Monday, January 31, 2011

The Fine Line Between Ego and Self-Worth.

I am a good actor. Maybe even a very good actor. I feel I have the skills and the emotional honesty to play any role you put in front of me. I have spent many years getting to that point, I have struggled to find my place in this business, and to find my own methods of reaching that truth. I feel that I have every right to claim that skill set, and be rightfully proud of it.

I am an OK guitar player, an OK songwriter. I am able to put together songs that can be fairly catchy and fun to listen to. I have a pretty good sense of rhythm and an ear for hooks. I enjoy the process of working on music, and creating something new. I like learning other songs, classic riffs and the like, to a point, but I really am not excited or interested in learning other people's songs.

I am a poor singer. I sing on the tracks I create because I literally feel I have no other option.

I am a good writer. I feel I have an excellent sense of story development, and an ear for dialogue. I need to work on this skill set in order to become better, but I have, I feel, a pretty excellent command of the tools I have in my pocket right now.

I spent a lot of years feeling like I wasn't any good at anything. Fighting the voice in my head that told me I was a fool, and a loser for believing that I could excel at any of this creative bullshit. It was a rough time, and marked some of the lowest personal moments of my life. I was not respected by the people around me, and I lost myself in believing them.

It is funny how, as you move through life, you leave those environments, and you think, "I'll never allow that to happen again." Then, next thing you now, it's several years later, and you're right back in the same shit. It's natural, I suppose, you look to the people, and situations, around you as a clue to how to consider yourself and your own work.

You commit yourself to endeavors, to goals and plans, and there's no way to judge your success in those arenas except by how your feel about yourself in doing so. You place yourself in a situation where you dedicate yourself to fully living up to what's expected, and more than that, trying to exceed those expectations. You want to be the go-to guy, the rock, the one who can be counted on.

Disaster. Always. Never fails.

Why? Because, frankly, you don't do these things for altruistic reasons. You want something, and what you want, in return for your stalwart trust and respect, is the same to be directed back at you. Even a little bit of it, just enough to know that you're not throwing energy into a void.

I do not, ever, expect to get my own way all the time. No one should. Yet, you will always come to a point, it seems, where you have to ask yourself why, exactly, you're committing time and energy to something that may not be giving you back anything that feels positive. If it makes you feel small and weak and less confident, what is the point? If it makes you feel like there's something wrong with your taste, or the way you do your job, or the things that feed your soul and make you excited, or the things that completely turn you off, it's not a positive impact. It's quite the opposite.

When you feel nothing coming back, it's only natural to fill that silence with the worst. It's only natural to feel alone and isolated, cut off from those around you. And who cares if you are cut off? Those people must not think much of you anyway. It may not even be true, but, when you are lonely, everyone's the enemy.

I've always been one to struggle, to hang on, to endure in the hope that the worm would eventually turn. That my perseverance, my stalwart efforts, would be recognized. That's well and good until the recognition is...nothing. It's an empty gesture, or worse, something that's downright odious to you. Then you're in another tailspin. Why would anyone think I would appreciate that? Don't these people know me at all? Even in the sense of being recognized, you still feel forgotten.

I've got thinking, and decisions to make.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Quarter of a Century

There's a couple of events I remember clearly in my life. 9/11, of course, the afternoon Reagan got shot...

But the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is right up there. I can recall being in class, High School, and everything stopping. Televisions wheeled into rooms, and watching what was going on. I gotta tell ya, it really is stunning to be that it happened a quarter of a century ago. I know people who weren't alive when the Challenger fell to Earth.

I was fourteen, by my calculations, when it happened. I was a hard-core nerd/sci-fi junkie, so the space program meant, and still does mean, a hell of a lot to me. I confess, I wasn't watching the launch that day (I was in school), and, yes, the idea of shuttle missions had become routine and...well, kinda dull.

There are many times I wish I could've been around to see the Apollo program. I can't imagine what it must've been like to watch those grainy black and white images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbing out of the LEM. I have a DVD of the live video feeds from the Apollo 11 mission, from launch prep to splashdown. Three DVDs filled with this primitive footage of three brave men stepping out into the unknown.

If something had gone wrong with Apollo 11, I can't imagine anyone would've been overly shocked. It seems, from the accounts I've read, that there was a universal understanding that, while we had dedicated maximum effort and resources to this endeavor, it was a difficult and dangerous journey. Every space flight is.

I think that morning in 1986, we had long forgotten that. The public, that is. I truly believe that every one of those seven souls on Challenger knew exactly the dangers and possible consequences they were facing. I truly believe it's impossible to be at their place in the program and not be. I think that's also reflected in the fact that all of the families of these lost astronauts expressed that exact sentiment.

But us? The public? It was a tragedy we had never seen before. We had lost astronauts, Apollo 1 had burned up on the pad during a training run, killing original Mercury astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom, as well as the first American to ever perform a spacewalk, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Those three men died in a tremendously horrible and, likely, unexpected way.

But they were on the ground. Burned to death in a sealed, pure oxygen environment. Strapped into their seats and with no way to open the hatch in time. The technicians outside couldn't get to the hatch to open it, because of heat and smoke. It only took seconds, but the three men were gone.

I often think that, for the astronauts, it was probably harder to think of dying on the pad, performing some routine test, than in orbit, or halfway to the moon. The Apollo 13 mission, so well documented at this point, must've seemed so much more logical. The type of thing you suspect might happen, in general, if not in the details. You see in the actions of that crew, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, they knew trouble might occur, and your job, as an astronaut, was to be flexible and adaptable enough to deal with anything that might happen.

Liftoff is a very dangerous part of the flight, but it's also a point where the crew is, basically, in the hands of ground control, and the craft itself. The great tragedy is, of course, that the latter simply failed. This vast, beautiful spacecraft exposed the failings of it's launch system design and construction, and took seven brave souls with it. Of course, now, looking back, we know the problem stemmed from the O-rings on the solid rocket boosters that propelled the shuttle out of the atmosphere. One of the rings ruptured, and sent a jet of super-heated rocket blast into the external fuel tank, which erupted into flame, and broke apart.

Challenger didn't explode, as most people remember it. It broke apart. It fell to Earth in pieces. This, of course, leads to all sorts of questions about how long the crew lived, and what their ultimate fate was. Did they live until the wreckage struck the water? It seems likely, but it also seems likely they were all unconscious most, if not all of the fall. It's not something to dwell over. The crew is dead, and dragging up how the last moments of their lives may or may not have played out will do no one any good, especially twenty five years later.

Yes, human error led to the disaster. Be it the design of the boosters, or the decision to launch in the midst of record cold Florida temperatures. There is plenty of fault to be found, and plenty that has been created, nurtured by the fringe of the internet. If you want details, there's a lovely, honest piece by former NASA designer James Oberg over at Oberg presents many facts, and defuses some of the more ridiculous claims.

Mistakes were made, warnings unheeded, but no one is to blame for what happened. The shuttle had launched twenty four times previously with no major incident. Sure, the NASA team may have become somewhat complacent, but the shuttle was constantly being improved and upgraded, just not quickly enough. There was pressure to meet the launch window for the payload on board. All of these things, however, had been in play before, and would be after. What happened on that January morning was that all of these issues combined into a deadly result.

I know Mr. Oberg takes some task with what I am about to say, but I truly do feel this disaster, and the more recent Columbia disaster in 2003, while not inevitable, are not entirely unexpected. NASA has launched one hundred and thirteen shuttle missions to date, and these two are the only ones to experience catastrophic malfunction.

Any loss of life is unacceptable, but we are all human, mistakes will always be made, accidents will happen. We're also dealing with craft designed to be used over and over again, unlike the craft of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Spacelab missions. Those rockets were used, burnt up, or floated off into deep space. They only had to work one time. The shuttle is asked to function over and over again, and as we all know form our own cars, or computers, eventually a machine is going to break down. You can check and re-check, but there's always a chance something will be missed.

Put into context, NASA's record is quite good.

Now, the shuttle program is winding down, probably rightly, being put into mothballs. We'll go back to conventional rockets again, and the vast majority of our manned excursions will be centered on the International Space Station. The shuttle was always a mistake. Sure, it was useful at times, but it was also a long, costly sidetrack from the other NASA plan presented to President Nixon (always comes back to Nixon, doesn't it?). A step-by-step plan to reach Mars sometime in the 80's.

We'll never really know if that would've worked. I tend to believe it would've, and how much further would we be now?

That aside, I take a moment to remember the Challenger, and her valiant crew.

Francis R. Scobee - Commander
Michael J. Smith - Pilot
Judith A. Resnik - Mission Specialist 1
Ellison S. Onizuka - Mission Specialist 2
Ronald E. McNair - Mission Specialist 3
Gregory B. Jarvis - Payload Specialist 1
Sharon Christa McAuliffe - Payload Specialist 2

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ryan Murphy, Get Over Yourself

I recently stumbled upon this article on I'm going to be frank, made me livid.

First a little background.

I refuse to watch Glee. There's a couple of reasons for this. First, I have performed in musicals, and toured in musical productions. I find the form grating in the extreme, and a subset of the purveyors of that form to be among the most annoying people I've ever endured as a performer. The sad fact is, this small group, with their high drama and insistence on their artistic validity also provides the type of character ideally suited for a show of this style. I am not making a blanket statement about all musical theatre performers, because I know many, in fact, the majority, who are hard-working, talented, and not prone to self-aggrandizement or being difficult for it's own sake.

(and no, it's not a "gay thing," let's nip that shit in the bud, right now. The single, most annoying, musical theatre "diva" I ever worked with was a totally straight guy...And, if any of my former musical cohorts are reading this and wondering...if I have any contact with you whatsoever, it's not you.)

I spent enough time locked up on buses with those people that I will NEVER find watching them on TV a form of entertainment, in any form.

Second. The music on Glee makes me sick. The fact that they take divergent forms of music and perform them on TV isn't the problem. The problem is, the process is to rob that music of it's individuality and fire and funnel it into a sad approximation of what you'd hear in a Disney "tween" sitcom. That's right, Hanna Montana-level bubblegum pop. This show doesn't honor much of the music performed on screen, it robs it of it's soul. Overprocessed, auto-tuned monstrosities.

I don't hold anyone to task for allowing their songs to be on the show...hey, it's your music. If you want to allow Ryan Murphy and his crew to vanilla-ize it, go to town, and some songs are just bubblegum pop, so...who cares? I'm sure the checks help. That said, it makes me EXTREMELY sad that Springsteen is apparently considering it.

(Don't do it, boss...DON'T DO IT!!!!)

Anyway, whatever...Not my kind of show. I understand a lot of people like it, and that's great for them, and Ryan Murphy's pocketbook. I don't, and my dislike is very deep. Live and let live, different strokes, etc. It's just a damn TV show...

But that ends when you start acting like a dick. Acting like your show is far more important than it really is.

So, I read Ryan Murphy's little meltdown about people turning Glee down in their requests to butcher, er, use their songs. Y'know what, Mr. Murphy? You are pathetic. I look at this quote:
A 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument," Murphy explained. "It’s like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music.”
And his comments about Slash, who was quite upfront about not wanting Guns 'N Roses songs on Glee.
"Usually I find that people who make those comments, their careers are over; they’re uneducated and quite stupid,"
What comment? That Glee reminds him of High School Musical, and High School Musical makes Grease! look like a work of utter genius and deep social meaning? Sounds like a pretty rational and reasoned comment to me. Opinion? Oh hell yes,'s his music, and he doesn't have to let you play with it in a context that he does not approve of.

Would you ever see these guys on Glee? Would you want to?
Plus, your "turn kids on to music" line?...It's garbage. Seeing the "Welcome to the Jungle" video on MTV did quite a good job of turning me onto music all on it's own. Your show's been on the air for, what? Three years? Trust me, Mr. Murphy, Ugly, sweaty guys, playing ugly, sweaty music has been turning kids on to music since Chuck Berry, or earlier. That's at least half a century of rock and roll inspiring young people to be creative before you came in, scrubbed it clean and packaged it like a toothpaste commercial. I also hazard to guess it will still be, long after Glee ends up in endless re-runs on TV Land.

Not to mention, and this is the bottom line...Who in their right mind would EVER want a kid's first exposure to "Paradise City," "Sex on Fire" or "Sweet Child 'O Mine" to be a bunch of toothy, plastic-smiled kids dancing around in technicolor outfits. Some music isn't supposed to be "safe," or for everyone. Some music is supposed to be harsh, angry, messy and a bit scary. To think that your show would be able to do justice to that, or even want to, is asinine.

Ryan Murphy, you are not "saving music," I can give you deserved credit for all sorts of things, bringing young homosexuals on TV in a huge way, for instance, and making them part of the tapestry of the oh-so homogenized teen environment you've crafted. Good on you for that. Saving music, however? Hardly. In fact, I would come pretty close to telling you that your whitewashed versions of great songs are killing the individuality of the music that is getting out to the youth of America. The fact that people are buying an Osmond-dental-program version of "Don't Stop Believing," instead of the Journey original is gut-wrenching to me.

So, when you stomp your feet and call people "uneducated" because they tell you "no," I can only come to the conclusion that you are one of these entitled baby divas from your show, and I feel soiled even having taken this much time to write about you and your one-show destruction of popular music. Hating Glee isn't a slam on arts education, Glee isn't the high temple of arts education, and, frankly, if it is, God help the arts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Comic Day 1.26.2010

It's been a quiet week on the blog, my friends. Busy life all around me, but I will not forsake you on New Comic Day!!

Detective Comics #873 $2.99
Art and cover by JOCK

Now at the mercy of the deadly Mirror House, Dick Grayson must fight for his life against one of Gotham City's oldest and most powerful evils!. Be here for the shocking conclusion to "The Black Mirror," the first arc by the highly anticipated new creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock!

Last issue had a TREMENDOUS cliffhanger. Loved it, love what Snyder and Jock are doing here. More than any other book right now (with the MAYBE exception of Batman: Streets of Gotham - which is actually going back on my pull list), Detective Comics feels like classic Batman. Which is sorta fitting, being the title of origination. This despite the lack of Bruce Wayne in the title. I am dying to see what Snyder and Jock will do when they have Bruce to play around with. I really, really hope they stay on the title long enough to find out. Big kudos to this new creative team.

SHAZAM! #1 $2.99

Blaze, the current ruler of Hell, has an offer for Mary and Billy Batson that may be too good to pass up! Left powerless, will the two former heroes have the strength to deny the devil? Can Freddy Freeman save them? And how does the Titan Osiris fit into it all? Find out here, in this one-shot special written by Eric Wallace (TITANS) with art by Cliff Richards (THE ROAD HOME: BATMAN & ROBIN #1)!

Not at all afraid to tell you this one-shot makes me nervous. Captain Marvel/SHAZAM! is a title/character/concept that DC needs to exploit. It's a Golden Age icon, that even out-sold Superman for a time, legally crushed by DC as a Superman knock-off. The character has gone around and around the DC Universe, trying to find someplace to land. It's even a whole family of heroes, with tons of marketing potential. Yet, DC can't seem to find a creative team and concept to make it work.

Right now, the whole thing is a mess. They're trying to turn Captain Marvel (I don't care who owns the damn copyright on the name...the character is CAPTAIN MARVEL) into a legacy hero, and it's just not right. Especially, with Freddy Freeman as Captain Marvel, Jr, and Mary Batson as Mary Marvel serving as a "family" (In Mary's case, literally) to Billy Batson's Captain Marvel (Shazam is the wizard that gave them powers). This is already a legacy concept, you don't have to much around with it.

What you do need to do is use the "multiverse" you spent so much time re-creating for the DC titles, and give the Marvel/SHAZAM! family their own universe to inhabit. A funky, odd, less "realistic" universe from the mainstream DC titles. Let it be goofy and a bit silly! Stop trying to shoehorn the concept into the oh-so-serious Mainstream DC Universe.


But you won't do that. How can you use them in crossovers if they're on a whole different version of earth?

If you're bound and determined to keep them in the mainstream continuity, I really hope this one-shot starts setting the pieces back where they ought to be.

Why am I buying it? I want to support the character, and see more done with him.

Captain America #614 $3.99
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice
Cover: Marko Djurdjevic
The Trial of Captain America continues its roller-coaster ride! With Bucky's trial distracting our heroes, the new Red Skull plots a terror attack at the heart of America!

OK. New Red Skull. Great.

Terror attack. Great.

I'm sure there will be some convoluted process to get Bucky out of court to foil this nefaroius plot...

When, well...Steve's sitting RIGHT THERE.


Hey, and Captain America is still $3.99 an issue. way to go, Marvel.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #152 $2.99
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Cover: J. Scott Campbell

DON’T MISS THIS FAN FAVORITE AND CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED SERIES! The Black Cat is back!! What secret does Mysterio hold from the Kingpin's past that will start a turf war across all of New York? And what does it have to do with poor Peter Parker? Speaking of poor Parker, his afterschool super hero training starts right here!! First teacher... Iron Man!!

Always a great read. Nice to see the Ultimate version of Black Cat back in action, and the plotline Bendis is spinning is full of possibilities. From Mysterio assassinating Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk, to Peter being force into training with members of The Ultimates, he's got a number of plates spinning. I'me really excited to see how they play out with "The Death of Spider-Man," and the return of Mark Bagley to the title.

And, hey, look! A $2.99 price point!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stuck In My Head On 1.21.2011

Oh, it's an oldie but a goodie today....

I'm No Angel 
No I'm no angel
No I'm no stranger to the streets
I’ve got my label
So I won't crumble at your feet
And I know baby
So I've got scars upon my cheek
And I'm half crazy
Come on and love me baby

So you find me hard to handle ... well ...I'm easier to hold
So you like my spurs that jingle
And I never leave you cold
So I might steal your diamonds ... I'll ... bring you back some gold
I'm no angel

No I'm no angel
No I'm no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire with your spark
Oh come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby

So you don't give a darn about me
I never treat you bad
I won't ever lift a hand to hurt you and I'll always leave you glad
So I might steal your diamonds ... I'll... bring you back some gold
I'm no angel

No I'm no angel
No I'm no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire in your heart
Oh come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby
Oh come on baby
Drive me crazy
Drive me crazy
Oh come on baby
Come on baby
Oh come on baby

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's That Line Danny Glover Always Says In The "Lethal Weapon" Movies?

I'll turn 40 this year.

Sometimes, it's hard to wrap my mind around that. Fourty. Four decades. The Big Four-OH.

It also strikes me that my tenth anniversary as a Chicagoan is this year. I had just turned 30 when CByrd, KByrd and I packed up that Penske truck and drove it here from Omaha. What's really sad, almost pathetic, about that is that I really feel like I didn't start living until we moved here. Oh, sure I did things, and monumental events came and went, but I can't help shaking the idea that I wasted 30 years of my life. At least the 20-odd that followed upon my high school graduation.

I don't regret that time, per se, I grew up a lot, and learned many things about myself and the world. And I certainly don't blame anyone, or anything. That said...I knew where I needed to be, what I needed to do, and I never really went after it until I was 30.

Now I'm almost 40.

Almost 40.

I look back on these ten years, and I see more growth, more wonderful experiences and changes...but the big dreams? The life-changing events that would challenge me, hone me into a stronger person, and reward me for my efforts? They never quite happened. They certainly didn't happen in the way I hoped and dreamed they would. I got an agent, I did/do some commercial work, never made SAG. I've auditioned for larger theatre companies, never got picked, never made Equity.

Yeah, yeah...I know. Equity is a double edged sword in Chicago.

The dream, of course, was to be a star. Anybody who says it wasn't is just lying because it didn't happen. That's where it all starts. If you're lucky, you move past that quickly, start thinking about making a living, about growing and improving within your craft, and that becomes the focus. A far more healthy and focused goal than, "I want to be a star." A great teacher helps, helps you see that craft and effort are their own reward (Thanks, Jeff).

"I want to be a star" is a goal that makes you end up on American Idol acting like a parody of  the Jean-Benet Ramsay child beauty queen. Anybody who watched AI last night ought to know EXACTLY who I'm talking about. She's 16, and her view of the world is already warped by reality TV and internet culture. She's selling herself, filming herself, and it's inconceivable to her that people won't care. You make YouTube videos, and then you're famous, right?

I just think about that girl, that poor little girl, and what will happen when (and it's when) she gets removed from the show. She'll become one of those people that they highlight every year, who made it to Hollywood once, and has been coming back each year, usually to more than one city, because it's the only conceivable path she sees to "stardom."

...and there's more and more of her, every, single, day.

I just wonder, when did we get so myopic? So self-obsessed? Oh, you could accuse me of it, as well, just for having this blog. Our worlds keep getting smaller. we watch the shows that tell us the things we want to hear, socially, financially, politically. You want to be famous? Just audition for Survivor. Reinforce that idea that there's no reason to better yourself, or learn more, or experience new things, because single-minded people work better on those shows. We're a country of reality show contestants, easily-pigeonholed, close-minded, sellable types.

I even say that as a guy who LOVED the first year of Survivor, and Real World when it first started. I remember working for a melodrama in Oceano, CA, and the cast would gather every, single week to watch new episodes the first season of Survivor, and we were all into it. You can't blame the shows, you can't.

You have to blame the society. The growing sense that working for a goal, making an effort, learning things, expanding yourself and your view of the world, is the suckers' way. Bowing to the idea that the world is made up of experiences outside your own? Don't want to deal with that. Too hard.

I dunno, as I grow older, I guess I get more and more cynical, and I was pretty Goddamn cynical to start with. What's worse is that I feel justified in my cynicism.

It's funny, a friend once took me to task, confused how I could speak so highly and devotedly about the emotions that get churned up in me from things that are aggressively non-cynical, The Shawshank Redemption, Field of Dreams, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Superman, Captain America, the entire Springsteen catalog...but I have such a dark and untrusting view of humanity.

It's because we don't deserve the lessons those works of art provide us. we see them, we acknowledge them, but we don't let them into our souls, not anymore. We mock and laugh as often as we really listen (and I certainly include myself in this, as well). Or maybe it's because they show me what the world could be, if we all just opened our hearts and minds again, even a little bit.

But we can't.

We prove it every day, with every choice. Every day we choose to make ourselves the center of the universe, and move around incredulous and angry that the rest of the world doesn't "get it." How pathetic we all are, how small and sad. How loud we talk and posture to try to negate it. How frightened we are to do otherwise, for fear we might be marginalized by others.

well, that was a bit of a ramble today, huh?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Comic Day 1.19.2011

Here we go...

Yay for the return of the $2.99 price point!!!

Batman #706 $2.99
Written by TONY DANIEL
Art and cover by TONY DANIEL

A powerful relic, hidden and protected by an ancient order, falls into the hands of one of Batman's deadliest foes! The Dark Knight and his allies are outnumbered and outmatched as they struggle to free themselves from their merciless adversary. With death and destruction imminent, Batman must make a crucial sacrifice...

Nice cover, Tony.

Daniel continues to tell nice, solid Batman tales. I'm not over the moon about his writing, but his art, as always, is rock solid. Fluid and dynamic. Sometimes, I have to admit, I wish they'd just put Dini on this book with him. Daniel isn't bad, but Dini is brilliant. With "The Morrison Effect" not so pervasive anymore, maybe Dini could start doing the work he's capable of.

Of course, that would mean ending this Batman: Incorporated thing....

Brightest Day #18 $2.99
Variant cover by IVAN REIS & OCLAIR ALBERT
1:10 Variant covers by IVAN REIS

Hawkman and Hawkgirl pay a visit to the Star Sapphires, but with the Hawks' connection to the cosmic corps, it looks like this meeting may end in bloodshed. And more even more blood may be drawn as Captain Boomerang hunts down Deadman and Dove!

Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?Are we there yet?Are we there yet?



Justice League of America #53 $2.99
1:10 Variant cover by DAVID MACK

The final chapter of "JLA Omega" arrives as the World's Greatest Heroes and the Crime Syndicate struggle for survival. But the Syndicate's betrayal of their own pact results in a final, savage confrontation – and Ultraman does some betraying of his own! Can the JLA defeat Omega Man, the harbinger of death? Can they save the Crime Syndicate's world and the Tangent Universe? And in the midst of this war between good and evil, which side will Dark Supergirl choose?

Here's a little game....

Bagley is already announced as going back to Marvel. I'm sad about that. He could've been amazing with the DC Universe, as he showed in Trinity. Anybody want to lay odds on how long this survives on my pull list after he goes?

The Spirit #10 $2.99
Written by DAVID HINE
Cover by LADRĂ–NN

Roscoe Kalashnikov was sure he could get away with murder – and in a town as corrupt as Central City, maybe he could. But if that's so, why do his victim's words still haunt him? She said something about "the spirit of justice" and now, around every corner, Roscoe is seeing a flash of trench coat and the briefest glimpse of a masked man…

Here's the one, and only, place where I regret the $2.99 price returning. We've lost the awesome Black and White back-up feature. I will miss it.

Sometimes, it does surprise me how much I've become attached to this title. I think it's the character, there's something about Denny Colt, and the way the character is, sort of, just designed to absorb damage. The Spirit looks awesome when he's beat to hell. Darwyn Cooke really had the modern take nailed down, but the current team has taken a track that's much more lush, if that's the right word. Cooke's style is very angular and cartoony, the artists on this series have all been very soft and classic...I feel like there's a lot of Joe Kubert in Moritat. I really like it...

I like Cooke more, but...that's ridiculous to moon over.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Patton Oswalt is a genius. I might've said that after his work in Ratatouille, but then I started nosing around his stand up. In my personal headspace he's a genius. Perhaps it's the similar background, the similar enthusiasms. Who knows?

The man makes me laugh.

He's just released a book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. It's a quick read, less than 200 pages, but it's full of lovely little incisive., funny comments. The structure is a collection of shorter essays/commentaries. These cover all sorts of things, from his early years in comedy to working in a movie theater, to Dungeons & Dragons.

To say I feel a kinship to Oswalt's worldview, if not the specifics, of his life, would be understating the point. When he goes off on a tear about the last Dungeons & Dragons character he ever created, an insanely powerful and ugly half-goblin, and how it became a violent reaction to the impending assault of sex into his life, I get, completely, where he's coming from. It's such a clear, "look back in anger" view of what those games gave us. The escape they provided.

I also love, love, love the section about a headlining gig at a comedy club in Vancouver....scratch's really Surrey, Canada. It's a wonderful trip with a young performer who's terrified to piss anyone off, for fear of being branded "difficult," learning that there are people in this world who aren't worth building a bond with. The comedy club manager he describes (names changed to protect the assholes - and to avoid a lawsuit) is somebody that we've all met, all worked with, and endured. The feeling of power and elation Oswalt describes when he just realizes that this douche is a loser, and there's no need to play his game, it's something I've felt a few times.

There's an escaped Ax Murderer involved, too...just to shake things up.

This is a kind of book that it's hard to review, there's no plot, I can't talk about how he's constructed the story in interesting ways. It's just a series of snapshots of Patton Oswalt's mind. I think, honestly, if you read this blog and relate to any of the things I write about, you'll find things in Zombie Spaceship Wasteland that will touch you and call forth memories.

I also cannot recommend highly enough, his album, Werewolves and Lollipops.

Seriously, the "Physics for Poets" track embarrassed the crap out of me on the train. I began laughing out loud and could not stop.

There's also his recollections of a lovely meeting with Brian Dennehy at the Batman Begins premiere in London. It's the sort of story that anyone who's had to battle their weight will smile about. Plus, he uses "Hal Jordan!" as a punchline.

Can't get much better than that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Green Hornet

I'm a big comic book fan, a big fan of heroic fiction, in general, and I tend to think it's a very, very important part of our cultural experience. I also think if we paid more attention to the kinds of lessons these simple morality plays are supposed to impart to our society, we might live in a better world. As it is, we get a lot of huffing and puffing about how stupid they are, and snarky comments.

Yeah, I think our heroic characters are important. That said, I don't need every story told about them to be as sweeping and thematically and emotionally resonant as The Dark Knight. Sometimes it's nice to have a story told that hews to the core of heroic fiction, but adopts a much lighter tone.

Hence, I do not have a problem with this new version of The Green Hornet. That's not to say that I think it's astoundingly good, just that the idea of a heroic story laced with humor doesn't turn me off completely.

The film, no matter how you slice it, has to walk a pretty fine line between appeasing two vastly different audiences. There's the Seth Rogan audience that wants a comedy, and then there's the Green Hornet audience, which most certainly does not.

Films about characters like this usually have a tough time, because, frankly, the "Green Hornet audience" ain't that big. It's difficult to make a case for fidelity to a character with almost no general public recognition. If you do know The Green Hornet, it's probably from the failed sixties TV series. It's known for, basically, two things; Bruce Lee played Kato, and it was set up as a less campy version of the Batman TV show, which was also running, and shared producers. If memory serves, it lasted 1 season.

Oh, of course there's more to it than that. The character has a pretty damn rich history and legacy, starting from it's creation as a radio drama hero. The creators were the same as those working on The Lone Ranger radio show, and they created The Green Hornet and Kato as modern versions of The Lone Ranger and Tonto. The characters, it's come to be understood, are related. Britt Reid's grandfather, Dan Reid, is the Lone Ranger's brother. Of course, now, the rights to these characters are owned by different people, so that connection will never be truly exploited.

The Hornet had a long run in radio and comics, even a movie serial, I believe. It's a character that's simmered along for decades, getting revived over and over again, without really achieving massive cultural awareness. In truth, it's a situation that really opens opportunities to play with the concept and character. Yeah, the die hards may get their panties in a bunch if you muck around too much, but...again, let's be honest, there ain't too many of them.

So, we come to this film. Staring Steh Rogan as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet, Jay Chou as Kato, with Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos and Christoph Waltz providing support. It's directed by Michael Gondry from a script by Rogan and Evan Goldberg, who also wrote Pineapple Express. Based on all this, I expected something a little light-hearted, and more than a little goofy. The press leading up to the release, however, was pretty insistant that they were taking the story seriously, and I was glad of that. It's more than possible to tell a story in a generally straight manner, and still allow flights of humor and goofy energy.

I think The Green Hornet generally get this right. Nobody's going to look to this film as a statement about our society, and our own culpability in the worst parts of it, like The Dark Knight. That said, the film, in it's own way, does honor the idea of doing something for your community and society, and plots a character arc of growth in conscience and duty for Britt Reid.

Now, it is Seth Rogan, and the script does hew to the sense of humor that was on display in Pineapple Express. Reid starts out as a young, party-boy billionaire playboy, living off the teat of his media mogul father. Frankly, the young billionaire playboy that Rogan cuts is probably vastly more accurate to what would exist right now than any version of Bruce Wayne we've ever seen. He's an absolute wastrel, throwing parties, bedding wealth groupies, and expecting a fresh cup of coffee to await him when he wakes every morning.

However, there is a nice pre-credits sequence involving a very young Britt, and his favorite toy, a (clearly MEGO-inspired) superhero doll. Where we see him berated by his father for fighting at school, despite the boy's pleas that he was trying to protect a girl from some bullies. The elder Reid (Tom Wilkinson) says something along the lines of "doesn't matter what you tried to do, you failed." I was actually really struck by this early scene, and how it informed everything that Britt became. If your father was more concerned with failure than, make no effort, and never fail. Yet, it also sets the seeds for a young man who took those hero myths I talked about earlier, to heart. He's a guy who wants to be something great, who wants to do good.

It's this underlying character motivation that carried me through a lot of the rougher patches of humor later in the film. Once you get past the modern, Rogen-oriented humor, the heroic quest, the sense of a character traveling from a weaker version of himself to a stronger one, is there. Not only is it there, but it's honored and played to in every way. Britt Reid needs to grow past his stunted relationship with his father, and forge his own path, his own destiny.

Some people won't want to go past The Hornet and Kato calling each other "bitch" to get to that. I understand that, and I'll be frank, there were moments when I wished they would stop with that crap and let the characters truly move to a heroic ideal. The script takes a cue from John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, in that the "hero" is kind of bumbling, and the "sidekick" is the truly amazing one. In both films, there is a brief moment when our hero becomes all that he can be, but, frankly, the moment in Big Trouble, which is much, much shorter and more fleeting, hits harder. Which isn't to say that the moment in The Green Hornet doesn't work, it does, but it's not as effective.

Jay Chou is quite a find as Kato. He has an effortless physical grace, and is completely believable in the martial arts sequences. Gondry has a ton of special effects going on around him when he goes into action ("Kato-vision" he calls it), and the greatest compliment I can give to Chou is that he does not, ever, get lost in that stuff. The physical gifts are apparent, and while, myself, I prefer fight to be in wider shots so we can see what people are doing, Gondry, does effectively use the GCI stuff. It's not earth-shaking, by any reach, but it didn't muddle up the film.

Rogen and Chou have chemistry, and Chou, who could barely speak English during shooting, pulls off the role without ever looking uncomfortable. I liked them together, and the film very much positions them as a team, partners, not hero/sidekick. The banter is familiar if you know Rogen's writing (read: reminded me of Pineapple Express) but they play it well. Again, there are Hornet purists who are going to HATE that, and there's really not much to be said. This is the film, take it or leave it. For myself, I didn't hate it, but I think they overdid it at times. I do think it gives the film a unique identity and energy for this type of film. I mean, if you compare it to the TV show, the series was pretty stiff, even for the 60's. Lee and Van Williams come off as cardboard cutouts a lot of the time.

The supporting cast?

Why is Cameron Diaz in this film? I'm sure, at some point, some idiot studio exec said "we need a girl so they don't come off gay." So, stuff Cameron "magic ass" Diaz in there. It's a useless, thankless role. That said, I did like that she seemed to be set up as more of a romantic interest for Kato than The Hornet. A choice that is, marginally, different from the usual. Also, the riffs on Diaz's age...strangely came up just as I was thinking "huh, she's probably 10 years older than them." I note that only for the oddness value.

Edward James Olmos brings his usual macho gravity.

And then Christoph Waltz. Effective as hell in an early scene opposite an uncredited star in a cameo, shows up a couple more times to nice effect, then...they make a choice with the character that, strangely, echos events in Kick-Ass, if you saw that last year. At that point, I just sorta zoned out, and Waltz became just another one of the guys chasing the Hornet and Kato around. It's an interesting concept, a criminal mastermind motivated primarily by ego, but I felt like it was never properly exploited.

Let's see...The Black Beauty. The car is pretty incredibly designed, and they certainly use it effectively in the film. It's an offensive powerhouse, and they manage to make everything it does read as reasonable. Although, the sheer amount of offensive firepower that car can bring to bear did start me thinking about the violence in this film.

The Green Hornet is a really violent movie. Oh, not gore and beheadings, but, man, LOTS of people appear to get killed. This may be in line with the Green Hornet's history (I am no expert), but I was struck by how Britt and Kato seemed unconcerned with blasting not only "bad guys," but also police vehicles, into scrap with the Black Beauty. Plus, we have a major villain killed in a pretty seriously horrific way. Again, I found myself wishing for the characters to have a moment when they confronted the concept of the heroic ideal, and maybe didn't kill someone.

I did see this movie in 3-D. I had not intended to, but my schedule was such that I had to see the film in a certain time frame, and my option was the 3-D screening. As a post-shoot digital 3-D conversion, it's really, really nice work. Some of the best I've ever seen. that said, it's also inconsequential to the experience. I don't feel I got anything from seeing it in 3-D that I wouldn't have gotten from a regular 2-D screening. Save yourself  $2-$3, and just catch the regular show.

When it comes right down to it, your reaction to this movie is going to depend of a couple of factors. First, are you a Green Hornet purist? If so, you will likely have some problems. Are you uncomfortable with the mix of comic book heroism and slacker humor? If so, you will likely have problems with this movie. I had a good time with it, but I have no overriding attachment to these characters, or this concept. I rolled with it, and enjoyed the twists they took, while still keeping to the "heroic quest" blueprint.

I understand how the fans feel. If Captain America: The First Avenger comes out next summer and part of the concept is to laugh at Steve Rogers' faith in America, there will be some screaming. The Green Hornet definitely re-positions the characters, but I think it does it in a generally interesting and fun way. Not everything works, the film can be hit-or-miss, but does have interesting ideas and moments. So, unless you're a rabid Green Hornet or Seth Rogan fan, you can probably wait for video.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Friday Blog of Random Rambling...

So, I kinda blew my stack yesterday.

I don't feel bad about it, I stand by what I said. I am completely and utterly sick of the politics of division, and the empty mouth-service people pay about trying to end it, all while cursing the opposition out of the other side of their mouth. Oh, yeah, everyone says they want to change things, but that change always seems to basically come down to, "just start thinking like me."

You want change? Be change. Stop hating, and yes, my fine Liberal friends, hate is not the sole purview of the Right. I have very, very much grown sick of the hypocrisy of the Left on that score. Bear in mind...I'm a pretty freakin' liberal guy. We're supposed to be better than that.

So, anyway. I'm done. I detest talk of politics, for these very reasons, but every six months, or so, I'll have an utter meltdown of anger over the whole state of the way we relate to each other. The close-mindedness of damn near everyone in this country that wants to talk about politics. It's disgusting.

It's funny, I was listening to Hear in the Now Frontier, a Queensryche album from 1997.

It struck me, that all of the social comments they make, and the album is very much supposed to be a "state of the world" in 1997, for the end of the Clinton years, are just as valid today. It's still about corporate influence, a coarsening of society and social interaction, the vast swaths of people that seem to regard the words of sideshow acts like Limbaugh and Olbermann as something to be taken as gospel.

It's all there. Nothing's changed. Same shit, over and over.

The Voice Inside

Do you know the people fighting for your head?
What you think, the things you read and what you see.
What you hear and how you choose your right from wrong.
Yeah I hear the sound of a coming new wave.

Have you ever been lonely?
Afraid to speak your mind?
Are you ever reminded to trust the voice inside?

Now I know the reasons for the other side,
and I see a different point of view this time.
I will be a stronger person if I try.
I will see the other side of this day.

Are they really controlling
the way you use your mind?
Are you ever reminded to trust the voice inside?

Have you ever been lonely?
Afraid to speak your mind?
Are you ever reminded to trust the voice inside?

And, lo, the wheels just keep on rolling...

Purchased this little beauty this week, came in with the new comics.

 Now, when I was a kid, it was the glory days of MEGO toys, and their really distinctive action figure style. The 8-inch, articulated bodies with cloth costuming. Dolls for boys, essentially. They had a huge, runaway hit with their World's Greatest Superheroes line. The line encompassed both DC and Marvel comics characters, which today would just be unheard of.

I loved those damn things. I love all of MEGO's lines. There's a really, really good website that serves as a record of all of their action figure products The MEGO Museum. They had a ton of licensed properties, from the Superheroes, to Star Trek, to Planet of the Apes, to Happy Days. It was fantastic, because all the figures/dolls were made the exact same way, same scale, same bodies, etc. It was so easy to have the Fantastic Four team up with Batman, or have Superman visit Fonzie

The line was vast, especially for Superheroes. I mean, Green Arrow got a figure, as well as most of the Teen Titans. These were pretty obscure characters, in the overall scheme. What always made me sad was that MEGO never, ever did a figure for The Flash, who was always one of my favorites. It's doubly odd, because they did do his sidekick Kid Flash, as part of the Teen Titans.

Well, Mattel and DC comics have teamed up to revive this figure format, and, lo and behold...the did the Flash! A childhood wish comes true. the figure looks great, too. Twenty-plus years of toy technology and development at play I guess.

Although, the Batman figure....Not so great.

I mean, it's a definate step up from the original MEGO, the gloves and fit of the costume, for example, but, man...the cowl. It is a removable cowl, which was a feature on one of the MEGO versions (they actually had "Secret Identity" versions of Batman, Robin, Superman and Spider-Man, with a change of clothes and the whole bit...New head for Parker, too) , so that explains much. Still, I would've preferred a figure that looked better with a permanently affixed cowl...that's just me.

Still this whole "Retro Action" line is really, really cool. They've revived a lot of old figures, and added some that were missing from the MEGO line (Flash, of course, Green Lantern). Love that this is being done, the figures ain't cheap, as Mattel is clearly aiming for the adult collector, but I love that they're out there.

Let's see...

I am looking forward to seeing The Green Hornet this weekend. I've read some really nice reviews, and I've had a friend that saw a preview tell me it wasn't great. I dunno, there's something about what I've seen, and the Michael Gondry factor, that makes it seem like something really fun could be going on here, at least for me.

 I'll let you know what I think.

Outside of all that...I dunno...

I am fully expecting to get back to work on music this weekend. I'm hoping I can get some rough mixes of everything I have in process right now off to Pauly C fairly soon, so he can think about bass parts.

It is interesting, after working alone for so long, to have to try to communicate to Paul what I'm thinking for the basslines. For the last several years, I'd just pull out my bass, and do it. Usually, I wouldn't even think about how to play it...I just would. That's a change, with trying to bring more voices on board.

I've also developed a, probably crazy, plan that could get me a live drummer. It's long term, and would require planning and effort to execute. The very nature of it, however, has made things like using a click track vastly important. It's making me think more strategically, all while trying to put my own ducks in a row with the guitar tracks...

and vocals.

Oh, man do I wish I knew someone who could sing like the idea in my head. This is the one thing that's nagging at me. I am really, really confident right now that I can make something that sounds good, drum machine or live, with the new Portastudio. The point where I start to waiver is on the vocals.

First, I'm having a lot more trouble than I used to with writing lyrics. Second, I know I cannot....Y'know, I should probably say "it'll be really difficult"...execute what I do hear in my head with my own voice. Thing about it is, this project, under any of it's names, and through all the stops and re-starts, was a power trio in my head. The songs have, generally, been designed so as to be playable, in a theoretical live setting, with a guitar, a bass, and drums.

Y'know, in the epically long shot that would ever happen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Now Is The Time For All Great Men To Come To The Aid Of Their Country...

And shut the hell up.

With all sincerity in my soul, please, please shut the hell up.

When I see a tweet that says:
PSA: Heeding Obama's call for a more civil discourse does not mean I stop calling you out on your own hateful bullshit.
Actually, does. At least in the sense that "hateful bullshit" is not really a way of phrasing your feelings as to...y'know, foster productive conversation. I understand your feelings, your anger, but, and this is very, very important for you to realize...YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

See, because disagreement? That's not the problem. The fact that probably about 50% of the people in this country think you are wrong (no matter what your views are), and about 50% think you are right. That's not going to change unless we stop screaming at each other, and start listening to each other. When we listen, we might just find common ground with half, or more, of that 50%, and maybe, just maybe we can find a way to pull this country back from the clutches of the extremists who are defining, and obliterating, the tenor of political conversation in this country.

I'll quote from that lovely statement by Jon Stewart again, which is still the most clear and rational  that's been made so far about this shooting;
It's true that others are working feverishly -- feverishly to find blame and exonerate the other.

Watching that is as predicable as it is dispiriting.
Let me ask you a simple question...Do you want to make things better, or do you want to be right?

Because, let me tell you, it's quite likely that those things are not going to always be the same. It's quite likely that the best course of action for our country, moving forward into the great unknown of the future, is going to take a little from the left, a little from the right, and forge them into something that is rational, fair, economically feasible, and humane. See, because Democracy,'s the (in my estimation) most relevant definition:

a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
 That doesn't say, "you get what you want, all the time." It doesn't say, "you by virtue of your political affiliations, have a corner on rationality and morality."  Do you know why?

C'mon, GUESS!

Because we're all human, and we're all fallible, and we're all WRONG, far more often than we would like to admit. Our problem, right now, is that we've lived so long in a self-aggrandizing, ego-stroking society, that we cannot fathom how we could ever be wrong. Them, THOSE PEOPLE, over there! THEY are the WRONG ones!

Democracy works best when divergent ideas come together and form a stronger, compromise whole. That doesn't mean that we have to give up the fight, for anything, but it does mean we can, and should, be open to solutions that don't fall within our own, personal comfort zone.

I hear a lot of my friends talking about the influence of big business, and how it's ruining the country. All I can think is this....

You know what the absolute best thing you can do to continue that kind of garbage? Keep being more concerned with turning politics into a Goddamn football game than a forum for the exchange of ideas and the offering of solutions. Turn off that idiot Beck, or that smug putz Olbermann, because they're just in the back pocket of a corporation, too. Wheeling and dancing to keep you pissed off at one side or the other, instead of looking for solutions and ideas. 

And stop fucking thinking that some brilliant solution is going to drop out of the sky, fully formed and fulfilling every dream of a Utopian society you've ever had. It takes work, it takes new ideas, it takes compromise, and it takes sacrifice. Yep, sacrifice...YOU MAY HURT TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING BETTER. You may have to pay more in taxes, or you might have to pay for your own health care, or maybe you won't get a cost of living increase on your pension...Stop acting like you're the only person in the world to ever, ever shoulder these horrible burdens. 

Trust me, a hell of a lot of people have had it a hell of a lot worse.

Grow up, and stop blaming others. All Christians are not bigots, all Muslims are not terrorists, gays aren't trying to undermine the morality of America, and you're not an asshole just because you're rich. Stop trying to remake everyone but yourself into a vast, faceless, inhuman and easily defined group. We're all PEOPLE, good and bad, weak and strong, petty and noble, and that doesn't have a damn thing to do with where you want to stick your penis, where you want to pray, or how much money you have in the bank.

I am not a political person. I detest it, I hate talking about it, I hate being lectured about it. Still, these last few days, I have almost come to the point where I wanted to swear off ever voting, ever again. Because so many people out there are so busy trying to take ground, cover their ass, assign blame and generally behave like assholes, I have no faith in the world, let alone America. If, and frankly, I'm starting to think it's WHEN, the whole thing comes down around your ears, oh, you'll blame somebody else, Obama or Palin or Bush or Ebaneezer Scrooge, but you'll have brought it on yourself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Comic Day 1.12.2011

Man, the last few weeks have been pretty light...Which leaves me terrified that the hammer is going to drop soon, and I'll have some God-awful huge week, with a dozen, or more, titles. I'll be swamped under in the cost of it, run out of money, fail to pay my rent , and CByrd and I will end up on the street. Where she'll murder me to crawl inside my corpse, for warmth, like a Tauntaun.

AND I'll deserve it....

Batman and Robin #19 $2.99
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Scott McDaniel and Rob Hunter
Cover by Patrick Gleason
1:10 Variant cover by Gene Ha

Batman and Robin have found The Absence, but a deathtrap awaits them. How do you prove a negative? How do you escape nothing? When there's nothing at the center of a life, madness can stick its claws in!

The book's holding up well with out Grant Morrison, at least so far. The whole multiple Batman/Batman Inc. stuff still rankles me, but, yeah, I have to admit the Dick Grayson/Batman & Damian Wayne/Robin team is a heck of a combo. It's just fun to watch them bounce off each other, with Robin being the darker of the two, for once.

I'll hand it to Morrison, this was a smart, non-continuity-busting way to bring back a Silver Age-like, more light-hearted Batman. We all know how Morrison loves him some Silver Age weirdness. I just can't help wondering what's going to happen when they FINALLY take Morrison off the Batman books. Will Damian remain? I can't see Bruce putting up with his crap for half a second, yet, on the other hand, I get the impression Damian would be much more deferential to Bruce...Er, Daddy...

Booster Gold #40 $2.99
Art and cover by CHRIS BATISTA

Coming to grips with reality at last, Booster Gold steps up his game and finally accepts the fact that his best friend, Blue Beetle Ted Kord, is dead. This is bad news for the villain who shows up this month because they're about to face an angry Booster Gold…

And so, we move on. As I mentioned with the last issue, really happy to see the Ted Kord thing take a back-burner. I'm interested to see what Giffen and DeMatteis will do with a Booster released from that obsession. It'll be nice if we can get back to a more mission-oriented book, let's see Booster defending the time-stream of the DC Universe, again. That's supposed to be his job, and what makes this book unique.

Oh, I know they'll get back to Ted. I'm not naive enough to think he'll stay dead. thing is, by backing off a bit, it's gonna have more impact.

Red Robin #19 $2.99
Art and cover by MARCUS TO & RAY MCCARTHY

When Red Robin and his friends are trapped in the unknown world of the Unternet by the Calculator's fail-safe program, it's Batman and Robin to the rescue – but which Batman and Robin is it? If the Unternet is a telepathic communications gestalt where the villains' dreams come true, can Red Robin become its waking nightmare?

Wow, that solicitation synopsis is far more "out there" than this series usually is. Excellent! What's nice about having Tim Drake no longer have to be "Robin," but a new persona that isn't trapped under a million marketing deals, is the ability to really play around with it. Also, with Tim being a computer whiz, the plot fits well with his skill set.

Frankly, I just love this book. That was unexpected, and it didn't start off as strong as it ended up being. This should sever as notice to DC. Let things build with time, and find their footing. This books has evolved into one of the most consistent in your line. It sad to know that, without the Batman tie-in, it would've never gotten the chance.

Side Editorial Comment:
I am loving the special covers this month. The "iconic" poses, and the white backgrounds, really let the characters "pop." Now, of course, you wouldn't want to do this all the time, but it does give a sense of how the covers should feature the stars of the book prominently. I mean, we all buy a Comic Shops now, not on the newsstand,'s still a wall of books, and this month it's been easy to zero in on my characters and it's stood out form the competition.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chalk Another One Up For Jon Stewart

I struggled with a couple of blog entries about what happened to Congresswoman Gifford in Arizona. I found myself really laying into everyone, on the Left and the Right, who allowed the environment that nurtured this act.

So, I deleted it.

I'm kinda sick of being angry. It's really exhausting, because I really am sick of all of it. I'm sick of the horrible things the Right says about, say, homosexuals and anyone that supports social programs. I'm equally sick of the horrible things the Left says about, say, Christians and anyone who's "rich." It's the lonely road of the moderate in this day and age, where you fell stupid talking about compromise, because the voices of the ends of the political spectrum have decided there is none.

I'd like to thank Jon Stewart for saying something rational and calming.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Here's the transcript:

So here we are again stunned by a tragedy.

We've been visited by this demon before.

Our hearts go out to those injured or killed and their loved ones.

How do you make sense of these types of senseless situations is really the question that seems to be on everybody's mind. I don't know that there's a way to make sense of this sort of thing. As I watched the political pundit world, many are reflecting and grieving and trying to figure things out.

It's true that others are working feverishly -- feverishly to find blame and exonerate the other.

Watching that is as predicable as it is dispiriting.

Did the toxic political environment cause this? A graphic image here, an ill-timed comment, violent rhetoric, those types of things.

I HAVE NO (bleep) IDEA.

You know, we live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn't blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for columbine and that is coming from somebody who truly hates our political environment.

It is toxic. It is unproductive but to say that that is what has caused this or that the people in that are responsible for this I don't think you could do it.

Boy, would that be nice. Boy, it would be nice -- boy, would it be nice to be able to draw a straight line of causation from this horror to something tangible because then we could convince ourselves, is that if we just stopped this the horrors would end.

To have the feeling, however fleeting, that this type of event could be prevented forever.

It's hard not to feel like it can.

You know, you cannot outsmart crazy. You don't know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way. It always has.

That is not to suggest that resistance is futile.

It sounds futile.

That sounded dark.

Crazy people rule us all.

I don't think it's true. I do think it's important to watch our rhetoric. I think it's a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid madmen and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak. It would be really nice if the rambles of -- ramblings of crazy people didn't in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let's at least -- let's -- let's at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.

And, you know, again -- to see good people like this hurt, it is so grievous and it causes me such sadness but I refuse to give in to that feeling of despair.

There's light in this situation.

I urge everyone read up about those who were hurt and or killed in this shooting. You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world. You read about these people and you realize that people that you don't even know, that you have never met, are leading lives of real dignity and goodness.

And you hear about crazy but it's rarer than you think.

I think you'll find yourself even more impressed with congresswoman Giffords and amazed after how much living was packed in the lives cut way too short. And if there is real solace in this, I think it's that for all the hyperbole and have it -- vitriol when the reality of that rhetoric, when actions match the words we haven't lost our capacity to be horrified.

Please let us hope we never do. Let us hope we never become numb to what real horror, the real blood of patriots looks like when it's spilled. Hopefully it helps us match our rhetoric with reality more often.

The reality of dangerous rhetoric is, I think even those who speak hyperbolically all of that would recoil and say, wow, that's, you know -- that is not the picture of what we were discussing or talking about. I have to remember that there's a reality to that situation that we can't approach verbally. Because someone or something will shatter our world again.

And wouldn't it be a shame if we didn't take this opportunity and the loss of these incredible people and the pain that their loved ones are going through right now, wouldn't it be a shame if we didn't take that moment to make sure that the world that we are creating now that will ultimately be shattered again by a moment of lunacy, wouldn't it be a shame if that world wasn't better than the one we previously lost?
I wanna call your attention to one, specific line...

It's true that others are working feverishly -- feverishly to find blame and exonerate the other.

Watching that is as predicable as it is dispiriting.

Oh, yes, it is.

I wonder if anyone ever catches themselves thinking first, not of the health of Gabrielle Gifford, but how this tragic turn of events will help them "get" Sarah Palin, or whoever. I wonder, because, a lot of the posts I read about this seem far more concerned with making a political point than really sending well wishes to those poor people. I wonder if they realize it first, and do it anyway.

Once again, we find a late-night comedian more up to the task of providing a calm voice of reason and truth, for which we used to turn to such giants as Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow, a job that our newscasters and journalists have abandoned in order to curry ratings from the far extremes of the political spectrum.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The World Keeps Turnin'

There are days when you feel the weight of the things you should do....

I should, and probably need, to lose some weight. I was SUPPOSED to start on this...process...last week.

It...kinda happened.

I have my new Portastudio up and running, I ordered a video tutorial and watched it through, and I feel really confident about working with it, at least in terms of basic tracks. Mixing and mastering isn't going to happen until I have the songs in a place where I'm happy. The nice thing about a (fairly large) internal hard drive is that, the stuff can sit, and I can work at my leisure.

As it is, I erased everything, that I had worked on up to that point, on Saturday morning. I had just finished the tutorial video, and I felt like I could do better. At least make it easier to work with the idea that, perhaps, I could do things like finagle an actual drummer to do the drum tracks, at some point.

My buddy Pauly C. had done some bass work on one track, but it was, literally, days after I had got it all hooked up. I had little to no idea what I was doing. Couldn't even figure out how to do a punch-in for Paul. I felt like an idiot.

I erased it all. Start from scratch, all legit, click tracks and all that fun stuff. It's really clear exactly how much more I can do with this new unit, and how much better I can make my tracks sound when I do get them finished. It's also been nice to come back to songs I'd put together months ago. The new equipment, and honestly, the video training, have emboldened me to think a bit bigger.

Plus, coming back to songs I worked on months ago, I've had new ideas about arrangements, and generally how they can come together. The click track has really opened my mind up about a lot of things in that regard. How much I can move things around , plus, the edit feature on the Portastudio is kick-ass. I'm very positive, going forward.

Plus, I feel stronger, as a guitarist, than I have in a while. I've played in front of people more in the last month, or so, than I had in the 5 years previous. The reaction was good and strong and positive, and it's given me some confidence. Plus, even better than that, I'm actually enjoying how I play, rather than continually comparing myself to how others (who are lightyears beyond me) do. I really feel I'm getting stronger in my own style and attack on the instrument.

It's a pretty big leap. It's also helping define the sound of the Hayoth/TWTU/Whatever The Hell I Call It project. Less buzzsaw metal tone (though it is there), more fat, somewhat fuzzy sound. It's feeling right.

Hopefully, it'll all keep up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

And So, The Big One is Announced for Blu-Ray

In case you've been under a rock for the past 24 hours (if you're one of my geekier readers), the Star Wars Saga, as a whole, will be released on Blu-Ray disk in September 2011. No exact street date, yet, but it'll be that month. As you might have guessed, I've already put in my pre-order with Amazon.

Yeah, I am an old-school, first generation (5 years old at the initial release in 1977) fan. These movies have loomed LARGE in the choices I've made in my life, for good or ill. I am who, and what, I am today in no small part because of what George Lucas created.

There's three buying options, Each trilogy, the original (Ep. IV, V & VI), and the prequels (Ep. I, II & III), is available individually, or you can purchase The Complete Saga on 9 Blu-Ray disks. This includes all 6 films, and 3 disks of what amounts to 30 hours worth bonus content. This bonus content will only be available with the complete saga set.

I'm sure you can guess which I've pre-ordered.

It's worth it to me. I mean, yeah, sure, I've purchased these movies over and over again. I'm on that consumer treadmill, I fully admit it. The simple fact is, these movies, and I do mean all six of them, make me happy. There's something about that moment, right after "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." fades off the screen, and you're waiting for the blast of John Williams' unmistakable fanfare, with the bright yellow "Star Wars" logo. It just hangs there, and I feel like that five-year-old kid, sitting next to my father, waiting for something magic to happen.

Y'know, it almost always does happen.

Oh, yes, I am well aware of the problems with the Prequels, the oddness of some changes in the "Special Editions" of the Original Trilogy, I get it.

I don't care.

I mean that in the most sincere, "live and let live" way possible. I realize that there are a lot of people out there who feel betrayed and hurt by the way George Lucas has developed and handled the Star Wars Universe. I understand the desire to get a decent copy of the Original Trilogy exactly as they appeared in theaters in 1977, 1980 and 1983. (Although, I doubt few would want Episode IV A New Hope without the "Episode IV: A New Hope" title that was added for re-releases when The Empire Strikes Back was in production)  I get that, and I was very happy when those versions were included as "special features" with the original films in 2006, even if they weren't remastered, and not in anamorphic widescreen.

(Meaning, the films were presented "letterboxed," so the full widescreen frame image was there, but the image would not "size up" to fill the screen of a 16x9 television [which most are now]. So, you got black bars not only above and below the image, but also to the left and right. It was not optimal, but it was the movies as originally released)

I understand that having Han shoot Greedo first in the cantina scene is ridiculous, and changes something about the mercenary attitude that was inherent and cool about the character. That was a mistake, and it bugs me every time. Doesn't help that the digital manipulation is just downright sloppy. The change just isn't possible with the footage as it is.

So, that's a problem....

But that for me doesn't change that I love the new footage of the Sandtroopers and Dewbacks, as well as the really, truly awe inspiring new shot of the Sandcrawler coming over the ridge to the Lars homestead. That I love the changes to the architecture of Cloud City, the more open hallways and windows. The city was clearly never supposed to be a claustrophobic as the original sets required.

I am not against digital reconstruction of sets, and new footage of creatures to add mobility where limited puppetry was used before. The Wampa cave sequence, as re-worked, is cool to me. I even like the Jabba sequence in A New Hope, even if it really only repeats exposition we've already heard from Greedo. It's not needed, but it's fun...

I understand why some are bothered by this stuff, I really do...but I'm not. Especially since I now have the original versions on a legally-obtained DVD, even if it's absolutely, positively the most bare-bones release you'll ever see. I enjoy watching Escape from LA, too, and my copy is non-anamorphic, too. Yeah, it's a obviously begrudging acquiescence to fan wishes by Lucas, but it's there, and I've always said, "change everything you want, but let us have access to the original too."

(Spielberg does it the best with the E.T. The Extraterrestrial DVD release, and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind Blu-Rays...every version of the movies, the original, and every different cut, with every change, is available by picking a menu choice, or dropping in another disk. Classy, Steven.)

I think it's also important to really understand that Lucas doesn't do these things just because he hates his fans...He really just feels the original versions of the original trilogy are utterly flawed, and do not represent what he wanted to put on screen. I love this story that Drew McWeeny put up for his "Motion Captured" blog on yesterday;
"I remember going to see "Star Wars" at the Egyptian theater with George Lucas in attendance at one point, and he sat about two rows directly in front of us.  Watching him watch the original version of the film, with visible matte lines and all of the "flaws" of the film still in place, and it was like watching someone get waterboarded.  He was physically uncomfortable with the experience, and there were moments where it looked like he was about to bolt.  I may not agree with his reasons for not selling me the versions of the films that I fell in love with, but I get that it really does make him crazy.  I wish there was some middle ground..."
I do too, but I also have to respect that Lucas made these films, he put his own money on the line, and owns them. I don't, no one else does, and the sooner we all just learn to live with that the better. Shouting and bitching and dumb comments about "raping my childhood" aren't going to change anything, and just make you seem like a loser who's WAY too wrapped up in a dumb movie.

Then, of course, there's the Prequels, and the firestorm of disappointment that their releases in 1999, 2002, and 2005 engendered.

Again, all I can say is that I get it. I get that there is clunky dialogue, and some of the performances are far less than amazing. I also get, very clearly, that the storyline didn't turn out to be what everyone wanted to see.

Again, I don't care. Ditto on the "live and let live" vibe.

As it happens, I found the idea that maybe the Jedi have become too complacent and convinced of their superiority for their own good to be really interesting. That a democratic body could be manipulated by fear and anger into destructive choices (Hmmmmm....That NEVER happens!) equally so. That Darth Vader, the terror of a universe, becomes that by trying to do what he thought was the right thing, out of a desire to protect the people he loved, to be really, really cool.

And certainly more of a thought-provoking lesson for kids than, "bad people are just bad, and should be defeated."

I also think that Hayden Christensen gets a load of shit for playing a bratty teenager (albeit without a ton of nuance from the script or dialogue) as exactly that. At least he was trying. Natalie Portman checked out the day she walked on the set for Episode II. I mean, you have a kid, told early on that he's "the chosen one," raised by a bunch of guys who already seem to feel overly entitled, and you wonder why he can't understand why he can't have what he wants, exactly when he wants it?

No, there's not a lot of subtlety or grace to how the Prequels are executed, and they are not, even remotely, as good as the originals. However, they do have a lot of really interesting concepts and ideas. Plus, here's the deal;

They felt like Star Wars. I'm sorry, but it cannot be denied. The design, the way things worked, the nature of the imagery, it didn't feel like we were in a whole new universe from what we'd seen before. A different part of it, sure, but there was a unifying vibe.

The other point to be cognizant of. These are the story. This is how Anakin Skywalker fell from grace. This is it. So, you can reject it or accept it, vow never to watch them again, or embrace them as, no matter how flawed, the story. Bitching and screaming about it won't help change the facts. I don't mean to be snotty by saying that, just...There isn't going to be a "do-over."

And there's Ewan MacGregor as Obi-wan Kenobi. I've never met a single person who didn't think he was wonderful. He truly is the only member of the cast, save Ian McDiarmid, who approaches the effortless level of performance that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have in the original trilogy. I still think a lot of people got star-struck about "being in Star Wars," and just forgot to make anything real. (Looking at you, Sam Jackson.)

I just, really, can't believe people continue to be upset about all this stuff. I know, it's a fringe element, and it only seems pervasive because they're quite, quite vocal. Still, I think I can make a pretty strong argument that these movies, or at least the first one, were THE pivotal moment of my life. I've been plenty mad about things regarding this (The cheap over-use and insertion of Boba Fett to curry fan favor, the feeling like the entirety of Episode II was a naked attempt to suck up to the fanbase), but man...I got things to do.

It's just a bunch of movies.

Movies I love, movies I'm willing to talk about, and engage in vigorous debate over, for hours. Movies that inspire my imagination and make me feel young. That said, the fact that Lucas made choices that I didn't particularly think were strong, or were downright poor, is not something I want to dwell over, and launch into a rage about every, single time the movies are re-released on some new home video format.

I'd rather think of the enjoyment that the films, and George Lucas, have given me. the friends I've made, and the fun I've had. That's why I can't be angry that I'm not getting everything that I want, because the Star Wars Saga, from day one, has given me more joy than I ever had any right to expect. It boggles me how so many people can forget that joy over some bit of CGI frippery on the screen.

Yeah, maybe I allow nostalgia to whitewash some of the more egregious problems. Doesn't matter. I don't care. This franchise has given me so much, I'm willing to allow myself to still be a little starstruck by it.