Friday, January 30, 2009

Just a Man Whose Circumstances Went Beyond His Control

Okay, ever since I posted my #12 fact ("I've got a secret."), I haven't been able to get Styx's "Mr. Roboto" out of my head. And the weird thing is, when I sing along to it (as I do when I'm alone, see fact #25), certain lyrics come out all gravelly. I sing, "I'm not a hero; I'm not the savior! Forget what you know!" and by the time I get to "forget what you know," I sound more like Neil Diamond singing "America." Then again, I think there's a certain kinship between the two singers. They have a similar kind of showmanship.


25 Random Facts About Your Humble Host

Because I need a blog post, and because I’ve been tagged by everyone on this (seriously: someone tagged me as I was writing this), I feel less like surfing and more like doing something, even if it is just typing, here are 25 random things about me.

1) I used to have a rubber mouse that I named “Jeeves.” I took him everywhere for about a year.
2) Man, do I like running my fingers between my toes.
3) Once upon a time, I was better at math than I was at English. Those days are long gone.
4) I love logic puzzles. I’ve even written one, and had it published in a national magazine.
5) I interviewed Penn & Teller. Over the telephone. Even Teller.
6) I also interviewed Neil Gaiman.
7) I periodically remember some of the really cool people I’ve met through the course of one job or another, and then the memory vanishes again. It’s like meeting a whole new me, whenever I do this.
8) I have seen Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I more than any other movie. No other one even comes close.
9) My favorite Coen Brothers movie? Miller’s Crossing.
10) I used to have a big, ugly scar on my elbow, from a skateboarding crackup. In the nearly 30 years since, either the scar has gotten smaller or my elbow as a whole has gotten a lot uglier.
11) I’ve written one full-length play, and a number of short plays. I should do more of that.
12) I’ve got a secret.
13) I make the best jambalaya I’ve ever tasted.
14) My mom makes the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.
15) I proposed to my wife, Kathy, in Kinsale, Ireland. Not a moment afterward, a dog was struck by a car. Hilarity ensued.
16) My favorite superhero is the Flash, but I hate to run.
17) We have a waffle iron that looks like Sylvester the cat, but makes waffles that look like Tweety Bird.
18) For some reason, I don’t get the kind of headaches that someone who consumes as much caffeine as I do ought to get.
19) I’ve been going to the Philadelphia Folk Festival since 1996. Thirteen years and counting!
20) Out of all the talents I’m envious of, more than anything I wish I could carry a tune.
21) The Lord of the Rings is fine, but give me Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain any day of the week.
22) Whenever one of our ferrets so much as hiccups, I worry all night.
23) Homicide: Life on the Street is still my favorite TV show. But Arrested Development comes damn close.
24) Clever gets you pretty damn far with me.
25) Despite #20, I am constantly singing when I’m alone, or with my wife. She loves me anyway.

That’s 25. I'm pretty sure everyone on the planet has participated in this little slice of meme heaven already, but if you haven't, feel free to leave a link to your blog entry in the comments, or post it on Facebook, where I'll also likely see it. Or hell, just post all 25 in my comments section.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One of Us.

The Onion: Obama Disappointed Cabinet Failed To Understand His Reference To Savage Sword Of Conan #24

"How am I supposed to effectively lead this nation when [attorney general nominee Eric] Holder has to stop the meeting and ask what the story of Taurus using the black lotus powder to kill the five guard lions has to do with increasing broadband Internet connections nationwide?" Obama said while vigorously rubbing his temples.

Added the president, "For the love of Crom, am I the only one here who wants to keep the U.S. technologically competitive?"


Long Overdue Venting

Man, what a crap day yesterday was.

And I can’t say I responded to it heroically, either.

The day started with an e-mail from someone I’d sent a resume and clips, thanking me for them, but saying they’d already chosen a team of writers. They’d put my information on file.

Thing was, they’d posted the freelancer wanted ad that Saturday. And they already had the gig filled by the time I sent things in on Monday morning?

It was a ghost ad. Something that, for reasons either legal or bureaucratic, they had to post, even though they knew perfectly well who they’d hire. Later on that day, I called to follow up with another place I’d applied the week before, for a job (juvenile nonfiction editor) that it was no big stretch to see I’d be qualified for. The job was filled, and seems to have been since last week. Probably was before the ad was posted.

Yes, I’m bitching.

No, there’s nothing I can do about it, except respond to lie after lie as they hit the internet, getting my hopes up for a job—hell, an interview!—despite this economy that’s been grinding me under its heel.

Yes, I’m bitter.

I’m a good editor. I’m a better writer. And I can’t get work because some bankers lent money to people who couldn’t pay for their houses, and some other financial wizards stole billions from investors, and the car companies can’t seem to make a product that anyone wants to buy. Because everyone else is either inept or corrupt, naturally that means I should lose my job.

I’ve sent a lot of resumes into the void. Some of them I got my hopes up about; others were just shots in the dark. But for some reason, yesterday just broke me down.

Sometime in the afternoon, I decided to just stop. Scuttle my plans to get some more resumes out there, trying to stir up some freelance work, and just read some comic books. And by seven thirty, I couldn’t even do that. I just went to sleep, and slept all night. I finally woke up this morning so I could shovel Kathy’s car out of the driveway.

Because she, at least, has somewhere to be in the mornings.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Hey Kids! Comics!

I've got another post up a Blog@Newsarama. This time it's a Q&A with webcomic creator Shayna Marchese. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Have a New Cinema Crush

Hey, I just saw the first half-hour of The Swinger on TCM... whaddya expect?

Ann-Margret... sigh...


Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Laughing at the Pieces Will Never Die!

Lately, I've been feeling that Facebook has been killing my blogging.

Well, that's not entirely true. I've been feeling like Facebook is part of a sinister cabal conspiring to kill my blogging. I do short, quick updates there, and I don't throw things up here. It satisfies some of my need for certain types of communication--the targeted, friends-only kind--a little better than this li'l ol' blog does. And lacking something to take me out of the house every day, it's been something of a blessing. (Not to mention the work it's brought me.)

But that's not all that's making this blog slumber. Here's the rest of the cabal:

Shut-In: If I'm not out having adventures, there's no adventures to write about. Although to be honest, I probably should have written a little bit here about the explosion and kitchen fire.

BusyBusyBusy: There are times when I'm actually busier than I used to be, between looking for a job, looking for freelance work, and -- when I'm lucky enough to get it -- actually doing freelance work.

Scatterbrain: Trying to find work has made my brain something like an octopus -- lots of different tentacles reaching out to lots of different places. And while I still look at the news and comics blogs I used to surf, they're much tinier dots on my horizon.

The Great Comics Gerrymander: Not only am I not buying many new comics, but I also should be feeding Blog@Newsarama every once in a while. (Something will be up there from me again, soon.) So my comics writing here has been limited on two fronts lately.

Political Satisfaction: Jeez, Obama's President, and I'm pretty happy about how he's going about things so far. To save you all from a string of posts that are essentially, "Squee!" I'll probably only be writing about politics when something unusally good happens, or unusually bad, or if something strikes me as funny. (Yesterday, for example: I probably wouldn't have mentioned the second swearing-in if I hadn't thought of the "Oaf of Office" headline.)

Secrecy: Every now and again, I do some work on a writing project that isn't yet ready for me to talk about. So I don't.

Now, I have seen some interesting movies lately: the 1948 Powell/Pressburger ballet film The Red Shoes, and Michael Haneke's home-invasion thriller Funny Games (an American shot-by-shot remake of his decade old German version). I liked both quite a bit, although I couldn't recommend either film to everyone. (In the case of The Red Shoes, old romances don't float everyone's boat; on the other hand, as subversive and clever as it is, Funny Games will repel as many people as it attracts, intentionally so.) In any case, this is undoubtedly the first paragraph ever written that mentioned both films, so I've accomplished that, at least.

Blogging will continue here, of course. There's no doubt about that; I'm hooked. And tomorrow, I'll be going back to my cult, so I'll have a picture of something gargantuan to represent the weight I've gained in these past few months away from it. But I wanted to explain my intermittent absences, and essentially where my head is at in these strange, fallow days.


Nobody Living Can Ever Stop Me

Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and Tao Rodriguez led a rousing version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" on Sunday. It has some lyrics you might not have heard before. Truthout (actually Tommy Stevenson of the Tuscaloosa News) has the skinny. (And watch quickly; HBO is pulling clips of the concert from YouTube; Mark Evanier seems to think this one is safe, but why risk it?)


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oaf of Office

Because Chief Justice Roberts bungled the first administering of the Oath, he and Obama had a do-over this evening, just to be sure.


One Last Look Back


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day Is Here.

I won't see anything more amazing than this today. Good luck, Mr. President.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Sales Power of Hope

On my walk to the office today, I noticed some fifteen people lined up outside Jim Hanley’s. Through the door, I could see a much longer line inside. I can already tell: that Spider-Man issue with Obama in it is going to make my lunchtime stop for comics more like waiting in line to get into the Vatican.

Earlier this week, I was hoping they’d have enough to meet the demand. Suddenly, I’m hoping they sell out early. I’m fine with getting a second printing next week; I just want to buy my issue of Final Crisis without waiting in line for an hour.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Checking In

Posting will be light for these next few days (as it has been these last few), as I'm extraordinarily busy for an unemployed dude.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Eff Yourself

Upon exiting Penn Station this morning, the first of a considerable stretch of freelancing, I discovered that my umbrella had pretty much decided to give up the ghost. So, considering the fact that the sky was dumping 50-gallon drums of rain on me from every angle, I decided to make a desperate little purchase from one of the many helpful umbrella salesmen that sprout like mushrooms when skies turn gray. And considering how big the rain was, I decided to go for one of the bigger umbrellas. He kind of had me over a barrel, and I paid ten bucks for it. But it was a big umbrella, the kind you can comfortably fit a second person underneath if need be.

I walked to my place of temporary business, stopping on the way to get my customary egg whites/hot sauce/whole wheat toast sandwich that for some reason I've taken to calling "the Steve McQueen" in my head. When I got to the little deli, I noticed one of the guys up on a ladder trying to keep the place from flooding. One of the big ceiling tiles was gone, and water was pouring out of the hole. This guy, meanwhile, was trying to attach a hefty bag to the ceiling with some red Christmas ribbon. You go to war with the army you have, I guess.

McQueen in hand, I wished them good luck and went to work.

Later on, I brought my umbrella outside for a walk to lunch to celebrate our friend Mike actually leaving the magazine voluntarily. (I know!) Not five seconds out the door, a gust of wind turns my brand new umbrella inside out, rendering it useless as anything but a warning to other umbrella shoppers. I stuff the warning in a trashcan, and it stretches out its cone of useless nylon ominously at passersby. By the time we get back from lunch, the umbrella is gone -- probably flipped back around and sold to another rube.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tryptophan Madness

They say if you eat a live frog every morning, nothing worse will happen to you or the frog for the rest of the day.

I saw Blood Freak at the very beginning of the year, and damned if it didn't taste like frog.

Blood Freak is a Very Special Splatter Movie. Half of it wants you to quit taking drugs and put your faith in the Lord... and the other half wants you to kick back and enjoy the mutant turkey-man bloodletting.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This guy Herschell--a big lug who looks too old for his hair--stops his motorcycle to help Angel, a pretty girl with engine trouble. Everything -- her car, his clothing -- is powder blue, so we know it's the Seventies. Herschell follows her to her pad, where her sister is having the world's tamest drug-fueled bacchanalia in her living room. Angel wants nothing to do with it, quoting some scripture about this or that. Like everything in the movie, this is all very half-hearted and obviously read from crib sheets just off camera.

Herschell just sits there like a lump. He's not going all Bibley like Angel, but he doesn't take any of Anne's drugs, either. Yet. (He should have saved us some time and went right to 'em, but he hems and haws for a few scenes.)

I should mention the Narrator. He's a chain smoker, and he appears on camera periodically like Vincent Price, gone to seed in a velor shirt. He, too, is reading from a crib sheet, pausing at unpredictable times, trying to mask it with a drag of his cigarette. Toward the end, he has a coughing fit that the director decided to keep in the final cut. He expounds on the evils of things like peer pressure and chemical dependency (thank you, Mr. Cigarette Man) and eating experimental turkey meat.

Yes. You Read That.

So Herschell, on the Straight And Narrow, gets a job with Angel's dad at his turkey farm. Then he hangs out at a backyard pool with Anne, who persuades him to have some weed. It's powerful stuff that her pusher boyfriend, Guy, gave her to hook Herschell when the big guy spurned her advances. Herschell takes a few tokes, and soon he's leading a life of debauchery with Anne, smoking up and getting it on and whoa! He's late for his job at the turkey farm!

When he gets there, he's shown around the farm, with a lot of long, slow shots of turkeys all gathered together. Then he's introduced to two turkey scientists, played by possibly the worst actors in the English-speaking world. They convince Herschell to eat their experimental turkey ("it's just government regulations that it be tested, it's no big deal, really") by offering to sweeten the pot with plenty of drugs. Turkey and drugs. They're like chocolate and peanut butter. How many of us have been led to the needle by our cravings for turkey?

So Herschell tears into a turkey for lunch, and before long is having the gobbler of all seizures. So the science-boys, like any responsible researchers, decide to dump the body where no one will find it: Somewhere else.

Naturally, Herschell wakes up with the head of a turkey and a thirst for blood. And because he still needs his fix, only junkie blood will do. After some tender moments with Anne (chicka-bawm!), he goes from place to place (I can only be vague here. The movie showed him walking over the same field a dozen times, and then suddenly he'd be somewhere else, sometimes even indoors) killing drug fiend after drug fiend. And by drug fiends, I mean somewhat attractive teenage girls, whom he hangs upside down to slit their throats and drink their blood. Somehow. With his awkward turkey beak.

Eventually, Anne meets a bad end and Herschell goes for revenge. He lumbers through a familiar field while her murderer runs for his life. Suddenly, he's behind the creep in a storage facility, and after a bit of wrangling, cuts his foot off with a power saw. Watching blud spurt from that stump is the feel-good moment of the movie, to be honest.

Then Herschell leaves the building (and crosses the field) and comes face to face with two stoners. Who, when he kneels down and begs for mercy, chop his head off. (The director opts to cut to an actual turkey decapitation for this event, as the sight of a crappy mask on the ground might be too much for the squeamish.)

Then there's a quick, unsettling shot of everyone eating turkey, and then Whoa! What a crazy drug trip! Anne and Angel's dad rescues Herschell, who never went all turkey after all. Angel, working at a helpline of some sort, picks Herschell up in her car, where she teaches him to pray. And then he overcomes his addiction and winds up embracing Anne (alive again!) at the seashore. The End.

What's the moral here? Is it that the good girl never gets the guy? Is it that some funding comes with strings that might make you shoehorn a Christian anti-drug message into your horror movie? Or is it simply the Parable of the Frog?

2009. From here on out, all movies are genius.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Now See This

If this isn't as fine and inventive a page of comics art as was produced in 2008, I'll eat my hat. (Which I'm very protective of, as it keeps my bald head warm.)

From Jonah Hex issue 35, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with breathtaking art by J.H. Williams III. Click to make big and even more wonderful.


In Which We Start To Clean Up Our Rep

Leon Panetta is Obama's choice to head the CIA. Considering Panetta wrote this:

We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

I couldn't be happier about the choice.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Marlowe's Angels

Kathy & I watched The Big Sleep over the past few days, and man, is it a fine movie. Of course, the plot is nigh-incomprehensible due to the twists and turns it takes, but it's still smart, stylish fun. (And this site puts together a nice list of who killed whom and why.)

Legend has it that William Faulkner, one of the screenwriters, called novelist Raymond Chandler to ask him exactly who killed one of the bodies that turns up, and why... and Chandler said something along the lines of, "How the hell should I know?" But man, are there great scenes, great dialogue... and great dames.

There are, of course, the Sternwood women: Lauren Bacall's smoky Vivian, and her nymphomaniac younger sister Carmen (played by Martha Vickers), about whom Marlowe remarks "She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up." But throughout the movie, Marlowe is surrounded by sexy women: Sonia Darrin plays Agnes, who works in the door of an underground porn operation but fronts propriety; Dorothy Malone has one of my favorite scenes in the movie, as a bookstore clerk attracted to the danger and adventure Marlowe represents. And heck, even the cameos seem like Howard Hawks wanted to cast as many pretty women as possible: chatty cigarette girls, a waitress Bogart asks for a light for practially no reason, and a great cameo by Joy Barlow as the sexiest cab driver in Los Angeles.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I don't think I noticed it on my first viewing--it was all I could do to follow snappy patter and the double crosses of the plot. But having read the book a few years ago, and finally watching the movie again, these women really stand out to me (although I have to be honest--the scene with Dorothy Malone was always a favorite). No wonder Marlowe works for twenty-five bucks a day, plus expenses. The perks are so damn great.