Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Nude Rear

Looking at Lisa's Happy Nude Rear card got me thinking about my favorite picture of her, which is also a picture of her nude rear. I did this the first time I met her, at a life drawing workshop that she not only posed at but put together as well. All told there were four models there that day, but Lisa was my favorite.

I like this picture so much I've had t-shirts made with it emblazoned on the back. This picture is erasure on charcoal-coated drawing paper.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Nude Rear 2007

Lisa is one of my favorite models. Not only does she have a stunning body, but she's just a whole heck of a lot of fun. Every year she does a New Years greeting card wishing everyone a Happy Nude Rear.

Here is this year's card. Enjoy!

And this year's message from Nude Lisa, the NudeL!

Greetings Everyone!

Some of you are already aware and others will have their first experience. This is my 6th Annual Holiday homemade greeting card. It was first born out of desperation to send my friends something, even though I was cash poor at the time.

Turns out the joke of the "Happy Nude Rear" card was a hit. Since the first card 6 years ago, it has not only become a hit and tradition but even expected and anticipated.

So once again my old friends and new ones. Here comes the annual card. It is my hope that it can be viewed well and even printed and framed (if you feel so inclined). You can even send it to your loved ones as it is a family photo. Haaa Haaaa. I jest.

May the new year be better than all the rest, Please be safe, healthy, prosperous and peaceful. My wish for you is that this will be your best year yet and that 2007 is full of blessings. :D

Hugs and more hugs (and some humps)



Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford On Bush

Much ado is being made about the Woodward interview where Gerald Ford said he completely disagreed with Bush on invading Iraq. However, I have to agree with Mark Evanier here that embargoing it until after his death speaks volumes on Ford's intestinal fortitude. It's too bad Ford didn't have the guts to say it for publication; he might have actually made a difference.

No, Bush would have still invaded, as his party would have lock-stepped us to Armageddon if the "W" had said, "Do it!" but the dialog of dissent would have begun earlier. This may have saved lives in the long run as it would have been very hard for Bush and his party to portray a Republican ex-President as "un-American."

Now it's just a sad sidebar to a man who used to run the country but no longer had the courage to speak of his own convictions.

My Twenty-Five Cents

All this talk of my two cents got me thinking about when I was a kid and how two cents was a lot of money to me. It got me remembering when I was actually pretty good with my money management. This was when my allowance was a quarter and I remember how I had to strategize on the usage of all 25 of those cents.

When I would get my allowance I would walk the two blocks to the closest neighborhood store, Beans' Market, run by an old guy named Beans. I don't recall if that was the actual name of the store, but it sure was what everyone called it. There was always a big glass pickle jar containing money on the counter with an old beat-up cowboy hat next to it and a sign that read "Help buy Beans a new hat" (years later they built a Circle-K across the street from Beans' Market and ran him out of business).

Anyway, I would take my 25 cents to Beans' once a week. I would get one comic book for 12 cents (usually a DC); Beans' had two of the rotating comic racks so I always had a good selection to chose from. With my remaining 13 cents I would buy a bottle of RC (Royal Crown) Cola. RC was the only 16-oz drink you could buy and it cost 15 cents a bottle (the same as the other 12-ounce drinks). However, if you drank it at the store and gave them back the bottle, you didn't have to pay the three-cent bottle deposit, so it was only 12 cents. Some weeks I would buy two comic books, but most of the time I needed that RC badly.

This left me exactly one penny to buy bubble gum with. I usually went with either a Bazooka, because it came with a Bazooka Joe comic strip, or a piece of that red, cinnamon-flavored Hot Dog Gum.

I was never once tempted to put the extra penny in the jar for Beans' hat as he had needed a new hat for as many years as I had been going to the store and I had a suspicion that Beans used that money for something other than a new hat. Beans, he drank a bit.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Two Cents on Ford

I've spent a good part of my morning discussing Gerald Ford with people. When someone dies I think there is a natural desire to cover over the blemishes of their life and promote "the good things" and I see a lot of this happening with Ford. However it seems kind of odd the things they are wanting to whitewash .

There are a number of people arguing that Ford was not a klutz and blaming the perception of same on Saturday Night Live. I don't buy it. SNL didn't make up that Ford was a clumsy; that perception was created by the numerous pictures of him bumping his head, tripping over his own feet and whacking bystanders with golf balls.

Then there is the talk of how he "healed a nation" by letting Richard Nixon get away with high crimes and treason. Far from healing the nation I think his pardoning of that crooked son of a bitch made a generation of Republicans feel that they could get away with just about anything. And boy have they been testing that for the past 30 years. Nixon should have gone to prison and had he the excesses of the Republican party that have so devastated our country since that time may not have ever happened.

On top of all this, the man was a political lightweight of the worst kind. Republicans talk about Carter not knowing what he was doing; this man was so clueless he thought people wearing buttons could fix the economy. "Whip Inflation Now?" How about "What an Imbecilic Notion?"

I understand Ford was a nice guy, but he did this country no favor by letting Nixon walk and certainly no favor by passing out "WIN" buttons. By putting a human face on addictions his wife was of greater service to the country than he was.

My two cents.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Perhaps a Bounty!

Don't you just hate reading about what gifts other people received for Christmas? I know I do and I normally try to never get included in those discussions, but... you knew that was coming, didn't you? But, this year is slightly different. I'm not going to talk about Christmas presents per se, only some things I received on Christmas morning. Let me explain...

My parents have been having some work done on their house by the utility companies, free work on their house to make them more energy efficient. One of the tasks they would perform is insulating their attic. Attic insulation is not that big of a deal in southern California, but the gas company thinks it's worth doing (in this case redoing as I know the attic of my parents house already has insulation in it). All my parents had to do was get everything out of the attic. So a few weeks ago they had a young man crawl up in their attic and remove everything from it.

There was not a lot up there; most of it was actually mine. It was toys.

So, when I went to pick my parents up on Christmas morning to bring them to my house for the holiday, I was presented with a number of boxes filled with my old toys.

This might just be a bounty! As I go through the boxes (most of which are the toy's original packaging) I'll share some of it here. But, that ain't happening today!

James Brown

When I heard of the death of James Brown, late on Christmas Eve on the west coast, I immediately thought of junior high school. My years in junior high school coincided with the end of the decade of the 1960s, a time of great change in our country and in my life.

The elementary school I had gone to was, I would guess, 95% white and 5% Hispanic, even though I lived in a poor neighborhood. The other elementary school in our community was I would guess 45% black 45% white and 10% Hispanic. The point being, junior high was my first one-on-one experience with black people and to be honest, some of it was plain frightening. The civil rights movement was in full swing and the black kids I ended up in junior high school with were feeling freedoms they had never felt before.

I was beaten up twice by black kids and threatened a lot more times than that just because I was white. But I took it in stride and there were a few black kids I considered friends in junior high school. It was one of these friends that one day let me in on something I knew nothing about. She carried a picture in her pants pocket every day. She said lots of her friends carried them too and they made them feel proud of who they were.

She carried a picture of James Brown.

She said that more than any national leader, more than any writer, more than any speaker, more than any family member, more than any other singer, Jame Brown had made her and her friends feel for the first time, proud of who they were. And in honor of that, they carried his picture with them.

James Brown didn't give elegant speeches, he didn't speak flowery sermons. He spoke plainly and directly and in doing so he reached them like others could not. Some times straight talk is all that is really needed. "Say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud! Say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud!"

I know in later years Brown did some things in his personal life that diminished his legacy, but none of them could wipe from the record the simple fact that James Brown taught his people how to be proud of who they were at a time when that was considered a radical concept.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Van Dyke is Visually Effective

Growing up in my home when it came to TV comedy, nobody held a candle to Dick Van Dyke. His brilliant sit-com was a staple at the Keller household through most of my childhood. The Dick Van Dyke Show was a great two-set show with inspired writing and top-notch acting held together by the Van Dyke. He has always held a special place in my heart as a comedic actor, slap-stick clown and graceful everyman.

But I had no idea he could do visual effects beyond his amazing pratfalls. However, as an amazing article in the Los Angeles Times explains, Dick is a man of more talents that I ever imagined:
After starring in 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," in which he drove a flying car thanks to the magic of green-screen technology, Van Dyke bought a used Ultimatte system — a pre-digital device that allowed visual-effects pros to do green-screen shots photochemically — and set it up at his house. He played around with it a bit, and then about 15 years ago a friend recommended that he buy an Amiga Toaster, one of the earliest desktop computer-animating systems.

"You could take 3-D objects and figures and photograph a background and fill it in and animate," Van Dyke recalls. "In those days, if you had 15 frames to render it took all weekend. It was very, very primitive but I just got hooked on it.

"Over the last decade, Van Dyke has upgraded his hardware and software along the way. He was finally able to put his effects skills to work on the CBS series "Diagnosis Murder," in which he starred from 1993 to 2001."Production needed a shot of an Evel Knievel-type stuntman doing an impossible motorcycle jump," Van Dyke says.

"Well, I went out to the location and shot some background plates and then I came back and put a 3-D computer-generated guy on a motorcycle doing the stunt and they used it on the show."

I always knew Van Dyke was a man of many talents, I just didn't know how many!

Christmas Firemen

I read this on the John Varley site and had to share...

In a small Texas town there was a "Nativity Scene" that showed great skill and talent had gone into creating it. But one small feature bothered me: the three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets. Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left.

At a "Quik Stop" on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You darn Yankees never read your Bibles!"

I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible.

She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and riffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face she said, "See, it says right here, 'The three wise men came from afar.'"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Did Any One Else See...

..on December 10th at the end of half time in the New York Giants @ Carolina Panthers game, when they showed the video the cameraman had taken that morning?

He zoomed in on the moon, then passed it on the left and zeroed in on a star, that got bigger and bigger until you could see the ring around it. It was Saturn and it was spectacular. Man, those TV cameras have pretty good zoom lens on them.

It looked something like (OK, it looked exactly like) this...

OK, not exactly. The bright glare is from the flash of my camera, but the Saturn is just as it looked!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Speaking of Friendly Neighborhood...

Did anyone else catch Stan Lee on Identity tonight? His identity on the show as "Created Spider-Man" and being the only guy on the show old enough to have created Spider-Man, he was pretty easy to spot even if, like the contestant, you had no idea who Stan Lee was.

The first episode didn't show that much promise to me, though I am a big fan of Penn Jillette. But the second episode, where the guy ran the list and won $500,000 was really exciting as was tonight's episode, where the woman stopped at $250,000 and then found out she was wrong about who she thought was a "Kidney Donor" and who she thought was a "CSI Investigator." My wife and I are having a blast watching this one so far!

Mark's Tree

I live in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California in the city of La Verne. When I look out my upstairs back window I see a cul-de-sac not too far from my home and I have a really good view of my neighbor Mark's house. Mark has an electric flagpole in the center of his roof. He never raises a flag that I can remember, but during December he does raise the pole, with a ring of lights attached. What makes Mark's house unusual is the tree of lights he has situated atop it during the holiday season.

Mark's tree is beginning to be a tradition in our neighborhood, but his close neighbors are not the only ones who get to enjoy it. You can see it for miles around. If you happen to be in the area, on the 210 Freeway heading East, if you look up to the hills at night, just a few miles past the 57 Freeway, somewhere around the Foothill Blvd. exit, you will see his tree. Likewise if you are heading West on the 210 you can see it just a few miles east of the 57 interchange, certainly by the time you hit the Fruit Street exit.

This year's tree has a decidedly blue cast to it. Mark ordered these huge LED lights over the Internet for a small fortune and though there are just as many white, red, green and yellow lights as there are blue, the blue is so vibrant that it dominate the color palate.

Thanks Mark!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's Your Friendly, Neighborhood...

So I'm going through my office "stuff" and I find a small drawing pad with only a very few pages still intact. My guess these few remaining drawings are from, oh, 1971 through 1973 or so.

I don't recall drawing many pictures of Spider-Man; too much detail in the webbing. Who has time for all that? I guess I did back in my high school days. This one is strange in that the anatomy is really odd, not like me at all (note how I cleverly skipped drawing the hands completely!). It does have a kind of Ditko look to it, but I have no idea where this came from or why I drew it, though it must have been my idea of a Spider-Man poster.

Of course, it has to have a big foot in it!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Cost of Home Ownership - Part III

Well, lets see, in the past few months we've had...

The main high shelf/hanger in our master closet come completely off the wall, ripping large holes where the screws and nails were pried through. We had a couple of "closet companies" in for estimates but went with a cabinet maker who built to fit and customized as we requested. The result is a much nicer, much more expensive master closet. The cedar backing does make it smell nice in there now!

The dishwasher die on us, as I have mentioned before. The repairman said the motor was dead and for the price of getting it repaired we could have a new dishwasher. The result was a new dishwasher, which we like very much, thank you.

A number of faucets were having a number of problems. We got a plumber in and he fixed what he could. We special ordered faucets from Lowes, but they didn't come in on time and when they finally did come in, they were someone else's order. We canceled with them and went to a local store that does faucets, sinks, tubs and toilets only. We special ordered from them as well and our Danish faucets came in last week. They are very modern looking and makes us want to redo all the bathrooms. Maybe some other day.

We had people out give estimates for trimming our trees. One of the companies actually noticed that the birch tree near the front window of our house was cracking the perimeter walls of our lot, so we had the tree removed along with the vines that have been growing on our house for nine years now. They took out the birch, leaving only a stump.

Once the vines were removed from the house, we needed to get it painted. We had a number of painters come in and give estimates. Some plain scared us with how inexpensively they said they would paint the house. We ended up going with the most expensive, because he was the only one to show up at the house with paint all over him and the only one who seemed to know what he was talking about and the only one who could not paint the house immediately. The painting was scheduled to begin yesterday, but...

Last week our neighbor complained that our sprinklers were going haywire on the side of the house as we were sometimes flooding his yard with our water. We had the gardeners look at the sprinklers, but that was not the problem. The problem was the drain that runs along the side of our house was plugged somewhere. We called the plumbers back and they tried to snake the drain from both ends to no avail. They said it was blocked completely near the birch stump.

Today we had an arborist remove the stump and tomorrow the plumbers come back to dig out the pipe and hopefully repair it. With all this going on, digging, drains backing up, etc., we couldn't schedule a painter until this is handled. So, last week we called and postponed the painting. The painter is in such demand that he does not have another opening until February.

We still have electrical issues that need to be handled inside and out and the cleaning woman mentioned today that there is a leak so some sort in the laundry room.

Our house: ten years old, going on 100.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thirty-Four Years Ago Today

If you turned on your TV, this is what you saw:

The last American lunar astronauts leave the Moon. Look at our little friend, the Lunar Module, go! A plaque on the base of the LM reads...

Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.

The next crewed NASA mission to land on the Moon is very tentatively scheduled to occur in 2019 with the Orion 13 mission.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Question of Pride

If you are not watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on a regular basis, you are missing out on some wonderful political insight. On Monday the guest was Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island who will be leaving Congress at the end of the year. The video below is an amazing look at the dysfunction of Congress though the eyes of one of the few moderate Republicans left. I know it's long, but in particular stay for the last 30 seconds of the second clip when Stewart asks Chaffee, "Can you point to anything in the last five years you think Congress should be proud of?" Amazing TV.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

William Stout

Mark Evanier is reporting that Bill Stout has just come through a nasty brush with cancer and that Bill reports on his weblog that they got it all. I didn't even know Bill was ill.

Bill hosts a life drawing lab at his studio every Sunday morning and I have been going to it for about a year and a half. In the past few months I have not been able to go as my son needed to be taken to work in the middle of the lab which also corresponds with my wife's church services. The last two times I did go, sometime in August, Bill was not even there, supposedly working on finishing up his set of spectacular murals for the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

Bill is a wonderful guy and an amazing artist, and I wish him the best. I just talked to my wife and she said, "What, you still wanted to go to Stout's? I can take an earlier service and then take Brian to work if you like."

I guess I just had to ask, huh?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wouldn't You Like To Make A Pepper Too?

While watching TV tonight I saw one of the new Dr. Pepper commercials where they talk about the "23 flavors" in Dr. Pepper. Now, I don't drink soft drinks anymore, but back in the days when I did, more often than not, it was Dr. Pepper. Nothing tastes quite like an ice cold Dr. Pepper on a hot day. I used to down them by the six-pack of 16-oz bottles.

Anyway, this new ad campaign got me thinking about good ol' Dr. Pepper. When I was a kid the rumor of the day was that Dr. Pepper was carbonated prune juice. Now I never believed that, but I did think there was something a little "prunie" about the flavor, that was, until my family had to really make some cutbacks.

My family was not rich. Hell, we were not even middle-class; we were poor, but my Mom and Dad were so good at handling the little money they made that we never really noticed. They were always looking for a way to save money and one day they came across a store called The Pop Stop.

The Pop Stop sold soda, but they sold generic Pop Stop brand soda. They had a cola and a root beer, a creme soda and a lemon/lime, an orange and a grape and a strawberry and a cherry and it seemed like dozens of other flavors. You bought the stuff by the case and it was really, really cheap, like a tenth of the cost of regular soda. So, for a while, we drank Pop Stop soda at home to save on the pennies.

Now the only problem was, my brother Keith and I both liked Dr. Pepper and they didn't have a Dr. Pepper. I complained to my Mother about this, but my brother just told me not to worry. The next time we went to the Pop Stop Keith selected a six-pack of cherry cola and a six-pack of creme soda. I said, "Keith, we don't like cherry cola and I'm the only one who likes creme soda," but he said not to worry.

When we got home Keith said, "Watch this." He took a bottle of cherry cola and a bottle of creme soda and poured half of each into the same glass, mixing them together. "Taste it," he said, so I did.

"Son of a gun, it's Dr. Pepper!"

Given that experience growing up, I have a real hard time buying the 23 flavors ad campaign since equal parts of cherry cola and creme soda pretty much gets you Dr. Pepper.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ann Coulter - An Apology

John Varley is one of my favorite writers and he hosts quite an eclectic website. I found this there today, written, as it says, in June of this year. I don't think there is much more I need to say. Read and enjoy:


Yesterday I came across this quote from Ann Coulter:
U.S. soldiers who die in Iraq knew they would. Most of them couldn't get a decent job in the private sector anyway, so what does it matter? Someone has to die in a war, why not the poor?

I guess I went a little ballistic. I fired it off to Lee and told her to use it as tomorrow's quote of the day, and attribute it to Ann Coulter, whore. Later, I was still angry, and asked Lee to amend that to Ann Coulter, filthy whore. Lee said she didn't like it, it didn't seem appropriate, but I wouldn't listen. So we went with filthy whore.

Last night, falling asleep, I realized Lee was right. That's what happens when you go off half-cocked, when you don't stop to consider the real meaning of the statements you make. You should never write anything in the heat of anger, and if you do, you should let it sit for at least 24 hours and see if you still feel this is wise.

So this is my apology. In the movie The Two Jakes, a character named Lieutenant Loach says this to Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes: "I knew a whore once, she would piss in your face but she wouldn't shit on your chest. That's where she drew the line."

Thinking about that, I realized that I'd insulted all the whores of the world. No matter how low they sink, whores draw lines, and Ann Coulter doesn't. She will fling her shit in your face, and then tell you it's chocolate ice cream. Therefore, even the skankiest, clap-ridden, three-tooth, crank-raddled, pus-oozing, scabrous, two-cent whore in the lowest dive in the crappiest town in the world is a moral and ethical cut above Ann Coulter.

Sorry about that, and I'll try to be more considerate of the lowest ranks of humanity in the future. As for Ann Coulter, fuck her. And if any of you can think of something to compare her to that isn't insulting to toads, swine, hemorrhoids, serial killers, psychotics, or steaming puddles of vomit in gutters, please let me know.

June 8, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Future is Now?

Over on the Tony Isabella board the question was asked...

"Is the future here?" I'll look at the sci-fi books and shows of the past, basically the sci-fi that Baby Boomers grew up with, and see where we are today. We've got cell phones, for example, that look like the Star Trek communicators, we've got the beginnings of commercial space travel, we're increasingly wired. We don't have flying cars, though!
This was my response.

My transporter is on the fritz again and that hole in the wall that makes me whatever food I ask for is only spitting out soft serve chocolate ice cream (at least I HOPE it's soft serve chocolate ice cream).

The death-ray I wear in my holster can't hurt a fly and my jet-pack will not get me off the ground. The terraforming of Mars is way, way behind schedule and my plans to vacation in the rings of Saturn are on permanent hold.

Sure, my car will tell me where I want to go but it's not too adept at driving me there. Yeah, I got a flat TV, but I still have not figured out how to step into the picture and take part in the action. And OK, I have video on my phone, but it's not a 3D hologram and has never said, "Help me Obi Wan... you're my only hope."

I'd like to go back to 1985 and buy Microsoft, but my time machine isn't working either. I want to take the monorail downtown to visit the alien zoo, but I can't find a station anywhere near my home.

I would love to have a telepathic conversation with my neighbor, but he seems unable to make contact with my mind and I would be delighted to say, "screw the teleporter" and just Jaunt into town, but I must not remember where that is 'cause that ain't working either.

(who is pretty sure this is not the future)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Something Pretty Cool

The picture above is only a taste of the wonder to be found at this link. Watch and enjoy!

Hey, I fixed the link! It works now!!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

When I'm Wrong, I'm Wrong

It seems the episode of Bonanza where Little Joe enters Hoss into a flapjack eating contest, The Flapjack Contest was produced in season 6 of Bonanza and was directed not by Robert Altman but by William F. Claxton.

I have watched two of the Altman-directed episodes and neither are comedies, though some are coming up. In one of the episodes, The Secret, Little Joe is framed for the murder of a young woman. After the town doctor examines her, Ben wants to know if there is any evidence that she was killed (she was found at the bottom of a cliff). The doctor says, "No."

Ben says, "So it was an accident."

The Doctor replies, "Well an accident or maybe suicide." When Ben asks why suicide the doctor asks, "Was she married?"

Ben say, "Why of course not. You know that."

"Well, she should have been," replies the doctor. And so, they said she was pregnant without ever saying she was pregnant. Wow, the way TV worked in 1961 is amazing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Robert Altman Bonanza Alert!

TVLand is showing six Robert Altman-directed episodes of Bonanza in the next week, starting tomorrow I think. Set your TiVos!

The Cost of Home Ownership - Part II

We moved into our new house ten years ago next month; so it was a new house ten years ago. I've already written about how I hate to fix something that is broken because, basically, you spend a lot of time, effort and money to end up right back where you started. This time nothing was broken, but nothing was right either.

The picture to my left is of our family room entertainment system, such as it is, or should I say, such as it has been since we moved in almost ten years ago. Our TV set, half in and half out of a large niche, the cable box and TiVo in a cabinet underneath with all of the audio equipment stacked up on a small table next to it. We had the ever popular mass of cables running between the two for extra added ambiance.

OK, there was nothing broken here, it just looked like...hmmm, what's that word? Oh yeah, shit. It looked like shit, and it looked that way for almost ten years.

We had reason to hire a cabinet maker recently (I'll tell you about it sometime) and besides the main project we had him in to work on, we had him design a cabinet for the TV and audio equipment.

He came last week and we couldn't be happier. It's nothing fancy, but it sure looks a lot better than what we lived with for almost ten years.

We are getting new speakers for Christmas and having someone who knows what they are doing install them around the family room.

Oh and it's just a coincidence that there is always a football game on the TV when pictures are taken.

And lastly, if anyone is wondering, "Yes, that TV weighs just as much as you imagine!"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Taken for a Ride?

I don't like being lied to. For a week we were bombarded with ads on NBC saying, "The week you will learn the meaning of the words, 'Save the cheerleader... Save the world.'" Well, I watched Heroes last week and I still don't know the meaning of the words, "Save the cheerleader... Save the world."

NBC flat out lied in their promotions for last week's episode.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dave Cockrum

Dave Cockrum passed away today, November 26, 2006. The following is from Clifford Meth, Dave's agent:

With a heavy heart, I regret to inform you that Dave Cockrum passed away this morning. After a long battle with diabetics and its varied complications, Dave died in his sleep early this morning.

Dave’s many creations--including some of the X-Men’s staple characters--brought tremendous joy to his legion of fans. For three decades, he was a beloved fixture at comics conventions across the country where he would sketch for a pittance and encourage would-be creators. Those of us who knew Dave personally will remember him as one of the sweetest, jovial, most generous individuals in the comics industry. I’ll miss my friend very much.

There are no details of services at this time. Dave asked to be cremated and his widow Paty is burdened with the news, so well wishers are asked not to call.

Clifford Meth

Dave was one of those guys, like Don Newton, who made it out of fandom and into the pros. Dave is best remembered for his work on The Legion of Super-Heroes, where he reinvented many of the characters visually, and the X-Men, where he performed the same task. I never met Dave but I loved his slick inking style and his way with costume design. He didn't draw like anyone else, he drew like Dave Cockrum. He was a big man with a big talent.

He will be missed.

The Best Cut!

This year my wife and I tried something a little different for Thanksgiving; we got some help with the turkey rather than just winging it (no pun intended!).

My wife read an article in the LA Times where they made four turkeys using four different methods and then had a panel of experts come in and rate the birds. She made our turkey this year using the winning method and it was the best I have ever eaten (wasn't very hard to do either). Beautiful golden brown on the outside and moist, hell, make that juicy on the inside.

She had me go to the Times on-line and check out the photo instructions on the best way to carve a turkey. I followed the instructions to the letter and have to say, it was a real improvement over the way I have carved in the past. It's not the best for making sandwiches later on, as you don't cut the breast into thin slices. Instead you get these wonderful medallions of turkey breast, each wrapped in a piece of golden brown skin. It looked great on the platter and on the plate and we devoured this bird.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Best Comic Book Title Ever

No, I'm not talking about the best comic book ever or the best series ever; I'm strictly talking the best comic book title ever. I've thought long and hard (is there any other way?) about this...


Commies From Mars! The Red Planet!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Things I am Thankful For

There is a whole lot to be thankful for this year, that's for sure.

There is the November elections, which pretty much put an end to the abuse of power in this country by the Republicans. Someone needed to bitch slap those people and the majority of Americans finally saw the light and let them have it on both cheeks.

Yesterday was my father's 85th birthday and he is in good health and mind. I go to pick him and my mother up for Thanksgiving in just a few hours.

There is little chance that I will be losing any more data on my PC due to a hard drive crash. When I boot up my PC displays the message to my left, letting me know that all data is being copied to multiple drives.

I have a logo for my BLOG, it's the one directly above me. I saw a cool mountain spring, its water flowing out of the ground and cascading over rocks as another kind of "Source" so added that visual to the site.

My son has been off the nicotine patch for three days now and seems to have kicked the demon cancer sticks.

My wife is back in the home after spending months earlier this year 400 miles away working a temporary job. My bed seems a lot cozier since then and it's great to have someone to share things with.

Finally, I have this place and others on line where I can express myself creatively. It's also good for getting it out of your system when that is deemed necessary.

That's my short list, how about you?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Lunar Module

Most of you should recognize the object in the photo to my left; it's the Lunar Module (or Lunar Excursion Module if you like). It's the craft that the astronauts used to land and take off from the moon in the 1960s and 70s. I have a special attachment to the LM and to all things NASA and I have my mother to thank for that.

I watched every Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft take off and land. My mother held me out of school whenever NASA did something that was televised. She felt that watching history as it happened was more important than reading about past history.

The moon landing happened while I was in junior high school and I belonged to a Space Club. The Space Club built and flew model rockets and was a lot of fun. Around the time of the first moon landing, Shell or one of the other gas station chains gave away a sheet of perforated paper, card-stock thick, that if you punched it out and followed the instructions, would fold into a Lunar Module. I had a couple of them (wish I still had them) that I built and one day decided to make one that actually flew. I set out to make a model rocket Lunar Module.

Now the first and most obvious problem is that the LM was never designed to fly in air. It's lopsided and out-of-balance as all hell and let's not even discuss wind resistance. It has far too much. But I wasn't going to let a little thing like physics stop me. I knew this would be a real challenge, so I decided to document the process, in case anyone else ever wanted to make one. Estes, the biggest maker of model rockets (then and now) had the sheets you could lay out your own designs on. I picked one up at the hobby store (I think they were free) and set to work laying out my LM.

The basic design was pretty easy, I made my LM the exact same size as the cardboard LM by cutting one apart and then cutting pieces of balsa wood the same size and shape. This actually turned into a lot of work; the LM has a lot of pieces.

I made a couple of changes to the design. First, I made the legs thicker since they were made out of balsa wood. I also put weights in the body in places to compensate for the unbalanced shape. But the biggest change was the ones you were not supposed to see.

I ran a clear plastic straw out of the top of the LM straight up (in my instructions I said to use a wooden dowel, but the clear plastic straw was harder to see). To do something about the wind resistance, I draped a large square of heat-n-shrink (you know, that clear plastic they wrap meat up with in the supermarket) over the top of the LM, centered on the top of the straw and glued the corners to each of the LM's feet. I then pulled out the sides to expose the excess heat-n-shrink and cut it away with scissors. Once it had dried I put the thing in the oven for four or five seconds and the heat-n-shrink shrunk, forming a clear plastic cone over the oddly shaped Lunar Module.

I then attached a clear parachute that I would basically drape over the model before take off. It sounds like this would not work, but it did.

I completed the model on March 23,1970 and attempted to fly it for the first time on March 27th. As I recall as I pressed the launch button, the solid rocket engine in the bottom of the LM fell out, ignited and spun around under the model, setting it on fire. We quickly put it out, but it was an embarrassing debacle for me as everyone thought I was crazy to even attempt this.

But I was undaunted and on May 9, 1970 I made another attempt to get my repaired Lunar Module off the ground. According to the stat sheet I have, it only rose about 10 feet off the launch pad and was in the air under power for only three seconds. I tried again with a much bigger engine and it flew to about 30 feet in a very stable flight.

The fun part of the LM model was watching it come down on the parachute cause it looked so cool. The only other flight I have stats for was a month later on June 6, 1970 and it was a mirror of the previous flight. The other kids in the Space Club didn't make fun of me after that; they thought it looked pretty cool too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We Lost a Great One - Robert Altman

It's strange. When I think of Robert Altman, I don't first think of the great films, though they do come to me. Sure I eventually think of M*A*S*H, Nashville, The Player, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Popeye and Gosford Park. How can I not. But first though, I think of the TV shows. In particular, I think of one TV show that Altman did a ton of work on: Bonanza.

If you remember the show it is really easy to remember the episodes that Robert Altman directed: they were the outrageously funny ones. If Little Joe entered Hoss into a flapjack eating contest, Robert Altman directed it. While growing up, Bonanza was a Sunday night ritual at my house and we watched it for years. As a child, nothing made me feel more comfortable, more secure than my father's laugh and Bob Altman made my father laugh. Often.

Thanks Bob for all the good times, not just for me, but for my Dad and my Mom and my brothers. Good job!

No, Great job!

Bleak Outlook -- Tales From The Road

This is another "find" from my cleaning out of my office. I would guess I was 19 when I did this piece. I worked at a Stop-N-Go convenience store (or Stop-N-Rob as we called them) at the time and my boss, Tim Bean had a bunch of old tapes from a band he was in during his college days that he wanted to put together as a album called Tales From The Road.

Tim asked if I could come up with a cover for his "album" and this is what I produced: a slice of life from the Last Chance Trading Post in Bleak Outlook, Arizona. That's Tim leaning against the post. Tim was more than a boss, he became a good friend, though over the years he moved back to Ohio and we have parted ways.

I never really finished this piece and just threw the tones on it in the digital version. There was a lot of zip-a-tone on this at one time, but I took it off for some reason.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Breslin on 'Bobby'

The Los Angeles Times ran this Op-Ed piece by the great Jimmy Breslin on Breslin's reaction to seeing the new Emilio Estevez film, Bobby. Jimmy is uniquely qualified to weigh in on this subject as he was there at the Ambassador hotel that horrible night in 1968. More than there, he was as close as you would ever want to come to this sort of history.

Well worth the read as Breslin captures the chaos of that night and the horrific act that took place in front of him. But he also captures the hope of the earlier part of that evening. He captures the spirit America used to have, before all our heroes were assassinated. Like I said, worth the read.

We're Number One!

Well, it appears we're now ugly even at home.

At least Reuters says, according to a survey, of 2,011 international travelers in 16 countries, which was conducted by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a business-backed group launched in September to promote travel to the United States and improve the country's image abroad.

Rude immigration officials and long delays in processing visas have turned the United States into the world's most unfriendly country for international travelers.

Let's all take a bow. Finally at something, we're Number One!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's a Coincidence They Tell You

Leading up to the November election the price of gas all across the country drops, week after week. "It has nothing to do with politics" the gas people swear. Now that the election is over, as the A.P. reports....

CAMARILLO, Calif. - Gas prices are on the rise again, just as Americans hit the highways for Thanksgiving. Gas prices rose about 5 cents per gallon nationwide compared to two weeks ago, industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday.

The national average for self-serve regular was $2.23 on Nov. 17, according to Lundberg's latest survey of 7,000 gas stations across the country.

The national average for mid-grade was $2.34, while premium was $2.44 per gallon. The lowest average price in the nation for self-serve regular was in Houston, where a gallon cost $2.05.

The highest average price in the nation for self-serve regular was in Honolulu, where a gallon cost $2.75.

California prices rose by more than double the national average, with an increase of 11 cents for self-serve regular since Nov. 3, Lundberg said.

Among California cities surveyed, the highest price was in San Diego, at $2.50 a gallon. The lowest price was in Sacramento, at $2.36 a gallon.

I'm sick of these gougers, fucking sick to death.

You Never Know...

...who you will find in the paper.

I was reading the LA Times this morning and an article on the front page regarding magic mushrooms caught my eye. You can speculate all you want to on my interests in psilocybin. Anyway I am reading the article and it is about a woman named Pam Sakuda and I look at my wife and say, "Hey, I worked with a Pam Sakuda at SOGITEC in Long Beach in the 1980s." I read on and the article describes her as a "Long Beach software developer."

The article continues to a back page and there is a picture of Pam, horse-teeth and all, smiling at the camera. The article is about Pam's use of mushrooms to cure the depression she had when finding out she had terminal cancer. It went on to say..

In Sakuda's case, weeks of counseling planted a desire to overcome her fears and sense of isolation. Since her diagnosis, she had avoided friends and kept her feelings bottled up.

The experiment took place in a comfortable hospital room, under the close watch of a medical team. She wore eyeshades and headphones with soft music playing.

Sakuda recalled sensing her husband's sadness over her illness and feeling a burden lifted from her.
"It is not logical. It comes to you like that," she said.

Sakuda died Nov. 10. Her husband, Norbert Litzinger, feels that the drug made a difference. "There was a rebirth around her and it didn't stop."

Pam was a strange person, a real computer geek. She came to the company with her own computer, one of the first "portable" computers. I think we called them a "luggable," one of those huge 30 lb. Compaqs, with the keyboard that snapped on the front of it and the small green screen that was exposed when the keyboard was removed. I can still see her walking to her office every morning, leaning over at a ridiculous angle to support that huge computer. She was a short Japanese woman with a huge horse-tooth grin. She was intense and a little scary, but actually a very kind person. I haven't thought of her in twenty years.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

All You Need Is Don!

As some of you know, I run a website called The Art of Don Newton. You can find a link to it to my immediate right. Don was a comic book artist, first as a fan in the 1960s and early 1970s and then as a professional from 1975 through 1985. Don died in 1984 and my site is a tribute to the man and his art.

It's hard to get people interested in Don these days, since he has been dead for over 20 years now, but those who do remember Don remember him more than fondly. Over the years of doing my site I have become the de facto Don Newton expert and when someone wants to do something on Don I usually get an email.

This happened about seven months ago. I got a call from Michael Eury, the editor of BACK ISSUE magazine. He wanted to do a Newton article and he wanted to know if I was interested. I got a paycheck, comp copies of the magazine and, more importantly, I got to spread the gospel of Don Newton to a whole new cast of comic fans.

The magazine came out this week. I'm pretty damn proud of the effort.

In his editorial Michael Eury says...

Those of you who have been reading this magazine for a while know that BACK ISSUE traditionally does not feature career-spanning retrospectives of writer or artists... I've rejected several proposals from writers who wanted to do a "Fill-in-the-Blank-Name-of-a-Famous-Artist Issue" of this magazine--that's simply not our purview.

But then there's Don Newton.

Don Newton's name has popped up in letters and emails from BI readers more so than any other creator's. Many of our readers fondly remember Newton's work, and have asked for it to be covered in these pages.

And then there is this...

From this week's Scoop e-newsletter:

Back Issue #19
Off the Presses, Scoop, Friday, November 17, 2006

TwoMorrows Publishing; $6.95

Probably the best issue of the publication to date, Back Issue #19 features an amazing and insightful cover story on the art and the life of the late Don Newton. In addition, Michael Eury gives readers the “Backstage Pass” to Geppi's Entertainment Museum in the form of a photo tour of the attraction. And if that was not enough, find out about the CBS Justice League-based pilot that never was in an Unlimited Powers feature and delve in the history of The Defenders and The Champions as Back Issue flashes back in time,

A lot of work, but well worth it to me if it makes even one new Don Newton fan. My only gripes are that they didn't mention my website and there are a couple of edits that read wrong. Oh, and a piece of art is mislabeled as being inked by Dan Adkins when it is clearly signed by Frank McLaughlin.

But hey, I got the cover, the background image on the Table-of-Contents, a four-page gallery, a sixteen-page article by me and a two-page "Memories of Don Newton" by Don's good friend Jay Willson. That's twenty-four pages of Don!

Not too shabby! Spread the word!

Friday, November 17, 2006

All You Need is Love?

Produced by Giles Martin and his famous father, George, Beatles Love is a "mashup," a reediting of the original Beatle tapes to create something new and original. The project was created for a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil and has the endorsement of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison.

I for one, am pretty jazzed about this, but is anyone else interested? I've listened to the four tracks they have at the Beatles website and I like it. You can go there and hear for yourself or just wait until November 21, when the CD is released in the United States. What say you?

Boxed Out!

Well, here you have it, the final page of The Box. If you are just getting here then scroll down to the beginning and work your way back up (you can click on all artwork to see a larger, readable version).

I'm not sure what to say about this page. The art is obviously all mine, minimal that it is. I think by this time, I was under the gun deadline-wise and I knew that if I wanted to print the thing in Shop, I would need to stop the story at seven pages (eight when you add the cover).

It looks like I didn't even bother to put tone on most of the first panel and the second panel is almost in a visual short hand (no pun intended). I remember that I drew the third panel a number of times (two or three more and I might have gotten it right). Where the huge thumb came from I have no idea.

Oh, well. There you have it. The Box, in all its radishing glory!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thinking Inside the Box!

We continue with The Box (see my previous postings for the beginning of the story).

I remember at one point talking to my English teacher about the story as it was progressing. She initiated the talk and wanted to know exactly what I had in mind; she wanted to know what the box was. Hell, I wanted to know too.

I said, "Maybe it contains a weapon." She said, "No."

I said, "How about a kind of space genie?" She said, "No."

I said, "Who is writing this, me or you?" She said, "Even though you are in space, speak of humanity, or don't speak at all. If you want a good grade that is."

So I did my best for being 16.

And of course we have another patented Keller "big shoe" shot. This is no swipe; this was pure me.

This page is also all me. I was reading a lot of Al Williamson at the time and sort of stole the balloons from the style he used on Secret Agent Corrigan.

I obviously drew pretty bad hands. The hand in panel four is pasted over the original hand. I must have planned to do the same for panel five and never got around to it.

This page is swipe-less as well. All me, unfortunately.

Tomorrow we conclude. Isn't it exciting!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Boxer Rebellion

We continue with two more pages from The Box. If you are just joining us (you should go back to the beginning), this is a strip I drew in high school when I was 16 years old for which I have just recently found the artwork.

One thing I have forgotten to mention is that if you click on any of the artwork you will see a much larger version; one you can actually read.

Well, we've made it to page three and I seem to be tiring out. The layout is not nearly as interesting as the previous pages. The second panel should have been a much more interesting shot considering it is all artwork and no dialog/caption. I got a big hand in there, but I'm not sure why or where I stole it from (though I am sure I stole it from someone!).

Panels one, five and six all seem to be Neal Adams swipes, though five might be Rick Buckler.

I still haven't figured out that you should not mix wash and zip-a-tone on the same page.

As you can see, things don't get much better when we hit page four. Sloppy design requiring lots of arrows to make sure you don't get lost. Some more bad Adams swipes and the patented Keller "big shoe" shot. I once again violate the panel borders at will and in a way that makes it even harder to tell which panel you should read next.

I'd like to say I was learning, but I'm not sure that was true.

If all goes well, tomorrow we will have pages five and six. Hmm, maybe I can shoot for five, six and seven and that way, get it all out of my system. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Caught Me!

OK, you caught me! I'm a thief! To my immediate left is page one of The Box, a strip I recently found the artwork for while cleaning out my office. I wrote and drew this strip in high school, lo those many, many years ago. And yeah, I stole like crazy!

First, the design of the page and the asteroid are stolen from a Richard Corben fanzine story that came out around this time. I saw an ad for the fanzine and swiped the whole thing. Corben had an alien of some sort in his side-panels, but I went for a different story. I was intrigued by the asteroid; Corben did his with an airbrush of course, not brushed wash as I used.

BTW, these things are real old and my lettering was horrid, so I have relettered all of these in the digital files, just to make it easier to read and to spare me some of the embarrassment really old work often carries.

I don't think I stole the two figures on this page, but I see a lot of Gil Kane and even some early Jim Aparo in these two, so who knows. Maybe we can just call these influenced panels rather than pure swipes.

As for the story, I made it up as I drew each page. I had no idea where it was going. Duh!

On page two I remember that the figure in the first panel is a swipe, but I don't know who I was swiping (I'm thinking it might be from an anatomy book rather than a comic). I do a poor job regardless of who it was. Man, did I ever like to violate the panel border!

I liked the second panel a lot. I thought the time-lapse opening of the cargo panel on the ship was pretty cool. I still like it all these years later.

As with a lot of my artwork, I drew in little arrows to make sure you read the panels in the correct order. I was always worrying about that apparently.

If I get them cleaned up tonight, I will show you pages three and four tomorrow.

See you then!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Boxed In!

In preparation to move from my current home office to the much more spacious office across the hall (currently called "the game room"), I have been sorting through literally decades of "stuff" (a highly technical term for things that I don't throw away). In doing so I have come across a number of oddities. My latest is Paranoid Feature Presents, the cover of which can be seen to my immediate left.

I was a sophomore in High School when I created Paranoid Feature Presents. It was what I call a "threefer." I got credit in English for writing the seven-page strip, "The Box;" credit in Art for drawing the strip and its cover; and credit in Shop for printing and binding 50 or so copies of the eight-page comic.

I went for a pure space-opera cover and incorporated an octopus I stole from an old Famous Funnies Buck Rogers cover by Frank Frazetta. The title, Paranoid Feature was inspired by Bill Black's Paragon Publications line of comic stripzines.

When I get into the interiors you will see so many influences you won't believe one person drew it all. And techniques! Heck there is a liberal amount of wash (trying desperately to copy Richard Corben), zip-a-tone and Neal Adams swipes, and some Al Williamson inspired balloons and inking as well.

But that is all for another day...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Broom Time!

The Democrats make it a clean sweep, taking the House, the Senate and the majority of Governorships!

There may be hope for this country yet.

I watched the night unfold on MSNBC, where they had Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann most of the night, joined some of the time by Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson and an ever-changing panel of people like Adrea Mitchell and Pat Buchanan. I thought they did an excellent job all night long. Olbermann in particular kept his opinions to himself most of the night, but you could tell, from time to time, that Matthews was overjoyed with the way the election was going.

Here's hoping the Democrats don't make the same mistakes the Republicans have been making for 12 years. I want to see lots of panels, lots of subpoenas and lots of Bush people taken away in chains. Pelosi says she can keep the rabid Democrats in line, but there are sure a lot of people in the party, elected people in the party, who want to see Bush's blood. That may be the hardest thing she has to control. Regardless of how it turns out, there is no way it cannot be a vast improvement over the "rubber stamping" that the current congress has given to Bush and every idiotic idea of his. Checks and balances have returned to our country.

Regardless of how it turns out, this was a great night for America and the world.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Not Feeling Well

I've got a really bad cold that has left me feeling tired and achey. It has had me reeling for almost a week now, which is why I have not been posting much lately.

I hope to be feeling better real soon though!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hopelessly TiVoted

By this afternoon my TiVo was still not seeing The New Time-Warner channel lineup, so I went on to the TiVo website and sent an email to their customer service informing them of the problem. When I sent the email they said I would get a response in five to seven days, but I actually got a response in about ten minutes. I figure they are getting a lot of these lately because they laid out exactly what I had to do to have my TiVo box reset the channel lineup.

I had to answer a few questions about what network I found on specific channels which took a minute or two tops, then TiVo went to work blasting out my old data and downloading the new listings from their server through the wireless network adaptor connected to the TiVo. All in all it took about 25 minutes to resolve completely. The best part is TiVo mapped my old Season Passes to the new channels, so everything is back to the way it was before Time-Warner moved 80% of the channels.

I don't know why the box did not do this automatically, as it has done in the past, but the TiVo customer support was lightning fast and 100% on the mark. I'm still hopelessly TiVoted to that funny little box.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'm No Sailor, but I took the Warning

So my 30 year wait to finally see Red Sky at Morning again was almost over, when I get this strange phone-call. This was Wednesday evening and it was a recorded call. I almost hung up on it thinking it was another in a long line of calls on California propositions being voted on next week. I have already made up my mind on the major ones, so I don't need any coaching from whomever has recoded the message. I almost hung up that is until I realized the call was from Time-Warner Cable.

We have happily been a subscriber to Adelphia for over nine years when a month or so ago Adelphia was absorbed by Time-Warner. I'm not the only person finding themselves with Time-Warner, millions of people across the country have had this happen to them. As you may know, Adelphia was destroyed from within by its founder John Rigas, a sniveling little creep who banned soft-core porn from his cable and preached high morals while through fraud and theft stealing $4 billion from the Adelphia coffers. He bankrupted his own company and sent it into insolvency. Time-Warner and Comcast cut it up and if you were an Adelphia customer, you either ended up a Time-Warner customer or a Comcast customer. We got stuck with Time-Warner.

Anyway, back to the call. The recording mentions something about them moving all of the channels around and how they sent me a notice and a new channel listing card. I admit that I no longer pay the bills in my house, that task has fallen to my wife to perform, so I never open up anything that looks like a bill. But I quickly search the recent mail and there it is. It ends up they moved just about everything between channel 50 and channel 950 but I knew nothing about it and I also wasn't sure what date it was all to take place since it said the listing was for November.

I knew that Red Sky At Morning was going to tape the next morning (today) at 7:00 AM on channel 141, The Sundance Channel. I quickly checked 141 and it was indeed The Sundance Channel. I didn't know when it was starting, but it wasn't yesterday.

I woke up this morning at 6:45 AM, went downstairs and turned on the TV. There were no messages from TiVo that any channels had changed. I turn to channel 141; it does not exist. I look at the schedule and TiVo is still planning on recording 141 at 7:00 for two hours of Red Sky At Morning. First I tell TiVo to cancel that recording. Next I pull out the new Channel Listing and find out that The Sundance Channel is now on two different channels. I pick 125 and I tell TiVo to record it. It tells me that that is Fox Sports Network and will record the 30 minute soccer show that is on at that time. I tell TiVo to record an extra hour and a half. Then I sit there and I wait.

At 7:00 Am on channel 125 my TiVo recorded Red Sky At Morning. I'm so very glad I heeded that warning.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sailor Take Warning

Arthur Hill died this week. Maybe the name doesn't mean anything to you, but the face (to my left) should. He starred in Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law on ABC, a show I have never seen, but I remember seeing ads for. I know I saw Hill in many shows and films, but when I heard that he had died the one part that came to mind was his starring role in The Andromeda Strain. Written by Michael Crichton, directed by Robert Wise and starring Hill, David Wayne, James Olsen and Paula Kelly, Andromeda was a serious science fiction film and in the summer of 1971 I couldn't wait to see it. So I'm writing today about Arthur Hill or The Andromeda Strain, right?


Hill's death brought a totally different film immediately to mind. In the summer of 1971 I was 15 years old and my best friend Jack Halsey and I went to see The Andromeda Strain together. Back in those days you didn't see just one film, they always showed a double-feature. Jack and I went to see Andromeda, but we fell in love with Red Sky At Morning.

How much did we love it? We sat through Andromeda a second time to see Red Sky a second time. Yeah, we watched both films twice that day. And we went back the next week and over the next few months I must have seen Red Sky five or six times.

Red Sky At Morning is base on the novel of the same name by Richard Bradford. It's a coming of age story set in a small New Mexico town during World War II. It starred Richard Thomas, Catherine Burns and Desi Arnaz Jr. as three high-school friends. It was funny, touching, exciting, beautiful and wondrous. It had an amazing supporting cast: Richard Crenna, Claire Bloom, John Colicos, the amazing Harry Guardino, Strother Martin, Nehemiah Persoff, Pepe Serna, and Gregory Sierra.

It's just a wonderful film... and nine out of ten people who read this will never have heard of it. Somewhere, some how this film was forgotten. It has never been released on VHS and never released on DVD. You can't buy it anywhere. And it's a god damned shame. This is a film I will never forget and I haven't seen it in maybe 30 years.

But very soon I'll be seeing Red Sky again. When I bought a TiVo two and a half years ago the first thing I did was input the names of all my favorite films from my childhood. Tonight, for the first time I see that Red Sky At Morning is playing this week, Thursday, November 2 at 7:00 AM on the Sundance Channel. I have very high hopes for the film as the Sundance Channel usually shows only the best of prints letterboxed. I'll love it even if its a bad pan and scan print.

In looking up information for this BLOG, I was surprised at the comments on IMDB regarding Red Sky, surprised at how many people think it is one of the greatest films they have ever seen. I remember how it touched me and was heartened to see that I was not the only one. What I remember vividly about Red Sky At Morning was how wholly and completely it took me to another place and another time, but struck me with how much the problems of the characters then and there were like the problems of me in that here and now of 1971.

Do yourself a huge favor and do not miss this film; you've lived without it for too long.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sweet Home, Jimmy Bama!

I don't remember the first time I saw a James Bama painting, but at some point I became aware of this amazing style showing up across the paperback rack. Most likely it was a western painting but it could have also been a Doc Savage, I don't remember. But once I noticed the style and the signature I started to notice that it was all over the rack, in all genres and I quickly became a James Bama fan.

This was back in the 1960s when you could pick up a paperback for 40 to 60 cents and even though I was just a kid I would sometimes pick up books simply because of the cover. I collected paperbacks with paintings by Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones and James Bama. When Bama's book of Western art came out in the 1990s I gobbled it up, buying copies for family and friends. I wanted to share this amazing artwork with them and was a little disappointed that the only thing I could share was his fine art. A new book from Flesk Publications, James Bama: American Realist has rectified that problem.

Written by Brian M. Kane with an introduction by Harlan Ellison, this gorgeous tome is 160 pages in color. Interspersed with Kane's biographical text are quotes by some pretty powerful artists, such as Evertt Raymond Kinstler (who has known Bama since they were both 15), Boris Vallejo and Mark Schultz, not to mention dozens of quotes and observations by Bama himself, but it's the color illustrations that this book is really all about.

Laid bare in over 260 illustrations is the full depth and breadth of Bama's career. If you know Bama only from the Docs or the western work, or perhaps the Aurora monster model kit boxes or his hundreds of other paperback covers, if you only know one aspect of his work, this book is for you. You get the whole Bama here. More than 85 of these amazing paintings are shot from the original art and they are augmented with over 30 personal photographs, ranging from family photos to modeling shoots.

If you're a Doc Savage fan you not only get all of Bama's amazing Doc covers, but a number of the Steve Holland photo shoots that inspired them. What I particularly like is that in many cases you can compare the photo to the painting and see what Bama adds to each; his innate sense of color and design, the way the figures in his paintings glow with some inner strength that is not present in the photos. Some people say that Bama just paints reality, this book should remove that notion from their heads.

If you were a fan of the Aurora monster model kit boxes, this book contains them all. A few of these I don't think I've ever seen before. But that is just indicative of the completeness of this book.

Bama abandoned the commercial art world at the height of his career in the 1970s and this book covers both of his careers. It's dominated by his commercial work but there is plenty of his fine art work as well. Like I said, this book is complete.

James Bama: American Realist is broken up into seven portfolios, "Portrait of an Illustrator," "Men's Adventure," "Science Fiction and Horror," "Pop Culture," "Doc Savage," "Westward Ho!," and "American Realist." I learned something new about Bama in every one of them. It might be a painting I knew nothing about or something personal about the man or the model. This is just such a complete retrospective of the artist. It's beautifully printed and interestingly laid out. I like the little touches, like Bama's signature on the header of the even pages and the detailed cross-references from quotes to the pages where a specific illustration can be found.

I have the deluxe edition, which is signed and numbered, with slipcase, and Paul Jilbert’s fascinating one-hour documentary of Bama on DVD, so the first illustration in my book is this wonderful pencil self-portrait signed by Bama. There's something in the looseness of the pencils, in the pensive look on Bama's face, something that makes it a wonderful, personal, almost intimate introduction to the book. It seems to say, "Hi, I'm Jimmy. What follows is my life's work."

You turn the page and you are bowled over by a portrait of Robert Kennedy and I wonder, "How can Bama paint hope?" Maybe it's in the eyes or the gesture of the hand, whatever, it makes an immediate and powerful impact. And it's just the first of the many treasures to be found within.

Look What They Are Reduced To

Last evening I'm at my club doing my time on the cycle, watching Keith Olbermann on MSNBC when I notice that someone in front of me has Fox News and that pumpkin-head BillO on and I can't help but read his stupid "talking point" comment about the war in Iraq and Democrats. I couldn't write it down, so this is not verbatim, but here is the gist of it...

"OK, you can call the Bush Administration incompetent, but to call them evil is unconscionable"

Fox News's latest pro-Bush argument is that the Bush administration... IS INCOMPETENT!

I'll keep my eyes peeled for a screen shot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Season So Far - Part I

I watch a lot of TV. Some would say I watch "too much" TV, but I say those people should mind their own addictions and stop messing with mine.

Sorry about that... where was I? Oh yeah, TV. More precisely the new 2006 Fall season. Well, I don't watch everything and since they put that atrocious 9/11 political propaganda "movie of the week" on, I don't watch ABC (where it counts anyway), but I have sampled a good number of shows and I thought I might quickly comment on a few. I'll start with...

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip

Please folks, put down that CSI: Miami crackpipe and watch a show that is more than good, watch a show that is excellent. West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin has created a truly wonderful show about the making of a late-night comedy series. Oddly, NBC has two shows on its schedule this year about the making of a late-night comedy series, this one is the hour-long drama (we'll discuss the other one in a bit). The writing here is simply wonderful, some very subtle funny bits that bite quite a bit at the network hand that feeds it.

In the show, writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and producer Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) are brought in by newly appointed network head Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) to save the flagging sketch comedy series, Studio 60. I urge you to watch the show if for no other reason that to learn what an amazing actor Matthew Perry is. If your only exposure to him is Friends, you will be shocked at how good he is as head-writer Albie. I think people expect Bradley Whitford to be good, but I bevieve they will be pleasantly surprised at how good Amanda Peet is as the quirky, high-powered Jordan.

Rounding out the cast are the three stars of the fictitious Studio 60, Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) and Tom Jeter (Nathan Corddry), the show's director, Cal Shanley (Timothy Busfield) and supreme network honcho Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber). Of these. only Paulson is a problem; I thinnk she is miscast as the "funniest woman on TV." I don't find her very amusing at all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Honoring the Series?

I guess if I want to honor Game 2 of the Series I need to paint a smudge onto that palm.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

In Honor of the Series

I give you the first acrylic painting I ever did. Not that I am a big baseball fan, because I am not. I do know who is playing in the World Series, but I will most likely be watching only football this weekend. I find baseball kinda boring. So why did I do a painting of a hand holding a baseball?

A five or six years back I was taking Life Drawing classes at Pasadena City College on Saturday mornings. They only had one Life Drawing class, so I would take the same class over and over. The professor liked me and never really gave me much instruction, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of her class, the use of the models and the way they were starkly lit (being her favorite, I often got to light the models the way I wanted them lit) and so I took it repeatedly. After a while, the homework became a problem. Each time I took the class, the homework was the same.

I think it was the third or fourth week that we did hands. You had to do three pictures of hands as homework. I got tired of drawing hands, so the last time I took the course I did each hand in a different media. My wife and son had given me a set of acrylic paints, a set of nice markers and a set of colored pencils for Christmas, so I decided to put them to use. I did a hand in colored pencils, a hand in markers and this hand in acrylics. To make it even more interesting for me each hand was doing something.

If I don't drag this out during the World Series, I'd never show it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"You Made Not So Great A Deal"

Anyone who has watched Deal or No Deal on NBC knows what those words mean; you sold your briefcase for an amount of cash that looked good, but was no where near the amount in your briefcase. My brother Jack knows what those words mean too. No, he has never appeared on Deal or No Deal, but he did make one very bad deal once upon a time, long ago.

Jack was a Captain in the Army during the Viet Nam War. When his time of service was up, he renewed and was paid a large bonus for doing so. A few months later the Army let him go anyway as they had too many officers and they again paid him a large fee, this time as severance. Bottom line is he left the Army with a lot of money, for late 1960s early 1970s anyway.

He used his money to invest in real estate in which he did poorly and in exotic automobiles, in which he did even worse. Jack first bought a Maserati and spent months looking for someone to insure it. Back in those days automobile insurance was not mandatory like it is today. He finally found a company that would insure exotics and sent them his first payment. A day or so later he crushed the car, slamming it between a number of boulders outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado when, blinded by sunlight, he inadvertently drove the car though a "T" in the road.

When Jack got out of the hospital, his new insurance company paid off and he leaped into action and bought a Ferrari. To be precise he bought a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Scagglietti Berlinetta; a race car. In 1961 the car cost $42,000, but Jack only paid $4,400 for it in 1971. It cost him $1,100 to make the car "street legal."

Jack's car was one of five built for the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans race, though his car did not finish the race. I once had a boss who was a Ferrari nut and I asked Jack for the particulars on his car, so I could pass them along. He wrote:

The car sported a blueprinted 220 bhp (at 8,000 rpms) V-12 with three 4-barrel Weber 38 DCN carburetors and a 9.2:1 compression ratio. It had 4 forward gears with a reverse. The actual maximum speeds (at 8,000 rpms) the car reached in 1973 (I drove and Keith [our brother] watched the tachometer and speedometer) were 61 mph (first gear), 118 mph (second gear), 159 mph (third gear) and 193 mph (fourth gear). It was a hell of a blast to drive.

Jack had bad luck with this car. His first problem was that the windshield was so pitted that it was hard to see out of and over time it just got worse. Eventually he could not see out of the front of the car and called his insurance company and they told him to get it fixed.

Well, if Ferrari only made five cars, how many windshields do you think they made? The answer was, "not enough" because there were none to be found. Finally Jack found a company in Canada that would make him a windshield for $4,000. His insurance company said they would pay for it, but they would also cancel his insurance and he would never get any other as they would have to declare that he totaled two exotic sports cars in a three-year period.

He said "OK" and as they removed his windshield (to make a mold for the new one) it shattered. The car was now undrivable and a new windshield could no longer be manufactured. But Jack caught a break when Ferrari found a windshield in a warehouse in Italy. They shipped it to Colorado and Jack was able to get the car fixed and retain his insurance.

This was about the only break he caught. The engine in the car was not original and had problems. Eventually the engine blew when our brother Keith was driving the car. Jack found a rebuilt engine for the car, but by this time he was out of extra money. If I remember correctly, the engine was somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 and Jack did not have the cash.

He sold the car in 1975 for $5,500 and that owner bought the rebuilt engine which it ended up, was the car's original engine (the serial numbers were the same). That owner turned around and sold the car for $10,800 the same year.

In 1985 the car was sold at auction for $272,000.