Movie Miscellany

Shadowy figures of Tiana and the Frog Prince backlit in swampy alcove

The lateness of the hour, and the fact that everyone else in the multiplex was there to see Avatar on opening night, meant that the handful of us taking in The Princess and the Frog had the screening room almost entirely to ourselves. I found it absolutely magical. The Nine Old Men would be proud of this return to “2D” fairy-tale charm, and for it to be overlooked amidst the year-end onslaught of tent-pole spectacles and Oscar bait — worthy as those might be, too — is a tragedy.

Box Set Full of Kryptonite

Display of items in Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition set

Warner Bros.’ 2007 Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD set is now
on sale at Amazon for an astounding $24.99. List price is $99.98 (per Amazon, a little higher or lower at other sites). You’ll still be a penny shy of free shipping, which is surely intentional.

As there were problems with the release of an almost identical set in 2006, when this Ultimate Collector’s Edition came out in 2007 I waited until it had a clean bill of health in online reports and then splurged the moment Borders held one of its very occasional 40%-off sales on DVD sets — knowing that if the set sold out we might not get another such package until there was another Superman movie to promote. I’ve still yet to watch everything in the set but no fan of the character or any part of the compilation should pass up this opportunity.

On 14 discs, packaged with a lenticular hologram of the Man of Steel in flight inside a tin case sporting both the 1978 and 2006 film versions of the big S, you get...

Christmas + 1

I don’t know when this will get posted so it feels safest to focus my yuletide thoughts
on the morning after.

Many locations have made for a special holiday in my life, but none can match the house way up New Jersey, northwest of New York City, where my father’s parents lived during my first decade. There were decorations, cookies, stockings, relatives, carolers, and gifts under what in memory at least is a majestic tree.

So much could be written about the annual anticipations of Christmas in Wyckoff —
my sister and me standing by the curb to greet Santa, in the company of firefighters,
as they handed out candy to the neighborhood children; trying hard to fall asleep, since we knew that the jolly old elf wouldn’t return to leave presents until we did (but also hoping that his visit would awaken us so that we could finally catch him in the act); preparing for dinner, then waiting for Dad and Grandpa to finish their carbohydrate-
&-tryptophan naps so that we could roughhouse or enlist their help in explaining, assembling, and playing with games and toys opened earlier that day.

For me, though, the afterglow of Dec. 26th was just as magical as the eve of the 24th and the daylong festivities of the 25th.

Stocking Stuff

Christmas is here. I wish you a day of peace.

Robed men gazing and pointing at starry night sky with caption, 'Oh, I am so blogging about this.'
Image © 2005 David Malki.

Are you perchance dreaming of a Betty White Christmas? The saucy gal, whose
shtick these days melds the randiness of her Sue Ann from The Mary Tyler Moore Show with the cluelessness of her Rose from The Golden Girls to great comedic effect, dropped by The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Monday night. While the seams showed a bit — I’m guessing not enough rehearsal time to memorize the lines or know what to riff on, hence the slight hiccups in dialogue betwixt her and Craig — she remains a national treasure. [bad link]

The ’Vision Thing

1973 Super Friends opening title on screen of vintage television

I had a quilt over the top sheet of my bed, and then a dark-green cover made of corduroy over that, with matching cylindrical pillows for show that went at the head and foot. The bed was a single — also known as a twin, which never made sense to me
if you only have one of ’em — while my sister’s bed was queen-sized, again with a bedcover over her quilt. Jen had characters from Sesame Street on her quilt; mine was a pattern of generic toy soldiers, alphabet blocks, and teddy bears.

That placement of quilts as the meat in a sheets-and-bedcover sandwich is crucial to fully grasp the scene of us, on Saturday mornings circa 1975, marching downstairs with quilts clutched tightly in hand and messily cleaving the carefully tucked-in bedspreads of the night before.


A pair of T-shirts, each with one of the Wonder Twins' triangular insignia, Z and J

The latest batch of cool stuff offered by Graphitti Designs includes, at long last, some Wonder Twins wear. Adult S through XL will cost you $17.95 each (plus shipping) for either Zan or Jayna. I wish children’s sizes were available, but my nieces have already worn a couple of my old T-shirts to bed; their mom says they should be okay in these — as long as they don’t fight too hard over who gets to wear which one when.

Related: Dinner on ME The Cool Kids Are Doing It
Spider-Man, Spider-Man / Use His Face in a Frying Pan

Dinner on ME

Once upon a time in 1994, at the Javits Center in New York City, back when the
World-Wide Web was but in its early days and videocassettes were the primary medium of personal viewing, I was lamenting a lack of access to the Hall of Justice.

Cartoon of Mark Evanier typing away at keyboard

I’d been active in the AOL chat rooms devoted to comics for a short while prior. Some acquaintances made there — as well as folks I knew in person from working at Fat Jack’s Comicrypt in Philadelphia and a couple of fellow contributors to the venerable amateur press association CAPA-Alpha — were trying to get me to join what they described as the more sophisticated Comics/Animation Forum on CompuServe. And so, during a comics convention being held at the aforementioned Javits, I tagged along to an informal Forum dinner during the convention with them.

The dinner was presided over by Mark Evanier [ev-uh-neer]. I would joke that Mark has forgotten more about comics and show-biz history than most people remember, but I’m not convinced that he forgets anything. If you have an interest in behind-the-scenes tales about Vegas, Broadway, or Hollywood — particularly the Golden Age of TV sitcoms, variety shows, talk shows, and voice-over work — you should be following his own blog: News from ME.


If you’ve ever left a comment on a blog, you may very well have come across “word” verification.

On blogs hosted by Blogger, at least, the author can select an option asking people commenting to type a nonsense string of letters that almost always could make up a
real word, but don’t. Unlike the sort of jumbled-up, visually skewed mixes of characters used by some websites to ensure that users are actual humans rather than automated envoys of mischief or malevolence, these nonsense words generally have vowels and consonants placed in such an order that they’re pronounceable; on rare occasion an actual word will even slip in.

I’ve taken to sharing definitions for my verification “words” in comments if they come readily to mind for the strings on the screen at that moment. It’s like Sniglets, which Rich Hall popularized on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News and in a series of books back in the ’80s, except in reverse. I lay absolutely no claim to being either the first or the best at this, but I’ve amassed enough that I have some favorites to share.

forized — What you become when you put on your glasses.

Grango — The energy drink for active seniors.

MyStyMe — Architectural Digest’s companion magazine for pigs.

The Uncredeemibles

Here’s a strange trend: Mark Waid + adjectival noun = excellent comics.

Covers to collected editions of Irredeemable, The Incredibles, and The Unknown

I guess it’s not all that strange, given that Waid’s body of work in general is enough
of a recommendation, but he’s currently writing three darned good projects for Boom! Studios that share a peculiar part of speech — namely, The Incredibles, The Unknown, and Irredeemable. (You could argue that last one’s a plain old adjective.)

Mup’ Tempo

I may be duty-bound simply by virtue of having a blog that covers pop culture — however idiosyncratic it might be — to mention the Muppets’ take on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. [4:45]

Animal of the Muppets at drum kit
Screencap © 2009 The Muppets Studio LLC.

The clip, which debuted a few days ago on the Muppets Studio YouTube channel
and has gone seriously viral, isn’t a straight-up cover; Animal’s spotlight is an early, hilarious indication of that. Rowlf takes the piano part, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem join in (Janice can shred!), and everyone from the “Mahna Mahna” Muppet
to Fozzie Bear joins the fun. The unofficial, astoundingly informative Muppet Wiki provides a complete rundown of who’s who in the video.

Related: Muppet Monday (Oct. 17th) Mad Mix Muppet Monday (Nov. 28th)

Board Now

Pie is a tradition of the season.

Jason Segel holding poster board of a Venn diagram of two circles labeled 'People Who Are Breaking My Heart' and 'People Who Are Shaking My Confidence Daily' with the shaded intersection reading 'Cecilia'
Screencap © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Okay, I know that’s actually a Venn diagram, not a pie chart, but it passes on account
of being laugh-out-loud, pause-the-video-to-catch-your-breath funny. It’s from How I Met Your Mother Episode 4.22, wherein Marshall develops an addiction to poster-board visual aids: “This is a pie chart describing my favorite bars. And this is a bar graph describing my favorite pies.” You’re welcome.

Related: Brew Ha-Ha Wait for It See You Next B'ak'tun!

Teenage Dreams

Archie's head from nose up, large, with images of Betty and Veronica as young kids, middle-schoolers, and teenage girls, hearts and a question mark in-between them
Cover to Archie #606 © 2010 Archie. Pencils, Inks, Colors: Dan Parent.

You may have seen the news reports a few months back that Archie, the World’s Oldest Teenager, was — after nearly 70 years of flirting, dating, and relatively chaste farcical girl-chasing in general, among other misadventures — going to choose between rivals and best friends Betty and Veronica. In a six-part storyline that began in Archie #600, he and Veronica would marry.

Out of Flavor

While I’ve never seen Mike Judge’s Office Space, its status as a cult classic had me psyched to check out his new film, Extract.

Jason Bateman standing in front of scores of cases of Reynold's Extract
Still from Extract © 2009 Miramax Films.

I think I’d also carried in high expectations due to the presence of Justin Bateman,
as well as somehow confused the movie on a broad level with Steven Soderbergh’s latest flick. Extract could refer to the precision removal of, say, CIA operatives or civilian assets who’ve gotten themselves into a dangerous situation — as Matt Damon’s character apparently does in Soderbergh’s The Informant to humorous effect. Here it refers to flavor essence, as in vanilla extract, the niche business of Bateman’s Joel Reynolds.

This Is the Title of This Blogpost

I was reminded yesterday of David Moser’s delightful “This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself”.

While I first encountered it in the form of some unattributed, photocopied pages enthusiastically foisted on me by a friend, I discovered not long after that it was published in Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas, which became one of my favorite and most frequently re-read books. It collects installments of Hofstadter’s column of the same name for the magazine Scientific American, a column that succeeded — and was named by rearranging the letters to the title of — the venerable Martin Gardner’s column, Mathematical Games. Hofstadter is best known for his opus Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Gardner is the editor/curator of another of my favorite and most frequently re-read books, The Annotated Alice; he has written many more, the latest of which is an essay collection titled When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations About This and That, published two weeks before the author’s 95th birthday. My grandfather hit the same landmark three weeks before Gardner, and I hope that my mind is as fresh as either gentleman’s at that age.


DVD box of 2009 'Star Trek' with the face of Chris Pine as Kirk seen through the letters of the title

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was released on home video this past Tuesday.

I look forward to sitting down on a cold, dark night during the post-sweeps/holiday
lull in new television and digging into its special features. The Abrams commentaries
on the pilot episodes of Lost and Fringe — the latter with Trek screenwriting duo Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci — were top-notch. I’m almost glad that I don’t have a Blu-Ray player since the regular 2-disc edition looks just right in terms of my level of interest in extras.

SNL, &c.

I was glad to see a relaxed but not too relaxed Vice-President Joe Biden on The Daily Show last night.

Screencap © 2009 NBCUniversal Media.

The VP was articulate, knowledgable, and good-humored, a far cry from the gruff-voiced, gaffe-prone parody in the cold open of Saturday Night Live three evenings prior. Biden has made his share of painfully inartful statements, for sure, and it’s fine to razz him for his tendencies to speak too long or say too much. He’s smart, though, and Jason Sudeikis’ impression of him as a gravelly loudmouth sounds nothing like Biden — to me, a fatal error, because good impressions are far more about the voice than the visual. I’m thinking of Dan Aykroyd’s unlikely evocation of Jimmy Carter even with a mustache on early SNL, Gary Cole nailing Robert Reed’s tone as Mike Brady in the big-screen Brady Bunch flicks, or Frank Caliendo’s quick changes from John Madden to Charles Barkley to George W. Bush when visiting David Letterman on The Late Show. (Caliendo is better at stand-up than he was on his short-lived cable series.)

Indefinite Particles

You may have heard about CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, a “gigantic scientific instrument” — to quote a wonderfully understated phrase from the first link below — that will be used in an attempt to recreate conditions in the universe just after the Big Bang. It’s to begin operations shortly, deep beneath the border between France and Switzerland near Geneva, for the first time in over a year. Certain people have tried to stop this experiment from taking place for fear that it could open a black hole that will swallow the Earth, result in some other type of tear in the space-time continuum, or perhaps just incur the wrath of God as mere mortals attempt to gain knowledge that is solely the province of the divine.

Here are links to sites with more information:
The Large Hadron Collider
U.K. Telegraph: “How a Little Bang Killed the Big Bang”
Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet?

The first provides a general overview of the project, the second offers some of the latest news on its progress or lack thereof, and the third — which is a Must Visit even if you don’t have the time or inclination to read up on the project at the first two — answers the most pressing question of all.

Before Six

The Lost Rewatch hosted by Nikki Stafford wraps up its review of the pivotal
third season this week.

Cover to 'Finding 'Lost': The Unofficial Guide, Season Five' with a floating compass behind title

I couldn’t join in when the Rewatch began in July but jumped on board last month
with Season 3. While I’ve fallen behind again, I’m trying to catch up and looking forward to discussion of Season 4, on which more in a few paragraphs.

P Funk

The New York Yankees' stylized NY icon next to Phillies' stylized P icon, with rightward arrow design

I came very close to calling this post “27 and Cry” but decided that, even though
most of the plays on words here are made primarily for my own amusement, referencing an obscure Bowie song from a less-celebrated album was just too far out. Also, there is, famously, a distinct lack of crying in baseball. For a picosecond or so, it was titled “No Joy in Philville” in homage to the well-worn line in “Casey at the Bat”.

Except that there has been joy in Philville, despite the Phillies’ World Series loss
to the New York Yankees this night.

Sisters Go Bangles

I keep neglecting this post on The Puppini Sisters, and the universe keeps reminding me to write it up.

'The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo' album cover with the singers and their instruments on an antique coach; Marcella Puppini, center, is displaying some décolletage

Back in March, during an episode of NBC’s Chuck, I heard a rendition of The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” in the close-harmony swing style of The Andrews Sisters piped into the background and was smitten. I’d just been introduced to The Puppini Sisters — a trio formed in the UK in 2004 that actually consists of one Puppini and two friends, I learn from their Wikipedia entry and a short interview with Marcella Puppini [bad link] that’s cited therein. Marcella’s catalyst was the great French animated film Les Triplettes de Belleville; further inspiration came from those Andrews gals, their antecedents The Boswell Sisters, and Marlene Dietrich.

Marcella, Stephanie O’Brien, & Kate Mullins’ two full-length CDs together, 2006’s Betcha Bottom Dollar and 2007’s The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo, mix renditions of such vintage material as The Chordettes’ staple “Mr. Sandman” and the Andrews Sisters classic “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” with covers of more contemporary pop like “Egyptian”; Woo also includes a few choice originals. Only a handful of songs are currently streamable at the Sisters’ MySpace page, but clipped versions of many run continuously at their eponymous website. Sadly, I can’t find a complete album version of “Walk Like an Egyptian” to share at this writing, and I don’t link to illegally uploaded material as a general rule, but you’ll get snippets at Amazon or the iTunes store. If you really want to hear the whole track before buying it you won’t have to search very hard.

Bat Company

Phillies logo laid diagonally over Dodgers logo, with baseball trailing speed lines in background and comics-style burst suggesting that logos have collided

You have to be wary of celebrating a single game too much when it only puts your
team up two to one in a best-of-seven championship series. At a certain point you can even get a mite self-conscious over a blowout, so you can only wonder how your team’s hitters feel when they have to keep going to the plate those last couple of innings on such a tear — sure, they might not try as hard for extra bases when ahead by double digits, but they can’t outright stop swinging. That being said, I found the Phillies’
11-0 rout of the Dodgers
tonight to be a hoot.

Quick Hits

My old buddy Stefan Blitz is running a zombie haiku contest [bad link] over on his website, Forces of Geek. Entries will be judged by FOG contributor Don Roff; the grand prize is a signed copy of Roff and Chris Lane’s Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection, newly published by Chronicle Books.

REM Brands

At least part of the origins of a dream of mine from last night are obvious: I’ve had Lost on the brain due to peeking in on Nikki Stafford’s Rewatch of the show and lamenting that I still don’t have time to participate.

The context of the dream was me reading about an upcoming film in Entertainment Weekly — yet instead of seeing the words on a page, I was seeing the action described
in my mind’s eye, as if I had peered into Dumbledore’s “pensieve” from the Harry Potter series. And that action was Matthew Fox, in his role as Jack on Lost, standing
on the turret of a castle while a storm raged. Oddly, Julia Roberts was playing a version of Evangeline Lilly’s Kate or someone connected to her, but she was inside. Jack, in a suit and tie, shouted amidst the wind and rain about something being unfair; at one point he dumped the contents of an old-fashioned physician’s bag over the wall of the turret. I believe that the name of the movie was In Absentia.

I have vivid dreams and tend to remember at least one upon waking. Sometimes I’ll recall others later when actual events jog my memory. They’re usually not completely mundane or completely gonzo, but there are exceptions. On rare occasions I’ll have dreamt a slice of life so ordinary that only later when reality contradicts it will I both remember the dream and realize that it was a dream. Last year during a nasty bout of the flu I dreamt of nothing but thick, syrupy pitch-black shapes moving around.

To Be Continued

the vertical colored bars of a test pattern familiar to television viewers of a certain age

I am officially taking a break from the blog.

The world didn’t end just now, and — despite my constant, pleasant surprise at the
fact that Blam’s Blog has a number of actual “followers” — I don’t imagine that my lack of posting lately has particularly frustrated anybody but me. Still, I’d rather make the potentially vain proclamation than just let the blog sit here, suspended and untended sans explanation, like another tendril of dead virtual kudzu.

While attention must be paid to some other aspects of my life, I hope that in
addressing them I’ll be able to return to the blog before too long with renewed purpose and organization. You might yet see a nearly finished review or a totally awesome link pop up here on occasion if things go smoothly. My sincere thanks go out to everyone who’s stopped by so far.

Clorox Makes It Dirty

Faint image of woman at laundry machine in domestic setting>

A few weeks ago my sister alerted me to an inadvertently hilarious detergent ad that
ran during Mad Men. It popped up again the other night, and thanks to the narration’s awkward grammar it’s still danged funny. You’ll find the relevant lines in the first comment on this post in case you don’t catch them or can’t play the video. [0:37]

Related: F Is for... Driving Miss Peasy What’s in a Name

Emmys Given Sunday

Yes, I know it’s Monday night (or maybe later).

I’d hoped to “live-blog” during the Emmys but the Internet connection was down.
Still, I took notes, fleshed them out during commercials, and have since edited them into a review — in the spirit of Bests & Worsts or Cheers & Jeers, accompanied by certain exclamations I realized were recurring from my fingertips. So here, late and surely redundant to countless other postmortems in cyberspace, are my 2009
Yays, Heys, Hmms, & Huhs.

Hey! I’m just one letter off the Tetragrammaton.

The Opening

Yay! Neil Patrick Harris is already enjoyably smooth yet arch. It took me a few lines
to figure out that he was doing the faux-newsreel voiceover himself. And the white tux jacket is a bold yet winning choice.

I fall into the sliver of my generation who doesn’t have Doogie Howser nostalgia, by
the way. That series was on during my college years, when TV viewing was mostly limited to SNL, the news — just a few things going on like the Gulf War, the Clarence Thomas hearings, a couple of Presidential elections, the Rodney King riots, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union — and weekly indulgence in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think the adult NPH is a real hoot, though, on How I
Met Your Mother
and in general from what I’ve seen of him.

The Fugue of War

I highly recommend the UK film In the Loop, especially if you enjoy gleefully
cynical inside-politics satire.

'In the Loop' movie logo

Honestly, I’m afraid of how little exaggeration there may be in this fictional tale of
the run-up to a war in the Middle East based on flimsy — if not fabricated — evidence produced by factions in the US and British governments. But it’s less an indictment
of hawkish politicians per se or some would-be cinéma à clef about the Bush Administration than it is an all-too-believable comedic gloss on how any perspective can be spun and sold through power, determination, technology, and the right people saying the right kind of thing amidst the 24/7 news machine.

Ace o’ DC

DC Swirl or Swoosh logo

I’ve been a DC Comics reader for about 35 years now. While most kids in my generation dropped the comics habit by their teens, occasionally to rediscover the medium in college as it grew up with them, I went the opposite route, hitching my train to the industry and expanding my exposure to the art form. I had to go cold turkey several years ago, unable to work and in financial crisis, but when I finally, hesitantly put my toe back into the waters the first thing I did was check in on the characters I’d loved most dearly.

DC is different today. And while that’s true in the larger sense of these times vs. those times, I mean that DC is actually different today. Paul Levitz is stepping down as President and Publisher of DC Comics after a long tenure in corporate positions, and its parent company has announced the formation of DC Entertainment. [bad links]

Soda-Pop Culture

Given the nature of the opening car ride on tonight’s Mad Men, I’m relieved that the
sad news later in the episode wasn’t more tragic in its scope. I post today not to discuss plot, however; AMC’s main attraction might be done talking about Patio, the diet soft drink introduced by Pepsi-Cola in 1963, after tonight, which means that my window to relevantly blog about it is closing.

Patio Diet Cola button

I wasn’t familiar with Patio, but like most of the products featured on the series it’s real — albeit, of course, not handled by the fictional Sterling Cooper agency

Harmony and Irony

I saw the, um, original repeat of Glee’s first episode the other day and wish I’d been able to post a review before the encore encore tonight. Was it music to my ears? Not entirely, but I’m rooting for it.

a person's right hand making an L shape to fit into the word 'glee'
Glee photos © 2009 and logo TM 20th Century Fox Television.

Uneven but interesting, that pilot is certainly worth sampling before the series
finally continues next Wednesday, Sept. 9th, at 9 p.m. ET. It was previewed last spring — in prime real estate after American Idol — even though the show’s actual debut was always scheduled for this fall. Fox must have felt it had an offbeat winner and hoped
to stoke buzz throughout the summer; indeed, reception was generally favorable and songs from the series have been popular downloads on iTunes.

Marvel and the Mouse

You’ve probably heard by now that Disney is buying Marvel.

Mickey Mouse depicted in Jack Kirby's trademark style as a metallic or armored superhero complete with ‘MM’ insignia

I don’t have any insight to share at the moment beyond the fact that most of the jokes
— some made as much warily as humorously — are just that: jokes. The Marvel Bullpen won’t be “Disneyfied”. Remember, Disney also owns ESPN and Miramax. Which isn’t
to say there are no ramifications for the entertainment industry.

Have a Cow

a woman in glasses wearing a cow outfit complete with ears and udder

Before last week, I’d never seen a book trailer. No, I don’t mean some kind of large mobile library; I mean a promotional video — like a movie trailer, but, well, for a book. I’ve now seen the one for Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, and you should too. [3:07]

Related: On a Boat Deep Sit Brittality

The Inhuman Condition

District 9 is one hell of a movie.

I knew even less about it going into a screening the other night than I did about the
film Moon before seeing that intriguing slice of science fiction, which I reviewed in July. A very broad synopsis of and general thoughts on D9 come after the graphic, but those who want to enter the experience totally blind (or at least with no spoilage on my part) should bail out now. The bottom line is that, yes, I’d recommend it, with the caveats that it dragged a bit in the middle, still impressive but not gripping until it re-engaged me in its final act, and that anyone who has difficulty seeing vomiting or viscera will have to avert their eyes on occasion.

Close-up of a man's face, grimy with dirt and caked with blood, looking frightened, his right eye blue and his left eye yellow and eerily reptilian

Made Men

I hadn’t tried it yet when writing about Mad Men the other day, but now that I’ve done so I cheerfully direct you to Mad Men Yourself” on the show’s official website.

Here’s me:

stylized art of white male with glasses in open-collared shirt, jacket, and slacks, holding newspaper and steaming coffee mug

You get just enough choices at each stage that the process doesn’t become a chore yet it still manages — in my case, at least — to produce a surprising likeness.

Joe / No Joe

The GI Joe movie opened last weekend.

I didn’t care. On my list to see are District 9, In the Loop, 500 Days of Summer, Funny People, and The Hurt Locker. But GI Joe? Meh.

Now the salient point here isn’t (merely) that trailers for GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra,
like those for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, might as well have advertised CGI Joe: Attack of the Generic Effects-Driven Spectacle. What’s curious for me was how utterly devoid of nostalgia I’ve felt about these films since they were announced, because I’m a pretty easy guy to send back to yesterday — a sight, a sound, or a smell can bring such vivid memories that I feel one short nudge away from actually stepping back into my past like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five or Christopher Reeve’s character, Richard Collier, in Somewhere in Time.

TV Talk

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Eyes Captured by Castle

Beckett and Castle facing one another in close-up

She’s a reader of rights. He’s a writer of wrongs. They’re New York’s most unlikely crimefighting duo.”

I was thinking of that kind of grand old trope even before it showed up in a promo for ABC’s Castle. The series, created by Andrew Marlowe, wears it well.

He? Richard Castle, best-selling mystery novelist, divorced with a child and a playboy reputation, struggling with writer’s block. She? Homicide detective Kate Beckett, single, stoic, slightly star-struck over meeting Castle but determined not to show it. After his insights help her unit crack a spate of murders based on his books, arrangements are made for him to shadow Beckett as inspiration for his next one — to her consternation, when procedural friction and romantic tension ensue.

You may recall Fillion from his stint a year or so back as husband to Dana Delaney’s Katherine on Desperate Housewives, and he achieved cult fame as a starship captain in the Han Solo mold with the 2002 Fox series Firefly (short-lived, but brought to the big screen in 2005 as Serenity). I’d first encountered him as evil incarnate in the final season of Firefly creator Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so it was strange to see him playing a good-natured gynecologist both on Housewives and in the charming 2007 indie film Waitress (highly recommended, with a delicious turn by Keri Russell in the title role, although terribly bittersweet due to the loss of writer/director Adrienne Shelly before its release).

It’s clear from interviews that the latter roles are closest to Fillion himself, but he pulls off roguish charisma effortlessly. He has real chemistry with all three of the series’ leading ladies: Susan Sullivan, the stage and TV veteran who plays Castle’s fluttery diva of a live-in mother; Molly Quinn as his grounded, insightful teenaged daughter Alexis; and most crucially Stana Katic, a relative unknown who’s absolutely riveting as Beckett. Beckett’s captain and co-workers are far less vividly drawn, but they’ll likely get their turns in the spotlight in the coming season.

6 of 1

Blam’s Blog is a half-year old today.

I’ve just finished reassembling and republishing the last of my vanished entries —
at least all of those that I plan to put back up for the foreseeable future. Those of you who’ve been reading the blog for a while, or visiting and exploring older posts (I’m flattered), know that everything vanished in mid April and that similar yet different problems continue to plague this joint. I still haven’t given up on an alternate platform, but there are only so many hours in the day and, sad to say, most of mine aren’t that productive.

The aforementioned vanishing posts accounted in part for the drop-off after my big push in March, due to both the amount of time it took to deal with the issue and the discouragement wrought by the affair, not to mention our lousy Internet connection.

Also coming into play were plans for another, comics-specific blog and related work on a project that I hope to announce shortly. They’ve siphoned time and focus away from updating this blog as well as from the enjoyable pursuit of reading other blogs.

My thanks to everybody who’s read, commented on, or written privately about Blam’s Blog since its debut in February... I know it’s just a tiny,
tiny, tiny little corner of the cybersphere, but it’s mine.

We Got a Live One Here

So a little while back I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, over 300 pages of prose with chapter-break illustrations from Dave McKean. It was released last year by HarperCollins in the US.

Front cover to main HarperCollins edition of 'The Graveyard Book' in shades of blue with some kind of winged stone marker on grass

The high-concept pitch for the novel would probably be “What if Harry Potter were raised by ghosts in an English graveyard?”

And it would be silly for a number of reasons, the least of which are that the book’s central character, Bod, isn’t a wizard, and that the book was awarded the 2009 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children, which to some is recommendation enough.

R2 Details

I made a comment about this video the other night and realized that it never got
shared here on the blog. It’s called Star Wars Retold (by Someone Who Hasn’t Seen It)” [3:49] and it’s pretty much what the title says except that she’s obviously seen pieces and picked up enough of it through osmosis to get things amusingly close but wrong.

Related: Crazy Talk Brittality Force Clicks

Not Necessarily Not the News

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert posing with their show logos

The “fake news” block of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central is a great one-two punch of laughter four nights a week — spiked punch, to mix a metaphor. Last Wednesday’s Daily Show had a first act that’s a perfect example of Stewart and his crew at work, eviscerating the bizarrely persistent idea that our current President was not born in the USA.

Pros in Cons

Cast of three men, all in suits and ties, plus two women, one dressed elegantly and the other in polo shirt with slacks

Leverage is a delight of a TV show whose second season begins tonight at 9 p.m.
ET on TNT. For maximum enjoyment you should record it and buy or rent the just-released first season on DVD, although I have a feeling you’ll get everything you need
to know from tonight’s season opener. [Update: Yeesh... Not their finest episode.]

When the pilot arrived as a screener last December I was impressed.

Luna Ranger

Close-up of Sam Rockwell's face in a space-suit helmet

My last post was about the moon. This one is about the new film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.

It opens with an in-story promotional video explaining that an isotope of helium abundant on the moon is now mined there to provide much of Earth’s power. The lone man monitoring the collection of the isotope is Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell. A robotic apparatus called Gerty is his only company; with satellite communications down Sam can’t even talk to his employers at Lunar Industries, let alone his wife and daughter, in real time. Thankfully his three-year hitch, darn near driving him crazy, is almost up. Or maybe it’s driven him crazy already? (Gerty is voiced by Kevin Spacey in
a tone akin to that of 2001’s HAL, adding to its potential menace.)

Moon Shot

The moon was big and lovely the other night.

a golden full moon in a cloudless pitch-black sky

I didn’t check, but it may have been at its perigee, the point at which its elliptical
orbit brings it closest to us. That word and its opposite, apogee, refer to any planetary body in relation to Earth, not specifically the moon, and they’ve stuck with me since my highly enjoyable 6th-grade astronomy/geology class. Likewise, the more euphonious terms for our proximity to the sun over the course of Earth’s annual revolution: perihelion and aphelion (pronounced not “app-heel-yin” but “uh-feel-yin”; think the Irene Cara song from Flashdance). Wikipedia gives terminology for the distances of objects orbiting various heavenly bodies at the entry for apsis, and there are a trinity
of pairings variously used to describe something — a NASA lunar shuttle, say — in orbit around the moon.

K-a Blam

Man in mask, cape, and bodysuit sitting pensively by a drawing board with large question marks above him

I drew the picture above 15 years ago for CAPA-Alpha #362.


Optimus Prime, a large Transformer
Transformers movie still © 2007 DreamWorks, Paramount, Hasbro.

I was “oh-fer” in my last entries for The Late Show’s online Top Ten Contest. Once I’d recovered from shock over seeing the actual winners, not at all bitter, I went into some kind of fugue state and came up with no fewer than a dozen submissions for the next week’s edition.

My Top Twelve Signs You’ve Encountered a Lame Transformer

12. Only turns into other robots.

11. Is writing a tell-all memoir about its wild night with Jay Leno’s motorcycle collection.

10. Keeps referring to your college bumper sticker as a “tramp stamp”.

30 Days of Tonight

Has it really been a month since Conan O’Brien’s debut as Tonight Show host?

medium shot of Conan O'Brien with Tonight Show title card

I took a look out of curiosity — as well as respect for both Conan and a late-night institution that dates back to before even Johnny Carson. The filmed opening was funny, but the rest of the taped bits offered diminishing returns and my Will Ferrell tolerance is low, so the main take-away for me was merely a vague excitement around the zeitgeist. One also has to wonder exactly what NBC has done to the TV landscape by slotting Jay Leno at 10 p.m. (ET) weeknights come the fall.

Swift Kicks

Taylor Swift in the midst of rapping, wearing a track jacket and blinged-out cap

The CMT Music Awards show last week opened with a laugh-out-loud — or at least grin-really-wide — collaboration between T-Pain, who even talks in vocoder, and Taylor Swift called “Thug Story”. [1:30]

Unread by Me

One of the several things I admire about Roger Ebert is his economy of words. No
doubt it helps that he likely spent at least his pre-fame years on strict word counts at The Chicago Sun-Times; also that his readership has become familiar with certain phrases of his which, though perfunctory, don’t sound as judgmental as they might from an unknown source. He will often refer to a film as “adapted from the novel, unread by me”. You have to marvel at such concise, neutral disclosure. The following books, graphic novels in the sense that the phrase has come to encompass just about any work of comics with a square binding, are as yet unread by me — but likely not
for long, and I have cause to recommend each.

cover of 'The Courageous Princess' showing a young lady riding a warthog


Yes, I shall return. But I’ve had an awful dry spell in posting this month, and the
way things are going the drought may well continue.

Ximena Sariñana posed stiffly in a fine chair dressed and coiffed in vintage 1950s style while sewing with red thread

Today’s post title is in reference (and contrast) to “No Vuelvo Más”, a track from
the debut album of singer/songwriter Ximena Sariñana. I haven’t picked up Rolling Stone regularly in some time, but I’m so glad that I came across a copy with its 4-star review of that album, Mediocre [Spanish: meh-dzhyo-kreh], last fall. After visiting Ximena’s website — mostly just a portal to her MySpace page — and listening to a handful of tracks, I was sold.

Deep Sit

The words 'Love of Chair' over scene of young man sitting on a chair in a small, empty room

A few years ago I was thrilled to find a DVD compilation of childhood favorite The Electric Company. You can read a bit about it — and in particular its crossovers with predecessor Sesame Street — on the Muppet Wiki, as well as in greater depth on Wikipedia.


I have no idea why images have been failing to appear, leaving those charming little question-mark boxes. It’s not happening with any rhyme or reason that I’m aware of; on a few occasions pictures that disappeared have reappeared before I can even check the post to ensure that links to Picasa (Google/Blogger’s photo-hosting service) are correct. I’ve taken down posts that largely depend on graphics and I won’t republish them until this gets figured out because I’m just sick of having to constantly do so.

Bedtimes and Broomsticks

What’s even better than hearing that my niece can’t come to the phone because she’s engrossed in reading Magic Trixie?

Magic Trixie, a young girl in a black frock and traditional witch's hat, with frizzy pink hair

I was recently made aware that E and her sister M — that’s for privacy purposes, not because my family names its children after club drugs and Fritz Lang movies — lent their book to a friend and were eagerly awaiting the sequel, Magic Trixie Sleeps Over. Sharing is great! And they need wait no longer. I’d already bought it, and I mailed it out after hearing this rather than hold onto it for the girls’ upcoming visit. HarperCollins was smart to advertise the next installment in each book, price them low ($7.99 each), and of course snap up this series from the brilliant Jill Thompson to begin with.

Cover Albums

Muscular, bare-chested figure of Atlas, loose red cowl around head, lifting and fighting off horde of armed soldiers
Cover to 1st Issue Special #1 © 1975 DC Comics. Pencils:
Jack Kirby. Inks: D. Bruce Berry. Colors: Tatjana Wood.

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L Is for...

... Links — about The Late Late Show and Lily Allen.

As soon as The Late Show wraps up each night, Craig Ferguson pops in with a cold open of The Late Late Show. He might ramble a bit, address the “People… of… Earth!” via hand puppet, bring on a special non sequitur guest, or launch into a lip-synched musical number. It’s fun largely because of the shoestring budget, going to the heart of the host’s sense of “I have a TV show! Yeah, it’s on CBS at 12:30 a.m., but still!” glee, enticing viewers to stick around.

Well, Monday night had a little of almost all of that. Ferguson, a couple of costumed dancers, and a chorus of puppets performed Britney Spears’ “Oops… I Did It Again” [bad link].

The skit reminded me that if you find Spears’ “Womanizer” hella catchy yet kind-of annoyingly overproduced there’s a virtual cottage industry of cover versions to sample. Franz Ferdinand’s [bad link] has strangely off-key vocals but proves that the song can work unironically as rock. The All-American Rejects [bad link] slowed it down and set it to acoustic guitar, beer-bottle percussion, and concertina, yet despite some winkingly substituted lyrics and a smart segue into the Turtles’ “Happy Together” it doesn’t quite transcend the sum of its parts for me.

My favorite take on “Womanizer” is Lily Allen’s.

What’s Future Is Prologue

Here at last, on the heels of the brief Star Trek review I put up the other day, are
some expanded thoughts on the franchise and the film...

Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Nero in different colored sections of Starfleet insignia

I suppose I’m a Trekkie.

Eau de Kirk

Pon Farr perfume bottle, with title rendered in classic 'Star Trek' logo typeface

I’m not making this up.

When I first saw these Star Trek fragrances advertised, in a comic-book distributor’s catalog a couple of months ago, I had to wonder if it was an April Fool’s joke. Nope... You too can smell like a Vulcan in heat.

Isle of Lost

The Lost season finale airs tomorrow night, leaving us bereft of new episodes for
eight months.

Cake with figures and items from 'Lost' on top

I like Nikki Stafford’s idea of watching the whole series to date again before the final season begins in early 2010 and discussing it episode by episode over at Nik at Nite. We’ll even have the 5th-season edition of Finding ‘Lost’, now available to pre-order, in hand by the time we revisit this past year. But I’m reminded of an exchange between young Daniel Faraday and his mother, Eloise, in a recent episode: When Daniel is told that there’s no time for such pursuits as the piano, he says that he’ll “make time” — a sentiment to which Eloise knowingly replies, “If only you could.” I recall my dad more than once musing that there should be an extra day of the week that by Constitutional (or perhaps cosmic) decree would be devoted to all those hobbies and projects that never seem to get the attention they deserve. Sign me up!

Scary Good

Panel from Scary Godmother: The Mystery Date ©
1999 and characters
TM creator Jill Thompson.

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Vulcan A

Or at least a solid B, if not B+.

'Star Trek' 2009 poster depicting the Enterprise heading into warp

I’m talking about the new Star Trek film, of course.

Ric Estrada 1928-2009

The original Flash, Jay Garrick, speeding towards an erupting volcano
The original Flash in All-Star Comics #58 © 1975 DC Comics. Script: Gerry Conway.
Pencils: Ric Estrada. Inks: Wally Wood. Letters: Ben Oda. Colors: Unknown.

Artist Ric Estrada passed away last Friday. He was 81.

While he didn’t rank among the best known comic-book pros, Estrada’s held a place
in my heart for decades thanks to his part in the revival of All-Star Comics in 1975.
I’ve been learning that he holds a place in the hearts of many others for very different work: illustrating passages from what’s popularly known as the New Testament, plus The Book of Mormon, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as sampled below. Or perhaps not so different, given the superhero genre’s modern spins on ancient myth and legend, but that’s not the purview of this post.

Friday Firsts

Cover to Detective Comics #27 © 1939 DC Comics.

This post is currently down for maintenance.


Nine glyphs: (1) a woman's face made of smoke; (2) a creature's spindly tail; (3) a cross-section of an apple showing odd seeds; (4) a palm print; (5) a frog; (6) a daisy or similar flower; (7) a seahorse; (8) a butterfly; (9) a leaf

Here’s a round of quick bits on Fringe since I’ve yet to post a proper review.

On last week’s episode we finally heard — but didn’t see — the mysterious William
Bell via an old videotape. Even if you weren’t aware of the recent casting news, it was easy to recognize the voice of Leonard Nimoy, soon to be seen as Spock for perhaps the final time in Lost and Fringe co-creator J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film.

Finding It

Phillies logo with name over liberty bell

The Phillies won last night — and it had nothing to do with this post.

I wrote a blog entry titled “Losing It” upon their dropping the first game of the
season, you see. And while I’m not superstitious it’s curious that right after that all of my entries to date here disappeared. Never mind that the rest of the post was positive, despite its name.

So as I retyped lost entries, I decided to see whether I could turn the tides of fortune. The only question was, Should the opposite of “Losing It” be “Finding It” or “Winning It”? The Phils were down 3-0 going into the 9th inning when I began writing the meat of this post, so “Winning It” felt inappropriate, and I definitely had some material on the subject of finding.