Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remote Viewing: Is anything on?

Caught the two-hour season premiere of THE AMAZING RACE last night. As usual, we root against any lawyers, yoga instructors or models (in this case professional poker players who lie about who they are). Frankly, we tend to root FOR what we consider 'normal' folks, or at least people who seem like able. Sadly, there seem to be fewer of them and more of the former each season. Of this season's teams Gary & Matt the father/son farmers, friends Zev (who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome) & Justin, gay brothers Sam & Dan and, believe it or not, Herbert & Nathanial the Harlem Globetrotters teammates are the duos we are favoring after the first two episodes. Sometimes during a season a team or one member of that duo will reveal themselves to be total a**holes, so we may change our minds at any moment. Sad, that our lives have come to this and Bingo, huh?

The new Fall Season used to be a much bigger deal, but despite the network hype it just doesn't mean the same as it once did. I think part of it has to do with most folks around the country turning more and more to cable with hundreds of alternatives to the Big Four, plus the fact that everybody knows that some shows will be pulled after only a couple of episodes anyway so why not wait for a bit. It also seems that those shows that turned up as mid-season replacements for the previous season's losers often have an already built-in audience.

I may have mentioned this before (maybe only on Twitter or Facebook) but can somebody tell me why Jenna Elfman has yet another television series? I realize that for some reason that I'll never understand, her show DHARMA & GREG was a hit, but she already bombed last season and the promos for the new show seem to show her as just as unlikable as she was in the previous one. Wasn't the point of the Dharma character was that she was kind of a lovable airhead or something? I guess CBS is hoping that putting her on Mondays, with all the hit shows might give her holdover viewers. Does that type of thing still work with so many folks having TIVO or other DVRs hooked up?

Recently, Donna and I have taken to falling asleep in our recliners during Letterman and waking up at some point when Craig Ferguson comes on. I have to admit that when Ferguson was first announced as the hosting a show after Dave I was sceptical. I mean I thought the guy was funny as Drew Carey's overbearing boss, but wasn't really familiar with him outside that show. Now that I have had a chance to watch him, especially his opening monologues I have become a fan. As Mark Evanier has said on his site, the show has a low-budget feel, but Ferguson and his crew do a great job with what they have. Best of all, unlike Conan, who always seemed to me to think of himself as slumming, Ferguson really seems to be enjoying himself. Set the DVR and check him out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Solid Potato Salad - The Ross Sisters (1944)

I'm thanking Mark Evanier for bringing this to my attention. I wanted to share it.

If these gals have any granddaughters they might want to get an act together and hit America's Got Talent!

Monday, September 21, 2009


I love Watching Buck! It probably says too much about me, but he's just funny. Plus he covers all these strange reality shows that I never watch.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remote viewing: what I've been watching

No surprise, I guess, that Kevin Skinner (former chicken wrangler) won "America's Got Talent" this season. After the surprise win last year of an opera singer, it looks like it was time for a country/western style performer to take top prize. I did think the toughest competition would be Barbara Padilla, but two operatic singers in a row would have been too much. Personally, I think ventriloquist Terry Fator remains the best performer the show has produced. He's amazing and with or without his puppets he's a good singer. Donna and I agree that we'd love to catch him in Vegas our next trip.

Top Chef was also pretty good last night. It did look like a tough task, cooking at a campsite with limited equipment, over firepits. Still, what a group of whiners some of them were! I keep waiting for brothers Michael & Brian to actually start fighting. I love the looks on their faces when the other wins! I'm still rooting for Kevin! You know me so you know I was happy to see the French guy asked to pack his knives and get deported...um, leave.

It's bad enough reading a couple of books at a time as I usually do (not counting comics, of course). This time around, including the audiobook version of "Last Town on Earth" by Thomas Mullen, I'm in the middle of four books. One is the next Joe Bob Briggs review item, Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great" and Stephen King's "Wolves of the Calla" (the fifth book in his Dark Tower series). Some people ask me how I can do it, but it's just something I've always been able to do. Maybe it does have to do with my reading comics, since you have to remember characters and situations from one issue to another, but I really don't have a problem getting into each book immediately. Because of it's size I'm reading the King book at home, the Joe Bob books I generally keep in the car and read at lunch or in the morning if I'm early, while the Hitchens book I keep at work. Since it is non-fiction it's easy enough to read a few pages during quiet times on the Reference Desk. Anybody else able to juggle a few books at a time?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz

One of the last Joe Bob Briggs' reviews, unless the good folks there send along some more books. To be honest, I had all but given up hope of ever seeing any more in print, but I have been told that the site will begin posting 'new' reviews shortly.

Just for those who may be interested, here's the new one from me.

Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz
Published by: Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843957956

Michael Friedlander doesn’t believe that his brother Alex killed himself. They had not been close for the past few years, but had remained in touch. While Alex was making money on Wall Street, Michael found himself moving from job to job and city to city. Once a medical student, a possible frame up destroyed his medical career and pushed him out of New York City. Now, while waiting to sell his brother’s condo and clearing away his belongings Michael becomes more and more convinced that things are not as cut and dry as the police and the Medical Examiner would have the family believe. Meanwhile, a possible serial killer called The Chopper by the press is leaving a trail of body parts and dismembered corpses around Manhattan. Money is changing hands and there is an obvious cover-up that may tie The Chopper to the death of Michael’s brother. As he begins to investigate his brother’s business dealings several other deaths occur and Michael himself may be in danger.

Originally published in 1989, the book doesn’t seem that dated. Horvitz’s New York skyline is still dominated by the World Trade Center and the stockbrokers and cops are not pulling cell phones out to keep in touch. Still the story captures a time before 9/11, Iraq and the financial breakdown of the past few years. I lived in the city back then and the author captures the spirit of a particular period perfectly.

While we follow Michael we also get into the minds of several other characters, including that of the killer. Horvitz has created a totally creepy, if pretty realistic, sociopath in The Chopper. Convinced that his victims are ‘asking for it’ and able to assume the identity of just the right person to attract those he intends to kill. Aided by a part-time medical examiner’s investigator, who has found she has been used, and a former-cop turned private investigator, Michael tries to uncover the conspiracy which led to his brother’s death, while trying to keep himself and his allies from falling victim.

Horvitz creates some interesting characters, both good & bad, but none without their flaws, and throws in some surprises along the way. Good casual reading for those in the mood.

Three stars

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mr. Sardonicus Trailer

This movie totally freaked me out as a kid. I had nightmares for weeks after and I don't think I watched it again for a decade or so. It still creeped me out!

Of course, I tend to watch horror movies with my hand over my mouth and not my eyes. Who knows why?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Four Color Fiend: Wednesday Comics

I had meant to mention this limited series of tabloids earlier, but I wanted to read at least half the issues so I had a better idea of what the creators were doing. If you aren't familiar with Wednesday Comics you should know that it consists of fifteen one-page stories of sixteen DCU characters. More depending on how you want to count the Teen Titans & Metal Men. As a 'tribute' to the old Sunday comicstrip supplements you would find in newspapers each character appears in a one page chapter of a twelve page story. At the recent San Diego Comic-Con Dan Didio was asked about the series and when asked about the ultimate fate of the stories, hinted that a compilation, similar to the old Treasury Edition books might be considered. It would make artistic sense, if not necessarily a financial one, that the pages be reproduced as close as possible to the size in which they appear in the actual tabloid.

Naturally, as with any anthology, some of the stories are better than others, although none of them (IMHO) are bad. It is nice to see that most of the creators involved can work in a format that doesn't allow (or force them) to drag a storyline out over six months and a hundred pages. Most comics today are 'written for the trade' and often you find both writers & artists, with editorial insistence no doubt, padding their books. Again, while it makes financial sense, it doesn't often allow for a complete tale each issue. Here the creative teams know they have a limited time and space to put forward an adventure. Unfortunately, one or two seem to still to be padding a bit or being cute in how they use the format.

The best stories and the ones I think have a feel for the old adventure strips are the ones featuring HAWKMAN and ADAM STRANGE. Perhaps, these two holdovers from DC's Silver Age, with their SF elements are perfect and lend themselves to this sort of thing. The Adam Strange tale especially, done by Paul Pope & Lovern Kindzierski, reminds me of the best Flash Gordon stories that Mac Raboy did when I was reading the Sunday pages as a kid. Exotic aliens, strange surroundings and brave heroes doing things simply because they are the right thing to do. The Hawkman story, wonderfully written & drawn by Kyle Baker, began with the Winged Wonder trying to save an aircraft being high jacked, and turned into a 'survivor' tale on an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Way Cool!

I love the SUPERGIRL story from Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner. What a fun, humorous little story. It seems that Krypto & Streaky (Supergirl's super-powered cat) are both beginning to act a bit too much like typical pets and causing havoc due to their powers. When the Girl of Steel (who seems to be in her mid-teens in appearance and actions) goes to Dr. Mid-Nite for assistance in discoving the cause, things don't work out quite as easily as both heroes had hoped. I love this and Amanda Connor does a great job on the art making the pets cute and giving them just enough emotional quality to pull off the humor, letting us know what they may be thinking at a given moment. Bravo!

I would like to think that Jack Kirby fans and even the Kirby family are happy with what Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook are doing with his creation KAMANDI. (Btw, it is nice to see the titles giving credit to many of the original creators of these characters. Not something always done often enough.) Gibbons & Sook bring a very, realistic feel to the world & characters The King created years ago. Not trying to imitate the creator in any way, they remain true to the characterization and the story has the grand epic quality that Kirby brought to almost everything he did.

Stories featuring SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN (Hal Jordan) and the METAL MEN are all entertaining with the GL & MM stories being closest to the Silver Age feel I enjoyed at that age. Supes & the Bats are a little darker, although you expect that from the Dark Knight as he has been portrayed for the past few decades. Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher are doing a nice take on THE FLASH, with poor Barry & Iris West having a very difficult time just trying to have a dinner date. Gorilla Grodd never makes things easy and The Flash finds himself bouncing around in time and alternate realities. I still don't know how the Scarlet Speedster will get out of this.

DEADMAN by Bullock Heuck & Stewart Fletcher has a cartoony art and really nothing special. Same holds true, sadly for SGT. ROCK by Adam & Joe Kubert. The senior Kubert's art is still as good as ever, but Sarge & Easy seem only to be going through the motions in a not very special story. Kubert & Robert Kannigher would have wrapped this up by now (after nine pages) and moved on back when they were cranking this stuff on a regular basis.

Jack Kirby's other creation, THE DEMON, has been teamed with CAT WOMAN for no apparent reason. Perhaps only because somebody felt that Jason Blood could not stand on his own, although so far any female character (even one created just for this story) could have done as well. Walt Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze don't do anything special and like the story featuring Rock, they seem to be padding a twelve page story just to get it to the proper length.

TEEN TITANS by Eddie Beerganza & Sean Galloway appears to be trying to appeal to fans of both the original team and the animated series. I really don't care about these characters and have no idea who a couple of them are. Should I?

Ben Caldwell, with whom I'm not familiar but will have to make an effort to do so, brings us a very, young WONDER WOMAN , in fact Diana here does not even have the various instruments for which she became known. Sort of an 'origin' story, even including Etta Candy. I am enjoying this much more than I would have expected, given how I'm not a big fan of WW and thought I'd be getting more out of some of the other characters in the series.

I loved METAMORPHO when creators Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon were first putting the Element Man through his paces. The character was tragic, but was also fun. His supporting characters (Simon Stagg, his daughter Sapphire & Java) were always a bit cartoonishm, but later attempts to make them more 'realistic' bordered on the creepy, especially in one ill-fated series where the fatherly feelings of Stagg crossed to perverted. Enough about that! I like Neil Gaiman, I have enjoyed his prose & comics work since those first issues of SANDMAN began. I have also had a chance to meet and correspond with him, always finding him a gentleman and a nice guy. I have also been a fan of Mike Allred beginning, naturally with the wild MADMAN comics, although I've found some of his stuff hit or miss the last decade. I find it unfortunate that two such creative guys can take one of my favorite characters and make me want to pass over the page. It's almost as if both men are trying to be so 'different' and 'witty' that they have forgotten that a story would have been nice. Metamorpho is pretty much as I remember him, but the threesome of Stagg, Sapphire & Java are tiresome and more cliche then they were in those first Silver Age stories. I'd like the three of them to meet some grisly fate. Also, with only twelve pages of story to utilize, why do Gaiman & Allred drag out the 'periodic table' gag for two weeks. Do we also have to end on the same final panel note of Java rejoicing in the possible destruction of the hero? Sorry, to end on a very negative note, but I wanted to mention all the creative folks involved and it had to cover the good & the bad.

Wow! This took me much longer and I went on & on. Next time I'll try to remember that as many of the folks here seem to do that brevity can be good.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mouse and Marvel: Should we care?

I have to admit that my immediate reaction was a shrug, since I don't own stock in either company. On the other hand, I have been enjoying a number of books in the Marvel Universe the past year or so, in addition to knowing a couple of folks who work for the company or have in the past. I do hope that if the purchase does affect them it's only in a good way. Higher royalties, might be nice as a start!

There is enough speculation around pro & con, so I don't think that I can really add anything of substance. I believe it will come down to the bottom line, as it always does with corporations. Disney will decide if leaving Marvel editorial alone is best, or if they should have some of their own looking over the individual titles and characters. I'm sure that when other licenses have ended we will see a "Disney" imprint. Possibly they will stand aside, as Time-Warner seems to have done with DC, and only use the characters in films, TV shows and merchandise. I wonder at times if some folks at T-W even know they still publish comics. I'm guessing that the Marvel themed stuff at Universal will find themselves at a Disney park eventually, but you never know.

Since Donna is going to Bingo tonight I'm going to watch MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, which I recorded last weekend on SyFy. LOL! You've got to love it! I don't have Mike & the 'bots around, but I think I can probably entertain myself.