Monday, July 27, 2009

Conan & Andy Do Manga (07/24/09)

A Cloudburst of Steampunk

Los Angeles - Style Council - Comic-Con's Steampunk Revolution, It's Coming

While I wait to upload my Comic-Con photos and write up my experience in style, I'll vamp with this bit from one of L.A. Weekly's blogs. It discusses the Steampunk panel on Saturday for which we waited in line for an hour, only to be turned away at the door (the room held 60; there were around 300 lined up); and features a photo of an event in which we did take part: what is reputed to have been the largest steampunk outfit photoshoot in history (there was allegedly a representative of Guinness there to confirm it). We're in the upper left-hand corner. (Part of being tall is that you tend to gravitate toward the back of group photos.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Comic-Con and Cousins

I'm in the midst of Comic-Con Internati0nal: San Diego, and while there are wi-fi locations everywhere, I haven't had time to post mu. ch to the blog. Plus, although I brought an arsenal of electronic gadgets to San Diego, I somehow neglected to bring anything that would transport photos from my camera to the computer. So for now you'll have to content yourself with my cousin Tod Goldberg's description of the con for the LA Times Book Jacket. (Yesterday, Amy and I went to see both Tod and his brother, Lee, at the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers Awards. Both of us wore BURN NOTICE T-shirts that we got as free swag from the BN panel the previous day.)

More after we get back to LA.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Comic-Con 2009: The Mark of Evanier

If you're going to Comic-Con, and are overwhelmed by the programming choices, you could do worse than merely attending the panels Mark Evanier is hosting. You won't be at a loss for things to do, because he's hosting 12 events (it was 13, but the spotlight on Gene Colan was unfortunately cancelled because Mr. Colan can't attend). Most of them are in Evanier's traditional spot, Room 8, which really should be named the ME room.

Full-Blooded Adaptation of "Half-Blood Prince"

We saw HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE last night at the Century City AMC Imax theater. The writer and director did an impressive job of making an enjoyable movie -- indeed, one of the best-looking of the Potter series -- out of a story that is basically a second act intended to set the stage for the final book (which will be split into two movies). Much of the credit goes to Steve Kloves, the screenwriter for all the Potter movies except the previous one. Kloves excels at cramming lots of story into the screenplay, while also allowing time for character moments and set pieces that look great.

One criticism: The movie had one of the most pointless uses of 3-D technology I've seen. The previous film had a climactic battle in 3-D, which was fine; the audience got worked up waiting for it. Here, the opening sequence was in 3-D -- and nothing else in the movie was. So the audience was left with the enormous 3-D glasses sitting in their laps (or on their heads, if they wanted headaches) useless.

The filmmakers are also dealing with an unavoidable complication that arises when adapting the late chapters in a multi-character epic: Gobs of characters have walks-ons. Here, Timothy Spall has about 30 seconds as Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail, which I imagine was at least a day for the actor (particularly with his silver-hand prosthetic). The writer can add a character to a scene with a few strokes of the keyboard; but it's quite another thing for the producers to corral the actor from a previous movie and haul him or her onto the set for a few seconds of looking sheepish.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Latest Developments in Goldberg Country

Once again, I will assume my familial responsibilities and plug some projects in which that my cousins, the Goldberg Brothers, are involved. Since Lee and Tod Goldberg's blogs average as many hits in a day as I get in about a year, you could say that they don't need my help; but I think print needs to be promoted, particularly when it comes from my family. (And their books are lots of fun to read.)

Lee has reissued a book from him published in the early 90's, TELEVISION SERIES REVIVALS. It catalogs and discusses various reunion specials and series based on canceled TV shows. I love this type of book, so I'll probably be buying a copy.

Lee has also reissued his satirical mystery novel MY GUN HAS BULLETS, which I do own (and have read). This edition was released for the Kindle; and features a rather somber cover by Lee's sister Linda. If you want to read a savage attack on the TV industry by an inside man, this book's for you. It's one of my favorites of Lee's books.

Finally, if you find yourself at the Comic-Con in San Diego next week, both Lee and Tod will be on the panel given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, on Friday afternoon from 3:00-4:30 in Room 4. At the panel, the organization's Scribe Awards will be given out; and Tod's first BURN NOTICE tie-in book is nominated for one. Oddly, the three-ring-circus programming of Comic-Con has scheduled their panel to overlap with other panels featuring tie-in writers (Kevin J. Anderson in Room 2; James Robinson and Greg Rucka in Room 6DE; Peter David in Room 30CDE) and a panel on tie-in series (Room 5AB), as well as panels featuring Tim Burton, Elijah Wood, David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Stan Freberg, and the cast of EUREKA. At least they're not scheduled against Hayao Miyazaki, whose panel will be held earlier that day.

Archie Wedding Disenchants Collector

This "silly season" story comes from the Comic Buyers' Guide Extra website. Archie Comics has announced a "what if?" type storyline for Archie # 600 in which the rambunctious redhead marries Veronica. The news has prompted a longtime Archie fan to sell his prized Archie #1 in "protest":

“I just feel betrayed. All of these years I have been waiting for Archie to man up and realize what a treasure Betty is," he told CBG. "Is it the economy? Is Archie’s proposal just for the money? Is Archie really that shallow?"

Of course, given that this is a "what if" story that will likely have no effect on the decade-long repetition of patterns that is the Archie "continuity," and given that the comics line will likely do a similar story positing that Archie marries Betty, one could suspect that this "protest" is really an attempt to drive up interest in the comic, which he is selling through Heritage Auction Galleries.

My only thought is that with all the billions Mr. Lodge has squirreled away, it's a wonder he never hired a hitman to rub out that pesky kid who keeps invading his mansion and drooling after his daughter.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Photo from Dementia

KMET Photo Gallery

Who's demented enough to wear a tuxedo and top hat for radio? Why, Dr. Demento, of course!

Here he is from last Friday's KMET Finally Friday day on 100.3 The Sound.
For a time when I was a kid, I was corresponding with the Good Doctor. He'd send me typewritten letters on his letterhead stationary, which featured a drawing of him when his beard was dark. It's wonderful to see him still going strong a quarter of a century later.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nixon the Conqueror

I caught a cold at AX, so I've been taking it easy at home this weekend. Yesterday, I watched two movies on video: MASTER OF THE WORLD, a 1961 American International Pictures adaptation of a Jules Verne novel, which was essentially 20,000 Leagues over the Sea; and FROST/NIXON, Ron Howard's 2008 movie about, well, David Frost and Richard Nixon.

At some level, I think, both movies told the same story.

You Say it's Soda, and I Say It's Pop

When I was growing up in Southeastern Washington, we'd call a can of fizzy carbonated beverage a can of "pop." Here in SoCal, it's called a can of "soda." In many places, "coke" has become a generic term for the stuff, whether it's Coca-Cola or not.

Here's a chart of generic names for soft drinks, county by county. It confirms that soft drinks in my home county continue to be called "pop," while all of Southern California calls them "soda."

Thanks to Mark Evanier's blog for the link.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

AX 2009: Post-Mortem

Anime Expo 2009 took place at the LA Convention Center from July 2 through July 5. A number of portents could have justified an attendee in suspecting that this AX would be a subdued one, if not an odd one. The economy is in a doldrums. More specifically, the entire DVD industry, and in particular the US licensing of anime for DVD, has taken a nosedive since AX 2008. That was evident in the dealer's room (or, as the organizers called it, the "Exhibit Hall"). AX dealer's rooms were once dominated by Bandai's, Geneon's, ADV's, and Tokyopop's giant booths. This time, the only companies that displayed large booths were Funimation (the blood-streaked survivor in the licensor battles), Crunchyroll (the vanguard of anime's future: online distribution), and the company that will put out the computer-animated ASTRO BOY and GATCHAMAN feature films. Geneon USA has been out of commission for a while (except as an adjunct to Funimation); and Bandai, ADV and Tokyopop did not even have booths. Further, while booth after booth sold character goods and fashion items, few booths actually sold anime dvds.

So, did the Expo fall flat?

Far from it.

The attendance was 44,000 -- a record. And everyone there seemed to be having a great time.

A billboard on the side of a building just north of the convention center gave a hint that the anime-related video game industry, at least, is doing well:

And as usual, a huge number of fans came in astonishingly-detailed costumes.

Although Thursday was mainly devoted to greeting friends, getting event tickets, and haunting the dealer's room, I received a surprise Thursday evening, as I, Amy, and friends were returning from dinner to the Convention Center. A detail of LAPD officers were guarding the front of Staples Center, which had just been announced as the site for the Michael Jackson Memorial. As we walked past a group of officers, one of them appeared to be paying unusual attention to us. Then one of them detached from the group, walked toward me, and called, sternly, "Mr. Barer." I obediently halted. The officer grinned at me, and I saw that his nametag read "Riddick." I suddenly realized that the officer was David Riddick. David, in addition to being one of the pioneers of licensing uncut anime for American video distribution, was a good friend of mine in the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization back in the mid-80's. He recognized me because he had read -- yes -- this blog. (Hi, David.)

On Thursday, we got tickets for my favorite AX event: The Meet the Guests reception, this year held as a Friday breakfast at the nearby Bonaventure Hotel.

For the first time, I went to one day of the AX wearing a costume -- a steampunk outfit. Since the Steampunk photo gathering was set for Friday, I went to the Meet the Guests Reception wearing the outfit. Amy wore her own Steampunk ensemble. Here's a photo of us, from The Manticore Society blog:

The outfit drew unexpected praise from Yasuhiro Nightow (the creator of the manga TRIGUN) and Takashi Okazaki, the creator of AFRO SAMURAI. The MTG reception remains the best way to meet and talk with the guests one-on-one, and hear such interesting stories as Okazaki's delight that the English voice casting for the Afro Samurai movie featured not only Samuel L. Jackson (the voice for Afro in both the movie and TV series) but also Mark Hamill -- two jedi in one cast!

The steampunk photo shoot later that day was delightful. A lot of folks showed up, many carrying ingenious DIY-type inventions. Here's a photo from the blog HOW A GIRL FIGURES:

On Friday night, we went to the Anime Music Videos. I was amused by the sign outside the video hall that forbade photography or video of the AMVs. The AMVs themselves are copyright-infringing compilations of anime (and sometimes videogame) clips set to music, by creators who don't have the rights to use either the clips or music. They are tolerated by the rights holders, because they are generally a good promotional tool for the source material. But for these infringers to sternly warn those who would copy their copies was rather ironic.

Saturday was a big day for photoshoots gatherings. There was a gigantic one for Kuroshitsuji, or "Black Butler." During our 2007 trip to Japan, Amy picked up the first volume of this manga because she enjoyed the art. At that time, almost no one in the U.S. had heard of the property. Neither the manga nor the anime tv series that adapted it has been licensed in the U.S. Yet due presumably to pirated fansubs of the anime, the property has picked up numerous fans, as the photogathering showed. LA Weekly wrote up the phenomenon

Early that evening was the first Hellsing photo shoot Amy was dressed up for it, as usual.

Although there has been a long pause since the last Hellsing video (Hellsing Ultimate 4) was released in the US -- apparently because the negotiations are still on for the licensing of Hellsing Ultimate Volume 5 -- the gathering drew a large, enthusiastic crowd.

After the photoshoot, we planned to eat with friends at the Rock'n'Fish at the L.A. Live complex, which featured a special $9.95 entree menu for AX members. Two of us went there in advance, got there at 6:45, and were informed the joint was closing at 7 pm due to slow business. We managed to persuade them that our party was going to get there before that for dinner, and would make it worth their while. That turned out to be fortunate for the restaurant; by the time it got there our dinner party totaled 14 people.

On Sunday, we went to a panel that featured the creative staff of Adult Swim's hilarious stop-motion animated series ROBOT CHICKEN, including creative force and actor (memorable in both the BUFFY TV series and the AUSTIN POWERS movies) Seth Green.

We ended the day with a second Hellsing photoshoot, this one outdoors.

Amy dressed up for this one too -- and recreated a scene from the final chapter of the Hellsing manga.

We ended the convention by entertaining a group of friends at our house -- who left just as I had to prepare for my court appearance the next day.

As long as the American anime industry survives -- and perhaps afterward -- AX will survive.

Hero Initiative works to save the day - Los Angeles Times

Today's LA Times Calendar section features an article about the fine folks at Hero Initiative, a nonprofit organization that helps down-on-their-luck comics creators. The print version of the article includes photos of ace artist Gene Colan, whom Hero Initiative aided during multiple health crises.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Comic-con Schedule's Coming Up

The Comic-Con schedule is gradually being put online, with Thursday and Friday up and Saturday/Sunday coming. Just the two schedules that are up show that the convention, as usual, will feature more unbelievable events and guests than any human being could possibly see without cloning.

My day job

For anyone who has read the heading to this blog and wondered what I actually sounded like in court, a recording of my most recent appellate oral argument is up on the web.

KMET: Heaven Returns

Massive kudos to LA station 100.3 The Sound,which for today only has taken on the guise of my favorite LA rock station from my college years, KMET 94.7. KMET radio personalities have been sounding off on the station, and they've also been playing sound clips from back in the day.

As I write, a real voice from my past, Dr. Demento, is spinning the wax. (And the webcam on the station's website shows he's actually wearing a tux. Yes, he dressed up for radio.) His first song? An appropriate one -- "Time Warp."

Monday, July 06, 2009

My Anime Expo 2009 Photos are Up

While plans were developing for the Michael Jackson tribute down the street from the LA Convention Center, we spent Thursday through Sunday in the center itself for the annual Anime Expo. More about the experience later. For now, here are the photos.

What happened right after my oral argument in the 9th Circuit today

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Karl Malden, R.I.P.

A mainstay of the large and small screens for decades. I particularly liked him as Omar Bradley in the movie "Patton."