Saturday, May 31, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

My wife and I saw this film last weekend and one of us really loved it. That would be my wife. I think it is a bad sign when the best part of the movie is the poster by Drew Struzan (though there have been many films where Drew's artwork was the highlight of the production).

My problem with the film mainly is that unlike the other Indiana Jones films, this one just went too far beyond reality with the stunts. I don't mind outrageous stunts and saves, so long as there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that it would actually work in real life. But this thing had a couple of 1 in a billion chance saves (refrigerator) that happened too often (waterfall, waterfall, waterfall), which resulted in me being pulled right out of the film. I thought it started well, but was a real mess by the time they reached the same lost temple they had in National Treasure II. Big stunts are one thing, but they must be grounded in some sort of consistent reality. The big stunts in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull drift into the realm of magic, and if the heroes are going to be magically saved then why should we care about any supposed danger in which they are placed?

David Koepp has written so many great screenplays for Spielberg in the past, that you have to think the problems came from the Lucas story rather than the Koepp screenplay. I have a feeling Koepp was not given the freedom to change things as much as he has on other films because Lucas holds such a tight reign on the story. Lucas has a proven track record of missing the mark by wide margins when it comes to story.

There were also some gaffes in the special effects during the long (too long?) jungle chase, where the digital construct was glaringly obvious for a second or two. Not a lot of time for a miffed effect, but long enough to once again destroy the illusion of reality and sabotage the great work that was on display there most of the time.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did $311 million the first weekend world-wide, but I see a very steep drop coming as not many people will want to sit through this again. Actually the news is already bearing this out as Sex and the City is demolishing it so far this weekend. That's too bad because this could have been a great little action/adventure film if only some restraint could have been exercised.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joseph Pevney, R.I.P.

Director Joseph Pevney died May 18 of age-related causes at his home in Palm Desert. Though he directed more than 35 theatrical films, including Man of a Thousand Faces and Tammy and the Bachelor, Pevney is best known for directing classic TV shows in the 1960s and 70s. Wagon Train, The Munsters, The Fugitive, Bonanza, 12 O'Clock High, The Virginian, Adam-12, Marcus Welby, M.D., Emergency, The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, Medical Center and Trapper John, M.D. were all shows Pevney worked on, but he is best rememebered for the 14 episodes of Star Trek he helmed.

Among Pevney's episodes are the classics The City on the Edge of Forever, Amok Time, The Trouble With Tribbles and Journey to Babel.

The Trouble With Tribbles, written by David Gerrold, is one of the most popular and most fondly remembered episodes of the original Star Trek series. Jeff Bond, author of The Music of Star Trek and editor of the magazine Geek Monthly said Pevney directed "the first real comedy episode of the series, 'The Trouble With Tribbles,' which was a complete, all-out comedy about the ship sort of getting infested with a bunch of furry creatures. And he certainly worked on some of the strongest dramatic episodes."

Time Amok features Mr. Spock returning to his homeworld for a brutal Vulcan marriage ritual. It is the only episode of the original series to have scenes on the planet Vulcan.

Journey to Babel features the first appearance of Sarek and Amanda, the parents of Mr. Spock. In this episode, the Enterprise must transport dignitaries to a peace conference, with an assassin on the loose.

The City on the Edge of Forever was written by Harlan Ellison and guest-starred Joan Collins. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The filmed version of The City on the Edge of Forever is considered the best episode of the original series by many critics such as Entertainment Weekly. TV Guide ranked it #68 in their 100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History feature in its July 1, 1995 edition, and also featured it in another issue on the 100 greatest TV episodes of all time.

What I loved about this episode is that unlike most shows on TV, The City on the Edge of Forever features real drama, as opposed to the meladrama we normally see. At the end of the episode, Kirk must make a choice for which there is no good solution; no matter what he picks, he loses and that is the heart of true drama.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Green Lantern #62

Green Lantern #62 (On Sale: May 28, 1968) has a very nicely drawn, if not so interestingly colored cover by Jack Sparling.

"Steal Small -- Rob Big" is by Gardner Fox, Jack Sparling and Sid Greene. Hal Jordan is assigned to investigate a series of bizarre robberies in which trivial objects of no value were stolen. While on a date with Eve Doremus, a bandit attacks him and steals a ballpoint pen from Eve as well as a heart pendant that Hal had given her. Hal is knocked out, so he is unable to use his power ring to stop the thief.

The next day Hal learns that the victims of the earlier robberies were robbed again. This time however valuables were taken. Hal deduces that Eve's house will be the next target and is waiting for the crooks when they arrive. He is able to capture several members of the gang.

However all the crooks were not present at the robbery scene. The one that took Eve's pendant uses a device that utilizes light rays absorbed by ordinary objects to see what happened around them. The crooks used the device on the stolen trinkets to learn about bigger targets. When the crook uses the device on Eve's pendant it shows him that Hal Jordan is Green Lantern.

The crooks lure Hal into a trap, but he refuses to admit that he is Green Lantern. While Hal is tied up, the crooks commit another robbery.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

The Truth Hurts

I've been told that on this blog I have, from time to time, been pretty hard to Hillary Clinton. Some have mentioned a limbo picture as being in poor taste, for example. But I have been a supporter of Clinton for years and that has made it all the harder as this primary "battle royal" has gone on and on, for no apparent reason.

Bill Clinton is all over the place complaining about people telling Hillary to leave the race and people are falling all over themselves to say they never meant that, but why they lie in this way I don't know. Most pundits have been saying she should leave the race and for quite a while now. Bill talks about how others have stayed in races longer and not been asked to leave, but he misses a simple truth about that. People who have something to add to the conversation are always welcome to stay as long as they feel the need. However, Hillary Clinton has nothing to add to the conversation; her policies are almost identical to Obama's. She is not a Dennis Kucinch, who articulates a point of view not shared by other candidates.

You are also free to stay if you spend that time talking policy differences. But Clinton does not do that, she has spent her "extra" time in personal attacks on the candidate that is going to win the nomination, to the benefit of no one in her own party. Yes Bill, others have been allowed to stay, but they understood the rules involved in doing so and played within those guidelines. Hillary has not done this and that is why she should have left the campaign long ago. All she has done in recent months is make it that much harder for her to become the nominated candidate for any position. All she has done is hurt herself and her party and her country.

What her staying in for so long past the point of good taste has demonstrated is that 1) she has a hard time accepting reality when that reality sucks, 2) so far in debt she shows she is incompetent in fiscal management, 3) like George Bush she will rely on others to attempt to body-slam her opponents when she is not getting things her way, 4) since her excuse for some of her recent gaffes is that she was "tired,' it makes you wonder how she would answer the phone at 3:00 AM, and 5) she is just not ready to be President of the United States.

Lastly, and this has been my contention for quite a while, what she does bring to the mix, that Obama does not, is the loathing of a great number of Republicans. Republicans have little to no incentive to go to the polls in November. The Christian right hates McCain, conservatives hate McCain, active military people hate McCain. Except for Joe Lieberman the whole country pretty much dislikes the guy and Republicans are not going to turn out to elect him. This means they will also not turn out to keep Republican seats in the House and the Senate in Republican hands; the top of the ticket is always the draw, or lack there-of. However, Republicans will turn out in mass to vote against Hillary Clinton; they dislike her much more than they don't-give-a-shit about McCain. For the sake of the party and the country she professes to care so deeply about, she must not be anywhere near the Democratic ticket. Her name is toxic to her professed cause.

She continues, even today, to foolishly argue that she is "more electable" and that is just plain nonsense. She make McCain more electable. In the words of Bob Dole: "You know it. I know it. The American people know it." Will someone please let Hillary in on the truth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Real McCain

While campaigning this weekend Barack Obama confused Auschwitz for Buchenwald. The Obama camp issued a correction the following day, but Republicans are jumping all over the gaffe, attempting to pounce on the non-story and try to manufacture a scandal. Yeah, we wouldn't want anyone who might make an occasional mistake to run the country, would we?

"Smokin' Jokin', Doing Coke With Leon

I saw Joe Cocker this weekend, along with the Steve Miller Band. Both were great and my wife mentioned how much better Cocker seems to be physically, with, you know, his muscular dystrophy and all. She asked me to look it up when we got home and when I did I have to admit, fuck, I always thought Joe had muscular dystrophy myself. Of course, Joe has no physical problem at all, that's just the way he moves on stage.

I think I got the idea Cocker had MD from the National Lampoon Lemmings album, which was the first place I ever heard John Belushi do his Joe Cocker impression. John made it famous on Saturday Night Live, where he flopped around on the stage like a fish out of water pouring beer all over his body and generally looking like a fool, but also singing a fairly good Joe Cocker. As Ccocker himself remembers...
During the time of "You Are So Beautiful," I was working at Village Recorders, in Los Angeles, and someone comes into the studio and says, "Joe, we've got this video to show you that you're not going to like." I don't know how long Saturday Night Live had been on the air, because I never watched much TV, but when I saw this video of John Belushi doing me being spastic and pouring beer, I became hysterical.

Everyone else said, "Joe, you're not supposed to find this amusing. You're supposed to find this gross and inoffensive."

I said, "Oh, come on. You can't not laugh at this." I didn't even know who Belushi was.

Moving my hand around is subconscious with me. A lot of the time I'm more or less conducting the band, just keeping a feel. I don't know why I do it. It's just one of those things.
I clearly remember the night this aired. I was living in my first rented house and my friend Baron Mrkva was over and we were pretty high. We were sitting on this couch in the TV room and when Belushi started flopping on the floor we both lost it, laughing so hard we fell literally off the couch onto the floor and rolled around holding our stomachs, which were aching from how hard we were laughing.

I can't embed a video of that performance, but the one below is the earlier one from Lemmings. Lemmings was a National Lampoon stage show, a take on Woodstock, the Woodchuck Festival of Peace, Love and Death, where hippies got together for a weekend of music, drugs, sex and suicide. The main actors/writers/performers were a bunch of unknows: John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest.

Listen to Lonely at the Bottom where Belushi sings, "We were makin' musical history. Now I'm workin' for muscular dystrophy."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Bobble Head?

The St. Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team, are giving away a truly one-of-a-kind promotion at today's game. While many sports franchises hand out bobble-head dolls, usually depicting their players, the Saints are handing out 2,500 "bobble-foot" knickknacks.

According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, "The keepsakes consist of a miniature bathroom stall with a couple of lower legs and feet. One of the feet is springloaded and 'taps,' which, the Saints' press release says, is in honor of National Tap Dance Day... The team also takes pains to note: 'It doesn't matter if your tapping style is done with a wide stance or is used as some sort of code.'"

Thanks to my good friend Dave Potts for the "heads up" (pun totally intended) on this one!

Friday, May 23, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Strange Adventures #213

Strange Adventures #213 (On Sale: May 23, 1968) has an amazing Deadman cover by Neal Adams. DC ran full-page ads of this cover in black and white this month with the blurb "One Picture is Worth a 1000 Words!" (see below).

Deadman stars in "The Call from Beyond" written and drawn by Neal Adams. Continuing from last issue, Tiny is rushed to the hospital after being shot by the Hook. A brilliant surgeon named Dr. Shasti is able to operate and save Tiny's life, but the strong man appears to have lost the will to live. Deadman enters Tiny's body and gives him the strength to survive the ordeal. When Tiny's survival seems assured, Dr. Shasti credits the supernatural with his recovery.

Dr. Shasti tries to convince the hospital board to give a grant for psychic research. He takes them to Madam Pegeen, a psychic, to demonstrate the power of the supernatural. The board is convinced by what they see from the psychic, but Shasti withdraws his support. Reprinted in Deadman #5.

Here is a page of original art from this story that comes to us from Tony Marine's I me mine blog, this being the first piece of Neal Adams artwork Tony purchased. I love the simplicity of the inking on the Deadman figure in the first panel; just amazing stuff and Tony is fortunate to own this piece.

The back-up story is "Half-Man -- Half-Alien" drawn by John Rosenberger.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Guts, Leadership and Brass Knuckles

From the good people at The Daily Kos:

The contents of the Downing Street Minutes confirm that the Bush Administration was determined to go to war in Iraq, regardless of whether there was any credible justification for doing so. The Administration distorted and misrepresented the intelligence in its attempt to link Saddam Hussein with the terrorists of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, and with weapons of mass destruction that Iraq did not have.

In addition, the Downing Street Minutes also confirm what has long been obvious – that the timing of the war was linked to the 2002 Congressional elections, and that the Administration’s planning for post-war Iraq was incompetent in all its aspects. The current continuing crisis is a direct result of that incompetence. ...

President Bush constantly talks about the 'progress' that is being made in Iraq against the insurgency, but he’s looking for good news with a microscope. All anyone can see is 'Mission Mis-accomplished' and the continuing losses of American lives, the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the torture scandal, and the ominous decline in our nation's moral authority in the world community.

We know the Administration had been planning to invade Iraq for many months before the invasion actually began. We know the Administration twisted the intelligence to make the facts fit their plan. We know that the Administration never really intended to give the U.N. weapons inspectors a reasonable chance to succeed. The Downing Street Minutes demonstrate that the Administration knew their case for war was paper thin, and that in order to go into war with the support of our allies, we had to demonstrate some willingness to go along with the UN inspection process. But the Administration continued to misuse its intelligence, distort the facts and pay only lip-service to the UN’s role in disarming Iraq.

We never should have gone to war for ideological reasons driven by politics and based on manipulated intelligence. The Downing Street Minutes provide even more proof that this is exactly what happened on Iraq. The Administration's dishonesty, lack of candor, and lack of planning have brought us to where we are today, with American soldiers dying, Iraqi civilians living in constant fear, and with no clearer picture of our strategy for victory in Iraq than when we started.

---Sen. Ted Kennedy, June, 2005

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Beware the Creeper #2

Beware the Creeper #2 (On Sale: May 21, 1968) has a cool cover by Steve Ditko.

(The Many Faces of Proteus) is by Denny O'Neil and Steve Ditko. An impostor posing as the Creeper interrupts a live television broadcast and commits a murder. Jack Ryder witnesses the scene and is assigned the task of apprehending the killer. His boss suspects a connection between the Creeper and racket boss Legs Larsen, so Ryder begins by crashing the gangster's gambling party. When Ryder confronts Larsen as the Creeper, a masked man shoots the gangster. Larsen then passes along information to his foe before dying.

The Creeper learns that Proteus, a master of disguise, has taken over the local gangs and framed him for murder. Proteus tries to get the information back from Jack Ryder and sets fire to his apartment. The Creeper and Proteus fight it out in the burning building.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stout on Elder

I spent part of this Sunday, for the first time in about six months, at William Stout's studio for the Sunday "Worshiping at the Throne of Feminine Beauty," or as I like to call it, drawing naked girls. My job makes this much harder to do than it used to be, seeing as I am in Florida most of the time, and the time away sure showed up in my artwork.

I thought most of the drawings I did sucked, but making up for my lack of artistic skill was talking to Stout about Bill Elder. Little did I know at the time that Bill had just put his thoughts on Willy down on paper, well, CRT anyway.

Woodstock for America

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of EDS this week got me thinking about my time with Electronic Data Systems, or Ed’s Bar and Grill as some of the people there called it. I was just in the process of being made a manager at Amtec Information Services when we were purchased by EDS. The manager I was replacing, Giovanni Reynaudo, was the man responsible for me getting seriously into programming.

I had been employed as an editor at Amtec (and two other names the company had gone by) for a couple of years. During that time I had become quite proficient at writing EXEC, EXEC2 and XEdit macros, not realizing that these were programs. Giovanni spotted my work and one day asked if I would be interested in working on the coding of the proprietary typographic software that our company created. I told Giovanni that I didn’t know how to program and he told me that I did, that he had seen it. Long story short here, I became a programmer by name and occupation that week and within a year Giovanni and I were neck-deep in rewriting the SLIC and SuperSLIC languages in our own images. SLIC stood for the Symbolic Language for Illustrated Composition and it was an IBM 370 Assembler Macro language that ran on a number of IBM mainframe operating systems. SuperSLIC was what we considered the ultimate format-driven generic composition system.

When I took over the lead role in developing these two products, SLIC was about 7,000 lines of Assembler code and SuperSLIC was about 12,000 lines of code on top of that. When I left the company six years later, the software had more than tripled in size, doubled in functionality and ran 20% faster than when I had started working on it. SuperSLIC had three separate macro languages imbedded inside it and when I got hold of the software these languages were a shambles of inconsistency. I removed the inconsistencies and then worked on improving all of them.

You may wonder why one program needed three macro languages and it is a good question. In reality the program could have gotten away with only two. SuperSLIC was a two-pass composition system. The first pass created composed typographic galley: lines of type, paragraphs, illustrations, footnotes, etc. The second pass placed that galley into pages. While galley creation was a pretty straightforward process, pagination was a series of trial-and-error passes, filling a column, then another, then squaring them, then backing off space for footnotes, floating blocks of text/graphics or structure changes (from say two columns to three columns, etc.), then starting the page over with the building of the first column again and over and over.

Each process had its own macro language, which were different because they did much different things and saw much different types of data. There was a second galley macro language that could do just about anything, but it was harder to use that the main macro language which we called “structured editing.” The “unstructured editing” was very powerful, but very hard to implement correctly. There was only one form of “pagination editing.”

Besides bringing consistency to the macro languages, I brought new concepts as well. I added new commands to the languages, the concept of functions, then nesting of functions and a short-hand way of declaring multiple and or sequential search values. I made sure that everything I added was done modularly, so that a new functionality could be called and used by many different areas of the program or attached to many of the new and existing commands.

At every opportunity I looked for limitations and tried to remove them. For example, the language had seven or eight different types of floating blocks. One type would appear where it was encountered or float to the top of the next page. One type would only appear at the top of the next page. One type would appear where it was encountered or float to the top of the next column (if it fit). One type would appear where it was encountered or float to the bottom of the current page. One type would only float to the bottom of the page. One type of block was hard-coded so that it would only appear at the top of a specified page. One type of block would jump in front of existing blocks waiting to be output. I took all of the logic and mapped it to a new type of super block that could perform any and all functionality. Then I exposed this new block as a new command that allowed the user to mix-and-match the floating logic. This allowed for hundreds of different types of blocks to be created by the user, yet allowed all the existing blocks to continue working as normal even though internally they were being converted to the new super block format.

I’m actually very proud of the work I did on this software and I really loved working with the 370 Assembler language which was unforgiving but elegant and straightforward in nature.

Next time I get back to this subject, I will tell you about the biggest failure of my career and the day I showed up at work and waited to be fired.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Holy Unannounced Cameo Batman!

As I watched CSI two weeks ago I couldn't help but notice this unannounced cameo appearance by the Mythbusters:

Friday, May 16, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Bomba the Jungle Boy #6

Bomba the Jungle Boy #6 (On Sale: May 16, 1968) has a kinda cool cover by Jack Sparling. This issue gets a new logo as editor Dick Giordano tries to save this struggling book.

Inside we have (Krag) by Denny O'Neil and Jack Sparling. This is O'Neil's first full script for DC coming over from Charlton with Giordano. Denny O'Neil would become one of DC's premiere writers.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Having Your Ass Handed To You, Part II

Keith Olbermann nails Bush's ass to the barn door! Watch it all and tell me if Olbermann edited himself in the last sentence; he wanted to say "fuck" and said "hell" instead.

This Week in Political Humor

Compiled by The Daily Kos:

"Anybody go down to the Crawford ranch for the big Jenna Bush wedding over the weekend? ... That was so sweet, because at the reception, President Bush danced with his lovely daughter. It's the first time he has led in eight years."
--David Letterman

"It’s going to be a relatively small wedding with only her family’s loved ones---the CEOs of the five major oil companies."
--Jay Leno

"This week, New York City Congressman Vito Fossella was arrested for drunk driving, then caught having an extramarital affair, then exposed for having a secret child with his mistress. Or, as it's known in Washington, the trifecta."
--Seth Meyers

"The price of stamps is going up next week from 41 cents to 42 cents. 'Aw, that's cute,' said oil."
--Amy Poehler

"In a recent speech, Barack Obama said he has visited all 57 states. After hearing this, President Bush said, "Ha Ha! He forgot Alaska and Hawaii."
--Conan O'Brien

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Having Your Ass Handed To You

God are these Republicans stupid. You got to wait for it about four minutes and then watch this little weasel squirm!

Another item from the Daily Kos.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Spectre #5

Spectre #5 (On Sale: May 14, 1968) has a cover by Neal Adams, his last for the series.

Inside we have "The Spectre Means Death?" written and drawn by Neal Adams. The Psycho-Pirate steals a magic globe to locate a source of mystic energy that will enable him to remove the magic mask that Doctor Fate used to deny him the use of his powers. The globe gives the Pirate control over a drifter who becomes a giant and can focus the emotion manipulation powers of his master. When the Spectre tries to stop the giant drifter, Psycho-Pirate causes bystanders to fear him. He also siphons off the Spectre's powers.

The Spectre seeks to renew his energy by entering the body of Jim Corrigan, but Corrigan wants to arrest him. Instead the Spectre uses his remaining power in a final confrontation with the drifter. He manages to neutralize the giant, but in doing so he allows the Psycho-Pirate to overcome him.

The drifter is then revealed to be Gat Benson, the man who killed Jim Corrigan. When he sees Corrigan alive, Benson panics. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #498.

This was the first time Gat Benson had appeared since More Fun Comics #53 in 1940.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Smart and Safe

I told you before about test-driving the Smart car last year. I said back then that "The Smart Fortwo ... is basically a reinforced crash cage with an engine. I've seen some pretty spectacular crash tests with the Fortwo and it is amazing how little damage gets transferred inside of that cage." Well, that has now been proven as the 2008 Smart fortwo, the smallest car for sale in the U.S. market, has earned top scores in crash tests conducted by the insurance industry.

According to this latest article, "The 8-foot, 8-inch vehicle received the highest rating of good in front-end and side-impact testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helping address some concerns that consumers may be more vulnerable in the tiny two-seater."

I was told that the local Smart dealer is out of cars for the entire year, but you might be able to find one in your area. They are at least worth dropping in for a test drive.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Childish Primitive Legends

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

--Albert Einstein

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Years ago the company I worked at, AMTEC Information Services, was purchased by EDS, Electronic Data Services. At the time EDS was a juggernaut, the world's largest data processing company, the behemoth that Ross Perot had created and which made him a very rich man when he sold the company to General Motors.

EDS was a scary place to work, but I moved up in the organization at the AMETC division, from a Graphic Systems Developer to Director of Software Development, being placed in charge of the development of our publishing, typesetting, graphic conversion, graphic database and optical systems (CD-ROM) projects. I hated being a manager at EDS as my days consisted of going to meetings and writing reports and talking to developers. What they did not consist of was writing code and I am, at heart, a coder. I love the creative process that is the heart of writing great software. I eventually was asked to take on leading all of the developers at AMTEC and instead asked to be demoted to Lead Developer over the typesetting and publishing software, a role which allowed me to return to coding on a daily basis. I even got to pick my replacement, which I thought was pretty cool at the time.

I left EDS on December 31, 1989 when my wife took her first job as a city manager and it required us to move out of the Los Angeles/Orange County area. Except for some consulting with EDS to clean up some loose ends left from when I departed, I never worked with or for them again, but EDS is not the kind of place you completely forget about. They were huge and tough and really ruthless at times and you had to be pretty thick-skinned to work there because they took no shit from anyone. So, how surprising to see yesterday on the Internet how far they have fallen.

Hewlett-Packard is in negotiations to purchase EDS for between 12 and 13 billion dollars. According to the EDS website, the deal is actually done. I never thought I would see EDS subordinate to anyone, but with this more global economy, I guess the times they are a changin'.

Wow, how the mighty have fallen.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Less than 1%

As all around good guy Mark Evanier points out here, this was Clinton's actual margin of victory in Indiana, not 2% as has been widely reported.

Friday, May 09, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #175

House of Mystery #175 (On Sale: May 9, 1968) has the first of many wonderful Neal Adams HOM covers featuring a group of children. Neal's covers, more any other single factor, set the tone for the highly successful run of DC mystery books.

Inside we begin with "The Gift of -- Doom" drawn by George Roussos and reprinted from House of Mystery #137. That is followed by "The House of Gargoyles" by Bob Haney and Jack Sparling, the first original DC "mystery" story in years and the start of a long and successful run of mystery/horror stories at DC. This first story was reprinted in DC Special #11, Limited Collectors' Edition C-23 and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Clinton's Mistakes

I think Time Magazine does a pretty good job of simply explaining the five biggest mistakes Hillary Clinton made during her campaign and why she made them. I think the only thing they miss are a group of things she and Bill did that alienated a great number of, up till then, loyal Democrats.

That list would include padding her resume with bogus stories of landing under fire in Bosnia, Bill's racist remarks regarding South Carolina and Hillary waffling on the question of Obama's religion, saying “No. No, there is nothing to base that [accusations that Obama was Muslim] on. As far as I know.

As far as I am concerned, she lost the nomination right then, she certainly lost my respect.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Irvine Robbins

When I worked at Disney I used to drive by the headquarters of Baskin-Robbins all the time when driving from one Buena Vista Home Video site to another and I always wondered what they were cooking up inside. With the death this week of Irvine Robbins we no longer have either original partner of the 31 Flavors ice cream empire.

When I was growing up, getting to go to Baskin-Robbins was always a very special treat. Back then I loved the Baskin-Robbins Liquorice ice cream. It was black in color and tasted exactly like Ouzo (or black liquorice, take your pick). It was a rare treat when they had it in stock, as I would guess it was not the most popular flavor, though amazingly I have found a couple of recipies for making Liquorice Ice Cream on the NET.

Liquorice is the only flavor at Baskin-Robbins I ever bought by the gallon. Back then they would slice the bottom off of the carton to the depth of a gallon and then reseal the carton and your slice with another carton top. I remember I used to get a double scoop, Liquorice and Lemon Custard, the black and the yellow contrasting nicely in the cone or cup.

Over the years I've seen the figure of at least one ex-girlfriend go completely to hell because of Baskin-Robbins! Damn you Jamoca Almond Fudge! My personal sin for years has been Peanut Butter n' Chocolate and Pralines and Cream and yeah, I have to have a scoop of each.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman #208

Superman #208 (On Sale: May 7, 1968) has a pretty cool cover by Neal Adams.

"The Case of the Collared Crime-Fighter" is by Frank Robbins, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. Gimmicks Cronin, a known crook, is able to place a special collar around Superman's neck. He tells the Superman that if the collar is removed or tampered with, bombs will explode around the city. The collar contains a tracking device which allows Cronin to alert the underworld to the Man of Steel's location at all times.

The back-up story, "The Town That Hated Superman," is a reprint from Superman #130 and is by Otto Binder, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. Superman discovers a town that hates him. The town is lead by Bruce Cyrus. No one in town seems to know why Cyrus hates Superman, but they are forced to obey Anti-Superman laws of the town.

Superman meets Cyrus and learns that he is from the same Smallville orphanage. He has blamed Superman all his life for not being adopted.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rumble Seat

I'm going to share a secret joy with you. It's one of the things I do in my private life that provides an abundance of personal pleasure. Now there are a number of activities that might match that description, but here I am referring to reading car reviews. Shocking I know.

I am not a big auto-tech head, I don't subscribe to automobile magazines and, except for a year or so in the early 80s, I never have. I wasn't all that interested in automobile reviews until 2004. That is the year that Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His Pulitzer citation read:

For distinguished criticism, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times for his one-of-a-kind reviews of automobiles, blending technical expertise with offbeat humor and astute cultural observations.
Technical expertise, offbeat humor and astute cultural observations? This I had to see, or rather read and since I have had a subscription to the Times since, well, forever, checking out Dan Neil proved to be quite an easy task. It also proved to be addicting as Dan is everything the Pulitzer people said he is. I offer as evidence of this a few bon mots from some recent reviews:

Suzuki SX4 Crossover--April 23, 2008

As a company, Suzuki often seems a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, stuffed into a slightly shoddy handbag that smells of cheese. On the one hand, you have the motorcycle side of the company, maker of end-times miracles such as the Hayabusa and the GSX-R. These are completely and utterly fantastic bikes, virtually without peer, especially if you like going 300 mph in first gear. The company also makes scooters, ATVs and outboard motors, and I hear they are pretty good too.

On the other hand, you have the automotive side of the business. I wonder if, given the uneven track record of American Suzuki, a busload of auto execs and a busload of Suzuki Method violin teachers somehow got switched, and now eager 5-year-olds are learning how to charge extra for undercoating.
I actually laugh out loud at this stuff.

2009 Acura TSX: bells and whistles, but no charisma--April 30, 2008

If we accept that there is something interesting about every car, then the 2009 Acura TSX tests this proposition to the breaking point. Is it well made? Are Oprah's diamond earrings real? Of course, it's well made. It's a lux'ed-up, Euro-spec Honda Accord, re-badged as an Acura and aimed at America's young and upwardly mobile petit-bourgeoisie, assuming we have any left.

Is it well equipped? Like a Chippendales show. Acura has always employed the irresistible logic of more is better. The TSX (starting at $28,960) comes standard with a big, beautiful navigation system, heated leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of other upmarket swirlies. Acura simply refuses to yield the value equation. If one of its competitors offered a device to allow telepathic communication with small rodents, you can be sure that the TSX would offer Acura's HamsterLink technology, and it would come standard with the nav system.

Is it attractive? I think the word is clinical. Rarely do you see a design that is so obviously driven by the marketers' metaphorical imperatives -- high-tech but not alienating, sleek but safe, and precisely 23.88% richer and more upmarket than the Accord. Thus the curious polished metal orthodontia in the grille. This thing has a front toof like Ollie.

Does it drive well? Absolutely. If you are benchmarking front-wheel-drive, 3,419-pound sedans with 201-hp four-cylinder engines, it drives beautifully. A deep serenity presides over the ride quality, abetted by barbiturate-like quiet and cabin isolation. Push the car a little harder into turns and, yes, you'll wish you had more steering feel -- or some -- and you'll eventually invoke the disapproval of the stability control system. But the TSX has its shoes laced up tight. Lots of traction, plenty of agility and a willingness to do as it's told that borders on slavishness.

But is the TSX interesting, compelling or unforgettable in some emotional way? Will it wake you out of a dead sleep with asphalt-gnawing desire? Will you lie and embezzle or pimp out your dog to get one? Probably not.

It's an excellent car and well worth the money. But when it comes to charisma, compared to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C300, the Audi A4, the BMW 328i, the Acura surrenders like Lee at Appomattox.
And finally:

A BMW only a mama could love--March 19, 2008

Let's begin with a verity, an undeniable truth that is evident from 3 feet away or from the cold distance of outer space: The new 1-series BMW is ugly. Seriously ugly. Ugly with X-wings locked in attack formation. Spare me your E.H. Gombrich or Helen Gardner. I know an ugly car when one blows past me at 100 mph.

Ugly cars are unusual, for very good reasons. Auto companies are vast organizations, with billions of dollars invested, and tens of thousands of employees, some of whom can actually see to pick out their own ties. Also, in an age of computer-aided design, virtual modeling and rapid prototyping, ugly can usually be rooted out and burned at the stake before the first tooling is purchased. Usually.
My point in sharing this with you is not to piss you off because you don't have an LA Times subscription, that would be just plain mean. No, rather it is to share with you the joy of Dan Neil's writing and to let you know that you can read it on-line at this address. New reviews arrive every Wednesday,

A year ago I could not share this with you though I wanted to. The reason was the horrid state of the Los Angeles Times website. It was clunky, confusing and butt-ugly. However, with the new owners has come a new commitment to the Internet and the Times website is now a sleek and sassy joy to peruse. Check it out and you may be surprised. OK, they need to put their comics on-line, but other than that, the site is pretty damn good.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Duel

Years ago when I worked as a contractor at Nestle, I sat with the other contractors in basically a long hallway with desks along both walls. They put two programmers at each desks, but they were really just wooden tables, as there were no drawers, though there were some upper cabinets to put manuals in. I sat next to a guy, and I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember his name, but he was a Native American with this beautiful long straight hair the reached almost to his waist. We would sit and talk about stuff as we worked and one day I mentioned how much I loved blues guitar and he asked me if I had ever seen Crossroads?

"It was made in the 1980s and starred Ralph Macchio, and it's about the Crossroads from Robert Johnson's song Crossroads."

Now most people these days don't know who Robert Johnson was, but most do know the song Crossroads by Cream and that is Robert Johnson's song about selling your soul to the devil for the ability to play the blues. The crossroads is where you go to meet the devil.

I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above, have mercy now, save poor Bob if you please

Standin' at the crossroads, tried to flag a ride
Whee-hee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

Standin' at the crossroads, risin' sun goin' down
Standin' at the crossroads baby, the risin' sun goin' down
I believe to my soul now, po' Bob is sinkin' down

You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin', Lord, baby I'm sinkin' down

I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad, babe, I looked east and west
Lord, I didn't have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress
Well, I went out that night and rented the movie and really fell in love with it. I've never quite seen anything like it. One of the unique features of this movie is the ending duel between Ralph Macchio's character and the devil's champion guitar player (Steve Vai). It's like those big fights at the end of action pictures or the big games at the end of sporting pictures, only with guitars!

I love it! And you might too!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dockworkers Protest Iraq War

I mentioned this on the Tony Isabella board the other day saying,
"Dockworkers? Who would'a thunk it?" only to be schooled by a couple of regular posters, Dan Lorenzen and William Ashley Vaughan, on the great tradition of protest by the patriotic American dockworkers. As Dan wrote:

Actually, according to this at least, the ILWU is the "most militant and politicized worker organization in the nation". So I guess if anyone was going to act up it was going to be them.

Personally I'm becoming disillusioned that any change is going to come from the "top" (sympathetic political parties). I think more actions like this are needed to get any change...

We also need more unions!
I couldn't agree with that last sentiment any more. As to "Who would'a thunk it?" William replied:

I would have. These are the heirs of the American heroes who brought the West Coast shipping establishment to its knees in an epic 1934 strike which was one of the great moments in American history. As an agnostic, I doubt that there is a heaven. But, if there is, Harry Bridges is looking down from it at the protests and smiling. Long live America!
Indeed. Things look like they may be finally turning around in this country, when those on the oh-so-wrong right no longer feel they can question the patriotism of those protesting the war and the evil little fuck in the White House who foisted it upon the unthinking American people.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Was it Friendly Fire?

As you can read here, the Civil War has claimed another, perhaps it's final victim, 140 years after it ended. Civil War relic collector Sam White of Chester, Virginia, was killed in February when a cannonball he was restoring exploded, killing him in his driveway. The blast was so powerful that it sent shrapnel through the front porch of a house a quarter of a mile away.

The article doesn't mention if it was a Yankee or a S'uthern cannonball, so we don't know if the last victim of the Civil War was the result of "friendly fire" or not.

Friday, May 02, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Aquaman #40

Aquaman #40 (On Sale: May 2, 1968) features one of my favorite covers of all time by the great Nick Cardy. Over the next two years Cardy will do some of the most amazing comic covers ever on what is my favorite series of all time.

"Sorcerers of the Sea" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo but it is just not right to leave off editor Dick Giordano who orchestrated this series starting with this issue, for many of the books are credited to SAG (Skeates/Aparo/Giordano). This accreditation is most likely the work of letterer Aparo.

This book is a classic for a number of reasons: It marks the first real Dick Giordano book for DC, where we get to see his hand as an editor all over the product. It features the first Jim Aparo work at DC, a company he would work at for the rest of his life as one of their premiere artists. It has the first full script by Steve Skeates at DC. It redefines the character of Aquaman, giving him much more depth as he searches the seas or his kidnapped wife. Lastly, it begins a story arc that will run for the next year and a half, something DC rarely ever did.

Now for the details... Mera is kidnapped while Aquaman is caught in a whirlpool. He doesn't see the attackers, and his only clue is a ring worn by one of them. After the attack, Aquaman and Aqualad begin a search of the area where she was taken.

Aquaman finds an undersea city that shimmers in the distance. He sneaks into the city and believes he sees Mera acting as the queen of the people. He tries to force his way into the palace, but is captured. Aqualad is also injured in the process.

Aquaman escapes and takes Aqualad back to Atlantis for medical attention. He then returns to the city. This time despite the magic of the defending sorcerers, Aquaman makes his way to the queen's chambers. When he sees her, he realizes that her eyes are a different color than Mera's. She is not his wife, so he leaves the city determined to continue his quest to find Mera. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #491 and shamefully, nowhere else.

One of the joys of this series is watching Jim Aparo morph into this amazing artist. In this first few issues his Aquaman is kind of blocky and stocky but within a year he will become this lithe, figure of rippling muscles that slices through the water with amazing grace and ease. Like I said, this is my favorite series of all time.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Five Years of Shame!

It's Mission Accomplished Day again, and that disgusting, lying, worthless sack of shit is still sitting in the White House instead of a prison cell. There is something truly wrong with this country.

Well, at least the surge is working!

Only 49 unnecessary and meaningless deaths this month.