Fringe Thinking: This Boy

As most of us bask in the afterglow of the Winter Solstice holidays, anticipate New Year's festivities, and either curse or bless the dearth of new television, I've decided to go ahead and post my thoughts on...

Not to be confused with "Jenny 867-5309".

I considered waiting until just before Fringe returned for its final fortnight, but then realized that some folks might be using this fallow period as an opportunity to catch up on their viewing and/or their blogreading. So here's my scattershot analysis of the series' antepenultimate night, with the next hour to come on Jan. 11th before the double-shot finale airs on Jan. 18th.

See You Next B'ak'tun!

I got the above from the blog of Nikki Stafford, who doesn't know the source. Since its focus is the prophecies of Nostradamus rather than the current hubbub, I suppose it could be from an actual Weekly World News front page of yesteryear rather than a gag mockup; Google image searches aren't turning up anything, nor is a quick survey of the Weekly World News website. Of course I realize that the world is not ending and that
in fact all the apocalyptic frenzy is actually misinterpretation, playfully willful or other-wise, of the Mayan Long-Count Calendar, but just in c

Fringe Thinking: Glass Onion

More than once this season I've been particularly disappointed in an installment of Fringe one week only to have the following chapter stoke my enthusiasm considerably.

... was an inventive, at times elegiac episode that once again lifted me to heights of guarded optimism about the series wrapping up next month in a way that makes Season Five a worthy, even essential conclusion rather than merely a quirky coda to the past. It felt much more connected to Fringe as a whole, full of echoes and portents.

We got so many references to Fringe-gone-by, in fact, that I opted to use "Glass Onion" as the subtitle for this writeup instead of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".

Fringe Thinking:
Watching the Wheels

I have to offer my apologies for being so late with my writeup on...

... especially with Fringe having returned from a fortnight's hiatus last Friday. It airs tomorrow and next Friday, Dec. 21st, then takes another two weeks off for the holidays before returning Jan. 11th and concluding with a double-shot finale Jan. 18th — the latter presumably beginning at 8 rather than 9 p.m. ET/PT, since Fox doesn't program the 10 o'clock hour.

With only 6 hours (or "hours" — episodes run less than 45 minutes sans commercials) left in the series, I was disheartened that last week's chapter felt like such a placeholder.

It's not that nothing happened. Our team got a new piece in Walter's scavenger hunt of a puzzle, the industrial-sized electromagnet; Peter and Windmark had a minorly epic battle; Olivia talked Peter down from his precarious position atop Corruption-of-Power Falls. Yet I was strangely nonplussed, a feeling that I'm not entirely unused to having this season. The whole was less than the sum of its parts.

Meaning Less

Yesterday the Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup went up in the sidebar to indicate that posts here are backed up and slow with the going. I've been under the weather and less productive than usual lately, perhaps as a cosmic reminder not to make grand plans. On top of that, my Internet connection turned equally lethargic today.

So while things will hopefully get up to speed again soon I wanted to at least publish this note as preamble to a batch of word-verification definitions. Faithful readers are familiar with the exercise; anyone who isn't can find an explanation in "The Mean Streak", a page on the blog collecting all such entries to date.

As reflected in the title, I'm running out of content for these posts, largely because of Blogger's switch earlier this year to a different verification mechanism that prompts fewer imagined definitions from me. The next installment in this series will probably be the last.

assfu — [ass foo] n. Martial art based on literally kicking your opponent's butt.

bininsic — [bin in sik] phr. Quick explanation for lack of activity outside the home.

compery — [kom puh ree] n. Rackin' up freebies.

dectus — [dek tuss] n. A catcus as big as ten normal cacti.

Essencei™ — [eh sen say] The cologne for hard-working dojo masters. "You chop the sandalwood in half. We combine its fragrant oil with hints of strawberry and musk. Essencei."

42 Favorites: #11

Until my post on The Iron Giant, this fits-'n'-starts 40 41 42 Favorites series had
run in alphanumeric order — from 1980s superhero-team comics to Airplane! on through crossword puzzles. I'll probably keep with that order for the most part, but sometimes circumstances suggest breaking it. Now, for instance, is a great time to
talk about seeing movies in a theater.

If I put my shoulder into it and fortune favors me, a slew of posts on movies from
the past year will be up this month. Year's end is a time for reflection in general, but certain aspects of life (school) and pop culture in particular (the TV season, traditionally) don't fit neatly with the Gregorian calendar. Movies do — partly insofar as, film not being a largely serial medium like television is, the end of the year could fall anywhere; it's easy enough to make a list of the best movies or books or music releases in the 365 (or 366) days prior to Date X. But it also works out nicely that we get a volley of would-be blockbusters in the spring and summer months, when days are long and the air-conditioned multiplex beckons, followed by a smaller batch of commercial tentpoles amidst more serious, more intimate fare in the wintertime, when packed theaters offer a respite from the dreariness and cold. In truth many of the Oscar hopefuls don't even hit most markets until late December at the earliest, instead bridging one year to the next; this season will be no different, unless the folks misinterpreting the Mayan Long Count calendar turn out to be onto something.

There's nothing like settling into an auditorium with stadium seating as one swatch in a patchwork quilt made up of various bunches of a couple or a few or a dozen friends.

What's in a Name

I recently and somewhat randomly came across the poster below for the 1966
film Maya.

Poster for the film 'Maya' with the title in giant 'stone' letters, getting hit by lightning, as various animals stampede / 'Action That Tears the Screen Apart!'
Poster © 1966 King Bros. Productions and/or MGM Studios.

There's a Maya in my family, and I know some other Mayas too. But that was only
the first name that jumped at me.

It was interesting to see Jay North — who played the title character in the TV incarnation of Dennis the Menace in the early '60s and, I found out to my surprise
not long ago, voiced the teenage Bamm-Bamm Rubble in the early '70s — in the
credits. That's not the main point here either, however.

The punch line of this chance experience was the name "Clint" — seen on the poster identifying star Clint Walker. If you glanced at it earlier, or just now at my prompting, and had a brief shock at mistaking the name for another word, then you see why cartoonists, typesetters, and pretty much anyone else who finds themselves displaying "Clint" in all capitals usually takes care to put enough space between the "L" and
the "I" lest they appear to merge into a "U".

[Warning: Comments get explicit.]

Head Space

I had a neat dream last night. Since content might be light here for a spell, I've
written it up along with a couple more I scribbled down from earlier this year.

The one from last night involved the work of Nikki Stafford, author of books about Lost and other cult TV, whose blog was among my select re-entry points to online activity when I finally got a working computer a handful of years ago now. Co-starring in the older dreams were actor/filmmaker Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series Girls, whom I've never met, and comics scribe Kurt Busiek, creator of Astro City, whom I've had the pleasure of speaking with online and in person a fair amount over the past couple of decades.

In the snippet of last night's dream that left an impression, I was mostly running around from table to table in a large dining room with a gravy boat of salad dressing.
At a certain point that scene, which I vaguely associated with a college dining hall, transitioned to me teaching a class on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that drew from Nikki's work as well as my own blogposts. The real-world irony of the latter is that while I'd hoped to publish a series of relevant posts during Nikki's year-long rewatch of that show, I had to suspend that plan. (I did earlier share thoughts on my first exposure to Buffy on television and review the original movie.)

Up in the Sky

Close-up screen capture of head and chest of inflated Superman balloon, with cartoonish face and vintage 'S' insignia on blue top, thin white strings visible

A home movie of the Superman balloon's first appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1940 was uploaded to YouTube in November of last year, but I got word of it too late to post it in time for the holiday then. My thanks to Rodrigo Baeza, who blogs occasionally at Comics Commentary, for sharing the link on the Grand Comics Database chat list. The Man of Helium shows up at the 1:30 mark.

Kindred Posts: Supe of the DayWho? The Skies as Clark KentPanel to Frame

Fringe Thinking: Borrowed Time

The fifth and final season of Fringe reached its midpoint last night with...

And so it's fitting that the episode hearkens back to the start of of Season One.

"Our first Fringe experience would be their last," said a vengeful Peter Bishop to Olivia Dunham, sharing with her that he'd used the jaw-dropping bioweapon from Episode 1.1 on three high-ranking Observers.

But "Five-Twenty-Ten" may have referred in a much more oblique way to the end of Season Two as well, and therefore given us yet another oh-so-tangential allusion to the parallel universe that occupies an essential place in Fringe lore. I'm no Jeff Jensen, but I had to wonder if the title to 5.07 — which turned out to be a safe combination used by Walter Bishop in one of William Bell's old laboratories — had any other significance. Sure enough, I hit paydirt with the first try: 05-20-10 is the American numerical rendering of May 20th, 2010, which turns out to be the original US air date of Episode 2.21, "Over There (Part 2)". This is a purely meta-level piece of information, of course, nothing to do with the characters within the show; it may however be a clue that the Other Side will yet figure into Season Five after all. I have a thought as to how, to be shared later in the post.

Fringe Thinking: There's a Place

Now we're talkin'!

... was a great episode, probably the best since the Season Five opener. I'm sorry that I didn't get this post up sooner, but once I realized it wouldn't be within a couple of days after airing I decided to wait until the day of the next episode to maximize some semblance of relevance. The way we justify or rationalize things to ourselves, as fortune would have it, is also very relevant to what Peter's doing.

One of the reasons why the hour grabbed me, no doubt, was its integration of premises past and present.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man /
Use His Face in a Frying Pan

Spider-Man's head as the end of a spatula

Williams-Sonoma is selling a Marvel Spider-Man Flexible Spatula.

How freaking awesome is that?

I just recently got one as a gift, along with a Spider-Man Cupcake-Decorating Kit. The latter is no longer available from the Williams-Sonoma website; neither is the Marvel Heroes Cupcake-Decorating Kit featuring Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. I'm linking to them anyway in case that changes and including some images below because they're freaking awesome.

Après le Déluge

Bryan Walsh contributed a good piece on Hurricane Sandy to last week's issue of Time.

Cover to recent issue of 'Time' Magazine with large text 'Lessons from the Storm' over/above photo of crashing waves

He details Sandy's effects but also suggests how to prepare as storms like Sandy — a hurricane turned post-tropical cyclone after merging with the Arctic jet stream to form a hybrid nor'easter that some dubbed "Frankenstorm" — become a fact of life in what (most rational minds now agree) is an era of consequential climate change.

I've felt a bit of survivor's guilt over Sandy, to be honest.

My home in the Philadelphia suburbs lost power for maybe 30 seconds total on the night the storm hit — going dark just long enough the final time to convince me that several days without electricity lay ahead, since it would take so long for crews to work safely and get to everybody, only to pop back on with nary a complication thereafter. Lots of areas nearby had it much worse. I got to watch news coverage on a television
in a lit room while checking E-mail.

Fringe Thinking:
Gimme Some Truth

Peter Bishop took a pivotal step at the end of...

If you thought that with a title like that the episode would be providing more background on the Observers, now known as the Invaders, well, you thought wrong.

Same goes for background on Etta Bishop's life under Invader rule after she was separated from her parents 20 years ago. Ditto hitherto unrevealed secret connections among the members of our familiar former Fringe Division team.

This origin story was Peter's. And it wasn't a flashback to previously unspooled history. It was the first look at the next chapter of his journey. Etta's death pushed Peter over the edge — or at least an edge; there are certainly still darker places to go. He's using his enemies' own devices against them, but it remains to be seen to what extent he will become the very thing he's fighting.

Let me backtrack just a bit, although as always I assume that you've seen the episode before reading this and won't be recapping the whole plot:

House of the Rising Moon

'Mockingbird Lane' promo shot with logo and main cast

NBC ran the pilot for Mockingbird Lane, Bryan Fuller's revamp of The Munsters, last Friday. At this writing you can still watch it via that link.

I took in the hour-long episode as a Halloween treat after hearing positive word. The premise and talent involved definitely had me curious, despite rebooting or reimagining a familiar property for TV being a dicey prospect (Battlestar Galactica at one recent extreme, Wonder Woman at the other). Even after it was passed over for this season, Lane apparently had an outside shot at being picked up for 2013 if it turned out to be an October surprise. I'm not sure that a 1.5 rating/5 share in the 18-49 demo, 5.47 million viewers overall, is enough to do the trick but this was a Friday on a tentatively resurgent network.

Anyway, I'd like to see more.

Siteseeing: Quick Hits

Here's a little bit of link-bloggery appropriate to the evening.

First up is the video for "Can't Play Dead" from The Heavy, which premiered exclusively at the other day. It's a great track on its own merits, I think — but if you disagree, just turn the sound down and groove to the Día de los Muertos stop-motion B-movie-trailer visuals.

Fringe Thinking:
Happiness Is a Warm Gun

The good news is that after a week away, Fringe was back on Fox at 9 p.m. ET last Friday. And the even better news is that...

... was a real return to form after the letdown that was the previous episode.

The bad news? Well, I'm sorry that I don't have more of substance to say about such a pivotal chapter of Season 5 and I wish I'd been able to get this post up sooner. More to the point in-story, um, there's a big honkin' plot twist to address which I'll be getting to shortly.

Keitel Records

You think you're done with "Call Me Maybe"? You cringe when your car radio lands on it for even a moment? You swear that no cover, mashup, or parody could ever get you to listen to that song again?

I'm here to sympathize but also to tell you that you're wrong. You must hear it one more time, at least if you haven't yet seen the duet between Harvey Keitel and Carly Rae Jepsen from Night of Too Many Stars.

Keitel pulls a William Shatner by doing his part as a spoken-word performance exactly as you'd imagine Harvey Keitel would.

Night of Too Many Stars is the biennial variety-show fundraiser hosted by Jon Stewart to benefit autism programs. This year's edition aired last Sunday on Comedy Central in partnership with Stewart's Busboy Productions, combining a live telethon with clips from a show held the previous Sunday at New York City's Beacon Theatre.

Other standout moments are Katy Perry singing "Fireworks" with 11-year-old Jodi DiPiazza, a clip that's been burning up YouTube, and Louis CK auctioning off a holiday-card photo with Al Pacino.

You can still donate online via the links above.

The Garlicks Is Cookin'

Lea Hernandez has less than 48 hours to go in the campaign to raise money for her project The Garlicks on Indiegogo.

So, yeah, I'm putting up this post kind-of late, but that's no reflection on my enthusiasm. I also figured, maybe wrongly, that promoting the project towards the end rather than towards the beginning might be better. Anyway...

The Garlicks is the tale of young Pandora Garlick and her family. Pan's mom is a human who runs a butcher shop. Pan's dad is a vampire barista. Pan's baby sister, Ham, turns into a fishbat — that's right: a fishbat — while Pan can't turn into anything at all. But she can and does make comics inspired by her crazy life.

42 Favorites: #10

As I mentioned in my last post, The Iron Giant is one of my favorite things.

It was released a week before the 1999 San Diego Comic-Con was held; I didn't get to see it in advance of heading out to the show, but Scott McCloud raved about it — a huge recommendation for sure — and I thankfully got to see it in the theater after returning home. Unfortunately, I was one of the relatively few who did, as Warner Bros. rather infamously failed to properly market this beautiful, poignant tale for young and old.

Joker Lice

Along with my word-verification definitions (see yesterday) and, more recently, my Twitter postlets (see tomorrow), I've made a small running thing out of sharing weird search terms that Blogger's Stats info says lead people here.

My first such post was in January; the second, in April, was titled after one of those oddball terms, as is this one. To cut to the chase: I can't find any record of joker lice being a thing, in Gotham City or anywhere else.

A dozen more strange — or in a couple of cases, strangely mundane — strings, some of which totally befuddle me not only inherently but in how they led people here:

15-year-old with a fencing sword

action figure rod stewart

business team with laptops in the white cubes

csi ny lindsay and danny with baby & furious man in the lighttower

david boreanaz smolder

The Meaning of It All

My birthday ends at the stroke of midnight, and if you're up on your Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy then the title of this post will tell you just how many years it marked. There is, well, a double meaning to that title to boot; regular readers of the blog will recognize that it fits the pattern of my occasional volleys of word-verification definitions, collected (and explained for the uninitiated) at that link. I've taken to publishing these when I expect the blog to lie fallow for a spell, as well as simply when the mood strikes, but while I can see some things getting in the way of new posts here over the next couple of weeks I confess that I'm not yet sure to which scenario this entry applies.

androjor — [an dro jor] n. Robot duplicate of Superman's Kryptonian father.

bucritas — [buh kree tahss] pl. n. A Mexican dish made from pirate meat.

cobside — [kob syd] adj. Near an ear of corn.

dingdoc — [ding dok] n. Popular subgenre in Australian cinema of nature films featuring wild dogs.

entheist (1) — [en thee ist] n. One who worships the 14th letter of the English alphabet.

Fringe Thinking:
Magical Mystery Tour

I'm afraid that I don't have many kind words to say about...

The episode was a letdown, overall — not in spectacularly bad ways that prompt their own kind of commentary; it was just sort-of meh. I'm not sure when (if ever) Fringe last left me feeling that way before. Has it frustrated me? Yes. Has it grossed me out? Sure. Has it turned in a lackluster installment that felt like the script needed at least one more pass? Not that I recall.

Which is a particular shame given that, as my Beatles subtitle of the day reflects, "The Recordist" kicks off what appears to be the impetus for at least a good early-to-middle chunk of this final, 13-episode season of Fringe.


100 years ago this month, give or take, Frank Munsey's pulp magazine The All-Story premiered one of the longest-lived fictional characters of modern times in a complete novel: Tarzan of the Apes.

cover to October 2012's The All-Story

It wasn't fledgling writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' first work for the magazine. John Carter had debuted in All-Story's February 2012 issue with the serialized novel "Under the Moons of Mars"; later collected as A Princess of Mars, it spawned a set of sequels and adaptations into other media that would surely be as much as any franchise-minded author could hope for — had that author not created Tarzan as well.

Tarzan of the Apes was released in 1914 as a stand-alone book by A.C. McClurg. Its Fred J. Arting cover was entirely different in feel from, yet just as captivating as, the one painted by Clinton Pettee for the novel's original All-Story publication. Library of America reissued that book in hardcover earlier this year.

41 Favorites: #7-9

For my 40th birthday I jotted down a list of some of my favorite things to spur a
series of occasional posts. My aim was to periodically knock out brief entries that cover a variety of subjects, as I'd been retreating from new content due to frustration with the constant gremlins. Heh.

That was two years ago. I had to switch the title from 40 Favorites to 41 Favorites in 2011 and I've only added three installments to the series since then — including this one. Sunday, I'll need to renumber the series again.

But enough of my penchant for omphaloskepsis; I'd prefer to talk about...

7. coffee

Oh, I loves me the coffee.

To many folks it's merely a delivery system for a vital dose of caffeine, and I'm not
above using it that way myself — albeit for a slightly different reason than most.

Fringe Thinking: Mother

I was a little concerned about using up "Mother" so soon, as we'll doubtless get another episode about the Olivia & Etta dynamic before Fringe is done, but there are now fewer than a dozen episodes left and I've learned not to be too precious about such things.

Here, partly in honor of Walter's addled state but mostly because it's all I'm able to put together, are some disjointed thoughts on...

No Swedish or Portuguese, I promise.

Fringe Thinking:
Yellow Submarine

With its fifth and final season, Fringe has entered a new dimension. Or is that descriptor unavailable, lest the senses of the word be confused? The series has, after all, built much of its mythology on transdimensional travel to a parallel Earth — Over There, a.k.a. the Other Side, home to doppelgangers of our heroes and villains. Instead, Fringe's future lies in the actual (well, the actual fictional) future, as viewers had already been made aware through advance promotion and as was seen on Friday night in the Season Five opener...

I'll get back to the future shortly. First I want to take a few moments to welcome any new readers by way of giving these writeups (and their titles) some context.


The downside to not sharing my entries in hashtag sprees within a day or so of them being a thing on Twitter, whether as part of a "Twitticisms" post or in a Top X list like the one that follows, is, I've come to realize, that anyone interested in heading over to Twitter to see the full range of contributions will turn up zilch.

Maybe a hashtag comes back into fashion or someone joins in late or a totally different group of people hit on the same idea, maybe, but those earlier entries are gone. Twits seem to leave Twitter's institutional memory pretty quickly, unless there are tricks to its search function I don't know about (which is very, very possible). You can at least head to my own Favorites on Twitter, scroll down a bit, and see a heaping handful of others' offerings that I found amusing enough to save. It's not at all the same, though, as being in the thick of it — and this one, #unpromisingsequels, was a good one.

Here, in roughly the order I posted them, are my...

Top Twenty-Five Unpromising Sequels

25. The Day After the Day After

24. Hastily-Dressed Lunch

23. Monday in the Park without George

22. Acquaintances on a Train

21. Love in the Time of Cholera Vaccines

20. The Executive Producers

19. Fiddler at the Window

18. Evaporation Man

17. The Well-Scrubbed Dozen

16. Admiral EO

Fight and Flight

I dreamt the other night that someone who'd offered to subsidize my blog to the
tune of about $20,000 wanted to back out.

My blog in the dream wasn't quite this blog; it focused more heavily on analysis of TV series the way I'd actually like to but don't have time for, episode by episode, as Nikki Stafford has done most famously with Lost. This benefactor was upset that I wasn't covering an obscure-to-me British show — I want to say Time Bandits, had there been
a spinoff of the movie, although it might have been something similar that really exists and which only my subconscious remembers. I countered that what I was covering, Fringe and stuff, was the sort of thing, as with Lost and X-Files and Star Trek in past years, that people seriously glommed onto and discussed. We fought a bit, physically, and I told him that I was happy to return his money.

Right then, naturally, Johanna Draper Carlson approached me on behalf of a group of her friends who, based on a movie they'd seen, needed to acquire both a longsword and a dagger hidden far away. She knew that I could fly in my dreams and she wanted me
to fly her to the dagger. I obliged.

Kindred Posts: REM BrandsHead SpaceOf Was and When

Bamm-Bamm Lamken 1996-2012

He was a sweet boy.

We had a storm the other night. I thought of Bamm-Bamm. A day hasn't gone by since he died that I don't think of him, really; it's just a matter of why I do.

For the past 15 years of my life, excepting the last 6 months, thunder has meant one thing — well, besides the fact that it was probably gonna rain and that I very likely had been or soon would be dealing with a migraine. It meant that Bamm-Bamm was about to run for cover.

Photo of a cat, mostly black and gray with some light brown, curled up sound asleep on a beige chenille blanket

He died on the first day of March after a see-saw week's worth of sudden, puzzling sickliness, and I'm still not used to his absence. Not seeing him sprint when thunder booms, not having him rub my legs when I get out of the shower, not feeling him curled up next to me when I roll over in bed... Il me manque, as they say in French. We translate it as "I miss him" but literally it's "He is lacking to me," which is so much more poignantly to the point. My life lacks the Bamm-Bamm.

Star Trek Too

'Star Trek' poster of pointed Starfleet insignia shadowed in black with light glinting off its edges on viewers' left side, on top of which is text added by the blogger: 'Star Trek' logo followed by words wrapping all the way around the poster, reading in full 'Star Trek and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Escape 2 the Streets into Darkness from an Unexpected Electric Boogaloo beyond the Final Frontier of the Quest for Peace Where No Man Has Gone Before the Breaking Deathly Hallows

Last Friday the title of the 2013 sequel to J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek movie was announced. The site at the preceding link and other news outlets report it as Star Trek Into Darkness [sic].

Um... Okay.

I hope that, if the title sticks, someone at Bad Robot or Paramount realizes that it
either has to be Star Trek: Into Darkness or Star Trek into Darkness, with the prep-osition uncapitalized.

Joe Kubert 1926-2012

Art from Joe Kubert Presents #1 © 2012 DC Comics. Pencils: Kubert.

Joe Kubert died three weeks ago yesterday, on Aug. 12th, at the age of 85.

Anyone who follows comics knows this already, thanks to news sites, social networking, etc., and has almost surely seen a fuller portrait of the man than I can provide. I've been wanting to put up at least a brief post about him, though, for the benefit of readers who come here mostly for the non-comics stuff I muse upon yet still have some curiosity about this strange demimonde that's begun spawning billion-dollar movies. Jack Kirby, discussed the other day, may have been the King of Comics — to mix metaphors, perhaps part of American comics' Holy Trinity, with Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, in terms of establishing its visual language — but Kubert was at least a Great Duke. Joe Kubert art is, to his eternal credit, as unmistakable as it is beautiful.

The Late Posts

Panel of The Black Racer, a man wearing a cape and colorful armor on skis with poles, emerging from a Boom Tube in the sky / 'So, Destiny has changed and my my course and takes me here -- to Earth!
Splash panel of The Black Racer from The New Gods #3 © 1971 DC Comics. Script,
Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Vince Colletta. Letters: John Costanza. Colors: Unknown.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Class of '66

Photo, black-&-white, of two men at a drum kit, each with a pair of sticks

That's Leonard Nimoy hitting the skins next to Adam West.

I came across this photo from the late 1960s, photographer and location unknown
to me, via one blog link that led to another. You know how it goes. I hit a wall once a Tumblr post led to a Facebook page that I can't access 'cause I'm not on Facebook.

Hungry Like Marv Wolfman

My old buddy Stefan Blitz, proprietor of Forces of Geek, mused on Twitter several weeks ago that if he opened a restaurant themed around people who created comics the menu would include Joe Quesadilla, Howard Chicken, and Darwyn Cookies.

Which means nothing if you aren't in the loop and don't appreciate the puns, but I got
a smile out of it — and the idea to brainstorm my...

Top Eighteen Dishes, Drinks, and Desserts
Served at the Comics-Creators Cafe

18. Karen Burgers

17. Gary Franks

16. Tuna Isabella

15. Veal Adams

14. Clams Robins

13. P. Craig Mussels

12. Marie Severin-Layer Dip

11. Nachos Whedon

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

We've lost Neil Armstrong to the stars at the age of 81.

Close-up of Neil Armstrong, smiling, in lunar module wearing suit with helmet off
Neil Armstrong in the Eagle module after the moonwalk.
Photo: Buzz Aldrin for NASA.

An obituary up on the NASA website includes excerpts from and links to statements from the Armstrong family, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and President Barack Obama. The page also has embedded video of Armstrong and links to information on the historic moon landing of July 20th, 1969.

You can find The New York Times' front page [bad link] for that day online, in miniature, along with the text of John Noble Wilford's article. Worth a look too, but not for delicate sensibilities, is The Onion's mockup of how that satirical paper would've run the story.

Hello, Goodbye

Photo: Jeff Robertson / AP © 2012

Aloha, Shane Victorino!

I'm a few weeks late in bidding a fond farewell to the Flyin' Hawaiian, traded by the Phillies on July 31st to the LA Dodgers — the team that drafted him back in 1999, although his Major League debut came with San Diego. The Padres got him as a Rule 5 selection, just as the Phils did a couple of years later. During his Phillies tenure the goofy, hardscrabble Victorino was sent to two All-Star Games, rode in one World Series parade, and got lodged in the hearts of thousands if not millions of fans.

Five-Panel Draw

I was quite taken by the following sequence from The Uncanny X-Men #166,
dated Feb. 1983.

A tier of five panels, each longer in height than width. First: Close-up of Wolverine's unmasked face giving a serious look -- one eye, nose, and mouth visible, totally filling panel with no background -- with a thought balloon reading 'They're my friends!', followed by a 'gutter' of standard width. Second, a bit shorter than the previous: Close-up of Cyclops' face, masked with visor, orange background -- one eye, nose, and most of mouth visible -- with a word balloon at top reading 'Well, Mister. What'll it be?', straddling the interior of the panel and the blank space above, followed by a slimmer gutter. Third, shorter still: Wolverine's gloved hand, twitching with motion lines, against yellow background, with quoted thought above it reading 'An' because they *are* my friends, I owe 'em life...', followed by a very narrow gutter. Fourth, even shorter: Wolverine's hand now clenched in fists, claws popping with a 'Snikt!' from panel into negative space below, against red background, with thought continued above the panel reading '... or a quick, clean *death*.' Fifth, the shortest, immediately following the previous with no gutter, abutting it or even appearing to have been overlapped by it: Kitty's alarmed face -- one wide eye, part of nose and mouth, filling the panel, with a jagged dialogue balloon extended from just within top of panel to negative space above it reading 'No!!'
Excerpt from The Uncanny X-Men #166 © 1982 and characters TM/® Marvel Comics.
Script: Chris Claremont. Pencils: Paul Smith. Inks: Bob Wiacek. Colors: Glynis
Wein/Oliver. Letters: Tom Orzechowski. Editing: Louise Jones/Simonson.

The set of five panels is at the bottom of Pg. 12 of the issue's story, "Live Free or Die!", drawn by Paul Smith in his second issue as penciler of the series.

If you're unfamiliar with the issue and would like some context, you can head over to my friend Teebore's post on it — the reason I was rereading the issue in the first place. What I have to say about the panels below is taken from comments I made there, but I thought I'd repost the passage here even though I'm on some semblance of a vacation. It seems fitting to be publishing this analysis online from the same library where I did my first historical and critical reading about comics as a kid 35 years ago.

Midsummer's Meaning

With new posts being sparse here lately and several months having passed since my last volley of word-verification definitions, I declare it to be time for another.

The backlog is growing short, as I wrote earlier this year, thanks to Blogger's switch in formats yielding less choice material. I'll probably close the door on this series after a few more installments, based on current reserves and the sluggish pace at which new entires are added to my stockpile, whereas for quite some time after I began the well was replenished at a strong, steady pace. You are hereby referred to my stand-alone page collecting past entries, where this phenomenon is explained, if it's unfamiliar to you.

agamsee — [uh gam see] phr. Edward G. Robinson pointing out some dame's leg.

clonyma — [kloh nee mah] n. Your mother's genetically engineered duplicate.

counduct — [kown dukt] n. How Dracula behaves.

daymews — [day myooz] pl.n. My cat's morning wake-up sounds.

eReesen. A peanut-butter cup you can eat in Second Life. (Is that still a thing?)

frisaint — [frih zaint] n. The sensation of lacking the thrill that those around you are feeling.

hemizend — [heh mee zend] n. Where East meets West.

ladvat — [lad vat] n. Melting pot for reconstituting unwanted male members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Nausol™ — [naw sol] The world's leading nauseating aerosol product.

He Was Not The Joker

Comic-book panel of Batman saying, as he breaks a rifle in half, 'This is the weapon of the enemy. We do not need it. We will not use it.'

Nor was he Batman.

He was (is) just a horrifyingly real person, this deranged individual who took a dozen lives during a 12:01 a.m. screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.

"I don't want to know this man's name," Dan Slott posted early Friday on Twitter. "I don't want him to gain any kind of notoriety. He should vanish from history."

Like a lot of folks, I'm with Slott, and I won't be referring to the perpetrator by name here. Even the least sensationalized news of the shooting has to do just that as a matter of factual reporting, of course — the kind of reporting, sadly, that was in short supply early on, leading to erroneous associations on the part of more than one news organi-zation between the shooter and political movements in both directions along the left/right spectrum.

HIVE Minded

The other night I had a rather strange dream.

I have strange dreams often, as I've mentioned here before — you can see all of my dream posts if you're intrigued by what follows — but the strange thing about this one was how of-the-moment it was. The 4th of July and my blogging buddy Teebore's next installment of his issue-by-issue X-Men analysis would greet me when I woke up, and both figured into the dream. Sometimes I'm more surprised by dreams that relate to my actual everyday existence than those in which I'm playing for the Phillies or meeting Queen Elizabeth or attending a Survivor cast reunion.

When the dream began I was drawing, an activity in which I rarely engage anymore
in waking life as it's a lot harder physically than it used to be, yet one that I occasionally find myself pursuing in dreams — perhaps to keep those creative muscles limber, if
only inside my head. The drawing, centered on Superman, was getting to be rather intricate, too, I realized as I was inking it ("inking" = the stage of applying black ink by pen, marker, or brush to finish the line artwork after "penciling" a drawing in the comics world).

The 'Works

Photo of fireworks, mostly orange and blue, going off in the night sky

At times like this I'm glad that I don't believe in Hell, 'cause I'd probably send myself there just by virtue (or actually, vice) of being snarky to the kids in my family.

We'd just started to watch the 4th of July display when I told my cousin's 9-year-old daughter L that fireworks were made by catching fairies, strapping them to small rockets, and shooting them into the sky.

"Do the fairies get hurt?" (L said this with a sly smile, playing along. She's a smart cookie — loves reading, has a high BS meter.)

"That's why we clap so hard during the finale," I replied. "We have to bring them back, like with Tinkerbell in Peter Pan."

Adventures in Maybe Twitting

I am now on Twitter.

I've just sent the 20 characters above as my first Twit, in fact. (Like I said a couple of posts ago, I do not accept "tweet" as either a noun or a verb when it comes to Twitter. It's not called Tweeter. It's called Twitter and so using the service is "twitting" or Twittering and the messages are Twits or perhaps Twitterings.)

My Twitter handle is @brianlamken. I found out quite a while back that @blamken
was already taken; I rejected @blamsblog or something else along those lines because that would look weird when people use my handle to refer to me as a person — "still waiting for @brianlamken to show up" — and @briansanerlamken is too long.

I don't expect to Twitter out many Twits of my own for a while, although enthusiasm may get the better of me. Eventually I'll be promoting the blog and other stuff when
my online activity increases, fingers crossed, and I'm sure that the more I follow other people on Twitter the more I'll want to join the conversation. For now, I've signed up mostly so that I can follow the feeds of friends and acquaintances and folks I admire without having to remember to click through from their own websites and such to
catch up.

I'm surprised to see that there are already over a half-dozen posts about Twitter on the blog, either as the primary subject or as part of an omnibus links post. You can click
on the label in the gray footer below to see them all.

Kindred Posts: The Birdy BunchAll @TwitterIt Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Robert L. Washington III 1964-2012

A week ago I found out that Robert L. Washington III had passed away on June 6th at the age of 47.

the writer as depicted on his Milestone Media trading card

Comic-Book Resources has a notice at its news blog Robot 6 that includes a reproduction of Washington's last piece of work, a one-page strip for Hero Comics 2012. It's a first-person piece, illustrated by Chris Ivy, in which the writer shares some of the struggles that prompted him to seek help from The Hero Initiative — a non-profit organization, mentioned on this blog before, which provides financial assistance to creators in dire need of it.

Unlike the few people who've been the subjects of memorials here and the several more whose passings I'd hoped to note — the comic-book industry lost a number of outright giants last year — Washington was neither a legend with a storied career, a creator who produced beloved works from my childhood, nor someone that I knew. But he wrote the hell out of a series called Static, which launched in 1993 from Milestone Media in association with DC Comics — later adapted into the Kids' WB animated series Static Shock. And he died way too damned young after some tough times.

S Is for Sweden and...

Schmutz! But I'll get back to that. First we must rewind to the uncensored scribblings of someone named Sonja, who last week sent out a controversial set of near-sentences via Twitter.

I refuse to use the word "tweet" — unless we're talking about birds, of course. Call your service Tweeter if you want the messages to be "tweets". If it's Twitter, the gerund is either "Twittering" or the backwards formation "twitting" and the messages are Twits. Since Twitter and other social-media services that encourage short bursts of prose or graphics are considered "microblogging" I suppose that makes the entries "microposts". All I know is that I refuse to say "tweet".

Where was I? Oh, right... This:

Ozy Ozy Ozy

Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in 'Game of Thrones' next to art of Adrian Veidt in 'Watchmen', both sporting blond hair and ornamental golden collar/breast plates over purple tunics and capes

I know that the above pic won't mean anything to anyone who hasn't both read Watchmen and seen Game of Thrones, but I'm guessing that a fair percentage of
this blog's dedicated visitors meet those criteria.

Lead the Wild Rumpus, Stark!

Or Cap. Whomever. I'd have figured Cap, y'know, but Tony has such an ego and he
is carrying Loki's staff.

You can view the above collision between the mourning of Maurice Sendak's pass-
ing and the celebration of The Avengers' success at a larger size — and download it
in greater resolution for use as screen "wallpaper" or printing out — at its home post over at the DeviantArt site of its creator.

Kindred Posts: Maurice Sendak 1928-2012Huston, We Have AmalgamThey're Magically Suspicious

Plumped-Up Lips

Photo of Lana Del Rey, a woman with pale skin, blonde-to-chestnut hair, and cartoonishly puffy lips, her mouth open just a bit, resting against a white wall as she looks off dreamily with 'bedroom eyes'

I linked to a clip of a genius song parody called "Hunger Games" a while back. Not
only did it mash up the concept of the book and movie of that name with Lana Del Rey's "Video Games"; it did the job almost too well. The voice and images were eerily spot-on, putting that song back on heavy rotation in my head — along with Foster the People's "Pumped-Up Kicks", for the simple if admittedly odd reason that I'd already imagined rewriting its lyrics to skewer Ms. Del Rey (born Elizabeth Woolrich Grant). Like...

Exile in Jayville

Last Thursday Conan O'Brien, now holding court weeknights on TBS's Conan, stopped by CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman to chat with Dave about something the hosts rather infamously have in common.

I refer of course to sons playing tee-ball.

Screencap © 2012 Worldwide Pants.

They also found time to discuss each man, in his own way, having been screwed out of the former marquee gig in late-night broadcasting — Johnny Carson's (and Jack Paar's and Steve Allen's) old chair behind the Tonight Show desk — by NBC in favor of Jay Leno. It's a metaphorical chair, to be sure; The Tonight Show hasn't been filmed in the studio Carson used, let alone with the same "home base" furniture and props, since Johnny left. And the TV landscape sure isn't the same as it was when Conan took over the post-Tonight slot at NBC from Dave when Letterman went to CBS to challenge Leno, never mind how different it is from Carson's heyday.

The A Team

photo-illustration of Tony Stark holding Cosmic Cube with dollar sign amidst viewscreens depicting Avengers promotional images

So have you heard about this little movie called The Avengers?

I not only saw it — opening day, in fact, which is always fun, but for the past dozen or so years not something that I've been able to count on doing given my health — I've written about it, too; that commentary just hasn't made it onto the blog yet.

As my review of / background feature on / "think piece" about the Joss Whedon gem began to meander, in addition to being delayed by migraines and technical glitches and stuff like that there, I decided to cleave the following musings on its mega-millions and other impressive statistics into their own post, which is a good thing given how they grew too.

Sweet 16

The first time I saw her, Pebbles was basically trying to climb into the sky.

Photo of an orange and white cat curled up on a blanket

She was on the top of a cat tree, one of those really tall posts made not just for scratching but for climbing. As she balanced on the very apex of it, this lovely and lithe orange Creamsicle of a kitten actually pushed at the ceiling tiles with her paws.

Her name wasn't Pebbles then.

Theme Building

I came up with a dozen entries for the Late Show with David Letterman website's current Top Ten contest [dead link]. You probably know the drill by now but in case you don't there's an explanation of how it works in one of my first blogposts — although winners no longer get prizes beyond satisfaction and bragging rights.

Categories are usually either seasonal or keyed to something in the news, and this week's is no different, being...

My Top Twelve Least-Popular 2012 Prom Themes

12. Let's All Judge Each Other One Last Time

11. Our Favorite Student/Faculty Romances

10. Party Like We'll All Have Jobs

9. How Would Jesus Dance?

8. A Night Away from Algebra and In-School Day Care

7. Mimes! Mimes! Mimes!

Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

Even with far more time and attention than I have right now it wouldn't possible to
do justice to Maurice Sendak with this post.

A familiar scene from Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are' of a young boy in a gray wolf costume and golden crown frozen in mid-dance with two large monsters to in front of him and two behind, amidst trees set against a starry blue sky with full silver moon

Sendak passed yesterday, at the age of 83, following a stroke. His career spanned 65 years and nearly 100 books as well as notable work in other media. You can find a timeline of his life and creations at the website of The Rosenbach Museum & Library, whose director also offers a nice remembrance of that Philadelphia institution's rela-tionship with the Brooklyn-born Sendak. (If you're ever in town, I highly recommend
a visit to the place — its collection includes a large repository of Lewis Carroll memor-abilia, James Joyce's handwritten manuscript to Ulysses, and "over 10,000 Sendak objects, including original drawings, preliminary sketches, manuscripts, photographs, proofs, and rare prints of Sendak books." Don't forget to try the incunabula!)


I don't usually have much good to say about the service that hosts this blog. To be
fair and give credit where it's due, I'll repeat that in addition to being free — without requiring advertising of any kind, a big plus to me — Blogger’s spam filter works very well. Frankly, I can't recall a single instance of 'bot messages getting through 
since I opted to turn off word verification on comments earlier this year in the wake
of the service's switch to a much uglier, more onerous CAPTCHA format. 

While the blog has in fact been getting more spam than it used to, all of that spam is getting queued up in a virtual folder to await my attention as it should. It seems like more spam comments made it through in the past, too, which leads me to suspect that in a rare instance of foresight Blogger worked to shore up its filtering in anticipation
of users ditching verification after the recent change.

Most of what got through were strings of Chinese hànzì characters that translated to some vaguely poetic phrase and linked to sites featuring images of scantily-clad women if not outright porn. And porn is, no surprise, still the #1 destination for most of the spam that the filter catches, but for every few blatant "comments" that hawk pics of nude celebrities there's one that pretends to be actual conversation with poetry of its own — in English; often broken English to be sure, yet therein lies much of the skewed poetry.

"You can definitely see your expertise within the paintings you write," one especially lyrical slice of spam read. "The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart."

I was almost touched. 

Nice Day for a Sprite Wedding

Here's another homage/parody cover of mine for CAPA-Alpha, done around the same time as the one I shared the other day.

This one's much less of a straight copy, adding characters and foregoing the logo. It uses as its springboard Marvel Comics' The Uncanny X-Men #179 — dated Mar. 1984, penciled by John Romita Jr., and inked by Dan Green. I drew it for Rich Rubenstein's 'zine after we had a discussion about superheroes who were explicitly identified as Jewish.

Imperceptible Sally

Early this year I wrote about some of the most popular search terms that lead people to Blam's Blog and shortly thereafter shared some of the weirder ones. It's time to share some more.

As I said then, I started checking my Stats page randomly throughout the day after getting consistent chuckles from the kind of off-the-wall phrases that you only see in the Stats page's Traffic Sources section fleetingly, usually in the "Now" view, by dint of their very strangeness; things get more normal in the "Daily" view as a search term will have to be entered multiple times to rank as one of the ten strings logged there at any given moment, and by the time we're up to "Weekly" it's just boring stuff like Superman covers or Fat Albert or the surprisingly popular Geoff Peterson.

I find that the really funny searches tend to fall into at least one of three categories: very specific; almost impossibly broad; and totally bizarre in juxtaposition. Some fall into more than one of those categories, like the two-word phrase used for this post's title — What in the world could that be? It does not hit on the name of a blog, a book or TV or movie title, or even a band name (although it would be an awesome band name). It brings up a complete smorgasbord of images. It does not appear to be a Peanuts reference and in fact the graphic that it picks up from this blog, below, only displays because the word "imperceptible" appears the in paragraph before it (in the post "Foyer, Guns, and Honeys", about the graphic novel It Rhymes with Lust) and "Sally" is elsewhere on the page in my list of labels (as part of "When Harry Met Sally"). Of course now that string appears on the Web, atop this post — for apparently the first time, as a search on it with quotes around the words yields nothing — without being of any help, but them's the breaks.

Dream a Little Dream of Meep; or,
The Subconscious and the Frog

Although my dreams continue to be vivid and enjoyable, I haven't shared any here in ages.

The other day, however, I put together such an interesting vision in that odd twilight state between dreaming and waking up that I can't help but write about it. While I tried my best to stay in it, I was aware that I was beginning to come out of it and I probably have my emerging consciousness to thank for its being so brief as well as having an ending — a pretty rare thing for dreams, which in my experience tend to slide into one another or just slip away. It was also rare in that I wasn't actually in the dream, neither as myself nor even as a POV character.

Animal, Pepé the Prawn, Gonzo, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and the Swedish Chef all seated in a movie theater with drinks and snacks

Just so that I don't bury the lead any farther, I'll mention now that the dream starred the Muppets.

Grimm Tidings

If it feels like the blog has been focusing a bit more on my picture-making recently, well, it has. That's due in part to me simply having so much fun putting together those Pictogags. But this entry is due to me going through files to get old articles entered on my current computer and eventually archived up on the Interwebs, files amongst which I'm also finding old sketches and cartoons.

The 1995 drawing above right, a mock cover to the nonexistent Mr. K-a's Pal, Benjy Grimm done for CAPA-Alpha, was a riff on the cover of DC Comics' Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #102, above left — dated June 1967, penciled by Curt Swan, inked by George Klein, and lettered by Ira Schnapp.

Thrones for a Loop

So it turns out that putting together these "pictogags" for HBO's Game of Thrones is rather addictive. I'm working on still more, but here are a few that I've done since I posted my first batch.

The last one, I should warn you, is mildly off-color, although if you watch the series it ain't gonna bother you.

Week Links

There's no denying that this photo of President Barack Obama and Nichelle Nichols — Star Trek's original and definitive Lt. Uhura — making the Vulcan salute in the Oval Office is just plain cool, whatever your politics may be.

While it was apparently taken on Leap Day, Feb. 29th, Nichols only shared it via TwitPic on Apr. 4th.

23 Skidoo

I saw a headline earlier today that mistakenly omitted a space between words in the title of the new ABC comedy Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.

My immediate reaction was that I would totally be curious about a show called Don't Trust the Bitchin' Apartment 23.

Why not? Is it haunted? Could it have some sort of weird Lost mystery going on? Does it trap you in the 1980s? Maybe it's actually a sentient traveling location like Danny the Street from Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol (which had the added curiosity of being a transvestite sentient traveling location). Does it come with a secret freezer-closet of cold beer like in those commercials — or, being Apartment 23, perhaps cans of Dr. Pepper — but they're all laced with GHB, and the furniture has its way with you after you pass out?

How simultaneously rad and dangerous is Apartment 23 that it's bitchin' yet we still should not trust it? I need to know.

This post has been brought to you by the number 23 and the letter B.

Week Links

And now just under 2 minutes of increasing weirdness titled "A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square"...

I came across it the other day on Mark Evanier's News from ME, a frequent recommendation of mine. The fact that it turns out to be [spoiler warning, kinda-sorta, maybe] a promotional video for TNT in Belgium is somewhat disappointing, but even though it's a commercial it's still a fun little thing.

Cabin Fever

I made it to a 12:01 a.m. showing of The Cabin in the Woods late Thursday night – well, technically, very early on the morning of Friday the 13th.

Poster detail © 2012 Lions Gate Entertainment.

I loved it. But I can't really talk about it.

Honestly, I can't. You may have read that audiences have been urged by the filmmakers at advance screenings not to divulge any of Cabin's twists, and that's with good reason. If you have read that, you're probably enough of a movie (or media) buff to know whether or not you want to see the film; I'm guessing, furthermore, that you do.