Shelf Obsession


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.

Cover to 'The Comic-Book Book' with sound effects and word balloons reading 'Aargh!', 'Hmmmm', and 'Zowie!'

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. Whether he felt bad that its sturdy hardcover spine was breaking or the staff figured that mine was the only name ever on the circulation card so we might as well skip the formalities, I don't know. But it remains a prized possession and is even more of a collector's item now than it would otherwise be for reasons I'll reveal later. Not too long into my quest for similar material, I got my hands on a paperback of 1970's All in Color for a Dime, the collection of essays from Lupoff's fanzine Xero to which TCCB was a sequel; I sucked in its tales of the primordial days of superheroes and the industry that spawned them until the book was left a brittle, coverless husk.

Chuck Not Up


Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah, facing Zachary Levi as Chuck, her back to us but head turned our way in steely-eyed gaze

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Give Me Hellboy


I'm looking to get rid of most of my thousands of comic books, but Hellboy ranks among the keepers. The series is pretty much my all-time favorite, certainly when you discount nostalgia; Mike Mignola long ago proved that he's as accomplished and unique a writer as he is an artist. While I think the absolute best Hellboy stories are short, self-contained tales, the mythology woven by Mignola and his collaborators in the family of Dark Horse's Hellboy, BPRD, Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, and Witchfinder one-shots and miniseries rivals any other from graphic novels, television, film, or prose in recent decades.

Hellboy carrying a desiccated corpse on his back

Yet I come here not to praise Hellboy, but to barter him.

Words to the Wise


My grandfather always had a dictionary on his night table. I have one on my Apple laptop. His was a so-called "pocket" paperback almost as thick as it was wide; mine is virtual, an application represented by the icon below in the dock of programs and folders at the right of my computer screen.

Icon of thick dictionary with large capital and lowercase A on cover

The lure of Dictionary is strong. Enter a word, and it not only returns a definition
and usage from The New Oxford American Dictionary but synonyms from The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus and, if you're connected to the Internet, a Wikipedia entry (or disambiguation page) as well. It's a ridiculously quick and comprehensive research tool — as well as a microcosm of the paragon of potential procrastination that is the Web itself, since hyperlinks abound and the results list for any given word is often fascinating. I'm pretty disciplined about not following flights of fancy too far, although I admit to indulging spontaneous bouts of "Hey, I wonder..." entirely unrelated to what I'm working on, because suddenly the answer seems gravely important and if I don't at least type the relevant word or phrase into Dictionary's search field to read up on later then I might forget. Other people for whom frivolous research is considered fun will be able to relate. For the rest of you, well, I can't really explain it if you don't already understand.

Examples:

Meaner Still


can of Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup against starry void of space

The can of Campbell's soup is still in effect, due to connection problems as well as projects that aren't being dealt with as efficiently as I'd like. For those who've not seen it before, I should point out that the can is a mysterious "ancient Internet tradition" begun by Mark Evanier, as explained and in fact recently invoked by Evanier on his blog, News from ME, which if your interests are anything like mine offers a variety of fine, funny, and fascinating material by the bushel.

I hope to have a volley of posts up soon (yeah, When don't I?), but meantime here's another batch of Blogger word-verification definitions.

abendsl — n. #2 graphite stick, when you're congested.

betoofsr — Father of Betoof Jr.

boophala — n. A shout-out from Ms. Betty.

The Fab-Four Score


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
career.

So here's my First Beatles Story.

Got to Get You into My Life


Lost 6.11 Happily Ever After

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Cube Reporting


small mound of artfully arranged foil-wrapped chocolate 'Ice Cubes'
Photo: Albert's online product gallery.

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.

Even Meaner


Screenshot of Word Verification box with prompt characters reading 'soctin'

I need to take my laptop in to get the DVD drive replaced one day soon. While I'm hoping to get some of the many nearly finished posts on hand published before then, here are more word-verification definitions in the meantime so Miss Peasy is no longer the first thing you see on the blog.

Driving Miss Peasy


Closeup of a woman resembling Kate Winslet

You know that Windows 7 commercial [bad link] with the woman who looks a bit and sounds a lot like Kate Winslet talking to us from the back of a cab?

Every one of the far too many times I've seen it but one, what I heard was "easier peasier should be simpler". Now, I'd be thrilled for my brain never to have accessed the dubiously cutesy phrase "easy peasy"; when the ears can't make out for sure what they're receiving, however, the brain first searches for something that's likely and then just substitutes anything that's possible. The other night I finally recognized what she's saying as "using a PC should be simpler" — which you'd think I'd have gotten earlier since this whole series of ads is about people sharing how Windows 7's improvements were their idea, but nope.

Perhaps it's jingoistic of me to suggest that Microsoft was undercutting their message by employing someone with such a thick accent, and what I (mis)heard didn't change the gist of the ad, but all the shuddering over "easier peasier" did was take my opinion of Windows further south. And even knowing what I know now, all the woman in the commercial makes me want to buy is tickets to a Kate Winslet movie.



Related: Brew Ha-Ha Siteseeing Clorox Makes It Dirty

Mini-Slog and Miscellany


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1 for 1


The Phillies won on Opening Day for the first time in five years. I just hope, as my grandmother pointed out, that it doesn't jinx them for the rest of the season; despite a history of bad Aprils, they've been NL East division champs for the past three years and made it to the World Series the past two, grabbing the crown in 2008.



What a game, though: 11 to 1 over the Nationals — not, I grant you, necessarily the biggest threat, but a win's a win. Our new staff ace Roy Halladay struck out nine in seven innings and even got an RBI base hit; it's a shame that Cliff Lee had to go to bring Halladay in, since his single season with the Phils last year was nothing to sneeze at, but the trade seems to make sense. I was already happy to have Placido Palanco back at 3rd even before he came up with today's insane six RBIs (four courtesy of a grand slam). And the big man, Ryan Howard, kicked off the offense as always with his first homer of the season. Everybody in the starting lineup hit safely, in fact, and when you look at this group, from Howard to Palanco to Chase Utley to Jimmy Rollins to Jayson Werth to Shane Victorino to Raul Ibañez to Carlos Ruiz, it looks to be another sizzling summer as long as — say it with me, baseball fans who invoke this same mantra of obviousness each year — the pitching holds up and the team stays healthy. We have a few guys still out, including key reliever J.C. Romero and closer Brad Lidge, but Cole Hamels is looking good and, hey, 47-year-old hometown mensch Jamie Moyer is back. Given how well last season ended despite some players falling apart it's way too early to panic — it's Opening Day.



Related: P Funk Low and Inside Play Right

~(o_O)~


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.