Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Guy Is Afoot!

As someone who has read a good portion of the Conan Doyle Holmes stories -- and who started reading them 30 years ago -- I'm glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Guy Ritchie's new SHERLOCK HOLMES movie, with Robert Downey, Jr. as the master sleuth and Jude Law as an extremely impressive Dr. Watson.  I still think the best adaptation of the Holmes stories was the BBC series starring the steely-eyed Jeremy Brett; but Holmes, like Tarzan (another literary Englishman created during the time Holmes stories were originally being released) and Robin Hood, Holmes has become a staple of Western popular culture whom every generation must enact anew.  Just as there will likely always be revivals of Shakespeare plays, there will always be reinterpretations of Holmes -- whether he's battling Moriarty, Nazis (as he did in the '40's Basil Rathbone flicks), Jack the Ripper, or the menacing conspirators in this film.

Some may be annoyed by Ritchie's hyper-stylization of reality, or the pumped-up action sequences, or the focus on Holmes's manic-depressive personality (though there's little-to-no mention of Holmes's cocaine habit -- perhaps to avoid a harder rating).  Others may grumble about giving Holmes and Watson a cute dog.

But the fact remains that this Holmes is woven from threads taken from the actual stories.  Further, the movie benefits greatly from taking one of the most memorable supporting characters -- Irene Adler, the American con woman from "A Scandal in Bohemia," who to Holmes will always be the  woman -- and building up her role, so that she is an adventuress who stands on equal footing with Holmes and Watson, albeit on the other side of the law.  Holmes's Catwoman, if you will.

It's always a delight to enjoy a couple of hours of pure cinematic entertainment.  SHERLOCK HOLMES shows that there's quite a bit of life in the old sleuth -- enough to fuel reinterpretations for generations to come.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Panels: Ssssteam Heat

If you attend the Anime Los Angeles convention (http://www.animelosangeles.org/wp/) the weekend of January 8-10, and check out the Steampunk panels Sunday afternoon, you'll find me joining a few other steam-pressed folks up at the front of the room.

Here's the tentative sched:

Sunday 1:00 PM: Steampunk on a Budget
LP 2/Suite B
     Danny Barer
     Jo Celso
     Mercades Victoria
     Michael Pao
     Rebecca Majoros

Sunday 2:00 PM: Steampunk 101: Beginners panel
LP 2/Suite B
     Danny Barer
     Eric Chamberlin
     Michael Pao

The con will be at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport, 5855 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045.  Thanks to Michael Pao of The Manticore Society  (http://themanticoresociety.blogspot.com/) for hooking me up.

Plus, if you're in Southern Utah March 5-6, 2010 (if you've never been, you should go -- it's gorgeous), and you're attending the Fannitiku Fest con (http://animefannatiku.com/), I'll be doing yet another Steampunk panel,  on March 6, this time by my lonesome.   Thanks to Natalie Daniel for arranging this.

Now, to figure out what to talk about . . . .

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Bryan Singer on 'X-Men: First Class,' 'Avatar' and more

The Hollywood Reporter | Heat Vision | Comics | Movie News: Heat Vision Q&A: Bryan Singer on 'X-Men: First Class,' 'Avatar' and more

The Hollywood Reporter's "Heat Vision" blog has an interview with Bryan Singer about his plans to direct another "X-Men" film, along with why he's fond of working in a wi-fi watering hole (a Coffee Bean, no less) in Oahu.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Adventure of the Mysterious Taquito in the Night

I stopped by one of the myriad 7-11 stores in the vicinity to see if it had Sherlock Holmes slurpie cups.  It didn't, but it did have Sherlock Holmes hot dogs (perhaps understandable -- sausages were a staple in Victorian London) and taquitos (uh . . . .)  Along with "Domo" flash drives and Big Gulp cups in the shape of big electric guitars.

As much as a spectacle as the relentless marketing of the Downey/Law "Sherlock Holmes" movie is, I have no problem with it -- particularly if it leads young people to read the original stories.
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Avatar: A Blue Christmas

We saw AVATAR last night in Imax 3-D, and had a great time.  It was bravura filmmaking, and a visual spectacle.  It looked like a bunch of Michael Whelan and Roger Dean paintings come to life.  It made efforts toward scientific extrapolation and credible science fiction (even though it often took dramatic license with science), and managed to wedge in convincing dialogue and acting.

But . . . (and there's SPOILERS here)

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I couldn't help feeling unsatisfied at the plotline, which followed not only  the tropes of earlier Cameron work (did anyone think the one-dimensional corporate shill in the plot would turn out to be any better than Paul Rieser in ALIENS?) but, well, DANCES WITH WOLVES, and lots of war movies and comics.  (I remember a few weeks ago I blogged about the stereotypical DC war comic story, in which a soldier separate from his unit takes out superior forces with a few well-placed grenades.  Uh . . . .)  I kept hoping that the storyline would have some kind of twist, travel 90 degrees from what you'd expect; but it still followed its designated path.

In particular, I thought Cameron might have been building toward an interesting twist with the Na'Vi's motives for revealing their secrets to Sully.  After all, the Na'vi are smart, and they know from the outset that Sully is (a) a warrior (b) of a people that they have had skirmishes with and (c) that he returns to his people whenever he sleeps (they call him a "dreamwalker").  Wouldn't they know that he was reporting to his people everything he saw?  Wouldn't they think that was his duty?  Wouldn't they do the same?  I thought that they might be revealing this information despite their awareness that he was betraying them, to work toward some larger purpose of diplomacy based on shared knowledge -- he would learn both sides' secrets and so be a go-between.  But instead, the Na'Vi are startled that Sully has been reporting on them.

Perhaps Cameron felt that moviegoers couldn't be pulled into this incredible world without being given a storyline that followed only familiar tropes.  Perhaps I'm expecting novel-type plotting in a movie that is jammed so full of visual spectacle and action that plot twists won't fit. 

I don't want to give the impression that AVATAR is a bad movie, or that I didn't enjoy it.  But I think that it's building a base for a new kind of SF movie -- one that actually brings to life the visions that could only be written about before -- and I'd like to see its potential used to full advantage.


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Surfing the Spectacular

Last night, Amy and I saw the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Holiday Spectacular concert at the Gibson Amphitheater on Universal Citywalk. (The Gibson is filled with ads for Verizon -- which makes me wonder whether the Verizon Amphitheater is festooned with Gibson guitars.) Incidentally, the Amphitheater -- back when it was an open-air venue, and was known as the Universal Amphitheater -- was the first place I ever saw a big-name rock concert: While the family was vacationing in SoCal in 1980, I saw Jefferson Starship (sans Grace Slick) there.

As wonderful as Mr. Setzer's set was (and it was quite wonderful -- he's an amazing showman as well as an amazing guitarist), it was almost eclipsed by one of his opening acts: The Ventures, the kings of instrumental surf music and the best-selling instrumental band of all time. The lineup included two original members, Don Wilson and Nokie Edwards. They're getting up in years -- the band was formed in Tacoma, Washington in 1958 -- but they still play with the same tightly-controlled virtuosity you hear on their '60's recordings. For anyone who spent any time in the '60's (or has seen movies or TV from that era), the expressive guitars and the fast drum work conjure of images of surfers, drag racers, spies, and everything cool about that era. If The Ventures played the soundtrack for your life, what an exciting life you'd lead.

Oh, Doctor, Doctor . . .

The L.A. Times interviews David Tennant about the end of his portrayal of The Doctor on DOCTOR WHO, and the pilot he's filmed for NBC.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-david-tennant19-2009dec19,0,2333000.story

I haven't yet caught up on all of Tennant's episodes (I need to start Season 3), but I do note that both he and Christopher Eccleston, his predecessor, are younger than me. Eep.

Dan O'Bannon, R.I.P.

One of those who, for better or worse, helped shape the '80's science fiction movie -- and the movies of today.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-dan-obannon19-2009dec19,0,4358785.story

First things in the Last Year

My cousin Tod Goldberg blogs about things that happened to him for the first time in 2009. It involves the Poet Laureate, the inaguration, Jane's Addiction, and a gray hair.

http://todgoldberg.typepad.com/tod_goldberg/2009/12/the-8-days-of-lists-top-5-things-that-i-did-in-2009-that-id-never-done-before.html#comments

Is This the Droid You're Looking for?

I'm writing this post on the Droid phone I got last week.  In part, the post is a training exercise in typing with the physical keyboard-- which is either unfamiliar (which would explain my current awkwardness with it) or unwieldy (which would explain future awkwardness in using it).


Overall, I'm delighted with Droid.  It's much more reliable than my kludgy Treo 755P.  It synchs with my work email like a dream, the display is stunning, the web browsing works great, the apps are fun, and the camera is quite nice (ever since an update was pushed to the phone that fixed a focusing bug).


There are some annoyances.  As noted, the physical keyboard takes getting used to - sometime the onscreen keyboard's just quicker to use.  The built in apps have quirks -- for instance, the email client won't do signature lines, and the calendar won't let you swipe from month to month.  But overall I like my lil' Droid.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Last 30 Years -- and the 30 Years Before That

I'm reading a James MacDonald novel from 1978 -- THE EMPTY COPPER SEA -- and it's leaving me with the distinct impression that much less has changed in American culture in the last 30 years than in the 30 years preceding them.

In this private-eye novel (actually, Travis McGee is not a private eye -- he's a salvage expert -- but he performs the functions of a PI), there are shopping malls and crystal meth addicts. Kids line up to see STAR WARS (the original, but who could imagine that 30 years later STAR WARS would still be a marketable commodity). The language is contemporary. The clothing brands and even the sporting goods makes are recognizable. The description of life in a Florida coastal town, the rondole of seafood houses and cheesy bars, is readily recognizable.

By comparison, a novel from 1948 would not sound at all contemporary in 1978 (and certainly not in 2009). The slang, cars, clothes, and description of everyday life would seem foreign.

Has time flattened out? Or just the time that has passed in my own lifetime?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Face Palm

After using Palm pdas and phones for the past 10 years, I regret wielding one of the hammers driving yet another nail into Palm Inc.'s corporate coffin. But my Treo 755p is glitchy, and the Palm Pre just doesn't look appealing enough. So I've ordered a Motorola Droid phone. Hopefully the Force is with it.

"Nickels Nickels Nickels!"

I watched A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, which debuted the same year I did.

Does the little Christmas tree represent a lost soul?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Loscon: Books and Nooks

Amy and I spent Friday-Sunday at the 36th annual Loscon science fiction convention, held this year at the LAX Marriott. Loscon tends to focus more on books than on movies or other SF media; and as usual, there were several booksellers in the dealers' room, including mail-order house Cargo Cult books. Cargo Cult is one of the few mail-order places that actually mails out a periodic circular of books and videos -- a rarity in a day when even Sears doesn't mail out a catalog any more.

The Nook e-reader that I have on order has changed my approach to such sellers. Previously, I'd browse the tables, see what SF books looked interesting (cover and interiors), and then calculate (a) how much I'd like to spend and (b) how much space a new book would take up. This time, I found myself browsing the tables to find books that I might potentially download as e-books. The nasty part of that, of course, is that I would be cutting the bookseller out of the deal.

I'm aware that as e-readers grow in popularity, this attitude will likely become a trend that will threaten the already tenuous position of independent booksellers. The folks who buy books -- a shrinking part of the population -- will gravitate toward e-books, which are sold either by the big-box websites or directly by the publisher. The same phemomenon we've seen with iPods and music sellers may play out. Sure, there will always be folks who prefer the heft, look and smell of a physical book -- just like there are those who would not dream of listening to anything except a 33 1/3 LP. But in a way, such habits are self-defeating: the folks who most treasure books likely have the most books, and thus will benefit most from those space-saving e-readers.

Other dangers loom. Print is a medium that outlasts formats. Already we are seeing a format war, with Amazon using a proprietary format for its e-books that no one else can use, and the Nook able to read various formats the Amazon Kindle can't touch. If you can read, and can open a book (or have someone open it for you), you're set, no matter the state of technology. But imagine if the crucial works of the 20th century were recorded on 5 1/2" floppies, or 8-track tapes. Think of the COWBOY BEBOP episode in which folks in the future are trying to watch a videotape -- and worse, a Beta videotape.

Despite such dire possibilities, I'm getting the Nook. I don't think I can single-handedly bring about the death of print.

Friday, November 27, 2009

20,000 vs. 2012

"Bloom County" cartoonist Berke Breathed wrote a great essay for today's L.A. Times Calendar section, in which he explains why James Mason battling a rubber squid on the deck of a pinewood submarine is infinitely more "awesome" than the world being destroyed in "2012."

Missing Nemo: Berkeley Breathed says new movies are missing magic and drowning in pixels [UPDATED] | Hero Complex | Los Angeles Times

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving movie viewing: DUPLICITY and MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Not much connective tissue between the two, except strong female leads in each: Julia Roberts as a spy in the first; and Renee Zellweger as a giant mutated platinum blond in the other.

Oh, and Syfy is running Bond movies in high-def today and tomorrow. Things get really good tomorrow, because they'll be showing the Connery Bonds -- a.k.a. the real Bond movies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can't Stop the Rock?




The current issue of BACK ISSUE MAGAZINE (http://new.twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=844&zenid=oh8sdqtc1t4anj7f1bl824ecd2)
focuses on DC and Marvel war comics from the '70's -- an era in which the comics featured mainly World War II stories (with occasional trips into World War I) even as the Vietnam conflict raged on. The magazine notes that DC's flagship war-comic hero, Sgt. Frank Rock, first appeared 50 years ago. Almost simultaneously, the trades have reported that Joel Silver's 20-year quest to bring the Rock of Easy Co. to the big screen may be moving forward -- albeit by moving the combat-happy joes of Easy to (arrgh!) the future. (http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2009/11/sgt-rock-francis-lawrence-akiva-goldsman-joel-silver.html)

All this brings back memories of my comics-reading days in the early-to-mid 1970's. Before I started collecting superhero comics, war comics were my passion. Even at that young age, I could tell the differences in the styles of Marvel's and DC's war comics. Marvel's comics (primarily SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS; occasionally other COMMANDER AND HIS ADJECTIVE NOUNS spin-offs) were mainly gung-ho caper stories, in which the charismatic lead and his multi-ethnic team would crack wise as they cracked heads. They were basically like Marvel's superhero comics, except that the heroes killed people. The DC comics were more brooding and bordering on realistic (although they had more than their share of lone-soldier-with-a-few-grenades-takes-out-a-regiment tales). They were more likely to focus on single lead characters (Enemy Ace, Unknown Soldier, Balloon Buster, etc.) or a rank-and-file combat squad (the Easy Company dogfaces, who had colorful nicknames but weren't quite as diverse as the Howlers) rather than special-mission commando cadres. The one commando-type comic I recall featured the decidely non-heroic title THE LOSERS.

All of these comics were put out under the Comics Code. That meant (a) lots of panels of either soldiers shooting or soldiers falling -- but hardly any of the shooter and victim in the same panel; and (b) when soldiers did meet in close combat, they were more likely to resort to fisticuffs or wrestling rather than point-blank shooting or graphic knifing/bayoneting. This generally had the effect of making war look much less nasty than the footage running on the nightly news from Vietnam and the Middle East.

When I moved from war comics to superhero comics, I found two aspects of the transition jarring. First, superhero comic artists didn't know squat about drawing firearms. Although war comics artists paid lip service to drawing different weapons correctly (after all, in some stories, choice of weapon substituted for characterization), superhero comics artists would often draw vaguely gun-looking devices for the characters to shoot. (Jack Kirby, of course, knew how to draw guns; but he would design completely new firearms for the superhero comics, and you didn't care whether they had any analog in real life.) Second, superhero comics had a different attitude toward death. The death of a single person in such a comic was a monumental event. By contrast, death was such a constant in the war comics that individual lives were pretty much meaningless. I like to think I benefited from the transition.

Anyway, I think that the various efforts to bring comic book soldiers like Rock to the silver screen is doomed. There's really no reason to bring war stories from the comics to movies; movies have been doing WWII stories about ordinary soldiers since, well, WWII. That said, I do think SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS has already been translated into a movie, with some success -- except that it was called INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Distant Blog

Graphic novelist extraordinaire Colleen Doran was nice enough to call me a "blog buddy" in her latest post. http://adistantsoil.com/2009/11/18/comics-links-2/#more-4694

Be a blog buddy to Colleen. Go to her blog, read the web comic version of her series "A Distant Soil," and buy her stuff. If you've been to our house, you know that we've bought a lot of her stuff -- it's all over our walls.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bit about Alfredo Alcala

Comics historian Mark Evanier has a great story on his blog (http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2009_11_15.html#018060) about a sketch Filipino artist Alfredo Alcala did, pro bono, for the San Diego Comic-Con in the seventies; and how this act paid off with good karma.

If you read a Marvel or DC comic during the late '70's and '80's, you likely saw Alcala's art, usually inking another artist, mainly because he turned out incredibly textured ink art incredibly fast. We got to speak with Alcala a few times before he passed away, due to a mutual friend, Phil Yeh. Our first wedding anniversary took place during the 1998 San Diego Comic-Con. Phil invited us to go out to dinner at Dick's Last Resort with him and a bunch of comics artists, including Alcala. At Phil's request, Alcala drew us an anniversary present -- a beautiful drawing of a panther. It was a wonderful link to the SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN issues inked by Alcala that I had so enjoyed as a teen.

An Animated Film Fit for Princes



We first encountered the artwork for Michel Ocelot's animated film "Azur et Asmar" in the hallways of the Studio Ghibli Museum during our 2007 visit. One hall featured images and backgrounds from the movie as murals. That should give you an idea of the artistic accomplishment of this animated film.




The computer-animated movie features flat, stiff character animation (a consequence of the storybook-come-to-life look of the movie), but the colors and imagery are lush and unlike any animated film I've seen before. And although the multicultural story, set in Renaissance-era France and North Africa, follows a fairytale formula, it manages to confound expectations at every turn.

American kids may find the storytelling slow, and the many portions in Arabic (with subtitles) frustrating. But it is definitely worth watching (and likely owning, for repeated viewings).

http://www.amazon.com/Azur-Asmar-Princes-Sean-Barrett/dp/B001DJ7PY6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1258345121&sr=8-1

The Real "Book Nook"

History | Downtown Walla Walla Foundation


Mike Barer posted a comment to my "Book Nook" post, commenting on the namesake for the post:  The Book Nook, a business that used to exist in the Die Brucke building in downtown Walla Walla, Wa.    The Book Nook was apparently around for a looong time -- the photo above purports to be a picture of its soda fountain in 1910; and the building itself was constructed in 1903.  The Book Nook sold the type of general-store sundries you'd see at a drug store.  It also had the sort of old-fashioned lunch counter that small retail stores used to feature, selling burgers and sandwiches.  (It got very busy at lunchtime.  I recall once, while working downtown, I was settled at my table with my drink when my sandwich order was called at the counter.  I went up to grab my sandwich, and came back to find a woman had snatched up my full glass and was "bussing" it so that she could sit down.  She protested that she thought I was finished there . . . .)

The odd part was that, apart from the usual magazine-and-paperback rack, the store didn't sell books.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Amelia Flies

Bucking critical opinion, we saw AMELIA tonight. (It's playing at the Culver Plaza, which was a happening Mann theater for years but is now an independently-owned seedy second-run house.) We liked it better than the critics. It definitely has flaws: Swank too often sounds like she's imitating Earhart rather than being her; Swank and Gere have zero chemistry as an onscreen couple; and the pacing often seems off. But you can't go too far wrong with lots of '30's airplanes. And Earhart's story in itself is compelling enough to propel the plot.

One big mistake Earhart makes: Taking The Doctor along as navigator. That guy's getting lost all the time . . . .

Thursday, November 12, 2009

About Me - In Case you Didn't Already Know : Danny-ology

Yes, it's one of those Facebook quiz things. I've pasted it to my blog so that I can slay two fowl with one missle.

Copy this, paste in a new note, replace my answers with yours and re-post this as your name followed by "ology".

***********FOODOLOGY***************

What is your salad dressing of choice?
Whatever they put on the salad at Blue Marlin -- kind of a sweet-gingery stuff.

What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
Hotel Bel-Air Restaurant.

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
Chicken katsu from Yokohama (the restaurant, not the city).

What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Chicken and veggies.

What do you like to put on your toast?
Oxygen.

********TECHNOLOGY***************

How many televisions are in your house?
Three.

What color is your cell phone?
Green and silver.

Do you have an iPod?
Yes -- a silver Nano.

***************BIOLOGY******************

Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Right

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
I had a tooth extracted when I was a teenager.

What is the last heavy item you lifted?
My backpack, a heavy leather jacket, and a bag of comic books -- all at once.

Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
Only by anesthesia.

************BULLOLOGY**************

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Nah. Destiny is mystery, and mystery is life.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
Well, I could change it, but I like my name. People keep saying I'm a "David," though.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
Yes -- if I could do it gradually, over the course of a few years. (Lawyer answer.)


**************FAVORITOLOGY****************

Season?
Summer in SoCal!

Holiday?
Fourth of July -- it's in summer!

Day of the week?
Saturday

Month?
July

Book?
I don't re-read books (except law books). Probably the one that had the biggest impact on me was Slaughterhouse-Five.

***********CURRENTOLOGY*****************

Missing someone?
My friends in other cities.

Mood?
Mellow.

What are you listening to?
Amy's watching "The Mentalist" in another room.

Current worry?
Getting various ducks in various rows.

************RANDOMOLOGY*****************

First place you went this morning?
Walked to my office.

What's the last movie you saw?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (on DVD)

***************OTHER-OLOGY*****************

How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
One

Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
I don't really have run-ins. Only discussions.

Last person you talked to?
Amy.

Last person you hugged?
Amy.

Do you always answer your phone?
No.

It's four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
Somebody who'd better have a damned good reason for texting me at that hour . . .


If you could change your eye color what would it be?
I wouldn't. Brown is beautiful.

What flavor do you add to your drink at Sonic?
I've never eaten at Sonic.

Do you own a digital camera?
Yes.

Have you ever had a pet fish?
Several . . . in the past.

Favorite Christmas song?
"Linus and Lucy" by Vince Guaraldi. (Hey, it's from a Christmas special.)

What's on your wish list for your birthday?
Books -- even though we have no room for them.

Can you do push ups?
Yes.

Can you do the splits?
No.

Does the future make you more nervous or excited?
Depends how far into the future you look.

Do you have any saved texts?
My Treo saves texts as conversation threads, so yes.

Have you ever been in a car accident?
Yes. (Thankfully without injury.)

Do you have an accent?
Depends on who you ask.


What is the last movie to make you cry?
Probably "Up."

Plans tonight?
You're looking at them . . . .

Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
I've felt mighty low, but not rock bottom. You can even fall off the floor -- if there's a lower floor.

Name 3 things you bought yesterday.
A bowl of oatmeal, a cafe misto, and a Nook.

Have you ever been given roses?
Yes.

Met someone who changed your life?
My wife.

How will you bring in the New Year?
Steampunk party!

What song represents you?
"Wondering Where the Lions Are" by Bruce Cockburn. I've no idea why.

Name two people who might complete this?
Amy and Laurid. ('Cause they have!)

Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
If I could get back again. And not wipe out humanity by stepping on a butterfly.

Have you ever dated someone longer than a year?
Yes.

Do you have any tattoos/piercings?
No. But I have a metal rod in my right ankle . . .

Does anyone love you?
Yes.

Would you be a pirate?
Only if I could be Captain Harlock.

What songs do you sing in the shower?
Rogers and Hammerstein.

Ever had someone sing to you?
Yes.

Do you like to cuddle?
With my wife.

Have you held hands with anyone today?
With my wife.

Who was the last person you took a picture of?
Some goth-loli girls at PMX.

Are most of the friends in your life new or old?
Yes.

Do you like pulpy orange juice?
Pulpy and chewy.

What is something your friends make fun of you for?
I prefer not to have my friends laugh at me. They should only laugh behind me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Birthday Celebration

Some photos of Amy's birthday party on Saturday (together with our party on her actual birthday, November 2); and photos of fun with some of our birthday guests the next day, at Pacific Media Expo.

Amy's 2009 Birthday

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=5592&id=100000277390964&ref=share
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The Book Nook

This evening, I walked over to my local Barnes & Noble and pre-ordered a Nook. (And felt a bit like a Nook Shnook for doing so. The information booth guys just went onto the B&N Website to order the thing. I could have done that. From home.) Because I ordered today, they said, I'd go onto the waiting list and had a good chance of getting my Nook by, oh, about December 21. (Of this year, thankfully.)

I opted for the Nook, instead of the Kindle, primarily because the Nook purportedly handles pdf files better than the base-model Kindle (which costs the same as the Nook). I foresee using the device mainly for work. Nowadays, all federal district and appellate court documents are served in pdf form; and we scan a lot of the state court filings. I'd rather carry a wafer-thin electronic reader into court than a thick file or a box of 300-page appellate record volumes.

Of course, I'm buying the thing sight unseen, so I'll have to wait and see whether the Nook lives up to its hype; or whether it will just sit in its nook.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Shel Dorf, R.I.P.

http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2009_11_03.html#018000

Shel Dorf, the founder of the San Diego Comic-Con, has passed away. I met him on a few occasions, and always found him polite and affable.

A few days ago, prior to Dorf's death, my friend Phil Yeh posted an essay on the Shel Dorf tribute site discussing what Dorf meant to his career. http://www.sheldorftribute.com/2009/10/27/phil-yeh-godfather-of-the-graphic-novel-about-the-positive-difference-shel-has-made/


Another loss to comics history.

Happy Birthday + 1, Amy!!



We were so busy celebrating her birthday yesterday that I didn't have time to post this until today!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Prisoner Billboard: Image Duplicator

Consider:

In Roy Lichtenstein's painting "Image Duplicator," he copied (in part) a Jack Kirby panel from the first issue of the X-Men comic, depicting a close-up of Magneto's eyes.



In the X-Men movies, Ian McKellen played Magneto.



And the billboard for the upcoming TV remake of "The Prisoner," currently situated at the corner of Pico and Sepulveda in West Los Angeles, features a close-up of -- Ian McKellen's eyes.



Who is the image duplicator?

Watching the Jury

I went to a conference this past week in San Francisco that culminated with a mock jury trial exercise. A group of jurors (chosen based on the demographics of the place where the case at issue would have been tried) listened to abbreviated openings/closings, including video reenactments and other exhibits. Then we watched on closed-circuit TV while the jurors -- unaware of their audience -- deliberated and came to a verdict based on the statements.

I've watched such exercises before. It's always sobering to watch how jurors will focus on the facts and considerations important to them -- regardless of whether those facts were actually present in the evidence submitted to them.

The Art of Justice

On Wednesday, I took part in a tour of the Santa Ana appellate court's new courthouse, which opened in July. One of the most striking aspects of the new building is the artwork in the Lobby.

Justice Moore, our tour leader, was in charge of decorating the courthouse -- which she had to do with no budget, given California's money crunch. At first, a prominent local family was going to donate art. The problem with that plan, Justice Moore explained, was that people who donate art are usually rich; and rich people tend to appear in court a lot. She wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism from plaques throughout the courthouse thanking the party to a lawsuit for its donation.

Her solution was to ask local middle school and high school students to create paintings based (primarily) on cases the court had decided, including some for which Justice Moore wrote the opinion. The results were stunning. The students found symbolism in the opinions, both their fact patterns and the principles for which they stood, that the justices themselves had never seen. The L.A. Times story at the link above shows some examples.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heart Has the Bangles, and the Bangles Have Heart

Back in the late eighties, when I lived in San Francisco, The Bangles were playing the Warfield, within walking distance (albeit a scary after-dark walking distance through the Tenderloin) from my apartment. But for various reasons, I didn't attend. I figured I'd have another chance in the future. Soon after that, the band broke up.

Twenty years later, I finally had my chance. Last night, Amy and I saw The Bangles, who shared a bill with a band I listened to throughout the seventies and eighties, Washington State's own Heart.

We tremendously enjoyed both bands. The Bangles look amazing when one considers they first hit the charts 25 years ago; and they sounded great (although they were a little rough on their opener, their cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter"). Their beautiful harmonies and crunchy-guitar-heavy melodic rock was as fun as it was when I was listening to it on cassettes in the eighties. One annoying event: Midway through, a guy behind us yelled, "Play 'Walk Like an Egyptian!'" Which is just plain rude, because (a) it implies every other song they were playing wasn't worth listening to and (b) obviously, they were going to play that song eventually -- as they did, at the end of their set.

Then came the Wilson sisters. The Bangles were great, but Heart is just in another league, both musically and in terms of show-person-ship. At an age where many rock vocalists are starting to lose their pipes, Anne Wilson can still deliver a full-souled chorus. Not only did they sing several of the band's hits, they also did two Led Zeppelin covers (included the throat-tearer "Immigrant Song") and The Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me" (another voice-devastating song).

Once in a while, I have to go to shows like this to remind me why I like rock music.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

George Tuska, R.I.P.

George Tuska began drawing comics in the late 1930's; and even as he entered his '90's he was drawing commissions from fans. After Gene Colan left the IRON MAN feature in the late '60's, Tuska became the principal artist for about ten years. One of the issues he drew circa 1971 became one of the first Marvel comics I owned. Yet another human piece of comic book history disappears.

Mighty Atom Hair

Today's L.A. Times included as an insert a trick-or-treat bag promoting the upcoming American CGI adaptation of Astro Boy (aka Tetsuwan Atomu, or Mighty Atom). Also included was an ad for a hair gel; and instructions for creating an Astro Boy hairdo with the gel. Seems that would be far more suited to the '80's.

Wild, Wild Life

Last night we saw "Where the Wild Things Are." (As often happens when we see movies at The Bridge, there were some production people from the film in the audience. They applauded wildly when their names went by in the credits.) Several thoughts:

1. It is not the story from the book. It has the basic framework of the book. But the concept of the place where the wild things are is completely different. No longer is it id without complication. Now it is id with severe ego complication.

2. It is an extremely well done movie. I don't know if it's possible to watch it without cringing at some summoned memory from your own childhood. Or adulthood.

3. It feels to a great degree like a kid's movie from the seventies. The piano-heavy soundtrack, the naturalistic lighting, and the concentration on tracking shots of running probably contribute to that.

4. Adaptations need not be faithful to be good.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Predator Predates Again

Robert Rodriguez’s Predator remake to star Adrien Brody and Topher Grace

Back in the mid-80's, a friend and I tried to get into a movie that was sold out, so instead we went to a different movie:  "Predator."  I went in knowing nothing about the film.  We came in perhaps 10 minutes after the movie started.  It turned out to be a bad war movie that turned into a pretty darn good monster movie. I didn't realize until years after watching "Predator" for the first time that one of the mercs who went into the jungle was played by Shane Black -- whom I had been in the UCLA Comedy Club with just a few years before.  (I probably should have realized it when he was shown in the closing credits reading a Sgt. Rock comic book -- with the words "Shane Black" next to him.)

 Now, Robert Rodriguez is remaking "Predator" with Adrien Brody in the Arnold Schwarzenegger role.  (???)  No word on whether he'll adopt a thick accent.  Or whether he -- like Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, from the earlier movie -- will become a governor.  (And who will read the comic book this time?)


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Wild Thing

Maurice Sendak rewrote the rules with 'Wild Things' -- latimes.com


Watching the touchy-feeley trailers for "Where the Wild Tnings Are,"  I wondered if director Spike Jonze had actually read the book, which always seemed to me more anarchic and rambunctious than touching.  But according to this L.A. Times article, author Maurice Sendak is supporting Jonze's vision of the book.
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Friday, October 02, 2009

Starbucks: V-I-A Is a Joke

So Starbucks has introduced the latest coffee innovation, the one the world has been waiting for with its collective breath bated: Instant coffee.

Oh, but it's Starbucks instant coffee, the company protests. It's better. It's indistinguishable from the coffee you get in a Starbucks store. And to prove it, they're putting on taste tests, where you get a couple ounces of their brewed stuff and a couple ounces of the Via instant coffee, and are challenged to tell the difference.

Since I'm in the Seattle area, the land of Starbucks, I decided to take the challenge. Make that the so-called challenge. Which one is the Via? The one that tastes like watery instant coffee. Sorry, Starbucks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wi-Fi Watering Holes: Portfolio, Long Beach

This is the sort of coffee house people think of when they think of "coffee house" (at least, those that don't have pictures of mermaids all over the place). It's got two rooms filled with eclectic mismatched furniture. It's got an array of espresso, coffee, loose-leaf tea, and other beverages, as well as a menu filled with sandwiches and wraps. The back room has a stage, and Portfolio holds storytelling sessions (a storyteller was reading and singing to kids when we were there for breakfast today), poetry readings, open-mike nights, and musical performances. Whatever they're doing seems to be working; this morning, there was a long line at the counter and the place was packed. Plus, there's a bike rack out front shaped like a steaming mug of coffee.

Not only do they have free wi-fi, but they also have a cadre of computers in the front room for rent.

Downtown LB seems to have a lot of wi-fi watering holes, but this one is the most impressive one I've seen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ooo My Desdemo-ona

With the remake of FAME debuting in theaters (to tepid reviews), my mind slipped back to the 1980 movie and the not-too-shabby-but-often-silly 1982 TV series. The most memorable bit from the series was this gloriously cheesy Andrew Lloyd Webber style version of Othello.



Dig the feathered hair, and the pink thermal vest. Yes, I lived through the '80s. All of them.

They'll Pave Nude Nudes and They'll Put Up a Parking Lot

For decades, the first glimpse of L.A. sleaze that visitors have gotten as they drove or rode out of LAX is the "Live Live Nude Nudes" sign in front of the Century Lounge on Century Boulevard. (If you saw the movie "City of Angels," Nicholas Cage's character sat on the bus bench in front of it.) But now the nude nudes will have to get dressed and leave. The lease ran out on the property; and the Lounge will be razed and turned into part of the Wallypark parking structure next door.

While the sign is tawdry, I've always thought Live Live Nude Nudes would be far preferable to Dead Dead Nude Nudes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eureka Dysfunction

I went to the AMC 15 to watch the nationwide simulcast to theaters of the anime movie EUREKA SEVEN: GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT, YOUNG LOVERS. Alas, the video glitched about 10 minutes in; and after waiting a half-hour for them to fix it, I walked out and got a refund. Doesn't speak well for the future of simulcast video in movie theaters. Especially since it was a one-night-only event. Guess I'll have to wait for the DVD.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Infinite University

I'm watching the season premiere of HEROES on the DVR, and am struck by the amazing fact that universities all across the country look exactly like UCLA.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Japanese Comics Creator Dies in Climbing Accident

Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Crayon Shin-chan creator dies in climbing accident

Yoshito Usui, creator of the manga feature CRAYON SHIN-CHAN, apparently fell while mountain climbing and perished.

I was not a huge fan of CRAYON SHIN-CHAN, but I must respect its gigantic success.  Usui produced stories of the rude, obnoxious five-year-old for 19 years straight.  The comic (published in the U.S. by CMX, a DC imprint) was turned into a hit anime TV series (shown in the U.S. on ADULT SWIM); and the series, in turn, generated some 17 animated features.
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Kirby Heirs File Notices of Termination on Marvel Characters

Disney Faces Copyright Claims Over Marvel Superheroes - NYTimes.com


Newspapers are carrying the story that heirs of Jack Kirby -- who created, co-created, or had a hand in creating most of the Marvel characters of the 1960's -- filing notices of termination, represented by the same law firm that represents the heirs of Jerry Siegel in their successful quest to terminate a portion of DC's copyrights in the earliest Superman stories.  (Incidentally, the federal judge who ruled on the Superman case recently announced that he is leaving the bench for a private law career, unable to support his seven children on a federal district judge's salary.)

The terminations won't have an immediate effect (the earliest would take place in 2014); and most likely would not result in the characters being ripped away from Marvel, since Marvel would still own rights in them.  More likely the heirs would then negotiate licenses for their portion of the copyrights with future Marvel owner Disney.

The real effect of this story is bringing to the public's attention Kirby's role in creating these characters -- a role that has always been overshadowed by then-writer-editor Stan Lee, who always gave good interview.Jack
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wi-Fi Watering Holes: Dream Center & Coffee House, Bakersfield

On Tuesday, I was in Bakersfield for an appearance at the courthouse. After my appearance, I spotted this wi-fi watering hole on 18th street, a short walk from the courthouse.




The Dream Center & Coffee House is unusual in a couple of ways. First, the building is apparently designed so that the entire front wall of the lounge area can be opened up to the parking lot when the weather is nice (as it was when I visited), creating an open-air lounge. Second, according to the WFWH's Website, the Dream Center assists current and former foster youth in Kern County transition to independence and self-sufficiency; and the Coffee House is designed to give the foster youth work training and job skills.

I didn't try their coffee, but the iced chai I had there was a perfect refreshment on a hot day.

Sunday Art Fix

Welcome to stephaniefrostad.com The Art of Stephanie J. Frostad sjfrostad@gmail.com

My childhood friend Stephanie Frostad is a renowned artist whose Wyeth-like paintings are packed with emotion and meaning. She now has a Website up showcasing her work. Check it out.

Huskies Bite Trojans

Huskies stun No 3 USC 16-13 on late field goal - Road Runner

So my Dad's alma mater vanquished my alma mater's cross-town foes. By three points. How about that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Raxing Rhilosophical rabout Rooby-doo

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of cartoons. I watched and enjoyed SCOOBY-DOO, and watched (but enjoyed less) Hanna-Barbera's attempts to copy the Scooby formula, such as THE FUNKY PHANTOM (in which a dead Revolutionary War soldier who spoke like Snagglepuss took the place of the speech-impaired Doberman). But I don't think I ever pondered the philosophy of why SCOOBY-DOO worked as a series -- perhaps because I was six years old, and my philosophical comprehension was somewhat limited.

On his blog, Mark Evanier -- who worked on various seasons of SCOOBY-DOO, and who had a hand in the development of Scooby's nephew Scrappy -- muses on the appeal of SCOOBY-DOO:

The appeal of the show was always, I thought, in the easy-to-watch energy of the characters, especially Scooby and Shaggy, and also in a certain cumulative effect. I don't think you could ever be much of a fan of Scooby Doo if you watch the occasional episode. No one episode is particularly memorable and some of them are quite silly and contrived, even by Scooby Doo standards. But watch enough of them and...I dunno. Maybe it's your senses atrophying. Maybe the characters become so much a part of your family that you'll forgive them anything.


And he also ponders why fans thought much less of Scrappy:

Scrappy did exactly what he was supposed to do: He got Scooby Doo renewed for another season. I don't think he was a good addition to the format and the fact that he could talk, while his Uncle Scooby sorta couldn't, tore the already-frail "reality," to use that word in the loosest-possible manner. Then again, the underlying premise of "there's no such thing as ghosts" was shredded somewhat during the seasons that the show had guest stars and so Scooby was teaming up with Speed Buggy (a talking car) and Jeannie (a genie). Later, of course, they gave up altogether on the notion that the supernatural did not exist and had Scooby and Shaggy chased by real werewolves and mummies and space aliens.


Actually, as a kid, I don't think I ever really got the premise in SCOOBY-DOO that the supernatural didn't exist. I think I did wonder why in each episode the "ghost" would be unmasked as some non-supernatural real estate developer or smuggler, after the bulk of the episode showed that purported fake performing feats possible only of some supernatural creature -- and often staying in character despite the absence of any logical reason to do so. Besides, it was a cartoon -- and in a cartoon, everything was magical. Drawings were moving! (Just barely. But still.)

But yes, I was one of the kids who despised Scrappy, and found it impossible to watch an episode involving him. I took some pleasure in the live-action SCOOBY-DOO movie of a few years ago, which featured the indelible image of Scrappy piddling on Daphne.

Westwood Groceries

Earlier this afternoon, I visited the Whole Foods Market on Gayley in Westwood. Back when I was living on campus at UCLA, a quarter-century ago, we would have killed to have not just a supermarket, but a relatively healthy (albeit expensive) supermarket within walking distance of campus -- rather than just the student store at Ackerman and a few liquor stores in the Village.

Why didn't we have places like this in Westwood then?

Oh, that's right -- we had movie theaters.

Challah Heart!

From dinner at Junior's Deli last night:



Amy and I wish everyone a sweet new year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Temper Tantrums

Here's the Kanye West/Joe Wilson equation, as I see it:

Boorish behavior + subsequent show of contrition = lots of attention.

It's not a new equation. Ask any parent.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carroll and Swayze

Farewell to Patrick Swayze (gotta admit it, I was a sucker for "Ghost." And "Roadhouse" was at least half a good movie.) and Jim Carroll (whose "People Who Died" manages the rare feat of entertaining the listener while telling the stories of teenagers dying in awful ways).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Diamond Car, You Sure Do Shine

A perfect gift for the multi-billionare who has everything: The Koenisegg Trevita, with a carbon weave body the fibers of which are coated with a diamond finish. They're making only three. No word on whether you should get it appraised by a jeweler after buying.

"9" Is a Magic Number

Last night, we saw "9" (and not "Nine," or "District 9" -- and is it any coincidence that all these movies are coming out just as the hype about the Beatles Rockband game explodes? Number 9 . . . Number 9 . . . ) It's a visually fabulous, fast-paced and exciting movie. The story is, well, fairly elementary -- in a film like this, a simple story is needed, to avoid running over and drowning out the mise-en-scene. That the film manages moments of happiness and triumph in such a bleak setting speaks to its power.

This has been an amazing year for animated films. "Coraline," "Up," "Ponyo," and "9" show just a fraction of the range of storytelling and visual styles that fit within that rubric.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Disney Ninjas

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, the sequel anime TV series adaptation of the shonen manga series NARUTO, will be shown on Disney's Disney XD channel.

This is significant for a few reasons:

-- It confirms that Cartoon Network, which ran imported episodes of the original NARUTO series (presumably to pretty good ratings, because the show was popular in the U.S.) is continuing to divest itself of licensed anime (and animation in general, for that matter).

-- Along with Disney's purchase of Marvel, it shows Disney's quest to rope in preteen and teenage boys, since Disney has secured its audience of little girls (with the Princess and Tinkerbell franchises) and preteen-teen girls (with the Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers enterprises).

-- It raises the question of whether Disney will slice and dice this show just as Naruto does with his opponents. This is a violent series where people get killed, maimed, and dealt physical and psychic injury. The question remains whether it will fit into Disney XD's "programming for kids age 6-14, hyper-targeting boys . . . ." (Of course, uncut episodes of the series are currently available on-line, legally, for free; and licensor Viz will also release the episodes on DVD. So the unedited stuff will be obtainable regardless.)

"Little Brother" in a Big World

I just finished "Little Brother," Cory Doctorow's young-adult science fiction novel from last year; and I recommend it highly. It's strongly reminiscent of the Robert Heinlein juvenile novels of half-a-century ago: A propulsive plot centering on a young, smart, iconoclastic hero who is in a tough situation and has to think his way out of it. Actually, that's not quite true: The hero has the option of surviving by simply lying low and ignoring what's happening around him. But that wouldn't make a very interesting book; and it wouldn't convey Doctorow's message of doing something about the world.

The hero, 17-year-old Marcus Yallow, is a techno-fan who spends his time learning computer tech from the inside out and thwarting the oppressive surveillance systems at his San Francisco high school. Then, when the city is attacked by terrorists, Marcus and his friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security and brutally interrogated, simply because they were out on the street during the incident. After his release, Marcus is deathly afraid that the DHS will pick him up again. But he also vows to take down the DHS for creating a police state of fear that is doing little to stop actual terrorists. And so, he becomes what some would call a monkey-wrencher, and others would call, well, a terrorist, as he wages a guerilla war against a repressive government.

Much like a Heinlein book, this novel wears its Electronic Frontier Federation philosophy on its sleeve -- a philosophy hammered home by the afterwords from a security expert and from a university-based hacker. The message is that to keep themselves free, young people need to question and try to break security systems, firewalls, and cyphers; and publish the results when they do so. The reasoning (made explicit several times) is that security systems that depend on secrets are weak. Only a security system whose weaknesses are probed and explored and remedied actually works. Doctorow draws his parallels to cryptography: cyphers that depend on keys being kept private are apparently far easier to break than ones where the underlying code is made public, so that thousands can come up with exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions.

Of course, the problem with this philosophy is that it works so long as people have good intentions. If they want to use hacking to get rich, or to mess up people's lives for fun, learning how to crack systems will only help them in their dark pursuits. Doctorow would likely respond that if good people know how to hack, they can stop the bad hackers. Perhaps, but the cynic in me draws parallels to mutual nuclear deterrence.

Any book that raises such questions, and is highly entertaining to boot, deserves to be read.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's the Opposite of a "Heckler's Veto"?

Rep. Joe Wilson's boorish outburst during the President's speech yesterday may be the best thing that ever happened to the President's healthcare plans.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Bat-Gautier

A one-day convention being held in the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday the 13th will feature a signing event with the original cast of the '80's animated G.I.Joe TV series -- including Dick Gautier. Those familiar with Mel Brooks's TV work will recall Gautier as Hymie the Robot in GET SMART, and Robin Hood in the underrated '70's series WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN. (At least, I thought ROTTEN was hilarious when I was in elementary school. I don't know how it's aged.)

Mark Evanier's blog features one of Gautier's lesser-known roles: An early-'70's National Labor PSA for the equal pay initiative, featuring Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, Burt Ward as Robin, the TV series's producer as the familiar voice of the narrator -- and Gautier doing such an uncanny Adam West imitation as Batman that few must have realized it wasn't West.

Basterd-ization

Last night, we saw INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (a title designed to give copy editors fits) at the Landmark Theater. (Digression: A few years ago, the Japanese manga title "Bastard!!" was reprinted as a monthly comic book in the U.S. That led us to go to our local comic shop and ask, "Is there a 'Bastard!!' in the box?" or, if we were trying to find it on the shelves, "Where is that 'Bastard!!'?" Eventually, we imagined, if the title gained popularity in the U.S. (it didn't), folks could be buying boxes of "Bastard!!" by the boatload, for beaucoup bucks . . . .)

As with many Quentin Tarantino movies, I left the theater shaking my head at Tarantino's raw talent, and how he devotes it to making deliberately trashy movies. BASTERDS, as you may have heard, is a take-off on every World War II mission/caper movie ever made, with a healthy dollop of the SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS comic series thrown in. (The scene of Hitler raging about the latest antics of the Basterds is certainly reminiscent of SGT. FURY; and the saga of Hugo Stigler brings back memories of Eric, the German soldier who became a Howler.)

Also as with many Tarantino movies, the film delights in its inconsistencies and indirection. Characters and backstories that seem to be of great consequence are dropped unexpectedly, and plotlines don't lead you where you think. Although the movie follows the path of an action film, great swaths of it are taken of with dialogue and character development. The movie ads lead you to think that Brad Pitt's character Aldo Ray, the Basterd topkick, is the lead character in the movie; but in fact the lead may be the most prominent villian, one of those aristocratic Teutonic egomaniacs it's so easy to hate. And although the film purports to be about the Basterds' exploits, most of those exploits take place off-screen.

Against all odds, the audience we saw it with loved it; and we were entertained throughout its two-hours-and-forty-two minute length. Will Tarantino ever assay a non-genre movie, one of those cinematic classics that he adores? Or will he keep making tributes to flicks past?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The End of ADV

Yet another chapter in the sad story of the decline of anime licensing in the U.S. Texas-based A.D. Vision, one of the top U.S. licensors of Japanese animation in the '90's and most of this decade, has shut down as an entity, its assets transferred to other companies with such spiritual names as "Aesir," "Valkyrie," and "Seraphim."

This is sad news to those who enjoyed the many superb titles that ADV brought to the United States, such as "City Hunter," "Neon Genesis Evangelion," "Excel Saga," etc., etc.

Entertainment Weekly's Backward Lists



This week's issue of Entertainment Weekly cover-features The Beatles, due to the release of the Beatles edition of the "Rock Band" video game. The issue includes the magazine's choices of the Top 50 Beatles songs. And as with every top # list the magazine runs, the list begins with the number one choice ("A Hard Day's Night," if you want to know -- yes, even though "Yesterday" is one of the most-recorded songs of all time, and "Something" has been covered by dozens, and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is the band's most iconic song in the U.S., and "She Loves You" has the "Yeah Yeah Yeah" chorus, and there's everything on "Sgt. Pepper" . . . well, it's a good song but a controversial choice), and then runs the rest seriatim (look it up).

Apparently, the mag wants to spare its readers the least possibility of suspense, so it gives away the best choice at the beginning -- leaving the reader to plod through the rest of the list toward the increasingly less desirable choices (if they want to).

Why not start at the bottom, and work our way up? Why not build to a crescendo -- as the Beatles often did?

Business Travelers Choose Wi-Fi over Food

According to a story in today's L.A. Times about airlines racing to provide wi-fi for passengers, a survey conducted by the Wi-Fi Alliance indicated that "[m]ore than 70% of those surveyed would choose an airline with Wi-Fi over one that provided meal service . . . ."

Food for thought.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm Going to Marvel-Land!

So Marvel has been making business headlines all day with the news that the boards of Marvel Entertainment and Disney have agreed to the latter acquiring the former for around $4 billion in cash and stocks. Marvel's stock shot up 26% on the news.

What will this mean for Marvel? For the comics, probably not much -- except that Disney may use its new comic-book arm to publish comics of its characters. The main benefit will likely be for media exploitation of the characters, since that's what Disney does best. The movie projects for the major characters are locked in for the next few years, although Disney will eventually displace Paramount as the distributor for Marvel-made films. I'm guessing that Disney will get busy with the TV versions of the characters. After all, Disney owns ABC and a bunch of cable channels (one of which was running lots of reruns of Marvel cartoons even before this deal). Live-action TV is wide open for Marvel. Although there've been many pilots made of Marvel characters, the only truly successful live-action Marvel TV show was the HULK series in the seventies. Compare that with DC, which had the '60's BATMAN series, the Lynda Carter WONDER WOMAN series in the '70's, LOIS AND CLARK in the '90's, and currently the longest-running superhero series of all, SMALLVILLE. If Marvel could carry off something like SMALLVILLE in prime-time, it and Disney would likely be ecstatic.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Funimation's One Piece Simulcast Begins Tonight - Anime News Network

Last year in August, I was spending my evenings watching the Olympics. This past week, I spent it watching an anime TV series that has been airing for ten years (without a break) in Japan, but had trouble finding a toehold on U.S. television: ONE PIECE.

Funimation had planned to stream subtitled episodes of ONE PIECE back in May; but temporarily scuttled the plans when some jerk leaked episode 403 before it aired in Japan. But the simulcast is back on track, and this evening episode 415 aired here an hour after it was broadcast in Japan.

Meanwhile, Funimation brought viewers up to speed on the present story arc by running the first 21 episodes of it, three episodes a day, over the course of a week. And I've been running through the episodes at a rate between one and five a night.

Although the series definitely gets repetitive in its fight scenes, and there's lots of back story that hasn't aired in the U.S. (there's about a five-year gap between the last ONE PIECE episodes shown in the U.S. and the current batch), and the characters never really grow much beyond getting new skills and powers, there's an addictive quality to this comedy/adventure series -- probably why it's lasted so long. I had no problem marathoning the series.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Celebrating the King


Today would have been the 92nd birthday of Jack Kirby, the undisputed King of American Comics. Tom Spurgeon of the Comics Reporter celebrates the occasion with a collection of unforgettable images from comics Kirby drew over the course of his five-decade career.

Meth ring used comic books to launder cash, authorities say - CNN.com

Comics collectors occasionally lament that a drug addiction would be cheaper. CNN reports that a methaphetamine ring planned to exploit both habits: They dealt and smuggled drugs; and bought high-end collectible comics, apparently to build a startup dealership. Authorities seized about 100 boxes of first-edition comics, with an estimated worth of half a million dollars.

This raises the question of whether the comics will be kept as evidence; sold to benefit crime fighting; or destroyed, if they are contaminated with the deadly toxins used to create meth.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Non-Cartoons Flop on Cartoon Network, and a Nation Says, "Duh"

So as I understand it, a few years ago Cartoon Network was running lots of Japanese animated shows; and a few, such as BLEACH and NARUTO, were pretty successful. Then the anime ratings started going down; and FAMILY GUY, FUTURAMA, and some other American adult-oriented cartoons started doing well on the network's ADULT SWIM timeslot; and the network started cancelling anime programming and commissioning American shows with adult humor. Ratings went down. So Cartoon Network decided to decrease its animation content; and run some live-action reality series. Now, apparently, the network's ratings are in the toilet.

Just a suggestion: stick to showing cartoons on Cartoon Network. Is that too radical?

Movie News That Makes Me Blue

Robert Zemeckis and Disney are making deals to remake YELLOW SUBMARINE as a 3-D motion capture computer-animated movie.

Or, as animation historian Jerry Beck puts it, "Zemeckis to Ruin Yellow Submarine."

Many planned movie projects never reach fruition. Here's hoping this is one of them.

The Bradbury Birthday

Happy 89th birthday (1 day late) to American author and treasure Ray Bradbury. He's in a wheelchair now, so we're less likely to see him walking around West Los Angeles (or, as I saw him in Century City one day, plunging through the rain in a slicker and shorts), but he's still writing.

Wednesday Funnies and the Loss of Grandeur


Summer is the time for experimentation in comics, and this summer DC has been running a delightful experiment: The Wednesday Comics.

If you've ever seen a page of a Sunday Funnies section from the 1930's or earlier, you were probably astounded to see that the newspaper publishers of the past ran strips such as Hal Foster's PRINCE VALIANT, Foster's or Burne Hogarth's TARZAN, or Alex Raymond's FLASH GORDON in high-quality printing, with extensive color modeling, one strip to a page. The publishers knew that the funnies helped sell the papers, particularly when each city carried numerous papers, and immigrants who were working to learn English had an easier time following the comic strips than the papers' prose features.

Now adventure comic strips are all but dead; and while newspapers still carry Sunday Funnies in color, they shrink the strips as small as possible and run several to a page.

The Wednesday Comics, on the other hand, take several DC properties, put top creators on them, and run them one to a newspaper-sized page. That's why the buyer doesn't regret spending $3.99 an issue for just 16 pages -- each page is the equivalent of about 4-5 pages of high-quality storytelling.

Not all of the strips work. The Wonder Woman strip, for instance, is so experimental in its storytelling and coloring, and tries to stuff so much into each installment, that it's basically unreadable for me. But it's more than made up for by writer Dave Gibbons and artist Ryan Sook's gorgeous PRINCE VALIANT-like take on Jack Kirby's KAMANDI; or writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mike Allred's wacky-yet-dark take on METAMORPHO; or the SGT. ROCK strip drawn by longtime Rock artist Joe Kubert and written by his son, Adam Kubert; or the many other features, done by writers and artists who would not be free to work on the characters' regular books but are more than willing to undertake the 12 tabloid-size pages each feature will run.

I have no idea how well these comics are selling; but I have to think that if regular newspapers ran funnies like these, and packaged them on the outside of the Sunday edition, their sales would go up. Newspapers today are dying on the vine, and looking for some kind of content that free websites can't replicate. Now seems to be the wrong time to shrink the funnies into obscurity.

Public Viewing of "Public Enemies"

Last night we saw "Public Enemies" at the Academy Six theater in Pasadena. Such is the nature of summer movies that this flick, which was playing wide just last month, has been relegated to this second-run house where evening shows are $3 each, the movie doesn't fit onto the screen and slops off onto the curtains around it, and folks up in the balcony see no harm in conversing and rattling their jewelry throughout the movie.

Despite the adverse viewing conditions, the movie was gripping. Two things Michael Mann does as well as or better than anyone are shootouts and stylish clothing. Hence we had two plus hours of Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and others walking around in stylish clothes (with tommy guns as accessories) and engaging in frequent scenic shootouts.

The movie was fairly old-fashioned, and might have come from any era after the passing of the Hayes Code. The violence wasn't much more graphic than what you see on TV, and even the language wasn't about the PG level. Further, it followed the traditional arc of the gangster film: John Dillinger starts the movie as a master criminal, living in style and enjoying his status as Public Enemy Number One. Thanks to the efforts of Bale's Melvin Purvis, and the gentrification of organized crime into a business model that has no place for mavericks like him, his circumstances diminish until he is a hunted animal. It's worth catching on video, if you don't want to see it on second run.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Magic Play Is Not Dancing

At the risk of posting potential blackmail material, here's footage of me singing karaoke in Little Tokyo with friends last Saturday. Thanks (I think) to Mizu for the footage.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wi-Fi Watering Holes: It's A Grind, Westwood

In a village that already has two Coffee Beans, a Peets, a number of Starbucks, and at least one independent coffeehouse with free wi-fi (Espresso Profetta), this is still pretty nice WFWH, as witness the fact that currently, on a Sunday afternoon, the tables are filled with UCLA types studying, collaborating, and sipping lattes. There's a nice blend of jazz and pop on the PA, the interior is filled with portraits of jazz, R & B and blues performers, and the service is polite (the barista brought my drink to my table). Plus, it's right next to a Trader Joe's and across the street from a Rite-Aide. They didn't have anything like this in Westwood when I went to UCLA a mere quarter-century ago. Recommended.

The Return of Fortune

Proof that old comic book characters never die, the newsprint just fades away: This past week saw the first issue of Marvel's Max line's DOMINIC FORTUNE miniseries, written and drawn by Howard Chaykin.



The Fortune character is a byproduct of two phenomena of the mid 1970's: The interesting-but-unsuccessful Atlas/Seaboard line of comics; and Marvel's black-and-white magazines. For the former, Chaykin created The Scorpion, a non-super-powered hero whose adventures were set in the '30's. When Chaykin parted ways with the company (which soon folded), Chaykin took the concept down the street to Marvel, where two Fortune adventures were printed in various Marvel black-and-white anthologies. The magazines were not covered by the Comics Code, and so tended to include what would now be called PG-13 or soft-R rated material; so Fortune's fortunes tended to be on the non-PC side. When the two stories were reprinted in 1980, Dom got a full color series in Marvel's THE HULK newsstand magazine. I found this series to be a lot of fun, particularly since Chaykin painted the series and included some wonderful montage splash pages.

Fortune was noteable as a pre-RAIDERS exercise in '30's nostalgia. Fortune, who called himself a "brigand for hire," was a soldier-of-fortune who lived in a gambling ship anchored off the coast of L.A., past the three-mile limit. He flew a bi-plane, wielded a broom-handled Mauser, inexplicably dressed in a fencing outfit when on missions, and dealt with a pulp-magazine retinue of zombies, earthquake machines, telekinetics, and other denizens of pre-WWII Los Angeles.

Because Chaykin was more experienced as an artist than as a writer, most of these Fortune stories were scripted by others, such as Len Wein and Dennis O'Neil.

Now, some 34 years after Fortune's first appearance, Chaykin brings him back. Chaykin now has years of experience as a writer not only in comics, but also in television. Further, he wrote and drew some of the most critically-acclaimed comics series in the '80's, particularly his futuristic satire AMERICAN FLAGG!

The new series is touched by all that. It is far more political and serious than the earlier series. It focuses on one of Chaykin's favorite subjects, American anti-semitism, an issue tailor-made for a series set in pre-WWII Los Angeles and for Fortune, nee Davey Fotunov, one of the earliest comics heros openly acknowledged as Jewish.

Since it's the Max line, and it's Chaykin, the first issue would be rated a hard R, with lots of bad words and nudity. But it's also an example of a terrific creator coming back to one of his most enjoyable creations.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Fish and Her Boy


Last night we saw Hayao Miyazaki's latest movie, PONYO. The film shows that Miyazaki is not interested in repeating himself, no matter how much his fans want him to do so. PONYO doesn't look quite like anything Miyazaki has done before. As befits its story, told from the point of view of a child, the movie looks like a storybook come to life, with the pastel-texture of the backgrounds so palpable that you expect chalk dust to come off on the characters. He also allows in the influences of other artists. Fujimoto, the long-haired, ascotted underwater scientist, looks like a cross between a Peter Max print and a Dr. Seuss drawing, while Gran Mamere, Fujimoto's lover, looks like an Alfonse Mucha poster or a Maxfield Parish illustration.

As for the story, it's appropriate that it's Miyazaki's first work about the sea. Like an ocean, the film seems simple on the surface, but becomes more complex and rich the deeper you delve into it. Much of the story is left unspoken, leaving the viewer to connect the dots -- as befits the perspective of the child protagonists, who view great events without understanding everything that's happening. For instance, there are probasbly volumes of backstory that could be told about five-year-old Sosuke, his sea captain father, and his mother Lisa, who live on the house up on a cliff; but it's not spelled out.

There are Miyazaki constants that show up in the story: The strong female protagonists (of several different generations); the meeting of the mundane and the fantastic; the ambivalent view of technology, viewed as both wonderous and threatening; the environmental concerns; and the fascination with everyday life, whether with a storm-tossed sea (in which the waves are literally alive) or the magic of instant ramen.

PONYO shows the role that two-dimensional animation can still play in a world where computers can bring to life that which hitherto existed only in the imagination. There are emotions and visions that 2d animation can potray more vividly than can either computer animation or live-action. Especially when the story is told through the eyes of a child. Or a magical goldfish.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

From Drifting to Chauffering: Kato Cast for New "Green Hornet" Movie

They have the writer-star, the director, and the Black Beauty; now the upcoming Seth Rogen "Green Hornet" flick has cast Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou as the Hornet's sidekick, Kato, a role Bruce Lee made famous in the '60's TV series. One of Chou's past roles was driving a much smaller and faster car in the live-action movie adaptation of the drift-race manga INITIAL D.

Sketch in Silver

Ever since my first San Diego Comic-Con, back in 1980, I've often commissioned convention sketches from my favorite artists. It's a great way to get a unique piece of artwork created to your specifications.

This year, Stephen Silver, lead character designer for Disney's animated series KIM POSSIBLE, was doing caricatures for a price. On the Saturday of Comic-con, I sat in his booth for this portrait, done when I was wearing my Steampunk stuff.

The Miyazaki Wrap-up

Animator Hayao Miyazaki moves beyond good vs. evil plots - Los Angeles Times

Today, the L.A. Times printed this summary of highlights from Hayao Miyazaki's three-stop California tour a couple of weeks ago.

One part of the article that's slightly annoying is the suggestion that the upcoming PONYO might show a slipping of Miyazaki's art merely because it is rendered in a simpler style of animation. One mark of a professional storyteller is carefully choosing the tools and medium that best fits the story. The animation style of LAPUTA:CASTLE IN THE SKY is simpler than PRINCESS MONONOKE; and it's not just because Miyazaki had a bigger budget for the latter film. Miyazaki does not have to -- and should not -- use an identical style for each project; and simpler does not necessarily mean not as good.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

In the Black

If I told you that my childhood ambition was to have my name appear in Black's Law Dictionary, I'd (a) be lying and (b)seem like a much more pathetic kid than I actually was. (I think.)

Anyway, if you pick up of a copy of the new Ninth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, and look in the front, you'll see a list of "Practitioner Contributors" -- and I'm in there. Near the front of the list, because, y'know, my last name begins with a "Ba."

I got this acknowledgment because I received part of the manuscript (dealing with the "F"s), wrote some marginalia, and sent it back to the editor. Not quite the same as actually writing a dictionary, but at least my name will be in law offices and libraries around the world. How many people will actually see it is another question.

Not Blowing Is Half the Battle

The new G.I.JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA movie was surprisingly fun. It's a pity that non-Bond movies are doing Bond movies better than the actual Bond movies.

It helped that I felt little emotional connection with the 1980's G.I.Joe stories, since the movie weaves its own versions of the characters and their backstories. After all, while some fans grew up playing with and collecting the action figures, I was a teenager when they debuted -- and when I had collected G.I.Joe toys, I had collected the real G.I.Joes, the 12" ones from the '60's (military) and '70's (civilian). Thus, I could enjoy the action, the extrapolation of current military research, and the production design, which looked like a comic book come to life.

True, there's some embarrasingly obvious CGI, and a lot of violent deaths with little blood. (Although, for a movie designed to sell toys to kids, there are an awful lot of impalements.) And (spoiler) I was annoyed at the explanation the movie concocted for the Baroness's behavior, which undercut her as a strong female character. But after all, it's just a bunch of adult kids playing G.I.Joes.

Almost as entertaining: The woman in the row behind me, complaining that her family was making her watch this. "I want to watch JULIE AND JULIA!" she snapped. The kid in the family described the title of that film as JULIE VS. JULIA, which, come to think of it, sounds like another fun film.

The Lovett-Sized Concert

We went to a terrific concert last night at The Greek, near Griffith Observatory. Lyle Lovett and His Large Band played a fantastic set of Lovett's trademark jazz/country/blues/pop, with smooth vocals, clever lyrics, and great showmanship (down to Lovett's aw-shucks low-key patter between songs). Every time Lovett talked about how complicated love was, however, I felt like asking him, "Aren't you over Julia yet?"

The opening set was by Madeleine Peyroux, a French-American singer with a voice remarkably like Billy Holiday's. Although she mainly sang in English (one song was in French), it had that french sense of melancholy, and listening to it made me think of sitting in a bistro on the left bank of the Seine with a glass of wine and a crusty baguette. Since I've never actually done that, I'll credit the music with simply creating a vivid atmosphere.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Comic-Con 2009: The Post-Mortem

Let's get the obvious out of the way first, shall we? There were lots of people. Lots and lots and lots.

Due to this being the 40th Comic-Con (but not the 40th anniversary -- the first two cons were held in the same year, and anyone who calls this the 40th anniversary of the con doesn't know what "anniversary" means), the souvenir program book printed the attendance for each of the preceding cons. My first -- the 1980 con -- had about 3,000 attendees. This con had 120,000 paid attendees. That's not counting (I presume) the exhibitors, and the professionals, and the security, and the con center staff, and the folks who sneaked in . . . well, the estimate I heard was 250,000 coming through the doors per day, which is a lot of humanity.

That said, let's get to what happened:

On Wednesday, preview night, we made a quick sweep of the dealer's room -- excuse me, exhibit hall (as the kids call it these days) -- which, as usual, was filled with wonders such as:



A lifesize statue of Naruto;



An equally lifesize battle-mech at (I believe) the Mattel booth;








A sideshow of collectibles at the Sideshow Collectibles booth;



And this armory of steampunk rayguns from the New Zealand special effects company Weta.

We finished the evening by walking through the nearby Chuck Jones Gallery on Fifth Avenue (which had an exhibit of art by Alex Ross, Jim Lee, Dr. Seuss, and other whimsical folk); and enjoying a sundae at Ghirardelli's with our friend Janine.

On Thursday, we started hitting the panels. Our first one was a DC panel for "motion comics," comics stories and graphic novels distributed over iTunes and the Internet with voiceover narration and images computer-altered to move in a rough approximation of comic-book storytelling. What they showed wasn't that impressive (the excerpt from "Red Sun," a retelling of the Superman legend set in Russia with a cossack Batman, was especially silly). But the panel was impressive, since it included folks like writer Paul Dini, WATCHMEN artist Dave Gibbons, and DC publisher Paul Levitz.








Later that day, we ventured into Room 20 (the second biggest room at the con, surpassed only by the 6,000-seat Hall H) for the Wonder Women panel put on by Entertainment Weekly. It featured a truly spectacular panel of actresses who had portrayed strong female characters in science fiction -- including STAR TREK's Zoe Saldana, LOST's Elizabeth Mitchell, DOLLHOUSE's Eliza Dushku, and most impressive of all, Sigourney Weaver. Weaver received a standing ovation. She was remarkably well-spoken for an actress working without a script; she delivered impressive speeches, and set the pace for the discussion.





Next came the first Comic-Con panel for USA Network's hit BURN NOTICE. This panel was packed -- particularly because it featured Bruce Campbell, beloved by fans for decades of performances in genre works from EVIL DEAD through the SPIDER-MAN movies.








Series lead Jeffrey Donovan didn't appear on the panel; but he taped two hilarious "when you're a spy" type shorts about surviving Comic-Con, with espionage tips for attending two panels scheduled for the same time (sneak in and sabotage the A-V equipment for one of the panels, delaying it -- especially funny because the BN panel was delayed) and for getting panel giveaway swag (investigate the person in charge of giving out the swag, and blackmail him).

We then hit the first Mark Evanier-moderated panel we attended, which was his annual golden- and silver-age comics panel. This one featured such creators as '60's DC war comics artist Russ Heath, 1930's-1940's Batman artist (and creator of The Joker) Jerry Robinson, ace artist Gene Colan (whose attendance at the con was in doubt for several days before the event), Metamorpho and Aquaman artist Ramona Fradon, silver age artist and production master Murphy Anderson (who always looks quite dapper, as one might expect from a master of production), silver age artist Jack Katz, and "On Stage" comic strip creator Leonard Starr.



We had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue with sister-in-law Helen



and finished the evening with a viewing of clips from recent Hong Kong kung-fu epics. (I particularly enjoyed a sequence from John Woo's movie RED CLIFFS, in which an army defeats a much vaster force by taking weapons from the hands of advancing soldiers and using them against the former wielders.)

We started Friday with a panel on one of our current favorite shows, the animated BATMAN:THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.



The panel included voice actors for the series, including Deidrich Bader (the voice of Batman) and John DiMaggio (the voice of the show's boisterous version of Aquaman, as well as the voice of Bender on FUTURAMA and Drakken and Motor Ed on KIM POSSIBLE).



The folks at the panel showed an episode from the coming season that featured Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of the Music Meister, a villain who controls peoples' minds by singing. The result was an almost-all-musical episode, scored in the style of several Broadway composers, that drew an enthusiastic standing O from the assembled.

In the dealer's room, the Black Beauty from the planned GREEN HORNET movie starring Seth Rogan, which was shrouded during preview night, was unveiled, revealing a sleek midnight-colored sedan bristling with weapons -- truly the "rolling arsenal" the narrator of the '60's TV show described.






I attended another Mark Evanier panel that afternoon: his tribute to '70's comics creators, with folks like Marv Wolfman, Steve Leialoha, Doug Moench, Elliot S. Maggin, and Gene Colan again. (Due to a miscommunication, Colan had missed his own spotlight panel, which immediately preceeded this one; he entered in the middle of this panel, to thunderous applause.)










After this panel came Evanier's "Legends of Batman" panel, which featured three artists who, at various times stretching from the first Batman story to Bob Kane's last "work" on the feature in the sixties, assisted or ghosted Kane's work: Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, and Lew Sayre Schwartz. The three played tag team as Kane's "hands": Moldoff assisted on the first Detective Comics Batman story; Robinson began assisting a few stories after that, and eventually became a ghost artist; Schwartz took over as ghost in the post-World War II period; and Moldoff ghosted from the mid-fifties through the late '60's, when "Kane" retired from comics.





As with nearly every panel comprised of Kane's "ghosts," the subject was what a miserable (in every sense of the word) jerk Bob Kane was. Moldoff, who worked for Kane for years, didn't mince words: "He [Kane] was evil personified."

The artists offered explanations for Kane's behavior. He became rich and successful while still a teenager; and grew insecure that someone would find out the "truth" about him. So he paid artists who could draw better than he to produce the work "he" was contractually obligated to produce for DC (in addition to the Batman pages drawn by artists who worked directly for DC); and became indignant when anyone suggested he didn't draw every line and scallop of the Batman feature.

I left before the Batman panel was over, because I had to attend another panel: The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers panel, co-moderated by my cousin Lee Goldberg, and featuring Lee's brother Tod as a nominee for the organization's Scribe awards.



Because Tod writes the BURN NOTICE tie-in novels, Amy and I donned the BURN NOTICE T-shirts we had gotten at the previous day's panel and wore them to the IAMTW panel, to root Tod on.

Alas, Tod didn't win; but he, Lee, and the other IAMTW panelists (including co-founder Max Collins, who manages to write novelizations of numerous properties, original novels of numerous others, and tons of original mystery novels) put on a funny and entertaining panel.







Afterward, we led the panel over to their assigned autograph area, under the "sails" on top of the convention center, where a line waited patiently to get their tie-in books signed.




Lee and Tod immediately launched into engaged conversations with their book-buying audience.



Out on the exhibit hall floor, we met up with our friends Laurid (from Colorado) and Natalie (from Utah), where we admired such marvels (er, DC's) as the Batpod cycle from the DARK KNIGHT movie.





We also visited the booth of fan-favorite graphic novelist Phil Foglio, decked out in his victorian finery.



His table displayed an astounding fan-made statue of one of the tiny "clank" robots from his webcomic/graphic novel series, GIRL GENIUS:




Later that night, we attended the Eisner awards at their new home, the recently-completed Bayview Hyatt hotel. There we saw such presenters as voice- and live-action actor Patton Oswald:



and everyone's favorite all-black-wearing best-selling fantasy novelist, Neil Gaiman.



On Saturday, we put on our steampunk duds, in anticipation of the steampunk meetup at mid-day. Here's a picture of us from the Steampunk Fashion Livejournal page:

(Yeah, my goggles were askew. It happens.)

We attended a couple of panels that morning, including Mark Evanier's ever-entertaining QUICKDRAW! panel (which was held in a huge ballroom -- and easily filled it). We cut out of that early, because we had been told that the Steampunk meetup/panel would be held in one of the tiniest rooms at the convention center -- and was always mobbed. We therefore got in line an hour before the panel. So did lots of steampunky folks, which prompted lots of photos and videos from the passers by. Eventually the room opened up; and our promptness did us no good: Only 60 people were allowed into the room, and we (and most of the other 200-some people lined up) didn't make the cut.

All was not lost, however; as related in other recent posts, we took part in what was billed as the largest steampunk photoshoot to date. Afterward, we came inside to pose for individual photos.











There were some terrific programs planned for Hall H that afternoon (including an IRON MAN II panel that I was eager to see); but I was disinclined to wait out in the sun in my black boots, linen pants, vest and topcoat for the slight chance of getting in.

So we walked the exhibit hall, often with Laurid and Natalie. This was the first time in the 22 Comic-Cons I've gone to where I attended in a costume. The effect is fascinating. In the standard con uniform of T-shirt and cargo shorts, I become invisible, just one of the hordes. Put on an unusual outfit, and you stand out, even among tons of people in costume. Folks come up to you, ask to take your picture, chat with you, and basically become your friend for a few seconds. The reception (at least to me) was universally positive. I can see how this can be addictive for those who bring multiple costumes to conventions.


One of the sights we came across was a wall of Iron Man armors in the Marvel booth:




Another was one of the employees at Phil Foglio's booth, who was costumed as the character Dupree from the GIRL GENIUS comic:



Another costumed person was Laurid, who was clad in a perfect Stargate uniform.





That evening, we went to dinner with Natalie, Laurid and another Utah friend, Sarah. We walked over to The Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant that was a mainstay of the con for decades until the building was taken over by another restaurant. This year, the Factory returned, in the same building, with a fancy bar (which took the sting out of the long waits for dinner at the Factory), separately operated, on the second floor. The Factory was everything we remembered so fondly: great service, good food, and extremely reasonable prices.

Sunday brought (in addition to the voice actor panel covered in another post) our last crack at the exhibit hall, and our last chance to photograph hall costumes:



Cute:



Even cuter:



In a whirlwind tour of Artist's Alley in the last hour of the con, we chatted with former child star (not to mention Babylon 5 actor, and half of the novelty-record team Barnes & Barnes) Bill Mummy; comedy legend Stan Freburg and his wife, who were attending the con for the first time; and Gene Colan, who took the fact we were from Los Angeles as an opportunity to discuss Gary Cooper and the mystique of the movie star. A heady combination in a short time.

Finally, we had to bid the Con adieu. We had a steak dinner with Helen at the Red Fox, the restaurant that adjoined our hotel (which gave us a chance to escape the long waits for every restaurant within two miles of the convention center); and hit the road home.

No matter how big it gets, it's my favorite convention. Where else can you see and do all this?