I've been remiss in posting about Nikki Stafford's imminent Great Buffy Rewatch.
Both here and on her blog, Nik at Nite, I'd made the odd remark that when Lost wrapped up we should try to keep the gang there together because the community of commenters that built up around that show was sensational. A new favorite or favorites might pop up, sure, but Nikki — whose blog was an outgrowth of her popular Finding 'Lost' books — had earlier penned episode guides to Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Buffy spinoff Angel, all of which seemed like ripe candidates for a comprehensive rewatch; as a bonus, Nikki would make some extra coin from those of us who didn't yet own the books. Almost as soon as I (and others) began suggesting it, I started twitching at the likely time commitment, but here we are with the project a reality and I can't
wait to dive in.
Perhaps my first lasting Internet connection in days should be spent on something important. ["Ha! Too late!" say the gods of cyberspace.] Maybe this is close enough. ["Maybe not!"] While I reload open pages in the browser to catch up on various blogs during the next inevitable connection fail ["Psyche!"], I also want to publish at least a brief post here because I know that folks can get pretty sick of looking at Santa Claus once Christmas has come and gone.
So here are my contributions to this week's online Late Show with David Letterman Top Ten contest [dead link], complete with nods as usual to the show's own running jokes, in the category...
Top Nine Things Overheard During New Year's Eve in Times Square
9. "Excuse me... You're stepping on Mayor Bloomberg."
8. "It's really more of an irregular polygon with poorly defined borders."
7. "You think this is a lot of drunk people with time to kill? I was in the audience for Letterman last week."
6. "My balls drop every year too."
Last week's Top Ten contest [dead link] at the Late Show with David Letterman website was even more inspiring than usual. If you don't know the drill you can check out the first post in this category, so without further ado here are...
My Top Ten Little-Known Facts about Santa Claus
10. Born Seymour Klausmann, Brooklyn, 1926
9. Will get you on the "nice" list for twenty bucks and/or a bottle of Jim Beam
8. Goes down more than just the chimney, ladies
7. Eleven months out of the year, crash diets and works as Dumbledore at the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando
6. Holly Jolly Christmas: To you, it's the name of a Burl Ives classic; to Santa, it's the name of the gal who takes care of him in the VIP suite at North Pole Dancers
My niece E and her cousin L, both 8 years old, each received a copy of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword for Chanukah — but not before Uncle Brian read it... twice.
The graphic novel — about, to quote the cover copy, "Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl" — is a fun, touching yarn no matter your age, gender, or heritage. Author Barry Deutsch, who produced Hereville as a webcomic (and self-published a paper version as well) before Abrams released a hardcover edition through its Amulet Books imprint [$15.95 US; ISBN 978-0-8109-8422-6], is after all no more writing about or exclusively for himself than most authors of children's and young-
adult fiction, nor is the best of such fiction restricted to that nominal target audience.
I'll stack Mike Mignola's body of work up against any other in the comics medium. Which isn't an intentional pun, honestly, but as it turns out this post exists to sing the praises of a delightfully weird fugue composed by the Hellboy creator called The Amazing Screw-On Head. It began life several years ago as a one-shot comic book; now, finally, its titular story has been reissued with like material by Dark Horse in a $17.99 hardcover [ISBN 978-1-59582-501-8].
For a long time, I despaired of ever seeing such a collection or, indeed, much "like material" at all despite the (very) occasional Mignola efforts along similar lines in terms of tone if not detail.
the Following poster
When exploring its twists and inspirations online after viewing, I was quickly dis-abused of the notion that Inception was Christopher Nolan's sixth feature. His career, early shorts aside, did not begin with Memento. It launched with a 70-minute, "no-budget" film called Following released in 1999.
While the movie doesn't, to me, provide any of the clues to Inception's potential interpretation that certain sly comments about it suggested, it's definitely worth a look
if you're a Nolan admirer. You can place it in the context of his oeuvre's ruminations
on the nature of identity, unreliable narrators/narratives, and often idiosyncratic app-roaches to storytelling. Or you can just watch it as the work of a talented new filmmaker making the most of his limited resources, a decade before The Dark Knight would become an international, critically acclaimed franchise smash (despite not being very good; I await your letters). Either way, the thing itself is compelling enough that it's hardly time wasted.
I'm sure that everyone and their furry blue brother have successfully viralized it by
now, but just to do my part here's Grover with a preposition for you.
Sesame Street keeps up with pop culture admirably in spots like this one (riffing on
the instant-classic Old Spice ad starring Isaiah Mustafa) as well as through of-the-moment goofs and guest spots on the show itself — even if once in a great big while they go awry. [Update: I should have warned folks that my last link is to the infamous spot with Elmo and Katy Perry yanked by Sesame Workshop after outcry that her outfit was inappropriate.]
Kindred Posts: G Love • Sounds Funny • Muppet Monday
In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm sharing leftovers — namely, by way of submissions to a Top Ten contest run on the Late Show with David Letterman website from more than
a year ago now, my...
Top Nine Signs Americans Are Becoming Overweight
9. Our bodies are still more than 60% water, but also 15% high-fructose corn syrup and 3% fudge
8. Supermarkets now offer double-wide shopping carts
7. We're being hunted for our blubber
6. Fastest-growing sectors of the economy: belt-hole punchers, deep-frying, and statins
5. Realtors increasingly hear, "I'd like two-and-a-half baths... But can you smush them all together?"
4. Our treadmills have TV-dinner trays
3. Three words: Elevator for one
2. "Big-and-tall clothing stores" now simply known as "clothing stores"
And the Number One Sign Americans Are Becoming Overweight...
It's time for the blog to really and truly go on hiatus. As I've been trying to get a post up here for a couple of days now, with the usual technical roadblocks preventing me from doing so, I'd rather just stay away until everything's worked out well enough for it all to run more smoothly.
I haven't entered The Late Show with David Letterman's online Top Ten contest
[dead link] for a while. And it's been longer still since I've posted any such entries here. Once upon a time, however, the former activity was a regular thing; I'd hoped it would lead to the latter becoming a regular thing as well, but, y'know, if wishes were horses then... Robin Williams could've voiced the Genie in Seabiscuit?
The point is that I'm again sharing my latest efforts. You can submit your own, as many you'd like, one at a time; I rarely come up with more than a few really good entries, plus a ringer that plays off Dave and his staff's recurring jokes. So here are...
My Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear on Your Cruise Ship
10. "All aboard for Somalia!"
9. "The ship can never lose power — as long as we all take turns running on that giant hamster wheel."
8. "I don't care how romantic the movie was; Titanic is not an appropriate theme for the lido deck."
7. "Okey-doke now... You mama grizzlies come right this way!"
6. "I hope you know how to make a fire. Turns out the buffet is 'all you can heat'."
Raymond Chandler. William Faulkner. Leigh Brackett. Max Steiner. Howard Hawks. Lauren Bacall. Humphrey Bogart.
Some films with such a pedigree end up as perceived if not actual failures. On The
Big Sleep, released by Warner Bros. in 1946, everything went right — at least judging by the end result, never mind this oft-circulated anecdote:
Now, I'm not a violent person, but just as it did a couple of months back — and has frequently since, without me bothering to post about it — Blogger is really priming
my pugilistic pumps.
The closest I can come to acting on this impulse, of course, is ramming my fist into my laptop screen, which beyond giving me a very brief stress release will solve exactly zero problems and could in fact create an extremely big one. I don’t want to buy a new computer.
After believing I'd found a way to work around at least some of the quirks of Blogger's new editing interface — like having a smaller Normal size for the Georgia font than it used to, while Large is still much bigger than the old Normal — by pasting in HTML from old posts as a base for new ones, I went ahead and proclaimed that a new round
of blogging was underway. Ha!
I'm a sucker for mash-ups, inventive arrangements, and the Mad Men theme. So
yay for the self-proclaimed "bunch of film/music nerds" behind Live Music Videos who've performed said theme (actually just an excerpt of the RJD2 track "A Beautiful Mine") "with a twist" — namely, by using it as instrumental backing for the pop standard "Nature Boy". I don't know if it ranks up there with Eminem's appropriation of Dido's "Thank You" for "Stan" or David Bowie and Bing Crosby's legendary "Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth" medley; at the very least, though, it's a thrill to hear the theme performed acoustically, and I look forward to more from this ensemble.
Kindred Posts: End Notes • Mad/e Men • Parodies Found • Muppet Monday • Sisters Go Bangles
Google's logo of the day is a weird one. And I wish you luck clicking on it to find out what it represents...
There have been a few articles surmising what this so-called Google Doodle might mean since I first posted on it in the wee hours, but I suspect we won't hear anything from official sources for a while yet.
Avatar is back in theaters with extra footage, exclusively in 3D. I saw it a couple of weeks into its original release and have been waiting for just such an opportunity to re-publish my thoughts here.
Most of the talk when the lights went up at my screening, positive and negative, was about the technology behind the film. And one has to wonder if that fact alone doesn't make the movie something of a failure by James Cameron's standards.
The bloody good news is that I was house-sitting this past week and caught up with
the current season of True Blood via HBO On Demand.
I'd just recently finished Season Two on DVD, and I was really bummed about having
to wait for a whole year to see where things went in Season Three (dodging spoilers all the while). As I've mentioned here before, True Blood is a pulpy kick.
So I've been trying to finish laying out a post from Tuesday for hours now. When Comcast deigns to let me get online, Blogger does its best to screw up my text and fail to load my graphics, either crashing Safari or simply not responding in Chrome. You would think that Picasa, Blogger, and Chrome would communicate well, all being part of the Google empire, and you would be wrong.
Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim graphic novels started up during my unfortunate disconnect from the comics world. I still have yet to read even the first volume, despite strong recommendations, and so was part of the vast majority of the audience coming to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as just a movie.
It's a hell of a movie.
A few weeks gone by, Nikki Stafford declared June to be Vampire Month on her blog, Nik at Nite. The primary topic of conversation — a TV show which I'm observing a moratorium on speaking about — had begun to eat itself, and Nikki had fangdom on the brain for at least two good reasons: (1) ECW Press, where she's an editor and which publishes her Finding [censored] books, has a True Blood companion coming out. (2) She was preparing to attend Slayage — an academic conference devoted to the work of Joss Whedon in general and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular. I think there was also something to do with The Vampire Diaries in there.
I was surprisingly late getting into the adventures of Buffy Summers.
While I didn't see the movie when it came out in 1992, a dear friend of mine and her roommate were devoted to it as a cult-classic guilty pleasure, so one night they rented
it on videotape (a reference that is now the purview of the cultural anthropologist)
and made me watch it. I got a kick out of it, especially Paul Reubens during his exile from Pee-Wee Herman; Rutger Hauer could probably menace in his sleep, Kristy Swanson played a good borderline bimbo with breakout potential, and I might even have appreciated the irony of Donald Sutherland as Buffy's mentor — his son Kiefer, see, had starred in The Lost Boys, perhaps the best teen-vampire flick of all time.
Okay, I guess my episode analyses are going to mirror one another somewhat, the way this season of Lost is at times mirroring itself, and the first season, and the series to date. There will be no individual writeup of last Tuesday's episode, "What They Died For", in advance of tonight's two-(plus-)part series finale, "The End", just as there was no writeup of the first individual hour of the season, "What Kate Does", following the two-part season premiere. Actually, my entry on "LA X" wasn't put up until later in the season, and is among the last of a handful of missing posts that have yet to be republished, but the way things have been going here lately even that fact will be reflected in a delayed post on "The End". My laptop has started acting hinky again, and the Internet connection has been at a crawl when it's been working at all, and my energy has been low lately, on top of all of which I've just come down with a cold.
Season 6 ends tonight and thus so does Lost as a whole, as you might have heard. Its finale airs at 9 p.m. EST on ABC, following a two-hour series retrospective at 7, and runs until 11:30; then, after the local news, the one-hour Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to 'Lost' comes on at 12:05 a.m with cast members and creative staff. That's all true for the USA, at least; what reminds me of viewers outside our borders is that also immediately following the finale is a live online chat (just one of many, I'm sure) at the CTV website featuring my friend and Finding 'Lost' author Nikki Stafford.
Reviews of Iron Man 2 and 24 are sitting around half-finished, and the latter especially I'd like to get up before that show's own series finale tomorrow night, but right now I'll be lucky if these very words are online before the big event this evening. I really want to kick back and enjoy the last Lost as much as possible as television, ideally after catching up with comments from my clique at Nikki's blog, Nik at Nite, and Jeff Jensen's Totally 'Lost' insights for Entertainment Weekly.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!
I have the world's best mom. Yeah, I'm aware that darned near everybody says they did or do, but if you ask around people in the know will confirm this claim to be true.
Our family grows and gathers awesome moms. While I don't see my stepmother enough, she's a keeper. My cousins have beautiful, brilliant children, as much a test-ament to their parenting as the genetic jackpot; so does, mind-blowingly, my little sister — two girls, who each look amazingly like she did at their ages in different ways, and one boy, who's the spitting image of his Uncle Brian way back when. And of course there's my mother's mother, great-grandmom to eight kids (one heading to college this year) and still a lady I enjoy talking to. No lie.
I was 7 years old when my mom and dad split up. Mom did a heck of a job raising my sister and me, with considerable help from her own parents. We stayed with them often, including every summer after my parents' separation up to my high-school years, and I was lucky enough to live with them on my own after that as I worked a summer job on the parking lot behind their old store. Now and then back in the early days I'd wonder if we weren't one of those families in which my mom was secretly, actually my older sister, because she was so youthful and cool while my grandmother would wait up for all three of us, my mother and sister and me, to come home from a night on the boardwalk. I have a lot of my grandfather in me, helping make the case, but also far too much of my own dad for it to really be a plausible scenario. And besides the fact that my grandmother was 54 when I was born, somebody would've spilled the beans by now.
Photo © 2010 and courtesy McDonald's.
I went to McDonald's for an iced coffee the other day and had the following exchange at the register.
Me: "Could I get a large hazelnut iced coffee, please?"
Cashier: "Iced coffee?"
Cashier: "What size?"
Me: "Uh... Large."
Cashier: "Would you like a flavor with that?"
Me: "... Hazelnut?"
I’m still not writing enough about my lifelong passion for comics.
Convenience stores, newsagents, and 5-&-10s in South Jersey fed my early habit,
as I shared last year. Only so much history could be gleaned from comic-book reprints and editorial pages, however. Luckily, a bevy of books on comics awaited at the Cape May County Library, where surveys of my favorite four-color fantasies and their forebears could be found in (mostly) cold, hard black and white.
The one I checked out most often was a 1973 tome aptly titled The Comic-Book Book, edited by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson. I read it with such fervor and frequency
that my dad finally just bought it for me — the actual library copy.
I chanced upon "Hey Jude" in the car last night, reminding me again to write about The Beatles.
Far lesser musical lights have labels on this blog, and it's been bugging me that the greatest band in the history of pop music doesn't. Many folks consider The Rolling Stones the greatest rock band ever, and they might be right — I'm not a huge Stones fan, to be honest, although they are indubitably iconic. The Beatles, however, during
a relatively brief period spanning the era in which classic rock-&-roll ("She Loves You") gave way to flat-out hard rock, hold the roll ("Helter Skelter"), also proved masters of old-fashioned balladry, psychedelic experimentation, and so much more ("Strawberry Fields Forever"). They wrote anthems, they wrote grooves, they wrote ditties, for Pete's sake. Has any other group of musicians been so talented at turning out so many different styles of infectious, accomplished, influential music? And I include in that group not only John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, but producer George Martin as an indispensable enabler of most of the Beatles' joint
So here's my First Beatles Story.
Mom gave me another batch of Ice Cubes after her recent trip to San Francisco.
You don't see Ice Cubes around here anymore, but when I was a kid they were the awesomest point-of-purchase items ever at 7-Eleven. For literal pennies, you could have weird but yummy chocolate melt in your mouth — or, if you weren't careful, in your hands, since in the warm weather they got pretty mushy in those foil wrappers pretty darned fast.
Made in Germany by Moritz and distributed in America by Albert's, per the wrappers, Ice Cubes were out of my life for decades; until recently, I'd assumed they were gone for good. They're still not available in my neck of the woods anywhere I can find, but certain specialty candy shops as well as online vendors carry them, and (something that just does not compute because I associate them with my life of 25-30 years ago) they have their own Facebook page.
The blog was hijacked today.
No, I did not put up the image and message that you might have seen as an April Fool's joke; it was straight-up vandalism.
Most of the blog will be reposted as quickly as logistics permit, with exactly how much and where to be announced shortly.
You can blame this one on kismet, my sister, and Tim Rice & Alan Menken, in no particular order.
Image © 1992 Walt Disney Productions.
In 1992, Disney's creative rebirth continued with Aladdin. The Little Mermaid was
an unexpected animated delight, and Beauty and the Beast was romantic, funny, and just plain lovely — deserving of its Best Picture nomination — but for all its problems Aladdin may be my favorite Disney neo-classic.
Not entirely over thinking about the Oscars yet? Here's an article written by Mark Harris for New York Magazine titled "The Red-Carpet Campaign: Inside the Singular Hysteria of the Academy Awards Race". While published a month ago it's still a worthwhile, thorough (long) behind-the-scenes look at, well, just what it says.
Kindred Posts: Pre-Oscars Post  • Guerres des Noms • Pre-Oscars Post 
I own more editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice books than of any other book — not counting adaptations or excerpts, just the original texts of 1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and 1872's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice, which recently got referenced (again) on an episode of Lost to a hoot from me, could well be my favorite book ever. It's not the sole or necessarily even the best way to experience Alice, but if you only know the Disney film by all means read Carroll and if you've enjoyed Carroll by all means plunge into Gardner's exegesis and celebration of his work.
You may have seen the news reports that Action Comics #1, dated June 1938 and featuring the first published appearance of Superman, was sold for $1 million at a Heritage auction last month.
I mostly shrugged it off as inevitable — and not nearly as exciting as it once might
have sounded to me.
My keyboard is acting like it has a mind of its own, so the Campbell's soup can is
in effect until further notice. [I've switched from the Cream of Mushroom used by Evanier to Bean with Bacon even though he'll tell you that Cream of Mushroom obviously makes far more sense.]
I was just given the OK by my sister to tell this story. Hopefully it translates. It was funny as heck when she shared it with me.
My nephew, whom as before for the purposes of privacy I will refer to as Ishmael,
has become enamored of stuffed animals. Some months ago he started asking for an elephant. Our mother was able to get him one — a pink one, though, as gray stuffed toy elephants are apparently hard to find. Now, at 2½ years old, I don't think that a pink elephant is in any way either an indicator of nor an influence on his destiny; even if it were, and he ends up a 6'5", 275-lb. ballerino with a life partner named Frank, hey, God bless him. But I understand why my sister was still looking for a regular gray elephant.
And Uncle Brian found a gray elephant.
I bade you all welcome to this experiment one year ago.
Which makes now a good time to reflect on the State of the Blog. The contraction
of that phrase that gives this post its title is, unfortunately, a little too appropriate.
Please understand that I'm not trying to make the blog sound like a chore. Much
about it is nothing but positive to me. It’s just that the glitches with Blogger have been terribly frustrating and serve to compound the natural frustration I had anticipated
due to my own limitations these days. I'll try to explain why, here, if only to get it off
my chest; you're welcome to move on to something more fun.
Neil Gaiman once said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written." A cursory
search online finds the quote attributed variously to him, Dorothy Parker, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Wherever it originated, I was surprised to hear it from Gaiman — as I'd be surprised to hear it from any writer. I love writing. I love jotting down notes, I love doing research, I love mulling over the proper word, I love picking apart and reassembling sentences and paragraphs, I love seeing how the whole article, interview, or story balances out. I love the entire writing process, fiction and nonfiction alike.
Drawing? That wears me down.
Here's my mom's house as it looked this afternoon. See that shovel at bottom right
of the photo? The heap covered in snow between it and the tree is my car; behind that
is my grandparents' car, which never got dug out from last weekend's storm.
I-76 was closed, as were the Blue Route and the Schuylkill, which won't mean much unless you used to live 'round here.
We actually got thunder during the blizzard, like the wind and snow weren't enough. The local news, of course, is having a field day because they can justifiably hype this as historic — official tallies at the Philadelphia airport are 70+" of snow this season, 42.5" in the past five days. On the network and cable news, there appears to be a showdown of the would-be-clever headlines between "Snowmaggedon" and "Snowpocalypse";
both sound too negative to me, so I'm going with "Snowffleupagus".
Kindred Posts: ... for My Thoughts • Après le Déluge • Bing!
J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon each premiered a new series on Fox last season, to considerable anticipation from genre buffs and admirers of quality television in general. Fringe, created by Abrams with his Star Trek screenwriting team of Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, has just gone on midwinter hiatus. Whedon's Dollhouse ended its erratic run of just over two dozen episodes last week.
I began writing this post an entire year ago — the same month this blog launched. As
I jotted down notes on the nascent Fringe, which had refocused itself a bit upon return-ing from more than a month's break, I thought it might be interesting to play compare-and-contrast with the Abrams and Whedon oeuvres come Dollhouse's imminent debut. Both men were known for writing strong women within strong ensembles, and both shows featured female leads in science-fiction settings.
A few weeks after the long-in-coming Dollhouse premiere, still wrestling with my feelings for that show, I had to admit that the most relevant difference between the series from a review standpoint was this: Fringe was good.
I'm going to adopt what Mark Evanier — writer of comics, animation, variety shows
of my childhood, and more — claims is the ancient Internet tradition of displaying a
can of Campbell's soup when activity on one's blog looks to be lighter than usual if not suspended altogether due to personal matters, technical problems, or what have you.