Friday, October 27, 2006

Set your Tivo

Linking to the New York Post twice in a row? What's wrong with me? But you'll want to know about this. Assuming they aren't just making shit up again, the Post reports that Bill O'Reilly gets it in the you know where tonight on The Late Show. Of course, the Post spins the whole thing, calling Letterman "Humorless Dave" in the headline and gently massaging O'Reilly with a loofah by calling him "the conservative Fox News powerhouse".

Some highlights:

Letterman: Let me ask you a question -- was there more heinous, more dangerous violence taking place before in Iraq, or is there more heinous, dangerous violence taking place now in Iraq?

O'Reilly: Oh, stop it. Saddam Hussein slaughtered 300,000 to 400,000 people, all right, so knock it off... It isn't so black and white, Dave -- it isn't, 'We're a bad country. Bush is an evil liar.' That's not true.

I didn't say he was an evil liar. You're putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ken Jennings vs. Evil

Ken Jennings posts a thoughtful critique of the new game show 1 vs. 100, on which he recently appeared. The New York Post prints a short, gossipy item about this with the lurid headline KILL-JOY JENNINGS TRASHES ‘1 VS 100’. While I've never been a cheerleader for what technophiles call the "New Media" (a term that generally makes me roll my eyes) this is example # 345324231097 why the "Old Media" shouldn't be looking down its nose at the New. But to be fair, the Post has never been the standard bearer for journalistic ethics or all that is good and true about the Old. After all, this is the tabloid that was called "a force for evil" by the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Colbert Report Green Screen Challenge

Bonnie Rose, the winner of the Colbert Report Green Screen Challenge, provides a firsthand report of beating "George L." and winning the non-contest. Here's the winning entry:

I don't think this entry made it on the air, but I saw it on YouTube and thought it was hysterical:

Monday, October 16, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

On Friday the 13th, all the crazy people come out to play

On Friday, Glenn Greenwald and Alicublog posted takedowns of the latest Wall Street Journal column by Peggy Noonan, that partisan hack and former GOP operative who has managed to pass herself off as a font of wisdom. Noonan cherry picks four recent incidents of dubious import and uses them to "prove" her thesis, such as it is, that the left is as a whole lacks grace and civility and is actively crushing dissent with its powerful control of none of the three branches of government. (The right, of course, is full of grace and love. Unless you are gay or foreign or poor.) While such a sad excuse for an argument can be dismissed with two simple words, Greenwald marshalls plenty of examples while Alicublog's tone is a tad more mocking. Now before you say "Tut, tut, you're just proving her point about civility, stiffling dissent, yadda, yadda, yadda...", if this were a sane public discourse, a third grade argument like Noonan's would be universally mocked and treated with the derision it deserves. It is not an example of grace and civility, it is a thin veneer of imitation civility smeared over an attack of the basest kind, so her fellow ideological travelers can feel good about the contempt they shower upon everyone else and congratulate themselves on how much better they are than those people. "See, Peggy Noonan just proved it. Liberals are scum."


On Saturday, I spent most the day as part of a volunteer trash cleanup turned impromptu hiking caravan at the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area in Hernando County. Had to get up astonishingly early but it was worth it to see a patch of land I otherwise wouldn't have seen. They're open from 8am to 2pm Fridays and Saturdays, which insures only retired people will tramp through your woods. Chinsegut (chin-SEE-gut) was named by the former property owner, Colonel Raymond Robins, for an Inuit word which supposedly means "a place to rediscover lost treasures". I had no idea the Inuit had settled so far south. The part we hiked through included what was left of the old 1850s Bishop homestead: some of a chimney, two brick cisterns, and a pit which I guess was his cess pool. Col. Robins' manor house is still standing on the other side of Route 481 and is the University of South Florida's Chinsegut Hill Conference Center. I didn't get to see that since they weren't about to let a mere student into their mansion on the hill. I didn't bring my camera because, well, when you've seen one tree in Florida, you've pretty much seen them all, and I've found I take terrible pictures. So I'm neither Thoreau nor Ansel Adams, apparently.

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's on

Check out this anti-Bush television ad via Kos. Hope we see a lot of this one on the air.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The shocking ending of this blog will leave you breathless!!

Over at Mister Kitty, a new update to Stupid Comics focusing on the crappy twist endings of Atlas Comics monster stories of the 1950s. Atlas would become Marvel Comics in the 1960s and so fandom has always looked back on this era with admiration while acknowledging its sheer, abundant camp. It's hard not to like the 44 feet and 20 tons of camp that is Fin Fang Foom. There's much that's attractive - big monsters, silly names, great art. But it's also hard not to see that most of this stuff is utter crap. It's amazing that a few years Lee and Kirby and Ditko would be creating genius (albeit campy, overblown genius) while here they're cranking out crappy adventures on the Planet of the Wax Mannequins before they run out for more beer and cigars. It's like Shakespeare writing episodes of According to Jim. He's... "a robot!" Are you fucking kidding me?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Buy me a pony

Via Boing Boing: The Guinness Book of Records people have appointed a new winner for the title of the world's smallest horse. The unimaginatively named Thumbelina, owned by Goose Creek Farms in St. Louis, is a tiny tiny 17 inches tall and weighs only 60 pounds. She comes from a line of miniature horses to begin with, but she's about half the size she should be, which means she's a dwarf miniature horse. Seriously. And she's got her own website, of course, and since it's on the internet, it must be true.

Monday, October 9, 2006

The Day the Music Stumbled Slightly But Soon Regained Its Footing

Okay, so it's not exactly The Day the Music Died, but it's been a bad couple of weeks for music establishments. The iconic NYC punk club CBGB will be closing its doors at the end of the month, capping off a 23 year run with a Patti Smith concert. Begun in 1972 by Hilly Kristal as a club to feature Country, BlueGrass, and Blues music, it quickly became a forum for American punk and punk-influenced bands like The Ramones, Television, Blondie, and the Talking Heads. (If you think this sounds too much like the Wikipedia article on CBGB, that's because I rewrote the crappy intro today.) The good news is that Kristal may reopen in Las Vegas or elsewhere in NYC.

Tower Records is also closing its doors, commencing chain-wide going out of business sales. While I probably shouldn't shed too many tears for Corporate America, Tower always had a hipper reputation than most record stores and was always credited with stocking cooler albums and books and comics. I say reputation because I haven't experienced it very much firsthand (the closest Tower is Atlanta) and the last Tower I was in (somewhere in Los Angeles but I'm not sure which one) reminded me of a decidedly unhip Peaches store. There is a small bit of history lost too: Mark Evanier writes about the Sunset Blvd. Tower where dozens of artists have had their record covers blown up to gigantic size and plaster on the side of the store.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Man wants book about book burning banned during Banned Books Week

From the real life has surpassed satire dept, via Boing Boing.

The Montgomery County Courier reports that a Corone, Texas man named Alton Verm has demanded that his daughter's school district ban Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic novel about a dystopian future where firemen burn books. With impeccable timing, Verm's demand comes during the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week, which is of course entirely coincidental and completely hysterical. As is the case in almost all of these types of complaints, Verm hasn't read the book, of which he says "It's just all kinds of filth".

The Courier notes that "Alton Verm said he doesn't understand how the district can punish students for using bad language, yet require them to read a book with bad language as part of a class." You don't understand it because you are an idiot, Mr. Verm. Just because you read a book where a murder occurs, such as, say, The Bible, doesn't mean that the book is advocating that behavior. That would mean that an anti-book burning work like Fahrenheit 451 is actually advocating book burning by depicting book burning. Surely even you must realize how stupid that idea is.

You are also an idiot because you pulled something like this without having an unlisted phone number that can be found by anyone doing a Yahoo! people search, and it's all I can do not to call you and tell you what an idiot you are. Please note that by writing that down I am not advocating that behavior. You idiot.

During our Banned Books Week commemoration, we showed Truffaut's 1966 film adaptation. I've never particularly cared for it, primarily because the film is so relentlessly French. It is certainly plausible to envision a scenario of the social welfare state gone awry and banning books because they "make people anti-social and unhappy", as in the film. But I've always imagined contemporary book burning as a particularly American phenomenon, one driven by hotblooded redneck religious passion and not affectless European pseudointellectual theorizing. The Alton Verms of the world aren't exactly proving me wrong.

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is 75 years old today. That's three quarters of a century of cool gadgets, freaky villans, and right-wing propaganda. And don't forget that period in the 60s when Tracy was on the Moon. The Daily Cartoonist is collecting a list of comics page tributes to the famous detective, including ones from Gasoline Alley (right) and Alley Oop (left), two pretty venerable strips themselves.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Merry Marvel Marching Society

Last night on Heroes, after the police detained Hiro, they noted that he didn't have much in his wallet besides an honorary membership to the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Most of the audience missed the joke, of course, but there's no reason they should have caught. So what the heck was the MMMS? It was a company fan club founded in the early days of Marvel Comics, born out of Stan Lee's impish and irresistible used car salesman hucksterism and love of alliteration. You signed up for a dollar - an incredible sum in those days which could buy you a small pile of comics - and got a bunch of precious, precious swag: a membership card, a button, etc. The most bizarre part of the haul was a 33 1/3 rpm record featuring the voices of the legendary Marvel Bullpen: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Flo Steinberg, Sol Brodsky, Artie Simek, Sam Rosen, Chic Stone, Wally Wood, Dick Ayers, Don Heck, Stan Goldberg, and a silent Steve Ditko. You can hear an mp3 of the record here. (Link via Heidi MacDonald)

Stan Lee, an aspiring author who served in the Army in WWII under the designation of "playwright", choreographed the vaudeville skit with Herculean intensity, as recounted by Jack Kirby in an interview with Mark Evanier:

Evanier: That record seems so weird. Was it recorded in the office like it sounds?

Kirby: No, it was in a recording studio. We rehearsed in the office. Stan treated it like he was producing the Academy Awards. He had this script he'd written. He'd written it and rewritten it and rewritten it and as we were recording it, he kept rewriting it. We all went into the office, more people than there was room for. When you weren't rehearsing your part, you had to go out in the hall and wait. No work was done that day on comics. It was all about the record. We rehearsed all morning. We were supposed to go to lunch and then over to the recording studio, which was over on 55th Street or 56th. I forget where it was. But when lunchtime came, Stan said, "No, no, we're not ready," so most of us skipped lunch and stayed there to rehearse more. Then we took cabs over to the recording studio and we were supposed to be in and out in an hour or two but we were there well into the evening. I don't know how many takes we did.

Evanier: On the record, Steve Ditko isn't heard. They say he slipped out the window. I assume he just refused to be part of it.

Kirby: Steve was much smarter than we were about those things.

Evanier: Have you listened to the record lately?

Kirby: No, and if you try and play it for me, you'll be out the window with Ditko.

Sure, this is an intense exercise in nostalgia and it's great to hear the voices of the legendary bullpen and imagine this sort of humorous camaraderie was what actually happened there on a daily basis. As Heidi MacDonald points out, what's striking is that this record, with its thick New Yawk accents and, was put together by "working class folks, working in a dingy midtown office" staffed by "cranky editors and tightfisted businessmen", a sharp contrast to fandom's image of them as "myths carved in granite". What also struck me was how well this record actually worked, and it's often genuinely funny. It's easy to make fun of Stan's blatant hucksterism - and hell, we should make fun of it - but we should also realize how good he was at it and how successful it was. Of course, this isn't anything near what's most important about what Stan and Jack created, but without Stan's silly nicknames and fostering of fandom and cries of "Excelsior!", MC wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it was.

For the 1967 record, there was a musical number. I'm not sure I want to hear the story behind that one...