Saturday, October 28, 2006

LA Coffee

This week, the LA Times food section published a bunch of articles about coffee, including the review of standout local coffeehouses linked above. It includes two of my favorites, wi-fi watering hole Cafe Balcony and Culver City's Conservatory.

Because of a medication I was taking until a few days ago, I couldn't drink any caffeine. Freed of that restriction, I've been hitting some java. This morning I had breakfast at one of the places listed in the article, Cafe Luxxe in Santa Monica. I had a cappucino and an espresso that were unbelievably smooth. The photo is of the cappucino -- one sip down.

Satan Speaks Like the Sub-Mariner

Marvel's "Essential" series is a terrific set of phone-book-sized paperback collections of various series, reprinted in black and white on cheap paper, with the result that a 500 plus page reprint goes for $16.99. One of the most recent volumes features the 1970's adventures of the Satan siblings: Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan, and his sis Satana. Yes, Satan was a Marvel Comics character. (In the 80's, the Reagan era, Marvel got cold feet and announced that this guy was a demon "posing" as Satan; but in these comics he's portrayed as the one and only, Prince of Lies, Morning Star, Nick Scratch, Mephistopheles, etc.) The back story goes that back in the fifties a woman fell for a handsome guy, albeit with pointed ears and arched eyebrows (no, not Leonard Nimoy), married him, and bore him a son and a daughter. Only later did she learn that she was -- dum dum dum -- The Bride of Satan! The site of her hub in all his infernalness drove her instantly insane. Meanwhile, Satan split with the little girl, and the son grew up and studied to be a priest. He eventually discovered his mother's diary and found out he was -- dum dum dum -- The Son of Satan! As with many children of divorces, he had severe father issues, and vowed to oppose Ol' Scratch. This being the mid-seventies, he took up the profession of exorcism, for which he'd wear a "ceremonial garb" of tight pants and a cloak. No shirt. (What an incentive to keep fit. Don't want that Satanic Six-Pack to sag.)

When Satan appeared in the comic, Marvel didn't exactly get subtle. He manifested either as a muscular sillhouette covered with flame lines, a la the Human Torch, or as a muscular bald guy with a bald head and horns. Oh, and he wore a Speedo made of flames. (Sounds like an oath -- "Satan's Flaming Speedo!" Or a comic book title -- "The Savage Speedo of Satan!")

What was most amusing to me was that Marvel's version of Satan tended to talk like another one of its arrogant monarch characters -- Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Thus, Satan has lines like, "No more do you face sniveling demons -- you face SATAN, THE MASTER, PRINCE OF HELL, LORD OF DARKNESS -- you face your DOOM!"

SOS had a long run in Marvel Spotlight, and then was given his own series, which lasted only eight issues. He did better than his sis Satana (who couldn't quite go around bare-chested, but compensated by wearing a leotard with front cut-outs, in the manner that J-Lo would make famous 30 years later), who appeared in a few scattered stories in various places, did bad stuff, developed daddy issues too, and died heroically.

I suspect part of the problem with these characters' long-term prospects was the lack of merchandising opportunity -- not much market for Hellmobiles, or Son of Satan Underoos. (Though I believe Daimon did have a Slurpee cup to himself.) The stories did, however, feature some nice artwork by veterans like Gene Colan, John Romita and Sal Buscema; and stories by such then up and coming writers as Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, and Steve Gerber.

Pirates of the Backyard

Got 20 grand burning a hole in your (very large) pocket? Costco wants to sell you a "pirate-themed club house." It was supposedly built by "thrifty pirates" -- and they'd better be thrifty to afford $18,500 to Costco plus a contractor to unload the thing with a forklift and put it together (including pouring a rebar-reinforced concrete foundation). Costco turns on the hardsell, encouraging homeowners to buy the clubhouse for "curb appeal" whether or not they actually have children.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This is a Dirty Little Neighborhood, Stranger -- And We Like It That Way!

I spent the last three years of the 80's living in the San Francisco neighborhood known as The Tenderloin. No, I wasn't down and out; that's where both my law school (Hastings) and the school housing were located. (It was also adjacent to Van Ness, with the War Memorial Opera House, City Hall, the California Supreme Court, etc. -- and a short walk in another direction would take you to the majestic Ninth Circuit federal building, near the Greyhound station. A walk toward the Embarcadero would bring you to Union Square and the Financial District. Downtown SF is tiny.) Those three years were enough to embitter me against ever living in the foggy city by the bay. Besides the weather (which I did not prefer to sunny SoCal), I had quite enough of a neighborhood of prostitutes, drug dealers, petty criminals, passed-out drunks, singing drunks (loud enough that I could hear them up on the 12th floor -- at 3 a.m.), public urination, aggressive panhandlers who followed people around yelling at them, and mentally ill folks walking around with their equipment exposed. (And that was just near the school!)

Now it turns out that a Tenderloin resident is trying to beautify the area a bit by planting trees -- and angry residents are protesting. Turns out they like the neighborhood seedy. One went so far as to put up "wanted" posters of the would-be beautifier.

I guess even people in Hell can enjoy the dancing flames.

A Hodgepodge of Popular Culture in One Appellate Opinion

Not often do you get a California appellate opinion that mentions anime, comics, a Sega "Dance Dance Revolution" type video game, and "Lady Miss Kier" Kirby, former lead singer of the one-hit-wonder band Deee-Lite. Read all about it in Kirby v. Sega, published today by our own Second District Court of Appeal in L.A.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cast Party, Casting Call -- Write Your Own Stupid Cast Pun Here

Tomorrow, I get the cast I've worn for about 3 weeks off. I then go back to the splint, and start therapy to get my functioning wrist back. My wrist must be sensing its impending freedom, because it's twanging like a guitar string.

The cast has left its mark on our computer hutch's keyboard drawer -- there's a dent in the wrist guard next to the trackball.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Divine MADness

Mark Evanier reports on the Comics Arts Professional Society awards given to two cartoonists whose work will be familiar to anyone who grew up in the sixties through the eighties, Jack Davis and Sergio Aragones. Davis drew the first story in the first issue of MAD magazine; and his work has appeared in advertisements, movie posters, book illustrations, and everywhere a funny illustration would seem appropriate. Aragones, the world's fastest cartoonist, began in MAD a year before I was born; and his work still appears in every issue. That's in addition to his animated cartoons, acting, comic books, etc.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

No, This is Not an SNL Skit

Los Angeles area Boy Scouts have the chance to earn an activity badge that was jointly created by the Scouts and the MPAA: The "Respect Copyright" badge.

Coming soon: The "Don't Shoplift" badge and the "Don't Knock Over Liquor Stores" badge.

(I'd post the Associated Press photo here. But that would be a little too ironic.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chronicles of Fire

My cousins Linda Woods and Karen Dinino appeared on THE VIEW yesterday, and were utterly charming (albeit often drowned out by Rosie O'Donnell, who was so enthusiastic about their book VISUAL CHRONICLES that she insisted on teaching the "how to" bits about visual journaling herself). Rosie began the segment by insisting that the book "is the only book you need" for scrapbooking. Although she never even mentioned Linda or Karen's last names, her recommendation is bearing fruit; VC is currently #65 on's sales ranking list, and apparently broke into the low 30's a short time ago. That's among all the gazillion books Amazon sells. Sounds like Linda and Karen have a genuine bestseller on the stands.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Christopher Glenn, R.I.P.

Earlier this year, I ran a post about Christopher Glen's retirement from CBS News, and expressed relief that the post wasn't an obituary. Alas, I spoke too soon: Mr. Glenn has passed away from liver cancer.

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of Saturday Morning TV, and fondly remember the IN THE NEWS interstitials Glenn narrated, tiny snippets of current events geared to kids. Glenn did about 5,000 of these segments, over a 15-year period. More recently, he was the voice of CBS Radio's WORLD NEWS ROUNDUP.

We can always use more professionals who can tell us of the world's ills in a soothing manner.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who Knew

The episode of the new Dr. Who series that aired on Sci Fi Channel Friday night featured two British actors whom I've seen in person. One was Anthony Head, late of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whom we saw (with his family) at a showing of Princess Mononoke at a Santa Monica theatre in the late 90's. The other was Elizabeth Sladen, who played my favorite of the Doctor's "companions," Sarah Jane Smith, back in the mid-seventies. I met Ms. Sladen in 2001 at a signing held at Ambrosia, the science fiction/comics store that was a few blocks from our house until it went out of business last year. Sladen reprised her role as Sarah Jane on the show, albeit as a woman of a certain age, which was certainly bittersweet; she had some wonderful moments with the Doctor (then played by Tom Baker, now in his latest regeneration played by David Tennant) and with his current companion Rose (as Rose's friend Mick put it, "Oh, mate, the missus and the ex. Welcome to every man's worst nightmare! "). This gave us a chance to see what happens to the companions the Doctor leaves behind -- as he must with all companions, since their lives are so much shorter than his -- particularly one whose feelings for him were obviously stronger than friendship.

Oh, and K-9 came back too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yougle Tube

Google, the company that owns Blogger (this blog's host), has purchased YouTube -- a company until recently housed in an office above a San Mateo Pizzaria -- for an eye-popping $1.65 billion. Apparently one of the keystones for the new relationship has been YouTube's approaches to various copyright holders in an attempt to still the waters of litigation.

YouTube has certainly captured the imagination of Web surfers -- to the degree that even staunch supporters of copyright have posted copyright-infringing snippets on their blogs.

To celebrate the union between Google and You Tube, here is an utterly silly clip of two Asian girls dancing to the tune of my favorite anime TV series, Cat's Eye. Magic-play is dancing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Fickle Finger of Blame

It didn't take long after Mark Foley's resignation for conservative pundits to theorize -- based on little more than speculation -- that (a) sinister, provocative underage pages lured a poor, innocent congressman into flirting with them; (b) sinister, provocative democratic "operatives" set Foley up, using the pages as bait; or (c) all of the above.

I don't know if anyone has condemned the pages for wearing those shameless Brooks Brothers coats and ties, but that's probably coming soon.

Terror for Tower

A store chain that has been central to the history of rock in Los Angeles, Tower Records, is going out of business. The chain has been in and out of Chapter 11 a couple times in the last few years; in August, major labels stopped shipping to them because of payment problems; and this past week, the company that bought Tower's assets announced plans to close all of the stores and sell the assets to pay off creditors.

I've certainly enjoyed the Tower stores in Westwood, Santa Monica, and particularly Marina Del Rey over the years. (I only went to the iconic store on the Sunset Strip a few times.) The Marina Del Rey store was my favorite place to line up for Ticketmaster-supplied tix to concerts. That's something you just can't do at Itunes or

Harry Potter's Lonely Hearts Club Banned

In this age of war, turmoil, and intolerance, it's almost refreshingly quaint that this person has petitioned the United States Government and the United Nations to ban Harry Potter books. To quote the petitioner:

"But what lurks behind those pages, it more evil then Harry Potter himself. Please help us band harry potter and read some of the comments made by children who have read these dreadful books."

Yep, kids can learn nasty stuff from the Potter books -- like how to proofread, spell, capitalize, and include necessary verbs.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Doodles of the Past

As the saying (and if it isn't one, it should be) goes, I can't draw, but I can doodle. Further, I used to be able to doodle much better than I can now.
Here's one I did about 20 years ago, while I was working at the now-defunct Graphitti comic book store in Westwood. I drew it on the back of a convention flyer.
Not quite in the same league as JFK doodling the word "Vietnam" over and over again (as shown in a recent LA Times article), but it shows what was on my mind my senior year of college.

Mis-spent Advertising Dollars?

Last night, I saw something that flabbergasted me: A TV commercial for Tito's Tacos. For those who don't live in the environs, Tito's is a landmark storefront Mexican restaurant in Culver City which literally has customers swarming the place -- and standing in line -- all day, every day. If there was ever a business that didn't need advertising, it's this one.

Fast Break

A terrific way to break your Yom Kippur fast -- the Monday Lire Dinner at Anna's Italian Restaurant. For $12.95, you get salad, prosciutto with cheese (I gave Amy the prosciutto), chicken marsala with pasta, the best cappucino ice cream I've ever tasted, and an espresso. I usually get the cheaper seafood risotto special ($10.95), but eating shellfish right after Yom Kippur just didn't seem right.