Sunday, May 31, 2009

Programming Note

First let's start off with a joke, though Mike Sterling already made the most obvious one earlier this week:

This costume should really come with a Salacious Crumb* that you can velcro to your chest for added amusement/shame. Or better yet, a harness and S.C. infant costume so you can embarrass your child before they're even old enough to realize that you are making a fool out of them.

Anyway, I'm going to make a concerted effort to get some real content up this week, I've even got a few posts in the hopper already, but the mass of posts that have died during the editing stage cast doubts on even my best of intentions. But dammit, I will do this thing, and it will be good**.

*Oops, I'm sorry, apparently his full name is Salacious B. Crumb. Phoning It In Industries regrets the error.

**Or at least vaguely acceptable

Monday, May 25, 2009

Late to the Party

I've had this blog post sitting in my drafts for a few days, unfortunately, I hate blogging about music, since it's something I have a hard time putting into words, more so for things that I really like. Anyway, it all started when Johnny Bacardi, Matt Springer and I were discussing Jay Bennett's solo work, something I had been pretty unaware of until the last week or so. Then, yesterday I started to see some rumors on twitter, and finally last night I saw my fears were verified on Jim Derogatis's blog. Jay Bennett was dead at age 45.

I was a big fan of Wilco back in the mid-to-late 90's. I saw them a bunch of times (living in their home-town and all) and Summerteeth and the first Mermaid Avenue album rate pretty high on my desert island discs list. However, after the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot fiasco, they fell into the same hole that Radiohead fell into for me. While the ponderous, experimental music both bands have been creating after their popularity peeked may be more artistically rewarding for them, but I much preferred when both bands rocked. Since then, I've kind of listened to each new release with less and less interest.

After our conversations, I picked up Jay Bennett & Edward Burch's The Palace at 4AM (Part 1), used off of amazon (as it looks to be out of print)*, as Bennett's time with the band coincided with the peak of my interest and I was justly rewarded. It's kind of funny that I was completely unaware that Bennett was even releasing solo music, considering that this disc is 7 years old. The album itself is just great. Heavy on Brian-Wilsonesque orchestration and lyrics that I find very similar to Elvis Costello's (it helps that some of the vocals sound like him too). It's pretty much a perfect album to throw on while sitting outside this summer, enjoying a frosty beverage. Here are two of my favorite tracks, first up is one of the more Costello-ish cuts:

Jay Bennett & Edward Burch - Whispers or Screams

Next, is one of the best rockers on the album:

Jay Bennett & Edward Burch - Drinking on Your Dime

Obviously, it's pretty terrible that Bennett passed away, from what I've read, he's had a pretty tough go of it the last few years, but things were starting to look up. I look forward to getting into more of his catalog, but I'll feel bad that I won't get a chance to see him live.

*Looks like most of his stuff is available on eMusic (with a few tracks unavailable) and they're also up on Amazon for pretty cheap (though that may change). Also, his most recently released album, Whatever Happened, I Apologize is currently available for free download.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Movie Review - Terminator: Salvation

I loved The Terminator, in the way that only a 12 year-old boy can when he just saw the most awesome R-rated movie he'd seen up till then. It was everything I wanted in a movie: time-travel, guns, robots, boobs, and explosions. By the time T2 rolled around, I was 17, and though I was excited, it just didn't push the same buttons, mostly because they didn't really exist anymore, or rather, I hadn't gotten mature enough to discover that some of the immaturity of youth was worth holding onto. For all of the ground-breaking effects in that movie, I never saw it as much more than a perfectly adequate sequel. We'll just ignore the third one, mostly because everyone else has.

Anyway, that all was just my way of saying that, while my inner 12 year-old was suitably chuffed for the latest movie, it just didn't hold the same vibe for me. Finding myself with a few hours to kill yesterday I said "what the hell" and checked out Terminator: Salvation. It was pretty darn good.

Ditching the time travel scenarios that have defined the previous three films (and the TV series), we start up after Judgment Day, with the machines thoroughly winning the battle against humanity. John Connor, rather than being the leader, at this point is simply middle-management in the resistance, screaming to anyone that'll listen that he's the one who's going to save them all. Some listen, some don't. After a disastrous mission in which all of his men are killed, Connor and the leadership discover they may have a way to finally win the war, and also discover that they're all on Skynet's hit list, though some kid named Kyle Reese is #1. Also during this mission, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) finds himself among the ruins. During the prologue we met Wright on death row, signing his body over to Cyberdyne Systems. From there on we have two storylines, Wright's traveling through the post-apocalyptic landscape, meeting with Reese and trying to figure what's going on. And Connor, planning the attack, and also trying to find Reese on his own.

It's no secret that they all eventually meet up, and that Wright proves to be a terminator. But regardless, the plot is just something to keep the action scenes coming, and they do, at a pretty quick clip. It's all pretty cool, lots of big robots, blowing things up, and if that's what you want, you can't go wrong here. Sam Worthington's pretty darn good here, though his Australian accent does slip a few times, overall, he does well facing off against Bale. Christian Bale does the best that he can with what he has to work with, but it's not much. Essentially, he's asked to play Batman, without the Bruce Wayne scenes to bring some pathos to the character*. Connor is all gruff, grumbling anger, which, let's face it is to be expected in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Obviously, a lot of the character development of this movie has been left on the cutting room floor. Connor and his wife, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, have virtually no time together, and the baby she's obviously pregnant with is not even mentioned. Also, Wright strikes up a relationship with a pilot played by Moon Bloodgood, that had to have more to it originally than the few meaningful glances that are included in the movie.

Anyway, this movie is virtually all action, and it's all well done. Is there anything deep or meaningful to the movie? No, but there wasn't anything deep to the previous three, so why should that be held against this one? Star Trek** is still my favorite movie of the summer so far, but this one will do when you've gotten tired of seeing that one. McG proves himself to be a pretty darn good action director, but it still doesn't make up for the fact that he had a d-bag name and unleashed two Charlie's Angels flicks upon the world.

*FYI, this movie is 82% more awesome if you just go into it thinking that rather than a terminator movie, it is, in fact BATMAN VS. ROBOTS.

** Actually, Star Trek is my favorite of the year so far.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great Geek Disappointment of 1999

Hey everybody! Do you remember when this was the coolest, most exciting thing you had ever seen?

Well, that was 10 years ago yesterday, cause ten years ago today Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out and while we all tried to talk ourselves into loving it for a few months, we eventually admitted, despite a few moments of wonder, it was pretty crap. Anyway, if you don't plan to spend this dorkiest of anniversaries in a hazy, drunken stupor, I'd suggest popping over to Alert Nerd and down-loading Mat Springer's E-book, PooDoo: Bullshitting About Star Wars (1999-2009). I'm about half-way through so far and it's a hoot.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Comics Reviews: Solo Avengers Starring Hawkeye #17

OK, in order to jump-start this den of nothingness that I call a blog, I'm going to dive into my unorganized mess of back issues and randomly select and issue every week to read, review and quite possible ridicule (or praise).
Tonight's offering is Solo Avengers Starring Hawkeye #17 from 1989. It's hard to believe that back in the day that West Coast Avengers was such a hit that it spawned its own spin-off starring it most popular character. Each issue would feature a lead 11 page story starring Hawkeye, and other half would be given over to a tale starring another past or current Avenger.

The lead story, titled, I shit you not, "Even an Octopus Needs Arms!" written by Tom DeFalco with art by Al Milgrom & Don Heck features everyone's favorite purple-attired hero checking in on an anonymous tip called into Avengers mansion about an arms deal. Upon arrival, he's greeted by the recently reformed Sandman, who is casing the joint for his job with Silver Sable and decided he needed some back-up, thus Hawkeye.

Anyway, needless to say, things go sideways when Doctor Octopus shows up and the boys decide to bust some heads. From there, it's a few pages of the heroes bantering while trying to catch the bad guys and eventually losing them all because they're too busy trying not to get killed (well, at least on Hawkeye's part, that is).
The only truly interesting part of it is this panel:

Where Hawkeye references the hearing aids he got after suffering some damage, as he said, "months ago", despite the series being referenced having been published a full six years before. Damn, time moves slowly in the Marvel Universe.

Next up, we have a quick tale starring the Sub-Mariner by Danny Fingeroth and Dave Cockrum. Apparently Namor's looking for the children of his recently deceased wife, Marina. Whilst swimming about the ocean, he happens along a family who were thrown from their boat and he saves them and brings them back to land. Moved by the poverty that they live in, he gives them the gold that he just happens to be carrying with him*.

Anyway, continuing his search, he comes upon Power Man & Iron Fist's old office building which the Beyonder turned to gold and then was promptly sunk in the ocean by the government so it wouldn't tank the entire world's gold market. How's that for a bit of heavy continuity injection for ya? Namor, grudgingly agreeing with the Henry Peter Gyrich-wannabe** he's got to deal with heads out and agrees not to tell anyone about his lucrative find.

As he swims away, he passes a stealth submarine, manned by Goldbug, a super-villain I had only previously thought had existed in a Spider-Man Hostess pie ad***, stealing the gold building. Anyway, after we get treated to Dave Cockrum's Many Emotions of Namor:

He decides to do the right thing and mess up a C-list villain and get yelled at by the same government jackass, thus souring him once again on the human race.

Overall, it's pretty much the definition of adequate superhero comics in the late 1990's. Well worth my $.75, but not much more. Thanks for reading my rants concerning this weeks random folly of my youth, tune in ext week to see what I found lurking in the comics boxes in my basement.

*To apparently pay off a class action suit he had recently lost. This is a book I want: The Biggest Legal Battles of the Marvel Universe. I want action....LEGAL ACTION.

**This Guy:

***Which apparently I had imagined, I just spent nearly an hour looking for the damned thing on Seanbaby, and couldn't find it. If you happen upon an old school Hostess ad featuring Goldbug, drop me a note, just to show I'm not least about this.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

I've gotta say that I was impressed. I've never been the biggest Star Trek fan, the original that is. In college, I archived the perfect balance of free time and alcohol abuse that made Next Generation my favorite series for a couple years there, but Kirk, Spock and crew just never connected for me. I enjoyed the better of the movies (how can you deny Wrath of Khan?) , but it just never meant that much to me. So I approached the new movie hesitantly, but I wasn't overly concerned with J.J. Abrahms "crapping on my childhood" or anything like that. Hell, if I was going to try to sell a Trek movie to the general public, I'd do the same thing, start with what everyone know, Kirk, Spock & "Beam me up Scotty!"

So the movie, for an origin story it zips right a long. Starting with Jim Kirk's birth and his Father's death. From there, we get some parallel stories of Kirk & Spock's upbringing, meant to highlight the fact that they grew up outsiders. This is really the only part that kind of fell flat for me. While Spock's story works well, Kirk's only illustrated to me that he was a mouthy little kid who needed a good slap. Plus, that kid looked nothing like Chris Pine.

Anyway, things move quickly from there, getting Kirk etal. through Starfleet Academy via a quick, "Three Years Later"* title and getting us to Kirk's victory over the Kobayashi Maru scenario, which was pretty damn funny. I do like that while Chris Pine nails Kirk's cocky, self-assurance, he's the only one of the actors that didn't attempt to mimic their predecessor's acting style/character tics. It would have been very easy for him to fall into mimicking Shatner's stilted line-readings and that just would've been horrible. The rest of the gang is just great, though I would have preferred a little more of Simon Pegg's Scotty, but hey, you can't get everything you want. All of the characters are given something to so, something that comes from their character and that's the best thing about it, the characters join hand in hand witht he whiz-bang effects to make this just a fantastic film.

The biggest down-fall of the film overall is its villain. Eric Bana gives it a try, though he varies from being the hard-ass, tough-guy, to playing one scene with cocky sarcasm, but he's just kind of there to give something for our heroes to bounce off of. When the sequel comes, I have a feeling they'll have to put a little more effort into the challenge the Enterprise faces.

Overall, I loved this movie, in fact, I plan to see it again tomorrow. Though there are still a few movies coming out this summer that I'm eager to see, I doubt that any of them will rival this one. Now, when's the damn sequel coming out?

*My biggest disappointment about my viewing experience is that the theater mis-framed the picture of the movie, so all of the titles bled off into the curtains. It would have been nice to see the whole thing.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Hey Kids! New Art!

Many moons ago, Les McClaine, superb artist and co-creator of favorite indie-comic (and TV show) The Middleman, was offering to do commissions. This was so many moons ago in fact, that I had forgotten that I had bought one. So much to my pleasant surprise, I found a large envelope on my doorstep with my Iron Fist commission inside, check it out:

Also, since I'm a wonderful person, there was a small portrait of Luke Cage as well:

He also threw in copies of his Repeat Until Death comic-strip collection and the Evil Space Robot mini-comic. So yeah, I'm pretty stoked, maybe this will get me of my ass to get these and my other two portraits framed now, one can only hope.

Anyway, I highly recommend keeping an eye on Mr. McClaine's web site, EvilSpaceRobot to see when he next is offering commissions, and also follow his excellent web-comic, Johnny Crossbones.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


So it came to pass that Free Comic Book Day has descended upon us once more, on this absolutely beautiful (at least in the Chicago-area) Saturday in May. I headed over to my local comic shop to check out the wares and was not disappointed with the selection and there was already quite a crowd, even though I arrived just a few minutes after opening. Skottie Young, artist on Marvel's adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was already signing and doing sketches, so I quickly jumped in line. Chris Mitten, artist on the very good Wasteland, soon joined him. I managed to get something signed by each of them, along with these two sketches:

First, I had no idea what to get, since I didn't expect them to be doing sketches, so I didn't think about it ahead of time or bring any reference material (or even a sketch-book). Fortunately, I overheard Skottie Young saying that he had just finished re-reading NextWave, so I immediately knew I needed a sketch of Machine Man:

Next, I asked Chris Mitten to draw Michael, from Wasteland:

Both of the guys were great to talk to and I'd highly recommend seeking them out if they're at a convention near you.

Amazing Fantasy did their usual bang-up job with the event and everyone had good things to say about them, I love that shop and it's nice that I've never had to shop at a crappy comics shop in my life.

As for the comics themselves, I'd highly recommend picking up the Atomic Robo book, the short story contained within is a hoot and worth the (no) money for the last page alone. DC's Blackest Night #0 is OK, pretty much a trailer for the upcoming event, but there's still some nice interaction between Hal Jordan and Barry Allen in there, actually, it was better than Flash: Rebirth #1 in that respect, but I don't know if that's a function of this book being that good, or that book being that bad. Marvel's Avengers book is a fun little story and is good for bringing people up to speed on the current clusterfuck that is Avengers continuity, it's a good example of taking a crappy status quo and spinning an OK story out of it.

So anyway, it's still reasonably early on this most comic-booky of holidays, so if you can, get out there and get yourself some comics! Buy some too!