Monday, June 29, 2009

The YouTube of Haruhi Suzumiya

Now here's something you don't see every day on YouTube . . . .

According to Anime News Network, Kadokawa, the owner of the Japanese rights to the anime TV series THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA, has been re-showing (aka re-running) episodes of the 2006 series and posting the re-ran episodes on YouTube. This past weekend, Kadokawa put the first eight episodes up with English subtitles -- including the eighth episode, which is actually a new episode that wasn't screened with the rest three years ago (and hence wasn't included on the American DVDS of the show that Bandai released in 2007).

The episode streams until July 5, 2009 -- so until then, I can paste it right here, nice and legal-like:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Will Miyazaki Attend Comic-Con?

According to an article in today's LA Times about Hayao Miyazaki's film "Ponyo" -- which will close the LA Film Festival tomorrow -- ". For the first time in his career, Miyazaki will be appearing at Comic-Con in San Diego in July showing clips from 'Ponyo,' which has made $182.1 million internationally."

There's nothing about this on the Comic-Con's own website, which one would expect to trumpet the news that this most revered of anime directors will appear there for the first time. (Of course, since Comic-Con is completely sold out, it has little to gain from publicity.) So it remains to see if this is an error by the Times, or a legit announcement.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Comic-Con 2009 :: Exhibitors List

The San Diego Comic-Con Website has posted its list of the exhibitors that will fill its unbelievably humongous dealers' room.

No wonder some attendees spend the whole con in there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

Two pop icons of my youth, gone in one day. I recall Michael Jackson as the kid from the Jackson 5 in the early '70's. And I had the infamous Farrah poster on the wall of the basement in my family's home.

In 1987, I was working part-time at Graphitti Comics in Westwood. A thin African-American man with a moustache came in and sought to buy a box of Three Stooges trading cards. He wanted to pay with a credit card, which required my boss's ok. I called the owner while "Miko James," as the credit card identified him, browsed the store. The transaction was approved, and Mr. James left the store with a box of Stooges.

Later that day, the boss came in and reported that some kids in the Westwood videogame arcade had recognized "Miko James" was Michael Jackson -- then at the height of his popularity -- in disguise.

I may not have been as fond of his music as others; and I was definitely saddened by the shambles the man's life became as he became more and more of a laughingstock. But still, there's a little sparkle that's gone from the world now that it no longer has a Michael Jackson in it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You Can Call Him Al

The latest addition to our home decor: A wall-mounted standee of gun-toting vampire Alucard, from Hellsing

If it looks familiar, you might have seen it here:

It was used at the 2005 Anime Expo at the Geneon Booth when Hellsing creator Kohta Hirano signed autographs.

Hirano drew a sketch on the standee; and since then, most of the cast who dubbed Hellsing into English has signed it.

Amy picked it up at an auction at Sakura Con. Now it hangs behind our bed.

Sweet dreams . . . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It Ain't Tobey Maguire

Ah, the wonders of the Internet. has finally brought to the U.S. this bizarre meld of Eastern and Western pop culture, Toei's 1970's SPIDER-MAN live action TV series. Featuring all the trademarks of Japanese live action superhero shows: breakneck pacing, awful acting, mind-bendingly cheesy special effects, and editing that bears no resemblance to logic. Oh, and he's got a transforming giant robot. And a flying race car. And he announces himself to his foes as "An emissary from Hell!" Delirious.

A Pile of Print in Your DVD Drive

I recently learned that a couple of years ago Gitcorp lost the license to produce its DVD-Rom collections of various Marvel comics. I immediately bought the company's collections of Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and Iron Man comics, to join their Avengers and Spider-Man (on 11 CD-roms) collections on my shelf.
Each disc collects scans of every issue of the spotlighted series, from the first issue in the '60's to a mid-2000's cutoff date. That represents a huge pile of comics, all squeezed into a wafer-thin disk.
Marvel has put out other collections of these comics, in a variety of formats, from their deluxe hardcover Masterworks series to their inexpensive, phone-book-thick black and white Essentials series. But no format is as comprehensive or offers more bang-for-buck than this one (with the possible exception of Marvel's subscription Website, which offers scans for a set price).
Further, unlike the other reprints, these are taken directly from the original comics. And they are not all immaculate file copies; many plainly came from private collections, and were bought off the stands by actual kids. The first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, for instance, features the name and address of its (once?) owner stamped on the splash page. Turn the page of another comic, and you'll find that the owner used a ballpoint pen to tick off issues he bought on a house-ad checklist of titles released that month. You'll find every ad, every letters page, every distributor's mark. If the particular copy of the issue scanned has off-register printing (i.e., the colors are printed outside the lines), that's what you get. Musty smell of old newsprint aside, it's the closest you'll get to poring through actual old comics without shelling out the multibucks it would take to accumulate them.
The downside of comprehensiveness is that when a title is published for over 40 years, there'll be a lot of mediocre work -- particularly since each title had a myriad of creators. (Probably the most sustained run of brilliance is the over 100 issues of FANTASTIC FOUR that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created from 1961 to 1970.) But there's little risk; if a particular issue disappoints, the reader can close it with a mouseclick and pick up another one.
If you can find these online or in stores, I recommend picking them up while they're still available.


My cousin Burl Barer -- radio personality, true-crime writer, mystery-novelist, and expert on many aspects of pop culture -- is interviewed on Carl Brookins's blog. Burl displays his usual quick wit and self-deprecating style of salesmanship.

Swashes Buckled

Last weekend, Amy and I once again bypassed the latest summer movies, and headed to the Aero Theater in Santa Monica for a double bill of Hollywood past's finest swashbuckling: CAPTAIN BLOOD and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. American Cinematheque, which put on the program, presented the movies in style; before the first film began, a stage-fencing teacher and his students put on a demonstration of historical and Hollywood swordfighting that was a treat to watch.

As for the films, they remain crowd-pleasers despite being over 70 years old. ROBIN HOOD and CAPTAIN BLOOD are surprisingly different from each other, despite sharing a director (Michael Curtiz) and most of the cast (including lead Errol Flynn; romantic foil Olivia de Havilland; and Basil Rathbone, who has relatively minor role in BLOOD but graduates to main heavy Guy of Gisborne in ROBIN HOOD).

ROBIN HOOD is a straightforward tale of a nobleman whose heroism leads him to become an outlaw (although he certainly seems to have plenty of fun doing it). And it has some sparkling dialogue. (Marian: "You speak treason!" Robin: "Fluently.")

CAPTAIN BLOOD, a historical-fiction epic, is more morally complex, as one might expect since it adapts a 20th-Century novel. It tells how adventurer-turned-physician Peter Blood is unjustly convicted in the Bloody Assizes; sentenced to slavery in colonial Jamaica; escapes; and becomes a Pirate of the Caribbean. Flynn's attempt at an Irish brogue is awful (he and other characters have to keep telling the audience he's Irish; occasional interjections of "Faith!" and calling male characters "darlin'" isn't enough) but his twinkling eyes and devil-may-care grin are magnetic.

Each is marked by fantastic action set pieces, the most wonderful of which is the climactic swordfight between Flynn and Rathbone in ROBIN HOOD -- perhaps the most entertaining one in Hollywood history.

There's no substitute for watching films like this on a big screen, with a cheering audience that's in the mood to be thrilled.

Monday, June 15, 2009

July: Hot with a Strong Chance of Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki won the 2002 Best Animated Film Oscar for "Spirited Away"; but Miyazaki himself wasn't at the award ceremony. Well, if Miyazaki won't go to the Oscars, the Oscars will go to him. Sort of.

On July 28, 2009, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater will host a rare visit by Miyazaki to Southern California -- Beverly Hills, to be exact.

Tickets go on sale June 25. They're just $5 each, so I expect they'll evaporate like the proverbial expectorant on July asphalt.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Lazy Sunday Morning

This morning I hit the road on my bicycle around 7:45 am; rode over to Santa Monica Beach; participated in a fitness class by the sea from 8:30 to 9:50; had breakfast at Jinky's with Amy; then peddled back.

That took care of the morning.

Now for the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Robots: Big in Japan

After a hard day of work, what brings a smile to my face? How about a photo of a life-size (59 feet tall!) statue of the eponymous robot from the anime series MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, built to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the still-thriving Gundam franchise. (If we're attacked by space colonies, just hope that there's a 14-year-old introverted genius around to operate the dang thing.)

Or, not quite as tall but perhaps more impressive, is this Popular Science magazine story about an Alaska army mechanic who has built a working -- yes, working -- 18-foot "mecha" exoskeleton that mimics the movements of its operator, who rides inside the chest. It can purportedly raise its arms, bend its knees, and do sit-ups. And it was built for about the price of a car: $25,000.

What will really amaze me is if someone comes up with a giant robot that actually walks. Duplicating human locomotion on a small scale has always challenged robotics engineers. Creating a machine that lifts and drops the equivalent of a grain silo with each step -- and keeps its balance -- seems to verge on the impossible. (And even if it was possible, why do it? Why not put the thing on tank tracks -- as MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM did with one of its more plausible robots, Guntank.)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Diagnostic Stunts

On his blog, my cousin Lee Goldberg reminisces about the "stunt casting" episodes he and his writing/producing partner Bill Rabkin engineered on the Dick Van Dyke mystery show "Diagnosis Murder."  The crossover with "Mannix" and the TV Spies episode are particularly well remembered.

Above is a photo of Patrick Macnee (top professional) with Lee (talented amateur).

Fannatiku Fest 2009 -- Utah March 2009

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Amid hard times, an influx in real superheroes -

According to this CNN article about a purported influx of real-life superheroes, I shouldn't have just been chatting with family, shopping at local stores, and tasting wine while in Walla Walla; I should have been experiencing a superhero origin.

(Personally, I would have thought that more likely at the nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Much more ambient radiation.)

Hat-tip to Don Burr.

Steve and Dawn's Wedding Photos II

My photos (in which group I include the pictures Amy took with my camera) from our trip to Walla Walla last week are up on Photobucket; just click on the title to this post. They include pictures from the rehearsal; the rehearsal dinner; the reception; a family dinner at Whoopemup Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg; the post-nuptial brunch this past Monday; and assorted other adventures. Here are some highlights.

Lunch at the Ice-Burg, a drive-in burger joint that's been around for decades. It sells T-shirts that refer to the place as a "legend." It has an amazing menu of shake flavors. I had butterscotch.

Hot Poop features a plaque on the wall outside the store, commemorating the joint's status as the oldest independent record store in the state.

Mike, me, and the bridesmaids during the rehearsal. We're standing in front of the 100-year-old bandstand in Pioneer Park.

The cunningly-folded napkins at the rehearsal dinner, held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.

On the day of the wedding, Steve and Dawn's pups, Buddy and Zorro.

The Whoopemup Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg, about 20 minutes east of Walla Walla.

An amazing smoked-trout dinner salad at the cafe.

Parked across the street from the cafe.

The deserted Sunday night main street of Waitsburg.

Finally, the house on Palouse Street in which I grew up. When my family owned the house, we had a gigantic pine tree in the front yard, and a rough-rock wall out front. The current owners took out the tree, and put a top on the fence.

Up, Up and Away

The new Pixar movie UP lives up (ahem) to its hype. Within the framework of a deceptively simple story, it explores themes of lost opportunities and chaining yourself to the goals of the past at the expense of the present. Plus, it's visually spectacular (particularly for fans of lighter- than-air crafts), often hilarious, and features some terrific characterization, through both visuals and dialogue. It's particularly impressive near the beginning when it gives the main character's backstory over several decades -- practically a movie in itself -- in a montage without a word of dialogue.

It's nice to know that the American animated film -- better yet, the Disney animated film -- is alive and well (albeit in 3-dimensional computer animation).

I heartily recommend seeing it in 3-D. The 3-D effects don't hit you over the head (as they do in some of the trailers shown before the feature) but the accentuate the visual splendor nicely.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Photos of Steve's and Dawn's Wedding, Part I

My brother Steve's new father-in-law, Don Davis, has posted these photos of Steve and Dawn's wedding this past Sunday. Here are a few samples.

Here I am with brothers Steve and Mike, dressed like international men of mystery. With us is our father, Alan Barer. I'm the one with the receding hairline.

Here's the wedding. Mike was the best man. The groomsmen were me and Dawn's son (who is, coincidentally, also named Danny).

And here I am walking toward the staging area. The lady on my arm is one of the bridesmaids, Liz.

We'll have our own photos up shortly.

One Bad Apple Spoils the Anime

Well, it started out as a good idea . . . .

Previous attempts to show the anime ONE PIECE, a hit in Japan, on American airwaves having failed for various reasons (censorship, differences between Japanese and American standards for violence in all-ages shows, etc.), Funimation reached a deal with animation studio Toei to simulcast subtitled episodes of the show online, immediately after each episode aired in Japan. The broadcasts were to start this past Saturday.

Unfortunately, someone (presumably unauthorized) accessed Saturday's episode from Funimation's servers; and leaked the episode onto the Internet -- before the episode aired in Japan.

Result: the Japanese rights holders are apparently unhappy. "[A]s a direct result of this illegal act," Funimation writes in a statement on its Website, "all U.S. and Canadian fans will be deprived of access to this great anime series for the immediate future."

I know the show is about pirates. But that's no reason to pirate the series.