefly...if that ever comes out...

Friday, September 19, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


What I bought and what I thought, week of September 17

So far, so good as Milligan avoids the trap I had feared, choosing to explore a new direction for our "hero", rather than going once again to the lost-in-the-identity-of-someone-else well that I had hoped he would avoid. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone that's overly sensitive about the events of 9-11, but otherwise, this is a smart extrapolation of a real-life premise that I'm sure has a lot of basis in truth. Javier Pulido's art looks a little bit rushed this time out, and I'm wondering if he's ever done a monthly title before...but believe me, I'm nitpicking. He's still excellent and more than good enough to overcome the hamfisted hues of Lee Loughridge. A

More Groucho Marx meets Robert E. Howard, as we delve deeper into the backstory of the big blue Top Tener Jeff Smax, aka "Mr. Dragonslayer". Smax was not one of my favorite characters in the original series, but this is clever and interesting (pretty much par for the course for Alan Moore) and well drawn by Zander Cannon, especially the really bizarre looking dragon we encounter. Amusing Frazetta swipe on the cover, too. A

Beatrice, the coat check girl from Lux (the Morningstar's piano bar), who has gone unseen for quite some time now gets a partial spotlight in this issue, which also deals with the reprocussions of Lucifer's actions two months back. We're also introduced (if they've appeared before, I don't recall them) to two giants who decide to assume the vacant position of ruler of creation, and they seem to have done their homework, which makes them a surprisingly credible threat, despite the fact that one of them reminds me of Billy Crystal's Monsters, Inc. character. As always, Ryan Kelly and Peter Gross do a capable, if a little inconsistent this time around, job. A-

Well, even though if you kinda squint your eyes you'll think you're reading 100 Bullets, this is not bad in its own right. Not the most original thing I've ever read, but this Cinnamon character is charismatic enough to be interesting, and the upcoming conflict between this daughter of a murdered sheriff and the daughter of one of his murderers looks to be worth following...and I have a sneaking suspicion that it might take an unexpected turn or two before it's over. I hope. A-

Out of the 23 pages, only 8 actually advance the script, so once again we're treated to more of the backstory of David Mack's Echo character, which is useful, I suppose, if you didn't read her first appearance a couple of years ago. In fact, if not for those 8 pages I would have sworn I was re-reading last issue. So while it's all very well illustrated in Mack's Bill Sinkiewicz-influenced style, it's not very cost effective...so I dock this issue a notch and hope for closer to a 50-50 mix next time. B+

Here we have an impulse buy. I really like the Ultimates book, and this is definitely cut from the same cloth, albeit with the Ultimates acting a bit more fascisistic than I remember from their own title. I suppose if we have to have superheroes, then I like them presented this way: terse, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, with a self-aware, sarcastic sense of humor. Of course, this is anaethema to many who have their hero-identification crosses to bear, so I'm sure there will be as much bitching about this as there is about the Ultimates proper. Bendis sets the tone from the beginning with his usual snappy dialogue, Joe Quesada turns in a nice art job on the first few pages, and Trevor Hairsine does his best Bryan Hitch impersonation for the remainder (and gets away with it more often as not), with Danny (Johnny B does not know who the hell you are) Miki holding it all together on inks. Nicely done, and if not for the inconsistent art I would have given it an A-. B+

I have to admit that I was a wee bit disappointed that this wasn't Abe Sapiens, Liz Sherman, Hellboy, and co. sitting around getting drunk on cheap wine...instead, it's more Liz and Roger the Homonoculus (with another appearance by Lobster Johnson, who's nowhere near as interesting to me as he seems to be to everyone else) as they get mixed up with (you guessed it) ghostly Nazis, this time riding a (yep) ghost train. Even so, it had my interest for about 3/4 of the book, until the creators seemed to run out of pages and charged full speed ahead to the end. Typical hit-and-miss Geoff Johns, and OK art by Scott Kolins, whose work I hated on Legion years ago, but apparently he's had a stylistic epiphany of some sort since. I like it a lot better now. B

OK. Bill Sherman, Big Sunny D and Sean Collins have weighed in on this already, and they've managed to sum this up quite nicely, confirming the suspicions that I had about the general thrust of this difficult-to-like limited series. Look, for the record, I like Grant Morrison's work. I was right there, digging on his Doom Patrol and its magnificent spinoff Flex Mentallo, one of my all time favorite comics series. Marvel Boy. The Invisibles. Even a trade or two of his New X-Men. I think there are few, if any writers who have as much sheer imagination as Morrison, let alone the ability to challenge his readers. However, as with his Invisibles, I think that he has ultimately failed to get his ideas across because he has deliberately chosen to cloak and obscure them with overwhelming visual and verbal clutter, which would seem to be at cross purposes with the enlightenment he seems to hope to bring to his reader. But he apparently doesn't know how to do it any other way...when waxing all metaphysical on us, I don't think he could write a linear story if he wanted to. These convoluted "unreality vs. reality" and "common man striving to find that small spark of the divine within while dealing with the mundanity of the world in which he lives" notions were the heart of Invisibles, (especially) Flex, and the Filth, and only on Flex was he able to state his case clearly. Whenever I've finished something like this, I'm always reminded of Robert Christgau's review of John Lennon & Yoko Ono's Some Time in New York City, in which he states:

...But if agitprop is one thing and wrong-headed agitprop another, agitprop that doesn't reach its intended audience is hardly a thing at all.

And isn't agitprop of another sort what Morrison's trying to do, this time on a perceptual level rather than a social level like John & Yoko in 1972?

All right, that's all. I think I'll definitely have to re-read this at some point; after all, it took me a couple of readings to get to the bottom of Flex Mentallo as well. And I'll also mention that Chris Weston, with inker Gary Erskine, often turned in some stellar work during the course of this series, no more so than on this issue's touching last page. The coloring was magnificent throughout. A lot of what The Filth was trying to say may have evaded me, but I'll give DC a lot of credit for putting it out. I wish more floppy pamphlets, or trade paperbacks for that matter (and that may be where The Filth coheres) would be as challenging as this one has been. This issue: B. Entire series: C+

Note: The Filth review has been edited a bit to help clear up some fuzzy thinking on my part. Mercy buckets, Big Sunny D!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Apparently a lot of interesting musicians met their respective makers in the month of September as well...in addition to Marc Bolan's death a couple of days ago, along with (more recently) Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash, yesterday was also the anniversary of the untimely death of Jimi Hendrix, and today marks the day that country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons began his long dirt nap as well.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Multitudinous BSBdG action today! From left to right: Holy typecasting! Adam West, 73; One of the redoubtable agents of U.N.C.L.E., David "Ilya Kuryakin" McCallum, 70; and Lol Creme, 56, musician and video director, formerly of 10cc and Godley + Creme, currently affiliated with the Art of Noise.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I see where Peter Bagge's playing around in Marvel's sandbox again, this time with The Incorrigable Hulk. I wasn't going to pick this up, since I regard his previous efforts The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and Sweatshop as well-intentioned failures. But the splash is pretty damned funny, so I'm beginning to think about getting it.

Which makes me wonder- if I take this job in Nebraska, I don't think there are any comics shops for miles around Sidney. Too far to drive every week, I'm afraid...I have two alternatives, it seems- either get my current comics shop to ship my books to me every week, or enlist a subscriber service like Mile High Comics or Midtown Comics. That's an attractive idea, since they'll be bagged and boarded and I'd get a discount, which I don't get now. But I'm afraid that I wouldn't get my books until at least a week after they come out on Wednesday, and I'd be perpetually a week behind, which would play hell with my reviewing efforts. Have any of you out there got any experience with comics subscriber services like these, and can you advise me?

On a related note, I picked up everything I had previously listed yesterday plus BPRD: Night Train which I had overlooked on the Diamond list, and, believe it or not, Ultimate Six 1. And of course you know that I will review them ASAP.

I've also added a couple of new links at right: recent commenter of note Dave Fiore's Motime Like The Present, and pop culture sites Metafilter and Scrubbles. Click on the links and check them out, o my brothers and sisters!
Prepare yourselves, puny humans, it's time for another edition of

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

How d'ya like the new logo? The Mondo Vinyl-O is a semi-regular feature in which I write about ten long-playing vinyl 33 and 1/3 RPM record albums that I have listened in the interval since the last MV-O. This is a direct result of obtaining a new turntable several months ago after not having one for a couple of years. I've been spending a lot of time getting re-acquainted with a lot of music that I don't own or is unavailable on compact disc, and I decided to pass my impressions on to you. Don't you feel fortunate? Anyway, time to lock 'n load!

The Rolling Stones-Their Satanic Majesties Request (London 1967)
The Stones' stab at psychedelia was universally panned at the beginning, but has grown in stature over the years. At the time of its release, a lot of people, John Lennon included, saw the record as being a little too imitative of Sgt. Pepper's, but I think that's a bit harsh- hell, it seems like everyone back then was trying to do music like this. There's a lot of self-indulgent screwing around on Satanic, to be sure, mostly on the meandering second part of "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)", and the dull "Gomper" which might have been better off left in the can...but there are some wonderful (and somewhat influential, I believe) songs which more than make up for it, like the resplendent "She's A Rainbow"; the eerie synth-driven "2000 Light Years From Home"; and "Citadel", which features a great riff (which Roxy Music nicked for Stranded's "Street Life") at its center. Brian Jones was the driving creative force behind a lot of this, it seems, and perhaps its poor reception was one of the things that led him farther down the slippery slope that resulted in his premature death, who knows...Mick 'n Keef abandoned psychedelia after this for the more earthy pleasures of country and blues-rock, and I'm kinda glad that they did...but this remains a fun listen. I wish I had the necessary discs so I could make my own Psychedelic Stones CD, with the '67 single "We Love You" and the earlier "Child of the Moon" added.

Tim Moore-Tim Moore (Elektra 1974)
Picked this up back in the late 70s in the cutout bin at the Emporium, where I met Bill Lloyd, who used to work there. I had never heard of Moore, and to be honest, I don't know what caused me to pick this up, even to this day...but I'm very glad I did because this is an excellent soft-pop album, reminiscent of Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac or James Taylor. Best of all is the marvelous opening cut, "A Fool Like Me" which overcomes pseudo-philosophical lyrics like "Cryin with the millionaire/Is like laughin' with the old street bum/Send him off to the colisseum/Promise him Kingdom Come" with a drop-dead gorgeous melody and wonderful string and vocal arrangements. Other winners include the pensive piano-and-strings ballad "Second Avenue" and the Jeff Buckley-ish "Sister Lilac". Richie Havens had a minor hit with "Aviation Man" on side two. When I got this I also picked up Moore's 1977 effort White Shadows, which was utterly unremarkable and disinclined me towards seeking out any further albums, of which there were only two or three all together. Wonder whatever happened to this guy?

Sparks-Whomp That Sucker! (RCA, 1981)
If you've been reading me for any amount of time, you've probably inferred that I have a definite weakness for whimsical smart-ass pop-rock, like Jellyfish, 10cc, or Queen...but nobody, and I mean nobody, could touch these guys in that department. Sparks were mostly a vehicle for the Brothers Mael, Ron and Russell- Ron was the deadpan keyboardist/lyricist with the Hitler moustache and Russell was the prettyboy frontman with a voice that was capable of belting or warbling, depending on what the songs called for. Whomp was very much of its time, a synth-heavy Devo-ish concoction punctuated with "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style chorus en masse vocals, produced by then-hot ex-Georgio Moroder engineer Mack, who went on to work with Queen and ELO. Which is not to say it was derivative or imitative, far from it...the Maels were too smart for that. Each song is based on some sort of humorous premise, evident in such song titles as "Tips For Teens", "I Married a Martian", and "Wacky Women". I think my favorite cut, though, is "Upstairs"- in which Ron muses on the thought process set to a surging synth-driven beat. It's catchy as hell. It's been several years since I picked up a Sparks record, even though they've released several since...after their 1984 album Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat I kinda lost interest. I've read good stuff about some of their recent albums so I might have to get one someday.

Dr. John-Desitively Bonaroo (Atco, 1974)
Dr. John, aka Mac Rebennack, had a huge hit album and song the year before with the Allen Toussaint-produced In the Right Place, so apparently both he and the record company saw no reason to deviate from that with the follow-up. Bonaroo is almost identical to its predecessor, featuring that New Orleans Seventies funk sound, except the songs just aren't as strong and there were no hits this time. In fact, Bonaroo was a fixture in cutout bins for years, as retailers bought a hell of a lot of copies that went unsold. Musically, though, this record is first rate, since the Doctor brought back his Right Place collaborators the Meters, and it's actually quite listenable...but it just pales in comparison. Favorite cut: "Mos' Scocious", with its dipsy doodle horn arrangement, and "What Comes Around (Goes Around)", a catchy soul tune.

Michael Nesmith-Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash (RCA 1973)
This was the Thinking Man's Monkee's last record for RCA, for whom he recorded a surprising six records in three years before leaving to start his own Pacific Arts company, which exists to this day. At the time, too weird for Nashville and too country for AM or FM radio programmers, Mike's RCA records are simply amazing country-rock efforts, with smart lyrics and excellent melodies, and I think it's a crime that they're so obscure. I dare say that Nesmith is the missing link between Gram Parsons and Steve Earle in the country-rock pantheon. Although every one of them has strong cuts, Stash represented a aesthetic comeback of sorts for Nez after the somewhat dull And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' and the sloppy, rambling Tantamount to Treason Vol. 1. I get a feeling of wanting to go out on a high note on this record, making me think that Nesmith knew that chart success was just not going to happen at RCA , so he just decided to record some music for himself and ta heck with what the bean counters thought. Side one is Nes originals, featuring a remake of the Monkees tune "Some of Shelley's Blues", and his honky-tonk angel song "Winonah", which is pure classic Nashville country. Side two is given to eclectic covers like Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and Billy Hill's "Prairie Lullaby". I think most of Nesmith's RCA albums are available on CD these days, so if you haven't heard them do yourself a favor and seek them out.

Mike McGear-McGear (Warner Bros. 1974)
McGear is, of course, Michael McCartney, satirist brother of the cute moptop. Partially as an excuse to audition future Wings guitarist Jimmy McCullough, and partially out of the desire to help out his bro, Sir Paul produced, co-wrote, and played on this album along with Linda and Denny Laine, essentially making this sound like a Wings record with a sense of humor. Actually, it's a lot better than that- I think Mike's sharp humor brought out the best in Macca's creativity, and this is actually one of the strongest records he was involved in post-Fabs. Lol Creme and Kevin Godley show up on a couple of cuts as well, playing their then-new Gizmo, essentially a device which made guitars sound like orchestral strings. Features a great, rocked-up cover of Roxy Music's "Sea Breezes", the pretty "Simply Love You", the Sensational Alex Harvey Band via Monty Python-ish "Norton", the T.Rex satire "Givin' Grease a Ride", and the horn-driven "Have You Got Problems?", and several other strong cuts. Mike de-emphasized the family connection when this was released, and therefore this record was a flop of historic proportions. In fact, and I might be mistaken here, I seem to recall reading that this was the worst-selling record in the history of Warner Bros. Records at the time of the article. A pity, but it's available on CD so apparently somebody out there wants to hear it!

David Bowie-"Heroes" (RCA, 1978)
The second of those revered and influential Eno collaborations, "Heroes" has always been, to me, kind of a mixed bag. Just like the previous years' Low, it's divided into a song side and an instrumental side, and just like Low, it's of varying interest. Most of the instrumentals bore me, although there are some passages here and there that sound interesting. The songs on side one, though, are pretty good, especially the lurching opener "Beauty and the Beast", the melodramatic "Sons of the Silent Age", and, of course, the title cut, which most people these days know from that terrible Wallflowers cover. It's rare when one song makes picking up an entire record worthwhile, but it's true in this case- Bowie's original version of "Heroes" is such a dynamic, evocative cut that it raises the quality of the rest of this album, like a great hitter in baseball can make his team a lot better. Of course, I gotta mention that this album would be nowhere near as strong as it is without the invaluable aid of guitarist Robert Fripp, who shines throughout- especially on that title song. Compared with the strong, groundbreaking Low, and its successors Lodger and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), "Heroes" comes across as a step sideways, but it does have its charms. And even the worst track here is far superior to anything Bowie's done in the last 20 years.

Davey Johnstone-Smiling Face (Rocket/MCA, 1973)
At some point between the albums Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John's guitarist recorded this understated, but likeable folk-pop album. Filled with songs about his wife, friends and family, it's definitely a labor of love for the underrated Johnstone, whose contributions to John's best records is often overlooked. Longtime EJ producer Gus Dudgeon did the board work, Elton contributed keyboards to one cut, and Rick Wakeman (credited here as "Bakeman", either a typo or an attempt to fool Wakeman's record company) chips in with synths on "A Lark in the Morning With Mrs. McLeod", a fun medley of folk songs, but everything else here is Johnstone and the odd member of the Elton John music family past and present, like Roger Pope or Caleb Quaye. Bert Jansch of Pentangle fame also guests on a well-played track. Of special note is the title cut, a song for his son (pictured on the cover) a mandolin exercise that is absolutely charming, and the equally charming "A Lovely Day", a happy song about, well, a lovely day! Of such slight origins wonderful music is often made. I have no idea how well this record sold, I've only seen one copy in my life in a record store, the one I own. I was a pretty big Elton fan at the time, and I didn't even know it existed until many years later. An real obscure, humble little gem of an album.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Brain Salad Surgery (Atlantic/Manticore 1973)
Boy, this record (the first ELP album I ever heard) brings back a lot of memories. Other ELP albums have their moments, but this one in particular is one of the most original, most over-the-top, imaginative, melodic, inventive, and any other adjectives you care to name albums by anybody that I've ever heard and it blew me away when I was 14. Guess that speaks to my legendary arrested development that I still think so. And yes, it's pretentious as all get out, too, but I've never minded pretension when the music that framed it was solid. From the bombastic, but triumphant opening track "Jerusalem", a William Blake poem set to music, to the neo-classical assault "Toccata", which is a bit much at first but gets better with subsequent listens, to the lovely, albeit thin-sounding "Still...You Turn Me On", to "Benny the Bouncer", a clever little story-song reminiscent of the trio's "The Sheriff" from Trilogy to the gonzo, all-stops-out sci-fi extravaganza "Karn Evil 9", this record is a tour-de-force, with inventive arrangements and excellent lyrics by good ol' Peter Sinfield, especially on "Karn Evil 9"'s second movement. So naturally, after I discovered ELP with this record, they completely lost the plot, due to internal squabbling, megalomania, drugs, and all the usual bullshit which disrupted musicians' careers. They tried to reunite in the 90s and even more recently, but apparently they totally shot their creative wad with Surgery because subsequent records were lackluster at best and abominable at worst. One of the reasons I never embraced Punk or New Wave all that much back then was because of the utter disdain punks had for this type of music.

Todd Rundgren-Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (Bearsville 1971)
Todd's second proper solo record, the one before Something/Anything and "Hello It's Me" made him, briefly, a star. It's an unassuming (well, as unassuming as Todd could be, anyway) little pop record, where Rundgren works out his Carole King and Laura Nyro obsessions...which is not to say it's all piano ballads- there are several rockers here as well, mostly Badfinger-style power pop (unsurprisingly, Todd produced Badfinger not long after this) with former Nazz members and studio musos. It's a fine record, but Todd hadn't really come into his own just yet. The highlights for me are the doe-eyed ballads "Long Time, Long Way to Go" and "Be Nice to Me", along with the smartaleck country song "The Range War" and the genuinely moving "Wailing Wall". He went on to do more accomplished music, but this is a solid album.

That's it! I try to limit it to ten (which takes me all morning to write), but there were twice as many records that I listened to in this period. Maybe they'll pop up in future Vinyl-O's. Sounds like a breakfast cereal, dunnit? I still intend to do a solo Beatles someday down the line, so stay tuned.
Antipopper recently made some interesting observations after watching the DVD of the first season of Twin Peaks. I would have never made the connection between the odd Americana slant of late 60s Beach Boys music and Peaks, but AP did, and it makes a lot of sense. I had totally forgotten that Van Dyke Parks had a role as Leo's lawyer.

I watched, and was utterly engrossed in, the first season of Twin Peaks. But for reasons which escape me right now I missed the first two episodes of the second season, and I figured that I would never be able to figure out what the heck was going on, so I didn't watch again. And sure enough, right after I made that decision, ratings fell hard and fast and the show was cancelled not long after. I've always felt partially responsible for the death of that show...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

And finally, in order to justify my membership in the Team Comics Bloggers club, here's what I'll be getting tomorrow according to the new Diamond shipping list:


A mercifully light week, although if they get in copies of Superman: Red Son 3 I'll pick that up too. I can't tell you how glad I am that The Filth is winding up. I gave up trying to figure out that frigging book a long time ago, and I can state unequivically that I'm sure this issue won't make anything any clearer. My comics shop didn't get in a copy of Scott Morse's The Barefoot Serpent last week, not that I could have afforded it anyway...but I'd still like to pick it up someday.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The distinguished Mr. Sean T. Collins expresses disbelief upon reading that I didn't like the film Velvet Goldmine. Straight out of Bizarro World, me will now not explain why me liked that movie. Bear in mind that I haven't seen it since my initial viewing in 1999.

For those of you that don't know, Velvet Goldmine was for David Bowie (and to a lesser extent, Iggy Pop) what Citizen Kane was for William Randolph Hearst, a thinly veiled biopic. It was released in 1998, and starred Jonathan Rhys-Davis as "Brian Slade", a mysterious Bowie-like figure and Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild, a Iggy-type. Kane-style, new Bat-guy Christian Bale played a reporter who tried to find out what happened to Slade, who had retreated from the public eye in the 1980s.

Glitter Rock, or Glam Rock if you will, was a short-lived phenomenon that rose up as a reaction to the music scene in the late 60s, which was full of earnest hippie types who played bluesy rock. Glam brought a sense of theatricality, imagination, flamboyance, and yes, a gay sensibility to what was perceived as the stodgy music environment, and as a lad of 12 who was just beginning to discover music magazines and different artists, I was instantly attracted not necessarily to the androgynous aspects but just the sheer visual panache and musical cleverness of artists like Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Roxy Music. Of course, Glam never really caught on in the US, most likely because it was just too weird and different for mainstream tastes at the time. But I loved it, and was sad to see artists like Bolan fade away. Heck, many of my favorite albums and musicians remain those of this period.

So when I heard that a new movie was coming out, and it was going to be about the Glitter days and specifically Bowie (I also seem to remember that it began as a biopic with La David's participation, but Bowie pulled out of the project), I was very excited. And of course, when the film hit theatres the knuckleheaded conservative area movie house operators wouldn't show it because it was vaguely controversial. So I had to wait another year to rent the video, which I did on the day it was released. Perhaps because I had built up so much anticipation (feel free to pause between the ci- and the -pa), after I watched it I was hugely disappointed...even angry. If one is to go by the general impression that this film leaves, then one will think that all the Glam Rock genre was about was sex, drugs and decadence, and getting a boner when you saw Bowie/Slade wearing eye shadow and silk pants. Now don't get me wrong- I may be a Kentucky boy, but I'm not naive. I know that all sorts of sexual and chemical shenanigans went down, and was indeed a huge part of that whole decade, not only the Glam era...but there was the music. The imaginative, clever, wonderfully played (in most cases) music. In Goldmine, the music was incidental, of secondary interest to visualizing that tired old question of "did Bowie really sleep with Iggy and Jagger?". I just think director Todd Haynes and his scriptwriter(s) completely missed the forest for the trees. The performances were OK, but neither Rhys-Davis or McGregor had half the charisma of their real-life analogues. Marc Bolan, who was just as instrumental in the rise and fall of Glam as Bowie, was given very short shrift, and the scene at the end that was supposed to depict Marc was amateur-hour all the way. Of course you know that pissed me off, too. Insofar as the soundtrack went, there were several apt choices, but again Bolan got the shaft- choosing the obscure, slight ditty "Diamond Meadows", from the equally obscure first proper T.Rex album, more popular in Britain but almost unknown in the colonies, was just all kinds of wrong. I know, licensing issues may have made that necessary. But still.

I will say one thing- the film looked good. Visually, it was first rate, like Haynes' other films have been. But I think he totally underestimated and misunderstood the movement he was trying to depict, and just created a trashy, condescending cross between Stardust and Citizen Kane, and that's something nobody wanted to see...especially me. I felt like he was cynically looking down on me, and others, who embraced Glitter wholeheartedly in the 70s. And that, Sean, is why I didn't like Velvet Goldmine.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the automobile crash death of Marc Bolan, which leads me to my next post...
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

BSBdGs today go out to über-sexy (the Word of the Day-Über) Jennifer Tilly, 42 today. Don't know what else to say...she makes bad movies better, and good movies even more so!
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Received an invitation the other day to an exhibit featuring my friend from Western Kentucky University, the über-talented artist Neli Ousounova, who is now attending East Tennessee State in order to get her Masters. I doubt I'll be able to attend, because that's a fairly long way away and I don't have a lot of cash for road trips right now...but I thought I'd post an example of one of her paintings, which she attached to the email, and let all of you know about it in case you might be in the neighborhood. Besides, I said I'd post Neli's work any chance I got, and I'm as good as my word. In this case, anyway.

When and where:
The Reece Museum - East Tennessee State University, on Thursday,Sept 18th, 2003. The opening reception is at 5-7.
Preliminary ramblings:

Well, thanks to the Giants' kicker, I finished this weekend at 9-7. Still, not too bad but not as good as last week's 11-4. Overall I'm 20-11 after two weeks, for you mathematically challenged out there. Like me.

Once again, my Blogger template is all fucked up, as Mojo Nixon would say...I'm not seeing my archives links, I'm missing the grey border at extreme right, and my blogger button is gone. I have deleted nothing, do you hear, nothing! I look at my template code and everything seems to be where it's supposed to be, so all I can assume is that it's another of those periodical Blogger glitches that come and go, usually, in a couple of days. I'll be glad when I get a job, because I'm seriously considering finding a webhost and publishing with Movable Type or one of those other Blogger alternatives. I'd like to come up with a new look for the page anyway. Yeah, yeah, I know I've said it before.

OK, on with the Show.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Only time for a couple of musical observations.

When I was at the radio station this afternoon, preparing to voice track Tuesday, I listened to what was being played at that moment. First, the Beatles' "Norwiegan Wood", then Sweet Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula", then Olivia Newton-John's "A Little More Love". It kicked my ass! Of course, you know I love the Beatletune, but to hear it followed by one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time, then one of about four Livvie songs that I like (and I don't care what anyone says) made my eclectic little inner child jump up and down. I don't pick the music that gets played, but sometimes it does closely resemble the kind of show I would do live...

I watched a broadcast of the Mountain Stages show on PBS Saturday Night; it was a best-of the previous year featuring several different artists, including Billy Joe Shaver, who sang a great song that I cannot remember the title of to save my life. Did any of you out there see this show and/or know what this song's called?

I also wish I could find a good version of Ramblin' Jack Elliott singing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".

Finally, I've been listening to Sparklehorse's Good Morning Spider CD a lot lately. I did the same thing last time I was depressed and unemployed three years ago. Guess it's my official "Broke and Down in the Dumps" soundtrack.

Good lord, the game's on. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff, like Chuckie Barris used to say.

And me am not going to explain why me loved Velvet Goldmine.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and bat-fans all over...I give you the new big screen Batman, Christian Bale. I've seen several films in which he's starred like Velvet Goldmine (which I hated), Reign of Fire, and Shaft, but he never made much of an impression on me one way or another. He needs to bulk up and has a bland onscreen demeanor, so I'm a little apprehensive. But after Bat-nippled armor and Bat-credit cards, anything will be an improvement. And for the record, I didn't think George Clooney was all that bad as Bruce/Bats...it wasn't his fault that the film in which he played the role was a stinking pit of putrescence from Hellywood.
Had a decent football weekend, even though for a while there I was considering changing the title from "Fearless Pigskin Prognostications" to "Fearful...". Anyway, I'm standing at 9-6 with only tonight's G-men vs. Tunaboys contest to go.

My Falcons apparently forgot that a pro football game has four quarters, and rolled over and spread 'em for the Skinnies. Man, I have never liked the 'Skins, and the Falcons should be ashamed for letting Spurrier come in with his ragtag bunch and letting them beat them down at home. Typical Falcons football team...two steps back for every one step forward, and they always find a way to make unlikely heroes out of every green rookie or second-year or has-been on every opponent. Latest example: Patrick Ramsey, who has been remarkably unimpressive in the two seasons he's been in the League...but boy, he looked like the second coming of Joe Montana yesterday. Not that I got to see the game, mind you...the jackholes at the Louisville and Nashville Fox stations I get would rather show TV movies and the like until the 3 PM game. Sigh. I should have my head examined for picking Detroit at Green Bay. Same goes for Cleveland at Baltimore. Just you wait, Tim Couch will be back under center there in no time. And even though I kinda like Tampa Bay, and had picked them to win, I still found myself rooting for Carolina who came in and dictated the game to the stunned-looking Bucs. Of course, both teams are in Atlanta's division, and I do not look forward to the home-and-homes with either. Tennessee didn't perform as well as I expected, either, but you gotta credit Indy's D...they look for real this year.

This concludes the periodical sports post.

Had lunch with the Political Correspondent Friday. As you may or may not recall, the JBSPC had recently attended Wizard World Chicago, and he brought along some of the sketches and prints he had obtained, one of which was a printout of a piece by one Leanne Buckley, a young lady hailing from Kentucky who is a member of Wisconsin-based Studio Ronin. I thought the piece was excellent, albeit sadly not represented on her Studio Ronin web page. Her work kinda reminds me a bit of Tommy Lee Edwards crossed with Jim Mahfood and Dan Brereton via David Mack as realized by John Van Fleet. Or something like that. She should be doing comic book covers NOW.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

BSBdG's are in order today for the luminous Fay Wray, an incredible 96 years old today. Most remember her as the screamer par excellence in the original King Kong, but she actually made several fine films in not only the Thirties but for several decades thereafter.

Here's a nice 1998 interview. You'll recognize the picture I stole right away. Quid pro quo, baby. Yeah.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Time once again for

Johnny B's Fearless Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning tomorrow: Miami, Tennessee, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Seattle, New England, Oakland, Denver, Minnesota, and the New York football Giants.

For entertainment purposes only. Bet at your own risk. The Show acknowledges no liability if money is lost betting by these predictions.

Week one record: 10-4.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


What I bought and what I thought, week of September 10

I was somewhat disappointed in this after my first reading...it's methodical and workmanlike and far from the cathartic finale which one would expect from such a epic-in-scope tale. What redeems this for me is the deepening Moore's done to the Mr. Hyde character, transforming him from a sarcastic, brutish engine of destruction to a more sympathetic sarcastic, brutish engine of destruction by insinuating that the Jekyll side of him has perhaps reasserted itself a bit. Turnabout's fair play, I suppose. Another triumph for Mr. Moore and his collaborator Kevin O'Neill, and if the sequel didn't hit many of the high notes its predecessor did, at least it hit some other, equally nice ones. A

Enjoyable catch-your-breath issue which focuses on the quirky, cute girl whose job it is to turn on the Bat-signal. The idea that someone not affiliated with the GCPD has to turn on the signal for legal reasons is smart and nicely done, and this is pretty well drawn by fill-in guy Brian Hurtt, who's no Michael Lark but will do in a pinch. Don't get me started about the coloring. A-

JLA 86
Combine Joe Kelly's sharpest scripting in quite some time with typically great art by Mahnke and Nguyen, and you get one of the most enjoyable mainstream spandex books I've read in a long time. Kelly's set up a credible menace- a little over-familiar perhaps (Martians again? Sigh.), but he's taken pains to make sure it's different enough to be interesting. Unless Joe totally botches the ending, he's come up with a real winner this time out, and hopefully his detractors will lay off for a little while. A-

JSA 52
Another inbetween-er type issue, in which we get several character-interaction interludes and setups for forthcoming storylines...and thankfully no fighting until the very end, when we get re-introduced to Johns' revamped Crimson Avenger, who's interesting enough, I suppose. This title's always been best when it's doing character stuff, and minimizing the grand cosmic throwdowns. Well, to me, anyway. A-

If Buckingham and Leialoha had taken pains to make sure that their figures' facial expressions matched the goings on they depict, then this would have been a lot better...but as it is, this is pretty darn good. Some plotlines get resolved, some are launched, and so it goes. Clever and involving, but as always I wish the art was better. A-

H-E-R-O 8
A bit slight- but this storyline, featuring a crew of Jackass-style video makers who use the Hero dial to create superheroes who they then film doing dangerous stunts, is fun enough and the art reminds me a lot of the Mahnke/Nguyen team. B+

1602 2
I'm trying real hard to appreciate this, really I am, but I'm having a hard time because this glorified What If? is not only more of the same old Marvel self-mythologizing, but Neil Gaiman is being as pretentious as only he can be in writing it. Neil, when you had the Endless and all those mythological characters spouting this florid dialogue, it worked because they were, well, mythological characters and archetypes. We come to expect it and it sounds natural. When you do it here it fails miserably because these are simply reimagined Marvel comic book superheroes, hardly myths despite what Stan and Joe Q want us to believe. Andy Kubert is trying real hard to draw real purty-like, but it's just beyond his capabilities. It's blurry, not especially well staged, and reminds me in places of John Buscema at his Weirdworld-era worst. C
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The Man in Black is gone.

I clicked back on my homepage, and what do I see but another noteworthy death! I'm scared to go back there! Anyway, the great Johnny Cash has indeed died this morning. I've recounted the story before, but I've got to relate it again: chances are I wouldn't be the music fan I am today if not for Cash's "Ring of Fire", one of the first records I ever owned. My Dad was a league bowler, you see, when I was 4 or 5 and he would take me along sometimes. I would always wander over to the bowling alley jukebox and ask him to play songs for me, and I asked him to play "Ring" so much that I guess he figured he'd save money if he bought me the 45. Of course, over the years I kinda lost interest in Cash...his TV show was pretty cool, but wasn't on all that long, and as a teen and young man I just wasn't all that much of a country music fan. And let's face it, by the end of the 70s he was perceived as being irrelevant and a relic of bygone days, which made his Rick Rubin-enabled comeback albums all that much sweeter. I picked up his Essential Johnny Cash a few months ago, and have listened to it a lot lately. It's going in the CD player right now, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, he's reunited with wife June now, let's hope, and his legend will grow. Hopefully, there's a big jam session going on right now with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Sam Phillips, and John. And I hope this is it for noteworthy deaths for a while.

Extra: The Louisville Courier-Journal's Jeffrey Lee Puckett weighs in on Cash and his life.