Saturday, November 29, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 26!

The cover of this penultimate installment of the best comic you're probably not reading is very appropriate, and sums up this series quite nicely. Is Carver behind bars looking out, or is he outside looking in? Actually, it's both and I'll be darned if I can see how he's going to get out of the corner he's painted himself into, which is exactly what Brubaker wants. Can't wait to see what happens next month, when you'd think that we will get a resolution...but you can't be sure of even that. A

Part two of what is shaping up to be the best John Constantine story in quite some time in which Conjob and a parcel of rogue mystics prepare for the coming of a Big Bad, and things don't exctly go as planned. Excellent dialogue by Mike Carey, and nicely drawn with the fattest brushstrokes possible by Marcelo Frusin, who has eschewed the finesse of his earlier stint on this title for something a bit more earthy. For once, the murky hues of Lee Loughridge add to the feeling of oppression rather than fight with the art. I also want to see more of Nathan Arcane when this is finished. A

The emphasis this time out is more action and not as much talk as the Legion runs around trying to defend itself against powerful beings that resemble the JLA while trying figure out what we already know- said beings are engaged in the pursuit of reviving Darkseid. Nicely scripted by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who figure if they keep things moving along at a lively pace, then the discerning reader won't take as much time to think about what's happening, and nicely drawn by Chris Batista, Lanning and Chip Wallace. Batista's work is slick enough to look streamlined and futuristic, but his figures have a nice expressiveness and organic-ivity (is that a word?) he draws crowded action panels as well as anybody these days, a good thing when your title has a cast as large as The Legion does. Great cover by the Harris/Feister team, as well, which almost makes up for their shortcomings on last week's Legion Secret Files 3003. B+

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You see, early in Joe Kelly's run as writer on this book he had this neat little scene in which Batman and Wonder Woman sparred, while bantering the whole time in a teasing way which turned sexual in nature before it was over. Many readers, myself included, thought "Wow! Kelly's actually gonna hook up WW and Bats! What a great idea!". Of course, many other fans of both characters were equally as horrified that such a thing could ever happen. Kelly proceeded to expand and develop this relationship over the course of his tenure, but now it seems that since this tenure's at its end, he gives us this issue which resolves this "will they or won't they" subplot via a plot contrivance which damn near sinks the book but contains enough touching human moments to get it by for me, anyway. Fill-in artist Chris Cross makes me wanna jump,, seriously, is fair-to-middling and gets a big boost from regular inker Tom Nguyen. If Kelly's gotta go, I at least hope that Doug Mahnke and Nguyen stay on for a while. B

Anybody remember the scene in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure where Pee-Wee and the hobo sing "Jimmy Crack Corn" while they ride on the train? And how PW was having a blast at first, then the hobo kept singing, and singing, and singing and Pee-Wee couldn't stand it any more...? That's how I felt reading this, the latest chapter of this soulless, tedious, claustrophobic exercise which some choose to view as "old-school superheroics", but honestly- that does a disservice to those old-school epics that were actually worth reading. Still, I can't deny the craft that George Perez brings (hell, the cover should be made into a poster which will hide the holes in many a fanboy's wall for years to come), and will admit to getting a tiny kick out of seeing the Phantom Stranger and Gypsy make an appearance. C-

Well, here's the thing. I've never really had a problem with the poor man's Steranko stylings of Paul Gulacy, and actually even liked his 70's stint doing Master of Kung Fu. Unlike Steranko, though, Gulacy's never been particularly clever or inventive in his storytelling style, and there are times, to be frank, that his anatomy and perspective are really off. It was that way in his recent Master of Kung Fu comeback miniseries, and it's that way here. But that has nothing to do, really, with why I disliked this book so much. Gulacy does a fine job. He does! But the choice to utilize him as the new penciller is so wrongheaded, and it's so totally opposite of everything behind the relaunch of the Catwoman character, plus the script by Ed Brubaker is so routine and lifeless and so like a run-of-the-mill Batman script that all one can assume is that word must have come down from "on high" that since Catwoman isn't selling as well as the other Bat-titles, then it must be redone and rethought to resemble the other Bat-titles. Of course, that means that this is now totally devoid of anything that made this title so much fun to begin with, and I suppose all the fanboys who dug Selina's big tits and purple spandex look are rejoicing. Me, I'm bailing. I've had enough. D+

I also picked up issue 1 of The Walking Dead, and I'm kinda glad I read #2 first because as good as that issue was, it was nowhere near as horrifying or as cleverly scripted as this premiere issue, and I would have viewed #2 as a bit of a letdown in comparison. Funny bit: the first name of Mr. Jones' son. Sympathetic and somewhat moving moment: the plight of the zombie bicyclist. Grade: A. Also, my friend and fellow Stupid Llama Mik Cary loaned me the Sei: Death and Legend one shot that came out a couple of weeks ago, which had provoked my interest based on some previews I had seen. It's beautifully illustrated, but the dialogue comes across as juvenile in tone, and works against the art. By the time things get more serious, at the end, whatever profundity the author intends gets completely lost in the translation. Can't give it better than a C+.
Animal Man is a title that I've never read in any significant measure, despite my admiration for Morrison's scripting, because the artist that they got to illustrate the majority of it was one Chas Truog, whose work is, in my own unworthy opinion, some of the worst to ever grace any works of sequential fiction. Flat, unimaginatively laid out, awkwardly posed, poor perspective shots, you name it. Maybe I just got off on the wrong foot with the guy because he was the artist they chose to follow Steve Leialoha in Epic's long-ago Coyote ongoing, and he stunk on ice...and I've never seen anything from him since that has changed my opinion. I'm sure he's a nice fella, and is loved by his friends and family, tithes often, and is a pillar of his community...but Jesus Mary and Joseph I hated his artwork.

That was what I said, when commenting on the then-new Animal Man trade that DC released a month or so ago. I got several responses in my comments section, some of which agreed with me. I also, about a week ago, got a comment from none other than one Chaz Truog. Yes, that Chaz Truog. Fortunately, he didn't seem to take umbrage or offense, and I respect that. I still don't care for his work on those series, but I appreciate that he came here and stood up for himself. I hadn't checked my edit comments site in a long time, so that's why I hadn't noticed it before.

He also provides a link to his website, which features a lot of his newer stuff. I haven't seen everything there yet, but what I have seen is much better than what I remember from his 80s and 90s days. In particular, there's a humor strip there named Scorch which shows he has a deft hand for that sort of cartooning. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself!
And now, the remainder of my Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications. Lotta tough games to predict this weekend. As always, bet at your own risk. But if you took Detroit and the points Thursday on my advice, why not send me a small percentage?

Indianapolis over New England
New York Giants over Buffalo
St. Louis over Minnesota
Chicago over Arizona
Atlanta over Houston
Baltimore over San Fransisco
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Philadelphia over Carolina
Washington over New Orleans
Denver over Oakland
Kansas City over San Diego
Seattle over Cleveland (my gut feeling tells me to go with the Browns, though- don't know why. Seattle's 6-0 at home)
Tampa Bay over Jacksonville
Tennessee over the New York Jets

Thursday: 1-1. Last weekend: 11-5. Overall: 103-60 (counting Thursday), .632.
Hello! I'm still alive. I've been dealing with a lot of stuff lately and it hasn't left me with a lot of enthusiasm or desire to write or do anything creative, hence my absence from the blogospheriverse. I'm doing better now, I think, so hopefully I can get back in the saddle. Thanks for hanging with me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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I suppose this is gonna be it from me until the weekend, when I'll try to get comics reviews and the rest of my football predictions up. Hope everyone has a great turkey day.
Predictions on tomorrow's NFL Games:

Detroit over Green Bay. Playing a hunch here.
Dallas over Miami.

I'll do the rest Saturday. Bet at your, you know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Sunday, November 23, 2003

In case you haven't seen this yet, and I'd be amazed if you hadn't, you can go here to see the first trailer for the upcoming Hellboy flick.

Good: Selma Blair is Liz Sherman. The Nazis and Rasputin look good. There's a cool scene where Hellboy hits a car on the hood with his stone hand, causing it to flip over his head.

Not-so-good: The scenes inside the BPRD headquarters look a little too James Bondish (or Steranko-style S.H.I.E.L.D., perhaps) for me- part of the charm of the Bureau is that it looks like an old-style office building or even library on the inside. John Hurt as Dr. Bruttenholm (called "Broom" on the Yahoo page). He looks like Dr. Wiley from Mega Man, not a slam on the actor himself (he's a good one), but... The body suit makeup for Abe Sapiens, which looked kinda cheesy but the preview was a bit low-res so it was hard to tell what it looked like sometimes. The jury's still out on Abe. Also, the groan-inducing and clichéd (but necessary from a filmmaking standpoint I suppose) introduction of a pretty-boy newbie agent, an "everyman" through whose eyes we meet everyone. Of course, Mignola introduces new agents all the time so there's a precedent, but he usually gives them a quirk or two to make them a little less ordinary. Finally, the makeup on Ron Perlman just isn't all that convincing. To me, he looks like someone in a better-than-average Hellboy Halloween costume. He is shown speaking some lines, though, and Perlman manages to convey some wryness and emotion through the prosthetics, so maybe there's hope.

Anyway, it's coming in April 2004. Everybody cross your fingers.
Yesterday, of course, marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which happened on November 22, 1963. I don't remember when I first heard about it or where I was, but I distinctly remember watching the funeral procession on TV when I was 3, at my grandmother's house. Conspiracy theories abound, and most rational people know better than to buy the "official" explanation, but the sad thing is, we'll never know. Too much time has passed, and the coverup was too thorough. "They", whoever "they" is, had ample time to get rid of whatever incriminating evidence that may have remained, so this incessant theorizing certainly seems to be an exercise in futility. In my opinion, of course. Besides, most implicated in the conspiracy are dead. Let's say the truth comes out, miraculously. Who the heck is gonna get punished? Castro? I doubt it. Who's left to even apologize? It's a terrible shame something like this was perpetrated on America, but it was just one in a long, long list over the years and I think people have gotta let it go and move on.

Now if you want a real conspiracy theory, remind me to tell you about the US government's mind control via cheese, which is going on right now, even as I type these words. And it's happening to you. And you. And you...
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BSBdG's go to a couple of late greats today: First, Harpo Marx, who would have been 115 today. He, along with his brothers, made some of the funniest movies in the history of cinema. I am a stone Marx Bros. fanatic, in case you don't know.

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Also, the great Boris Karloff, who would have been 116 on this very date.

Friday, November 21, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of November 19!

More angels vs. everybody else, including demigods and even a mortal woman in the finale of the current story arc. Oh yeah, and the title character, too. It must be difficult to make such an amoral, self-absorbed and solipsistic character so interesting and even sympathetic, but month after month Mike Carey pulls it off. Lucifer isn't a very reader friendly narrative, but for those of us who got an early start, it's a pleasure to read the paces he puts his cast through. The art by Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly is as servicable as always. A

In which a superstar baseball player unexpectedly commits suicide after hitting a game winning homer, and the owner of the team hires Chris Chance to impersonate a teammate and find out why. Can our hero hit a major league curve ball well enough to carry off his deception? Stay tuned... Actually, I feel somewhat more qualified than usual to critique this because I follow sports pretty closely, and often comic book (or prose novel, for that matter) attempts to depict the world of big time athletics fail miserably because the writers don't understand the nuances and vocabulary, and the artists don't want to take the time to draw things properly, resulting in generic, clumsy looking ballplayers- and said creators figure that the readers won't know the difference or care. But I am the exception to that line of reasoning, and I am pleased to report that Pete Milligan gets almost everything right, to his credit, except for one major plot point: A veteran ballplayer, who's not exactly fresh off the boat from Cuba (and in the narration Ruben Valdez says that "every year" he's the "New Yorkers' MVP"), would have an agent savvy enough to advise him about how to deal with a steroids rap, assuming he didn't know how himself. These days, players stonewall a la Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, the player's union stonewalls, and little gets done except perhaps a shortish suspension and fine...then the player writes a book after he retires and cleans up, so to speak, even more. It stretches credibility a bit that any modern major league baseball player, fictional or not, would think that suicide was the only way out of this particular situation. I know, I's more dramatic that way. But it's a glaring mistake. Fortunately, ol' reliable Javier Pulido does an acceptable job drawing MLB uniforms, though he's saddled with having to try to draw a Yankees-ish uni instead of the real thing. His action and dialogue scenes are first-rate as always. No home run this time out, but a two-out, bases clearing triple. A-

Pretty much status quo: a humorous in places, atmospheric and creepy in others Maggie story by Jaime, excellently paced and drawn, and three more chapters, in varying lengths, of 'Beto's ongoing serials: "the High Soft Lisp", in which we witness big breasted, lisping heroine Fritz in three more dysfunctional relationships; "Julio's Day", an odd throwaway; and "Me For the Unknown", a collaboration with other brother Mario which to me was the best of the three, actually working up a little dramatic tension. Myself, I wish the ratio was reversed, but what can ya do? A-

Our no-nonsense cowgirl hero forms an unlikely alliance, and gets mixed up in some sort of slavery/porn ring and a senator's runaway niece...and of course there's bound to be more than meets the eye. Not exactly the freshest plot in the world, but Jen Van Meter pulls it off well enough. I suppose I've gotten used to the subpar art, which is Risso lite and often reminds me of the early efforts of Mike Mignola. B+

Here's a rarity: a Secret Files that is actually relevant to the title it's profiling. In some ways a continuation of Legion 26, for the most part it's a fairly routine "Legion through the eyes of a news reporter" story, the bulk of which is capably drawn by Leonard Kirk and Elayne Riggs' better half but is also interspersed with occasional pages and one-panel character profiles by regular cover artists Tony Harris and Tom Feister, done in such a grotesquely cartoonish fashion that they almost sink the whole project. I loved Harris' work on Starman, of course, and the duo's covers have been top notch so far...but the facial expressions and gestures on pgs. 7-8 and 29-30 are just awful. B

...and boy does it stink. I didn't sign up for this when the pre-order was solicited, and I didn't remember why so I plunked down my three bucks. Hey, it's the BPRD! But after I finished it, I think I must have had a psychic flash or something because this is really bad. Silly, far-fetched (even for a Hellboy-related tale) script by one Joe Harris, with whom I'm unfamiliar and based on this will probably never get familiar, and poorly drawn in a sketchy hodgepodge of styles by Adam Pollina, whose reach apparently exceeds his grasp. I was one of the two or three people who bought the first couple of issues of his cartoon-style, but weepy and boring masked wrestler opus Big Daddy Danger, and I applaud him for at least trying to be diverse, but unfortunately he's just not successful at either. When future list makers sit down and try to name the best of the Hellboy spinoffs for posterity, I think it's safe to say that this won't be one of them. C

Pretty pictures. And it's got Wolverine in it, too! Yawn. C-
And now, chapter twelve of my ongoing compulsion to embarrass myself, Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

A day early, 'cause I don't think I'll be blogging tomorrow. Going out of town for a while.

Last week: 9-7. I am nothing if not consistent. Overall: 91-54, .628.

Cleveland over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Buffalo
Green Bay over San Fransisco
Minnesota over Detroit
Carolina over Dallas
New England over Houston
Seattle over Baltimore
Philadelphia over New Orleans
New York Jets over Jacksonville
Denver over Chicago
St. Louis over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Tennessee over Atlanta
Cincinnati over San Diego
Miami over Washington
New York Giants over Tampa Bay

Bet at your own risk. The Bacardi Show accepts no responsibility for money lost.

It's been a slow week for Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings, so I'll proceed to make up for that now.

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First, Björk Gudmundsdöttir, 38. Fortunately for us listeners, she's as adventurous in her music as she is in her fashion sense. Favorite CD: her first solo effort, the aptly titled Debut. Here's another good site for a bio. Next, Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John the Night Tripper, the New Orleans-based jazz and blues pianist who had a huge hit in 1973 with "Right Place Wrong Time" and the album In The Right Place, which is my favorite of his recorded efforts and also features the Meters. He's 63. Finally, one of my favorite painters, the late René Magritte, who would have been 105. Irrelevant aside: he provided the inspiration for one of Paul Simon's, of all people's, best songs: "Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War". Lovely tune.

Correction: I originally had included Harpo Marx in this, becuase one of my sources erroneously listed today as his birthdate when it is actually Sunday the 23rd. I'll re-post it then.
And now for something completely different.

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Everybody sing along with me, to the tune of Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing":

Cat blogging, I'm cat blogging...I'm so happening...

This is Dino, the kitten that Mrs. B found, left for dead, in our driveway back in July. She, along with my daughter (and I helped occasionally as well) nursed it back to health by bottle feeding him kitten formula and now he's grown into the big-ass cat you see here, with the longest tail and biggest feet you've ever seen and always ready to pounce on our ankles, feet, hands and wrists and bite and scratch like he was fighting for his life. In other words, he's a mean little shit, a real Satan cat. Insane in the membrane, if you will. Anyway, we're gonna get him "fixed" and de-clawed real soon- that'll settle his hash!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Personal to Sean Collins:

I've been spending some time reading the archives at Michael's Movie Palace, and was particularly interested in his Halloween 2002 listings of his favorite horror movies. I think you might be, too, so go here. He wrote about more fright films, this year, mostly obscure, including the Karloff film The Walking Dead, which I saw a while back and enjoyed.

For that matter, the rest of you should check it out as well if you're interested.
Oh, and speaking of Mrs. Tegan Gjovaag, she's finally gotten around to posting her thoughts on last weekend's Justice League episode.

I read somewhere else that the team of Doc Fate, Aquaman and Solomon Grundy in that eppy was an intentional approximation of Marvel's original Defenders grouping of Doctor Strange, the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner. Curse me for a novice, that went right by me!
Franklin Harris has received some positive attention lately for his anti-floppy (that's a comic book, son) column, and Tegan Gjovaag has responded quite nicely.

I quite agree with her on the issue of the travelability of graphic novels. Especially as long as they're stored in a protective bag-n-board, you won't hurt them unless you treat them badly when you read them. Case in point- I recently took a dozen floppies with me on my trip to Nebraska, to read on the plane to Denver. I could have taken more, but I also had a couple of issues of Mojo to occupy me as well. I simply stuck them in my backpack, which I carried on board the plane with me, took 'em out before takeoff, and read 'em! No problem. I could have taken a dozen more, perhaps. The protective bags-n-boards kept them quite safe and sound, and they fit nicely in the compartment in the seat in front of me, until I could get 'em back in my backpack. I've never, to my knowledge, been overtly inconvienienced by carrying a moderate-size stack of comics to read, as long as I didn't try to tote 'em around in my arms. They slide around something awful that way. And if I so desired, I'd even read them on the beach, but I probably wouldn't want to- sunscreen and sand just ruin any paper product, graphic novel or pamphlet. besides, I never go to the beach. I would not read them in a box, I would not read them with a fox, or in a train or in the rain., forget it.

Which leads me to the question goes about collectability and the overly particular treatment of pamphlets in the name of same, which is where I disagree with Mrs. G. I take care of my comics, bag 'n board them and all that, because I've invested upwards of $2.50 for them and I want to keep them in as good condition as I can for as long as I can, until death do we part and they're left to one or both of my kids. And certainly not because I necessarily plan to resell them, but simply because I like to take good care of what is mine and what I've spent good money on. And if I do decide to sell some, like I did just recently, then I know they'll be in decent condition and therefore theoretically easier to move. I try to take just as good care of my trade paperbacks and hardcovers as I do my just is against my nature to intentionally crease the covers or worse. Those things cost too much money to rough up!

If the evolution of the industry dictates that in order to survive, the floppy must die and trades will be the norm, so be it. Survival of the fittest, baby. But you'll excuse me if I don't get too enthusiastic about it, and continue to by those floppy pamphlet sequential graphic type comic books until the bitter end.
...subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once...

Boy, I certainly got a lot of mileage out of that statement, didn't I? And I got some excellent responses, always a good thing.

But I said earlier that I wanted to clarify, and I will, and point the finger at my amateur-hour writing skills, which often lead me to make statements that are fuzzy or half-formed. Graphic designer here, not journalist. Anyway, yes, I'm aware what the target audience for Shonen Jump is, and I know it's no more indicative of what Japanese comics are like than oh, say, Batman Adventures or Powerpuff Girls are of American comics. Also, my exposure to manga is quite limited, consisting mostly of having read several titles like early chapters of Akira and Barefoot Gen many years ago, along with more recent instances where I've stood at the graphic novel rack at Barnes & Noble, looking at the manga trades and trying to see the sailboat, having had my curiosity piqued by all my comics blogging homeboys and enduring the disapproving stares of the floor workers. So what I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't have generalized quite so much. I'm very aware that the above statement isn't necessarily gospel, but it is representative of what I've seen so far, and I fully admit I need more exposure more manga so I can have a fully formed opinion.

But I still stand by my contention that based on what I've seen, I'm still not convinced that American comics should become more like manga, except perhaps in format, and I'm not exactly sure how that would work except that instead of monthly installments of whatever, we would now get bigger volumes less frequently. Tradeoff- maybe more creators would be able to finish a project, and not have to rely on fill-ins or replacements because they couldn't meet deadlines. Maybe it's because I'm an old-school fanboy from farther back than I like to admit, but I'm not so sure I want comics to stop (or de-emphasize) trying to be written with adult themes and viewpoints, all the better to appeal to that 12-year-old demographic which is expected to save the industry. Frankly, the manga I've seen, with rare exceptions, has been lacking in depth and subtlety, and art-wise has a monotonous look, all pointy noses and hair, speed lines and clunky-looking lettering, or superdeformation. Maybe it's just a question of getting acclimated to what is apparently more of an acquired taste to me than it is others. Maybe if I'd been 13 in 1984 instead of 23 and dug the hell out of Transformers and Voltron and so on. Who knows.

Apparently, or so I'm told, there is manga out there which deals in mature, sophisticated subject matter in a myriad of genres in a myriad of styles. And I'm definitely convinced of the convictions of the converted, who seem to know better than I. But to me, it's like the Taj Mahal- I know it has to exist, because people tell me it does and I've seen pictures...but I've never seen it with my own eyes, so...

What's a poor ignorant gaijin to do?

Maybe there's hope for me, though- when I was a preschooler I absolutely loved seeing Astro Boy on channel 13 (they'd never show anything like that now, that's for sure) and Tobor the 8th Man on Louisville channel 3 a few years later, and I really liked anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and especially the wonderful Spirited Away. Even got in the habit of catching an occasional Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network, although I haven't watched an episode in months and can't get interested in any of their other offerings. So anime I have no problem with, apparently. Maybe it's just the comics format then. Maybe I'll just end this now and see what kind of reaction I get.
Looks like another hectic day around here at Casa Bacardi. Hopefully I'll get back in front of the butterfly curtains later this evening.

One thing before I go- in my own humble opinion, as they say in the chat room, there are fewer more wonderful sounds on God's green Earth than that plucked note and resultant feedback that graces the beginning of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine". Then when those ethereal harmonies kick in on "she's in love with me/and I feel fine", well, adjectives fail me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Well, I did the Louisville-to-Bowling Green shuttle today, just like I said I wasn't going to do, which should show you what a pathetic, hopeless comics junkie I am. Anyway, I don't think I'm going to write much more tonight. Kinda tired.

But I'm gratified by the responses my little manga musings last night brought, and I intend to clarify what I said a bit more. I'll do that tomorrow.

And it is with a curious mix of pleasure and sadness that I report that when I turned in my holds update today, I also dropped the two titles that had vexed me the most for a long time: JSA and Strangers in Paradise. I also declined to pick up Hulk: Grey. Enough is enough. One day at a time, brothers and sisters, one day at a time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Here's a question:

Why's it called "Shonen Jump"?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting quote, on the anniversary of the death of its quoter. Found at

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

Monday, November 17, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2003

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote for Free Beer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David, your Super IQ score is 120

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

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

Ooh. Aah.

Monday, November 10, 2003

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

HERO #10
JSA #54
1602 #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 08, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 07, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 06, 2003

According to the
Howard Dean
best matches my political views.

Who gets your vote?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music today: The Essential Dave Brubeck, Bob Dylan-Blonde on Blonde, The Ultimate Beach Boys Christmas Album, and Hilary Duff-Santa Claus Lane (!) (My wife and daughter went shopping today, cant'cha tell?)