Thursday, March 30, 2006

Blog spam

I've just deleted it after discovering that somebody had put in a Comment to yesterday's posting, which was acually a link to a Sport Betting site. That's a first over here and I hope the last.

Then again, it shows that somebody must have read the post since it did have to do with basketball and March Madness!

Monday, March 27, 2006

March (yawn!!) Madness

I suppose one of my ex-therapists could have made something of my disinterest (if not out & out dislike) of basketball. My late father loved the sport, having played back in his highschool days. Weekend afternoons would find him glued to the set watching the college and pro games. The hoop he put out in the backyard rarely got any use and was eventually taken down when it became obvious that I had no interest.

In highschool and later in college I could never bring myself to care the least bit about how the various school teams were playing. Then again the whole school spirit thing never really rang true to me either.

On other hand, my father also was a pitcher on his highschool team and continued taking part in soft-ball games until he was in his forties. While never good enough or with enough ambition to play little league, I did play my share of backlot ball with the other guys in my neighborhood.

All this simply to say that I'll be happy when CBS gets back to regular programming and the regular season baseball games start being played. It is the IMHO still America's pastime.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Youuuuuurrrrrrrr Out!!!

Not exactly the career ending game that Roger "The Rocket" Clemens was looking for, but I guess you can't blame the U.S. loss totally on the pitching. On the other hand, the Mexican starter, Oliver Perez and his relievers kept the American players down to only three hits. The final score was 2-1 with Mexico beating the U.S. team, eliminating them from the World Baseball Championship.

I haven't had a chance to see any of the WBC games on TV, but have been trying to keep up with things online. If I'm lucky I'll catch a game or two this weekend. I really do hope that this becomes a tradition and not a promotion gimic that only lasts a year or two. The idea of some of the best professional baseball players in the world competing against each other is great in my humble opinion.

Speaking of baseball, the Queens Library has again sent every employee two tickets to a Mets game for Library Appreciation Week. Fingers crossed the weather on Friday, April 7th isn't too bad at Shea.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Korean Team Kicks U.S. Butt

This is from the article in a Korean paper, via World

The Korean national team dealt an ego-bruising 7-3 defeat to the home of baseball on Monday during the second game of quarter-finals play at the World Baseball Classic in the Angels Stadium at Anaheim, California. The win all but assures the as-yet undefeated team a place in the semifinals. An auspicious 101 years after U.S. missionary Phillip Gillette introduced baseball to Korea, the country has overtaken its teacher to secure the ultimate bragging rights by sending an American all-star team packing.

You can't help but love it, right?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Identity Crisis: a review

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm probably the last guy on the 'net to get around to doing comic reviews. It's been a while since I had that $100 a month habit and almost a year since I even went into a comic shop. Still I'm an old time fan and still like to read something on occasion. In this case the series (collected here in hardcover) that really brought about some changes in the DC Universe, many of which are being revisited in the current INFINITE CRISIS maxi-crossover event.

Should you be among the few who haven't read this book or have not read the hundreds of other reviews (good & bad) already out there I want to send out a huge SPOILER WARNING.

Writer Brad Meltzer creates a story which reveals that things happened years ago among the Justice League of America that may tarnish their reputation. We learn why the original Doctor Light, went from second-string competent to comic relief in later appearances. When they discover that he raped Sue Dibny, the wife of Ralph "Elastic Man" Dibny, members of the JLA decide to not only erase his memory of the event (and his knowledge of some of their identities) but also to do a bit of tampering with his brain. Using the magical abilities of Zatanna, they give the villain a mystical lobotomy. Not only this but when discovered by Batman, they do a bit of tampering with the Dark Knight. Now years later, Dr. Light recovers his memories and apparently begin seeking revenge for what happened.


Meltzer does a solid job with all the heroes, even those who appear only briefly. The art by Rags Morales is magnificent and is aided by the inks of Michael Bair, who allows Morales' pencils to shine through. Hats off also to colorist Alex Sinclair and letterer Ken Lopez, who do the job by not drawing attention to themselves yet add to the overall package. In addition the hardcover gives us additional treats with background on the story & art by Meltzer and Morales; as well as a cover gallery of the original series covers by Michael Turner and other goodies.

Some of the best moments are with Wally "FLASH" West, who learns that the heroes he grew up with and admired may not have been as free of sin as he may have thought; in addition much of the story is seen through the eyes of Oliver "GREEN ARROW" Queen who knew of what happened and has kept the secret for years. In the end the story is ultimately about friendship and family, not just a bunch of people flying around in tight outfits punching each other.

Although I knew from reading the comments on the Tony Isabella messageboard and in CBG what to expect, as an Old Fart of Fandom I finally wanted to read the book myself and judge it. I don't exactly like what happened, especially as Ralph & Sue Dibny were two of the nicest and most enjoyable characters I remember from the Silver Age. From Ralph's early stories he was a favorite. On the other hand, Meltzer allow us to see the couple as truly in love and lets that, in the end, be Ralph's salvation.

How I'll feel about INFINITE CRISIS when I eventually get around to reading more than the earliest 'countdown' issue, remains to be seen. It will certainly be interesting to this aged reader what the 'new' DCU will be like.

Friday, March 10, 2006

WOKEN FURIES by Richard K. Morgan: a review

Another Joe Bob Briggs review completed. A change of pace from the usual thriller/suspense books they send and I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It took me a couple of chapters to shake the feeling I was reading a bad BLADE RUNNER ripoff.

Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
Published by Ballantine Books: ISBN: 0345479718

I’m probably the wrong guy to review this novel, expecting as I was to be reading another suspense/thriller. Imagine my surprise and admitted disappointment to find a science fiction novel among the review copies. I have to be honest in saying that I haven’t read more than a dozen SF novels in the past thirty years and several of those were part of Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s series. Still I’m willing to give it a try since back in high school I was reading little but SF.

Richard K. Morgan won a Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, Altered Carbon (2003). This book is the third in a series featuring Takeshi Kovacs, a former government operative (called Envoys, although they were more assassins and enforcers) in a distant future where people generally don’t die as we know it. When their life span ends or if they are killed in some fashion their consciousness can be placed in another “sleeve” to continue. These new bodies are either artificially created or clones of the deceased. This depends on money, of course, as well as into which societal class the individual belongs. Kovacs himself has been around for close to three hundred years, inhabiting a number of sleeves depending on his current mission.

Not having read any of the previous books in the series I sometimes found myself a tad confused, as dozens of characters (many of whom have some type of history with Kovacs) keep popping up. Writer Morgan fills in a lot of the background, but it still feels like coming in during the second reel of the film. Discovering that he is being tracked by a younger version of himself while on the run from several other factions, Kovacs finds temporary sanctuary with a band looking to salvage alien technology in abandoned ruins. The brief respite comes to an end when on of the team apparently becomes infected with the consciousness of a long-dead rebel leader, Quellcrist Falconer. The planetary government and possibly his former Envoy team mates are not happy about this situation.

I’d probably have enjoyed the book more if Morgan didn’t stop the plot for several pages of graphic sex every couple of chapters, or to have several of his characters spend another few pages arguing futuristic socialism (or Quellism, as it’s called in the book). Also, I’m always amazed to discover that thousands of years in the future in galaxies far away the underclass loves to drop the “F” bomb (as Jim Rome would put it).

Morgan does a good job bringing solid characterization to a very large and diverse cast. Playing the hard-boiled card can be difficult, especially mixing it up with SF, but Morgan does make it work.

Three stars (Add an additional half star if you’re an SF or Morgan fan already)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Navy Blues

Believe it or not, this is me back 1969. I was either on the USS BOXER or the USS CAMBRIA, since this was taken in Norfolk, VA and before I had my mustache.

Could I really have been that innocent at 18 yrs of age?

I was working as the supply clerk for the Electronic Technician Dept. on either ship. Since I'm in Dress Blues it was either early Spring or Fall of that year.


The photos above are of the USS BUTTE AE-27 upon which I spent my last two years on Active Duty from 1984 thru early 1986. Stationed out of Earle, NJ the Butte was one of the busiest 'ammunition ships' at the time.

To those of us who served aboard the ship the AE stood for "all expendable" which is how we felt. The first question you'd ask to a new crew member was, "Who'd you piss off?" {Ask Elayne about some of this if you doubt me!}

When in port we were at the end of a two mile long pier which itself was over a mile and a half away from any inhabited buildings. When fully loaded we were told that if we exploded we'd probably take out everything within five miles of us at sea. There was a reason that we were never allowed dockside when in foreign ports, even U.S. ones. We always anchored out.

As you can also imagine abandon ship drills were a matter of high hilarity, while any actual fire alarms were taken with dead seriousness.

A moment of truth in advertising: The photo on the left is one of those "official" photographs. I never remember the Butte looking that clean or rust free in all the time I served aboard. Part of which time I served in Deck and hung over the side painting the ugly, haze grey sonuvabitch.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


During my second stint in the Navy I was stationed our of San Diego on the USS WADDELL, a guided missile destroyer.

Most of the stories I have about that period took place off the ship when I wasn't on duty, but I still have some nice memories of the ship and crew. This was back during the mid-1970s, so you can imagine what southern California must have been like.

Dennis Weaver, Darren McGavin and Don Knots

Between my trip down to Atlantic City to catch Frankie Valli (discussed over at Parting Shots) and my 24+ hours suffering a stomach virus, I haven’t had a chance to write anything about the passing of three long time favorite actors. They do say these things come in threes but not this damn close, huh?

Of course, I remember Dennis Weaver most from his days as Chester Goode, opposite James Arness’ Marshall Matt Dillon on GUNSMOKE. He did tons of cameo roles in later TV shows before and after that, along with starring in one of the best made-for-TV movies ever, DUEL, directed by pre-JAWS Steven Spielberg. Younger folks probably remember him as the cowboy in the Big Apple McCLOUD from the early 1970s.

Darren McGavin is probably better remembered by folks of my generation as Carl Kolchak, THE NIGHT STALKER from that great television show. Back before Scully & Fox Mulder joined the FBI, Carl was working on his own “x-files”. Stories which his editor Tony Vincenzo (played excellently by Simon Oakley) never let Carl get into print. While I don’t recall if I ever saw him playing Mike Hammer, but my father mentioned it a few times so I’m sure he did.

Many of you probably recall him as the father in my all-time favorite ‘family comedy’, A CHRISTMAS STORY. If you were wondering who it was that was watching 18+ hours straight of the film on TNT it was me! I also have it on DVD, though sadly it has no bonus material. McGavin was also a popular ‘reader’ on audiobooks doing a number of adaptations of “Travis McGee” novels by John D. MacDonald, among others.

There is nothing I can say about Don Knotts which hasn’t been said at length already in blogs, newspapers and on television & radio. He created one of the most beloved and imitated characters on television, with his portrayal of Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith show. I actually remember him playing one of Steve Allen’s “man in the street” characters, along with Louis Nye and Tom Poston. My father, who never called me Steverino, was a huge fan of all of Allen’s shows and it seems I grew up watching them.

My most sincere condolences and sympathy go to the families, friends and millions of fans these three men left behind. You will be remembered long after most of us are but dust.