Friday, August 31, 2007

Calling All English Majors

Thanks to the lovely and cultured Colleen Doran for raising the following news over on ComicMix that current Doctor Who David Tennant and Patrick Stewart will be co-starring this fall (as Hamlet and Claudius, respectively) in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s staging of, well, Hamlet.

Wow. And you thought it was tough to get tickets for Equus last spring starring Dan Radcliffe…but seriously, it's pretty remarkable that Shakespeare's work is as popular (if not 1000 times more so) today than it was in Elizabethan Britain 400 years ago.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Question For The Congregation

Why the hell does the Comics Code Authority still exist?

You know...that little, postage stamp-shaped seal indicating the comic you are holding has been certified as safe (by someone) for American readers.

For those unaware, the CCA is a relic from the days of Fredrick Wertham, an inept social crusader whose 1954 book, The Seduction of The Innocent, posited that comics encourage juvie crime - a fiction Wertham was later happy to repeat before a US Senate subcommittee along with others suggesting Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were gay lovers, and Wonder Woman a lesbian.

In response, the Senate advocated the comics industry police itself (a move Wertham felt was inadequate), prompting the creation of the CCA in 1954 - the authority of which would be strictly voluntary. However, US comic publishers who refused to carry the CCA seal risked being shunned by comic distributors who refused to move their product without it. As a result, crime and horror-themed EC titles like "Tales From The Crypt" were soon eradicated from the open market, and mainstream comics (primarily DC) reduced to bland, edgeless storytelling for 20 years on.

Due to all of the above, today Fredrick Wertham is regarded by readers and creators alike as the anti-Christ of the comic world - even though his impact on the medium is now erased. Both Marvel and DC (and all its Hollywood franchises) are still under no direct authority to follow CCA guidelines, nor are American indie and GN publishers who today ignore such "voluntary" mandates outright.

Plus, from a business stance, modern comic distributors like Diamond would be idiots to refuse to work with Marvel, DC, Image, et al., strictly due to potential content issues - which have been largely neutralized anyway by an industry ratings system covering both kid and adult audiences - of which the latter make up the bulk of comic consumers. Further still, as many comic creators today feel the age of monthly titles is waning (to be replaced by trade paperbacks and Internet distributions), the CCA becomes even less relevant than it already is.

Therefore, I repeat my standing question - why the hell does the Comics Code Authority still exist?

My answer? It shouldn't. Period.

The CCA is an Edsel rusting in the backyard, overgrown with vines and bird nests - treat it as such and call the junkman.

Riddle me this - What do the CCA and Spidey's Aunt May
have in common? Both should have died ages ago.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The View Ain't No Different

Like Bilbo Baggins, I'm beginning to stack up the years of my life rather speedily now.

Today, it's Number 39 - which evokes an old memory of my mom (at the same age in 1980) getting a set of personalized stationary with the post-script "39 Forever" printed in the lower-right corner of each page.

But I do feel older, say, more decrepit as I teeter on the edge of 40?

Other than a slight discomfort from an old knee injury that pops up every so often, not really.

In fact, the only real difference I feel today compared to 20 birthdays ago is a sense of experience, and (I hope) being less likely to make dumb mistakes. Otherwise, I feel okay, own a nice house, have a decent job and salary, my friends and family are safe and healthy, and I have a few creative projects warming in the bullpen.

So all things all things considered, the view at 39 may not be so different from yesterday, but it's pretty good all the same.

My gal pal (and freshly minted New Yorker) Sarah Grace today
demanded I have a birthday cupcake – so here it is in virtual form.
Yummers, I say. Yummers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Old Glory Hole

Although one can cite a million differences (real and imaged) between liberals and conservatives in America, one which I truly believe holds water is that liberals are generally unafraid to admit they are gay, and conservatives (with the exception of Log Cabin Republicans, et al.) are terrified to make such an admission.

Thus, like the closeted Ted Haggards and Mark Foleys of the right-wing world, it seems the conservatives who most proudly bang their drums of moral outrage over issues like gay marriage also have the most to hide in their private lives.

Take US Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) for example, who according to CNN has...

...[earned] top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association...and Family Research Council.

[Craig has also] supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, telling his colleagues that it was "important for us to stand up now and protect traditional marriage, which is under attack by a few unelected judges and litigious activists."

Craig has also opposed expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias, and in 1996, voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate.

Yet ironically (oh, that delicious irony again), this same gay-busting senator plead guilty weeks ago to disorderly conduct when (according to Minneapolis PD reports), he was arrested in a sex sting operation at a local airport restroom notorious for being a "secret" spot for gay men to exchange sexual favors.

Personally, my favorite part of CNN's coverage of the story was Senator Craig's reported response at realizing his sexy jig was up (e.g. shrieking "No!" upon seeing the arresting officer's badge shown under the restroom stall divider, and bolting from the room).

Oh, Larry...just get a room in Boystown. That's what Harvey Firestein would do.

But in all seriousness, here's the bottom line regarding closeted Republicans caught at 3AM at "that" rest stop on US Rt. 1 only to spin lame excuses as to why they are not, in fact, gay: there are as many gay conservatives in America as their are liberal. But the former are trapped by the fact that coming out about their sexuality would make it all but impossible to get elected by their conservative base. Thus, they gotta keep it on the Q.T. and lie about their true nature.

Gay or straight, I frankly don't care who an elected official boinks as long as no molestation is involved.

But in any case, it's priceless to watch the formerly pious likes of Larry Craig squirm before news cameras, and swear up and down that's he's a straight as Merv Griffin...or Rock Hudson...or...that guy from N'Sync...


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Adventures in Titusville

This morning's weekly round of disc golf with my pals marked the very first time where I was glad to see our time on the course together end.

To put it mildly, after a well-publicized series of heavy rains that passed thru the Midwest last week, almost every body of water has overrun its banks. The result, thanks to the ingenious managers of the Streamwood (IL) Park District who decided to put a disc golf course on a floodplain, is a nightmare for players resulting in stinking mud, swampy pools ripe with mosquitoes, and banks of cattails bursting with pollen.

In short, Shady Oaks Disc Golf Course was horrible to play today. I expect we'll return later, however, after conditions dry up - perhaps in December when the bugs are dead.

Here's our helpful friend Man-Thing directing golfers to the 16th hole

PS: Big, heartfelt thanks to my pals Mike, Bruce, Mark and Josephine for my birthday gifts and the tasty cake.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sick As A Dog

Today in Virginia, NFL quarterback Michael Vick plead out to bankrolling dogfighting (with poor performers drowned, electrocuted, slammed to the ground, and/or hung) on his property, but denied taking part in said activities as a form of gambling...which is curious considering that Vick is claiming he funded illegal gambling ops, but never took any profits for himself.

Uh, yeah...

This plea--which has quashed his season with the Atlanta Falcons, and prompted the league commissioner to suspend Vick indefinitely--will likely result in jail time, but I suppose what bothers me even more than the evil nature of dogfighting itself is how the story is only receiving attention from mass media because of Vick's star status.

Dogfighting itself goes on all the time across America (and elsewhere), and for underperforming dogs to be (for example) tied to a railroad track to be minced into oblivion is not new.

Such incidents simply go unreported 99% of the time, and due to lack of enforcement, are rarely brought to justice.

Thus, if the Vick case has any sort of silver lining, it's in exposing dogfighting for the barbaric "sport" it is, and applying pressure on lawmakers to sharpen legal penalties. By comparison, legal bloodsports like extreme fighting leagues are almost light-hearted as the participants fight by choice, and are not put to death for losing.

And to any self-righteous, evangelical right-wingers who downplay dogfighting as no big deal in light of abortion being legal (today) in America, please explain that to the following...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Late Term Reading

Recently, I picked up and began reading a book by Salon contributing writer and constitutional attorney Glenn Greenwald titled (hold your breath): “A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed The Bush Presidency.”

If you want to truly understand just how bafflingly simplistic the Bush White House’s take on reality is I highly recommend it.

How many days until President Heywood leaves office again?

I Have A Theory

Last night, after roughly three straight days of rain passed through the Chicago area, the weather finally broke after work enough for me to skate over to Jericho Lake for a practice round of disc golf.

On the whole--despite the swampy conditions, relentless mosquitoes, and falling down a muddy slope--it was time well-spent. However, I became very perturbed after making an anhyzer throw on a short Par 3 which landed in a patch of greenery, and could not (for the life of me) find the damned thing.

It did not land in the creek running behind the trees, else I would have heard a splash. The disc simply vanished, despite my every effort to roust it into view.

This is hardly the first time I've seen this happen during a game - witnessing a disc land not far away, and finding it utterly vanished upon looking for it.

At first I suspected Chupacabras, but then theorized that small inter-dimensional vortexes inhabit disc golf courses which delight in sucking your wayward disc into the great unknown.

Quite frankly, I cannot come up with a more logical answer. And it pisses me off to no end.

The discs go in, and wind up somewhere in orbit around Rigel 7.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

DG Review - Central Park (Oak Brook, IL)

This little 9-holer recently came to my attention via a tournament flyer; even better, I discovered it's only a five-minute drive from my day job, prompting me to slide around after work, and test out a few fairways.

Here's the deal...

Central Park is a small, dense, and very challenging course loaded with small trees and towering spruces which (as I learned) love to both bat aside and eat wayward discs. In fact, IMO, spruces are the most challenging tree in the Midwest for disc golfers to deal with due to their height, broad base, and thick branches - making bright colors virtually useless in finding lost discs.

For this reason, I advise against playing Central without at least one buddy in order to help spot your shots, and locate the next tee pad - the location of which is not always clear.

Furthermore, the fairways (if you can call them that) at Central are very narrow, making hyzering a big challenge - instead, I recommend using a good approach & putt disc like the Innova Aviar (which worked well for me) almost exclusively.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cowardice & Hypocrisy Walk Into A Bar...

Consider, if you please, the following example of one person’s definition of following Christ’s teachings of love and openness to others (courtesy of MSNBC and the AP):

ARLINGTON, Texas - A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ’Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”’ she said Friday.


The church’s pastor, the Rev. Gary Simons, said no one knew Sinclair, who was not a church member, was gay until the day before the Thursday service, when staff members putting together his video tribute saw pictures of men “engaging in clear affection, kissing and embracing.”

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service — not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press. “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it — yes, we would have declined then.

It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”


Right, Gary. Right. I wonder how the Apostle Luke would respond to that logic?

How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
(Luke 6:42)

Monkeys, Dinosaurs & Credit Line Increases

This past Sunday (AKA: Vulture Day) at Wizardworld Chicago was busier than usual with my prowling last-day sales by vendors – among which my most surprising purchase was a 48-pound, 24-inch tall statue from Weta Collectibles of King Kong fighting a T-Rex with little Naomi Watts as the point of contention.

Normally, I’d never get anything so indulgent at a con, especially Kong-related as I’m not a huge fan of the big ape. But the fine detailing of the statue (plus the 75% markdown in price) was too good to pass up.

Here's Kong and Rex brawling on my bookcase over what
evangelical Republicans truly consider to be America's
most precious resource: white women

Otherwise, I met a few talented local artists (Josh Johnson, Bob Renzas, Matt Wendt, Jeremy Bastian, Bobby Chiu, Kay Acedera) at WWC, from whom I picked up wonderful prints of their work before loading up on 50% off trade paperbacks at Graham Crackers (AKA: My FNCS in suburban Chicago), then a few books at Top Shelf.

That’s essentially the jist of the day, which as ever, was a tiring experience.

Yet this was the first year I left without any DVDs, although I did inspect some animated bootlegs of Marvel’s 1966 Super-Heroes TV series – which during local reruns on Channel 44 in the mid-70s, frustrated my kid brother and I for their lack of a certain web-slinger.

(I mean, come on, who gives a lump of seahorse crap about Sub-Mariner? He’s a pompous ass, not to mention looks like he should be on Truman Capote’s arm every Saturday night at Studio 54. And what’s with those winged ankles? Are we seriously expected to believe those tiny things can make Subby fly? As if!

And then there’s Iron Man! During those ’66 shows, his armor was always failing, prompting Shellhead to retreat to his lab after a fight [hiding a humiliated look under his face plate, I suspect] to fix his transistors or what-not. So much for QA, Tony! You suck, and I hate your politics! I hope World War Hulk has his way with you in the tunnels below Madison Square Garden, nice and slow… so your next cutting edge science project at Stark Enterprises will be an adamantium colon.)

Finally, I said it at San Diego, and I’ll say it again: never underestimate the power of free crap to incite the masses.

Case in point: throngs of people at WWC yesterday screaming like traders at the Merc Exchange over bundles of promotional stuff (e.g. mini-busts, posters, toys, etc) being given away by con organizers.

You’d have thought a free Spidey maquette or Ultimate FF poster was the only thing between little Timmy getting that kidney transplant, and his certain death.

Oh well, Comic Con Season 2007 was an interesting ride.

But I’m content to wait 11 months until next summer, when it’s back to SD for one more year.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another Personal First

While growing up, I was the only person in my immediate family of four who had not broken a bone or suffered an injury requiring at least one overnight in hospital.

Then at age 19, that streak came to a spectacular end when I shattered the ball of my left shoulder after slipping on a patch of ice. Four days in hospital and eight hours of surgery later to fuse the break with nine screws driven into my upper arm, I was in a load of pain and humbled with the knowledge that my shoulder would never have full mobility again.

Funny how fate seems to work that way - that is, reserving that guy who thought he got away with something a cosmic comeuppance dealt out in spades.

Well, in the world of personal injuries the one I just experienced doesn't come within a light-year of my big shoulder injury.

I was bit by a snake, albeit a non-venomous one, while attempting to clean out my snow corn snake Lola's terrarium and add new bedding. What's odd is that this is hardly the first time I've done so - sure, in the past Lola would get nervous and wrap her roughly 30 inch length around my arm - but in a few minutes would relax while I placed her in a small holding container while I finished my cleaning job.

But this time, when I tried to pick Lola up, she quickly wrapped herself around my right wrist and sunk her little fangs into my ring finger. Immediately, I couldn't help thinking about a recent episode of Dirty Jobs (a personal fave, by the way) when host Mike Rowe was punctured several times by Lake Erie water snakes in Ohio. But those snakes were a helluva lot bigger than mine, which made it no less painful when Lola kept biting me for a full two minutes before realizing she was in no real danger and let go while still wrapped around my wrist.

Good girl.

All is well now, but I can safely check off "Bitten By Snake" off my "Things I've Never Experienced In This Life" list.

All things considered, I guess I'm no Steve Irwin, not that he was never bitten by snakes before.

Friday, August 10, 2007

And Now, A Message From Baby Sgt. Rock...

Want a Size Zero boot up your ass, and a week in stockade?
Just tell him you don't feel like it...

...but seriously, since WWII has been over for 70 years, how long are
Sgt Rock and His Howling Commandoes gonna keep battling Hitler? Shouldn't someone tell the boys it's time to stand down? On the other hand, never mind. Watching those grunts dig foxholes in the middle of Berlin's fashion district is just too damn funny.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Little Things That Amuse Me - A New, Ongoing Series

Today’s Episode: Hollywood Decapitations

When considering good, old-fashioned movie entertainment—the kind kids of all ages can enjoy with friends and family—who doesn’t enjoy seeing a head lopped off at the shoulders?

Sure, it’s only pretend. But I defy you to dismiss that guilty little corner of your heart that leapt with excitement during “Highlander,” or the part in “Speed” when Keanu detached Dennis Hopper’s melon from his body with a subway light?

Good times, I say. Good times.

As such, let’s explore what—outside of films on the French Revolution—I believe is the greatest movie decapitation in history…

In “The Omen” (1976), actor David Warner plays a man who tips off Gregory Peck’s character that his little son Damien is the anti-Christ – which, in itself, is enough of a bitch. But even worse for a parent (or so I’m told) is to hear your demon-spawn can only be put down of a clutch of mystical knives. So after a meeting with an old codger who conveniently has these weapons, and hands them over to Peck, in a fit of doubt, he suddenly tosses them away – refusing to believe little Damien is evil.

Stepping up to the plate, Warner then says (in so many words): “Well, if you won’t perforate the little bastard, I will.”

Bad move.

As anyone who has seen “The Omen” (or its sequels) knows, Satan looks out for his boy and enjoys dispatching his enemies via “accidents” – usually foreshadowed by crows or Rottweilers or creepy chanting on the movie’s soundtrack.

Anyhow, let’s see what Beezy has in store for Mr. Warner when he goes to collect the holy switchblades that Gregory Peck tossed into—oh, boy—a construction site. Not the kind of construction site filled with dangerous equipment, I hope.

Let’s find out…

Still #1

Here’s David Warner collecting the knives. Uh oh! That truck (off-camera) loaded with large panes of glass seems to be troubling him. I wonder if the parking brake will mysteriously pop via The Dark Side of The Force, and send it hurtling at our (now red-shirted) hero?

Still #2

I’d call that a big yes.

Wow, that truck sure got there in a hurry. And Mr. Warner sure looks surprised! But to be fair, wouldn’t you be if your noggin’ (repository of all one’s hopes and dreams) just got bowling ball-i-fied by a flying pane of glass?

Still #3

Aw, dammit!

Well, that’s what happens when you toy with evil forces. I once knew this kid who tried to summon Walt Disney with a Ouija board…exact same outcome. They buried him in a hatbox out in the backyard the next day.

Gee, does that bring back memories.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Irony...Now Tastier Than Ever

Rep. Bob Allen cites fear of black men, weather in oral sex arrest

Rep. Bob Allen, a Republican in the Florida House of Representatives, blamed the weather and his fear of black men for offering $20 to perform oral sex on a man in a public park. The man turned out to be an undercover police officer, who promptly arrested Allen.

The Florida Times Union reports: "In his seven years in the Legislature Rep. Bob Allen of Merritt Island has built up a 92 percent approval rating with the Christian Coalition of Florida on issues like abortion, marriage and pornography."

How long do you think it’ll take this guy’s Bible-thumping, Jack Chick-comic reading constituents to write off this incident as a liberal conspiracy cooked up by Daily Kos or Al Franken or Satan?

Yeah, just keep sipping that delirium punch…

Thanks to Brad for the tip-off.

Hey, Bob. The truth will set you free.

Every Day Is Like Sunday

Although one would expect that after attending San Diego Comic Con 2007 last month, I should have had my fill of cons for a while, there’s something to be said for cruising smaller regional events if the opportunity rises.

Take Wizardworld Chicago (WWC) for example – I used to think nothing I’d ever see could eclipse it in terms of vendors (comics, video, books, posters) and combined celebrity and artist line-ups. Then I went to San Diego last year, and realized just what a glorified flea market WWC is by comparison.

Still, there are “Vulture Days” (AKA: Sundays) to be relished at places like WWC – when con-goers like myself enjoy scavenging for sales (especially after 2PM) from vendors who’d rather unload their stock at a discount than haul it back home. These final event days also offer buyers the greatest possible leverage, and open the door to haggling (within reason) on a price or two.

Think about it: what’s the worst that could happen here? A vendor refuses to drop a price, and you go to his competition down the row who will probably work with you.

Either way, as a buyer you win.

Out of the goodness of me own heart, here are some other handy con-going tips for wise consumers:

  • Always—and I mean always—ask vendors selling bootleg DVDs to test their product for quality before making any purchase. Most will easily oblige; who wants to earn a reputation for screwing their customers? However, if a video vendor does refuse a test screen, then refuse to buy. Believe me, nothing sucks more than buying what you think is a great underground DVD only to find it unplayable upon returning home.
  • Bear in mind that almost no shiny object sold at comic cons for a ridiculous price is unavailable elsewhere for less – usually on Ebay.
  • Most vendors are nice people. They want to make a sale, not alienate buyers. Yet if any behave like a jerk for any reason, just walk away. No con purchase is worth having to deal with some moron’s Comic Book Guy-like attitude. Let him go home to his mom’s basement surrounded by all the crap he couldn’t unload because he acted like a dick.
Would you buy a near-mint copy of Avengers #198 from this guy?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Just For Laughs

For several years, I have read the film reviews of Ted Baehr, founder of the far-right wing evangelical Movieguide, who is a longtime opponent of all things Harry Potter – believing it to be, well, let’s allow the author of Movieguide’s review of “Order of The Phoenix” sum it up for me:

Even so, as shown by the number of [book] copies sold, HARRY POTTER remains a phenomenon that’s still attracting millions of children. Thus, the movie version of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is liable to still do great business at the box office. Regrettably, however, this means that even more children will be lured away from God and His Infallible Word, which says that witchcraft is evil and abhorrent. Instead of dreaming about the joys that God gives us through Jesus Christ, they will be dreaming of casting spells…riding brooms, and rebelling against their parents.

My goodness, Flanders, er, I mean, Ted…have you even considered the fact that witchcraft, spells, flying brooms, et al. are as real as the flat earth you dread so deeply within your heart, prompting you to swear off of all trans-Atlantic flights?

And kids rebelling against their parents? How long has this been going on? Oh, yeah…since the beginning of fucking time.

More from Movieguide…

Watching 6- and 7-year-old children walk out of the press screening for the new Harry Potter movie (as well as the people with little witchcraft symbols and S&M dresses)...

Stop the tape! S&M dresses? Did this reviewer see “Order of The Phoenix” or “Order of The Penis”? I can’t help but wonder…

… is always an opportunity to reflect on the malignant corruption of our culture. Aside from the fact that these children are exposed to ugly creatures, fantastic violence and worthless incantations, this movie has dialogue that sounds like it comes out of Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmations on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Namely, when Harry's godfather tells him, “You are not a bad person. Every person has light and darkness in them. You have a choice.” Imagine saying this to [Virginia Tech shooter] Michael Cho after he has had his killing spree. Or, Adolf Hitler.

Contrary to the godfather's idiotic aphorisms, there are bad people, and, without God, you cannot choose the good. But, there is a Name above all names who can solve this problems and banish the darkness. And, that name is Jesus Christ.

Oh, crap. Does Ghandi know this?

Uh, oh! Phallic symbol at twelve o'clock! Shade your eyes, children!

"The Simpsons Movie": A Short Review

After years of false rumors and false starts, I always said I would believe in the existence of a “Simpsons” feature film when I saw it with my own eyes.

Well, phooey on me, because I finally did last week.

And my short response is that “The Simpsons Movie” is well-paced and entertaining, but falls way short of the brilliant comic edge the franchise enjoyed in the early ‘90s, when it seemingly could not possibly be funnier or smarter comedy.

As many know, “The Simpsons” hasn’t enjoyed that high status for a long time.

But to be fair, no creative concept lasts forever; there’s only so much stardust any idea can mine until the supply runs out. And that store for “The Simpsons” ran dry years ago.

Yes, we all finally got the big movie—and glimpsed Bart’s little yellow wang to boot—but it’s finally time to put the show to bed.