Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mark's Bookshelf 10.29.2009

I love, love, love Michael Chabon. Ever since I reached the final page of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and immediately turned back to page one to read it again. The book just spoke to me in a way that no other novel ever had, at least since I read Fahrenheit 451 in High School, and that was my favorite book of all time...

Until Michael Chabon entered my life.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son
By Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon and I share a lotof touchstones in life. We both have deep-seated love for Comic Books, Heroic Ficton and other "junk art," as some would label it. When I read his work, he touches on things like, say, the work of Jack Kirby, that I immediately understand, and can go with him on.

I truly feel, especially when reading one of Chabon's essay books, such as this one, that reading his work is like sitting down with an old friend to talk about things we both love. Not to say that all of Chabon's essays are fanboy musings, far from it. In particular, here, he spends a lot of time talking about his role as a father, and I, as yet, have not crossed that bridge. What I mean is that he wraps those experiences in the mind of a man who knows the things I know.

Take, for example, the essay "The Amateur Family," where he relates the bonding his family does over the Brittish series Doctor Who. It made me laugh and cry to hear how he and his children enthused over the series that my wife and I love, as well. It's Chabon's joyus glee in embracing his geekdom, or nerdiness, or whatever you want to call it, that binds me to him.

He touches on some many elements of, well, "manhood" is a great way to put it, because it's not just about being a father, or a son, or a husband, but all of that wrapped together. It felt like a touchstone book for me, one I will come back to as I pass the moments he relates. I'm almost 100% certain that, if I ever have a child, I will re-read the multiple sections on fatherhood, as Chabon seems to have reached a place where I think we all wish fatherhood would always reside. Honesty with a dash of protection.

If nothing else Michael Chabon is a beautiful writer, adn I am constantly amazed by his ability to switch genres and styles without losing his own powerful voice. Sure, I'd much rather have just finished a new novel, but I'd lose out on feeling I got to know a bit of Chabon himself, and that is a grand thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Comic Wednesday 10.28.2009

Well, two light weeks mean...heavy week on the way.

And it's here.

Ambush Bug: Year None #7 (of 6)

Written by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming
Art by Keith Giffen and Al Milgrom
Cover by Darwyn Cooke

Ahh, FINALLY! I've been waiting for this bugger to wrap up for, God, has it been half a year? More? Was the delay a intended part of the scathing satire of modern comics that is the whole point of the series? "Whatever Happened to AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #6?" will hopefully answer those questions.

Batman #692

Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Cover by Tony Daniel

Tony Daniel comes back to the fold after writing and providing art for The Battle for the Cowl, a mini-series which, while not terrible, didn't blow up my skirt by any reach of the imagination. I had liked what the Judd Winick/Mark Bagly team had brought to the table quite a bit, but I'll let Daniel take a run. It's not like I'm dropping this book.

Blackest Night #4 (of 8)

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert
Variant cover by Ethan Van Sciver
Sketch variant cover by Ivan Reis

"Variant cover," sketch variant cover".....**SHIVER** Thank God Geoff John's writing is solid enough to hold up under the marketing machine. The pieces of this puzzle are starting to fit, with the introduction of the Indigo Lanterns and the revelations that the Black Lanterns aren't REALLY our favorite characters revived. That said, this is where "secrets are revealed," and I really do not want Johns to drop the ball.

Detective Comics #858

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams III
co-feature art by Cully Hamner
Cover by JH Williams III
Variant cover by Adam Hughes

A Batman title with no Batman? (well, none of them have "BATMAN" at this point.) This is the one that's working on all cylinders at this point. The Batwoman lead feature is well written with, flat-out, amazing art, and the Question back-up feature is kicking ass, as well. A rare title where a $3.99 price tag doesn't phase me at all.

Gotham City Sirens #5

Written by Paul Dini
Art and cover by Guillem March

I keep saying I'm going to drop this book, but I keep buying it. Right now, it's the only regular series Dini is writing. So, I suppose that's a reason. It is attempting to tie-in with the main Bat-storyline, but the series seems so far out on the edge of everything, I have to struggle to care. March can draw ladies real nice, I admit.

Green Lantern #47

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
Variant cover by Ed Benes

I always wonder how an artist like Mahnke can stay pretty much on schedule for a monthly book like Green Lantern, while, say Ethan Van Sciver seems to slip further and further behind on Flash:Rebirth? (Maybe it has something to do with Van Sciver's constant Facebook complaints about Obama?) I love the Pretty Indigo Lantern cover, and as in the Blackest Night rundown above, the story is working for me. Go Geoff Johns, Go!

Superman: Secret Origin #2 (of 6)

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal
Covers by Gary Frank

I picked up the first issue out of a sense of curiosity, and a respect for the creators. The first issue was fun enough to warrant a second. However, it just keeps nagging at me...Do we need ANOTHER re-telling of the Superman origin? Also, did DC just plan to put out all of Geoff Johns' series in one week? Are you trying to bankrupt me?

Ultimate Comics Avengers #3

COVER BY: Carlos Pacheco
WRITER: Mark Millar
PENCILS: Carlos Pacheco
INKS: Danny Miki|Dexter Vines
COLORED BY: Justin Ponsor
LETTERED BY: VC - Cory Petit

What's happening in this book again? Something to do with a new super-team, after the Ultimatum cock-up, that's "under the radar?" Oh yeah, and Ultimate Red Skull...THAT'S why I'm reading!

One final thought:

Here's a question I'd like to ask Joey Quesada over at marvel...How come you can't put out a decent Fantastic Four book? I WANT to buy a Fantastic Four book...I'm dying to. Benjamin J. Grimm is an almost perfect creation. Why has it sucked since YOU fired Mark Waid and (God rest his soul) Mike Weringo?!?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's one of those days when you just kinda wonder...

What the hell am I going to write?

I used to keep a journal, but I found that when I did that, it sort of devolved into navel-gazing pablum. The fact it was private allowed me to vent a whole ton of shit that maybe, possibly, I needed to get out, I'll admit that. However, it also allowed me to wallow in anger that could've been directed to something creative in some way. I wanted to keep the ritual of writing every day, but force myself beyond the poor-me bullshit that was piling up.

So, when I joined MySpace (Wha? What is that? Is that where all the bands are?), I saw they had a blog feature. So I decided to take my musings and push them outward. It put me in a position where I couldn't simply write things like:

******* was such a fucking asshole last night!! I can't believe that prick thinks he can tell me how to act! Sometimes I want to punch him right in the goddamn nose!!

Yeah, regular Shakespeare I was.

The fact that these little journals are now public, and I don't hide my identity, means that I have a responsibility. A responsibility to not just indulge my base, wounded animal reactions and spew them on a piece of paper like a teenager. To put some thought into what I write here. I still may think ******* is a fucking asshole, yes, I may want to punch him in the goddamn nose, but have to think more than that.

The fact is, that limitation I put on myself has reverberated out into a lot of facets of my life. Firstly, it's changed the way I look at theatre. You may want to indulge your immediate, self-gratification instincts, but y'know what, this is going in front of people, and...

You need to think more than that.

You know why most political theatre, hell most general theatre, sucks? I'll tell you why, it's because most of it is the same as my pen-and-paper blog. It's venting on a page. Little Bobby McGhee is pissed off because Bush was president for eight years, ir that we're still in Afghanistan, or Obama got elected (oh, who am I kidding...who writes right-wing theatre?), or that he can't get a date, or his mother coddles him, or whatever, and he vents that all over the paper.

Do you have any idea how lame that is?

It's like watching a homeless psychotic walking up the street, they're screaming about something that means a hell of a lot to them, in their fevered mind, but you? You walking by on the street? It's just embarrassing.

Why is it embarrassing?

It's embarrassing because there's no control, there's no art. It's raw emotion, and folks, raw emotion only gets you so far. It's an essential part of a first draft, but from the second forward, you better be shaping that into something that molds that emotion with intellect.

Second thing that going public with the blog got out of me was accountability.

I have 2 CDs worth of my attempts at musical expression. They exist. They sit in my CD shelf right between "Poundhound" and "Pride and Glory." (Both awesome bands, BTW) That would never have happened without the blog.

See, I said on my blog that I ought to try making music again. Once I said that, people asked me about it. (The one great advantage of MySpace blogs was that it tracked visitors...I knew about 25-30 people were reading each day.) Once people asked me about it, I was on the hook to not become a person who talked about doing things and never actually made the effort.

Hypocrisy is something I do not want to entertain. I mean, I fail at that all the time, but I, at the very least, try to fight against it. So, when I say I want to do something in a public forum, I'm going to at the very least give it the 'ol college try.

Which is why I'm EXTREMELY careful to never mention writing a book.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures - New Fang!

First Them Crooked Vultures single out today. Here you go:

Oh, yeah...I'm digging that. Old-fashioned power trio hard rock. I really like the way Dave Grohl's ride cymbal plays off Josh Homme's guitar, with John Paul Jones laying the foundation. I've heard some grumbling over at Blabbermouth, and places like that. I'm in to metal as much as the next guy who grew up in the 80's, but, Jesus, guys...broaden your minds. No, it's not 10,000 BPM and walls of distorted guitars. It grooves.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

I have no idea why, but I'm becoming obsessed with hearing this band. It sounds like such a cool thing.


[Oct. 22, 2009] Them Crooked Vultures--a/k/a Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme and John Paul Jones--has confirmed November 17 as the release date of its eponymous debut album in the United States and Canada on DGC/Interscope Records.

The self-produced 13-song record will feature the debut of the studio versions of the material Them Crooked Vultures unveiled at its August 9 debut at Chicago's Cabaret Metro and played on a first series of shows throughout a handful of UK and European cities and portions of the eastern U.S., wrapping up with an October 15 appearance at New York's Roseland Ballroom.

Additional shows are being announced in the wake of the album's release, including but not necessarily limited to December dates in the UK and Europe and a January trip to Australia and New Zealand.

The complete track listing of Them Crooked Vultures is as follows:

No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
New Fang
Dead End Friends
Scumbag Blues
Interlude With Ludes
Warsaw or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up
Spinning In Daffodils

For further information, updates, dates, etc., check back at

I'm becomming quite impressed with Dave Grohl. I've taken a shine to Foo Fighters, and I really loved his P.R.O.B.O.T. side project. It just seems like he's the kind of guy who wants to make music, and he'll call up whoever to make it happen. John Paul Jones is in Them Crooked Vultures, for pity's sake! that's amazing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hey! It's Thursday!!

And I have little to nothing to say, my friends.

My callback last night went pretty darn well. I was happy, and it's a familiar, comfortable environment. I doubt I'll get it, mainly because I have my sights on another show that conflicts with this one. I spoke up, because I have a good relationship with the folks, and company, from last night, and I want to maintain it. I like to leave people who want to work with me again in my wake.

It won't always happen, but that's my goal.

It is a sign to me that I've been here a good long time when I seem to know more people at auditions than I don't. Seems there's always a face from the past that I'm happy to see. Sometimes it's been so long that it's almost like seeing a ghost. People from shows years ago, or short films, or whatever, and you spend a few moments just sort of...looking.

"Is that? Hmmm...I don't know..."

looks traded, then someone (usually not me, I'm terrible with names), finally says, "Mark, right?"

...and we're off.

Everyone always says theatre is a small world. It's so true.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Comic Book Wednesday 10.21.2009

Hey, hey...Here we go!

Batman: Streets of Gotham #5

Written by Chris Yost
co-feature written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
co-feature art by Jeremy Haun
Cover by Dustin Nguyen

Looks like Paul Dini's taking a break. Hopefully, Yost, who's work I've enjoyed in Red Robin, will come up with a good tale. His story apparently teams The Huntress with Man-Bat, which certainly sounds interesting on paper. we shall see.

The Brave and the Bold #28

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art and cover by Jesus Saiz

The Flash teams with WWII heroes, The Blackhawks. Cool. I really do love team-up books like this, and, as I've said, new writer Straczynski is really digging deep for odd pairings, and that's really the fun of this kind of title.

Justice League of America #38

Written by James Robinson
Art and cover by Mark Bagley
Variant cover by Andy Kubert

And now, Robinson and Bagley come on board to try to inject somethign into this title. I'll be on board until Bagly leaves, but if Robinson's not bringing the heat, story-wise, I'm gone with the artist. Seriously, this ought to be a flagship title for DC, and it's been in such a slump for the last few years.

Power Girl #6

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art and cover by Amanda Conner
Variant cover by Guillem March

So. Much. Fun. Seriously, good, goofy superhero fun. This team has really given Power Girl/Karen Starr a real swagger and energy, that just rolls off the pages. Amanda Conner's art just pops, and the women are dead-sexy without seeming exploitative.

The Stand: Soul Survivors #1

COVER BY: Lee Bermejo
WRITER: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
PENCILS: Mike Perkins
INKS: Mike Perkins
COLORED BY: Laura Martin
LETTERED BY: VC - Rus Wooton

This is the first issue of the 3rd mini-series that will make up Marvel's adaptation of Stephen King's novel. I'm a big fan of the novel, and the comics are doing the story justice. Ultimately, it's going to be a 30-issue adaptation in 5-issue mini-series, and that seems about right. Plus, we finally get to see "Bruce Springsteen" as pop-star Larry Underwood. That has to tickle King a bit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I enjoy reading plays...

Especially when I read one as good as the one I read today.

The language was unique, fast paced, and fit with the world presented. I always love it when the words themselves are entertaining, without feeling forced. It makes your characters feel alive, makes reading the script fun, and gives your eventual actors so much to play with.

It had a message, a social event to explore, but it never stopped being about the people involved. It was a story that had a point, not a point hammered into an approximation of a story. I grow so tired of weak stories that are only there so that the author can get out the 3-page rant about fossil fuels that takes over the stage on page 34.

But what the hell do I know?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mark's Listening Post 10.19.2009

Well, new music for me, anyway...

I've got tickets to see John Fogerty next month. Very excited about this, as I've always loved Creedence, and I was a huge fan of his 2004 album, Blue Moon Swamp. Well, despite my intentions to keep up with his records after that wonderful album, I fell behind. I've been trying to catch up a bit before the show.

Revival is John Fogerty's latest non-cover album release, from 2007. It was marketed as a "return" to the CCR sound. I find this a little silly, as I have always found Fogerty's voice and songwriting the core of the "Creedence sound," so, to my ears, it was all over his solo releases. It is clear that Fogerty decided to mine some of this nostalgia right off the bat, from the title of the album, to track 3 "Creedence Song," he's obviously aiming to take back his legacy after years of legal manuvering with Fantasy Records over ownership of his catalog, and then settling and re-signing with them.

I'm a fan, and this album does capture the range of Fogerty's skill, from 60's-style acid rock ("Summer of Love") to straight-up country ("Don't You Wish it Was True"). He's also off on a political tear, and I have to be blunt, it's just as pointed and damning, but without the sly pop showmanship of Springsteen's Magic. (My pick for the most artistically satisfying attack on the Bush administration put to record.)

Pearl Jam is now without a record label, and the result is Backspacer, released exclusively via Target stores. Now I can hear you out there, all you 90's flannel-wearers who hated Ticketmaster because Eddie Vedder told you to, the calls of "sell out" are starting to come. Check out the very first comment in response to Rolling Stone's Review. Yet again, I'm struck with this new hatered for anyone who simply tries to make a living via their art.

This is, of course, incidental to the album itself.

Backspacer is a really, really fun album. I've been on and off the Pearl Jam train about a dozen times. I loved Ten far more than Nevermind, or any other 90's "grunge" album, except maybe the Soundgarden catalog. I kinda fell off after that, I remember ejoying Vs., but then slipping away. I'd hear singles and really enjoy them, but would only fitfully get re-connected with the band.

All that being said, I think "The Fixer" may be my favorite Pearl Jam track ever. This is a powerful, driving album. Eddie and the boys came to rock, and just get down to business. Hell, at first I thought "Gonna See My Friend" was about a sexual encounter...Upon reviewing the lyrics, nope, drugs. The music is so bouyant, I actually thought they'd finally got around to a song that was simply about meeting up with a girl for a little horizontal mambo (Sorry, Eddie). Not that I think that music is better if it's "fun," but it's nice to see the band crank for 37 minutes, and leave you feeling exhilerated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mark's Bookshelf 10.15.2009

I was trying to hold off on this until I finished Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs, but, frankly, I'm doing my best to savor that book. I only get new Chabon about once a year, and I feel I must sip it like fine wine, taking my sweet time with each essay and concept that he puts before me. I find so many life touchstones that Mr. Chabon and I have shared, it's like talking with an old friend. A friend who's a little further along his journey to manhood than I. Great read so far.

Basically, this'll be a quick trip through the last few books I've read. I used to be a voracious reader, especailly in High School. Sure, it was almost all Star Trek novels, and various other crappy tie-in publications, but I'd tear through them like nobody's business.

As time passed, College and theatre tended to suck up my time. I got into a real mindset where, when trying to learn lines I won't/can't read ANYTHING else. It makes me sad, but I also feel I have to focus on the material I have to learn. I've been blessed to be pretty busy with shows for the past few years, reading has suffered.

I've also become much more into non-fiction. Who knew?

Bone by Jeff Smith

I'd Read Smith's SHAZAM!-The Monster Society of Evil, and been very taken with his use of CC Beck's Captain Marvel. There was a true sense of whimsy merged with real dread and big-time stakes. Bone was his masterpiece, acknowledged by pretty much every critic of the graphic novel/comic book form.

Yet, I had never read it.

What a fool I was.

WhenI got the complete version for my birthday, I began to tackle it. It took time, the full story is 1300+ pages. This is an amazing adventure that Smith has created for us. The characters are incredibly sharp and charming, and he imagines a world that feels as real as any great fantasy creation. (It's right up there with Tolkein's Middle-Earth, for me.) To describe the story....Imagine Mickey Mouse (Fone Bone), Daffy Duck (Phoney Bone) and Goofy (Happy Bone - those are the closest correlations I can figure) were dropped into the middle of Lord of the Rings. The work rings with loving homage to Carl Barks and Walt Kelly, and the antics of the Bone cousins (especially greed-motivated Phoncible [Phoney] Bone - an AMAZING creation) are truly amusing and touching (Fone's unrequited love for Thorn, the girl they meet, is truly heartbreaking)

This is a fantastic read for all ages, and something I know I will revisit sometime in the future. I'm happy to have this where I can get to it whenever I want.

The View From the Bridge by Nicholas Meyer

Nicholas Meyer, for those who don't know was the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, he also co-wrote Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as working on the scripts for the two he directed. He came into the franchise not as a fan, but as a guy who wanted to direct movies, and got the opportunity to do so with a franchise that had stumbled a bit on the first time out the gate.

Nick Meyer is a very smart man, and a kind of person that I can imagine would be a tremendous dinner companion. A director, a screenwriter and a novelist, so you can be assure he actually wrote this book. He maintains a really terrific, conversational tone, and a very clear view of his successes and failures. The man just knows how to spin a tale, and make you excited to hear how it all turns out. Top that off with the fact that it seems he has no ill will toward anyone. He's honest about disagreements, but you can see that, with time, he's seen how little those disagreements actually mattered.

It's a short, breezy read, and not just concerned with his Trek experiences. Much better than some of the books by the cast members.

Along those lines....

Star Trek Memories by William Shatner and Kris Kreski

This is a new printing of a book that came out in the early 90's, I believe. When I first got it, and it's now out-of-print sequel, Star Trek Movie Memories, I remember really enjoying "Shatners" breezy style. The whole thing's from his point of view, and it should be. Giving Bill credit, the "Captain's Epilogue" tackles his relationship with the rest of the cast head-on, with Nichelle Nichols asking him, "don't you want to know why we all hate you?"

Upon the re-reading, my opinion is unchanged. This is a good, fun book, and Shatner goes out of his way to honor people who've kinda been crushed by the Gene Roddenberry myth-making, Like Gene L. Coon, who took over as Producer when Roddenberry wanted less work. There's some ugly stories about pretty much everyone, but there's also a genial goodwill that permiates the book. Shatner knew he's make money on this book, but it doesn't feel like a crass money-grab (a feeling you occasionally got with his later book, Up Till Now). He seems to be enjoying revisiting the good times he had making the series.

One last note...and this may be too obvious to point out. Shatner didn't write this book, Kris Kreski wrote this book, based on extensive interviews with Shatner and the rest of the cast, I'm certain, but Shatner's never written a book in his life. "What about this?" you ask...Folks, every time Shatner gets a new "writing partner," his style changes completely. It's so dissimilar, it's as was written by a different person!

I don't demonize Shatner for this, he always makes sure these folk's names are on the cover with his. He's also kind of admitted the whole thing, that he "discusses ideas" with his partners, and then they go off and write. I also feel, in this particular case, we are getting a lot of Shatner, through the interviews he did.

Great fun for Trek fans. Much, much better than, say, Jimmy Doohan's book.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In which I bite off more than I can chew

I am an actor. I write, I direct, I have been a member of 4 theatre companies in 2 cities, and the Artistic Director of one. I've been involved with theatre as a professional, on various levels, for almost 20 years. I feel qualified to speak on the subject.

I believe in theatre. I believe in theatre in ways I can't even describe. Truth to tell, I believe in any event that brings humanity together in a way that allows them to feel something as a group. Movies, concerts, sporting events, any and all of those can fit the bill. I don't, personally, give a rat's behind about sports, but I understand that it holds power. Sitting in a room with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people sharing an emotional release connects us more than anything else on the planet. We see ourselves as part of a whole, and divisions seem unimportant when everyone around you is feeling the same thing.

I believe, OK?

However, I think, far too often, we, as theatre artists, end up in a little clique of people who feel generally the same way, tell themselves how great we all are, and pat ourselves on the back for it. In a recent blog I read the author, whom I do not know, listed off a bunch of their friends, and congratulate them for "working for the good of theatre without regard to stroking their own egos."

I know some of the folks that were listed in that blog, I have no personal animosity toward them, think they do very good work, and want to see them succeed. I'm also keenly aware that their egos are, in fact, hugely invested in being, or to be acknowledged as being, at the "cutting edge" of what they see as the future of theatre. That's not a sin, as ego is an inherent part of what we do. The basic need to create "art" is based around a single idea....being egotistical enough to think that the ideas which are exciting to you will be exciting to other people.

Basically, the first step is to just admit, if you make art, of any kind, you're an egotist. Not an egomaniac, because that's a wholly different thing, but if you don't think pretty highly of your own ideas, what's the point? Why would you share? I keep this blog because, hey, maybe somebody out there will see some wisdom, or get some entertainment, from what I write.

Theatre is not any one thing. I HATE musicals. They drive me up the wall. When I do see a musical that I enjoy, it tends to be the exception that proves the rule. That being said, I accept that lots of people do like musicals. It might even be said that more people like musicals than straight plays.

Although, that seems like something that is inspired, and perpetuated, more by the culture of Broadway than anything else. A discussion for another time.

I like straight plays. I did not come to theatre from glee club, or choir, but from seeing a production of American Buffalo right here in Chicago. I had been in my College theatre program mainly out of boredom, but that show let me see something that I, personally, could latch on to. Something that spoke to me.

That means I, as a theatre professional, am going to want to do that kind of work. I'm going to suggest and push for it at my theatre company. That's my job, and it's an activity of ego. I don't really care if you can market the shows I like, but if you let me tell you what I find incredibly exciting about them, maybe an idea will present itself.

That doesn't mean I'm right. Hell, I'm dead wrong a lot.

And this is why, frankly, I like having people around to tell me I'm wrong. I like getting well-written, thoughtful, bad reviews. I like to have people who question and challenge. Art is not a conflict-free zone, nor should it be. Let's fight about it! Let's be passionate about it!

The point is this, the last thing we need in an art form that's, frankly, not popular, is to sit around in little groups assuring each other of their own genius, "the cool kids" who know how things should be. What you need is a bunch of people to execute their own, individual ideas as well as they possibly can, and and succeed or fail based on that. Oh, yes...people will fail, and that's a good thing. It culls the weak, the less talented, the less organized and the less focused.

Most of the time the best ideas aren't the ones that everyone likes, and are nowhere near the "cutting edge," because frankly, the best ideas are still the old ones. Tell a good, entertaining, compelling story, commit to it, pay more attention to the emotions than the trappings. Shakespeare had a bare stage, a few benches, and a desire to please the people who came. That's where it starts.

New Comic Day 10.14.2009

Ah, here we are again, my friends...Looks like another blessedly "light" week.

Batman #691

Written by Judd Winick
Art by Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter
Cover by Tony Daniel

Winick and Bagley's last issue, then Tony Daniel comes back in doing double duty, writing and art. I've liked this story, with Two-Face (my favorite Batman villain) taking an interest in what, exactly is going on with Batman. Winick can be rather annoying and pedantic, but I've always enjoyed his Batman tales. I always hate to see Bagley go, but he's off to JLA, so I'm ok with it.

Blackest Night: Batman #3

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ardian Syaf and John Dell
Cover by Andy Kubert
Variant cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

I generally run like mad from event series tie-ins. However, the first two issues of this mini were staring up at me, and I found it interesting at a glance, so I picked them up. Glad I did. Tomasi has crafted a tight little story of how the rising dead has impacted upon Gotham City. He's hit the right notes with the reactions of Alfred, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and the rest of the Batman "family" to the apparent theft of Bruce Wayne's body.

Red Robin #5

Written by Chris Yost
Art by Ramon Bachs
Cover by Francis Manapul

Still the "odd man out" of the Batman line. I gotta say, the idea that Tim Drake is teamed up with Ra's Al Guhl to search from Bruce Wayne is pretty friggin' genius. I still enjoy Tim as a character, and this never gets too far out of character to justify the series, which is great. I still waiver on it, mainly because it is way out in left field, but I think I'll hang in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, yeah...this is just gonna KILL me...

Wasn't the second half of Toy Story 2 sad enough?

Toy Story 3 Trailer in HD

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For my facebook readers: Toy Story 3 Trailer


Damn, that rice pudding last night hit the spot. Seriously, I'm on some sort of crazy rice pudding addiction right now. I ate like 22 oz. of the stuff last night...

So good.

Andrew Lloyd Weber's putting up his sequel to Phantom of the Opera next year...God help us all.

I keep wanting to so a "Mark's Bookshelf" blog, but whenever I think about it, I end up with one more book I wanna finish before I do it. Silly and stupid, I know, but it's the new Michael Chabon book!!! How can I not acknowledge that?

Speaking of which, Mike, love your books with all my heart. I'm always happy for even a collection of essays, as this new one is. That being said PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE work faster on a new novel. I'm dying out here!

Still in a bit of a struggle about my lack of projects. It's so hard to write about these things, as I really don't have any place to complain, and because I, as stated, intellectually know that it's just a turn of the card, or a roll of the dice. It's not a reflection on my talent, or lack thereof. However, that doesn't help the heart or ego all that much.

The other pain in the ass this week was finding out that all of the San Diego Comic Con tickets that would allow entrance to preview night the Wednesday before the official opening are sold out. Apparently, they've taken action to limit the people in the building for Preview Night. Not really a bad idea, as in 2008 the floor was so crowded you could barely move. Nightmarishly crowded.

Still, part of the ritual of the whole thing is now not available. As the boys have said, it just means we can go have our dinner earlier. Which is true, and we can get registered on Wednesday, and head right to the floor on Thursday. All good.

Anyway, I bought my ticket, the hotel is booked, so we're on our way. 10 months to go.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Welcome to Monday

I can't say I'm in top form today, that's for sure. "Out of sorts" would be generous, I think. Yet again (several times over), the theatre Gods have failed to smile upon me in terms of casting, and in some cases even getting a callback.

No big deal, right? That's how the cookie crumbles. Onward and upward....

Yeah, the head says that. The heart? The soul? Another matter. Basically, this puts in a position where I have very few chances left to do a show this "season." At least with any of my "go-to" companies. I have one more audition this Saturday which would at least wrap up the '09/'10 go-around with some people I truly enjoy.

We shall see.

At the very least, it looks like from the end of Plans 1-8 until the Holidays, I'm without a project. That is, if you don't count the taunting pile of music and recording stuff in our spare bedroom.

God, I have got to buckle down on that.

This is making me think about writing more, as well. My theatre company Stage Left has a Down Stage Left Program to develop new works, and I have this IDEA. This IDEA that would fit well with our mission, I think, anyway. Something that's been gnawing at me for a good long while, that takes me back to my adolescence, and all the anger I carried inside back then.

Always nice to have an idea.

Truth is, I'll probably bang away on it for 6 months, then get frustrated, or in a show, and it will lie fallow. A lot of my original plays end up like that. I start strong, and then it all starts to overwhelm me. Especially this idea, that's big. Really big. Lots of research big. I hate research. I like to make shit up.


And while I think about Les Paul is over there, glaring at me. "Play me!!" it screams, it's strings begging to be stroked. The half-finished song on the recorder screams in the agony of it's incompleteness.

I've always wanted to lead a creative life. That's been the goal for a long as I can remember, filmmaker, writer, actor, director, it was all stuff I wanted to try, wanted to do. In High School, I was more certain of what I wanted in life than I ever had been before or since, I was going to make movies. The path of my life kinda conspired against that in a number of ways, mistakes and outright obstructions.

The thing that stuck was that one thought...LEAD A CREATIVE LIFE. Make something that might live on after you've shuffled off to meet whatever it is we may end up meeting. That SEEMS so simple, but y'know...I feel muddled.

I feel like, in my attempt to be some sort of half-assed renaissance man, picking up musical instruments and banging away at them, crapping out passable, but hardly great, plays, strutting my hour on the stage and feeling like I'm running in place, and what does it all mean?

Really, it means nothing.

I've become a guy with a ton of hobbies, none of which he's really mastered, or at least that's my deepest, darkest fear.

Maybe I ought to just buy a train set.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I question, I am demonized...

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I voted for Obama. I am a Democrat, VERY liberal on social issues, and somewhat conservative on economic ones. I believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry, and it's a sin that they can't. I believe that Medical care isn't something that should be based on your income. I believe that it's an amazing thing that we finally have an African-American President.

I believe that the right-wing extremists are mostly scared at the loss of power for their main base, that being old, white men. I think they are grabbing at any sort of garbage they can throw at Obama (For the last freakin' time, Nazis are NOT Socialists. In fact, you can't really find anything MORE opposite a Socialist than a Fascist), and the undercurrent of racism in their claims is truly an awful thing for this country. Fear is driving the Republican party to the extremes of the right (real, live Nazis!).

I also believe there are lots of people in this country who believe very differently from me, and they have their own personal reasons to do so, just as I do with my beliefs. They have that right, same as I do.

That being said....

How can a President who's been in power 2 weeks get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, let alone win it? I have no doubt that Obama's policies and desires are to repair our relations around the world, as well as the damage done by our former leadership on an international level. However, it's not the "Congrats, You're Not George W. Bush" Prize, and, frankly, the Obama administration hasn't really accomplished anything other than rhetoric on the issues.

Sure, part of the Nobel doctrine is to encourage work for peace, not just reward it. As the committee said, the Award "was meant to build momentum behind Obama's initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism." Great, but other than a speech in Cairo, and getting elected over a recurrence of the Bush policies (and I still have my doubts that McCain would've blindly followed Bush)...Where's the beef?

There's more than a hint here that the Nobel committee just REALLY disliked Bush, and was REALLY happy Obama was elected. Much like the tenor of the election, which continues among the people who cannot fathom, and get more than a little strident with, the idea that I think this move is more than a little premature, they maybe should've played Living Colour's Cult of Personality while making the announcement. Lets say we flash forward 5 years, after a successful Obama Presidency, in which he succeeds with the stated goals, and yes, please, Nobel Prize.

Does it do any harm?

Here's the really tricky point. No, it's no skin off my nose that Obama has the medallion. The cash will certainly go to worthwhile organizations. That being said, get ready for another round of right-wing freaking out over this, and then a round of left-wing freaking out over the right-wing freaking out. Ultimate result? The battle lines are deeper, and even less co-operation is possible. Anybody who thinks this will further his domestic agenda is smoking some high-grade stuff. Internationally? They love him already.

I love my President. I'm with him on his way of handling himself, and the country. Obama is already, rightly, an important President, simply because of the color of his skin (sad but true), but his most fervent supporters (the ones who elected a messiah, not a man) will not rest until he's a GREAT President. The Nobel committee seems to be following that path. I see so many people with so much personal stakes in his greatness, I fear what will happen if he's not great, or, Like Jimmy Carter, a much greater Ex-President than President. You cannot declare a great President, they have to earn it.

I think he can earn it, why don't we let him?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday, and you know what that means...

Comic Books!

As always, my "light" week of only two titles last week means...a heavy week follows. To follow-up on last Wednesday, I did not pick up any additional books. My rationalization was that Batman: The Widening Gyre will, no doubt, be released in trade paperback, and I THINK I can wait for that. Plus, I thought I should hold to a "light" week when I had the chance.

So, here we go...

Batman and Robin #5

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and variant cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion
Cover by Frank Quitely

This series continues to impress, if for nothing else, in the strong editorial reins that has kept it on time with big-name, notoriously slow artists working on it. Morrision must be way ahead on scripts , so that guys like Tan and Quitely (who did the first arc) can work months ahead.

Jonah Hex #48

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art and cover by Cristiano Cucina

"The Six-Gun War" part 5 of 6. Is it wrong of me to be chomping at the bit for this multi-part epic to run it's course so that Palmiotti and Gray can get back to the "done in one" stories they craft expertly for the artists that come in for each issue? Still the most consistantly enjoyable title on the market.

Justice League: Cry for Justice #4 (of 6)

Written by James Robinson
Art and cover by Mauro Cascioli

Is it over yet? I mean, seriously...I hope to God when Robinson gets a super-dynamic artist like Mark Bagley, as he will when he takes over the regular Justice League of America title, next month, I think, that he brings something more to the table than he has with this mini. Tons of potential here, an odd congolmeration of heroes, and a couple of "Big Seven" stand bys in Green Lantern and Green Arrow to drive the bus. This ought to work better.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
INKS: David Lafuente Garcia
COLORED BY: Justin Ponsor
LETTERED BY: VC - Cory Petit

I thought I'd stick with the credits as Marvel lists them. Who am I to not credit the letterer?

A lot of people hate Brian Michael Bendis, with venom. I say he has a voice that is nicely different from other writers, and as long as he's doing this title and Powers, which I buy religiously in trade paperback, he's on the side of the angels. I'm soo happy the Ultimatum crap did not throw him completely off track. It seems he said, "ok, you screwed up everything, but I can put my little corner of the Marvel Ultimate Universe back in shape so quickly your head will spin."

And, he did.

Bless you, BMB.

Buckaroo Banzai: Hardest of the Hard #1

Written by Earl Mac Rauch
Art by Shawn Van Briesen

OK, so this is a bit of a pisser for me. I LOVE Buckaroo Banzai. Love the movie, love the novel, and love most of the comics. Moonstone has picked up the licence, and is producing books. Well, it seems that THREE Buckaroo Banzai books have been released, and I did not tget them. I am hurt and pained over this. Hurt and pained, I tell you!!

I have no idea what this book is about, at all. Still buying it.


Batman Annual #27

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by J. Calafiore and Mark McKenna
Cover by J. Calafiore

Oh, hey, look...Azrael is back! This, along with Detective Comics Annual #11, will lead into the new Azrael series, and is supposedly "important" to the "Batman Reborn" arc.

I never overly cared for Azrael. So, an unlikely purchase, honestly.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just when I get out.....

Every time I open a show, I have that moment when I think:

"Ahh...NOW things will slow down for a bit."

Yeah, right.

Plans 1-8 From Outer Space is up and running. I feel pretty good about it, the only downside being the lack of sleep. Late night shows and I are not really on friendly terms. I tend to wake up the minute light comes through the window, which, after you've been out until 3:00, isn't a great thing.

Of course, the cycle will now begin again...I have two auditions tonight, a callback tomorrow, and a third audition on Saturday. They all look like worthwhile projects, but, I have to admit, Saturday's is probably the one I'm the most excited about. It's a very, very dark story. When I told Cbyrd the subject matter, she gave me that "eww" face.

LOL! I love it.

So, like I said, the cycle begins. The juggling, not just the schedules, but determining which is going to be the priority if more than one comes to fruition. All three of these shows are in the same general time frame, so I'd have to choose. Right now, from where I sit...Saturday's the winner. It's performing in a very well-known location, and I was recommended for it by a casting director that I'd like to actually win a role she suggested me for.

So, we shall see.

Also made headway on the music front. I have a couple of tracks "in progress" that, at the moment, I like a lot. Of course, all the ones I've tossed out I liked a lot, at one point or another, too. I'm still working in a "hard rock" style, I don't think I could escape the Springsteen influence if I tried, but I'm trying to think it terms of a 70's hard rock sound, The Who, Led Zeppelin or the Stones. That kinda thing.

No, I DON'T think it's that good, but that's the "feel" I'm aiming for. Kinda bluesy, but also heavy. In any case, last night I was playing, really enjoying myself, and feeling creative, so, perhaps the dry spell has passed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Springsteen song....

Well, OF COURSE he'd write a special song for his last stand at Giant's Stadium.

Bruce Springsteen performs his new song Wrecking Ball at Giants Stadium

I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago
Through the blood and the beer, and the mud and the cheers,
I've seen champions come and go...


Video here for my Facebook friends, who probably don't know there's an actual blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Man, this was a long day...

I am ready to go home, and play a little guitar, I think.

Hopefully something good will come from it. I've had a few ideas dancing in my noggin today.

Need to work in a monologue for Monday night, and I have an audition for my theatre company's next show that night as well. Movin' right along, as they say. I guess I'm pretty low-stress about it. The monologue thing always makes me tense. In the last 6 months, after a LONG dry spell, I've had several auditions where I've been asked to prepare a monologue.

I HATE doing monologues, but that's part and parcel with this work. I consider myself very lucky to have gotten away without them for so long, but it makes getting back on that horse that much harder. Plus, I've been using the same monologues for WAY too long.

Way, WAY too long.

So, I'm trying to get a new one into the rotation. If there's anything I dislike more than monologue auditions, it's picking out a monologue. I used to get a little excited about it, and saw it as a chance to do role that I'd reallly like to play, even just for a minute and a half.

Trouble is, the roles I like? I think every other guy of my "type" does too...LOL

We shall see how this goes.