Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

I never know if folks are reading both my blogs, so I wanted to send out a Happy New Year from both this year.

By the way, if you check out the Smoking Gun site (mentioned yesterday & linked over to the Right) you'll find they have their MUG SHOTS OF THE YEAR for '05 up. With all the great stories they run it must be difficult to narrow it down to only 15, but they've done a great job. From moonshiners to strippers to DUI actresses and Panther cheerleaders gone bad! One of my faves is the battered panty thief, but maybe that's because I always got a kick out of the Grandfather figure in RANMA 1/2 who never seemed to tire of that vice. :-)

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Smoking Gun

I'm fascinated by legal stuff on television rather dramatic series or 'real life' stuff. Shows like COPS, AMERICA'S MOST WANTED, LAW & ORDER, CSI (whereever) and the like hold my interest. I'm also a big fan of the old shows like PERRY MASON, COLUMBO and MURDER, SHE WROTE. Naturally, I'm an avid watch of Court TV no matter whether they are broadcasting actual court room cases, documentaries or reruns of NYPD BLUE.

If you check out the link area on the Right you'll find a new link to The Smoking Gun. The folks over there are doing their best to keep an eye on the unusual and strange, whether it's happening to ordinary folks or celebrities. I plead guilty (pardon the expression) to actually being interested in which celebrities have broken which laws today. They also have some great mug shots which these same celebrities would love to have never seen the light of day. Hardly the stuff they'll be showing on E! most nights.

Pretty shallow of me, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I've learned my lesson!

I'm not going to make any New Year's resolutions this time around. Last year I vowed to begin reading classics or other books I'd promised myself I'd eventually get around to. Except for Mary Shelley's original FRANKENSTEIN and Robert Ludlum's THE BOURNE IDENTITY I ended up reading other stuff. There are still a number of novels I'd like to read but I think I'm just going to pick up whatever catches my interest at any given moment.

Right now I have two books set aside for my vacation. One is an X-FILES novel and the other another in the series from Preston & Child featuring Special Agent Pendergast. Don't know how much of either I'll get to on the cruise, since Bingo & buffets tend to get in the way. :-)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Packing my bags for Cozumel

It's not Christmas yet but I'm already starting to put together what I'll be needing in the Caribbean. Donna and I are going on a 7-night cruise in January so it's time to see what still fits and what has to be sent out to the dry cleaners.

I think some of the first posts I made over at PARTING SHOTS had to do with cruises, but I'll probably be moving future posts like that over to this blog. On the other hand, I may split things up just to make folks read both places, since I still get e-mail from folks who don't know I have two blogs going. As you'll see I don't have a link to PS over here, but do link to this blog over there. Except for Mark Evanier and Tony Isabella's sites I try to keep SS from linking to overly political places, as I want to make this place 'safe' and non-political.

Speaking of THE Tony Isabella, I want to wish the man a very Happy Birthday and many returns of the day.

Holiday specials: Where are they?

Maybe I'm showing my age, but when I was a kid (and even up through the 1970s) it seemed that rather than showing rerun after rerun the various networks were putting on holiday specials. These were often hosted by stars already appearing in variety shows on the networks, but just as often by performers who were seldom on TV.

Off the top of our heads the other night, Donna and I could recall specials with Perry Como, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews & John Denver among others. The only similar event I've seen advertised this year is one which promotes adoption (not in itself bad, but this isn't a typical Christmas special as we used to expect) featuring some contemporary musical talent.

I have a feeling that we were watching some of the Country music networks we might actually encounter something along the lines of what we used to see. It appears that it's only on PBS that we see such shows, and these tend to be rebroadcasts of those shows from the '60s with Williams & his brothers.

Then again, there aren't many musical stars who would likely be willing to chance something along these lines. I can't imagine a Snoop Dogg Christ-diddly-mas Special.

I'm turning into my father more and more each year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

X-MEN #179: an actual comics review

I know that it will come as a surprise to folks who only peek in here occasionally, but I once did read and review comics. Since returning to New York, I haven’t had the finances, or interest for that matter, to keep up with continuing series from any of the major publishers. In the case of X-MEN (and their multiple incarnations and titles) I have not been a reader of any of the “X” books since Peter David was writing X-FORCE about a decade ago. In fact the only Marvel titles I’ve read in the past few years have been those given away at conventions or as part of FREE COMICS DAY.

X-MEN (Vol. 2) #179 is identified by a logo as part of “Decimation” which apparently is the follow-up to the whole HOUSE OF M event. All I know about that particular cross-over is what I’ve been reading online so I was thankful for the opening page “What has gone before…” overview. Seems the heroes forced the deranged Scarlet Witch to return the world to the way it was prior to her revision. At that point however most of the world's mutants lost their powers and abilities.

This issue features also a group of “good” Sentinels, who long time X-fans will recall were originally created to capture or kill any & all mutants, called cleverly on the cover the SENTINEL SQUAD which would no doubt be a great name for a spin-off X-title (if I was of the type to be cynical about that sort of thing). Under the guidance of a group called O.N.E. these particular giant robots are attempting to protect the now more vulnerable mutants, especially those housed in Professor X’s institute. The overview indicates that all this was introduced in the cross-over so regular readers probably won't be as confused as I am.

In typical Marvel fashion stuff gets destroyed, heroes overcome and various sub-plots get moved in glacial fashion, proving to this one time Marvel Zombie that not much as really changed all that much over the past twenty years.

Peter Milligan is a decent writer whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. However, even with a ‘mysterious’ anti-mutant villain running around in the woods and other characters going off to rediscover their powers there really isn’t anything here to catch my interest.

The art by penciller Salvador Larroca and various inkers is okay, but in close-ups some faces have an unfinished look, almost as if the Larroca left details up to the inkers and they skipped them. I also wonder why it was decided that the titles most popular character, Wolverine (and possibly one of the reasons the X-titles continue to sell so well) is shown almost exclusively from the rear or otherwise facing away. If you weren’t familiar with his costume (and this is the short eared, orange colored one) you’d have no clue who this was. Sadly, most of the characters seem to be posing for action figures or those little mini-busts they push at Diamond and never appear natural. Oh, and could Scott Summer/Cyclop's costume appear more ugly or uncomfortable looking?

A book clearly for the fans, so I’ll give this a pass and two stars.

Damon-ed Yankees!

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but I naturally wasn't happy to hear that Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon has signed a four-year, $52 million deal to play in the Bronx.

Damon was one of the Wild Men who kicked butt and ended the "Curse of the Bambino". He was one of most popular players on the Boston team and we're going to miss him. Also, it will be weird seeing him in the clean shaven/short hair look that George Steinbrenner insists his players maintain.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Bourne Identity: a quickie review

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

I haven’t seen the film version of this book, starring Matt Damon, nor its sequel. I have a feeling that Hollywood took liberties with the novel, if only to remove the references to the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Originally, published in 1980 it reads a bit dated after more then twenty years.

A man is discovered, badly scarred and nearly drowned by a French fishing vessel. As he slowly recovers in the house of an ex-patriate British doctor, now living in disgrace in France, the man begins to recall events and faces, but no names including his own. A small piece of microfilm has been implanted under his skin and this leads him to a Swiss bank account containing millions of dollars, along with some other secrets that several governments would like kept hidden. Is this man actually Jason Bourne, an operative of the U.S. government sent to find and kill the international terrorist known as Carlos? Or is there more to Bourne, if that truly is his name?

Robert Ludlum is a master at this type of thing and it’s easy to see why he continues to have an audience of millions worldwide. Three and a half stars.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Goodbye, Howard & Company!

This past week two radio shows, both of which I’m a fan, are going off the air. Both Air America’s MORNING SEDITION and Howard Stern’s radio show are leaving the airwaves. I don’t know what I’m going to listen during my morning commute now.

It seems hard to believe that I have been listening to Howard for over twenty years at this point. When I first him he was doing afternoon drive over at "Double U....Ennnnbc" (check out Stern's movie PRIVATE PARTS for an explanation of that) .

I’ve certainly taken my share of criticism from friends and family just for being a fan. I can’t believe that I’m not going to be able to enjoy hearing Howard, Robin, Fred & Gary each weekday morning. I admit that I haven’t been listening as regular the past year as I used to, but it was still a comfort to tune over and hear Howard joking around with Elephant Boy, Hank the Angry Dwarf and new sidekick Artie Lange (formerly of MAD TV). You just don’t get to hear belchers, farters and strippers being spanked enough on morning drive, in my opinion!

Among the VHS tapes I've kept, once Donna and I got a DVD player, were all of my Stern tapes. Beginning with BUTT BONGO FIESTA, Stern put out several amazing videos, mostly from Pay for View events he created before and after his old Channel 9 show. I was actually in attendance at U.S. OPEN SORES, along with my friend Vinnie Bartilucci. How can you forget Fred doing his Kurt Waldheim, Jr. impersonation; Gary, Howard, Robin playing tennis; and the late Sam Kennison jamming on “Wild Thing” with Leslie West?

All memories now along with Howard’s regular morning show. One of these day’s I may spring for Sirius (or eh eh eh, as the folks at Infinity would have it) and be able to hear him and the gang again, but until then….

Goodbye, Howard! We’ll miss you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hitting 55 with no brakes!

Today's my 55th b-day and I find myself doing a typical work day. Donna and I had discussed going out, but she's not feeling well. We'll probably just order in and watch TV, as we usually do.

My 50th birthday party was amazing and Donna went all out, completely surprising me (although she continues to believe that I was expecting it!). It was the only time that our mothers ever met, so beyond the party it holds a special place in my heart. Since then I can't really say that Dec. 13th really means a whole heck of a lot. Donna celebrated her 50th earlier this year and I returned the favor as best I could. A surprise visit from The Child straight (pardon the expression) from California made that day special for my wife.

So today is just another day and I've found myself thinking more about my new job than growing older. I'm now approaching the age where several of my friends and relatives never reached. When I complain about getting older Donna is wise enough to remind me of the alternataive.

Didn't mean to get all sentimental here, especially since I like to keep Shot's Shack a fun place.

Next time out I'll try to be more cheerful. Promise!

Friday, December 09, 2005

What am I listening to?

One of the nice things about my daily commute is that I have time to listen to 'books-on-tape' and other stuff while sitting on the subway. Personally, I love audiobooks, especially as it gives me a chance to catch books I'd otherwise put aside for later. I'll listen to one book for half the trip and then open up whatever 'real' book I happen to have along.

I usually don't mention the audiobooks that I check out from the library, but just wanted to mention the most recent.

APPALOOSA is an unabridged version of the recent Western novel by Robert Parker. Parker is probably best known for the SPENSER series, which was adapted to television for a series and some made-for-tv movies. This particular novel tells the story of Hitch & Cole, two gunmen who become the law in the title town. Plenty of gunfights and other standard fare, with a plot which wouldn't surprise anyone who has seen a score of old western movies or episodes of GUNSMOKE. I'll give it three out of four spurs.

One of the reasons I mention the thing at all is the heavy use of the "F" bomb throughout. Now, now having ever seen the cable show DEADWOOD I can only go by what I've read. Apparently, the characters in that particular western are pretty fluent in the use of curse words. It's not that I'm offended by that type of language mind you, and Parker has used similar in his novels set in a contemporary Boston. I'm just curious to know if this particular four letter word was really that widely in use in late 19th century America.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

World Baseball Classic

Since it is America's Past time, we call the championship of Major League Baseball the World Series. Of course, up to now Canada is as 'international' as the game gets, except for some exhibition and pre-season games played in Japan, Puerto Rico and other places. This year various international baseball organizations have conspired with MLB to actually put a real "world series" together.

The first World Baseball Classic will be a series of games featuring professional baseball players from various countries. These include some big names from the U.S. going into the field for their home countries. If you click on the headline above you'll get to the official WBC site, where you will get more information and be able to purchase merchandise (Hey, what did you expect?).

The games will begin on March 3, 2006 with games in Japan, with the final teams facing each other in San Diego on March 20th. Since so many MLB players will be appearing you can bet the networks & ESPN will be covering these, unlike the Olympic baseball games which seem to be shown around 2:30am if at all.

Fingers crossed that we will see some exciting games and not just guys doing as little as possible, so they won't risk injury for the up-coming season.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Atlantic City Weekend, pt. 2

Atlantic City pt. 2 - Pete and I went down to the pool for a while on Saturday morning and then grabbed some brunch at the Borgata. Around noon we left for Caesar’s, where we had another room and were going to see the group Chicago later that night. We had done a little gambling at Borgata, but I had pretty much been depositing my previous winnings. I should have seen this as an omen of things to come, but the lights & bells tend to hypnotize me so the sensible thing doesn’t mean much.

I don’t think I’ve been to Caesar’s in close to ten years. I probably last went there with Elayne and her parents, whom introduced me to AC. (Hats off to Alex & Goldie Wechsler!)

Of course, having been several times to Caesar’s in Las Vegas I can’t help but compare the two. Naturally, the Vegas casino easily tops its AC namesake, although it isn’t too bad and certainly compares favorably with most of the other casinos in the city.

While staying at Caesar’s Pete gave me the newbie tour, which included the adjoining Bally’s and Wild West. If you head over to the Wild West and have a sweet tooth, I have to recommend Gold Tooth Gerties, where you can see the muffins & donuts being prepared on a conveyor belt. It’s a convenient place to take a break and grab a snack between donating funds at the three casinos. Another nice thing about the Wild West is to check out the displays of photographs and authentic western memorabilia along the walkway. You can even try to toss some coins into the prospector’s pan along with the kids. Speaking of which, by comparison Las Vegas really has become much more family friendly in the past decade, while there’s still not much to do with children in AC, when it’s too cold for the beach or outdoor activities on the boardwalk.

Overall, Pete and I had a good time, even though both of us ended up with less money than we arrived with. If you’re smart you’ll go down with money set aside which you can afford to lose. My problem is that like lots of folks, once I hit I keep playing hoping to hit more. It doesn’t work when I play at home, so I don’t know why I expect anything to be different when I’m playing with REAL money.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Atlantic City Weekend, pt. 1

Any of you who know me, or have been reading my blogs for a while, already know that I’ve been fascinated by casinos ever since I had my very first casino experience back in 1969. It was then when I and some fellow shipmates went to a casino in Nassau, while serving aboard the USS Boxer (LPH-4) during a Caribbean cruise. While some of the magic of that first moment has dimmed I still get a thrill when walking through even the smallest gambling den.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Pete and I drove down to Atlantic City on Friday night. Pete had an invitation to take part in a Slot Tournament at the Borgata, along with a comp room for two nights. We also had tickets to see Chicago on Saturday night, which I talked about over on SHOT’S SHACK.

I’d been to the Borgata a couple of times before and it always struck me as the most “Vegas” of the AC casinos, if you know what I mean. If you’ve ever been to Vegas or seen the casinos there on television or in films, you know that they have a certain atmosphere. With the Borgata it feels as if they picked up a Vegas casino/hotel and dropped in on the New Jersey shore. It really seems like they are trying to go for a younger hip crowd and High Rollers, rather than the typical AC player. You generally won’t see the ‘bus people’ running around the Borgata for the most part, unless they’ve taken the shuttle over from the Boardwalk. The rest of the AC casinos are a bit more welcoming of these folks, and seem to compete in trying to get as many as possible down to the gambling floor.

I’m also not crazy about the way the rooms are designed in the Borgata either. Now these may be only the low end/comped rooms, but it doesn’t make any sense to have a picture window behind the desk. You have to walk around the desk to open the blinds leaving the desk & chair blocking your view. What’s that about?

On the other hand, the pool area at the Borgata is really nice. With the palm trees and lounges it resembles some of the smaller casino pools in Vegas, which is a nice thing. It’s not deep, but decent sized with a very pleasant hot tub over in the corner of the room. During the summer they’ll open the doors and you can sit outside, but in the colder months you’re completely comfortable and can even order room service. Sweet!

The plan was to get to AC around 9:30pm or so, after Pete picked me up after work, check into the Borgata and then head up to the slot tournament. After that we’d grab a bite at one of the restaurants and then hit the casino floor. All went according to plan until we got up to the tournament. Seems the Borgata allows the player and a guest entrance to the tournament room which also has an "all-you-can-eat buffet" & open bar. What a nice surprise! It wasn’t a large buffet, but did have a decent selection with two carving tables, dessert & coffee. We spent about an hour relaxing after Pete played and then continued with our original plan.

(Aside: this may include things you don't want to hear about so feel free to skip it if you have a weak stomach. - There was one guy at the tournament who was seriously taking advantage of the open bar. At one point when he stood up he almost fell into the lap of an older gentleman sitting at a table behind him. If the guy's friend, who wasn't quite as drunk, hadn't grabbed him and led him out I think the wait staff was about to call in security. I can understand the casino not wanting to put a damper on somebody 'enjoying' themselves, but you would also think they'd have somebody at these things to keep an eye on the players. To top it off, about fifteen minutes later I found myself helping the drunk up off the bathroom floor when I went in to wash my hands. His good buddy having disappeared somewhere or other, either before or after this guy emptied his stomach into several sinks. End of aside!)

One of the interesting things about casinos, if you haven’t been to one, is the fact that no matter what time of day you get there you seem to feel it’s twilight and you lose track of time. The maze like quality of most casino floors tend to lead you away from any entrance where natural lighting or a view of the outside might clue you in. Naturally, the floor has no clocks so before you realize it you’ve spent several hours. Before we knew it my watch showed it was after 3:00am, so we finally tore ourselves away from the machines and headed back to our room. (FYI: At this point I was a little over $100 up and feeling pretty good.)

I’ll finish this report up later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince: just a few words

I'm not going to go into a complete book review here, since if you're really into HP you've probably already read the book. On the other hand, if you don't care about the series anything I have to say would fall on deaf ears anyway. I just had a few brief comments, having finished the latest in the series just yesterday.

As usual, once I get started on one of Rawling's books I can't put it down. These WAR & PEACE size books are not the easiest subway reading, but the hour plus commute I make back and forth each day certainly gives me time to spend at Hogwarts with Harry & Co. The war between the Death Eaters of Lord Voldemort (or "He Who Shall Not Be Named") and those allied against him is beginning to get bloody enough to have come to the attention of Muggles (we non-magical folks). After the events of the previous book, Harry is even more determined to find and destroy the Dark Lord, who killed his parents leaving Harry scarred and in the not to kind hands of his mother's relatives.

Each of Rawling's books covers another year of Harry's time at Hogwarts, the school for wizards and witches. This is the sixth book, finding Harry, Ron & Hermione confronting not only the dark forces but also teen age problems we all face. There's quite a bit of snogging going on here, so be forewarned.

(Aside: When the term snogging first appeared I couldn't help but recall the Monty Python sketch dealing with the worst family in Britain and the father's arguing with her daughter about her 'snuggling' with her boyfriends. )

SPOILER ALERT: Sadly, one of the more popular characters doesn't survive the events of the book and we can only see how this will in turn effect what happens in the next & final book in the series. END SPOILER

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What am I reading?

Haven’t had a Joe Bob book to review since the last one, so I’m actually getting around to catching up on some books I’ve been meaning to get to.

Right now I’m in the middle of the latest HARRY POTTER book, H.P. & the Half-blood Prince. So far I’m really enjoying it, but I have a feeling it’s going to get a bit darker as it goes along. I’m also sure I know who the Half-Blood Prince is already (as there are enough clues), but Rowling has surprised me before.

Prior to this I finished off three books from the writing duo of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. These were MOUNT DRAGON, THUNDERHEAD and STILL LIFE WITH CROWS with the last featuring probably their most popular character FBI Special Agent Pendergast (first introduced in RELIC). As you can tell I’m a big fan of their books, both their solo efforts and those written in collaboration. You’ll find a link to their website over on the side of this blog.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Johanna Draper Carlson & Comics Worth Reading

I knew Johanna back when she was a fixture at just about every convention and could usually be found dancing the night away in short skirts with various comics pros & fans. At one point she and I had a disagreement (about what I really can't recall) but we have been in touch via e-mail since and put all that behind us.

In my opinion, Johanna is one of the brightest comic reviewers currently online. As I've said before, I'm not reading many comics myself but it's fun to see what others are finding in the shops. Plus, Johanna looks at a wide range of stuff and not just what's hot at the moment.

You can go to her site by clicking on the above headline or on the link to COMICS WORTH READING over on the side.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Daily Planet give away!

I was coming out of the subway this morning and got my copy of METRO from the guy who generally stands at the entrance. Imagine my surprise when he also asked me if I wanted a copy of the DAILY PLANET!

There beside him were several stacks of tabloids with the banner headline "BULLETS BOUNCE OFF MAN!" with the article beneath by-lined Clark Kent.

Seems the New York Daily News was giving away promotional copies of the Tuesday paper, sponsored by Warner Bros. Nice ad on the back for the new release of the original ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television series on DVD.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Is this Chicago's time?

I felt bad for the Angels, but have to admit that even though I'm not a Chicago fan it is nice to see them finally get a shot at the Big Time. I certainly don't care who they face in the WS, but will probably watch at least some of each game.

I know Kristina had been rooting for the Angels, since one of her friends has season tickets for the team and they had plans to take in some games. Speaking of the child, I'm curious to know how she and her gal pal made out on the Mexican Riviera cruise. They were celebrating Kristina's 24th b-day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

So now what!

George Steinbrenner hasn't come out and blasted Joe Torre yet, but we can probably expect something to come down from on high in the next week or so. Torre cancelled his usual end of season press conference and has been keeping a low profile. On the other hand, George came out and praised the manager of the team which beat his highly paid Bombers, while not mentioning his own manager at all. As you can guess, this has caused quite a bit of speculation in both print and on-air here in their hometown.

The New York Daily News had several good articles on Wednesday going over the situation. Mike Lupica was his usual entertaining self and gave a good overview of what had gone wrong and you might be to blame. The News also ran a poll where readers could vote for which team member should be dumped and who kept on. Don't know the results yet, but it will be interesting to see if the newer acquisitions like Randy Johnson, A-Rod & Giambi stil have big fans in the Big Apple.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Is the season over yet?

I guess my only consolation is that the Damned Yankees aren't getting an invitation to the big dance, either. It has been nice watching the final games of the New York/Anaheim series with Kristina (known as The Child around here). She's in from California for a week and has been spending time with her mom and I, along with the rest of the family. It will be sad to see her go back on Thursday.

To be honest, it just didn't seem that Boston was really putting their hearts into the game during the series. Perhaps they felt that having proven themselves last year they could just go through the motions. Oh, well! It was a fun season while it lasted and it will be interesting to see what changes are in store by Spring training.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

So what now?

I suppose I should be more optimistic and believe that the Red Sox may still come from behind as they did last year. However, I think that it's the White Sox who are fated to end their long time 'curse' and have a World Series chance this year. Believe it or not I have been feeling worse about the Damned Yankees winning than I have over Boston's failure to come out on top.

Still there are games left to be played and the dark clouds have not covered Mudville, as yet.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Cracked Up!

I had heard that new publishers were going to re-start the humor magazine CRACKED, but until today's METRO I didn't know much more about it. There is a story in the daily paper interviewing the new publisher on what he and his staff may have planned. They have set up a website (which you can check out via the link on the side, or clicking on the headline above) and will be publishing the first print issue this coming January.

I haven't had a chance to really check out the online version, but I'm going to wish them luck.

When I was a kid, CRACKED was always my second choice if I had extra money after buying my comics. Naturally, I would try and pick up the latest issue of MAD, but if I already had it I'd check out CRACKED. It seems as if they are going to try for a more mature audience, according to the article, aiming at folks who used to read the NATIONAL LAMPOON or SPY.

I'll probably have more to say once I've checked out the site more.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The AL Wildcard & the Red Sox

Had mixed feelings about the games at Fenway this past weekend, as you can imagine. I was hoping for a Boston sweep, but was happy that they went 2 out of three. Still the Damned Yankees got the AL East top spot. I really don't think that New York is good enough to beat the Angels and whomever comes out ahead after the Boston/Chicago series.

Naturally, what I would love to see is a repeat by the Red Sox this year, but will settle for them just being in the WS at the end. If, on the other hand, the Yankees find themselves as AL champs I'm going to be rooting for whatever NL team they face. (Didn't see that coming, did you?) :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A bit about the Red Sox

Naturally, at this point of the season I'm concerned about Boston. The Damned Yankees have recovered from being five games back to actually leading the division by half a game. It looks like the Sox are going to have to look towards the 'wild card' if they don't get their act together. The fact that the season is going to end with the two teams facing each other in Fenway is going to be exciting, but worrisome. This isn't the same team that ended the curse last season. Fingers remain crossed here (and how does he type that way?).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some more of the Fall Season

Caught the season premieres of both WEST WING & CROSSING JORDAN. These are among our favorites so we were glad to see them both returning.

I'm glad that the Henry Winkler character is gone from CJ, although he was good in the role. It is almost impossible to see him after dramatic roles here, and on LAW & ORDER previously, and to visualize him only as The Fonz. Winkler has much more depth as an actor than I would have thought. I expect his character may return later in the season, but as written there wasn't much room for growth, since it was inevitable that Miguel Ferrer would return as M.E.

Donna and I both figure this to be the last season for WEST WING. Interesting that it would begin with a flash forward to three years hence, with an older ex-President Bartlett at the opening of his Presidential library. We see some familiar faces, but do not see who the current President may be as he steps from a limo. It would be interesting to see Alan Alda's Republican Senator Vinick win the election, just to see how the show's writers deal with the shift and how the White House staff would have to change. (Face it, just about an entire new supporting cast) For that reason I expect the Jimmy Smits character will win the election.

The new THRESHOLD continues to have my attention. The male lead, Brian Van Hold, hardly had a part in this Friday's episode, but Brent Spiner continues to stand out. I love Peter Dinklage, since his character doesn't depend on his stature, but on his intellect. This last episode had a much darker X-Files feel to it, taking place in a military school with some really creepy scenes involving the youngest cadets stalking Carla Gugino's Molly. Still recommended!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Due to our watching the unfolding events at LAX last night, Donna and I only caught the last ten minutes of LOST. This despite eagerly awaiting the preview for the past week. I'm sure the thing will be rerun again soon, considering that it's one of the networks highest rated show (and its recently winning an Emmy).

Shaun Cassidy seems to have another winner on his hands with INVASION. As with AMERICAN GOTHIC, Cassidy is able to get into the mindset of small town life and the different characters who make it up. Also, he really does have a thing for making the local law something other than they appear on the surface. It appears here that the sheriff was an early recruit into whatever it is that is taking place here. We've got several mysteries going on here and I can't wait to see things unfold. Recommended!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NBC's Alien Encounter shows

Caught the first few shows I've been interested in watching, both of a science fiction nature. NBC's THRESHOLD features an alien invasion of John Carpenter's THE THING type, where alien contact spreads through a group changing them physically. The group of scientists out to track them down include Brett Spiner, so that makes it a must see. On the other hand, I was not impressed by the first episode of NBC's other SF show, SURFACE with a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of an unknown species of ocean dwelling creatures. I think the show is trying to spread its net too wide (if you'll forgive the metaphor) with the 'good' scientists, the brother out for revenge and two kids trying to hide one of the creatures ET style. With so many story lines and characters you don't care much for any of them. Personally, I'd end the kid plot really quick.

I'm curious about ABC's upcoming INVASION, which also features an alien race coming to Earth for who knows what.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Watching the Emmy Awards

Ellen DeGeneres, did a fairly decent job even with some dudes in the opening monologue. It was nice hearing Earth, Wind & Fire along with the Black Eyed Peas doing their modified hit. Also, any show which has Donald Trump singing the theme for GREEN ACRES plus William Shatner doing William Shatner is worth sitting up on a Sunday night 'til 11:00pm.

John Stewart and his writers deserved the two awards they received, and Stewart's taped bit was amazing and very well received by the audience. It was political, naturally, but overall there were only a few overtly political mentions during the telecast, plus several mentions of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina still going on.

Finally a nice tribute to Peter Jennings by his fellow anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, as well as an equally fine one to Johnny Carson by David Letterman.

Not a great telecast, but it actually finished on time and moved fairly well with minimum goofs.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Book Review: Year of the Armadillo by Jericho Ring

Since I never know exactly how long it will be before the good folks over at the Joe Bob Briggs Report site will post my reviews I always like to post them here first. What I put here is the first draft, before any editorial changes are requested or made. In other words, don't blame John over at the site, what you see is what this non-writer has put together.

I have to admit that had I been skimming the backcover of this book on the shelves, I very much doubt that I would have picked it up. Discovering authors with whom I'm not familiar is one the nice things about doing these reviews, besides getting to keep the books when I'm finished. I found the book to be a pleasant surprise and look forward to reading further books in the series when available.

This book might not be your cup of tea, depending on how 'politically correct' you are (and I do hate using that phrase but think it fits in this case). Check out my review and then head over to the site to read an excerpt. (Click on the headline above)

Year of the Armadillo by Jericho Ring – For twenty-four hours, beginning at midnight New Year’s Eve in 2025, communication equipment throughout the world broadcasts a single message. It states simply that if the world does not diminish the population by one third in the next year it will be done for them. Shortly thereafter, one out of every three persons from El Paso, TX disappears without a trace. All this happens in the first few pages and it just gets better.

Naturally, the various world governments agree that it is necessary to do something, or rather appear to do something, since it all might work out in their best interest in the long run. The United States (comprised of fifty-four states; five of which used to be a united Texas, but minus Alaska which dropped out feeling they were better off as a territory) under the leadership of President Beulah Clinton is in agreement with this policy, since it doesn’t require her to do much. It’s obvious from the outset that the author wants to poke some fun at our political system and he does so brilliantly.

Ring seems to know his stuff, whether it’s political philosophy or armaments (real or imagined). The book brought to mind Stanley Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE, with a military coup which sets off a very dangerous series of events. The author’s Air Marshall Rockwell “Rocky” Stone is right up there with General Jack Ripper as a brilliant comedic invention. In fact, just about every character in the book has a wonderful depth and personal history which makes the reader want to learn more about them. From Cortez Jones and free-lance journalist Maureen ‘Mimi’ de Loria, right up to President Clinton, Ring has the ability to bring them to life on the page. The only serious drawback I had was with the ghetto speak that Beulah constantly comes out with. She reminds me of the “Black Mama” character that comedian Artie Lange used to play on MAD TV (“I’m a goin’ to put ma’ foot up yo ass!”) Even in a book striving for satire this is a bit much to accept from the President, although I’ll give Ring a pass because of Beulah’s explanation.

The books subtitle is ‘Book One – January’ and the book includes a chapter from the second book, so we are safe to assume that Ring will be dealing with the final outcome of the coup, possible nuclear annihilation and, of course, just who was responsible for the original message and what their final plan may be. Characters like Cortez, Travis McGinty and General Charlie Brown of the Texas Militia (whom Ring claims is based on a real person) are just too good to be confined to a single book. A few scenes in the book had me reminiscing about my nights drinking beer & Jack Daniels around a fire in the California desert, after a day of blasting cactus with enough small arms to make the Manson Family jealous. If an old Liberal like me can root for libertarian militia men, I think that you more enlightened folks just might want to give this book a shot.

Four stars
Published by: Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 1-4134-6788-1; $18.69 paperback

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I am NOT a writer!

As a kid growing up in Taftville, I hoped that one day I would be a writer. I must have begun writing short stories to entertain myself back in junior high and later to share with friends when I was in high school. I think my very first Creative Writing class in senior year proved that I was not cut out for the writing life. It was at that point I decided that I would stick to being a reader of people who did have talent. In the mid-1970s, while attending college I once more deceived myself into believing that I had some kind of skill and again my professors reminded me that I did not have what it would take to be taken seriously.

Oddly enough one of the few positive comments I had up to that point was from the poet Robert Bly (he of IRON JOHN and “beating a drum in the forest to get in touch with your manhood” fame), who had been invited to speak at the college by my English teacher. She then invited him to read through some of the submissions from the class. Our assignment had been to write a book review in the style of the author we were reviewing. I had just finished reading a book by Hunter Thompson. Of the more than two dozen students in the class he picked out my review for praise and said that I had potential if I learned to “write from (my) gut.” Have I told you that I have never liked Bly? I took this as yet another sign that I was not talented enough and put everything aside once again.

Since 1980 I have been writing for various Amateur Press Associations (APAs), a few fanzines and actually sold one article to a magazine aimed at librarians. For the past four years I have been doing book reviews for the Joe Bob Briggs Report, along with posting to both my blogs several times a week. I am not, as I have tried to tell everyone, a writer.

All of this is just by way of explaining why I decided not to accept an invitation to write a column for a new website. I’ll not embarrass the editor for being nice enough to invite me to take part, but it just wouldn’t be fair to him or his readers.

I’m not a writer.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Beer & the Boston Red Sox

This past Saturday Donna was hosting a baby shower for her younger sister and I was on my own. After spending a few hours watching bad movies on SCI FI I headed back to New Corners the restaurant where the shower was being held. Naturally, with my sense of time, I was about an hour and a half early. Donna chased me out and told me to come back later, so I figured that the bar was the best place to hang out.

Being a life-long Red Sox fan there is very little as uncomforable as being in a bar full of Yankee fans. Especially, Yankee fans who are also drinking and saying some unkind things about my team and its fans. Having survived a similar experience back in '86 in a bar in Queens, during the sixth game of the World Series between the Mets & Boston, I knew that the secret of survival was absolute silence. Trust me, with the Sox kicking butt & taking names for most of the game it was pretty difficult not to say anything. The three beers did help to mellow me out though, I will admit.

Of course, it would have been nice if Boston had also won Sunday's game to keep them more than three games ahead. Still we have our fingers crossed that the Beantowner's won't suddenly rediscover the Bambino's curse.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Review: GUNSLINGER by Ed Gorman

Gunslinger, and Nine Other Action-Packed Stories of the Wild West by Ed Gorman (Barricade Press) : Ed Gorman is possibly better known to folks as the creator of both the Sam McCain and Jack Dwyer mystery series among other suspense novels. He is a past winner of the Shamus Award for detective fiction, but also the Spur for his western writing. The short stories & essays included in this volume go back some twenty years, reprinted from a number of collections and western themed magazines. While some are what one might expect in such a collection (gunfighters and sheriffs hunting down evil doers) there are also a few of a gentler nature. The lonesome soldier whose attempt to rescue his ‘true love’ goes terribly wrong; the traveling executioner and how he spends the evening prior; and finally the aging fanzine writer & western fan (Okay, don’t even say it!) who finally meets his childhood idol. There is also a nice essay on the late Roy Rogers and just how one writes ‘modern western tales’. Recommended for fans of Gorman, westerns and just find short story writing in general.

If you head over to the Joe Bob Briggs site you’ll find that they have finally posted a few of my reviews. I think that there are only one or two which haven’t shown up yet, but I’ve posted them either here or over at PARTING SHOTS anyway. It’s also good to see that they are finally getting around to posting some newer material from Joe Bob himself.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ABC this Fall

Not much of import to put out, just a few things which have come to mind.

Direct TV, which Donna and I have, has a channel which has been broadcasting previews of the Fall Season. These include the major networks, cable channels and pay channels like HBO & SHOWTIME. These are in rotation for a few days in a row, with each channels preview lasting from generally around a half hour to an hour. I haven't watched them all, since we don't have the premium channels and rarely watch either the WB or UPN.

It was interesting the other day to catch the ABC preview, which consisted of a solid 20+minutes of a recap of LOST. It didn't really hint what might be up-coming but was good for folks who may have heard of the show, but not been tuning in. In my opinion, LOST (along with THE 4400 on USA Network) are two of the best 'sf/fantasy' shows being shown. The ensemble casts are good with a lot of stand-out performances and solid scripts. The second series of 4400 episodes finished the other week, so Donna and I are more than ready for LOST to return.

It was also interesting to see the preview for the new ABC show, INVASION. Sean Cassidy (yeah, the former teen idol) once again is the writer/producer on a dramatic series. His first AMERICAN GOTHIC didn't last long but there are still folks who consider it a classic bit of creepiness.

ABC has actually pulled the regular ads for the show which were to be broadcast in prime time, as the show's premise deals with an alien invasion which uses a hurricane in Florida as cover. DUring the recovery and reconstruction which takes place some folks gradually begin to realize that something has occurred besides natural destruction.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Should I care at this point?

Given the current situation in the southern part of the U.S. and the effect it is having nationally, I feel rather silly even caring about baseball. Then again, as the first President Bush said following the destruction caused by a hurricane during his administration, "Life goes on."

The wild card spots becoming more settled and each division race is coming into focus. Heck, when even the hapless Mets are with a half game of a spot you wonder who can't come out ahead at this point. Fingers crossed here at Chez Chaput that the Red Sox won't stumble at the finish line.

If I don't get a chance to post later today, I hope that you all have a good holiday weekend. Spend a moment to think of those less fortunate and donate some money, if you can. We're all in this together!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Betty Boop & Hooters

I suppose it was only a matter of time, but when I saw this link over at Mark Evanier's site I had to bring it to your attention.

Click on the headline above and you'll find an article about Betty Boop being licensed by the Hooters chain of restaurants. The Booper's image will be available on pins which can be purchased at the restaurant. According to the article there are folks collecting Hooter's pins and other merchandise, although I doubt there are many married men among them.

I am perfectly honest when I say that I have never eaten at a Hooters. It's one of those places I'd never go to on my own, as I'd feel like a dirty old man and wouldn't know where to look once the waitress came over anyway. Donna and I sometimes talk about going, but I said I'd feel more comfortable going with another couple. Call me old fashion!

My late mother absolutely loved Betty and I have to wonder what she would have thought. Although, she did have a wonderful sense of humor and probably would have loved the idea. Mom was not judgemental!

I'll take a moment to confess that I've always had a 'thing' for Betty Boop, which probably goes back to seeing a Tijuana Bible featuring her back when I a teenager. Best not to dwell on that either.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jack Kirby Museum online

I had the opportunity to see the late Jack Kirby several times at various comic conventions. He was, in fact, a guest back on one of the very first cons I ever attended (either the 1974 or '75 San Diego Comicon). I worked up the nerve to speak to him and get an autograph only that once, and babbled some nonesense. Still Mr. Kirby couldn't have been nicer and actually thanked me for whatever inane praise I gave him. He truly was a nice man!

The Jack Kirby Museum is long overdue and I hope that it will serve to bring a much needed examination of the man's work. He and the characters he created & co-created continue to be money makers for people with barely a percentage of his talent (and in some cases, no talent whatsoever).

I just wanted to bring this site to your attention, for which I have to thank Mark Evanier for placing the link over on his site. I can't wait for Mark's bio of Kirby and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

The King truly does live on!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Too close for comfort

The Red Sox were fortunate to win last evening, allowing them to retain a two and a half game lead on the Damned Yankees. Personally, I have a bad feeling about this, especially with Curt Shilling not really pitching up to his old standards. Perhaps he should return to the bullpen where he appeared to be doing quite well. He could still surprise us and I certainly have my fingers crossed.

Dwight Gooden turned himself in after a few days, so now of course everybody is going with the 'this is his first step to turning his life around' line that they always use in these cases. Didn't Dwight leap across that "first step" a while ago? Wouldn't he really be better off doing some prison time rather than another stay in rehab? Face it, would any of us non-celebs get more than one chance?

Guess it's my day to kick folks while they're down, huh?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dwight's flight and Frank Robinson speaks out

Looks like former NY Met & Yankee pitcher Dwight Gooden has once again gotten himself in trouble with the law. Stopped by the police while apparently driving under the influence Gooden took off and has yet (as far as I know at this point) to be located. He may face some actual jail time, both for this incident and for still being on probation for an earlier problem. It’s a shame since Gooden was a one time headed for solid career but sadly, he and former team mate Darryl Strawberry just couldn’t seem to keep their respective acts together.

Meanwhile, Frank Robinson, one of baseballs most respective former players (and current manager of the Washington Nationals) seems to be getting blasted for comments he made about other players. Hell, some sports radio hosts are saying harsher things about Robinson then they did about Rafael Palmeiro. Robinson has stated his opinion that Palmeiro’s statistics should be erased because the Baltimore Orioles player was suspended for a failed drug test.

Just a few overheard comments: “Let the history books decide this!” “If you do that where will it stop…Do you delete the records of those players who used to take uppers while playing? Those weren’t illegal back then!”

It strikes me that some of the broadcasters are over-reacting because Palmeiro and others pulled the wool over their eyes. Also, many of them will make the comment that “the FANS don’t care about all this! They just want to see players hitting home runs and don’t care how they do it!” Hmmm…guess it’s the fan’s fault and the poor players were forced to shoot up or drop various substances to keep ‘us’ happy. They would NEVER have done it unless ‘we’ pushed them into it. “Fans killed sports! You bastards!!”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

DAWN OF WAR: yet another book review

DAWN OF WAR by C.S. Goto is another in the Black Library series of book based on the Warhammer 40,000 (WH 4-K) role playing game. It’s also much more what I had initially expected when I began reading the WH-4K series, after reading several of the graphic novels. This book deals with the adventures of a company of Space Marines in conflict with orcs, heretics against the Emperor and aliens. The story has lots of bloodshed and double-crosses by one group against the other throughout.

Brother-Captain Gabriel Angelos leads his fellow Blood Ravens into battle, as he has done so for decades. You have to remember that the Space Marines have been physically augmented and live quite a long time in service to the Emperor. In the WH- 4-K universe the Emperor also has set on his throne for thousands of years, undying yet not truly alive. He is kept alive by a combination of technology and magic. As he has been around for so long, and in complete control of millions of planets and their inhabitants, the Emperor has more than his share of enemies human and otherwise. It is the task of the Space Marines, to act as the front line combatants in these conflicts.

Gabriel is one of the most famous, if not infamous, members of his order (as the Space marines are similar to the Knights Templar in being both military & religious in nature) having actually committed genocide on his home planet when he found them to be tainted by heretical blood. His current mission is to battle what seems at first to be an orc invasion of the planet Tartarus, which unknown to him was once the scene of an inter-dimensional battle thousands of years previously. It now seems that those same combatants have returned and are gearing up for a new fight.

This book also brings in the Eldar, a race which predates human kind and is now dying off. They remind me of the elves in Tolkien, at least as they are portrayed here. While they have their own agenda and have no great liking for mankind they are trying to do the ‘right thing’ at least as they perceive things. Sadly, the good Captain sees things differently, which appears to set up the possibility of a sequel to this book at a later date.

Goto, obviously a pen name, does a nice job with all the characters, human and otherwise. The scenes with the orcs are fun since the really do exist only to fight. “War for war’s sake,” is their motto, or rather WAAAUGH!!!!!! Ya gotta love it!

Getting too close: Baseball & the Fall Season

The Red Sox have to stop doing this to me! My old heart can't take it any more.

Boston is known for blowing it this time of year and can't keep hoping that other teams will somehow beat the Damned Yankees to keep the Sox in first place in the AL East. Randy Johnson kept Tampa Bay scoreless and it was only thank to the Yank bullpen that this wasn't another victory for New York. The Yanks are back at four and a half games back and three + back in the Wild Card race. Still I need Boston to keep winning on the road to ensure a repeat of last year.

I'm always interested in seeing which new shows the networks will launch in the Fall season (still their major push, even though they are more willing to put in new shows in the summer and pull some reruns). If I remember I'm going to make some predictions here on what I feel is doomed from the first broadcast.

I do think a safe bet is the new Geena Davis show, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, with the actress portrays the vice-President of the U.S. who must take the top spot with the President dies. This is ABC's version of THE WEST WING I guess, since Ms. Davis and other associated with the show are not your big GOP supporters. I like Davis, but not sure if this will have staying power.

Than again, who would have thought that Dennis Hopper would ever be on network prime-time, as a Pentagon general no less? I'll give E-RING a look see, just to see Hopper chewing some scenery.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Just a bit of baseball

The Red Sox got saved by torrential rain last night. Kept their winning streak alive and sent them on the road for a week or more. Since the Sox were losing (or at least in a tough spot) before the initial rain-delay they only slipped a half game in their lead over the Damned Yankees. New York had the bad grace to win last night so they are currently 4 and a half back in the AL East.

Boston, if they maintain their lead and the team remains healthy, have a pretty good chance of repeating last year's trip to the World Series. Fingers & toes crossed on this!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Talking a little baseball

Well, the Red Sox had the night off last night, so it gave the Damned Yankees a chance to pull up a game in the standings. They are still five games back of Boston in the AL East and at least three games back in the Wild Card race. Of course, being the team they are it would not be a surprise to see them inch a bit closer the last month. Many fans and the sports show hosts are conceding the season (except here in the city, naturally)and I'm more than happy to join that side, as you can imagine. Still stranger things have happened (Witness the World Series last season!).

The Mets fans and the team itself had a few scary moments yesterday when right fielder Mike Cameron was taken off the field on a stretcher following head-to-head collision with center fielder Carlos Beltran in the seventh inning. Caught the thing repeatedly on the news last evening, with most of the New York stations leading with it in the opening then showing it again early in the broadcast, followed by another repeat in the sports highlights section of the program. Both Cameron & Beltran could have been more seriously injured so they are lucky indeed. This is why the players generally will wave off one another. Trained professionals, indeed!

Friday, August 05, 2005


Dean Koontz’s FRANKENSTEIN Book One: Prodigal Son - Prolific horror & suspense author Dean Koontz was originally approached to write the pilot and additional episodes of a mini-series for the USA Network. Martin Scorsese became interested in the concept and came aboard as Executive Producer. Sadly, the network wanted changes made to the show as conceived, causing both Koontz and then Scorsese to walk away from the project.

Koontz has decided to reshape the work into a trilogy, working with several other authors to bring his original concept out in prose form. This first book is co-written with Kevin J. Anderson, himself a science fiction writer (I’ve previously read an X-FILES novel by him, GROUND ZERO which I liked quite a bit.).

In this series neither Victor Frankenstein nor his creation met their doom as Mary Shelly wrote in her novel. It seems that the author took some fictional liberties with the true story as told to her by others. Following his initial murder spree and final battle with his maker the ‘monster’ roamed the world for decades finally finding peace in an Asian monastery. His creator also survived having found ways to extend his own life. Now Frankenstein, over two hundred years old but looking like a man in his forties, has taken up residence in New Orleans. Under the name Victor Helios he has begun producing dozens of beings with whom he plans on recreating the world in his image. Over the past decades Helios/Frankenstein has placed his creations in every institution which might be of value to his plans, or which might stand in his way. He has even created duplicates of some individuals killing the original and replacing them. As his first creation (who calls himself Deucalion, the son of Prometheus in Greek mythology) states Victor is now the monster, while he has become more human.

Anderson does a good job of bringing believability to Koontz’s characters. The only problem I had was that Anderson tries to be a bit too cute sometimes, throwing in cultural references in some inappropriate places. I don’t mind so much the human characters doing this, but you have to wonder why Victor’s creations would use them, since they are essentially ‘born’ educated and programmed by Frankenstein who holds such a distain for the culture of the Old Race as he calls those born of woman.

In the first book, some of the New Race have begun to question their programming and gone against the wishes of their creator. These improperly wired beings have drawn the attention of New Orleans detectives Carson O’Connor and her partner Michael Maddison. Their hunt for a serial killer (actually more than one they discover) and the discovery of Frankenstein’s plans are what drive the first book. The second, co-written by mystery & western writer Ed Gorman, will take up where this leaves off. I don’t know where Koontz will finally bring all this but I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the next few weeks.

Having reread Mary Shelly’s original work a few months ago, I was interested to see what other contemporary writers were doing with the characters. I’ve noted a couple of other books on the shelves also using one version of the monster or another. There’s just something about the idea of the creature which fascinates me and apparently lots of others.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Suspension of Rafael Palmeiro

The suspension of Rafael Palmeiro and his admission (half-hearted and after the fact) that he used steroids brings this controversy back to the surface. Major League Baseball had hoped that they had heard the last of this, with the ending of the Congressional hearings (much ado about nothing).

It also brings Baltimore back into the limelight, but not in the way they would have liked. They have fallen from their early lead in the Eastern division and will probably not even make a wild card berth. The sports-talk shows are all hitting on Raffy, questioning whether Baltimore should go ahead with the celebration of his 3,000 hits and if the once sure thing Hall of Famer will sit out the rest of what may be his last season.

It's a shame, but as with many other sports figures he might have been better off keeping his mouth shut. Being Mr. Self-righteous on Capital Hill wasn't a thing he thought would come back to haunt him, obviously.

On a lighter note, the Boston Red Sox continue to be in the lead of the American League Eastern division and the Damned Yankees lost again last night.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Some Warhammer 40,000 & a bit of Judge Dredd, for good measure

I have to admit that when I first decided to read some of the WARHAMMER 40,000 (WH-4K) novels I didn’t really know what to expect. Previously, I’d only read a couple of the trade paperback collections of stories from the WARHAMMER MONTHLY magazine. I guess that I expected all the novels to have a similar sensibility. Stories filled with hard-boiled Space Marines dedicated to killing orcs and bashing each other, in their off-hours, all in the name of the Emperor. To my surprise each of the first three novels I’ve ready had very different takes on the WH-4K universe.

Each book in the Black Library series opens with a page giving you an overview of the WH-4K world. The page is the same in each book, so you can skip it after the first time you’ve read it, although it does remind you of just what it is that drives the individuals, besides their own survival. Overall, it is a dark and gloomy place with little room for the leisure time activities we take for granted. These folks, by and large, are just trying to get by day to day. While as with any space opera, you’ll get various types of worlds (frozen wastelands, deserts and planets covered in dense rain-forest, etc,) for the most part the major cities resemble the Los Angeles of BLADE RUNNER with the citizens strictly fixed in by class and social rank. Pity the poor ‘hive-dwellers’ (as the poorest of the urban citizens are called) who live in the lower most sections of the metropolis.

The first WH-4K novel I read was Ravenor by Dan Abnett, (which I reviewed in greater detail earlier) turned out to be more a thriller of the Tom Clancy “Covert-One’ variety than I had expected. Inquisitor Ravenor leads a team of Imperial agents in trying to track down criminals smuggling in an alien narcotic. Abnett is one of Black Library’s most popular writers and he’s also becoming known for his stint writing comics here in the U.S. for DC. Ravenor is a psychic of enormous power, but his physical body was almost destroyed in an earlier book. He is now encased in a featureless metal shell, only able to experience ‘physical’ sensations when he takes over the body of another person. The book is a good introduction to the WH world and the philosophy/religion which governs it.

The Traitor’s Hand by Sandy Mitchell, on the other hand is much more light-hearted in tone. Commissar Ciaphas Cain is featured in a series of books, which supposedly contain his memoirs of his years with the Imperial Guard; the book is ‘edited’ by an Inquisitor and one time paramour of Cain’s. Cain is not what he appears to be on the surface, but rather is a survivor who has gotten to be where he is by a series of unfortunate accidents. Cain reminds me of “Harry Flashman” the title character in a series of books by George MacDonald Fraser. {Harry was the school bully in Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes. The adult Harry was just as much a rascal, if not as cruel, in Fraser’s books.) While not a coward by any means, Cain would much rather ‘lead from the rear’ of the action but often finds himself pushed to the forward position in the conflicts, much to his great frustration. With his weakness for games of chance & liquid refreshment, the Commissar would have found himself right at home with Hawkeye and Trapper. In this particular book, Cain finds himself caught on a planet about to be invaded by the forces of Chaos (an alien/other-dimensional force which crops up in all the WH books to some degree or other).

Mitchell Scanlon’s Fifteen Hours could almost be called the “All Quiet on the Western Front” of the Black Library series. Scanlon tells us the story of a young man, raised on a farming planet, who finds himself conscripted into the Imperial Guard. We witness his time in basic training and his first assignment with his comrades. To say that this is anti-war is an understatement. If Scanlon placed his young hero in the trenches of WWI or in Iraq today, the day-to-day suffering and problems with military hierarchy would be pretty much the same. Brilliant!

After reading three of the WH-4K books in a row I decided to take a break from the series. Still it’s not a total departure from the dystopian future genre, since it’s a prose adaptation of a Judge Dredd story from 2000 A.D.

Swine Fever by Andrew Cartmel doesn’t star the well-known Judge, but rather Psi-Judge Zandonella. As her title implies, Zandonella has a special gift which she utilizes on behalf of her fellow judges. Not to give too much away, but Zandonella's gift allows her to 'jump' into the body of the last individual who was beside someone who has died. She does this by touching the deceased. If you’re not familiar with the Judge or his world, just imagine an entire police force of Dirty Harry types armed with explosive ammo and riding jet-propelled motorcycles. (Since I’m one of the few folks who rather enjoyed the Sylvester Stallone film, my judgment {pardon the expression} is probably questionable anyway.) As the good Judge is known to say, “I am the Law!”

In this particular story, there’s a growing underground market in pork and the Judges mean to put a stop to it. To complicate matters (and things in Judge Dredd stories are never simple) it turns out that the pigs being ‘farmed’ are mutations and a bit smarter than your average swine. Imagine Arnold Ziffle, only smarter. Cartmel, with whom I’m not familiar, does a nice job of making you care for Zandonella and her fellow judges, while going about the typical dark humor and ultra-violence for which the Dredd series is known.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Red Sox blow out Yankees!

While the defeat of the Damn Yankees last night (17-1) was sweet, it would have been better for the standing had the Sox also won the previous evening as well. Today's game should be a nailbiter, since it will either give a boost to Boston or bring New York within striking distance of taking 1st place in the AL East.

David Wells certain earned his paycheck last night, but I do have problems with players (whether they are on a team I like or not) being able to play despite a suspension. What's the point of being kept out of a set number of games if you can pick & choose when/if the thing starts to begin with. Just my two cents, as usual.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A few comments about the All-Star Game

I'm a day late & a dollar short on this, as the saying goes. Still I wanted to mention a few things while they were still fairly fresh in my mind.

Not a classic All-Star game certainly, but one that neither side should feel badly about. Nothing to go into the record books with, but there wasn't either a blow out by either side, nor a pitchers duel. Of course, with nobody being able to throw more than a few inning that's not something likely to happen anyway.

I'm really not too thrilled with the camera aimed up at the pitcher nor at home plate. It's just a weird angle and I don't see what it is supposed to show other than that Fox has this type of thing available. There's a certain 'up the skirt' feel to the whole thing, if you know what I mean. Also, do we really need the talking baseball to explain a pitch to us. How about a couple of the MLB pitching coaches demonstrating them instead?

I admit that Donna and I were both reading during the game, but I don't remember any of the commercials standing out in my memory. Perhaps I missed something since I turned the game on as it started and not for any of the pre-game/anthem singing. Who did they drag out to lip-sync this time, anyway?

The Red Sox are still in first place by 2 and a half games, but they will have to play the Damn Yankees for a series starting tonight. Fingers crossed on this one. I'll settle for a split in favor of Boston.

Regarding the NHL strike, I'm happy for Donna's nephew, Nicholas, since he's a big hockey fan. In fact, Donna would rather watch a hockey game than football, so I don't know if that means we'll be tuning in the Rangers or not.

Thursday, July 07, 2005 Something new on line

I’ve quickly become a fan of the new monthly Comics Buyer’s Guide, since my subscription kicked in. It’s great subway reading, between books, and is also good to have on the coffee table when commercial breaks come along. As I’ve mentioned before, I began subscribing to Alan Light’s The Buyer’s Guide back in the mid-‘70s and continued well into the Krause publishing era. Even when my sub expired it was possible to pick up occasion issues at many of the comic shops I frequented. (Thanks to Elayne Riggs, my ex, I now have most of the monthly CBGs I missed. There’s plenty of fine reading ahead!)

While I really don’t care much about the monthly price guide or the tracking of eBay auctions, the overall format and loads of other material is quite good. Along with the usual reviews and promotional articles on the latest titles, you’ll get columns by Tony Isabella, Peter David, Heidi MacDonald and now Beau Smith, plus others. Naturally, you won’t agree with everything they have to say, or with all the reviewers, but it certainly will keep you informed on what’s current and popular in the comics’ field.

The one thing I found surprising was that while there was a website for Krause, there really wasn’t much available relating to CBG itself. That’s been corrected now and you can get some of the articles and material generally found in the print version over on the new page. There are even some forums available for those who’d like to comment on the latest issues and communicate with some of the Krause editors.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Comments on the Comics Buyer's Guide

Finally catching up on the latest issue of CBG to hit the mailbox. I put is aside so I could finish THE DA VINCI CODE, which I couldn't put down (I'll have a quick review and comments in a day or two.).

As I've said before I'm not reading many comics at this point, but still have a love of the medium which keeps me interested enough. CBG allows me to keep an eye on the new trends and the reviews let me know what is going on in the books I used to read. My prior posts have made it clear that I'd probably have no interest in the latest 'events' coming from the Big Two (DC & Marvel, for those of you who really dont' follow this stuff).

When I began to ease my way out of fandom, 'slabbing' (or sealing comics in plastic holders) and Comics Guaranty, LLC (CGC, the pioneer in this sort of thing) were just beginning to make a mark in the industry. The idea of 'third party' grading of collectables has taken hold and is possibly a good thing, at least for the older and rarer material. At about $25 a pop to get a book sealed in a tamper-proof container, you better not be trying to preserve the latest issue of Ball-Crusher Funnies. You may be a fan of the Mighty Thumb Twister, but don't expect to retire on that resale!

It is probably no coincidence that the idea of CGC and eBay auctions came about around the same time. By that I mean, I don't know if CGC would have had such an impact prior to the ability of fans to immediately put their books out there. The old fashion print ads and snail-mail auctions would take months, plus non-fans probably would not have been picking up the zines which promoted such sales. Now a mouse click will allow you to bid on just about anything.

That's my rant for today. Have a Happy & safe Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

RAVENOR: a Warhammer 40,000 novel (a review)

Ravenor by Dan Abnett (Games Workshop/Black Library) – This is a novel in the Warhammer 40,000 series, which utilizes concepts and characters from the various games, comics and other novels in that series. I’ve only just become familiar with this world, not being a gamer or a reader of much SF in recent years. If I get some of this wrong I apologize.

Having enjoyed a couple of graphic novel collections, comprised of stories from the WARHAMMER magazine, I was tempted to check out this novel when I happened upon it on the shelves here at the library. As I’ve said I haven’t read much, if any, SF for years except for a couple of STAR TREK novels but I used to read it regularly. Of course, the world of WARHAMMER is far more dystopian than most of the stuff I tended to read. This is more along the lines of the type of universe you’d find in ALIENS or STARSHIP TROOPERS than that in which the Federation sent out their gleaming starships. The Klingons would probably feel right at home, though.

The world of Warhammer is ruled by the God-Emperor, a man/being who has sat upon his throne for millennia, neither alive nor dead, but holding sway over thousands of planets and billions of souls. His legions offer up bloody tribute in his name as they battle other races and the forces of Chaos to hold together his empire.

Ravenor, the title character, was first introduced in an earlier series of books. He is a psychic of incredible power, crippled and encased in a metallic ‘chair’, but still having the loyalty of the men and women who serve him in his role as Inquisitor for the empire. His current mission is to discover the source of a new ‘drug’ called flec and to stop its import into the imperial worlds. He discovers that there is corruption even in the highest reaches of government and the source of the drug is only the beginning of a greater problem for political stability.

There’s not a lot of joy and merriment in the world of Warhammer, but there is loyalty and friendship. It is the relationships between the various members of Ravenor’s team which make us care what happens. To be honest, you’d have a hard time feeling much but distaste for the unseen Emperor who cares only for his own survival and you sure won’t find much to sympathize with in his opposition who are just as, if not more, ruthless in what they plan for mankind’s future.

Certainly not light fantasy or the black & white space opera of George Lucas, still Dan Abnett makes you care about his characters, even those you don’t particularly like at first. A rough group of bastards they may be, but by their own rules they standby their friends, which in the end is what matters.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

True Crime, the Ripper and me

What is there about such grime and ghastly things which simply fascinate me? I wasn't one of those kids who pulled the wings off of flies or other things, in fact, I even recall crying once because I accidentally crushed a robin's egg which I discovered fallen from a nest. Also, there is the fact that in 'real life' I'm pretty squeamish about the slightest cut or appearance of blood.

Still I've enjoyed reading about murder and mayhem, both real and fictional, since at least my junior high school days. That was about when my mother & father began to allow me to read those issues of True Detective, etc. that my Mom loved. The National Enquirer, which my mother also picked up each week, back in the early 1960s was much different from the entertainment industry gossip sheet it is today, being much closer in appearance to the Weekly World News and glorifying in the retelling of the most horrible crimes from police departments around the world. Back then we subscribed to two daily newspapers (the Norwich Bulletin, a local paper and the New York Daily News) and had a third (the Boston Herald) delivered on Sunday. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the papers at the time seemed to revel in the then current crimes of the Boston Strangler.

Anyway, since then I've loved reading about this type of thing. I don't know when I first learned of Jack the Ripper, but I'm sure during the period when the Strangler was making his mark in the Boston area more than a few articles I read mentioned the earlier killer of women.

If you have any interest in Jack you might want to check out . They have loads of material covering the crimes and people involved in the investigation. There are as many theories as there are suspects and this site will cover most of them. You can even spend time putting in dates and finding what happened in "Ripper History" on any particular day.

As I mentioned a few months ago in my review of DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, it seems amazing that America's own first serial killer (H.H. Holmes) never became the household word as his British contemporary. Probably Holmes wasn't flashy enough and did his business in private. Had the two ever met in some serial killer's afterlife I'm sure the conversation would have been pretty interesting. I think Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman could do something with that premise.

Talking a little baseball

Sadly, when the Damned Yankees were in a slump the Sox weren't doing a heck of a lot better. While still ahead of their New York rivals in the AL Eastern division, there are only three games seperating them at this point.

It would have been nice of Boston to put a bit more distance between them this early in the season, as the Sox are notorious for fading come Fall. Last year being the exception, of course.

It still seems that the Chicago White Sox will be the AL champs, unless they do a serious tailspin. Both Boston and New York may be competing for the 'wild card' spot unless one of the other starts playing better.

The poor Mets find themselves in the celler once more, even after the millions of dollars spent & deals made. Surprisingly it's the newest team in baseball, the Washington Nationals who are leading the NL Eastern division at this point. No rookie year curse for the former Expos.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The 4400

If you are going through summer withdrawal from LOST you might want to check out THE 4400 over on USA Network. A tad more sci-fi then the ABC show, but each has enough mystery and suspense to keep you guessing.

Also, both shows have wonderful ensemble casts without 'superstars' trying to catch the spotlight each and every week. While there are primary characters in both programs they seem willing to step back and let other cast members have their time.

Where LOST deals with the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island, which doesn't seem to appear on any charts, the 4400 are survivors of a different type. Each of them was abducted by a mysterious force, which we initially assume was extraterrestrial but learn in the last episode of the first season were elements from our own future trying to prevent (we believe at this point) some terrible event. It also seems that many, if not all, of the returnees have been granted some power (mental, physical, or both) which will allow them to bring about the necessary changes.

Donna and I recommend both shows.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jason Todd!! What the...!!!

So I get home last night and find the latest issue of CBG (#1607) in the mail. I glance at the painting of Batman and see that that is going to be the focus of this issue. Not a big surprise considering the release of the new film later this month. What does catch my eye though is a mention of Jason Todd, the second Robin, who I had supposed had been killed (sort of off panel) by the Joker. Now this, like the death of Barry Allen, had major repercussions in the DCU so it figured that this was a permanent situation.

Is Jason now back, as it appears, or should I read the article to see if I'm jumping to conclusions? If he is it sure will send ripples through the Batman Family titles, if not the entire DCU. Of course, since I'm not currently reading any DC books I suppose I shouldn't even care but those old fanboy habits die hard. (Kind of like sidekicks, huh?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

BATMAN Comic freebie in New York Post

Yesterday, the New York Post (at least in newstand editions) had copies BATMAN #608. This had a new cover listing it as a "Special Edition" and "New York Post Exclusive." You'll probably spot this coming up on eBay pretty soon, I'm sure.

Since I haven't picked up a copy of a Batman title for about a year now I can't say much about the continuity. I assume that DC is trying to promote the new BATMAN BEGINS film with this, but wonder if it is the right choice. It has nothing to do with that film and is in fact the first issue of a multi-part story arc. Wouldn't a stand-alone book have been a better choice for this? DC does have books which retell his origin and it would seem to me that might have been a better choice. This issue features Killer Croc and Catwoman, plus another 'surprise villain' on the last page. None of these appear in the new film, as far as I know and they certainly don't look like the characters as they appear in the various animated Batman shows. Doesn't it just confuse things.

Jeph Loeb does a good job setting things up and actually allowing Batman to save a child. He also sets up the beginnings of a plot featuring several Batman villains, who appear to be manipulated by the 'surprise villain.' I guess endangering children is okay for this character in current DCU continuity, but what do I know.

The art by Jim Lee and S. Williams (who also provide the cover) is good, but some panels are a bit confusing and not helped by the murky coloring of Alex Sinclair. Try to follow the Batman's fight with Killer Croc and his dispatching of several non-powered bad guys. I've been reading comics for over forty years and had to stop to decipher what was going on.

The ads in the book generally are tie-ins to the new movie and related products, with a subscription card for interested folks. I wonder how successful that will be?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

MADAGASCAR: a brief review

We had seen trailers for this film for a month or so and felt that it was something we'd enjoy.
While Donna isn't a big fan of cartoons in general she does like computer animated films (i.e. TOY STORY, SHREK, etc.) and some of the Disney studio's more classical material.
Since we had some time to ourselves last week, since Kristina works during the day, we caught an early matinee in the same theatre where we had seen STAR WARS a few nights before.

The basic plot deals with Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) deciding that he'd like a change from the everyday existence in the Central Park Zoo. His friend Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is more than happy with being "King of New York", but finds himself pushed into a rescue mission with Gloria the Hippo (Jadda Pickett Smith) and a very reluctant Melman, a giraffe suffering from hypochondria, (wonderfully performed by former FRIEND, David Schwimmer). When the four are captured, along with a group of more adventurous penguins, they are all shipped off to a wild animal preserve in Africa. When the penguins attempt to hijack the ship the four friends find themselves overboard, only to come ashore on a "deserted desert isle." We all know that things will go even further down hill.

The film is surprisingly funny and has enough 'in jokes' and references that parents will have just as much fun as the kids. This will probably be Dreamworks best received animated film and easily stands up against the Disney/Pixar stuff. After the rather lack luster box-office of ROBOTS & SHARK TALE I'm sure it was time for another hit. This actually knocked the latest Lucas film out of first place this past weekend, so they must be doing something right!

We also caught trailers for the upcoming new WALLACE & GROMIT film and CHICKEN LITTLE, the later looks like something Donna would enjoy.

Monday, June 06, 2005

STAR WAR: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

I'm in total agreement with the majority on the latest (and possibly last) installment in the SW series. George Lucas & Co. pulled out all the stops and finally hit the nail on the head, after two rather dismal failures that had even the most devote fans a bit disappointed. It's also apparent pretty early on why this entry got a more mature rating than the others. Of the last three films in this trilogy REVENGE OF THE SITH is the only one that I would gladly watch again.

Sadly, Hayden Christopher doesn't really convey the inner turmoil that Anakin must be feeling as things appear to fall apart around him. He seems merely petulant, especially when Padme announces that she is with child. Guess he'll have to put off college for a couple of semesters. Fortunately, the other characters (including those created solely in CGI) are better actors and are able to carry the story.

Given Lucas' occasional ham-fisted dialogue it is sometimes surprising that the audience can feel much of anything, unless they are bringing their own memories of past films. Face it, anyone familiar with the three original films already knows what will transpire for the most part. There are some secondary characters who don't make it, but we already know the fates of the Skywalker family, Yoda and Obi-wan.

Now, Kristina (a total SW fan, if ever there was one) feels that Lucas spent too much time in the search for General Grievous and not nearly enough on Anakin moving to the 'dark side.' I enjoyed Obi-wan's adventure and personally would love to see Ewan McGregor's Kenobi in a solo adventure. There is enough time before and after this film in which Obi-wan's story could be expanded. Don't know that McGregor would be interested in a television series, but I've read that Lucas might be interested in allowing further SW adventures on the small screen.

I'm sure that anyone interested in seeing the movie already has, but I don't want to throw in any spoilers. Needless to say the battle between Anakin and Obi-wan is amazing, as well as far more brutal than I had imagined. Whew!

Two thumbs and a light saber way up!

Friday, May 27, 2005

California, Here I come!

Historically, as everyone knows, when a blogger or other site owner plans on going on hiatus she or he would post a photo of a can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup. Sadly, this blogger hasn't figured out how to post pics yet so you will have to make do with a link to my destination.

If you click on the headline above, or go over to you can at least see how the weather & traffic is out in the Laguna Niguel vicinity.

Donna and I are heading out to spend some time with The Child (as she is known here at Chez Chaput). Kristina, and her father Michael, have a party planned for our arrival so if you happen to catch an episode of COPS in the near future, you may just see us enjoying ourselves.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and a Happy Fleet Week to my fellow New Yorkers!

I don't know if I'll have a chance to post out there so I'll probably catch you in a week or so.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Manji is a samurai, a skilled warrior who carries and uses dozens of bladed weapons. He is also immortal, "condemned to a life of combat until he spills the blood of a thousand evil men." Cursed by an ancient nun and with his body enfused with magical worms which will repair almost any wound (save decapitation), Manji must forefill his destiny of wander the earth forever knowing no peace.

Dark Horse Comics publishes the creation of writer/artist Hiroaki samurai, one of the best known (if mysterious) manga artists in Japan. Rarely making public appearances and never photographed, Hiroaki brings to mind the American comics artists Steve Ditko. Like Hiroaki, Ditko says that he prefers for his work to speak for itself. The work he produces for his best known creation certainly speaks very well.

First published in Japan in the mid-1990s, BLADE tells the tale of Manji as he wonders the country as 'bodyguard' for Rin, who seeks revenge for the death of her parents. The art is the books is deceptively simply in some panels, but Hiroaki demonstrates a masters pen in the full page (and sometimes double page) scenes of Manji in battle. The writing, translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith, may strike some folks as odd as it switches from the formal speech of some characters to the street lingo (very contemporary in some aspects) of others. This reflects what Hiroaki intends in his original, so the translators do their best to respect and follow his lead. Once you get used to it it makes sense as the language easily shows the emotions and attitudes of the speakers.

Over a dozen issues of BLADE are already in print and readily available in many bookstores and better comic shops. Here in Queens the popularity of not only this title but manga in general has moved the library system to carry this and other manga translations.

This is different from something along the lines of LONEWOLF & CUB, but if you enjoy manga, especially of the samurai/adventure variety I think you'd be doing yourself a favor by at least checking out an issue. You should start with the first, but their is editorial material in each book which explains the basic plot and things about the style and era in which the story takes place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Fullmetal Alchemist (VIZ Graphic Novel) - You may have seen the animated version of this on [adult swim] over on the Cartoon Network. The Elric brothers, Edward & Alphonse lost their mother at an early age, and dedicated themselves to learning the secrets of alchemy (a sort of scientific magic in this book) in order to bring her back from the dead. Even in magic, we discover, there are rules which must be obeyed. Tragically the two siblings learn (or rather ignore) this rule and both suffer accordingly. Alphonse is killed and his older brother Edward loses his leg. To save his brother, Edward willingly sacrifices one of his arms, but only Alphonse's spirit returns and is now imprisoned in a large suit of armor. Together the brother wander the land, working for the military government which rules this world.

Writer/artist Hiromu Arakawa works in typical manga style, bringing a light touch to the more humorous sequences, but still able convey the action and sometimes horror which the brothers must deal with in their journey.

Vol. 1 of FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST brings together the first three stories from the Japanese manga Shonen Gangan. Here we learn how the brothers became as they are and also meet some of the other members of the alchemist fraternity with which they work. Recommended for Teens and adult fans of this type of material.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Howard Morris: RIP

I feel badly that I missed hearing of the passing of comedian and character actor Howard Morris. I read of it for the first time just a few moments ago over at Mark Evanier's site.

I actually had the opportunity to see the man in action at one of those wonderful voice actor panels that Mark puts together at many San Diego Comic Conventions. He was just as funny and antic as you would imagine.

My condolences to his family, friends and millions of fans.

"Uncle Goopy!!!!

Monday, May 23, 2005

PREVIEWS: a look at what's ahead

Holy crap! (to quote one of my role models, Frank Barone)

I haven't had a chance to look at an issue of PREVIEWS for about a year or so, back when I was still regularly buying comics in Connecticut. I can't believe that I actually used to get through this each and every month, plus fill out the order form. The amount of comics material is incredible, and that doesn't even include the trading cards, models, animation and other stuff. You'd have to be in the Bill Gates category to even begin to afford just the regular titles from the major and alternative publishers. Hard to believe that the industry was bordering on self-destruct only a decade ago.

Some things remain the same, while there are evident changes in what is hitting the shops these days. We seem to have weathered the "Bad Girl" influx of the mid-90s, with only a few titles like LADY DEATH and a few Verotic titles still around. VAMPIRELLA and RED SONJA, both early entries in the barely dressed heroine sub-genre, remain favorites with both male & female fans of that type of thing.

Of course, the latest issue of PREVIEWS is filled with the usual hundreds of titles from DC, Marvel and Image, with Dark Horse producing their own wide range of material. The Big Two continue to focus on the super-hero books which made them into the driving forces in the industry, surviving after dozens of other publishers fell by the wayside. Only the books produced by Archie Comics have been around as long as those from the the former National and Atlas stables. Now it seems that the super-hero books are being kept around more for the abililty to be marketed to non-print media. Hollywood is once again making a number of films based on characters and stories from the four-color world. (SIN CITY is more black & white, but you know what I mean!)

There are two real bright spots reflected in this issue. First, the amazing popularity of manga (Japanese comics & graphic novels) which seem to have brought a new audience into shops and book stores. Perhaps some of those kids (and their parents) might just find some American made books which would also appeal to them. Secondly, a number of publishers (chiefly small companies and self-publishers) have begun to produce titles which will appeal to an "all-ages" audience. It seems that some wiser heads have taken a look at what is available in Europe & Asia and realized that the industry should try to broaden its appeal. The fanboys will always bee there to see Uber-man and Thumb Twister battling each and every month, but these guys are not going to keep the market viable and they are not getting any younger.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought PREVIEWS, but it ended up giving me a positive feeling about my hobby and its ability to change and remain relevant. It may even get me back into the shops when I have a few extra bucks.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Comic Review: Countdown To Infinite Crisis

This short review is filled with spoilers, or rather one big spoiler about a DC character. If you haven't already read this book, and would rather not have a major plot revealed you should stop at this point.

BLUE BEETLE is not one of the major DCU heroes, in fact it seems that he has always been treated as little more than a third-rate BATMAN imitator. He wasn't always like that, in fact the original BLUE BEETLE was a well-known comics character back in the Golden Age. His name was Dan Garrett and he was killed. Ted Kord blamed himself for that death and so became the second hero to take the name. Unlike Garrett however, Ted Kord did not have superpowers, he used his scientific ability and some gymnastic skills to do what had to be done.

This second Blue Beetle was created over at Charlton comics, during the 1960s and brought over to the DCU during the original Crisis on Infinite Earth. He had his own short-lived title at DC for a while, and then became (along with fellow second stringer, Booster Gold) part of the Justice League when it was more about Bwa Ha Ha than grim & gritty dramatics. At both Charlton and at DC I always liked Ted Kord and his light-hearted alter ego.

DC is gearing up for another 'this changes everything' multi-issue event. This is going to be called INFINITE CRISIS and like every other 'event' will change the status quo for about six months to a year and than be retconned away, by the next hot writer to come along. Of course, in this era of comics you can't shake things up without killing a few characters. This is apparently to show the fans that this time we're serious. ***Yawn***

So now Ted Kord is dead. Shot in the head by his former "friend" and fellow minor-league entity Max Lord. Apparently, Max was planning some major double crosses all along, but we (the reader) didn't know this. How stupid of us!!

The only positive thing that I can say about this 80-page comic is that it only cost $1.99 and that investment will keep me from buying any other DC comics for the next year. Thanks, fellas!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Playing catch up on comics!

I'm beginning to feel like Rip van Fanboy here. Ever since hitting Jim Hanley's Universe on Free Comics Day I have been trying to figure out what has been going on in comics for the past year. In some ways I appear to have missed a lot, but on the other hand it seems like more of the same.

Both DC and Marvel have company wide 'events' planned for this summer (more of the same, as I said), which seem to be more and more senseless and meaningless each time. Unless you are really going to make permanent changes why bother going through the motions. I suppose I can see the marketing department's getting excited about this, but I wonder why fandom circles continue to buy into them?

I guess as long as it keeps writers & artists working it's a good thing, huh?

I just got the first issue of my new CBG subscription so I may have a few comments about that coming up. Much of it ties-in with the release of the new STAR WARS movie, with a look back at comic adaptations and new stories involving the series characters. I'm also skimming the latest issue of PREVIEWS and will probably have some outrageous & damning things to say about that as well. :-)