Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Don't Know a Whole Lot About FIOS...

...but if Time Warner drops Comedy Central at midnight, I am moving to FIOS the second it becomes available in my neighborhood (and they were laying new fiber-optic cable on my street just last week).


I'm reading John Lennon The Life by Philip Norman. Well, actually I have been flipping through the exhaustive index and then turning to a topic that interests me and so far the book has exceeded my expectations in that I have learned something new about Lennon or the Beatles on almost every page I have read, like this one from the height of Beatlemania:

John and Paul's extraordinary success rate as songwriters generated insecurities of its own...The pair spent hours trying to analyze just what had made their latest hit a hit...For a while, they believed the crucial ingredient was simply the word me or you, hence not only "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You," and "She Loves You," but also "P.S. I Love You," "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" "Thank You Girl, "I'll Get You," "Bad To Me," and "Hold Me Tight."
So far the book is highly recommended. all 800+ pages.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

President Palin? Been There. Done That

From the Vanity Fair piece coming out on Wednesday we get this juicy quote of Bush as a Palin-like know-nothing having to be handled the whole way and easily manipulated by the evil that is Dick Cheney:

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that as a new president, Bush was like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee whom critics said lacked knowledge about foreign affairs. When Bush first came into office, he was surrounded by experienced advisers like Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell, who Wilkerson said ended up playing damage control for the president.

"It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin-like president — because, let's face it, that's what he was — was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire," Wilkerson said, adding that he considered Cheney probably the "most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur" he'd ever met.

"He became vice president well before George Bush picked him," Wilkerson said of Cheney. "And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush — personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum."

Your Daily Reason To Hate Republicans

Today's reason: Those pesky campaign finance regulations only apply to Democrats; Republican groups can break them with impunity:
For Republicans opposed to campaign finance regulations, it appears that enforcing the law is just so last year.
Bloomberg reports that the Federal Election Commission's three GOP members all voted against fining the Chamber of Commerce for illegally spending money in 2004 on attacks against John Edwards, that year's Democratic vice-presidential nominee. The 3-3 final vote tally meant the commission took the rare step of rejecting an FEC counsel recommendation to impose the fine.

The November Fund, a 527 group run by the Chamber, had been found to have broken campaign spending laws by using $3 million it received from the chamber to attack Edwards over his trial lawyer background. Bloomberg notes that 11 other 527s were accused of violating campaign spending laws, and all but the Chamber paid a fine.
One set of rules for Republicans; another set of rules for everyone else.

Friday, December 26, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Bat Lash #3

Bat Lash #3 (On Sale: December 26, 1968) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

"(Judge Nero)" is plotted and drawn by Nick Cardy and scripted by Denny O'Neil. This is the only issue of Bat Lash not plotted by Sergio Aragones. In Comic Book Artist #1, of this issue and Cardy's scripting Sergio said, "I was surprised, because he made Bat look like a clown. He drew all the characters so cartoony, falling in bathtubs, and hanging from roofs... It really hurt me a lot, because I didn't want anything like that. The humor should be the result of Bat Lash's action. I think that's the only issue that he's out of character."

Bat Lash is taken into a new town by a sheriff's wife. The sheriff tries to kill him, then makes him the new deputy after Bat Lash meets the pretty deputy Samantha Eggbert. When the sheriff is killed by crooked Judge Nero, Bat Lash is framed for the crime. He is convicted and sentenced to hang, but Samantha helps him escape. Bat Lash then leaves town, leaving Samantha behind to face the townspeople.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tragedy Up North!

This woman is just getting out of hand!

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Brave and the Bold #82

Brave and the Bold #82 (On Sale: December 24, 1968) has a beautiful Batman and Aquaman cover by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

"The Sleepwalker from the Sea" is by Bob Haney, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. Batman witnesses the murder of Otto Chernak and is prevented from pursuing the killer by someone resembling Aquaman. As Bruce Wayne, he follows a lead on the case to Orm Marius, the man behind a new marine city project. Marius is actually Aquaman's half-brother Ocean Master.

Aquaman is under Ocean Master's hypnotic control and is ordered to kill Bruce. Batman brings him to police headquarters where Aquaman explains that he feels responsible for the death of a marine biologist. Batman helps to convince Aquaman that he was set up by his brother. Together the two heroes then shut down Orm's operations. The Ocean Master escapes because Aquaman did not want to see his brother harmed. This story has been reprinted in Best of the Brave and the Bold #3, Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 HC and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Droud

Anyone who ever read Larry Niven's The Ringworld Engineers knows that at the beginning of the book Louis Wu, the protagonist from Ringworld, has become a "current addict" or a "wirehead," he has become addicted to the Droud, a device that directs electrical current into his brain, stimulating the pleasure centers. Behold: the Droud!

Scientists are developing an electronic "sex chip" that can be implanted into the brain to stimulate pleasure.

The chip works by sending tiny shocks from implanted electrodes in the brain.

The technology has been used in the United States to treat Parkinson's disease.

But in recent months scientists have been focusing on the area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex - this is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex.

A research survey conducted by Morten Kringelbach, senior fellow at Oxford University's department of psychiatry, found the orbitofrontal cortex could be a "new stimulation target" to help people suffering from anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure from such activities. His findings are reported in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal.

Interestingly enough, this is not the only device of this type in development:
An electronic machine, named the Orgasmatron, taken from the 1973 Woody Allen film Sleeper, is already under development by a North Carolina doctor, who is modifying a spinal cord stimulator to produce pleasure in women.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Al Franken on the Uptake!

I've been watching the counting live in the Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken on the Uptake for the past few days off and on and find it fascinating. As an exercise in governmental transparency it is a tremendous step forward and as pure theater it ain't half bad either. In fact, some of it has been very entertaining.

I loved the two ballots they discussed today. On one the person had voted for Al Franken, but then wrote in the write-in area the name: "Lizard People." The canvassing board then discussed if Lizard People was a real person, or a political statement. If a political statement, then the vote was for Franken; if a real person it was an over-vote. A woman on the board said how she once knew a person whose last name was People and another member asked her if their first name had been Lizard? That evoked a round of chuckles. Eventually they decided that Lizard People might be real and therefore it was an over-vote; Franken lost that one, but so did Coleman (though one might argue that Lizard People might be Coleman's species).

A few ballots later someone voted for Franken but altered his name to be Al Frankenstein. Coleman's attorney argued that this was not a vote for Al Franken and therefore should not be counted as such. Franken's attorney countered that it was obviously a vote for Franken but that the voter was just being "goofy." The board decided that they had voted for the person designated as the Democratic nominee for Senate and therefore Al Franken or Al Frankenstein were the same person.

You can't make this stuff up!

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Witching Hour #1

Witching Hour #1 (On Sale: December 19, 1968) has a very moody cover by Nick Cardy.

This was DC's second foray into horror/mystery titles giving the House of Mystery some competition. Editor Dick Giordano went with a trio of "hosts" for this book, two older witches (Mildred and Mordred) and a young, hip witch (Cynthia). I liked this book and Giordano got the most amazing artists for his horror stories. He also made the stories of the old vs. young witches and the bumbling Igor a lot of fun.

Like House of Mystery, the Witching Hour's hosts appeared in framing sequences around the actual stories, but in the Witching Hour they tended to be more of another story in themselves involving the interactions between the three witches. This first issue begins by introducing the hosts in "Let the Judge Be...You!!!" written and drawn by Alex Toth.

Next is "Save the Last Dance for Me" by Denny O'Neil and Pat Boyette. Trapley is rich and selfish and has a machine that has locked onto earth 100 years into the future. He wants all the benefits of traveling there for himself, and what he finds...well, you'll have to read the story. Reprinted in Witching Hour #38.

That is followed by "Eternal Hour" another tale with Alex Toth story and art. Terwit is dwarfish and is teased and ridiculed by the town's boys. Most adults do nothing to stop it. Terwit recluses himself in a clock tower and the clock from then on is stopped at midnight. Years later, many of those boys, now men, go to the tower to drive Terwit out and their screams cry out...Why? Reprinted in Witching Hour #38.

Next is "The Perfect Surf" drawn by Jack Sparling. Stanley is totally nuts about surfing. He really never even notices the total babe at his side. He is obsessed with finding the "perfect wave". He is afforded an opportunity to find that wave in the dead of night. Reprinted in Witching Hour #38.

The book ends with the Epilogue to "Let the Judge Be...You!!!" written by Alex Toth and drawn by Neal Adams.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Rodenberry, R.I.P.

When I worked in Burbank at Disney around 1995-96 I was sitting at a stoplight on Riverside Drive one morning and I remember looking at the car across the street in the left-turn lane and noticing the licence plate: MAJEL. Behind the wheel, behind these large dark glasses was Nurse Christine Chapel. My only meeting with Majel Barrett Rodenberry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Metal Men #36

Metal Men #36 (On Sale: December 17, 1968) has a strikingly creepy cover Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos. That clown is just amazing.

"The Cruel Clowns" is by Robert Kanigher, Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos. Seeking to earn the public trust, the Metal Men try to help people. When their efforts go horribly wrong, they decide to stage a circus. The circus crowd is not impressed with the show until a group of clowns show up and bring laughter.

After the show, the Metal Men thank the clowns. They discover that the clowns are really aliens who take them prisoner. The Metal Men are reduced to miniature size and taken offworld to perform for the alien clowns. After a struggle, the Metal Men escape and return to Earth where they will try again to make people like them.

Edited by Jack Miller.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Arena Football League Suspends Play For 2009 Season

God this is sad news...

LOS ANGELES -- The Arena Football League will suspend the 2009 season subject to agreement and cooperation with the AFL Players Association.

AFL executives and team leaders will develop an organization structure and financial plan that will seek to enhance league-wide revenues while generating cost efficiencies for the league and all its teams. The overriding goal of the league's restructuring is to create a business model that will provide long-term benefits to all current and future teams.

"It's important for the Arena Football League to think about the next 20 years," Avenger owner and chief executive officer Casey Wasserman said. "And the economic model, combined with the economic environment we're in currently doesn't allow us to take that perspective. Suspending play for the year -- in cooperation with our players and our partners -- allows us to get the perspective necessary to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the long-term viability of the league.

"All interested parties -- owners, players, partners and fans -- are committed to the sport," Wasserman added. "We're committed to do the work necessary to make this league have a long-term future together."

The Avengers will refund all season ticket accounts and all seat locations will be held until further notice.

"We have built an organization that prides itself on connecting with its fans and delivering value to its sponsors," Avenger president Matt Wikstrom said. "While I am saddened by today's announcement, our commitment to that vision grows stronger. We will work tirelessly to remain connected to the Avenger community throughout 2009."

Friday, December 12, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #80

Showcase #80 (On Sale: December 12, 1968) has a Phantom Stranger cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with the Phantom Stranger in "Men Call Me the Phantom Stranger" by Mike Friedrich, Jerry Grandenetti and Bill Draut. This was the first new Phantom Stranger story since The Phantom Stranger #6 in 1953. DC was looking for more mystery comics and found a winner in this long-forgotten character, revamped for the 1960s. This story was a framing sequence around the rest of the book which was reprints and was itself reprinted in Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 TPB.

Next we have "The Three Signs of Evil" by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella and reprinted from Phantom Stranger #2. Artist Mark Davis strolls through Columbus Circle and happens upon a gathering. As he watches, he begins sketching a picture of some symbols the people are using. When the group notices him, they demand that he turn over the sketches. Davis refuses and leaves the scene.

The cult members follow Davis and attack him near Times Square. Mark is rescued by the Phantom Stranger who examines Mark's sketch. The Stranger deduces where the cult will be from the sketch. Mark offers his assistance in stopping the cult.

Following the third sign in his sketch, Mark is captured by the Moon Cult. They intend to sacrifice him to gain mystical power. The Phantom Stranger comes to the rescue again and knocks out the cult. Mark summons the police, while the Stranger disappears.

Lastly we have a reprint of the first Doctor 13 story, "I Talked with the Dead" from Star Spangled Comics #122 and drawn by the great Leonard Starr. DC took the mystical Stranger and added the supernatural hoax-breaker Terrance Thirteen as a foil for the Stranger's mystic adventures.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Indymac Makes the Big Time

When people would ask me where I worked and I would say, "Indymac Bank" I would always get a vacant stare back; no one had ever heard of us. Then after I was laid off and the company was seized by the Feds that all changed. Indymac became part of the lexicon. But it wasn't until today that it became part of the pop culture. We owe it all to Sally Forth:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Biblical Marriage

From a discussion on using the Bible as your source for how you live comes this comment by gladkov. In short, if we are to let the Bible define what "traditional marriage" should look like, then our marriage laws should be amended as such:
A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Our Army at War #203

Our Army at War #203 (On Sale: December 10, 1968) is an 80 Page giant issue and sports a nice Sgt. Rock cover by Joe Kubert.

We begin with Sgt. Rock in "Easy's Had It" by the standard team of Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. This very early Easy Co. story is from Our Army At War #103. Easy Company believes that Sgt. Rock is the core of the unit. If he dies, they don’t think Easy can go on. Rock tries to convince them that no soldier including him is irreplaceable. Rock's theory comes true when he is seriously wounded. Easy believes him dead. They fight on to avenge their leader's death. After the battle, Easy realizes Rock is still alive.

Next is the Haunted Tank in "Trap of the Dragon's Teeth" by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath. This story is from G.I. Combat #98. Jeb and his team act as a scout for the larger Pershing tanks. Jeb finds anti-tank mines in a river and enemy tanks on the other side, but he can't warn the other tanks without alerting the enemy. When the other Allied tanks start across the river, Jeb is forced to open fire on the enemy tanks and shout a warning about the mines. The larger tanks are saved, but the Haunted Tank is heavily damaged by the battle.

While being towed, Jeb wishes that tanks had an early warning system. The ghost of General Stuart tells Jeb about Sam Simmons, a civil war soldier who sneezed whenever the enemy was near. Jeb suddenly develops physical ailments that act as an early warning system. A headache warns of an attack from above, while his foot pain indicates one from below. When Jeb's teeth begin to hurt, he is warned of Dragon's Teeth anti-tank traps. The warnings help the Haunted Tank survive several battles.

Mademoiselle Marie stars in "T.N.T. Spotlight" from Star Spangled War Stories #87 and is by Robert Kanigher and Mort Drucker. Mademoiselle Marie is contacted by the Allies to create a diversion, so that soldiers can get behind enemy lines on a recon mission. Marie's actions bring her to the attention of German Commandant Von Ekt. Von Ekt targets French citizens to lead Marie into a trap. Though she is momentarily captured, Marie successfully escapes and destroys her target, creating the diversion the Allied troops need.

Johnny Cloud is in "Battle Eagle" from All-American Men of War #85 and is by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick. After returning from a mission, Johnny meets the family of one of his squadron, Sandy. Sandy's son Billy was expecting Johnny to be wearing traditional Indian garb and is disappointed by Johnny's normal appearance. When Billy is injured in a bombing raid, Johnny tries to please the boy by dressing up, but he can't find suitable apparel. Later, Johnny crashes his damaged fighter near the manor house of Lord Leslie. Leslie loans Johnny some traditional Indian battle gear. Johnny wears the outfit to the hospital to cheer the spirits of the injured boy.

Lastly Gunner and Sarge star in "Col. Hakawa's Birthday Party" from Our Fighting Forces #68 and is also by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick. Gunner, Sarge, and a unit of marines defend an island position against repeated Japanese attacks. The Japanese commander Col. Hakawa is a practical joker and constantly plays booby-trap jokes on the marines. He sends an invitation to the marines for his birthday party hoping to lead them into a trap. Gunner and Sarge play their own joke by dropping dummy paratroopers on the enemy. Then they overrun the enemy position. Col. Hakawa escapes, but leaves another booby trap that the marines are barely able to avoid.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Lennon, R.I.P.

It was 28 years ago tonight that Howard Cosell told me the horrible news.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Otis II!

About a year back or so I put up a video of the great Otis Redding doing Try a Little Tenderness and stated then that, growing up with the Three Dog Night version, I didn't even know Redding did the song till I saw Pretty In Pink and this scene:

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Atom & Hawkman #41

Atom & Hawkman #41 (On Sale: December 3, 1968) has another great cover by Joe Kubert. The book also has a new tweaked logo that will last till the book ends.

We begin with the Atom in "Return of the Seven-Year Dead Man" by Gardner Fox, Dick Dillin and Sid Greene. This book is Gardner Fox's last work on Atom and Hawkman as DC is about to squeeze him out of the business. Fox's career at DC began in 1937 with "The Mystery of San Jose Island," a Speed Saunders story in Detective #3.

Jason Madden, a former crook that has had amnesia, has been officially declared dead after being missing for seven years. When Madden sees the story in a newspaper, he recovers his memory. He expects his former partners to be attending his funeral, but neither man shows up. Madden learns that the Atom arrested Grabs Gannon, but Chuck Wheeler did not show up either.

Madden tracks down Wheeler, who has gone straight and is now a successful businessman. Madden tries to kill Wheeler, but the Atom intervenes. Atom then stops Madden from pulling the same robbery that Grabs Gannon had attempted. Wheeler turns himself over to the police for his old crimes. He is given a suspended sentence because of his charitable work and honest life.

We round out the book with Hawkman in "Yo-Yo Hangup in the Sky" by Gardner Fox, Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson. Continuing from last issue, taking Harris back to his spaceship, Hawkman and his passenger encounter a gravity-defying car, which he rescues, despite being similarly affected. The car's passengers turn out to be bank robbers trying to make a getaway, and they try to shoot him, unsuccessfully.

Hawkman finally questions Harris, determining that his moonstone ring, bought that morning, is the teleportation device, and that the anti-gravity effect came from his own spaceship's grappler and repelling beams, accidentally activated by Harris when he was aboard. Reprinted in Showcase Presents: Hawkman Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Woody Allen I

When I was younger I had a friend named Tim Bean and one day Tim was selling a whole bunch of the "stuff" he had acquired over the years. One of the many wonders I bought that day was an album of Woody Allen's nightclub act from the 1960s. From time to time I'm going to share a favorite of mine from that album. This is the first:
When I was little boy, I wanted a dog desperately, and we had no money. I was a tiny kid, and my parents couldn't get me a dog, 'cause we just didn't have the money, so they got me, instead of a dog - they told me it was a dog - they got me an ant. And I didn't know any better, y'know, I thought it was a dog, I was a dumb kid. Called it 'Spot'. I trained it, y'know. Coming home late one night, Sheldon Finklestein tried to bully me. Spot was with me. And I said "Kill!", and Sheldon Finklestein stepped on my dog.