Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brew Zoo Review

Last weekend, Kathy & I joined some friends at the Philadelphia Zoo for its Summer Ale Festival, which is exactly what it sounds like: A chance to visit the zoo, checking out all the cool animals with a beer in your hand.

Which is exactly what we did. We saw spider monkeys, fruit bats, voles, naked mole rats, lemurs, tigers, a bashful rhino (either that or he was reenacting the final moments of The Blair Witch Project) and a whole bunch of other creatures, while we contentedly sipped samples from the Yards, Triumph, River Horse, Sly Fox and Victory breweries, among others.

We had a great time, enjoying the scenery and the creatures in it, and even being treated to the sight of a 16-foot-long king cobra that had shed it's skin just a half-hour prior.

And afterward, we headed out to Monk's Cafe, where Sharon and I shared some amazingly delicious Thai curry mussels and we all had another beer. All in all, simply a great night.

There was only on thing it was missing -- one thing that no trip to the zoo should be without. So, without further ado, I present it here:


Monday, July 27, 2009

One Page Prophecy

For the last few years, Bill Willingham has been handing out copies of a one-page comics story at his Fables panels at the San Diego Comic-Con. And this year's, posted on Vertigo's Graphic Content blog, is a doozy.

(click on the image to embiggen and make legible.)

I mean, who wouldn't want to see where that's going?


Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Hair Like Jesus Wore It, Hallelujah, I Adore It

Kathy & I watched Milos Forman’s & Twyla Tharp’s film adaptation of Hair last night. It’s one of my favorite movie musicals, and though I haven’t watched it for years, I pretty much burned my way through a VHS of it (and a cassette of the play’s cast recording) in high school.

Some random thoughts as it began: Watching the Tribe dance in counterpoint to the police horses, I remembered that I was lucky enough to get a chance to go to a rehearsal of a dance company as Twyla Tharp choreographed, back when I was an entertainment reporter. It was an open-to-the-press kind of thing, and man, she could command a room.

Beverly D’Angelo as Sheila, riding by on a horse, completely unattainable. It made me think of what must be a similar shot in National Lampoon’s Vacation, where Christie Brinkley drives by Chevy Chase… while D’Angelo is in the front seat next to him. Enjoy what you’ve got, Griswold.

It strikes me that some of the ancillary performances in this are amazing – and not just the singing parts, like Nell Carter’s. Check out Charolotte Rae in the party they crash – she’s fascinated with the hippies (well, Berger) from the start, despite being in the same cohort as all the other uptight people around her. (And when he sings about his ass, watch her clap!) Berger’s mom, played by Antionia Rey, is wonderful, throwing her son a surreptitious lifeline as he argues with his dad. And Miles Chapin, as Sheila’s brother Steve, plays the smug little brother to the hilt.

Some other things: I wonder if anyone would be able to get the movie made with a song like “Colored Spade” in it today. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s satirical rather than racist—that’s absolutely clear—but some of those lyrics are just taboo. “Black Boys/White Boys” is similar, to a lesser extent, but the performance (by Nell Carter and Ellen Foley, among others) is so damn randy and joyous that it’s a treat to see and hear. It’s funny—there are things you couldn’t say today, but because someone was brave enough to try them 30 years ago, they’re grandfathered in. (Note: It doesn’t mean you should sing along on your iPod on the train, though.)

And then there’s the Tribe itself. Treat Williams is great as Berger—the thing that struck me last night is that he is resolutely pacifist. He tries to resolve all of his conflicts with talk, and never throws a punch or even grabs anyone. As Claude, John Savage has the best hey-am-I-stoned? face I’ve ever seen. Woof and Hud and Jeannie (Don Dacus of Chicago, Dorsey Wright and Annie Golden) are fantastic—I particularly like the barely-disguised crush Jeannie has on Claude.

And one of the scenes that’s always grabbed me—and last night was no different—is when Hud’s fiancée (played by Cheryl Barnes) calls him out on abandoning her and their son. It’s such a powerful moment, as she remains still throughout “Easy to Be Hard, letting the action happen while she waits. Interestingly enough, it’s something of a counterpoint to the opening number, “Age of Aquarius,” also set in a park, in which the singer (Ren Woods) twirls but is stationary, while the rest of the tribe dances more freely. Tonally, Woods’ song is an explosion, pushing outward, while Barnes’ song is a magnetic, drawing the rest of the Tribe back.

And then there’s that ending. It’s different than that of the play – from what I recall, they play doesn’t have much of a plot, but the movie offers a slick twist at then end, reminiscent of an E.C. comic book. I know it has its detractors, but it absolutely works for me. And finally, after we see the Tribe one last time, Forman cuts to a field of impossible size, and with some judicious cuttings shows us its in front of the White House. And it floods with people, a sudden rush of protesters and celebrants, until no grass can be seen, just body after body, wanting to end the Vietnam War, and all wars. Let the Sun Shine, indeed.


Friday, July 24, 2009

No Cape, No Tights, No Wonder Bra

Not a single luxury...

Y'know, some of my favorite comic book movies aren't superhero stories. Very, very few superhero movies live up to what can be done in the comic. Special effects are amazing, but too much of them (which is often required to make the powers work) can sap the emotional life from a story. The producers paid a lot for those FX, so they better get some serious screen time, capice?

So although I love The Dark Knight and Iron Man (and really liked Spider-Man 2 and Hellboy), it isn't the upcoming Green Lantern movie that has me stoked. No, my love for comics movies veers into more mainstream territory, like American Splendor and Road to Perdition. (Heck, even Men in Black, which is one of the finest comics-based comedies ever -- though I enjoy it enough not to want to ever see the sequel.)

So, although these two films will undoubtedly be more action-based crowd-pleasers than more introspective fare like Ghost World, it's these films that will have me heading to the multiplex like Pavlov's Fanboy.

Although with Megan Fox involved in Hex, I might have to take back what I said about the Wonder Bra.


Friday, July 17, 2009

They Can Have My Orwell When They Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands

Okay, I'm a bit of a Luddite.

As I mentioned on my previous post, I'm not on the Twitter. And I still buy CDs, rather than downloads. It's not that I don't know how to download music -- that's easy enough. The Avett Brothers offered a free track off their new album to mailing list subscribers about a month ago, and you better believe I jumped on that.

But music I buy? I want to make sure I can keep it. I don't want it to be lost in a system crash, or be unable to transfer if I decide to upgrade my computer (or heaven forbid, swithc platforms!), or prevent me from lending it to a freind. (I'm not a big filesharer, but it's really nice to hand someone a CD of a band I like and say "check this out.")

I'm the same way with books. The Kindle looks cool as hell, but a book is a book. Not all reading has to come from books, but I'm not quite willing to make the leap. Because who knows what could happen -- I want to own the books I own.

Case in point: As the result of a publisher deciding it didn't want to offer electronic copies -- some of which had already been sold -- Amazon reached into everyone's Kindle and plucked out two books: George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm. (They credited the customer's accounts for the deletion.)

Sure, doing this with Orwell books is poetic irony at its finest. But it doesn't make me any more likely to buy a Kindle, that's for sure.


I, Twit.

So a year ago, maybe two -- right when Twitter started, whenever that was, I can tell ya that -- I signed up for a Twitter account. And then never did one damn thing with it.

I just let it sit there.


But today, I was curious about a hashmark on a friend's tweet, so I went onto the twitter page and tried to log in with my user name and a possible password I might have chosen back in the day. And whaddya know, I'm on!

In my excitement I actually tweeted: "Holy shit I have a Twitter account!"

It was then that I remembered that there was a feed of all the people who are cursing on Twitter, and I could watch my inaugural swearing scroll up the page along with the words of my filthy-mouthed brethren.

But I couldn't remember the url of the curse word feed, and a quick search didn't turn it up, either.

Sigh. Fuck that, then.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Congratulations, Jeri!

Jeri Smith-Ready's novel Wicked Game just won (and by "just", I mean she announced it on Facebook about a half hour ago) a PRISM Award for Light Paranormal Romance. The awards are presented by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The news is too fresh to actually have a link to yet, but here's a list of this year's nominees.

I should also mention that I just finished the sequel to Wicked Game, Bad to the Bone (which you can still see a link to on the upper righthand corner of the blog, for another week or so, at least). First of all, it's just plain fun to read, and I spent most of Monday afternoon finishing it. The characters and the environment (vampires pyschologically frozen in the era they "died", hiding in plain sight, spinning tunes at a vampire-themed radio station) progress in interesting and entertaining ways, as we start to see how romance with a vampire is one thing, but day-to-day living with him is another. It's got a satisfying plot, some great snarky dialogue, and a lot of blood-fueled rock-n-roll fun. Plus a Big Honkin' Cross that's more dangerous than it seems.

But the main thing is, Wicked Game won. That's huge. Congratulations, Jeri.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Funniest Scream Since Howard Dean

"I'm gonna lose my mind today."
--Glenn Beck, July 15

Let it be known that Glenn Beck can keep a promise.

A couple of days ago, Kathy and I were at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, and weather was coming in. Bad weather. We were just heading off on a hayride tour of the farm when they announced from the stage that there was a tornado warning.

For some reason, the farm tour continued (maybe the warning was for a half-hour from then -- the tour only took a few minutes), and then were told to go to our cars and wait. So we did, sitting in Kathy's car in the middle of a field, shunting from AM station to AM station searching for weather reports. (We found a few, none of which said squat about tornadoes.) Eventually we settled on some crazy, Art-Bell style conspiracy theorist who we eventually figured out was Glen Beck.

Beck was just beginning a weird, insinuous rant about how there was a book by a French group called The Invisible Committee that was a blueprint for revolution, not by the crazy right-wing groups (which are perfectly harmless, despite the recent fatal shooting at the Holocaust Museum and the assassination of George Tiller in church), but by crazy left-wing groups (which will destroy our way of life if we're not careful, despite spending most of their time making giant puppets). We didn't wait around for an explanation about how a blueprint for revolution could only be used for one side and not the other; we just enjoyed the crazy until the rain stopped and, when it seemed safe, got out of the car and rejoined our friends. But man, Beck was clearly headed for Crazytown like it's his regular commute.

So imagine my delight when I followed this link. Just listen to Glenn Beck get unhinged at a caller on today's show who challenged him on universal healthcare. You should listen from the beginning to get the full effect, but from 3 minutes to 3:45 is where the really money-clip is.

He completely--completely!--loses his marbles. And really, even if you agree with him (I don't, no surprise), you've gotta admit that it sounds like there's so much pressure in his brain that steam is blasting from his ears and his eyeballs are splashing all over the mic.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wednesdays Just Got a Little More Special

It's Wednesday! New Comic Day! Even better than that, today is the first day of DC's Wednesday Comics.

Wednesday Comics is a 16-page comics anthology in which top creators (we're talking Gaiman, Kubert, Baker, Azzarello, Bermejo, Busiek, Allred, Garcia-Lopez and more*) bring us one huge page of comics a week. The book unfolds not once, but twice, providing huge pages of art for each story to sprawl over. It's a very different reading experience than a regular comic.

The format is supposed to evoke the old Sunday comics pages. Not the ones I read when I was a kid, with three or four strips on each page, but the ones around when my dad was a kid -- full page color installments of full-color adventure strips, each one ending in a cliffhanger, selling next Sunday's paper.

And man, is it fun. I haven't read them all yet, but those I've read (yes, I've skipped around) assure me that every page is a new delight. This is good, good stuff.

So take a gander (ha!) at Kyle Baker's Hawkman. And then think about heading to your local comic shop and picking up the first issue of Wednesday Comics... and watch the stories unfold.

*I kept on adding names. I couldn't stop!

Forever 15

So Jeri was tagged with a meme – “Forever 15” – in which she was asked to list 15 books that will stay with her forever. She had 15 minutes to come up with the list.

So I gave it a try. I know there are other books that should be on here, but these are the first 15 that sprang to mind.

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse-5 – Kurt Vonnegut
Madeleine’s Ghost – Robert Girardi
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets – David Simon
Songs of Innocence – Richard Aleas (Charles Ardai)
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Chronicles of Prydain (specifically The High King) – Lloyd Alexander
The Razor’s Edge – W. Somerset Maugham
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Sandman – Neil Gaiman & Various Artists
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Stand – Stephen King
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

I’ll take a cure from Jeri and just mention one of them: There’s a scene in The Great Gatsby that kills me every time. If I remember it correctly, Tom Buchanan has just discovered his wife Daisy has been having an affair with Jay Gatsby. Now, Tom’s a creep. He’s been carrying on his own affair with another woman, and if I recall correctly, even blackened Daisy’s eye at one point in the book. There is nothing to like about Tom.

And yet, as Gatsby urges Daisy to tell Tom she never loved him, try as I might, I always feel sorry for him. He’s so wounded, so crushed. He asks Daisy about a specific moment of tenderness between them; I can’t remember what it is, but he asks, “Surely you loved me then?”

And when he asks that, so afraid of the answer he’ll get, I feel this great wellspring of pity for the man. He gets what he deserves, but it gives me no joy to see it. In fact, it may be one of the saddest things I’ll ever read.

(Needless to say -- though I've gone ahead and edited the post to say it anyway -- if you feel like sharing your own list, feel free to post in the comments.)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Brevity is the Soul of Quit.

Well, I'm back from vacation, and checking up on the week's news. There's really only one thing to say:

Congratulations, Alaska!