Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mark Your Calendar!

Kathy & I will be away at the Philadelphia Folk Festival (watching great musicians like Baka Beyond, the Mammals, Doc Watson, Vance Gilbert and John Flynn, along with tons of acts we've never heard before, and if you want to join us, just say the word), but for an entirely different experience -- one which I will be jealous of, despite being at the happiest place on earth -- the Film Forum is having a double feature (for the price of one) on August 17 & 18: The Warriors and Superfly.

Come out to plaa-aay!


Sushi vs. Spinach

Baron Bizarre on the Captain Comics board pointed me toward this video. I hadn't posted one in a while, so enjoy this animated throwdown: Popeye versus Anime! (And thanks, Baron!)


Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Late to the Ring

Captain Marvel Junior cleans house!

(Bahlactus is ringin' the bell.)


Hey, Taxi!

For the past month or so, I have this fantasy about my time in New York. I’m heading somewhere uptown and decide to hail a cab. I climb inside and tell the driver my destination. Suddenly I hear a sharp blast of sound and the roof of the cab lights up – I’m on Cash Cab!

I can’t tell you how much I’d like to appear on this show. Cash Cab is a game show on the Discovery Channel in which unsuspecting riders are asked general interest questions as they travel to their destination. The further they go, the more money they can win. But if they miss three questions. They’re back out on the street again.

And man, I love it. I love the ambush when they first get into the cab—some folks have great surprised faces. I love seeing the cab travel down streets and past shops I recognize. And there’s not the sort of filter that a show like Jeopardy! has -- all sorts of people hail cabs. Salesmen, stoners, professors, club-hoppers – anyone can play. Some do surprisingly well. (I was thrilled when a guy and his teen daughter took a ride, and she was the one who knew Alexander Hamilton wrote The Federalist Papers. Put that in yer pipe and smoke it, “kids today are stupid” crowd!) Others, not so much. Some people tank three questions in a row, which is its own kind of fun.

We watch a lot of serial TV at our house. Plenty of dramas have ongoing stories, and sitcoms like The Office and 30 Rock do it as well. So it’s a treat to have this show in our rotation, ready to play we need some lightweight fun.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not on the Deck, Nutsy!

So, as I was leaving the house yesterday evening, I noticed a squirrel was taking a leak on our deck.

I shooed him away, and he ran out into the street, and I continued to shoo him until he was out of sight.

And then I thought -- what if it's my dad?

I'm pretty much joking about that. Of course it's not my dad, and even if it were, I wouldn't let him pee on our patio. (Maybe especially if it were.) But every now and then since Dad died, Mom feels his presence when there's a squirrel around. (I don't know why the squirrels stand out to her; I'm sure she feels connected with him at different times every day, squirrel or no squirrel.) Anyway, the end result is that when I see squirrels, I think of Dad too. Which is nice.

Unless they're taking a leak.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Packin' Heat

Almost certainly exacerbated by this, I weighed in up 4.4 pounds today. (That is approximately the weight of the gun at right, a Magnum Research BFR .22 Hornet.) Next week will be better.


Regarding Question #2, Below

There are other times, like today, when I'd just perfer to elbow everyone in Penn Station in the face on my way to the train.


Get Ta Know Me! Part V

Greg has asked me a bunch of questions -- mostly comics-related -- and I'm finally getting around to answering them. Hopefully I'll be able to add some images to this big block o' text once I get home...

1. If you could erase from history the events in any one comic (or involving any one character) where things "went the wrong direction," (a la my opinion of pretty much everything with Swamp Thing since Alan Moore's departure) who/what would it be?

You want obscure? I’ll give you obscure!

I choose Legion of Superheroes #6, from 1988 or so. It was the issue that reality warped back to “normal” from a universe that Mordru the Merciless ruled, but the change was slightly imperfect. History had changed, so that Supergirl was no longer a member of the Legion – he place was taken by a similarly powered lookalike named Laurel Gand (Mon-El’s cousin – and yes, skip down to question 2, all you non-comics geeks).

Her introduction wasn’t bad – there’s nothing wrong with the story per se, and it’s part of one of my favorite runs in Legion history. But – BUT! – it was the first time the LSH’s history was presented as malleable, and paved the way for the various reboots to follow. I’ve liked each of those reboots, but every time history changes it takes me farther and farther from the Legion that I loved as a kid and teen. So as much as I liked that particular issue, it started a slippery slope that I’d veer away from, given the chance.

Okay, non-geeks? It’s safe again.

2. You can perform one illegal action without any (legal) consequences. What is it?

Legal consequences aren’t the only consequences I’d face for most crimes – so stealing and killing are out. (Sadly.) This leaves me with streaking. Not a victimless crime, by any means – I can only imagine the nightmares will continue for generations after the last person to see me race through the Vatican butt-naked is dead and gone – but one that my conscience wouldn’t trouble me too much about.

3a. Let's set aside our ideals of comic movie adaptations for a moment. Given the films that do exist, what's the best comic book movie?

Hmm. Spider-Man 2 is the best superhero movie. American Splendor may be the best comic book movie.

3b. Okay. Now, what's your favorite?

Tough one. For suspense and action, I’d say V For Vendetta. But I love Hellboy too, for sheer comic-book fun. And there’s nothing – nothing! – like the Modesty Blaise movie – a case where “favorite” and “best” aren’t even in the same universe.

4. Of all the cool books no longer being published, if you could resurrect one, with any of its previous creative teams, who would produce all new stories, which would it be?

5. On your word, Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker will pick up where they left off and continue their work on The Shadow to some kind of conclusion. Do you give the word? Well? Do you?

Why’d you ask the same question twice?

Okay, in reverse order:

5) Of course I do. And that word is “Lenore.”

4) What would I choose? More Preacher stories? More Sandman? More Transmetropolitan, more Chase, more Suicide Squad? (Actually, we’re getting more Suicide Squad, and a little more Hitman, too. So that’s nice.) More Flash by Cary Bates and Irv Noivick (my personal favorite team)? More Legion by Levitz and Giffin? More Question by O’Neill and Cowan?

So many of these are tempting. But I can’t help thinking that they were all somewhat a product of their time.

I think the revival that would make me happiest would be this:

More Calvin & Hobbes. Or, frankly, anything else Bill Watterson wants to write and draw. I can’t think of any comics rebirth that would make me so happy, and so confident of the results.


(As usual, if you’d like to be interviewed, just ask. I’ll ask you five questions in these comments, and you can answer them on your blog, or here, if you don’t have a blog. They won’t necessarily be about comics, so there’s no need to be left out!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Four Margarita Lunch

So pleaes forgiv any tpyos.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Get Ta Know Me! Part IV

My pal Travis over at Tilting at Pinwheels answered my questions, then asked me five of his own. As usual, I had a ball answering them.

1. Which comic book character would you most like to have a beer with?

Reverend Jesse Custer. The man can drink, argue, and fight, and knows the proper time for each.

2. Name one character that you wish had stayed dead.

I feel like I oughta say Jason Todd. So far, there hasn’t been a decent story told with him since his reintroduction (which was pretty good). I think Batman’s guilt over Jason’s death is undermined by his coming back to life (obviously), and his tactics and moral code are so blurry right now I don’t know whether he’s really a bloodthirsty vigilante or merely just a “talk tough” vigilante. He’s the obvious choice to me. More than anything else, the focus on him is why I’m dropping Countdown. (Well, that and the glacial pacing.)

But instead, I’m going to choose Professor X. he’s died a few times, I think, only to be revealed as “not really dead” every time. But frankly, I think the X-Men are much more interesting when they don’t have a clear leader. Cyclops can never shine when Professor X is around – he can only be the good, dutiful son. I haven’t read the X-Men regularly for a long while, and I doubt much would bring me on board, simply because of the sheer expense and weight of the series and its spin-offs. But for my money, intra-mutant power struggles is where it’s at – and they can’t happen while Professor X is still on his feet. So to speak.

3. Assuming it was done right, what would be your dream comic-to-movie project?

I’d love to see a film of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. Deadshot, Boomerang, Nemesis, Duchess, Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, Nightshade and the Wall. With some other assorted scoundrels thrown in. It could be the Magnificent Seven of superhero movies.

4. Which childhood to do you wish you still had?

Tough one. I’m not sure where my Dapper Dan doll is, although I’m guessing my Mom has it. But ol’ Dan is certainly still around. So I’llsay my Evel Knievel motorcycle toy. I’d take a cerrated lastic strip and pull it out the back of the launcher, and E.K. would shoot over toward a ramp, where he’d almost always wipe out in some neck-breaking fashion. But he was always ready to go again. No teaching that guy. He had more guts than sense, but that’s why we loved him.

5. What is you favorite documentary?

That’s a tough one. I’ve really just started paying attention to documentaries; I guess we have Michael Moore to thank for making them popular again. There are some classics I’ve never seen, like Hoop Dreams or the 7-Up series. I’ve seen a few political docs – although I liked Bowling for Columbine, my favorite of these was Outfoxed which made a really compelling (if somewhat repetitive) case for how Fox News slants the events it presents as news. I’m only one part into Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, about Katrina and its aftermath, and I’m planning to see the big Bob Dylan retrospective that Martin Scorcese was involved with last year. I really liked what I saw of Ken Burns’s Baseball, and hope to see his Jazz one day.

But at the moment, my favorite may be the one I saw only a few weeks ago: Eroll Morris’s Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. It really is amazing, and I’d recommend it to anybody.

As always, if you want to be asked five interview questions (comic or otherwise), put a note in the comments. It’s a lot of fun.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

On the Road with Baker, Weber and an Armful of Juice

The other day I had the afternoon off, so I slid on down to the Film Forum to see Let’s Get Lost, a film by Bruce Weber about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. I knew very little about Baker, mostly because I had taped David Wilcox singing “Chet Baker’s Unsung Swan Song” on the World Café years ago, and played that tape quite a bit in those pre-mp3 days. One look at the lyrics will tell you he was addicted to drugs of some sort; Wilcox’s explanation that preceded the song told me he’d been found dead outside the window of his Amsterdam hotel, an apparent suicide.

What the reviews of Let’s Get Lost told me was that Baker was the embodiment of 1950s pre-rock-n-roll cool.

The film opens itself up slowly. Shot entirely in black and white, it’s a mix of head-on interviews, archival footage, and sequences shot in present-day (1987) Los Angeles, as Baker moves through the city like a spectre with an entourage of young, beautiful people surrounding him. (I later learned they were hired for the film, and include Chris Isaak and Lisa Marie.) These scenes are dreamlike, with the group running on the beach, goofing around in bumper cars, and listening to Baker play in a studio session. (Out of the group, Isaak seems to be the only one who knows jazz; he and Baker sing a brief melody in a barroom booth todgether at one point.) One shot, which the film returns to again and again, is of Baker in the back of a convertible, hurtling through the Los Angeles night with a beauty on each side of him. As the women cuddle closer to him, it’s impossible to read his craggy face. Is he enjoying the drive, and the company, or is he just stoned? I was left with the impression that the man was plunging headlong into death in the most comfortable way he could find.

The archival footage shows Baker in his early days—a hunky dreamboat with a trumpet, playing gorgeous, languid jazz. The point is made that he and his Los Angeles contemporaries rejected the bebop of the east coast, playing simpler, prettier music. Miles Davis went one way, Baker went another. For the most part, jazz followed Davis. That’s the impression I get, anyway, although there’s few things I know less about than jazz.

And the interviews. Baker is interviewed extensively, and his talks about his past elliptically with the velvet-smooth voice that serves him so well when he sings. He’s sometimes evasive, and sometimes just prefers to play his trumpet. You get lost in the lines of his face, so smooth in the old footage, yet grooved with years of addiction and hard living. You can see the beginnings of the effect while he’s still young, in an old Steve Allen Show appearance from 1958. That can’t be age alone changing his face like that. He’s 57 in the movie. He looks 85.

Other people – a photographer who “discovered” him, fellow musicians, a few girlfriends, his third wife, some of his kids – all bring something new to the picture. From almost every perspective but his own, Baker was shifty and undependable. Abuse is mentioned. But Baker somehow keeps them all charmed. Some of the women cat about each other, each seeming to feel that only her claim to Baker is legitimate. The stories they tell about Baker reveal more about themselves than they might like. (A Baker biography mentioned in a recent New York Times article about the film’s revival—one I can’t find online, sorry—says that the film’s strength is this: It’s all jive. Everyone is lying. Could be.)

There’s a moment, late in the film, in which his daughter talks about going into one of his girlfriend’s places, looking for Baker, who’d already lit out. She found the things that mattered most to the girlfriend – jewelry and such, that she’d spoken of to the girl – and steals them, hocking them at a pawn shop for spite. Watching it, all I could think was This man is poison, and poison spreads. But I wonder: Did Bruce Weber recognize this? He clearly loves the man. The film seems flush with hero-worship, but the heel still seeps in around the edges.

It’s almost inevitable that there’ll be a biopic musical, a la Ray or Walk the Line, on Baker someday. His life had so many ups and downs (his teeth were punched out so he couldn’t play for years; he wound up living on welfare and pumping gas) that it’ll fit the formula with few alterations. But where those movies travel the same ground, Let’s Get Lost delves into more troubling places.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bat 21, Bat 21! Can you read me, Bat 21?

If you want to contact Kathy or me, your best chance is to call our cell phones. For some reason we have not yet determined, our phones are having trouble picking up incoming calls. So if you've tried to reach us and didn't even get our machine, that could be why. (You might also have a wrong number, or be talking into a banana.)

UPDATE: It seems to be fixed now, without any effort on our part. Don't know if I trust it, but feel free to call. Except not now; it's 1:30 AM. Wait until morning.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Remember What the Doormouse Said

Old schoolyard joke: Want to lose 10 pounds of ugly fat? Cut off your head.

I went to a meeting yesterday, and found hat, after a week where I was relatively good, but not paying strict attention to points and such, I had lost another 2.4 pounds. I kid myself that I’ve internalized some of the rules to keep the weight off, but then I went and completely blew it yesterday, so clearly that’s not the case. (A cannoli was involved. I am so weak in the face of cannoli.)

Whatever. It’s a new day, and my total weigh loss is 25.6 pounds. And that’s without cutting off 2.5 heads. So there’s considerably less of me than when I started sixteen weeks ago, but what there is of me is pretty happy.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Fanboy Moment

I went to the WizardWorld: Philadelphia comics convention last weekend, and the highlight of it for me was getting to meet Carmine Infantino, co-creator of my favorite super hero, the Flash (Barry Allen*), and that I told him how much his work and the character mean to me.

I bought a copy of his retrospective art book, The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino, and asked him to do a sketch in the front pages. This was Sunday the 17th – it might be the most recent drawing of Flash he’s done. It was great to see him work, laying down the pencil lines before finishing it up in ink. I had a chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his Elongated Man stories as well – I’m just finishing a collected edition of them now.

Anyway, without further ado… the Flash, by Carmine Infantino.


*(Remember when you could say who your favorite super hero was without having to give his secret identity? I hope Gorilla Grodd doesn’t read this blog.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Wizard, a True Fiend

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Along with Steve Ditko, these two men built the Marvel Universe. They’re names to conjure with in comics circles, because they created some of the most original, exciting comics the world had ever seen.

One of their creations, the Marvel Comics version of Thor, brought together high-energy superheroics with a mix of science fiction and mythology. It was truly awe-inspiring stuff – the comics version of opera. But never let it be said they didn't take time to smell the roases. They knew that sometimes, the little things mean the most.

With that in mind, I’d like to present this single page from The Mighty Thor #179, the final issue Kirby drew. It features the diabolical Loki, lord of lies…

…versus hotel room service.

(click to enlarge)

I really can’t get over this page. Not only does Loki totally screw over the hotel staff, but he does it in the most dickish way possible. He could have just signed for it, and then skipped out on his hotel bill when he was done. But no, he has to conjure a fat wad of cash for these guys, only for it to disappear once he’s long gone. Loki Odinson is all about the dine and dash.

That’s just how he rolls.

I haven’t read the end of the story yet, but I hope there’s a panel of Thor swinging his mighty Uru hammer, shouting “For the wronged staff of the Waldorf Astoria, I stand against thee! Compensate them truly, including a tip commensurate with service, or know the Son of Odin will smite thee with the mighty Mjonlir!”

Loki is a bad, bad man.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


After a thousand posts, it's good to remember that a Google search still turns up the Amazon page for the Doctor & the Medics album this blog was named for before linking to this blog itself. (I'm #2! Woot!)

Taking the quotes away from laughing at the pieces yields similar results -- but this item pushes me down to #3: Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese Wedges Light, 8 pieces ...

I don't mind at all -- it's my cheese of choice when I'm beings strict with my point counting. One point per wedge. Spread on lowfat Triscuits, it's just the thing.



First of all, apologies for the navel-gazing. It's pretty much inherent in posts like this.

On September 7, 2003, an unassuming little blog called “Laughing at the Pieces” was conceived, with these auspicious words:

I've got no idea what I want to accomplish with this blog, so I'm starting out on the wrong foot already.

Approximately nine months later, I did the unimaginable – created a second post!

Well, THAT was a roaring success.

And with that, what was once a little embryo blog had emerged, slimy and squealing, into the blogosphere. (Or maybe that was the week or two when all the hip kids were calling it the “blogohedron.” Who knows…)

And now, here we are. One thousand posts of nonsense. About politics, about comics, about movies and TV and New York and New Orleans, and all of them, inextricably, about me. (I can only imagine that is for the worse.)

I don’t have a large crowd coming to read my posts every day, and with the way my interests and focus shift, that’s pretty much inevitable. But I do have a steady bunch of readers, and that’s incredibly fulfilling. I like writing to people. I like knowing that if I get a notion in my head, there’s a place I can go to spread it around.

And I like knowing that I’ve been doing it for years.

Soon, I intend to wrap up some unfinished blog business. I haven’t forgotten my plans for the earworm list, for instance. And somewhere deep in the archives, I was listing the top 50 DC characters … and stopped just as I reached the top 10. I’ve still got that list, so that needs to get done, too.

Beyond that, there’s nowhere to go but forward.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Eyes Right

Just wanted to direct you over to Greg's blog, where he recently answered my interview questions. His answer to "Which supervillain would you like to date?" is so pitch-perfect, I'm half-convinced the question should be asked on job interviews.


Get Ta Know Me! Part III

Thom has interviewed me. Here’s what he asked, and my responses.

1.If you could hang out with any character from Barney Miller, who would it be and why?

Dietrich, I think. He was my favorite character as a kid, just seemed a bit brainer and funnier than the rest. But it’s been too long since I’ve seen an ep with him in it that I couldn’t tell you specifics. C’mon, Sony! Put out Seasons Two through Eight already!

2.You are hired by the military to come up with a secret weapon to use against Evil Doers…what’s the weapon?

Hmmm... I need some sort of bomb to, I dunno… make people gay?

Nah, that’ll never work. (And I’d hate to start a flame war…)

It goes without saying that gamma bombs are a bad idea.

I think I’d go with the patented Green Zombie Mist. Spray it over an area and have their dead come back from the grave and feast on the brains of the living.

Confining it might be a problem, but let’s leave that to the U.N., shall we?

3. Countdown or World War Hulk?

Ooh, tough call. I’m holding out on World War Hulk, planning to read it when it’s collected (I don’t really feel like playing the crossover chase with it). On the other hand, Countdown hasn’t impressed me so far. So, sight unseen: World War Hulk.

4. Take the solicit for a Marvel or DC comic that just irritated you, making you ask “Really, Marvel/DC?” Rewrite it in a fashion that would convince you to buy it.

I don’t really get worked up about previews (that Daredevil bit was crass, but didn’t really ruffle me), but let’s see what I can find in today’s solicits.

Let’s see… Countdown Special: The Search for Ray Palmer says

The Search for Ray Palmer truly kicks into high gear, as Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy and Jason Todd scour the Multiverse… The trio's first stop: the Wildstorm Universe…

Hmm… It would take replacing pretty much every proper noun except Ray Palmer in this solicit to get me excited about this issue. Which I guess is changing the story, rather than the solicit.

On the other hand, here’s one where the nouns all tickle me right where I think:

When original Suicide Squad member Rick Flag Jr. returned from the dead in the pages of CHECKMATE, it blew open a brand-new espionage mystery for the DC Universe! In this eagerly awaited miniseries by legendary Squad writer John Ostrander (WORLD WAR III), it’s revealed how Flag survived a nuclear blast while battling terrorism in Qurac — as his hard path home takes him from Skartaris to Dubai and into the hands of dueling commanders Amanda Waller and General Wade Eiling. Their power struggle reveals surprising secrets from their pasts — even as a new Suicide Squad is created to play a key role in the DCU’s ever-evolving future!

The only thing wrong with that is that it reminds me that Ostrander wrote part of World War III. (Brrr….) But “takes him from Skartaris to Dubai” is EXACTLY what I’m looking for in a Suicide Squad comic.

I don’t need better solicitations – I need better stories.

5.What one comics legend (living or dead) would you like to see return to comics?
I thought about Will Eisner, I thought about Jack Kirby, and I thought about Curt Swan and Jack Cole. But they all had long careers (even Cole, who killed himself after success as the creator of Plastic Man and as a Playboy cartoonist). The one person who I wish had lived long enough to have a much broader and deeper body of work is Mike Parobeck. I wouldn’t call him a legend – but had he not had such an untimely death, he might have one day become one.

More comics from Alan Brennert would be great, too. Every story he wrote was gold.

Thanks a lot, Thom. Those were fun questions!

Anyone who wants to be interviewed, leave a comment for me.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Get Ta Know Me! Again!

Here are my answers to Kalinara’s interview questions. I have to say, I dig this meme.

1. If you were dropped into a superhero or manga universe, would you be good or evil?

I kid myself into thinking I’d be some cool-as-hell antihero like John Constantine or Spider Jerusalem, but I’d almost certainly be a garden-variety good guy -- who gets cranky and cheesed off sometimes.

2. Which superhero costume would you never wear to a Halloween party and why?

Aside from the costumes designed for women (the thought of me in a Star Sapphire costume is enough to give Mogo nightmares), I’d say the discofabulous Cosmic Boy costume. I hope that if I’m ever fit enough to wear it, I’ll have the good sense not to anyway.

3. If you could create a brand new love interest for any hero/heroine, who would you choose?

Beast Boy. He needs to get over Terra and move on. Maybe invert the Terra story – a villain that he surreptitiously gets to betray her allies when the time is right.

4. Could a rainbow themed villain or hero work today?

Probably only if presented in a tongue-and-cheek manner. Then again, as long as you don’t explicitly say or show a rainbow, I imagine one could be treated seriously; I’ve always thought “Dr. Spectrum” was a cool name. But while a spectrum is similar to a rainbow, it’s not quite the same thing.

5. Fish or chips?

Fish. I’m a Barney Miller fan from way back. Ponch and Jon do nothing for me. And I feel the same way about food as I do about 70s cops.

And again, here’s how to participate.

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."

2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions. (They probably won't be the same ones you see above!)

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about comics – I won’t assume you’re a comic reader – or a superhero comic reader -- when I pick my questions. (If you are, though – fair game!)


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Get Ta Know Me!

There’s a meme going around certain comic blogs, and here’s where it spreads beyond beyond. Here are five interview questions from Ami Angelwings, with my answers:

1. Going purely by looks (and pretending you're single), name five comic book women that you'd want as a trophy wife XD

Fun question – and pretending they’re single never got anyone into any trouble, so I’m in the clear there. So all that’s left is realizing this is one more post which’ll make my sister cringe – which I’m totally down with, so we’re on. (I’ll post some images when I get home.) Let’s see…

Bumblebee: She’s just as cute as a guy could want. I love those little pigtails!

Phantom Girl – So. Very. Disco.

Heather Hudson – Ponytail? Glasses? Redhead? Oh, thank you lord. (Not the most flattering picture, but I Like What I Like.)

Big Barda – The woman is a jungle gym of love!

Secret Agent Diana Prince – What'd I say about glasses? All that and the va-va-voom to boot!

Don’t ask me to rank them – it’d break my heart!

(And apologies to Dawnstar, Luba, She-Hulk, Batgirl, MJ, Zatanna, Lois, Rose Red, Black Widow, Tulip and 355.)

2. If you could change Black Adam's magic word into something he'd never guess (but it had to be a proper word that you yourself know without checking a dictionary) what would it be? :D

“Brewski.” Because someone so uptight shouldn’t have that much power – but if he ever sidles up to a bar and asks for a brewski, I’ll know he’s ready to loosen up and let things go.

3. If you could become editor of one DC title which would it be? :o

Probably Legion of Super Heroes. It’s the DCU, but its off in its own little world – or rather, its own vast, expansive universe – where anything at all can happen. I’d love to see what Kurt Busiek could do with the title – and I would throw as much money as I had at my disposal to get Steve Rude to draw it.

4. What do you add to your hot dog? :D

Cheese, mustard and raw diced onions.

5. What makes you happy? :)

Most of all, time spent with my friends. (I’m lucky enough to be able to count my wife among them.)

Wanna play? Here’s how!

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."

2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions. (They probably won't be the same ones you see above!)

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about comics – I won’t assume you’re a comic reader – or a superhero comic reader -- when I pick my questions. (If you are, though – fair game!)


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Operation: Fabulous!

You won't want to miss this recently-uncovered U.S. military proposal from 1994. I'd call it batshit insane, but "nutty as a fruitcake" seems more appropriate.

"Next up on Hardball: The outrageous Pentagon price tag to develop gaydar."


Gone Today, Where Tomorrow?

Another four pounds lost, bringing my total to (drumroll...) 23.2 pounds lost. Can't help but feel good about that, but I have to remember that a) I wasn't waering sandals like last week, so some of that is footwear, and b) I weighed earlier in the day, so that's in my favor this week, too. But still: 23.2 pounds. Yay me!

The Han Solo voice in my head is saying: "Don't get cocky, kid."


Monday, June 11, 2007

Now That's Cooking With Gas!

Kevin Church gives me my biggest laugh in days. Cooking show junkies, you're gonna want to see this.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Eye of the Camera

Kathy and I saw a really interesting movie last night: Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. Directed by Errol Morris, the movie juxtaposes the lives—or rather, the life’s work—of four men who are each consumed with an unusual project. George Mendonca, for example, has been grooming a topiary garden for years, and will do it until he dies. Dave Hoover is now semi-retired, looking back at a life of lion taming in the circus. Ray Mendez has been a naked mole rat specialist almost before anyone knew naked mole rats existed – he’d always wanted to find examples of insect life in other areas of the animal kingdom. Perhaps he should have talked with Rodney Brooks, who’s building robots to do that very thing.

It’s a gorgeous film. Morris intersperses face-up interview material with shots of the men at work and other material – clips from old movies, cartoons and science docs as well as some dazzling circus footage, in color and black and white. One of the magical things about the film is that the visuals don’t necessarily coincide with the sound. We might be seeing Brooks’s robots, for example, as Mendez talks about mole rat society. There are moments when you’re not quite sure who’s speaking – and moments when, whichever man is speaking, he seems to be speaking for all four of them.

I used the word “magical” above – I don’t mean it in a “magic of the movies” kind of way. I mean it quite literally. I don’t believe in magic as its normally defined, but there are moments when I feel like something unusual has happened in my consciousness. It’s some sort of mental friction, when disparate concepts and ideas brush together for a moment and create something new—or at least, new to me. That’s how this film constantly made me feel—that the world is an intricate, many-layered place, and the more we see of it, the more we’ll put back into it.

It’s a good feeling to have.


Alias Mr. Happy

I'm thinking of nicknaming my penis "Professor X."

He's bald, he puts ideas in my head, and he can't get around on his own.


I ate WHAT?

After a tasty lunch, I discovered that the potato salad I ate "cost" the same amount of points as a six-pack of beer.

Good think I loved that potato salad (my mom's left over from last week's wedding weekend*)... but the drunk in me is still kicking myself. (I did have a beer, too, thankfully. Otherwise it might have been too much to bear.)


*And yes, that was its last hurrah. Safety first!


A while back, I needed to change a password for a program I was running. I'd been watching a lot of Lost, so the name Desmond popped into my head. This program wants a number included as well, so I added 22.

It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that I realized I'd been using Desmond Tutu as my password!


Friday, June 08, 2007

Devil May Care

My Justice League Unlimited post will have to wait. Last night and today, I’ve been keeping tabs on a couple of conversations that have hit a nerve.

Some people are up in arms about the preview of the upcoming Daredevil issue in which Daredevil’s wife Milla is attacked in their apartment by an enraged supervillain, the Gladiator.

Here’s the relevant portion of the text. You can see the preview here.

Karen Page. Elektra. All the women Matt Murdock has loved have been violently taken from him, victims of unspeakable tragedies and in Daredevil #98, his wife Milla Donovan may be next! The Gladiator has returned, more enraged and brutal than ever, with one purpose in mind: making Matt Murdock suffer! With the defender of Hell’s Kitchen in police custody and the Gladiator alone with a terrified Milla, things aren’t looking good for the wife of Daredevil…and history isn’t on her side either. The penultimate chapter of “To The Devil, His Due” will have huge ramifications for Daredevil as he races towards the milestone Daredevil #100.


With his wife’s life in peril and seemingly no way to reach her, Daredevil may be headed for the worst day in life. One thing’s for sure—by the end of this issue, no one’s going to be the same!

People are upset about this for two reasons:

1) The marketing is playing up on the old “this woman might die!” trope.
2) The preview shows that Milla is in her underwear while being stalked. (What’s probably the most relevant page of the preview is at right.)

All well and good. The marketing copy’s not particularly original, and a bit smug about the way it dangles Milla’s potential death in front of the customer. And, well, she is in her underwear. (Although I don’t think Michael Lark’s art is salacious in the least. It’s possibly a bit lurid… but if there’s a comic out there where a guy who dresses up like a devil fights a guy with buzzsaws on his wrists in the big bad city that isn’t lurid, I don’t want to see it. Lurid’s part of the show, and it belongs in Daredevil, just like it has no business in Superman.)

But what gets my goat – or as Ed Anger would say, what gets me pig-biting mad – is when people get angry that she’s put in that sort of jeopardy in the first place.

She’s a supporting character. That’s what she’s there for.

We know Daredevil can’t be that vulnerable. It’s his book, and he’s a Marvel franchise. Captain America, currently dead, isn’t that vulnerable. He’ll be back in one form or another, and it’s not just because Marvel needs to keep the trademark alive. It’s because he’s a hero, and if he’s dead for part of the story, that’s only because the story isn’t over yet. So it’s no use threatening Daredevil in the solicitation – he can’t die. He can only change, and even that doesn’t happen very often.

Which is why supporting characters exist. They’re the ones to threaten if you want to sell more issues. They can be killed, because their death doesn’t end the story, but if done well it could change the hero, and give the readers something new for a while. It’s not their only job – a good supporting character also brings exposition, story springboards, complications and character development to the table. But a heightened sense of danger is one of their most important functions, and here Brubaker and Lark are doing a top-notch job with her.

Here’s what Brubaker had to say on the Newsarama thread about the underwear choice.
Also, when I wrote the script, she was in a nightgown. But Michael thought, and rightly so, that being in her underwear was both more vulnerable, and reminisent of the scene where she first met Bullseye.
Both of those are good reasons to dress her that way. It can go horribly wrong. Her state of undress can distract from the telling and reading of the story, rather than heightening it. If she were drawn like Jim Lee’s Vicki Vale in All-Star Batman & Robin #1 (at left), it certainly would have detracted from the story. But Lark’s too good for that. His depiction of Milla doesn’t excite a male reader – it worries them. Her vulnerability comes across on the page, whereas Vicki just looks like a lingerie model. Yes, this sort of thing has been done poorly many times before – but that’s no reason to jump on someone who’s doing it well.

For the record, I don’t think Milla is going to die. She’s too good a supporting character to throw away like that, and Brubaker’s smart enough to know it. Daredevil has a small enough supporting cast as it is, and she pulls her weight. Here's how:

She’s a love interest, but interestingly, she’s not the love of Daredevil’s life. That distinction belongs to the deceased Karen Page, who Matt keeps getting reminded of despite his marriage. Brubaker clearly likes playing with that idea – so why would he throw that away when he can do more with it. There’s great guilt potential here.

She’s blind. Daredevil is also blind, but he uses his superpowers to “see,” which is something of a cheat. So Milla’s presence reminds us of Matt’s blindness – allowing for that crucial bit of exposition for new readers – as well as grounding his disability in reality. (This could be a plus or a minus, depending on how well it's handled, but I see it as a plus.)

We don’t know a whole lot about her, since they married in a year that former writer Brian Bendis fast-forwarded through. There’s a load of storytelling possibilities there waiting to be dreamed up.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. (I don’t even know what happened in the last few issues, since I read the book in trade paperback collections.) But I think a smart writer would consider the story possibilities in Milla. He’d weigh them against writing her death (which, as the solicitation notes, has been done before with other characters) and a Daredevil’s Revenge story (again, done before. Ho hum.) and go with the outcome that excited him most. I know which one I’d choose. And I'm confident a writer as good as Brubaker is has little interest in treading over the same old paths when there's new ground to be broken.

Have a little faith in the Devil.


Old, I Am.

Not only has my youth passed, but the era of nostalgia for the days of my youth has passed on as well. The clear signal is the Transformers movie, based on toys and a cartoon I was old enough to know were crap when they first came out.

"I'm a car! But I turn into a big steaming turd!"


If you can't bring me a Johnny Sokko movie, your giant robots don't impress me.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

He's Lump! He's Lump! He's Lump!

Weighed in yesterday, after a week that included a rehearsal dinner, a wedding*, and crawfish fest. Up 2.2 pounds. Much of that was sandal weight, though -- I usually take my shoes off to weigh in, and last night was the first time I wore sandals. Since my feet would have been bare without them, I kept them on. (Weighed them at home: 1 pound, 14.5 ounces.)

So I gained, but not too much. But sometime at the end of the summer I'm going to have a great week, simply by virtue of wearing socks again.


*Five crabcake night, woo-hoo! People just kept giving me crabs! (Maybe I should put that another way...) I have never in my life turned down a crab cake -- and the day I do, you might as well start digging a hole for me. I realize this is a broad generalization, but crab cakes are the best food anywhere. I shall brook no argument on this.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Choi at the Bat

I’m sure they’ll fix this on the main site, so I’m pasting a bit of it here for posterity. In the middle of Erica Harbatkin's coverage of the Edison election results in the Home News Tribune (mayor Jun Choi’s handpicked slate of newcomers won), something strange happens. Take a look:

EDISON — Mayor Jun Choi's slate of candidates won the Democratic council primary on Tuesday, giving the mayor control of the township's divided Democratic party.

Choi's Edison Democratic Party slate, which was full of political newcomers handpicked by the mayor, beat out the incumbents on the council and a third ticket headed by former Councilman Bill Stephens for the Democratic Party line in the November General Election.

The winning slate is composed of Washington Elementary School Principal AnnMarie Griffin-Ussak; former Edison boys baseball coach Wayne Mascola; Edison Township Education Foundation founder and President Melissa Perilstein; and Sudhanshu Prasad, an internal-medicine specialist and former chairman of JFK Medical Center's Department of Medicine.

Official numbers were not available Tuesday night because District 26 had a zero tally sheet, but results without those numbers had Griffin-Ussak with 3,607 votes, Perilstein with 3,486, Prasad with 3,500 and Mascola with 3,389.

"We started this movement two years ago and onto the diamond for the top of the sixth. But Randolph, which was down to its final strike in the sectional semifinal on May 29 and came-from-behind to win the sectional final, turned four hits, including a triple and two doubles, two walks and an Edison error into six runs.

I follow American politics, so I’m no stranger to the labored sports metaphor. But it’s usually not this long. Sure, there’s a baseball coach among the winners, but Jack Kemp didn’t talk about football this much.

Let’s continue, shall we?

Senior catcher Rob Kral, who homered four times in Friday's sectional final, hit a grand slam in the top of the seventh for Randolph (23-7) to conclude the scoring. Winning pitcher Steve Zavala (13-1) homered in the first at bat of the game and went 3-for-4 with four runs and three RBIs to help fuel the Morris County school's 14-hit attack…

And it goes on for three more paragraphs, before resuming the election coverage.

Um… go Eagles? And congratulations, councilmen-elect?

I’d prefer a few more checks and balances in my soup, but I have hope that Mayor Choi and his handpicked team of councilmen govern responsibly, and don’t run on a pop fly unless there are already two outs.


UPDATE: As expected, the story has been fixed.


..not so much on what to post (although if I could get my scanner to work, I've got a post on the Johnny DC Justice League Unlimited title in the works), but on a small reorganization. I have all my friend's websites (aside from two I can think of, anyway... both of which may show up later) listed under Archie's Pals and Gals. (Those who aren't in the crypt, anyway -- and welcome back Greg!) I'm thinking of breaking it off into two separate groups: one for blogs and one for other sites, professional or otherwise.

Problem is, I can't think of a comics-orientiented term that'd let you all know that they're my friends, and they're... I dunno... ready for action?

Hold on -- I just got it (and I can't believe I didn't think of it before). They've been here all along, but everyone give a warm welcome to the Super Friends!

Right in front of my face, I swear. How'd I miss that one?


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Construction Alert

I'm reading Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine* -- the Douglas Adams book even some Hitchhiker's Guide fans don't know about -- and I came across a sentence construction I really liked. Or rather, a verb usage. Adams writes about an Indonesian travel agent:

"He then soothed at us a great deal..."

I really like the idea that you can soothe at someone. The "at" implies that it's unsuccessful -- no soothing was actually done. An attempted soothe.

The book itself is entertaining so far. Without the goofy science fiction plot, Douglas Adams's writing style is remarkably similar to Bill Bryson's.


*Hey Tom! I'm finally reading it! Maybe one day you'll get it back!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Why I Love Dr. John

Had a great day at Crawfish Fest yesterday – we go to see terrific performances by Papa Mali, John Cleary and the incredibly energetic Cowboy Mouth (I might post on them separately), among others. Ate some boiled crawfish and bread pudding and alligator sausage, too. And some very nice chicken and sausage jambalaya, come to think of it. Good stuff, all around.

The day was capped off by a performance by Dr. John. He played one of my favorites from his repertoire: “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” a creepy voodoo shuffle that has a one-line chorus that may be the most chilling question in music ever: “Did I murder?” The way he cries that, it’s like he has no idea what happened the night before, only that he’s woken up with blood on his clothes and strange half-memories in his head.

(I should note that no lyrics site lists this line as the actual lyrics of the song, but that’s what they mean to me. Many sites say the line is “Till I burn up,” although one says “Till I murder” and another, inexplicably, says “Ti Alberta,” whatever that means. And apparently both Cher and Widespread Panic has covered the song – as did Papa Mali, who played a haunting version at yesterday’s show. Regardless, I like the lyrics I hear better than any I’ve read.)

Here’s a verse, just to give you a sample of the fever-dream lyrics:

I roll out my coffin
Drink poison in my chalice
Pride begins to fade
And you all feel my malice
Put gris-gris on your doorstep
And soon you be in the gutter
Melt your heart like butter,
An-an-and I can make you stutter

(I should also probably note that the line, “Put gris-gris on your doorstep” was one I heard for a while as “Put gravy on your doorstep,” so take whatever I say with a grain of salt… although doorstep gravy could be slippery and dangerous.)

We were about 50 yards back from the stage, so I watched a bit with our binoculars, and noticed that there was a skull on Dr. John’s piano. Also, there was something that looked like a big crab claw. Okaaaaay…

So imagine my surprise when he stands up and puts the crab claw on like a mitten, and starts playing it by scraping a stick against it. Meanwhile, in the same hand as the stick, he’s shaking a rattle that looks to me like it’s a bunch of mussel shells attached on a loop. The man puts seafood in his music, for cryin’ out loud. It’s weird as hell, but tell me that’s not cool.


(One more thing: It was starting to rain before his encore, but he came out and played anyway, saying, "You ain't gonna get more wet than what you already got," and then, reacting to the applause, "God bless every one'a you crazy muthafuckas." He knows how to make a fan feel appreciated.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007


My mom just dumped my gin down the sink.

How much more csn one man bear?

UPDATE: In retrospect, it was probably for the best. But still: Just one typo!


Brother = Married

Me = tipsy.

More later... but congratulations Michelle and Eddie!