Monday, October 31, 2005


Hallowe'en time again. Amy put up the decorations. My contribution was the skull-carved pumpkin on the right. Patterns are wonderful. Posted by Picasa

Our Hallowe'en decorations paled in comparison to the folks in our vicinity who built this pirate ship on their front lawn! Posted by Picasa

The Pirate Ship in our neighborhood, after dark (with lots of photo alteration going on to brighten it up). Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Moon is Full

Another minor, whiny annoyance. Yesterday, I was getting a boba milk tea at a shop in West L.A., and both of the young ladies behind the counter were wearing "low-riser" jeans. I suppose they were trying to look sexy, trendy, or cute; but all I could think was that these women were serving me food with their tuchuses hanging out. Not appetizing.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fiddling While Rove Burns

Today, the Los Angeles Times published at least 14 different features (including stories, sidebars, and political cartoons) about the "Scooter" Libby (wasn't he one of the "Blue Blaze Irregulars" in Buckaroo Banzai?) indictment. True, it's a big story, but I wonder if it's big enough to warrant exploring from every conceivable angle. This scandal won't bring down the Bush administration, any more than the various scandals in the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton presidencies brought down those administrations. The only scandal in the last few decades that actually destroyed a president was Watergate.

I suspect that journalists are especially enamored with this story because journalists play such a key part in it. Nothing like doing a story about your colleagues.


The Los Angeles Times has printed this astounding account by one of the McMartin child witnesses about how -- according to him -- investigators and other adults (including his parents) pressured him into making up allegations against the McMartin defendants. Something like this just leaves you wondering: What is the truth, and what is the lie?

Simply Allred

My candidate for my favorite comic book this year (so far) is DC Comics' SOLO issue 7, written and drawn by rock musician, independent filmmaker, and comic book maker Michael Allred. This issue is Allred's love letter to the DC comics he loved as a kid in the sixties and seventies. He is the perfect artist to draw tributes to and satires of this era. His work is like good rock music: a little nostalgia, a little cutting edge, a little slick, a little rude.

The issue includes fun little stories, like one where golden-age superhero Hourman takes his Miraclo pill, which gives him super-powers for an hour; responds to a false alarm; and then, like a crank addict, frantically burns off the extra energy the pills gave him -- painting a house in two minutes, delivering a pizza in 10 seconds, heading to the gym and juggling three guys with his feet. Another crazy story (bottom) features the two most self-consciously "hip" series of the sixties, the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans, in a hilarious generation-gap riot that manages to squeeze in scores of minor characters (in both age and magnitude).

The standout feature, however, is a dark tale of Batman and Robin (top right), in which the hermetic, perfectly-ordered world of the sixties Batman TV series is invaded by the "relevance" that would dominate comics in the seventies. "Real life" concerns interrupt the hero-villian dance, with Commissioner Gordon deriding Batman as irrelevant while he and Chief O'Hara head off to quell a race riot. As Alfred frets in the story, "Why is it the good things are never 'real life,' only the bad?"

The only negative aspect of this comic is the price: $4.99 is way too much for a comic, even one with pretty printing and no ads.

All of the above images are copyrighted 2005 by DC Comics.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Doonesbury Strips from the Twilight Zone

Garry Trudeau had a whole week of strips satirizing the Harriet Miers confirmation hearings set to go. But then Miers withdrew her nomination, rendering them obsolete. So newspaper readers will get a bunch of reprints next week. But you lucky readers of The Barer Cave can read the withdrawn strips on Trudeau's website. Don't say I never did anything for you.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Stars Come Out

George Takei, Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," has come out of the closet. I find it somewhat odd that despite his history of community activism, he kept his orientation confidential. Probably figured it was nobody's business.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Corpsebride Before Christmas

On Saturday, Amy and I had a Tim Burton stop-motion kind of night. We saw Corpse Bride at The Bridge Cinemas; then came home and put A Nightmare Before Christmas on the DVD player.

Interesting differences between these two films, released 12 years apart. Both were produced and designed by Burton; both had Danny Elfman scores and songs; and both had a gothic sensibility. But Nightmare was both simpler and more iconic than CB. Although Jack Skellington was created by Burton, one look at him and you're convinced that, in fact, there always was a "pumpkin king" who ruled Halloween Town, and he looked just like Jack. It had a straight-ahead story that mainly served as a springboard for the various wacky visuals and sight gags. And it was far more colorful -- in an actual color sense -- than CB.

CB has a story that aspires to be more complex -- attempting to address what makes a good relationship between a man and woman, living or dead. It mixes in class differences (the cashless landed gentry attempting to forge a marriage alliance with nouveau riche merchants -- that's not implied, that's spelled out in the opening music number!) and two appealing female leads, one living, one dead (as well as a male lead whose primary character trait is that he just means well). It's fun and pretty to look at, but it just doesn't have the charm of Nightmare.

In the end, that may be why Nightmare will continue to be a weird-kid touchstone (and a Disney marketing cornucopia) for years to come, while Corpse Bride will become an occasional midnite feature.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Once and Future Minmay

You may have seen my post a couple of months ago about Mari Iijima, the Japanese singer-songwriter who did voice acting for just one anime (Macross) 23 years ago, and then never again. The character she played, Lynn Minmay, was wildly popular; and she found herself typecast in her musical career by those who thought she was the live-action incarnation of this cartoon character. Later, she moved to the U.S., and has been working on establishing her career as an American actress.

Meanwhile, in the mid-eighties, Macross was shown in the U.S. as the first segment of Robotech, and an American voice actress, Reba West, played Minmay.

Now things appear to have come full circle. ADV Films is preparing a new dub of the Macross series; and according to Iijima's website, they have asked her to play Minmay in English. She has agreed.

To my knowledge, this is unprecedented -- a voice actor who did the Japanese voice of an anime character also dubbing the English voice over here.

Iijima is excited about the opportunity. She notes that she did not really have acting experience when she previously played Minmay; she was mainly recruited for her singing skills. Now she has studied acting, and is eager to put her skills to use.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Cell Distractions

A note to those who text-message in movie theatres with stadium seating:

Please stop it.

Everyone behind you can see your phone.

It's a dark theatre. It's a bright light. Work it out.

It's distracting.

If the message is so crucial that you must take it now, step outside.

If the movie is so boring that you must entertain yourself by messaging your friends, please leave.

And if you're in the Arclight or another "black box" theatre, where patrons pay extra for perfect viewing conditions, and all distracting lights have been eliminated -- why create one?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Wi-Fi Watering Holes: Status Update

Last Sunday I learned that one of my favorite free-wi-fi spots, Rooms Cafe on Westwood, was no more. They made a mean green tea latte.

On the other hand, two other coffee/tea places in my vicinity -- Calle Vista Coffee and Volcano Tea -- that previously offered wi-fi at a fee now offer it free. Volcano tea has, hands-down, the best honey jasmine tea that I've tasted.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Saturday Morning Mystery

This morning, cousin Lee Goldberg (top) hit Westwood's Mystery Bookstore to promote his critically-acclaimed new mystery, The Man with the Iron-On Badge. As the middle photo shows, he was almost immediately surrounded by admiring female readers. The grey, rainy day lent support to Co-signor Pari Noskin Taichert's belief that the sun never really shines in L.A.

(Bottom): Meanwhile, Amy hit the bookstore stacks in search of Brother Cadfael books.

Derriere of Danger!

America continues its love/hate relationship with its buttocks.

On the one hand, bare backsides are the nearly-acceptable public nudity. Butts can be flashed on prime time TV -- as witness NYPD BLUE -- whereas a bared nipple on broadcast TV causes a national meltdown. Cheeks are readily exposed on California beaches, and young women wear hip-hugger jeans with thongs with the apparent goal of exposing themselves.

On the other hand, a mannequin in a thong is causing a scandal in Manhattan Beach. Understand, this is not a live woman, or even a particularly life-like one; it is a plastic doll with white skin like the Silver Surfer (the white John Buscema version, not the shiny silver Jack Kirby version). And her rump is not bare; she is wearing a yellow thong-like pair of knickers. Nor is she flaunting her assets; she is lying in repose, with her foundation casually aimed at the viewer. Bare -- er, bear -- in mind also that there are artistic statues of completely nekked men and women to be found throughout Southern California.

Yet mothers hide their children's eyes, and protests inundate (well, trickle into) the MB City Hall. "It's public nudity!" sniffs one lady on the TV news. Well, no, it isn't.

Sigh. Once again, So Cal becomes the butt of the world's jokes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

That's Lee -- All Over

Remember that Sunday when Monica Lewinski's lawyer, William Ginsburg, managed to go on every network morning talkshow? That's kind of like what my cousin Lee Goldberg is scheduled to do on Saturday, promoting his new book, The Man With the Iron-On Badge. On October 22, Lee is scheduled to be at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood village (up the street from me -- and I hope to be there) at 11 a.m.; at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks (way out in Ventura County, up that Ventura Highway America sang about -- complete with alligator lizards in the air, whatever that means) at 1 p.m.; and at Mystery and Imagination in Glendale at 3 p.m.! For the Southern California impaired, that pretty much describes a triangle that takes in many, many miles of bad traffic and worse air -- all for you, the book-buying public. If you're in the area, stop buy and pick up a book. The guy can write. He's been doing it professionally for around 25 years. And since he's still in his early 40's, that's saying something.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Goldbergs Galore!

Well, actually, there was only one current Goldberg (Tod) at the Westwood Borders last night, along with former Goldbergs Karen and Linda (Tod's sisters) and various family members. Tod's brother Lee was a mysterious no-show.

This was the official West Coast party to launch Tod's new anthology, Simplify, which has already garnered raves from the LA Times, the LA Weekly, and similar periodicals and broadsheets.

The Tod-lovers turned out in throngs, filling the chairs in the second-floor signing area and spilling out into the DVD/CD area. Tod, resplendent in his untucked striped shirt, read the crowd a story that was dark, funny, insightful, and horrifying all at the same time. Then, the strains of Neil Diamond filled the air -- also dark, funny, insightful and horrifying ("Hands/Touching hands/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching youuuuuu!") -- as the faithful lined up to get their crimson books personalized.

After Tod moved multiple books for Borders, we took him and his wonderful wife Wendy out to dinner at our neighborhood temple of all foods Jewish, Junior's Deli, before they sailed off to their desert home. All in all, a delightful evening. It's good to be reminded that I'm related to such entertaining people.

Photos below. For better composed and focused photos, see Linda and Karen's blog.

The display Borders set up for Tod's reading/signing. Posted by Picasa

Karen's son, Brett, reluctantly yields the mic to Tod. Posted by Picasa

Tod reads one of his typical harrowing stories of effed-up young men. The SRO crowd listens enthralled. Posted by Picasa

Dear God, look at the size of this line! Posted by Picasa

Tod and his nephew co-anchor the signing desk. Posted by Picasa

Tod turns on the legendary Goldberg charm. Posted by Picasa

Karen watches her brother entertaining the crowd. Posted by Picasa

Karen and Brett get Tod's autograph. Posted by Picasa

Brett, Linda, Tod, Karen (obscured), and Linda's husband. This is what happens when you're too late in shooting a posed picture. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Hellsing and Brimstone

For folks looking forward to the Hellsing Ultimate OVA anime disc (which will be released in December from Geneon in Japan, and does not have an official release date yet in the U.S.), here are some fun links:

The Official Hellsing OVA Website from Japan (partially translated into broken English);

A Japanese fan site about the OVA; and

The listing for the OVA on the Japanese Amazon site (featuring great jacket art).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Brilliant Ebay Listing

Recently we tried selling some old video tapes on Ebay. The first time we listed them we got one bid that was way below the reserve. The second time we got no bids.

Had we written a listing like this one, the tapes would've been out of here. Nice to see some folks (a) have a sense of humor about themselves and (b) can use it to move a product.

Quintessential 80's Movie?

The blog has been rather light on comments of late, so here's a questionnare.

Last month, I saw "Pretty in Pink" on DVD. The film was practically a time capsule of mid-eighties' fashion (post-new-wave, post-Annie-Hall, post-preppy, pre-grunge), music (melodic, synth-laden pop rocks), and attitude. Which led me to wonder: Is this the ultimate 80's movie?

What movie would you say captured your memories of the '80's best? (This question is of course directed to those who have memories of the '80's.) Not necessarily the best movies of the decade, but those that bring back those summer nights of 1985 or whenever in a rush.

Myself, I think that there were so many facets to the '80's that one movie can't do them justice. Thus, I think that Wall Street captured the pre-bust economic philosophy of the decade; Rambo: First Blood Part II captured Reagan-era foreign policy; and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension captured the general loopiness of popular culture during that time.

What do you think?

Crisis on Infinite Blogs, Pt. I

We had a cross-over of family blogs yesterday when Amy and I attended an event at the Beverly Hills Public Library in which actors read various short stories from cousin Tod Goldberg's new, critically-acclaimed short-story anthology, Simplify. Tod's stories are powerful, touching, creepy and unsettling -- even more so when read and interpreted by live readers who can act.

One odd thing about having readers in the family, however: little parts of your own life keep floating to the surface in their fiction, in odd ways. The first Tod story read was "Disappear Me"; and in the middle of this magical-realist story about a teen in San Francisco who seems to have become invisible, the main character reminisced about the basement of his Nana and Papa Dave's house. "Nana" is, and the late "Papa Dave" was, Tod's maternal grandparents, whom I know as Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Dave. And, yes, I had been in their basement at their house in Walla Walla. Tod mentioned he hadn't read the story in a while, and had forgotten the family reference.

On Sunday, Tod is having an autograph party/reading at Border's Books on Westwood Boulevard. I plan to be there. Tod's siblings are scheduled to be there too, leading to a massive blog crossover. Can the blogosphere survive?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Charlie Don't Smurf

When I was a kid, various animated anti-smoking, anti-drug, anti-bigotry, anti-forest-fire, anti-whatever public service announcements would freak me out. I'm talking about nightmares, wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, haunting-me-decades-later freaking out. Somehow the late sixties and early seventies were the era of the grotesque animated PSA -- perhaps a lingering Timothy Leary effect.

How freaked out would I have been, though, to see the new Belgian UNICEF PSA -- in which a peaceful Smurf village is bombed into a flaming hell, Smurfette dies, and Baby Smurf is left crying uncontrollably? And this in Belgium, the home of the Smurfs. They supposedly want to get a reaction to their campaign to support African ex-child-soldiers-- and this should deliver.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Company Town

There's an excellent article in today's LA Times Calendar section about how Joss Whedon managed to buck trends and film the movie Serenity in Los Angeles -- thereby making many local movie craftspeople grateful.

The movie industry originally came to LA about 100 years ago because shooting here was cheaper -- the plentiful sunshine enabled longer shooting days. Today, outsiders may be surprised at how the entertainment industry dominates the town. It takes a lot of people to make a movie. The average person knows the names of some actors and a director or two. Some more discerning moviegoers may know the names of some writers and cinematographers, and perhaps some composers of movie scores. Yet many more names swell the credits of movies. There are probably few LA dwellers who don't know at least someone involved in movie or film production. The issue of movie and TV production moving to Canada and other countries is therefore a very real one for the working people of LA's entertainment industry, and all the other local businesses that they patronize.

Whedon isn't a purist; he states he will be shooting Wonder Woman in Australia. But his simple wish to make Serenity here because it's best for his wife and kids set an excellent example for Tinseltown movie creators.

Full-Blooded Novel

We finally finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which Amy and I read out loud to each other. This is the first HP novel we both worked on at the same time, since Amy read a bunch of them straightaway after the first movie came out.

In terms of style, I think this book is far more tightly written than the last few books. In Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, I sometimes cringed at JKR's overuse of adverbs -- especially when she repeated an adverb two or three times on the same page and sometimes within the same paragraph! Little of that appears in this book.

I wonder how the movie version of this will come out. Much like Goblet of Fire, this book (mild spoiler warning) has a transitional end that may leave an Empire Strikes Back type feeling of second-act inconclusiveness.

Speaking of Goblet of Fire, we're looking forward to the movie, especially with the lively trailers we've seen. My thanks to the official HP site from Warner Brothers, which is allowing web pages to legally use photos from the movie like the ones above.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Reflections on Mirrormask

Tonight, we saw Mirrormask at the Westside Pavillion. This was the fantasy film written by Neil Gaiman, and designed and directed by illustrator and graphic novel artist Dave McKean. Much like another film this year modeled after a comic-book artist's work (and co-directed by that artist), Sin City, Mirrormask is an experiment -- one that is great to look at, sometimes fascinating, but occasionally falls flat.

The movie was produced by Jim Henson studios, and viewers may note that the story structure bears quite a bit of resemblance to another Henson fantasy movie, from two decades ago: Labrynth. The similarities go deeper than the young female lead who finds a nasty wish coming true, and who journeys into a storybook world to try to remedy it. This film is more surrealistic and (thanks to Gaiman) both more British and more poetic than its American counterpart, but the echoes are there.

The film is definitely a mind-warper -- it may be best if you don't drive home after watching it, as reality may seem a bit too real after immersing yourself in this world. Just don't expect something as entertaining as Gaiman's prose or Gaiman and McKean's graphic novels.

Stately Wayne Manor -- Safe For Now

Yesterday, Batman fans heard the chilling news that the Tudor mansion in Pasadena that stood in for the Wayne ancestral home in the 1960's Batman TV series had burned down.
But in true Batman fashion, the stories of its demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated.

In fact, a mansion two blocks from SWM had succumbed to a flaming doom. Authorities mistakenly thought the demised domicile was the former haunt of the Dynamic Duo. Now all the caped crusader need worry about is the tectonic instability caused by that big cave under the house.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Reflected Glory

Anyone who follows the links on the right side of this blog will soon learn that there are a lot of published authors in my family -- or specifically, the side of my family that stems from David Barer, my grandfather's brother, and his wife Dorothy. That would include Dave and Dorothy's son Burl Barer (who writes mysteries, true crime books, and movie tie-ins, and who carries on the print legend of Chartaris's The Saint); their daughter Janice Curran (who in the 70's wrote an early self-help book on divorce that by rights should still be in print, and who has written numerous columns and pieces of journalism); Janice's son Lee Goldberg (whose work has appeared in numerous media -- Starlog magazine articles, TV shows, novels, etc. etc.); and Janice's son Tod Goldberg (who has had two novels published, and now has an acclaimed short-story collection out).

As for me, my published work boils down to some articles for legal publications; some fanzine work when I was a teenager; and a handful of letters to comic book lettercolumns. Yawn. Thank goodness my relatives went through the sweat and hard work of becoming fine authors, so that I can name-drop and bask in their reflected glory.

Anyway, the point of all this is to congratulate Lee and Tod for simultaneously having their books listed as staff recommendations at Westwood's Mystery Bookstore. Another family honor that I did nothing to bring about -- but can feel proud of just the same.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wednesday in Seattle

Just some of the amazing decor in Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe in Seattle. Posted by Picasa

The bovine decor of Mae's Phinny Ridge Cafe. Posted by Picasa

Mount Ranier, from the Pike's Place Market. Posted by Picasa

Rick's favorite comics store, The Dreaming. This store's proprietor has a terrific enthusiasm about comics. Posted by Picasa

Yes, it really is "Espresso Dental." Only in Seattle. Posted by Picasa

The "Stumbling Goat Bistro" marquee. Posted by Picasa

Thursday in Seattle/Kirkland

At the Triple J cafe in Kirkland, an elegantly-swirled latte. Posted by Picasa

Although we sailed on a choppy sea, our cruise was steady and our course was sure. Posted by Picasa