Further Adventures in Maybe Twitting


I’ve been on Twitter now — @BrianLamken — for almost exactly six months. My reason for joining was as much to connect to folks with whom I’d fallen out of touch as to share my particular brand of pith. Honestly, I’ve wrestled with how to incorporate Twitter into a daily life that isn’t nearly as productive as I would like and that is far from conducive to participation in a site or app built around quick churn of neverending content. The same explanation holds at least in part for why it took me until the other day to finally join Facebook.

This Boy


Fringe 5.10 Anomaly XB-6783746 / Photo of Spencer List as Michael hooked up to apparatus

This post is currently down for maintenance.

See You Next B'ak'tun!


Mockup of 'Weekly World News' cover headlined 'Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World As We Know It!' with other lyrics of that REM song

I got the above from the blog of a friend who doesn't know the source. Google image searches aren't turning up anything. Of course I realize that the world is not ending and that in fact all the apocalyptic frenzy is actually misinterpretation of the Mayan Long-Count Calendar, but just in c

Glass Onion


Fringe 5.09 Black Blotter / Image of Walter in style of Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animation

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Happy Feet


A bunch of people in crazy dance poses against cartoon stage backdrop with text 'The Charlie Brown School of Dance'

This post's title is not a reference to the old jazz number, the recent animated-penguin franchise, nor even (my own immediate, favorite association with the term) the sudden exclamation in Steve Martin's classic stand-up routine.

No, I bring you, as you can see above, a pitch for The Charlie Brown School of Dance. Like good ol' Mark Evanier — on whose cornucopian blog News from Me I first saw the link — said, "Just watch it...". I hope you'll pass it on.

Paging Xander Harris!

Watching the Wheels


Fringe 5.08 The Human Kind / Photo of Anna Torv as Olivia

This post is currently down for maintenance.

Meaning Less


Yesterday the can of Campbell’s soup went up in the sidebar to signify that posts
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 a page on the blog collecting all such entries to date.

As suggested by my 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 here 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 occasionally circumstances will suggest breaking it. Now, for instance, is a great time
to talk about seeing movies in a theater.

While year’s end is a period of reflection in general, 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 — not being a largely serial medium like television is — the end of a Year in Film could fall anywhere. It’s easy enough to make a list of the best movies or books or music releases in the 365 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, as packed theaters offer a respite from the dreariness and cold. In truth many of the Oscar hopefuls don’t even hit the majority of markets until late December at the earliest, bridging one year to the next, and 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 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!'

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.

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 I’d hoped to publish a series of relevant posts during Nikki’s year-long rewatch of that show but I had to suspend that plan. (I did earlier share thoughts on my first exposure to Buffy
on television
and review the original movie.)

Emerald Sit-In


The Voice paired up Cee-Lo Green and The Muppets’ Kermit the Frog last night for a very appropriate tune.

Kermit the Frog and Cee-Lo Green at a keyboard under green lights
Screencap © 2011 NBCUniversal Media.

I’m a sucker for the Muppets in general and in particular for that song, the melancholy Joe Raposo standard “Bein’ Green”, which dates to a 1970 performance by Jim Henson as Kermit on Sesame Street.

“Bein’ Green” has been recorded many times — solo and/or as a duet with Kermit —
by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Diana Ross. Tuesday’s rendition, available for now immediately on The Voice’s home page and archived at the above link with a 15-second ad in front, is a worthy entry in the pantheon. Other Muppets showing up for the segment include Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Janis, Statler & Waldorf, and one briefly glimpsed, laugh-out-loud ringer.

Given that Disney owns the Muppets and rival broadcast network ABC, I was quite surprised to see the Muppets pop up on NBC, especially once a taped behind-the-scenes intro for the Voice performance hyped another Cee-Lo/Muppets collaboration on NBC’s upcoming Christmas in Rockefeller Center special. I suppose that cross-promotional convenience trumps strict corporate synergy, but it seemed strange because ABC surely has its own holiday special in the pipeline and, things being equal, megalithic entities tend to like to keep things in the family.



Related: Muppet Monday (Dec. 19th) Mup’ Tempo Muppet Monday (Nov. 28th)

Up in the Sky


Close-up of inflated Superman balloon, with cartoonish face and vintage 'S' insignia

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.

Do You Want to Know a Secret


Fringe 5.07 Five Twenty-Ten / Photo of Joshua Jackson as Peter, bathed in green light, hand raised in a fist

This post is currently down for maintenance.

There's a Place


Fringe 5.06 Through the Looking-Glass and What Walter Found There / Photo of John Noble as Walter

This post is currently down for maintenance.

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 ’cause 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 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.

Gimme Some Truth


Fringe 5.05 An Origin Story / Photo of Joshua Jackson as Peter

This post is currently down for maintenance.

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.

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?

Harvey Keitel with a microphone

I’m here to sympathize but also to tell you that you must hear it one more time, at least if you haven’t yet seen the Night of Too Many Stars duet between Harvey Keitel and Carly Rae Jepsen. 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 founded by Robert Smigel and hosted by Jon Stewart to benefit autism programs. This year’s edition aired last Sunday on Comedy Central as a live telethon with clips from a show held the previous Sunday at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Other standout moments included Katy Perry singing “Firework” with 11-year-old Jodi DiPiazza and Louis CK auctioning off a holiday-card photo with Al Pacino.

[Update: My links have unfortunately all gone bad, although if you find and enjoy the material elsewhere online you can hopefully likewise find a way to donate.]



Related: Gift Rap Muppet Monday Crazy Talk

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.


Images © 2012 and characters TM Lea Hernandez.

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.

Joker Lice


Along with my verification-word definitions — like yesterday’s — 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 one, in April, was titled after one of those oddball terms, as is this one. To cut to the chase: I can’t find a 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 — search terms, 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

different bingo cards

good hulk leopard

is marc rzepczynski dating and who is she

krypton chin

roland orzabal teeth

swedish indicia

what is the favorite drink to kermit the frog


I’ve never written about Rod Stewart or CSI: NY to the best of my recollection. David Boreanaz, Marc Rzepczynski, Roland Orzabal, Kermit the Frog, Hulk, fencing, and Krypton have all popped up, however, either as intentional subjects or as images in my free-association posts — although the contexts were just a wee bit different than what folks were looking for.

And no matter how good it was, I’d hate to see a Hulk leopard with Joker lice.



Related: Search Me ... in Translation Parodies Found

The Meaning of It All


I’ll have legally been 42 for 24 hours at the stroke of midnight. Regular visitors here
will recognize this post’s title as referring not just to my age, per an earlier post today, but fitting 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 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.

42 Is Me


Crop of image from 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' with hand making thumb gesture and planet with grinning toothsome mouth, tongue out, amidst various decorative circles

When the dad of a dear friend gave me a copy of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 5th grade — for me, obviously, not for him — I’m sure I didn’t think of the cosmically resonant number of 42 in terms of the age I’d be over three decades hence.

Power to the People




This post is currently down for maintenance.

41 Favorites: #7-9


For my 40th birthday, I jotted down a list of some of my favorite things to prompt 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.

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 since then — including this one. Sunday,
I’ll need to renumber the series again.

Anyhoo; 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. While caffeine is a vasoconstrictor that’s often helpful in alleviating migraines, however, I’m among the minority for whom it’s a soporific rather than a stimulant; I could very well get a brief jolt from it neurologically, were you to look at a brain scan, but I’ll begin to get sleepy from a cup of strong coffee in short order. (I’ve gone off of caffeine entirely in the name of eliminating potential rebound or caffeine-withdrawal headaches from the picture, twice, and the tradeoff was not worth it. Migraines still abound. It’s way better to have caffeine in the arsenal even though going too long without caffeine after regular caffeine intake will probably trigger a headache.)

Mother


I was a little concerned about using up “Mother” this soon, as we’ll doubtless get another episode about the Olivia & Etta dynamic before Fringe is over; there are now fewer than a dozen episodes left, however, and I’ve learned not to be too precious
about such things.

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

Fringe 5.02 In Absentia / Photo of Anna Torv as Olivia and Georgina Haig as Etta

No Swedish or Portuguese, I promise.

Aping Mad


The first issue of Mad hit the stands 60 years ago this week — or not. I’ll get back
to that shortly.




What does this have to do with the image above, cropped from a 15-year-old drawing
of mine?

Yellow Submarine


With its fifth and final season, Fringe has entered a new dimension. Or is that descriptor inadvisable, lest the senses of the word be confused? The series has, of course, built much of its mythology on 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 fictional actual — future, as viewers had already been made aware through advance promotion and was seen on Friday night in the Season Five opener...

Fringe 5.01 Transilience Thought Unifier Model-11 / Photo of Georgina Haig as Etta in front of massive, crystalline amber object

I’ll get back to the future shortly. First I want to welcome any new readers by way of giving these writeups (and their names) some context.

Spamalittlemore


The downside to not sharing my entries in hashtag games here within a day or so of them being a thing on Twitter is that anyone interested in heading over there 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.

And so, in roughly the order they were posted, it’s time for my...

Top Twenty-Five Unpromising Sequels

25. The Day After the Day After

24. Hastily-Dressed Lunch

23. Monday in the Park without George

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 notably 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.

Just 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.



Related: HIVE-Minded Dream a Little Dream of Meep;
or, The Subconscious and the Frog
Of Was and When

Mxy Business




This post is currently down for maintenance.

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 preposition uncapitalized.

A Gaiman View


In early August, Miss Violet DeVille asked for suggestions on Twitter for the title of a burlesque show based on the work of Neil Gaiman.

Naturally, I threw out a few ideas. They all riffed on Gaiman book titles; at least one of them was redundant to someone quicker on the draw.

While I’ve been thinking about running them on the blog as a Top X list, there are just five — and that’s counting the one that I came up with belatedly for the title of this post. So I decided to monkey with the covers to the books in question to spice things up visually. Comme ça:

The House Dolls logo

You’re not gonna get these if you aren’t familiar with the original books, of course.

Joe Kubert 1926-2012


Hawkman trying to help Hawkwoman free herself from grip of an elephant’s trunk
Art from cover to Joe Kubert Presents #1 © 2012 DC Comics.

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 networks, 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


I’ll get to the Jack Kirby of it all in a moment.

The Black Racer 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.


Decades before The Late Show was the title of David Letterman’s CBS alternative to
Jay Leno, it was the rather generic name of wee-hours broadcasts of old movies on local TV stations. The phrase also came to be used, with morbid punnery, for the Oscars’ familiar montage of industry folks who’d passed away in the previous year.

Ol’ Pointy Ears Is Back


B&W photo of Adam West and Leonard Nimoy at a drum kit

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.

Game Faces


I’m a few weeks late in bidding aloha to the Flyin’ Hawaiian, Shane Victorino.

Shane Victorino of the Phillies finishing a swing of the bat
Photo: Jeff Robertson for The Associated Press © 2012.

He was traded by the Phillies on July 31st to the LA Dodgers — who 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 in 2005. In the past seven years 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.

Dragon Tale


I didn’t read any reviews of Rachel Hartman’s delightful fantasy novel, Seraphina, before settling in to enjoy. The little I knew already felt like more than I should. A secret carried by the title character is revealed to the reader fairly early on and, I think, to be suspected well before that; still, even if a good story is often less about the What than about the How and the Why and the consequences of the What, it’s best to let the story unfold on its own terms.

Dragon soaring amidst clouds above city towers

Avoiding chatter about Seraphina was hard because Hartman’s novel is clearly what they call in the book trade a triumphant debut.

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 a bit 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 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?)

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) 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 people, 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 outlet between the shooter and political movements on both sides of the 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. Upon waking it would be the 4th of July and my blogging buddy Teebore’s next installment of his issue-by-issue X-Men analysis would be published; 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 hanging out with the Avengers.

When this 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. That drawing, centered on Superman, was getting to be rather intricate, too, I realized as I was inking it (n.b., “inking” = the stage of applying black ink by pen, marker, or brush to finish line artwork for reproduction once it's been drawn in pencil).

The ’Works


Photo of fireworks 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 purely 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 earlier tonight 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 can’t 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 in the name of checking out the feeds of friends and acquaintances and folks I admire without having to click through from their own websites and such to catch up.

I won’t make any promises but if you follow me I will very possibly follow you.



Related: Twitter-Pated Spamalittlemore Uh-Oh

Robert L. Washington III 1964-2012



Digital version of newsstand cover to Static #1 © 1993 Milestone Media.
Pencils: Denys Cowan. Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti. Colors: Noelle Giddings.


This post is currently down for maintenance.

AV Club


Captain America crouching in front of oddly positioned Thor and Iron Man

Just few years after the team’s 1963 debut on newsstands, the Avengers leapt from comic books to television in episodes of The Marvel Super-Heroes — a syndicated block of five rotating features produced by Grantray-Lawrence, 13 three-part episodes apiece, that aired in various US markets either on its own or within a locally hosted children’s program.

S Is for...


Sonja from Sweden — the latest citizen curator of the official @Sweden Twitter account — who last week twitted out some controversial questions and comments on a certain subject that have spurred me to share a short soliloquy about schmutz.

I can’t use the verb (or noun) “tweet” unless we’re talking about birds. Call your
service Tweeter if you want “tweets” to be “tweeted”. 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 platforms that encourage short bursts of prose or graphics are considered “microblogging” that would make the entries “microposts”.
All I know is that I just refuse to say “tweet”.

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

Screenshot of post from Sonja on the Sweden Twitter feed that reads, sic, 'Whats the fuzz with jews. You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?'

This was sent out under the aegis of the actual country of Sweden. It was not any random little Twit from a random little twit. Sweden, in a grand experiment with vox populi democracy or individualism or whatever, has been handing over the official Twitter feed of the nation to a different Swede every week. Sonja is a young Swedish woman who seems to think that Jews as well as a select number of sneaky non-Jew decoys have multiple penises.

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.

MCU versions of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor, and Loki marching in line, drawn in style of Maurice Sendak, evoking 'Where the Wild Things Are'

You can view the above collision between the mourning of Maurice Sendak’s
passing 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.



Related: The A Team Maurice Sendak 1928-2012 Huston, We Have Amalgam

Plumped-Up Lips


Lana Del Rey, a woman with pale skin and cartoonishly puffy lips, resting her head against a wall and looking into the distance

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.

Conan O'Brien in a guest chair, David Letterman gesturing with hands apart while seated behind his desk

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; Tonight 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


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

I not only saw it — opening day, which is always fun but for the past dozen or so years not something that I’ve been able to count on doing — I’ve written about it as well; that commentary just hasn’t made its way here yet. My actual review of the Joss Whedon jam will hopefully be along shortly after these musings on its revenue and other impressive statistics.

photo-illustration of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark holding Cosmic Cube with dollar sign amidst viewscreens depicting Avengers promotional images

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 / MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM

She stood atop one of those several-feet-tall posts made not just for scratching but
for perching, known as cat trees, all stretched out — balanced in fact on the very apex
of it. And this lovely, lithe orange Creamsicle of a kitten actually pushed at the ceiling tiles with her paws.

Her name wasn’t Pebbles then. It was Honey, and her brother’s was Ashley. My wife and I were only too happy to get a package deal — there were two of us; two cats made sense — and the shelter was glad to have the siblings go to the same home, even as we got some grief in passing from an aide there about how people always wanted to adopt the youngest cats.

Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, as we named them, were born on May 15th and 8 months old according to their papers. I believe they lived briefly with another family before going to the shelter, but we didn’t really get much info.

My baby girl turned 16 yesterday, and before the year is out she’ll have lived as long
as any cat I had growing up. Fef died suddenly at this age, of a heart problem that was known but which didn’t seem to bother him, while I was in the midst of a divorce and staying at my mother’s house with him as a welcome comfort. I’m not ashamed in the least to say that I cried — very bittersweet tears — upon finding out that my now ex-wife just assumed our cats would live with me. I was still absolutely shattered, but Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm made Fef’s departure easier to bear.

Bamm-Bamm passed away a couple of months ago. I keep attempting to finish and publish a post in remembrance of him. Now that his (their) birthday has come around,
I find the prospect of acknowledging the joy he brought and mourning his passing even stranger without acknowledging the joy his sister brings.

Close-up photo of a cat with tongue poised to catch stream of water from kitchen faucet / MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM

We came to realize that Pebbles wasn’t necessarily trying to escape the shelter
through the ductwork, although given her disdain for most other animals as well as many people that was probably part of it. She simply loved to go up; to jump onto whatever was higher than the last place she’d been until there was no more higher to go; to climb up the wall, stop, and meow at the heavens — perhaps, we’d joke, the
alien mothership — before gravity brought her back down; to ride around on my shoulder like a parrot.

She’s still tiny, especially compared to her late brother. While she’s not quite as active as she used to be, she still chases things — her tail included — and still often curls up into a precious, bizarrely tangled mess of furry limbs when she sleeps. She’s still sassy.

Does she still get a little frantic sometimes? Yeah. Has she become a bit needier,
mostly in a cozy way but also crying in the middle of the night, since her brother died? Unfortunately. Do I still love her to pieces? God, yes.

Photo of an orange and white cat curled up on a white bedspread / MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM

Honey Pebbles Flintstone Saner Lamken, you are the sunshine of my life, and not just because you wake me up at the crack of dawn.


Photos © 2011, 2012 Brian Saner Lamken.


[Note: She finally reached the heavens in late 2017 at the astounding age of 21 years,
5 months, after too long an illness. We both, she and I, had trouble letting go.]

Prom Numbers


I came up with a dozen entries for the Late Show with David Letterman website’s current Top Ten contest. 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. What 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 be possible to do justice to Maurice Sendak with this post.

A young boy in a wolf costume and crown frozen in mid-dance with monsters around him on moonlit night

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 relationship with the Brooklyn-born Sendak. (If you’re ever in town, I recommend a visit to the place — its collection includes a large repository of Lewis Carroll memorabilia, 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 sample the incunabula!)

Spamabit


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
a 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 “comments” that nakedly 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.