Monday, July 30, 2007

Ping!

So, when I was looking for a photo of Woodstock to accompany the previous post, I happened upon a website devoted to photos of celebrities playing ping pong.


Really.



People feather their Internest with the strangest things. Its one of the things that gives me hope for the universe.

(As to how I got there? My search words were "Woodstock" and "Rain.")




Rob

By the Time We Got to Woodstock…

…I realized the movie was almost four hours long.

We rented Woodstock from Netflix this weekend, and watched the first DVD of it. I’ve been meaning to watch it for a while now, since I’ve never seen it, and every now and then it puts an act that shows up at Fest into context. Richie Havens was terrific a few years ago, but I knew watching him that much of the audience was seeing him through the lens of this movie, and his fiery performance of “Freedom,” supposedly an improvisation. Havens was called out for so many encores that he ran out of songs to sing, so he started playing guitar and singing “freedom,” and the band went with it, producing one of the most indelible moments of the festival. When he stands up, we see his back covered in sweat, and suddenly realize the heat on that summer day, and are doubly impressed by his energy. My other favorite concert moment in the first half is Joe Cocker’s performance of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Cocker’s passionate growling of the song still amazes, despite John Belushi’s famous lampooning of his performing style.

There are some great interviews in the first part, too. I really liked the conversation with the two teenagers riding up to the show in the hopes of getting in. Not a couple, but they’re part of a “what you’d call a communal – or what someone else would call a communal” thing back home. “We ball,” says the boy. What a great verb.

I was also struck by how the crowd reacted to the rain halting the concert for a while. There seemed to be two main activities: mudslides, and gathering around and making their won music, chanting and singing that goes on and on and on. Which is pretty much what happens on rainy days at Fest. Human nature doesn’t change much, which is a comforting thought (for an optimist, anyhow).

I’ll probably have more once we see part two.

Rob

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dark Knight Teaser, a Rock, and Nothing

I'm not really sure how YouTube decided I wanted to watch this after a somewhat unsatisfying teaser to The Dark Knight (not bad, just not enough), but here you go. Rabbit & Mouse present "You, a Rock, and Nothing."



Rob

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sometimes I Don't Even Know What Kind of a Geek I Am...

So I was reading a little bit about what's to come on season 2 of Heroes, when I came across a tangential tidbit: One new character left the cast unexpectedly because she's been cast as a regular on Desperate Housewives--as Nathan Fillion's daughter. Nathan Fillion of Firefly is a new regular on Desperate Housewives.

That's honestly better than any of the Heroes teases I set out to read.

Rob

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gone, Daddy, Gone

Weighed in yesterday, in jeans like last week. I'd lost 1.4 pounds -- the pound I gained last week and an extra 4 ounces, besides -- bringing me to 26.2 pounds lost, total.

To celebrate: I bought a pair of shots at Target in a size I haven't worn in quite some time. Hopefully they won't slip off at inopportune moments. Opportune moments, are, of course, not only fine, but actively welcomed.

Rob

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Whaddya Know?

He's still out there.

Rob

Tools of the Trade

For years, comics artists have been referring to (or outright swiping) Wally Wood's "22 Panels That Always Work" -- a page by the legendary artist that has been photocopied and scanned and otherwise kept handy for decades now.

Now, Scipio at the Absorbascon comes to the aid of writers looking for an idea for a DC Comics (formerly National Periodicals) story: The National Periodicals Table of Story Elements.

A great, creative chart, running the gamut from Origin to Disembodied Brains. Congratulations, Scip --this is a classic.

Rob

CNN/YouTube Debates

I haven't been paying as much attention to politics lately -- this long primary season won't do my blood pressure any favors. But I have to say, I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far of the CNN YouTube Democratic debate from last night. A bunch of Americans asked the candidates questions via YouTube, and CNN played them for the candidates onstage. What interests me is that many of the questions are closer to the ones I'd ask at this stage in the game, rather than things that usually come up at these debates. And perhaps because the questions are coming right from the mouths of voters, there seems to be a little less evasion going on. "A little less" is hardly "none," of course, but what I've seen is refreshing.

I've been watching it piecemeal on YouTube's page, which is really easy to navigate. Take a look.

UPDATE: And here's TPM's 10-minute highlights reel.

Rob

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

One day early, but still.

Rob

What you have seen, you must believe—if you can. If you can!

Another post I’ve been meaning to get to…

A couple of weeks ago, inspired by Johanna’s review, Kathy & I rented The Monkees’ Head from Netflix and gave it a spin in the DVD player.

Man, is that a kooky movie.

There are some movies I think of as “plotless wonders.” It’s tempting to include Head in their number, but it’s not quite the case. My thinking is, to be a plotless wonder you need not only the very thinnest of plots, but also to be entertaining enough that it not only doesn’t matter that the movie has no plot to speak of, but also that you completely fail to notice it’s missing. Bottle Rocket is usually the first movie I think of in this category, although Clerks and Garden State are some other pretty good examples. Yeah, there’s a little bit of plot there, but it’s completely masked by the charm of the filmmakers.

Head is totally different. Not that the Monkees aren’t charming – of course they are. But they use that charm not to mask the movie’s plotnessness, but to flaunt it. The scene transitions are almost dadaist, and in other places, Pythonesque. For instance, Micky and Mike walk off a sketch that’s not working to go look for Davy and Peter. As soon as you acclimate to a setting, the movie swerves to something entirely different. And by entirely different, I mean The Band Is Suddenly Dandruff In Victor Mature’s Brylcreemed Hair. THAT kind of entirely different. To say nothing of the cameo appearances by Teri Garr, Toni Basil, Sonny Liston, Jack Nicholson and Frank. Freakin’. Zappa.

For the most part, the music isn't as catchy as the best Monkees tunes, but there are a couple of standouts. Mike Nesmith’s“Circle Sky” is the best, but there’s another song (“Ditty Diego – War Chant”) that’s an apology to authenticity-loving music fans of the day for their studio-manufactured origins. Some sample lyrics:

Hey hey we are the Monkees
You know we love to please
A manufactured image
With no philosophies!


And

You say we’re manufactured,
To that we all agree,
So make you choice and we’ll rejoice
In never being free!

Hey hey we are the Monkees,
We’ve said it all before
The money’s in were made of tin
We’re here to give you more!


The song ends abruptly with a gunshot and a scream, followed by an ironic three cheers for the Vietnam War.

Circle Sky is even sharper, with Monkees concert footage mixed with shots of screaming fans and black and white newsreel (I assume) footage from Vietnam, including a man being casually shot down in the street. The images mix until it’s deliberately blurred whether a teenager is screaming because she’s seeing the Monkees play or as a reaction to the murder. The song ends with fans rushing the stage and attacking the band, who transform into mannequins to be stripped and dismembered. It’s genuinely creepy.

As for the whole movie, it’s an hour and a half of non sequiturs and groovieness, and of stars bristling at their image and trying to craft a new one. Once Micky Dolenz smiles into the camera and offers you a hookah pipe, you’ll never be quite the same.

Rob

You Know What Would Be Nice?

If, sometime today, my feet would dry. Or at least be warm and wet.

Failing that, if they'd just fall off and I could wobble around on warm, dry stumps, I probably would be okay with that, too.

Rob

Where Have You Gone, Ed Anger?

Sad news indeed. After 27 years of publishing, the Weekly World News is calling it quits. It’s enough to make a guy pig-biting mad.

I have great memories of senior year of college, walking to Super Fresh with my friend Esther for a copy of WWN. We’d split a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and read it in her dorm, trying to figure out which of the students in our creative writing class was a space alien. (Never just an alien – a space alien.)

Rob

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Apparently It’s Lucky

One thing I forgot to mention. Not long after Kathy and I settled into our beach chairs yesterday, a seagull flew by and crapped right on my cheek and shoulder. It felt like a hot glob of sunscreen. I couldn’t see it, so I’ve no idea what it looked like.

I handled this with my usual aplomb, shouting “Ugh! I’ve been shat on!” then trying to do a preliminary wipe of my face with sand before making a mad dash into the ocean. I don’t think I’ve ever gone from dry to submerged so fast.

Bleah.

Rob

What I Did on My Semi-Vacation

As I mentioned, I was planning to be away for a few days. And I have been, although not entirely as I expected.

Kathy and I had planned to spend Wednesday through Saturday in Sea Isle City with my family, and had managed to get enough work out of the way to make that possible. But then Kathy’s grandmother fell ill. She passed away on Monday.

I don’t have as much to say about her as I should. She was a nice lady, and one whom I wish I knew better than I did. Mostly I know her from the love that Kathy and her family have for her, and the stories they tell about her.

Kathy, of course, had a really hard week of it. We originally planned to go to the shore anyway, and come back when arrangements were made, but come Tuesday night, Kathy couldn’t bring herself to go, and I couldn’t blame her. She told me to go anyway, but I wasn’t going to leave her feeling so bad. So we stayed in and I tried to keep her mind off things by watching 50 First Dates*, the Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler romantic comedy. I decided I would go into work on Wednesday and use my vacation day for another time. (By this point we knew there’d be viewings Thursday afternoon and evening, and then a funeral Friday morning.)

But come Wednesday, as I was showering for work, I couldn’t see the point in going in. I’d specifically taken care of things so I wouldn’t have to be at work, so why go? Plus, as much as this pains me to say, I missed my family. So I checked with sleeping Kathy to see if she’d like to go to the beach just for the day, and she said no. So—after she assured me several times that it was fine with her if I went—I headed south.

And had a great day at the beach with most of my brothers, my sister, various bro-and-sis-in-laws, and my nephews and niece. I got to bring my superhero-loving nephews a complete set of the 1991 Marvel Super Hero trading cards, so the boys were holding up cards of the Mandarin’s Rings and saying “What does this do?” Plus, I spent a lot of time in the ocean riding waves with my brothers, and some more playing in shallower waves with my oldest nephew. Top it off with crab cakes and grilled corn on the cob, and it was a really nice day. I got home at around midnight (not much traffic on the parkway late Wednesday night), and Kathy seemed better off for her time alone, too. I’m afraid that at times like these, sometimes I’m not good for much more than distraction (hello Mr. Sandler) and a shoulder to cry on.

Thursday and Friday were the services, and I’d rather not talk too much about them; they’re really not my story to tell. Although I should note that Kathy’s grandmother, named Grace, sure got name-checked a lot in the ceremony. Sometimes it was difficult knowing whether the priest meant big-G Grace or little-g grace. (Or does little-g grace take a big G when it's the Big G's Grace, after all? God is a copy editor's nightmare, believe you me.) Later, Kathy and I talked about having a kid and naming him “Amen” – or even better, “Please B. Seated.” That’d be an active service.

When all was said and done, Kathy really wanted to go to the beach. So on Saturday, we headed down to Seaside and had what pretty much qualifies as a prefect day down there. We spent a wonderful afternoon on the beach and in the ocean, tackling enormous—ENORMOUS!—waves that were breaking way too close to shore, and letting them fire us into the sand like bullets. Sometimes the waves broke one after another with such force they could knock a person down who’d up until a moment before been standing shin-deep in water. It happened to both of us, knocking us over and then dragging us across the sand.

Afterward, a walk down the Seaside boardwalk yielded a dozen oysters, pizza, Midway steaks, and even crepes. And I had a couple of great games of video Deal or No Deal—a brilliant idea!—at one of the arcades, winning a ton of tickets and having a blast doing it. And the trip home had very little traffic, even for a Saturday night. Kathy & I sang along with the Monkees' greatest hits to keep ourselves awake.

It was an amazing day, and one we both really needed.

Rob

*My sister thinks this movie had one of the saddest endings she’s ever seen. I thought it was the absolute happiest ending the story could allow – really positive and joyful.

Seen at the Boardwalk

Briefly noted: If you're going to wear a shirt that proclaims, "Yes, I know I have a great ass," then you really ought to be able to--how shall I put this?--"back that up."

Just because the tee-shirt fits, doesn't mean the tee-shirt fits.

Rob

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Putting My Pants On One Pound at a Time

Weighed in today, before leaving town for a few days. I was up a pound, but I was also wearing jeans instead of shorts, so it probably evens out. Not quite a win, but steady on.

Rob

Deal or No Deal

I just picked up an item that could add a little zest (okay, gore) to our regular D&D campaign: a deck of critical hits. Every time you score a crit, draw a card to see what the effect is. Since the effects would be more serious on the players (who have to deal with them the entire game, or until healed) than the (disposable) monsters, I'm thinking about only having the major baddies get to draw (but allowing other monsters to use the cards if they spend a feat on the ability, something I'm not very likely to have them do).

The cards are broken down by weapon type. Here's what one says:

Bludgeoning: SKULL CRUSH. Double Damage and 2d6 Int drain (Fort half).

Piercing: HAND WOUND. Normal damage and 1d2 Dex damage. -4 penalty on all rolls using that hand until healed.

Slashing: BROAD SWIPE. Normal damage and 1d8 bleed.

Magic: LINGERING MAGIC. Normal damage this round and then half damage each round for 1d4 rounds.

I'm a little unclear on how to score a critical hit with a spell. I guess it's possible with a ray or touch attack, but otherwise, I dunno. Maybe when someone critically fails a save?

Anyway. I write a LOT about comics, but I can't help but feel that this has been my geekiest post of the year. Yeah, I'm getting a much bigger geek vibe writing about critical hits than when I write aboutthe Legion.

Rob

Monday, July 16, 2007

Furry Encounter

I’ve been neglecting the blogging lately, getting bogged down in helping fledgling civilizations grow and conquer their neighbors. But there are a few things I’ve been meaning to get to in these past few weeks, and hopefully I’ll be able to touch on them before leaving for vacation in a couple of days.

First stop: Furries.

Years ago, I wrote a story for The Suburban & Wayne Times about Anthrocon, a convention for fans of anthropomorphic animals – everything from Bugs Bunny to Usagi Yojimbo (and even creatures that aren’t bunnies, like Mouse Guard or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series). It’s one of the few things I wrote back then that have survived online. You can read it here – and it’s even referenced on the Furry Fandom page of Wikipedia!

It was an interesting conversation with Dr. Conway – one of the most guarded interviews I’d ever conducted. A few months before, Vanity Fair had published an “expose” of furry fandom, casting them all as sexual deviants. His wariness of the press was certainly understandable; if I hadn’t mentioned guest Carla Speed McNeil on his answering machine, he told me he’d have never have called me back for the interview. (He figured I must be a fanboy of some stripe or another -- most reporters at the time wouldn't know who she was. I never did get the interview with Ms. McNeil about her Finder comic, but I did have an opportunity to speak with Dan DeCarlo, the iconic Archie artist who created Josie and the Pussycats.) We met at a Johnny Rocket's at the King of Prussia Mall, and I took a ton of notes – much more information than I was able to condense into the story. Dr. Conway struck me as a very nice guy, doing his best to navigate some treacherous waters. I hope the steering as gotten easier since then.

That was six years ago. (It seems like more, honestly; I guess I wrote the story as a freelancer after I left my editorial job.) Recently, Mark Evanier and his friend Carolyn Kelly went to the 2007 Anthrocon, held in Pittsburgh. Mark bogged about it here and here (with a little more here), and posts a video from a local newscast here.

I enjoyed reading his report, and am glad to hear the con is going strong. I wish I had been able to visit it when it was still in Philly.

Rob

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Scream, Justice League! SCREAM!

For ice cream, that is.

Every Day Is Like Wednesday is throwing an ice cream social for the Justice League! J. Caleb Mozzocco's posting a new drawing every day of July. It's too much fun not to share.

Rob
(Thanx to Blog@Newsarama for the link)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Boot to the Head!

It's another round of the Bahlactus's regular Friday night throwdown, and it looks like Zoom's got Flash on the ropes...on the treadmill...in the cosmos...arrgh, I'm getting a headache, and I'm not even the one tasting boot.

Cue Dean Martin:

Yep...that's a kick in the head.

Welcome back, Wally!

Rob

Chloe, Don't Tell Anyone I'm Eating This Creampuff

So, despite going off the grid Jack-Bauer-style at Rob & Brenda’s barbecue on Saturday, I still managed to lose 2.6 pounds, bringing my total down (or up?) to 25-plus pounds gone.

Less of me is good.

Rob

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Honest Mistake

When fastforwarding through the commercials in a TiVoed episode of Dave Attell's Insomniac on Comedy Central, it really is difficult to tell the difference between the program and a Girls Gone Wild promo. Dave goes wild every night! And he's nearly as shiny!

Rob

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sucked In

The other night, I was trying to make heads or tails of the Magic Workstation so I could make a deck and play Magic the Gathering online. Getting frustrated with it (not frustrated enough to actually read any documentation of it, not any sort of constructive frustration, no, none for me thanks), I decided to play some Civilization. I popped in the CD at around 12:30, thinking "This isn't gonna end well."

At about 2:30, Kathy comes upstairs to say her tart crust is finally in the oven. And then at around 3, she's off to bed.

Me, on the other hand? I have to destroy the accursed Spanish, and only then can I rest. Oh, and maybe I should complete the Oracle at Perseopolis (I was playing the Persians: Screw you, Delphi!) before nodding off. And Sun Tsu's Art of War. And start a couple of settlements on these islands. If only those birds would stop their incessant chirping!

Birds? It's what time? Oh, look at that -- it's dawn. Better shut down and go to bed.

Of course, a better plan would have been saving my game, shutting down and going to bed. Or going to bed at 12:30 in the first place.

Rob

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Batman is badass.

So it is written, so it shall be. But here's the new memo:

Batman is so badass he can menace some schmoe* with a Susan B. Anthony.

You hear me, lawyer man? You hear me?

As usual, Bahlactus is on the bell.

Rob
*Yes, yes, the schmoe is Two-Face in disguise. What're ya tryin' to say, lawyer man?

Impeaches & Cream

Apparently almost half of all adults polled in a recent survey support the start of impeachment proceedings against the President, and more than half support the idea of impeaching the hideous misshapen puppetmast—I mean, the Veep. Steve Benen has the stats on this “fringe idea” that’s catching on.

Rob

Master of Gravity

Lost 2 pounds at my weigh-in today. The yo-yo-ing is ON!

(Still, yay!)

Rob

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Do the Right Thing

Sharon already posted this, but I'd been planning to put it up too. Keith Olberman urges Bush and Cheney to take the only honorable option left to them: Resign.



Resign. Resign. Resign.

Rob
(564 days)

Heroes for Hope

Occasional Superheroine muses about the past few years in politics and comics, and what may be around the corner. Frankly, it’s exactly what I needed to hear this week.

Rob

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In case anyone's on the edge of his seat

A quick in-store flip-thru of the latest issue of Daredevil confirmed that I was right: Brubaker never planned to kill Milla. I'm mentioning it it now because having faith in someone to do the right thing feels so much better than expecting the worst of someone, and getting that. So I'm doing my best to cheer myself up, here.

Anyway: Smart man, that Brube. Marvel marketing might let you down, but I'm happy to plunk down change for his comics. (And I will, too, once it's released in trade.)

Rob

Happy Independence Day


Rob
(566 days)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Oh, the Hate is Back

Steve Benen at Political Animal brought my attention to this quote:

"[W]e must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right. There is no goal of government worth accomplishing if it cannot be accomplished with integrity." –President George W. Bush, 2001

All hat, no fucking cattle. As usual.

Rob

What a Surprise

Presnit Commutes Libby's Sentence.

No jail for Scooter. Can't take the chance he'll squawk.

Remember: Whatever they're hiding is worse than letting someone obstruct an investigation of the exposure of a covert CIA agent and get off scot-free.

No surprises there. With this crowd, it's always worse than what it looks. And it never looks good.

Rob
(567 days)