Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thoughts on a Season - The Good - Part II - Characters Welcome

If you watch any show on the USA Network you know that Characters Welcome is their slogan. It's their way of saying that what you find here is a little different than what you find elsewhere. For the most part I think it is a slogan that works, certainly when applied to their Friday night detective lineup.

Monk

Monk has recently finished up its fifth season and I think it was the show's best season ever. In the past I could take it or leave it, but the writing was just top-notch this year. In case you've been living in a cave for the past five years, I'll give you the basic lowdown on Monk

Tony Shalhoub stars as Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Monk's psychological problems cost him his job as a San Francisco homicide detective, but he has hope that some day he can return to the force. In the meantime, with the help of personal assistant Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) Monk works as a private detective, mostly on cases with the SFPD, but now this season also on his own.

On top of his rampant OCD, Monk has developed an abnormal fear of germs, heights, crowds, milk, snakes, heck, you name and Monk is afraid of it. This can be a hindrance to his ability to solve a case or just get through another day.

Over the seasons I've enjoyed the interplay between Monk and Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine who will forever be Buffalo Bill, "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again," to me), his ex-boss on the SFPD, but there is something to be said for the episodes this season where Monk goes it alone, on his own cases for the first time.

The murders this year were cleverer, the characters more wild and Monk more deranged than ever. We had Steven Weber as a radio shock jock who Monk suspected killed his wife even though he was on the air at the time of the murder; the mysterious "Six Way Killer" which pitted Monk's detective skills against the forensic technology of a federal agent; a fun-loving guy named Hal (Andy Richter) who befriended Monk and became the first buddy in his life. We also had Monk going undercover as a butler to the son of Natalie's parents' neighbor (Sean Astin) and loving the role.

In keeping with the USA slogan, they were characters all. I can't wait for season six to begin this summer. Monk is on a roll!

Psych

The second half of the USA Friday night detective block is newcomer, Psych. The show can be uneven, but as the first season progressed, and the characters emerged and grew, the show seemed to come together quite well. Psych stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer who solves crimes with his keen powers of observation, skills honed over the years at the insistence of his ex-policeman father (Corbin Bernsen). The problem is Shawn is so good the precinct detectives think he's a suspect, so he feigns psychic abilities. Shawn has opened a psychic detective agency in Santa Barbara and is regularly hired as a consultant by the police for some of their tougher cases.

Assisting Shawn is his best friend Gus (Dulé Hill) who works as a rep for a pharmaceutical company and is Shawn's reluctant sidekick. Also show also features Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, and Kirsten Nelson.

The best thing about Psych are the complicated relationships between the regulars. Shawn and Gus have been best friends since they were little, with Shawn always getting the best of Gus. Even now as adults, Gus strains to break the long chain of history, to not get talked into things against his better judgement. Shawn had his skills drilled into him by his father who now bristles at the idea that Shawn is "pulling one over" on the police with his fake psychic shtick, but still takes a lot of pride in the amazing abilities of his son.

Sometimes the fake psychic stuff is a little over the top, but the relationships usually bring the show back down to reality. Did I mention that it's also funny? My favorite episode was "Shawn vs The Red Phantom" in which a teenager goes missing, and to Gus' delight, he and Shawn must spend the entire weekend at the boy's last known location -- the Santa Barbara Comic-Con -- investigating his disappearance. The comic book insider stuff was funny and George Takei playing a petulant and prima-donna-ish George Takei was hilarious.

Characters are always welcome and USA is providing us with some of the most original in years.

Make the Pie Higher

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Loretta Sanchez and the Green Zone

I like this picture. The buzz-cut on the left is my son, and the pony-tail on the right is me.

More on the brunch fundraiser for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez that my wife, son and I attended last weekend and of which I talked about here and here. One of the guests there that day asked Congresswoman Sanchez how she thought the war in Iraq was going. The person wanted her opinion because he kept hearing Bush and McCain and Lieberman on TV saying that the surge was working and that things in Iraq were getting better.

She thought for a minute and then said that she had been to Iraq three times. The first time she flew into Baghdad airport and then they drove in the six miles from the airport to the "green zone," the secured, walled-in portion of downtown Baghdad. This is the most secure location in all of Iraq and they drove there in heavily armored transports.

A year later when she visited, they once again flew into Baghdad airport, but this time they were placed into helicopters and flown from the airport to the green zone. It was no longer safe to drive the six miles from the airport to the green zone no matter how heavily armored was your transportation.

The last time she was in Baghdad, earlier this year, they once again flew into Baghdad airport, and used helicopters to reach the green zone. But this time, once in the green zone, they had to wear flak jackets and helmets at all times and were told to only go outside if they needed to move from one location to another. This in the most secure location in all of Iraq.

Does this sound like the surge is working to you?

Bad Times for Gonzo

So now the grinning goofball, Alberto Gonzales, says he doesn't "recall being involved in deliberations" over which prosecutors were to be ousted. He's no longer saying he didn't do it, just that he doesn't remember doing it, which is different than what he said a week ago to Congress.

These dirt-bags in the Bush administration are like the friggin' Three Stooges, they don't remember what they did, but they know it couldn't have been anything bad or illegal and they would love to prove it, but they just don't remember. Here, let me poke you in the eyes, ya numb-skull! Nyuck, Nyuck!

Worse yet, they remind me of Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live, lo those many years ago...

You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say... "Steve... how can I be a millionaire... and never pay taxes?"

First... get a million dollars. Now... you say, "Steve... what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, 'You... have never paid taxes'?"

Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: "I forgot!"

How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don't say "I forgot"? Let's say you're on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, "I forgot armed robbery was illegal."

Let's suppose he says back to you, "You have committed a foul crime. You have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, 'I forgot'?"

Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!"

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Detective Comics #363

Detective Comics #363 (On Sale: March 30, 1967) has a cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Anderson's inks are very nice here in another take on the "Batman reveals his secret identity" plot.

Inside we have "The True-False Face of Batman" by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene. I always liked Greene's inks, particularly on Green Lantern where he blended so well with Gil Kane's dynamic pencils. Greene is one of those guys who did a lot of work for DC and then just disappeared. I don't know if he died or was just put out to pasture as so many of DC's personnel was around 1970.

Anyway, in this story Batgirl interrupts a robbery in progress after her job at the Gotham Library provides clues to the criminal activity. Batman arrives on the scene during the fight to help Batgirl defeat the crooks, but one of them escapes.

Batman then blindfolds Batgirl and takes her to the Batcave where he unmasks in front of her. Though he shows his true face of Bruce Wayne, traces of wax and hair dye cause Batgirl to believe that Batman is actually disguised. After Batman returns Batgirl to Gotham, he explains to Robin that the escaped crook had left a bug on Batgirl, so he set up the identity reveal to convince the crook that Batgirl had learned Batman's secret. Reprinted in Batman #255.

The backup Elongated Man strip "Way-Out Day in Wishbone City" is also by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene. Ralph and Sue Dibny visit Wishbone City. After a day of shopping, they witness the residents acting strangely. The people lose their inhibitions and begin carrying out their secret impulses. Ralph and Sue are also affected.

I enjoyed the Elongated Man. His name may have been stupid (Plastic Man was already taken), but his stories had a certain tongue-in-cheek style that I loved. He was married, his identity was known and his wife was a part of most of his adventures. The Dibny's were sort of the Nick and Nora of DC super-heroes, and that was enough to overcome the dumb name and the butt-ugly costume.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tell Us Something We Haven't Known for Years

Today's story on Michael Jackson just struck me the wrong way. Actually, not the story so much as the headline. I mean is anyone proofing these things any more? How could most people's reaction be any different than mine? "Tell me something I haven't known for years:"

Aide: Jackson sick, but not in hospital

Oh yeah, he is one sick puppy.

Poker At My House!

A few years after we moved into our current home, which is in what was at that time a new neighborhood, one of our neighbors died of cancer. He was not yet 40 and just the sweetest guy you ever met. He went from being diagnosed to dying in less than five months and after he died I realized that I had missed an opportunity to really get to know this great guy.

Sure, I knew him and his family, but I couldn't tell you a thing about his passions. He seemed to really embrace life and I had no idea why, of what drove him or moved him. I decided I needed to know my neighbors better, so I formed a neighborhood poker group.

I invited every man in the neighborhood and I explained that all you had to do to participate is take your turn hosting the game. Oh, and you had to share something about yourself with the men. Over the years this last requirement has kind of gone by the wayside, though I still do it when I host. We are going on our eighth or ninth year now. Some have dropped out or moved out of the neighborhood, and others have joined in. We normally have somewhere between 10 and 15 people each month.

Playing poker is not the real draw for the evenings; it's really just an excuse for a social event. Hell, some months we get so involved in conversation and drinking and whatever that we don't even play poker. When we do it's a very friendly game. Mostly we drink and we eat. The host has to provide dinner. I always cook for the men; some others do to, though many just get the game catered. Since part of what I want to share is my Cajun heritage, I always cook and I always cook Cajun food.

This month I made red beans and rice and shrimp au gratin and some devastating banana pudding. I also shared some of my artwork with the men. I think my invitation went over well.

A Not So Inviting Party

"The party that flatters itself that they protect America better is the party that has exhausted the military, left the ports wide open and purposefully outed a CIA Agent, Valerie Plame. "

Bill Maher

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Sea Devils #35

Sea Devils #35 (On Sale: March 28, 1967) has a cover by Howard Purcell and Jack Adler.

Inside we have "The Name of the Game is Death" by Bob Haney, Chic Stone and Sheldon Moldoff. While rescuing the crew of a damaged cargo ship, Dane investigates a strange glowing patch underwater. The other Sea Devils watch Dane enter the patch and a monster emerge. They believe Dane has been transformed into the monster. When the military orders the monster destroyed after it attacks the shipping lanes, the Sea Devils try to stop it without killing it. The military succeeds in killing the creature, and the Sea Devils mourn the loss of Dane.

This is the final issue of the Sea Devils. It's kind of odd that they had Chic Stone draw this issue given that the book was toast. Stone was a Marvel artist and as DC editors began encouraging their artists to make the DC books look more like Marvel, Stone found work ghosting George Papp on Superboy.

Edited by George Kasdan.

More on Marshall Rogers

First, the Los Angeles Times ran an obituary for Marshall Rogers today, which though short and sweet, was nice nonetheless. Certainly it was much better than the Arnold Drake obituary they ran...oh, that's right, they didn't run an obituary for Arnold Drake.

Second, Pop Thought has put together a tribute to Marshall featuring the thoughts of some of the biggest names in comics (Busiek, Waid, Truman, Grell, Sheikman, Jones, Levitz, Ostrander, Larsen, Gulacy, Gold and Ness ) which is well worth your time to read. A touching tribute from people who knew him, worked with him and/or were inspired by his work.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thoughts on a Season - The Good - Part I

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Studio 60 fell far from its awesome pilot episode, but was still more interesting than most shows when NBC yanked it. I liked the show, watched every episode, but it had a number of problems.

First was Sarah Paulson, who I never for one second believed was the funniest woman on TV or anywhere else. That just "ain't her thang dude." Second, the "show within a show" was not very funny and that is being kind. At times it was almost embarassingly not funny. Third, Steven Weber's Jack Rudolph was unlikable from the beginning and only became watchable in later episodes when they gave him a personality transplant. Fourth, after their first hiatus, the show that came back was not the show that had been on at the beginning of the season. Nearly all of the political edge was gone (the best they could do is "reality shows bite"), replaced by two romances. Given that Paulson was miscast, one of those romances was going to be boring.

Matthew Perry's Matt Albie was great and Perry did some wonderful work here, but his angst over Sarah Paulson's Harriet Hayes never rang true for me because he hated her faith and was enamored with her non-existent talent. I would watch Amanda Peet read the phone book, so I had no problems there.

Timothy Busfield as Cal Shanley has been a standout and someone should snap him up real quick 'cause he has talent just oozing out of him (gee, that doesn't sound good). I loved Bradley Whitford's Danny Tripp and though not used that much, Nathan Corddry's Tom Jeter was funny.

On the other hand, D.L. Hughley's Simon Stiles was a pompous ass and not very funny. Given he IS D.L. Hughley, I can only blame the writing for his lack of humor.

The show had huge problems, but it also had huge potential (that pilot episode was one of the best things I have seen on TV all season) and I, for one, will miss it.

Next time out: Characters Welcome.

A Question of Civil War

More on the brunch fundraiser for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez that my wife, son and I attended this weekend and of which I talked some about earlier.

The first question Congresswoman Sanchez took from those of us attending was the one you hear from Republicans all the time, "What happens to Iraq if we leave before we are done?"

She answered by talking about a worker on her staff, an Iraqi woman. She said that this woman had been working in her office for a short while when everyone went out after work one night for drinks and conversation. During the after-work socializing this same question arose and the woman said, "You people really don't get it do you? You think you can stop what is happening, but you can't. We are going to have a civil war and right now you people are simply in the way. If you leave in two days, we will have the civil war in two days. If you leave in twenty years, we will have the civil war in twenty years. When you leave it will happen, it has to happen, we have to kill one another until it is out of our system. Your presence postpones it, but nothing you can do will stop it from occurring."

The next time I get asked this question, I'm going to pass along the above. Will it help? Most likely not, but maybe, just maybe the person asking the question might hear some of it. Perhaps they might hear the inevitability of it all, at least from the Iraqi perspective.

Marshall Rogers has Died

Comic book artist Marshall Rogers died this weekend at the age of 57. Marshall burst onto the comic scene in 1976 doing some amazing work on Batman in Detective Comics. With writer Steve Englehart and inker Terry Austin, the Rogers' Batman was dark and moody, but the book on a whole was more intellectual than what preceded or followed it. While not a definitive Batman, Rogers' interpretation influenced many who followed.

Also for DC Marshall worked on Green Lantern, the Justice League and an amazing, though short run on Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle among others.

Marshall also worked on one of the first graphic novels, Detectives, Inc. written by Don McGregor.

For Marvel Comics he worked on Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer and Spider-Man.

At Eclipse Comics he worked on Cap'N Quick & A Foozle, Coyote (again working with Steve Englehart), and his own creation, Scorpio Rose.

Marshall was a very detailed and technical artist. When inking his own pencils, or inked by someone like Terry Austin, his work was a cut above in design and detail. He will be missed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brunch with Loretta Sanchez

My wife, son and I spent a few hours today at a fundraiser for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez who represents the 47th District of California. It was held at the home of some good friends of ours, who, like us, don't live in Sanchez's district, but were ecstatic years ago when she took the seat of Republican pain-in-the-ass Bob Dornan. Sanchez was the first Democrat in many years to make inroads into the heavily Republican bastion of Orange County. After a wonderful brunch, Congresswoman Sanchez spoke for about a half hour and then took about a half hour of questions from the assembled group.

Although she talked about the shift in power in Washington from Texas to California, global warming and pollution and the economics of Bush's reign of terror, most of her talk and most of the questions were about Iraq. She had some very interesting things to say.

She talked about the vote in the House on Friday, which for the first time had congress pushing back against Bush and setting limitations on military appropriations. She said that although many have called the vote historic, she doesn't see it that way. She said that in recent meetings, top military officials made it clear that the U.S. military is in a state of disarray and disrepair unseen in decades. She said that Bush took a fully functioning military and ran it into the ground in Iraq. Every general she talked to, with the sole exception of General Petraeus, said it is a foregone conclusion that we must leave Iraq and soon. Not because we can't win, though we obviously can't, but because this war has needlessly decimated our military and it can no longer sustain the fight.

She said that she thinks it is only a matter of months before General Petraeus agrees with everyone else and that will be the end of it. Sanchez said that she feels troops could start coming home as early as this summer. That is why she thinks the House vote was not as important as many others do; vote or no vote, this thing is nearly over. It has to be, our military is in such horrible shape it cannot continue.

Next time I'll tell you about Loretta's three trips to Iraq and what deterioration she has seen and her response to the question, a Republican favorite, "But what happens to Iraq if we leave before we are done?"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sacrifice

"Liberals must stop saying President Bush hasn't asked Americans to sacrifice for the war on terror. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice something enormous. Our civil rights.

Now, when I heard George Bush was reading my emails, I probably had the same reaction you did: George Bush can read?! Yes, he can. And this administration has read your phone records, credit card statements, mail, Internet logs. I can't tell if they're fighting a war on terror or producing the next season of "Cheaters." I mail myself a copy of the Constitution every morning just on the hope they'll open it and see what it says.


So -so when it comes to sacrifice, don't kid yourself. You have given up a lot. You've given up faith in your government's honesty, the goodwill of people overseas, and six-tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here's what you've sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self-incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here's what you have left: hand guns, religion, and they can't make you quarter a British soldier. If Prince Harry invades the Inland Empire, he has to bring a tent.

You know, in previous wars on the home front made a very different kind of sacrifice. During World War II, we endured rationing, paid higher taxes, bought war bonds, and in the interest of national unity, people even pretended Bob Hope was funny. Right, like you laughed at him.

Okay, women, donated their silk undergarments so they could be sewn into parachutes. Can you imagine nowadays a Britney Spears or a Lindsay Lohan going without underwear? Bad example.

But, look, George Bush has never been too bright about understanding "fereigners." But he does know Americans. He asked this generation to sacrifice the things he knew we would not miss: our privacy and our morality. He let us keep the money. But he made a cynical bet that we wouldn't much care if we became a "Big Brother" country that has now tortured a lot of random people.


And yet no one asks the tough questions like, "Is torture necessary?" "Who will watch the watchers?" "And when does Jack Bauer go to the bathroom?" I mean, it's been five years. Is he wearing one of those astronaut diapers?

In conclusion, after 9/11, President Bush told us Osama bin Laden could run but he couldn't hide. But, then he ran and hid. So, Bush went to Plan B: pissing on the Constitution and torturing random people.

Conservatives always say the great thing Reagan did was make us feel good about America again. Well, do you feel good about America now? I'll give you my answer, and to get it out of me, you don't even have to hold my head underwater and have a snarling guard dog rip my nuts off. No, I don't feel very good about that."

Bill Maher

Headlines Get Me Thinking...

Housewife convicted of frying husband

Cheney says House doesn't support troops

This country would be such a better place if only Dick Cheney needed a new wife.

Getting Carded

I have three brothers and a sister. Growing up I don't remember which ones of us collected Mallo Cup cards, but I know at least two of my brothers and I did. Mallo Cup cards were these cardboard cards that came in packages of Boyer Mallo Cups and Boyer Peanut Butter Cups. The cards were not the main attraction, but they added to the experience.

First off, even if there were no cards we would have bought Boyer candy; it was just amazing. Mallo Cups were like large Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, only instead of peanut butter, they had marshmallow cream inside. The Boyer Peanut Butter Cups were for a long time the only kind of peanut butter cup you could buy and years later when Reese's showed up on the market, they were a pale comparison to the wonder that was a Boyer Peanut Butter Cup. One Boyer cup was bigger than two Reese's cups.

But the extra added attraction to the Boyer candy were the Mallo Cup cards. Plain white card stock imprinted in red or black ink they were a form a money. Each had a denomination printed on them, from one penny to fifty cents (though I don't think I ever saw a fifty cent card); most were for a penny. There was one card in each Mallo Cup or Peanut Butter Cup package. The candy was also sold in two-piece packages which contained two cards printed on a single piece of cardboard.

The deal was that if you could collect five dollars worth of cards you could send them into Boyer and they would send you a case of Mallo Cups. OK, it was a small case of ten cups, but it was free candy! And heck, the candy was already too good to pass up!

One of my brothers actually collected enough cards and got the free candy. The rest of us just had stacks of worthless cards in our "junk drawers" for years.

Reese's eventually pushed Boyer out of the market, making it impossible to find their products, but Boyer has actually been around all these years. I have not seen their products in a store for decades, but you can now order from their website.

Friday, March 23, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #68

Showcase #68 (On Sale: March 23, 1967) has a very nice Maniaks cover by Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito.

Inside we have "A Crooks' Tour of Palisades Park" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito. I vaguely remember reading a Maniaks story, it might even have been this one. This was their premiere issue of Showcase. They would appear here two more times.

The Maniaks are a rock band created by Bridwell and Sekowsky in the mold of TV's the Monkees--a band that would also get involved in wild adventures, often on the way to their gigs.

The Maniaks were:

Silver Shannon (lead vocals, manager)
Philip "Flip" Folger (guitars, contortionist)
Gilbert "Jangle" Jeffries (guitars, ventriloquist)
Byron "Pack Rat" Williams (drums)

DC Comics used Showcase as a tryout magazine for different features and what is now known as the Silver Age of Comics started in Showcase #4, September 1956 with the introduction of the new Flash. Over the years Showcase gave birth to among others, The Challengers of the Unknown, Lois Lane, Green Lantern. The Sea Devils, Aquaman, the Atom, The Metal Men, Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, The Teen Titans, The Inferior Five, Bat Lash, The Creeper and The Hawk and the Dove.

Some of my favorite Showcase strips never made it out of the book, or did so with very limited coverage. In particular I loved the last twelve issues, which featured three issues each of Nightmaster by Denny O'Neal, Jerry Grandenetti and Berni Wrightson, FireHair by Joe Kubert, the exceptional Jason's Quest by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano and Manhunter 2070 also by Mike Sekowsky.

Edited by Jack Miller.

Something for Those Getting Subpoenas

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."

Mark Twain

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Going Solo

American Life TV network has been showing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for years now on their "Spy Night," which is Wednesdays. For the past two months they have been having what they call "U.N.C.L.E Movie Mania" showing one two-part episode together each week. This coming Wednesday is their last "Movie Mania" night and it will end where it began, showing the pilot to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Well, sort of anyway.

The show opens with a very well done scene of a quartet of THRUSH agents infiltrating U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Finally one agent makes it to the core of U.N.C.L.E. where he fires at a silhouette of a man. The bullets however, smash into a glass partition, tracking cracks across the screen. A light finally comes on revealing the face of Robert Vaughn as he slowly raises his gun. The scene was used as part of the title sequence for the first season of the show.

But it is now that you get the shocker. You hear the familiar Jerry Goldsmith theme, you see the map of the world, which is then overlaid with the title of the show: SOLO!

For as I said, this is not quite the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., this is actually the pilot for Solo, the show that became The Man From U.N.C.L.E. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was part of the creative team that developed Solo, the adventures of an agent for an International spy organization called U.N.C.L.E. The show was to star Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and an uncast actress as agent April Dancer. By the time the pilot was filmed, the Dancer character was dropped (later to be resurrected as The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.).

The show does feature for a few brief minutes actor David McCallum as agent Illya Kuryakin and he must have impressed the powers that be in those few minutes because when the series did finally air he was Vaughn's co-star and the witty banter began. Now some of you may think that you have seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot and you are sort of right. NBC did air the Solo pilot as an episode of TMFU, but there were a couple of changes made.

Two of them are obvious. First, the standard The Man From U.N.C.L.E. title sequence was put on the show. Second, it was aired in black and white, not color like the Solo pilot. The third change involves the head of U.N.C.L.E., Mr. Waverly; he wasn't in the pilot. In this episode the head of U.N.C.L.E. was Mr. Allison, played by actor Will Kuluva. For the aired TMFU pilot, Kuluva's scenes were cut and reshot with Leo G. Carrol as Alexander Waverly.

I know some people cringe at how dated TMFU can seem, and some seasons were campier than others. But the pilot episode is not a bad show at all and has a great guest cast including Fritz Weaver, William Marshall, Rupert Crosse, Ivan Dixon and Pat Crowley. Set your TiVos for next Wednesday and see what I am talking about. See Solo.

A Lesson Not Learned

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Edward R. Murrow

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Louis! Louis!

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a 17-day cruise to Hawaii. It wasn't perfect (though it was damn close!), no cruise ever is, but one of the things we could not complain about was the company; my ex-boss, Shawn and his partner Brian went with us. Shawn and I shared an elevator one day at work and he asked where I was going for lunch. This just happened to be the day I was going to AAA to pay for our cruise and I told him so. He went with me (we work about 200 feet from an AAA office) and ended up signing up for the same cruise that day.

On the cruise we all shared a table at first seating dinner and Shawn and Brian had brought on board a case of wine from their wine cellar. Each night they brought a bottle to the table and we all partook. I think we must have drank about $1,200 worth of their wine.

Ah, cruising and drinking, this is what brings me to Louis; Louis XIII that is; Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac to be exact. I know little about cognac, but I knew of Louis XIII. It cost about $1,200 a bottle, and what a bottle, a beautiful Baccarat crystal decanter. If you don't care about the cognac you can bid on one of the empty bottles on ebay for anywhere from $150 to $250. It ends up Brian has always wanted a Louis bottle and Shawn had always wanted to drink Louis. It also ends up that they sold Louis XIII on the ship. In the gift shop it was $900 a bottle, in the bar it was $90 a shot.

Early on we found out that the person who drinks the last shot gets to keep the bottle and that the one open bottle on the ship had about seven shots left in it. Ends up our last night on the ship was Shawn's birthday. The pieces were in motion, the cards were being dealt. Things were coming together.

For Shawn's birthday we made reservations in the Pinnacle Grill restaurant on the ship. We had eaten their once before and the food was amazing. What we needed was a gift for Shawn, for his birthday for sure, but also to in some way pay for the wonderful bounty of wine they shared with us each night (one night they were not going to make it to dinner and had a bottle of wine sent to our room so that we would not have to go without at dinner). My wife and I decided that if the Louis had four or less shots, that we would buy them all and give the bottle to Shawn.

A great plan, but the day before Shawn's birthday we asked how the bottle of Louis was doing and were told it still had seven shots in it. $630 was a little more than we wanted to spend on Shawn's birthday, so we decided to at least buy Shawn a shot of Louis for his birthday and set it up with the Pinnacle for the bottle to be there waiting for us.

The morning of Shawn's birthday I was passing by the Ocean Bar (this was the bar that we mostly hung out in because the bar waiters were just really great there) when one of the waiters, Jay, called out to me, "Did you hear what Shawn did last night?"

"No, what," I asked?

"He bought the Louis. Ends up by last night there were only three shots left, so he said he would buy them all. Ended up only being two shots, so he bought the bottle for $180."

Great news for Shawn, but not for us; our birthday gift was now blown. We improvised though and bought a bottle of Dom Pérignon 1993 champagne. We actually got a good deal on the bottle by getting it at the bar and bringing it to the restaurant. Now, I've had Dom Pérignon before and thought it was very overpriced wine, but I have to say, this was the best champagne I ever tasted. It was velvety smooth, crisp and clean, everything champagne should be, and made a great beginning to our dinner that night.

As for the Louis XIII bottle, Shawn's plan was to display it in his bar at home, filling it with a less expensive cognac and just "pretending" it is Louis. He also said the same thing we had heard from person after person about Louis, for the price it doesn't taste that much better than regular cognac. I had some a year later on another cruise and I would have to agree.

But it does come in a really beautiful bottle.

We Must Have Been Indifferent

"The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."

Plato

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Wonder Woman #170

Wonder Woman #170 (On Sale: March 21, 1967) says, "It's Purple Gorilla Time!!!" Cover by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. In the 1960s if DC Comics was known for one thing, it was covers featuring purple gorillas. Apparently they sold very well, because DC never passed up an opportunity to have a purple ape cavorting on a cover.

Inside this issue we have "The Haunted Amazon" by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. When Steve Trevor goes missing after a plane crash he is presumed dead. While Wonder Woman mourns Steve's loss, Dr. Psycho uses his skills as a plastic surgeon to give criminal Pete Slote Steve's face. When the Amazon later encounters Slote, she is unable to stop him because his face reminds her of her dead boyfriend. After failing, Wonder Woman vows to give up her costume and return to Paradise Island.

The backup story is actually the cover story "Wonder Woman -- Gorilla" and is once again by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Three alien gorillas land on Paradise Island. Wonder Woman meets them and asks them to leave, fearing that their presence will break Aphrodite's law against man setting foot on the island. The gorillas refuse to leave, and the leader wishes to make Wonder Woman his queen. Man, I hate when that happens! This story was reprinted in DC Special #16.

Edited by Robert Kanigher.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On a Hard Drive, No One Can Hear You Scream!

I'm a programmer. Two weeks ago at work we had a hard drive failure on our development database containing two full months of work. The files on that drive were backed up nightly, but unfortunately, they were backed up to the same server that they resided on, so the file backup was gone as well.

When I asked for tape backups we discovered that nightly the database was backed up to another server, then moved to a third location and deleted from the original backup location. Unfortunately we also learned that someone at some time in the past had deleted the folder it was being moved to and no one ever noticed the error messages being generated nightly. So, our data was safely backed up, then moved to a location that did not exist, then deleted. The nonexistent files were then backed up to tape. Things looked pretty bleak when a few days later one of the ex-data base administrators restored a database he called "prayer" and like an answered prayer it was the data we thought we had lost.

Until today I thought we had it bad; then I read about Alaska.

Dick Cheney Should Read This

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it."

Edward R. Murrow

Because You'll Believe Anything

I was shaving this morning, an activity I do only a few times a week. I have a beard and mustache and that allows me some flexibility in when I have to shave, so it isn't a daily occurrence. Anyway, today I was standing there holding a razor I first borrowed from my son and then later ended up getting one on my own. It's a Gillette Fusion, one of those bizarre looking five-bladed razors with a head the size of a Buick.

The first time I picked one up I thought, You've got to be kidding!, how can I shave with this monstrosity? It is not insubstantial and my first thought was that it was made solely for people without beards, 'cause this thing is going to be tough to maneuver around my face. But you know what? The damn thing gives me the smoothest shave I have ever had.

My only beef is that I feel like a fool using it. I remember when the Trac II razor, the first razor with more than one blade, first came out and the commercials they put out describing it. They said how the first blade pulls your hair and the second blade cuts it off and though it sounded sort of reasonable there was that Saturday Night Live commercial that had us all wondering. It went like this...

Triple-Trac

Announcer.....Andrew Duncan

Caveman.....Al Franken

[ FADE IN on a caveman on his knees by a river ]

Announcer (V/O): In the dawn of civilization, long before the Bronze Age, man first began his search for the close shave.

[ The caveman takes a club and hits himself in the face. DISSOLVE to the announcer speaking to the camera against a black background ]

Announcer: Since then, man has been ardently striding to design the perfect shaving instrument.

[ Shots of various razors are shown ]

Announcer (V/O): From the straight razor, to the safety razor, to the injector system, and finally the highly acclaimed twin-blade cartridge.

[ The announcer picks up a twin-blade and shows it to the camera ]

Announcer: Almost perfect, yet not quite the superlative groom. Introducing the Triple-Trac.

[ DISSOLVE to a close-up of the three-bladed Triple-Trac razor ]

Announcer (V/O): Not just two blades in one system, but three stainless, platinum teflex-coated blades melded together to form one incredible shaving cartridge, easily fitted into your old twin-blade holder. Triple-Trac's triple-threat cartridge, with more close shaves than ever before. Here's how it works.

[ DISSOLVE to a cartoon showing a how the Triple-Trac shaves a whisker ]

Announcer (V/O): The first blade grabs at the whisker, tugging it away from your face to protect it from the second blade.

[ The cartoon shows how the Triple-Trac yanks painfully at the whisker ]

Announcer (V/O): Blade number two catches and digs into the stubble before it has the chance to snap back and injure you, pulling it farther out so that it is now ready for shearing.

[ The cartoon shows an even more painful whisker-yanking ]

Announcer (V/O): Triple-Trac's third blade, a finely-honed bonded platinum instrument, cuts cleanly through the whisker at its base, leaving your face as smooth as a billiard ball.

[ Finally, the cartoon shows the Triple-Trac completely shaving the whisker ]

[ DISSOLVE back to the announcer against the black background, holding up a Triple-Trac ]

Announcer: The Triple-Trac. Because you'll believe anything.

[ FADE ]

Monday, March 19, 2007

To Sing Like a Canary

So another prisoner at Guantanamo confessed to being the mastermind of an attack against America. Whoop de fucking doo. This is the second confession we have heard about in as many weeks. Is there any real doubt in any one's mind that these "confessions" are being paraded out now only to try and get your mind off of Scooter Libby, Walter Reed Medical Center and Alberto Gonzales? Anybody that stupid?

What is a whole hell of a lot less clear is that these people who confessed actually did what they confessed to doing. Hell, you dunk my head underwater enough times and I will sing like a canary too; just tell me what I did and I'll agree with you.

I guess these faux confessions give Rush and Bill something to talk about so their listeners don't have to think about Scooter Libby, Walter Reed and Alberto Gonzales, and allows them to pretend that none of that is being done by the thugs they put into power.

Step Right Up!

"When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained."

Edward R Murrow

Lofty Ideas -- LA Times Style

Today's Los Angeles Times has a front page article on the issue of manufacturing-to-residence conversions. Seems I am not the only one with lofts on the brain. They mention the Biscuit Company Lofts, the Toy Factory Lofts and the Barker Block among others. The article concerns whether or not it is a good idea to get rid of so much manufacturing square footage in a city where vacancy rates for manufacturing is around 1%.

It's a valid question and there are good points to be made on both sides. As residences, the property is worth many times it's value as a manufacturing facility, but does this short-term boon for the owner offset the loss of jobs for the city?

I think the growth and development of new niche neighborhoods in what was until recently only a manufacturing district is worth nurturing if only from the standpoint of a sociological experiment, and I don't think I am the only one holding this opinion. The truth is there appears to be an awful lot of interest in being a part of one of these experimental neighborhoods. Many people seem very willing to spend a great deal of their money to join in.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Anniversay Some More!

"[General Petraeus] said, the other day, 'Any student of history recognizes there is no military solution in Iraq.' To which I would say, 'Then, general, what are you doing there?'"

Bill Maher

Lofty Ideas -- Part V

Last weekend my wife and I drove into downtown Los Angeles to participate in the Downtown Living 2007 Weekend. We have discussed moving to a loft in downtown LA and this was our opportunity to see what was available and get a glimpse at how it might fit in with our lifestyle. In Part I we looked at the Mosaic Apartments at Union Station and the Barker Block Lofts. In Part II we got off the event itinerary and visited the Molino Street Lofts, then back on the itinerary in Part III where we visited the Biscuit Company Lofts, a conversion of a 1925 Nabisco factory. Last time in Part IV we looked at the 2121 Lofts, our final stop in the Arts District. This time out, in our final look at lofts we will cover two spectacular properties, the Little Tokyo Lofts and 1010 Wilshire.

We left the Arts District and headed on the tram for downtown. Our first stop was in Little Tokyo at the appropriately named Little Tokyo Lofts. Somewhere between 1922 and 1930 the Westinghouse Electric Building was built (the precise year is lost) for the purpose of manufacturing elevators. Today the building is an apartment-to-lofts conversion, The property offers some amazing view lofts, with big, near floor to ceiling multi-paned windows that bring the city into your living space. Those on the front of the building afford a spectacular view of the downtown skyline (this could be changed in years to come by new construction, but for now the views are amazing). We were particularly taken with the corner lofts where the light just cascades into the living area.

Little Tokyo Lofts is not a pricey as you might think, but the amenities are actually few, limited to an enclosed courtyard in the center of the building and a small pool area, parking garage and very small dog run in the rear of the building. When this was an apartment building the tenants had some very nasty things to say about it. I don't know how many of those things were real and how many were disgruntled tenants facing forced displacement by the conversion.

Many complained of the location, right next to skid row, but you have to think they knew where the building was located before they moved in. If the location does not bother you and the lack of a gym is not a big turn-off, Little Tokyo offers some of the most warm and inviting living spaces that we viewed all day at a fairly affordable price.

By the time we left Little Tokyo we were really pressed for time. On the bus were overheard others talking about how 1010 Wilshire was their favorite, so we decided that would be our last stop. 1010 Wilshire is a 17-story office tower that is being converted into 250 luxury condos.

1010 had basically one model open, which they admitted had been constructed only hours before the door opened that day. Still, it was an impressive, ultra-modern two-story model that I found really appealing. It also didn't hurt that 1010 plied us with alcohol as we walked in. In the sales area they had a massive ice sculpture of the building surrounded by Skyy Vodka bottles and beautiful women handing out drinks, of which I partook of two or three myself (drinks, not the beautiful women). The sales office appeared to be a two-story two- or three- bedroom condo.

There are a number of floor-plans, with some special ones on the second or third floor that offer massive patio gardens that look to the south and the Staples Center area. The property also offers a pool on the roof that promises spectacular 18-story views of downtown Los Angeles from behind eight-feet-tall glass walls.

I think 1010 offers a more modern, creature comfort type of living than a lot of the places we looked at. Depending on what you are looking for and feel comfortable with that is either a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, I can't wait to see what this property looks like in six-months to a year from now. To me it holds much promise.

What we noted about all of the properties we looked at, was that they all would require a massive restructuring of our lifestyle to move in. We simply own too much stuff. We sometimes feel cramped in 3,000 square feet and five bedrooms. We both enjoy having our own private offices and work area and how much sacrifice are we willing to accept? I guess that is the question we as a couple need to look at in the next few years because something about every one of these properties excited us. Can we make that change from sprawling suburbanites to more pared-down city dwellers? I don't know, but we certainly have a lot to ponder between now and my retirement date.

No matter what we choose, the future will be exciting.

Are manufacturing to residence conversions even a good idea for Los Angeles?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Anniversay!

Four years ago everything our country has represented for more than 200 years was thrown under a bus by the only man ever appointed to run this country, a pompous, posturing ignoramus who has problems forming a coherent sentence and should never have been allowed access to the White House men's room, let alone the oval office. In those four years we have lost our friends in the world and our credibility as a responsible member of this planet's governments. So great is the damage that, as a country, we may never be trusted again.

God these people make me sick to my stomach.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Lofty Ideas -- Part IV

This past weekend my wife and I drove into downtown Los Angeles to participate in the Downtown Living 2007 Weekend. We have discussed moving to a loft in downtown LA and this was our opportunity to see what was available and get a glimpse at how it might fit in with our lifestyle. In Part I we looked at the Mosaic Apartments at Union Station and the Barker Block Lofts. In Part II we got off the event itinerary and visited the Molino Street Lofts, then back on the itinerary in Part III where we visited the Biscuit Company Lofts, a conversion of a 1925 Nabisco factory. Today we discuss the 2121 Lofts, our final stop in the Arts District.

When we had begun looking at the event brochure the 2121 Lofts were the ones that excited us the most just by the description and when we got there externally they looked just as funky and livable as described. Then we stepped inside the complex of a dozen or so building grouped together as a single complex and we were even more excited. The vibes were Bohemian and free spirit and we got even more juiced.

The first model we entered was small and cramped and nothing really special. The second was two-stories (upper a real loft) with a winding cast-iron staircase for access. This one was much better and there were some things about it I really liked, but the price was not one of them. We left the model and went in search of the "oasis of authentic loft living" the brochure promised. 2121 is 78 artist lofts spread over 28,000 square feet of landscaped courtyards. We never saw the promised "folding glass walls, operable skylights, martini grove, herb garden, sundeck, spa or private dog park." In other words, what they promised they did not show or had not yet built. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement.

The restrooms were in two other unfurnished models, each with a beautiful arched glass window on one wall that were spectacular, so long as you did not look through them. Outside of the windows was the underside of an overpass or bridge, with graffiti, dumpsters and parked cars dominating the view. One of them had a beautiful glass secondary, private entrance, but the area outside it was fenced off in chain-link and pretty unattractive.

There was a third model that was pretty nice I thought, but not nice enough to offset the sour taste already in our mouths.

Dammit did I want to love these lofts and just could not bring myself to do it. They promised a lot and delivered little. They should have had a lot more models open to showcase at least some of the niceties in design that the brochure spoke of.

By now we were running out of time as the event ended for the day at 5:00 PM and we were getting perilously close to 4:00. With a heavy heart and lots of disappointment, we left 2121 and the Arts District and headed on into the city. We would only have time for two more stops. Next time out we will cover two spectacular properties, the Little Tokyo Lofts and 1010 Wilshire in Part V.

An Assessment of the Commander in Chief

"George Bush is losing a war to Arab teenagers."

Bill Maher

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Plastic Man #4

Plastic Man #4 (On Sale: March 16, 1967) has a cover drawn by Carmine Infantino and Mike Esposito.

The book-length "Dr. Dome's Dame of Doom" was written by the recently departed Arnold Drake (we miss you Arnold) and was drawn by Winslow Mortimer. In it, Dr. Dome hires Madam Merciless to bring Plastic Man under his control. The woman attempts to hypnotize Plas. Her first attempt fails, but Plastic Man plays along. After drugging Plas, Madam Merciless gets another chance to bring him under control with the help of her witch doctors.

Character Background (from Wikipedia)

Plastic Man (Patrick "Eel" O'Brian) is a comic-book superhero originally published by Quality Comics and later acquired by DC Comics. Created by writer-artist Jack Cole, he first appeared in Police Comics #1 (August 1941). Plastic Man's powers are derived from an accident in which his body was bathed in an unknown industrial chemical mixture that also entered into his bloodstream through a gunshot wound. This caused a body-wide mutagenic process that transformed his physiology.

Plastic Man can stretch his limbs and body to superhuman shapes, lengths and sizes, with flexibility and coordination extraordinarily beyond the natural limits of the human body. He can become entirely flat so that he can slip under a door, use his fingers to pick conventional locks, pose as inanimate objects such as vehicles or pieces of furniture, and disguise himself by changing the shape of his face. There is no known limit to how far he can stretch his body. The only limitation he has relates to color, which he cannot change without intense concentration, so he is usually limited to his trademark colour scheme of red, yellow, black and flesh-coloured.

One of Quality Comics' signature characters during the period historians and fans call the Golden Age of Comic Books, Plastic Man can stretch his body into any imaginable form. His adventures were known for their quirky, offbeat structure and surreal slapstick humor. When Quality Comics was shut down in 1956, DC Comics acquired many of its characters, integrating Plastic Man into the mainstream DC universe. The character has starred in several short-lived DC series (this being one of them), as well as a Saturday morning cartoon series in the early 1980s.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Evanier on Drake

Mark Evanier has a wonderful piece on his blog about the late Arnold Drake. Read it and get a feel for the genuine human being we lost last week. But also see what insight you get about Mark. I go to the San Diego Comic-Con every year to mostly sit in Room 8 and watch Mark Evanier bring out the best in the folks who created the comics of my youth. He does it with much style and wit and a whole mess of love.

Mark Evainer: the reason you should go to Comic-Con.

Lofty Ideas -- Part III

This past weekend my wife and I drove into downtown Los Angeles to participate in the Downtown Living 2007 Weekend. We have discussed moving to a loft in downtown LA and this was our opportunity to see what was available and get a glimpse at how it might fit in with our lifestyle. In Part I we looked at the Mosaic Apartments at Union Station and the Barker Block Lofts. In Part II we got off the event itinerary and visited the Molino Street Lofts. This time out we are back on track with a visit to the Biscuit Company Lofts, a conversion of a 1925 Nabisco factory that once made Fig Newtons.

Like the other lofts we have discussed so far, the Biscuit Company Lofts are in the Arts District of Los Angeles, in this case at 1850 E. Industrial Street, right across the street from the Toy Factory Lofts. They will join with the existing LACE Lofts and the soon to be built Mill Street Lofts to create a new community along Industrial Street. BCL is a product of Linear City LLC, the same group that put together the Toy Factory Lofts. In fact the sales office for BCL is across the street in the Toy Factory.

Like a few of the Lofts we saw, BCL threw together a single model loft for the event, but what a beauty. At almost 3,000 square feet and spread over three stories of the building with a private patio on the third floor that held a breathtaking view of the downtown skyline, it was a marvelous space. At 1.37 million it was more than we would think of spending, but it showcased the best that the building offers; one of the nicer of the 104 lofts in the project.

Sixty of the lofts will sell in the very affordable $395,000-$649,000 range (boy, ten years ago that would have never been deemed affordable) and they offer a number of unique floor-plans. Of all the projects we looked at, this was my wife's favorite and the one she feels the most attuned to. She bases this mainly off of the extensive floor-plans we picked up that day and the overall feel of the neighborhood. Another thing my wife liked is that Industrial Street will eventually be turned into a pedestrian zone, creating an urban piazza.

I too am very interested in seeing where the Biscuit Company Lofts and the community it is joining end up in a year or two or ten. This is a beautiful old building with a lot of character and charm and I will be watching to see where it goes.

After we stopped for a bite to eat at Royal Clayton's Restaurant and Bar in the Toy Factory Lofts we headed off for our last stop in the Arts District, the 2121 Lofts. More on this next time in Part IV.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Teen Titans #9

Teen Titans #9 (On Sale: March 14, 1967) has a Nick Cardy cover. Some nice Cardy figures are marred by the ever stupid Go-Go Checks, the child-like Robin bust in the logo and some lack-luster coloring. Within a few months Nick Cardy will explode on the covers and completely transform this book. One thing interesting on this cover is the showcasing of Kid Flash rather than Robin who was on the weekly Batman TV show. They wouldn't make this mistake often.

The book-length "The Big Beach Rumble" is by Bob Haney, Irv Novick and Nick Cardy. The Teen Titans are asked to help quell possible violence in the town of Baxter Beach, scene of the annual spring jamborees of two rival colleges. Robin challenges the destructive energies of both groups into buildings a stone jetty to prevent the beach from being slowly eroded away by the ocean, thus avoiding a riot between the two colleges and between the students and the local authorities. But when the submarine of Captain Tiger, a modern-day pirate, runs aground on the jetty, both the townsfolk and the Titans are helpless before the pirates' superior weaponry

Edited by George Kasdan.

Lofty Ideas -- Part II

This past weekend my wife and I drove into downtown Los Angeles to participate in the Downtown Living 2007 Weekend. We have discussed moving to a loft in downtown LA and this was our opportunity to see what was available and get a glimpse at how it might fit in with our lifestyle. In Part I we looked at the Mosaic Apartments at Union Station and the Barker Block Lofts. It was while awaiting the shuttle outside the Barker Block that we decided to wander across the street, off the event itinerary and visit the Molino Street Lofts.

Molino Street was the first loft conversion built by The KOR Group, the same company that is building the Barker Block across the street. Molino Street is two two-story buildings, 1920's warehouses, merged together as one complex of 91 lofts. It has a small weight room, a sun deck and a very nice rooftop pool and spa area. The building has a spectacular open atrium entryway featuring indoor palm trees and a beautiful wall of 90-year-old brick, and hallways wide enough to drive two fork-lifts down. Outdoor parking is on the roof or indoor parking can be purchased in a multi-story lot across the street. We looked at four units in Molino that ranged from the small to a very nice almost 2,000 square-foot beauty with private street-level patio and a wall of windows.

The Molino Lofts are all resales, some have been customized and some are pretty bare-boned. The area is currently pretty spartan, but with Barker Block and a new bar/restaurant going in a block or two away, the area is becoming a community. That's one of the things that excites me about a number of these loft conversions is the idea of being in on the creation of new communities in the middle of Los Angeles. And since the idea of loft living is that of shared work/living space I think that opens up the possibility of a unique communal structure to the neighborhood.

Next time we will be back on the itinerary and looking at the National Biscuit Company Lofts, once known for Fig Newtons, now a beautiful new loft conversion. That's in Part III.

Delp Also a Suicide

Brad Delp's family has let it be known that like Richard Jeni, Brad also took his own life. "He was a man who gave all he had to give to everyone around him, whether family, friends, fans or strangers," the family said in a statement relayed by police Wednesday. "He gave as long as he could, as best he could, and he was very tired. We take comfort in knowing that he is now, at last, at peace."

I'm wondering why this doesn't move me more, why I don't feel more compassion for Brad than I do. I don't think it is because it follows so closely on the heels of the Richard Jeni revelation. It is not completely unknown for famous people to kill themselves. Hell, I remember Freddy Prinze. Maybe it's because unlike the statement from Jeni's family, this one did not speak of diagnosed illness. I know that doesn't mean it wasn't there, but the lack of those words lends the Delp family statement a different flavor and speaks to me of a man who had simply given up.

Maybe that's a harsh assessment on my part; I don't know.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jeni a Suicide

A lot of people have been speculating with regards to the death of Richard Jeni, Today his family put that speculation to rest. This was a tragic end for a very funny man, who was apparently, also very ill.

He will be missed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lofty Ideas -- Part I

This past weekend my wife and I drove into downtown Los Angeles to participate in the Downtown Living 2007 Weekend. We have these constant ongoing discussions about what we should do when I retire. Do we need the big house in La Verne, or do we want to try something totally different? One option we have discussed is moving to a loft in downtown LA. It would give me a vibrant location from which to paint and write and it would force us into a downsizing of our possessions which is probably much needed. We both tend to be pack rats of one form or another. The event this past weekend afforded us the opportunity to see what was available and get a glimpse at how it might fit in with our lifestyle.

We took advantage of the trams provided by the event that took you from place to place with ease. Our first stop was Mosaic. Mosaic is not a development of retrofitted lofts, but rather new apartments. If the number one rule of real estate is "location, location, location," then Mosaic has nothing to worry about. What they lack in funk-appeal they more than make up for in location and amenities. Mosaic consists of 272 apartments located at historic Union Station, the public transportation hub of Los Angeles and directly across the street from Olvera Street and El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the 1781 birthplace of the City of Los Angeles.

Mosaic has wonderful, actually superior, common amenities (a huge gym and weight room with dry saunas, pool room, Internet cafes, pool, etc.), an amazing and historic location and a plethora of interesting floor plans. We were really impressed by Mosaic, even though it was not what we came looking for, it offers something else and we found it exciting

Our next stop was the Barker Block. This was more what we were looking for; as their literature describes: 297 one-of-a-kind residential live/work loft spaces from 738 to 2,971 square feet. The Barker Block is being reclaimed from O.T. Barker’s original manufacturing plant and warehouse complex, a new community springing to life in a true manufacturing-to-residential conversion.

They only had two models to show and they had obviously thrown them together in the past few days. Both were two story with a loft above the lower main floor, but the stairs to the loft area had not been put in yet, so our perusal was relegated to the main floor only. But even so you could get the feel of the place. I liked them a lot, my wife thought they were too dark and gloomy. It is hard to tell when you are looking at basically slabs of concrete. I have a felling the 7th floor, which appears to have large skylights in some units will be absolutely amazing, but Barker Block is very much a work in very early progress. I want to go back some time in maybe six months to a year and see what is developing there. I think it might be very special.

Next we left the events itinerary and wandered across the street from the Barker Block to an already completed loft development. More on that next time in Part II!

Arnold Drake has Died

Mark Evanier is reporting what we all hoped we would not hear, that Arnold Drake, the creator of Deadman, the Doom Patrol and Stanley and his Monster and the writer of hundreds of other comic stories, died this morning. As I wrote here and here, Arnold had collapsed in his home a few days after attending the New York Comic Convention. It was reported that he was improving, but at Arnold's age we all knew that that might not be quite true or that his recovery might not be long-lasting.

I'm sure Mark and others will have much more to say about Arnold in the days to come. All I can say is that the few times I saw him at the SDCC, I was touched by his energy and drive. I will certainly miss him at this year's con. As he often does, Mark put it so very well:

Arnold was one of my favorite comic book writers of all time. Much of his early work was uncredited and I was delighted, as I learned more about who'd written what, to find him as the common thread among some of the best comics DC produced in the sixties. (The Showcase issues of Tommy Tomorrow are especially brilliant, and they were written by Arnold.) I was privileged to get to know Arnold and to spend many a convention panel and telephone conversation, hearing him discourse on his favorite subject in the world, which was creativity. At the time of his death, he had several projects in the work and the urge to write something wonderful was undiminished. We are all a little worse off that Arnold isn't writing and I can't begin to measure what those of us who considered him a good friend have lost.

You can read all of Mark's thoughts on his excellent blog.

Lying Sack Strikes Again

That lying sack of shit, Dick Cheney, has once again besmirched the name of anyone who apposes him. "When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called 'slow bleeding,' they are not supporting the troops, they are undermining them," Cheney said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

What the Dick fails to say is that Republicans are the only ones who have ever called it a 'slow bleed' strategy. They made the phrase up, then lied and said that Democrats were the ones using it. For the Dick to continue to use it, shows how out of touch with reality he is. Of course he is the idiot who told us all how the insurgents were in their last throes. This guy just makes shit up, throws it at the wall of right-wing TV and sees what sticks. God let's send this cretin to jail where he belongs.

I'm in no mood to listen to this lying sack of shit anymore.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

More Than A Feeling

Brad Delp, the lead singer for the band Boston, was found dead Friday in his home in southern New Hampshire. He was 55. I remember the huge impact that that first self-titled Boston album had. Everyone had a copy and everyone wore out the copy they had. Though I was a big fan I didn't see Boston live till 2004.

The Los Angeles CBS oldies rock station was know as Arrow and they had these great yearly concerts called Arrowfest. The last one was in 2004 (the next year the station went from being Arrow to being Jack and I think they are a little worried about how people might react at something called a Jackfest).

I took my son, a friend from work and his friend. The concert lasted somewhere between ten and twelve hours as we slowly worked our way through The Edgar Winter Group, .38 Special, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Styx, REO Speedwagon and finally Boston. Everyone played mostly their hits, in particular, Styx and REO were solid hits, one after the other. They were awesome, playing extended sets. It was maybe 10 or 11:00 PM before Boston took the stage. Everyone was, first, pumped up by the last two acts and second, tired as hell. Burnout was beginning to set in.

Boston opened with something I had never heard of before and followed it with something else I had never heard of. I think More Than a Feeling or Long Time was the next song, and whichever it was, it was spectacular. But it was followed by another song no one knew and these were not just short little ditties, they were long songs, with what appeared to be a lot of improvisation and jamming. Normally these are two things I have no problem with, but after ten or eleven hours I was tired. We all were tired and most didn't have the patience for what Boston was playing. My son wanted to go, I wanted to go, eventually my friend from work wanted to go but his friend didn't and we finally had to force the issue.

I know we heard both More Than a Feeling and Long Time, but I don't think I knew any other song they played in the hour or so we listened before leaving. I felt bad about leaving in the middle of their set, but they should have read the crowd better and adjusted to the long day we had all spent in the hot California sun.

I told my son that the next time they played we would go see them and hopefully be in a frame of mind to appreciate what they were trying to do. With Brad's death I have more than a feeling that this will never happen.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Or Perhaps an Exorcist Would Work

Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, according to the AP.

We should hire these guys to purify the Constitution after Bush leaves. Lord knows he's defiled it enough.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Adventures of Jerry Lewis #100

Adventures of Jerry Lewis #100 (On Sale: March 9, 1967) has a cover by the late, great Bob Oksner (who died just last month). I saw Bob a couple of times at Mark Evanier panels at the San Diego Comic-Con over the years and I don't think there was a nicer guy in comics.

Inside we have our cover story "A-Haunting We Will Go!" once again written by the recovering genius Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner. Continuing the further mis-adventures at that training center for demon damsels, "The Little Bo-Peep School for Girls".

Rounding out the book are Jerry Lewis Gallery of Art Messterpieces pin-up also by Bob Oksner featuring Jerry as the Mona Lisa and Bat-Jokes for Jerry featuring reader submitter Batman jokes.

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis started life as "The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis" and ran under that title for 40 issues, from 1952 to 1957. After Martin and Lewis broke up the magazine continued as "The Adventures of Jerry Lewis."

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hypocrite of the Year

When you talk about Republicans and hypocrisy, it is hard to believe you will hear anything new. The Republican party is the bastion of blatant hypocrisy, but sometimes the gross excess of it all surprises me. Stupid me for having any faith in Republicans.

You think you have heard and seen it all and then a slime like Newt Gingrich once again rears his foul head. Gingrich was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group (is there really any other kind anymore?).

Yeah, this is the party of morals. They believe you should be forced to have them and they should be allowed to do whatever they wish.

A Ruling on Judges?

"Personally I would like to see all judges and district attorneys made to do some time. Not for the crimes they commit from the bench. For those they commit out of ignorance. Which is precisely why time in prison should be part of their qualifications. So that they might come to know what they don't know they don't know. "

Lee Stringer

Glass Wall Up High

I couldn't help but notice that the Hualapai Indian tribe, which has built the glass bridge 4,000 feet over the Grand Canyon, is pronounced WALL-uh-pie, or perhaps WALL-up-high?

Coincidence? I think not so.

For those interested, it opens this month.