Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Happy as a Clam!

Well, I am just happy as a clam and I'll tell you why...

Over the past few years I have been looking for a pastel I could stick with, one that gave me everything I wanted. I didn't think my list of requirements was that large, but finding a stick that suited all of my needs proved a lot harder than I thought it would.

First I wanted a soft pastel that was actually soft. Second I wanted a large range of colors (a must for pastels). Third I wanted a pastel that was easy to replace, so something that was sold in "open stock" (one stick at a time) was required. Fourth, I wanted something that, when sold in sets, offered a nice discount in price as pastels can really set you back.

My local Dick Blick Art Store carries two brands of open stock pastels, Rembrandt and Sennelier. I have a small set of Rembrandt pastels and I never really liked them. They are not very soft and feel a little greasy to me, but you can get them in open stock, in a large range of colors and in large sets at a discount. Well, three out of four, but the one it missed was for me the "big one."

Sennelier Pastels are from France and come in a startling array of colors. They are also softer than Rembrandts, are sold in open stock and have nicely priced sets. They meet all my requirements, right? Right, but when I was testing out brands I accidentally tested out a few Unison Pastels, and once I did that, I was hooked!

Unison Pastels are like something from another planet. They are oddly shaped, have this amazing creamy texture and come in some of the most vibrant and startling colors. The first time I picked one up I knew I was hooked.

They are handmade in England. Each stick is rolled by hand between the palms of its creator, which is why they are not uniformly shaped. You can even see the fingerprints of the roller on some sticks.

The vibrancy of their color is one of the other unique aspects of Unison pastels. Pastels are not chalk, they are pure pigment mixed with a binder and a base, usually of clay. A pastel company will start with a single pigment and call that one color, then add white to it in differing amounts and call each another color. Taking the base pigment they will then add black to it in differing amounts and call each of those another color. So from a single pure pigment, they can create 8-16 different colors. Unison doesn't do that. Each stick is a pure pigment of that color and that is why they are so vibrant.

So like I said, once I tried a Unison pastel, I was hooked, so I ordered a set and they arrived this week. I ordered the Portrait set of 72 pastels in an aluminum case with clear lid. I am just beginning to play with them, but so far I am thrilled with the results.

As I do a few pieces I'll share them here.

I can't wait! And yes, I'm happy as a clam!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sadness and Joy

Twenty-one years ago today while driving to work I heard that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded shortly after take-off, killing all on board. The American space program came to a grinding halt that day, and for maybe the first time we realized what a dangerous thing we had been doing for two decades in, what appeared to be, relative safety. That day we learned that we were deceiving ourselves. I thought January 28th would forever be a day of sadness for me. I was wrong.

Twenty years ago today my wife woke me up at 4:30 in the morning to say it was "time." By 5:00 we were at the hospital and at 8:07 that morning I saw my son Brian come into this world. We had picked a name for him other than Brian, though I now don't remember what that name was, but do know that when we looked at him, the name we had chosen didn't fit. So we waited a few days till he showed who he was, trying on different names and eventually he was Brian. But that morning he was just "my son."

He came to us by way of natural childbirth, the Bradley Method, and as such, he was bright-eyed and wide awake that morning as I took him from the hands of the doctor and held him for the first time. He stared up into my eyes as I lowered him into a bassinet of water and bathed him for the first time. He changed my life, he made it harder and scarier, but oh so much more richer.

Happy birthday son! You survived your teens! The world awaits!


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Hypocrite in Chief

The jokes just keep on coming folks!

I nearly choked on my Bosco during the latest State of the Union address when I heard the Hypocrite in Chief utter this paragraph...
Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.

Of course the joke here is this guy tries to demonize earmarks by saying that they are evil because no one votes on them and then attaches signing statement to just about bill he signs giving him powers which nobody in Congress ever voted on.

The Republican Asshole of the Day, for the entire month of January... Your Hypocrite in Chief, George W. Bush!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Puppet is Back!

I can't find a picture of it on-line but did anyone else notice that the one time during Bush's State of the Union speech that Cheney took a drink of water, Bush also took a drink of water? It was so odd that my wife even noticed it and pointed it out.

I said, "Well what did you expect them to do? You know Bush can't talk when Cheney is drinking."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Paddy Chayefsky and ESP

A friend over at the Tony Isabella board was mentioning Paddy Chayefsky this morning and it got me remembering a very strange thing that happened about a decade ago.

I was working at Disney, Buena Vista Home Video to be exact, as a contract programmer when the company had a get together at the Academy Theater at the Academy of Television Arts & Science headquarters. This place was brand new as was the Hall of Fame out in front of the Academy Plaza. It's the same place where you will see a mammoth golden replica of the winged Emmy Award.

I think they bussed us to the theater to see previews of upcoming Disney films, products that in a few years would be our products. We saw a rough cut of about 10 minutes of Toy Story and scenes from Mr. Holland's Opus (which they assured us would not be called Mr. Holland's Opus when it opened) and Crimson Tide. They also had a few speeches and gave out gifts (I got a spiffy Lion King sweatshirt that day). The hall of Fame is a set of beautiful bronze statues that line the walkway leading to the theater.

The strange thing happened right after I arrived. I was standing with some co-workers outside of the Hall of Fame, so I was looking at the back of the heads of half the statues. We were looking at the statues across the way and pointing out who was who when I looked at the back of the head of a statue in front of me and I said, "Hey, it's Paddy Chayefsky." We walked around in front of the statue and it was Paddy Chayefsky! Only, I had never been there before, had no idea they had a statue of Paddy Chayefsky there and I also had no idea what Paddy Chayefsky looked like especially not from the back of his head.

So, how did I know it was him? I have no clue; I just knew.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Steve Canyon

Humorous Maximus is running Steve Canyon from day one beginning Monday, January 22, 2007 and I, for one, couldn't be happier. I've never had much of a chance at reading Canyon before and I think this is a real treat for us lovers of great American adventure comic artwork. This reminds me of the long gone but much loved Menomonee Falls Gazette, which, for those who don't know, was a newspaper published during the 1970s which contained only comic strips .

Good adventure comics are so hard to find these days and it's great to have a classic like this available on a daily basis.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not To Be

Well, it didn't happen and it's not going to happen this year, but the Saints will be back. Like I said, you have to believe.

I got an email from my brother today; it's a Cajun joke. If you've never heard a Cajun joke you might be taken aback. Most Cajun jokes have to do with Boudreaux a, well let's face it, a dumb Cajun. Some people find them offensive, but I'm Cajun and I don't. In this joke Boudreaux goes to hell...
Boudreaux died and was on his way down to Hell. In anticipation, the Devil turned up the thermostat to make it extra warm for Boudreaux. When Boudreaux arrived, the Devil asked, "Hey Boudreaux, how do you like the heat down here?"

Boudreaux says, "Mais, it's just fine. It reminds me of Bayou PonPon in July."

That made the Devil mad. That night, he turned the thermostat up all the way it could go. Man it was hot! When Boudreaux woke up, the Devil asked him, "NOW how do you like it down here?"

Boudreaux says, "Mais, it's fine. It reminds me of August on Bayou Lafourche."

As you might expect, that made the Devil all the more mad. Well, that night he turned the thermostat down all the way it could go! The whole place frosted over. Icicles started forming from the rafters. When Boudreaux woke up, the Devil asked him, "How you like it NOW, Boudreaux?"

Boudreaux, shivering, through blue lips, says, "Mais cher, I'm one happy Cajun!"

The Devil was infuriated! He yelled, "What do you mean you're one happy Cajun?!!"

Boudreaux, still shivering says, "The Saints done won the Superbowl!"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Unknown Territory

The NFC Championship game. For the New Orleans Saints, this is rarefied air they have never breathed before; this is their unknown territory. To say I am jazzed about this game would be an understatement. If ever a team deserved to go to the Super Bowl, the Saints are that team.

Those of us with our roots in the south, we believe. We have to believe!

Go Saints!!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rice gives "morale boosts for the terrorists"

What with our liberal press here in the US this story should be getting a whole lot more play than it is...

BAGHDAD, Jan. 17 - The Iraqi government's need for American troops would "dramatically go down" in three to six months if the United States accelerated the process of equipping and arming Iraq's security forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday.

The head of Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government defended his country's independence and sovereignty and called on U.S. leaders to show faith in his ability to lead.

Maliki disputed President Bush's remarks broadcast Tuesday that the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing" and took exception to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Senate testimony last week that Maliki's administration was on "borrowed time."

The prime minister said statements such as Rice's "give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said. "But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government."

It's almost like this has turned into the Bizarro world where Bush and his thugs are now getting the exact same thing they have been dishing out for the last six years. I like this Maliki guy. The sad part is had Keith Olbermann not covered this tonight I would not have heard of it at all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

24 Hours of Propaganda?

Keith Olbermann brought it up this week and it is actually something I have been wondering for a while now. With each season Fox's 24 has gotten more and more cataclysmic. I think I have a pretty solid head on my shoulders and the show, which features ever increasing terrorist calamities committed against Americans on American soil, doesn't frighten me at all. But is it designed to frighten those who watch it? Is it just another cog in the Fox News as branch of the Republican party form of terrorism against Americans?

The purpose of terrorism is not to kill people but to inspire terror in them. Fear is what they are trying to create and given that definition, is not the Bush administration a terrorist organization? For years they have tried repeatedly to scare people into voting for them. They did it in November and for the first time in a while the country told them to shove it. But they did it none the less. A vote for Democrats has long been compared to a vote for mushroom clouds over America by the Bush people and the biggest support they have had on TV is the misnamed Fox News Network.

Has Fox expanded their aid to Bush through the show 24? Already this season (and it still has 20 hours to go) we have had a mushroom cloud over America and the last show seemed to indicate that the rest of the season will be devoted to four more suitcase nukes. So the question remains, is 24 entertainment or 24 hours of propaganda?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Joe Gill

Mark Evanier is reporting that long-time Charlton scriptor Joe Gill died in December. Joe wrote a number of Don's horror scripts and his first issue of the Phantom. Quoting Evanier:

For several days now, the rumor has spread through comic book forums on the 'net that Joe Gill, one of the most prolific writers in the history of the medium, passed away last December. I've received many an e-mail asking me if it was true and why I hadn't posted something about it. Easy answer: I didn't know if it was true...and the people I knew who knew Joe Gill didn't seem to know if it was true, either. Mr. Gill had little or no family so there didn't seem to be a simple way to check and find out. Finally, sadly, I think I have sufficient confirmation.

Gill was born in 1919. His earliest known work in comics was for Timely (now Marvel) in the early forties and he was among the many writers who wrote Captain America after the departure of Simon and Kirby. In the late forties when the company switched over to teen comics and westerns, he was one of their busiest writers but he eventually fell into disfavor with the editor there, Stan Lee, and work began to become sporadic. By the early fifties, he was doing most of his writing for a company called Funnies, Inc., which supplied publishers with stories and artwork.

One of those publishers was John Santangelo of Charlton Comics. The comic book business was entering a rocky period with many companies going under and Santangelo decided he wanted to build a stable of writers and artists who'd work primarily in the firm's plant in Derby, Connecticut. For many, this meant relocating to that area but the deal included a certain stability along with very low rates. Someone once described the terms as "We'll pay you a third of what the other houses pay but we'll give you three times as much work."

Santangelo was familiar with Gill's work (and legendary speed) via Funnies, Inc., and offered Joe a contract. Joe accepted and for the next three decades — until Charlton shut its doors — he was their star scripter, producing thousands of scripts for every kind of comic they published. In a business where some writers were pressed to write a book a week, Gill often produced a finished manuscript in a day.

His work included westerns (Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok), war comics (Marine War Heroes, Fightin' Army), romance comics (Love Diary, Teen Confessions), crime comics (Crime and Justice, Vengeance Squad), science-fiction comics (Space Adventures, Doomsday Plus 1), comics based on movies (Konga, 1776), comics based on books (Jungle Tales of Tarzan), comics based on newspaper strips (The Phantom, Popeye), comics based on cartoon shows (Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw), comics based on live-action TV shows (The Bionic Woman, Emergency), comics about martial arts (Yang, House of Yang), ghost comics (Ghostly Tales, Haunted), comics about car racing (Hot Rod Racers, Grand Prix), comics about surfing (Surf Kings) and anything else Charlton put out. He handled (and in some cases, co-created) a number of recurring characters and super-heroes, including Captain Atom, The Blue Beetle, Hercules, Peacemaker, The Fightin' Five, Sarge Steel, Son of Vulcan and Judomaster. In addition to all this, he worked often as a writer and/or editor on Charlton's many non-comic magazines, many of which featured pulp-style romance or crime fiction.

Charlton kept Gill so busy that he rarely had time to work for other publishers. He scripted a number of books for Dell in the sixties...for not much better money than he was receiving from Charlton. In 1968 when former Charlton editor Dick Giordano began working at DC, he brought Gill along and gave him work — at DC rates, which seemed astronomical to Joe at the time — on The Secret Six, Hot Wheels and a few other titles...but Gill's association with DC did not survive Giordano's ouster and it was back to the lousy money in Connecticut. He professed not to mind very much. Charlton's editors accepted whatever he did and rarely, if ever, asked for revisions. After the company shut down in 1986, Gill largely retired. In the company's waning days, he sold a few more scripts to DC for their ghost comics but when Charlton ceased publishing, Joe largely retired...and I'm afraid that's all I know about his later period.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sandy Eggo Sucks!

Gawd was that a dreadful game. The San Diego Chargers deserved to lose the sloppy way they played, but the New England Patriots were just as sloppy, if not more so. Kickoffs out of bounds, interceptions, fumbles, interceptions that are fumbled; this game had it all. What it didn't have was quality football. Ugh! What a mess!

If this team shows up next week Indy will be playing New Orleans in the Super Bowl (not a bad match up actually!).

Also did anyone else notice that the announcer on CBS seems to think the town is named Sandy Eggo? He repeatedly referred to the Sandy Eggo Chargers. CBS has got to get some better commentators.

"I've been wrong on just about everything..."

"...but please let me pontificate some more... "

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday the Pentagon and CIA are not violating people's rights by examining the banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage in the United States.
Cheney went on to say, "And it's perfectly legal for the Vice President to shoot anyone in the face he damn well feels like. What? You don't like that? Come stand in my line of fire and say that!"

Lost My Logo

Well I lost my custom logo when I moved to the newest version of the Blogger software. I did get to add some new stuff like the heirachical list of previous blogs and the RSS feed to Pop Thought. I'll see if I can get the logo back when I have some time.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

They're Marching In!

Being a Cajun, being from the south and spending most every other summer of my youth down there I have to say that I am ecstatic with the play of the New Orleans Saints this year. It's been a miracle year so far for our no longer poor put-upon Saints. They have the Coach of the Year and an amazing offensive machine with so many parts that even Joe Horn sitting on the bench doesn't slow them down.

Who Dat heading for the conference championship game? Dat be da Saints!

Did anyone else notice during the game tonight how the camera lingered on the female fan with the shirt that read: FUCK DA EAGLES? Is the FCC going to jump all over them for that? We'll see.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Was that Lily or Morticia Who Died?

Actress Yvonne De Carlo died today. Though she had over 120 acting credits listed in Internet Movie Data Base, most people remember here as Lily on the Munsters, the devoted wife of Fred Gwynne's bumbling Herman Munster. You may remember her that way, with the pale makeup, the long black hair with the shocks of pure white running through it. I prefer to remember her as you see her here to my right, which might be from the movie Slave Girl, but who knows (Hey, you remember what you want to remember and I'll remember what I want to remember!)?

A lot of people today, when they heard Yvonne died thought, "Oh my god, Morticia is dead!" Nah, that was Carolyn Jones in the Addams Family. People are always getting the two of them confused as both shows were on in the mid 1960s and both featured pretty strange families. The Addams Family had the better pedigree, but Fred Gwynne had a way of winning people over to the Munsters.

Now when I think of Carolyn Jones I do think of the Addams Family, but I also think of one of my favorite films. Let me describe it to you.

It is directed by Michael Curtiz who directed a little picture called Casablanca. It's based on a novel by Harold Robbins and it stars Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, a very young Vic Morrow, Paul Stewart and a young singer in his fourth film. It takes place on the mean streets and back alleys of the French Quarter of New Orleans.

The movie is King Creole and the young singer is Elvis Presley and if you've only seen the Elvis movies made in the 1960s, this one will come as quite a shock. Elvis plays a character unlike any he ever played again.

Elvis plays Danny Fisher, a young delinquent who, as the film begins, flunks out of high school for the second time. Danny gets mixed up with a gang of delinquents led by Vic Morrow's Shark and is soon helping them rob stores. Elvis uses his guitar, singing talent and charisma to draw all the customers and staff to him, while the gang steals a store blind. In a really un-Elvis-like moment, Danny picks up a cashier from the store and takes her to a hotel on the pretence of going to a party, but they are the only ones invited. "Come on baby, you know the score" he says as he tries to get the "good girl" to go bad.

While working as a busboy in a nightclub, Danny runs into Ronnie (Carolyn Jones) who is the girl of local crime boss Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau) and his life takes an unexpected turn.

Sure, Elvis becomes a singer at a nightclub on Bourbon Street and does a number of tunes, but the best parts of the movie are when Elvis is just acting. He is really good and he and Jones have some pretty steamy scenes together.

Tough guys, tough girls, good girls who want to go bad, knife fights, muggings, shop lifting, chase scenes, set-ups, escapes and some great Elvis acting; King Creole has it all. Well, almost. If they could have figured a way to get Yvonne De Carlo's tits in the film, it would have been perfect!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Miami Thrice

No, I have not gone back to watching CSI: Miami. As I said here and again here, I think this has turned into one of the worst shows on TV. No, I have not gone over to the dark side, but you will remember that I have said that I watched the show for almost two years just to see how bad it was, mainly just to watch David Caruso and his OCD glasses on/glasses off shtick. Well, I was reading Mark Verheidens' blog tonight and he had a link to James Hudnall's blog which had a compilation of Caruso's CSI: Miami opening tag lines. Sit back and watch what an unintentional hoot this show has become.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Marooned II

Well we got around to watching Marooned this weekend and man, was it even better than I remembered from junior high. The print was a beautiful full-length letterboxed version and I have a feeling the last time (or times) I saw this film it had been substantially cut. If you get a chance to see it, do so.

Friday, January 05, 2007

King George Grasps for Even More Power

In an attempt to take even more despotic power, King George the Last, as you can read here, has given himself the right to open and read your mail without needing a warrant. He has already taken the right to listen into your phone conversations and read your email; this just makes it a hat trick.

Besides the obvious, there are two other things that really bother me here. First, this important story of an American President stealing another of your freedoms from you is absolutely buried on page 17 of the Los Angeles Times. The media's acquiescence to the extreme actions of this little twit, the blind eye they turn to his unconstitutional, treasonous acts is shameless and appalling. When they write the history of these dark days for America, when we stopped being the "land of the free" the role in all this played by the media will not go unnoticed.

Second, the courts should have long ago told this tin dictator that he cannot add "signing statements" to bills saying "I sign this into law for everyone but me." That is making a law and the President does not have that power under the Constitution. Period. He needs to be stopped and he needs to be stopped now and I pray the Democrats have the will to do it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Turner Classic Movies is showing 1969's Marooned tonight. This came out when I was in junior high and in "the Space Club" at school. I remember we took a bus into Hollywood to see it at the Egyptian Theater. It was a big deal for all us geeky "space" kids, a very exciting film about astronauts trapped in space in an Apollo-like spaceship. Well, we thought it was exciting at the time.

Less than a year later Apollo 13 did it for real and it was much, much more gripping. I remember going into the "Space Club" room at school during lunch-hour to watch the news as the Apollo 13 accident unfolded. Now that had us on the edge of our seats!

The last time I saw Marooned it hadn't aged well, but I think I'll give it another try anyway. It was written by Martin Caidin, the guy who wrote Cyborg on which was based The Six Million Dollar Man TV show. Also, you have Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, David Janssen, James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, Lee Grant and Mariette Hartley and that's not too shabby of a cast.

Bush: Congress must limit pork spending

Bush went on to say, "Unrestricted and unregulated spending on pet projects is only allowed when Republicans are running Congress."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On a Wing and a Prayer

I was watching the beginning of the Rose Parade yesterday morning and as usual they had the flyover of the B2 Stealth Bomber flying wing. Such a beautiful airplane and it reminded me of a couple of things.

First was the 1953 version of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds starring Gene Barry in which the original Northrup Flying Wing figures prominently near the end. As a child that film scared me some, but not as much as the newer version by Steven Spielberg did a few years ago. That film left me feeling creepy as hell. I think it had something to do with the sound mix for the alien machines and that horrific effect of the clothes of people disintegrated by the aliens floating in the wind. Like I said, creepy shit.

The second thing it got me thinking of was the Rose Bowl game my nephew took me too a few years ago. He is from Washington and Washington State was playing that year so he got tickets with a friend and had one left over. My first Rose Bowl was quite exciting. Before the game two Flying Wings flew over the stadium. The second was the B2, but the first was the Northrop N9MB Flying Wing, the only one still in existence, which was used to train pilots on how to fly the big boy back in the day.

You haven't lived till you've seen a flying wing arc gracefully over your head. They are just amazing to watch.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Darth Strikes Again!

I saw a strange thing happen the other night while doing aerobics at my fitness club. All the machines have TVs on them and most people were watching the Ford Funeral - Part I on any number of channels (most were covering it live). Well that little lying sack, Dennis Hastert, started to speak and before I lost my lunch I turned to ESPN and some bowl game I never heard of before (which ended up being pretty exciting).

I'm in the last row of machines, so I can see most of the TVs in the room. Some are blocked by people on other machines, but most are in clear view and I'm looking up from the game every now and then to see what others are doing. So once when I look up, Hastert has completed his blathering (I'm sure he was fibbing about something) and Darth Cheney gets up to speak....and an amazing thing happens. Every TV except one changes the channel. I'm not making this up; the guy is that hated. Nobody can stomach him.

Makes me feel good about the people I get sweaty with.