Monday, April 30, 2007

Your "War On Terror" Tax Dollars At Work!

Another negative result brought to you by President Shit-For-Brains.

WASHINGTON - Terrorist attacks worldwide shot up more than 25 percent last year, killing 40 percent more people than in 2005, particularly in Iraq where extremists used chemical weapons and suicide bombers to target crowds, the State Department said Monday.
You're doing a heck of job there Bushie!

Ugly Poker, but Great TV

I mentioned a while back that almost ten years ago I started a poker game in my neighborhood. A couple of things I failed to mention at that time is the overly conservative nature of the neighborhood I live in. In 2000 and 2004 this caused some problems during the poker gettogethers as I was one of the few liberal voices in the neighborhood and, being mindless Republicans, my neighbors talked a lot about how liberals had no ideas and how they had taken over the country and would own it forever.

As you might guess, over the years, as the true horror of President Shit-For-Brains has become evident, there is not a lot of political talk at the games anymore, mainly because I don't want to rub their faces in what jackasses they have been in the past. Well, the calm was broken at last week's game, and god did it get messy.

It started when I was talking to a neighbor about the weather. All of a sudden another neighbor at the table started talking about how "the next thing you know the liberals will be blaming all the weather on global warming." Then a guy from another table comes running into the room yelling, "I'm Al Gore and I know everything!" and then they both started laughing. I said, "Jerry, global warming is nothing to laugh about."

"There is no such thing as global warming. Al Gore invented it for his movie!"

How do you respond to such nonsense? How would you? I did rather poorly, I said, "Jerry, you are joking, right? I mean you'd have to be an idiot to believe what you just said." OK, calling my neighbor an idiot was most likely not the best approach I could have taken, but I really believed at that moment that he was pulling my leg. No one can be that stupid, right? Wrong! Since I had already called him an idiot, there was no positive place this was going to go. But I had some assistance, someone trying to pull this back into a discussion.

Sitting next to Jerry was Gilbert Ivey, another neighbor. Gilbert is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles and a heck of a nice guy. He brought a calming voice of reason to the table, "Jerry, I'm in charge of seeing to it, that when 17 million people turn on their faucets, water comes out. That's my job and to keep the water flowing we look at all the scientific information we can on any subject that could possibly affect the supply of water, including the weather and the climate. Jerry, let me tell you, global warming is very real, I stake my job on it."

"No it's not," replies Jerry and off we went again. For the next 10 to 15 minutes Jerry argued the wrong side of just about every issue you could imagine, including he still believes that there were WMDs in Iraq, we just didn't find them because they were sent to Syria (something for which there are no facts to support, but that won't stop Jerry).

And on this issue I wish Jerry could have seen the Bill Moyers' Journal that was TiVoing at my house even as our nastiness was occurring at the poker table.

"Buying the War" detailed how the Iraq War was "sold" to the American people and how most of the press went along with it. I say "most" because a great deal of the show looked at the Knight-Ridder news service and how a number of reporters there never believed any of it and wrote story after story of how the administration was plain lying to the American people. But without an outlet in Washington or New York, the Knight-Ridder stories were pretty much ignored by the more "mainstream" press.

If you didn't TiVo it, you can watch all one and a half hours of this amazing show online at the PBS website. I think you will find it well worth your time.

The Erotic Art of Bob Oksner -- Part I

A few months ago we lost comic book artist Bob Oksner, who was a mainstay at DC Comics from 1947 till his retirement in the late 1980s. Oksner began his career in comic books in either 1939 or 1940 and by 1942 was working directly for Timely (Marvel) drawing The Destroyer and Marvel Boy. In 1945, he began drawing a syndicated newspaper strip, Miss Cairo Jones, which lasted until 1947.

After that he was invited to work for DC and never left. He started on the Black Canary and other strips featuring pretty ladies, something Bob was a master at drawing, and soon moved on to the DC humor features, especially ones based on licensed properties. Oksner did great caricatures and that made him the perfect choice for books like The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and the book it eventually became, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. He also drew Sgt. Bilko, Doberman, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Pat Boone and The Adventures of Bob Hope. Oksner also worked on many of the DC humor titles, like Leave it to Binky, Miss Beverly Hills, A Date With Judy and Arnold Drake's Stanley and His Monster. Bob was the artist and co-creator of the short-lived, but much loved, The Angel and the Ape series in the late sixties. Oksner received the National Cartoonists Society Award in its Comic Book Division for 1960 and 1961 and won the Shazam Award in 1970 for Best Pencil Artist (Humor Division).

When DC didn't have humor work for him, he did romance tales for Girl's Love Stories and other such comics. Later, when both the humor and the romance comics died, Oksner worked on Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Lois Lane and other adventure-type strips, especially those featuring heroines. He also worked as Curt Swan's inker on Superman and drew a number of Superman stories on his own and illustrated many classic covers.

It is a couple of these covers that I want to direct your attention to. Oksner drew a couple of classic Supergirl covers that drew heavily on his years in the humor line.

These two Oksner Supergirl covers are infamous. The first is from Adventure Comics #420 and it was published 35 years ago. Now some people look at this cover and see Supergirl tossing a cannon, others see something else entirely. You might call this one "Walk Softly and Carry a Big Dick." It even has testicles and something white shooting out of the head. The real genius of Bob Oksner is that he not only got this thing past the editor, he got it past the prissy Comics Code Authority.

Next time we will look at a much more subtle cover by Bob, but one that he said he waited years to get past the editors and the CCA. Look for The Erotic Art of Bob Oksner -- Part II tomorrow.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Grizzly Attack

Today's Los Angeles Times has the first part of a two-part series of absolutely harrowing events, the first-hand account of a grizzly bear attack in Glacier National Park. A father places himself between the bear and his teenage daughter and pays a horrible price. This first part is absolutely gripping and well worth the read. A hike into horror indeed.

The LA Times site is also one of the slowest on the Internet. I don't know what they are thinking. Believe me, the story is worth the wait, but my wait to get the link was almost five minutes. No excuse for such a long wait.

You Gotta Love Harry Reid

You gotta love Harry Reid this past week. He spoke the way Democrats should be speaking all the time.

When Cheney challenged the motives of Congressional Democrats on Tuesday, Reid fired back, “The president sends out his attack dog often. That’s also known as Dick Cheney.”

Reid also said he was not going to engage in a tit-for-tat with the vice president. “I’m not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody who has a 9 percent approval rating.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Strange Adventures #201

Strange Adventures #201 (On Sale: April 27, 1967) has a great Carmine Infantino and George Roussos Animal Man cover. What sells better than an purple gorilla? How about a purple gorilla in a black and white pen-striped suit and polka-dot tie? I love the colors on this one too: purple, green and orange.

Inside we have "The Cackling Conjurer" drawn by Bernard Baily. The Animal Man story is the second feature. "The Mod Gorilla Boss" is drawn by Jack Sparling. In it Buddy witnesses a robbery committed by a gang whose leader appears to be a gorilla. Buddy tries to stop the robbery as Animal-Man, but he can't absorb the gorilla's strength. After a pair of battles with the gorilla boss, Animal-Man is captured and locked up.

Edited by Jack Schiff.

This is the last issue of Strange Adventures with the original logo. It lasted unchanged for seventeen years, while the new logo, to be unveiled next issue, will last a year and a half. The problem with some books cannot be corrected by changing the logo. For years Strange Adventures had been the home of odd-ball science fiction stories and third-rate heroes like Immortal Man and Animal Man. In four months it would premiere a strip that would change the look of comic super-heroes forever, though it still would not garner any sales.

Debatable Outcome

Well, the first Democratic debate is history and not surprisingly, there were no death blows landed. But the race became clearer or muddier depending on how you look at it.

Surprisingly, I thought Sen. Joe Biden did rather well and maybe that is because I wasn't expecting much, but he was far more articulate than most of the others. He also had specific plans for Iraq (something Republicans try to harp on Democrats for not having), joked about his own foibles and seemed to be having a great time on stage. The country could do far worse than Joe Biden (like Shit-For-Brains for example).

I was very interested in hearing from Gov. Richardson and was rather surprised at how poorly he held himself. He seemed agitated and a little pushy. He was the only one who repeatedly violated the time limits (I think only once did he not violate them) and if you can't keep a simple rule like that when everyone else in the debate can, I don't have a lot of faith in you keeping your word on things that might really matter. I think he hurt his already slim chances by his showing here.

Sen. Dodd make a few good points. Though he didn't show me a lot of charisma, he did nothing to hurt himself. That is not enough to turn his slim chances into anything, but it does allow him to fight another day and unlike Richardson, he is no worse off than he was when the debate started.

Congressman Kucinich made some points but near the end he was not doing himself any favors. Dennis is a good man with his heart in the right place, but he appears weak on national security and defense and that is the death knell to a campaign right now.

Mike Gravel of Alaska made a lot of good points, but he didn't come off as a serious candidate as he is somewhat of a loose cannon. He did come the closest of anyone to firing a shot at the other candidates.

John Edwards did pretty well until the last question, were he seemed to stumble a bit. I like Edwards and was hoping for a better showing as I think if he keeps on message he could be the dark horse who takes home the nomination. For that to happen he will have to do better than he did last night.

I thought Sen. Clinton started off well but seemed a little flat as the debate wore on. She certainly did nothing to hurt her chances and as the front runner maybe, for now, that can be considered a "win"for her.

Sen. Obama did real well. He was focused and articulate and unlike Clinton, did not seem to lose steam as the debate wore on.

I think Obama and Clinton stayed about the same, Biden gained some momentum, Edwards lost a little, Kucinich and Richardson lost a lot and Dodd and Gravel gained a smidgen. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

One Look Would Have Told You That!

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the results of a study today, which says that intelligence has nothing to do with wealth, that people with below average smarts were just as wealthy as those with higher IQ scores.

Duh, one look would have told you that!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Let the Squirming Begin!

So Monica Goodling, the only member of the Justice Department to ever plead the Fifth has been granted immunity for her testimony regarding the Gonzales Eight. The only fear I have is that Monica Goodling is one of those Pat Robertson Law School graduates who have infested the Bush administration. As such, I don't know if I would trust her to tell the truth even under oath. However, one positive sign is that the only members of the House Judiciary Committee to vote against giving her immunity were all Republicans. Let the squirming begin!

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- World's Finest Comics #167

World's Finest Comics #167 (On Sale: April 25, 1967) has an interesting Curt Swan and George Klein cover. I bought this one used a few months later, 'cause who could resist this cover?

Inside we have the cover story "The New Superman and Batman Team." This is writer Cary Bates' first full story (he sold some plots earlier that were scripted by Ed Hamilton) and it is a doozy, drawn by Curt Swan and George Klein. This story is an imaginary story, which was DCs way of doing stories that did not take place in the "real" world of DC Comics, and may be the only Superman-Batman World's Finest issue without Bruce Wayne. "How can you have a Batman story without Bruce" you ask? Take a look.

Jor-El sends his son Kal-El to Earth as Krypton is destroyed. On the trip to Earth Kal-El's rocket passes a Gold Kryptonite meteor which removes his super powers permanently. Kal-El then lands on Earth, is found by the Kents, and named Clark Kent.

Clark grows up in Smallville and becomes friends with genius Lex Luthor. While Clark doesn't possess powers, Luthor creates a serum to give himself powers and becomes Superboy. Meanwhile, the Kents are killed by a hoodlum. Clark vows vengeance and is sent to live with his uncle Kendall in Gotham City where he eventually grows up to become Batman.

Luthor later moves to Metropolis and becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet. He also continues his career as Superman. On a case involving Brainiac, Superman and Batman join forces, then discover each others secret identities.

In his personal life Clark meets and falls for Lois Lane. The two marry, then Clark shares his secret identity with Lois. When Supergirl lands on Earth Lois and Clark agree to adopt her and she becomes Linda Kent.

Still later, Toyman battles Superman, Batman, and Supergirl. During the fight Batman succumbs to one of Toyman's weapons which reacts with the Gold Kryptonite poisoning from Kal-El's infancy. Clark then learns of his Kryptonian heritage. This was reprinted in Best of DC #19.

Jack Selegue over on the DC History list mentions that by today's standards this much plot would require at least a six-issue mini-series, but Bates packs it into one neat little package. How economical is the scripting? There is room for a back-up story!

And what an odd choice for a back-up story in a Superman/Batman book: "The Three Prophecies" is a Jack Kirby reprint from House of Secrets #3.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Roger and Me

As Bev Kennedy pointed out this morning on the Tony Isabella Board, Roger Ebert has written a piece for the Chicago Sun Times today on Roger Ebert. In it he discusses just how ill he has been, how bad it has gotten and how he is finally starting to improve. He also talks about how badly he looks, how unable he is to speak, but how well his mind and his typing fingers still work. The piece also contains an almost unrecognizable picture of what Roger currently looks like, which a lot of people seem to be making a big deal of. I'm just glad Roger is still with us no matter how he looks.

This all reminded me of the time I met Roger at a book signing, which I talked about here. He was as much a delight in person as he is on TV and I can't wait to see him back on the tube just as soon as he is able.

Kryptonite found in Serbia!

Geologists in Serbia have discovered Kryptonite. The new mineral shares virtually the same chemical composition as the fictional kryptonite from outer space, used by the superhero's nemesis Lex Luther to weaken him in the film "Superman Returns." The Reuters story continues:

"We will have to be careful with it -- we wouldn't want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!," said Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.

Stanley, who revealed the identity of the mysterious new mineral, discovered the match after searching the Internet for its chemical formula - sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide.

"I was amazed to discover that same scientific name written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther from a museum in the film Superman Returns," he said.

The substance has been confirmed as a new mineral after tests by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the National Research Council in Canada.

But instead of the large green crystals in Superman comics, the real thing is a white, powdery substance which contains no fluorine and is non-radioactive.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Beer is Extra

We've all read by now of the New York restaurant that is selling the $1,000 pizza. The best thing about this story was Bill Maher's take on it. On a recent episode of Real Time Bill quiped, "Interestingly that's the same price Halliburton charges the troops in Iraq."

I would be funnier if it wasn't true.

All and All

What is the deal with President Shit-For-Brains and walls? It seems to be his answer for every problem. Immigrants running across the Mexican-US border? Build a wall. Sunnis killing Shiites and vice versa, build a wall between them. At least someone in the world still has some common sense. What is Halliburton going to do now for extra cash?

Remember when this country opposed walls that separated people? "I don't think we're in Camelot anymore, Toto!"

I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was the President of the United States and a man who appealed to the good in people. Shit-For-Brains, you're no Jack Kennedy.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Young Young

Neil Young's Live At Massey Hall 1971 CD is a wonderful peek back in time, when a young Young was bursting with creativity. This is Young a few years removed from the defunct Buffalo Springfield (my first concert at the age of 11 was the farewell tour of Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Buffalo Springfield) and is an acoustical wonder.

Many of the seventeen songs were, at that time, unreleased, including "Old Man," "There's a World," "A Man Needs a Maid, " "Heart of Gold" and "The Needle and the Damage Done." Though much of the concert and CD point knowingly to the future, it opens and closes with two Buffalo Springfield songs. The first track is a dynamite version of "On the Way Home" sung with that incredible sweet and pure voice Young possessed when he was 25, and the ending second ovation is "I am a Child."

I like the way these two looks back wrap around the "Harvest" to come and the acoustic versions of Crazy Horse hits like "Cowgirls in the Sand" and "Down by the River." Young also does a wonderful version of his political anthem "Ohio."

The quality of the live recording is amazingly clear and rich as Neil moves back and forth from guitar to piano. His intros to some of the songs are illuminating, particularly "Old Man" and "The Needle and the Damage Done." This is one of the best "live" CDs in my collection and well worth adding to yours.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vonnegut on Shit-For-Brains

"The overwhelming popularity of President Bush, in spite of everything, finally shows us what the American people, whom we have so sentimentalized for so long, a la Norman Rockwell, really are, thanks to TV and purposely lousy public schools: ignorant. Count on it!"

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Friday, April 20, 2007

La Verne Makes the News

I recently wrote about how my city of La Verne was not known for much of anything. Well, we made the news a couple of times today.

Due to what police called "a threat of violence," Bonita High School in La Verne was kept closed Friday as authorities sought a 17- year-old student who disappeared along with some firearms that were kept at his home, officials said.

The Dreamer of Muscoy and Astral Projection -- Part IV

Last time out when we talked about astral projection and Douglas Q. McMasters, the Dreamer of Muscoy, we covered the silver thread that Jack noticed connected his astral body to his physical body and Doug talked about the properties of the thread and how if it were to be broken an astral body would not be able to return to its physical body. Jack found this concept more than a little bothersome. As Jack began to explore being out of his body, he became more aware of his limitations.

"When I left my body and went out into the bowling pin, Doug wanted to know all about it. Through his questioning, I was able to describe being a point of consciousness. I assumed I was in the bowling pin, but had no sensation of being there except the angle and distance were right for it being where 'I' was.

"I was aware, but did not seem to have thought. I did not think, 'I’ve done it! I’m out of my body!' I just looked at my body sitting on a stool, eyes closed as if asleep, and it freaked me out and just like that I was back. I returned to my body with a start, a jerk, as if waking up from dozing off when you weren’t supposed to be dozing – like when driving. I jerked back and pulled the bowling pin over." This was only a temporary condition, "Later, on subsequent journeys outside, I was not startled unless presented something completely alien and unexpected. If I had done it before or it seemed natural, I just accepted it."

Jack began to take inventory of his senses while in his astral body, "I could hear, but what I heard did not have any meaning to me. Or rather it had meaning but I did not care. I could hear the bowling balls knocking down the pins outside the room we were in, but I didn’t think about what I was hearing. Doug wanted me to trace the sounds back to their origin – to become the bowling pin being hit by the ball and knocked into other pins, to make the sounds I was hearing by interacting with the scene. I never could do this the way he wanted me to, but I could trace sounds back to their origin. I just couldn’t become a dynamic part of the sounds’ creation."

Jack noticed an expanded sense of sight, "I could see, with focused sight as if my eyes were seeing. I could look at my physical self and I could turn and look at (his friend) Buzzy. Doug wanted me to try seeing both at the same time – to defocus and see panoramically. Interestingly, this was not difficult to do. When out there, all I had to do was want to do it. If I wanted to see Buzzy, I turned and saw him, but if I wanted to see both of us at once, my vision just widened and curved and I saw us both at once, as if I had eyes in the front and side of my head at the same time."

While at first trapped inside the bowling pin, Jack slowly learned to move his astral body around the room he was in; sometimes with unexpected consequences, "I could move. Buzzy was talking on the phone to a girl and I just kind of drifted over to the phone and went into the mouthpiece and suddenly I was in a bedroom looking at a girl on a bed talking on a phone. It wasn’t who I though Buzzy was talking to and in fact may not have been the right person, but seeing a stranger was so unexpected that it brought me back with a jerk."

With practice Jack was able to move from the room by means other than the telephone, "But I wanted to really move around and found this to be difficult. I managed to float over to the Big M, to San Bernardino High School, and to the Orange Show Stadium, but could not “fly” around town like I had set out to do."

Jack found locomotion of his astral self to be rather hit and miss, "I once slipped out of my body and was instantly a dozen miles away in my bedroom, but when I tried to move around the house I snapped back into my body. I thought I should be able to project myself onto the moon, but could not. I did end up a couple of times at places I did not know, with people I did not know, and had no idea why or how I ended up at these places."

Nirvana Smirvana!

Doug kept pressing Jack to go even farther, "Doug wanted me to expand my consciousness, to become more than the bowling pin, more than the room housing my body, more than the point of view that moved around observing things. Doug wanted me to do two things. First, he wanted me to become other than myself. For example, he thought I could become a tree if I really tried, feeling what the tree felt and possessing the consciousness of the tree. I never could do that. I could never become anything other than who and what I was. Second, Doug wanted me to dilute myself, to expand my consciousness so wide and so broad that I became one with the entire universe. This, he promised, would be blissful. This was the way to achieve Nirvana."

Doug told Jack that he thought "you could achieve Nirvana while still on earth. Buddha did it. The secret was being able to leave all worldly possessions behind. They only way he knew how to do this was to leave your body and become an astral being without self. You shed the self by becoming other-than-self, and when you had experienced life as many other-than-self you then diluted your consciousness by becoming more and more than yourself, by becoming one with more and more until you are one with everything. Doug called this 'integration.'”

Jack had problems with this, "I could not integrate. Doug said it would take time – perhaps a lifetime – but once I reached this state I would understand everything and would not want to come back. The physical world would hold no promise for me and I would just break the thread and stay out there." When first confronted with the idea of accidentally breaking the thread, Jack had become cautious, but doing it on purpose? Willingly? This really bothered Jack.

"Well hey, this is pretty scary stuff to be laying on a 17-18 year-old kid. I didn’t want to be 'out there.' I wanted to be right here on Earth, enjoying the sensations of the flesh. So I asked him, if it was so blissful, why he came back. And he said, 'I’ve never been able to integrate either.'

Well, I didn’t mind doing things that Doug knew about, but I didn’t want to be breaking new ground – especially if you could get stuck out there."

And that ended Jack's student-guru relationship with Doug on metaphysics. Doug was an amazing guy, with a number of unusual talents. Scaring the shit out of a teenager just happened to be one of them.

EVOL Seltaeb

Most days I listen to my Sirius satellite radio while working. It is either tuned to Howard Stern or my favorite station, Classic Vinyl. But it seems that once a day I have trouble connecting to the Sirius satellite. My radio will pick up and then lose the signal over an over. The satellite might be too low in the horizon at this time, but whatever the cause, I have to stop listening for a while.

When that happens I put a CD into my computer and listen to that. Lately the CD of choice has been the brilliant Beatles LOVE CD. If you don't own this you should. It is a remixed mash-up of different Beatles' songs produced by George Martin and his son for the Cirque Du Soleil show of the same name playing Las Vegas. I really do enjoy every track on this CD, but one of my favorites, at least this week, is Gnik Nus. Gnik Nus is of course Sun King spelled and played backwards. It has this haunting, "other world" quality to it that I actually find rather comforting right now.

Gnik Nus is good stuff!

Mauser in the Gutters!

Christopher Mills has a special treat at his Guns in the Gutters blog today. With the full permission of the creators, he is running the entire, little-seen Michael Mauser, Private Eye story, "Blue Ice," from 1982.

The story was one of the first published works of artist Rick Burchett (Batman Adventures, Batman/Huntress, She-Hulk, Gravedigger) and originally appeared in Charlton Bullseye #6. Rick both wrote and drew it, and it has never been reprinted.

I've been a fan of Nick Cuti and Joe Staton's Mike Mauser since the character first saw the light of day as a back-up feature in Charlton's E-Man and Vengence Squad and I never read this story. A great treat for all.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Heart Throbs #108

Heart Throbs #108 (On Sale: April 20, 1967) has a very nice cover by Jay Scott Pike, doing his best Stan Drake impersonation (it's a month too early to be doing his best Neal Adams impersonation).

Information on romance comics is always sketchy at best. Most collectors are guys and guys didn't buy romance comics (though I have to say looking at the art on some of these covers, we all may have missed out). Jay Scott Pike was a staple of the DC romance books for most of the 1960s. He employed a number of styles, but this one, his Stan Drake, is one of my favorites.

Inside we begin with "How Do You Say, 'I Don't Love You Anymore'?" drawn by Manny Stallman, followed by "A Kiss from a Stranger" penciled by Jay Scott Pike and reprinted from Heart Throbs #54. Lastly is our cover story "3 Girls -- Their Lives...Their Loves, Episode 7" another strip drawn by Jay Scott Pike.

The "3 Girls" strip was part of a 25-part story that followed the love lives of three Manhattan ladies sharing an apartment (and men), one of the "soap opera" continuation strips that were added to two of the DC romance books in the mid 1960s in an attempt to boost sales. The other, "Reach for Happiness" ran in the pages of Secret Hearts. They all lasted about two years and since they were never tried again, I would guess that the sales were not very impacted by the "soaps"

Edited by Barbara Friedlander.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

But We Really Really Mean it This Time!

The AP is reporting that "Defense Secretary Robert Gates slipped into Iraq Thursday to warn Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment to a military buildup there is not open-ended." This is the 72nd time this year Iraq has been warned that the "clock is ticking."

When met with mild derision and intermittent giggling, Gates told the Iraqis that this time we, "really, really, really, really mean it!" Gates later told reporters, "Well if that don't get their asses moving, I don't know what will." How about withdrawing troops instead of sending more? How about sending them a bill for policing their people during their little civil war? Hey, here's an idea, how about leaving?

Happiest Place On Earth?

Now I know Disneyland is called the "Happiest Place On Earth," but for a lot of people it is missing one ingredient that would assist greatly in making the slogan a reality.

Having gone to Disneyland off and on all my life I never really noticed the problem, but when I took my nephew Jeff there a dozen or so years ago, he noticed it immediately. He was on a break between Marine boot camp down in San Diego and going wherever he was to be stationed and came by to see my wife and me. He wanted to go to Disneyland for the first time and so I took a day off to show him the ropes of the Magic Kingdom.

We were there a couple of hours when we got hungry and decided to eat in New Orleans Square at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which overlooks and is partially inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean (if I have a choice, I'm gonna eat Cajun). We sat down ordered our food and then Jeff ordered a beer. "I'm sorry, there is no alcohol inside of Disneyland," the waitress said. Jeff was in shock.

"How can you call this the happiest place on Earth and not serve alcohol? I just got out of boot camp, I need a drink!" Jeff declared.

She was very understanding and told us to take the monorail to the Disneyland Hotel. We could drink there and then come back. And that's what we did.

As soon as we left the restaurant we made a bee-line for the nearest monorail station and took off for the Hotel. We drank three or four beers in the next hour at an outdoor bar near a pool, then took the monorail back into the park, and I have to say it was an improvement.

A few years later, when I worked at Disney, we had our Christmas party at Disneyland one cool December night. As my wife and I walked through the front tunnel under the train station we were greeted by waiters with trays of champagne. The "Happiest Pace On Earth" is a lot happier once you have five or six glasses of champagne in you. Even the Disney people know that!

The Devil's Candidate!

Proving once again just what a whore he is, John McCain says he believes in "no gun control" whatsoever. McCain went on to say that he will not spend money campaigning in Hell as he pretty much has that area sown up. The Devil's candidate has now come out in favor of unending war, guns for everyone, death, and of course, the sanctity of the life of fetal organisms as long as they remain inside of a woman. Once they are out, "Fuck 'em" McCain said today while campaigning.

Actually I wouldn't put it past this guy to show up at a campaign stop sometime in the near future with "the blood of a terrorist" dripping from his mouth and "hunks of terrorist flesh" hanging from between his teeth. He is such a pandering sack of shit.

I was wrong, he is not the Devil's candidate; he is the Devil's whore.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lofty News

Local LA News station KFWB "News 98" has a whole series on Loft living in LA, done in one-minute bites that is worth a listen. This sure looks like it is the next boom for the area, if we can just get past the "damn it's small" and "damn it's expensive" issues.

Drawing on Disneyland

Over on the Tony Isabella board we are talking about all things Disneyland and that got me thinking about a story Bill Stout told one Sunday while we were drawing a naked woman.

He was talking about how, for him, the most important aspect of drawing is putting down the line with confidence. He went one about how he hates it when he sees an artist who is unsure of where a line should go and so he/she feathers the line, using short strokes to find the one right line (I looked down at my drawing and sadly noted all the short strokes I used to find "the" line). He said, "You have to be confident in your line if you ever want to draw fast."

Bill learned that one summer when he worked at Disneyland doing portraits on the street. Bill said it was him and two or three other guys and they worked all day, most every day. It was a poor base pay, but you made your money on each drawing you completed, so he learned very quickly to put down a fast line with confidence. After he got the hang of it, he could fly through them, doing a portrait in about five minutes and that made for good money.

When they would finish a drawing, the person either took it with them, or if they liked it a lot, it went into a stack where another person was framing and matting the drawings. One day he looked over at a drawing in the stack for framing and the portrait looked more like a potato than a person.

It was one huge oval shape with these round shapes for eyes, nose and ears that looked more like the eyes on a spud than a human face. He thought, "My god, some of these guys are just horrible." He then wondered which of his associates drew this monstrosity. On closer inspection he saw the signature "William Stout" and decided he should slow down a bit.

More Than Seven Virginia Techs

As we look around in shock at the horror of the Virginia Tech massacre, we need to put it in perspective. This is not to take anything away from the tragedy and the terrible cost to those affected by it, but rather to look at it from a more international viewpoint. The death toll in Iraq today is 233. That is more than seven Virginia Techs.

A Virginia Tech kind of day, where only 31 innocents died, would be a startling breakthrough in Iraq. Like the students and faculty at Virginia Tech, the people of Iraq did nothing to bring the daily tragedy to them. We invaded. We brought them daily death on a scale that makes Saddam look like a choir boy. Our continued presence in Iraq will only bring more of the same, and yet our leader, President Shit-For-Brains, continues to go out proclaiming how well the "surge" is working.

More than seven Virginia Techs just today. Yeah, that's working just great and, oh, by the way, the insurgency is in its final throes too.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Batman #192

Batman #192 (On Sale: April 18, 1967) has a nice cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

Inside we have the cover story "The Crystal Ball That Betrayed Batman" by Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella. Batman and Robin stumble across a robbery committed by the Fearsome Foursome, henchmen for a crook known as the Swami. So far, the Swami has allegedly foreseen dangers that would befall his gang and planned his crimes to avoid the law. Batman manages to apprehend one member of the gang, Silent Stan, but the others escape.

Batman disguises himself as Stan, then visits the crook's apartment. He finds the rest of the gang there including the Swami. However, the Swami uses his crystal ball and discovers that Stan is Batman in disguise. Batman is then trapped, as is Robin who was waiting outside.

The back-up story "Dick Grayson's Secret Guardian" and is also by Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella. Dick Grayson tries to recruit other students for the Gotham High basketball team. Frank Reynolds, a tall boy gladly agrees to join, but Toughy Loomis laughs at Dick's suggestion. Later, Toughy and his friends attack Dick and try to beat him up. Dick is unable to use his skills as Robin to defend himself, for fear of giving away his secret identity.

A masked man surprises Toughy during the fight by coming to Dick's aid. The bullies are scared off, and the masked man disappears too.

Edited by Julius Schwartz

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Day of Mourning

Yesterday was a day of shock for me, and I didn't really have anything to say, couldn't think of anything to add to the horror on TV.

I think today should be a day of mourning for those who have perished. I'll be back tomorrow but for today, all I can say is, I'm sad.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Your Daily Talking Point

You know how the Republicans try to force crap down our throat by following daily talking points? You know, where suddenly everyone in their party is using the exact same terminology for something, terminology that did not exist the day before? Stuff like "cut and run" or "slow bleed," where they all get together on the same page and make it look like this is just common knowledge since everyone is saying the exact same thing.

It's effective. It's like in the late 60s when all the southern Republicans suddenly started pronouncing "negro" as "nigra." They knew they could no longer say "nigger" in public, so they made up a mispronunciation that had all the bile and hatred of "nigger" but for which they could plead ignorance when anyone objected. For them it worked. Their constituents knew that they meant "nigger" but they didn't have to say it. In the 80s the term became "welfare mother," Reagan coined that one. It still meant "nigger" to his constituents, but he could stand up in public and get away with saying it.

I was listening to Bill Maher this weekend and he coined a term that we all need to start using when referring to Bush. It is concise and to the point and 100% accurate like nothing I have heard before. Once you hear it you will see what I mean. It fits Bush to a tee. It defines him like no other term. Bill Maher called Bush "President Shit-For-Brains" and it was like an epiphany for me. That is exactly who Bush is: President Shit-For-Brains.

So, consider this your daily talking point. For the next week or next month or next year, whatever works for you, don't call him Bush or the Shrub or the Commander in Thief, call him what he really is: President Shit-For-Brains. It describes him, it defines him; let's make it the way everyone thinks of him.

Vonnegut on Our Current Administration

"I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka 'Christians,' and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or 'PPs.'"

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Dreamer of Muscoy and Astral Projection -- Part III

Last time out when we talked about astral projection and Douglas Q. McMasters, the Dreamer of Muscoy, we began to look at what my brother Jack had learned from Doug. Jack described how Doug had taught him to search for the location in his body of the 'I' when he said the word 'I.' Further Jack described how Doug had taught him to push the 'I' from his body, in Jack's case into a bowling pin.

Last time we left with this question in the air, "If you could learn to do this why would you ever stop?"

Jack said that, although Doug said he could go anywhere he wanted, as much as he tried, he could "never manage to go anywhere but into that bowling pin.

Until several years later when I was in the hospital at Fort Benning recovering from that gasoline explosion [Jack had been out on a training mission and lit a camp fire in the rain that was fueled with gasoline. The resultant explosion left Jack badly burned and in the Army hospital for a time]. My eyes were bandaged and I was in bed and it was very quiet because it was long after the orderly had announced 'lights out' on the ward.

I was laying there and all of a sudden I climbed out of my head and floated through the walls into the darkness outside and felt a rushing wind for a long time until I came down in front of a large old house in a hilly part of some town near Los Angeles. [I] floated through a window, and saw an old girlfriend named Flo from [San Bernardino] Valley College laying in bed asleep. Flo came out of her body and embraced me and we seemed to communicate for a while, then I slipped away and was back in the hospital.

This could have been a dream, but Flo had the same dream [the same night], called Mom, got my address, and wrote to me about it. We wrote several letters, but I didn't see her for another year or so, and then she was living in Yucaipa. The place where the 'dream' took place was a dormitory she lived in on Silver Lake Blvd. in North Hollywood. "

The Silver Thread

Jack recalled that he "became aware of the silver thread after several astral projections. The thread was like an umbilical cord that ran from the astral 'me' back to my body. When I say 'me,' I mean whatever it is that I was projecting outside my body. It doesn’t have a body out there, but rather is just a point of being, of consciousness, but whenever I needed a body out there I had one. For example, when I embraced Flo in her dormitory, I did so with arms and legs, although they were more like thoughts of arms and legs than real ones. I also saw her astral self as if she had a body, albeit a very non-physical one. But most of the time I wasn’t aware that I had an astral body, except if I followed the silver thread I could see that it attached to my astral body about where a belly button would be.

The thread didn’t bother me, but the first time I noticed it I found myself immediately back in my body. When I finally asked Doug about the thread, he told me it connected my two selves, so I could get back to my physical body no matter where I might be. I asked him if the thread could be broken and if so, what happened to your astral body. His answer was typical Doug. "

Jack then reconstructed his conversation with Doug regarding the silver thread:

Jack: Can the thread be broken?
Doug: I don’t think the thread can be broken except by you. But no one really knows because if the thread is broke the body can’t tell us what happened.

Jack: Why not?
Doug: Because no one is in it to tell us.

Jack: Where are they?
Doug: Out there, and probably very glad they broke the bonds with this physical world.

Jack: Why would they break it?
Doug: They might decide it is better out there and may not want to go back to a physical existence. Or, they might just be playing with the thread and break it.

Jack: You can break it accidentally?
Doug: It is not easy to leave the physical world behind, so you probably couldn’t just break it accidentally. Of course, the only people who know are out there and can’t say.

Jack: What happens to their body if they break it?
Doug: Eventually, the body would waste away and we would bury it. In India and Nepal and Tibet they would do this with great reverence because it would be the body of a very holy man.

Jack: But what if he wasn’t? What if it was just an accident?
Doug: We would never know, and not knowing has its own reward -– we can believe whatever we want, and it’s better to believe he was a very holy man, don’t you think?

Next time: "What do you mean I might not come back?"

Your Vonnegut Thought for the Day

"In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

Friday, April 13, 2007

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #102

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #102 (On Sale: April 13, 1967) has a great Curt Swan/George Klein cover. It's the kind of cover that just grabbed you as a kid. What the heck was Superman doing to Jimmy this time? You had to buy it 'cause you had to find out!

Inside we have the cover story, "Superman's Greatest Double-Cross" by Leo Dorfman and Pete Costanza. Perry White criticizes Jimmy for failing to bring in any big scoops. When Jimmy tracks down a story, Clark Kent beats him to the punch which starts a feud between the reporters. Jimmy then receives a tip about gambler Spade Felton, Clark receives the same tip and arrives at the same location as Jimmy. Jimmy becomes enraged and tries to fight Clark, who is forced to feign weakness.

Following the fight, Felton kidnaps Jimmy. He demands that Jimmy reveal Superman's secret identity. Since he doesn't know Superman's secret, Jimmy hypnotizes himself into believing that Clark Kent is Superman.

The crooks release Jimmy who begins telling everyone in town that Clark is Superman. Jimmy's strange behavior gets him put in an institution, while Felton tries to kill Clark.

The second story is "Jimmy Olsen -- Campus Hero" is also by Leo Dorfman and Pete Costanza. After Jimmy Olsen testifies against Nick Harkins of Homicide, Inc. he becomes a target of the gang. Jimmy leaves town and goes undercover to Stanhope College as Jeff Ogden. Linda Danvers alias Supergirl recognizes Jimmy, but promises not to blow his cover.
Mr. Quick is hired by Homicide, Inc. to kill Jimmy and quickly tracks him to Stanhope.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Black Screen of Death -- Part II

A couple of people have asked exactly what was the problem with my Dell XPS 410 yesterday. I realize now that I never really said. So, for those who care, here it is in a nutshell.

The problem was in the boot sequence. Now we don't know if the sequence was actually changed or if there is something wrong with the BIOS that is suddenly causing the problem. Whichever, it boils down to this: the first item on the boot sequence was the CD-ROM drive. It appears that the system refused to go forward to the next item in the sequence even though there was no disk in the drive. We moved the SATA Hard drives to first place and pushed the CD-ROM drive down to second, rebooted and we still had the same problem. We then moved Intel ARRAY to first, SATA to second and CD-ROM to third and the system booted just fine.

So, as I said yesterday, the problem is corrected, but we don't know what actually caused it in the first place.

Ghost Rider?

Am I the only one who sees these photos all over the Internet and wonders, "Why are they still hyping the Ghost Rider movie so much?"

"Oh shit! That's not a flaming skull, it's Imus!"

Is there really a difference? Here are the taglines for the movie Ghost Rider. See if these could apply to anyone else you can think of:

Hell Is About To Be Unleashed

He's the only one that can walk on both worlds.

Was everything he sacrificed truly worth it?

Lets Ride!

I believe the last one has something to do with the sunset.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut R.I.P.

The Associated Press is reporting that we have lost Kurt Vonnegut. He was a one-of-a-kind writer and a one-of-a-kind thinker and I have been very pleased in the past to share some of his more recent quotes here. I am saddened to think that the great mind, the great wit, is now and forever silent. I think we will not see his kind again, but I am ever so pleased that he graced us with his presence for as long as he did.

I listen to the ethical pronouncements of the leaders of the so-called religious revival going on in this country, including those of our President, and I am able to distill only two commandments from them. The first commandment is this: "Stop thinking." The second commandment is this: "Obey."

Kurt Vonnegut

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman #197

Superman #197 (On Sale: April 11, 1967) also known as 80 Page Giant #G-36 is an "All Clark Kent Issue" an sports a Curt Swan/George Klein cover. As a kid I always thought these themed 80-page giants were just a whole bunch of goofy fun. They packed them full of everything they could find that might interest a kid: cavemen, firefighters, gangsters and robots. What's not to love?

Inside we start with "Clark Kent's New Mother and Father" from Action Comics #189 by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. Next we have "Clark Kent Meets Al Capone" from Superman #142 by Otto Binder, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. In it Superman travels into the past to get the measurements of a gigantosaur, but he is weakened by Titano’s Kryptonite vision during his return. The weakness causes Superman to stop before reaching the present. He ends up in the 1920’s. There, he meets a young Perry White and helps him get a story about Al Capone.

Next is "The Truth Mirror" from Action Comics #269 by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and George Klein. Lois Lane receives a mirror from her uncle Ned. The mirror possesses magical properties which allow it to show a person's true self. The mirror reveals two disguised criminals to Lois as well as the secrets of some of her friends. Lois then uses the mirror to learn Superman’s secret identity.

Next we have "Caveman Clark Kent" from Action Comics #169 by David V. Reed and Al Plastino followed by "Clark Kent Fireman of Steel" from Superman #129 by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. In it Clark Kent has taken a job as a temporary fireman for a news story. Chief Hogan does not want Kent around and tries to get him to quit by placing Kent in danger. Clark still acts timid, but his powers as Superman save him. He is forced to protect his secret identity several times, but eventually the chief is forced to believe Kent leads a charmed life.

Next is "Superman's Toughest Day" from Action Comics #282 by Bill Finger and Al Plastino. In it Clark Kent takes a day off from the Daily Planet and assumes his duties as Superman. A Clark Kent robot is sent to fill in for him on a date with Lois Lane to tour a plastic factory. The robot’s hands become covered with a solvent which exposes the metal underneath.

The last story is "When There Was No Clark Kent" from Superman #127 by Jerry Coleman, Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. In this tale while collecting information for a story at the Bottle Works, an explosion apparently kills Clark Kent. Unable to find a way to explain how Clark survived, Superman decides to go without a secret identity.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

A Black Screen of Death Day

I awoke this morning to the oddest message on the solid black screen of my PC. It said that I could only attempt to repair my Windows NT from the Windows NT setup disk. A couple of strange things here: 1. I was not attempting to repair anything. 2. This must be a really old message embedding in Windows XP, because I don't have Windows NT. 3. My system was running fine when I went to bed last night.

As I have mentioned before, I have a fairly new Dell XPS 410 and also as I mentioned before, doing diagnostics on the machine takes forever due to the dual 320GB hard drives in my RAID. Before going into diagnostic hell, I rebooted the machine a few times and always end up on the same error message, not even getting close to booting the operating system.

I rebooted to the diagnostic partition (one of the nice things about Dells) and ran the diagnostics for "Can't boot the OS." It ran fine till it got to the hard drive diagnostics. As I have said, they are very extensive and take eight hours to run on my dual drives. Well, I let them run for one drive and figured that since I am in a RAID, that is not the problem. So, I called the special Dell XPS support number. It took them about 35 minutes to correct the problem, but due to the diagnostics, it wasted most of my day.

The worse part is, though I know what corrected the problem, I can't tell you exactly what was wrong or how it got there. Just another of those black screen of death kinda days.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Face-Off

A week ago I said that I was hopelessly hooked on Gene Simmons Family Jewels and suggested that you watch it. If you did, you saw this week's amazing episode, "Face-Off." If you did not, you missed some remarkable TV.

Gene and his un-wife, Shannon Tweed, went under the knife in duel 11-hour+ marathon plastic surgeries. Yeah, you've seen plastic surgery on TV before, but not of two famous people. These kind of things are always a smorgasbord of emotions for me; there is a detached fascination mixed with some "my god that's icky" repulsion, which you kind of expect going in. But what is really just the icing on the cake of this episode, what sets it apart from what you may have seen before, is the aftermath of the surgery. I don't want to say anymore; find a repeat of the episode and TiVo the damn thing. It is really amazing television.

Oh, the picture of Gene post-surgery comes from a site called Outside The Beltway: Gone Hollywood.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Dreamer of Muscoy and Astral Projection -- Part II

Last time out when we talked about astral projection and Douglas Q. McMasters, the Dreamer of Muscoy, we looked at what my Dad had to say about Doug. My father was never a believer in Doug's astral projection claims, figuring that Doug had some trick up his sleeve, but my brother Jack did eventually believe what Doug was saying.

Jack recalled, "Doug introduced me to the concept of astral projection" during a visit to his barber shop. "On one visit he asked me where 'I' resided in my body. I didn't know.

He said something like, "Well, ask yourself where 'I' am when you say the word 'I.' Do you feel 'I' in your feet?"

"No," I said. "Do you feel 'I' in your chest?"

"No, but I feel it more in my chest that I do in my feet."

"Do you feel 'I' in your head?"

"Yeah, I guess I do."

"But exactly where?" I didn't know. "Come back when you do and I'll teach you how to leave your body," he said.

I was back the next day. "I got it," I said. "When I say 'I' I feel it right between my eyes and a few inches back." That was close, he said, but not exact enough. Well, I wouldn't leave until he told me where 'I' was. Finally, he had me hold a mirror and he put a finger to each of my temples and asked me if 'I' was between his fingers. I said yes and he said to think about it while saying, "I am here."

I did this and finally said, "No, 'I' wasn't there." He asked me to guide his fingers up or down, forward or back, until I could feel 'I' between his fingers. I did this for what seemed like a long time until I finally said, "There." 'I' was about a half-inch below the plane centered between my eyes and about 4-3/4 inches back. That was the spot in my head where 'I' resided whenever I said the word 'I' or thought about me.

Doug was very happy with my answer."

Astral Projection 101

Doug taught Jack a process to assist in pushing the 'I' from his body. "He said to tie a string around my head so it was knotted in the front and the knot was between my eyes and 1/2 inch down on my nose. I was to then take the running end of the string and tie it to an object, like a pole lamp or a Coca Cola bottle, and lean back until the string was tight but not so tight that it pulled the object. While concentrating on keeping the tension of the string just right, i was to push the 'I' from back in my head forward onto the string. He said it would not be easy, but I could do it if I just kept saying, "Here 'I' come" and each time I said it I moved the 'I' forward just a bit. He said the object was to push myself out onto the string, across it, and into the object. Then turn around and look at my body from the object and say, "Here 'I' am, and there 'I' was."

Jack's friend "Ralph Christiansen (Buzzy) was working at the Orange Bowl (bowling alley) as a pin grabber -- the guy who worked back behind the automatic pin-setting machines and answered the buzzer whenever a machine got stuck or dropped a pin or missed a pin or whatever. When it did something wrong, the bowler pushed a button that rang a buzzer and lit up a number in a little room in back and Buzzy ran to the machine whose number lit up. He then fixed whatever was wrong. Danny Kidwell, Don Gray, Wayne Welker and I often went with Buzzy and we all sat in the back and BS'd because most of the time there wasn't anything to do back there." Jack decided this was the perfect place to practice Doug's astral projection process.

"I tied the string to a bowling pin in that little room in the back of the Orange Bowl and sat there night after night talking myself out onto that string. I don't think I moved the 'I' in me forward even a millimeter. There were just too many distractions with my friends sitting there talking and cutting up and I couldn't concentrate, so I gave up on it."

But one night, "just Buzzy and I were there and I slipped the string over my head and tied it to a pin on the bench and leaned back just so and BAM! -- just like that I was out there in the pin looking back at me sitting there with a piece of string tied from my head to me (the pin). I was so startled I jerked and pulled the pin off the bench."

Jack said, "I was so excited that I went to Doug's shop the next day and told him. He said, "Keep doing it until you can jump out there into the pin without the string and sit there for 10 minutes without any conscious thought of what is going on in your body. Then come back and we'll talk about the next step."

Doug related to Jack that the "next step was to exit the body from the back of the head, toward the top. There is an advantage to doing it this way. Your eyes may be looking at the object you want to be in, but the 'I' isn't when it exits the back of the head. So, as soon as you exit, you're where you want to be. And it doesn't have to be an object you can see. It can be across town, over E Street, above the entrance into the Big M (the original McDonald's in San Bernardino). Or so Doug said, but I could never manage to go anywhere but into that bowling pin...

Until several years later..."

Next time: If you could learn to do this why would you ever stop and other scary shit!

Grindhouse

No, I didn't see it this weekend but who did? Given how poorly the three-hour+ movie did this opening weekend, how many people think the Weinsteins will cut this up into two one-and-a-half-hour films and re-release them at a later date?

Maybe they can overlay the credits with the fake trailers that fill the fake intermission and that way not waste a thing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Secrets, Loyalty and the Truth

Over on Mark Evanier's blog he is wondering about all the leaks coming out about how poorly Alberto Gonzales is doing prepping for his upcoming appearance before Congress. Evanier wonders why Gonzales can't surround himself with aides who can keep a secret.

That might be a good question, though I think it has become abundantly clear that Gonzales is a pretty dim bulb, whose only real claim to fame is keeping Bush's drunk driving arrest out of court proceedings when Bush was governor of Texas and had jury duty. Other than that, Gonzales is just another incompetent, but loyal Bush lackey, given a position of indescribably frightening power simply because he is a faithful as a starving mutt.

My question is much simpler and more to the point: why do you have to spend more than a week prepping to speak to Congress? All you have to do is tell the truth.

Unless of course, you have something to hide.

Paris In The Spring - La Verne-Style

For the past ten years I have lived in La Verne California. The city is not that well known and is in fact famous for only a few things. For one, the wedding scene at the end of The Graduate was filmed at the United Methodist Church on "D" Street. For two, ...hmmm. For two... eh, there might not be a two... Oh wait, I remember. For two, you can pay to serve out your jail time here and it's a pretty easy ride if you do.

In 1998 Christian Slater spent 59 days in lockup at the La Verne jail. I remember in his first week here we had a takeover robbery at one of the local Von's grocery stores (why we have two is a mystery to me), and once the ordeal was over with, Slater spent time that day serving cappuccino to the released hostages. I understand he also spent a lot of time during his "stay" washing police cars. So yeah, that's two things: the Dustin Hoffman movie and celebrities serving their jail time.

According to an article in the papers today, we might soon be getting a new trustee at the La Verne jail: Paris Hilton. In "Serving hard time the easy way" writer Frank C. Girardot tells us "several local cities offer jail accommodations that might be considered a cut above the standard accommodations available in the Los Angeles County women's lockup." He goes on to say that "besides Pasadena, Montebello, Alhambra and La Verne offer "pay-to-stay" programs. Orange County, Seal Beach and Fullerton offer similar facilities. Fullerton's jail even allows inmates access to personal laptops and cell phones."

I think Paris will have to spend her time in Los Angeles County, so I don't think the Fullerton cell phone privilege will make a difference. Given that, I'm hoping that the good word-of-mouth from Mr. Slater will tip the scales in our favor and that this year we will truly have Paris in the spring.

America's Most Beloved Comic Character!


My friend Tony Isabella is known far and wide as "America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist" and it has to be true because it says so on his website. As of today, Tony could also be called "America's Most Beloved Comic Character" after his appearance in today's Nancy strip. Way to go Tony!

You can read Nancy everyday at Comics.Com.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Onion Field

Here I was telling you about living in Taft California and later the very same day there is a news story regarding "The Onion Field" killing. Jimmy Lee Smith, one of the two "Onion Field" killers has died in prison outside of Los Angeles.

Smith and Gregory Powell were convicted of abducting Officer Ian Campbell and his partner, Officer Karl Hettinger, from a Hollywood street on March 6, 1963, after the officers stopped their car for an illegal U-turn. Campbell and Hettinger were driven to an onion field 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield, where Officer Campbell was shot to death. Karl Hettinger escaped in the darkness. Their crimes were documented in the 1973 book "The Onion Field" and the 1979 film of the same name, both written by former Los Angeles police officer Joseph Wambaugh.

The onion field in question was outside of Maricopa California and we drove past it every time we came down from Taft to the Los Angeles area. I mentioned before that my wife was City Manager of Taft and as such, had a great deal of contact with the Kern County Board of Supervisors. One of the Supervisors was Karl Hettinger.

As the husband of the City Manager I met Karl on a number of social occasions. Karl had become sort of a local Bakersfield celebrity after the book and movie came out. I thought Karl was sort of a strange bird and I never understood why a Los Angeles cop would settle down in Bakersfield, so close to the location where his partner had been murdered. I think the crime ate at him over the years, like Karl had "survivor's guilt." Karl was alive because he ran away and his partner was dead because he didn't. At least he always seemed to me like a man attempting to drink away his past.

Karl lost his seat on the board in 1993 and died in 1994. I can't say I have thought much of him since we left Taft, but here is his name in the news again. I tried to locate a picture of Karl for this item, but all I get are shots of John Savage who played Karl in the movie.

The TV Times, They Are A Changin'

Or maybe a better title would have been, Long TV Times Gone. In today's Los Angeles Times was the last issue of the TV Times, the free TV guide that has been a weekly staple of the newspaper since, will, since I can remember.

Over the years the "magazine" had gotten smaller, with most issues containing one half-page article and the rest of the content being lists of "Highlights," sports, talk shows and soap operas. Oh, and lest I forget, a TV crossword puzzle at least as daunting as that which infests the TV Guide.

They say the feature is too expensive to keep producing, though to have it at all during the past year you had to call the LA Times and request that it be included with your paper. So given that, it's not surprising that economically it no longer made sense. If you make something harder to obtain, less people will obtain it and the cost of producing each copy of an item will go up, not down. You didn't have to be a genius to know for quite a while that the Times was looking for justification to kill this feature.

The only thing we used it for was looking at the list of movies in the coming week. My wife would go over all the four-star films and tell me which ones I should TiVo. You will notice from the list of features above that the TV Times no longer carried a list of films, the loss of the feature is really no big deal in our family. I think rather it speaks volumes about changing technology.

The Times is replacing the TV Times with more daily and weekend TV coverage in the paper, though I would not be surprised to see that slowly shrink over time. They are also increasing the usability of their TV Times web site, to allow you to customize your own TV listings. Lots of other sites already do this, so I'm not sure what they hope to gain.

All of this got me thinking about an idea I once had for TV listings. It was 1990 and I had just quit my job at EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and moved to Taft California where my wife was starting her first job as a City Manager. Taft was a small oil town on the southwest rim of the San Joaquin Valley on top of the Midway Oil Fields, one of the world's largest oil deposits. What was a computer programmer to do in that type of environment?

Well, mostly I became Mr. Mom, taking care of our three-year-old son, but I also took a three-pronged approach to making money. Prong one was I made shareware. Prong two was I worked in town as a PC consultant for homes and businesses. Prong three was I thought up products. It was prong three that brought me to the idea of a TV guide on a CD. For a buck a week you would be sent a small database on a CD, along with retrieval and interface software, and it would contain the TV listing for your area. I had no idea where you got this information or how much it would cost. The idea never got much past the kicking it around with people stage, but even then I knew what I wanted.

You would be able to keep a list on your PC of your favorite shows, movies, actors, directors and subjects and each week this list would be passed against the database to build a personal schedule of shows you might like to watch. You would even be able to rank your choices, i.e., look for Marlon Brando movies before looking for John Wayne movies, etc.

A week or so ago, when thinking about the impending death of the TV Times, I realized that my dream product was on the market and that I have owned it for three years now. It's called a TiVo and using its WishList feature it does everything I planned for my Optical TV Listing. Besides my TiVo I have another DVR in my house, one supplied by my cable company. It's a lot less expensive than the TiVo, but all it can really do is record series that I tell it to record. It is very difficult to tell it to record movies (you basically have to manually scan a channel for the week to see what is going to be on) and it knows nothing about actors, directors or keywords/subjects.

TiVo is not my planned Optical TV Listing, it is my product on steroids. I never even contemplated controlling the TV and a VCR let alone the non-existent DVR. I like what the people at TiVo have done with my idea and I don't think I will miss the TV Times much at all, something the Los Angeles Times figured out as well.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Guns in the Gutters

If added a new listing to my Blogs of Interest, it's writer Christopher Mills' Guns in the Gutters and his topic is strictly, "crime, espionage and mystery graphic novels and comics." He updates it every day with reviews of crime comics new and old and he seems to have a firm grip on the genre.

Check out his Wednesday review of Gil Kane's beautiful Savage! short from Anything Goes #1. It make you miss the magic of Mr. Kane's artwork all over again.

His blog is well worth bookmarking yourself, but if you forget, it will be in the column to my right any time you need a quick crime comic fix.

The Dreamer of Muscoy and Astral Projection -- Part I

A while back I told you of someone from my childhood I called the Dreamer of Muscoy, Douglas Q. McMasters. In the 1960s, Doug was the barber in our community of Muscoy California, but Doug was so much more. I wrote here of the flying saucer that Doug designed and my father built and how I spent part of my childhood going to a secret barn at night and sitting in the cockpit of the saucer, pretending to fly it, while my father looked over the latest plans with Doug.

In that previous writing I called Doug bohemian, but I'm not sure that really does justice to a man of Doug's amazing and varied abilities. As previously described, Doug was an inventor and a pretty damn good one at that. He was also a top-notch hypnotist, pulling off some stunts that still have me scratching my head four plus decades later. He also practiced astral projection. A couple of years ago which doing research for a possible book I asked my Dad and my brother Jack about Doug and astral projection.

My father said that one day while he was getting his hair cut, Doug told him that he had been successfully experimenting with astral projection. My Dad asked what that was and when Doug said he could leave his body and travel just using his mind, my father was very skeptical. Like a lot of barbers I have known, Doug liked to talk while cutting hair and he could carry on a conversation on just about any topic, but my father thought that this time Doug was simply pulling his leg and he told him so. Doug said that he could demonstrate this ability and even prove that he was doing what he said he was doing.

When my father's haircut was finished, Doug took his place in the barber chair. He began to relax and went into a trance-like state for about 20 minutes. When Doug finally came out of the trance he said that he had traveled to our house and that he can prove he was just there.

My father is still pretty skeptical as Doug begins to describe in detail a number of items that he says are sitting on the coffee table in our living room right now. He points to the phone and says, "Call your wife and ask" which my father immediately does. He asks her what items are on our coffee table and her list matches Doug's list exactly.

My Dad still didn't believe that Doug had actually astrally visited our house; he always assumed there was some trick to what Doug had done. But my brother Jack believed him and one day Doug said he would teach Jack what he needed to know to perform astral projection. Whether or not Jack could properly use the instruction was totally up to Jack and out of Doug's hands.

More on that next time when we all learn how to get away from ourselves in Astral Projection 101.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superboy #139

Superboy #139 (On Sale: April 6, 1967) has a pretty nice Curt Swan/George Klein cover, though three years later Neal Adams would do basically the same cover to much more dramatic affect.

Inside we have the cover story, "The Town That Hated Superboy" written by Otto Binder and drawn by George Papp, or at least someone claiming to be George Papp. Chic Stone was ghosting for Papp at DC around this time. While seeking for a Kryptonite antidote for Superboy, Lex Luthor experiments with Gas X. A lab accident forces Superboy to blow the gas out of the lab where it dissipates into the air. Following the incident, each time Superboy uses his super vision, monsters appear. Superboy corrals the creatures, but the town links them to the Boy of Steel. Superboy is unable to explain the monsters and is forced into temporary exile.

The second story is "The Samson of Smallville" and is by Leo Dorfman and once again someone using the name of George Papp. Clark Kent and his classmates take a tour of Curio Castle. An exhibit in the castle contains famous hairpieces of history. A legend surrounding the exhibit states that by touching the hairpieces, a person takes on the characteristics of the original owner.

When lightning strikes the castle Clark must use his super strength to save everyone.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Question of Timetables

I get real tired of Bush complaining about Congress setting timetables for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. He acts as if Congress has never set a timetable for withdrawal from a conflict. But as usual with Bush, what he says or implies (i.e., hopes you will think he is saying) is just not true.

In 1993 Republican senators attempted to force an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Somalia after the "Blackhawk Down" incident and then ultimately compromised on a compelled withdrawal in six months. "Compelled withdrawal," that's another word for a timetable folks, and it was a Republican Congress that set it (I won't even go into how Republicans have in recent years tried to blame the withdrawal of troops from Somalia on Clinton, saying that it was a catalyst for Osama bin Laden to wage war against us. We can save that bit of Republican hypocrisy for another day.).

The other thing is, you have to wonder about Bush's motives. Most insiders I hear on TV lately say he is just trying to push this whole mess off on the next administration, laboring under the hopelessly misguided notion that somehow it will not tarnish his legacy. Does that make any sense? Right now 60% of Americans want a timetable set and more than that want the war to end sometime soon. Those numbers only go up each month, not down. By the time we really get into election season, the vast majority of Americans will want to know what our troops are still doing in Iraq. How on Earth can this help a Republican running for President or Congress? The longer this gets stretched out the better the argument can be made that Republicans in the White House and in Congress do not listen to the will of the American people.

Or, is Bush so removed from reality that he just doesn't care?

Director Bob Clark Killed by Drunk Driver

Film director Bob Clark, best known for the films "A Christmas Story" and "Porky's" was killed, along with his son, Wednesday morning in a collision with a drunk driver. Another drunk driving fatality and as usual, the drunk is still alive. This kind of thing makes me glad my step-son was arrested this weekend before he could hurt someone. Hopefully my step-son will learn what he can and cannot do and that would make my day in hell all worth while.

Spy Stuff

Since I recently came out of the closet to you all as a rabid Man From U.N.C.L.E. fan, you might guess that the news I read in this morning's LA Times had me drooling. Opening this weekend at the Queen Mary in Long Beach is SPY-Fi, what is thought to be the world's largest collection of props from spy movies and TV shows.

From the private collection of Danny Biederman there are more than 400 items on display including Maxwell Smart's shoe phone from Get Smart, Jim West's blue suit from The Wild, Wild West, Emma Peel's leather pants and John Steed's bowler hat from The Avengers, Dr. No's tarantula, a self-destruction tape reel from Mission: Impossible, Kelly Robinson's tennis racket from I Spy, Dr. Evil's ring and the cryogenic chamber from Austin Powers and a pen communicator, a THRUSH rifle, THRUSH uniforms, U.N.C.L.E. pistol, badges and cigarette case tape recorder all from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The exhibit will be on display from this Saturday through sometime in September. I can't wait to go.