Saturday, December 27, 2008
I just finished reading Batman #683 and I feel that, it and #682 are easily the best issues of Grant Morrison's run since the three-issue Club of Heroes storyline last year. [SPOILERS AHEAD] In these two issues, we're shown what has happened to Batman since he was strapped into the machine in Final Crisis #2 (or was it 3), essentially, Desaad and Simyan have been beating all of the pain and rage out of his psyche and feeding it into their artificial soldiers to essentially give them an army of Angry Batmen. Fortunately, the pain he has endured over his life is so extreme that not only is it too much for creations of Apokolips to bear, but he can also wield it as a weapon against psychic attackers. This is one of those cool, clever ideas that Morrison has become known for, and really haven't been seen a lot in this series.
Along with all that, we're given some closure as to what happened to Batman after he plunged into the Gotham River with Dr. Hurt at the end of #681. The only real problem here is that, with Batman breaking free at the end, we get a big "TO BE CONTINUED IN FINAL CRISIS #6!" Now, I'm sure this is going to piss a lot of people off (and it already has on the internets), but it doesn't really bug me. Mostly because I'm already reading that series and it seems appropriate that if Bats is going to do something big in FC, it should happen in the main series. The big problem a lot of people are going to have is that the "end" of Batman R.I.P. isn't happening in Batman. I can kind of see their point, but let's face it, this is the nature of big event comics, if there's going to b a major change to a character, it's going to happen in the big event book d'jour. The only place that this hasn't happened is when Marvel showed an uncharacteristic amount of restraint in letting Captain America getting shot in his own book. But anyway, it is what it is, and I, for one am excited to read it when it happens.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Hey all, I just wanted to thank everyone who has read all, or even just one of these posts. It was a lot of fun, and not a little bit of work. I still have four or five half-written posts so I'm thinking that I'm going to make this a continuing series.
But anyway, thanks again to everyone who read and commented, I look forward to staying on a more regular posting schedule in the new year. Hope you're all having a wonderful holiday and I'll talk to you when I'm back from vacation in a few days.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
OK, for reals, one of my truly favorite things is Christmas Day. While I am no stranger to the seasonal melancholy and the nigh-unbearable stress that the holiday season loads upon us all, somehow, once the day itself dawns, that all washes away. Suddenly it's a flurry of wrapping paper and smiles. Once the first-thing-in-the-morning insanity wanes, it becomes a more relaxed day of playing with toys, drinking coffee and moseying on over to a family-members house for comfort food. I realize that's not everyone's experience (especially if you're hosting), but I think the best way to put it is as Ira Glass said on a This American Life Christmas special, when he said, "Christmas is the time when everyone is the same person that they normally are, but only more so." That pretty much sums it up, we're all good parents, or siblings, or sons and daughters, only more so. And fortunatley, very few of us are truly miserable bastards. So, on this day, I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful, relaxing day with your family. If you celebrate it, I wish you all a truly Merry Christmas and if you don't, I wish you a happy holiday of whatever type you choose.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Favorite Movies of 2008 (Theatrical):
- The Dark Knight: Easily the best movie of the year, and quite possibly one of my favorite movies ever. There's not much to say that has not already been said elsewhere, but this is just a perfect movie.
- Wall-E: Another perfect movie. Visually beautiful, incredibly intelligent, absolutely unflinching in its indictment of wasteful consumerism, all wrapped up in a package that is perfect for all ages. The amount of information and story this movie expresses in its first, almost dialogue-free hour, should be shown in film-classes for years to come.
- Speed Racer: Fun. No other description applies, this is just a plain fun movie, the likes of which just doesn't seem to get made much anymore (you can check out my original review here).
- Starman Omnibus Vol. 1: My love of this book has been well-stated before, but now that DC is re-releasing the series in lovely, over-sized hardcovers, I'm falling in love all over again. Just a great package, and though the book is not without its faults, it's still probably the best thing DC put out in the 90's.
- Invasion!: Pure 1980's stupid fun. It's rare that I can read a book that I loved when I was 14 and still find the same amount of fun in it 20 years later. Shit, I feel old now.
- Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!: Definitive Collection: It's rare that you get to read something "fresh" these days. I never got a chance to read this series back when it came out, and since then, it was never collected in any meaningful way, so I jumped at the chance to pick up this new edition (at 50% off at DCBS), and it was pretty much as great as everyone had always said. On top of that, it was just a beautiful package, just a brick of a hardcover, a little more trim than the standard size, perfect for carrying on planes and clubbing attackers.
- Criminal: See Day 22.
- Captain America: Again, see Day 22.
- Blue Beetle: As the character-creators Keith Giffen and John Rogers left the book, the very able Matthew Sturges took over...and the book was promptly cancelled. Once again, despite the "fans" bitching that there aren't any teen-skewing, fun, non-continuity laden comics out there for the proverbial "kids" to read, they didn't buy the fucking book that was pretty much exactly what they were asking for. Sturges and continuing artist Raphael Albuquerque came on the book and did, what I thought to be, a very good job despite being doomed from the start. It's to bad really, with the push the character is getting from Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series, it would have been nice to see if they would have gotten a sales bump off of it.
- David Byrne (performing the songs of David Byrne & Brian Eno) at the Civic Opera House: Just a beautiful, fun, rollicking show. Playing songs from throughout his career, Mr. Byrne was just plain entertaining.
- Kraftwerk: Saw them in Milwaukee, don't remember the venue, but it was fantastic. I was doubtful going in, but I had been assured it was one of those shows you have to see and they were right. I really can't explain how good the show was in words, since it was essentially watching four German dudes, sitting behind laptops, playing pre-recorded music, but it was magical. Just fantastic.
- The Pogues at the Riviera: Yet another one of those "have to see them before you (or Shane McGowan) dies" shows. And once again, it was absolutely perfect.
*Well, not really but hey, some hyperbole was called for.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
First up is Cut Copy and their excellent album In Ghost Colours that has found its way onto many year end lists*, but let me tell you, there's a reason for that, pretty much perfecting the melding of indie-pop and dance music into something that just appeals to me more than I would have thought possible if you had explained it to me beforehand. Here's a video** for Far Away:
Another find (for me) this year were The Mates of State. This husband and wife team makes beautiful indie pop music together and it's just a whole lot of fun. It's pretty much perfect music for my commute home to help shake off the workday. Though they did release a very good album this year, Re-Arrange Us, lately I've been enjoying Bring It Back which features this little slice of fried pop gold, Fraud in the 80's:
*Two list in particular of note are Poor Ditching Boy's Best Songs of 2008 List(featuring Lights and Music) and Kevin Church named Hearts on Fire his #10 track of 2008.
** Though not an "official" video, someone added the song "to the final race scene in cult classic 1986 BMX movie Rad". God, I love the internet (see also: Day Seven).
Monday, December 22, 2008
Anyway, today's favorite thing isn't a thing at all, it's a person, or rather a writer, of comics books. Ed Brubaker is probably the best guy writing superhero comics right now. let's go down the current murderer's row of titles he's been writing:
Captain America: Forty come issues in to his run on this series (with artists Mike Perkins and Steve Epting) he's managed to not only make Cap matter for the first time in over a decade. He managed to kill his title character and have it feel real. And making a main character's death feel real in superhero comics is quite a feat.
The Immortal Iron Fist: Co-writing with Matt Fraction, Brubaker took a character that hadn't had much done with him since he was created during the kung-fu mad late-seventies and turned this book into one of the coolest, funniest most action-packed books on the shelves. While he and Fraction have since moved on, they set the stage for this book to be on of the true gems that Marvel is publishing.
Daredevil: I'll be honest, I'm a little behind on this book, but his first year on the book, spent straightening out the clusterfuck left behind after Brian Michael Bendis moved on was probably my favorite run on the book since Frank Miller's original run. One of these days, I'm going to have to do a post on those twelve issues alone.
X-Men: Yeah, I haven't been reading this. Except for Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, I don't think I've actually enjoyed a new X-Men book in 20 years, so I'm too afraid of being disappointed by his take as well. Maybe when the first trade of his (and Matt Fraction's) run is released, I'll give it a try. Unfortunately, they have Greg Land doing the art, or, when it comes to him "art". His "traced-from-porn" penciling style just leaves me bored.
Criminal: Not a superhero book, but easily the my favorite comic right now. Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips's excellent little crime book telling inter-connected tales of the various low-lifes that populate a nameless, ugly American city is so good, that I find it hard not to just sit in the car ad read it in the parking lot after picking it up from the shop. But it's not just their stories that make this book so good. The back of the book features articles or reviews by some of the best crime writers (and fans) around, often with illustrations by Phillips. Usually, right after I read this book, my ext move is to update my Netflix queue with whatever movies they're talking about. Easily the best value-for-money book around.
And that's just what he's currently writing. Brubaker also wrote one of my top-three books ever, Gotham Central (which I've go on and on about too many times before) and his first work with Sean Phillips, Sleeper is another excellent book (which could possibly become a movie too).
***Update*** Also, looks like teh trailer for Bruaker's new web series is up, go ahead and check it out:
From Crackle: Angel of Death: Coming soon to Crackle
Sunday, December 21, 2008
(adapted from the 1997 version of The Joy of Cooking)
makes 12 6-inch waffles
This recipe is adaptable: you can use as little as 4 tablespoons or as much as 16 tablespoons of butter. You can also add more eggs and reduce the milk for even richer, lighter waffles. One-half cup of raisins, ripe banana chunks, nuts, crumbled bacon or berries can be added after the wet and dry ingredients are mixed.
1 3/4 cup flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs, well beaten
8 T. butter, melted
1 1/2 cup milk
Step 1: Preheat the waffle iron
Step 2: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
Step 3: Whisk together the eggs, butter and milk in a second bowl.
Step 4: Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir briefly. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Err on the side of undermixing.
Step 5: Spoon 1/2 cup batter onto the hot iron and spread it within 1/4 inch of the edges with a spoon.
Step 6: Close the lid and bake until steam stops emerging. Keep warm as above or serve immediately.
While the recipe states that it is adaptable for the amount of butter you want to use, really, if you love yourself, you'll go with the full, two sticks of butter. Even as your arteries clog you'll have a beatific grin on your face, knowing the shortened life span was worth it.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Let's start with A Fairytale of New York by The Pogues (w/ Kristy MacColl)
Next up, let's go with Calling On Mary by Aimee Mann , just a beautiful song (great album too).
And finally, Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC, because it just ain't Christmas without it.
Friday, December 19, 2008
While that all sounds very stupid, believe me, it's all done very well and very smartly. It's on at 8:45 EST and I think it's great, here's the trailer:
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Recently, the book passed what was to be the planned ending of the book, the final battle between the Adversary and the Fables, but it has continued and I'm glad for it. Though I'm only collecting the book in trades, it's nice to have a big, thick block of the book to read every few months.
Anyway, as I had stated above, ABC has picked up Fables to make into a pilot for next season, and, while I have very little faith that it'll go to series, much less be any good, I am still hopeful The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan wrote a very good article recently laying out the reasons why it could be a very able successor to Lost.
As with everything I've been talking about this month, I can't recommend this book enough. Oh yeah, here's the other cover I couldn't resist, still seasonal, though.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be enjoying an album that features a mash-up of "In a Big Country" and "Whoomp! There it is", I probably would not have believed you. But Greg Gillis manages to take 40 years worth of disparate music and boil it all down to their barest pop materiale. Essentially, this album is a bomb of pure, concentrated pop, and it is beautiful. I really can't say more without repeating what many people have said on their own "best of '08" lists (as Kevin Church does a good job here), so I'll leave you with one of my faves, "Like This":
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
But, the creation of a fantastic new comic series wasn't enough, so they made a TV show out of it, and I love it. In fact, it's easily my favorite new show of 2008. I'll be honest, it seems to take a different tone to the comic series, where that was more of an "X-Files meets Bond movie" vibe, the TV series, is more of a "X-Files meets 1960's Batman TV Series" mixture. Matt Kleesar brings a much different note to the character of the Middleman, giving him a much more clean-cut demeanor than the one that seemed to be portrayed in the comics. But it works, and it's a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they're going to get a second season order, but at least there should be a DVD release of the 12 episodes that were aired, so we hav ethat going for us. Anyway, here are some of the PSA's that they recorded to support the series, they're a hoot.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Set-up: We're in the car, listening to sports radio when a commercial for the Official Barack Obama Victory Plate comes on.
Jack: "Dad, what's a Barack Obama?"
Me: "He's the new President of the United States."
Jack: "Is he the first President."
Me: "No, he's the 43rd President."
Jack: "Who was the first President, Daddy?"
Me: "That was George Washington."
Jack: "Who was the second President?"
Me: "I believe it was John Addams." - (totally guessing here and disappointing all of my elementary school Social Studies Teachers).
Jack: "Have you been President, Dad?"
Me: "No Jack, I have yet to be President of the United Sates."
Jack: "That's OK Daddy, you can be President next time."
Me: "Thanks Jack, your vote is important to me."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The full scene is here, in case you're interested.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
If you like it, the album is available on eMusic and Amazon.
Friday, December 12, 2008
This image, and many other fine other like it is available in the just-released Justice League International Volume 3. I also heartily recommend volumes 1 & 2.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The first is Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices, the band's first album on Matador and their break-through to a national audience. This album is chock full of Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout's two-and-a-half minute (or less) indie pop masterpieces and it made me fall in love with the band. Here's the video for I Am A Scientist, which is just fantastic:
Please note, this is the "single version" of the song, which is not the same as the album version, it can be found here and here.
Next up we have Sebadoh's Bakesale, their first album after founding member Eric Gaffney left, and despite the fact that most of the music press seems to look at their previous two (III and Bubble & Scrape) as being the "classics", this is my favorite. Anyway, it's late and I wish I could better put into words my love of this lo-fi rocker, but I can't, so here's the video for Rebound:
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Anyway, back to Tuesday, sad, crappy Tuesday, it's often the hardest drive into work that day. So how do I get through it? Well, as 80's movies-montages taught us, the best way to motivate yourself for anything: Pop Music!
Here's one of my favorite early-morning-commute toe tappers, the appropriately named Tuesday Morning by Tommy Keene:
Monday, December 08, 2008
HUGHES: "Two down, the Brewers have the bases loaded, and a 2-2 count on the hitter. Here's the pitch. Swung on. Fly ball to left field. Brant Brown going back. Brant Brown ... drops the ball!"
SANTO: "Oh, nooooooooo!"
HUGHES: "He dropped the ball!"
HUGHES: "Three runs will score, and the Brewers have beaten the Cubs."
I will say though, I owe Brant Brown for that one, without that drop, I would have never gotten the chance to go to the one game playoff between the Cubs and the Giants to decide the wold-card slot. That was easily, if not the best, the most fun, exciting game of baseball that I've attended live. Of course, that's helped by the fact that every post-season game I've attended since, has been lost by the Cubs.
Anyway, due to his....rather overdone calls, Ron catches a lot of shit. Admittedly, he also tends to miss a lot, and he's not always up on what is actually going on in the game, but it's like going to a game with your crazy uncle, most of the time, he's well, crazy, but some days, he's fucking on. Anyway, I love Ron Santo, and in an age when we're all bitching about the assholes who are getting into the HOF, here's a guy who clearly deserves to be in there, and if the veteran's committee has any sense, they'd let him in.
To learn more about Ron Santo, I' recommend checking out the documentary This Old Cub, which details his baseball career, his quest to be inducted into the HOF and his battles with diabetes.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Fist, here's "The Star Trek" Rap by Prime Directive and Galaxy Class (NSFW).
Next up, we have Captain James T. Kirk's (original flavor) reaction to his replacement:
There's ten minutes of your day you'll never get back, wondrous.
Thanks to BeaucoupKevin and AlertNerd for bringing these to my (and the internet at large's attention).
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Anyhoo, here we go:
And finally, here's a seasonal cut:
Oh, and hey, they just did another Holiday song, here's their newest:
Holly Jolly Hollywood
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Produced at one of the rare times when the two major comic companies weren't in a pissing match about who can make the less coherent "event", they rounded up the two perfect creators, writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez to produce the end-all, be-all teaming of the biggest supergroups on the planet (short of Damn Yankees). Astoundingly, it pretty much meets or exceeds all expectations. While Perez's hyper-detailed art is ostensibly the biggest draw, Busiek's handling of such a gigantic cast of characters makes the book just sing. Really, if you enjoy your super-heroes, this is high-concentrate crack (now finally available in paperback).
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
This record is not only the best Christmas record ever, it's easily one of the best pop records ever. Seriously, this thing stays on my iPod all year long ad when it comes up on shuffle, it's rare that it get skipped over. Now I understand that seeing the frayed, fright-wigged, crazy, possibly murdering old man that Mr. Spector has become makes it difficult to drop some cash into his pockets, but seriously, everyone needs to own this. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love is one of my top ten pop tunes ever, and I'll leave you with that:
While ACGFY is available as a stand-alone album, I'd highly recommend picking up the Phil Spector box set Back to Mono, which includes it in its entirety, that box is a must-own for any lover of pop music (which I just realized is out of print, that's just stupid).
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Jeff Smith's epic tale of the little bone brothers, exiled from Boneville and their adventures in the Valley is a book I pull out at least once a year, and usually devour in a (rather sleepless) weekend. Beginning as an Disney-like, slapstick short, it soon develops into an epic tale of stolen kingdoms, hidden princesses and realized prophesies that is something that stays with your for quite some time. It's one of those books that I can't wait to share with my kids.
I really can't recommend this book enough, it's currently available in a cinder-block sized one volume edition, plus the lovely, new colored editions that Scholastic has put out.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Anyway, by random choice (as it was the first thing to pop into my head), today's topic will be one of my top-five favorite movies, North By Northwest.
I've loved this movie for so long that I can't even remember the first time I saw it. It had to be after the advent of video, so sometime after I was six years old, but I've gotta say, as a little kid, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) rated up there along with Indiana Jones, James Bond and Han Solo as one of the coolest motherfuckers on the planet. Not because he was an action-hero, because he was the pitch-perfect "wrong man" for this Alfred Hitchcock picture. Thornhill, implicated in an international spy-plot, by the scenery chewing James Mason (in the closest role he ever got to a Bond-villain) exemplifies himself in one of my favorite quotes:
Now you listen to me, I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself "slightly" killed.I love this movie so much, that I cannot be objective about it in any way. It's like a perfect pop music album, it's all candy-coated and rather fake, but at the same time, you don't give a shit cause you're just bobbing your head along with the rhythm. Anyway, if you've never seen the picture, you really owe yourself to see it, if only to count the number of set-pieces that The Simpsons have stolen from it. Here's Mr. Hitchcock himself to sell you on it:
So that's the first of (hopefully) 25 for the next 25 days. I hope you'll tune in!