Friday, September 28, 2007

OTR: Sherlock Holmes, pt. 1

I’m going to bore you all for several days over the next week or so with ramblings about the current 20-CD collection of Sherlock Holmes programs I’ve checked out. As with most of the other audio books I’ve reviewed of OTR this is from Radio Spirits.

It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out from my blogging and knowing me a bit to assume that I’m a big fan of Holmes. I was introduced to the character by watching the old Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films on television as a kid, and then went on to reading somewhat abridged/bowdlerized versions of the stories in junior high. Eventually, somebody bought me a copy of the original stories for either a birthday or Christmas.

Over the years I’ve seen as many of the Holmes films as I could, as well as reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories several times over. I haven’t read nearly half the various continuations, homage & pastiches of the canon by numerous authors. Those I have read run the gamut from outstanding to embarrassing. At one point I had almost as many movie adaptations on VHS of “Hound of the Baskervilles” as I had of “A Christmas Carol.” Sadly, all those tapes were tossed or given away during several moves this past decade.

I believe that the first time I heard any of the Holmes tales read was by Rathbone back in a junior high school English class. The teacher would often bring in albums with readings of the poetry or literature we were reading for class. I couldn’t tell you the first time I heard any of the Old Time Radio (OTR) performances, but it was probably in the late 1970s when in college. Several of the NPR stations had OTR shows on the weekends, which turned me on to so many of the shows I’ve reviewed here.

The headline above will take you to main Wikipedia entry on Holmes and from there you can read as much or as little about the various incarnations of the character as you like. I’m not going to pretend to know much, but will throw in a few things primarily from the booklet included in the collection I’m reviewing.

The first performance is one by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre. It is Welles’ own adaptation of the SH play written by the actor William Gillette. A Shakespearean actor, Gillette became famous portraying the Great Detective on stage and in at least one silent film. If you look at any existing photos of Gillette you can see that he remarkable resembles what most folks think of when reading Doyle’s descriptions. The play makes use of several of the original tales, along with introducing Professor Moriarty, the “Napoleon of Crime” as Holmes called him. Apparently, according to the Radio Spirit booklet, Welles had once seen Gillette and modeled his own Holmes after the older actors’ performance.

Growing up Connecticut a treat for me were the occasional visits my family would take to Gillette’s Castle near the town of Essex. The actor actually had most of a castle shipped across the Atlantic and rebuilt on a hill over looking the river. It was filled with secret passages, hidden spy holes and strange locks that Gillette had installed. It was said that he liked to keep an eye on his visitors without their knowledge. He also had a room designed and furnished to resemble the 221-B Baker Street apartment of Holmes, which visitors to the castle could see from the doorway but could not enter.

The Welles performance is interesting, giving the actor a chance to do several voices as he plays Holmes in disguise in some scenes. Ray Collins, who appeared in Welles’ CITIZEN KANE & THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS played Dr. Watson ; Eustace Wyatt, who appeared alongside Welles in the film JOURNEY INTO FEAR, portrayed Professor Moriarty.

Next time out I’ll talk about the SH episode with one of the actors immediately identified with the character, Basil Rathbone.

LOST TV WESTERNS - Episode: Cowboys Just Shoot Guns For...

In honor of what would have been Gene Autry's 100th birthday, here are some scenes from some of his films, alnog with Roy Rogers and some other western heroes. Just doing what those guys did best!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CBG #1653: just arrived in the mail

I received the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide in the mail the other day. This time around, learning from my past mistake, I skimmed the issue instead of doing my usual front-to-back reading. I felt bad last time out for not noting Peter David’s column on Leah, so figured I would see what I might not get to for a while in casual reading.

The cover and a nice article discuss the up-coming SPIDER-MAN story arc, “One More Day” and “Brand New Day.” This will be the last story done by current writer (and Babylon 5 creator) J. Michael Straczynski. In it Peter Parker will have to make a choice about his future. This choice will save the life of someone he loves, but will totally change almost everything else about his current situation. If you really want to know about this a quick check of any of the comic book fan sites will let you know than you could ever hope. Either choice will not make some fans happy, but it strikes me, as one of those things that a few years down the line will be changed yet again.

Personally, I haven’t read an issue of SPIDER-MAN is probably ten years that I can recall. The last Marvel title I was regularly reading was THUNDERBOLTS, prior to the reboot, which dropped the super-hero team in favor of a storyline about super-powered wrestlers. Needless to say a good jumping off point! Given the fact that I have been more of a DC fan the past twenty years I am only vaguely familiar with what is going on in the Marvel Comics Universe.

Following the SPIDER-MAN article, the Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith talks about other “One More Day” type events and story arcs that were supposed to make drastic changes to a title or whole line of comics. The ones he picks also had to be rescinded or rebooted a year or more later, often making things worse rather then better and still remembered not so fondly by many fans. Do “Heroes Reborn” or “Return of the Heroes” ring a bell? How about the “Crisis on Infinite Earths”?

The rest of CBG is filled with lots of reviews and comics’ news, some of which is dated by the time it sees print, but is generally news to me. With almost all comic publishers having their own websites and the dozens of comics related news sites around you can pretty much keep up with things. For me it’s the reviews and columns talking about new & old comics, which make CBG so much fun.
On another comics related note, it appears that a “Justice League of America” movie is being fast-tracked for filming in the spring of next year. The only “name” that seems attached is Jessica Biel, who appears to have been chosen to play Wonder Woman. This would then lead to a solo WW feature, from what the various sites indicate. A hat tip to the many fan sites that are using this as an excuse to dig up as many photos of Ms. Biel partially clothed as can be found on the Internet. That’s the kind of thing which makes our hobby so approachable to females and parents, isn’t it?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

3d animation short

Just short and cute. I wanted to share.


Gene Autry: 100 Years in the Saddle

To celebrate Gene Autry's 100th birthday this month, the Encore Westerns Channel will be broadcasting a 100-hour Autry marathon. If you click on the headline above you can swing over to the official Gene Autry website and read the Encore schedule.

As I've said before, I liked Gene but he was fourth in line on my Top Cowboy list. The Lone Ranger will always be #1 (especially in the television and films featuring Clayton Moore behind the mask); Hopalong Cassidy (my first western hero) takes up the second spot, with Roy Rogers easily in the third. Mr. Autry has a firm grip on the #4 spot, which is not a slight in my book.

I watched dozens of Autry's films and his television show as a kid and enjoyed them. Still there was always something about Gene that struck me as being out of place. It was like he had been a shoe salesman who played guitar and somebody said he should try on a cowboy outfit. Gene struck me as being a bit soft for the outdoor life, although from everything I have read he really did love the out of doors and especially the history of the western expansion of this country.

Anyway, thanks for the memories Gene and I'll see you back in the saddle this month.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Daisy Kutter by Kazu Kibuishi

I love westerns so I was curious when this item showed up in the Graphic Novel section a few weeks ago. As good as westerns are, there is something special about westerns with robots.

Daisy Kutter is a former train robber and thief who has tried to settle down. She and former partner Tom are living in the same town, but have grown apart. She’s trying to run a dry good store, but finds life too quiet. Meanwhile, Tom has taken the job as the town’s sheriff and feels Daisy should join him as his deputy. When she is offered a ‘legit’ job, which offers her a chance to use her old skills she decides to accept it, but finds out that she is being set up.

Kibuishi has a nice clean style that appears simple, but can actually show the emotions of his characters. He also has some wonderful action sequences and quiet moments with no dialogue necessary.

The novel is numbered #1 so I’m hoping to see more of Daisy, Tom and some of the other characters Kibuishi introduces.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Things are looking up!

I hesitate to mention the Red Sox here since it seems that whenever I do they go into a slump. I’ve actually begun writing things, waited and found that they blew a game that day and the standings changed yet again.

Anyway, taking a chance, I want to say that I’m happy to see that Boston has clinched a play-off spot this season. I’d be happier if, like the Angels, they had clinched their division but we’ll take what we can here. Sadly, the Damned Yankees appear certain to grab a wild-card slot, but we can always hope for them to fall down once they get there as they have the past few seasons. It also looks as if the Mets will be moving into the post-season as well.

Whoa! Check out the New England Patriots, huh? Sweet!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's on Anime Network?

(The headline above will link you to the Anime Nework site.)

One of the nice things about having Cox Digital is having the ‘On Demand’ feature. Aside from allowing us to order movies and special events(which we haven’t done yet) there are also channels called “Freezone” and “My Primetime”. The later currently has programs from the ABC & NBC schedules such as the season finales of LAS VEGAS, 30 ROCK and the yet to be broadcast pilot for BIONIC WOMAN. In Freezone you can check out stuff from various cable networks at any time, but of course you never know what you might get on any particular day.

One of the things you can find every day are selections from “Anime Network”. Usually these are single episodes of AN programs currently being shown on the regular channel and website. Each episode is usually available from two weeks to a month, plus they have a show called DVD DOJO that has previews of up-coming programs and DVD releases due in the next month. While it is generally anime, the show will sometimes have clips from live-action Asian films or videos of Japanese bands & singers. Some episodes have included interviews with people involved in anime, here and in Japan.

I usually try to check out first episodes of new shows, since most don’t give you a recap of ‘what has gone before’ and it’s easy to get lost. As you know if you follow anime the shows have continuing storylines and often a half dozen or more characters involved. Still even watching a later show can be fun depending on the kind of program and how complicated the back story.

Another thing to keep is mind is that some of this stuff is for “Older Teens” or a PG-13 rating. Depending on how you feel about some cursing, T&A and really graphic violence, some of these shows might not be your cup of green tea.

I’m not going to review anything right now, but did want to mention a few shows which some of you might want to seek out. Remember that many of these were once manga titles or have since been adapted into that medium.

MEGAMAN, is a cute super-heroish story of a young boy with a robot body, his family and their cyber-dog. Big robots, nasty aliens and evil scientists make for fun episodes.

AIRGEAR is a future Tokyo where gangs of teens wearing “Air Treks”, basically powered inline skates, allowing them to travel along power lines, over rooftops and other places earthbound skaters could only dream of. Nice stories about teens trying to find their place, fit in and go through the usual ‘coming of age’ things but with martial arts thrown in.

COMIC PARTY REVOLUTION continues the story of the original show, about a group of girls (now in college) trying to make it as manga artists & writers. Plenty of in-jokes for manga & anime fans, with cosplay and the like.

RED GARDEN – I just caught the first episode of this show yesterday and have to rewatch it. A rather grim story of girls who attend a private school on Roosevelt Island (in New York City). Something happened to four female students and they have no memories of the previous night. They also find that besides the partial amnesia other things are different. Generally they have little to do with each other in school, but all find themselves drawn to Central Park. There a mysterious woman tells them that they are dead and must earn the right to return to the world of the living. To do this they must hunt down strange beings. Meanwhile, two NYPD detectives are seeking a connection between a series of suicides of young woman over the past several months. They begin to believe that they might in fact not have taken their own lives, but have been murdered. Creepy, but very intriguing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brain Boy: just because

I just happened to be thinking about a comic I used to read and collect. It was called Brain Boy and only lasted about a half dozen issues.
Years ago a friend, Joel Thingvall gave me a page of the original art. A few years later I was contacted by the Smithsonian and I donated the page.
That's the scan over on the left and the headline above will bring you to the page noting my donation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DC Countdown #37-33: We're still reading it!

Things are not going smoothly in the DCU, at least for the characters featured in this series. I’ve got plenty of SPOILERS in this bit so if you haven’t read these issues you should know that I’m going to give lots away.


Mary Marvel is acting like a real little B**** here, turning violently on Zatanna to whom she had gone to for help. We get plenty of up the skirt shots of MM thanks to the art teams in some of the books, but we should remember that when not powered up she is a young girl. Banished from Zatanna’s home, Mary turns to Klarion, the Witch Boy (an old Kirby creation recently revived by DC) for assistance. We see behind all of this the manipulation of MM by the new female Eclipso.

Sadly, we also see the return of Slade Wilson (Deathstroke), a killer and child molester for whom DC believes we should feel sympathy. At least that was the implication I got from the two-page ‘origin’ of the character in one of the issues. As of #37, the history of the DCU multiverse has ended and in its place are two page origins of various characters who appear major players in the series.

Anyway, Deathstroke plants mini-bombs in the throats of Trickster and the Pied Piper to keep them from giving his plans away, but the two rogues are helped by Wally West (back again as The Flash). Wally and others are seeking to bring the Rogues to justice for the murder of Bart West, so he is not a big fan of Trickster or Piper. Along with Jimmy Olsen, we are following the two former villains as they stumble from one bad situation to another.

Speaking of the Daily Planet’s cub reporter, Jimmy again gets his butt handed to him by some heroes as he tries to prove his worthiness. His powers only show up when he is being threatened by deadly force, which the heroes certainly don’t intend. In the most recent issue (#33) we see Jimmy first shadowed by and then confronted by agents from Project Cadmus (yet another Kirby creation from his Fourth World books) who offer to ‘help’ Olsen with his little problem.

The current Catwoman, Holly Robinson, along with the former Harley Quinn are still living in the ‘women’s shelter’ established by Amazons. Again, thanks to the art teams we get plenty of “A” but no “T”, if you know what I mean, with Holly and other ladies doing back flips and such in short togas. There is dialogue in those panels, but I don’t know who is paying attention. Personally, I get tossed out of the story by this fan-service stuff.

Finally, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, “Bob” the Monitor and the current Atom (Dr. Ryan Choi) are not having a good time of it in their search for the missing Ray Palmer. In fact, the good doctor gets literally snatched up and disappears from the series, his fate left in the hands of his regular writer/artist team in his book. Fan sites report that he will become one of the new Challengers of the Unknown, or will travel with them. As a fan of many of the incarnations of this old DC team I probably should be on the look out for their appearances. Anyway, Jason & Donna are joined by Crabface Guy…um..Kyle Rayner the imitation Green Latrine (if that doesn't prove my continued dislike of the character I don't know what will). It seems that Crabface will be showing his true colors (pardon the expression) and joining the Sinestro Corps as Parallax.

I have to admit that the last few issues haven’t done as much for me as the early issues. Maybe with so much going on, especially outside the Countdown series and in other books, that I’m still pretty confused by events. I’m still curious enough to keep buying the series, but hope that by the half way point some things are explained. And, yes I know that this series will only lead into another! That’s a spoiler I could have done without myself.
The headline will take you over to the official DC site with some more possible spoilers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Emmy Awards: No big deal, but...

Not much to add to what has already been said all over the blogoverse. Biggest news seems to be the censor jumping on Sally Field's speech. Word is that is was because she used the expression "G*d Damn" and not her possible anti-war comments. Never can tell with network guys being over-zealous, especially at Fox.

There also seemed to be a couple of other really bad edits, at least as they appeared here on the West Coast telecast. Can't recall offhand when they were, but the camera would suddenly show a darkened stage from way up in the rafters for about five to ten seconds, then badly cut back to what was happening on stage. Since folks out here were seeing the show on a three hour delay you would think they could have come up with something less obvious, like a audience shot or freeze frame on somebody standing nearby. The way it it looked it drew attention to the edit, which it really should not in a professional broadcast.

My biggest question would be the choice of Ryan Seacrest. It wasn't that he was bad, but that he himself seemed almost uncomfortable and joked about his being there.

One of the highlights for me, was Brian & Stewie's dance number early on. Thanks for Fox for that, at least.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Classic Hulk Cartoons #01: The Origin of the Hulk

Back when these cartoons wer being shown on local channels I used to rush home from school. One of the TV stations out of Providence had a guy called Max the Mighty dressed up in a super-hero costume to introduce the episodes.

Yeah, the animation was limited, but you can't beat the art by guys like Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Ayers and others.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I don't see it myself!

I have been told that these two guys look alike. Personally....
One of these guys is an award-winning writer who has worked in television, film and authored dozens of books as well as hundreds of comics. The other guy has sold one article to a publication which didn't survive to a second issue.
The lesser known one was actually introduced to some comic books fans as the brother of the better known one. It took two years for that to finally be put to rest.
You can read the thoughts of the famous guy via a link you'll find to the Right, or by clicking on the headline above. He is a writer of stuff, for sure.

For Leah. Thanks, Peter!

In that Other Life, I had the opportunity to meet and befriend some really wonderful folks. I sadly have lost touch with many of them, not totally through faults of their's.

Anyway, when I get each issue of Comics Buyer's Guide I don't skim the whole issue, but read it from cover to cover. This always saves Peter David's BUT I DIGRESS column for one of the last items I see. Due to this I was not aware that Peter had written about Leah Adezio's passing. I also did not know that he had written a SPIDER-MAN story inspired by her.

Since, as I've said, I don't read many new comics anymore I forget just how good a writer Peter is and how he can move me as a reader. Even if I hadn't known Leah I would have been touched by both the story of his last moments with her and the comic story. Leah would have loved the story and I'm sure her sons loved reading it.

Thanks again, Peter!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Adventures of Batman and Robin... and Jesus (Episode 1)

You have to check this out. This is the first part of a four part story.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Julian Secret by Gregg Loomis: a review

Here is the latest Joe Bob Briggs review.


The Julian Secret by Gregg Loomis
Published by Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843956917

Writing the second book in a series can be a difficult proposition. You have to acknowledge returning readers who have already been introduced to the recurring characters and situations, but give enough information to new readers so they are not lost.
I didn’t know that this book was part of a series, but writer Gregg Loomis quickly got us up to speed once the main characters appeared.

Lang Reilly, former CIA agent, works as a highly paid attorney for corporations and individuals. One day he receives a phone call from the daughter of a former colleague Don Huff, who has been murdered, and she feels the local Spanish authorities are not properly looking into the case. Reilly accompanied by his lover Gurt, also a former agent, begin looking into the matter and quickly become the targets of someone who will kill to keep a secret. It seems that they do not want the information that Huff had uncovered for a book he was researching to be revealed.

Something was hidden by a Roman Emperor in a graveyard, something which he thought of as a great joke against the Christians he hated. Centuries later it is unearthed under the Vatican by workers under the direction of Pope Pius XII. At the end of WWII an American army unit kills the crew of a train carrying stolen treasure, while an American officer secretly meets with his German counterpart. Both this former Nazi and the Roman Catholic Church have something to hide. It eventually becomes to clear to Lang & Gurt that the two things may be connected.

Loomis throws in enough information on church history, theology and other such stuff to keep readers who loved the Da Vinci Code more than happy. He also gives Lang and other characters great dialogue, a sense of humor (especially if you love French bashing) and more than enough skills to stay at least a half step ahead of those trying to stop them. Together and separately, Lang & Gurt are a great pair of characters and I’m looking forward to seeing what Loomis may have in store for them next time out. I’m also tempted to look for “The Pegasus Secret”, the book which introduces Lang & Gurt.

Three and a half stars.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hop-Along Cassidy - Trailer (1935)

This is a trailer for the very first Hopalong Cassidy film. As you can see the name was spelled a bit differently.

I'm sure growing up I must have seen this movie dozens of times, probably edited totally beyond recognition.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: an audibook review

A couple of years ago I mentioned here that I was hoping to begin reading those books which I had long wanted to read but had never gotten to, or to re-read old favorites. Between the ‘professional’ reading I do for my job and the Joe Bob Briggs review stuff I haven’t gotten the chance to do as much of that as I have wanted. A way around this has been to borrow audio adaptations of these books from the Library and listen on the way to and from work. It’s also a great way to sample authors that I have never read to see if I might be interested. If you don’t do this yourself you might give it a try.

Truman Capote’s non-fiction book on the murder of a family in Kansas has been made into two films and is considered one of the classics of ‘true crime’ writing. The original film featured Robert Blake in an intense performance as Perry Smith one of the killers. The story of Capote’s work on the book, assisted by Harper Lee, was also been made into the film CAPOTE, for which actor Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the author. As a fan of ‘true crime’ books and television programs I have meant to pick up the book for several years, but have never gotten beyond skimming a few chapters.

In November of 1959, Perry Smith and his fellow ex-con, Richard “Dick” Hickcock drove to a farm outside Holcomb, Kansas owned by Herbert Clutter. There they tied up the four members of the Clutter family: Herbert, his wife Bonnie, and the two of the four Clutter children, Nancy (16 yrs old) & Kenyon (15 yrs old) who were home. Discovering that Mr. Clutter did not have a safe filled with money, as they had suspected, Smith and Hickcock murdered all four of the Clutters, taking what little money they could find and some merchandise they could later sell.

The book is based on Capote’s research and interviews with both killers, detectives involved in the case and dozens of Clutter family friends and surviving relatives. With the help of Lee, Capote was able to write about the history of Herbert Clutter, Smith, Hickcock, their families and the town of Holcomb itself. Aided here by Scott Brick’s reading, the book brings to life the dozens of characters whose very different lives came together on that fateful night.

The adaptation I chose is from Random House Audio. It was an unabridged edition on 12-CDs, which lasted 14 hrs, 25 minutes. Scott Brick, an actor and screenwriter (his adapted screenplay of Arthur C. Clarke’s RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA is scheduled for a 2009 release) who has made a name for himself as an audio book narrator, reads the book. Brick has worked on over 250 audio adaptations and won over thirty awards for his efforts since 2000. It is amazing what a talented reader can bring to a book, rather fiction or non-fiction, as it is her or his performance, which brings the story alive through only their voice. A very good reader, and Brick is one of the best, can make you forget that there is only one person doing everything.
While I’m on the topic, I also want to recommend readings by David McCallum (who you can hear reading books by Anne Perry and Jack Higgins), Joe Mantegna (Jerry Deaver, Mario Puzo and some of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels) and Mary Peiffer (Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series and others).

Highly recommended. (The link in the headline will take you to the Wikipedia essay on the book)